Category Archives: fun

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A whole new genre…

Crossing genres is always fun, and so when I saw this Buzzfeed listing titled “If Pop Songs Were Works of Classic Literature,” there was no way I wasn’t clicking to see. The results are wonderful, overly writerly passages based on silly pop ditties and I loved every one of them. Here’s my shot at one:

  SK8rBoi

“One could hardly blame her for her prejudices. She was, after all a blue-blooded, white-collared, silver-spoon fed debutante who had never known anything beyond the ivy-clad walls in which she’d spent her formative years.

“It was hardly Penelope’s fault, then, that it took four years of skipping home from Madame Delphine’s Dance Académie surrounded by the trills and chatter of the very best of her friends, ballet shoes slung over their shoulders, for her to even notice him, the boy in artful tatters and skinned knees whose eyes followed her with a longing that could only be matched by the fervor with which he practiced his art over and over again.

“It seemed unlikely, this, the ballet princess and the gutter punk, and perhaps, maybe it was. But the best stories are the unlikely ones, are they not?”

I wrote that sample off the cuff with no edits, and that’s half the fun. Writing with the purpose of being groan-inducing and completely purple is kind of one of my favorite sorts of writing exercises. It’s really freeing when you intentionally remove not only the self-imposed need to self-edit, but make the whole point of the exercise a chance to poke fun at your most frustrating tendencies (mine are, obviously, dreamy imagery, extra-long and confusing sentences).

So have at it. Do your worst (really) and let me know what you come up with! I promise, it’s fun, and writing for writing’s sake is the best practice there is.

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Tiny readers

As the absurdly proud aunt of exceptionally wonderful nephews—who we’ll call Fidge and Gus, because that is what I call them—I’ve actively made it my mission to get them to associate me with books.  Fidge once told his “Aunt” Gabby that “Aunts read books” and made her read him bedtime stories.  A few weeks after that, he unceremoniously announced his desire to go to bed by walking up to me and saying “You always read to me.”  Why yes, Fidge, yes I do.  Gus is a bit of a tougher sell—he’s rambunctious and not so fond of sitting still.  But if he can interact with a book or laugh hysterically while “At” Lauren makes faces or yells or roars, he’s game.  His biggest obsession is with Bill Cotter’s Don’t Push the Button, in which illicit button pushes lead to a whole host of multi-colored monsters named Larry.  He now “reads” that one to himself, turning each page to intone “Don’t push a button!” and then…pushing that button anyway.

As Gus’s birthd9780062247759_p0_v1_s260x420ay is coming up, I headed out of town last weekend to celebrate it with the family.  Naturally, I dragged Sharon to the bookstore with me last week to find some future favorites for him and settled on Press Here by Herve Tullet, I Am Otter by Sam Garton, and his autobiography The Boss Baby by Marla Frazee (which is really more for his parents).  I read the books to both boys separately, and Gus especially loved Press Here, which was no surprise since it’s very similar to Don’t Push the Button.  He’s also a fan of counting, so it suits him.  He did seem to think The Boss Baby was pretty funny, but now I’m worried it might’ve given him ideas.  And I Am Otter was definitely my favorite of the three.

But my favorite reading moment of the weekend was this one: in a crowded house full of family, with Gus trying to go to sleep in the bedroom, Fidge was clearly ready to wind down.  Fortunately, aunts know what to do when you need a moment away from all the bustle.  So I gathered up Gus’s new books and some old favorites and hunkered down in a Super Secret Hiding Spot under the dining room table with Fidge.  We read through the above three plus Madeline and Wild About Books, one of his absolute favorites, since it’s got books AND animals AND ample opportunities for counting and guessing and finding hidden frogs.  Not only did we get quiet time (where, according to Fidge at least, no one even knew where we were!), we also got to revisit old friends and make new ones.

I kind of miss Otter and Teddy, actually.

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I like reading YA and I don’t care who knows

I’ve always felt secretly awkward of the fact that I love young-adult fiction. I mean, can you blame me? Just look at how the phenomenon of adults reading YA has been dissected.

With so much analysis aimed at those of us adults who read YA, we needed a hero, someone to stand up and say nay, it’s not weird. And then I came across this game changer from John Green. (Who else?) And now I’m not hesitant to admit it. I love reading YA. I want to shout it from a mountaintop.

Do you qualify as a YA addict? Gotta love the shout-outs to Richelle Mead and James Dashner…but don’t stop your YA reading list there! Many of our clients are doing awesome things in YA!

Now, to get to the point of this post, I’ve been searching for a series that can live up to the recent ending of, what is scientifically speaking, the best YA series of all time: The Wheel of Time. Any suggestions? Anyone? Bueller?

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Romantic times

Every time I embark on a business trip to a writers’ conference, I feel a sense of adventure.  Who will I meet?  What have they written?  What new things will I learn while I am there?  And, as I believe I have previously written on this blog, I have discovered many writers on these journeys who have ultimately become bestsellers.

Never, however have I been to the Romantic Times Writers’ Conference, which this year is being held in New Orleans.  I am going tomorrow and I am really psyched at the thought of what I might discover.logo

One of the best things about my trip is that I will be spending time with many of my current clients, finding out what they are doing next and exploring new strategies with them.  Interestingly, I will meet many clients in person for the first time simply because they live far from New York –  and, as you know, I always love meeting new people.

I will also be meeting  clients who are represented by my colleagues at DGLM, which I am very excited to do.  As importantly, I will be meeting  new potential clients, which is always exciting to me.  The experience of discovering new talent is one of the biggest pleasures in our business.

Finally, I will be visiting a city I haven’t been to in many years – a city that has gone through enormous changes in that period of time.  I am eager to see how New Orleans has been transformed and continues to move forward.

I would love to know what your writers’ conference experiences have been, so please do share them with me.

4

Good sports

Baseball seasonMy life these days revolves around two things: work and baseball.  You guys know all about the work part but I bet you had no idea that when I’m not in the office baseball consumes every other aspect of my waking day.  That’s because I have an eight-year-old who’s obsessed with America’s pastime and who is currently playing for a little league and a travel team.  That’s a lot of sitting on bleachers during an unusually cold, damp spring watching little boys drop routine fly balls, have meltdowns on the pitcher’s mound, and swagger like miniature Reggie Jacksons when they finally get a hit.

So, of course, this baseball immersion has me thinking about sports books.  I can reel off a dozen great baseball titles off the top of my head, from Roger Kahn’s classic The Boys of Summer to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s wistful Wait Till Next Year to Chad Harbach’s acclaimed The Art of Fielding, but I have a harder time with other sports.  Sure, every once in a while there’s a great book about football (Friday Night Lights) or soccer (Fever Pitch) or basketball (Hoop Dreams) or mountain climbing (Into Thin Air), but the conventional wisdom among publishing people is that baseball is the sport that sells books.

Is this a case of publishers not knowing how to reach other sports fans and making the backward assumption that those fans just don’t read, or is it that fans of other sports aren’t as interested in reading about their favorite sport?  Is it that baseball sparks writers’ imagination to a greater degree than, say, tennis (the pace of baseball, soporific as it can be, does allows for a lot of contemplation and rumination)?  Is it that women buy more books than men and there are more female baseball fans (given how many women friends I have who are rabid about football and basketball, I doubt this)?

We like sports books around here and we’d like to do more of them.  But, help us out.  What sports do you like to read about and why?  What are your favorite titles and what do you wish there was more of in this category?

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When all else fails…

So, it’s Tuesday night, you’ve totally blown past your deadline for posting to the blog, you’re completely blocked, and nothing on-line gives you any substantial ideas. What do you do?

 You do this:

2014-05-06-ColbyProcyk1

You’re welcome.

P.S. Now that you’ve wiped your eyes, get out another Kleenex and check out the accompanying article about how an animal rescue center has kids read to stray cats to help the cats get socialized for adoption, and how it helps kids become better readers, too. How warm is your heart now?

P.P.S. Interestingly, the program is based in Berks County, PA, which has a storied literary pedigree: John O’Hara, Wallace Stevens and John Updike all came from towns in Berks County. And it must be noted that the hub of Berks County is the city of Reading–okay, it’s pronounced “Redding,” but still…

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Perfection

Just now on Twitter I came across possibly the most perfect line of copy I’ve ever seen:  the revamped cover from Atheneum/S&S Children’s of Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret contains the tagline “Growing up is tough. Period.”

Atheneum, I salute you!

“Growing up is tough. Period.”

If you’re not familiar with the book you probably weren’t a preteen girl post 1970 and you also might not know that this, perhaps the most perfect book I read in all of elementary school, is about a girl trying to figure out her religious identity while facing the many struggles of puberty.  (I read it young enough that it was my first introduction to what was coming my way, and I remember having to ask a lot of questions, including interrupting a roomful of people to loudly ask my mother what a sanitary napkin was.)  The copy is coy enough to not offend, except perhaps those who already try to get the book banned for being honest about complicated things, and you can hardly market to that crowd.  It cleverly alludes to the contents for those of us who grew up with it and might need to go snag some Judy Blumes on the way home to re-read this weekend or give to any preteens we know.  And it’s smart since it gets people talking—when I googled it to find the cover image, I saw that the sites that covered it when the new editions were revealed all acknowledged it.

Writing any kind of marketing copy is hard.  As agents, we have to draft it for our pitches to publishers when trying to sell books, and as rights director I often have to write it for foreign or audio submissions (either because it’s too early for publisher-generated copy or because different markets will need a different approach).  It’s one of the toughest things about a query letter or a sales pitch.

So when it’s just right, well, I think we should all give kudos where they are due.  Congratulations, Atheneum, because that’s a stroke of genius.

Ever seen any book copy that made you sit back and take notice?  Share the brilliance with the rest of us below, please!

4

A crowning achievement

Monday,  April 14, was the day of the first Passover seder.  Because of that I was at home preparing food for my family and guests.  At around 3:00, I checked my e-mail  and saw that an amazing thing had happened.  My client Dan Fagin had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the category of general non-fiction for his astounding work on TOMS RIVER (Bantam Books 2013).

fagin 2

Of course, TOMS RIVER had received gushing reviews from The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, USA Today and many other publications, and it had won a Books for a Better Life award in its category. We (Dan and I), however, were not made aware that it was a finalist for the Pulitzer and so this win came as a complete surprise.  Both of us were simply stunned.

Over the years I have been fortunate to work with a number of Pulitzer Prize winning journalists on their books but I have never had one of the books I worked on from the idea stage on actually win this great American prize.  There is, in my opinion no one more deserving than Dan Fagin, because of his brilliant research, beautiful prose, and tenacity in telling a powerful and important story.

Dan worked on TOMS RIVER  for six years.  Through that period, for various reasons, he lost one editor after another, although he finally wound up with the very talented Ryan Doherty.  Dan’s winning this award proves more than ever that hard work pays off.  I have rarely seen an author work harder on a book.

I am so incredibly proud to have been a part of this project.  We here, at DGLM, are very proud of Dan’s incredible achievement.  I hope you will all join me in wishing Dan Fagin a well earned congratulations.

Bravo, my friend.  Way to go!

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Series fatigue

Jane and I had dinner with the delightful and very savvy Abbi Glines last night.  During the course of a delicious meal of tapas-like small plates at ABC Cocina (which, in case you’re wondering, we liked better than ABC Kitchen, its sister restaurant), we talked about a number of interesting topics, from trends in fiction categories—ever elusive and often fleeting—to the lasting power of series.  Abbi pointed out that series can get tired after a while and that readers get tired of the characters right along with them, so an author needs to know when to move on to new pastures.

This reminded me of my love of Patricia Cornwell’s early Scarpetta books and how tedious I found the later ones, Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries which I lost interest in at about the letter G, and that by the time my son and I were at the 24th Magic Tree House book, I was ready to chuck them all out the window.  It’s possible that I just have a short attention span, but, Richelle Mead’s wonderful Vampire Academy series, for instance, kept me hooked up to the very last page of the final installment.

Sbook serieso, is it that authors don’t know when to put a cash cow out to graze and so keep adding books to a successful series even when the characters would much rather have retired to their home in Florida?  Or is it the readership that is so enamored of the characters and their universe that they keep clamoring for more even after the passion has faded?

Do you read every book in a series or do you find your attention wandering to that fresh, bright newcomer on the next shelf?  And do your favorite series authors maintain their effectiveness over numerous titles?

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Illustrators at Dystel.com

In case you haven’t seen it yet, I wanted to use my blog time today to alert readers to a new feature on our website: illustration samples!

Over the past few years, we’ve added a good number of author/illustrators to our list. And so we thought it would be useful to have a single page where readers could see samples of our clients’ work without having to click over to a slew of personal websites. (Though of course we encourage that, too!)

Hence, please check out our DGLM author/illustrators, either from the menu on the right or directly at http://www.dystel.com/illustration-samples/. You’ll find a wonderful breadth of styles and techniques here, not to mention a whole lot of cuteness!