March 23, 2010

So...Long Time, No Update

Okay, so I’m a little behind—A LOT behind—on my blog posts. I’d tell you all the reasons but I don’t think that they really matter; let’s just say that my real life got in the way of my online life. For right now I’m looking forward rather than back and thought you all might like to be clued in.

I started a new (part-time) job! No, it’s not in publishing. If only…but it’s a job at a really nice company with really nice people. I’m working as an administrative assistant for a few afternoons per week to make a little money. There are some great pluses to this job—it keeps me interacting with people, using new technology, coming into the city and it’s at a great location: the Empire State Building. You just don’t get a better view of New York City than that. It reminds me of one of the reasons I’m working so hard—to make a life for myself here. Such an amazing view reminds me every day that even tiny, small-town me can have gigantic, big-city dreams.

I did end up cutting back on my hours working at Astle Literary, which is sad. I’ve transferred much of my responsibilities to a new intern. I’m only working with YA now (rather than all fiction, which I used to handle) which has drastically cut down on my involvement at the agency. Since I do most of my work independently, I don’t see as much of the boss and feel much more like a freelancer. It’s a neat but scary feeling—I help train a new intern, get a commission for clients, choose YA authors to sign, and only see the boss for weekly meetings. So exciting—I can really see myself in this life one day. Of course, I need tons more experience before I can really break out on my own (aka years and years) but I’m starting to feel more like I belong in this life and less like I’m playing a part.

Even while working at my new part time job, I haven’t given up applying for a full-time job in publishing. I have amazing people in my life that are helping me make the contacts that I am sure will one day land me the job of my dreams. I can never thank you all enough for your support—my blog readers, yalitchat community, and twitter peeps—and inspiration. I don’t know what I would do without you!
I haven’t given up on the book challenge either—I’m still reading the books that changed your lives! Expect blog posts about them in the future.

For now, this is my life. I hope you’re all still writing/editing/agenting/working hard! I don’t think I could get through the day if I didn’t believe that good things come to those who work hard and pay their dues. Not to those who give up. You have to keep moving forward, even if “forward” is interning a thousand times until the economy gets better and someone can afford to hire you. I know I’m going to be sticking around as long as it takes…even if it takes quite a while.

January 13, 2010

PubPt: Market Yourself & Books While You're At It

Dear Readers,

I just got back from a really great event given by the Publishing Point (#pubpt) called “Market Yourself! (and books, while you’re at it)” held in the conference room at Simon and Schuster. And I found the place on my first try! However, I did stand across the street in frozen terror for a few moments when I realized that I was entering THE Simon and Schuster. (Yes, I am a dork. Nothing marks a wannabe like an action like that, but I couldn’t help myself.)

Due to excessive planning, I arrived quite a bit early and spent over an hour searching the neighborhood for a coffee shop with free Wifi (there weren’t any—I asked 6 within a 4-block stretch). I finally gave up and just waited in the Metro CafĂ© across the street. And at T-1/2 hour, I made my way in.

So of course the guard couldn’t find my name on the list. I was able to convince him to let me in anyway (I swore I had no plans to disrupt the magnificent work of S&S) and after getting up to the 14th floor, I wandered around a bit, not wanting to burst into the wrong room. (Why, oh why, did I arrive a half-hour early? I really thought people would come early to mingle, but alas—this was not the case.)

I was the first one there and waited uncomfortably , feeling like an intruder on the inside workings of the Publishing Point & the wonderful Maggie Hilliard (@MaggieHilliard), Susan Danzinger, and others, for at least 20 minutes until people started to arrive. And there were plenty of people. They encouraged us to tweet during the event but I couldn’t get a Wifi connection (what is it with me and Wifi today?). I didn’t want to mess with my phone and have my notes suffer, so I just turned my phone off and focused on the guest speakers.

After a roll call—I wish I could remember everyone who came but it just went by too fast!—we went over a little bit of what the Publishing Point does. Check out their website: and be sure to sign up for their group on to find out! They have lots of useful info to share and you’ll get to learn from the best.

The first speaker was Max Kalehoff (@MaxKalehoff). He’s an expert on developing brands and, whether we like it or not, to get anywhere in publishing we each need to be a brand. So what does that ACTUALLY mean? To explain this, he used a case study about his own company, Clickable. Maybe, to make this easier, I’ll use myself as a case study.

Everyone is selling something. In publishing, we’re selling books or a book idea or a manuscript of a book. Online, we’re basically selling ourselves. The first thing you need to figure out is: What are your goals? Using myself as an example—What I hope to get out of being online is connections. I want to establish myself in the literary community and have all the privileges and responsibilities that come with it. (I’m already on my way with all of my blog readers—you guys are the best!)

Next step: Figure out the core insight into your niche—what is this group missing? Is there a problem that could do with a little fixing? For me, a problem I see is that everyone trying to get into the publishing industry wants to appear perfect and fearless. This makes authors unable to relate to them and the young professionals themselves seem…inhuman. How can an author relate to an agent that isn’t human, that doesn’t convey passion for their work? What’s wrong with showing how eager you are to live your dream? With saying you are nervous on your first day? It may not be a huge problem, but I think the lack of honest, firsthand journeys into the publishing world is a niche that should be filled.

The next step is to question where you can fill in: What can you contribute that they’re missing? What can you do more or be better at than everyone else? In my case, I’ve decided to be completely honest about how hard it is to get into the publishing industry and be embarrassingly personal. I’ll tell you about how I get lost or flub someone’s name or get really excited when I should be cool—because I think sometimes the publishing industry could do with being a little more human. Therefore, I think I can make connections by contributing my personal story—both the wins and losses.

Next step: Establishing outbound connections. This means helping people for nothing. The only thing you need to do is remember to leave your name. I know all you readers are good people, so you already do this the same way I do. Answer questions on other people’s blogs, crit. other people’s manuscripts, be generally helpful. This rule boils down to karma (see @jamieharrington’s blog for a nice post on karma in the publishing world)

Then comes the big step: Inbound engagement--setting up your own blog, Twitter, participating in chats, forums. When you do this, be sure to have some sort of theme that you will blog on—it’s very confusing to have someone who talks about random subjects every time they sign on! People want to know what to expect when they come to see your page. Make sure you are reaching out to the people who are interested in your product (product = you! your book! But be careful—if you intend to write several books, calling your blog after one of those books could trap you). For example, the theme of my blog is right across the header—my journey to break into the publishing industry. I share insights that I gain, stumbles that I make, and I hope that others will also share their insights.

The sharing of content is linked with the last step: educational and marketing assets—keep them coming back for more. The second speaker, Stephen Baker (formerly of Business Week) also talked about offering things of value. Don’t talk at, talk with. Be present.

Stephen Baker also discussed his experiences using his blog ( and Twitter (@SteveBaker) to promote his book, The Numerati. He also discussed his use of social media and how, at the time he was writing, certain publishing houses were still unsure of how to use this tool, afraid it destroy the mystique of the author. I guess we’ll see how far we’ve come when we find out how much he is allowed to tweet when his next book comes out.

Both speakers said that it’s hard to measure success in blogging since no one knows which numbers to look at, but the idea is to have something show up once you are googled. I absolutely agree with this. I know talking to you all is like preaching to the choir but it can never hurt to hear it again. Having a personality is just as important online as it is offline. I promise, when I seriously consider a manuscript I also seriously consider the author and I know that publishing houses do as well. Seeing someone who is taking their career seriously by promoting themselves is a great sign that they will be committed to promoting their book once it is published.

Almost forgot to mention that I met some really great people there, some employed and some looking for employment. I ran into Elana Roth (@elanaroth) in person—yay!

Whew, that was a long one! Sorry about that, but the event was full of info! I have another great event tonight (different sponsor) so off I go again. I hope you found that helpful and until next time…

January 7, 2010

1 of 52- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

First of all, I just wanted to thank everyone who gave me a book suggestion—I don’t have 52 yet but I’m on my way!! The first randomly-selected book is…

ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card, suggested by Jenny! (jmartinlibrary)

What she didn’t know was that this one was already in my library bag. You know, the huge bag full of books I carted home from the library to read over my winter lull. I’d been intending to read it for some time (like, since I was 12?) but for some reason, I just never got around to it.

There isn’t going to be any sort of plot summary. If you want one, go here.
What I want to talk about it my reaction, what the book meant to me. So here’s my reaction.

This one really hit the spot. You should know that I’m a big fan of SF so I was a bit predisposed to love Ender’s Game. First, I love the freedom SF gives an author to explore universal themes unhampered by modern issues. Second, I was raised on SF. Once I consumed all the children’s books in my house and began to complain that there was “nothing to read,” my father sated my appetite with the books from his basement library—all classic science fiction. Even though it takes place in the future, Ender’s Game took me back to my childhood.

Ender’s Game takes place in a futuristic society that is really not so unlike ours today—children work at desks (laptops), people talk on nets (the internet), and use discussion boards. Pretty impressive for someone writing in 1977. And that’s only one of the things that makes this book so amazing. Card develops incredibly compelling characters (most notably Ender) by not forcing them into any neat slots. Though he writes about children, from the beginning he promises that THESE children will be special—neither adults nor children—and then remains true to that promise. This is one of the things I was most impressed with—characters that had the ability to be children and grow without losing their essential personality.

Although there was very little description in this book, it didn’t seem to need it. The story seemed to function well as an exploration of themes and characters, not really relying on what things looked like or where they were located. Usually a lack of description is a big problem, but here I was able to see it as an element of style rather than something that was lacking. Interesting. The only major negative I can say about the book is that I found the ending to be weak and stretched out, but that’s a matter of personal opinion.

My rating system requires a bit of explanation. How do I give a book stars? Are those like the stickers your teacher used to give for doing your homework? No. I refuse. Every book is worth more than stars. The easiest way to explain my rating system is to say that it has several levels of “like.” If I turned each of those “likes” into a number/description, here is what it would look like:

0 stars- “Hell, no.” Burn it. Burn it to the ground. Donnie Darko evil burning thoughts. (I have only ever used this to rate Hemingway, Melville, and certain Dickens pieces. Great Expectations, you know what you did…)
1 star - “No, thank you.” I am going to tell people how much I didn’t like this book. But politely. Please don’t ever make me read that again. It was not my cup of tea.
2 stars - “What?” Did I just read something? Something about this experience annoyed me.
3 stars - “Okay” Meh. I probably won’t remember this in a month or two, but it was okay.
4 stars - “Like” I’m glad I read it. I won’t forget it any time soon and I’d like someone to talk to about it. Maybe I’ll read it again at some point.
5 stars - “LOVE” If a book was worth reading once, it is worth reading again. SOMEONE DISCUSS THIS BOOK WITH ME BEFORE I EXPLODE AND/OR STOP PEOPLE ON THE STREET TO GIVE THIS BOOK TO THEM. I will BUY this book with change from the sofa if I have to. This deserves a place of honor on my shelf.

I’d give Ender’s Game between “like” and “LOVE”—I really liked it and plan on buying it. Thank you so much, Jenny, for sharing this!

December 29, 2009

2010 Reading Resolution Challenge: What Book Changed Your Life?

Dear Readers,

Since last week I took a look back at this past year, this week I’m taking a look forward at the year to come... with a CHALLENGE! I’m inviting anyone reading this blog or following me on Twitter to participate.

After reading a really great blog entry by Jenny over at Jenny Loves to Read ( I’m joining her 2010 Reading Resolution Challenge.

My Resolution: I will read 52 books this year. Easy, you say? Of course that’s the easy part! The hard part is that I’m not going to pick them. YOU will. But I WILL read them. And here’s why—

I’ve heard that the best way to get to know a person is by the company they keep. If this is true, the second-best way to get to know a person is by the books they read. Aren’t these companions almost as alive as people? Didn’t it take even more time and just as much love to bring them into existence?

So even though I’m designing this challenge, it’s really about you. Please leave a comment, or send me a tweet, or shoot me an email about a book that means something to you. Tell me,"What book changed your life?" Feel free to tell me anything else you want me to know about you or your book. I’ll track down the books, make a list, and start reading. You can track my progress on a list on the sidebar of my blog and Jenny will help me by checking back in every two months. I can only promise to read the FIRST 52 books, so contact me ASAP! I’ll blog about how each book affected me- maybe you’ll tell me about how the book affected you too?

Again, official rules:
1 entry per person
You must be FOLLOWING me on either Twitter or this blog
Any genre/age

I encourage everyone to make their own reading resolution and PLEASE help me to make mine- it will only take a minute of your time now and no commitment in the future. Have a happy new year, everyone!


December 24, 2009

In Retrospect

December 24th, 10:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time—I can’t believe a year went by so fast…time to see what we have, time to see.

I know that New Year's Eve is usually the time that people like to look back and evaluate the past year, but the previous line (from the musical Rent, as my fellow Rentheads know) has always inspired me to use Christmas Eve as my yearly marker.
2009 has been a momentous year for me. I’ve finished my undergraduate education, moved away from home, and began pursuing my dream of a career in publishing in New York City! I can certainly say I’ve learned a lot about myself. Most of these lessons have turned out to be pretty applicable to publishing. On this chilly Christmas Eve, I thought I would share of a few of the lessons I’ve been lucky enough to learn from 2009.

You can’t move backward. So move forward. It’s better than standing still.

Sometimes you get the chance to fix your mistakes. And sometimes you don’t.

Great achievements are worth all the effort. No matter how small it looks to someone on the outside, I know how much I’ve accomplished and how much work it took to get here.

Don’t bother networking. Just make new friends—the network will follow.

If you don’t have the confidence, fake it. Eventually, you’ll convince everyone that you’re confident—including yourself.

Publishing as an industry may be competitive, but publishing people are just people.

Choose a path and follow it. If you don’t like it, choose another one.

Listen to advice and wisdom—don’t be afraid to ask for help from people who have been there. Asking for help is not weakness, it’s turning your own weaknesses into strengths. It’s also allowing the wise to make an investment in you. Aren’t you a worthwhile investment?

Love what you do. Passion is contagious.

Whatever struggles I may have, I certainly love what I do. I hope that's still true at this time next year. And every year after that.



December 22, 2009

Dear Endings, Your Happy Sappy Little Bows are Strangling Me

Dear Readers,

Having been closed for the past few days, I’ve had a great opportunity to catch up on my reading. (To be honest, I don’t know why I say “catch up” as I never really catch up on reading—it’s like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon: you never feel any closer to finishing than when you started.) But all this reading—manuscripts & published novels—has me frustrated out of my mind. Why, you ask? ENDINGS. I’ve already done a post about prologues (which are one of the biggest destroyers-of-openings, post can be found here: and I think now is a great time to talk about endings.

No matter which genre you’re writing, the ending is essential. This is the last thought the reader is going to have of your story, the taste you’re going to leave in their mouth. If you write a fabulous book but a terrible, incongruous ending, the ending is going to be the only thing the reader remembers. Those few pages are going to stop the reader, who might have adored your story and your style, from recommending your work to any of their friends and probably from picking up anything you write in the future. Yes, it’s that important.

And so, I’d like to highlight just a few of the biggest issues I’ve seen with endings:

1) Forced

Too many authors make the mistake of thinking that everything has to have a happy ending—it doesn’t. Don’t feel that everything has to be tied up with a neat little bow with all the characters smiling, holding hands, and singing kumbaya. Don’t insult your readers’ intelligence. If you’ve written a strong, compelling book, don’t force and ending that doesn’t make sense. There are sad endings; there are bittersweet endings. If your novel talks about mental illness and institutionalization, it might not make sense for everyone to be reconciled at the end. It’s much more important to stay true to your characters and tone in the ending rather than forcing the plot somewhere it doesn’t want to go.

2) Preachy—“and what I learned today, boys and girls…”

One of the most frustrating things for me as a reader is a story that forces not necessarily a happy ending but a moralistic one, especially in YA literature. Teens are preached at from every angle in their lives—they go to school, religious institutions, live with their parents, are watched all the time. They always have someone telling them what’s right and wrong, how they should think. They absolutely do not need it in books, too. Don’t force your characters to make the “right” choice at the end just because it’s “right” if it’s not actually consistent with who you have written them to be. They can have done the wrong thing and learned from it; it’s more important to show the change than to throw the “what I learned” moment in.

3) Three dimensional characters suddenly become stereotypes

Writers should know more than anyone—characters are human. If you have a character that is 3-dimensional all through the story but then becomes an stereotype at the very end (the person who decides it’s time to face up to their responsibilities & offers to be punished, the weak person who is suddenly a hero, etc.) you’re just leaving a sour taste in the reader’s mouth. Real life is more complicated than that.

4) No change in character/no development

The other problem with so many endings is that they don’t incorporate any change in the character. Stories are about growth, especially in YA, where characters experience extreme emotional growth in a very short time-span. It’s not about learning a lesson and shoving it in the face of the reader but rather how the character has or is going to incorporate those lessons into who they are becoming. The ending often just shows us the first step in this new direction. If they didn’t change at all, make sure that’s what you intended because otherwise it just seems like a long story where nothing happened.

5) Series whose book couldn’t stand alone

Okay, you’re a tease and we know it. You want to put out another book in the series and you’re leaving plenty of room for sequels—I respect that and so do the rest of your readers. Hell, we love it! But don’t forget, we need to be able to survive between books. Your story has to end at a logical stopping point; don’t cut us off in the middle of the story. Your book has to stand alone. Tease us with what will happen, the upcoming adventures and problems of our beloved hero, but don’t just stop. There needs to be method to this madness. A great place to stop is usually where the path has changed directions; we know that the journey isn’t over but we’re okay with taking a short breather. I think the Harry Potter series had this down pat.

So what do you all think—what are the other cardinal errors of endings? What are some books that have done endings very right…or very wrong?

December 18, 2009

Doubling the job search

Dear Readers,
I'm so sorry I didn't do a post on Tuesday! I meant to, really really, but it just didn't happen.

Here's an update on my publishing journey. My "official" internship with Robert Astle ended yesterday. But halt your tears. No crying for me! I decided to stay on--woo hoo! The Boss was incredibly cool and said he understands how brutal it is out there and that I could stay a little longer while I'm still looking for a full-time gig, so of course I said yes. There's no way I could keep getting the same experience, meet the kind of awesome people, and do the incredible things I love without having a place like Robert Astle & Associates to work. Now I can even pick up another client!

But inside, I can't help but be a little disappointed. I just can't afford to stay full-time; I'm going to need to find a part-time job, which means I'm only going to be at the agency part-time. I have to cut back my responsibilities, so there's going to be less variety in my slush, less all day doing what I love. I sound really greedy and spoiled, don't I? I don't mean to. What I'm trying to say is that I feel like taking a non-related job is a step back, not a step forward. And even though this really doesn't mean anything, I'm afraid it's just the first of many steps down a path that leads me farther and farther away from where I want to be--the publishing world.

I know I need money. I'm incredibly lucky to have my family behind me, giving me a place to stay and almost everything I need. But sometimes I feel like they're sick of me now, like it's "you're a burden already." And the worst part is, I kind of agree--I know I'm not contributing anything. I don't want to be a burden on the relatives I'm living with, on my parents who work hard to financially support me so that I can be happier than they ever were. Both of them gave up their dream careers. They know how important this is to me. And I'll always be grateful to them for what they're doing.

I try not to be a parasite and I remind myself that I'm not sitting at home watching cartoons all day--I'm working toward a goal--a full-time, editorial entry level job in the publishing industry. (So strange, to be looking for both full-time and part-time work.) I WANT to work, but I can't do something that doesn't challenge me, that I don't love. And I believe in the importance of what I'm doing. I believe that books change lives.

So I've devised a way to keep publishing in mind while working a second job. How about working in a book store?!?! Anyone in NYC hiring? For someone who loves matching people to books it sounds like an excellent choice, no? While I'd still rather be editing full-time, (don't hit me for the cliche) I've gotta do what I've gotta do. The dream is calling, after all. Wish me luck tomorrow--maybe my previously luckless resume will get some attention. And maybe I'll make some connections.