Monday, August 13, 2012

So You've Hooked A Publisher

A lot of author’s believe that after their book has been picked up by a publishing house their work is done, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, especially if you’re working with a smaller press.

The publishing business has changed drastically over the last ten years and there’s no changing it back. Authors have to be extremely present when marketing their books. They have to be willing to not only give up time to social media, but to traveling for book signings, readings, interviews, etc.

And for many authors, this is on top of a day job and writing their next book. So how important is it for you to come into the marketing phase with the right mindset? Incredibly. Prepare for packed days and short nights.

Small presses will want to know how available you are even before they accept your project. They’re looking for your will to work for it, your ability to build a following and sell copies. Some publishers even encourage their authors to look into hiring their own publicists. They’ll ask for investment money too, and are more likely to publish your book if you can give it to them.

So, it’s not the magical whirlwind publishing that you pictured, but these are the facts. In the end, publishers need to know that they’ll get back whatever they spend on your book. You’re an investment; make sure they know you’re a good one.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Promoting Your Business With Instagram

Hey everyone; I’ve got a guest post for you today about the latest successful addition to the world of social media—Instagram. As authors of the eBook-era know, participation in social media sites sells books. We all knew the luxury of recluse-living would come to an end, and now that it’s upon us, what can we do but throw ourselves into it wholeheartedly? We must, and our guest blogger has some great advice on how to build a following and a customer-base (a reader-base), with Instagram.

Instagram is an app that most of us are familiar with by now, and with such a rapidly expanding international user base, it’s no wonder why.  This app deals with photography—a popular form of media in nearly every culture—and allows its users to add a variety of interesting special effects to their images before sharing them with followers.

This app can be much more than another novelty app, though. It can be a tool for promoting your business. Big brand names have already begun realizing this and utilize the power of Instagram as a mechanism for public relations and to give their brand name increased exposure. Below are just a few ideas to increase your customer-base through Instagram:

Promote an Upcoming Event
Use the sharing power of social media to encourage attendance. Share photos of the planning and set-up process. Get them involved in the event before it even happens! And by inviting users to upload and share photos taken during the event (with hashtags, connecting them to your company profile), you will immediately instigate conversation, target new audiences, and spread the word about your brand.

Create a Photo Competition
Encourage your followers to send in entries in the hopes of winning a prize. Providing you make the prize appealing enough, you can expect a good response, particularly as users share their entries through other social media outlets. Responding to as many entries as possible will also encourage more users to participate and help spread the word. If done right, this could seriously increase your number of potential customers.

Share Insight
Give your followers (your potential customers) a look into what happens behind the scenes in your business. Many businesses have already begun taking advantage of this concept and post photos from inside their offices. This demonstrates how their businesses run by showing the day to day operations, how particular tasks are dealt with, and how products or services are produced. Such photos can give followers insight into the way your business operates, allowing them to make a more personal connection with your brand.

Word spreads quickly in social media, because social media sites—like Instagram—are important to the public, to your customers, and should therefore be important to you and your business.

There were a little over 15 million users of Instagram at the beginning of 2012 and that number has already exploded to over 80 million within just six months. People love sharing photos—and that’s a fact. And because Instagram and other forms of social media are the most popular ways of doing this, smart businesses will take advantage of it. Will yours be one of them?

Check out the Instagram app and see what it can do for your business today.

Steve writes for – a website designed to help increase your Instagram Likes or Instagram following.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Leave Loose Ends Looser

Some novelists struggle most with the ends of their books, writing multiple draftsall of which turn out just as crappy as the first. The good news is that the Bests have this same problem. The bad news is that you’ll never finish your book unless you stop trying to make it perfect.

All your creative writing teachers—not to mention your impossible-to-please critique group—have told you once if not a hundred times that you need to tie up those loose ends. And while, for the most part, they’re right, if your readers stick with you till the end, you better give ‘em some answers!

BUT, don’t worry about delivering absolute resolution. If you want readers to be thinking about your message after the last page, then you have to leave them with something to wonder at. Happily Ever After is nice for Disney, but it’s the death of your characters. Readers can easily shelve your novel, and walk away with the empty satisfaction of seeing something to its end.

I’m not saying happy endings can’t be brilliant ends, but Happily Ever After can't. It says “the most important part of my characters’ lives are over and they will do nothing else challenging for the rest of their lives, but they’re happy forever, so it’s okay”. No. That is not okay.

If your book is to have any lasting impact, those loose ends have to be tied with room to slip. Perhaps the bad guy still has too many followers; perhaps the protagonist’s brother died, leaving emotional struggles for him to work through; perhaps they’re still not over what happened in the book but they’re moving on to the best of their ability.

In all of these scenarios, the end of the book is more like the end of a chapter in the protagonist’s life. But what if you don’t want to write a sequel? Okay, don’t. Really, it’s not necessary as long as you've written and ended your story in a way that leaves the reader feeling confident in the protagonist’s ability to handle that future.

Readers want to know that your characters have conquered what they set out to conquer, and that they will be able to take on whatever may come beyond the back cover.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

The Fine Line

There’s a fine line between telling your readers too much and not enough, and your publisher won’t ask you to pick a side; he’ll tell you to tightrope the thing over Niagara Falls and back.

So how do you, you know, do this impossible task?

Well, you need to take a good hard look at the scene you're writing and ask yourself: If the vein is pulsating visibly in Jack Rager’s head…do I reallyneed to say he’s angry, too? Can’t they see that? Haven’t I shown them enough?? He just punched a mirror for goodness sake! He has shards of glass poking out of his knuckles!—Get the point?

The best way to assure that you’re not explaining too much and your readers can still understand the scene is to describe the physical details vividly. Yes, add some key commentary into the scene, don’t lose your protagonist’s viewpoint, but show, show, show!

If Rager’s pulsing veins and bloody fist aren’t enough, then nothing will satisfy the reader.

Most importantly, remember not to underestimate your reader. Our brains naturally fill in details between the lines. If you tell them Jack Rager was leaving footprints in the dust of the foyer of the abandoned house of St. Holy Lane, then they’ll already be creating the rest of the picture for you. They’ll see the dead rat in the corner, the eerie moonlight exposing a broken chair by the wall and the scratches disappearing beneath the basement door.

Read back through some of your favorite books and see how much detail they provided and compare that with what you were imagining. It’s quite different, you’ll find, and it’s the reason why when we watch the movie interpretations of these same books, we don’t always understand the director’s choice in sets. “Where’s the broken chair?” we ask. “And there shouldn’t be a hallway there; that’s where the hairless cat painting hung!”

In the end, if there’s something we should’ve said or said too much about, it’ll be someone else that catches it. After all, we knew all along that the reason why Jack hated everybody and everything to do with art was because his mother never liked the finger paintings he brought home from preschool, but sometimes we forget that the reader doesn’t also know this, too, and that’s okay.

Leave it to your trusted first reader to pick out these things. By all means, be as proactive as possible. Make checklists and charts and sticky-note reminders, but make sure you let someone else (preferably someone with a background in writing) read it before you waste your time and money on stamps and SASEs.

You can’t catch everything, but two heads are, most certainly, still better than one.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Our So-Called Social Life

“Thank God for social networking,” a writer friend said to me recently. “That’s about all the social life I can handle!”

I’m sure your first thoughts were like mine…Oh how sad…Social networking doesn’t really count…SO GLAD I’m not like that…

But if you’re in the midst of writing a new book, as I am, then chances are that you are “like that”. At least for the time being.

To others, it may seem like you’re sacrificing your relationships for a dark room and a laptop. But those of us that write know that that’s not true at all—sometimes we like to write in bright rooms, too!

And even then, we may be spending less time with friends and family, but it’s for their own good!

Imagine, you’ve just stopped in the middle of a chapter—just as your juices were really starting to flow, too!—because Michael and Sally wanted to grab lunch and catch up. This is a hypothetical situation that won’t end well for anyone involved.

You, as the author, will invariably have your mind off in your book, with your characters, in their current predicament, trying not to lose the emotion of the scene or forget to add in that detail you just thought of and—does anyone have a pen? What? No, I just need to make a note on my napkin…What were you saying?

As for Michael and Sally, well, they’ll be having lunchtime conversation with only half of your conscious mind. It’s just not fair to you or them.

Don’t completely shun everyone and lock yourself away until you’re work’s complete—seriously, don’t—but a few lunch dates will have to be surrendered.

True friends and family will still be there at the completion of you book or project, I promise! But for now, thank God for social networking!

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Morning After

Some days we get on a roll, and not the good kind. We put down new scene and dialogue and plot twists and catch phrases and, before we know it, we’ve lost sight of our original story altogether.

Now, I’m not suggesting that your initial vision for your book should or will be exactly what you end up with. Because it shouldn’t and it won’t.

I’m talking about the days when your story starts to head in an entirely different direction, which is completely perfect and just what you’ve always dreamed it would be, until the next morning. And, unfortunately, there’s no morning after pill for a night of bad writing.

So what are you left with? A bright, beaming bundle of “who the heck authored this??” And the worst part? You start getting attached to it. You even kind of love parts of it!

It’s not that you want to keep it. You don’t. But you’ve already put so much time into it and it would really be a shame to erase it entirely. And you know what? I agree.

Something led you to make these changes, to deviate from your original plan. Don’t just ignore them—dissect them! Figure out what prompted you to move away from that plan. How well or not-so-well do these changes fit in with the rest of your book? Which ones have to go? Which ones can still be incorporated?

You’ll never get past your mistakes unless you try to learn from them. Go back and work with this section. Cut and add things until it’s cohesive with the writing so far and consistent with the plot to come.

You can’t discount a single day of work, not when they’re all worth something.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Double Standard

I’ve been thinking a lot about the double standard in book sales lately. Does it matter whether the protagonist is male or female to you?

There’s nothing strange about a woman reading a novel from the perspective of a boy or man, but suggest a guy read a novel about a girl and expect to receive an insincere promise to “check it out” when he gets the chance.  And don’t hold your breath. He probably won't.

A close friend tried to explain it to me, saying “men have different roles then women; they can’t get anything out of a novel by a woman, because it’s not shaped to fit their specific purpose as men.” Well said, I thought, but I had a few questions.

Like isn’t every man’s purpose in life different? And then, could a book be tailored to every man’s different purpose simply because it’s told by a man? And don’t women have specific purposes in life, too? And how, then, are they able to enjoy or learn from any novels about males?

The most respected works of all time (respected by both sexes) are invariably tales of men. You might disagree, thinking “What about Austen? What about AUSTEN??” But, honestly, how many men have you caught nose deep in Sense and Sensibility or Emma? Very few.

But why should men be interested in the escapades of strong women? I guess, it’s only fair to ask then, why should women care about the battles of brave men?

For a novel to have a shot at reaching the minds of men and women of all ages, does a protagonist need facial hair, or the promise of it?

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Unprofessional Formatting

Now, strictly speaking, formatting doesn’t have an effect on whether a publishing house decides to take on your novel or not. But I’m speaking loosely today.

Submitting an oddly formatted manuscript is a kind of subconscious first strike against you in the evaluating process, while the assessor might deny any conscious disapproval.

Let me be clear, though. I’m not saying that a manuscript in size-eleven font is going to be thrown directly into the no pile. I’m not even sure if there is a physical “no pile” in this digital age.

No, what I’m warning against is putting your entire book in 18-point font, bolded, and italicized with you own page numbers, randomly spaced line breaks, and double spacing your own lines by leaving a blank line between them (as opposed to using the handy-dandy double space tool… which was made for that).

In case you’re wondering, yes, I have actually received a manuscript that looked like this. Still, I didn’t immediately discount it. But did I have a low expectation for an author who couldn’t even keep a consistent font style throughout the entire novel? Certainly.

After adjusting the size, font, and reversing the bolding and italicizes, I finally got the book to the point where it was at least readable. By this time, I have to admit I was slightly put out with the author, but I tried my best to go into the story with an open mind.
It was difficult.

But eventually, I got past the authors special pagination, which had sentences cutting off erratically, and was able to glimpse a pretty good story and fairly capable writing. I couldn’t recommend the author for traditional publishing, but I suggested the house offer her one of their other publishing options.

The moral of this story isn’t that publishers will pick apart books based on their formatting before considering the actual writing—the truth couldn’t be more opposite. Publishers are looking first for potential in debut authors. Although, as an evaluator, I’m asked to consider the professional nature of the submitted work and, for me, wildly altered documents factor into that (at least a smidge).

What I want to impress on you is the importance of keeping the formatting of your manuscripts standard and simple. Let your words and characters speak for themselves. Don’t hide them under special fonts and strange page layouts!

The last thing you want is for an evaluator to have to “get past” your unique idea of a manuscript design in order to unearth your story. Present it to them as a cleanly wrapped gift.


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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Another Cinderella Story?

One of the things we struggle with most as writers is originality.

I once heard that every story there is to tell has already been told. That’s sounds pretty black and white, though, doesn’t it? Non-Fiction writers, especially, will argue till their faces turn purple that their individual experiences are unique beyond compare.

But that’s the every-snow-flake’s-different vision, the no-two-people-are-the-same view. And I’m not sure which to believe some days. Black and white? Or gray all over?

I’ve often wondered whether that someone was right. Has every storyline been explored? Honestly, how many times can I see Cinderella find her metaphorical or literal prince at the ball? And tragic endings don't necessarily solve this issue. Think of a movie that ends with “The Big Game”. What happens in the end? Either they win, overcoming people’s expectations and beating their sore-losing opponents, or they lose, learning a greater lesson from their defeat.

And how many times can we watch the hopeful character at the climax of the movie walk out of their potential employers office with a shocked/slightly sad look on their face (to which their family/friends quickly tell them "you’ll get it next time") only to say they’ve gotten the job. Did they have you fooled? Would you be shocked even if they hadn't gotten it? No. Why? Because you know they’ll learn something from the experience. Where have I heard that before?

So have we seen it all? Catch me on a bad week and I might say yes, but most days I’m a romantic, and I believe there’s still one or two more unexplored avenues out there in Author City. Maybe I’ll be the one to find it. Maybe you will. But I don’t think either of us should worry too much about it.

Were you blown away when (SPOILER) good triumphed over evil in Harry Potter? No, because that’s what happens in rags-to-riches, powerless-to-powerful stories. And here’s Rowling’s secret: she understood that that’s how people actually want their stories to play out. People want to believe that there’s hope, that dark will always disappear in the face of light.

There’s a reason that we keep writing these “cliché” plots. Because readers, at the core of their beings, respond to them! And it doesn't matter that we knew Harry would win in the end. We wanted to see how he did it, and what he learned along the way.

So write another Cinderella story! Just make sure the journey to happily ever after is all your own.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Need Some Space?

One of the reasons why it’s so easy to edit the work of others, compared our own, is because we have all the distance in the world from it! We haven’t spent hours or days (or YEARS) with our minds perplexed over every little period placement. So we can make an honest judgment about the quality of the work.

Why is it so difficult to do this with our own work? Because, not only will we justify the problems, or settle with them (“It’s better than the first draft…”), but we’ll get caught up in the original vision we had for a scene or the initial way we phrased that sentence because it was pretty darn clever! Well, wasn’t it? Maybe not, if it pulls you out of the story or gives you that uneasy feeling every time you read over it.

We can edit others’ work better than our own, because we’re not bogged down with our own intentions. Although it was with good intentions that we wrote that risky metaphor, comparing a celery stick to a Hallmark card, intentions can often lead us astray.

What can we do, then? How do you get that necessary distance from your own work when you’ve just spent an hour trying to decide whether you should write “Martha said” or “said Martha”?

Unfortunately, there is no easy way—sorry, no miracle solution here.

BUT (I knew you were waiting for it), you can create some space! You just need some patience—ugh, I know right? Who has time for that?!

YOU do. Or you have to. I’ve found that the best way to look at my own writing with fresh and semi-less-biased eyes is to spend a day or more away from it. Now, obviously this isn’t something that you can resort to every day or you’d never be done. But it’s important to get some space after a chapter or other breaking point before heading back for some intense editing. Step away from your own all-consuming thoughts about that ONE DARN PARAGRAPH for a day, and get some insight!

This post isn’t meant to downplay the importance of enlisting a few trusted writing peers to look over your work, but as I’m coming to the end of my own book’s first chapter, I’m gonna be focusing on the early stages. And you never want to open yourself up to that kind of critique (no matter how good-intended) that early on.

Remember how those intentions can lead you astray? You don’t want to be influenced like that when you’ve barely discovered where you and your characters are heading. No matter how many years you’ve been detailing the past, present, and futures of their lives, we all know that the book we set out to write is never the one we end up with in the end, so we don’t need any extra help pushing it off course from our initial vision! We have a specific story we needed to tell here, after all!

Exercise the restraint you need to get some space and insight. But after you’ve gotten a better idea of where you’re going, and a fair amount of chapters under your belt, enlist the help of a friend. They’re likely to catch what you’ve missed (or maybe been denying to yourself).

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Dreaded Blank Page

It’s been a while since I faced my last blank word document with the intention of beginning a book. I figured this time, after having one manuscript under my belt, the horrible white blankness wouldn’t be as frightening. Well, I wasn’t just wrong, I was WRONG.

Last time I faced this vacant beast, I was starting work on a little side project, something I hadn’t even really planned. Something that initially resembled my favorite book at the time a little too much. Over the next couple years it morphed into its own story with twists and turns even I hadn’t anticipated. But there wasn’t that same fear in the beginning, not the fear I felt when beginning my newest project this past Thursday.

It’s easy to see why. There wasn’t so much expectation riding on that book. The project I’ve just started has been in the works for nearly three years now. And from the first sticky note to my book’s forty page reference bible, it’s been an uphill battle. Or battles. Now, I’ve won the majority of them, fixing as many of the kinks in the plot as I can and figuring out the back-stories and motivations for my characters, putting off the first words of my novel till last Thursday.

But facing the blank word document that I’d already saved as “book”…that wasn’t an uphill battle. That was a left-handed sword fight up a cliff faceKeep in mind that I’m right-handed. Also keep in mind that my opponent is the metaphorical equivalent of Inigo Montoya.

So what did I do? I created a header and wasted a few minutes deciding which font to put “Chapter One” in, as if the formatting of my manuscript was at all in my hands if it ever did get picked up for publishing. ßYou see that! That’s why starting this manuscript was so terrifying.

My mind was already worried about the querying process! Oh how I’m getting ahead of myself! But then again, how can I not think about it? I’ve spent years working towards the first book of this series of a lifetime, pouring over fictional details of a world and a story that I can only hope will touch as many lives as possible. So every wannabe author’s dream, right?

Eventually, I just had to put some words down, and then begin the constant game of second-guessing my phrasing. And now I’m happy to say, I’ve got something great underway! (Bet you’ve never heard a writer claim THAT before!) Well, think what you want. No one will believe in it if I don’t believe in it first.

How do you work up the courage to overcome the dreaded blank page?

Photo taken from

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Can You Write Where You Work?

There are two things that I find incredibly difficult. Or, at least, two I want to talk about today.

1.  Staying calm when a bee flies into my car’s open window.
Sometimes, in the moment, it’s hard to sensibly weigh my options in a situation like this. On the one hand, I could do everything possible to get rid of the bee: wave my arms about wildly, swerve all over the road, scream, attempt to roll the windows all the way down, have my hair begin to fly into my face, slam on the breaks, hit the gas, etc. And maybe, just maybe, avoid a bee-sting in the process. On the other hand, I could stay tensely calm, focus on the traffic around me, and chance the devilish thing landing on me and stinging me, or biting me—who knows what they’re really capable of?
In the moment, it’s not always easy to see what the better option is. Having faced this, though, I 've chosen the latter option. Not only did I feel brave, but I escaped the incident unscathed.
I did not have this luxury in the office last week when a huge buzzing flew past my ear. I let out a hushed squeal and ruffled the hair beside my ear (just to make sure he wasn’t hiding in there with his buzzer off). I quickly sized up my situation. There was a buzzing something in the house that liked to fly at my head before veering left or right at the last second. One of the other employees had me in her direct line of vision, so I couldn’t swing at it without appearing insane. I watched as the wasp or bee or whatever flew past the girl . . . not a flinch!
I realized I had a bee-in-the-car situation. I had to sit still and look professional and in control, or risk losing every ounce of credibility I held at this internship. So I sat still. I kept one eye on my work and the other on my buzzing enemy.
2. Writing where I work
Is it just me, or is it difficult to write at the same spot where you work? Even the work I do—reading manuscripts and writing about them—seems to spoil the atmosphere of my own writing projects if it’s done in the same place. It makes want-to write and plan my current project into have-to work. It turns creativity into productivity. And that’s a bad transition. I’m not saying that being productive is bad, but productivity is one of those words that sounds like a marketing team is breathing down my back. And that doesn’t exactly get my creative juices a-flowin'.

Writing at the same desk where I work seems almost more harmful to my concentration than having a buzzing something flying around my head. And it’s ironic, because I view my new book as my real work. My time considering plot, character, and words at home is part of my real office hours. I can’t have these kinds of distractions if I want to produce my best work.

So I’m quitting my internship! No, not really. But I’m no longer working at my writing desk. It may seem silly, but just try telling a professional athlete that all of his/her superstitions are silly!
It’s all in our heads, but you see, that’s just where my book is, too.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

First-Day Mistakes

So I’ve had a little over a week to reflect on the first day of my publishing house internship, and I think there are just a few key things that I can improve on this week.

1.  Paranoid about Being Late
Having forgotten my phone last Wednesday, the only way I could tell time was by using my laptop, which is large and cumbersome and could only be kept on in the Starbucks I had camped out in for the majority of the morning. Paranoid about being late, I estimated that the six minute walk to the office would take twenty minutes, that a two minute bathroom break would consume ten minutes, and that my laptop would take an entire five minutes to shut down. So, like a good intern wanting to arrive early, I left Starbucks at 9:20am. I didn’t need to be there until ten.
My laptop took two minutes to “hibernate” and my powder room trip took, at most, sixty seconds. I then spent three minutes fixing my hair to look exactly the way it did when I entered the restroom, and two attempting to mentally speed up time to fulfill those twelve extra minutes I now had. I didn’t want to turn my laptop back on, so I began to make my way toward the office at an atypically sluggish pace.
The walk did not take the nineteen minutes I’d hoped it would.
Today, I will not be so exceptionally early.

2.  Exclamation Points are Unprofessional
I’ve always felt that exclamation points are a tad unprofessional. I abstain from using them in any sort of professional environment (for the most part). And perhaps it’s because I grew up in the texting-era, but conversations in text, without exclamation points, smiley faces, or ha-ha’s, automatically appear angry or bored to me.
In the office we use the instant messaging feature on Skype to communicate quietly, allowing those workers evaluating, editing and designing manuscripts to focus. It’ll take some getting used to for two reasons. The first: I feel like I can hear the publisher typing out his response in the other room and I feel silly for not just walking to the back of the house and talking with him. The second: I have to figure out the amount of animation I can let slip into my questions and responses.
3. Push Down the Hunger
I spent that first day smelling my peanut butter sandwich, considering my peanut butter sandwich, and imagining myself eating my peanut butter sandwich. But I never actually ate my peanut butter sandwich.
Oh sure, I had an hour long lunch break at my disposal, but I couldn’t take it. Why not? I didn't want to leave without letting the publisher know, but I also didn’t want to give him a play-by-play of my every move if I didn’t need to. I didn’t want it sounding like I needed my hand held, like I needed his approval to eat. Did I?
Despite these minor mistakes, my first day went well. I got to spend the entire day reading and call it work (Can you say dream job?). The publisher was impressed with my evaluation, and due to that, entrusted me with a lengthy memoir to evaluate on my second day. Although it seemed a little less like a reward about halfway through... STILL, I learned something from that potential author. And I love that!

Every manuscript I start reading through is like the first stab of a shovel into the ground. I could find a treasure underneath! Yeah, there’s gonna be some flaws. It’s been in underground for months—if not years! It may have some dirt or mud distorting it on the surface, but I get the privilege of determining whether it’s going to shine once all that’s cleaned off.

And every book that comes in has that potential! It's sort of similar to assuming that every new person you meet could be your best friendno matter what they look like, talk like, or where they come from. Wouldn't that be beautiful?

Photo From:

Monday, May 21, 2012


Last Wednesday:

I woke up this morning feeling a bit like Andy from The Devil Wears Prada. I’m beginning a small internship at a publishing house in Richmond today. All in all, things haven’t gone that bad so far. Granted, I don’t have to be in the office until about ten and it’s still before nine, but I’m determined to start the day positive. So I was positive when I had to get up at 5:45am to catch the last bus into the city at 7:15. And I was positive when I realized I forgot to bring both my iTouch (for musical inspiration) as well as my phone. I was also positive when I got off the bus a stop too early, and when I walked around the city for fifty minutes desperately searching for somewhere to set up camp (i.e. take out my laptop to keep track of time).

With a possibility of rain, I couldn’t hunker down on any old bench. I tried the public library—only a block over from the publisher’s office—but it doesn’t open ‘till ten. How convenient, right? So I trudged on, heavy briefcase hanging from a strap that dug into my shoulder. I tried not to walk down the same streets more than once after a man asked if I needed help and directed me toward a small, local, hole-in-the-wall diner when I asked for a Starbucks.

But I kept going. Mostly because I had no choice, nowhere to stop and sit, and I needed to find a place to pull out my laptop—I had to check the time. I needed a watch. After all this, I was not going to be late on my first day. This was my dream job. Internship. Whatever. And after being told by my interviewer that the company has never taken an intern from my university, and that they normally only take grad students, and they normally come from the University of California, or from UVA, or Yale, I was not going to be late.

I want to work in publishing. In the business of books—preferably the printed version. It’s a romantic’s job. One where words aren’t just power, but money. Where our main goal is to teach the world something new. Where fiction and adventure and romance are as integral a part of our realities as whatever is featured in the New York Times. Where plot and character development fuel our sanity. Where I feel at home.

I did not feel at home next to Marie’s Dry Cleaners, where a homeless man sat jingling a cup of change, shouting “Hey baby!” And if publishing was home, then why did I wake up feeling like Meryl Streep was about to blame me for traffic on the freeway? Maybe it was because I felt like I had to measure up to Yale and UVA. Maybe it was my irrational fear of disappointing people, particularly superiors. Maybe I was afraid I wouldn’t be good at the very career I had my heart set on.

It’s all those things. I’m terrified of a rerun of my first job at Friendly’s. No training and exasperated sighs whenever I would need assistance—it wasn’t the friendliest environment.

But, like the Brady Bunch, I’ll keep on keepin’ on. I did in my search for a Starbucks, and here I sit, in a cozy corner of one of VCU’s dining facilities, drinking a tall, white chocolate mocha frappuccino. I may have asked for a light with no whip, and it may have come back neither light nor without whipped cream, but I’m staying positive. And together, with any luck, my positivity and my frappuccino will cool the sweat from my back and deliver me to my internship scent-free.

I’m ready to dive into the world of publishing. I’ve struggled my way up the ladder, and forced myself to the end of the board. Now, all that holds me back is the daunting look of my destination from a distance. I’m about to take that first step. It’ll lead to a total submergence in manuscripts, marketing, and mental exhaustion. But here’s the thing;

I’m pretty sure I can swim.

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