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Showing posts from 2009

today, INTERN is declaring pub amnesty

This morning, INTERN woke up and realized that lately she has been thinking about writing and publishing and books pretty much constantly. And she realized that maybe all these book-thoughts have been crowding out other potentially luminous and joyful thoughts. So today, she is declaring Pub Amnesty: a break from thinking about writing, revising, editing, contracts, advances, trim sizes, bookstore demises, e-books, who's publishing who, and (Zeus help us all!) book promotion.

Instead, INTERN is celebrating the following inherently joyful and luminous subjects today:

1. Funiculars.

2. A spoon from Medieval times.

3. Time-lapse videos of mushrooms growing.

4. Mason jars filled with pickled hard-boiled eggs at a gas station.

5. A spoon from the Renaissance (which spoon is happier?)

6. Celestial navigation.

7. Mashups.

8. Fruit that comes in the mail.

9. Druids.

10. Rastafarians (why aren't there more books with Rastafarian narrators? INTERN can't think of a single one. No…

"that book looks good enough to steal!"

INTERN was interested (and dismayed) to read that festive holiday book theft is up this year. Favorite steals? The bible, anything that says "staff pick," and books by Martin Amis. Read all about it here.

And for you readers over the pond, consider this list of top ten stolen books in the UK (from Times Online)

Ten most stolen from UK shops

1. London A-Zs:

London Street Atlas

by Geographers' A-Z Map Co. Paperback, £4.35

2. Ordnance Survey maps:

Exmoor Explorer Map

by Ordnance Survey. Paperback, £5.99

3. Terry Pratchett novels:

The Colour of Magic

by Terry Pratchett. Paperback. £5.44

4. Harry Potter books: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by J.K. Rowling.

Hardback children's edition, £10.43

5. Lonely Planet travel guides:

Great Britain - a Lonely Planet Country Guide by David Else. Paperback, £11.49

6. The Lord of the Rings trilogy:

Lord of the Rings: 50th Anniversary Edition by J.R.R. Tolkien. Hardback, £24.50

7. Martina Cole novels:

Faces by Martina Cole. Paperback, £7.59

8. Jacq…

the (book promotion) gods must be crazy

A few days ago, INTERN had the distinct pleasure/terror of conversing for the first time with one of the book-promotion people her publisher has hired to handle her book. It felt rather like the initial "try-out" montage in a kids' sports movie: clumsy INTERN with bottle-thick glasses and a mouthguard fumbling passes from the hot-shot coach who (for baroque reasons of her own) has been sent to train the junior league. Here is what INTERN learned about book promotion during that very intense hour:

1. "Every day you're not on Facebook, I die a little inside."

Not a direct quote from the Book Promoter, but close enough. Everyone knows Facebook is essential for establishing an online presence...but did you know that not using Facebook causes physical pain to your book publicist? Every day?

2. "If you don't add 20-30 friends a day on Facebook, this puppy will die."

Direct quote, accompanied by telepathic burst of ailing-puppy images.

3. "St…

thoughts on contests

INTERN got a very thoughtful and pleasant e-mail from a reader yesterday, asking INTERN's opinion of writing contests. It boiled down to this: "are there any contests within the reach of a novice writer that are also impressive enough to catch an agent's attention?"

INTERN's answer was pretty much "no, unless you're a novice writer who wins the O. Henry prize."

In INTERN's (limited and certainly not authoritative) experience, most of the writing contests writers cite on their query letters are not impressive and, at worst, make the writer in question look like a small fish. If Jack Kerouac was writing a query letter, would he list "2nd place Boonsville Writer's Association Flash Fiction Contest 1951" as a credit? Would Harper Lee have been better off if a promising but incomplete first draft of "To Kill a Mockingbird" had won a prize at a writing conference?

Maybe it's an outdated and romantic notion, but INTERN beli…

a modest proposal

So the Kirkus Review is shutting down and everyone is, once again, hailing the death of print. In this time of great belt-tightening, INTERN has been brainstorming ways print publishers can save precious $ and stay in business through the recession and beyond.

Not so many years ago, New Zealand was debating the best way to standardize the spelling of Te Reo, the Māori language. One of the issues discussed was whether to use a macron (Māori) or double vowel (Maaori) to indicate a long vowel. They chose the macron and, INTERN has been told by her New Zealand friends, have since saved millions of dollars in printing costs for documents in that official language.

This morning, INTERN was working on a manuscript critique. The manuscript in question is 408 pages long. Quite a whack of ink and paper! Closing her eyes and thinking of New Zealand, INTERN opened the find/replace tool and replaced all instances of the word "the" with an asterisk: *. Bam! 7,895 replacements. No…

Borders special report

Last night, INTERN ran into her friend who works at Borders. He was looking uncharacteristically grim. Even his nose ring had lost its gleam.

"What are they buying?" asked INTERN, putting her arm around his shoulder and shepherding him to a quiet booth.

He rolled his eyes and said bitterly, "Sarah Palin Going Rogue."

He has since taken mental health leave...

today, INTERN's heart is fluttering with suspense

News, news!

INTERN might (fingers crossed) be doing ANOTHER INTERNSHIP starting in February! YAAAAAAAAAAAAY! This time, instead of the sleek modern confines of Big Fancy Publishing House, she would/will be gleefully toiling in the more sedate, polished headquarters of a distinguished old publisher to be referred to henceforth by the code name Venerable McPulitzer.

All has not gone smoothly on INTERN's road to renewed interning. There have been snags. Very telling snags:

After a delightful e-mail repartee with one of the editors at V. McP, a phone interview was arranged for last Friday. INTERN rang up said editor at the appointed time and her extension was answered by a very professional-sounding intern who informed INTERN that the editor (who has this frightening name—something along the lines of "Isadora Sharkskin" but more intimidating) was still in a meeting and would call INTERN back in half an hour.

INTERN waited next to her phone for the next hour, jotting down in…

hail to the copy editor

Yesterday, INTERN's book's editor forwarded her the copy edited version of INTERN's forthcoming book—huzzah! It feels like months since there's been any blips on the editorial radar, so seeing the copy edited manuscript in her inbox made INTERN's brain tingle with something like terror and relief rolled into one. Despite having seen and handled copy edited manuscripts as an intern and knowing what they look like, it was still uncanny to see INTERN's own sentences and paragraphs littered with yellow highlighting and lots of [comments and questions and tearings of new grammatical assholes in brackets in bold].

As she read through the manuscript, INTERN started to feel more and more mortified. The copy editor had caught so many silly mistakes, pointed out places where a topic mentioned in an introduction was never addressed in the chapter, and even raised questions about the political correctness of some of INTERN's word choices. "Oh man!" thoug…

and you thought getting a book deal was hard...

INTERN is back, after a delightful and adventuresome pilgrimage to her ancestral homestead, aka grandma's house, for Thanksgiving. It was nice and low key and most of the crazy belligerent long-lost relatives who cornered INTERN for a chat were too deaf to understand her responses to their questions, so she was able to get away with pretty much anything:

CBLLR: "Why don't you get a real job?"
INTERN: "The moon!"

*

An eye-opening thing INTERN learned this week:

Techie Boyfriend, who invented a neat tool a little while ago, and has been staying up late reading about the patent application process. Like book publishing, the whole concept of patenting something can push some powerful emotional buttons: "If I don't get this published/patented, someone can steal my idea!" "If this goes through, I can get rich off the royalties!" "The world really needs my idea!" etc.

With book publishing, you send in your query for the price of pos…

NaNoReVisMo #5: galumphing towards triumph

A little while ago, INTERN posted about a fictitious Character Transformation Bazooka which could make characters have deep realisations and catharses instantly, with no justification.

There are a few other weapons of mass manuscript destruction (WMMD) in the arsenal.

One is the Triumph Bomb, or T-Bomb.

If you go see just about any movie that's playing in a mainstream theatre, there's bound to be at least one scene involving a Moment of Triumph: the submarine crew realizes they've fixed their leaking vessel just in time (hugs, shouts, and meaningful apologies ensue) or a pair of starcrossed mental defectives realizes they're meant for each other and triumphantly race to the nearest marriage office.

These moments of triumph usually happen after about ninety minutes of false starts, dissapointments, and disasters.

One comment INTERN finds herself writing frequently in novel critiques is that the moments of triumph in the story come too soon, or make no sense, or seem to dr…

a completely unscientific look at book-buying, part 2

Last night, INTERN went to her favorite bookstore just to hang out in the company of new books, as you might visit a bird sanctuary to hang out with an ever-changing roster of egrets just because you find it pleasant.

She had very sternly instructed herself not to buy anything. But in spite of her (apparently typical, in bookstore customers) preemptively raised defenses, one book mercilessly sank its fangs into her emotions and a Book-Buying Event transpired.

INTERN spent the rest of the evening trying to analyze the event and pick it apart. What happened in that bookstore? It's like trying to recall an alien abduction.

INTERN remembers walking to the poetry section and plucking a book off the shelf because it looked thick and new and had the kind of matte cover that doesn't get finger-printy (very important for a book's seductiveness, at least when it comes to seducing INTERN).

INTERN remembers flipping through the book and reading a few lines from poems here and there, …

NaNoReVisMo #4: Tales from the Dumpster

OMG.

So.

INTERN's hippie roommate's trashier-than-thou friends from college have been visiting for the past few days, two very serious and scruffy anarchists who live in treehouses in Santa Cruz, from where they are plotting the "neo-anarchist ecorevolution".

Last night, they decided to go on a dumpster diving expedition, and hippie roommate kindly invited INTERN to tag along. And wow. Anyone concerned about enfeebled female heroines (see Rejectionist's post on this phenomenon) should write a YA book about INTERN's hippie roommate, the femme fatale of dumpters. She scaled chain-link fences three times her height, pried open locked dumpsters just widely enough to slip her (leaf-like) body inside, and hefted fifty-pound bags of rolled oats and slightly sprouting quinoa over brick walls—all while wearing a slinky red dress and blue tights which did not even get a run. (INTERN lolled along behind her in a giant black sweatshirt and tocque, looking like some k…

NaNoReVisMo #3: the transformers are coming

Has everyone seen one of those kids' movies about a [soccer/baseball/hockey] team made up of clumsy misfits with mouth guards and runny noses whose [bitter/resentful/hard-ass] coach reluctantly (then enthusiastically at the key moment) leads them to victory over the [snobby/evil/orc-like] rival team the Blood Jaguars? It seems to INTERN that every one of those movies has the exact same scene at the end with everybody high-fiving and the runtiest kid and the reformed bully practically make love to other through six layers of scrappy, home-made uniform. Hollywood got the memo about character transformation, and they got it big time.

INTERN sees a lot of manuscripts (particularly YA) where the high-fiving, back-slapping scene is present, and the bully hugs the runt and the hard-ass coach finally tells his son he loves him and the prissy league official takes off her librarian wig to reveal ten feet of luscious blond hair...but there hasn't been any kind of build-up to account fo…

zen and the art of self-publishing

INTERN was starting to feel a little mournful and over-serious after her last NaNoReVisMo post, so she packed herself some apples and half a loaf of bread and set off on a self-imposed Quixotic Journey. Over the course of her wanderings, she visited some kind of Zen buddhist establishment, where a kindly nun pointed her to a pile of Free Books. INTERN emerged from the temple with a cute little self-published tome called simply "CAUSE AND EFFECT," and repaired to the nearest forest to read it among the dry leaves and withering nettle.

Here's the deal with cause and effect:

"If in this life one loves and enjoys hunting, in the next one will suffer from chronic nervousness to the point of insanity."

(pencil drawing of sneering hunter with "effect" arrow pointing to foamy-mouthed madman)

"Excessive attachment to tastes will undermine the normal functions of the lungs leading to sickness there from"

(pencil drawing of vomiting man surrounded by garl…

NaNoReVisMo #2: two flavors of facts

The nice thing about having knowlegeable people around when you're editing or revising something is that you can enslave them as fact-checkers and constantly holler "Do drug dealers measure out weed with a scale or a ruler?" or "Would mixing baking soda with helium *really* create an anti-gravity wonder fluid?" or "Is it plausible for my character to choke on a credit card?"

Revision is a time for making sure the physics and chemistry of your world are sound, that you haven't completely botched the slang of whatever underworld you're trying to portray, and that you haven't confused hepatitis with haemophilia.

INTERN has seen some embarassing mistakes. Doctor characters who take someone's temperature to see if they have epilepsy. Fir trees whose "leaves" turn "brilliant orange" in the fall. Improper use of the word "do-rag".

This is the easy kind of fact-checking: the kind you can do on the subway, mere…

NaNoReVisMo #1: the electric kool-aid conflict test

INTERN used to have a terrifying Cuban piano teacher who would stop her at random while she was playing a piece by memory, question her extensively about the reasoning behind the tonal, rhythmic, and expressive qualities of the notes she had just played and the notes she was about to play, then make her start playing again in the exact (usually awkward and off-beat) place she had stopped.

INTERN would complain that *of course* she didn't know exactly what was going in those spots—they were in the middle of difficult passages, there were too many notes for each one to have a purpose, and she relied on sheer momentum to get herself through to the sections where she *did* understand what she was doing with each note and why.

It was like trying to take a cake out of the oven, and someone really annoying comes up and stabs it with a toothpick: "But it's not cooked here!"

Lately, INTERN has been conducting a similar test on manuscripts and library books. Here's how it …

announcing NaNoReVisMo!

In honor of November's tank-like determination to actually happen despite INTERN's fervent wishes that it be cute, silly October forever, INTERN is announcing a new Month as an alternative to the imminent National Novel Writing Month that gets people into such a frenzy at this time of year

It's National Novel REVISION Month, baby, and it means business.

It occurs to INTERN as she types this that someone has undoubtedly already thought of the idea of NaNoReVisMo, and there are probably something like five hundred active cells of the NaNoReVisMo underworld in a thousand different cities (yes, five hundred cells in a thousand different cities. You do the math!)

But let's ignore that for a moment and forge ahead as if were a semi-new idea. Humor INTERN? Yes?

So. NaNoReVisMo.

Here's how it works:

You open a first draft from your (no doubt monstrous) desktop file of first drafts. Maybe you read it all the way through once, just to get in the mood. You start to feel daunt…

hail the robot overlords of novel-writing

This morning INTERN was going through her soon-to-be kaput computer's hard drive when she happened across a program called Writer's Dreamkit, a used-once present from INTERN's parents circa x-mas 2003.

Has anyone used or heard of it?

It's this completely insane novel-writing software that interrogates you at length about your characters and plot, then runs your answers through a baroque and frightening Story Engine and spits out a plot outline.

The best thing about Writer's Dreamkit is that it makes absolutely no bones about being a novel-writing robot. It doesn't try to put on a soft and friendly human face or pad its cold, hard plotting engine with fuzz. Writer's Dreamkit is like, "Hell yeah I'm a robot. And if you don't select your Impact Character's chief flaw from this pull-down menu in the next fifteen seconds, I'm gonna crash your system so hard you'll feel it for days."

INTERN was playing around with WDK all morning, an…

today, INTERN is reading her hippy roommate's raw food uncookbooks

...and if she reads another recipe like this:

DECADENT DONUTS

Core an organic apple and slice into rings. Sprinkle apple rings with organic cinnamon and drizzle with agave nectar. Now enjoy your delicious RAW donuts!

or this

BODACIOUS BURGERS

Core an organic apple and slice into thick, burger-shaped circles. Sprinkle with organic sea salt and drizzle with Braggs Liquid Aminos. Now sink your fangs into your hearty and filling RAW burger!

she is going to lose her shizz.

INTERN spent the weekend job-hunting, a task made ten times more interesting by the fact that Techie Boyfriend found a college friend of his (who is from Seattle!) wandering the streets in a manic episode, took him home, and generously offered him half of INTERN's dwindling stash of antipsychotics (Manic Friend's supply of said drug had run out several days before). Result: Manic Friend sleeps for the first time in days, and INTERN is overcome by a fit of uncontrollable frolicking.

It's all cool, though, becaus…

impressive boondoggle #63

INTERN has been thinking about the different ways authors (particularly non-fiction authors) cash in on their books apart from actual book sales. The most common side-project is public speaking. Next is instructional seminars, either in-person or online.

In her rambles around the internet this morning, INTERN happened across the website of Andy Behrman, author of "Electroboy," a memoir of bipolar disorder (and spokesperson for other mental illness-related stuff). And wow. This dude has taken the idea of the Book Spinoff to the next level.

The first thing you see when you go to his website is a plug for his "Services as a Consultant for People with Mental Illness(and Those who Love Them)". For a mere $225 per hour—PER HOUR—e.g. more than INTERN spends on food in a month, including splurges on the occasional avocado—he will talk to you on the phone or shoot you some e-mails about how to pick a psychiatrist, figure out how to get on disability, remind you to take…

author websites part 1.75: what not to blog

So you've made yourself an author website, your first book has come out, and you're feeling kinda famous. Kinda famous enough that you think people might want to hear about your daily life, your writing process, or your two cents on the latest tempest in the publishing teapot. Kinda famous enough that they might want to download a picture of your pet iguana reading a copy of your book and use it as wallpaper for their cellphone. That kinda famous.

So you decide to add a blog to your author website, where readers can do just that.

Now what?

Now you have to write content for your stinkin' blog. Or harness the power of globalization to hire a personal valet in India to write your blog posts for you for six dollars an hour. But do you have six dollars an hour to spare? No? Then it's time to write blog posts.

Lucky for you, INTERN has broken it down somewhat. Here are some guidelines to get you started:

PART 1: What's Hot:

-Publishing or book-related news and opinion…

publishing observations round-up

So.

INTERN went out to the plant store and bought herself a fern the size of a smart-car to fill the post-internship space in her life, and is feeling ready to take on the world. She is naming the fern "Head Ed" and will be taking assignments from it (envelope-licking and such) whenever necessary. Techie Boyfriend is a little concerned, but seems to buy INTERN's argument that she has to cope however she can.

Right now "Head Ed" is telling INTERN to write a round-up of Things Learned About Publishing before going on to write new things. So, anxious to please her new boss, here it is:

Round-Up of Things Learned About Publishing

1. On her first day of interning, INTERN was shocked to learn that the acquisitions editor listed in Writer's Marketdoes not necessarily always exist.

2. Editors can and will check the sales figures of your previous books. Fools who tweak their numbers get pitied. And not just by INTERN.

3. Getting a book deal is 10% reason for celeb…

tidings of imminent yore

INTERN has eaten her Goodbye Lunch of curry and various triangular fried things.
INTERN has opened her Goodbye Card and delighted that 9 out of 12 signees spelled her name right.
INTERN has taken one last wander through the book shelves and filled her backpack to capacity with irresistible Goodbye Books.
INTERN has made one last round of jovial conversation with the Head and Assistant Eds, the Editorial Assistant, and various and sundry other friendly publishing folk.
INTERN has cast last, loving gazes at the mail machine, the rare orchids in their pots, the coffee machine, and the red leather couch where she spent so many days reading queries and tinkering with stuff.
INTERN has taken the stairs down, carrying her bike on her shoulder, and said goodbye to the cheerful doorman.
INTERN is not even writing this from Big Fancy Publishing Office, but from a coffee shop a few blocks down.

INTERN is officially not an intern anymore, though she remains so in spirit.

"What now?" wonders INT…

author websites: read this

INTERN was going to write down more basic ingredients of an author website, but The Book Publicity beat her to it.

In other news, when INTERN was biking home yesterday evening, she found some free church pews on the side of the road, and, seeing her inspect them, a friendly construction worker offered to throw pews, bike, and INTERN in the back of his pickup and ferry them home. It was wonderful and exhilerating and awesome, and even though INTERN kept her head ducked down for most of the ride because she was paranoid about the legal snags of pickup bed riding in big cities, she managed to peek up now and then and look at the city and scare people.

Now INTERN's room looks like some kind of shrine to her Webster's New World Dictionary, which sits on one of the pews like a hymnal. Word of the day: granadilla.

But seriously: have a look at that Book Publicity post!

author website curmuddlement

In the past few months, several people have asked INTERN her opinion on author websites, particularly websites for authors who have not yet published a book or significant body of magazine articles/similar.

A few months ago, INTERN's response was a grouchy: "no! too many unpublished author websites INTERN has to look up as part of her slush pile duties are festering caves full of broken links and unflattering writing samples."

But arguments pro author websites for everyone (see Nathan Bransford's post on the subject) seem pretty reasonable, and INTERN's stance has shifted closer to the middle. Her thoughts on the matter now go as follows:

-A website is like a new puppy. Cute and fun, but, like your parents loved to say, "a big responsibility." If it's a blog, you need to feed it new content regularly or it will look abandoned. If it's a website written in some finnicky language, you'll need to know how to fix the code if something brea…

den of frivolity, take two

This morning on the train, the skinny young gentleman in the XXL white t-shirt sitting in front of INTERN was listening to Ludacris, loudly. Over the course of half an hour, INTERN realized that Ludacris might be moonlighting as a literary agent or publisher. Evidence:

"I've got hoes in different area codes."

Ludacris has successfully pimped foreign rights to his authors' novels.

"Move bitch, get out the way, get out the way bitch, get out the way."

Ludacris recalls the manner in which he butted in line to buy the new Dan Brown novel. Move, bitch!

"Lady in da street but a freak in da bed."

Ludacris recalls how one of his authors' novels only did modestly in bookstores ("da street") but totally rocked Amazon ("da bed").

"One day we on the autobahn swervin drivin,
next day we in the sun on the Virgin Islands."

Only the best book tours for Ludacris' authors.

" Let it rush through your veins, cause I'ma be the …

when you have a hammer, Nemesis Intern looks like a nail

Sometimes, an INTERN needs to put on a slinky dress and toolbelt-as-purse and go out dancing on a Tuesday night.

Techie Boyfriend: Where did that dress come from?
INTERN: Alley behind our building.
Techie Boyfriend: Hang on.
Techie Boyfriend: (returns holding a small hammer). Take this.
INTERN: What?
Techie Boyfriend: If you're going to wear that toolbelt, you totally need to be carrying a hammer.
INTERN: Got it.

Fast forward two hours. Music is playing, INTERN's girl friend has gone to the bathroom, and INTERN is making her way to the dance floor when a semi-familiar face pops up in front of her.

It's Nemesis Intern, who INTERN has not run into in months. He is wearing a blue dress shirt and jeans, and mostly looks like his normal Wusiness Beek self except the top four buttons of the shirt are undone, revealing a rather un Wusiness-like patch of skin.

Nemesis Intern: Oh my god, I totally know you from somewhere.
INTERN: Big Fancy Office Building. You're the intern f…

internet write-for-hire? INTERN would rather process a goat.

INTERN has been off the wire for several days, and in that time she had the chance to collect her thoughts on internet write-for-hire operations and learn hands-on how to de-gut and process a goat.

Yes, both those things in one weekend. Multitasking rules.

The short version?

Goat: totally worth it. Internet write-for-hire: totally not.

The long version:

A few weeks ago, INTERN started lurking around writing and publishing job boards, and came across the same postings all around the web: something to the tune of "make money writing!" or "now hiring writers!". She visited a few sites, and lo and behold, here were promises of real money in exchange for writing informative articles on an infinite range of subjects.

INTERN's Boondoggle Bell started ringing, and she knew she had to investigate further. So INTERN regis—um, "applied" for several of these so-called writing jobs. A few days later, the e-mails began to flood in: INTERN had been hired! Hu…

most beautiful typo award

Yesterday evening when INTERN was biking home, she went past a construction site with the words "No Tressing" spraypainted onto a cement block. It conjured up images of Rapunzel-ish construction workers studiously ignoring their own hair while they worked, and made INTERN very happy.

ceci n'est pas un livre

Late last night when INTERN and Techie Boyfriend were walking through the park, Techie Boyfriend's supersonic ears detected the sound of two kittens somebody had abandoned in a cardboard box. INTERN has never had any kind of non-brine shrimp pet and was baffled re: what to do with said kittens, but luckily T.B. is some kind of expert and built them a doublewide kitten spaceship back at the apartment, complete with litter box lined with shredded drafts of INTERN's latest fiction project. Oh, and flashing LEDs.

Now, INTERN is just out of an editorial meeting, and her nose is still a bit sniffly from the kittens. Editorial wisdom of the day? Some books are not books, and some books that are books are not the books they think they are.

If your manuscript has gone as far as an editorial meeting, the Eds are going to be discussing not only where your book would go in the book store, whether it would sell, and whether it's any good, but whether your book is even a book at all…

hare e. coli

Every now and then when INTERN gets off the train in the morning, there is a little card table set up on the street with people in orange robes chanting and tinging little bells and handing out flyers for free meditation classes. On the card table, there is always a plate of orange slices, sitting right next to a bottle of disinfectant spray. The orange/disinfectant combo never fails to give INTERN pause. Do these guys need to spray down their oranges periodically to satisfy health codes? Do passers-by routinely pick up an orange slice, turn it over in their fingers, and put it back down, covered in germs? What's the deal here?

INTERN feels the same way—fascinated, suspicious, wary—when those submissions come into the s. pile with a bio listing "high school short story contest 1982" as a writing credit, and "Ms. Tinkleby, the Head Ed at Otherbigfancy Publisher [in 1971!], said this was the most heart-wrenching asian fusion cookbook she'd seen in her entire c…

autumn jabberwockery

Today INTERN's heart is full of despair. She wanders, listless, from bookshelf to filing cabinet to mail machine, the Bermuda triangle of busywork, then retreats to her couch to listen to some Ravi Shankar on headphones while re-proofreading a manuscript about the ancient druids.

The internship will be over in a month. INTERN is not sure what to do with herself. INTERN is not generally the month-in-advance planning type except when she's feeling despairing, in which case everything is fair game. Therefore, it would be helpful if readers could vote on the following:

In a month's time, should INTERN

a) get some kind of menial hipster job and stick around the city
b) sell her organs on the black market and stick around the city
c) attempt to find some kind of publishing job, somewhere
d) be a fire tower lookout like Jack Kerouac (this is a legitimate option)
e) hitchhike to northern British Columbia to live on her friends' commune (also legit)
f) move to somewhere cheap a…

what is and isn't a book promotion plan

INTERN just finished reading a proposal for a non-fiction book about a young woman's experience volunteering at an orphanage in China while on a church mission trip and her subsequent realization that philanthropy had to begin at home. After a ho-hum summary and chapter outline, she got to the punch:

"I will use the advance money and royalties to open an orphanage for abandoned babies in downtown San Francisco. The grand opening for the orphanage will provide all necessary publicity for the book."

*Bang head on desk*

INTERN cannot count how many times she had read this kind of thing. "I will use my advance to build an aquarium for endangered whales." "I will use my advance to find a cure for colon cancer." "I will use my advance to open a ballet academy for children with rabies." Every time, the writer tacks on something to the tune of "and the aquarium/cancerarium/orphanage will obviously generate more than enough publicity for the …

a completely unscientific look at book-buying: part 1

INTERN has been doing a lot of thinking about why people buy the books they buy. Head Ed says it has a lot to do with where the book is placed in the bookstore and other marketing-type stuff, and this is very true. But their are other, squidgier reasons: people buy also books out of guilt, or self-pity, or indulgence, or a feeling of righteousness, or need, or even terror. It's all very Catholic (and INTERN is allowed to say that because all her elementary school teachers were nuns).

INTERN's mom says she buys whatever books are necessary to keep up in the dog-eat-dog world of her ladies' book club (terror).

INTERN's hipster friend who works at a Borders in a fairly small town says pregnant women come in to buy pregnancy books, then slip in romance novels the way people slip chocolate bars into their groceries (indulgence/deservingness).

INTERN is thinking about the last few books she paid cash moneys for. As an intern, INTERN gets a lot of free books already, and she…

scientific proof that publishing a book won't make you happier

INTERN interacts with a lot of writers (some of them her friends) who have elaborate fantasies of rapture and eternal contentment following the acceptance for publication of their chapbook/short story collection/thinly-veiled college honors thesis.

But then, at her internship, INTERN interacts (or usually, overhears interactions) with writers who have book deals, but have deferred their rapture and eternal contentment to when their book sells 1,000,000 copies, or when they get interviewed about it on the Daily Show.

And yesterday when INTERN was dumping flour in the bread machine, she noticed that the rather humble bread machine cookbook she was using had sold over a million copies (and this, apparently, in 1991). INTERN was suddenly swamped in the feeling that her life was futile, and required two hours of high-octane pep-talking from Techie Boyfriend to come around. INTERN's book is slated to be published in May. The initial rapture-and-contentment has worn off, and now she i…

scrapple in the apple

This is the first September since INTERN was four that she is not going back to school, and it feels weird.

To compensate, INTERN went to the library last night and checked out a stack of incomprehensible books on physics and philosophy, and plans to read them in the back of the van while on tour with her harsh noise band this weekend, and possibly to read them onstage too, because in terms of the band INTERN is the harsh-noise equivalent of a tambourine-banger or triangle-dinger, and could probably get away with it.

Also, INTERN has been slowly compiling a reading list of her favorite writing-advice books and resources, by genre. Here goes nothing:

Chick Lit: Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel by Cathy Yardley is an intelligent look at the history of the chick lit genre, how to write it, and how to pitch it. If you're prejudiced against books with pink covers, this one will set you straight: all killer, no filler, and no punches pulled.

Literary Journals: If…

why you should be writing something besides your manuscript

It turns out one of the hip, young Editorial Assistant's more pleasant jobs is to keep her finger on the pulse of hip, young indie magazines (hellooo Pirates Magazine) and scout for bookworthy talent.

At this morning's editorial meeting, she pulled out some obscure, paisley-covered music magazine and pointed to an article by some guy who specializes in urban magic. Urban magic, e.g., quickie spells you can cast to dispel heat-toting gangsters when you're riding your bike through their neighborhood. e.g. divination w/found movie ticket stubs. e.g. dowsing for $^#% public bathrooms in the city.

Magazine gets passed around. Everyone loves it. Head Ed gives Editorial Assistant the thumbs-up to contact this lucky urban warlock about the possibility of a book. And all this, without said warlock ever writing a query letter or affixing postage stamp to envelope.

And also, a week ago, INTERN's roommate dragged her to a very long and positive affirmation-heavy yoga cla…