Perhaps it's impolite to reference "the lawnmower scene" (from Mad Men) when speculating about a publishing party.

Not to worry: no one was offended. 

And, as far as I know, no feet were cut off. 

Happy birthday, IFI!

It's (or rather recently was) IFI's birthday!

Watch GK scrape candle wax off the office counters! Watch four tall, skinny candles pierce fluffy pink frosting (to match IFI's new 'do)! Smirk as GK says, "Hi! Happy birthday! I recommend you remove the extra wax before eating." And zoom a block away to the cupcake purveyor, still probably telling her boss that I asked her about every pink cupcake in the store and then--super creative--settled on vanilla.

Happy birthday, IFI!

IFI was concerned, so I thought I'd clarify: no, no one has ever set me on fire. Or come to the office with a flamethrower. Or said they would, in so many words.

So, no, IFI--no need to fear for your safety. :)

On telephones and the people who use them, OR: Why don't they ever just call to say "I love you"?

A proposal shout-out (almost as much fun as eating fried food while reading diet books)

The cleverest proposal shout-out I've ever seen (halfway through page 28, and complete with pie chart):

A note to [GK]: I know how you much love pie charts, so I couldn't resist including one. Since you reportedly read about 28.5 pages before making a decision about representation, I've intentionally constructed my proposal near that number.*

I actually haven't seen a shout-out in a proposal before. Is it a good idea? Like with all things, I think it depends on the agent and the rapport you have with them. In the best of all possible worlds, it's like personalizing your query letter--and then going one step further. Here, it was perfectly appropriate and delightful.

It's a book about health and eating, and--of course--I'm reading it while sipping sugary coffee before going on an agent-editor lunch date at a burger joint. One with something called "disco fries." Can't wait to see what those are.

That said, the shout-out? Even better than a caffeine buzz.

* This is closer to "average number of pages read," from a one-month sample, but you get the idea.

Dirty Laundry: Loads of Prose

It's hard to dislike a clever reading series in a themed location.

Enter Dirty Laundry: Loads of Prose, the reading series that takes place in working laundromats across the country.



Watermelon time!

It's that time of year again: watermelon time! (Somewhat less giggle-inducing than IFI time but, I'd wager, more delicious.)

Here are some great suggestions--including cocktails, cupcakes, sorbets, and popsicles:

In reference to the "you're probably not on GK's blacklist" post:

Definitely the first thing you should ever acquire when querying is a stolid (and by stolid I mean Death Star impenetrable) sense that it's all business and nothing personal. That way you don't make up funny things like 'I must be on a blacklist!' or, 'They're reading Elvis' manuscript before mine! He must've gotten back from that alien ship!' 

The second things you should acquire, of course, are a really good muffin pan and a bag of homemade frosting.

Good advice, Michelle.

And may I recommend Bake it in a Cake?

Strawberry shortcake--baked, yes, into a cake.

New e-book with 72-hour turnaround time

I love printed books. In fact, I feel like I'm missing out on some of the experience if I buy them electronically (as was necessary this weekend--traveling down to visit family, I realized, last minute, that I hadn't read the book for my cousin's book club. My procrastination thanks you, Kindle!).

But there's something that digital books make possible--having a work available not months, not weeks, but 72 hours after its writing. No printer needed. No shipping. Just a book, its editing, its images, and electronic distribution.

From Publishers Marketplace:
This week Adams Media published Newsday sportswriter Alan Hahn's BRUIN REDEMPTION: THE STANLEY CUP RETURNS TO BOSTON as a $7.99 ebook after a 72-hour turnaround time. The publisher said they had the book "within hours" of the Bruins' Stanley Cup win on June 15.
Not from this year. But I like this guy's enthusiasm.
Now, does this mean all books will come out within 72 hours of their completion? Of course not--this was, I'm sure, a special event--and it's entirely possible that some people from Adams were up all night (probably with coffee and, I hope, pizza) making this happen.

But I like the idea of this quick turnaround--books coming out almost as quickly as newspapers! Just knowing that it's possible is incredibly interesting.

Blacklists, fires, late correspondence, and why GK wears SPF 85

GK, do you have a blacklist? I hear this is something other agents have done. And am I on it? It's been a really long time since I've heard from you. I sent two check-ins [dates included--which I will not repeat here because they were a long time ago] and never heard back.

Wow! That's a thing? I had no idea! It makes sense, though. When you're in touch with so many people, and put in the position of saying no to such a personal aspect of life and work, there will inevitably be the few who threaten to set you on fire.

So, though I wouldn't consider it a formal one--and it contains fewer that five people--yes. All for fire-like offenses. I like myself uncooked, thank you. And wear appalling amounts of sunscreen to stay that way.

Oh my.
Now, in terms of not getting back--I am horribly behind on my correspondence. In this particular case, I'm especially behind because it's a matter of knowing (over email) the writer, wanting to give a really good response of the "here are the things you have to do to make this work" variety--but, with expectations like those, very little actually gets done. And then I feel guilty for not writing for so long. And thus wait even longer.

Yes. In a weird twist, I usually take longer to get back to the people I know and like.

To give you an idea of how incredibly behind I am, I haven't responded to my real-mail penpal since February. And you know how much of an advocate I am for real letters. (Really. Send them everywhere! Even a well-placed line or two can make a huge difference. I'm sure most companies assume that, for every real letter, there are ten or twenty people who have the same opinion but are too lazy to write.)

So, yes. I do have an informal blacklist of 3-5.

But, if you haven't made any flammable threats, you are not on it.

The WSJ, bestsellers, children's books, excellent cheese, and the all-important Snarky Smash

Though I don't read the WSJ regularly, I've come to expect that it'll have thought-provoking articles that spark a lot of internet debate--like the Tiger Mom piece and, more recently, the "Oh, gee, there just isn't anything good for YA readers and I left the bookstore refusing to buy anything--surely every other parent refuses to buy them too!--and, my goodness, books were NEVER this dark in my day (never mind, say, Shakespeare)" piece.

But check this out. Anyone notice anything interesting?

WSJ Hardcover Fiction, week ending June 5, 2011

The Kane Chronicles, Book 2: The Throne of Fire 
Rick Riordan/Hyperion Books

The Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book 
Jeff Kinney/Abrams

Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Dr. Seuss/Random House Children's Books

Catching Fire 
Suzanne Collins/Scholastic

Dreams of Joy 
Lisa See/Random House

10th Anniversary 
James Patterson, Maxine Paetro/Little, Brown

Suzanne Collins/Scholastic

Dead Reckoning 
Charlaine Harris/Ace Books

Buried Prey 
John Sandford/G.P. Putnam's Sons

The Warlock 
Michael Scott/Delacorte Books for Young Readers

* * *
Well, there are dark themes, certainly.

But even better: half of this week's fiction bestsellers are for children.

Yup. Tell that to your writer friends at your next cocktail party. Or to the next person who says, "Oh, kids' books--uhhh--that's nice, I edit/write serious adult nonfiction. About war."

Incidentally, I went to the party that had Snarky rather angry (and considering hulk smashes) last year--yes, because we were snarked at for not waiting for the one pair of tongs per table. (See Breaking News: Cheese Plate at Brooklyn Mingle Excellent, OR: How to Throw a Successful Publishing Party.) And the cheese was, once again, excellent. And there were more tongs.

This was Snarky last year. Okay, not really. He did not attack cabs. But this is what he would have looked like, had the server come back again to complain about his lack of tong usage.
More importantly, Snarky misses you. He's inviting me out for a Maker's neat and a cigar to chat, catch up, and find a way for him to be involved again. (And I may take him up on it--a certain Club Macanudo is very pretty.)

So, look for some Snarky this summer.

Hope you're well and writing--and, in your spare time, having picnics. I keep looking longingly at the park. Sigh.
Dear Inbox,
Today, I would like something that's like reading Castle.

Thank you.


Frappuccinos, Frasier, Summer in NYC and A Certain Delicious Office Treat Recipe

I've worked a surprising number of ridiculous summer jobs. I spent one summer deveining shrimp (technically I was a prep cook, but it seemed peeling and washing out the little bug-like creatures was my main task), one summer working for a woman who never remembered my name ("Student? STUDENT! I called you in here FIVE MINUTES AGO!") and one working for a magazine so radical, it regularly received death threats.

But my best summer job was with a chocolate company.

That's right. I was a proud member of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's franchise.

It was exciting (try to be bored while standing one foot from a giant bubbling cauldron of sticky caramel--really, just try), occasionally slow (there'd be long stretches where no one would come in, so I'd play with the tempering machine, coating anything extra I could find with chocolate) but, mostly, edumacational.*

A few minutes ago, IFI and I were sitting in an office quiet but for the hum of the air conditioner.

This is not our office air conditioner.

"You know what sounds really good?" I said. "A frappuccino."

"Yeah! With whipped cream!" she said.

"Yeah! When they put chocolate in the whipped cream spiral! That's awesome!"

"You know, there's one [a Starbucks] just a few blocks away," she said.

At this point, I must explain that, though it's not reached full summer heat yet (thank goodness), it's still pretty toasty. And gross out.

I briefly considered hijacking our staff and taking IFI for a Starbizzle** frap, but then I thought about going outside. And the heat. And the smell. The whole city kind of smells like pavement right now.

Plus, I'm really lazy.

Soon, IFI heard frightening sounds coming from the kitchen.

If I had more skills, I would Photoshop IFI on the front. 

It's already been an unusual day--I just wrote an email to an author that mentioned both BeerFest (the movie) and Frasier--all perfectly relevant and proper in that context, I assure you--so further oddities seemed only normal.

For a variety of reasons, we have a pretty well-equipped office kitchen. It's modern, and pretty, and I live in fear of scratching the counters.

Best of all, it has a really tough blender.

I kind of guessed at the measurements from what I remembered--after all, I wasn't about to steal corporate recipes while on the job (and probably also why we used measurements like "one scoop which is nowhere near a measuring cup increment"). Plus, the RMCF had special Ghiradelli chocolate powders, which I haven't seen in NYC.

But here's what I came up with.

GK tested, IFI approved.

Try it in your office! Your colleagues will be impressed, even though it's basically a coffee smoothie.

Makes 1.5 large frappuccinos.

You will need...
  • 1/2 cup espresso or French press or coffee-coffee brewed as strong as you can make it. Really mess with the usual grounds-to-water ratio. Lots of grounds, very little hot water. 
  • 12 large ice cubes. Ours are seriously huge and actually cube-shaped, so use a few more if you're using standard ice. 
  • Two heaping (really, get as much as you possibly can on the spoon) teaspoons cocoa powder (I used Hershey's)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk, highest fat content you have on hand
Put the ice in first (excepting 2-3 cubes), then pour the hot coffee over it. Yes, it'll crack. If you've messed with the ice halfway through the freezing process and created air bubbles, it may even pop. Fun fun.

Add the remaining ingredients and blend like crazy. If you have a pulse setting, use that. Stir to make sure all the ice is included.

Then add the last two ice cubes, and blend. This keeps everything from being so smooth that it melts right away.

If you have whipped cream and chocolate or caramel syrup on hand, use that too.

Serve and enjoy!
* The sugar, clearly, has gone to my head.
** "Izzle" is, according to middle class, white, suburban yet somehow "gangsta" friends, an excellent and versatile suffix.

I'm rather enjoying this.

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto

I'm especially enjoying the parts about how Avis--someone Julia met after taking a risk and sending a set of nice French knives to Avis's husband, who'd just written a piece about the sad state of American cutlery--convinced Julia to go with Houghton Mifflin. 

It was a gesture that changed the course of literature (and, rather likely, American pop/food culture)--who knows what would have happened if Mastering the Art of French Cooking had gone to Ives Washburn?

Note that Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) publishes this book, too. :) 

It's a lovely book so far.

Procrastination. No one's immune.

An email earlier today:
Subject line: Still waiting.... :)

Hey GK,
I'm still waiting on that list of new novels I just HAVE to teach my 8th graders next year!

An email somewhat later today:
Subject line: ...
Hey, D. 
What's the last possible date for you to order said books? 

I will make this list. Someday. I promise.

And, if I don't, I will get a cat to eat my homework. An orange one.


From the The Wall Street Journal: 

Darkness Too Visible: Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?

(And many thanks to Stef Kramer, who sent this on to me. You can check out her blog here.)

I'm sure you can guess my position on the matter--but I'd like to know yours.

It is IFI time!

IFI has just created something brilliant.

I will post momentarily.
You can now watch the YA Buzz Panel on PM's front page! Won't be there for long, so tune in soon.