Category Archives: fun

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Keeping it short

September is a brutal month in publishing. In theory things wind down a bit in August, then rev back up after Labor Day, though in practice that August wind down appears to be a thing of the past, so the September rev up is just adding new pressure on top of old. (RIP End of Summer Blank Slate. I will miss you.) And if you’re both a literary agent AND a rights director, the go-go-go nature of September peaks in both sides of your job at once, as publishing resumes its post-vacations speed and international publishing preps for the Frankfurt Book Fair.

So September is the month each year that I find myself incapable of squeezing in pleasure reading, something I work hard to make room for every other month of the year but now need to trade for sleep. That means that when I’m formatting highlight lists and triaging my overflowing inbox, I find myself daydreaming lists of short books I could read if I just, you know, pull an all-nighter, or convince the rest of publishing to call out sick for a day. I find my mind wandering to the slim volumes on my living room bookshelves, my eye wandering to the narrowest book in the to-take-home office stack. This would not be a great time to finally start reading that copy of Infinite Jest I bought freshman year of college, but maybe I could take a quick mental break with some middle grade or a breezy essay collection, right?

Wrong, realistically, but once I’ve powered through to the other side of the never-ending to-do list, I’m going to need a reset. And I’m going to want to speed through some not-DGLM books in October to make up for September’s big zero. So help me out: what are the best books you’ve read that are under 200 pages, or just feel like they are?

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China!

great-wallOur trip to China was truly fascinating.  As you all know,  the country is huge, both geographically and in terms of its population.  Beijing has 22 million people; Shanghai has 25 million.  We saw so many amazing things—even a week after our return it is difficult to remember them all:

In Beijing, of course, we climbed The Great Wall.  Our guide took us to a part of the wall not visited by many tourists so it was relatively free of the hordes.  And in order to come down, we took individual toboggans—which was really thrilling. Being there was incredibly exciting.

We also visited The Forbidden City which is very beautiful and The Temple of Heaven which is both lovely and interesting. We had lunch in one of the old neighborhoods called Narrow Alley where our guide had grown up, and we rode on a pedicab.  We drove around Tiananmen Square with the huge picture of MAO still overlooking it.  I felt like I had taken a step back in history.

terra-cotta-1Then we flew to Xian—a city of nine million—where the huge number of high rises going up is simply astounding.  It was there that we viewed the army of Terracotta Warriors, a stunning archeological discovery made in 1974.

Among other things, we also had a lesson in Chinese Calligraphy which was great fun. And we saw the Wild Goose Pagodas which overlooks Xian and is simply beautiful.

Then on to Shanghai.  This city, whose modern section is no more than 25 years old epitomizes modern China—rushing headlong towards the future.  There are incredible innovations in fashion, finance, technology and transport which have helped make this a global hub with one of the world’s busiest ports.  We walked The Bund—a  famous waterfront area in central Shanghai—several times and visited both the historical buildings along the way as well as the towering skyscrapers (many over 100 stories high) just across the Huangpu River near the mouth of the Yangtze.  We explored the old British and French quarters, the Yu Garden, which is beautiful, and shopped (or tried to at least) on the famous Nanjing Road.  One of the highlights was seeing a thrilling extravaganza featuring innovative acrobatics, death defying stunts and the latest in high tech special effects.  (It was like the Big Apple Circus on steroids!)

img_2869This is an adventure we will never forget.  It was challenging in that there is a twelve-hour time difference and the language barrier prevented us from doing certain things we would have liked to do.  But we agreed that this was probably the most fantastic trip we have ever taken.

And, of course, I am thinking of some book ideas inspired by China, and hope to be able to move ahead with them in the weeks and months to come.

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Publishing Tuesdays

I’ve been on a book buying tear lately.  This mad shopping spree has, unfortunately, coincided with the back-to-school avalanche of proposals and manuscripts that have hit my desk with the abandon of a drunk parallel parking in New York City.  So, I’m pretty certain all those titles will end up gathering dust for months while I dig myself out enough to be able to read for pleasure again.

Thing is, a plethora of amazing authors and delectable sounding books are being published this fall.  Ann Patchett, Zadie Smith, Maria Semple, Ian McEwan, Colson Whitehead all had/have hotly anticipated novels coming out.  And then, of course, there’s the Springsteen memoir which will undoubtedly break sales records because, OMG, the Boss!!! (Ahem, okay, I’m done fangurling.)

What all of these books have in common, is that they are all being published (or were in Whitehead’s case) on a Tuesday.  Because, well, that’s when books are published.

Now, I’ve been in the business for roughly 150 years, give or take, and when my husband asked me why the Springsteen book was pubbing on a Tuesday, I mumbled the usual “distribution, PR, bestseller lists” blather I’ve heard over the years.  Then I thought about it and realized that I don’t really know for sure how Tuesdays  became the “new books” day.

Turns out, I’m not alone.  Laurie Hertzel goes digging for answers in this amusing piece in The Star Tribune and reaches no definitive conclusion.  Suffice it to say, books are published on Tuesday, so pre-order accordingly.

luther

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My impending trip to China and what I am hoping to learn from it

great-wall-of-china-814143_1920Over the last several years, my husband and I have become more adventurous in the places we travel to on vacation. We have been to Greece, Turkey, Israel and Jordan (five years ago), Australia, Kenya, through Peru and Machu Picchu, and on a cruise on the Amazon. This year, we are going to China (Beijing, Xian and Shanghai). Every time I travel, I hope to learn something that I can bring back with me to my regular life. When I returned from Kenya, I came back with a book idea and as a result we have a publishing contract which I am very excited about.terracotta-1028109_1920

In Beijing, we will go to The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, and we will of course journey to The Great Wall (and climb a bit of it). I am so excited to visit these historic places that I have only read about in the past. In Xian, we will see the Terracotta Warriors (both those which have been restored and the actual “dig” which is ongoing), the Great Mosque of Xian, and the Wild Goose Pagoda. In Shanghai we will have a full city tour including the Old Quarter, Yu Garden and the modern city. One night we are going to an “extravaganza” including acrobatics, death-defying stunts and the latest in high tech special effects!pexels-photo

Throughout all of this, I am hoping to learn about the people of China and their culture and maybe, just maybe, I might return with another book idea or two.
I wonder what you come back from your vacations with? I would love to hear.

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Returning to the Scene of the Crime

Lauren Abramo and I both have books coming out today, and that’s not all we have in common – Lauren and I also both used to work at Barnes and Noble! So we thought it would be fun to spend a little time visiting the big flagship B&N here in Union Square and see how many DGLM books we could spot. Including, of course, our own!

Lauren put together this fabulous collage of our field trip, which you’ve already seen if you follow her on Twitter (and while you’re at it, follow me too!) .

 

BN collage

 

Agents are almost as proud of the books they’ve worked on as the authors themselves are! In my bookseller days, my favorite part of the job was suggesting books I loved to regular customers and hearing what they thought on their next trip to the bookstore. And being an agent is like that, only better, because you get to be an even bigger part of getting books you love into customers’ hands. It makes wandering through a bookstore all the more satisfying.

 

Potter mania!

I know I’m not the only one talking about Harry Potter these days. The new “book”, which is really the published version of the play currently running in London (oh, how I wish I could go!) went on sale this week and the frenzy is out of control.

Publisher’s Weekly reports here that sales have already topped 2 million copies, in North America alone. I admit I’m one of those who preordered the book as soon as I heard it was becoming available. I actually realized that I did it twice so now have 2 copies on their way! Midnight parties across the country attracted kids and adults of all ages.

I just love how a fictional character has caused such a stir in popular culture. It’s such a positive reminder of the lasting impact books can have in a time when there is so much negativity being put out into the media. It’s incredible and practically unfathomable to me that a published play could achieve this level of success. I love theater so it’s heartening to me to know that this medium can generate big numbers, as evidenced by this new Harry Potter as well as the huge success of Hamilton (my other current obsession, more exciting news to come on that in a later post).

We’ve had our own version of Potter fever around here lately. While my oldest daughter is away at sleepaway camp, her younger sister dressed up as Harry for Halloween in July at camp (photo below). I was impressed with how she put the costume together with adult glasses and the scar drawn on a piece of scotch tape, and it helped we still have our wands from our amazing visit to Potter World at Universal in Florida last November.

Have you ordered your copy of Cursed Child yet? If you have and you’ve read it, please let us know what you think. Michiko Kakutani’s review in the New York Times was very positive and she’s one tough critic. She actually refers to it as “a compelling, stay-up-all-night read.” I’m so excited to dive back into the wonderful world of Harry Potter and read it with all the girls when Sam’s back from camp. Will let you know how it goes!

ps- my first copy arrived while I was writing this post, and it’s a beautiful book:

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Pretentious much?

The thing is, writers can be inordinately pretentious and blissfully unaware of the fact.  Part of the whole living in your head while trying to describe the most banal processes using language that elevates them to art will do that to you, I guess.

I’m reading The Girls now and had just finished Sweetbitter before it.  I loved the latter and struggled with the former at first, before giving myself over to the strangely familiar creepiness of the story.  Both are debut novels by pretty young blonde women.   Both are firmly evocative of a particular time and place—California in the late ‘60s and New York City in the early oughts.  And, both showcase prose that is sometimes pretentious to the point of hilarity.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some great writing in these books.  The authors are nothing if not exquisitely attentive to their craft.  It’s just that as I read, my eyes occasionally rolled back into the universal expression for “Girl, get over yourself!”

Anyway, this parody in The Millions of Natalie Portman and Jonathan Safran Foer’s e-mail exchange for T The New York Times Style Magazine in which the hyper-educated actress and Cormac McCarthy trade brilliant observations, cracked me up, precisely because it’s really not that farfetched.  Writers who are allowed to indulge their bombast without check (i.e., a strong editor with a finely sharpened red pencil) can very quickly veer into self-parody.

Personally, I don’t mind a little purple mixed in with the black ink, but it is one of the things that authors need to be vigilant about.  A momentary lapse is forgivable and even endearing, too many and you’re headed for the rejection pile.

Can you think of any fun examples of affected, self-important writing you’ve seen recently?

Cat Godard

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Another reason to visit Maine

It’s that time of year again—Maine is on the brain. Stacey took off for Ogunquit this week, and my wife and I started planning our annual August vacation in Damariscotta in earnest last night. Already, we’ve got our tickets on the Hardy Boat for a day trip to Monhegan Island, I’ve planned an overnight camping trip to Acadia with my son, Henry, and we’re heading back to the Chebeague Island Inn for our anniversary. Since we had kids, it seems like our precious vacation days fill up faster than ever. But on the plus side, both boys both tried lobster this past weekend… and liked it!

And as if Maine couldn’t get any better, big news today: a new independent bookstore is opening in Portland. Print: A Bookstore will join the three other independent booksellers in town, and the idea that a city of 100,000 can support four bookstores is sure to warm any booklovers heart. But the more I think about it, books are all around whenever we head up north. Damariscotta, a town of less than 3,000 residents not only has a thriving bookstore in the Maine Coast Book Shop, but the adjacent Skidompha Public Library is the cultural center of town (with possibly the best name ever).

Sadly, Print: A Bookstore won’t be open until October, so we’ll miss it this summer. But knowing that there will be a new place to browse on our way up (we often spend the night in Portland on the way to Damariscotta) is a good incentive to plan a fall trip…

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True romance

It’s the Wednesday before July 4th weekend and I was sitting at my desk thinking about what I should write about that’s not too heavy—you know you’re all just thinking burgers, beers, and lounging by a pool right now—when I came across this delightfully obvious article in the HuffPost.  Well, I mean, obvious to me….

I’ve been married for roughly 100 years and was more of a serial monogamist than dater back in the day so I’m not an authority on the subject, but I never had a romantic connection with anyone who didn’t read, didn’t love discussing books and plays, and wasn’t able to tell me in loving detail about the titles that had had the most impact on him.  That, of course, applies to most (all?) of my good friends as well, when I think about it.

Personally, I think the way to anyone’s heart is not through their stomach but through their book collection.  Do you have any stories of meeting cute through books you’d like to share?

Sense and Sensibility

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I believe the children are our future

coverRegular readers of the DGLM blog will already know that I dote on my nephews, and that reading is one of our strongest bonds. The two little goons had their first day of summer vacation this week and asked their mom if they could spend it reading, which pleases me to no end.

Luckily I got to spend this past weekend with them, where I planned to work with them on making a “book.” They’re already fascinated with the fact that their aunt makes books happen—the older one, who I call Fidge, refuses to leave a bookstore without looking for my name in some books, even proudly showing it off to strangers in the same aisle, and the little one, who I call Gus, thinks that my job is International Secret Agent.  Imagine my delight when I arrived at my mother’s this weekend to see that they had already taken it upon themselves to make their own books, without my ever suggesting it.  Fidge wasn’t done with his yet, so I’ll have to wait till next time.

back coverBut Gus?  Gus not only finished his book, he read it to me, then turned it over with a flourish to read the title page that he tells me says “By At Lauren.”  (Having the title page on the back cover is a really bold move. He’s going to really change things up in publishing, I think.) While I don’t actually recommend that new authors sign over their copyright to publishing professionals just to curry favor, I can’t help but be touched.

interiorFor those of you who don’t read Gus-ese, the book is about a turtle who is lonely because he doesn’t have any friends. Then a shark swims by and tells him that he wants to be the turtle’s friend. And then they are friends forever.  I couldn’t be prouder to have “written” it. Picture book editors, shoot me an email if you’re interested.