Category Archives: holidays


Thanksgiving is here again

I cannot believe that Thanksgiving is here already. The last year seems to have raced by with many, many changes in my life. Usually, at this time of year, my husband and I spend the holiday in Florida visiting his family and our friends. This year, however, my father-in-law Sam Schwinder and my old and close friend Rena Wolner (a former head of Pocket Books, Berkley, and Avon) passed away and so we will be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner around our dinner table here in Manhattan along with my daughter, my son, my son-in-law and my two adorable grandchildren. I will think about Sam and Rena on that day, as I am very thankful for having had the chance to know, love, and learn from them.

I am also incredibly thankful for so many other things: the talented, brilliant, funny people on my staff (we are now 14 strong), my wonderful clients, my colleagues at the many publishing houses and other agencies we do business with. My business partner Miriam Goderich helps me run our company and think through the numerous issues we face every day. She is the best editor I have ever worked with and a stabilizing force in a world that has lots of highs and lows. I am so grateful to her. My daughter Jessica Toonkel is a talented reporter with Reuters and a superb partner to her husband Brian and mother to her children, eight-year-old Elena and almost-two-year-old Leo. I am incredibly proud of her. My son, Zachary Schwinder who is about to enter Officer Candidate School for the Marines—I am both frightened for his safety and oh so proud of his goal to keep our country safe. My kind and wonderful husband and partner Steve who is by my side through thick and thin and has been since I met him almost 30 years ago—I am so very grateful for him and his love.
I encourage each of you to think about those things and people you are grateful for at this time of year. And, if you like, I would love you to tell me what they are.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. May it be filled with peace and everything delicious!



Scary Stories

With Halloween just days away, I’m sure you’re already gorging yourself on candy and marathons of scary movies, skirting your reading list or half-finished manuscript to work on your prize winning costume. And that’s fine, but let’s admit there are more productive ways to get your spook on. Why not read a spine-chilling short story?

“A Collapse of Horses” by Brian Evenson is bound to freak you out. The narrator, recovering in a hospital, tied to the bed, tells the story of his mysteriously changing house, where light switches change locations, windows grow and shrink, and one day he has three children, another day he has four. After coming upon a paddock of horses lying as still as if dead, the narrator takes drastic measures to end the madness.

Or if you’re looking for a scary story with more of fun twist, check out “Royal Jelly” by Roald Dahl, in which a man attempts to cure his baby’s starvation by giving her the jelly meant to feed queen bees. Originally published in Twilight Zone Magazine, Dahl spins this weird and freaky tale with his usual hint of humor.

I hope you have a fun and frightening Halloween while using some scary stories to improve your craft. What spooky stories will you be reading this year?


Holiday cards—our annual dilemma


It’s early June and while most of you are thinking barbecues and lots of fun outdoor activities, we at DGLM are having our annual debate about holiday cards.

holidaycard 2Every one of us has, in the past, personally signed each and every card.  At one time when there were many fewer cards to send (and fewer of us on staff) this was not so onerous.  We began in mid-October and were done in plenty of time.  These days, however, we have a staff that is significantly larger (13 by my last count) and we send out over 2,500 cards each year.  This necessitates us actually beginning the card ordering and signing process in June.

So, the question becomes what do we do this year?  We could send electronic holiday cards, as many are doing.   We could also send cards with just the name of our company and a seasonal greeting.    We could send cards with each of our names pre-printed on them.  Finally, we could continue to do what we have always done with all of us signing each card individually.

There is our quandary and we need to address it quickly given the timing of the alternative that will take the longest.  We are asking you, our readers, what you think we should do.  If you were us, what would that be?

I look forward to hearing.


Book in hand. Or bag.

Whenever I go anywhere anymore, I carry my regular bag* as well as a canvas tote bag that holds two notebooks (that have no real distinction between them, I just have two for some reason), a crossword puzzle and a book along with the bits and bobs that tend to find their ways into bags and never find their way out.

The other week, I was walking with my boyfriend who offered to carry my tote bag for me, which I handed over gladly as my shoulder was beginning to ache. He commented “what do you have in here that’s so heavy?” for of course, my book that week was a rather thick hardback, so it wasn’t the most lightweight of reading material.

“Why do you need a book today?”

“I always take a book with me, you know that. Just in case.”

Since we had an agenda for pretty much the entire day, it took some explaining to convince him that I needed to carry an extra bag because who knows how long it would be until I could get back to my book. No, I wasn’t planning on being bored or having much down time, but you never know.

Sure, sometimes I lug a book around all day and never once even consider opening it. Either I don’t have the time, or I’d rather finish that crossword puzzle that’s been niggling at me all day. But I must have one on me!

The answer here is, clearly, a bigger everyday bag, and I am pining after several (in conjunction with Lauren’s post recently, maybe you could get your book lovin’ friends a really nice bag that neatly holds daily reading material, too…), but I’m also looking for other answers and opinions.

Am I crazy to need to have a book on me at all times? If not, what other options are there besides an electronic reading device? I have them and I don’t love them. If you know of any magical solutions (or if you have any reasons to call me out for being silly) I’m really interested in hearing!

Until then, I’ll be a cumbersome bag lady and smile through the pain. For the books. Doing it for the books.


*I hate the word “purse” for some reason. “Pocketbook” is a little better, but not great and “handbag” is just too fussy. But I guess I am referring to a purse in this case.


The Best Christmas Propaganda Ever

My book club – you remember them – is meeting for our holiday party tonight, and we always like to cut ourselves a bit of slack by picking a children’s book during this busy busy month. Last year we read each other’s favorite childhood titles, and this year we read a classic that several of us grew up reading year after year: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. If any of you read this one, or maybe saw the TV movie version from the eighties, you’ll remember it’s the story of the chaos that reigns when the worst kids in town decide they want to participate in the church Christmas pageant.

I remember finding this book absolutely enthralling and hilarious as a child, probably in part because of my membership in a family of 6+ children that, like the Herdmans, left a wake of havoc wherever we went. (I’d like to think I was a little better behaved than Imogen Herdman – I know I did a better job keeping my wild brothers in line than she did.)

As an avid re-reader of childhood faves, I’m often surprised to discover deeper meanings in stories that were lost on younger me, who raced through the pages gleefully as the Herdmanns rob the penny bank and say the H-word during rehearsal. Little did I realize that Ms. Robinson was sneaking in a lesson about compassion, about suspending judgment, about being grateful for our blessings and sharing them with those who are less fortunate. An important lesson to learn at the holidays…and to remember all year round!

Do you have any favorite books to read at the holidays? Ever re-read a book from your childhood and were surprised to learn what it’s really about?




Want it.

Clearly I’m late to the party, but I’ve just come across Book Riot’s Book Fetish series, and now I know where I’ll be doing my gift shopping this holiday season.  (I operate firmly on the one for them, one for me rule.)  Union Square has started assembling its holiday market, so ready or not, it’s that time of year!  But this year, I’m feeling prepared:

This Shakespearean insults poster is going to come in very handy.  And there are some tedious rogues in my life who might love it, too.

I might just buy a new bookcase so I have an excuse to use the Clampersand, which is genius.

Plus the many, many literate lawyers I know would look great in this t-shirt.

And this vintage library cart bar cart combines two of my very favorite things and would be a fine addition to my home.  Who do I know that’s crafty enough to make it for me?

My book-obsessed nephews will for sure be getting some of these.  And their mom loves socks almost as much as books, so I’ve gotta get her these.

24x36-Little-Women-column-SDBook Fetish aside, my favorite lit paraphernalia is PosterText prints:  prints made of the text of books, where the negative space forms an image.  I have Little Women in my office and The Great Gatsby at home, and everyone is always amazed when they look closely.

So, my fellow book nerds, where else should I be shopping this holiday season?


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.



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.”


Best time of year

Keeping up the holiday cheer and general positivity that has crept into our blog lately, I figured it’s time to bring up the Best Books of 2013. It seems like almost all of the lists are in (here’s a handy little Google search for most of the notable players). Lots of crossover and consensus among them, but when it comes to comprehensiveness, I’ve got to hand it to the Times. At least on the fiction side, it seems like they cited just about every novel that got significant ink this year.

So… whatcha think? Everyone out there love THE GOLDFINCH and THE GOOD LORD BIRD as much as the list-makers? What are YOUR best books for 2013?


Best part of the holiday season

It’s Thanksgiving already. And it’s certainly cold enough to be winter. There’s no denying it: holiday season is upon us!

Happy Thanksgiving!









The holidays mean different things to different people, and I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you what I love the most about the season of giving.

Yep, it’s not the Thanksgiving turkey or the piles of gifts or even the general merry cheer that permeates the air, but the opportunity to relax and read a book. In fact, reading is how I bond with my family: my nose in a book and completely shut down from everything around me. They talk, I don’t listen. Call it a family tradition. And don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but the holidays are when it’s my time to get some serious reading done. In fact, I’ve read some of my favorite books by the Christmas tree.


So, that’s enough about me. What do you guys enjoy the most about the holidays? Oh, and by the way, not everyone loves Thanksgiving.