Showing posts with label alvina. Show all posts
Showing posts with label alvina. Show all posts

Monday, January 06, 2014

Looking back, looking forward


As I mentioned in an earlier post, while packing, moving, and unpacking, I've unearthed some forgotten things. Another thing I found was my cover letter when I applied for the editorial assistant position at Little, Brown, and also the thank you letter I sent after my interview. Here's a draft of my thank-you letter:

As the CBC Diversity Committee has been such a significant part of my life the past few years, I especially appreciated my comment about Megan's commitment to publishing diverse books. That still holds true. By the way, the two spaces between sentences drives me crazy now.

Also, note the "Time Warner Trade Publishing"--back then, Little, Brown was part of Time Warner, and the children's division was still based in Boston. Soon thereafter, it became part of "AOL Time Warner"--I also found this:
Now, of course, we are Hachette Book Group, and the children's division is based in New York. The company has been through at least four name changes in the 14+ years I've been here.

And finally, I found this fun note. Grace (Pacy) Lin and I were roommates back then, and she left me this fun little note before leaving for vacation:

Ah, memories.


I did a quick wrap-up of my vacation on my personal blog. I'm really looking forward to putting 2013 behind me, and am looking forward to and hoping for a better, less tumultuous 2014.

As always, I love making new year's resolutions. Here are a few of mine for 2014:

- No internet shopping unless it's a gift, a necessity, or for work. (I successfully kept this resolution from last year, and will try to keep it for at least one more year)

-write in my journal and/or blog at least twice a month

-go on a vacation to Europe with Greg

-achieve a maximum of work inbox 100 at the end of each week

Happy 2014, all!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Happy New Year!


This is my first post of the New Year, and as usual, I've made a bunch of new New Year's Resolutions. I wasn't as successful as keeping my resolutions from 2012 as I have been in the past, but I'll let myself off the hook. 2013 is a brand-new year!

Here are some of my resolutions for this year:

-No spending money on internet shopping, unless for a gift, a necessity, or for work. (For some reason, this is a controversial goal for a lot of people. I'm not opposed to internet shopping in general--this is just me, but I find I spend too much time and money buying things I don't really need.)

-No candy (I fell off the wagon big time the second half of last year. So I thought I'd revive this one.)

-Have at least one weekend day where I work less than two hours (unless I'm at a conference)

-Don't stay at the office past 9 pm, and if I do stay till 9, only once a week.

-Have at least one unscheduled night a week.

-Do at least one good deed each month

-Throw out or give away at least 150 items (not including trash)

What are some of your resolutions, if you make them?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Back from NCTE/ALAN


Happy Thanksgiving, all! I'm still technically on vacation until tomorrow, and I must say, I'm still recovering from being in Las Vegas for the NCTE conference and ALAN workshop for almost a week. It was a bit surreal to be in Vegas and working--I'll just say that I hadn't left the MGM Grand where the conference was held the whole time--I tried to venture out for a run, but must have gone out the wrong exit, because I kept running into construction and dead-ends, so turned around and ran back to the fitness center. Indoors. Ah, well.

Despite the surreal nature of Vegas, it was a great conference as usual, mainly because it was a nice opportunity to hang out with authors, teachers, and fellow publishing folk. I didn't take as many pictures as I normally do, but here are some random moments:

Sara Zarr signing

Stacking the booth with giveaways

Most awesome poster ever: NIGHTTIME NINJA by Barbara DaCosta and Ed Young

panel with Cat Patrick (Forgotten, Revived, and the upcoming The Originals)

Awesome pins for Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Our fearless leader, School & Library Marketing Director Victoria Stapleton (who wears sunglasses at night) with author Matthew Quick (Sorta Like a Rock Star; Boy21; and the upcoming Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock)

Books for our ALAN dinner: I HUNT KILLERS by Barry Lyga and ADAPTATION by Malinda Lo

Barry Lyga was a trouper and came to Vegas despite breaking his foot in four places. We rented him this smooth ride.
We hosted at various times authors Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), Jewell Parker Rhodes (Ninth Ward and the upcoming Sugar), Julie Anne Peters (This is Our Prom [now deal with it]), Libba Bray (The Diviners), Gail Carriger (Etiquette & Espionage), Cat Patrick (The Originals), Matthew Quick (Boy21), Sara Zarr (The Lucy Variations), Barry Lyga (I Hunt Killers), Malinda Lo (Adaptation), and Sherman Alexie (who was sponsored at the show by his adult publisher, Grove, to promote Blasphemy).

Lots of good food and conversation was had by all.


And just for fun, in case you missed it:

The Dudes of YA: A "Lit-Erotic" Photo Spread by Sean Beaudoin. Pure genius and hilarity.

Sean is brilliant (and yes, I work with him--Going Nowhere Faster, Fade to Blue, You Killed Wesley Payne, and the upcoming Wise Young Fool), and was inspired to put this piece together by a rather innocent blog post by Cat Patrick highlighting (some of the) dudes of YA. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

Hurricane Sandy--how to help


fallen trees in Prospect Park after Hurricane Sandy

I spent much of last week glued to the news on TV and online as horrific images of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy swept in. I was lucky to be in a part of Brooklyn that never lost electricity, and amazingly, I never lost internet or cable, either. But many of my friends and colleagues were hit hard--some are still without power, which is getting more and more problematic as the temperature drops.

The Hachette Book Group offices were closed on Monday and Tuesday, and had skeleton crews the rest of the week--as most of the public transportation was down all week, it was difficult for many to make it in. I made it in Wednesday and Friday, but had over two-hour commutes each way--and half the time ended up walking the 6 miles--on Wednesday night I walked home with two colleagues through pitch-black lower Manhattan and then over the Manhattan Bridge:
a dark street in the East Village
one generator-powered light on the Lower East Side
On the Manhattan Bridge--we finally reached light halfway across--this is looking back on the Manhattan-side darkness.
On Friday morning I chose to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge--it was a gorgeous day, at least.
Lower Manhattan was much less ominous in the daylight, but it was oddly deserted--police on some intersections, a few walkers here and there, some cars, but for the most part, it was empty. No traffic lights were working, no stores or restaurants were open. I had bought a breakfast sandwich in Brooklyn, and several people asked me where I got it when I started eating it while walking in Manhattan. "Sorry...I bought this in Brooklyn!" I told them.

Power was finally returned to most of Manhattan Friday night, by midnight. Some subways started running from Brooklyn to Manhattan soon thereafter. I'm hoping my commute this morning will be fairly normal, but we'll see--there are a lot of subway lines still down, so the ones working will no doubt be more crowded. But I can put up with a long, crowded commute. I know I am very, very lucky.

There are so many people in the area who are still in need, still without power, or water, or heat, many without homes. Some have lost their lives, or their loved ones.

There are many ways to help, but the quickest is to text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Donate other amounts at their website here.

If you're in the New York area, check out the Occupy Sandy website for how to volunteer and/or donate.

There's also a great online Kidlit Cares: Superstorm Sandy Relief Effort going on right now at author Kate Messner's website here. You can bid on anything from manuscript critiques by editors, agents, and authors; to Skype visits; to a three-day writing retreat. I'm planning on donating something--if anyone has any suggestions, please leave them in the comments (I could do a manuscript critique, but maybe there's something else, short of a book contract, that people might find more valuable?).

Stay safe, everyone.

Monday, September 17, 2012

the elusive work-life balance


Earlier this summer, I read this article in the Atlantic and it really struck a nerve. It was written by a Princeton professor who served a two-year stint in a high government job with the State Department, and was about how women still couldn't truly "have it all" in terms of achieving both professional success and success as a mother raising kids. It's an excellent, thought-provoking piece about how far we've come, and yet how much farther we need to go. Here's one section that really struck me:

After the speech I gave in New York, I went to dinner with a group of 30-somethings. I sat across from two vibrant women, one of whom worked at the UN and the other at a big New York law firm. As nearly always happens in these situations, they soon began asking me about work-life balance. When I told them I was writing this article, the lawyer said, “I look for role models and can’t find any.” She said the women in her firm who had become partners and taken on management positions had made tremendous sacrifices, “many of which they don’t even seem to realize … They take two years off when their kids are young but then work like crazy to get back on track professionally, which means that they see their kids when they are toddlers but not teenagers, or really barely at all.” Her friend nodded, mentioning the top professional women she knew, all of whom essentially relied on round-the-clock nannies. Both were very clear that they did not want that life, but could not figure out how to combine professional success and satisfaction with a real commitment to family.

The timing of this article coincided with one of my colleagues announcing that she was leaving her job to spend more time with her family. It especially hit home because, like the author of the article, this colleague has older children--for whatever reason, I always associated a parent needing to be at home more with having younger children, but duh, older kids need their parents around, too, sometimes more than babies do--and they can actually articulate that need.

I don't have kids, but I do want to eventually. And as I was preparing to get married this summer, I've also been trying to reevaluate my work-life balance (something that I seem to ALWAYS be doing). I think I'm better at drawing lines now--in fact, when an agent asked if an author could deliver a manuscript the day before my wedding, I told him "that's fine, but I won't be editing it!" and life went on (and instead the author delivered early and I edited it two weeks before my wedding). I also managed to not check work email while away at my wedding and honeymoon (well, except once...). I'm working on not checking work emails when I'm not in the office. Sometimes it's the small things that matter.

This elusive "work-life balance" is a constant theme--I know we've all talked about it several times on this blog already over the years. We all struggle with it, from entry-level assistants to directors, from writers and illustrators who also have day jobs, to full-time freelancers, whether we have kids or families or not.

Publishing is a great industry to be in, and children's books especially is dominated by women, including many working mothers. Many are able to work at home a day or two a week, and many companies (including mine) offer flex time if you need to adjust your work hours for reasons, including child care. As someone who does want to raise a family, I feel lucky to be in this industry, but it still isn't easy.

I work long hours in the office (on average, I work from 9 am till 8 pm unless I have plans after work) and there's still plenty more to do--there's always more to do. I've gotten better about not feeling guilty about not working more, mainly because I know I can't work more than I do and stay sane, and I know the people I work with need me to stay sane. But the thing is, this is a business built on passion, and we want to honor that. I know that each book means any or all of the following to the authors and illustrators: it's your livelihood. It's your art. It's how you want to be remembered after you're gone. It's your heart and soul poured out on paper. It's your life's work. It's your name on the cover. (is it something else? Let me know!)

I know for freelancers the work/life lines can be even harder to draw--when you don't have a physical office to leave, how do you end the work day? Do you refrain from working weekends? Do you force yourself to take vacations? Do you only work in the mornings/afternoons/evenings?

One editor I know told me that she's willing to work late at the office during the week, but refuses to work on the weekends. An agent recently told me that she starts work late, gives herself a break for a few hours around dinnertime, and then works again at night. Saturdays are her days off, but she works on Sunday. Last year I decided that I wouldn't work at the office past 9 pm. Lately, I've been trying to draw the line at 7:30 or 8. And I give myself at least one weekend day off.

I do think it's important for us to keep drawing lines. So, what lines do you all draw? I'd love to hear any techniques that work for you.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back to Blog

After a busy summer, us Blue Rose Girls are committed to posting regularly again. While students and teachers are going Back to School, think of it us as going "Back to Blog"! Thanks to everyone for your patience--if you have any suggestions for future posts or questions about publishing, writing, illustration, or children's books that you'd like to hear our take on, please leave them in the comments.

So, what's been going on with me besides this? Work-wise, that is...

Way back in June (gosh, has it really been that long since I've posted?) I attended the ALA Annual Convention in Anaheim.

I had a book I edited become a #1 New York Times bestseller with The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer--the first #1 for me! Not a bad wedding gift--I found out while on my honeymoon, on a wine-tasting trip. Cheers!

My 13-year anniversary of working at Little, Brown was on August 16. Lucky 13! It's been an amazing run--here's hoping the next 13 years are just as eventful.

Speaking of, I got a fancy new title at work: Executive Editorial Director.

We're gearing up for the publication of Libba Bray's new book The Diviners. Check out the amazingly creepy trailer:

Over at the CBC Diversity blog, we hosted another "It's Complicated" conversation, this one about book covers, and featuring posts by an Art Director, a Sales Director, a former Book Buyer, a bookseller, and an author. Check it out, and participate in the discussion!

I've been busy working on Chris Colfer's new novel Struck By Lightning, pubbing this November. Check out the cover here. I've also been working on Holly Black's new novel, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, due out next Fall, as well as other books on my Fall 2013 list: a new Ling & Ting by Grace Lin, a new picture book by Peter Brown, a picture book with Bryan Collier, and a picture book with Mordicai Gerstein. After having only having one picture book on my list published this year (Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta and Ed Young), it feels quite wonderful to be diving into multiple picture books again!

Speaking of Nighttime Ninja, it's already received two starred reviews. The Diviners and Grace Lin's Starry River of the Sky have already racked up three starred reviews each! I'm hoping the stars will keep coming...

I think that sums up my summer pretty well work-wise...more next week! Happy almost Fall, everyone.

Monday, February 06, 2012

CBC Diversity

For the past year or so, I've been meeting about once a month with a group of children's book editors from other houses. Founded by Nancy Mercado of Roaring Brook, we called ourselves DIBS (Diversity in Books), and we were hoping to help increase the diversity within the publishing industry, and also in the authors, illustrators, and books published. We started getting a website together and grand plans of doing school visits, job fairs, conferences, and more. But, of course, we were all so busy with our jobs and lives that it was hard to get things going. Well, a conversation at a Children's Book Council cocktail party brought these two groups together, and the CBC Diversity Committee was formed. We had a small kick-off party last week for agents, media, and publishing folks, and we talked about our mission, the importance of it, and what everyone there could do to become a CBC Diversity Partner. Here's a picture of me speaking:
I talked about not being able to fully see myself in the books I was reading as a child.

Diversity is a mission I am absolutely passionate about--it's important not only for children to be able to see themselves represented in the books they read, but also important for children to be exposed to other experiences and viewpoints. It increases empathy and tolerance. And as I said at our kick-off, I hope to live in a world where we can have an Asian Harry Potter or a black Bella without anyone even blinking an eye. We'll get there, I know it!

Please, won't you all join us? I linked above to our mission and how we can all help, and we'll be keeping the CBC Diversity blog active with at least two posts each week. I'm posting this week, so stay tuned!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, before and after

As Grace mentioned, we're in Fresno together for the IBBY regional conference. They asked us to speak together about Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. To prepare, we dug up all of the old drafts of the novel, and also my editorial letters/edits (to my horror, I discovered that although I had saved the different drafts with my edits in Track Changes, I had neglected to save any of my editorial letters, as they had been in emails and not saved as separate documents. Luckily, Grace was able to find them in an old email account. Whew!)

Some of the fascinating (at least to us!) things we found:
The 1st draft was 22,859 words; the final draft was 42,840 words, almost twice as long!
The 1st draft had 26 chapters, and the final book had 48 chapters.
The green tiger was not in the original draft.
In the original draft, the parents didn't try to follow/find Minli.
In the original proposal, Minli was named "Cai" (and then "Kai").
The first working title was God of the West. The next title was Never-Ending Mountain.

I also read a portion of my first editorial letter for the book. As I mentioned at the panel, my letters with Grace tend to be a little more casual than to some other authors who I don't know as well. With Grace, I cut to the chase quickly--but I always start with praise! Here's a sampling:


So, I thought I'd get down in writing some of the things we discussed over the phone. But just to reiterate, I loved it. I think overall, it's extremely well crafted with a wonderful story arc. The novel is moving, magical, and engaging. I think this is in really great shape! I have a few main comments, most of which we've discussed:

1) The novel feels a little slight right now, and things overall feel a little too easy for Minli. I'd like to add at least one more big challenge for her, and also make a few of the existing challenges a little more difficult/drawn out. For example, she seems to find the King in The City of Bright Moonlight too quickly--she should struggle with this more. I like the idea you mentioned, of having her spend one night with the boy and the buffalo.

Overall, don't be afraid to put your characters in peril! I don't think I worried once about whether Minli would succeed in her quest, or feared for her safety or her life. This made for a comforting, pleasant read, but I think more conflict overall would go a long way toward making this more rewarding.


3) It's not believable that her parents would just wait around for her at home for her to come back--have one or both of them go after her? Or have them send someone else after her? If they do stay behind, you need a convincing reason why, and also her reunion with them at the end needs to be more dramatic. Wouldn't they cry? And what did they do while she was gone? Did they set up a shrine to her? Pray for her every day? Maybe they sent the old man selling the fish after her, or maybe a man from the village, or a kind traveler passing through?

It was interesting looking back at the publication history of this very special book--and we had fun telling the story, too. We should be on more panels together, don't you think?


If you're in the Los Angeles area tonight (Monday, October 24), head out to the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore at 7:30 for Laini Taylor's signing of Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I'll be there.

2810 Artesia Blvd. Redondo Beach, California

Check out the glowing New York Times review here. "[A] breath-catching romantic fantasy about destiny, hope and the search for one’s true self that doesn’t let readers down."

Hope to see you!

Monday, September 26, 2011

What I'm working on now, and book trailers!

I'm in the throes of editing hell...actually, I'll rephrase that--I'm in editing HEAVEN! Just a whole lot of it at once, is all. But the books are SO GOOD, and this is the meaty part of my job that I love the most. Speaking of, I've been meaning to update my "How I Edit" post from almost exactly five years ago, as technology has changed my process somewhat. Perhaps that will be for next week.

What I was working on this past weekend specifically was finishing up an editorial letter for the first book in Libba Bray's new four-book series, The Diviners. It's a YA historical paranormal with hints of horror (okay, more than just hints) set in New York City in the 1920s. Flappers, Ziegfeld's Follies, speakeasies, political protests, secret government experiments, cults, ghosts, supernatural powers, and oh yes, a serial killer. It's magnificent, and coming out next Fall.

This past weekend I've also been working on Chris Colfer's middle grade novel The Land of Stories, coming out next August. It's a fantastical adventure to a fairytale land, and it's a page-turner, with unexpected twists and turns, a lot of heart, and best of all it's funny. I was reading it on the subway and found myself chuckling out loud at the dialogue. I'm excited for the world to see that this kid can write as well as he can sing. And boy, do I love his voice (I can listen to his version of Blackbird all day).

So, while I keep editing, I wanted to share with you two trailers that were released recently. The first is for Peter Brown's hilarious new picture book You Will Be My Friend!, starring Lucille Beatrice Bear, who some of you might remember from his last book, Children Make Terrible Pets. You Will Be My Friend launched earlier this month, and on Saturday I attended his book launch party at Powerhouse Studio in DUMBO. And as Lucy would say, OH! MY! GOSH! This is the cutest trailer EVER!

This second trailer is for Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone which officially pubs tomorrow! Happy early book birthday! There's been an incredible amount of excitement and buzz for this book, and the love, especially from bloggers, has been tremendous (and well-deserved, although I may be biased...).

Isn't that cool?

Okay, back to work!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Remembering 9/11/01

I was trying to avoid reading or watching too much yesterday, because I knew it would be upsetting to relive 9/11/01, but of course it was hard to avoid, and some of the things I encountered were so lovely and touching I wanted to share them here. I was living in Boston ten years ago. I did not lose anyone close to me that day, but of course it was an event of such mind-boggling horror and evil and tragedy; ten years later I still can't think about it without getting emotional.

StoryCorps is doing a series of 9/11Animated Short Stories that had me sobbing--the stories are so touching and personal. Here are three:

Author and editor David Levithan talked about his 9/11 book Love is the Higher Law and the importance of remembering and telling stories here.

Author Meg Cabot shares both hope-filled and heartbreaking stories here.

Author Maureen Johnson writes about her experience ten years ago here. Her impetus for writing  and the comments from teens who were too young to understand what happened that day are eye-opening.

Patrick McDonnell's MUTTS comic for yesterday was simple and lovely.

Monday, September 05, 2011

It's the end of the world as we know it (soon)

I was looking for an article I read recently about how the mass market format is dying, and instead I came across this rather depressing article, "Are books dead, and can authors survive?"

The author claims, due to the digital revolution, that the paper book will most definitely disappear in 25 years time, and he also claims that this will mean that "writing, as a profession, will cease to exist."


As rather damning evidence, he outlines the demise of many other industries, including porn, music, home videos, photography, newspapers, and more, mainly due to technological changes, free content, and piracy.

He also talked about the "long tail", a term I hadn't heard before, although the description is familiar. (The article links to this lecture for an explanation of what long tail means.):

In simple terms, the long tail derives its name from graphs of sales against number of products. Whereas throughout the 20th century publishers concentrated on selling only a few heavily promoted "hits" or "bestsellers" in bulk, digital shopping has meant that what was originally a tail-off in sales, has now become increasingly profitable. Rather than selling, say, 13m copies of one Harry Potter book, a long tail provider can make the same profits by selling 13m different "obscure", "failed'" and "niche" books.

The long tail is Amazon and iTunes, Netflix, LoveFilm and eBay. It is, arguably, between 40% to 60% of the market, which was hidden and/or simply unavailable before the advent of online shopping.

As more consumers come online and chose to select content for themselves, the long tail gets longer. It also starts to demolish the old mainstream system of pre-selection, mass marketing and limited shelf space for "bestsellers". Amazon is a successful long-tail industry: it has forced publishers into selling their books at 60% discount and driven bookshops out of business. As the long tail grows, the mainstream mass market shrinks and becomes more conservative. The long tail has created this effect in all of the other industries that have gone digital.
What this means is that even if the book publishing market is increasing, the money that each individual author makes is probably decreasing. Although, with books having the ability to stay in print indefinitely via Print on Demand and eBooks, maybe this means that authors (and publishers) with deep backlists will continue to be successful. The article does end on a more hopeful note, saying:

There is no simple solution. All that is clear is that for authors and publishers to abandon each other only accelerates the race towards free content.

Authors must respect and demand the work of good editors and support the publishing industry, precisely by resisting the temptation to "go it alone" in the long tail. In return, publishing houses must take the risk on the long term; supporting writers over years and books, it is only then that books of the standard we have seen in the last half-century can continue to come into being.

In a way, this gives me hope for children's publishing in general, because I do feel that we tend to commit to authors in the long term more than our adult counterparts, and children's publishing also relies on backlist sales more than adult publishing.

At any rate, sorry to be such a downer on a Monday.

By the way, here's also that mass market article I mentioned at the beginning: "The Dog-Eared Paperback, Newly Endangered in an E-Book Age."


On a more upbeat note, I leave you with Reese Witherspoon's acceptance of the "Generation Award" at the MTV Movie Awards.

"I just want to say to all the girls out there. I know it's cool to be bad. I get it, but it's also possible to make it in Hollywood without a reality's possible to be a good girl. I'm gonna try to make it cool."

Yes! Let's hear it for the good girls!

Happy Labor Day, all.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

from the BRG archives: Turnover in the children's book publishing industry

The following question was posted anonymously in the comment section of my personal blog, but since it seemed more appropriate for this blog, I'm answering it here:

Eds, art directors, marketers, etc. move around a lot in the publishing biz. What is it like for you to be at a house for a while and to have people coming and going all the time? It seems as though inefficiency would be rampant. Do you find you have to get new folks up to speed often as you usher a ms through to publication? Why do you think people in the biz move around so much?

For the first three years I was at my house, I think only 2 or 3 people in all of the children's division left the company. Of course, at that time we were based in Boston, where publishing jobs were fewer and far between, so people tended to stay at their jobs forever. When the division was moved to NY 4 1/2 years ago, everything changed. First of all, we lost our entire Marketing and Publicity group, our entire Production Department, and all but one Designer. As I wrote about here, it was a tough transition period--and all of the turnover after that was a piece of cake--kinda. I think for me, it wasn't just the regular amount of turnover, but also the fact that we were growing. Boston's editorial department of ten people is now fourteen. Four designers have doubled into eight. The five-person marketing/publicity department is now nine. And yes, we've also had quite a bit of turnover, which I think is natural during transition periods. I got very used to seeing new faces in the office, and sadly, also saying goodbye.

I will say that sometimes as the one "left behind" it does make me wonder if I'm missing out by staying in the same place, or maybe missing the reason why people tend to leave all at once. I had a conversation with at least two other coworkers this year about whether we felt weird staying when everyone else was leaving, if it made us want to leave, too. And I also see people moving up more quickly than me, or people with less experience in higher positions in other companies. But then you remember how much you love your job, your coworkers who aren't leaving, the books you work on, and you know you're doing the right thing for you. As I think I may have mentioned in the past, I "follow my compass, not my clock." And if you look at the reasons why people left this year, out of the five people who left, only one left to go to the competition. One moved to France, one moved to Hawaii, one went back to school, and one moved to PA and is now a professor. Why would I leave my dream job?

I don't think inefficiency is rampant at all. In fact, just the opposite. The people who remain pick up the slack and are forced to work either more efficiently and/or longer hours than before to make up for being short-staffed, or taking time to train new employees. Sure, there are tough transition periods, and I can't say that some books didn't suffer due to staff changes. But everyone was committed to getting the books on our list published in the best possible way. And there are positives that come out of turnover, too: new staff brought a welcome fresh perspective to our company and made us even stronger, made the other employees more invigorated. As with anything, it's good to mix things up a bit every now and then so you don't get too set in your ways.

On the other hand, I think we have a nice balance of old and new. Three of us in editorial: me, one of our editorial directors, and our publisher, have been with the company since we were editorial assistants (I think over seven, ten, and fifteen years respectively), and we bring with us the knowledge of our backlist and how things used to be done, and how so much of our procedures are more streamlined and effective now.

I've certainly done my fair share of getting new staff trained and up-to-speed, but even new employees had much to contribute, and could perhaps take over more duties from me that they could dive into right way, such as manuscript reading for example, while I got them up to speed on other procedures and responsibilities.

And finally, why do I think people in the biz move around so much? Do they, really? I've never worked in any other industry aside from retail at B&N, and certainly there was more turnover there than in publishing. People move around in every industry for the same reasons--to get a higher position, more pay, change departments, change industries, get married, have kids, because of problems with their bosses or problems with their coworkers. I don't think people move around in children's book publishing more so than in other industries.

If in fact there IS more turnover in children's book publishing than in other industries, perhaps it can be attributed to the fact that so many of the staff are young and female. This has been discussed on several other blogs, and I posted my response to the issue here. I think women are perhaps more likely than men to move for their spouses who most likely make more money, or leave if they decide to start a family. The low pay is also a factor--people may be eager to either move up more quickly into higher-paying positions, and sometimes the only way to do that is to move companies.

Anyway, I know I may be naive and overly optimistic sometimes, but when I look at our staff today, I think we're probably the best, most stable we've ever had, and it seems to me that most everyone is really happy there doing what they do. Of course there will be changes in the future, but I hope we stay this way for a little while.

Originally published December 10th, 2006

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Hi all,

No real post today from me, as I was in a house with no electricity for most of yesterday. My boyfriend and I decided to leave our apartment in Brooklyn and flee to a friend's house in Westchester before the hurricane arrived. The good news is that we're in a nice, stocked house with strong windows, two dogs, one kid, and friendly neighbors. The bad news is now Metro-North is still down while the subways are running, and we lost electricity here, while all accounts seem to indicate that Brooklyn was relatively fine (aside from fallen trees in Prospect Park). Ah, well. We're much more comfortable up here, but will try to make it back home at some point today. I hope our cats are okay!

Hope all of you stayed safe! Any hurricane stories to share?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Teaching Readers?

This past weekend I had the luxury of uninterrupted reading time, so I took advantage and devoured the book Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. I soooo enjoyed it, and it moved me so much that I found myself basically crying throughout the whole novel--and you know I'm a sucker for books that make me cry. It was such a pleasure to immerse myself in the story and with the characters. I've been in a bit of a reading slump lately, as I've been trying to slog through another novel that just isn't keeping my interest

Reading Okay for Now reminded me of two articles I've read over the last two weeks. The first was the recent essay by Robert Lipsyte, "Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?" He says:

If we’re to counter this tendency and encourage reading among boys who may collectively resist it, boys need to be approached individually with books about their fears, choices, possibilities and relationships — the kind of reading that will prick their dormant empathy, involve them with fictional characters and lead them into deeper engagement with their own lives. This is what turns boys into readers.

Okay for Now is definitely the type of book I think boy readers would enjoy. It features a great male narrator, sports, brother-brother and father-son relationship issues, and the drama of a tough home life. But there's also horseshoes, Broadway, Audubon, art, and romance. Something for everyone.

The second was an article linked to from Shelf Awareness with the provocative title "We Can't Teach Students to Love Reading."

Personally, I think just reading this long, rather dry article would turn someone off reading. (In fact, it infuriated my friend who has been in education for over a decade and is also a student of history.) One of the article's main points:
The extreme reader, to coin a phrase, is a rare bird indeed. ("I have done what people do, my life makes a reasonable showing," Lynne Sharon Schwartz writes. "Can I go back to my books now?") Such people are born, not made, I think; or mostly born and only a little made.

I think extreme readers are made every day--how many of us have heard people (children, mainly) say that they never liked reading until they read XX book, or that after they had this teacher or read that book, they forever acquired a love of reading?

But this part gave me pause:
I don't know whether an adult who has never practiced deep attention—who has never seriously read for information or for understanding, or even for delight—can learn how.

I wonder. How many people have made it to adulthood without the love of reading, only to acquire it later? Do any of you have any real-life examples?

Monday, August 15, 2011


Last night I saw Glee the 3D Concert Movie, and really enjoyed it--it was the perfect pick-me-up on a dreary rainy day. Now, I don't know if I'd go so far as to call myself a "Gleek," but I'm most definitely a fan of Glee. I've seen every episode, own most of the music, dressed up as one of the characters for Halloween last year:
here I am as Tina from GLEE
and yes, I've even acquired two books by one of the stars of GLEE. On second thought, maybe I am a Gleek. In fact, I'm listening to the soundtrack as I write this. But I'm not the type of fan that would scream my head off and convulse with joy just for being in the same building as the stars. I'm not the type of fan who feels that this television show has changed or affected my life in any significant way, as many of the fans interviewed in the movie believe.

On the way to the subway after the movie, my friend asked me if I've ever been a fan like that for anything, and after thinking about it briefly, I said no. I think the closest I've ever gotten to being that kind of fan was for the TV show FAME (which was the GLEE of the 80s, I suppose). I remember truly feeling like I couldn't wait for the next episode, I remember fantasizing about meeting the actors/characters, and wanting to be a student at the School of the Arts. And far after the show was cancelled, I would tape reruns to watch over and over (I still have those tapes), and now I even have the first two seasons on DVD.

And I suppose I came close in my love for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988. I watched or listened to almost every single game that season, and after they won the World Series, I had a shrine of articles cut out of the newspaper and taped to the wall of my bedroom.

But I've never been truly geeky long-term about my passion for any one thing. I remember while editing the short story collection GEEKTASTIC, I called myself an "all-around geek" because I liked and was familiar with many of the subjects of geek affection. But I don't believe I've truly experienced true fandom. I am a fan of literature as a whole, of course, but no one book or property ever consumed my soul.

In the past ten or so years, I feel that the Harry Potter and Twilight series have created the kind of Beatlemania-esque fandom that I'm talking about. People are truly obsessed. They're naming their children after characters. They have tattoos. They know every little piece of trivia about the series. Part of me wishes that I could experience this type of consuming fandom.

So tell me--what have you been a geeky fan about? What would make you scream your head off in public? How far have you gone for a band/tv show/movie/celebrity/book/team/etc.?


In other news, tomorrow is my twelve-year anniversary of being at Little, Brown. And today is my two-year anniversary of joining Twitter. Happy Anniversary to me! Also, July 30th quietly passed, but it was the five-year anniversary of the Blue Rose Girls blog. It's hard to believe we've been posting together for over five years! Thank you everyone for reading.

Monday, August 08, 2011

giraffes and bookshelves

I've been editing all weekend, and of course would get distracted by the wonders of the internet. Somehow (I think maybe via Facebook) I stumbled on this website, HappyPlace, and may have wasted an hour or so laughing. I take that back: laughing is never a waste of time. This is a little off topic, so I'll share one of the best posts, having to do with children.

"Unintentionally offensive test answers from young children."

Warning: much of the content is off-color. But this is my favorite one:


These two posts about signs are hilarious as well.

Not that any of us need more time wasters, but hey, laughing is healthy.

In other news, I was admiring Laini Taylor's blog post about color-coded bookshelves, and it reminded me of an editor who in interviews always asks how the interviewee arranges his/her books. I suppose it comes from working at a bookstore, but I arrange mine by age range: picture books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult. And my adult books are further separated by nonfiction and fiction. Boring, huh?

How do you all organize your book collections?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Beyond the Book: FALLING FOR HAMLET by Michelle Ray

Beyond the Book: FALLING FOR HAMLET by Michelle Ray

Happy August, everyone! It's been a while since I've done one of these, and I have a few books that have come out this past Spring and Summer, so I'd better get crackin' if I want to catch up before the Fall releases.

Falling for Hamlet is a contemporary retelling of William Shakespeare's Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view...and in this version, Ophelia doesn't die.

The description:
Meet Ophelia: a blonde, beautiful high-school senior and long-time girlfriend of Prince Hamlet of Denmark. Her life is dominated not only by her boyfriend's fame and his overbearing family, but also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go. As the devastatingly handsome Hamlet spirals into madness after the mysterious death of his father, the King, Ophelia rides out his crazy roller coaster life, and lives to tell about it. In live television interviews, of course.

Passion, romance, drama, humor, and tragedy intertwine in this compulsively readable debut novel, told by a strong-willed, modern-day Ophelia.

This novel is the first (and only, so far) book I've acquired that has been published on the Poppy imprint. Poppy is home to our young women's commercial fiction. Originally the imprint only published paperback series, like Gossip Girl, The Clique, the A-List, etc, but in the past year or so the imprint has evolved a bit and also published hardcovers, and stand-alone novels. Another editor had recently acquired a modern retelling of Jane Eyre for the Poppy imprint (Jane by April Lindner) when this novel (then titled Ophelia Live!) was sent to me from agent Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, and when I read the description I immediately though Poppy would be its perfect publishing home. Now, when this is the case I will sometimes pass the project on to another editor, but the concept appealed to me so much, I wanted to read it myself. At Little, Brown, any editor can acquire for any of our "imprints", because we're a relatively small group, and we all attend the same editorial and acquisitions meetings. Although I don't usually tend to acquire the type of books that Poppy publishes, I've always loved reading their books, and had always wanted to acquire a Poppy book.

I read this book in one sitting, and absolutely fell in love with it. I guess you could say that I was falling in love with Falling for Hamlet. I loved how clever it was in modernizing the story. I loved the narrator Ophelia, who I felt was the perfect "every-teen" of sorts--she was relatable in that she didn't always make the smartest decisions, and she was still figuring out who she was and who she wanted to be. I loved that the book was about growing up in the public eye, and for anyone obsessed with the royal family, Prince William and his then-girlfriend Kate Middleton, etc, this book gives a great peek inside what life close to the royal family might be like, from the paparazzi, the scrutiny, the privilege,  etc. I loved how it was sexy, smart, and full of juicy drama and angst.

The agent was getting other interest for the book, so as soon as I read it I asked for other editorial readers; as I felt Poppy was the right imprint, I specifically asked for reads from some of the Poppy editors, who started reading immediately. One called me an hour later just to tell me how awesome it was and how much she was enjoying it.

The book ended up going to auction, which we won, of course!

Working with Michelle has been a joy. She's a Shakespeare geek, a teacher, wickedly funny, and a great reviser--one of the things we worked on was to flesh out the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia. She added a key scene where they vacation in Florence, and I think one of the last scenes of the book she added in was of how these two childhood friends started dating in the first place. We also worked on some key scenes from the original play which weren't quite working in the modern context. One of my main objectives was to make sure that the story made sense even for readers not familiar with the original play, and I think we achieved that.

This books was such fun to work on, from the sexy cover design by the amazing Gail Doobinin (the girl's skirt on the ARC was actually even shorter than the one pictured here! We used a little Photoshop magic to make it a little less scandalous. Michelle talks about the cover design process here), to the perfect tagline courtesy of my former assistant Connie Hsu: "First comes love, then comes madness"--I came up with our second choice, which ended up on the jacket flap: "Sometimes love will make you crazy."

Coming up with a new title was a challenge. We didn't feel Ophelia Live! was working, and there was already a YA book of a few years earlier titled Ophelia. We debated whether to put Hamlet's name in the title or not--we weren't sure if that was a selling handle or if it would be a turnoff to teens. Some other title options were: Ophelia + Hamlet; Ophelia loves Hamlet; Crazy Sexy Love; and Mad Love.

Over at the blog Emu's Debuts, they celebrated the launch of Falling for Hamlet with a whole week of posts, including an interview of Michelle, Joan, and me here,

Read more interviews of Michelle here and here (the latter is in the Washington Post!) to see more behind what inspired her to write this story.

Falling for Hamlet just came out last month. It's always exciting when a new book comes out, but even more so when it's a debut, because everything is brand new and exciting. I hope you read and fall in love with Falling for Hamlet--although if you read it, you'll probably find yourself falling for Ophelia instead!

Monday, July 25, 2011

What to expect your first few years in editorial

It's summer intern season at work. Hachette Book Group has a great summer internship program (and yes, it's paid. If you're interested for next year, I would suggest checking the job listing website next February) for current college students and recent grads. As part of our interns' education, each week a different department gives a presentation about what they're all about. The presentation is open to the whole company, but we do focus on the type of things we think interns in particular will be interested in knowing. A few weeks ago, I gave the presentation for the Young Readers division, along with our Senior Art Director, Marketing Manager, and Publicist. One of the things we each talked about is what to expect in the first couple of years working in our respective departments.

I basically compared being an editorial assistant with the movie The Devil Wears Prada. Okay, it's not really like that. At least, I hope not.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, publishing, and editorial specifically is an apprenticeship. 99% of editors started as an editorial assistant, learned from their managers, and worked their way up.

The first couple of years are heavily administrative. You'll be answering phones, scheduling meetings, filling out forms, doing paperwork, photocopying, filing (although the latter two happen less and less as the job becomes more digital), mailing packages, doing expense reports, taking meeting minutes, ordering books, and basically doing any task your manager asks you to do. This can range from researching the perfect gift in the theme of an author's book, to tracking down a contract, to hand-delivering art to an agent's office, and more. Personally, I don't ask my assistant to do things like get me coffee or pick up lunch, etc, but other managers do.

In addition to all the administrative work, there's also a lot of editorial work to be done. You'll be writing jacket copy, catalog copy, researching competitive titles, and reading a ton of submissions and giving your recommendation as to whether your manager should acquire or decline something. You'll be drafting letters and other correspondences. You'll be attending our editorial meeting and reading books that other editors want to acquire and giving your thoughts. And yes, you'll be editing--first alongside your manager, and then (perhaps after a year or so of mastering all the admin stuff) more independently. After a year, you may be handling projects on your own--perhaps a paperback edition to start, or a buy in from the UK or Australia. Or maybe you'll take over editing a series once the first book has been edited. How much editorial work you take on, and how quickly, will depend mostly on how quickly you're able to master the other duties. There will be some editorial work right away, but much of it will wait until you've become more efficient with the other aspects of the job.

I think it's pretty safe to say that it will take you about six months before you feel comfortable in the job, and a year before you really master everything, mainly because it takes a minimum of year to follow the path of one book from start to finish.

Some administrative duties will get tiresome quickly, others you may never tire of. In general, though, the hope is that because you're working in an industry that you're passionate about, and working on books and project you love, you'll appreciate the value in the work you do, whether it's photocopying or editing. I know that I loved many of the administrative duties I had. For example, I loved answering the phone for my boss, getting to know the authors, illustrators, and agents she worked with. I still generally answer my own phone. I also loved making photocopies of original art, because I loved the opportunity to see it up close.

On average, expect to spend at least two years as an editorial assistant. The next step up is assistant editor, and for many people, this still means assisting your manager, while at the same time taking on some projects independently. At Little, Brown, our editorial assistants are allowed to acquire under the sponsorship of their managers, but it's not a focus of the job at all, and in fact is not really encouraged until you've been promoted to an assistant editor.

So, that's the first couple of years in children's editorial in a nutshell. Any questions?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Editorial Director

As Grace reported a few weeks ago, I was promoted to the position of Fiction Editorial Director. I've been asked by different people what this means in terms of my day-to-day job, so I thought I'd briefly outline it here.

-I am now overseeing our Middle Grade and Young Adult lists. The "Fiction" in my title is a bit misleading, as technically I would also oversee MG and YA nonfiction, but as we publish very little nonfiction at Little, Brown in general, we thought it was cleaner to just say "Fiction". This means running the novel portion of editorial meeting, approving which projects go to our acquisitions meetings, and then giving my recommendation at that meeting. Overall, I'm tasked to help shape our fiction list in terms of balance of titles (literary vs commercial, MG vs YA, making sure the books we sign up don't compete directly with each other in terms of subject matter, etc.).

-I will still be editing picture books (I couldn't give that up!), but my focus will be on MG and YA.

-Instead of just one person (my assistant) reporting to me, I have three other editors as direct reports. This means approving more paperwork (expense reports, contract requests, etc.), reviewing copy and P&Ls, etc., more annual performance reviews, responding to MG/YA-related requests/questions/emails, and so on.

-In general, I have more meetings, including attending jacket meeting in its entirety (rather than just for my individual titles), list planning meetings, and weekly updates with each editor.

-Because of my increased administrative duties, I may eventually have to tighten my own title list, and potentially acquire fewer books. I haven't passed any of my books on to other editors yet (I love all my books, so it's hard to give any up!), but I may in the near future. I do want to say that when deciding which projects to pass on, I'm mainly looking at which books are a good fit taste-wise with another editor, and which projects I feel another editor could manage as well or better than myself, especially considering my own increased workload.

I'm excited about the challenges of the new position, but I will say that I never really had this job as a career goal (and those of you who know me know how much I love goal setting!). There are some editors who want to be publisher some day. I've never been one of them. To be perfectly honest, I would have been happy being at the Executive Editor level for a long time--maybe for the rest of my publishing career, because the editing part of my job has always been my favorite. But at the same time, when this opportunity presented itself, I weighed my options, and it felt like a good move for me, a job where I could still do the editing I love, but also learn the business side a little more, to mentor more, and to help shape a list.

We'll see what this new position will bring!

Monday, July 04, 2011

A photo journey of ALA Annual 2011


Happy Fourth of July, all! It's been a hectic time for me, so I thought I'd just share my ALA experience in photos:
oyster po' boy at Mother's
boxes galore!
almost finished with set-up
blackened drum fish at K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen

Laini Taylor and I at the DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE party
The party turned into an 80s Dance Party!

Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
Karen Healey (author of Morris finalist GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD) signing books
Grace Lin (DUMPLING DAYS), Kelly Barnhill (THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK), and Andrea Davis Pinkney (BIRD IN A BOX) at our Middle Grade breakfast
Bryan Collier and his wife Christina at our luncheon with the Coretta Scott King committee to celebrate DAVE THE POTTER
Banana's foster from Brennan's, originator's of this classic dessert. Served at our dinner with the Caldecott Committee to celebrate Bryan Collier and DAVE THE POTTER

at the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet
Bryan accepts the Caldecott Honor for DAVE THE POTTER
Luncheon with Grace and the Geisel Committee
Rebecca Sherman, Grace, and me at the Geisel Award ceremony

A giddy Grace with her award!

Sara Zarr (HOW TO SAVE A LIFE), Daniel Handler (HOW WE BROKE UP) and Karen Healey (THE SHATTERING) pose at our YA luncheon
Paolo Bacigalupi with his Printz Award for SHIP BREAKER
Jewell Parker Rhodes accepts the Coretta Scott King honor for fiction for NINTH WARD

Bryan accepting the CSK medal for illustration for DAVE THE POTTER at the CSK breakfast
It was an extremely busy, but celebratory and rewarding ALA for me, and for Little, Brown. It was also my first trip to New Orleans--I loved the city, and would love to go back soon.

Till next time...