Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I've moved!

I have moved my blog over to wordpress (www.slushpiletales.wordpress.com) and will soon be shutting this page down. Please take a look at my new digs by clicking here! Comments and suggestions about content and layout are welcome and appreciated. Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Flash Moment

To my great delight, I've been completely inundated with queries and proposals since I officially opened to submissions on Monday. Occasionally, I look away from my computer screen and I'm reminded that there's a world happening beyond it--one that isn't composed of letters in a row.

There are queries I know I'll reject after the first sentence. But I read them through anyway--just in case. There are queries that have nothing technically wrong with them that I reject anyway because I can't get excited about them. I've heard from writers all over the globe with stories spanning age groups and genres and oceans. I've been entertained, annoyed, excited, abused, uplifted and bored. I've requested tons of proposals. I've rejected more.

But just now, a proposal stopped me in my tracks. This author was so talented that I heard her voice in the very first short sentence. How inspiring. In everything I read, there is a specific moment when I get a flash of certainty that I'm in good hands, that I'll come away from this just the tiniest bit different--or not. In this proposal, that moment happened in the first sentence. And I just had to smile.

What about you? Have you ever had The Flash Moment?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I've Just Finished Reading...

...The Hunger Games, which is a spectacular piece of highly-acclaimed speculative fiction. What if, in the far-off future, there is a government so all-prevailing over its people and so self-serving that it would allow those people to starve while it prospered? What if this government was so perverse and backward as to allow the starving children of its nation to fight to the death for the entertainment of onlookers?

This is the main premise of The Hunger Games and, while reading, it irked me the entire time that this brutal story had an audience of young adults. Yes, this is YA. Murder, sensationalism, capitalism and horrible politics would come together to form an image of war and violence in the minds of teenagers and for most of the book, I was not okay with that. I admit that my impressions of this story were colored by my instincts as a parent to protect young people from brutality and negativity. But reflecting on The Hunger Games brings me to an interesting realization: young adult literature is not children's literature, not even by a stretch.

Those coming of age are just discovering that the world is cruel and it is not all rainbows and puppy dogs. Why shouldn't their literature reflect this while aiding in the healthy acceptance of it? In YA, horrible, adult issues can be discussed and illustrated, just like in adult literature. But there's an innocence to YA that is reminiscent of the children's stories of a young adult's recent past. YA presents an unique balance between the protagonists' innocence and endearing need to do the right thing, and the antagonists' need to illustrate that the world is not always as it should be.

The beauty of young adult literature, and perhaps the appeal of it for adults, is its ability to discuss real, grown-up situations from the vantage points of innocent, virtuous characters. In what other medium would mature adults accept preachy, wrong vs. right stories about such mature topics as war, politics and violence? In what other medium would today's angsty teenager (you know...the one over there, playing Call of Duty) accept such wrong vs. right preaching, if not hidden beneath a story so dark, violent, brutal and--let's face it--awesome?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Didn't Like the Book

Disagreements have always been a discomfort area for me. Speaking up in class and prefacing my speech with, "Actually, I disagree with so-and-so," was never a moment of joy. I did it for the participation grade.

My first assignment for my summer/fall internship was to read a manuscript which is set to go to the printer so that I can promote it. The owner of the publishing house I'm working for (I'll call her Lady and the house LittleHouse) loved this book and thought it was well-written. I finished the book still waiting for it to get good. It was everything I don't admire about literature. It went nowhere in terms of plot, it was corny and at times too emotional. It had spelling, grammatical and translation issues. It failed to grab my interest at any point. The worst part, I suppose, was that it was told from the point-of-view of an anthropomorphized animal who was unable to communicate with humans. So the entire novel was a long stream-of-consciousness narrative from an animal and it was about the typical life of this animal.

Lady has asked for my opinion on the novel. Of course. While I'd love to sing its praises and have something in common with Lady, from whom I believe I can learn, something is screaming at me, "Don't lie!"

And so I suppose I'll have to tell the truth--that the novel wasn't what I would typically pick up for enjoyment, but that it was cute and original. And "C'est la vie" was spelled incorrectly. How ironic.

Lesson #1 of LittleHouse Internship: How to respectfully disagree.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Competing Internships

Like any intern worth her second-hand briefcase, I applied to several internships simultaneously for the upcoming semester. While most inquiries yielded no reply at all, two valuable opportunities arose. Grateful for something that work with my schedule and teach me things I didn't already know, I accepted the first position that came my way, completely forgetting that I had inquired elsewhere and hadn't heard back. Sure enough, a week or so after I had accepted the internship a literary agency in New Jersey had offered me, Princeton University Press got in touch to invite me for an interview. I knew that if I interviewed, I probably would have had the position. Although the word "Princeton" anywhere on my resume would have been a boost, I declined to interview with them.

Friends told me I was crazy, family told me I should dump that literary agency and hop on the ivy-league bus. But I have a conscience. And the literary agency that offered the internship seems like a great opportunity. Although they specialize mostly in romance, a genre I don't expect to work with in my career (I'm most knowledgable about literary and mainstream fiction) I have a feeling my time at the agency will be worth my while. I wanted to get a glimpse of the industry from an agent's point-of-view and that's exactly what I'll get.

If I had had the choice, I would have taken Princeton because of their "brand name". But things happen for a reason and I expect to learn something valuable about at the agency I might not have at Princeton University Press. Would the agency have collapsed without the help of this intern? Um, no. They would have found someone else, perhaps someone better, even. But when a person commits to something, they shouldn't go back on their word. It's unprofessional.

My advice to all of you? When you've applied for several opportunities, upon an offer, get in touch with the other companies (before you accept) to let them know you've gotten an offer and give it a week. If there's still no response, accept the offer. This way, you're allowing yourself the choice (if it's available) of more than one experience, while also being professional. And don't worry! The other company won't mind your taking the time to "think about it" for a week or so. Next time, I'll take my own advice!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Interview Questions

I hate interviews. There's something about being scrutinized like a bug specimen that makes me a little nervous. Go figure. I find myself giggling unnaturally, saying stupid things that don't make sense and - oh, God - stuttering. My worst flaw in an interview is my horrible tendency to answer questions on a delay. If it is a telephone interview, the interviewer will inevitably say something like, "Is this a good time?" and I'll just sit there for, like, an entire ten seconds and then say something ridiculous as a failed attempt at humor: "Yeah, this is a great time. I'm just driving." Marvelous. Irresponsibility makes for a great first impression.

Interviewers, at some time or another during the interview, will ask if you have any questions. On my first job interview, I confidently lifted my chin and said, "No, I think I have all the information I need. Thanks!" Crash and burn. This response is the absolute worst to this question. The interviewer wants to know that you are interested enough in the position to ask questions. Any question will do. And, really, did I know everything about the position? Anyone who thinks they know so much about a position that they haven't a single question to ask, is either way overqualified for the position or way too cocky to be given the job.

So this time around, when my interviewer asked very sweetly (she was really nice), "Do you have any questions?" I knew I had to come up with something. But I had forgotten to prepare a question and all my safeties had already been answered! So, pacing in front of my bookshelves during this phone interview, I hastily asked," Can you recommend any reading I can do for background material before I start the internship?" I shut my eyes tightly and waited for the proof in the interviewer's tone of voice that I had asked a stupid question. It came. She stiffly said, "No, I don't think there's anything that--" and then she paused. I opened one eye - was there hope that this question wasn't so stupid after all? Yes! As she rattled off different blogs, websites, books and magazines I could consult, I opened the other eye and ran to my desk for a pen and paper. She kept going! There is so much information out there about publishing and this girl seemed to have all of it catalogued in her head! When she finally took a breath, she said, "Wow, that was a really great question. I've never heard that one before." Grin from ear to ear on this end.

Note: some of the sources she mentioned were Publisher's Weekly, Publisher's Marketplace, Twitter, her company's website and blog and Romantic Times Book Reviews, which have all turned out to be beyond informative.

Slave Labor

So, I just landed an internship at a literary agency in New Jersey. It's not a paid internship, and by the way those are few and far between, not to mention highly coveted and competitive in the cut-throat tradition. Many, if not most or even all, companies in the publishing arena offer to work with your college or university to get you at least three credits for the internship, which is near enough to getting paid. But those three credits, at least at my own school, Pace University, are assigned an actual course number, which means I can't take the credit for an internship more than once without taking the same course twice. Even if I did want to take it twice, one instance of it on my transcript would cancel out the other so what's the point?

My point? I'm a slave. Literally. Not only will I be working for free and not getting any college credit, but I'll be driving something like sixty miles there and back twice a week in order to perform my slave tasks. Am I a masochist? Not really. My own worst enemy? Depends on whom you ask. In order to make it in publishing - and by this I don't just mean get a job - really make it, you have to become a mule for a few years, suck it up and take your crap years.

Publishing courses like those at New York University and Columbia boast that very high percentages of students get jobs after completion. This is because they thrust the students, who have been groomed and educated within inches of their lives (we're talking day, night and weekend classes at Columbia) in front of the people who hire entry-level publishing candidates. Sounds great right? Sounds like a done-deal? It is if you work hard enough - but in order to be allowed to pay the $5,000 - $7000 to work hard enough, you have to work hard.

So that's why the slave labor. The key is to like it. Without pay or college credit, the only benefit I can gain from this situation is to soak up as much information and experience as possible, and to enjoy myself in the process. Beyond that, it's another set of brownie points on my resume and another reference in my pocket. That's not to say, however, that I don't actually enjoy interning. I do! Just sitting idly in the office and listening to the industry jargon and news is worth its weight in gold. Something said and remembered now can become small talk in your next interview, securing your next internship and therefore your next line of Excellent Resume. Is it a game? Yeah, a little. But, really, what isn't?