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?