Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Can't Pick One!

Today’s RTW question from YA Highway: What was the best book you read in September?

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenThe Girl of Fire and Thorns

I have to admit—it’s been one of those busy months where I’m reading nonstop. Currently I’m in the middle of three different books and two manuscripts. Yep, crazy! But, two of the books I’m enjoying right now are The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (should be included in everyone’s fantasy reading list!) and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (so creative!). I don’t know which will become my favorite for the month—so let’s just say it’s a tie TBD later! Has anyone read both books yet? 

Monday, September 26, 2011

National Book Festival

This weekend I was able to visit my best friend, Heather, in Washington, DC—yay! It was so great to see her. We planned our get together this particular weekend because it was the National Book Festival.

Here are some of the highlights of the Saturday speakers:

Toni Morrison: Did you know that the Beloved author was also an editor for years and years? It was great to hear her talk about that side of her career!

Sarah Dessen: I loved her bit of writing ‘advice’: “I always eat two pieces of chocolate before writing.” Since she clearly had a fantastic writing career, I think I should just channel her talent by also having two pieces of chocolate before I write!

Katherine Paterson and John Rocco: I had already heard the fantastic Katherine Paterson speak last spring, but she surprised us by inviting John Rocco, the illustrator for Katherine and her husband John’s most recent book, The Flint Heart. I immediately liked John Rocco when he said: “I feel uneasy when I walk into people’s houses that don’t have books. As soon as I see bookshelves I feel comfortable. I know these are good people.”

Cassandra Clare: She told the most fantastic stories of her, Holly Black, and Sarah Rees Brennan doing research for their books. Like breaking into a deserted building on Roosevelt Island so Cassie could use it as a setting for her Mortal Instruments series and Holly horribly covering for her when the cops showed up…or Cassie driving Holly around in the trunk of her car so that Holly could accurately write about a kidnapping in her Curse Workers series…or the three traipsing around London taking pictures of Victorian buildings only to discover that there was a person in that window, and he was naked! Having met both Holly and Sarah I can just imagine the fun adventures they’ve had together!

Brian Selznick: He is a genius. I’m sure of it. The amount of research that goes into his books is astounding and the way he pursues his projects really shows he thinks book making is art; it’s not just about the plot or characters, it’s about what turning a page means and how each word or image interacts with each other word and image but also the reader. I just could not believe how thoughtful he was. I haven’t yet read The Invention of Hugo Cabret or Wonderstruck—the $30 price tag is a bit high for my budget—but I’m definitely checking them out from the library asap and will hopefully catch the movie adaptation of his first book, Hugo, this winter.

So, there you have my and Heather’s adventures…I hope to return to the National Book Festival again next year!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Banned Book Week

Next week (Sept 24-Oct 1) is Banned Book Week. As a reader and an editor, I cringe at the idea of kids not being able to read a book they want—and I hope you feel the same way! Books are banned for various reasons—sexual or violent content, harsh language, questionable material according to a religious group. But sometimes—often times—those banned books might be just right for a teenage girl who wants to learn more about her sexuality, or a teenage boy who wants to read a book that reflects his reality, or kids who have no intention of reading at all, only to fall in love with a series and become lifelong book lovers. One book can affect its reader is so many different, and necessary, ways. It isn’t fair for us, as adult gatekeepers, to choose what books we want kids to have access to. A book can change a life.

Here are some resources for the upcoming week from the American Library Association:

As for me, I’ll be reading some of my favorite banned books in the park, on the subway, in my home. Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Go Ahead, Judge

Today’s RTW question from YA Highway is: What are your all-time favorite book covers?

Having sat in meetings where designers are presenting and tweeking and defending and changing their cover choices to editors and sales people, I know how much thought goes into book covers. Not one inch of the jacket is ignored—from the model’s left eyelashes to the curve of a letter in the title. There are plenty of jackets out there that are good and representative of the novel it’s covering. Then there are book covers that speak to me and make me pick up the book without knowing a thing about what’s inside. When you find a cover that does both, you’ve found a perfect cover. Go ahead and judge these books based on what they look like! My favorites tend to fall into three categories:

The pretty dresses:

I swoon for gorgeous, breathtaking dresses and covers like these tend to hint to my favorite genres, fantasy and historical (or even better, a combination of both!).

A Great and Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy)
Princess of the Midnight Ball
The Luxe

The iconic:

Something a little different that’s impossible to forget. The jacket for The Replacement, especially, is one that made me buy the book on looks alone.

Twilight (Twilight, Book 1)
The Replacement

The I’m-not-sure-what-technique-this-is-but-I-like-it:

Is this reminiscent of wood cutting? Block printing? I’m not an art or design person, but images like this really appeal to me for their deceptive simplicity.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls)
Pretty Monsters: Stories

What kind of book covers to do you like? How representative of the title does the jacket have to be? Or do you just want it to be pretty and eye-catching? 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why You Have To Have A Job You Love

Anyone who has read more than one post on this blog knows that working in children’s editorial was my dream job, and now that I’ve had it for almost a year(!), it still is. The talented authors who write the most fascinating books, the top-notch editors from whom I can learn so much, and did I mention the books?

One of our fantastic authors, Charles Benoit who wrote You, has another book coming out next summer called Fall From Grace. I won’t—I can’t yet—tell you much about it, other than it’s mind-blowing and thought-provoking. The situation one of the characters is in and the advice he receives, however, has got me thinking about why it’s so important you have a job you love.

The first advice the main character receives is the old adage, “Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

The meaning behind the quote is kind, but the message is so not true. I have a job I love, but it is what it is—a job. Work. I wake up to an alarm that goes off hours before I’d like it to.  I deal with the unfriendly, uncooperative, crowded commute typical for a New Yorker. I work at least eight hours a day, five days a week in the office. I have not, for the past three weeks, taken a longer lunch break than walking to the bank three blocks away. I attend industry events in the evening, hoping to make a contact—be that an agent, an author, or an editor at another house—that will somehow provide advantageous in the future. I take manuscripts home to read on the weeknight and weekends. I continuously read books published by our competitors so I know what is out there and can speak and act knowledgably related to industry trends.

All of the above? It’s work. It’s getting less sleep than I’d like. It’s giving up time to spend with friends or family or even, if it’s what I like, in front of the tv. It’s what I do to support myself—pay my rent and bills, save for the future. That’s what a job is.

The other advice the character gets in Fall From Grace: “Find out what it is you like to do, then go and do it.”

This is key. I do all of that listed here because, yes it’s my job, but more importantly, because I feel my job is worth those sacrifices to my sleep pattern, my social life. It’s what I want to be doing. When I was sixteen and had my first job as a sandwich maker—that was only my job to earn money for college. It was solely a financial arrangement. So when the opportunity came for me to leave that position and rise to department store associate (ooh, ahh) I did not look back. Sandwich making was not a career in which I felt fulfilled. I was not willing to wake up at 8am on a Sunday to ask if you wanted the 6-inch or the 12-inch, and would you like a value meal with soda and chips? I did not care if we sold more sandwiches than the rival shop down the street. Publishing, on the other hand, in an industry I’m invested in, and my work as an editorial assistant is worth the time and effort I put in. I love what I do—helping authors produce the best book possible so that everyone can read it.

A job, by definition, is paid work. But having a job that I’d keep even if I won the lottery? It’s work that I am meant to be doing.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Writers Writing about Writing

I won’t lie—this week has been way too busy for me to come up with something thrilling to post today. Luckily, there are a lot of brilliant peoples—authors, to be exact—who have lots to say on the subject of writing that is definitely worth sharing. Here are two of my favorites that I’ve wandered across lately:

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Over and Over Again

Today’s RTW Question from YA Highway: What themes, settings, motifs, scenes, or other elements do you find recurring in your work?

This is such a good question and I wish I had more time to answer it…but I’m determined to post something earlier than 6pm! Some recurring elements I find in my work are:

·        Non-conventional endings: My WIP The Rose of Coracus does not have the ‘the boy and girl are together happily ever after’ ending. Because it’s not right for the pair. Perhaps it’s the bit of feminist in me, but I don’t think books—even romance-driven YA—need to have that conventional conclusion. If it’s not right for my characters, it’s not going to happen in my manuscript.

·        Patience: This relates to the first point. I was surprised to see that many of my characters have to exhibit non-teenage-like patience. They have to wait for what is right for them, work towards it even if it takes a long time. In this regard, I feel like my characters have a lot to teach readers—and me!

·        Female-Centered: Many of my manuscripts have scenes where women need to work together to stand up against patriarchy (an evil king, the Princess’s father, in Dueling Princesses for example) or highlight female-centered networks of support. (My goodness, I am a feminist!)

·         On a more superficial level, I doubt I will ever write a fantasy book that doesn’t include gorgeous dresses, quasi-medieval setting, a ball, and royalty!

Do you have any themes or such that reoccur in your writing? Share!

Also, last chance to help me out and let me know what you’d like to see here!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reading Roundup

ref=sib_dp_pt.jpgDead End in Norvelt (ARC 9/13) by Jack Gantos
This middle grade coming of age story is actually historical fiction—my favorite! That being said, it wasn’t my favorite book ever because it’s a boy book. The main character, also named Jack Gantos, is interested in war memorabilia, baseball, and suffers from a bloody nose condition. The plot is amusing—since Jack is grounded for the summer he helps his elderly neighbor write obituaries for the unusual number of old women who are dying—and the adult townie characters are fantastic. It’s a well-written book, but not my type. (Historical Book Challenge #6)

ref=sib_dp_pt.jpgMonster by Walter Dean Myers
One of my new at work goals is to read one Harper backlist book a month, starting with the award winners. Monster was selected for me and I so glad it was! It is the story of Steve Harmon, a 16 year-old black kid from Harlem who is on trial for murder during a convenience store robbery. It’s written in multiple formats: diary entries, the trial transcript, some illustrations. The best part about this novel is that although the jury comes to a verdict, the reader isn’t ever quite sure if Steve is innocent or guilty.

ref=dp_image_z_0.jpgThe Scorpio Races (ARC 10/18) by Maggie Stiefvater
I’m not quite sure how I feel about this novel. It’s so different than the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy which I adored. This novel is older, darker. It takes the mythology of deadly water horses and turns it upside down; in a small island community brave (or foolish) men capture these horses each November to race them. This year, for various reasons, Kate ‘Puck’ Connelley joins the men and begins a relationship with the race’s past champion, Sean. Their relationship isn’t the sigh-and-swoon type of Sam and Grace. I never actually felt really connected to them. I cared more about Sean’s water horse. But the language in this novel, especially the sparse dialog, proves once again that Maggie Stiefvater is a talented writer. (A very small side note: the UK cover is way prettier and more exciting that the US art…)

The Shreek of Wagons: 1848 Diary of Richard M. May, edited by Helfrich & Ackerman
This is a little different than my typical reading this past year. It’s my boyfriend’s great-great-great-grandfather’s Oregon Trail journal. And since I love history and I was traveling in Oregon this month I thought it was a great time to read it! And it was really interesting; he was one of the only diarists of the area to record meeting settlers coming back East with the gold they had found in 1849 and to mention traveling through a lunar eclipse. Now, of course, I want to play the Oregon Trail computer game!

ref=sib_dp_kd.jpgThe Unwanteds (ARC 8/30) by Lisa McMann
In this middle grade fantasy/dystopian children at the age of 13 are divided in three categories— intelligent and athletic “Wanteds,” helpful “Necessaries,” and creative “Unwanteds.” Society believes that the Unwanteds are sent to death, but in actuality they live in a secret world full of magic and prepare to fight the rest of the population. I first heard of this book at BEA—and saw the Kirkus Review calling it “Harry Potter meets the Hunger Games.” I naturally had to see if it lived up to that hype. Not only did it disappoint, I struggled to even finish it, only doing so so that I could write a review here. There are many problems with this novel; first, it is written in such a distant third person that I never felt like I knew the characters. I never was rooting for them and I didn’t care if they succeeded. Second, the world-building was far too cutesy for my taste. This is definitely a personal preference, although I love Savvy and the upcoming Bliss which use puns and clever world play. This took it too far; characters had names like Mr. Today and his daughter Claire Morning, the half-octopus was named Octavia. When the students battled they used neon yellow highlighters to blind opponents, or a dance from The Nutcracker to dance the Wanteds into submission. Last, (“spoiler”) the Unwanteds beat the Wanteds at the end of the book—but they win through creative fighting. Never once do the intelligent and/or athletic Wanteds even acknowledge that creativity is a useful skill. There needed to be a revelation at the end, because without it, I don’t know what the message is supposed to be…Overall, I can see the comparison to Harry Potter since the story takes place in school-like setting a magic world but that’s where the similarities ends: I didn’t care about the characters, world, outcome, or anything else.

Manuscripts: 4

Friday, September 9, 2011

An Assistant's Budget

A while ago I commented on a blog post questioning if the publishing industry was skewed towards privileged people from New York. Although an interesting topic, some of the comments stuck with me more: comments about the small salary of assistants*, the impossibility of affording an apartment without vermin or five roommates, the difficulty in eating well-balanced nutritional meals, etc. These comments appalled me because I have not shared that experience.

As a poorly paid editorial assistant, do I have everything I want? No. Do I have everything I need? Absolutely. It’s all about being smart with your money and knowing how to save and when to compromise. So, for those debating whether they can afford to enter the industry without living at home or commuting from a dangerous neighborhood where you can’t leave your cockroach-filled apartment after sunset, here is how I handle living on a tight budget. It’s so doable.

Apartment: Rent is horribly high in New York, but despite this I knew I wanted to live in Manhattan. So I picked an ‘affordable’ neighborhood and ended up still living five blocks further north than I would have liked. I had three other roommates whom were found on Craiglist. It’s not ideal, but that’s what you have to do. And I had a sunny and clean apartment, my own bedroom and a large kitchen all within walking distance from where I wanted to be.

Food: I like to cook. This sets me apart from many New Yorkers but also saves me a lot of money. It’s easy to make delicious and nutritional meals. Unlike one of the commenters on the blog post, I’ve never not been able to afford milk (or similar nutritional essentials). On a budget, you just can’t afford go out to eat all that often.  I go out for dinner on an average of three times a month. In New York there are so many interesting places that are tempting to try—but you can’t. You need the willpower to say ‘no’. For lunches, I often take leftovers from the previous dinner and only buy my lunch twice a month. And snacks, mostly in the form of ice cream and cupcakes, are a bit more often but they add up quickly, too, so I’m trying to cut back.

Going Out: This is one area where I’d love to do more of it. But an evening on the town—or even a afternoon matinee—quickly adds up. I average less than one performance (Broadway, comedy, dance) and less than one evening of drinking and dancing a month. Museums are slightly more often because many have only a ‘recommended’ admission fee. A quarter works just fine at the Met! And the possibility of discounts is always something to keep in mind—I will rarely pay full price for any activity, because if you save enough one night you might even be able to go out for another the following week!

‘Things’: This is where it’s easiest to get into trouble on a budget and where I’ve had to be most mindful. You have to learn quickly that you cannot buy everything you want—clothes have been especially difficult for me because it New York you want to stay on top of the fashion trends. But I have what I need—presentable work clothes—and the rest will slowly come later.

Savings: You can save as an assistant. A small amount goes from the paycheck directly to my 401k. I set it up before I even got my first paycheck, so I don’t even ‘miss’ that money! And, if you figure out where you’re okay cutting corners in the areas above (Eg. only going out to brunch once a month, waiting for that dress to be on sale) there is money left over to save for bigger purchases or a vacation. I promise, it’s possible.

So there you have my two cents on living on an editorial assistant’s pay. It is a bit of a challenge, but with the willingness to compromise in some areas and the awareness of sticking to a budget it’s entirely possible to do well for yourself, even in Manhattan. Would I like to be making more money? Of course. Would I like a different job? Not at all. And that’s what matters in the end.

* It is true that publishing pays notoriously low. To get some idea of publishing salaries, mediobistro recently shared a Glassdoor summary and Penguin often lists beginning salaries in the job descriptions.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Old to Young

Today’s RTW question from YA Highway is: What non-YA character would you love to see star in a YA book as themselves?

This is a fun question because Young Adult is the best! When I’m not reading teen novels I tend towards older classics—Austen, Bront√ęs, Hardy. Yet many of those books, Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre for example, are basically YA: a girl in her late teens or early twenties falls in love and ends up with the man of her dreams. The main difference being that the ‘happily ever after’ of a 17th or 18th-century novel is marriage while today in contemporary novels we (normally!) stick to dating. So although Emma Woodhouse or Bathsheba Everdene would make fascinating YA heroines, they more or less already are. But there are plenty of adult or side characters from classic novels that could make for interesting teen protagonists—Rochester’s younger exploits, even before the (non PG-13 rated) adventures he tells to Jane. Or the story of the teenaged Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers. It could be a very creepy psychological thriller!

Are there any other adult characters from classic literature that you’d like to in a staring role in a teen book?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


This is a newish segment of my blog which will shamelessly promote the Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Children’s Books that I have or my team has worked on that I’m particularly excited about.

ref=dp_image_0.jpgThe Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

Twelve princesses suffer from a puzzling (if silly) curse, and anyone who ends it will win a reward. Reveka, a sharp-witted and irreverent apprentice herbalist, wants that reward. But her investigations lead to deeper mysteries and a daunting choice—will she break the curse at the peril of her own soul?

My thoughts: This is a fairytale retelling at it’s best: part Twelve Dancing Princesses, part Beauty and the Beast, part Persephone. It’s a vividly imagined and fully developed Romanian(ish) medieval fantasy world. One of my favorite parts of this novel is that it’s a smart, witty girl who solves the curse, not a suitor looking to save and marry the princess. Reveka is clever and fun. This is by far one of the best fairytale retellings I have ever read—right up there with Robin McKinley and Gail Carson Levine.

My role in its publication: I didn’t provide much editorial feedback on this one, but I helped the manuscript, flaps, and jacket circulate through the departments. And I’ve promoted this book whenever possible because it’s so so good!

Available: Today!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Today my blog celebrates its first birthday! And I’m so proud of how it and I have grown:

A year ago this blog was read by just my family and friends.
Now I have a whole 27 followers. Not that impressive but it’s still gotten bigger (and if you’d like to become a follower, now it’s a good time. Celebrate with me!)
A year ago I was lucky if someone looked at my blog everyday.
         Now I have page views in the 600s every month.
A year ago I was an unemployed book lover with a part time unpaid internship.
Now I’ve completed Book Lover Goal #1 and have my dream job—an editorial assistant position at one of the best children’s publishing houses.
A year ago I was writing the fourth big revision of my WIP The Rose of Coracus.
Now I’ve finished up the fifth draft and have queried. I was unsuccessful (but only queried two agents). And although I’m still unagented, I’m taking big steps to achieve Book Lover Goal #2, to be a published author.

Not bad in one year, right? I hope you’ll continue to read my blog as it grows even more in the coming years (and please give me your feedback about what you’d like to see here).

And now, to celebrate, check out these fantastic children’s book themed cakes: yum, wow, pretty!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fashionable Books

There’s plenty of talk about the slow death of books: publishing houses not being as profitable; the rising preference of ebooks over physical ones; bookstores closing; children (and adults) preferring tv and video games over reading; etc. But I think books are fashionable—as an accessory, that is! Check out these fantastic dresses, shoes, and purses and there’s plenty more out there. And who says books aren’t trendy?