Category Archives: fun

1

Listen up

It’s no secret around here that I’m obsessed with podcasts—I started a one-woman mission to convert the DGLM staff to Serial fans last year after all.  And you wouldn’t want to get me and Sharon going on You Made It Weird or to get stuck listening to Jim and I dissect episodes of How Did This Get Made.  (I also listen to Undisclosed, TAL, About Race, Hound Tall, Stuff You Should Know, Nerdist, and Serially Obsessed.  Feel free to make me recommendations for others in the comments!!)  My latest podcast obsessions are Mystery Show hosted by Starlee Kine (who you might’ve heard on other podcasts or public radio shows) and Criminal hosted by Phoebe Judge.  In Mystery Show, Kine takes a mystery that cannot be solved on the internet and tracks down answers people have been wondering about for a long time (like how tall Jake Gyllenhaal is really? or who is the rightful owner of a belt buckle found on the street decades ago that has a toaster with toast that actually pops up if you flip a lever?).  It’s weird and hilarious and the stories Kine uncovers along the way have so much charm.

Criminal also often involves mysteries, but much more, well, criminal ones.  The stories are surprising in very different ways from Mystery Show’s, but with a much more serious edge.   Criminal’s latest episode synced itself onto my phone this morning, so I had to give it a listen as I got ready for work.  And you guys, it turns out to be all about books.  And in particular, rare books, plus one particular rare book thief who’s been caught many times but can’t seem to stop.  Give it a listen—you won’t regret it.

 

The art of storytelling

The story matters. But so does the way you tell it. Just learn from this 23-year-old who has been writing a memoir on Instagram.

There are so many great things to love about this story. Sure, I appreciate the beautiful photos and well-written captions, but I admire the sheer ingenuity most of all. Fact: a new memoir is published every 38 minutes. Don’t fact-check me on that, just trust me. There are a lot of memoirs out there. Another fact: not many of them are written using the medium of a photograph social media platform, with carefully curated shots posted a year later, a completely different practice than the usual immediacy and spontaneity of picture posting.

Short stories and even entire novels have been written on Twitter too, but what technology gives, technology also takes away. Algorithms generate news stories and a scary amount of written content that you would never suspect. Don’t believe me? Then take this test.

The point is this: technology has changed everything and will continue to change everything, for better or worse. There are an unimaginable number of ways to spread stories now. Get creative and find a way that is uniquely you. Otherwise computer algorithms may as well write your story for you.

Also, I just wanted to include a quick update on one of my earlier blog posts. In March 2015, I posted a blog about censorship and China being named the guest of honor at BEA 2015. Want to see what that all amounted to? This was the result.

2

The classics

Last Saturday, my husband Steve and I went out to play golf and, as often happens, we were asked if we wouldn’t mind if a third player (someone we didn’t know) joined us. We agreed and played our round with a very nice and interesting man named Ed Chapman. It turned out that Ed had been in the Berkshires for the previous two weeks doing the sound design for a play that was opening that night at The Barrington Stage, a theater in Pittsfield about 45 minutes away from our home in Great Barrington. The play was THE MAN OF LA MANCHA.

Pablo Picasso, Don Quixote (1955). Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Pablo Picasso, Don Quixote (1955). Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Later that day, I asked Steve if he had ever seen the play and he hadn’t and I just knew he would love it so we bought what turned out to be the last two available tickets for this past Saturday night. Indeed, the play was absolutely wonderful in every way—everyone was raving about it afterwards. But as I was leaving the theater, I heard a woman behind me say that it was “dated.” How, I wondered, could a play based on the classic story of Don Quixote be dated? The message is an evergreen one and important, I think.

And this made me wonder why time and again we return to the classics—in theater, in film, in our music and yes, of course, in literature. Authors such as Herman Melville, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde are constantly referenced and imitated in more recent works.

I wonder what value you see in the classics. Which of our many iconic authors do you consider classic and why? Who are your favorites?

2

Men of constant sorrow

As my colleagues at DGLM know from last week’s staff meeting, I’m somewhat obsessed with the prison break in upstate New York. I think ever since O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? entered my all-time top-five movie list, I’m naturally predisposed to prison break stories, and this one is starting to shape up like a Coen brother’s movie. Yes, I know it’s poor taste to make light, given that our perps are actually violent killers not cuddly movie stars, but then today it comes out that Richard Matt painted a family portrait for Joyce Mitchell. Awwww…

And it doesn’t help, too, that the more I look at Matt and Sweat (such great names!) I see George Clooney and Tim Blake Nelson playing them in the movie version:

 

150610103412-escaped-ny-convicts-split-richard-matt-david-sweat-super-169  george-clooney-o-brother1

But while I can’t wait to see how it all ends, I’m having trouble wrapping my agent hat around it. For one, where does a prison-break story fall in terms of genre? On first glance, I’d say True Crime, but the crime here isn’t murder—at least not yet—which still seems like a prerequisite for the genre. But if not True Crime, then what? Moreover, with the story having so much media attention and legs so far, what would be covered in a book that hasn’t already been seen on TV or the Web? It’s an issue that’s bedeviled traditional True Crime for years, and unless an author can get access to Matt, Sweat, or Mitchell, it’s hard to see what would pass the “new and newsworthy” test.

So, what’s the angle? It’s a question agents ask ourselves all the time, especially when it comes to stories in the news. If any readers have any ideas, I’d love to hear them, because I do think there’s something here, or that there will be down the line. At the very least, we can play the casting game—any thoughts on who plays Joyce?

0

Friday Fun!

It’s June, it’s Friday, and if the humidity is anything to go by, summer is in full swing here in NY.  So let’s have some fun, shall we?

First of all, check out this chart from Language Log.  You know that phrase “It’s all Greek to me”?  Well, English speakers aren’t the only ones who find Greek impenetrable: so do the Norwegians, Swedes, Persians, and Spanish.  But click through to the chart to find out who the Czech, Italians, and Romanians, among many others, couldn’t understand to save their lives!

And once you’ve investigated the inscrutable, learn a little something on your Friday afternoon, like how books are made!  Okay, learn how books were made, back in 1947, in this Encyclopedia Brittanica film, sent to me by my client Wayne Gladstone.  Though please ignore that the process goes straight from the author’s typewriter to the printer because “he thinks many people will like to read it,” which seems like it’s missing some key steps, even for 1947.

And then sit back and relax, confident that you’ve learned enough to close out the week and enjoy your weekend.

2

So, this happened…

These days, it seems that everyone and their pet snake has a memoir.  The category is jam packed with offerings that range from the sublime (beautifully written literary narratives) to the ridiculous (vapid celebrity p.r. releases masquerading as books), as Sharon discusses below.  So, I don’t know how to feel about the news that the great Barbra Streisand has a memoir in the works.  On the one hand, the woman’s had a fascinating life and career and if she chose to write about it candidly (and has an accomplished ghost writer helping her) it could be great.  On the other hand, this is the lady who filmed herself through a Vaseline coated lens in The Mirror Has Two Faces.  On the other, other hand, even if the book is a panegyric  to herself, won’t it still be compelling?

All of this makes me think about memoirs I’d like to read, based on the perhaps misguided idea that these authors would knock my socks off  in the way Patti Smith and Keith Richards did with their books.  Can you imagine Jack Nicholson reliving his wild days in print?  Or Toni Morrison using her prodigious gifts to tell us about her journey from poverty to international acclaim? (In 2012, Morrison scrapped plans for a memoir, claiming her life was not interesting enough…whaaat?) Basically, it’s the people who probably wouldn’t ever write this kind of narrative whose books I would most want to read.

Whose memoir is on your fantasy bedside reading pile?  

3

Weather or not…

This piece in Salon about how rain is often used in literature and film to create or punctuate a mood, advance the story, or simply provide an arresting backdrop to the goings-on, tickled me because it immediately led me to run a mental list of rain-filled books and movies.  And, sure enough, rain as metaphor and plot device is everywhere, in ways big and small.

Of course, I’ve been railing for years about weather.com writing, imploring authors not to open their work with long descriptions of weather or geographic conditions.  While I get how irresistible it is to set about capturing in words/images the awesome power of nature, very few authors can make non-catastrophic meteorological events compelling over a large span of narrative. 

That said, there’s no denying that weather is great for atmosphere (tautological pun intended).  From the foggy moors of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, to the feverish heat of Lily King’s Euphoria, skillful depictions of weather conditions help make literary works unforgettable.  Many years later, you may not remember other details of a story, but you probably recall the sense of humid discomfort in the bayous or the crispness of a spring day in southern France. 

What are your favorite weather sequences?  And, which authors do you feel use weather most effectively?

Lake

12

Nephews Read Books

This past weekend, I went to visit my nephews (and their parents, of course, but frankly they’re not as cute).  Now as I’ve previously reported, my nephews know me pretty well by now as a person who reads books.  The older of the two, who we’ll call Fidge, has been known to declare to visitors that “Aunts read books.”  And on the whiteboard on which they count down sleeps until major events, they art directed a sketch of me with a soccer ball in one hand and a book in the other.

At LaurnenSo consider me thrilled to report that my younger nephew, who we’ll call Gus, has started reading memorized bits of his books unprompted, and his big brother Fidge can full on read now, sounding out words he doesn’t recognize and automatically trying to read every word he sees, whether on a book or a street sign or a building.  For the first time ever, he read to me a book he hasn’t memorized.  I love picture books, but I’ve been eagerly awaiting this stage, when we can start advancing to more complicated stories.

So now I need to advance my book acquisitions beyond picture books.  I’m going to stock up on some Amelia Bedelias and Pippi Longstockings.  And they need to hear the news that Miss Nelson Is Missing.  I’ve been holding a set of Roald Dahl books for at least 3 years waiting for them to be old enough.  I’m pretty sure Fidge will be all about the Magic School Bus.  Plus it’s probably time to continue the family Laura Ingalls Wilder tradition.

Do you have any favorite post-picture book gems that my nephews and I should dive into?

5

My small town wins big!

I live in a small town in New Jersey called Haworth (pronounced Haaworth). Like just over 3,000 people small. 1,100 households small. Most people have never heard of it, even people who grew up in NJ. I love my little town. Even more so because they recently raised almost $300,000 for a major library expansion that was facing a large funding deficit. Of course, I did my share. I donated money to buy a brick that will decorate a patio outside the entrance. And I offered to give a literary consultation to an aspiring author for a library fundraiser. But I was blown away when I saw this article about the fundraising efforts in a local paper, northjersey.com.