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I am a 25-year old editorial assistant working at a dream job in children's book publishing. These are the musings of an out and proud booknerd as he explores the city, makes his way in the children's book world, meets new friends and (hopefully) survives the wonderful world of dating.
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1. Am I a hoarder?

In my last post, I wrote an ode to the print book. This post may in fact be proof that I have a problem when it comes to loving print books. /sarcasm.

After a few weeks of not using my ereader, and a few frank conversations, my mother agreed to sell the ereader she bought me and use the money to buy me some bookshelves. They came on Monday and after putting them together, I started to go through and organize all of my books. But not just the ones on the floor. I figured if I had the shelf-space, I might as well arrange all my books in some sort of order again like they used to be (or at least an order that makes sense to me).

I sat down on my floor and started sifting through all of the books. I was particularly proud of myself for setting aside books I want to get rid of (either selling to The Strand or bring to work to throw on the takeshelves). But before I knew it, there were books everywhere. My neat piles had turned into a pit of book-mess. My get-rid-of pile grew to approx. 100+ books and looked like a small mountain. I soon realized that organizing these books would be more stressful than building the bookshelves. I went to bed last night with my office in a shambles.

Here are some before pictures:

These pictures don't even begin to do justice to how much was strewn about.

This is my desk chair. As you can see, it was overflowing.

Even my desk had stacks on it.

After whining to my best friend on the phone about how difficult it was to organize all these books into the perfect sequence, worrying that I still wouldn't have enough shelf-space, and him laughing at me, I finally hung up and powered through. Here is the result:

You can see my collection of orange bears on display at the very top. Also note the big gap where most of my Buffy and Angel DVDs should go. They are currently being loaned out to the aforementioned best friend. He knows what will happen to him if one of them goes missing.

Here are the other two. You can see the rest of my DVD collection, my comics/graphic novels, pictures of my sisters and my other best friend, and my Wizard of Oz nutcrackers (I used to be obsessed with The Wizard of Oz and some of my aunts still send me WoZ junk they find at garage sales, despite my protests.

Afterward, I decided to count my books quickly and see just how many there were. My best friend guessed 400-500. I guessed "I have no freaking clue." Counting the book I'm currently reading and everything on my shelf, and excluding books that are on loan, books that are still in my cubicle at my temp job, comic books, my get-rid-of pile, and a pile of books that are under my desk to reference for the column I'm writing for Lambda Literary*, I have 601 books. That means that combined with everything that was excluded, I own 700+ books. I don't know whether to be extremely proud or really embarrassed. I guess I'm going with proud, since I'm posting this information on a public blog...though I may blame that on shock in the morning.

One of my friends called me a hoarder** though I don't think that's fair, since I'm getting rid of 100+ books and the ones I have are not taking over my living area. Another friend, h

3 Comments on Am I a hoarder?, last added: 10/13/2010
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2. Why I Don't Read E-Books (or, An Ode to Print Books)

For a few months now, my mother has been asking me about e-readers, what kind I would recommend (the Sony or the nook, but I have a personal one-man boycott against Amazon especially with e-books, so I’m biased), what they’re like to use, and more specifically, what brand I would want if she were to get me one. Every time she asked I would tell her the same thing.

“Honestly mom, I don’t really want or need an e-reader. I wouldn’t use it so please don’t waste your money on buying me one. I could use some bookshelves though.”

Well she bought me one anyway (yes I said thank you) and many of the friends that I’ve told seem shocked that I’m not more excited about my new “toy.” They don’t understand why I’m not buying thousands of e-books and taking it everywhere with me. Many of them have told me “just wait…you’ll get used to it and then you’ll be addicted.” But I know I won’t and here’s why.

I love books. I don’t just mean reading. I love physical books. So much of the pleasure I derive from the reading process comes from the actual physical book. Maybe that’s a comfort thing from growing up as a reader, but so be it. Let’s start with the purchase. While it’s nice to be able to order a book offline and have it shipped, there’s no substitute in my mind for going to the brick-and-mortar bookstore and browsing the shelves. Some people find it soothing to shop for clothes, I shop for books. I love scanning the shelves, pulling out books that look interesting, reading the copy, judging books by their covers, and ultimately walking away with at least a few books to buy. If I go looking for a specific book and it’s not there, I will almost always say no when the clerk asks if I’d like to special order it. It gives me an excuse to go to the next closest bookstore and repeat the whole process again.

E-books, being digital, cannot be bought at a bookstore. All you have to do is go online or on your reader and click a few buttons. It sounds easy but to me, that’s boring. And unlike my fashion-loving friends, who can order something and then get to try it on when it arrives, I don’t even get something solid I can hold in my hands.

Once I’ve bought my books, I love to look at the covers and read the copy again. Covers are very important to me. There have been times when a cover will make or break a book for me. In fact, you could probably hand me my favorite book and if it had a horrible cover, I would probably not enjoy the reading experience as much as I would if it had a cover I loved. I could still enjoy the book, but part of the experience would be ruined for me. And unfortunately e-books don’t really come with covers. Even the companies that include their covers in the e-book can’t duplicate some of their most amazing covers on the grayscale e-readers. I downloaded a free sample of Jennifer Brown’s Hate List (which, you’ll recall, was my first acquisition) just to see what it would look like as an e-book, and while the cover was included, even that cover, which was incredibly beautiful, simple and only two-colors (black and gray-blue) just didn’t do it for me on the e-reader.

Then we get to the reading itself. When I read a book, I love feeling the book in my hands; the feel of the cover whether it’s matte or gloss, the bumpiness of embossing, the texture of the interior paper, the weight of the book in my hands. I love to feel the thickness (or thinness) of the book and to see and feel, as I’m reading, how far I’ve gone and how far I still have to go. And I love the smell of the paper and ink and the differences between the smell of a new book and the smell of an older book that’s started to yellow with age. When I’m reading an e-book, I’m always feeling the same weight under my hands, the same texture (my e-reader case). I’m always on the same page, in a sense, because I haven’t been able to experience the sensation of flipping (a rite of

5 Comments on Why I Don't Read E-Books (or, An Ode to Print Books), last added: 9/25/2010
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3. Blog Review: Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick

Hey everyone. So despite my lack of updates, I somehow found the time to guest blog on a friend's blog. Actually she bullied me into writing it for her. :-P

I was supposed to write reviews for a few different books, but as I procrastinated, the subject of my review continued to change. But when I recently read a book that really spoke to me, I decided it was time to just buckle down and do it.

So check out Reading Between the Lines, run by my lovely friend Danielle of Pocket Books, and my 5-star review of Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick

1 Comments on Blog Review: Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick, last added: 4/15/2010
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4. A blog about not giving up on your creative dreams

The other day a good friend of mine, an amazingly talented artist, called me up and told me she was thinking about giving up on her dreams of an art career and pursuing nursing instead. I promptly talked her out of that idea; she’s been dreaming of being a professional artist since I met her 13 years ago and she is not the type of person who would be able to do all the things nurses do. But while I was talking her down off the ledge, I realized I had a lot to say on the subject of “pursuing a career in the creative industry” and I thought it was something worth sharing.

I should start by saying that my friend called because she was doubting her abilities. She looked around and saw artists who were “better” than her, she kept hearing how hard it was to make a living being a professional artist, and she saw how miserable her boyfriend, a professional artist, was. As a creative person myself (my medium being the written word) I could really relate to how she was feeling; how a lot of artists (visual, written, etc) must feel while trying to achieve their dreams and work their way to…maybe not even the top, but somewhere safe, comfortable, or stable enough to build a life around. I wanted to put this advice out there for those creative people (to be referred to from here on out under the umbrella term ‘artists’ because that’s what they are, no matter the medium), including my friend, so they have something to think about when they start to doubt themselves. Hell…so that I can have something to think about when I start to doubt myself.

Firstly, there are always going to be artists who are “better” than you. I put better in quotation marks because art is very subjective and one person can love a work of art and another person can hate it just as passionately. The key is to be happy with your own art and be able to find a job or career path that suits your particular brand or style of art. If you work hard enough and you have passion and a willingness to learn and grow, you will have options. And in the meantime, it isn’t going to help you to compare yourself to the competition. Be inspired by them, learn from them, but don’t be intimidated by their presence. Remember that for every artist whose work intimidates you, there may be an artist who is equally intimidated by your work.

I do want to acknowledge that it is hard out there for artists to make a living. That’s a fact and I won’t gloss over that. It takes a lot of persistence, determination, hard work and talent, and (sometimes) a certain amount of luck to become a successful artist. The thing is you can’t just go forward thinking “I want to make a living being an artist.” You have to be smart about it. What are your particular strengths when it comes to your art? If you want to make a living in your art, is there a way to do so without being a starving artist? When I graduated from high school, all I wanted to do was be a writer. I went to college because it was expected of me but I got an English degree (Writing Concentration) because I figured I’d learn for four years and by the time I graduated I’d have a book written, a publishing deal and enough money to live off of. In hindsight and after years of working in publishing, that’s a laughable goal. But when I got to my senior year of undergrad and had nothing worth publishing, I had to think outside the box. Sure I wanted to be a writer but what could I do for a living that was related to my art? At times I just wished I could read for a living. I loved books so much. It was that wish that led me to become an editor. It was a job related to writing, it required me to use my skills as both an avid reader and a writer, and it was something I was passionate about. And the deeper into that career path I got, the more my passion grew. I had found a way to make a living (bupkis at first, sure, but still more than I was making as an unpublished writer) while working with the written word on my terms, even if it wasn�

11 Comments on A blog about not giving up on your creative dreams, last added: 2/27/2010
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5. Why I Didn’t Like the Percy Jackson Movie

Anyone who knows me fairly well knows that I am a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. I’ve often proclaimed that my love for this series is up there with my love for Harry Potter. So needless to say, I was pretty excited to see the movie adaptation of The Lightning Thief, especially since it was directed by the man behind the first two Harry Potter movies, Chris Columbus. I was also nervous---movies adapted from books rarely live up to their source material and barring most (but not all) of the Harry Potter movies, a few Neil Gaiman movies and Spiderwick, I’ve felt let down by recent book-movies. So I went in with a cautious but open heart and found myself completely let down. Here’s a list of reasons why (Caution: this list contains SPOILERS for both the movie and the book series):

*No Ares (the Cabin or the God) – one of the fun parts of the Percy books is that he encounters each and every Olympian god throughout the series and they’re “modernized.” The scenes with Percy and Ares were intense and exciting and it’s one of the first times Percy encounters one of the gods (aside from Mr. D). His absence was greatly noted and replacing him with Persephone (more to come on her) did nothing to improve the story. I was also annoyed that there was no Clarisse or Ares Cabin. While I get that the producers probably thought they were too reminiscent of Draco/Slytherin and wanted to steer clear of HP similarities, if they had thought ahead to the rest of the series, Clarisse and Ares Cabin play an important role later on, and Clarisse’s pride and stubbornness set up one of the most emotional moments (for me) in the final book. I was also annoyed that Annabeth became the stand-in for Clarisse (see my next point).

*Annabeth was all wrong - I know this is a superficial detail, but my first complaint is that Annabeth is BLONDE. It bothers me that (Buffy aside) we rarely get to see the blonde girl kicking ass and taking names. They’re always the pretty ones while the brunettes are the tough ones. That aside, I also didn’t like the changes her character was given. Book-Annabeth would NOT attack Percy that violently (in the name of training) and almost kill him. Setting her up as the violent warrior woman and then having her flip-flop to become his ally for her own selfish purposes did not make me like her as either a romantic foil OR a Hermione-esque “smart, female friend” for Percy. Again, they may have been trying to avoid HP similarities but they went a bit too far. Part of the fun of The Lightning Thief is that it has the HP skeleton (which JK Rowling didn’t invent, by the way) with its own unique and interesting story, mythology, and character development.

*The way race was handled – I had a BIG problem with Rosario Dawson playing Persephone. Not only was I annoyed that her character (a MAJOR deus ex machine) had replaced Ares, but she was clearly supposed to be the exotic, spicy goddess/wife and they didn’t even try to make her seem Greek. At one point the friend I was watching with, a Latina woman, leans over to me and says, “Why is Persephone Puerto Rican?” I have no idea. She’s supposed to be a GREEK goddess. If they wanted to have diversity in the cast, they had a great opportunity with the demi-god camp-dwellers (since they’re half Greek god and half-any type of human). But they missed that opportunity by only focusing on the main demi-gods (another thing that took away from the greatness of the books – I loved all of the briefly mentioned side characters, just as I did in HP). I was actually really glad they cast a black actor to play Grover, since, ya know, he’s a satyr and they’re nature spirits. He could be any race. But I was extremely disappointed that they then went and changed Grover’s character to make him a stereotype of a black teen. Grover is a nervous, awkward, odd lit

3 Comments on Why I Didn’t Like the Percy Jackson Movie, last added: 2/21/2010
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6. I'm still alive

Hey guys and gals. I know I haven't been the best blogger lately. A big part of my absence is that I'm starting to lose interest in the whole blogging thing. Don't get me wrong - I love writing down my thoughts. I'm a writer at heart and since I haven't had much success squeezing the novels in my head out onto paper, blogging helps me release my inner-writer. But lately I've just been so much more comfortable keeping my thoughts private and updating my older, more heavily filtered blog. Not that my life is very juicy at all, but it's nice to be able to write without having to think about the repurcussions of my words. Which, now that I think about it, makes me realize that is why I have such trouble working on my novel. Color me ridiculous.

Anyway, I just thought I'd pop on and let you all know I'm still alive, I'm doing great if a little bored and that I'm still looking for a new editorial position. I've been interviewing, but so far haven't landed anywhere yet. You can be sure I'll update you all on that front as soon as there is news.

As a consolation, I thought I'd direct you to the blog of a friend, Danielle, who also works in publishing (on the adult side, but she loves kidlit).
Reading Between the Lines is a great blog that touches on a number of great topics and eventually I'll be contributing something if Danielle can ever manage to pry something out of me (I owe her a review of Hunger Games that still hasn't seen the light of day). So check out her blog, especially this great post about 6-word memoirs. Go read the post and then contribute your own 6-word story.

And bear with me through this hiatus. Hopefully there will be more Junior Editor Spotlights (it's really hard to get Jr. Eds to take time out of their busy schedule of editing their own books and assisting their bosses to do a little old blog interview) and eventually I'll have an opinion that I feel like voicing again. In the meantime, I'm at Twitter and I'm sure you probably all follow me over there, but if not, come and find me. I'm TeeEss.

3 Comments on I'm still alive, last added: 1/15/2010
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7. Big News!

Hi everybody. I’ve been avoiding writing this post, mostly because it’s a difficult subject to talk about. But I thought I should say something, just so it’s out there and no one has to wonder or ask around.

As of the end of September, I am no longer with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Yes, I’m sad about it. Yes, I miss everyone I worked with. Yes, I am now looking for work.

So what happened? Well I won’t go into details, but what I will say is that it can be very hard when you and your boss are both promoted out of your current roles. Your needs change, their needs change, and things can potentially get very difficult. I loved my job, but it was time to part ways, and while I was sad to go, I’m looking forward to the future and where I’ll be next. Right now I’m trying to find a way to pay the bills while holding out for another editorial position in children’s books. That’s what I love and that’s where I want to stay, though I’m keeping my mind open should other opportunities present themselves.

I will say this---my time at Little, Brown was an amazing and memorable experience. I learned a lot from my boss and I had the chance to work with some truly remarkable authors. And the LBYR editorial team was really like a family to me. We worked together so closely and with such little competition that it was an exciting day when any of us got a good submission in, or won an auction, or got promoted. They were truly a wonderful team to work with and LB was such a great place to start my editorial career.

So now on to the next venture. I haven’t landed anywhere yet, so if anyone hears of any leads, don’t hesitate to lob them my way. In the meantime, I’ll be stalking the job boards, temp agencies and potential freelance jobs and will be blazing my way through my TBR pile to try and catch up on books I didn’t have the time to read before.

And for those who are curious---yes, I will still be updating this blog (hopefully more often, now that I’ve gotten this one out of the way, and now that I have more time on my hands). Stay tuned!

ETA: For those looking to reach me via email, I'm at tsferguson1 at gmail.

5 Comments on Big News!, last added: 10/31/2009
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8. Junior Editor Spotlight - the debut: Molly O'Neill

So I know you all have been waiting for this, and I've been procrastinating on posting this because of the formatting, but I figured if I didn't do this soon, Molly was going to kick my butt. So at long last I debut my new feature, the Junior Editor Spotlight, where I interview kidlit folks from Associate level all the way down to Editorial Assistant. Since this will be long, I'll jump right in and let the spotlight shine where it's meant to.

Name & Title: Molly O'Neill, Assistant Editor, Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins
Publishing House: HarperCollins Children's Books

What inspired you to go into children’s books, and what were you doing before this?

I graduated from Marquette University with a double major in Elementary Education and Writing-Intensive English (my university's name for the creative writing version of an English major; those of us who majored in it mostly liked that the English Department's abbrevation for us was WINE majors...). I was fortunate to have an amazing mentor who introduced me to the world of children's publishing which then led to a great internship with another great mentor. At the end of the internship, that editor said to me, "I don't think you want to be a teacher; I think you want to work in children's books!" She was totally right.

After I graduated, I spent two years doing full-time, post-graduate volunteer work as a youth minister, with the great bonus of getting to travel all across the US and Canada. Youth ministry and editorial work don't necessarily appear to have much in common, I know, but underneath the surface, they actually do--both are all about forming and building relationships, about seeing the deeper meaning in things, and about inspiring and being inspired.

I moved to NYC after those two years were up, ready to work in children's books, just as my former boss/mentor had predicted I would. I spent about four and a half years on the Marketing side of children's books, first at Clarion Books and then at HarperCollins, and finally achieved my ultimate goal when I moved over to the editorial side of the industry about two years ago.

As junior editors, our primary jobs often involve assisting a more senior editor, but this also gives us the opportunity to work on some great books alongside them. Who do you or have you worked with and what are some notable books you've worked on with them?

When I was at Clarion, I asked for and was granted the privilege of working on a few projects editorially, in addition to my marketing work. The pinnacle for me there (and it may well be a pinnacle of my entire career!) was getting to work alongside the esteemed, wise, and wonderful editor Virginia Buckley on the early drafts of Gary Schmidt's THE WEDNESDAY WARS.

I've worked alongside three editors thus far at HarperCollins. Brenda Bowen gave me my first real chance to prove myself as an editor when she hired me to assist her at the now-defunct Bowen Press. I suspect I'll spend the rest of my career hoping hard that the books I edit will be evidence that she made a good decision in opening up the editorial doors to me. In addition to working with Brenda on the books of publishing royalty (among them, Virginia Euwer Wolff), I learned much from simply watching the person behind the editor that Brenda is--about how vision and insight and creativity come, in large part, from being someone who is passionately engaged with the world--and the many fascinating people in it--in every possible way.

Working alongside Anne Hoppe, I've gotten to see the sheer genius and the invisible-but-brilliant creative force that helps guide and shape the books of Terry Pratchett, Melissa Marr, A.M. Jenkins, and many other books that avid readers count among their favorites. Publishing is an apprenticeship kind of business, in the way that I think few industries in our modern world still are, and I'm lucky to be apprenticed to a true Master Editor. Working with Anne is the equivalent of having that English teacher or professor who grades your papers HARD, because she knows you're eternally capable of MORE. She demands that I become a better, smarter, sharper, wiser, and more sensitive editor with every passing day, and I'm certainly trying to live up to the expectations.

I’ve just recently started working with Katherine Tegen on a new novel by Patricia MacLachlan, which is one of those experiences that makes me pinch myself to be sure that I'm not dreaming. Katherine is wonderfully supportive and encouraging of me as an editor. I know that same support and encouragement is part of what her authors and illustrators love about her, too, and part of what makes them want to continually out-do themselves in creating new masterpieces for her to publish.I look forward to continuing to grow as a part of her imprint.

Talk yourself up. Tell us what you’ve acquired and what you are looking to acquire?

I'm proud to be the editor of Kathryn Fitzmaurice, author of THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY. We're working now on a companion to her first novel, and it's a book that I already can't wait for all of you to read. Right now I'm also working on a Christmas picture book by Laura Godwin that I think is perfectly wonderful, and I have high hopes that it will be a Christmas favorite, year after year.

I acquire everything from picture books through YA, but right now, most of all, I'm looking for middle grade--a vivid voice and inventive storytelling are the thing I'm hoping for every time I open up a manuscript. In YA, I'm a sucker for a good romance, and for stories about connectivity and the choices that we make and the way they trickle down to affect others--and the person we ultimately become, too. Other sweet spots: ballet/theatre/other artsy, backstage stories; a strong setting and a sense of place that shapes a story; and my inner 10 year old reader wants me to tell you, "Orphans! Anything with orphans!"

I know this is an evil question to ask a book person, but I’m going to do it anyway. What is your favorite classic children's book? What is your favorite contemporary children's book?

Well, if you're going to be that evil, I'm going to cheat and split this into categories. Classic picture book would be BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL. Kerplink, Kerplank, Kerplunk. Classic novel would be A LITTLE PRINCESS. As a child, my mother took away my copy of it, because I read it over and over and insisted on acting like, I, too, was a put-upon princess-in-disguise. ;)

Contemporary (as in, recently-published, not setting) picture book would be a knock-down, drag-out fight between THAT RABBIT BELONGS TO EMILY BROWN (Cressida Cowell & Neal Layton) and DIARY OF A WOMBAT (Jackie French & Bruce Whatley). Contemporary novel would be a three-way battle between LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY (Gary Schmidt), A NORTHERN LIGHT (Jennifer Donnelly), and a quiet little novella called I HAD SEEN CASTLES (Cynthia Rylant). I re-read all three about once a year to remind myself what good writing looks like and how it makes me feel.

Loving a book cover is very important to me as a reader. If I don’t love a cover, I find it hard to pick up the book and get into it. What are some of your favorite book covers?

Oooh, this is a good question. I was totally suckered in by how haunting the cover of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is. In fact, I think that's a good way to describe the YA covers that really resonate with me--there's something haunting to them, a clear story deep beneath the cover image, waiting to be discovered: like the covers of A NORTHERN LIGHT and WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED and 13 REASONS WHY.

For middle grade, I love a cover that shouts that there's a story unfolding inside: like the original hardcover jacket for A PRINCESS ACADEMY or THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY or the forthcoming DANI NOIR.

In picture book covers, I like bold, spare, graphic, and utterly lovable. Like DIARY OF A WOMBAT, or I'D REALLY LIKE TO EAT A CHILD, or SPLAT THE CAT, or A GOOD DAY.

Assuming you have a life outside of children’s books (a bold assumption, I know) what are some of your other, non-book-related interests? Be as specific as possible so that we can all stalk you on the weekends. Just kidding (or am I?).

I knit. I drink far more coffee than can possibly be good for me. I spend way too much money shopping on Etsy.com. I wander through Prospect Park. I see plays and go to the ballet and opera as often as possible. I frequent the Greenmarket and love cooking. I people-watch. I avoid cleaning my apartment in every way imaginable. I occasionally manage to read a book that's--gasp!--not for work. I ponder ways to take over the universe that involve making more money than publishing, but I always come back to the fact that I passionately love kids' books and the publishing world, and that it's pretty hard for even a single day to go by without that love weaving into whatever else I do.

What is your favorite movie/song/non-children’s book?

Again, you have asked an impossible question, leaving me no option but to cheat further (or should we call it editing your questions?) You say favorite, and I choose to believe you meant that as the plural variant of the word, rather than the singular. ;) Ergo:

Movies: Ocean's 11. Once. Anne of Green Gables. My Fair Lady. Love, Actually. Newsies. Pan's Labyrinth. Playing By Heart.

Song: Whatever it is at the current moment, it's probably been on repeat for at least a month—when I fall in love with a song, I wear it out! Right now, I'm crushing pretty hard on a band called Fictionist (especially their song “Set Me on Fire,”) which I was introduced to by author Sara Zarr; on an indie artist from Texas named Lee Alexander, whose song “Union Street” gives me chills; and on the song “Blindsided” by Bon Iver, (from the album For Emma, Forever Ago), who I found via my colleague Jordan—it’s the perfect rainy day music.

Non-children's book: I sob openly over THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, and I love a poetic literary novel called IF NOBODY SPEAKS OF REMARKABLE THINGS, by Jon McGregor, about the ways that the events of a single day connect the residents of a street in England. I also love the deeply ponderous Crosswick Journals of Madeleine L'Engle. And I wouldn't say "favorite," but a non-kids' book that I'm currently reading and fascinated by is called THE WORLD IN SIX SONGS: HOW THE MUSICAL BRAIN CREATED HUMAN NATURE by Daniel Levitin.

What is your favorite part of the job? What is your least favorite? Answer carefully…your boss may read this blog. :-)

Least favorite: Filing! Also, production requests (and other tedious paperwork); reviewing royalty statements and other math-related activities; staring at the pile of manuscripts to-be-read and feeling guilt; saying "no."

Favorites: the split second between opening a manuscript and starting to read, where the possibility that you could be reading something great is 100% alive. Sending the very first copy of a book to an author and imagining their face when they open it up; the moments when you know you have the vision to help guide a book into the direction it needs to go; writing killer flap copy or a kickass [Molly censored herself but I uncensored her --T.S.] acquisitions memo that makes you feel like you've really done justice to an author or artist's work; working with and being inspired on a regular basis by insanely talented, creative people.

Everyone should know I’m a karaoke nut at this point, and it seems like it’s becoming an industry-wide phenomenon (or maybe I’m just more and more aware of it). What is your #1 karaoke song specialty?

(Karaoke? Really? This must be a Little, Brown thing.) In any case, my karaoke specialty is coming up with brilliantly embarrassing song ideas for everyone else to sing while simultaneously managing to make people forget that I haven't gone up to sing anything myself!

And finally, the most important question of all – are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?

Team Jacob!

Anything else you'd like to add?

Thanks for having me as a visitor on your blog, T.S. Getting to know my great colleagues is one of the best parts of the business, not least because they sometimes send me advanced copies of books I'm dying to read. Also, I hereby declare a Secret Bonus Round Question to this interview, where the question-ee gets to ask the question-er one question of her own! So. Ahem. When do we get to see your answers to all these same thought-provoking questions, Editor Ferguson?

Well, to answer Molly's question, I may post my own Spotlight some day (probably some day when I need something to post and I have nothing original to give). In the meantime, Molly's given me a great idea. From now on, I'll be adding one last question to the interview, but it will be the editor's chance to ask me a question of their choosing.

Stay tuned for the next Junior Editor Spotlight, which should be coming down the pipeline shortly, as well as a few actual posts directly from my brain, once I've had the chance to write, re-read, edit and rewrite them. I guess you never really stop being an editor, huh?

14 Comments on Junior Editor Spotlight - the debut: Molly O'Neill, last added: 6/27/2009
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9. My Desk: A Photo Tour

While you're all waiting patiently for my next blog post, I thought I'd tide you over with a photo tour of my workspace. Or rather, the parts of my workspace that keep me happy during stressful days/weeks/months. Hopefully these pics aren't too big---I'm trying to keep them fairly small but clear but I don't have the right software to resize them without messing with the clarity much. So here goes:

First there is my Zac Efron corner. Zac and I are dating, though he doesn't know it yet. And folks around the office just love to give me pictures of him, especially publicity when they find him in the teen mags they have subscriptions to. And I can't bear to throw him away. So he has his own corner. I should note that there are actually two other pictures of him around my desk. Yes, I'm really that crazy about Zac Efron. He's who I always pictured as Edward Cullen before Twilight was even on the bestseller list, if that puts it in perspective.

And speaking of Edward Cullen, don't you just love my horrendously amazing Edward action-figure? I keep him in the original packaging because on the back is the best typo ever. It says "Special Powers: Ming Reading." Love it!

And completing the Twilight portion of this tour, here is the entrance to my cubicle. In case you can't read what that sign says below Team Jacob, it says "WWJD: What Would Jacob Do?" For a few seconds I had dreams of making that slogan happen, but I never got around to telling anyone about it...aside from coworkers. Maybe this blog will be it's launching point. It's especially timely, what with New Moon coming out...whenever that is. I can never remember movie release dates.

Here is my bookshelf. As you can see, I'm spilling over onto the bookshelf in the cubicle next to me. There used to be an intern there and she let me encroach, and now there's nobody. I'm all alone with my books. :-( Zac Efron, come sit near me so we can fall in love!

Also, if you're curious, the two pics next to my bookshelf are my little sister, Elisabeth, and her boyfriend at their junior and senior prom.

This is the bookshelf that is above my desk and as you can see, I collect String Dolls (aka Voodoo Babies). That's only a portion of my collection. You'll also see one of my LOLcats (love 'em) which also tells of my love for bacon. And there's a picture of me with my sisters, Marissa and Elisabeth (I'm the oldest). There's also a great (and by great I mean HILARIOUS) quote that I photocopied from Eminem's book, The Way I Am.

I also want to pay shoutout to a decoration that didn't make it into either this photo or the one with all the Zac photos. It's a print out of a picture I found on the web and clearly shows (as well as my Jacob love) how much of a werewolf fan I am. This is the pic (stolen from google images):

This is the top of the cabinet in my cube (if you're looking at it from the hallway). You'll see a few of the books I've worked on with my boss, as well as my Popple (you all remember Popples, right?) and some of the many Jo Chen Runaways covers that I've wallpapered my area with. I absolutely LOVE her work AND Runaways and I was in the throes of that series when we moved to this new office a few years ago. Thus the wallpapering.

On the side of my cabinet that faces me, I have more art hanging up. These pictures are Wizard of Oz characters as interpreted by an artist I enjoy named Mike DePetrillo. To the right of that is my "comics that are coming out" schedule that I keep current but can never manage to look at before I go to the comic store every Wednesday (that's New Comics Release Day for you non-comic folk).

And just above that is some art by my BFF and favorite artist, Jessica DeCormier. She did this series of art a few years back while working a really boring office job, where she drew on post-its. The larger one is a print-out of a post-it piece she did with nothing but highlighters. The other two are actual post-its (ORIGINAL ART!!!) I stole from her (with permission) and were done with highlighters and marker. She's amazing and I'm always trying to pimp her out while also encouraging her to finish her portfolio so she can finally go to art school and make the connections she needs to get a job in animation and move away to California (why am I helping her again?).

This completes the photo tour of my desk. There's much more to see, but it's all just work and unorganized mess, and also I'm dreading my phone bill now since those were all taken and sent from my camera phone and I still don't know how much it costs to send pix messages. LOL! Hope you all enjoyed that and that it tides you over until I (a) get the OK that my latest blog post isn't going to get me fired when I post it or (b) get my first Junior Editor Spotlight interview in from the interviewee.

Until then...

6 Comments on My Desk: A Photo Tour, last added: 5/23/2009
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10. The One That Got Away

I've been wanting to post about this for a while, and I'm not just doing it. Not by any specific event, but really I have been chomping at the bit to update with a Junior Editor Spotlight and am awaiting answers from my first guest (there've been some delays due to vacations and pretty much an insane amount of work at the office right now).

Anyway, I wanted to write about "the one that got away." That is to say, those manuscripts, and every editor has them, that they loved but just couldn't buy for some reason. I wanted to talk about it, both because it is a part of the business that is really sad for us, but also to show those aspiring authors out there that sometimes you're not the only ones who are sad when an editor can't buy your book. And that is something to remember - not all rejections mean the editor didn't like your book. Sometimes we loved it but there are other factors.

Editors of all levels do A LOT of reading and it is a constant struggle to keep up with the seemingly neverending piles of potential published books. Most of them we just won't connect with for some reason - either they need way too much work, or they aren't right for our list or they aren't really a children's novel. So when we find those projects that really call out to us, it is a really exciting (and scary) time for us. I say scary because there are a lot of steps (I won't bore you with the details, since I've described them in previous posts) and at any one of those steps, we could be given a reason why we can't take this book any further.

There have been several times when I've really loved a project and couldn't buy it. Once I brought a project to my weekly editorial meeting to get extra readers. They agreed it was a great story but that it needed a lot of work. So I offered to do a revision. When I got the revision back, we discussed it and decided it still needed too much work to take on as-is, so I offered to do another revision. Unfortunately, at that stage, another editor had made an offer on it and it went somewhere else. Another time, I brought this great project to editorial meeting and my readers had positive feedback but thought it needed work. I did the revision with the author and thought it turned out great, but when I brought it back to edit meeting, my team just didn't think it was working and I had to pass. I've also seen books go all the way up to the Publications Committee meeting, with multiple editors really excited about a book and the Editorial Director's support...and they just don't like it, or get it, or think we can publish it well...and you can't argue with the Pub Comm team. They know they're shit.

It's quite sad when you lose a project, either having to reject it or seeing it go to another house. But those are also the projects that can become your "I toldja so" books. Those books that go somewhere else, do well, and you can forever say, "I toldja so" to your team. I have a few of those, none that have hit the bestseller lists or won major awards yet, but we'll see. And when you lose those books, no matter how they do, it's always great to see how that other publisher handles that book and watch it come to life from an outside perspective.

So for aspiring authors who think every rejection means we don't like your book---just remember, sometimes it hurts us as much as it hurts you and sometimes we really don't want to reject it either. But publishing is a team effort and if the team can't get behind a book, it's better off somewhere that will know how best to support it or that believes in it more. And that editor who had to reject you will be out there, rooting you on as an industry cheerleader, and probably bugging your agent or editor for an ARC when they come in.

7 Comments on The One That Got Away, last added: 4/6/2009
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11. Announcements

Also, I can't believe I didn't post about this when it happened or even the last time I updated, but I got promoted. I mentioned it in in the post below, but I wanted to call it out because it's exciting. I am now an Assistant Editor. YAY!

And in other news, stay tuned for another series of blog posts from me. This series will be called the Junior Editor Spotlight. I wanted to give a shoutout to some editors out there in the kid lit arena who are in the range of Editorial Assistant to Associate Editor, since we're the younguns, the ones who don't necessarily get as much credit or as much recognition, despite doing a lot of work behind the scenes. And mostly because we're all trying to build our careers and build our names and it'll be a fun way to show readers who is out there that you might not have heard about yet. I have the first few interviews already planned, but I also want to mention that if anyone has any suggestions for junior editors they'd like me to interview, feel free to leave their names in the comments section or email me. It's ok if you don't have their contact information - I'm good at tracking people down if I don't already know them. >:-) *evil laugh*

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12. Editor's First Acquisition | Buying the Book

I think now is a great time to post about the experience of buying my first book. This time next week, it will have been exactly a year since I found out I had won HATE LIST at auction. Before I tell you about how that happened, I want to share the cover, since we're finally able to share it.

What do you think? I'm really pleased with the way it turned out.

As I've mentioned in a previous blog, the events that led up to the agent sending me this manuscript feel like real networking destiny. When I got it, I thought the idea sounded interesting. It was a Friday, so I put it in my e-reader and told myself I would start looking at it over the weekend. The agent, Cori Deyoe from 3 Seas Literary, had sent me 50 pages and told me to let her know if I wanted to see more and I had sent an immediate response and asked her to please send me the full (why not - I have the e-reader, it won't break my back). I started reading Saturday night before bed and Sunday I decided to come into the office for some reason unknown to me. I finished the first 50, walking down the street, as I got to my building and I was really upset that I had hit the end. Luckily, Cori had sent me the full after I had left and it was waiting in my inbox when I got up to my desk. Now again I feel like destiny was in play, because I decided that I did not want to stay at the office and do whatever it was I had decided to come in for...so I went home and kept reading (what, at the time, was called) HERO. I finished it before bed that night, came in the next morning and told my boss "I have to have this book!" Now I think it's interesting because, had I decided to stay and do work, I might not have finished it in one sitting, but had I decided earlier that I didn't want to do work, I might not have come in and picked up the full manuscript either. Destiny people. Proof of destiny.

So once I was in love, it was my job to get others to fall in love, which they did. And that was when I got the call. There were offers on the book. Oh no!! Soon after, there was enough interest to merit an auction. But oh no again! I was about to leave for a library conference in Minneapolis and I hadn't even received approval from the Editorial Director to bring this project to our Acquisitions Committee.

So what did I do? I set up a meeting between my boss, the Paperback Director, and the Editorial Director, prepared all of the memos and materials JUST IN CASE I received approval to bring this to the Acquisitions Committee, and off I went to Minneapolis. Luckily I have a great boss who represented me in my absence and really made sure to express my enthusiasm. And it was unanimous, across the board…yes we have to have this book! Awesome! Of course, the stress didn’t go away just yet...what if someone outbid us? What if they don't outbid us, but the author and agent decide to go with them for some other reason? Getting on my flight back, I knew this: we had a bid on the table and I'd hear back on Monday. Oh weekend, you dirty tyrant!

When I received the call on Monday that they had decided to take our offer, I was like a tightly coiled spring trying not to bounce around like an idiot (too unprofessional). My mother screamed in my ear excitedly when I called her, but my boss was more reserved in her elation. And I still have all of the emails of excitement from the Acquisition folks when I told them the news.

And now it's been a year, a wonderful year, since that day. So much has happened since then---the title has changed, the ARCs are in, my boss is now the Editorial Director, I've acquired a few more books and been promoted, and I should be seeing a proposal and sample chapters for Jennifer's 2nd book soon. I can't believe it's been a year, and I can't believe there's only another half year (short in adult years and in Narnia years) before the book is out. I'm so freaking proud of this book and sometimes it's difficult to control my elation. And because I can't control my elation, thus negating any sort of proper conclusion to this post, I'll leave you with this link, to Jennifer Brown's blog, where you'll find pictures of her receiving her ARCs.


1 Comments on Editor's First Acquisition | Buying the Book, last added: 4/6/2009
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13. Books and Dating

I have lots of reading to do (as per usual) but I have some time while my turkey burgers are cooking, so you get this lovely blog post to read. It's not any of the blogs I promised, but those are coming. Eventually. For now, you'll have to make do with this little ditty that keeps coming up in my mind.

I was joking with one of my colleagues today about the guy she's dating. Things aren't working out and she wasn't sure what to do. I said, "we write rejection letters every day. Why don't you just write him a letter to tell him you're passing on the relationship." We laughed at the time, but it brought up a thought I've had in the past. The publishing process, from an editorial standpoint, is a lot like dating. So here is a list citing the similarities. It's was meant to be humorous, but it really ended up being not as funny and really very true. It might provide some insight for those looking to go into editorial or maybe even for authors aspiring to be published. And maybe it'll help me gain some perspective on why I seem to be perpetually single (no seriously - put the A.P.B. out. I'm single and ready to mingle, if you'll pardon that old cliche).

Without further ado:

#1 ~ You're going to meet a lot of guys/read a lot of submissions before you find the right one.
-----#1a ~ In the beginning, this is partially because you need to figure out what you're really looking for.
-----#1b ~ It's also because there are just a lot of options and it's part of the experience. Not every guy or project is going to be right for every person and it's all about finding the one that fits the best.

#2 ~ Sometimes you're going to find the guy/author you think is absolutely perfect for you and they're going to think some other guy/editor is a better fit for them. That's life. Just be happy for them, wish them well and move on graciously. You'll find someone else to date/work with and who knows, maybe that other guy/author will come back sometime down the road if things don't work out.

#3 ~ This kinda goes with #2 a bit, but sometimes things just don't work out. There could be many different factors, but in the end it just doesn't happen. It can be sad for one or both parties, but it's just life.

#4 ~ Networking works, whether it be through already established connections, the internet, or other means. For example, I made friends with a woman at a book signing who later became a coworker, who introduced me to an editor she worked with who edited the books I loved to read. She introduced me to the editor who sat next to her, who introduced me to agent she knew when I eventually got my editing job. That agent later suggested me to the agent for my first acquisition. So far internet dating hasn't worked for me (I met one guy and it didn't work out, but we're still friends - but two of my former roommates met their significant others on OKCupid.com and one of those roommates is now married to the guy she met).

#5 ~ There are going to be times when your friends/colleagues don't think this guy/project is the right fit. If you see something they don't, it's OK to keep pushing to try and find a way to make it work, but if they're right and it's not going to work out, it's best to just listen to them and not drag things out.

#6 ~ Sometimes you need to work on things before you're ready to establish a relationship. If the relationship is worth it and the work is reasonable, it's often worth it to put the time in beforehand. It can lead to great things in the future.

#7 ~ Sometimes it takes negotiation and compromise before you can settle into a relationship. The key is to know what you want, what your deal breakers are and what you're willing to sacrifice to establish this relationship. Again, sometimes it doesn't work out, but other times you can come to an agreement that you're both happy with

#8 ~ Once a relationship has been established, it takes a lot of work to maintain. There will be a lot of criticism, a lot of compromising, and probably more negotiating. But this is true throughout more than just dating and editing - the more work you put into the relationship (and the book), the better the outcome.

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14. Stick to the script!

Memorizing my speech feels a lot like running lines back when I used to do children's theater. Only this time I won't have to wear a blonde wig and facial hair (I was Buffalo Bill in Annie Get Your Gun one year---there's no business like show business).

I'm still ridiculously nervous, but the more I remember of my speech the better I feel about it. It probably doesn't give off the image of unmovable professionalism that I should probably be trying for, but heck...I'd rather be real and honest on here. And hey, I'll still be a basket of raw nerves on Tuesday afternoon, but hopefully I can at least do as well as I did in those musicals. I was always a bit stiff, but I never forgot my lines or blocking.

Oh boy, though. If this is anything like theater, that means the forgotten-lines nightmares are going to make an appearance. Fun is!

I'll leave you with this image: me (tall, brown hair, slightly awkward, baby face) wearing gray face paint, a shiny silver jumpsuit and a funnel on my head. If anyone can guess what that costume was, I'll send them an ARC of something fun.

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15. Editor's First Acquisition: Preparing for Focus

This weekend I'm preparing myself (both mentally and emotionally) for our Fall 2009 Focus Meeting, which is where we introduce key sales folks to our list. I'll be presenting Hate List, as well as one of my boss's titles, and I am EXTREMELY nervous.

I'm not sure where the nerves come from. I regularly go to karaoke with some of my friends and colleagues and I love to sing. When I have a microphone in my hands, I might get a little nervous, but there is also a confidence. An "I can do this" surge that rushes through me. But giving a speech, even one that's only 1-minute long, is not singing. I think it's mostly a mentality. I was nervous when I first started doing karaoke, but the more and more I did it and saw positive reactions from everyone there, the more confident I got and the better I got. So maybe that's all I need for this---to do it a few times and see that I'm not bad at it, get more confident, and soon I'll be speechifying with the best of them. But for now, it feels like there is fire pumping through my veins and I can't wait until it's over.

I am excited to present Hate List to a wider audience though. Until now, the only folks who have read the manuscript are the people who work directly on the book (the designer, the copyeditor), the people who read it when we were buying it (the publications committee and a few editorial readers) and me. So to be able to share "my first" with more people is just so exciting. Terrifying, but exciting. I'm so proud of this novel and what a great job the author did, and I'm excited for more people to discover her---just like I discovered her---and fall in love with this book.

And they'll get to see the cover too, which I am glad was approved in time to make it into the powerpoint slide. It evokes such a great response and completely matches the gritty, emotional feeling of the book and it'll provide a great visual backup while I'm presenting.

So now, back to my speech. My boss suggested I read it 40 times to myself and then practice 20 times in front of the mirror. On Monday, I'll be practicing in front of her and I want to have this mostly memorized by that point. Wish me luck! And of course, I'll let you all know how it goes once it's over.

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16. An editor's first acquisition - blog series | Cover Approved

Ya know, it's funny -- I post about not knowing what to blog about and then it occurs to me that I had the perfect opportunity this year to post something really interesting. I acquired my first two books this year and one of them (Hate List by Jennifer Brown) has already finished being edited and is working its way through the design process. How interesting would that have been, if only I had thought about it? An editor's first acquisition, step by step.

Well it's not over yet. We still have to make it to publication. So I'll be sure to come back and update when there are things to share. That'll be my first step toward making this blog something worth reading. I'll also start at the beginning and post a few "blogs from the past" to catch you up.

But right now, I have the first update. A very exciting day. Today the designer took his cover ideas to our jacket committee meeting. Jacket committee consists of key people in sales, marketing, publicity, design, editorial, and the publisher and they look at the cover ideas, discuss their thoughts, likes, dislikes, etc. and either approve a cover/sketch or give feedback to move forward. My boss and I had met with the designer, the awesome Mr. Dave Caplan, previously and he had shown us three ideas. While they were all amazing, one direction resonated with me more than the rest and I immediately said so. It turned out that it was his favorite as well. Luckily the jacket committee agreed and it was approved.

Now, my boss had told me not to get my hopes up. The folks on the committee are very opiniated and for good reason---they know books and they want to do what is best for each title. But it was too late at that point. I had my hopes WAY up. It didn't help that I had a copy of the concept hanging in my cube to look over at since before Thanksgiving. So now I feel like melting. Adrenaline is rushing through my veins and my head feels light. I'm so excited that another milestone has been passed for my first acquisition. And I can't wait to share the cover with the outside world. I have no idea when that can be, but I'm sure I need to wait until the catalog and ARCs comes in (March). At the very least I have to wait until I share it with the author and agent. But as soon as I'm able, you know it'll be up here.

Now I must get back to work. Title factsheets AND catalog copy are both due by end of day today and there is a Longstockings get-together I don't want to miss. Meanwhile, my heart is going out to anyone who received bad news today. Layoffs suck and while it seems like our company is safe at the moment, to hear about stuff like this happening in an industry that feels more like family than work is disheartening and sad for all of us.

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17. New Years Resolution

I know it's only a few days after Thanksgiving, but I've been thinking a lot about what I want for this blog in the new year. Things have been very busy lately. My boss has been making some really newsworthy deals, and I've been working with her on projects as well as on my own. And I've made some blog promises that I have not kept. For one, I said that I'd blog about Breaking Dawn and I never did. Not that I didn't want to, but I thought it might be a conflict of interest, since, ya know, I work at the publishing company. And even though I was a fan of Twilight before I got my editorial job, I didn't want to say anything that might get me in trouble.

That's one thing that's plagued me a bit with this blog. I'm used to having a heavily filtered personal blog, where I can write about whatever I want and no one sees it unless I say so. This is a different animal for me and the fear of repurcussions has been a deterrent. So that's one thing I want to figure out for 2009 -- what do I want from this blog and what kind of content do I want to post that people will want to read. I love interacting with the children's lit blog community, but I'm not really contributing at this point. So what I want to do is revamp what I post here so that it gives people a reason to come back and read.

So what I want to ask is for those people who are still reading this to throw out some suggestions on weekly content they'd like to see here. I'll also be picking up the book
No One Cares What You Had For Lunch: 100 Ideas For Your Blog, which was suggested to me by lovely agent Kate Schafer Testerman. So for those who are seeing this, don't give up on me yet. I'm still around.

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18. New Book and Video about Name Transitioning

Well I've been quite lazy/busy/emotionally drained, so I've been procrasting on writing the posts I promised you all. But for now, I wanted to pop on here and share some great news that has recently come up. I acquired my second book at work! Well -- co-acquired. It was a joint acquisition with my wonderful colleague, Julie. Here's the announcement:

Transparent author Cris Beam's J, about a female-to-male transgender teen as he begins to live as a boy and comes to terms with what it means to be trans and Puerto Rican in New York City, to Julie Scheina and T.S. Ferguson at Little, Brown Children's, for publication Spring 2010, by Amy Williams of McCormick & Williams Literary Agency (world).

And since it (sort of) relates and because I just watched it, I wanted to post this video. It's by a trans guy named Meiko Xavier whose videos I really enjoy watching (and who is SUPER cute!). This one is titled Social Difficulties with Name Change, which is something I can really relate to, despite not being trans myself.

Going from "Tom" to "T.S." was a difficult struggle, only made easier by my move to New York (wow, has it really been 5 years since I transitioned to T.S.?) and despite most people referring to me as such, I still have a lot of trouble with family members and a few friends (well, one stubborn friend in particular). So I can strongly relate to the topic in this video.

Enjoy! And stay tuned - I'll try to be diligent about coming back and actually posting one or more of the posts I promised last time...eventually.

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19. My boss

I've been planning on writing a few posts lately, but unfortunately my energy has been on other things (reading mostly, including Stephenie Meyer's latest, Breaking Dawn). But I am planning the following posts, once I gather my thoughts and shake off the sleep debt I've been accumulating:

*The manuscript that got away (alternate title: passing isn't fun for the editor either)
*Bella Swan: bad role model or is everyone just jaded?
*Breaking Dawn and why I loved it

In the meantime, I wanted to share something special with whoever's out there reading this. My boss, Jennifer Hunt, was featured in Publishers Weekly's 50 under 40 a few weeks ago, so I thought I'd post the link and show off. This woman is an incredible role model for me to be learning under and I find myself feeling lucky almost every single day that I am working for her. I know, I'm a cheesy ball of mush---but that's just how I roll, people. And the best part is, she doesn't read many publishing industry blogs, so I can gush about her without feeling like I'm sucking up. So here's the article:


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20. Spiderwick on DVD

I haven't updated in a while. Things have been a bit crazy. I've been reading like mad at work, trying to respond to as many submissions as possible while giving each of them the attention and consideration they deserve. I haven't written anything novelly yet either, since I told myself I'd take some time off until I felt I had submission reading under control (and that was a LONG time ago). I should be in bed right now, but I did have one thing I wanted to say.

For those who aren't aware -- The Spiderwick Chronicles is out on DVD. Now that you know, you need to run out and buy or rent this movie. It is, I must say, THE BOMB! And yes, that's my professional evaluation. I am a proud owner of a lovely widescreen edition and just had to spread the love.

Now to collapse into a coma -- until tomorrow, when I shall return to much reading. Goodnight, dear readers.

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21. Heroics

I saved someone's life last night.

I was at a rooftop party thrown by some of my friends and a mutual friend started to choke on a hamburger. The hostess screamed for someone to give her the heimlich, and then picked me out of the crowd (she told me later it was because I was the biggest guy and so would be strong enough, or at least stronger than her) and screamed for me to help her. I was FREAKING OUT but I gave her the heimlich until that burger was out.

The thing that was going through my mind at the time was mostly worry that I would hurt her. I mean, you're basically punching the person in the stomach from behind. But Fear of Someone Dying Because You Couldn't Save Them completely trumps Fear of Hurting Someone. It was a really scary moment but it all turned out OK. The girl was embarrassed afterward, but recovered nicely. We laughed about it a little later, and then bonded over Degrassi (which only happens to be one of THE BEST teen shows on TV).

So that was my night last night. I got home close to 3AM and crashed. Gotta take it easy today, since this coming week is my birthday week and I have LOTS of fun planned! WOO!

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22. Exclusive Submissions

I should be reading, but I wanted to pop on here for a minute because I just remembered another piece of advice I wanted to give to any unagented authors out there who are trying to get their book published.

Unless the publisher or the editor's submission guidelines specifically say they will only take exclusive submissions, DO NOT send them your submission exclusively!

Now, I believe this is different for agents, so don't carry it over to the other side of querying, but this is something I saw recently and it shocked me. Sending an editor an exclusive submission when it's not required is unfair to you. It's a major time suck. Why should you sit around waiting for me to get around to reading your project, all the while not sending it to other editors who might read it faster? Especially if you're sending to editors at a company like mine, that works mainly with agented submissions and only takes unagented submissions under special circumstances (see previous posts). Oftentimes, you're going to have to wait for us to get through a decent amount of the agented stuff before we can legitimately get to yours, and why should you wait for us?

In my opinion, only an agent should be sending exclusive submissions. They have a relationship with the editors, so they know who will love what and will give them an exclusive because they want that project with that editor and think they will love the project enough to potentially make a swift and solid offer. They have easy access to that editor for following up, and they know the industry well enough to give a reasonable amount of exclusivity (two weeks, sometimes one).

So if you're sending your project out to publishers and it's not required, don't send exclusively. Because when you get interest or an offer from an editor at one house, that will give you leverage to follow up with the other editors who are taking their time and let them know there is a reason to hurry up and respond, and they may give you a higher offer. They may still decline, but they would've anyway and now you have your answer quicker, as well as interest or an offer from a house that actually got back to you within a reasonable amount of time.

And again, agents are different. Maybe one of them can comment on this post and explain why this is and how submitting to agents in regards to this.

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23. Mass Markets - the red-headed stepchild of the industry?

Before I start talking about mass markets, I just wanted to plug my last post one more time. Only two people commented, so if you have something (anything) to say about submissions, from an editor/agent or author (published or not) perspective, please comment and/or refer people to the post.


Now, I wanted to discuss the subject of the mass market format because, from the day I entered my first publishing master's class (all those years ago) I have been given the impression that mass markets are the lowest of the low, red-headed stepchild, underbelly of the publishing industry. This makes me sad because, well, I'm a stepchild who has an appreciation for redheads and, well, I love mass market books. And not just the format itself, but as a reader I tend to go for the type of books (usually dark urban fantasy) that start out in mass market.

I've heard a ton of disparaging remarks. I had a friend once who, when asked why she didn't read mass markets, responded with, "because I like to read books that are well-written." Needless to say, I was incredibly insulted and said so. Where had she gotten this notion that mass markets weren't well-written? So I, in my indignant rage, made her read some of my favorite mass markets. Vintage Anita Blake, Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, one of the first Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. Within a month, she was hooked and was making her own discoveries -- Sherrilyn Kenyon, MaryJanice Davison -- and cruising on past the more well-known names to discover authors and subgenres that I had never heard of. Now I can't vouch for the quality of the writing in everything she found, but I opened up a whole new world of reading for her. She still loves books by authors like Sarah Dessen (one of her favorites) or Michael Chabon who are published in hardcover, but she can now appreciate the mass market world. In a way, I feel like that was a gift that I gave her (wow what a cheesy and arrogant thing for me to say).

Somewhere else, I saw someone say something along the lines of, "why would you ever want to have your mass markets autographed?" As if it almost wasn't worth meeting the author and having them personalize the book you had loved so much if it wasn't in a "better" format.

Now I'm aware of the realities. Mass markets are not as good in terms of production quality. The paper is not as nice as its larger counterparts, it falls apart easier, it's cheaper and therefore more expendable/replaceable. But mass markets also give publishers the opportunity to give a shot to some authors who they might not otherwise be able to afford. Because mass markets are cheaper, it's a great place to debut an author, especially in a genre like fantasy, and see how they are received on the market. If they sell well and continuously, they will eventually be released in hardcover as well. Many of the authors I've mentioned above have made this transition. This is such a great plan, and I am so glad for it because otherwise, some of our favorite authors may never have been given a chance. So what's with the negative MM vibe in the air? Where did this come from and when will it end?

Clearly there's a lot that could be said about mass markets. In fact, I almost wish I could go back in time to those graduate school days and change my thesis topic to this very subject. But then I would never have written that L. Frank Baum/Wizard of Oz retrospective, which helped me get my job. Oh bother -- too much paradox. But I'd love to get a good discussion going on mass markets and general thoughts on the subject in general. Mass markets -- how do you feel?

And again, feel free to link me and refer others who can contribute to the discussion. I tend to lean toward HUGE posts and that can deter people from reading, so I'm trying not to do that. But if we can get people to contribute in the comments, that would be great.

ETA: I just wanted to throw in a quick edit to add that, in case it wasn't obvious, I love mass markets and think there are MM authors who write just as well as HC/TP authors. I was having a few moments of terror wondering whether I made that clear and hoping I hadn't implied something offensive, since I've been telling people to "go check out my new blog post about MM books." LOL!

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24. My opinion on submissions and The Fear

I was talking to the lovely Betsy Bird last night (that's Ms. Fuse #8 for those who don't know her secret identity) and my lack of blogging came up. More to the point, I was told to blog. HAHAHA! And if you're smart, you know you must do as The Fuse tells you. ;-)

No, but really the reason I haven't been blogging much lately is what I like to call The Fear. It's subconscious, it's hellish, and it will stunt your growth (as a blogger). The Fear is that feeling of angst that one gets when thinking about blogging, a sense of worry that somehow you will end up fired or missing out on some sort of growth opportunity because you said the wrong thing. Sure you can avoid The Fear by posting smartly, but it still lives inside your head. But I don't want to let The Fear control my blogging and frankly, I'm sick of only vent-blogging over in my super-secret blog, so here I am with an actual topic.

I'm a Watch-and-Comment member over at Fangs, Fur and Fey, a dark, urban fantasy community on LiveJournal (which means I can't start a topic -- that is reserved for the published authors -- but I can read and discuss in the comments section). There is a great crowd over there, a mix of authors (published and not), editors, readers, and other sub-groups I am sure I don't even know about. I usually mostly read and don't comment, but the other day, someone posted a topic that sparked my interest enough to comment, and then it came up in conversation with Ms. Fuse last night, so I thought it would be a good first post to help combat The Fear.

The original post is here -
http://community.livejournal.com/fangs_fur_fey/372538.html and I wanted to speak on my own preferences as an editor, when receiving a manuscript for consideration. Obviously I can only speak for myself and what I've heard and experienced from colleagues both in-house and at other companies (so basically trade publishing houses), but I thought it could be helpful. But there are A LOT of rules out there, not all of which matter, so I'm going some things that I'm going to list the things that I DO NOT recommend doing when sending in a submission.

First things first -- most of the rules floating around out there are probably outdated, rumor, or specific to a particular house (or possibly migrated over from some type of lit mag). I'm a strong believer in breaking the rules when there doesn't seem to be a logical reason to follow them and so I say (and keep reading for some exceptions) THROW OUT THE RULES! The exceptions -- the first page of your manuscript should have your full name, the title of your book and your contact information on it. The rest of your pages should be paginated and have your last name and the book title in the header or footer. 1" margins are always good, and it should be obvious that you should check your grammar and spelling and be sending in the cleanest manuscript possible, but other than that, there's nothing else I can think of as a MUST-HAVE (and of course, other editors should feel free to comment below and add anything I might have missed, or that applies to their house). We don't care how far down on the page your first chapter starts, or whether your chapters are named or just numbered. That stuff is unimportant for the first stage.

Overall, the best advice I can give is to check each publisher's submission guidelines. They will give you all the rules you need to apply to that specific house. Not only will they help you put together the best package to submit for our consideration, but if you DON'T follow those rules, it shows us that you are someone who either doesn't take direction well or who doesn't care, and it helps that house single out the writers who can act professional.

Some things you shouldn't do (read: my griping)

*Your font should match your novel. As I said in the comments on Fangs, Fur, and Fey, I would never decline a project based solely on the font. I hate Courier. I think it's ugly and many editors I've spoken with have agreed. And I've probably fallen in love with some manuscripts that were presented in Courier. But it is just another hurdle for the editor to get past while reading, and if they have trouble reading because of the font, they could mistake that as a lack of interest on their part or a pacing issue.

By all means, if Courier fits your project, use it. And if the font that best matches your novel is unreadable and filled with curly, girly lettering, DON'T use it. Readability and presentation are both important. When in doubt, Times New Roman and Arial are both fairly safe to use. They're presentable and readable without being atrociously ugly.

*For the love of god, please paginate your manuscript. It's not detrimental, but it can be a pain in the neck, and if I accidentally drop your manuscript and have to figure out where each page goes by reading the first and last line on every page, I'm not going to be happy and that's not going to help me love your project.

*Don't be sneaky, sketchy or a liar. Because of my company's policies, the editors here usually only see unagented projects from writers who have attended our conference events or who we've sought out on our own. If you didn't attend one of our events, don't send your manuscript in and say that you heard about our event or saw that we had attended the same conference. That's being sneaky. Also being sneaky -- if we say you request queries and you send the first three chapters, or if we request the first three chapters and you send your full. Sure, that makes you stick out in the slush pile, but it makes you stick as out someone who doesn't listen to our request, and that causes disgruntled feelings.

Also, please don't send your full manuscript and say "you requested to see my full manuscript" if we didn't. If I requested your full manuscript, I am going to remember you and if you are not one of those people, I am going to know. That's being a liar.

*It doesn't matter if you use a rubber band or a binder clip or a paper clip or a staple (though that last is a pain in the neck, frankly). That's not important. But please bind your pages together somehow so that when I take them out of the envelope, they aren't flopping all over the place, and so I don't have to go hunting for a paperclip.

*In general, if I haven't requested material from you, it's not in your best interest to send me something. Unsolicited queries and manuscripts get automatically given to the department assistant and/or intern, who will then send your materials back to you with a form letter stating our company policy. That's a waste of postage and why would you want to do that to yourself? And trust me -- nothing you say is going to change our minds because we're not even really reading the cover letter. We're skimming it to see if it says SCBWI or one of the other conferences we've attended, or to see if it is from someone we actually have met. But if that info isn't included, it goes in the pile.

*Likewise, if I have requested something from you or you attended an event I was at, please be sure to write that on the envelope and/or in the cover letter. Preferably in big letters on the envelope. If I don't know that you are sending your stuff to me for a reason, I won't know to hold onto it and read it.

*Be aware of what I'm looking for and don't send me something that I'm not looking for -- even if you attended a conference event that I attended, if you send me something I have no interest in, you're wasting your time. For example, I am not a fan of sports books, non-fiction, or (most) historical fiction. I usually will say that at conferences. If you send me a sports book, it's getting declined. I have a colleague who is very specific about the types of picture books she does and does not like. So if you're sending to her and she has said "I don't like x, y and z" and your picture book falls into that category, you're wasting her time as well as your own time and money. I know it's tempting to say, "well maybe I could just try..." or "maybe once they read it..." but the odds of that happening are slim to none and are more likely that we'll get frustrated that you're sending us something we aren't interested in. There's a reason we said we weren't interested and we're saying it so you won't be misled or confused about what to send us.

With agents it's different because they know us and we can usually pass agented projects to a colleague who would be more appropriate. But that isn't a reality when it comes to unagented projects, no matter how nice you are or how sweet and/or professional you are in your cover letter.

I'm sure there's more, but that's all from me for now. This is not new info. It's all out there already. But if posting this can help one person from wasting postage or missing an obvious error, then it did its job. Please discuss! I want to hear from other editors in the comments section and if there are questions from writers out there, I want to hear those too. Make me interact with my blog more, so I have more reasons to come back and update more often.

And now, I'm off to see a friend who just moved back from being out of state for a few months (I know -- what was she thinking?). We're going (what else) book shopping! WOO!

Next up - a discussion on mass markets and their reputation. Stay tuned.

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25. I bought a book!

Well, it's been announced and many a friend has emailed to congratulate me, so I suppose it's safe to share this news with all of you now too.

Earlier this month, I made my first acquisition. It's such an exciting thing for me to proclaim and I almost feel a little guilty that I'm still mentioning it (even though I specifically waited to post it until I knew it was out there in the world). The floaty feelings have been coming in and going out every so often (usually when a new person mentions it and asks me about it). As giddy as I've been, I've been trying to maintain a level of professionalism amidst the glee. We mustn't make ourselves unworthy of such an accomplishmen, whilst celebration said accomplishment.

So for those who haven't heard and are interested in what I bought, here is the announcement:

April 9, 2008
Children's: Young Adult
Jennifer Brown's debut HERO, an emotionally charged story of alienation in the aftermath of a tragic school shooting, told from the point of view of the shooter's girlfriend, who is equal parts hero, victim and unwitting accomplice, to T.S. Ferguson at Little, Brown Children's, at auction, by Cori Deyoe at 3 Seas Literary Agency.

It's such an amazing book and I fell instantly in love with it. I am lucky to have such great mentors, especially my wonderful boss, who guided me in the right direction when I came in on a Monday and said, "I just read this and I HAVE to have it!" It's also a testament to networking. I had never met the agent who was representing this project. She was referred to me by another agent who I had met, and who I had developed a connection with. It was such a great combination of good project, good timing, good connections, fast readers, and good advice. And now I get to work on this project that I love so much, and my mind is already wandering to all of the great things I can do for it beyond the editing process. Who can I query for blurbs, what comp titles should I read, what will the cover look like.

It's a great feeling, and of course a little scary. But mostly great. And I wanted to share it all with you, my friends and readers (who should feel free to comment so I know who is out there -- I'm not sure who still reads this now that I've been MIA for a while).

Stay tuned for more coming up. There are a few discussion points I wanted to post about, but haven't had the chance to yet. Those will be coming up and they will encourage commenting, so keep your eyes peeled.

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