Category Archives: Thanksgiving


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!



“So, uh…what do you do, anyway?”

Thanksgiving is coming up, which means (for many of us), the inevitable Questioning by Relatives and/or Friends begins. This also means that I have started preparing my Working at a Literary Agency 101 speech for my extended family, who really are genuinely curious and interested in what I do.

One of the things that attracted me to interning and later working at a literary agency in the first place was the array of things I got to do with my day. Everyone I spoke with hemmed and hawed when I asked them what an “average day” looked like. To tell you the truth, there is no real average day at an agency. Sure, there are tasks that you may do every week, but there’s always something different to tackle or get your hands on.

I was lucky enough to see a few different areas of work at DGLM—first as the royalties and subsidiary rights assistant, and now as Jane’s assistant. When I thought about literary agencies and publishing in college, I didn’t consider publishing as a business, per se. Like many people (young and old), I regarded it as a mythical place where people chose and read books they liked and turned them into the things that we saw on the bookshelves of our local Barnes & Noble.


How wrong I was. Naturally, we read. We read a lot. We edit, we comment, we do all the expected things. But what I didn’t expect was the whole business side of an agency: from the financials and contracts that keep the agency moving forward, the administrative side that makes sure everything is running smoothly, to the foreign deals that get authors more recognition in an ever growing global market.

On a less glamorous note, we also email a lot. Dear authors, who are worried about the status of their manuscript or making sure that we’ve received it: we are desperately trying to get back to you. We’ve probably seen it, marked it, and are trying to fight through the swelter of our inboxes to get back to your lovely query. We’ll get there, we promise.

One of the things that keeps me so excited about coming to work every day is knowing that my day will never be quite the same as the day before it.

What were your conceptions of publishing/literary agencies? What other things are you curious about?


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.


Giving thanks

It’s that time of year again—I can’t believe it’s here already—and I find myself thinking about all of those things I am thankful for.

First and foremost, I am thankful for my family – my husband Steve, my whip-smart daughter Jessica and her loving husband Brian, my handsome son Zach, and my darling  granddaughter Elena who always makes me smile.  Were it not for you, my life would be meaningless.

Zach and Steve; Jessica and Brian at their wedding, with Zach, Steve, and me; Elena

I am thankful for my dad who turned 101 on Halloween, who was my mentor, and who I now have the good fortune to be caring for.

Me with my father

And then there are the people I work with every day, each one of them so very special in their own way: Miriam Goderich, Michael Bourret, Jim McCarthy, Stacey Glick, Lauren Abramo,  Jessica Papin, John Rudolph, Michael Hoogland, Sharon Pelletier, and Rachel Stout!  You all make my life so much easier each and every day.  We are a great team and I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished together.

Our clients, every one of them.  Without them, we wouldn’t exist.  I am constantly saying that we are what we are because of the enormous talent we represent.

My colleagues on the publishing side; the reason I have stayed in the business so long is because it is filled with wonderful, creative people.  Without you, doing business wouldn’t be nearly as fun as it is.

I am thankful for the books I have represented this last year, many of which have become bestsellers.  I am thankful for the ideas we generate, many of which eventually result in great books.

I am thankful for my friends, both within our business and outside of it.  Without friendship, I couldn’t exist.

Most of all, I am thankful for the blessings I have been given both in my personal life and my work life.  There are very few days that go by when I don’t think about how lucky I am to have all of this and more.

I’d love to know what you are thankful for – it’s that time of year after all.


Does writing take a holiday?

Being the e-book manager here at DGLM, I am in possession of a wealth of copyedited and polished manuscripts, ready to be uploaded and unleashed onto the various e-book stores on the internet. Therefore, I only see one side of that manuscript, the finished article. What I don’t get to see is the process that writers go through to hand me their completed work.

I have always been fascinated with the variety of routines that writers impose in order to let the creativity flow. With Thanksgiving approaching rapidly – too rapidly for those in charge of turkey duties – I’m wondering if any writers out there will be modifying their schedule to accommodate visiting family, trips to visit family, or to fit in a post-Thanksgiving nap. After reading this piece on writers’ routines, I tried to imagine how the writers mentioned in the article would or wouldn’t break their schedule.

Susan Sontag certainly adopted a pretty stringent itinerary, so would she have invited over guests other than Roger Straus? Hemingway strived to wake at first light when working on novels, but surely Papa would have afforded himself a wee bit of a lie-in over the holidays? And with the increased level of consumption that marks the holiday season these days, would Ben Franklin be able to remain so frugal?

Do you cut yourself some slack in your writing habits over the holidays? Or will you find yourself a quiet corner on Thursday to continue writing?


Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks!

I know it sounds hokey, but every year at Thanksgiving, I really do think about all that I have to be thankful for.  This year is no different.

I am thankful for, first and foremost, my family: my wonderfully supportive husband, my two incredible children Jessica and Zachary and my granddaughter Elena.  All of you bring so much love and laughter into my life.

I am thankful for my smart, energetic and ever curious staff who keep their sense of humor and continue to contribute so much to our company during challenging times.  I am especially thankful for my superb business partner, Miriam, who offers her wisdom and good counsel every single day.

I am thankful for my clients because we’re able to work together to bring out the best in each other.  Without each and every one of you, we wouldn’t and couldn’t continue to thrive.

I am thankful for all the people I work with on the other side—those colleagues at the publishing houses who are so devoted to helping writers be the best they can be.  Many of us came into this business because of the people who participate in it—we all care so much about good books and spreading the message about the importance of reading.

And finally, I am thankful for you, our readers—without you we wouldn’t be in business today.  You are the creative backbone of what we do.

What are you thankful for?


Talking turkey…

by Miriam

Yes, of course I’m grateful for my amazing family and friends, and my funny, smart, inventive and crazy co-workers. Yadda, yadda. Today, right before we go off to cook and eat until we can’t eat any more only to fix ourselves a sandwich with leftover turkey a few hours later, I want to share some of the things I’m thankful for about the venerable, bloody but unbowed publishing business. In no particular order, I’m grateful that

  • I was able to read Jonathan Franzen’s brilliant opus in hardcover (that book is HEAVY!) and Robert Harris’ delicious The Ghost Writer (strongly recommend it) on my Kindle. Turns out I still buy hardcovers and have the equivalent of my bedside table’s weighty load in my e-reader ready to dive into wherever I may be;
  • the e-book revolution, while metaphorically violent at times, has led to a fresh look at our raison d’etre: books, how they’re published, who reads them, what their value is;
  • there is a new optimism about how we can harness the power of electronic publishing for good and not evil;
  • Patti Smith won the National Book Award and pleaded with us not to abandon the book;
  • more people talk to me about books they love, loathe, are reading, want to read than ever before;
  • we’ve had numerous bestsellers this year, as well as huge sales of books that we hope will be bestsellers in a couple of years, as well as books that we didn’t sell for a lot of money but that were well published to lovely reviews;
  • publishers are starting to roll out some ridiculous new boilerplates whereby they try to aggregate every right known or that will eventually be devised by the next Mark Zuckerberg (yes, we agents will fight them tooth and nail on every point because publishers need to find ways to survive and thrive that are not at the expense of authors and their rights, but it indicates to me that they’re not keeling over and dying and are actually putting up a fight to remain relevant);
  • I get to meet and/or speak with talented, surprising, fascinating characters almost every day—a number of them clients and some clients to be—and have the opportunity to learn something from all of them (David Morrell told me, upon returning from his successful USO trip to Iraq, that the huge chandelier in Saddam’s main palace was made out of plastic!);
  • after 21 years of doing the same thing, I’m still having fun.

Happy Turkey Day everyone!


Thanksgiving’s here, I can smell it

by Stephanie
It’s Tuesday! Which means it’s almost Wednesday! Which means it’s almost time for one of my favorite holidays of the year! Needless to say, I’m a little excited for this work week to pass. So as I count the hours (seconds?) to Thursday, I wanted to pass along this great post from Rachelle Gardner’s blog, Rants & Ramblings, about the all-important holiday plan for all you writers out there.  With extra time off but more holiday-related obligations, budgeting out time for writing will be more important than ever. As we approach these next few days off, I’m sure many of you have some kind of goal mapped out for that work-in-progress, but if not, this post offers great tips. First of all, I appreciate Rachelle’s realistic expectations in budgeting time: “try to accurately assess about how much time you’ll have for your personal writing pursuits.  Then, divide that time in half.” She gets it! She also takes into account the possible obstacles that may impede writing, and the importance of anticipating how they could potentially affect those word counts.
So what are your writing plans for the holiday break? Are deadlines looming? Looking to finish that new novel? Or start one, perhaps?  Either way, now that I’m in holiday mode, I hope you, dear readers, have a restful and productive holiday!

Thanksgiving with the kids–where are the books?

by John

As Thanksgiving rolls around this week, I’m reminded of one of the more confounding paradoxes of my previous career as a children’s book editor: that despite the natural opportunity for kids’ books to tie into the holiday, I could never, ever get a Thanksgiving title to work.

After all, Thanksgiving seems like an easy sell. The story of the Pilgrims makes a perfect subject for picture books, as do the themes of thankfulness, family, and togetherness that Thanksgiving celebrates. You’d think, too, that parents would need a book for the holiday, not only to explain things to toddlers, but to keep them seated and quiet for five minutes! And from the Macy’s parade to Black Friday, Thanksgiving has always been about buying stuffso why not books?

Yet, despite multiple attempts to publish books on Thanksgiving and the annual effort to market books for the holiday, I never saw a Thanksgiving book that sold really well. Instead, the best performers seemed to skirt the holiday and focus more on the general season, like Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona’s Harvest or Richard Michelson’s and Mary Azarian’s Tuttle’s Red Barn.

So, if anyone has any ideas why these books don’t work, or better yet, how to make a Thanksgiving book a success, I’d love to know. Because I’d like to think that for the most American of holidays, there must be a successful way to share it through a book. Any thoughts?


A time to be thankful

by Jane

I know it might sound trite, but each year at Thanksgiving I consider all that I am thankful for. This year is no exception.

Of course, first and foremost I am thankful for my wonderful, supportive husband Steve, my two beautiful children Jessica and Zachary, and my incredible three-year-old granddaughter Elena. Without each of them, I wouldn’t have the energy to enjoy my career as much as I do. They really do complete me.

I am thankful for my father Oscar Dystel, a publishing legend who has just celebrated his ninety-eighth birthday and whom I talk with every day.

I am thankful for my incredible colleagues at DGLM: Miriam Goderich, Michael Bourret, Jim McCarthy, Stacey Glick, Jessica Papin, Lauren Abramo, John Rudolph, Stephanie DeVita and Rachel Stout. They are incredible people, industrious, smart, thoughtful, and a fabulous team.

Without our talented and prolific clients, we wouldn’t be here and I am thankful for each and every one of them every single day.

And of course, I am so thankful and appreciative of all of you who follow our blog and give us such great feedback throughout the year. Your advice is invaluable and your supportive comments so very appreciated.

I wish each and every one of you a delicious holiday and, if you have time, I’d love to know what you are thankful for.