Category Archives: reading


Finding Time To Write In the Busy Season

There is much rejoicing on Twitter and the general social media parade: fall is (almost) here. It is almost time for scarves and boots, the pumpkin spice takeover, a breath of relief at cooler temperatures, and the crispness in the air that seems to perk up everyone’s steps. The ushering in of fall also means a renewed flurry of activity in publishing as everyone shakes off the residual sand and rays of sun from their vacations and gets back to work. Fall (and spring) seem to be the busy seasons: something in the air is conducive to productivity and bursts of energy.

As lovely as these busy seasons are, as a writer myself, it’s been hard to find time to sit down and write (much less read) with all the new activity at hand. By the time I get home, it’s time to make dinner, say hello to the other humans in my house, prep for the next day, and go to bed. Making a literary life for oneself proves much more difficult outside of the academic setting. Many writers also hold full time jobs, have active families or a significant other, and are engaged in the process of going about the business of the everyday world.  So I suppose I ask: how do you find the time in your day to find the mental space to write or engage in creative work? How do you set aside time to unwind and pull a book off your ever-growing “to-read” stack?

And, on a more fun note, with all these new books to curl up with as the days get shorter: What books does everyone have in their fall queue? What are the best things about fall in your opinion? 



Reaching A Younger Generation of Readers

This past spring, a few English majors from my college (including me) got the opportunity to have lunch with M. NourbeSe Philip, a Canadian poet and writer of all genres, and she asked the small group around her, “Do children still read books?” By books, she meant hard copy books, not digital versions. As some diehard English majors are wont to do, the table exploded in reassurances that yes, hard copy books were still very much present and who reads off Kindles/Nooks/iPads anyway? From there, we embarked on a cultural and social discussion about the importance of children holding a book in their hands, why hard copy books will probably always exist., etc.

Four months later, I started babysitting for a charming family who moved to NYC from Hong Kong with two gems of boys. (I’ve honestly never seen better behaved children in my life and they do homework when asked to without much griping. A dream!) My main reason for being there—other than giving their mom a break—is to get them to try and read more. Their mom mentioned with a wry grin that they prefer using the iPad or computer to picking up a book, and do you think you could install a love of reading in them, please?


As a kid who didn’t have access to digital reading, I’m a hard copy book reader myself. But I’ve found myself reading manuscripts on my iPad because those are digital and it’s a matter of convenience. The majority of people I know who are big readers have some kind of digital reading device. And last summer, I had a conversation with an agent at another literary agency about audiobooks and how to reach a wider, more digitally driven audience. “Certain demographics,” he said, “aren’t going to pick up a book. They’re going to be plugged in. How do we reach them?”

I think I’m going to bring my small charges to the Strand and turn them loose. I’m hoping that being surrounded by books will get them excited to choose a book to bring home. (So yeah, it’s a little bit of bribery, but you know. Babysitting is half bribery, to be honest.) Fingers crossed that somehow in my time with them, they start being enchanted by books they can hold and smell and turn pages in.

So that being said: any suggestions for books for active boys around ages 5 and 7 who love soccer, Legos, and have lived in two countries already?

Any predictions on how kids will be reading in ten, fifteen, twenty years?


New York, New York

When you picture NYC, what comes to mind? Skyscrapers reflecting on the river on a crisp winter night? Tourists snapping photos of costumed characters in Times Square? Writers scribbling away in an overpriced apartment in Brooklyn? Agents reading away in an overpriced apartment in Astoria? (Guess which one of those is drawn from life…).

Me in the fall of 2009 – full of excitement and bangs

New York City is even more diverse and colorful than the version of it you get on Friends or Wolf of Wall Street. It’s a city full of many different neighborhoods, and even each neighborhood can have several vibrant communities sharing the streets. Turn off the TV and turn to a book shelf to get a much broader experience of NYC’s sights, sounds and smells – the New York Public Library makes it easy for you with this fun list of NYC novels by neighborhood.

A couple of my all-time favorite books made the list, but that doesn’t mean I can’t suggest a few additions! These are all books that are tied in my memory to very specific seasons of my life in NYC. A BIGAMIST’S DAUGHTER by Alice McDermott, gives a sample of the Upper East Side neighborhood where I lived when I first moved here, and the Murray Hill location of my first job in publishing.  I couldn’t tell you what part of Brooklyn is the setting for L.J. Davis’ A MEANINGFUL LIFE , because I bought the book at an author signing at Greenlight Bookstore my first week in New York, when I had no idea where anything was. Even seeing the cover will always evoke for me that autumn of fresh excitement, anxiety, and seemingly infinite potential.

More recently I’ve been seeking out books that celebrate the diversity of NYC and call my attention to corners I haven’t explored yet. Books like Adam Silvera’s MORE HAPPY THAN NOT which takes an honest look at both the joy and the danger of growing up in the Bronx – especially when your story is different from that of those around you. And Tanwi Nandini Islam’s BRIGHT LINES took me into Brooklyn’s Bangladeshi community as young girls come of age and learn to navigate among the identities that surround them. Because I think that’s maybe what nearly every novel is really about, in same way: finding out who we are, and learning to love it.

What are your favorite NYC novels? Any neighborhoods this list overlooks?


Once a book nerd, always a book nerd

Putzing around the internet this past week or so, I’ve noticed a listicle/Twitter trend (because I am very observant and astute) using the hashtag #growingup______ fill in the blank with whatever esoteric or widely recognized variable you’d like. Some of them were funny, especially when I could relate and others I just rolled my eyes because the jokes were either overplayed or just too universal to even be worth it.

I’ve been growing a little bored of the trope, but when I came across Buzzfeed’s compilation of #growingupabooknerd, how could I resist? I thought it would be tired and, yet again, eye-rolly, but there were things there that I didn’t even know I related to until I read them.

Even the URL name had me in (metaphorical) stitches: “just-one-more-chapter-then-i-should-go-to-bed.” How more appropriate can it get? I think my most overused line as a kid was “once I finish this chapter,” which I would slyly wait to say until I had just started a chapter. SO TRICKY, LITTLE RACHEL, SO TRICKY.

However, I think my favorite inclusion in this list #14, which is a level of stress I know so well and am more than a little relieved that others experience the same existential panic:

Anyway, it’s Friday afternoon and I’m in the mood for a little more lightheartedness and knowing chuckles. Add your #growingupabooknerd memory in the comments!


Fruit flies and me

A conversation I was having with a publisher last week, went off topic (after we’d reached an agreement about the client in question, of course) when we started discussing vacations and vacation reading.  One thing leading to another as it does, we began to reminisce about the days when the publication of a big book was an EVENT and how rare a thing that is these days when Kim Kardashian’s latest naked selfie breaks the internet every 4.5 days (yawn!), Donald Trump opens his yap and the news cycle is hijacked to the exclusion of anything else, iPhones, tablets, FireTV sticks, and watches that text and send e-mail keep our attention buzzing from one landing spot to another like a drunken fruit fly.

Not to sound like a crotchety old lady but I remember when books made headlines and created the kind of anticipation blockbuster movies can still sometimes drum up (I’m there for the next James Bond film…just sayin’).   Sure, not so long ago the Harry Potter titles were doing just that but it’s been a while since a book was not only buzzed about but read by everyone immediately upon publication and then discussed ad nauseum everywhere you went.  (I don’t count the “new” Harper Lee since, personally, I consider that a cynical, somewhat soulless publishing move that has more in common with the Kardashian publicity machine than the event books I remember fondly and whose success was usually more predicated on their content than the marketing behind them.)

Is all of this due to the fact that there’s too much competition for our ever more fragmented attention spans or is it that we are slowly losing the ability to commit to a reading experience and the subsequent processing of that experience that involves discussion, debate, criticism, etc.?  Have the Buzzfeed book lists taken the place of the lively conversations about important titles that added something to the culture and our understanding of the world?

On a less cranky note, I’m reading The Martianthe martian right now and in the past two weeks have spoken to six people in vastly different contexts and in a serendipitous fashion, about the book.  This, combined with the rise in print sales and the fact that readers are looking for what the publisher I was speaking with called “the physical connection” we experience when reading hardcovers or paperbacks makes me hopeful that the big event book is not totally a thing of the past.


Take Me On An Adventure

I immediately wanted to take a road trip after reading this article. The accompanying map routes 12 different literary road trips with points for each pitstop in the novels. Most importantly, it includes a quote from the books describing each place so you can understand how these literary masters were affected and changed by the setting.

Last year, I went on a trip through Utah, and I can remember the driving almost as well as the places we stayed. I can remember driving through Salt Lake City with a perfectly white crescent moon hanging low in a light pink sky. And those mountains! They way they envelop the city feels spiritual. I felt like everything had meaning in that moment, everything was significant. I fell deeper in love with my boyfriend just because he was there to experience it with me. I understood then why people write about road trips and the significant ways they can affect your relationships and appreciation for life. I realized why I love road trips even though I hate driving. It’s not about going from point A to point B. It’s about what you see, what you learn, your perspective shifting as quickly as the passing scenery.

I was recently editing a road trip novel for a friend of mine. Everything was perfectly in place, and yet, I couldn’t quite understand why I felt something was missing. It wasn’t until I read a part where they were driving through Utah that I suddenly realized that the characters hadn’t once commented on the scenery. The setting hadn’t changed them at all. What’s the point then? Why not just stay in one place?

I would love to read more road trip novels. I want to be able to feel in the words the same importance I felt driving through Salt Lake City to Park City to Zion. I want to be able to see the mountains and the blaring stars and the sunburnt skies. Take me on an adventure.


Vacation, all I ever wanted…

It’s summer time, and you know what that means: vacation.  Vacation is one of my favorite things, because I love traveling, but it’s also when I read the most non-DGLM titles in a row.  I try to keep up with personal reading throughout the year—as an agent you need to know the market—but it’s hard to do when the metaphorical reading pile is in constant danger of toppling and authors are eagerly awaiting word. If I read a book for pleasure, I have to tackle at least 10 or so work projects before I feel like I can justify dipping into anything else for fun.  Otherwise the guilt stifles my enjoyment too much.

sorrento-mare1But on vacation I can read anything I want.  And this year I’m heading to Sorrento to sit on a balcony sipping wine and reading and staring at the Gulf of Naples.  Now that everything’s booked, I have to turn to the important decision: what to read.  I’m trying to limit the physical books I bring to two, promising myself I can buy more books at the airport or in Italy if I really want.

So I’m welcoming suggestions.  The only rules are that they must be available at short notice in trade paperback (my format of choice for personal reading), they should be fiction or highly engaging and easily digestible nonfiction, and they can’t be on the DGLM client list.  Ideas?

How fast can you read?

There is SO much out there that I want to read and so little time to read it all. It’s one of the universe’s sick jokes. I thought Ken Kalfus summarized it perfectly in the beginning of this piece for the New Yorker.

So wouldn’t it be great if we could squeeze all that reading into our schedules? If we could read a page by just glancing at it? There’s no shortage of speed reading books and websites that claim to be able to drill this skill into you. And of course there are apps that help you speed read too.

A lot of these sources relay a lot of the same information. Focus and block out all distractions. Don’t read sentences more than once. User your peripheries and track your place with a finger or pointer. Don’t vocalize the words in your head, which I am pretty sure is impossible NOT to do.

These are all good tips, but do any of these sites offer any substantial improvement? While I can’t answer that definitively, I can point you to this Slate speed reading piece about the plausibility of speed reading and information retention rates.

So what do our readers think? Any tips you’d like to share?

Take the test here to see how you stack up. I got 567 wpm (and 3/3 answers). Challenge extended.


Learning about Middle Grade fiction

I have been agenting for a long time, and I’ve met a lot of interesting and wonderful writers and learned a great deal about different categories of fiction and nonfiction, what sells and what doesn’t.  But, I am always eager to learn new things.

Over the last several years we have all heard a great deal about Young Adult books and what seems to work and what doesn’t.  And we at DGLM represent a bunch of bestsellers in this category.  One of the interesting things in this category is the crossover market that has developed with books like THE HUNGER GAMES series and titles authored by John Green and James Dashner.  And I have been fortunate to represent a number of significant new YA authors.

When we were looking to choose a category for our next book club meeting, Jim McCarthy wisely came up with the concept of all of us reading a recently published Middle Grade book and I loved this idea as this is a category I am just now dipping my toe into.  The potential market is huge since the Harry Potter series put the genre on the map and obviously crossed over into an adult market.

RATSCALIBURTo prepare, I have studied the category a bit.  I know that the age range of readers is between 8 and 12 and the average length of books is 100 pages or less.  Here is a piece I found that clearly describes this category and its traditional market.

Middle Grade classics include the previously mentioned Harry Potter titles, Charlotte’s Web, Matilda and our own Chris Grabenstein’s Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and The Island of Dr. Libris.

So I chose as my book club title (with Jim’s help) Ratscalibur by Josh Lieb.  And my thought is that I will read this and then give it to my seven-year-old granddaughter, Elena, who is a terrific reader, to see what she thinks.  Stay tuned for our thoughts.

I’d also love to know what your experiences are with Middle Grade and what you (and your children) have enjoyed reading in the category.



Yesterday, July 16th, 2015, will forever be known as The Day We Had No Internet and No Telephones for More than Half of the Day.

It was very dramatic.

Or was it?

While of course in the modern world in which we live and work, having access to the internet, to emails and the office phone line is very important to carry on business as usual. And it wouldn’t be ideal if this happened all the time or even frequently. But on a quiet Thursday in the dead middle of summer, it wasn’t so bad. In fact, a lot of us here at DGLM were musing on how productive we were without the distractions of constant emails pinging in.

We also had time to catch up on submissions, read manuscripts, vet contracts and edit proposals—things usually reserved for after work hours. The office was calm and quiet…and got very clean and organized, too. When service returned later in the afternoon, all was abuzz and it was a flurry of activity to catch up on those missed hours, and still, productivity and focus remained high.

Maybe it was just the blessing in disguise that we needed, or maybe there’s something to be said about turning off the notifications, closing the browser windows and minimizing email tabs for set periods of time throughout the day. Though all this communication and information technology does have immense benefits in the long run, going back to “the old ways” once in a while certainly doesn’t hurt, and even offers some real perspective.

(and now you know why the blog postings you were dying for yesterday never appeared!)