Monday, August 24, 2009

Of birthdays, chocolate innards, & My New Intern

Last week, I had a birthday. And thanks to that birthday, I now have proof that my editorial colleagues at Katherine Tegen Books are some of the most AWESOME-TASTIC CREATIVE GENIUSES a girl could ever hope to work with. Because what did they present me with?

This guy!

That's right, an office piñata!!
Best. Office. Gift. Ever!!!
I'm not sure words can express just how much office-wide delight this led to on a mid-week afternoon, so why I don't I show you?

First, the pinata spent a quiet moment, preparing for his piñata Destiny:

Pinata Destiñy, in case you were wondering, looks a bit like this:

It also looks like this:

And this:

And something like this:

And, finally, of course, it looks like this:

Those of you who like happy endings to stories will be glad to know that aside from a now-wobbly waistline, the piñata came through his ordeal fairly intact, all things considered (perhaps he should be glad his Destiny involved a mailing tube and not a baseball bat?)

He has now taken up residence in my office, where I'm thinking that his courage in the face of danger has earned him the title of My New Intern. I mean, after staring down a roomful of people bent on his demise, I'm thinking that filing and tackling my stacks of submissions should seem quite tame in comparison, right?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Poetry Friday: "I Would Like to Describe"

The stanza of this poem that begins "and just to say-I love" does that thing in me that good poetry always does--it leaves me breathless, and all emotion, thinking, "why have I never thought of putting those words together like that before?!" But then again...that's kind of the point of this poem, isn't it?

I Would Like to Describe
by Zbigniew Herbert

Translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Peter Dale Scott

I would like to describe the simplest emotion
joy or sadness
but not as others do
reaching for shafts of rain or sun

I would like to describe a light
which is being born in me
but I know it does not resemble
any star
for it is not so bright
not so pure
and is uncertain

I would like to describe courage
without dragging behind me a dusty lion
and also anxiety
without shaking a glass full of water
to put it another way
I would give all metaphors
in return for one word
drawn out of my breast like a rib
for one word
contained within the boundaries
of my skin

but apparently this is not possible

and just to say—I love
I run around like mad
picking up handfuls of birds
and my tenderness
which after all is not made of water
asks the water for a face

and anger
different from fire
borrows from it
a loquacious tongue

so is blurred
so is blurred

in me
what white-haired gentlemen
separated once and for all
and said
this is the subject
and this is the object

we fall asleep
with one hand under our head
and with the other in a mound of planets

our feet abandon us
and taste the earth
with their tiny roots
which next morning
we tear out painfully

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Editor: A Photo Calendar / August

(The first in a monthly series inspired by, well, this summery photo, captured on a whim this past weekend. It got me curious to see how I could sum up the essence of life as an editor--sans words--as the seasons turn. Stay tuned across the next eleven months for more... and, uh, nudge me if I forget I promised to do this?)

Month 1: August, Prospect Park

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Interview about Marketing

Shelli at Market My Words runs a great regular series of in-depth interviews with industry folks on her blog. Recently, she asked me some questions about marketing, a topic about which I still do lots of thinking, even though I officially hung up my Marketing Department hat a few years back to become an editor. I answer her smart questions over here, so head on over if marketing is a topic of interest to you. (P.S. As with any industry interview, please do remember that I'm sharing my opinions, based on my own perceptions and experiences--but they're only my opinions, not necessarily gospel truth!)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Poetry Friday: "Percy and Books"

I'm feeling exceptionally fond of Mary Oliver this week--so in honor of her, here's a favorite that never fails to make me smile, no matter how many times I've read it:

"Percy and Books"

Percy does not like it when I read a book.
He puts his face over the top of it and moans.
He rolls his eyes, sometimes he sneezes.
The sun is up, he says, and the wind is down.
The tide is out and the neighbor's dogs are playing.
But Percy, I say. Ideas! The elegance of language!
The insights, the funniness, the beautiful stories
that rise and fall and turn into strength, or courage.

Books? says Percy. I ate one once, and it was enough.
Let's go.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

You know you're an editor when... see this ice cream truck while out walking,

and you simultaneously:
  • flinch at seeing the word "slush"* that big;
  • wonder why they don't list "guilt" as one of the flavor possibilities alongside lime and cherry;
  • and wonder if it would actually be possible to sell YOUR slush to innocent passers-by on the street....

*slush, for the uninitiated, refers to the big piles of manuscripts that editors really-truly do mean to respond to, but never-ever seem to have enough hours left to do so.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Poetry Friday: "Sea Fever"

My lovely author, Kathryn Fitzmaurice sent me the most beautiful surprise this week: a framed copy of the poem, "Sea Fever." She promised I'd relate to the poem after hearing of my wanting to be back at the ocean pretty much the instant I left it, a few weeks back. (And she's right: I love this poem, especially the line about "the grey mist on the sea's face," because those grey days are some of my favorite moments when near the water. I know, I'm weird that way.).

Kathryn's a California girl, so she completely understands the call of the sea, a fact that's evident in wonderful coastal setting of her novel, The Year the Swallows Came Early (which, if you haven't already read it, well, what are you waiting for? Go right now and buy a copy and consider it a summertime gift to yourself!) So without further ado, and thanks to Kathryn, I give you my poem of the week (with bonus Oregon coast photos):

by John Masefield

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"I went to Oregon," she said, happily.

So, I already kinda knew this, but two weeks there proved it all over again: if I ever run away from home, there's a pretty good bet that you might find me somewhere on the coast of Oregon. Here's just a handful of the many, many highlights of my two weeks there:

1. Professional inspiration: David Greenberg has created something quite special with his Oregon Coast Children's Book Writer's Workshop: an environment with stunning natural beauty, filled to the brim with interesting, creative people, and with enough time and silence for wonderful works to begin and mature. As I am at every conference, I was inspired by the brave, smart, eager writers who were there to throw themselves into their craft for a week, and enjoyed seeing their writing grow in exciting ways over just a handful of days. A most excellent added bonus? Being surrounded by dedicated, fascinating, simply wonderful fellow faculty members, and hearing their sage and generous advice about the writing life, their stories of being storytellers and the caretakers of stories.

2. Personal inspiration: Walking beside the ocean for hours on end and losing all track of time. Collecting sand dollars. Studying the sounds and sights of the ocean in its many moods. Discovering an abandoned sand shovel and digging holes and watching them fill up again, and realizing there are analogies for pretty much every part of life--relationships, spirituality, even writing--to be discovered in the simple act of digging holes in the sand. Meeting a wonderful woman at the edge of Netarts Bay--a dentist from British Columbia whose name I didn't even get, but who positively delighted me by explaining that she'd realized a number of years ago that one should always carry a kite in the trunk of one's car--just in case. (I so wish I'd captured a picture of her and her kite roaming beside the ocean, but I'd left my camera behind that afternoon.)

3. Unanticipated Poetry: How I love moments filled with unexpected poetry! Inspired by Oceanside's beauty, fellow editor Jill recited (by heart, no less!) a gorgeous Mary Oliver poem one morning, and left us all a little more filled up inside because of it. And around the lunch table of instructors, an impromptu "Kipling-Off" between authors David Greenberg and Eric Kimmel amused me more than anything has in ages. It's a shame, I think, that more of us don't know whole books' worth of poetry by heart, because there's something truly wonderful about the way it can keep us company. Less unexpected, but no less enjoyed were the volumes of poetry on the bookshelves at my favorite B&B, and the afternoon I happily lost, leafing through them. And then there was the sheer poetry of waking up every morning to the sound of the ocean....

4. Connecting and re-connecting: After more than two years' worth of emails and phone calls, I had the wonderful fortune to meet publishing royalty face to face as author Virginia Euwer Wolff and I shared an evening of good food and fascinating conversation. I think we could have talked all the way through till morning! Lucky Oregon to have Jinny, and lucky Jinny, to have Oregon.... I also spent some wonderful hours talking to Judy, the world's most wonderful B&B owner, who I want to grow up and be one day, because she utterly inspires me with quiet wisdom, an inner sparkle, and and open-armed embrace towards all, absolutely all, of life. And I saw a college friend for the first time in nine years, and he and I had a wonderful evening of talking till the near-wee hours, and realizing happily how much we'd grown, yet how little had changed, except for the fact that we were drinking far better beer than we ever did in college!

5. Small joys: And right up there with many other delights (Visiting Kennedy School! Getting lost among the stacks at Powell's! Savoring Tillamook ice cream! Daily visits to Brewin' in the Wind, a perfect little indie coffee shop that I wish I could transport into Brooklyn! Roaming along the Willamette River and into downtown Portland on a perfect-weather day! Fresh clam chowder and marionberries galore!)--was the world's most comfortable hotel bed, EVER. But for the stupid details of airline security, I totally would have somehow smuggled it home with me!

Now I'm back, staring down a multitude of copy deadlines and an apartment that oh-so-desperately needs cleaning...but instead, well, I've been googling for kites. Because urban-NYC-life-sans-car or not, I think I need to keep one on hand, just in case.

But I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been roaming lately, right? Distract me from my deadlines! Tell me about some of your own summer adventures, discoveries, and delights!