Friday, August 31, 2007

many hijinx, much news (good, bad, and funny)

But alas, I'm going out of town for Labor Day weekend and won't have a computer, so you, dear reader, are going to have to not hear about it for at least two days!!

(Hopefully everyone else is doing something thrilling this weekend and so I won't have to worry about breaking any hearts by abandoning you... wink wink...)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Editor's Creed

Thanks, Bernita, for this fine manifesto (written by KM Frontain, a fellow editor whose wonderful blog is here). It is absolutely true.

The Editor's Creed
1. I’m not here to be your fan, but I will be your first fan the day your story is published. I am here to see the flaws in your submitted work. It’s my job. Author, try to understand this when you get back your first revision, your second, or any of them. Flaws hurt and create upset, but it’s not about hurting and upsetting you. It’s about fixing a story. If I’m honest, if I’m any good at my job, you’re going to hear about the flaws in your story. There’s no getting around this.

I’ll try saying things as politely as I can, but I must say the truth. Author, try to remember blunt does not mean I want to hurt your feelings. Blunt merely means I’m working as hard as I can while being honest about what I see. I will not waste time writing advice full of apologies for doing so. Expect honesty from me. Expect directness. I do not go out of my way to attack you, the human being, when I make a request, say a character isn’t sympathetic, give you a suggestion, tell you more than once to fix the same flaw. This is about getting a story edited and that is all.

2. My tools of the trade are words and grammar. Definitions, usage, punctuation, POV. I require knowledge of all these things and a skill for seeing the difference between a style choice and bad writing. Author: I will do my best to explain why something is bad writing. Please listen. I’m not here to change your style, but if I point something out, calmly look at your manuscript again and check for what I discussed. What if I’m right? You’re the one who must live with the end results of your revisions. The editing process, a real editing process, can result in growth for an author. Try to welcome it.

3. Author, your tools of the trade are words and grammar. Definitions, usage, punctuation, POV. I expect you to use these properly. If I discover you require relearning the rules for any of them, I’m going to say so. I will insist that you learn to use them properly. Only when you truly understand the rules can you work the tools of your trade in a manner that defies the rules. When you reach that point, I will smile as I read your work, because I will admire that you arrived at that pinnacle.

4. Revision work is not my work. It’s the author’s. My work is looking for flaws. Flaws are misuse of the tools of the trade, misleading or unclear writing, mistakes in the plot, characters that aren’t believable, poor story flow. Once I find these and point them out to the author, the author is the one that must do the work of patching, covering up, weeding, replacing. If I do the revisions for the author, it’s unfair to me. It’s unfair to the author. It’s unfair to every other author waiting for me to spend time on their story.

It’s not my story. Author, the story belongs to you. Take pride in being professional and do your revisions. Don’t expect me to fix the story for you.

5. Editing isn’t about my vision of a story. It’s about the author’s. Author, remember that when I make suggestions, they are suggestions. The story is yours. The characters are yours. Tell me how you see your characters and your story, and I’ll do my best to help you meet your vision.

6. Editing is about teamwork. I am a human being. I am like you. I make mistakes. I don’t know everything. I miss things. I sometimes need things pointed out. Author, I won’t take offence if you teach me something new, offer me a different way to view an idea, send me a link that shows you did your homework, or highlight a paragraph I may have missed that backs up the plot twist a few pages later in your story. Teamwork is about listening to each other. I listen.

7. I have a standard to live by as well. So does my publishing house. Author, remember that when you decide you disagree with my advice. People will know who edited your story, and if it leaves my hands in bad shape, shame on me. And that’s why I’ll insist on logic when we discuss fixes. Logic trumps opinion. I’ll insist you explain your reasons so I can understand them, but if those reasons don’t make sense, I’m going to say so.

Author, if you have a good reason, I’ll see it and agree. Author, if you don’t have a good reason, I’ll keep showing you why it isn’t good. If we come to an impasse, I can consult other editors belonging to my publishing house. If they agree with you, I don’t mind.

Remember: I’m a human being. I don’t expect to be perfect, but I do expect you to treat me fairly and to remember we are discussing a point about a story, not arguing to hurt each other personally.

Author, I will do my utmost to be fair to your perspective. I promise. But I won’t lower my standards. Expect to work and work hard. I want to see a story published that we can both be proud of.

Copyright K.M. Frontain, 28 August 2007
Permission to reprint granted to all

met the most darling author over Malaysian lunch

I do hope Robert lets me sign her! Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wednesday afternoon

Someone very close to me is in a very bad way right now. It's ruining everything for me, because underlying my every other thought is worry and heartache.

I know that person doesn't read this blog, but I wish I knew what I could do to make things better.

Jack Keruoac--inspirational news for us all

PW's feature article this week was a love letter by Jack's agent, Sterling Lord, to the memory of Jack and the general reading public. In it, he remembers how it took him 4 years to place Jack's ON THE ROAD--and Jack was not a debut author at this time.

Rejections were harsh, including one editor who said that although Jack wrote with a certain charm, this was only a tribute to a lifestyle and wasn't a good or salable book at all. In the end, Viking ended up picking the book up only because they had published his previous works and felt bad about leaving him without a house.

50 years later, the book sells 100,000 copies a year.

Just something to think about.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lois Lowry's THE GIVER

All right--Angelle and I are having a dispute. We have both read and loved Lois Lowry's YA book THE GIVER, but we have very different opinions of how the book ends (in that we've interpretted it differently).

Dear readers, if you remember the book, how do YOU think it ended? Please post your ideas in the comments section so as not to spoil it for visitors who haven't already read. I'll post mine as the first comment.

Tuesday is off to a good start.

Tuesday checklist:

1) Survive production meeting (check)
2) Sushi (check)
3) Deflect angst and neuroses of contracts manager (alas. a whole nother post.)
4) Ice cream (check)
5) Accomplish some work (check--I actually wrote a press release! Then I rewrote it when the publicist nixed my original. Also, I read as many as 8 pages of this 475 page manuscript I need to write a memo on. I'm sure I must have done something else in the 9 hours I've been here already but I can't for the life of me imagine what.)

All in all, fairly good.

books about Afghanistan

As you probably all know by now, I can't read enough about Afghanistan. I'm not going to waste space here trying to explain why I'm interested, but basically I do try to get my hands on any books (fiction or nonfiction) that help me better understand Afghanistan and modern Islam (two distinct concepts here--I do know that much).

Recently, I hit upon another venue for information when I was literally surfing blogspot blogs. I happened upon Home in Kabul, a blog kept by an Afghan American woman who has moved [back] to Kabul. Home in Kabul also has a great link list of other blogs to look at if you're interested in Afghanistan or in Islam. All the day-to-day internet reads offer some very different material from what American publishing companies tend to buy into and distribute over here.

Yesterday, Home in Kabul posted that she agrees with other Afghan reviewers that BOOKSELLER OF KABUL is exploitative and misrepresentative. She also posted this link, from the blog Afghanistanica, and this review of A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS from a Pakistani blog called Daily Times.

The question they both ask is interesting, especially for people like me, who have zero understanding of Afghanistan outside of what filters into the American commercial literary market (sadness). That question is what have these portrayals of the brutalities suffered by Afghan women damaged the American/"Western" perception of the entire culture? Are American readers inclined to cluck their tongues and write off the the country as completely alien because their main understanding is that the whole country is "inherently misogynistic"?

And then... I'll just paste from the Daily Times review here:

In Gayatri Spivak’s now oft-quoted words, Hosseini’s tale (especially in light of the Allied invasion of Afghanistan) can quite literally be construed as yet another instance of “white men saving brown women from brown men.”

Yet allowing for such critiques leads us to an even more untenable thesis. Should the grim reality of abuse be abridged and disguised simply because it promotes negative stereotypes? Is the suffering of Afghan women not worthy of representation in literature because it can be appropriated for political agendas?”

Anyway. I'm always looking for new things to read and new ways to educate myself. If anyone has any reading material to suggest, please do...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Robert the Publisher's Gem of the Day

"That's just his personality. His mother probably dropped him."

for those unlucky enough to miss the Miss Teen USA pageant on Friday night

(I mean, who can't help but relish a train wreck in action?) You MUST watch this lovely video (thanks, youtube) of one of my favorite moments in the show.

Like, such as.

saw STARDUST yesterday

It rocked. It made me want to go back to reading fantasy (in spite of the patriarchy). (Different conversation; I won't bring that up right now.)

Charlie Cox is just beautiful, as is Claire Danes. The whole movie is flash after flash of magical eye candy. yum.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

ultimate demoralization

I woke up at 9:30 ON A SUNDAY and trekked with my EXTREMELY heavy hamper to the laundry and IT WAS CLOSED!!!

I waited there until 10:00 because I knew I would never be able to bear to walk back. But alas. It didn't open.

Apparently some establishments still observe the lord's day. Well, now they can observe me trying to make it through another week without any underwear!!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

things the rally monkey says

(because it works for this chick)

Me: When we get home, I'm going to dice the chicken, heat up the marinara, make some pasta, and take a shower.

Rally Monkey: When we get home, I'm going to turn the industrial fan up to "3" and stand in front of it without any pants.

new nomenclature invention challenge!!

proposed by Froog:

A term for a popular fiction reader who only just manages to get around to reading books when they've been made into Hollywood movies?

a National Book Award winner

agrees with me that, despite what PW had to say in their fatuous little review (borrowing review language from the book's flap copy?? Low, my PW friends, low), J.M. Coetzee's ELIZABETH COSTELLO is not his finest work. The National Book Award winner called it, over a drunken lunch yesterday that I felt very funny to be at, "sanctimonious."

This validates my life.

Friday, August 24, 2007

my designer is The Queen.

I want to send him an effing tiara.

If I can't bear to read my OWN book because the font hurts my eyes, there is a significant problem with the marketability of the book, no matter how effing artistic his gutters and 2 point letting is.

If I think the font on the sample pages is too small, NO ONE ELSE'S OPINION SHOULD MATTER!!! I am the EFFING EDITOR and these things are MY EFFING DISCRETION!!!

That's all.

email spam of the day award

Subject: Re: fried wheelbarrow

[the rest of the text was in interrupted Portuguese, but I'm sure it was equally entertaining]

this morning on the way to the subway

I saw a Mexican woman negotiating a municipal wheeled trash can, a broom, and a dustbin up the steep hill by my house. She stopped along the way to bend over and collect the rubbish that was caught in some roadside pachasandra. She was at the very least 5 months pregnant, although she had a very thin frame and could easily have been 6 or even 7 months along.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I love you, Delete Button

Today I'm editing a manuscript that's too long and rambling.

It started off at 125,000 words. My goal in life is to get it down to AS FEW WORDS AS POSSIBLE!!! by the time I get to the end.

Without, you know, making any "content" cuts.

How I love fun games. They're almost as great as checklists.


It is indeed a benevolent God(dess) who smiles down on me today!!!

Ian McEwan/ATONEMENT movie

I only just finished reading this book, and what fortuitous timing, for the bastards are bringing out a movie (thanks for the heads up, Froog).

And I'm not angry about casting or anything--Kiera Knightley's perfect for Cecelia, and everyone else LOOKS spot on (a lot of big names, btw). Also, it's the delightful Mr. Wright who directed the 2005 Pride & Prejudice (an awesome movie...and I'm willing to take this argument outside).

And it's not that I'm against a Hollywood movie--I will probably watch it and enjoy it. But imagine how lucky I am timing-wise: if I hadn't already read the book and had accidentally seen a preview, the entire plot might have been given away to me!! Thereby ruining the entire reading process, and making this one more book I would never read and enjoy (I might read it, although that always feels cheap AFTER seeing a movie, but certainly it wouldn't be as enjoyable a reading experience as it would have been BEFORE).

This happened, to a degree, with Kite Runner--I accidentally saw a movie preview before I go a chance to read the book. And that preview gives away a lot--including a revelation that doesn't come until about 2/3 of the way through the book. I found myself reading Kite Runner while waiting for the inevitable. I really wish I hadn't seen the preview. I wonder how much more powerful the book would have been?

You have to wonder how the authors feel about this. They are in a rather difficult position--their book, no matter how famous it is, will only make them a certain amount in royalties over its whole lifetime. This amount is easily eclipsed (and in most cases exponentially) by a studio option fee. So it's a tough call--take the money, not to mention the fame and the recognition for your story that you'll never get through print media alone? Or insist on not selling out, and, perhaps, see your book die in its infancy?

Tough, tough, tough.

underwear stronghold apprehended

for those who were concerned about the Laundry State of Affairs (LSA). The stronghold was harboring not only two uncomfortable thongs but also three pairs of granny panties circa 1993 and (thank you benevolent Underwear Diety!) a pair of black boy shorts. This should get us through at least until Sunday, as long as we resist the urge to go to the gym.

We also found a bathing suit, which will do in a pinch (a real pinch, as it's a one-piece).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

female protagonists for female readers?

Nicole Kelly left an interesting note on an earlier post re: the nature of modern readership and what it means for the publishing industry.

Some interesting facts to start with:
-in the past (over the history of literature) most books have been by men and have often had male protagonists and/or have been intended for a predominantly male audience
-today the ratio of male to female readers is getting smaller and smaller, and women make up the bulk of book-reading (and, more relevantly to my life and the life of any would-be author, book-buying) world

I don't want to make any generalizations here, so I'll just use my own taste. I will read war books and thrillers and high-paced Nick Hornby type books, but what I like even better are books with female protagonists whose plots and plights appeal to me on a certain content level (I like stories about female friendship, sisterhood, romances, family, you know, "girl stuff"). I'll buy anything someone tells me is good, and I've read a lot of "boy" classics because, you know, they're classics. But I really like books like THE THIRTEENTH TALE and THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE and MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA and RED TENT.

So based on these premises, I want to say that there is a chance that the book-buying public (women) has largely been satisfying itself with books directed toward other people (men). Which means there seems to be a potential for statistics to change in the future--for more money to be invested in women's interest books, more "girl" contracts executed, etc.

Another fun fact to note--although many more women than men take a crack at becoming editors (meaning start off as editorial asses and try to stick it out), by the time you get to editor level the ratio is 50/50 (shocker--any angry girls out there with ascerbic comments about rates of promotion are more than welcome to post their rants here; trust me, they won't run amiss in my boy-ridden little universe here). And although it's not safe to say this across the board, since some many male editors have fluid taste and finesse with un-"boy" subjects, it might be assumed that boy editors tend to buy more boy books (which appeal to more boy readers).

But since more readers are women these days, what implications can that have for us Grrls?

I know I, for one, am a little bit prejudiced. This is one white girl's mini-spin on affirmative action: if there are two equally qualified writers that I could reach out to to write the same book...I will reach out to the woman. But there's more than just gender motivation here! I also FIRMLY believe that as the female reading public is more secure in its own taste (meaning, when it no longer feels it needs to ally itself so closely with what male writers, editors, and critics have been telling it to read for centuries) books by women and for women are going to end up selling more!! Meaning if I want to make a name for myself as an editor, perhaps I better start investing in female intellectual capital.

There is a flip side to this argument that is really worth talking about, too, but I don't have the room or expertise here. I will do it a little lip service. Why IS male readership down? Does it have to do with the fact that guys aren't taught to love to read, because so many children's books are by women, for girls? And how do we fix this? Are we increasingly creating a society where boys are discouraged from literary pursuits while girls are encouraged in that direction? This is a different and really serious question (I won't touch the glass ceiling implications... I could go on for, oh, 240 pages). John Scieszka has written a book called Guys Write for Guys Read about this.

Anyway. Gender thoughts, anyone?

Who Reads: More Fun News!

I never tire of these surveys of readers and what percent reads what kind of book and how many. So some more random statistics, courtesy of The Guardian via PubLunch (try not to mind the inflammatory title too much, since this is, after all, a fine British paper we're dealing with).

But some choice tidbits that PubLunch and I both choose to cite:

-about 25% of Americans surveyed are non-readers (or did not read a book last year)
-women read more than men in every subject except history and biography
-median books read per year: women: 9; men: 5
-most books read are either religious interest or popular fiction
-22% of liberals are non-readers (liberals average 9 books a year)
-34% of conservatives are non-readers (muwahaha) (conservatives average 8 books a year)
-moderates read the least of everyone (5 books a year). Sorry, Aristotle.

Fascinating. Hit me with more!

(Another caveat: The Guardian wasn't exactly forthcoming re: the demographics of the survey. So these statistics are no less "damned lies" than any other statistics. Thank you Samuel Clemens.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

no one else thinks so? not even a little?

No one has commented on my astute bookbook observation in my review of ATONEMENT that there is a freakish resemblance between Ian McEwan and my good friend Richard Belzer.

Look at the nose--McEwan could have gone down to his local Noses 'R Us and bought himself a Belzer!! And the glasses!! Uncanny!!

Now if they were secretly the same THAT would be a Super Man.

no silk purses out of sow's ears

Phew. Breathe. Ok. I'm going to be ok with that.

Who wants a silk purse, after all?

Now some sow's ear soup--maybe that's a good direction to be headed in. Just have to add some spice and mix things up a little.

reflections on sick day daytime television

Does everyone in Texas have a gun AND a truck?

sick today

Was it the ramen?! I'm sure it was. Oh salty goodness, why did you betray me?

Or perhaps it was karmic retribution for complaining too much about Manuscript o' Doom.

(This, interestingly, is what comes up when you put "Manuscript of Doom" into google when you are searching for interesting images for your blog post. It looks far more interesting and less Doom-like than the book I'll be working on.)

OR--I have figured it out!! It's because I have decided to go on a diet and denied myself ice cream AND sweet potato pie yesterday. I am being punished for my asceticism. I would say the messages of the universe come through loud and clear here.

Off to the fridge to do my penance.

Monday, August 20, 2007

also within Money Diet framework: Top Ramen

Anyone know exactly what "Oriental" tastes like...?

Robert the Publisher's Gem of the Day

"This subject is tired. However, it may not be tired for the zombie people. We'll do this same book, but we'll put some zombies in it. They love when you do things specially for them."

back on the money diet

I NEVER go to Macy's, and there's a reason (besides agoraphobia and self-in-mirrorphobia). The upshot of this weekend's indiscretions is a rather cute little olive-colored dress and a Calvin Klein bra I have been needing ALL my life (I just never realized it until that magical fitting room).

Oh, also 7 brightly colored pairs of socks, but those were absolutely necessary (cf previous post).

To aggressively compensate (and to wilfully split infinitives!) we will learn to survive on $5 a day for three weeks!

Today: oatmeal!!
Tomorrow: oatmeal!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

46 and counting.

Number of days I have failed to do my laundry.

Approaching crisis. Although I have just found a little embroidered red thong I bought at H&M once when I was 18. I don't ever wear it because it's extremely uncomfortable but it just might get me through another day. Or two. Just kidding.

(How well DO you know me? Did you buy that "just kidding" bit? Because I'm not the kind of person to lie about a thing like that.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Attention, greater New York area: do NOT go to Kyotofu, the Japanese dessert bar on 48th street and 9th avenue. The reason being that it is VERY small and there might not be enough room there for me every night for the rest of my life if they get too popular.

Rose and Angelle and I (co-bloggers who hung out in trio for the first time!! Most excellent) patronized this excellent establishment last night. We had:

[Moonrat] Yokan--a red bean paste solid jelly cake topped with mint cream and served with sake jello and gold chips.

Also, the kyotofu cocktail, a raspberry mint shochu infusion.

[Angelle] Anmitsu--a Japanese summer dessert which, like revenge, is best served cold: cubes of white jelly with slices of strawberry and res bean paste.

Also, the blood peach bellini.

[Rose] The best choice of us all: Kyotofu's signature chocolate lava cake. Served with a cocoa jelly pat, a smear of unsweetened raspberry paste, and a smear of kinako (sweet soy) paste. Oh my god this was yummy.

Also, a kumquat and lime shochu cocktail.

I don't know what to say. I just need to go back right now.

I forgot to mention that after we paid the check, the waitress brought over these AMAZING little dark espresso chocolate bricks. Then, on the way out, she handed us a goody bag of these wonderfully rich itsy cupcakes. Num.

Friday, August 17, 2007

further notes on grubby agent-author relationships

I'm posting here my response to post Jessica made on the BookEnds, LLC Literary Agency Blog. Jessica and BookEnds are both awesome, and my vitriolic little essay is in no way a reflection on the way she does business--it's just a note that was inspired by a tiny point in her post. As my readers here will know, friends of mine have been burned by this issue before. So my response, in the spirit of upstanding book-making business:

Hi Jessica,

This is not a message for you, since I've worked with your agency and know how honorable and by-the-books you are. This is more for writers who haven't been in this particular position and don't know this angle of the issue. Thanks in advance for letting me kvetch.

I'll vouch that we editors are perfectly happy to have unagented clients seek out agents to negotiate deals and "finer points of contracts," like you mentioned. Honestly many authors who are great writers and smart people are less equipped to handle the process alone--it's a business, like any business, and it's hard to be thrown into an entirely new industry without the years of experience an agent would be able to offer.

However, I also have to admit that every time I make an offer to an unagented author and hear them say "I think I'm going to take this opportunity to find an agent," my heart sinks. I would like to go back to the note you made about taking the offer and shopping it around to other companies--this is the rub. An editor's take:

An author is of course entitled to get the best offer on their own project they possibly can. But there is intellectual capital to be lost here, too, and any agent (except the extremely self-serving kind who doesn't care about burning bridges--and unfortunately, there are quite a lot of this particular kind of agent) should look into the situation and pump the author for the history of the deal. If this project is, say, a novel the author wrote and one publisher has offered $2000 for it, it is fair enough for that agent to shop that project to her little heart's content. But if this was a concept developed by the publishing house and the editor, who probably put long hours into refining it and seeking out a particular author who would be best for the project, the agent MUST be sensitive to the fact that the editor already views this project as hers.

And, from my position, I would like to say fair enough. Although I have never lost a project I specifically developed, I have had an agent who was belatedly brought in threaten to shop what was a very specific and carefully developed idea of MINE. (Oo boy did that one make me mad.) And I have had two very good editor friends who have seen their intellectual capital literally stolen and sold elsewhere. This is sheer heartbreak. Not to mention permanent dissolution of professional relationships--neither I nor any of my friends will ever work with those agents again. Also, people like me work to aggressively spread the word of who to avoid.

So this is a long response to a tiny point in your post, but I wanted to back you up on the fact that editors are very, very happy to have agents brought in after the fact, since it really does smooth the negotiation and delivery processes over with industry accountability. There is the caveat, though--so a plea on behalf of my kind. Authors, be honest with your agents; agents, be honest with your editors. We're all meant to work together, we really, really are.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

excellent news story of the day

Thanks, 99. This is pure gold.

and YES, I am TOTALLY aware

that in the stories I write in the blog I regularly vacillate from past tense and present tense and back again. This is PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE because I KNOW I'm doing it and this does NOT make it okay for anyone who ever submits a proposal or manuscript to me to EVER expect me to take them seriously if they do the exact same thing. Humph.

Awesome story of the day.

Today I was rather a naughty girl.

On Saturday, Susan and I made plans to have dinner tonight (Thursday). At the time, Thursday was fair and clear.

Melanie was supposed to come over on Tuesday night to help me finish off the ridiculous amount of leftovers from Saturday night. Tuesday didn't work out, so we postponed to Wednesday. Wednesday didn't work out, so we postponed to Thursday. I figured this was safe, since it seemed like a fair bet that Thursday wouldn't work out for whatever reason. Also, Susan is exceptionally forgiving and willing to reschedule in a pinch.

As the day wore on, however, both dinner dates continued to be intact. Furthermore, I had overslept and got to work late, so I felt bad cutting out in time for any kind of decent dinner.

Furtherfurthermore, Angelle very cruelly has been talking nonstop about Vietnamese food for the last three days. The evil wench. Since I'm a big slacker and spend most of my day talking to her on the internet (don't worry, I multitask--I talk to her while posting in my blogs, natch) the idea of Vietnamese food just kept getting rubbed in and rubbed in. Let's go tonight!! she said. And then, even crueller, she appealed to my irresistable inner cheapo (I inherited him from my father): I'll treat! she said. Since I didn't buy you a birthday drink.

I buckled. This made perfect sense, I told myself. I didn't have enough time for a proper dinner with Susan because of work, anyway, and I could always tell Melanie to come over after a quick little Vietnamese snack. It's wasn't triple-booking at all, since I hadn't exactly let anyone down. Right? Right?

I dropped Susan a note. Overslept, got in late--can we reschedule? She wrote back right away: no prob, bob. To be honest, she wrote, she had double-booked anyway.

A sign from God! I thought. It was FAIR for me to have double-booked (at least on Susan) because she had also double-booked on me. Although (and this was karmically unsound of me) I admit that I didn't call Melanie before sneaking out of my office for my "quick dinner date" with Angelle.

So dinner was everything I could ever have dreamed and more--there was both pho AND bun involved. Nummmm. On my way sneaking BACK to the office two hours later, I called Melanie. No answer. I feel good. She's still busy. No guilt.

At 9 pm, I finally head home. I've left three messages for Melanie at this point. She FINALLY calls me back.

Sorry I missed your calls, she says. She wouldn't be coming over for dinner--she'd just spent the last five hours eating and watching a movie with...Susan.

Double-booked, eh?

(I should take this opportunity to point out that Susan and Melanie know each other THROUGH ME and only met RECENTLY.)

I laughed my ass off. In a most teenage AIM LMAO kind of way.

I got scooped.

This actually happened a couple of weeks ago, but I was so angry about it I haven't been able to write about it until now.

About 5 months ago, I bought an exciting and innovative book on a topic that just seemed to scream, "How has no one done a book on this yet?!" I considered it a very lucky buy. We were planning on billing it as lead title of our Fall 08 list.

Two weeks ago, I read the announcement that an agent at a very big agency had sold THE EXACT SAME PROJECT (but with a different title and set of authors) to a much bigger house. The subject matter description was word for word what ours had been. Also, they were planning on bringing their out before mine, thereby doing away with the market share that a little new editor at a little quirky press would ever be able to secure.

This is the dark and dirty side of publishing here. I wish books were a lovely world of intellectualism and ideas and literacy and musty-smelling pages and french flaps and warm acknowledgments and spot lamination. But no. There's also the viscious money-making side of it.

Now will I ever know for sure that the agent wasn't legitimately working on this proposal before I bought my book, but the time gap makes the whole thing very suspect. It is an agent I know, too, and with whom I have worked before--in fact, she represented the first book I ever edited--and frankly I'm upset that this happened and very distrustful of the circumstances. If the agent really was innocent in this, she should have let me know when I bought this book that she was going out with a similar project. Which she didn't do.

The lesson I've learned is that you have to aggressively guard your own intellectual property, because no one--not even book people--is fully above cribbing what you've already put heart and soul into and using it to their own advantage.

I hate when bitterness creeps into my job. I want my job to be full of love and hard work, which is what reading is to me. Reading shouldn't be dirty, conniving, greedy, or dishonest, so neither should making books. Very upsetting.

Robert the Publisher's Gem of the Day

[in a memo to an out-of-company business colleague]

"I learn that you may or may not have responded to a previous email I may or may not have sent. Our records are poor, our blood pressure is high, our blood glucose levels are ascending...could you please reforward your response?"

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


An ongoing call for contributors...

TheBookBook is a low-commitment online community for people who like to read. The theory is that a growing number of contributors will use the site as a log of what they've read--or comment on what other people have read.

I'm hoping new people who stop by Editorial Ass will see TheBookBook and be overcome with fascination. Just shoot me an email at and I'll set you up as an administrator.




Was planning on working on a manuscript all night, but the attachment is corrupt.

Precious hours WASTED. What can I do?!

Fortunately it appears SVU is on. Bring it on, Richard Belzer. Bring it on.

Fibonacci sequence poetry

Madison Guy has proposed this awesome new use of my otherwise meaningless hours---Fibonacci sequence poetry! It's like a medieval Italian syllabic haiku, only in English. For nerds.

His explanation of the Fibonacci sequence is much more succinct than mine would be, so instead of recapping his description I'll just make up a little mid-afternoon one for your entertainment. Dearest readers, please feel free to out-do me!

Ode to Ed Meeting

he said.
Your idea--
It sucks and what's more
I'm feeling disagreeable
So give up and piss off like a good girl, won't you?

the infernal manuscript

is back, after the fourth time I've sent it to the author for reworking.

Now, since the book has already been catalogued and it's effing due to the designer shortly, I suppose I HAVE to edit it. Blast. Misery.

A friend at another company once referred to inherited projects that your predecessor acquired as "orphan children." I thought that was cute. Orphan children have behavior problems and your only goal in life is to get them out of the system (and hopefully not waste too much money in the process). The orphan manuscripts that manage to cling to a company after the acquiring editor leaves are always the ones that haven't been published already because of some kind of disaster. Poor writing, difficult author, bad concept that someone bought at the very end of the year to fill some kind of annual acquisitions quota....

This is my last orphan child. Going forward, only biological babies that I generated myself. This means, of course, that I am FULLY responsible if any of my future titles flop horribly.

I forgot to mention

that before ed meeting Robert the Publisher took all of our blood pressures with a little velcro wristlet monitor.

We were all of us hideously high. I would even venture to say comically high.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


It was the contract manager's birthday and Robert's PA's birthday today, so the editorial assistant ordered the most unforgivably well-chosen assortment of Crumbs cupcakes.

Someone had an accident and ate two. Boo. Someone is now falling over with sugar shock.

I recommend the peanut butter.

I'm not sure how this has happened.

Because there isn't a managing editor and because (yes, Mother, I know this is difficult to believe) on many levels I am drawn to organization and order, it feels like I've become the de facto managing editor here. I keep our logs, our season lists, our live contracts lists. I bully everyone into meeting periodically to keep things in order. I liaise with production and marketing and "manage" the other editors.

I don't feel good about this. I do enjoy these kinds of things, and they're very very necessary here, where everything is a big whirlwind of disorder. But on the other hand, I do NOT like the idea of my responsibilities gravitating away from an acquistion editor's.

My dad once gave me a piece of excellent advice: be bad at the things you don't like to do. If you make sure you're never very good at them, others will do them for you...thereby freeing you to do more important and prestigious things. The problem with girls in the workplace is that they feel hell-bent to prove themselves, all the time. They are so thorough and masterful over hideous tasks that they end up making themselves unreplacable (and thereby unpromotable).

I am torn between desiring order and efficiency and protecting my career. I think I just have to acquire more and demonstrate that I am, in fact, a superwoman.

productivity rocks!

It's true I've slept a total of 8 hours in the last 3 days, but I've decided to harness the exhausted buzz and get shit done!

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, August 13, 2007

you know how I know it's my birthday?

Karl Rove resigned!!! Yes he did.

Also, the New York City Blood Center sent me a happy birthday email. Twisted. Man do I feel stalked.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

my mother is visiting this afternoon.

The rally monkey & I fixed her a plate of leftovers from last night, and then after that some coffee and leftover apple crumb pie.

She eats the apple pie while I show her pictures from the party. She sees the picture of the pecan pie and says, "Wait, there's pecan pie? I want THAT."

I cut her a piece of pecan pie. Halfway through eating it, she puts down her fork and says, "Wait. This has nuts in it."

"It's pecan pie, Ma," I say. "Of course it has nuts in it."

"I can't eat nuts. The doctor says so. They give me minor hemorrhoids."

"All right," I say. "You asked for pecan pie. You didn't think it was going to have nuts in it?"

"I forgot," she says. "Are you making fun of me in your blog now?"

the rally monkey is angry

because he has come to suspect he is a frequent fixture in recent blog entries but he hasn't had a picture of himself uploaded. Blessedly, we have finally figured out how to use our digital camera (after nine short months of ownership) so I can put up a picture of him before he mutinies.

Rally monkey with his friend, Mr. Snoopy.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

for the unsuspecting victims coming to my house tonight

this is what the menu is now:

-chicken fingers
-mac & cheese (the deadly kind)
-baked beans (if I can ever get them to soften)
-corn on the cob
-buttermilk biscuits
-death by chocolate
-something undisclosed that each of the Filipino ladies coming is going to bring (I tried to tell you both we didn't need anything, but that's how it goes; it's ok, Italians are the same)

Per my warning, the rally monkey will be bar tending. He has become a real hustler lately so don't be terribly surprised if he hassles you for tips.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I'm really upset about Kite Runner

SPOILER ALERT for any who haven't read this.

I've decided not to post book reviews in this blog anymore, since now my heart and public soul is going into TheBookBook, but this book has actually changed my week.

I understand (per the last three pages) that the whole book is about the fact that everything ISN'T all right. But I can't help but be haunted by the nature of Amir's betrayal and especially that Hassan loved him down to the bitter end. I think this is the reason I hated HISTORY OF LOVE, too--there's a point when there's just no recourse (death) and loss, cowardice, betrayal, weakness become irrevocable.

I guess that books, however well-written, that make us question the nature of the existences we lead and the choices we make... I guess those books are the reason for literature in the first place.

See, Dad? I'm not such a bad daughter after all!!

My baby sister, Space Alien, is spending the summer interning at my dad's company (incidentally, she makes more as an intern than I make in real life). The company is about two hours away from my parents' house, so my sister and my dad drive up halfway and carpool the rest of the way with three other engineers (apparently the carpool is a real hoot--I hear that one time they spent 45 minutes talking about minnows).

Last night, my dad sent Spacey a message saying he was in a meeting that was running late. Signals were somehow crossed so my sister shows up for the return trip carpool and tells everyone to leave without my dad, who will be spending the night there. Apparently the interpretation he'd HOPED she would go for was "I'd running late; don't leave without me."

So there was my dad, stuck in the middle of the woods with no car. Woops.

in case you somehow missed this important update

the 4 1/2 foot giant muffin that went missing in South Carolina has been located!! Thanks, Angelle, for forwarding this story. I was lost before I read it.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cat-Call of the Day Award

to the guy in the green wifebeater!


"Open your bodega, Mama!"

the author call I've been preparing for

all morning was cancelled. The author emailed me to tell me she's too busy with her family. Sigh.

The manuscript has induced this great sense of melancholy, though, as it does each time I go over it (this is the fourth time). It's a beautiful story about a failed marriage. You see this older couple and how they horribly interact with each other, and you go back and see where it started to fall apart, and every time I read it I am filled with sadness because it all seems so preventable.

It makes me think--every single time I read part of it--that we waste our lives and the people around us when we try to hide things like shame, regret, mistakes, anger. It all turns to bitterness and makes us evil inside.

Every time I read part of the manuscript I want to dial up everyone I've ever known, make sure they know that I love them, that I'm not afraid to give them a hug (although usually I am), that I would rather do anything to sort out awkwardnesses, bitternesses, resentments between us than let us both waste each other's lives.


is Robert the Publisher in already?! He was supposed to be flying in from Michigan this morning!! Did he take a 4 am flight or something?!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I did make it to work, eventually

Now the question: How do you fix a manuscript that's really really good already, but somehow isn't THERE, when you can't pin what the THERE is, because it's not there?

They didn't have a class on this in college.

since I'm still stuck at home without a manuscript

let's take this opportunity to contemplate the Yankees, or, more specifically, what an asshole ARod is.

Not only is he a horrible role model and a cheating philanderer, Mr. Rodriguez made the unfortunate decision a couple of months ago to woo the animosity of the entire Toronto team by fudging a game-determining play (ARod, who was approaching third, called "Mine!" on a pop fly headed in his direction, thereby screwing up the thirdbaseman, who let the ball drop). Commentators universally agree it was a bush league play (the rally monkey tells me "bush league" means "uncivilized").

I was very pleased last night to see the BlueJays pitcher (Josh Towers, the rally monkey tells me he's called) very purposefully pitch a fastball directly into ARod's ribcage. There was nearly a brawl. Both benches emptied onto the field in what the rally monkey calls a melee.

The best part is that Towers is this adorable geeky twerp and ARod is huge. The rally
monkey assures me that there was a big angry Canadian named Matt Stairs who would have killed ARod (he needed to be physically restrained). He was followed by the 6'8'' 280-pound Frank Thomas, known in the league as "The Big Hurt." I would have LOVED to see someone get it.

THIS, my friends, is the reason to watch baseball.

I Heart MTA

Due to what can only be described as a rain shower that occurred sometime yesterday evening, none of the trains (and there are 5 of them to choose from) that run to and from my house are currently in operation. I'd think that it had never rained here before if I hadn't been living in New York for seven years and weren't thoroughly comfortable telling you that is not quite the case. Not quite by a long shot and a monsoon.

After trekking around for 35 minutes in the unpleasant drizzle trying to find a subway that would just take me to work (where, need I mention, I don't really want to be anyway), I finally arrived at my third station, where it was suggested to me by the characteristically helpful station agent that I take a bus.

Those who know where I live and where I work will be able to back me up here when I say THERE IS NO EFFING BUS!!! There is a series of at least three buses I could take but all the switching, waiting, and lurching would take me at least an hour and a half. Probably more.

I left a message for the editorial assistant to this effect. It is possible I used the F word. Twice.

Upon some pottering around I feel vindicated. The NYT describes the subway system as crippled. Vindication is not, however, particularly helpful when the manuscript I *really* need to edit is half a lifetime away in my little messy office.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

2 + 2 = ?

In retrospect, it's only amazing that no one picked up on this sooner.

I have a particular uncle. He's a bit of a deadbeat and an alcoholic (not the "in recovery" kind, though). Every day he goes over to my great aunt's house and, unbidden, mows her quarter-acre lawn (every day). Then he troops up to her door and demands $20 in payment. Every day. He eats at her house and drinks her paint-peeling homemade wine and sleeps (for free) in the house of another uncle, across the street from The Aunda, so the most travel he does on an average day is to cross the street like a fat drunken pingpong ball, bed to table to bed to table.

About a year ago, this uncle in question got what we thought was a bee sting on his arm. His arm began to swell and swell and he began to fall over and swoon so The Aunda took him to the emergency room (she paid in cash for his entire bill, since of course he doesn't have insurance) where they discovered he had some kind of hideous septic infection that nearly choked off his heart. They gave him some antibiodics that acted freakishly slowly but eventually brought his swelling down.

A similar incident commenced this spring, when a ladder fell on him during one of his first days at a newfound day job. The cut on his leg, although treated promtly, became infected and his assigned antibiodics took a really really long time to do any good. Eventually he got better and miraculously didn't lose his job.

About two months ago, he noticed purple welts appearing on the skin of his neck, ears, bottom, and legs. They looked vaguely cancerous, or perhaps like something you'd describe as lesions. It took my younger cousin to say, "Uh, duh. Looks like AIDS to me."

All the pieces click and we slap our foreheads. My mother is distraught. We don't tell The Aunda about this diagnosis. Another uncle drops by the neighborhood on a daily basis to take him in for testing but he mysteriously makes himself unavailable. He realizes that it is all over and this is how he deals with the problem.

Now where could he have gotten it, you ask? The Aunda has been known, from her stalkeresque vantage behind her newly-sculpted hedge, to observe the comings and goings of a string of what she describes in English as "girlfriends" and in Italian as "putanas." One possible explanation.

Oh yeah. Did I forget to mention that he shoots heroin? I know, it's almost unbelievable that people still shoot heroin these days. But apparently they do. It's even more unbelievable in his case because we're talking about a guy who hasn't held down a steady job in a year and is constantly being thrown in jail for missing child support payments. Not that I think he's the kind of person who wouldn't spend every lsat penny on drugs--he's totally that kind of person (I think we call them addicts?)--but it's just that he doesn't HAVE any pennies to spend. And I was always under the impression that smack wasn't exactly the cheapest way out. But then again I didn't think anyone was stupid enough to shoot it in group settings anymore, either. Just goes to further demonstrate my naivete.

What an asshole. I think the situation must be harder for people like my mother, who remember him back in the good days when, as The Aunda will tell you, he was the best of them all. I am unhampered by sad memories of a better time, and only remember him in his classic drug addict behavior--malicious, manipulative, cruel, maudlin, utterly willing to humiliate you for a dime or for a good show.

Well, that's not how the story ends. My mother finally drags him to the emergency room for testing. The nurse practitioner takes one look at him and shakes her head. It's a shampoo allergy. She's sure. This doesn't mean, of course, he shouldn't get tested for AIDS. She gives him the number for a free clinic. But for now he should switch shampoos.

My mother dares to hope that at least he'll have learned a lesson. I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The publicist had brought me fries from Wendy's

Sweet, sweet degradation. My body cries out in both pain and longing. I have personally emptied half the water cooler this morning.

Yet I'm being shockingly effective at work. Much more so than usual. Despite not having my glasses. Has made for some interesting typos, but not much other trouble.

Sweet, sweet fries. No more booze. Ever.

I think I have been drinking too much lately.

For example, I woke up at 8:30 this morning drooling all over Robert the Publisher's leather couch. This was because (if I recall the hazy end of the evening correctly) my coworkers had filled up all the various beds.

The rally monkey, whom I failed to inform that I wasn't going to make it home, was justifiably worried and upset. (In my defense, I'm not sure anyone but the leather couch knew how the evening was going to end.) He suggests that perhaps I should not be allowed to hang out with my coworkers anymore, because obviously they are "much more hardcore" than I am.

Oh god. I have suddenly recalled that there was public karaoke involved. Yikes.

Ok. No more booze for me until...Saturday?! Can't I put it off longer than that? My poor broken body needs time to detox. But my poor broken spirit needs constant affirmation that people are willing to hang out with me, and they're usually more willing to hang out with me when there's alcohol involved. Hmm.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Richard Belzer is amazing.

I know that he has made his entire career out of playing only Detective John Munch (check out his rap sheet), but I just feel we need to take this moment and appreciate how truly awesome Richard Belzer is.

What about the episode of Law & Order tonight where they're trying to figure out who put a little girl in a coma? Richard is one of the only actors I've ever seen who can tear up that naturally and that masculinely. You go, Munchy. You rock my world.

The rally monkey takes a poll: who thinks he'll have Det. Munch printed on his tombstone?

Friday night mayhem

Angelle, experience continues to prove, is a helluva drinking buddy. She knows her notable establishments no matter what neighborhood you find yourself stuck in on a rainy night, and looks all small and cute but you shouldn't fall for it.

The evening started out at Hamachi, this awesome but always suspiciously sushi bar on 20th. (Notice how their Web site is basically devoid of information.) An agent took me there for lunch once. It's really cheap, has a great menu, and two of the three times I've been there they've given us dessert on the house. They have these incredible rolls--like the nutty tuna roll, which has red red tuna, macadamia nuts, and avocado. Also the joshi-noshi maki, which has every conceivable kind of fish, mango, and avocado. Oh joy. We ate until we almost couldn't finish and our combined food bill was $24.50. For two.

Why why why do I love sushi so much. Whyyy.

Also at Hamachi they have the nefarious plum wine mojito. This is the world's most perfect drink.

Then, after an abortive attempt to patronize Kyotofu, the famous Japanese dessert bar on 9th Avenue, Angelle found us our way to Vintage, a bar on 50th and 9th. The menu there is HUGE. Research has indicated, at any rate, that two martinis is too many martinis.

The rally monkey has fried me up some leftover garlic rice and a spicy cheese omelet and I feel a little better.

Friday, August 03, 2007

RENT control?!

Horrifying. Angelle has sent me this link. Apparently, London theatre is finally ready for RENT, the world's all-time best musical ever. They're so ready for it, they're updating it.

Among the major travesties of this article is the idea that the new version will be a POP OPERA instead of a ROCK OPERA. I feel very strongly about this, especially considering the fact that only the VERY SAPPIEST of us were able to consider RENT to be very rockish at all ("you've been the song all along"...? "I have always loved can see it in my eyes"....? What do you think? Rock? Anyone? Black Sabbath?).

On the other hand, from the picture in New York Magazine it looks like they will be peopling the cast with hipsters in skinny jeans and converse. That I'll take. I always felt I could rather do without those awful red plaid pants.

The Book Book kicks off

When I first started this blog, I self-absorbedly envisioned it as a way for me to share my opinions about books with the world. This became a problem, because I realized

1) I didn't read enough to have enough opinions about books to sustain a blog, and

2) I was terribly untalented about not sharing my opinions with the world about everything else, too.

But NOW that I have some awesome people helping out by adding their posts, The Book Book might actually become a real formum!! (she says, shooting for the sky).

Thanks, guys.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Tears in the Universal Blanket (or Return of the Mole)

Susan (via her mother, via Mahayana Buddhism) has offered a powerful life philosophy that makes a lot of sense.

There is a universal blanket that keeps you cosmically, karmically warm and safe. I picture my blanket as the dome of the sky, but warm and full of duck down. When you hit a period of being down, there is probably a tear in your universal blanket.

The tear needs to be repaired, or you will walk through your life in a perpetual state of malaise, with a manifest variety of malaise-y symptoms (including, for different individuals, anger, bitterness, depression, toxic resentment, maliciousness, defeatism, feeling fat, perpetual dissatisfaction, feeling unattractive, feeling stupid or useless).

Tears are caused by various things, but largely have to do with imbalance--if you have lied to a friend, there is a tear. You need to repair it by apologizing and coming clean.

If a friend has betrayed you or made you angry, there is a tear. Similarly, if you have been unjustly treated by your boss, or if you have been taken advantage of in a retail or social setting. You can fix the tear by validating your emotions--Susan's mother suggests in a letter, where you clearly explain exactly how you feel about what happened and why you feel this way. Because of circumstance, you can't always mail the actual letter or have an actual rectifying conversation--although where you feasibly can, you should. But writing the letter alone is an act of respecting yourself and thereby fixing at least part of the tear.

If you ran up a credit card debt you can't afford to pay off on something frivolous, there is a tear. You can patch the tear up by being super-careful with money until you are out of the hole.

The mole, for example, has a perfect universal blanket, with no tears in it. The mole lives in harmony with his (or her) personal universe, which is why in times of stress (eg being caught in the middle of onrushing traffic) the mole is saved from precarious situations.

I think it's important when we go through difficult personal periods in our lives that we reevaluate our philosophical framework. I don't do very well with concepts of higher deities in whose hands I should place my trust in the future (and sincere apologies to all my alcoholic friends, whose higher power has saved them, and I'm not going to argue with them about it) but I DO think there's something to be said for trying to reassess one's--for lack of a better word with fewer religious implications--karma.

After some close consideration (during the editorial meeting, when I was meant to be taking notes) I came up with the following guidelines for prevention of tears in the universal blanket.

Mole Commandments

1) I will be productive

2) I will take all available opportunities to educate myself

3) I will not disclose unnecessary personal information about myself or about others

4) I will not feel entitled

5) I will be generous with my time, my energy, my affection, and my forgiveness

6) I will say only good things about other people (and if I have nothing good to say about them at that moment, I will not say anything at all, even if this means resisting the powerful urge to take part in a conversation)

7) I will seek proactive solutions to my problems

8) I will not blame others for my mistakes and shortcomings

My plan at present is to reflect upon the list at the end of each day and see how many commandements I have broken. For each one I haven't broken, I will give myself a metaphorical gold star. I might even go to CVS and get some actual gold stars.

ps I have run out of usable mole images from google image search. does anyone have any pictures of sweet moles? please no body moles, benign or malignant.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

bleak prospects

Oh faithful readership, it has not been a nice day (to go on top of the not nice day I had yesterday).

An agent has stolen one of my book ideas and sold it to another company. Woe, woe.

There are a million emails to answer.

Robert didn't approve any new movements in ed meeting this morning.

I will have to have some gelato to help myself feel better.