Wednesday, July 29, 2009

an Inspirational Journal is born

You know those journals, those journals with quotes in them, those journals with prompts and affirmations and sparkly flowery hard covers, spiral or perfect-bound, that clutter up the racks of stationary sections at B&N, those journals your mom keeps giving you for Christmas that encourage you with psychopathic insistence to Dream, Create, and Imagine? Those journals "created" by authors who've had an inspirational gift book or two do well in those stores?

Those journals are actually vomited up in the dead of 1-in-the-afternoon from the bellies of those authors' editors, and when that fails, those authors' editors' interns. Here is how a mass-market B & N Inspirational Journal comes into the world:

Step 1: Author writes quote-heavy inspirational/self-helpy book. It generally has pictures of sunsets and women-tribes dancing on beaches, and lots of soul-massaging bits about love and abundance.

Step 2: Book does OK at sinister big box stores.

Step 3: Publisher and sinister big box store make a deal to make an Inspirational Journal based on the book, for sale exclusively at that chain, and according to said chain's I.J. specifications.

Step 4: Time passes. Due date for said I.J. approaches.

Step 5: Editor goes through the original book, ripping out quotes and passages that could conceivably be reprinted in pale pink type on the pages of the Journal.

Step 6: Editor thinks up 4-5 sections for the journal to have, each with a different focus: "Giving", "Living with Spirit", etc.

Step 7: Editor comes up with an "exercise" or prompt for each section, culled from the original book.

Step 7: Editor gets busy with something else and chucks the whole shebang to intern. "Make it into a journal."

Step 8: Intern reads through material and finds it rife with surrealist, non-linear inspirationese littered at random throughout the sections:

e.g. "When you accentuate the operational, a whole world of grateful bliss unwinds." (no further explanation)
e.g. "We must continue to seek our soul, even when your [sic] caught up in the wirlwind [sic] of the work-a-day."
e.g. "Exercise: List your most treasured childhood possessions. How did these precious possessions weave a safety net of nurturing solace?"
e.g. "An occupation of confidence must be developed." (no further explanation)
e.g. "I support myself by deleting rage." (no further explanation)

Step 9: Intern runs to editor. "This Journal is completely incomprehensible! We have to start again."
Editor: (rolling eyes) "Just make sure the margins are OK."

Step 10: Intern goes back to desk and rewrites Journal until it is at least semi-OK-10% readable. And fixes page breaks and margins.

Step 11: Publisher waves magic wand and produces Journal with original book's author's name on it, it goes to B&N, mothers everywhere buy it for their daughters for x-mas. Or more likely, the day after x-mas at 50% off. Cheap!

Step 12: Mass inspiration ensues.

In other news, the Head Ed got offered free access to some sort of writing retreat this weekend, doesn't want to go, and is passing the buck on to a curious INTERN in the name of professional development. Yippee! This will be INTERN's first time at any sort of writing retreat/seminar/conference/anything, and she is looking forward to (cough *thefreefood*) all the Inspirational experiences she will be sure to have. Full report anon!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

small press roundup, part 1

INTERN is back at it today, and was relieved to see that the eds hadn't found a perkier, more mentally stable intern in INTERN's absence (the old intern switcheroo apparently happens sometimes: on the train this morning, paranoid fantasies that Nemesis Intern had taken over and would be sitting there licking INTERN's rightful decline envelopes when she got in). All is well.

INTERN has been meaning to make a list of her favorite small presses, and for this particular batch she has whittled it down to:

a) presses whose books were so good and smart and bizarre they reading them was akin to taking a psychoactive substance.


b) presses based in Vancouver, BC (INTERN had a Can-lit fetish for a solid 8 years).


c) presses whose editor or author at some point bought INTERN a misguided beer.

Tsunami Editions: Daring, almost psychotically experimental poetry press associated with Vancouver's Kootenay School of Writing, actively publishing between 1984 and 2001. If you can find a copy of Brixton Fractals by Allen Fischer, read it. It will blow your dome.

LINEbooks: More experimental/political/Language-inspired poetry out of the Vancouver scene. Check out Reg Johansen's Courage, My Love and pretty much everything else they published in 2006.

Anvil Press: Anvil Press publishes a whole whack of books every year, but INTERN always looks forward to when they publish the winner of the International 3-day Novel-Writing contest every year (which is, btw, coming up in September:

Tuumba Press: Who wouldn't love a small press founded and still edited by, um, Lyn Hejinian? Wait, anyone?

Arsenal Pulp Press: Because they have a book coming out about knitbombing, or something—where vegan hipsters go out at night and knit cozies around city telephone poles. And that's neat.

Muumuu House: Because they randomly sent INTERN a book of poetry in the mail, and it was good. That's enough to make them an instant favorite, in INTERN's books.

Now INTERN has a pile of submissions to read so high its top ms is actually in danger of setting off the sprinkler system.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

den of frivolity

Last night while listening to the radio and drinking some sedative tea, INTERN had some deep psychic communication with Beyonce of Destiny's Child, who shared the following publishing insights with INTERN:

"If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it."

She's clearly talking to publishers who rejected a manuscript, only to kick themselves when said manuscript is picked up by a publisher with better abs.

"Can you pay my bills? Can you pay my telephone bills? Can you pay my auto-mo-bills? If you did then maybe we could chill."

INTERN already covered this one a zillion posts ago, but it bears repeating: Beyonce is now speaking as a publisher, letting writers know she wants manuscripts that bring home the bacon. Or is she speaking as a writer demanding a substantial advance? Can she chill with Harper-Collins, but not a small indie house? How big are her auto-mo-bills anyway?

"I don't want no scrubs. A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me." *INTERN has been alerted that this is actually a TLC song. INTERN can only assume Beyonce must have consulted with them at some point.*

Scrub = unagented ms from the slush pile. No love from Beyonce.

"My man's been cheating on me. Been running round here with this little tenderoni."

Man = author. Little tenderoni = rival publisher/agent. No love.

"Ladies, leave your man at home. The club is full of ballers and they pockets' full grown."

Obviously a call for female writers to leave the house and go mob some literary agents ("ballers") at a writer's conference ("club"). But only agents with really big pockets.

"You'll be sayin' no, no, no, no no when it's really yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah."

Every author's response to rejection letters.

Upon massive public consensus, INTERN is going to take a break in a pleasant sea-side sanitarium (figuratively) and be back sometime next week. Peace.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

today INTERN is sleep-deprived

Sleep-deprived, and practically hallucinating. INTERN was mailing out galleys this morning, and inadvertently put $46.50 worth of postage on a small flat parcel destined for New Jersey. Caught it just in time. Yesterday evening when INTERN went outside to check on her basil, she thought to herself "the basil needs editing". Not thinning. Editing. And just now INTERN's task has been to track down contact information for famous authors to endorse less-famous authors' books, and has found herself gleefully composing improbable letters to the likes of Dr. Oz.

Luckily there are official tasks available to a frazzled INTERN on a day like this. Namely, taking all the file folders in the giant metal file-thing and flipping them around to face the other direction. Really. This task is not as boring as it sounds, because each flip of a folder grants INTERN a glimpse of what meaty or interesting document said folder contains, often book contracts and agent/editor/author correspondence.

Too tired to go on. Too many occurrences of the word "INTERN". Too many basil shoots. Now entering land of infinite psychosis.

Friday, July 17, 2009

today INTERN is editing chicklit

...or rather, a chick's-guide-to-life-after-college: first apartment, first office job, etc. It is something like 50,000 words long. Since INTERN herself is female and in the midst of her own first job-like endeavour, the eds figured INTERN was obviously qualified.

Word has searched the document and found 1293 occurrences of the word "latte".

Word has searched the document and found 981 occurrences of the word "shoe".

Word has searched the document and found 602 occurrences of the word "cocktail".

INTERN is thinking back to her roommate in freshman year of college, ostensibly the prototypical chick, who indeed drank a lot of lattes, went on dates, and owned many a pair of shoes, but was also an accomplished french-horn player, a savvy businesswoman, and deeply spiritual to boot. Don't get INTERN wrong, the chick-lit thing can be fun and intelligent and authentic, but just plugging in a lot of chick-related keywords doesn't make the book suitable for so-called chicks any more than plugging in the words "hail satan" ad infinitum makes a book suitable for death metal fans. Chick-ness has to arise organically from the material, not be splattered over the ms like bottle of nail polish.

INTERN has learned that her roommate is throwing another house party tonight, start time 12:30 AM, so she has been making a lot of trips to the office kitchenette for coffee in anticipation. Straight coffee—no lattes, mind you! Those are for chicks!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

mysteries of the cheekbone

INTERN has finally figured out why there is always a handful of tall, unemotive, strangely intimidating young women standing by the bathroom mirror doing their makeup. It took some teen-detective-style snooping (following one of these women down the hall after her impeccably timed yet tiger-like exodus from the bathroom) but INTERN can now report with 100% confidence that there is some kind of obscure modeling agency at the back of the building, staffed by two male director-like people who were speaking to each other in Swedish.

INTERN wonders what it would be like if the modeling agency and Wusiness Beek did a swap for a day, the Wusiness Beekers hanging around bathrooms looking leonine and the models snickering over their stocks as they rode the elevator down at lunchtime to get some very large falafel from the place next door.

While she was at it, INTERN also (somehow) managed to snoop her way into an aged architect's office and was duly directed to the appropriate exit door—but not before getting an eyeful of his NEFARIOUS PLANS for Gotham City...

(today INTERN has been charged with a lot of tasks that fall under the Mailing Stuff category, and is feeling a little desperate for stimulation...)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

hell is finding a good title

E-mail from INTERN's book's editor this morning:

"I ran the [last 99,000 prospective] titles you came up with by our marketing people and sadly they can't work with any of them. We want something gritty and 'from the street'. Can you think of anything slangy that young people would pick up? If not, Stacy in marketing will come up with a title and you're going to hate it."

INTERN, for purposes of anonymity, probably shouldn't disclose what her book is about, but suffice to say INTERN is not, herself, particularly gritty or from the street (if you discount that anarchist hitchhiking phase a few years back). But let's just say the book is a guide to urban gardening (which it's not). Are the marketing people seriously wanting something like:

1. Yo Peeps, Let's Plant Some Shit: A Guide to Urban Gardening
2. The Smack-Down on Nasturtiums: Freaky Ho's Guide to Gardening
3. Pimp My Planter/Rock My (Window)Box: Gardening for the MTV Generation
4. String Beans and Skinny Jeans: Hipster's Guide to Hella Sick Veggies You Can Grow In Your Expensive Shitty Apartment
5. Shootin' up to Shootin' up (get it? plant shoots?): How I Went From A Gritty, Urban Street-Dweller to a Pleasant Urban Gardener Using the Power of Basil and Other Plants You Can Grow Yourself

INTERN has seen some scary titles emerge from the maws of Marketing People (and some good titles...but, weak as she is, INTERN's heart is constricted by fear of the former). INTERN is talking swarmy keywords, value-added subtitles, the whole works. If it sells it sells...

Advice to writers going through same: be afraid. Very afraid. Or you could just be trusting, which is perhaps a healthier option.

In other news, INTERN is putting together a list of her favorite small presses (especially poetry presses). Coming soon!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Publishing Process Part 1.75

So your manuscript has arrived in the mail, been logged and funneled to the appropriate editor, and maybe even sat through its first editorial meeting. What happens next?

In all likelyhood, it sits around through another editorial meeting or two while said editor hems and haws and checks the sales figures on your last book, and checks out similar books on the market and whether they're any good. There might be some chat as to whether or not there's room for your book on the already-tight publication schedule ("should we push back 'Feline Spies of the Dark Ages' to 11B and push this one through early?") and whether there are already too many books like yours in existence.

There will be phone calls. Sometimes, lots of phone calls. Editor A will call Marketing Person B over at the west coast office and ask if she thinks a book like this would sell. Marketing Person B will leave a message for The Guy at Borders and ask if he thinks he'd buy it for the store (sadly, his opinion matters a lot.) The Guy at Borders will fail to return her call, and the process will bog down even more. Your ms might be mentioned in a teleconference and opinions briefly cackled over the static.

Then there might be another meeting or two. If there are other publishers considering your book, and the editors at this one aren't totally sold, they'll sit back and wait for the other guys to make an offer. If this publisher wants your book, someone who's good with numbers will figure out how much advance $ to offer you.

Then, when they are good and ready, like a giant sloth in the sunshine, the publisher will slowly, slowly shift in the branches and make an offer on your book.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

But wait! You're not out of the woods yet. An offer is not a book deal. There's no deal until that contract comes in the mail, you sign it, they sign it, and it comes back to you again. And even then there might be a disaster like the publisher going bankrupt, or you coming down with meningitis, or the publisher deciding your completed manuscript is unacceptable. Nothing is truly frabjous until you're standing in a book store, pulling a copy of your beautifully-rendered book off the shelf. And before we get to that point, there are still several steps left to go in the Process.

Last publishing tip of the day, gleaned from an author-editor conversation INTERN overheard this morning:

When your uptight landlord asks what your book is about, "memoir of psychosis" is probably not what he wants to hear.

Sadly true!

Friday, July 10, 2009

notes on spiritual memoirs

INTERN has been plowing through the stack of submissions accrued over her mental health days, and has noticed a lot of memoirs coming in, particularly spiritual memoirs along the lines of "how I found Jesus/Kabbalah/meditation/Scientology and had a deep revelation that changed my life".

Some of these are clearly written by people who experienced or are currently experiencing psychosis or Messianic delusions (and my heart goes out to them), but most of them are written by people who have what psychiatrists call insight (self-awareness, consensus reality...). And to the latter group, INTERN has a few suggestions.

Memoirs are tricky, because they are ostensibly a genre in which you have full license to write about yourself—but if you actually just write about yourself (I I I I I)and presume people will be naturally interested in your doings, you have a really boring memoir.

Spiritual memoirs are even trickier, because you make the bold presumption that people will be interested in the doings of your temporal lobe.

This morning, INTERN has already read through 7 spiritual memoirs whose proposals sound kind of interesting and complex and far-reaching, but then the sample chapters look like a monkey went wild in an "I" factory. "I heard a voice from God, and then I got in my car and drove across 14 states to find the church I had seen in my vision, and when I found it, it was raining heavily and I fell to my knees and wept."

INTERN has said it before, and she'll say it again: you, per se, are not that interesting (neither, for that matter, am I). The fact that you reached enlightenment during a group mud massage class at a commune in San Francisco is not even, necessarily, that interesting. Beautiful, quirky, astonishing writing is interesting. Generous, thoughtful, curious, insightful explorations of a certain theme or relationship or time period are interesting. A series of events that happened to you that you think are interesting are not interesting.

If you can go through your memoir and delete every single reference to yourself, and still have it be a mighty good read, then you're onto something. Memoirs are about the world as much as they about you. At least, INTERN thinks so, although you shouldn't necessarily trust an intern.

In other news, INTERN was running a little late this morning so she jumped onto the elevator instead of taking the stairs. Who should be in the elevator but...Nemesis Intern. We made witty repartee, as you can see below:

Nemesis Intern: "Are your glasses on upside down?"
Elevator: "Ding!"

Have a nice day.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

60-hippie monsoon

This morning INTERN is bleary of eye and shaky of hand, and intensely relieved to be back at her little nook at the office after a lengthy 4th of July weekend-turned-surrealist movie.

It went like this:

Saturday, 7:03 PM: Roommate: "Hey, I met some cool people who live on a circus bus and I invited them over for a potluck."

8:12 PM: Bus-dwelling circus people arrive, wearing (most fittingly) an assortment of tutus, fur coats, colorful capes, and giant shoes. They bring lots of extra friends but no food, so INTERN's boyfriend starts making a vat of chili to feed the hordes.

9:00 PM: Off-the-wall hilarity when a young gentleman on LSD starts making amorous advances on the unsuspecting living room carpet. His girlfriend, also on LSD, pouts in a corner, her fairy wings folded up behind her back. Kids, this is why INTERN stays away from drugs.

10:10 PM: INTERN ducks into her bedroom to get something to find that four slightly out-of-place hipsters have pushed her bed against the wall and are setting up a drum kit, amps, and mics. "Uh, the guy with the clown wig said we could play a show in here."

11:00 PM: There is, indeed, some kind of indie-techno show going down in INTERN's bedroom. It is awesome. People are dancing sweatily and the band is clearly having the time of its life.

12:00 AM: Fireworks. (obviously)

12:40 AM: People start coming back into the house after the fireworks. The chili is finally ready, and the masses chow down.

1:30 AM: It becomes obvious that nobody has any intention of leaving...until MONDAY. Roomate: "Oh yeah, I thought a big sleepover would be fun."

This is where INTERN started to get nervous. There is nothing INTERN loves more than a good party, and technically a 60-hippie sleepover sounds like a barrel of fun, but there is a little snag when it comes to sleeping which is: INTERN must sleep or her already-tenuous grasp on reality will dissolve.

2:30 AM: It becomes obvious that nobody has any intention of sleeping...until MONDAY. The atmosphere is noisy and frenetic. INTERN takes a sleeping pill and barricades herself in her room.

4:30 AM: Banging of pots and pans in the kitchen. INTERN, heavily sedated, stumbles out of her room to see what is up. Two circus girls are boiling their menstrual cups on the stove. They explain the mechanics and environmental advantages of said to a dazed INTERN. INTERN goes back to bed.

5:30 AM: Someone is ringing a Tibetan gong to mark the sunrise. People are chanting.

At risk of making this an overly long, completely non-publishing related post, INTERN will sum up the rest of party by saying the second half of it was basically like watching the first half again in rewind. By Monday morning, INTERN was a cheerful and gracious yet mildly psychotic bundle of life. The circus bus left. INTERN, boyfriend, and roommate collapsed on various pieces of furniture.

Tuesday and Wednesday were bonafide mental health days: sleep, herbal tea, and lots of whole grains.

Today is Thursday! INTERN is back at her aforementioned nook, with a stack of manuscripts as high as a table waiting to be sorted through and read. Life is veryveryvery good!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


INTERN back from extended July 4th weekend hiatus! Back to regular scheduled INTERNING tomorrow.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

hives of apocalypse

Every now and then, an INTERN just needs to have fun. Last night, INTERN had fun by going to one of those eclectic, hipsterish street festival art-music-event things that happen in the city in the summer. INTERN's boyfriend came along, and it was indeed entertaining: we looked at sculptures made of safety pins and listened to hobo bands with their half-dozen accordions.

The night was going well. Someone in a purple VW bus had given us free cupcakes, and we were dancing to the music of the aforementioned hobo accordion band. Then INTERN heard someone say her name, and turned around to see the polished, eternally well-dressed Assistant Editor standing behind her, wearing his signature fedora.

This would have been all well and good were it not made awkward by the fact that INTERN had elected to wear a neon green, sequined flight suit and goggles that night, and her boyfriend was wearing a bear costume.

INTERN: Oh, hello Assistant Editor! Fancy seeing you here. Allow me to introduce my boyfriend.
Bear: *grunts in a bear-like manner*
Assistant Editor: Nice seeing you too, INTERN. Uh, see you tomorrow.
INTERN: Oh, OK. Cool. See you!

This is for reals what happens to THE INTERN whenever she leaves the house. This is probably the number one reason she will never, ever have a real job.

Luckily, Assistant Editor played it cool today. But then again, INTERN has not yet looked him in the eye.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

hot publishing trendz part 2 (and poetry)

More things that are apparently hot right now:

HOT: Repentance. e.g. "You've been very, very bad! Here's how to be good!" This trend started with diet books, spread to financial books about "repenting" from your naughty subprime mortgage-taking ways, and is now manifesting itself in a "green" light: "you've been very, very bad to the earth"...

HOT: Abundance: "Wait, don't get rich—appreciate what you already have!" Weirdly, INTERN has been noticing that books about abundance tend to be in hard-cover with thick paper stock, to make them seem weighty and, you know, abundant...with pages...

HOT: Teenage detectives. Do they ever get old?

And now for something completely unrelated. What follows is a short (long?) discourse on poetry. You've been warned.

A while ago someone commented asking THE INTERN to talk about poetry and its market (or lack thereof). Like most writerly young things, INTERN too has had her fling with poetry, even going so far as to briefly intern at a prominent literary magazine.

Let THE INTERN tell you something about prominent literary magazines. This one was run out of the editor's basement, and consisted of two people: the editor, and the managing editor (a former intern of his). That's it. The internship consisted of riding around [city redacted] in the editor's red sportscar listening to art gossip, with the occasional bout of being told what to like. The poetry world, waaaaaay more than the book-publishing world, is extremely tight knit and patronizy. This can be a good thing (Young Poet gets taken under wing of Old Poet, Old Poet helps Young Poet write better and eventually get published) and a bad thing (often the only way to meet said Old Poet is to enlist in an expensive and, INTERN suspects, homogenizing MFA program).

Like book publishers, literary magazine editors often solicit poetry and fiction from writers they know rather than depending on the slush pile for content. But literary magazines are way more likely than book publishers to actually print stuff from da pile. And since they're not really trying to make money off your poem, they don't care so much about your bio—just whether or not your poem's good. Buuuut since literary magazines generally have tiny staffs, whether or not your poem's good often comes down to just 1-3 opinions. The editor at the lit mag THE INTERN interned at enjoyed giving first-time authors a leg up in the world—it made him tingle inside—and was prone to calling them on the phone and introducing himself as Prominent Editor ("*gasp* prominent editor? really? what a thrill to hear from you!"). The poetry world is full of heros and magnanimous patrons. INTERN is not sure whether this is happy or sad.

As for mainstream publishers, the Tragically Hip have it right on the nose: "Don't tell me what the poets are doing/Don't tell me that they're talkin' tough." There are lots of funky, interesting small presses out there publishing good poetry; big publishers generally don't wanna know what the poets are doing unless it's for a big-name anthology coming out around, say, Mother's Day.

INTERN loves poetry. Publishers don't.

That's about it.