Monday, December 27, 2010

!!!surprise x-mas post!!! Everything INTERN Needs to Know About Manuscript Repair She Learned From Fixing Her Spaceship

Greetings, erstwhile readers! Over the course of the past six months, INTERN has found her thoughts straying to you time and again, wondering how you're doing and how your dear manuscripts are getting along. Now, in this warm and fuzzy season of well-wishery, INTERN is breaking her vow of bloggerly silence to indulge herself in a brief hello.

As some of you may know, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend have been living in a spaceship they bought for $750. For most of the past month, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend have been completely swallowed up in engine repair as they desperately strove to make it to Techie Boyfriend's family homestead in California in time for Christmas. Over the course of those alternatingly tense and joyful hours spent under the hood of the spaceship, or lying underneath the spaceship while Techie Boyfriend dropped various tools on INTERN's face, INTERN realized that engine repair is basically the same as manuscript repair, except greasier and with a greater chance of getting blinded by terrifying chemicals.

INTERN would therefore like to share with you some quick insights, now that she has abandoned writing for auto shop. Here they are:

Everything INTERN Needs to Know About Manuscript Repair She Learned From Fixing Her Spaceship

1. It helps to have a beta driver.

Because there is a good chance that you, on your own, are completely delusional:

Techie Boyfriend: Whoa. Why is the spaceship shuddering like that when you start it?
INTERN: (gripping the wheel and grinning broadly) Hmm? It’s not shuddering.
Techie Boyfriend: What’s that black smoke coming out of the engine?
INTERN: (gazing vacantly straight ahead) There’s no black smoke.
Spaceship: (spitting balls of fire) Frak-bleargh-akakakakakakkkk
Techie Boyfriend: Oh my god. Pull over. We’re about to blow up.
INTERN: (turning to Techie Boyfriend and snarling viciously) WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO GODDAMN NITPICKY ABOUT EVERYTHING???

2. There are parts of your engine held together with zip ties that really ought not to be held together with zip ties.

This might explain why that gas station attendant who walked by when you were checking your oil the other day begged you with tears in his eyes not to attempt to drive your van any further.

3. The functionality of your engine is not “subjective”. It is not “different for everybody”. Either your engine runs or it doesn’t. Either it degenerates into a smoking wreck in an east Texas rest area or it doesn’t. Either it is purring along nicely at 60 mph or it is sitting on the side of the highway with the four-way flashers blinking.

If you are still not sure which camp your engine falls into, just ask any objective bystander for a speedy clarification.

4. You cannot step into the same engine twice.

This is an ancient saying attributed to Heraclitus. What Heraclitus means is that, every time you pull the head cover off to adjust the clearances on the valves just one last time before driving your van off into the sunset, you will discover that the engine you thought you’d been working on for the past infinity days has been replaced by a completely different engine with a completely new set of completely impossible-to-solve new problems.

5. If you take apart your engine, you will find that some idiot stripped a bolt in the intake manifold, figured it “wouldn’t matter that much”, and created a horrible coolant leak that will now take you twenty hours to repair.

That idiot was probably you.

6. No engine part is an island.

That means you can’t replace the bejongler without realizing that the wokkapiggery and the bauschnauserum also need replacing. You will also realize with horror that the Imminent Death Cable is frayed to a half-millimeter in thickness, the Brake Pads of the Apocalypse are fossilized, and some young punk scratched your new gradient-fractal paint job with a key. The scary problem you initially set out to fix is actually trivial in comparison to the howling ruination that is the rest of your engine. Have fun with that, Chip.

7. Other people will try to distract you from completing your engine repair job.

Like the upstanding citizens of the Bryan, TX neighborhood association who give you 24 hours to clear your eyesore of a vehicle out of your friend’s driveway when the engine is already completely disassembled in the garage. And, um, the Arizona police.

But whatever happens (or whoever comes glaring), you must prevail over these minor distractions and get the job done, because at the end of your day you believe in your engine even if nobody else does, and you are determined to make it run. And screw Bryan, TX anyway.

8. There’s no shame in calling in some expert assistance if you get stuck.

Like your uncle’s cousin’s friend’s neighbor’s socially awkward but mechanically-minded teenaged son, who will help you diagnose that strange ticking sound in exchange for frightening amounts of Mountain Dew.

9. Your engine does not work through a mysterious and incomprehensible combination of wizardry and leprechauns.

In fact, your engine works through a rational and really quite accessible process of mundlefrommery, sparklemangery, and dequarkification. Like, RTFM.

10. If you keep at it long enough and don’t give up, your engine will slowly start to reveal its secrets.

You will start to realize that bolts that were impossible to unbolt two days ago now come off and on with ease. Wires that seemed to go nowhere yesterday now clip neatly in their sockets. Oil that was dripping all over your face yesterday is now staying obediently inside the proper receptacle. The mechanic’s flight suit that looked ridiculous on you last week is now looking authentically filthy, giving you reassuring amounts of cred when you’re waiting in line at Napa Auto Parts. You will start to realize that maybe this engine repair thing is possible after all.

11. No engine repair experience is ever wasted.

Because even if, God forbid, you end up hauling your spaceship to the junkyard, you will have learned so much, gotten your clothes so greasy, and tested your relationship with your beta driver to such an extreme level that you will approach your next engine repair job with that much more wisdom, insight, patience, and, um, possibly dread. You will be a stronger person. A more knowledgeable person. Perhaps a person who now requires a few years of mental and/or physical and/or marital therapy to work through all the issues that came up over the course of the Engine Repair Experience. But all in all, a person who is now better quipped than ever before to work with whatever engines the future holds.


That is all. Just in case anyone is fretting, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend made it to California in time for Christmas despite approximately twelve hundred engine-related disasters, and an exhausted INTERN spent the holiday lying on the couch like a sultan while Techie Boyfriend's many relatives fed her cookies and piled lots and lots of novels on the floor for her to read. What happiness!

INTERN misses you all and wishes you all ten thousand delights. May you all gallop into the new year with glee in your eyes and inspiration at your fingertips. Thank you for allowing INTERN the indulgence of this yuletide post. Godspeed!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

in which INTERN gets real/also a love letter


It's been fifteen months since a young and wide-eyed INTERN started this blog. Everything was so exciting! There were publishing secrets to uncover and manuscript snafus to ponder and Nemesis Interns to thwart.

Then, INTERN spent some time nailing down some thoughts on revision and book-buying habits.

After a few months of that, INTERN missed publishing so much she did a second internship and learned all about how Distinguished and oh-so-Selective publishers (and their authors) can be sort of crazy.

Shortly after, INTERN fled the venerable confines of that internship in order to stumble awkwardly through her own book's release and promotion while trying and, INTERN admits, probably failing to not let her anonymity become annoying.

And now, dear readers, dearest dears, most beautiful and friendly and clever ones, INTERN has said just about everything she feels like saying about publishing and writing. INTERN has emptied the junk drawer of her brain on this matter and all that's left are child-sized band-aids and dried-up rubber bands. INTERN does not want to dilute this blog with posts that aren't 100% stoked and earnest and alive, because y'all deserve better and can get it at such fine blogs as The Rejectionist and Pimp My Novel. Plus, it's time for INTERN to clear her mental plate for new projects and adventures.

So here's the deal:

INTERN might wander back to this blog now and then if/when she has something to say about writing/publishing/books. No idea when or how frequently.

If you'd like to be alerted to INTERN's other projects and adventures, then shoot an e-mail to internspills [at] gmail [dot] com, introduce yourself, say hello. INTERN would be delighted to hear from you, would sincerely love to get to know you better, and promises to write back. INTERN will also remain available for manuscript critiques and other stuff for former/current and new clients.

This has all been so wonderful and has brought so much joy and excitement to a seriously lowly INTERN's life. INTERN is actually shaking as she writes this because she's remembering how truly happy and ridiculous the past fifteen months have been (also, she has had way, way too much caffeine). Thanks to all of you for reading, and a special thanks to people like Editorial Anonymous and Editorial Ass whose bloggerly generosity in the first few months were a great encouragement to INTERN.

INTERN will now take a break from eulogizing to answer a question you might have, namely, Where is INTERN going from here?

Well, right now INTERN and Techie Boyfriend are living in a highly dubious motor vehicle INTERN bought with the last remnants of her freelance money. INTERN is finishing a novel she's been "working on" (aka painfully tearing apart and rewriting) for over a year and is probably going to try her hand at writing another blog about a different subject (the steel industry! mushroom identification! the repair and maintenance of highly dubious motor vehicles!). Writing about writing and publishing in this blog has made INTERN more aware of the ways in which her own writing is inadequate and immature, and she wants to spend the next few years (or, um lifetime) honing and practicing until her own fiction is up to the standards she has described in this blog.

So if you ever see a white 1985 Toyota pickup with a supremely unlikely-looking camper shell lurking outside your house, apartment, or bookstore, know that there is an INTERN sitting crosslegged in the back with her laptop or notebook, writing and writing with an earnest (or is that manic?) glint in her eye. Knock on the window if you like (but please be sure to simultaneously announce that you are not the police or some kind of assassin, because INTERN is easily spooked). INTERN can also be easily lured out of her hatch by a trail of granola or other such INTERN-friendly snack.

Thanks again, and please do write to say hello.

Now get out of here and go revise something before INTERN gets emotional. You'll all do great.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

5 thoughts on book promotion

After being detained in Dame Murderpool's bone-chilling basement cell for the better part of two weeks, INTERN escaped and has returned to North America, leaving Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor in Elmira's capable hands. (it's a long story. INTERN will save it for a rainy day).

Anyway, INTERN's book (still a secret) has been out for almost three months now, and while shivering in Dame Murderpool's cell, INTERN had the time to collect her thoughts on some things she's learned in that time.

-It helps to be friendly.

As opposed to being demanding, arrogant, vain, mean, prima donna-ish, or, in the words of INTERN's editorial assistant friend, "a f&^#ing psychopath." INTERN has been told this holds true outside of publishing too, but so far this has been unconfirmed.

-It helps to have people.

Mention you've just had a book published, and suddenly everybody you've ever met becomes your greatest spokesperson without you even needing to ask. INTERN's landlady spammed all 1,400 of her nearest and dearest e-mail contacts when INTERN told her about her book, and the librarians in INTERN's hometown all but took out a full-page ad in the local newspaper. It's not about "networking" or schmoozing up important-looking strangers at cocktail parties—just knowing people, pretty much any people, is fantastically useful. (PS: It helps if those people like you, or at least feel a kind of vague semi-approval in your direction—see previous point.)

-It helps to be innumerate.

As in, it helps to be so extraordinarily bad at math that you can blithely ignore the fact that for the time you spend promoting your book by maintaining a new blog, website, twitter and facebook page, getting up at 4 AM for radio interviews on the other side of the country, and having a nervous breakdown over your selection of outfits for a 15-second national TV spot in which you look like an anemic weasel, you will make approximately 75 cents per hour unless the sales are really, reaaaaally good.

-It helps to be available 24/7.

One of INTERN's publicist's favorite tricks is to call when INTERN is still in bed and say "Why haven't you written back to my e-mail yet?" in a voice that floods a very groggy INTERN's body with terror and adrenaline. Some radio and TV opportunities literally can't wait, and if you don't answer the phone on the first ring or hop in the first cab to the airport or whatever, there's no second chance. It can be hard to wrap your mind around the extent to which you're expected to be "on call" for potential media events, even several months after the book's release. But it's also a good sign, because it means your publisher's still pouring energy into your book.

-It helps to see everything as hilarious.

Book sales awesome? Hilarious!
Bizarre and possibly sinister Amazon review? Hilarious!
Radio host invents a sexy and outlandish bio for you on the fly? Hilarious!

So much of a book's success or failure depends on things you can't predict or control, so it's easier just to laugh at everything that happens in equal measure rather than get really psyched about the wins and really stressed about the downers.


And that's about all INTERN can think of for now.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mystery and Deception and Manuscripts: part 3

The new intern has just arrived at Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor Castle, where INTERN is holed up trying to save her great-uncle's ailing publishing house.

The new intern was a striking young lad of only sixteen. He strode in wearing a newsboy cap and smoking a long-stemmed clay pipe. He proffered his hand and INTERN shook it, impressed by the youth's confidant air.

"Manley Blacksmith, youngest son of Peter Blacksmith, at your service. Are there any query letters needs reading, then?"

Young Manley didn't waste any time. INTERN nodded approvingly.

"Welcome, Manley. As a matter of fact there's a whole pile of submissions that need sorting. You can work on that until The Gales of Thistledown Moor turns up, at which point the full range of your talents will be required."

INTERN was surprised to find herself speaking in such a formal manner. Perhaps the castle was getting to her.

She turned to Buckley, who was squinting at young Manley as if trying to figure out one of those Magic Eye pictures.


He ignored her. Instead, he pounced on the young intern, knocking off his cap. A pair of long red braids tumbled down from where they had been coiled, and Buckley let out a little yip of victory.

"I knew it—this intern is a fraud! Peter Blacksmith gave his youngest son to the monastery. This interloper is none other than the village milkmaid. I shall eject her from the premises at once."

He grabbed the young intern's arm.

"Stop that right now!" said INTERN. "She seems clever and efficient. She'll make a fine intern."

Buckley released her, his expression pained.

"But Miss INTERN—she's a girl."

INTERN arched an eyebrow at him and he rolled his eyes, reading her mind.

"You don't count, Miss INTERN, you're North American. Things are different here in Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor."

At this point, the young villager stepped up with her chin held high.

"Take me on, Miss. If you send me back to the village, I'll have to marry Hugh Hunchback and take care of his herd of cows, and he's eighty-five years old and his cows are even older. Plus I'm a hard worker and I'll do Spür Haus proud."

INTERN was relieved to hear her pronounce the house's name as it was intended to be pronounced. She smiled.

"What's your name?"

"Elmira Shackleton."

Buckley was shaking his head in disgust. INTERN ignored him.

"Well, Elmira Shackleton, welcome on board."

"Thank you ever so much, Miss."

Elmira paused for a moment, then her eyes lit up and she spoke again.

"I'd like tuppence a week."

"What's that?"

"Tuppence a week. Elmira Shackleton doesn't work for free, Miss."

INTERN grinned. This kid would go far. Before she had a chance to answer, Buckley exploded:

"Tuppence a week! Are you mad, girl? Interns don't get paid. You ought to be in the cowsheds swabbing dung!"

"That's quite enough Buckley!" said INTERN. "Elmira shall have her tuppence a week. And if she proves clever, she shall have sixpence. After that, two guineas!"

Buckley looked like he was about to faint. Elmira and INTERN exchanged a nod.

"Right then. I'll get started on those submissions," said Elmira, and set to work straight away.

INTERN turned to Buckley.

"Now Buckley, we'd better get started on that manuscript that's supposed to become a bestseller and save our publishing house. Where is it?"

Buckley scowled.

"You meanThe Gales of Thistledown Moor? I suppose the old lawyer didn't explain it, then."

"Explain what?"

"The manuscript was stolen by Dame Murderpoole on the day of your great-uncle's death."

"Who is Dame Murderpoole?"

Buckley rolled his eyes, still bitter at INTERN.

"None other than the notorious literary agent whose clients your great-uncle spurned for years."

"Is there a fast horse in the stable? Are her headquarters to the east or to the west?"

"I'd be careful if I were you, Miss INTERN. When Dame Murderpoole stole the manuscript, she also vowed to stop at nothing until every last descendent of the Baron's was dead as a spindlecob."

"But the Baron's last descendent is—"

"You," said Buckley. "Yes, Miss INTERN, the Baron's last descendent is you."


Will INTERN and co. retrieve the missing manuscript, or will it turn up on tomorrow's Publisher's Lunch? Will Dame Murderpoole fulfil her grisly vow? And how will Buckley adapt to the new, progressive culture at Spür Haus?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mystery and Deception and—no, breaking news!

When we left off last time, a mysterious rhyming intern had just arrived from the village.

However, INTERN cannot update you on the events at Shamsbury-pon-Spoor Castle because her head is still reeling from news of the vicious memoir battle that is rocking the UK.

Says the London Evening Standard:

New Labour may be well and truly dead but the memoirs fight is raging in a summer that will pit the former Labour leader against his oldest and closest ally.

Lord Mandelson has effectively scooped his former boss, Tony Blair, by giving an exclusive interview to tomorrow's Times after selling his memoirs to the pugnacious literary queen Victoria Barnsley at HarperCollins.

Meanwhile, at Random House, Tony Blair's recollections of his time at the top, The Journey, will be published in September by Gail Rebuck, the newly honoured Dame, who has social connections across politics and publishing and among London's cultural elites.

The £4.6 million deal has been long publicised but any details are treated as a state secret.

Dames! Queens! Secrecy! Deception! MANUSCRIPTS!

INTERN just heard on the radio that the parties involved have agreed to settle the matter by duel.

Dueling memoirists keep stiff upper lips.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mystery and Deception and Manuscripts: Part 2

When last we left off, INTERN had just stumbled into her late great-uncle's publishing office, located behind a trick bookshelf in a crumbling Cornwall castle. Will INTERN succeed at fulfilling her great-uncle's dying wish, and claim her rightful place as Baroness Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor?

INTERN heard the bookshelf grind into place behind her. Before her lay the wood-pannelled offices of Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor Editions. A lithe old man dressed entirely in tweed with a beard that reached down to his knees jumped up from his place behind an antique rolltop desk and came hurrying towards her.

"Oh Miss INTERN, I am so frightfully glad you've arrived. You're the spitting image of your great-uncle the Baron, God slather his soul with butter. I'm Buckley, the editorial assistant. At your service."

With those words, the old man took an elaborate bow. INTERN looked him over skeptically. Editorial assistant? The poor chap must be two hundred years old! INTERN's great-uncle must have been stingy with promotions.

"Your office is right this way, Miss. I've just put fresh candles in the candelabras. Do follow me."

INTERN followed Buckley to the back of the room, where a carved oak door opened onto a smaller, even more richly furnished office with a massive desk. Silver candelabras burned at either ends of the desk, dripping white wax onto the mahogany. Manuscripts written on parchment paper littered the floor. She turned to ask Buckley a question, but he was already retreating from the room.

"If you'll excuse me Miss, I'll go make you a pot of tea. The intern should be arriving from the village any day now, but it's a day's walk to the castle and I suppose this dreadful weather's held him up. Make yourself right at home. I'm sure you'll set the press' finances right as rain in no time—the late Baron always said you would."

With that, Buckley disappeared. INTERN sank into the Louis IV chair behind the desk, overwhelmed by the task ahead. Buckley was clearly counting on her to save the press. But where was the manuscript for The Gales of Thistledown Moor?

INTERN reached down and began to sift through the piles of manuscripts on the floor. There were dozens of seafaring how-to manuscripts written out in a shaky hand, a few Gothic romances and etiquette manuals, and what seemed to be a 2000-page family saga with long slashes of red pen through most of its paragraphs.

The Gales of Thistledown Moor was nowhere to be found.

Forbidding herself to succumb to despair, INTERN did what any reasonable newly-minted executive editor would do: she took out a fresh sheet of paper and a pen and started to draft a press release.

If Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor Editions was going to succeed, thought INTERN, things would have to change. The whole joint was clearly stuck in the MIddle Ages, and it didn't stand a chance in the digital age. First thing to go, thought INTERN, would have to be the name. Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor Editions was too wordy, too stale. How could she bring it into the modern world while acknowledging the press' history?

Sham2? ShamPoSpo? SPTS2010? House of Spoor Editions?


Suddenly, INTERN had a flash of inspiration.

Spür Haus.

It was short. It was modern. It looked vaguely like something you'd buy at Ikea.

INTERN took up the quill pen that was lying on the desk and wrote the press release announcing the relaunch of Spür Haus to the world.

When Buckley came back with the tea, INTERN thanked him and assigned him his first task: proofread the press release and send it out. Buckley seemed inordinately pleased to be given something to do.

"Right away, Miss INTERN. Oh, it's been years since we've sent out a press release, this is exciting."

Half an hour later, INTERN wandered out of her office to check on Buckley's progress. He was standing behind a mimeograph machine from the 1887 which looked strangely futuristic in the midst of the even older office furnishings. He handed her a copy of the press release eagerly.

When she saw it, INTERN blanched.


INTERN hardly had to read further than the first line to realize what Buckley had done. He had proofread it, yes—but proofread it according to his own antique standards.

"Buckley, you haven't already started sending these out, have you?"

"Why of course, Miss. Two hundred copies have gone out to all the London newspapers, a hundred to Constantinople, and hundreds more to the rest of the Empire and the New World. Is that a problem?"

Buckley looked so anxious and earnest that INTERN didn't have the heart to tell him what he'd done.

INTERN was now the executive editor of a failing publishing company called Fpur Hauf, and there was no taking it back.

Before she had the chance to decide what to do next, there was a loud knocking on the trick bookshelf. A low, rough voice called out, "Oi, I'm the nocturne and cistern!"

INTERN looked at Buckley in puzzlement. He bowed slightly. "It seems the new intern has finally arrived."


Will INTERN be able to steer Fpür Hauf into modern waters? Will Buckley ever be able to make the cut as a 21st century editorial assistant? Who is this rough new intern from the village? And where, oh where, is The Gales of Thistledown Moor? Find out next time INTERN has internet access from this rocky and desolate coast.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Mystery and Deception and Manuscripts: Part 1

Three days ago, INTERN arrived in England under Mysterious Circumstances—but even INTERN could not fathom just how mysterious they would turn out to be.

She was met at Heathrow by an anemic-looking footman dressed in purple velvet, who conducted her by stagecoach all the way to Cornwall, the stallions' hooves trampling the heather flat. At midnight, they arrived at a huge but crumbling castle, where the footman left INTERN without a word of explanation and took off at a gallop.

Inside the castle, INTERN climbed a stone staircase, her path lit only by the white LED on her keychain. At the top of the stairs was a wooden door. She opened the door to reveal a dimly lit office. An elderly man with slicked-back hair and a frilly lace collar looked up from his desk, narrowed his eyes, and said in a grating voice "So you've made it after all, INTERN—or should I say, Baroness Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor."

At that moment a bat squeaked, and INTERN noticed the pile of legal documents sitting on the desk. Noticing her surprise, the elderly gentleman continued.

"Ah. I see that the news of your great-uncle's death comes as a shock to you. The old baron died of lead poisoning. You are his only heir. This castle will be yours, and the lands surrounding it too—if, of course, you can meet the condition."

INTERN looked around, taking in the rich furnishings and the antique stonework. With a castle of her own, and income from the peasants' rent, INTERN wouldn't have to do so many odd jobs. Techie Boyfriend wouldn't have to write another line of code. They could grow turnips in the courtyard and eat all the boiled nettles they liked.

"Sounds good!" said INTERN. "What's the condition?"

The lawyer cleared his throat and adjusted his tie with a leisurely, self-satisfied gesture.

"Your great-uncle was the executive editor of a publishing house."

"HOW COOL!" squealed INTERN.

The lawyer smirked.

"A failing publishing house. Not a single book published by Shamsbury-Pon-the-Spoor Editions has ever sold through. At the time of his death, your great-uncle muttered ceaselessly about a manuscript-a manuscript which he believed would be so commercially successful it would save the house. He died before he could publish it."

INTERN interrupted here to inquire: "What kind of manuscript? What was it called?"

The lawyer looked pained.

"Young Adult. Working title The Gales of Thistledown Moor."

INTERN cringed.

"That title will have to go. But the category's hot."

Not looking amused, the lawyer went on.

"The condition of your inheritance is that you save Shamsbury-pon-the-Spoor Editions from bankruptcy by making a bestseller. Then—and only then-will the castle be yours."

"Done and done," said INTERN. "When can I get started?"

The old lawyer said nothing but gestured to a bookshelf. Thinking he was indicating the location of the manuscript for The Gales of Thistledown Moor, INTERN strode to the bookshelf and yanked out a blue folder.

A hidden mechanism within the bookshelf began to whine, and the bookshelf rotated slowly to reveal a hidden publishing office on the other side. As more of the hidden office came into view, the old man behind the desk stuffed his pipe with tobacco and lit it with a match. Smoke filled the room.

INTERN stepped through the passageway and the rotating bookshelf ground into place behind her.

Now, she was locked in—but where was the manuscript?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

hither and yon!

Just a quick note to say that INTERN has been summoned to England very abruptly and will attending to Important Matters in the Mother Country until mid-July. Specifically, INTERN is going to Penzance (yes, as in the Pirates of Penzance...tra-la-la!)

INTERN will try to update a few times from abroad, perhaps to report on The State of Publishing in Great Britain or maybe just to complain about her books getting rained on while waiting for one of those double decker buses.

Long story short, INTERN requires three things from you, knowledgeable readers:

1. Tell INTERN which book she absolutely must read on the plane. INTERN only has about forty-six hours to figure this out, and it is a matter of CRUCIAL IMPORTANCE!

2. Alert INTERN to any amazing bookstores she absolutely must visit in Penzance and/or Saint Ives.

3. Alert INTERN to any mysterious old hermit writers living in Penzance and/or Saint Ives who might be interested in having a cup of tea with INTERN. Pirate writers especially wanted.

Off to pack!!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

discoveries whilst packing

As some of you may know, the lease on Casa de INTERN+Techie Boyfriend/Hippie Roommate/Vampire Roommate is up at the end of this month (there is, in fact, already a craigslist post out there trying to snare the next renter with extravagant promises of vibrant white walls and sometimes-functional power outlets). Hippie Roommate has already decamped for her biotech manfriend's more upscale digs, leaving behind packets of millet flour and organic apple cider vinegar which INTERN is scrambling to use up in the next two weeks. Vampire Roommate's worldly possessions consist of a bare mattress and a giant bong in whose glassy chamber he could almost certainly take up residency if it weren't so wet. INTERN has been vigorously putting things into a Giveaway Pile, and Techie Boyfriend has been removing things from the Giveaway Pile with about 3.7 times as much vigor.

This morning, INTERN was putting together a box of the free books she's collected over the course of her various internships, and out fell a page of scribbled notes from her "orientation meeting" with Executive Ed. INTERN is not much of a note taker:

"Amazon = bad"


"No books based on Peace Corps!!!"

The rest of the page was covered with doodles of squids.

In a weird way, those two statements, plus the squids, could be said to sum up the entire editorial policy of Venny McPulitzer.

Anyway, INTERN had better wrap up this post so she can bike down to the used bookstore and offload what feels like Venny McP's entire catalogue in exchange for some sweet, sweet store credit.

INTERN is feeling very happy today! Thank you to all of you for being so charming and delightful!

Monday, June 14, 2010

acquaintances don't let acquaintances be awkward about free books

A few days ago, INTERN got an e-mail from a reader who had a question about the etiquette of asking recently-published acquaintances for a free copy of their book. This reader has a family friend whose first book has just come out in (oh, snap!) hardcover. "Is it cool," inquired the reader, "to just ask her for a copy? Or would that be awkward?"

Good question. Really good question. Question to which there are many possible answers.

Possible answer #1:

If you were a recently-published author, which of the following would you rather hear from a family friend:

a) "I bought your book at the local independent bookstore and simply devoured it, dah-ling!"


b) "Soooooo, where can I get a copy of your book?" (eyes stack of review copies on author-acquaintance's desk meaningfully**).

Not only does answer (a) knock a few dollars off the advance your family friend is trying to earn out, but it reassures her that you are actually interested in the book as a book and don't just want a copy as a novelty because you happen to know her—a novelty that may well go unread.

However, as per INTERN's previous post, new books are freaking expensive. The situation is made more awkward by the fact that many non-writerly/publishy people assume that authors get unlimited free copies of their books, and can therefore dispense them like Pez to anyone who's heard about the book (landlord, distant relatives, former students/teachers, etc). In fact, authors get a limited number of copies (sometimes as few as twenty-ish) and need to give them out (nay, deploy them!) strategically.

So what to do if you really want to read your acquaintance's book but can't afford to buy it?

Ask to borrow a copy. Read it right away, and when you return it, tell your acquaintance about all the fabulous people you recommended it to who are at this very moment blowing up Amazon with orders. Another thing you could do is ask your acquaintance to sell you a copy at cost (most publishers let authors buy cases of their own books at 50% off the cover price). Another thing you could do is say you're broke but very interested in the book and ask for a free copy***. Another thing you could do is wait and see if your acquaintance offers you a free copy of her own accord.

There are many options, and none of them need to include terrible awkwardness.

**A surprising number of people have asked INTERN this question since her book was published, and they always act surprised when she tells them they can find it in, you know, bookstores. Why is this surprising? If INTERN were a barber, would people look at her all skeezy-eyed and ask, "Soooooo, where can I get my beard trimmed?" At the barber shop of course!

***This works best when you are a highschool or college student and your acquaintance is significantly older than you.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

hardback mountain

A few years ago, INTERN read an essay (a rather irate essay, if INTERN recalls correctly) by an author who argued that nobody who doesn't buy new, hardback literary fiction at its full price should be allowed to write literary fiction (or at least, try to get it published). This author set the minimum new hardback purchase quota at something like twelve books per annum. Her reasoning was that authors and publishers of literary fiction rely on hardcover sales to make the whole kerfuffle worth kerfuffling, and that one is simply hypocritical (and a big meanie!) if one wants to see one's name in big letters on a hardcover book but, er, declines to buy them.

INTERN still thinks about this essay from time to time, especially when she's in a bookstore ogling and then regretfully putting down someone's luscious new hardcover. Confession: INTERN has not bought a new, fullprice hardcover since...hmmm....definitely not in the past few years....or the few years before that....well, basically since she was 12 and had a $50 bookstore gift card from Grandma to play with. In fact, even allowing herself to pick up and hold one of those beautiful hardcovers at a bookstore feels like driving through a fancy neighborhood in a beat-up car: it's obvious to everyone that she of the cracked windshield and rusty doors is not really in the market for the mansion with the pineapple-shaped swimming pool.

INTERN supposes that this is where she should enter the fraught discussion of e-books versus print. But what interests INTERN more about this situation is the way that guilt has somehow become a significant feature of INTERN's experience of books, writing, and publishing. INTERN can't stroll into (or rather, out of) a bookstore without feeling guilty, stopped submitting to literary journals she doesn't subscribe to after reading an editorial diatribe against said practice in a literary magazine at the library, and has a very real sense that she's personally contributing to the much-trumpeted Demise of Publishing.

Isn't that weird? People who don't eat at fancy restaurants don't feel like they're responsible for the Demise of Fine Cooking. People who shop for used clothes don't feel like they're responsible for the Demise of Fashion Design. But somehow, not buying those twelve new hardcovers per annum feels tantamount to INTERN personally allowing the poor innocent baby goat of Publishing starve to death.

Is this some weird former-Catholic guilt trip, or do other people feel guilty about books? Is it readers' responsibility to take care of the publishing industry, or should the market just be allowed to do its thang? (INTERN knows precisely zero about economics, but has heard that in some instances, the market is prone to the doing of thangs.) Is it OK to just write and not worry about how many books you've bought, or do writers have a financial responsibility towards other writers?

Monday, June 7, 2010

from the annals of YA clichees

INTERN has been avoiding her computer as if it were a dreadful viper and instead been taking lots of 20-mile walks in the hills, where she is ironically much more likely to encounter an actual viper. This weekend, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend went to visit Techie Boyfriend's family, and INTERN got to hang out with his 16 year old sister, who is an eleventh grader at a bonafide American Highschool.

Now, you need to understand that for INTERN, American highschools are somewhat mythical places she's only ever apprehended through movies like Clueless and the dozens upon dozens of YA manuscripts she's read that take place in their locker-bejewelled halls. INTERN herself went to a Canadian highschool, which is a whole different animal. INTERN's highschool did not, for example, have a cheerleading team, or a stadium, or even the omnipresent Lockers that nerds at American Highschools are routinely stuffed into. INTERN's highschool did not have a Prom (the significance of which mystifies INTERN to this day) and one did not need a Hall Pass (wtf?) in order to relieve oneself in the bathroom. There were no "freshmen" and "seniors," just grade nines and grade twelves, and grade twelve was just grade twelve, not an insanely overburdened Senior Year on which the fate of the universe hung.

So you can imagine INTERN's fascination with the very different (and shockingly consistent) version of Highschool she's encountered in YA novels and manuscripts. If she is to believe what she reads again and again and again, highschool life in the US is always EXACTLY and UNDEVIATINGLY like this:

"Cherryville High is ruled by a ruthless posse of popular and pretty (but mean and anorexic!) cheerleaders named the Blossom Squad whose leader (more like a sultan! or a supreme court judge!) is a frigid ice queen named Stacey (who gets what's coming to her sometime in the third act when it is revealed that she has Issues!).

The Blossom Squad dates the Football Team (known as the Cherryville Stems!), which is composed of sweaty, muscular teenage boys who like to throw Raging House Parties when their parents are out of town (house parties at which their unfortunate tendencies towards date rape and alcoholism tend to come out) and who occasionally succumb (briefly!) to the romantic charms of a non-Blossom Squad female, dump her by leaving a nasty surprise in her Locker (how did he get into her locker???), then take her back at the last minute (usually in the final moments of Prom).

If you're not in the Blossom Squad or the Stems, you are by default a Pit (i.e. a cherry pit, but also a Misfit! with Misfit Issuuuuuuues!) You have a best friend (who is gay! or of the opposite sex! or nerdy about biochem to the point that she practically qualifies for a guide dog to help her navigate the world outside the science lab! but who ultimately fails to understand you in at least one Key Respect!) If you are a Pit, you might try to lay low, but there will eventually be something (ummmm....supernatural power? illicit romance w/Stem?) that will put you directly in Stacey's (like, the frigging SULTAN of the Blossom Squad's) crosshairs.

Whatever happens, it all gets wrapped up at Prom, which is more important than ANYTHING and at which there is generally some kind of massive showdown between Blossoms, Stems, Pits, and assorted bit characters like Hummer limo drivers and parents."

Luckily, hanging out with Techie Boyfriend's little sister for a few hours was enough to reassure INTERN that American Highschools are not, in fact, all exactly like that. Some notes from their conversation:

-nobody gives a crap about Cheerleaders and Jocks, not even cheerleaders and jocks.
-manga = cool
-i can haz cheezburger = hilarious.
-no mention of Prom. (why no mention of Prom? is Techie Boyfriend's little sister INSANE or something?) Most American Highschools don't even have one of those Olympic Countdown Clock thingies like Vancouver had.
-novels about various wars you have to read for English class = boring
-online comics = hilarious
-being a furry = totally valid life choice
-nerdy furry cheerleaders, peaceful rastafarian football players....A-OK.
-short attention span = yes

Naturally, this is only one conversation and not enough to *completely* dismantle the portrait of American Highschools INTERN has been reading about for so long. What's going on with this Cheerleader/Jock thing, anyway? Why do so many people write about that stuff? And are all these clichees real somewhere, or is it time for a massive collective update? Present and former American Highschool attendees, please advise.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

of unicorn hunting and hamster wheels

Lately, INTERN has been overwhelmed by the sense that she should stop jabbering so much and free up her head to learn something—empty the proverbial cup so it can be filled with better and more sparkling waters. INTERN has spent the past week wandering around town having very earnest internal debates over how best to do this. Questions arise like "is it possible to spend so much time on one's laptop and still soak one's soul in Deep Truths, or should INTERN throw everything 21st century-related on the stinkbarge and toil at her typewriter?" and admonitions also, like "INTERN, you have not been doing Serious Writing! You have been fooling around with Unserious Things and writing Unserious Books and your brain is not getting any smarter!"

Then last night INTERN and Techie Boyfriend watched a movie about a French painter who lived a life of back-breaking drudgery and died friendless and abandoned in a mental asylum, but made beautiful, wild, enchanting paintings of trees—trees that definitely, somehow, cavort with Deep Truths.

Now, INTERN just isn't sure about anything. The world seems to be made up of millions of hamster wheels of all different sizes, and INTERN is deathly afraid of spending her life on the wrong one, or spending it on the little hamster wheels instead of the big ones. Then again, a hamster wheel is still a hamster wheel.

This is all to say that INTERN is hunting some personal unicorns right now, and that things might get a little choppy, blogwise, as she tries to integrate all these creative ambitions and alter egos and find the best possible hamster wheel to run on. INTERN is certain she can find a way to make beautiful, wild, enchanting Serious Writing and also keep a blog/do book promotion/various other Laptopian pursuits, but it's something that needs INTERN's attention because it won't necessarily happen on its own.

Best wishes to all and to all a good day!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How Books Work, part 2: Day 'o' YA

A little while back, INTERN posted about the usefulness of always keeping a question in the reader's mind. This weekend, INTERN grabbed a book off the "New YA" shelf at the library that pulls this off extremely well. Bad Apple by Laura Ruby is about a girl who *might* have had an affair with her highschool art teacher. The entire book is based around this one giant question, but several other, equally salient questions lurk under this question's umbrella. The result is a book that's coldly and mercilessly engineered to make readers' poor helpless hands reach out and turn the pages—because desire to know the answers to juicy questions is, like, scientifically proven to create a state of temporary insanity.

Anyhoo, let's have a look at how Ruby does it.

The book starts off with a narrative hook that establishes two things: people are saying that Girl's Art Teacher is a "predator" and Girl is a "liar."

Reader (aka INTERN's) slightly exaggerated reaction: OMG! What's the gossip? Did something untoward happen between Girl and Art Teacher? Spill, spill, spill!

The book chapters are interspersed with "comments" from school officials, classmates, neighbors, and family members,most of which cast suspicion on Girl's credibility.

INTERN reaction: Wait, who can INTERN trust in this cra-a-a-azy world? Did something happen or not? Aaaaah!

Early on in the book, Ruby introduces a Love Interest for Girl. Said Love Interest has a secret of his own: nobody knows his real name, or why he goes by the mysterious moniker "Seven."

INTERN reaction: Can't. Stand. Secrets.

About a quarter of the way through the book, someone starts an anonymous blog spreading outrageous rumors about Girl's
escapades with Art Teacher. Via the "comments" section, readers are made privy to the troll's identity—but Girl is not. Thus, readers have the satisfaction of knowing the Answer to a Question when the main character doesn't, not to mention that delicious tense feeling of knowing something crucial but being unable to warn the main character.

INTERN reaction: Oh, yeah! INTERN knows something Girl doesn't! Will Girl find out? What will Girl do about it?

About halfway through the book, there is a Big Scene in which Girl stands up in front of the school board and tells them that nothing happened between her and Art Teacher. It is abundantly clear at this point that there was no hanky-panky and all the kerfuffle at school is nothing but a witch hunt—but then the school board says they'll take Girl's statement "under advisement," as if they don't believe her at all.

INTERN reaction: (relieved at having a final answer to one of the book's big questions, but still tense because nobody believes Girl).

The school board finally resolves to re-instate Art Teacher and everything seems dandy. Then there's a reversal—Girl admits that something did happen with Art Teacher!

INTERN reaction: WHAT HAPPENED????????

In the next chapter, Girl FINALLY relates the story of what actually happened (which boils down to, Girl reached for Art Teacher's hand when they were eating lunch at the same table and he immediately said no and walked away). Next, Girl confronts the internet troll who was running the rumour blog.

INTERN reaction: Ah, truth at last! But now, how will Girl manage to tell the truth to all those classmates, friends, school officials, etc?

Long story short, Girl ends up painting a mural in the school hallway representing the true story. All the big questions have been stretched out for a satisfying amount of time, and there have been a satisfying number of obstacles and reversals standing in the way of their resolution.

Bad Apple is also funny and hip and voice-y in that way lots of contemporary YA writers strive for. But that sassy voice and those funny anecdotes are woven into a very solid framework that keeps the story tension high. And the story Questions, salient as they are, are not harped on constantly, but fit in seamlessly with the overall flow of Girl's tale.


INTERN has given herself carpal tunnel from typing too much over the past few days, so instead of going into a lengthier analysis she will now relent.

Merry Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

42! dolphins! vogons!

In case any of you fine hoopy froods aren't aware, today (May 25th) is Towel Day, in honour of Douglas Adams. There are Towel Day events happening all over the world—really—find one near you at the Towel Day website.

To make things even more peculiar, the Guardian reports that Terry Pratchett fans wear lilac towels on May 25th in joint support of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett's novel Night Watch, and Alzheimer's research. INTERN, for her part, is rocking an "under the sea" themed towel to demonstrate her support of Douglas Adams, Jacques Cousteau, the Gulf oil spill, the colour blue, and endangered starfish.

Friday, May 21, 2010

why lovers with high blood pressure should not be beta readers...

INTERN has been quietly working away on a novel for the past year, which she is trying very hard to complete before summer. INTERN and Techie Boyfriend are also in the process of paring down their stuff so they become nomads (i.e. shed pesky strictures like "rent" and "utilities" so they can continue to not have normal jobs and also possibly find ultimate reality). These two activities collided yesterday in a way that really gave INTERN some insight into her beloved Techie Boyfriend's mindset.

In the morning, INTERN was throwing giveaway clothes into a bag when Techie Boyfriend showed up and immediately became alarmed (OK, totally freaked out) by her heartless methods:

Techie Boyfriend: Wait, where's that wool sweater? The white one?
INTERN: You mean the nasty yellow one that used to be white with the half-unravelled sleeves? Gone to the Free Pile!
Techie Boyfriend: YOU PUT IT IN THE FREE PILE??? But-but-that's the sweater you wore all the time when I first met you! When you were hitchhiking and it was your only sweater! YOU HAVE TO GET IT BACK!!!
INTERN: Oooooh boy....

Later that afternoon, Techie Boyfriend convinced INTERN to let him see her latest manuscript revision. Against her better judgement, and perhaps to make up for the morning's trauma, INTERN acquiesced.

Techie Boyfriend's terrible trials were not over yet.

Techie Boyfriend: Wait—what happened to the first chapter?
INTERN: It wasn't the right place for the book to start anymore.
Techie Boyfriend: YOU CUT IT???? But that's how the book STARTED!!!
INTERN: (gleefully) Not anymore!
Techie Boyfriend: AAAAAAAUUUUUUUGH!!!!!!

Now, Techie Boyfriend is, in fact, quite a valuable beta reader, and his suggestions have often saved INTERN from veering in terrible directions with her long-suffering WIP. But he doesn't share INTERN's cold, cruel, and (to him) terrifying approach to editing, which (for this project) has mostly consisted of declaring everything utter garbage and starting again. When Techie Boyfriend looks at INTERN's manuscript, he sees INTERN. INTERN just sees a pile of words that aren't good enough yet, or a truly derelict wool sweater that looks like it was peed on by llamas.

INTERN wonders if she and Techie Boyfriend will ever sort out this difference. Maybe it doesn't need sorting out. In a weird way, having somebody else be sentimental about these things makes it much easier for INTERN not to be. As long as one person's mourning the darlings, the other person's hands are free to sharpen the editorial knife.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How Books Work, part 1

As a frequent manuscript critiquer, INTERN is used to reading manuscripts that don't quite work (yet!). This has given her the urge to take apart published novels that do work and look at all the springs and cogs and little metal bits that make them tick.

Some of the most common problems INTERN sees in novel manuscripts are not enough suspense, not enough conflict, dragging pace, too much focus on trivial scenes and not enough on important scenes, and main characters whose problems are too easy and who never get put to a satisfying test (which sounds like a laundry list from any writing-advice book, but it's true, those are the exact problems most novel drafts have!)

So what does a novel with salient suspense, carnivorous conflict, pertinacious problems, etc, etc, look like?

For this first experiment, INTERN is going to take apart a novel that was a quick read and had a very straightforward plot: Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen. What follows is INTERN's extremely rough summary of the book [riddled with spoilers—beware!] with key plot moments, foreshadowing, character turning points, and various other stuff INTERN thought worth pointing out flagged.

Ch. 1:

Mother and Son in train station waiting to escape to an unknown location. [book starts in tense situation: will they get away before Husband finds them? where are they going?]

Ch. 2

Secret Agency for battered women drops Mother and Son off in Florida to start their new life. [secret agencies are cool! everybody loves secret agencies! is the secret agency a force of good, or does it have a dark side?]

Ch. 3-5

Several secondary characters and relationships introduced and developed: Mother’s new best friend, Mother’s clients at her new job as an adult caregiver. [sounds boring, right? secondary characters, snooze! but Quindlen makes it not boring, because she intersperses it with lots of present fears and tense memories about Mother's past with her abusive Husband]

Ch. 6

Mother meets son’s Coach in the grocery store, panicked event where Son goes missing briefly. [here, Quindlen introduces the main character's romantic interest. This moderately tense scene also foreshadows the later “missing son” crisis. clever!]

Ch. 7-11

Mother and Coach’s attraction and conflict are developed, Mother and Best Friend’s relationship developed, Son makes friends, Mother makes forbidden phone call to her sister and is reprimanded by Secret Agency. [foreshadowing later “forbidden phone call” crisis] [more relationship development! snoozles! but again, there's always a feeling of forward motion and tension because of the lingering fear of the Husband, and because every relationship is multidimensional and ridden with conflicts. As always, there's lots of juicy backstory interspersed with the present scenes.]

Ch. 12

Mother, Coach, and Best Friend take kids to carnival. There is a Ferris Wheel accident and Mother goes into nurse mode, revealing an aspect of her former life. She is filmed giving first aid and it is aired on the news. Mother and Coach kiss. [romantic turning point, plot crisis] [oh no! Mother and Son's cover is blown by that pesky news station—and now Mother and Coach have KISSED!]

Ch. 13

Secret Agency reprimands Mother for appearing on the news and demands that Mother and Son move again so Husband can’t track them down. Mother refuses to move again, says she wants to direct her own life. [character turning point] Mother and Coach go on dates, but Mother refuses to open up to love [romantic crisis] [OK, notice how Mother's character has CHANGED? Even though the Secret Agency is trying to protect her, she realizes that it's just another example of somebody else controlling her life. So she decides to stay put, even though it means increased risk to herself and her son. Also notice how Mother and Coach's burgeoning romance is not all kisses and sunshine. Mother's inability to love Coach back is a major obstacle to their relationship. She's started to change, but needs to change more.]


Ch. 14

Mother sleeps w/crowbar under bed in case husband tracks them down. Son has sleepover w/friends, girls sneak up to throw water-balloons through window. Mother is relieved that it is only little girls outside the window and not Husband [foreshadowing later “unwanted visitor” crisis] [Notice how all the major plot crises in the book are preceded by mini versions of themselves? This makes the book a pretty tense read, and also gives it a satisfying structure, at least, satisfying for INTERN to analyse!].

Ch. 15

Son gets into fistfight at school, Mother and Son talk about the fact that Husband hit her. Later that night, Son calls Husband on the telephone and is caught by Mother. [plot crisis]. Husband convinces Son that Mother is lying to him. Mother goes to gym coach and reveals her story. [character turning point] [Ooh! Oh no! Ouch! Son just called the Husband they've been trying to escape for six months! Bad noozles! They're totally screwed! Also, Mother finally comes clean about her Secret Past to Coach!.

Ch. 16

Relationship tension between Mother and Coach. Mother throws baby shower for pregnant Best Friend [subplot resolution], Son goes off on a camping trip with friends. [OK, so there have been subplots going on with the minor characters, mostly involving Secrets or Wounds from each character's Past. These are all getting resolved about now. Also, notice how the Son is on a camping trip? That means Mother will be home alone! Home alone with her crowbar!]

Ch. 17

Mother wakes up in the middle of the night and Husband is waiting for her downstairs, having tracked her down. Husband beats Mother and leaves her unconscious. [ultimate crisis!!!!!!!!! the whole book has been leading up to this and now it's happening! aaaaaaagh!]

Ch. 18

Book fastforwards to four years later. Mother and Coach are married and have a daughter. Husband stole Son after beating Mother and they have not been able to find him ever again. Mother and Coach move on with their lives (sort of) but hire private detectives and never give up hope of finding Son. [plot resolution, romantic resolution, lingering crisis [the skip from the present to the future is a sly move, because it keeps you asking, "yes, but what happened to Son? WHAT HAPPENED TO SON?" until the very, very, very last minute. It was also brave of Quindlen to make it so that everything didn't turn out OK—something turned out horrible! Son is gone, possibly forever, but Mother can never know for sure and will always have this Wound in her new life.]


So there you have it. That's the whole book. INTERN has left out the details of subplots and backstory, but those are the broad strokes. Even though the plot isn't complicated and there isn't a Huge Crisis or Big-Ass Plot Twist in every single chapter, Quindlen always keeps the ball rolling through backstory, emotional upheavals (developing the "internal stakes" when she's not developing the external plot) and interesting secondary characters. She also happened to pick a situation was naturally tense (hiding from a super-scary cop husband) and emotionally wrenching (hiding from a super-scary cop husband who happens to be her ten-year old son's father, whom the son loves].

There are obviously a million other things that make a novel work or not work (like good writing at the sentence level!) but this is an example of how putting some very basic dramatic features in place can make you want to turn a novel's pages.

For INTERN's next experiment, INTERN is going to analyze a YA novel, because it feels like more YA novels are being written this summer than perhaps in the past hundred years put together.

Good day and godspeed!

Monday, May 17, 2010

in which shock jocks are sort of jerks

INTERN is a very bleary-eyed INTERN this morning because she had to get up for a radio interview at 5:30 AM. Not just any sleepy, genteel radio interview. We're talking "Bruiser and Big Dawg in the Morning" straight out Large Suburban Hellhole, New Jersey.

It was not the worst ten minutes of INTERN's life, but it was maybe fifth or sixth runner up.

Bruiser and Big Dawg took the concept of "bro" to a whole new level. They were rude, obnoxious, sexist, and deliberately insulting. And while INTERN tried her hardest to sass them right back, her pathologically nice Canadian upbringing reared its sunny head and she came off as a total wuss. Observe:

Bruiser: So your book's about, let's see here, senior citizens. OK, so if I'm having sex with a senior lady and she starts having a heart attack, can I [redacted—grotesque].

INTERN's internal monologue: Tell him he's an asshole! Tell him to go fuck himself!

INTERN: Well, sir, for one thing I don't think most senior ladies would find you very appealing. But to answer your question, you should stop and call an ambulance if someone's having a heart attack.

Big Dawg: Is there any point in seniors going on vacation anyway? Shouldn't we just let 'em die and then take their money?

INTERN's internal monologue: Feisty comeback! Come on! Knock him dead!

INTERN: Er, Big Dawg, well, no, you're wrong about that. As you can see from my book, seniors are capable of much more than sitting around waiting to die.

Big Dawg and Bruiser:: Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha, what if we asked a senior to show us her titties!!!!!!!!

INTERN: But—just—no!

(Bruiser and Big Dawg theme music comes on, drowning INTERN's protests)

INTERN wished she was The Rejectionist. The Rejectionist would have given Bruiser and Big Dawg a verbal smackdown so sassy they wouldn't have come back on the air for weeks. The Rejectionist would have told those jerks where they could stick their heads.

But alas. No amount of coaching from Techie Boyfriend or INTERN's publicist has cracked INTERN's compulsion towards excessive politeness. INTERN is starting to dread these interviews, and is quite sure they are not leading to any book sales. Maybe the solution would be to see if INTERN's publisher would spring for a ghost to do radio interviews on INTERN's behalf. But that wouldn't solve the underlying problem.

Oh, what to do!?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

of she-publishing and prisons...

INTERN happened upon the recent Huffpo/Salon/various blog kersnuffle over Why Men Don't Read (or Whether It's Actually True That Men Don't Read, or Whether Publishing Is A Female-Dominated Industry Running Roughshod Over The Literary Needs Of Men, or whatever) rather belatedly.

For those who missed the debate, here's a brief summary:

Pinter: "Men don't read because all the books being published right now are she-books picked by she-editors promoted with she-marketing campaigns that don't make men want to buy them!"

Salon: "This is possibly true! Also, maybe there are more women in publishing than men because more women are willing to put up with the crappy pay!"

Various Blogs (in chorus): "But then why are there more male authors on the NYT best-seller list than female authors?/I'm a man and I read!/But NPR said only 1 in 4 books is bought by a man!/What is this, the 1950's? Do we really need to make such a big distinction between she-marketing and he-marketing anyway?/etc etc etc."

All of this stuff was clattering around in INTERN's head last night when INTERN's friend who volunteers at a books-for-prisoners program invited INTERN to join her at a book-sending session.

Going to this books-for-prisoners program was one of the most interesting book-related experiences INTERN has had in recent memory. It was like dropping in on Santa's workshop—there were about a dozen very industrious people flitting about bookshelves and tables, putting together packages to send to prisoners whose letters were stacked in a basket. INTERN's friend explained that they got so many letters from prisoners requesting books that there was up to a six-month waiting period for responses.

It was a funny feeling to read all those articles about Why Men Don't Read and then spend three hours sorting through letters from men who are absolutely desperate to read. INTERN is not sure what her point is in bringing up prisons in response to the gender-in-publishing debate—perhaps, as is often the case, INTERN doesn't even have a point—suffice to say that she felt a touch of the absurd, wrapping up fantasy novels and cheesy self-improvements handbooks from the 1980's for men whose circumstances made them hungry to read something, anything, whether it was she-published or he-published or published by howler monkeys.

INTERN will definitely be going back to volunteer again, and in the meantime, she is going to give some more thought to the matter.

INTERN wants to know: Do you think publishers are putting out too many she-books and/or using she-marketing tactics? Or is there something else going on that explains the gender skew in book readership?

Monday, May 10, 2010

the lewd world of Big 6 anagrams...

INTERN was reading Publishers Weekly this morning and feeling mystical, and she started making anagrams of Big 6 publishers' names (full disclosure: the Internet Anagram Server stepped in to help). Her findings surprised even INTERN.

The Anagrams

Simon & Schuster came off rather fastidious—maybe a little too fastidious, as the third anagram indicates:

Cushiest Norms
Mensch Suitors
Scrotums Shine

Random House was a little more earthy, even barnyard-y.

Around Homes
Moaned Hours
Unheard Moos
Humane Odors

HarperCollins was simply rude:

Phallic Snorer

Penguin Group was muttering in a paranoid manner:

Pup, Ignore Gun!

Macmillan had only one thing to say about the best place to sell books:

Manic Mall

Hachette Book Group revealed its coping strategy for the recession:

Toke A Potherb, Cough

Happy Monday everyone!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guest Post: The Secret Lives of Bookstore Clerks

Ahoy readers! This morning, INTERN was so groggy she reached into the fridge and accidentally poured Hippie Roommate's chicken broth into her coffee instead of soymilk (the Tetra Paks are the same size...) So she is clearly not at blogging level today and is instead turning things over to Fresh and Delightful Guest Poster Megan Burke.

Working is a bookstore is dying a long, slow, painful death. That's how all us weekend girls described it, anyway. At a sleepy chain bookstore in a shopping centre, we spent most of our time reading the books and dancing up and down the aisles to music.

We had our regular customers: the Italian woman with a surname so long and complicated no one could pronounce or spell it - she read romance. And a lot of it – I’m talking over $60 a week. Then there was the old man who read war history, who no one wanted to serve because he talked, and talked, and talked, and talked—talked so much, in fact, that you never got any work done. There were the two teenage girls who read anything young adult. The hippy man that we suspected had a lot of pregnant teenage brides, due to the fact that each time he came, he was dragging along a similarly dirty-feet and smelly pregnant teen girl.

And my personal faves: the couple in backpacks and bum bags who came in every Sunday morning and paid $5 off their lay-bys. We became such good friends that when I left to go inter-state they took me out to breakfast and gave me a present. We've kept in contact, and I've housesat for them heaps of times. I even invited them to my 21st birthday, and they came, bearing champagne and a Hannah Montana card (I love Hannah Montana!).

From my five years there, here are a few more things that stand out:

· The pre-pubescent teenage boy attempting to buy erotic fiction. My manager told him to get his parents to come back and buy it for him.

· The woman who was so friendly and chatty to both my co-worker and I one late night, neither of us noticed when she walked out without paying. I chased her half way across the shopping centre. She came back to pay with me, all bright-red and apologetic.

· All the customers who buy the Karma Sutra and tell us it's for a "friend". Yeah. Right.

· The mother who let her child piss on the floor, and then walked out without telling us. Thanks for that.

· The husband and wife who came in about one minute until close, and stayed twenty-five minutes after closing, looking at baby books. Every minute (as we stood at the front, sighing loudly and tapping our feet) they said, “We should really go, these girls want to go home” and yet for twenty five minutes, they didn’t. And then they didn’t buy anything!

· Recognising authors when they came in (and getting them to sign all their books, and pose for photos), and feeling horribly embarrassed when you didn’t recognise an author (“Do you have my books in stock?” “Ugh, maybe… What are the titles again?!”)

The books. Oh the books! At any one time I had about ten books on order, and another one hundred in the staff section. At one point my boss banned me from buying books, saying he felt I should spent my money on something else.

A nice perk was getting all the free ARC’s (advanced reader copies) and all the damaged books that didn’t go back to the publishers – gimme gimme gimme!

I think the bottom line is working in a bookstore is as awesome and fantastic as it looks. You should be jealous of us bookstore assistants!

After five years of working in a bookstore, Megan went back to school to study writing and editing. Now in her second year, she is looking forward to starting her Creative Writing degree next year. Megan reads and writes mainly Young Adult fiction, and although she misses working in a bookstore, she loves having the time to write during the day. Megan blogs daily at Literary Life and her website is

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Amazon—or Shamazon? inside customer reviews

A few days ago, INTERN was pleased to note that customer reviews of her just-released book were starting to appear on Amazon. And not just any customer reviews—reviews from bonafide strangers. Strangers in places like Florida. Strangers who had clearly read INTERN's book (or done a good job of flipping through it) and whose reviews were surprisingly thorough.

Suspiciously thorough.

Reading through them a second time, it struck INTERN as odd that all these disinterested Floridians were posting such voluble reviews so soon after the book had come out.

Then INTERN noticed something.

Two of the reviews came from Amazon Top Reviewers. Two other reviewers were members of something called the Amazon Vine Program. Only one of the customer reviewers was naked of such tags—and, interestingly enough, that review was the shortest and seemed the most genuine.

After some quick research, INTERN came across this article in Slate (titled "The Murky Demimonde of Amazon's Top Reviewers") in which another first-time author relates an identical experience. (so identical that there is hardly any point in INTERN writing this post—you should really go read that Mr. Hallberg's essay for the rest of the scoop!)

Long story short, it appears that INTERN's publisher—like lots of other publishers—solicited customer reviews through these Amazon programs.

On the one hand, it's sort of an OK thing to do—after all, the reviewers are strangers to INTERN and have no incentive to leave a positive review rather than a negative one (except maybe the incentive to review things positively so people send them more swag). Also, INTERN suspects that seeding a book's customer review section with a few starter reviews—positive or negative—has the effect of spurring other, "real" customers to write reviews in response. (it's easier to jump in on a dialogue than to start one yourself).

On the other hand, it totally undermines the concept of a customer—repeat, customer—review. These people didn't buy INTERN's book. They didn't make an agonized decision over whether to part with sixteen bucks in order to get a copy. As INTERN knows from a very brief stint reviewing CDs for her college newspaper, the mere fact of getting something for free can influence your feelings about it greatly (once, INTERN wrote a glowing review of Chingy's album "Hoodstar"—clearly unable to distinguish between the album's merit and her own feeling of elation at getting free swag. This is also the reason INTERN should never be allowed to be a Top Reviewer on Amazon.)

It only made things weirder when INTERN started clicking around other books on Amazon and reviews that were clearly solicited started jumping out at her like hedgehogs.

INTERN herself has never left a book review on Amazon. She is pretty sure her mom (who reads a ton of books) doesn't leave reviews, and neither do any of her bookish friends.

INTERN is therefore curious: who does write actual customer reviews of books on Amazon? Do any of you? Do you trust the "customer reviews" you read on Amazon? Is there good reason to feel squeamish about Top Reviewers and Amazon Vine, or is it perfectly above board? Have you ever published a book and gotten weird-tasting reviews from Floridians on Amazon?

Monday, May 3, 2010

do libraries help or hurt book sales?

Not too long ago, INTERN was delighted to receive a good review in a magazine read by many librarians. "Ah!" burbled a voluble INTERN to Techie Boyfriend. "Perhaps this means 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest will one day appear in our Locale Librarye. How charming!" A cloud passed over Techie Boyfriend's normally sunny visage. "Let's hope not," he muttered gravely, "or people won't have to buy it anymore."

"Techie Boyfriend," quoth INTERN, "you are but a simple, technically-minded man. What laughable frippery-froppery to suggest that putting a book in Libraries could ever harm its sales."

But the seed of doubt had been planted in INTERN's trusting mind, and she has been fretting over this point all weekend. INTERN is a lover of Libraries, and has been all her life—but now that it's down to a cold, hard handful of change in royalties for every copy sold, should INTERN fear and suspect the institution (the socialist institution! the red scare!) that threatens to put her book into thousands of grimy and not-so-grimy hands for free? Are loveable Libraries sabotaging the publishing industry and starving authors out of even their humblest wormskin jackets? Is a Modest Proposal in order that Libraries be burned to cinders and Librarians fed to said starving authors for dinner?

INTERN is thinking of all the times she declined to purchase a book because it was available at the library—but also thinking of all the times she bought a book only after seeing it at the library, or after checking it out ten times and loving it so much she couldn't live without a copy. She is thinking of all the authors whose websites she visited after seeing their book at the library or whose poetry readings she attended in one of those weirdly sterile library conference rooms.

And she can't figure it out. Other angles come to mind: perhaps libraries help book sales for some kinds of books (how-to, field guides, cookbooks, things you really need to own a copy of in order to be useful) and hurt others (certain kinds of novels? expensive books?). Perhaps libraries either help or hurt books sales depending on the economic climate of the region, the number of bookstores in the area, or similar factors. Perhaps libraries help or hurt book sales depending on how well the book itself is being promoted in bookstores and in the media. And so on.

INTERN wants to know, fragrant readers: How do you think libraries affect your book-buying habits? Have you ever bought a book after seeing it at the library or checking it out? Have you ever not bought a book specifically because you could get it at the library? Does anyone (librarians, authors, publishing folk, and civilians alike) have a more authoritative angle on this, cause INTERN wants some answers!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

how not to write a non-fiction book proposal

It's been a while since INTERN's written a post about matters non-fictive. But after coming across a few less-than-accurate guides to book proposal writing on the internet, she thought she should set the record straight. Here's the last word on the subject:


This is the part where you lift copy directly from the Vitamix salesman's spiel at Costco, but substitute the title of your book for "Vitamix". Don't ever tell what your book is about in this section—that comes later. Your goal here is to get the agent pumped.

Comp Titles

This is the part of the proposal where you get to diss other books on the same subject as your book (and books not on your subject that you just felt like hatin' on). You want to prove to the agent that every other book in circulation is a cockroach-infested pile of beaver dung, hence the need for your book to fill the gap. Personal attacks on other authors also go in this section. Don't be shy!


OK, here's where you tell the agent who exactly will buy your book. There's no real need for specifics here. "Humans" will do just fine, because who are we kidding, when's the last time you saw beavers and cockroaches lining up at Borders? You can be pretty sure that humans will be interested in your book, like the word-hungry little bipedal organisms they are. If you think extraterrestrials will also be interested in your book, you definitely want to mention that here. But don't get too cocky. Only like 1% of extraterrestrials actually read, and maybe 1% of those ones will actually be interested in your book.


Here's where you get to roll out the mock-ups of the revolutionary new social networking site you plan to launch on the same day as the book. And the architectural sketch of the institute you plan to build to hold seminars in (funded by your advance. Be sure to mention your advance). And the blueprints of the spaceship in which you plan to promote your book to 0.1% of extraterrestrials. Again, mention your advance. Your advance will easily cover this stuff.

About the Author

Here's where you talk about your cats for three paragraphs.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

do unpublished manuscripts need book trailers?

Over the past month or so, INTERN has been shocked by the amount of work she's found herself doing to prepare for her book's** release. Between printing rather superfluous flyers, making a book trailer, and setting up a ridiculous website, the time she spent writing the actual book has become a faint, innocent, candy-coated memory.

But it all pales in comparison to the amount of work INTERN has seen tons of writers do to promote their book—before they even have a book deal.

Over the past year, INTERN has seen it all: writers who make a blog from the point of view of their fictional protagonist, book trailers for books that are actually half-finished manuscripts, sample cover art printed on glossy paper at great expense and submitted with the query or book proposal, custom-made stationary featuring a quote from the book, links to twitter and facebook accounts for a manuscript or character—pretty much everything short of feature-length films of the unpublished manuscript.

As someone who is pretty aversive to doing anything on a computer except writing, it boggles INTERN's mind to think of all the hours of labor that go into producing this mountain of manuscript-related media. It further boggles INTERN's mind that anyone would willingly spend time making all that stuff unless there's a publicist or agent threatening to beat in their skull with a cricket bat if they don't. It must be fun or useful or rewarding in some way, because more and more people are doing it—and after all, aren't authors supposed to build a platform at any cost?

But which of these endeavours are worthwhile? And which ones will actually help pave the way to a published book?

INTERN has a childhood friend who spends all her free time on the internet looking at wedding dresses and printing sample invitations. She's never had a serious relationship (probably because she spends all her time on the internet looking at said wedding dresses and forgetting to leave her apartment). Too much promotional material for unpublished manuscripts feels a little like those imaginary wedding invitations—cute, until you ask when the actual wedding is and things get awkward. As an intern, INTERN never witnessed an editor being even mildly enticed by any such bells and whistles (it's about the writing, silly!) And there's a big difference between producing a lot of promotional stuff and building an actual platform.

All these Negative Nancy-isms being said, INTERN thinks manuscript-related blogs and videos and image galleries can be extremely useful—to the extent that they help writers get deeper into their characters' minds and imagine the world of their books more richly, thus allowing them to write better books. INTERN has seen a few truly magical media creations yet-to-be published writers have made—not for the express purpose of promoting their manuscripts, but to explore their stories more deeply, clarify their ideas, and use those insights to make their characters more believable, their worlds more finely detailed—and their manuscripts better.

This is where, in INTERN's opinion, the real value of all these creative side-projects lies: in improving the manuscript itself (or, in very rare cases, building a huge and ravenous following who will demand more fictitious blog posts and tweets, pronto). And, oh, also the fact that lots of people apparently find it fun and interesting to make media related to their manuscript, which is a wonderful reason for doing just about anything.

INTERN wants to know: Have you ever made media related to your (fiction) manuscript before it was published? Was it fun and interesting? Did it help you write or revise your story? Did it help you in other ways? Would you do it again for future projects?

Have an ecstatic Monday!

**For those who missed INTERN's confession in a previous post's comments section that her book is NOT, in fact, about funky senior destinations in the Midwest, INTERN hereby confesses that that information is completely erroneous and apologizes for her treachery.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Guest Post: An Errant Interview

Good day, writerly colleagues! Today's guest post takes the form of an interview written by Jill Cayrol, with answers from INTERN (or INTERN's spunky ghost-writer) scattered hither and thither. INTERN herself is hard at work on her next book, "The Care And Grooming of Treasure Trolls 1988-1990," forthcoming in Mocktober 2010.

INTERN is away from her blog at the moment, most likely sitting comfortably on the church pew she rescued from the side of the road last October.  She’s probably flipping through her beloved dictionary in search of the perfect word to describe the organic cloudberry and granadilla snack square that Hippie Roommate made from scratch (after clearing all remnants of Vampire Roommate’s evil-spirit-ridding paraphernalia from every corner of the kitchen).   UNKNOWN HOPEFUL has spotted this as her one and only chance at blog-writing stardom and hopes that INTERN’s legions of fans can handle the intrusion.
In order to keep INTERN’s legions of fans partially satisfied, UNKNOWN HOPEFUL will now attempt to create a list of questions for INTERN that are in serious need of answers (quirky answers inspired by tree bark, a complete set of neon-orange friendship bracelets, and an Albanian wedding song).  UNKNOWN HOPEFUL looks to her trusty six-year-old Transformer Son in hopes that he will be as supportive and inspiring as Techie Boyfriend.
Transformer Son hands UNKNOWN HOPEFUL a tiny blue hunk of scrap metal that appears to have a robotic face poking up through a miniature radiator.  For luck, he tells her. 
Questions for INTERN:
-Will a new Nemesis Intern make an appearance at Venny McPulitzer?  Perhaps one who is kinda cute, but not cute enough to be any real threat to Techie Boyfriend?

Underlings at Venny McPulitzer were exclusively X-chromosonal. But what of that devilish doorman?
-Will INTERN ever give her legions of fans a clue about the title of her #$%!*&#!  book so that we’ll be able to rush out and buy six copies of it immediately?
See yesterday's post, in which all is revealed.

-Why hasn’t INTERN bumped into a deeply tanned, KFC-eating, WWF tee-shirt-wearing self-published author on the commuter train?

While INTERN has bumped into a few self-published authors over the past year, none of them have been eating KFC. This is probably because self-published authors are rolling in so much cash they never eat KFC—it's caviar only, baby.
-Does INTERN know how to roll a starter pot out of newspaper in which to plant seedlings that will transfer directly into her window box garden?  Or will she have to rummage through the basement of an acquaintance in hopes of finding a book to shove discretely under her green hoodie sweater borrow on the subject?

INTERN prefers to start her seedlings in rolled-up thousand-dollar bills.

-Has INTERN ever had the urge to rush off to Seattle to knit a giant tea cozy around the Elliot Bay Book Company’s front door awning in an unabashed episode of yarnbombing?

Last time INTERN tried that, she got confused and yarnbombed Trader Joes. Not sure how that happened. Memories fuzzy.
-Has INTERN ever actually seen Vampire Roommate— like with physical properties of his own— or is he just a fractured element of her own personality?  (Let’s pause to give a quick shout-out to all the make-believe friends out there... HEYYyyyy!!  Love ya! For reals!)

Vampire Roommate is real and he works for the Boys and Girls Club. He is the only member of the household who holds down a Real Job (is he some kind of god???). HIppie Roommate, Techie Boyfriend, and INTERN all freelance and hop from dubious gig to dubious gig for their rent money.
-Would INTERN say that her background in dumpster diving is part of the reason her shizzle is so awesome?
No, but dumpster diving is definitely the reason there's 20 pounds of applesauce in the freezer.

UNKNOWN HOPEFUL stops here.... she is certain that INTERN is ready to return to her blog, having secured the perfect snack square description word:  selcouth.
Transformer Son takes back his tiny blue hunk of scrap metal, holds it up, and asks UNKNOWN HOPEFUL if she thinks Techie Boyfriend would be able to rig it so the little robotic face lights up and makes random beeping noises.  
UNKNOWN HOPEFUL tells him she thinks so.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

the grapes of april

Hello, fabulous people!

INTERN has returned from her sylvan hideaway (yes, it was a camping trip—Techie Boyfriend always seems to sense when INTERN needs to be kept away from things like electrical sockets at all costs, and INTERN's mental health, volatile at the best of the times, is feeling much more robust after a week spent searching for morels. ((an activity only slightly complicated by the fact that neither Techie Boyfriend nor INTERN have the faintest idea when morels are supposed to fruit, nor where to find them.))

This month has been a hailstorm of book-related activity, little of which has actually made it onto this blog because INTERN has, by and large, been too hyperactive and/or consumptive to post. Anyway, here's what's been going on:

-A few weeks ago, INTERN's forthcoming book received its first review. (title of said book is 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest. There, INTERN has finally divulged her secret! Go forth and purchase it from your favorite independent bookstores! ) INTERN's publicist told INTERN the date on which to expect the review, and INTERN duly stayed up late fretting the night before, then arose very early, her heart filled with dread, to see if she could track the damn thing down.

After a quick internet search, INTERN found the review, but by that time INTERN's mind was so clouded with dread and paranoia that she could literally not comprehend the words on the screen. Reading the review felt like this:

Actual wording of review: " 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest is an indispensable and often hilarious guide to..."

INTERN sees: 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest is a useless pile of snake-baloney whose paltry attempts at humor fail to..."

Actual wording of review: " 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest will find an eager audience among seniors, twenty-somethings, infants, toddlers, and the deceased."

INTERN sees:: 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest will be sneered at with equal disdain by seniors, twenty-somethings, etc...."

It was a truly horrifying morning. A few hours later when the rest of the world was awake, INTERN's publicist called.

Publicist (wearing a grin audible through the telephone): "Aren't you just ecstatic?"
INTERN (haggard and delusional): "I guess you saw the review."
Publicist: "Haven't you read it yet? It's positively glowing."
INTERN: (*quiet sob of shame*)
Publicist: You haven't read it.

-In other book-related developments, a big box of ARCs (Author Review Copies) arrived while INTERN was hunting for morels, which Hippie Roommate duly opened and set up bookstore-style so that a veritable co-op table of 99 Funky Getaways For Active Seniors In the Midwest was waiting on the kitchen table when she returned.

Said Hippie Roommate: "I sent a copy to my grandma. I hope you don't mind."

Vampire Roommate has not commented on the books, but with Vampire Roommate, an exorcism is never far off.

-INTERN has also been cranking out tons of Funky Senior-related essays and articles for various magazines and newspapers, as part of the book's promotional campaign. Sometimes, INTERN feels like her life has come to revolve around Funky Seniors, their antics and their needs. Sometimes, INTERN would rather snip off a piece of her brain than write another bright and funny bulleted list of things Funky Seniors should not forget to bring when they go on their Active Getaways. Ye Gods! INTERN has also been learning a few things about the magazine and online magazine markets, which she will discuss in a future post.

-INTERN's publicist has stated, ominously, that television and radio are next on the Reading Railroad. INTERN's publicist should really refrain from saying alarmist things like that, because INTERN is apt to flee the country. Publicist, you have been warned.


Well, that brings things more or less up to date. INTERN apologizes for being rather scatterbrained lately. If anyone cares to comment with coping strategies or Buddhist chants or recommendations for pleasant mental asylums, please do. It is so wonderful to see you all again!

P.S. Yes, comment moderation is turned on again—but hopefully not for very long. It's mostly to help INTERN keep track of conversations and remember to respond. Humbly requesting your patience!