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I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want

My clever colleagues Stacey and Jessica used this space to share their wish lists for the coming year and I’m going to avail myself of their example! Here are some of the categories I’m eager for right now:

Can’t put it down narrative non-fiction. Whether it’s a gripping personal narrative about key current events, or an exquisitely reported work of journalism, I want it! Send me your Five Days at Memorial or your Missoula, your Irritable Hearts or your A House In the Sky.

Tell me something I don’t know explanatory / exploratory non-fiction. Are you really good at something everyone is curious about right now? Do you have a new approach to save money or reset your memory, a new explanation of why we need love or what scares us most….and the platform to back it up? Rip it from the headlines and explain it to me. I’m not looking for gimmicks, but for accessible experts with fresh ways of looking at our world, the things we do, and what we care about most, like Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Scott Stossel’s My Age of Anxiety and Kate Bolick’s Spinster.

OMG! book club fiction. I will never not be hungry for character-driven page turners and well-written plots that keep you guessing. Got a closed community, like a boarding school or fishing village? Bring it on. Is a lifelong group of friends falling apart? Is a family struggling to keep a secret from the outside world…or from each other? YES PLEASE. Bring me your Big Little Lies, your Secret Histories, your Tana Frenches and Beatriz Williamses yearning to breathe free.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of the types of writing I am interested in, so don’t be discouraged if the thing you’re working on doesn’t fall meet these descriptions. If you’ve done your research and think I’m right for it, send it to me – sometimes the favorite projects of all are ones we never would’ve thought to wish for…

And those of you who do fall into these categories…I can’t wait to read your work!

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Hail Fellowes!

 

Like a lot of people, I’m rejoicing that the new season of DOWNTON ABBEY has started, while I simultaneously lament its imminent demise: This season is to be its last. But its tireless creator and head writer, Julian Fellowes, won’t be snoozing on a beach in the Bahamas. He’s taking a cue from Charles Dickens with his next project, BELGRAVIA, a novel told in serial form that will make the first of its eleven episodic appearances this coming April, right after DOWNTON will have concluded and many of us will be in the throes of mourning.

BELGRAVIA, set in that very tony neighborhood in mid-19th-century London, will be available first on the web, then will  be published in a complete hard-copy editon by Grand Central in June, once all of the episodes have appeared. But Fellowes is wisely taking advantage of all the technology that Charles Dickens never could have imagined. Each of the episodes will be made available not only in digital but in audio, and subscribers, who will pay $13.99 for the entire package, will be able to switch back and forth between the two as they choose. In addition, there will be all sorts of bells and whistles—bonus materials, video clips, surprise extra features—embedded within each chapter through hyperlinks.

It’s likely to be one of those great web-based events, like NPR’s Serial podcast series, that captures the attention of a huge swath of the country. And if that is the case, it’s a fair bet that plenty of other big-deal books will receive similar treatment as time goes by. It’s one more way that technology will expand the reading experience, and make it something we can all share simultaneously on several different platorms.

Do I sound like I’m shilling here? So be it. Mr. Fellowes, I’m on!  April can’t come soon enough.

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Jessica’s annotated wish list

Stacey had a smart new take on this idea earlier this week, but since I’d be hard pressed to choose all the books I wish I’d represented (and it’s unseemly to appear greedy) I’m going to stick to script and lay out what I’m looking for in 2016, drawing examples from forthcoming books on my own list.

1. Literary thriller and psychological suspense: I like a sophisticated, labyrinthine plot, the sort where the carefully constructed puzzle stands up to a stiff post mortem. Examples are Beth’s Hahn’s THE SINGING BONE, a story that riffs on folklore and fairy tales to examine the limits of guilt and the fallibility of memory, and Christopher Yates’ dark and twisty tale of university life, BLACK CHALK.

singing bone

black chalk

2. Memoir that works on two levels: first, as a focused personal narrative of discovery, transformation or resilience (etc.) and additionally as a story that engages some larger social, cultural or historical theme. Examples are THE WORLD’S EMERGENCY ROOM: The Growing Threat to Doctors, Nurses and Humanitarian Workers by Michael VanRooyen, or INVISIBLE MAN, GOT THE WHOLE WORLD WATCHING: A Young Black Man’s Education by Mychal Denzel Smith.

WER

IM

3. Popular science or history of science, related in lively, lucid and even playful prose. Like Tim Jorgensen’s STRANGE GLOW: The Story of Radiation or Luba Vikhanski’s IMMUNITY: How Elie Metchnikoff Changed the Course of Modern Medicine.

strange glow

immunity

4. Narrative history that reads like fiction, that uses the prism of individual lives to explore the larger historical context—and a particularly shining example is Bill Lascher’s EVE OF A HUNDRED MIDNIGHTS.

midnights

5. And of course, I’m always on the lookout for literary fiction that shows me the familiar made fresh, and the world in a new way. Valerie Trueblood’s Criminals: Love Stories is almost impossibly insightful, and the worlds contained in her short stories are as dense and breathtaking as in any Russian novel.criminals

This list is necessarily a brief one, and it does not preclude my interest in other subjects–women’s issues, muckraking journalism, historical mystery and biography–just to name a few favorites.   And I’m always open to something new and unexpected!

I look forward to hearing from you in the coming months.

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Reading Goals

I’m the kind of person who loves a good To Do List.  (As I’ve probably mentioned before, since I’m also the kind of person who talks too much about the kind of person I am.) In fact I keep several kinds of lists, varied in form, content, technology, and location. I used to keep a To Read list on my phone, but then I found that I wasn’t actually ever reading anything from it except by accident, so now I keep my To Read list in the form of stacks of books. I’m far more likely to read a book if it just happens to be in my apartment when I finish reading another one. (Now is the time some of you will be tempted to tell me that this is where e-books come in handy, but I don’t read digitally except for submissions and manuscripts. The strict divide between work reading and pleasure reading does me a world of good psychologically and makes me better at turning my editor brain on and off as befits my reading purpose, so I’m sticking with it.) I even keep a high-priority To Read list in pile form (things I’m super excited about, plus DGLM galleys, plus books for my office and personal book clubs) right next to my TV, to shame me into not neglecting them in favor of rewatching The West Wing for the 83rd time.

So naturally I love when other people make lists of books I should read, so I can mine them for new reading goals. I was pleased to see that Esquire enlisted eight “female literary powerhouses” to help them make a list of books everyone should read. You see, the last time they did that, it was kind of a disaster. The fantastic Rebecca Solnit (go read her collection Men Explain Things to Me) rightly called them out for their myopia, so they called in some reinforcements to give it another go.  It’s a pretty fantastic list—and not just because it features DGLM’s own Tayari Jones and her excellent Silver Sparrow.

Hey, credit card, looks like we need to stop by the bookstore on our way home from work.

Books I wish I’d sold

New Year equals New Books. I generally start the new year feeling a bit overwhelmed at all there is to catch up on, but also excited and motivated with renewed enthusiasm for fresh starts and what’s to come. So many books, so little time to sell them all.

In addition to bestseller lists and book reviews, I like to read Publisher’s Marketplace and look over the recent deals. I am often amazed at how good so many of the books sound, so instead of making a general “wish list” of what kinds of books I’d like to see in my in-box, I thought it might be more useful to see a few examples of books that were recently published or recently sold that resonated with me for one reason or another.

This book that was written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist explores the story of a set of adopted identical twins (anything having to do with identical twins as the parent of a set is of interest to me), one of whom transitions their gender identity. It sounds fascinating and wonderfully researched and written over the course of four years, and it looks into a very important subject that is still underexplored.

Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt

Media personality and leading voice in brain health Max Lugavere’s COGNITION NUTRITION, a roadmap to optimal brain health and performance using what the latest science has discovered about food and diet recently sold and taps into two areas of interest – science and the brain. It’s an area that’s well covered (including my own upcoming title THE DISTRACTED MIND by neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley and psychologist Larry Rosen), but a new angle is always of interest.

Author of The ADHD EXPLOSION and THE TRIPLE BIND, Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley Stephen Hinshaw’s STIGMA: A Father and Son’s Journey Through the Mark of Mental Illness, which explores the burden of living in a family “loaded” with mental illness, with all the potential for insight and creativity as well as despair and isolation that entails, and in which he reveals his father’s (the distinguished philosopher Virgil Hinshaw, Jr.) and his own lifelong struggles with mental illness, the associated shame and stigma, and his evolving understanding of the social and public health dilemmas involved in the exploding mental illness crisis in America today. I’ve also had a strong interest in mental health issues and have books on my list which include PERFECT CHAOS, by Linea and Cinda Johnson, a powerful story about a daughter and her mom dealing with the daughter’s bipolar breakdown.

Finally, I’m having a love affair with children’s books at the moment. Both books I’m selling and books I’m reading with my girls. Sibling writing duo Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski’s debut LAILU LOGANBERRY’S MYSTIC COOKING, following the youngest master chef in 300 years in her efforts to open a restaurant where anyone, not only the wealthy, can feast on her fantastic cuisine including everything from kraken calamari to dragon steak; all the while she must help her absentee mentor pay back a vicious loan shark and avoid the notorious Elven mafia before the escalating conflict costs her the restaurant and possibly her life. Sounds unique and mixes my love of food and kids!

I could go on and on, but I’m hoping this gives you an idea of my interests and hoping I’ll see some project submissions from you in the near future. Feel free to reference this post if you contact me so I know you’ve been reading our blog!

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Five publishers have disappeared

Nearly a year ago I wrote about censorship in China’s publishing industry in this blog post. Now five people have disappeared in recent months—all of them employees of Mighty Publishing House, which is known for publishing books critical of the Chinese government. Don’t worry though, according to a cryptic letter one of the missing persons is “fine.”

If it turns out that the Chinese government is responsible, state-sanctioned kidnappings are on a whole different level than censoring  certain passages in a book. In a weird way, could this be a positive sign that the Far East’s freedom of speech battle is gaining momentum if the government is responding so drastically? I have no idea, but I do know that it’s a lot easier to work in this industry when you don’t need to worry about such things. And for that, I’m grateful and as Lee Greenwood would say, proud to be an American.

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Moving With Books

Happy New Year, all! For me, this new year brings with it a new apartment. This was the first time in my life that I ever needed to move ALL of the books I own into a different place, and I’ll admit, it was not a pretty process. After a long and arduous search, I was finally blessed with an apartment of my own, and with this blessing came the joy of moving the stupid amount of books I’ve been piling up for x amount of years. So, I asked myself as I gawked at all my books, “where do I begin?”

As I’m sure most of you can relate, moving with books is painful. Physically and emotionally. Here are the steps I took during my move:

1.   Sturdy Boxes

With everything else I own, I had to limit my books to two boxes. I thought about the weight as I would haul them up flights of stairs and decided less was better. I also thought about the space–I would be setting up a new camp in a smaller space, how would I organize? I figured I should start small, so again, less was better.

2.    The Sorting (the emotional part)

Next came the process of figuring out what books made it into the boxes and which ones had to go. The books that have been with me for years, childhood favorites and classics were a definite yes! Then, the books I was currently reading, recommendations from high places (my lovely co-workers), books I “borrowed” from friends (couldn’t possibly give those away), etc.

3.   Saying Goodbye

There are some books in my “to read pile” that I decided I would not read. We all have those books that we know we want to read, but in the event that something else comes along, they get thrown in the back seat. A few of those were books I had already started, but put away because I didn’t fall in love with them; others were books I knew I would never read (It’s a sad moment when you realize you can’t read every book in the world). The rest were books I have read and loved, but had to take out to make room. I put this pile together and carried them down to the laundry room of my old building with a cute little sign saying, “Please Read Me.” A good friend of mine always talks about how she finds incredible books in the laundry room of her building, and so I was inspired to be the source of book happiness to someone else. Whoever finds my treasures… you’re welcome.

4.  Lifting

Once said books were packed, I tested my physical strength by carrying them up four flights of stairs. #NoHelp #Proudofmyself

5.  Finding Respite

After a long evening of moving, you deserve rest. Once all books were in my new room (in a much disorganized manner), I fell into bed, resting my aching muscles and dreading the inevitable chore of putting everything away. For that moment though, I did nothing. Well, except pick up a book to read 😉

Do any of you readers have interesting moving stories? How do you go about packing up your books?

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Quality Time

One of the few drawbacks of this profession is the limited time an agent gets for recreational reading.  Most of us are backlogged with work-related reading—new manuscripts from clients; new manuscripts from prospective clients; newly-published books that are competing with those of our clients.

So I wind up carving out a couple of periods during the year when work-related reading gets put on hold and I get to read whatever I want.  One of those is when I’m vacationing; usually during the summer, and the other is during holiday week, when the book business mostly shuts down and I can call my time between Christmas and New Year’s my own.

Here are the must-reads for me during the last week of this year. I’ve either already bought these—or friends and family have received not-so-subtle hints from me about what I hope to find under my tree.

 

  1. BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  I already feel way behind the curve on this one. It seems everybody, and particularly every news commentator, has read it except for me. I don’t think any other book has received this much attention all year. With Black Lives Matter on everyone’s mind, this book has definitely come at the right moment.
  2. THE MARVELS by Brian Selznick. Selznick is a literary and artistic visionary who has created his own unique storytelling genre. I share his fascination with theater and film, and am very much looking forward to this story about a theatrical family which, based on what I’ve heard, begins in the mid-eighteenth century and hopscotches up to the late twentieth.
  3. THE CATSKILLS: ITS HISTORY AND HOW IT CHANGED AMERICA by Stephen Silverman and Raphael Silver. This lush, lavishly illustrated story of New York City’s upstate playground looks fabulous, and it covers a part of the world that has seen enormous changes—from its prehistory to its Native American dwellers, through Rip Van Winkle, numerous wars, and the rise and fall of enormous middle-class Jewish resorts such as the Concord, Grossinger’s, and the Nevele.

 

Do you have your own end-of-the-year reading list? If so, let me know what’s on it. I’d love to hear.

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Going back a ways…

Last week, I received this lovely message from one of my long term clients, “Do you realize next September we will have been working together for 15 years?  I am blessed.”

And I realized just how many of our clients have been with us for many many  years. For instance:

Gus Lee, author of several novels, including his bestselling CHINA BOY, and the recently published non-fiction, WITH SCHWARZKOPF, has been a friend and a client since 1989.

Thomas French the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of the still-in-print UNANSWERED CRIES has been with us since 1989 as well.  He and his wife Kelley are publishing a book next year about the birth of their very premature daughter titled THE ZERO ZONE.

Lorene Cary, author of both non-fiction­, BLACK ICE, and fiction, THE PRICE OF A CHILD, among others has actually been with the agency since 1988.

The great Mary Doria Russell has been a client since the 1990s and her latest, EPITAPH, is making a number of “best of the year” lists.

Interestingly, there are many long term clients whom, for one reason or another, I have not actually met—but we are in constant communication, and I feel like they are “family”.

The point of all of this is that we all have experienced through these long alliances the value of continuity.  In a business that has gone through and continues to see major upheavals, it is these ongoing connections that provide new opportunities and enrich our professional (and personal) lives.

I look forward to many more years of continuing these important and treasured relationships and establishing new ones.

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‘Tis the season to read & read & read

Because I don’t do enough reading as it is, I’ve already started compiling my holiday reading list for our winter break. I have a bad habit of squirreling books away in various corners of my office and apartment all mentally marked “to read later,” but never really quite getting to them. But I’m going home to my quiet rural town for six days (!) and what else is a girl going to do but read?

On my list:

  • UNBECOMING by Rebecca Scherm

unbecoming

  • THE LAKE HOUSE by Kate Morton

the-lake-house-9781451649321_hr

  • THE JAPANESE LOVER by Isabel Allende

the-japanese-lover-9781501116971_hr

  • YES PLEASE by Amy Poehler (this has been on my list since last summer, embarrassingly enough)

yes please

  • ORDINARY LIGHT by Tracy K. Smith

ordinary light

What’s on your list? Any books you’re looking forward to pick up in the New Year? 

Let nothing stand in the way of your holiday reading. Taking some tips from this bun.