Showing posts from 2011

now that INTERN has turned in her latest revision...

...she is going to:

1. Check herself into the nearest Sanitorium.

2. Change out of and possibly wash the black fleece Revision Pants she has been wearing for six weeks.

3. Eat something that hasn't been sitting in a #%@$#$ crockpot for a week and a half.

4. Apologize to the people she has alienated, snarled at, and/or wept on over the course of said Revision.

5. Learn a new juggling trick.

6. Identify a new sort of wild mushroom.

7. Make plans to write a second novel that is infinitely simpler, neater, and more obedient than the first one. A foolproof novel! A novel that will require no Revision whatsoever! A novel that will come out of the box pre-assembled and smelling like glue!

8. A novel that won't wrap INTERN up in a poisonous cocoon of self-doubt and despair! A novel that will leave INTERN feeling like a genius every time she writes instead of a bumbling hack! A novel that will assuage all INTERN's fears and insecurities! A novel made of gold!

9. Search India suitcase for l…

everything INTERN needs to know about revision, she learned from her phlebotomist

A few days ago, INTERN wandered into a blood drive and signed up on a whim. The day was young; the cookies looked good; INTERN had nothing better to do.
The phlebotomist was a sandy-haired Viking in a long white coat who entertained INTERN with phlebotomy fun facts as he set her up on a rolling table and installed the needle. However, things got less fun from there.
Once the needle was in, INTERN lay on the table for what seemed like forever. Her arm ached like hell. Her blood dawdled out sluggishly. The lights on the ceiling buzzed. The phlebotomist wandered away to gossip with the Red Cross volunteer at the sign-in table. But INTERN's spirits were held aloft by the idea that all this discomfort was for the greater good.
When the phlebotomist came back from chatting up the sign-in volunteer, he unceremoniously yanked the needle out of INTERN's arm.
"What happens now?" said INTERN. "Is my blood going into the blood bank?"
"Nope," said the Viking, tossi…

all your e-mail are belong to us: in which independent bookstores get digital rabies

The other day, INTERN found a trampled but still legible coupon on the sidewalk for 15% off any book at a charming local bookstore on the little island she is temporarily calling home.

"Huzzah!" exclaimed INTERN. "What a find!"

She stuck it in her purse along with various other sidewalk finds (feathers, pennies, someone's bifocals) and went along her merry way.

Today, INTERN went to the bookstore and picked out a book to give to her big sister for Christmas (The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes, in case you're curious—INTERN's big sister is a crafty lady). When INTERN took her purchase to the counter, she presented the friendly clerk with her coupon.

That's when things got peculiar.

"Write down your e-mail here so we can keep you updated on our events," said the (really very friendly) clerk.

"Oh, no thanks," said INTERN cheerfully. "I'm just visiting."

"You'll still want to know about our events," said the cle…

thank you

...for all the tweets and comments and celebratory e-mails. INTERN feels like she has hundreds of fairy godpeople helping and poking and waving their wands as she stumbles her way towards published noveldom, and that is a magical feeling indeed.

In case you are curious, here are some questions and answers about INTERN's forthcoming books!

Q: Isn't summer 2013, like, a year and a half away? Why the long wait?

A: The summer 2013 pub date is timed to coincide with INTERN's release from the maximum security women's prison from which she has been writing this blo—oh wait, that's some other intern.

It would take an entire post to explain the logic behind pub dates. Most importantly in INTERN's case, the summer 2013 pub date for Book 1 gives INTERN more time to write a brilliant Book 2 (not a sequel) in time for summer 2014.

INTERN is still getting the hang of novels. She's inefficient, delusional, and frequently confused. This timeline gives INTERN more time to deve…

midnight unmasking ceremony

*eats dragon fruit*

*burns sage*

*dons ceremonial robes*

*shakes ceremonial rattles*

*reads relevant passages from the Tao te Ching*

*steals glance at clock*

*counts to three*

*scampers into the moonlight*


At this point, participants who wish to discover INTERN's "real identity" (as well as a totally unfounded rumor about this blog being defunct) are spirited over to this page (scroll down to the fifth item in the list).

Otherwise, here's the news:

Huzzah! Novels! Gamboling! Dragon fruit for all!

hedonic treadsorcery!

INTERN was so impressed by this thought experiment at Kristan Hoffman's blog that all she feels like doing today is telling every writer she knows to try it.

And that is SERIOUSLY all.

Help a Writer Out: In Praise of Mutual Aid

When INTERN was in college, she had the extreme good fortune of having a best friend whose parents were writers and well-connected in Vancouver’s small press scene. When INTERN expressed an enthusiasm for all things literary, they casually and with no great fanfare took her under their wing.

Over the next three years, they introduced INTERN to poets and editors in their literary circle. Lent her a constant stream of obscure books. Helped her produce her first chapbook. Let her tag along to readings and book launches. They were (and are) great people and the best mentors an aspiring writer could have asked for.

INTERN spent the weekend visiting these mentor-friends in Vancouver and also soaking in/trying to get a grasp on the Occupy fervor that has bubbled up in that city like so many others (have you guys seen Occupy Writers? Lemony Snicket!). And it made INTERN think about all the ways we can help each other, as writers and as people.

1. Introduce writer-friends to one another!


in which INTERN wrestles with a viper

INTERN is bored of Scandalous Revelations (and talking about herself in general) so today let's talk about snakes.

The poet Rumi has a great story about a traveler who was about to put on his shoe when an eagle swooped down and snatched it.

"Goddamit!" said the traveler, shaking his gnarled fist. "Stinkin' eagle stole my stinkin' shoe!"

Just then, he watched as a poisonous viper fell out of the shoe the eagle had snatched, and realized that the loss of his shoe had prevented an even greater calamity, namely being fanged on the toe by a poisonous viper.

Sometimes things that feel like setbacks are actually benevolent eagles swooping down to stop you from doing something really, really stupid. And sometimes things that feel like successes are actually tests of your ability to wrestle with the viper on your own.

Sometimes, INTERN feels like each person has a different question dominating his/her life—"Am I a good person?" or "Am I living right?&q…

Week 'o' Scandalous Revelations, Part 2: Truth and the Anonymous Blogger

One of the most frequently asked questions INTERN has gotten about this blog since its inception in April 2009 is "How much of it is true?"

When people ask this question, they are often referring to the more outlandish tales, such as yesterday's scandalous revelation or the time INTERN accidentally ingested part of Vampire Roommate's evil spirit absorbing tablets in her midday snack.

The funny thing is, the stuff that makes you say "Reaaaaally?" is the true stuff. It's the mundane details that INTERN has fiddled with—dates/times/genders/locations/ordering of events/identifying details of people and institutions—in order to respect the privacy of the people and institutions she's depicted. When she started this blog, INTERN was downright PETRIFIED of being discovered by her place of internment (she remains sworn to secrecy to this day). She therefore took great care to anonymize the crap out of every possible detail. Publishing's a tiny world, and…

Week 'o' Scandalous Revelations, Part 1: An Uncensored History of This Blog

As you may know from Friday's post, INTERN's days as an anonymous blogger will soon be coming to an end. In approximately a week's time, INTERN will be forced to step out from behind her Wizard of Oz smokescreen and reveal herself to all of you as the lowly Helga von Spinklehorn, hunchbacked, far-sighted, and possessed of the most enormous set of fangs you've ever seen.

INTERN is scared shitless. But also a little relieved. Because while anonymity bestows many freedoms, it can also make things feel a little, oh, impersonal after a while, and for a long time now INTERN has been craving the ability to share herself in a way she has so far been unable to do.

But first, INTERN promised you Scandalous Revelations. So here is the first one.

Scandalous Revelation No. 1: What's the Deal With That Photo?

If you've been reading INTERN's blog for a while, you may have noticed this photo in the upper left hand corner:

The appearance of this blog has remained unchanged for s…

a very short post about a very big decision

Due to a variety of Recent Developments of which INTERN will explain more in due course, INTERN has arrived at a point where it will soon no longer be practical (or indeed, desirable) to keep this blog anonymous.

INTERN is therefore declaring a Week 'o' Startling Revelations starting on Monday, culminating in a dramatic and shocking Unmasking to take place slightly later this month. Ladies and Gentlemen who are prone to fainting spells are encouraged to bring their own smelling salts.

But WHY?




Not to mention, WHO?

Stay tuned as the revelations start to fly...

the kindle swindlers; thoughts on ebook piracy

When INTERN and Techie Boyfriend were trekking in Nepal, the heaviest thing in INTERN’s pack was a copy of Vikram Seth’s 1500-page A Suitable Boy, recommended by several clever and tasteful readers of this blog. That book was the size of a dorm room mini-fridge—INTERN could have survived in the Himalayas for weeks just by licking the ink. Attempts to sneak it into Techie Boyfriend’s pack resulted in immediate discovery and expulsion.

So when INTERN spied a fellow trekker reading a Kindle at the tea house that night, she accosted him immediately.

“How d’you like that thing?” INTERN said, helping herself to a chair at the table.

He looked up, smiling. He was a blond-haired sales and marketing type from somewhere in the southeast. His face spoke of leadership seminars and rugy.

“It’s great!” he said. “Ever since I bought it, I haven’t paid for a single book.”

“Oh, like you’re reading classics on Project Gutenburg?” said INTERN. She had met a butcher, once, in small-town Oregon, who read Dic…

Halloween Special: INTERN's Guide to Royalty Statements

This morning, INTERN found a blood-stained envelope stuffed under the door of her cabin. When she opened it, a royalty statement tumbled out, accompanied by a frantic note:


When INTERN inspected the royalty statement more closely (as you can do by clicking on it), she began to see why...

The royalty statement contained all the usual contents (a quick glossary is included below to jog your minds). But how to explain the sinister royalty rate of 6.66%? Or the curious use of the number 8 in the word "St8tement?"

INTERN wanted to believe that this chilling royalty statement was the work of a psychopath...but alas, it was practically indistinguishable from pretty much EVERY royalty statement INTERN has seen, right down to the blood stains.

Confused? Here's how to decipher the statement:

Royalty Statement Glossary

Regular sales – Low Discount: The number of books sold at a "low discount" to bookstores etc.

Regular sales -High Discount: Th…

don't shoot the acquisitions editor: a traveler's guide to rejection

When traveling in places like India and Nepal, you are quickly and quite against your will forced into the role of a Rejector (unless you want to come home with six dozen sarees, an altar's worth of Ganesh figurines, three or four dubious musical instruments and a pound of hashish). This gave INTERN new sympathy for the Rejectors in publishing, whose experience, INTERN imagines, must be something similar...

Imagine yourself in a crowded marketplace where you are shopping for shoes. Spread out before you are dozens of stalls where local cobblers are hard at work, surrounded by heaps of colorful shoes in all different sizes and styles.

"Oh man!" you think to yourself, your heart tingling with anticipation. "This is going to be the BEST DAY!"

You LOVE shoes. Nothing makes you happier than finding the perfect pair. You take shoe shopping so seriously it's practically your job. You stride towards the first stall, drawn at once towards towards a leather sandal in a …

the real actual truth about traveling in India

INTERN is back!

INTERN is back!

*hands out packets of incense and yak cheese*
*inquires as to whether or not postcards mailed three weeks ago have arrived*
*makes elliptical references to someone called Guru G. without explaining who this person is or why it is suddenly necessary for INTERN to dress in orange robes and eat only "high-vibrational" foods*

INTERN missed you all very, very much. She is delighted to be back and spent the entire plane ride home composing all sorts of posts in her head. But before she returns to things writing and publishing-related, she wanted to share a few insights gleaned on her travels, just in case you yourself are planning a trip to India or thereabouts.

The Real Truth About Traveling in India

When you tell a veteran traveler that you are going to South Asia for the first time, they will invariably tell you two things:

1. The roads are c-r-a-a-a-a-a-z-y.

2. You are going to get the trots like you wouldn't believe.

These two claims are followed by …

yodelings of imminent vanishment

As you can probably tell from the sparseness of blog posts this month, INTERN has been rather distracted lately. For those of you who missed INTERN's elated tweeting a few weeks ago, here's why: INTERN and Techie Boyfriend are going to India and Nepal! On, um, Sunday. It's all very surprising and a little bewildering (Techie Boyfriend got a last-minute contract doing Incomprehensible Computer Stuff that mysteriously involves spending a few weeks in Calcutta) and INTERN has been sorting out visas and typhoid vaccines and looking for the perfect India Notebook in which to scribble her thoughts.

INTERN will not be taking a laptop, so this post might be the last you hear from her until mid-October. INTERN is not ruling out the possibility of checking in with a state-of-the-Indian/Nepalese-book-scene post or two, but you never know. Sometimes, INTERN feels the need to disappear completely for a while, if only to reconfirm that the writings she's writing and the schemes she&…

never mind the bat nests: on fixer-upper manuscripts

When INTERN was in high school, she longed for a part in the school play, Shakespeare’s As You Like It. She was awkward and graceless and made a completely ridiculous Acting Face whenever she practiced reading the script, but she cared, goddamit, and on the day of the auditions she delivered a passionate rendition of Jabberwocky to the bemused directors. INTERN’s best friend, who was listening from the hallway, declared the performance “psychotic” and suggested that perhaps acting had better be left to the regular drama kids, none of whom had a singular and unchanging Acting Face but were in fact capable of a full range of actorly expressions.

A week later, the cast list went up. INTERN was shocked to see her name at the very bottom, cast in a minor role (but a role nonetheless!) as a foppish Frenchman named Le Beau.

INTERN was thrilled but mystified. Wasn’t it ill-advised to allow such an inexperienced actress even a minor role in the production? She was well aware of how clumsy her …

too many agents, not enough gin: the truth about multiple offer situations

In the past month, INTERN had the pleasure of supporting not one but two editing clients-turned-writer friends through the strangely harrowing process of choosing between multiple offers of representation.

"Multiple offers of representation?" you say. "How delightful! Surely these writer-friends did not require much in the way of emotional support."

Multiple offers of rep are the bizarro version of rejection letters. Instead of dashing your hopes, they suddenly make them seem possible. Instead of limiting your choices, they present you with a dazzling array. For the first time, you're the Rejector. You become *responsible* for your fate—capable of making the wrong decision (whereas if you have only one offer, it is always going to seem like the right decision).

As far as INTERN can tell, multiple offer situations are not particularly rare. Before it happens to you, please be advised of the following myths surrounding the multiple offer situation, and the hard …

writing advice books INTERN would like to see

Elements of Guile by Strunk and White: Tips on tricking agents and editors into representing/buying your manuscripts.

The Forest for the Bees by Betsy Lerner: An editor's advice to—OH MY GOD BEES!

Writing the Breakout Grovel by Donald Mass: How to beg famous writer-friends to blurb your book.

Building the Breakout Hovel, also by Donald Maas: How to build yourself a wattle-and-daub shack to live in once your breakout novel fails to break out.

On Smiting by Stephen King: Sick of writing? Learn the techniques of the bestselling smiter.

Nerd by Nerd by Anne Lamott: How to write science fiction and/or programming textbooks that will seduce the brainiest of readers.

Curd by Curd, also by Anne Lamott: An extended metaphor on writing as cheesemaking.

Writing Down the Clones by Natalie Goldberg: Clones are the new zombie-vampire-angel-trolls. Zen-style tips on cashing in on this hot new trend.


Which writing advice books would YOU like to see? INTERN wants to know!

Happy, happy Wednesday…

little jars, tasty jams: thoughts on making it big

There's a delightful French expression INTERN heard once which goes "les bonnes choses viennent dans des petits pots" (or something like that). Literally translated, it means "good things come in little pots," but INTERN has always read it as "tasty jams come in little jars."

Lately, INTERN has been thinking about what it means to be successful as a writer, and how different-sized jars of success each come with their own particular brand of delights. You don't "make it big" one time, but over and over, leaving a sticky jam trail in your wake...


Jar #1: You hand sell 10 copies of your poetry book Ode to a Bolete and make out like a bandit (fifty BUCKS!), which you gleefully spend on pints for you and your poetry buddies. You can't get over your good fortune, and in the following weeks you write your best poetry yet.

Jar #2: You win a small poetry contest for your chapbook Lament for a Lactarius, and the prize is publication by a…

first draft contest winners!

Just a short post today, as Techie Boyfriend has kershwaggled the power cord to INTERN's laptop and gone to Seattle for three days. Battery life remaining: just enough to announce the winners of the International Sh*tty First Draft Week Contest!

INTERN is so proud of everyone who entered the contest and is so impressed by everyone's nerve, daring, and drafting skills.

Without further ado...

Sarah B has won the first 50 pages critique!

Kimberly Gould has won the revision survival kit!

Matthew C Wood has won the twigs and string!

Winners can e-mail their INTERN at internspills [@] gmail [dot] com to claim their prizes.

Off to INTERN's charmingly decrepit and squirrel-infested writing cabin to bang on the Smith-Corona...

International Sh*tty First Draft Week-CONTEST!

All week long, fearless authors have revealed excerpts from their sh*tty first drafts. We've seen scenes like Christmas sweaters the manuscript outgrew; scenes that didn't carry their weight; scenes that have been cut and reinserted and cut so many times they don't even bother unpacking their suitcases any more.

Sh*tty First Draft Week was a misnomer in many ways. For one thing, much of the so-called shitty material in first drafts isn't so shitty after all. In fact, sometimes a scene or chapter is just perfect in its original context—but when you change other parts of the story, the context flexes and morphs until that "perfect" scene or chapter doesn't even make sense any more.

In this respect, drafting a novel is a bit like cooking a pot of soup: you can't throw in one new ingredient without affecting the flavor of everything else in the pot.

Another reason Sh*tty First Draft Week is a misnomer is the word "first". What about second, third,…

International Sh*tty First Draft Week—Day 4

The fourth and final Guest Author in the Sh*tty First Draft series is Alexander Chee, author of the novel Edinburgh. He has been at work on his new novel, The Queen of the Night, for several years. Since there is no cover art for The Queen of the Night yet, here is the cover of Alexander's previous novel, Edinburgh:

What a Tangled Web We Weave...

Revising The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

This is one of The Queen of the Night's oldest sections, and dates from March of 2004, a first draft. I revised it and eventually discarded it, though most if not all all of the themes here are at work in the novel still—a love triangle with at least one other hidden triangle inside of it, i.e., a secret other third party. The royal insignia, that is still significant in the novel, but differently.

The novel is about a young woman who is in sexual and artistic bondage to an older man, who uses her for various purposes, sexual, romantic, political. When I say bondage, I mean, he bought her …

International Sh*tty First Draft Week—Day 3

Today's guest post comes from Kat Zhang, whose HYBRID trilogy recently sold to HarperTeen in a major deal. Kat is an esteemed member of the League of Illustrious Interns (not that that had anything to do with it!)

No Slackers Allowed: Making Each Scene Count

I’m the sort of person who underwrites scenes the first round through. Which isn’t to say that I don’t need to cut things once I go back to revise, but when I revise a scene, it tends to get longer (and should). My first drafts of scenes are bare bones…sometimes not much more than dialogue and some sparse action shots.

Here’s a good example. This scene still exists in the final draft…much of the dialogue is word for word the same, but otherwise, the scene has changed quite dramatically. But I’ll talk about that later. First, let’s see how the scene was the very first time I sat down and pounded it out:

“He’s Will right now,” Lucy said as we came in the door. She was sprawled on the carpet, coloring with a reckless abandon. Hally d…

International Sh*tty First Draft Week—Day 2

Today, International Sh*tty First Draft Week continues with a guest post by Sarah Pinneo, whose forthcoming novel Julia's Child takes a humorous look at the organic food movement. Like that complicated recipe for arugula-flax chips, novels don't always work out on the first try...(OK, INTERN is about the cheesiest/worst MC ever. Stepping out of the way now.)

The Dog Should Eat My Homework by Sarah Pinneo

My comic novel, Julia’s Child, incorporates some themes which are both fun and dear to me. Julia, the main character, is deeply involved with the organic food movement. (So deeply, in fact, that she’s a bit neurotic about it.)

So in love was I with the milieu of farmers, foodies and obsessive sustainability that I put all of it into the book. I put it in often. Early readers said “I love it, but there’s too much about the business in there.” So I parted with a few lines and called it even. My agent said “I love it, but the book shows its homework too much.” So I cut out mo…

International Sh*tty First Draft Week—Day 1

Every day between now and Thursday, exciting authors will be revealing excerpts from the first drafts of books you may have read (or might be reading soon!) Today's fearless author is Nova Ren Suma, whose YA novel Imaginary Girls has been getting rave reviews from Kirkus, the L.A. Times, and everywhere in between.

But writing an acclaimed literary YA novel doesn't happen in one draft...

A Scene Sliced Out of IMAGINARY GIRLS

by Nova Ren Suma

I write long. My first drafts are a study in endlessless and an experiment of how many times I can have my characters discover and rediscover the same thing and face up to the same epiphany. In first drafts, apparently everyone I write about has amnesia. That, or it takes me a few times to get a scene down right.

This means that when it comes time for revision the first thing I do is cut. I cut, then rewrite, then cut some more. (Then I do it again. And again.) The snippet of the scene I'm about to share isn't something I cut out of ho…