Category Archives: fun

2

Just Keep Reading

I can’t resist the urge to blog about just one more list. If you follow us on Twitter, you may have already seen this beautiful essay on the literary blog The Millions: 28 Books to Read If You Want To. Don’t panic – it’s not really a list! The essay is celebrating the joy of serendipity in your reading life, urging us all to let go of our Must-Read lists and make room for the books that find us.

I discovered one of my favorite books because the author called our store and charmed the living daylights out of me. I found another in a box of old books that my Russian literature professor left outside his office to give away. So while I do think that you should read the canon if it interests you, I think it’s more important that you read the books that find their own way into your hands.

What follows is a lovely and inspiring meditation on the many ways books wander into our lives, when we’re paying attention to them. And between the lines of the essay is a message for authors who have a book to promote – the best marketing for your work is a reader who’s in love with your story.

You should read the book that you see someone reading for hours in a coffee shop — there when you got there and still there when you left — that made you envious because you were working instead of absorbed in a book.

That’s how the excitement spills from the quiet act of reading to everyone that you meet throughout the day.

This essay is a great relief to those of us with stacks of unread books in our homes and award lists half-checked-off. Trends come and go, bestsellers burn up the charts and then fade into oblivion, but the joy of reading lasts through book after book after book.

Do you keep a TBR list? How did you discover your favorite author?

1

Embracing Valentine’s Day for all its corniness

I’ve always liked Valentine’s Day. I liked it in first grade when we spent the day making cards from construction paper for our parents, I liked it throughout elementary school when the holiday meant bringing in cards and cupcakes for everyone in your class and I’ve liked it every year since then, getting cards and hugs and silliness from friends and family is one of my favorite things anyway, so it’s nice to have a day when everyone does it all over the place and you have an excuse to be extra lovey to the people in your life who mean something to you.

I know there are plenty of people out there who disparage the day as a “Hallmark holiday” or some kind of “Singles Awareness Day” and approach February 14th with fury and bitterness unmatched on any other day of the year and this is something I have never understood. Yes, I’ll concede that giant white teddy bears holding hearts and the like do make me roll my eyes, but regardless of the actual token of affection, can’t we just ignore all of that and have fun with cheesy emotions? No?

For Valentine’s appreciators and condemners alike, but for readers only (new members welcome), Buzzfeed has put together a list that pretty much covers all the bases of a romantic evening…only with books instead. If you’re determined to shield yourself from any and all human interaction tonight, then I suggest you buy yourself some chocolate, draw a nice bath, light some candles and have a romantic evening all to yourself. Well. Yourself plus all the characters racing across the pages of an old favorite or an exciting new read.

Besides, I think we can all agree that the best part about Valentine’s Day is that candy is going to be so very cheap tomorrow.

3

Amazon bucket list

Okay, it’s not exactly Amazon’s bucket list– that would probably involve gathering every shred of your personal info while putting every indie bookstore out to pasture… But seriously, folks, Amazon just put out a list of 100 books to read in a lifetime, or as they put it, “a bucket list of books to create a well-read life.” I know we see lists like this all the time, but given that this one comes from a retailer, and the dominant one at that, I thought it was worth taking a closer look.

Right off the bat, it’s really striking how contemporary the majority of the titles are–like, now contemporary, not just the last 50 years. Usually, lists like this are super-heavy on the classics and completely ignore current non-fiction, of which there are commendably a healthy number of entries here. On the other hand, a “well-read life” used to mean a whole lot of philosophy, particularly the Greeks. I know Plato isn’t as fun as Me Talk Pretty One Day, but I’d like to think the Republic is a bit more instructive…

Similarly,  as much as I enjoyed them, are Henrietta Lacks and Unbroken essential for a well-read life? Or, to be cynical, is the Amazon algorithm at work, in that contemporary titles sell more than classics? In that vein, I’d love to give them kudos for presenting a good number of picture books, MG and YA on equal footing with the grown-up books… but again, is that a statement of purpose or a sales ploy?

 Anyway, I’d love to hear what you think of Amazon’s list–is it a legitimate syllabus or a clever gimmick? Maybe both? Which omissions particularly get your goat? Discuss, discuss…

6

Books for young (and very young) readers

For those of you who haven’t read my recent Facebook posts, I have a brand new grandson: Leo Daniel Stein, born on January 20th.   

Leo joins his six-year-old big sister Elena who is thrilled to have a little brother.

This, of course, got me thinking about what I will be reading to my new grandson (after all, it has been years since I have done this).  And, because I always want to bring Elena a book to read as well, I’ve been thinking about what titles she might like.

For newborns I have chosen the traditional and ever popular Goodnight Moon, Very Hungry Caterpillar, Guess How Much I love You, and Pat the Bunny and then Brian Fiocca’s Locomotive which just won the Caldecott Medal.  For my granddaughter who is a terrific reader, there is Where the Wild Things Are, What Does the Fox Say?, The Polar Express, I Want My Hat Back, Make Way for Ducklings and Mrs. Rumphius.

I would love to hear your suggestions for titles for each of these age groups.  There can never be too many books!

2

The old man and the lists

Because of a client’s Facebook post, last week I ordered a copy of The Hemingway Cookbook by Craig Boreth.  Now, most everyone who’s known me for a week or twenty years knows that my devotion to Papa Hemingway started early and has never really wavered.  It has survived the bad publicity, the parodies, the mediocre later works, the disdain of my feminist friends who think of him as a sexist blowhard who could write a little….

Thing is, I still find that despite the reams written by and about him, this author continues to surprise and delight.  Every once in a while I’ll read a book (The Paris Wife) or an article about Hemingway and his intimates and cronies that makes me think, “Man, those people lived large!”  And despite the tragic ending and the many missteps I’ve always felt that he possessed great generosity of spirit.

Many years ago, I read in the local paper about a young man who wanted to be a writer and went to Hemingway for advice.  He was given two lists of books to read.  I dimly remember that both lists contained classic titles, but one featured books Ernest considered masterpieces and the other those he considered terrible.  He suggested that the young author become familiar with both, the logic being that you can learn a lot even from a bad book.   This notion has served me well professionally and so I’m always thrilled when I come across stories of Hemingway’s reading lists, like this one.

I think great writers learn to write by learning to read and I think a properly curated list is an invaluable tool.  Do you agree?  And, what books would be on the list you make up for someone looking for advice?

BTW, the cookbook is a treasure.  I’m gonna try the burger recipe this weekend.

0

“Why are librarians so lonely?”

“They’re always by them shelves…”

Sorry about that. I thought I’d start this blog off with a little joke to break the ice, because what I’m about to write is a little nerdy—and to be honest, I’m a little nervous.

I love libraries.

Some people can read anywhere. In the subway. Walking down the street. Even at the gym while taking a stroll on the treadmill. I can’t. Or to be more accurate, I can—I just prefer not to.

Reading can be a powerful thing. Stories have the ability to transport us to a different place, a different time, allow us to experience life through the eyes of another and make us see the world in a whole new way.

And where we read has an impact as well. The world around us influences everything we experience, and in some of the more beautiful libraries, surrounded by rich mahogany and windows that let the sunlight of the world beyond slip through, in that quiet stillness, we are at peace and can truly absorb the words on the page in front of us.

Here are some snapshots of that type of elegant serenity I’m talking about:

 

 

 

Some more of the world’s most beautiful libraries: http://www.lovethiscitytv.com/top-10-most-amazing-libraries-in-the-world/

 

Oh, and on a lighter note, some more jokes for your reading pleasure: 

“Want to hear a joke about a library?”

“Sur-”

“SHHHH!”

 

“Why did the librarian slip and fall?”

“Because she was in the non-friction section.”

 

So, I was working in a library and this guy comes up to me and asks, “Do you have a bookmark?”

I said, “Yes, we have hundreds…but my name’s Mike.”

7

It’s that New Year’s resolutions time again

It’s hard to realize that another year has passed and it is that time again—t he time to make my New Year’s resolutions.

To be totally honest, I have always believed in writing down goals.  In fact, I do this every quarter.  I review my quarterly goals every month and then at the end of the quarter, I actually do a written comparative of what I achieved against the goals I set.  And it works!  It really does.

New Year’s resolutions though are another kettle of fish.  They never seem to be achievable and perhaps that is because we (I) don’t take them as seriously as the goals I do four times a year.

Just the other day I read this piece about goals, and found many of them inspirational.  So I have put together a list of my resolutions which I am sharing here.  Hopefully, I will be able to stick to them—at least for a while:

  • Learn to read faster.  There is so much to read and I am always running out of time.
  • Explore at least one independent bookstore a week as opposed to a chain store and buy a new book when I do so. It is important to support the independents.
  • Try to stop working after 10:30 every night.  I usually wake up at 5:45 so going to bed after 11:00 or so really doesn’t allow me to get enough sleep.
  • Get better on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumbler.  I know I should be using these social media tools more but I find them intimidating.  I need to get more confident in my abilities.
  • Continue to work out daily.  I always feel better after using the life cycle, weight training, or taking a yoga class.
  • Go to more movies!  Movies are a part of our business and last year I think I only saw two—I  need to get out more.
  • Stop letting my kids drive me crazy.
  • Try to eat a more balanced diet—I am a poor eater and I know it.  At 90 pounds I really should be more health conscious.
  • Finally, look forward to the year ahead, developing books with my super stable of clients and finding new and exciting projects as well.

Resolutions are personal and many don’t like to share theirs; if you don’t mind though, I would love to know what yours are.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF OUR READERS! May yours be filled with good health, much laughter and peace.

 

14

Happy Sisyphus

We here at DGLM are big believers in helping authors develop their work.  That means that  all of us spend a significant amount of time reading, evaluating, and editing proposals and manuscripts so that we can get them in shape for submission.  Oftentimes, for myriad reasons, our input extends beyond the selling stage and we get involved in the editorial process after the book is sold.   In other words, we spend a lot of time observing the creative process in all its (painful) glory.

Revising seems to be most people’s Achilles heel.  I’ve seen even the most confident, successful, unflappable, hardworking authors melt into puddles of insecurity, denial, and rage at the thought of tackling a revision of a work they’re convinced is perfection (or as good as it gets).  For every author who loves to roll up his/her sleeves and get to work polishing, adding, restructuring, and (perish the thought) cutting, there are dozens, nay, hundreds who are thrown into existential despair at the thought of revising.

Which is why this piece in the Atlantic is so wonderful.  From Khaled Hosseini’s fatalistic “it’ll never be as good as you imagined” to Fay Weldon’s “F—k it! Just start again!” I love the advice and the insights into the writing process, so much of which involves watching the rock rolling downhill after you’ve used every ounce of strength to get it to the top, pausing a moment to feel sorry for yourself, and then taking a big breath and starting the uphill climb again. 

I agree with Hosseini that perfection can’t be attained, that all you can do is the best you possibly can and hope that your work strikes a chord and means something to someone.  But, to get the thing as good as it can be requires a lot of rewriting, reconceptualizing, reevaluating, all the re’s, including restarting after you think you’re finished.  And, in order to do that you need to be mentally and creatively tough.  Just because it’s not perfect yet doesn’t mean it’s not good or it can’t be.

What are your thoughts on revising?  Is it as horrific a process as many authors make it out to be or is there zen in the art of taking your work apart and putting it back together?

 

5

All I Want for Christmas

As every year, by mid-December I am hardcore entrenched in the holiday spirit.  I’m a curmudgeonly grump 11 months of the year, but when December 1st hits I throw on my favorite Christmas albums (John Denver & the Muppets, Vince Guaraldi Trio, Phil Spector, and all of those woven with very frequent repetition of the pop perfection that is Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”), throw some lights around the place (my aims tend to outpace my follow through so nothing too many at Chez Lauren), and watch all the best holiday classics, especially the woefully underseen The Christmas Toy, which is basically Toy Story before Toy Story and even better (yeah, I said it). It takes a hardcore assault of holiday cheer to turn that frown upside down, but I am up for the task.

So though we have a full week left of work before it really becomes Christmas, I’m pretty much thinking of nothing else.  Thus, here’s what you should feel free to give me for Christmas, if you are so inclined:

  • A universal Schedule A. For the uninitiated, by which I mean lucky, Schedule A is shorthand for the list of countries at the back of a US or UK contract that spells out which countries the UK publisher gets exclusively.  So US contracts have either exclusive or non-exclusive rights in everything except the Schedule A in their contract, and UK publishers have exclusive rights only in the Schedule A in their contract, which means that if there are separate US and UK publishers, they have to have matching Schedule As (Schedules A?).  Which would be a lovely system if I didn’t have to spend so much of every year fighting the same fight about which places should be in that Schedule A.  It’s not that hard, and yet…(No, really, guys, I ask for this every year for Christmas and for my birthday, and no one ever gets it for me, but it is my super duper #1 wish and please, please, please.)
  • A month off to read my towering piles of pleasure reading and work reading and magazine reading and everything else reading.
  • An engrossing, compelling, clever, and mind-blowing popular science proposal.  I’ve found some close-but-no-cigars in 2013, but I think 2014 is going to be the year.
  • Fiction to represent that is so captivating that it can keep me awake on my pre-coffee morning commute or on my couch later that night after a long day at work.  If unputdownable were a word and not a horror show inflicted upon society by sadists, I would want something unputdownable.
  • Santa’s elves to come vet any contracts, send any mail, read any queries, and answer any emails that might come in while we’re closed for the holidays, so that the blank slate I will work so hard to achieve next week won’t be completely eradicated by January 2nd.
  • Peace on earth, good will towards men, the criminalization of animated GIF making, you know, the biggies we all agree on.

 

Thanks in advance, you guys!  And happiest of all happy holidays to anyone with anything to celebrate this month.  If you don’t have a holiday to celebrate, I recommend inventing something.  You, too, deserve baked goods, presents, and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Ice Cream and Violins Day is You.”

4

Literary letdowns

I’ve recently heard from some friends who have been disappointed with critically-acclaimed, wildly popular books. In some cases, I’ve recommended the book on the wrong end of a vicious verbal barrage. Imagine this:

 

 

 

 

 

Toss in a few more obscenities for good measure and now you get what I’ve been dealing with recently. First it’s THE CORRECTIONS by Jonathan Franzen. Next, it’s INFINITE JEST. Even a couple of my most memorable childhood books have been slandered during this, the merriest time of year. If one more person puts down ENDER’S GAME or HATCHET

At first I thought my friends were being a little too harsh. They couldn’t see any of the, ahem, silver linings, in the aforementioned books. Then I thought back to those times I too had experienced that hollow feeling that follows the breaking of high expectations. We’ve all been there. Every one of us has cracked open a book hoping to turn that last page, clap the back cover closed, and look up to a new world with a fresh perspective.

It rarely happens. And we’re let down. Now’s the time to share. Let’s get all of the whining out the way right now and enjoy the rest of the holiday season. What books didn’t live up to your expectations?