Sunday, December 30, 2007

must...rejuice... embrace me, cyberspace... i shan't leave you ever againnn

I DO have some most excellent photos, both of a highly sunburned trip to the tropics and of a Saturday afternoon with The Aunda, but I have to wait until my professional photographer (ie Space Alien) deigns to upload them on her Flickr so I can steal them from her.

Also, it occurs to me that tomorrow may very well be a bad day for blogging, as I have been booked for 5 solid hours of karaoke with Melanie and our favorite Japanese bartender (although his only involvement is to roll his eyes). However, I shall dutifully try my utmost.

Curious... does anyone else have the sneaking feeling that 2008 is going to ROCK?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

you have seven new messages.

The Aunda got the day of our return home wrong, apparently. A transcript of my mother's voicemail:



[Friday, 6 pm]

"[Mooooooooooom's name].

[Mom's name], Aunda Connie call. You call-a me?

[Mooooooooooom's name]. You call-a Aunda Connie?

Tank-a you."



[Friday, 7 pm]

"[Mooooooooooooom's name].

[Mooooooooooom's name], Aunda Connie call. Call-a me.

You come-a home? Call-a me."



[Friday, 8 pm]

"[Mooooooooooom's name].

Aunda Connie call. You call-a me? Call-a Aunda Connie.

[Moooooooooooom's name]. Call Aunda Connie.

Tank-a you."



[Friday, 9 pm]

[in a controversial move, she changes tactics (it's become clear at this point that my mother is ignoring her)]

"[Daaaaaaaaad's name],

Aunda Connie call. You call-a me back?

Aunda Connie call.

Every-ting all-a right?

Quando you come home?

Call-a Aunda Connie."

Friday, December 21, 2007

signing off...

I'm going on my epic voyage with Momrat, Dadrat, and the Baby Rats tomorrow, and I've sworn a solemn oath to various parties that I won't take my computer with me and that I'll only take one manuscript in hard copy. Sooo I guess this is it for us for awhile. (Unless I cheat. Which would be, umm, highly, umm, out of character. No, I DON'T have a blogging addiction.)

So if you stop by here and there's nothing new up, maybe you can think about contributing to the best overlooked fiction list or to the top books about friendship list, since I never have enough to read and desperately need your recommendations. (The first half of that statement is slightly less true than the second.)

And everyone have a [pick the adjectives that best fit your specific situations and preferences] safe, peaceful, merry, loving, rowdy, musical, spiritual, atheistic, warm, candle-lit, snowy, sunny Christmas. Or at least a very happy December 25th.

Love,

Moonrat

Editorial Ass's Top 3 Books about Friendship

I have a particular obsession with friendship. I think I think about friendship more than other people do or admit, but in the end I don't believe I'm wrong to do that. We're all taught to seek out romance--in a lot of ways, there's PRESSURE to find a "mate"--and we're all told to love our families. Friendship is the one life situation that we choose entirely for ourselves, and for which there are no rules--no textbook of when you owe whom what, what's fair or unfair, how much or how little you can attach or invest, how brightly colored your world becomes when you find someone who thinks like you or how much it hurts when it turns out someone doesn't think like you. It's a rich and provocative subject and I think some of the best literature in the world is written about it. Actually, what amazes me the most is that some of the best literature is about other things BESIDES friendship.

Some of these books are happy, some are sad. All are a reminder, though, of how much we have the capacity to love, and that we should be vigilant about exercising that capacity.

1) THE CHOSEN, by Chaim Potok
Reuven and Danny, two Jewish boys who grow up next door to each other in 1940s New York, never become friends until they are 15--Reuven, who is a an Orthodox Jew and the son of a bookish, open-hearted, intellectual Zionist, never has occasion to cross paths with Danny, the son and heir of a Hassidic Reb. But when they do finally get to know each other, they develop a bond that changes the way they each see the world.

I love this book because there is no embarrassment about the boys' love for each other. There's no confusion (neither tries to steal the other's woman or anything--girls are only alluded to but don't ever interfere). I feel like it's one of the few literary treatments of friendship that shows unabashedly how life-changing it can be.

2. MORE DIE OF HEARTBREAK, by Saul Bellow
Kenneth is good friends with his Uncle Benn. They're both classical chatty Bellowsians, but they are very good about coming back to each other. Get the edition with the introduction by Martin Amis--he says some things that spoke to me as much as the book did, including: This book is about two men who love women but who also love each other.

Also check out RAVELSTEIN. A failure of a novel, in that good old Saul prattles on in his way with zero narrative structure, and a "little" self-indulgent, but a really moving fictionalization of his friendship with Allan Bloom (or so I've heard). I got through the first 300 pages wondering if I should bother to finish, but then Saul drops a one-line bomb on the second to last page that made me cry for a week.

3. KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN, by Manuel Puig
Molina and Valentin meet in an Argentinian jail. Valentin is a revolutionary who has been locked up for illegal political activity; Molina is an effeminate gay man who was jailed for soliciting a man. Despite everything they don't have in common, Molina hypnotizes Valentin with his verbal depictions of Hollywood love stories, and they each come to an understanding of what it means to care about someone.

I've never seen the movie or the play. But the book has some really awesome elements (mainly in the footnotes) that I can't imagine translating perfectly to either of those media. So do read the book.

I know what I have above are three books by boys about boys. It makes me sad that (in my reading experience) women seem to have less to celebrate--friendships are more ambivalent. I hope you'll have recommendations about precious and inspiring female friendships that you'll be able to guide me towards. But friendship is also deeply complicated and a wealth of literature is written about its more ambivalent facets, so we'll have some Runners Up.

Runner Up 1:

THE FRIEND WHO GOT AWAY, by Jenny Offill and Elissa Schappell
Twenty essays by rising talents--all young female writers who have had a "break-up" with a former best friend. I wouldn't call this a heart-warming read; after all, you'll get to the end and have just read about 20 heartbreaks. But I do think most women go through a break-up at some point in their lives, and they are all left bereft in a way it is hard to explain or talk about with other friends. A thoughtful book, and resonant particularly if you're going through a "break-up" yourself.

Runner Up 2:

THE GIRLS, by Lori Lansens
This only gets second runner up because the "friends" in question are actually Siamese twin sisters joined at the head. I love my sister very much and she's my very good friend but I feel like sister-friends (or "fristers" as we call them) are kind of cheating, since (in most cases) sisters grew up with the same spastic mother, dorky dad, and/or crazy Italian great aunt, and as a result speak a strange secret language that seems weird to everyone else. Sisters, when it works out between them, are awesome friends. But anyway. THE GIRLS. Good book.

Runner Up 3 (I wanted to end with this so I could end with the quote):

THE SPANISH BOW, by Andromeda Romano-Lax. I know I've posted on it a million times, which is why I forced myself to put it down here as 3rd Runner Up, but whatever other richnesses of this book, what was most provocative for me was the friendship between Feliu and Justo. I already quoted this passage (from page 336-337) but I'll quote it again here:

A shroud of bad luck still seemed to hang over him, but he appeared to be taking the news astonishingly well. "What lasts?" he asked rhetorically, as he had so many times before. Then he laughed. "Good looks, rarely. Money--never."

"And friendship?" I asked cautiously.

He fingered his mustache. "Sometimes. I suppose I'd put it in the same category as love: flawed and messy, and of questionable duration, and yet somehow irresistable."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Best Overlooked Fiction

Here's our alternative best of list, a collaborative list of great fiction we're sad more people don't know about! Title listings are alphabetical by author's last name, and the "reviewer" is listed after each nominee. Thanks, everybody who contributed.

If you're reading this post and have a suggestion, please feel free to add it in the comments. I'll link this list in my sidebar and will update every time someone adds a title. I'm kind of tempted to add more myself.

THE LIST

Arnold, Elizabeth Joy. PIECES OF MY SISTER'S LIFE. The novel tells the story of identical twins growing up on Block Island, their estrangement as children and eventual reconciliation when one learns the other is dying of ovarian cancer. It was a beautifully written book about the unique bond between twins, and one of those few novels I couldn't put down.--JessicaG

Donati, Sarah. INTO THE WILDERNESS. I read it thinking it was a fanfiction knockoff of the Last of the Mohicans movie. And true, it has a few of those elements, but it's full of greatness and win. The main character, Elizabeth, is a strong willed 'bluestocking' and is definitely her own person. She runs the story and ultimately sets into action a chain of events in a small town on the frontier by doing what she wants instead of what everyone else wants. It's a huge doorstopper of a book but it's also utterly breathtaking, and Donati's language is amazing. I've easily read this a dozen times and I'm tempted to read it again this weekend just thinking about it.--Jill Myles

Ducornet Rikki. GAZELLE and THE FANMAKER'S INQUISITION. Both excellent. She's well known in some circles but deserves much wider readership for her characterizations of women and of historical figures.--Kaytie M. Lee

Erickson, Steve. OUR ECSTATIC DAYS and THE SEA CAME IN AT MIDNIGHT.--OrangeDrink

Findley, Timothy. THE WARS. A really special treatment of WWI and the soldier experience (and its aftermath). This book is practically required reading in Canada but isn't even in print in the US.--moonrat

Gover, Robert. THE MANIAC RESPONSIBLE. If you like 60s gonzo literature with a sinister crime flare and a protagonist who is as funny as he is scary, I can't recommend it enough. It's one of my favorite books, and no one's ever heard of it.--Rachel

Greenburg, Seth. THE BONE. Too funny.--Anonymous

James, Marlon. JOHN CROW'S DEVIL. You can read it at its surface as a literary horror story, but getting into the many levels he managed to weave in (mixing my metaphors, sorry) brings out social commentary about the role of religion in communities. It has been the kind of book I think about when I'm not reading it.--Kaytie M. Lee

Quinn, Daniel. ISHMAEL. One of my favorite books ever. Basically a conduit for Quinn's ideas of the world and our responsibility as humans to the world. Which, btw, blew my little 7th grade mind away when I read it.--angelle

Sloan, Bob. BEARSKIN TO HOLLY FORK. Brilliant.--Wayne

morning voicemail from Momrat

"Good MORNing!

So I'm in the car and I was listening to NPR and they had this special on twenty-somethings. You know. Except they were talking about 19- to 25-year-olds. They called that "emerging adulthood" and they said that most kids that age still count on their parents for a lot of things. You know, money things and stuff. And I thought, wow, Moonrat is 24--right there in that group! And she's...pretty independent. So...good job, kiddo!

Also, I was wondering, can you maybe bring a really big suitcase with you to the Caribbean? But it would be good if you could only pack a little and leave a lot of space for other people's [read: her] stuff.

That's all!! Have a wonderful day!"

I just realized

I haven't finished reading a book since NOVEMBER. Boo.

I am about halfway through 5 different books. Also, I've been working approximately 80 hours a week. Which makes it tough for me to find incentive to stare at anything (especially anything with print on it) when I get home.

Now is a good time to mention that I'm taking ALL of next week off and going to the Caribbean with Momrat. I've made a pact to take only one manuscript with me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

So hard.

Parting from friends. Especially when you don't know exactly when you'll see each other again.

It doesn't matter how inured I get or how much practice I have. It still breaks my heart every time.

Roar for Powerful Words


Bernita picked me for a Roar for Powerful Words award (for powerful writing in the blogosphere). I contemplated demurring, since my job is more to tinker with other people's writing, but then as I read her entry I realized that in mentioning my award I would get to wax poetic (again) about what makes a good (and powerful) writer.

The rules: you are obliged to list three characteristics you think are important for good writing, and pass the award on.

My three characteristics:

1) Creativity
So much is published on so much all the time that everything's been written about before (a bajillion times). Honestly, a lot of modern "good" writing is really retreading very familiar ground. The great and affecting writers are the ones who manage to tread familiar ground in a way that is unusual (or the sainted few who manage to find new ground to tread). It's a real gift for a writer to recognize when and how they can break the rules about style, content, and market, and then be able to break those rules well.

2) Agenda
The best writers are the purposeful writers. This can mean different things to different people. In many cases, writers strive to touch an empathetic chord with their words, thereby making people's lives a little better or more interesting. But also, writing is a powerful medium and even the most creative fiction writers should think now and then about what writing has meant in history and the venue they've created for themselves to really make a statement, fight for what they believe in, and change the way their readers think. Writing well to entertain is a skill and a power. Writing well to entertain while offering your readers the chance to open their minds is a gift to yourself and your readers.

3) Open-mindedness
(The editor sneaks another little word in edgewise.) Be open to change! Don't take advice from everyone, because not everyone knows what they are talking about, but do listen to what people say and be judicious about editing. If your darlings are distracting your reader you're undermining your own power. Great writers know that being able to step back and take criticism will help them touch more people.

(If you are bored and would like more characteristics, please cf What Makes a Dream Author, where I wax even MORE poetic.)

Ok, sorry for the extensive discourse. Bernita, I hope you're happy to have brought this down upon us!

For passing the award along:

I don't feel right picking from the many wonderful bloggers whose writings I follow, and I got dizzy trying to pick favorites from my long list of buddies. I hope everyone knows how much I love their blogs, and, for those of you who are working toward publication and offer writers venues to air material, new devices to think about, and tips for breaking in, I (and other editors everywhere) are eternally grateful. But I will give two special shouts here to bloggers that are especially important to me, and if either one wants to carry on with the award, I hope they will.

The first is Maria, whose blog I stumbled on accidentally many months ago. Maria has nothing to do with publishing (that I know of!) and only writes because she is a Writer. I wanted to thank her for the many times she's helped me appreciate the world around me a little more vividly.

The second is Angelle, who is the only blogfriend I have whose actual-reality writing I've been lucky enough to read. Angelle is a Writer in the truest sense--she writes because she loves to write, and because she has a message she wants to share with the world. She fits all three of my criteria to a tee.

Thanks for this opportunity, Bernita--powerful words are worth roaring for.

Monday, December 17, 2007

this morning as I was getting off the subway

There was a press of people waiting in clump to ascend the stairs out of the station. Slightly ahead of me, two women in their mid- or late-twenties bumped elbows and turned to look at each other.

"Oh! It's you!" said the redhead. The two embraced. "How funny seeing you here! Usually it's only coming back."

"I'm running early this morning," said the brunette. She had a lovely accent--my guess is German.

"Oh really? What do you do again?" asked the redhead.

It became obvious to me at this point that these two, who had greeted each other so warmly, were subway friends. Their only overlap was on the beloved MTA, although (since they made a lunch date within earshot) it became obvious that they had managed to transcend the commuter divide.

This is especially inspiring to me because we have to realize that at one point these women, cold strangers, must have taken the initial leap and dared to talk to each other on the subway. Most of us are so afraid to take any of those chances (or two shy or untrusting to reciprocate). But we are a city of basically good, kind people. You never know that your best friend isn't sitting next to you. I like to think of those endless possibilities.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

musings on success

So Ron over at GalleyCat posted this interesting take on what the publishing industry sees as a success last week and I can't get it out of my head.

Ron expresses his surprise at publishing "mogul" Hillel Italie's list of hits and misses of 2007. One of the "misses" was Junot Diaz's [universally praised] The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, apparently because the national sales (computed on a Nielsen tool that manages to account for about 70% of national sell-through) was "only" clocking in at 27,000 copies in the first three months of sales (which you can compare to the universally panned If I Did It, which is apparently clocking in more than 100,000 copies).

So I am surprised by all this. First of all, let me say congratulations to Junot Diaz if he reads this--not only does everyone love his book, but he managed to sell 27,000 copies of a debut novel in hardcover in the first three months of publication!! Junot dear, if you're reading this, I KNOW you have personally touched many people with your writing, and your fiscal success should only be icing on the cake.

But the thing is, I guess, success is always relative. I do have to say that the comparison to If I Did It--or, for that matter, any nonfiction whatsoever--is unfair, since (as you know) I always harp about how nonfiction is so much safer and more lucrative for everyone.

So there are a couple of ways of looking at success. One is whether or not a book meets its expectations. Publishers really have to get themselves all in a dither about books to be able to financially justify some of the advances agents and authors pressure them into throwing down for projects, which means that these publishers have to convince themselves that a book is going to produce a certain amount of revenue in the first year (or two years). We really seriously have to talk ourselves up. We push all our resources into drumming up attention for these high price-tag projects and we gush about them and brainwash ourselves that they will, in fact, sell the millions of copies we need them to. 70% of them don't, of course. 70% of books are a loss.

I don't know if maybe my opinion has been skewed because I work at a small house where expectations are relatively low and success is measured in pleasant surprises. I've worked at large houses, too, though, and I really don't miss the hype that builds around books that cost us huge amounts of money (and I really really don't miss the disappointment and dirt-kicking after the book naturally fails to meet expectations).

I think it's particularly tough right now to publish creatively. There is little ground that hasn't been pretty thoroughly covered by other books already. So the epic buzz that we (publishers) try to create around the big titles often seems to me like throwing energy and tears and sweat and the rest into a black hole. Not that I don't want every ounce of the best for my authors (after all, it's a bestseller for them is the only thing that helps my career!!). I do. But I'm also proud of them for their success even if they don't sell 100,000 copies a year. Even if they don't sell 10,000. Because wide-spread commercial recognition does not necessarily a good book make. I'm proud to be a part of publishing that doesn't need to be bound by the awful, conformist, and extremely conventional rules that tend to bind many commercial successes (and I would never tell Junot Diaz he hadn't performed well enough). This isn't to say that some of our titles don't sell huge numbers--there are super pleasant surprises more often than one might think. But since we don't force ourselves to plan FOR them, there are fewer UNpleasant surprises than it seems like every other company has to suffer.

A tangible example: there's an author on my list who tried for years and years to find a publisher and failed. By the time we got him, he had written a number of books that had no houses. We purchased a number of his properties for very little and we really did our best by him--we got nice packaging, we submitted him for reviews, we took him on a tour. Now his books are really strong backlist titles for us and help sponsor everything else our house does. We get consistent reorders and I think that attention for his books is actually growing as the years go by.

A few years later, a major major imprint at a major major house (think as major as they come) picked up a new book by him. They offered him a huge advance and threw all their money into advertising him and did amazing[ly costly] packaging and marketing. It all looked very nice. Tragedy struck--the book was a serious disappointment. Not only did the advance not earn out, proceeds from the book didn't even manage to cover the advance.

The funny part? The big publisher managed to sell exactly the same number of his new title that we have managed on each of the old titles.

The moral of this story is that all the money in the world doesn't change the market or what people want. And yeah, I know I always bark up the tree of commercial viability and everything like that and I really DO have to follow those rules. But I do also want to say (again) I am proud to be a part of QUALITY publishing and to be able to produce books that I love even if they don't break 100,000.

I hope this doesn't sound like sour grapes. It's not meant to. I just want to perpetuate an understanding of reality that includes success on many different levels.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I hate some parts of my job, too.

I've just had an hour and a half conversation with one of my authors. I spent more than 2 weeks--nights and weekends, too--painstakingly editing a book everyone assumes is doomed to fail because of some of the author's ideosyncracies. I gotta say, I'm damn proud of my work (and, by the way, 40% blinder than before I started--stay in school, kids, 'cuz staring at a computer screen for 16 consecutive hours does NOT pay).

The author, who received his manuscript with my edits the day before yesterday, has, quote, "forbidden" me to make any of these changes because I clearly don't understand his narrative (having, you know, only read the book 4 times at this point). After my long conversation, I did manage to a) get him to lower his voice, and b) get him to agree to look at the whole manuscript carefully and get back to me with written comments next week, but in the course of the phone conversation there were some incredibly not nice and belittling things said (and not by me, for I, like Neville Chamberlain, am the soul of appeasement, although perhaps now might be a good time to look back at how it all worked out for old Neville and perhaps revisit my business strategy).

Seriously. There are SO many novels that deserve to be published that won't ever find editors. Can you please, please tell me why I should be wasting my time working with someone who so clearly wants their book to fail? I do strongly believe that literature should be a vehicle for our principles. But if the vehicle isn't polished, no one's going to buy.

I'm only working in your best interest, buddy. Give me a break.

best overlooked fiction

Because I brought it up in that last post about "best of" lists--Shameless gave some love to publications that make an effort to highlight great books that have somehow missed mainstream coverage.

So let's put together a list of our favorite overlooked fiction. Post your suggestion as a comment and put a line or two about why. I'll publish the complete list of Best Overlooked Fiction on Monday, Dec 17th. There are no rules about what you choose.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

News for 2007: Literary Scientists Prove Men Are Better Writers!!

Disclaimer: angry ranting post to ensue.

My dad brought me up to be a big women's basketball fan (probably because I'm tall and he had some vicarious dreams for me, all put definitively to bed when it became obvious how clumsy I was). But he would do things like by us tickets to go see UConn play out in Storrs (even on weeknights!!) when I was little, and then, even through college, he managed to get tickets to a couple NCAA Final Fours and the like.

I remember my freshman year in college, when I took off four days of class to go with Dadrat to San Antonio to see the Huskies basically walk all over everyone else. A boy on my dorm floor was a big basketball fan, but he actually scoffed when I told him where I was going (apparently he thought I was joking). His explanation: "I don't think anyone actually likes women's basketball, or wants to watch it. It's the same as with any women's sports. It's like watching birds or dogs play basketball. Then first five minutes or so, it's like, cool, birds and dogs playing basketball! But then you get bored and want to go back to watching real sports." (Alas, he wasn't a stupid asshole either, so I can't even write off what he said.)

Anyway, the point is, I've now learned that the same goes for women and fiction writing!! They give it a nice go, and it's really cute the efforts they make, but let's face it, folks--in the end, when we're appreciating fine literature that can actually open our minds, we should really let the men do their work.

My incontrovertible proof? There aren't any women making any mainstream Top 10 of 2007 lists. Here's the New York Times list; here's the Washington Post Book World list. Not a lady in their midst.
Here's the PW Best Books of 2007 list, which is a little bit daunting in its comprehensiveness but, I think, is more fair, since basically they've rehashed here things their reviewers have starred over the course of the year. HOWEVER even there, on their list of mainstream fiction, there are only 4 titles by women (out of a total 25). And of course, let's not forget that goddess of female empowerment, the great Oprah, and her book club, which hasn't deigned to recognize a female writer in the last 3 years. Not even one. (NYT longlist of notables is also incredibly male-heavy, btw. Give it a glance.)

I'm not about affirmative action here, since women do write (and read!) more books already. I'm just surprised that so many books by boys jump so obviously to buzzworthy when no women's books seem to make the cut, particularly BECAUSE there are more books by women being published. I'm also wondering about how reviewers are addressing content. Forgive the crass generalizations here; I'm allowed to use them because I work in publishing and get to think about packaging and target audiences all the time. Is a book with content driven more toward a male readership (take, for example, a war story, like Denis Johnson's TREE OF SMOKE) automatically more interesting to a wider group of people than a book driven toward a female audience (you know, any book with a female protagonist, since men don't want to read about that)?

The trouble is, of course, there are thousands of wonderful books published each year that all deserve to change lives, but everyone in the world doesn't have the money to buy them all nor the time to read them all (and book stores don't even have the space to stock them all). So through a confluence of circumstance and bad luck (and sometimes just randomness) some of the best works in the English language are totally and completely overlooked. Check out New York Magazine's The Best Novels You've Never Read (compiled May 2007). I've only read one book on this list--Carol Shields's UNLESS--but it was in fact one of the best books I've ever read, and is one I have bought again and again as a gift. She already knew she was dying when she wrote it, and the entire novel is pregnant with wisdom and sadness and honest personal philosophy.

But that difficulty aside, can you seriously tell me that Amy Bloom's universally proclaimed AWAY, Annie Dillard's famously last (and supposedly wonderful) THE MAYTREES, or (my favorite of 2007) Andromeda Romano-Lax's THE SPANISH BOW weren't rich enough to compete with any of these books by boys? Not even one of them?

So a next question (which came up when I realized how few great women's novels of 2007 I could cite off the top of my head)--why are there so few? Does the glass ceiling even come into the money-making side of publishing? Are female authors more poorly marketed unless they're serving up genre fare? HOW CAN IT BE POSSIBLE that, when the majority of fiction readers and book-buyers (this is for both commercial AND literary fiction) are female that it's not books by women or marketed toward women that are being 1) highlighted and offered for awards by publishing companies, and 2) recognized by readers? If any of the published books by women that were given mid-level treatment this year had been seriously framed and trotted about, would these lists look significantly different?

Don't get me wrong--I love books by men. I'm not a "pink" girl, although taking on my current job, I'll admit my tastes have necessarily become a LITTLE pinker, but those who know me well know I really happily read from a wide range. But I am an editor of predominantly "women's" fiction (meaning literary and commercial fiction by women and marketed for a predominantly female audience, NOT meaning genre fiction). This is my axe and grind it I shall. Other people have other axes, and a lot of them can be ground on these booklists, too, so please feel free to grind away. I'd love to hear your thoughts/opinions.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

common errors in English

Check out this awesome site (and consider bookmarking...), courtesy of Maud Newton. It's a pretty comprehensive guide to copy editing yourself.

My honest opinion as an editor? I have to confess I'm a little old-fashioned about copy editing on submissions. Yes, the fiber of your writing and your skill with language are of utmost importance and are ultimately what will make you as a writer. But if your submission is poorly copy edited, it really will hurt your chances of getting to the next level with me (and, I think, with a lot of other editors). A more professional submission shows you're more serious about your submission and more willing to put in a little extra time and effort. Since not everyone is a natural grammar freak (thank God--I'm not sure how many other people like myself I could coexist with), it's a good idea to keep a sheet like this handy or, if you really don't trust yourself (which, let's face it, is pretty fair--we manage to miss things about our own writing that we'd catch in a heartbeat in someone else's), to have a friend go over your material, too.

best Christmas song ever

Watch The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Fairytale of New York. If it doesn't make you happy I'll buy you a beer.

some self-indulgent good news

Again, Robert Jordan's WHEEL OF TIME is going to be completed!!! Here's the PW article, courtesy of The Swivet.

Dadrat is so cute. I emailed him the link and his email back went like this.

Dear Moonrat,

Thanks for the info. Fall 09 is a long time away. I was hoping for something sooner. Well, better late than never.

Dad

Unrelated: I had a big big media hit for one of my books this morning, via my truly miraculous publicity department. The book in question is the one I was so nervous about the other day. This is good news, because media coverage plus store presence should bode much better for me.

Also, another one of my books has been chosen as a Best of 2007 by a major publication. This has been trickling good news, since the book actually sold pretty poorly despite all our efforts. We're hoping that maybe now it will get some of the attention it deserves!!!

YT has joined a writing group!! To commence in the new year. Why, you ask? Because clearly she is crazy. Crazy. By the way, for anyone who is curious, being able to rip apart other people's novels with flair and style (and let's face it, who's got more flair and style than YT?!?) does NOT equate to being able to write one's own novel.

But I did have this realization the other day that I should be making some kind of effort. The story: I was forgiving myself for some overly self-indulgent and rather maudlin behavior by thinking quietly to myself, it's ok, I'm an artist and I channel all my strange emotions into my work. Then I remembered that that's a load of CRAP and that I don't create ANYTHING except fantasy worlds in my head where I AM a writer. So really, now, to make good on all my inexcusable and overly emotional behavior I think I NEED to start writing. And to fulfil my dream of being published I can always make copies on the industrial copy machine and then staple them together.

Actually, Angelle here puts it far better than I do.

morning has broken!!

The last THE LAST summer title is done being edited!! (I'm too exhausted to correct my own unnecessary use of the passive voice just there.) I haven't slept through a night since Friday (although I have taken a couple 3- or 4-hour naps) and I knew it was bad when I found myself huddled in the office kitchen at 7 am eating store-brand peanut butter out of a jar with a knife and chasing it down with room-temperature diet cream soda.

So I'm back!! I think I'll try this whole blogging thing again. I know I've probably gotten a little rusty.

Monday, December 10, 2007

1:28 am

I'm not going to bed until this manuscript is done. I'm not going to work tomorrow until it's finished.

Idea for new business: all-night coffee delivery service!! Someone think about it, quick.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Fruitcakes in History

Thanks, Cakespy, for this fantastic look at the psychological phenomenon that is the fruitcake. Who invented the fruitcake, I'm sure you've asked yourself, and WHY? But more importantly, why do they persist in existing when they are the butt of just about every bad holiday joke?

(Among my favorite trivia here: fruitcakes were OUTLAWED throughout Continental Europe in the 1800s. Too good to not be true.)

Scary good news?

It's December crunch (right on the back of October crunch, which, for me, at least, only ended YESTERDAY) so I'll make this a super-short post. I just wanted to explain why even great news--like my #2 of two days ago--can make an editor panic. (Hence my state of "mild" current panic that will probably sustain itself/snowball until the manuscript is completely off my desk in early February.)

So I've talked about sell-in and sell-through before. (I don't want to bore so q quick recap: sell-in is when bookstores buy books from publishing companies; it's a commitment that happens about 4-6 months before the pub date. Sell-through (or sell-out) is when the customer picks up the book, walks up the register, and pays for it.)

Generally speaking, what makes a commercial bestseller in a brick-and-mortar? The answer is book presence. If you make it to the bestseller list, you're more likely to be a bestseller the week after, since people walk in and see your book on the front tables and bestseller displays. In other words, sales beget sales. A bookstore carries more of your book when you've proven yourself, and customers buy your books when they see more copies, because lots of copies mean a book is "good" and has gotten attention.

So the key to bestsellerdom, clearly, is to magically work your way into large presence at bookstores at the beginning of the cycle. Here is the sell-in part. Amazing sell-in numbers are almost essential to bestseller potential (there are examples of books that succeed on low sell-in numbers, but they have other exceptional circumstances behind their success). Also, large sell-in numbers make print runs much more affordable and thereby allocate more money for other concerns like marketing and publicity (this applies to mine and other small companies; bigger companies less so, since they have departmental allocations. But nevertheless big sell-in numbers make things much smoother for everyone).

One catch: great sell-in numbers DO NOT guarantee great sell-through. Other factors--including a high-quality product--are important for making things work smoothly. But if a book is sold in fantastically and there is a large printing to accommodate these great numbers, the publishing company can get into seriously deep doo-doo if the book underperforms on the sell-through level. You see, all books are sold into chains, distributors, and indies on a returnable basis. If there's no sell-through, they simply return their money for the cash back. The publishing company, unfortunately, cannot so easily return a book to the printer.

So yay!! I have had great sell-in and the groundwork laid here for a potential bestseller that might change the course of my career!! But now the pressure to edit the book well--and to have amazing luck--has just quadrupled as the expectations for the book have quadrupled. Hence my "mild" anxiety.

Anyway. Back to the redlining for me. Happy Friday, folks! Keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ello is my hero!!

Ello wrote me a story and has thereby earned the Moonrat Spirit Award for Excellence in Blogging about Moonrat. Seriously, girlfriend, spot-on.

I just don't know how she knew all the details from my personal life to incorporate... (cough, cough...).

ok, one tiny frivolous post (but it's really not!!!)

I'm worried my baby might be dying. And by my baby I mean my 4 1/2-year-old blue Dell clunker with its 256 MB of memory and its little removable wireless card that sticks out of the side like a granola bar.

It keeps making this high-pitched clicking nose and shutting itself off mid-application. I called my dad, source of all knowledge (particularly related to why my computer is running so slow and whether or not it's still safe for me to eat something that has been in my refrigerator for XXX amount of time and has turned an unusual color), and he implies that the harddrive might be "kaput."

Boohoo. I know I'm a dork but I love my laptop. I even bring it into work to edit on since I like it even better than my schmancy work computer. We've been together a long time and I want to think this is just a bump on the road.

Also, opinion: would a new laptop be tax-deductible in my situation?

my new favorite band

The Rosie Taylor Project

The lead singer has the same birthday as I do.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

someone up there loves me

And boy, do I love them back...

Good news for today--

1) My first baby (the first book I bought, edited, nurtured, and now shepherded to the press at my current company) sold a major subsidiary deal today--a deal that pays back almost the entire advance I paid for it. Mama did good. (So did the Rights department, bless them.)

2) My sales manager called today (bless her) to tell me that a later baby of mine has sold in $$$$loads. Like, more than 4 times the number I was expecting. I'm palpitating.

3) I had dumplings for lunch.

All in all, an AWESOME day.

Robert the Publisher's Gem of the Day

"Time is, as they so boringly say, money. So let's get on this. No one has a copyright on the truth."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Life is more managable when you focus on small, executable goals.

Or something.

1) Edit 50 pages of current very funny ms.
2) Assemble next season list and get to marketing & production
3) Look over proofs of history ms and get galley order out
4) Read proposals for 2 hours
5) Get materials ready for ed meeting tomorrow
8) Leave by 8 pm, a the LATEST

For tomorrow:

Professional holiday greeting cards! Woot!

Monday, December 03, 2007

why bad kissers don't get to second base

Thanks, Angelle, for this excellent CNN story.

The funny thing that we don't think about--it's true!! If the person is a bad kisser, that might be the end of all potential for you, no matter how nice and cool they seemed before. CNN calls the first kiss a "complicated exchange of information." Amen.

According to the article, men tend to use kissing as a means to an end (the end being in the pants, natch) or to "kiss and make up" (literal reconciliation), while women use kissing as a complex mate assessment program.

Hmmm.

Onion articles for writers

Thanks, Brian, for this awesome, awesome post.

Some of my favorites include

Author Wishes She Hadn't Blown Personal Tragedy on First Book

and

Novelist Thinks People Shrug 10 Times More Than They Actually Do

genius anthropological observation

The reason morning rush hour sucks SO VERY MUCH is because not only is it just as crowded at evening rush hour but also a lot of people HAVEN'T HAD THEIR COFFEE YET.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

NaNoWriMo

I'm curious--how did it go? Did people finish stuff, or make good progress?

Filipino Funerals

Sorry in advance to those whose sensibilities will be offended on this. (I know I'm at the very least apologizing to myself here.)

Sammy was showing me and Angelle an online album of pictures that was sent to him by one of his cousins. They were taken at...yes, folks...his uncle's wake. Open-casket wake. We have a WHOLE GAGGLE of aunts and cousins posing chorus-line style in front of an open casket.

I love Sammy dearly and should say that his family has effectively adopted me but they don't know I keep this blog and I still have to say that we don't even do these kinds of things at Italian funerals. Sammy himself says he has a high threshold for tomfoolery when it comes to his family and so he finds this pretty funny (may his uncle rest in peace). In fact, he insisted I post.

I've embedded two exemplary photos here in an old old post so that no one has to see them if they don't want to. But seriously.

Where Am I Wearing?

This is an awesome blog. The well-traveled author tracks global distribution of goods to show you (in a very readable way) where your stuff comes from and the impact our daily behaviors have on local global economies. Cool stuff.

I, however, have chosen to link to his discussion of why it is exactly that Mrs. Butterworth has lost her boobs.

further to the Disney Princess discussion

Gawker has a topic they blog about on occasion. They call it "femiladyism." It's this new phenomenon of modern women who seem to me intensely embracing femininity as their main venue for asserting themselves. In other words, modern women all want to be grown-up Disney Princesses.

I'm not passing along judgment, just this article, for example (it's a story of a 29-year-old woman who had a Beauty & the Beast themed wedding).

I don't care at all what adult women want to do with their lives, and I'll admit the idea of a giant golden wedding gown and blood-red bridesmaid bouquets...well, it kinda appeals. My brain is already extremely firmly set in its ways, and I think that all the damage to my psyche is done already. What bothers me is what they teach little girls about body image (and other things). Why are they all slender-waisted and large-breasted (those proportions, scientists and psychologists have shown, are difficult for almost any woman to achieve without either unhealthy eating/exercise habits, plastic surgery, or a combination)? Why is it that Pocahontas and Mulan represent "different values" that exclude them from the central princess canon? I mean I'm sure this has nothing to do with their skin color or anything. Because after all there is Jasmine to serve as a role model for how little girls "of color" can grow up to be princesses, too!! Only they should bear their midriffs and copious bosoms (thank goodness Jasmine's costume is so historically accurate as well as providing excellent reinforcement for the charms all little girls should feel like they need to display!!).

Sorry. I don't know where that rant came from. Oh, Ello, I think it might have been stewing since you mentioned how much you hate the princesses. Anyway. Now it's out of my system. For the moment.

I'm just surrounded by famous people these days.

Congratulations, Patricia Wood!! Her "profoundly lovable novel" (THE LOTTERY) was chosen by Washington Post Book World as a best book of 2007!

Really, really wonderful news, Patricia. I'm so happy for you!

I feel like my blogring here is disproportionately talented and awesome. I'm not complaining here at all. I'm just saying. Keep on rockin' it, guys.

it's snowing!!!

Fast, hard, accumulating snow!

I love this moment, waking up and being able to hear the little pellets as they hit, watching all the city dinginess disappear for a little while before it starts to slush and gray.