Showing posts from August, 2009

craigslist: the hot new place to query

INTERN was, er, investing time on craigslist this morning when she found this post:

"I have written three non-fiction books which have best seller potential. Yes, you've heard that before, but if we dialogue I think you will agree. However, I am not a writer, but simply had something important to say. Therefore, I am not familiar with the usual query/submision proceedure and the books are time critical enough, that it doesn't seem prudent to wade through the normal publishing channels."

No, it is certainly not prudent to wade through the normal publishing channels when your idea is so critical you have it on craiglist and...hope an agent will want to schedule a "random encounter" with you?

As if that one wasn't cool enough, craigslist querying is apparently becoming a trend (or the same person is doing it over and over again) (or the INTERN just didn't know about it until now):

"Compelling children's picture book dealing with death n…

F&M Week Day 7: Memoir Kerfuffle

INTERN was late getting to the Big Old Fancy Publishing Office today due to a combination of shoelace-caught-in-gears, helpful-but-insane-shoelace-caught-in-gears-incident-bystander, and a band of renegade, stepford-esque free granola bar sample giver-outers standing on the corner: "Take a bunch. They're free! THEY'RE FREE!"

Now INTERN is sitting at her usual spot on the red couch, wiping the bicycle grease off her leg with a napkin, listening to the classical music coming from Head Ed's computer speakers, and thinking about the one big nagging problem of memoirs.

The one big nagging problem of memoirs is that many would-be memoirists assume that a memoir is a story where the writer already knows what happens.

Yet in order for a memoir to be good, this cannot be true.

Consider a classical pianist playing a Beethoven sonata. The crummy pianist will merely play the sonata from memory—after all, she's been playing the sonata for years, and she *obviously* know…

today, publishers lunch is driving INTERN insane

Deal News
"Dovey-Lou Supreme's ALL-PURPOSE WAFFLE, pitched as Infinite Jest meets Everybody Poops, in a deal so awesome it makes other deals look like chain beatings rather than actual deals, in a three-book deal, to HarperCollins, with foreign rights to every country in the UN, and extraterrestrial rights on Betelgeuse and Pluto. For now."


F&M Week Day 6: Annihilating the Arbitrary

Maybe INTERN is just hungry, but more and more YA and MG query letters in The Pile are reading like those build-your-own pizza forms where you check off what kind of Cheese and Sauce and Crust you want—except instead of Cheese and Sauce and Crust, the checkboxes pertain to Tough Issues, Wackiness, and Diversity.

Example: "My 30,000 word middle-grade novel 'Across the Rainbow' is a multi-faith tale of intercultural understanding that spans generations. Hildegarde Ho, 12, must confront her second cousin's alcoholism while dealing with her own crack cocaine addiction, all while trying to attract the amorous attention of her hilarious, be-froed, penguin-catching next-door neighbor Mohammad Jones, whose Catholic mother tries to keep the pair apart until they triumph over adversidy [sic] with hilarious results. As the school talent show approaches, they must train the penguins to mambo—before it's too late."

Repeat, substituting "missing father," "w…

F&M Week Day 5: Does This Count As Assault?

This morning on the train, a droopy-eyed INTERN clutching her bicycle with one hand and the overhead hangy-thing with the other was accosted by a Belligerent Self-Published Children's Author and held hostage for a full fifteen minutes that probably left a liftetime of psychological scarring.

BSPCA: Cute jacket.
INTERN: Thanks.
BSPCA: I'm a children's book author. I'm on a book tour.
INTERN: Cool! Oh, neat! What's your book called? Who's your publisher? I intern at a publishing house.
BSPCA: (dark shadow falling over steely grin) It's called "Mystic Horizons of Gaia." It's self-published.
INTERN: Oh. Cool.
BSPCA: I never really considered getting it published through the usual channels. Do you know that most print runs for children's books are like 5,000 books? And then you only get 7.5% of the retail price? And publishers don't want to take on full-color books because they're expensive to produce, and then there are a…

F&M Week Days 3+4: Making $ While-U-Wait

Lately, INTERN's landlord has been approaching INTERN at funny times of day to talk about his elderly mother's collection of short stories, journal entries, and drawings, which he wants to get published so he can use the subsequent windfall to send his mother on a tropical vacation. "I figure maybe Hawai'i? Bermuda? Somewhere she can sit on the beach for a couple weeks? D'you think I'll get enough to send her on a cruise? I figure it's time to get them published now, so she can go this winter."

*Smile and nod, while heart breaks into neon tongues of compassion and sorrow*

If you really want to make money writing fiction—fast money, not long, drawn-out, hypothetical advance money or the lime green, money-esque "money" cash-strapped literary journals have taken to sending instead of cheques—there are two options INTERN can recommend. Option A is for the bold. Option B is for the polyglottal.

Here's how it goes:

Step 1: Get a paying j…

F&M Week Day Two: Truth and Stuff

INTERN was going to get started right away talking about the role of truth in fiction, but last night INTERN's roommate dragged her to a crowded open mic and bought her a beer, and several woozy fiction-related revelations ensued relating to music.

So: music it is.

The first person to play at this open mic was this skinny sixteen-year old kid with a guitar that weighed more than he did, and when he took the stage there was this frisson through the mostly 20-something audience, tangible hope that this unsullied young child-master would pull enlightenment down from the heavens and blow everyone's dome. He was young enough to speak truth. Watching him tune his axe was terrifying and nerve-wracking. Would he bring it?

Unfortunately, speaking truth is exactly what he did. To the tune of a seven-minute, structureless, vaguely melodic monologue about how he had a crush on this girl (Name: Cassie. Age: 16. Favorite band: Fall-out Boy. Baseline Facial Expression: Cruel but so b…

7 Days of Fiction Boondogglery—Day 1

INTERN generally demurs from writing about fiction queries, because that subject is already covered so expertly by blogs like queryshark, pitch clinic and others. But over the past few months, INTERN has been seeing pretty decent fiction queries, followed up by really awful (or almost good, but not quite—which is more awful than truly awful) fiction chapters, and little stores of irkdom and despair have been building up in her heart. Then there was the Writing Retreat, where much Fiction Writing Advice was bandied about, and many of the recurring characteristics of these pseudo-interesting submissions suddenly made sense.

Hence, INTERN is declaring the next 7-10 days (or however long it takes to write 7 posts) F&M week (Fiction and its cousin, Memoir).

Topics to be covered include: higher metaphors! those pesky organisms called characters! suspense—yes, even memoirs need it! how not to write for kids! (in case you haven't been listening to Editorial Anonymous) how to make…

scenes from life of INTERN

Last night, 1 AM

Techie Boyfriend: Does it ever bother you that we have no fridge magnets?
Sleepy INTERN: Sometimes, I guess.
Techie Boyfriend: It bothers me in the extreme. We keep putting it off. We're never going to get fridge magnets unless we do it right now. Let's go.
Sleepy INTERN: But it's 1 AM!
Techie Boyfriend: Perfect. Walgreens is open until 2.

This morning, 9:30 AM

Very sleepy INTERN: (struggles under weight of 41 memoir proposals) Why are we getting so many of these right now?
Editorial Assistant: It's August.
V. s. I: So?
Editorial Assistant: Think back nine months.
V. s. I: Mmm...December? What happens in December?
Editorial Assistant: People start writing memoirs in December. It takes them about nine months to finish. Then we start getting proposals in August.
V. s. I: They don't REVISE?!?!?
Editorial Assistant: (calls over her shoulder to Assistant Editor) Isn't she cute?

This morning, 10:30 AM

Very very sleepy INTERN: (going to water cool…

computer world

As per reader request, the INTERN blog is now available on Kindle here. And if like 2 million people subscribe, Amazon will pay INTERN enough to buy her sea-monkeys more Item 12-Sea Monkey Growth Food from the Trans-Science Corporation before they kick the bucket.

WR Part II: A supposedly inspiring thing INTERN will never do again

If you ever plan to attend a Writing Retreat, there are two sounds you must add to your vocal repertoire before you go. The first is the Murm: a low-frequency, appreciative, I-have-just-been-enlightened-by-the-guru rumble that starts in the back of the throat and never gets past the lips, and is invariably accompanied by a vague nod of the head. The other is the Moo, an elongated Murm which conveys disapproval and suspicion and can be used to let people know that you know that a certain Writing No-No is indeed to be despised.

Let's practice.

Poetry Instructor: I'm going to read one of my poems. Here goes: "fledged with sod, the eaglet/snarfs the guts of day"
Writing Group: *Murm*.
Poetry Instructor: Now I'm going to read another poem. Here goes: "fledged with sod, the eaglet forcefully/snarfs the guts of day." That one had an adverb in it. What do we know about adverbs?
Writing Group: *MOOOOOO.*
Poetry Instructor: But in this case, it was good, be…

what you missed at this morning's editorial meeting:

...a full-out rumble over numbers in book titles. Turns out Head Ed and Exec Ed can both get pretty riled up over number-titles ("A thousand and one ASSHOLES you must ARGUE WITH before you DIE!"), but it all ended peacefully, and INTERN has swept up the spoils of the debate:

-for better or for worse, 1001 is hot right now. So hot. If someone checked the mail right now and found an ms called "1001 Penny-Pinching Tips to Survive the Recession", BAM, instant contract! (but the advance would only be for $1001. Tis penny-pinching times.)

-101, as a number of units, is no longer cool ("101 Dating Tips from Grandmothers"), but is still OK as a course-title gimmick ("Grandma-Dating 101).

-365 is OUT. So last year. Who honestly reads a tip a day, or a recipe a day, or whatever, from the same book? Besides, it's 2009 and this year we're living in the NOW. Not the other 364 days. The NOW.

-2012 is IN. For anyone who doesn't know, 2012 is when…

Writing Retreat Part 1: Ode to Amateurs

INTERN is back, misty-eyed and kumbaya-ish, from a weekend spent prancing around in nature with pen and journal in hand at an authentic Writer's Retreat. Everyone in the office is peering up over their desks and asking, "What happened at this Writer's Retreat that spawned such obvious paroxysms of hypomanic delight in you, oh normally sleepy intern?"

To which INTERN answers:

a) the lake was really, really pretty!
b) there was unlimited coffee all day!


c) it was full of pure-hearted, earnest, book-loving, whimsical shirt-wearing 50-somethings who really like to read and write but don't seem to care about ever getting published themselves, and actually seemed to consider it a distraction on the odd occasion when someone asked a publishing-related question to an instructor.


So many people smirk at the mention of W.R's that INTERN went into this, her first one, half-expecting to find a mythical tribe of egotistical ring-wraiths, each one with a precious Fic…