Saturday, April 30, 2005

Getting down in Germany

I am pleased to report that in the last three days, I have drunk a full liter of beer at the Hofbrauhaus; bought what is undoubtedly the trampiest shirt I have ever owned at a store called The New Yorker; worn it to extremely good effect in two separate discos, one of them filled with twentysomething whippersnappers grooving to club versions of '60s music, the other with thuggish-looking young Turks (literally) nodding to 50 Cent; and visited one palace (with two more to come tomorrow).

I am tired, I am sunburnt, and I have stories to tell.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Guten tag der Deutschland!

Not that anyone is checking this this week because I said I wouldn't post; but making a blog post from Stuttgart, Germany is just as cool as making one through the air, so here I go! I hope you all are having lovely weeks. I sent two postcards yesterday and more will be written soon. Having lots of good conversations with publishers; seeing lots of good books (though many fewer that will work in the American market); eating lots of German food (spaetzle!) though not drinking a lot of beer as of yet -- mostly wine, though I expect that will change tonight when we go to Munich and the Hofbrauhaus. I love Smart cars; also the Boss Hoss's version of "Hey Ya!", which I saw on MTV2Pop. I have a cold, thanks to travelling, I think, but I am not letting that slow me down, dammit. And speaking of which, I need to run -- if I hurry I can see Hegel's house before I have to be back at the hotel. Hurrah for dorky fun!

(And -- AND -- I beat the editor of the Horn Book magazine at Scrabble. Ha!)

Talk to you all soon!

Friday, April 22, 2005

Happy Seven-Month Birthday to Me!

Yes, it's the 22nd, so I am now officially twenty-six years and seven months old. Yay me! For those of you who do not practice fractional birthdays: Why not? It provides a perfectly rational excuse/justification to stay in bed another half-hour or have another cookie/drink/fifteen minutes in the sun. Celebrate good times, come on! (Let's celebrate.)

Yes, I just quoted a Kool and the Gang song in my post. Shut. Up.

It is Thursday night, and I am tired, so this might be a little loopy. Arthur and I argued today about flap copy for one of our books, The Valley of the Wolves by Laura Gallego Garcia. Arguments over any form of editorial work are always interesting because they are basically arguments over taste: I read, hear, understand this text this way; you read, hear, understand it that way; and as one's editorial personality (and hence entire editorial life) is built around this ability to read and understand texts, any difference between those two understandings can get pretty individual and pretty heated pretty damn quickly. Arthur and I have the same tastes 92 percent of the time -- we had similar tastes to begin with, and then he trained me. But the other eight percent, like the two sentences under question in this copy, always surprise me. Usually I come around to his perspective, because usually I realize he's right; after all, besides having great instincts, he has twenty more years of editing experience than I do. But in this case he was just wrong. Still, I changed the copy anyway, because there was no way we were going to agree on it, because we both have plenty of other things to stress over and this wasn't worth it, and because he's my boss. So. When the book comes out, you all can look at the flap copy and tell me my way was better, even if you don't know what it was.

I am going to Germany on Saturday and this is what is in my bookbag:

  • Gilead by Marianne Robinson (Carleton Book Club selection for May)
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (the Pevear/Volohonsky translation, which I demanded when the Barnes & Noble lackey tried to foist one of their cheap B&N Books old-fashioned Constance Garnett translations on me: I don't think so; a Resolution book)
  • The Tenth Power by Kate Constable (copyedited manuscript for review)
  • The Valley of the Wolves by Laura Gallego Garcia (edited manuscript for further review)
  • One Step Behind by Henning Mankell (a terrific mystery novel set in Sweden; my relaxation book, no work or assignment involved)
  • The last two New Yorkers
  • The Klutz book on knitting, with needles and yarn included (maybe; I have to see if I can take the needles on the plane)
  • My writing notebook

What I really want is a good, funny, frothy romance novel (a Jennifer Crusie would be perfect) or another mystery (a Laura Lippmann, especially), but I know from experience that if I have one of these I will never get any of my work done, much less read the serious books -- I bought three books rather than reading the Moby Dick I'd brought when I was in England and Holland two years ago. And possibly taking five books for an eight-day trip is a little excessive already. But God spare me ten minutes without reading material. . . . I have certainly planned this list with far more care than I've planned my wardrobe for the trip thus far. :-)

So I'm departing on Saturday, and this will probably be my last post until I return in May. Have a wonderful ten days, all! Enjoy the spring! Call your senators in protest of the nuclear option! Leave comments! Eat chocolate!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Further Proof That I Am a Virgo (In Case Any Was Needed)

(I know it's generally inexcusably rude and egotistical to repeat one's own witticisms as anecdotes, but as this was an unconscious witticism that just continues to prove my extreme dorkiness, I hope you all will forgive me.)

So Friday Rachel and I are eating lunch with one of our marketing people and I remind Rachel of something we have to remember to do for a manuscript we're excited about (about which we're excited). The talk runs naturally from there to competing publishers to the history of Scholastic to our forthcoming books, and we start brainstorming children's writers who explore religious themes and who might blurb The Book of Everything. The names are flowing, I know I won't remember them on top of everything else I have to take care of, I start groping for a pen and paper, and then I say --

"Wait a minute. . . . I feel a to-do list coming on."


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Editing kvelling & Phoebe Amelia Blair

I have just been line-editing the translation of a brilliant Dutch novel we're publishing in Spring 2006: The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer, translated by John Nieuwenhuizen (who also translated our equally brave and brilliant In the Shadow of the Ark). And I *love* doing this, going through a text and finding the places where the writer's meaning isn't communicating itself quite so perfectly as it could, where the clear stream of thought and emotion is eddying around a rock of a wrong word or a typographical error or a feeling that isn't shared by the reader -- and getting to help pick out the rock. It feels so good, like a kind of linguistic tikkun olam: helping to make the world (or at least the author's vision of it) whole. And it's going to be a marvelous, kick-ass, and hopefully HUGELY controversial book -- mothers get beaten! Jesus hangs out with the main character! God dies! And fundamentalists everywhere get exactly what they deserve! (Though they probably won't understand the book and will ironically try to ban it, a la The Giver. I can't wait.)

One point is distressing me, though: At one point Jesus says "Just good, or bloody good?" This is a book putatively intended for nine- to twelve-year-olds, who may not know the British locution "bloody" (our translator is Australian). Rachel and I have been brainstorming alternate words with no luck; "super" is too surfer, "really" too weak, we're reserving "damned" for later in the book . . . any suggestions?

Also this week I sent off the second-pass proofs of Lisa Yee's wonderful Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time (the companion to her likewise excellent Millicent Min, Girl Genius*), and while it does not feature atheism and trumpet-playing sparrows, it is SO GOOD and so surprising and satisfying. . . . I still laugh and get a lump in my throat every time I read it, and as this was probably my seventh (?) go-round with the text, that's how you know it's quality. It's coming out in October.

* And look for the After Words edition of Millicent Min with "extras" by Lisa Yee and Cheryl Klein, this summer at a bookstore near you.

< /shameless editorial book huckstering >


My friend Hilary and her husband Dave just had their first baby: Phoebe Amelia Blair, born April 13, 2005. None of you know Hilary and Dave, but please send a good wish into the ether for parents and child. Hurrah!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A quick post . . .

. . . between organizing the Carleton New York Cares Day project on Saturday and editing a novel for the next hour before going to bed

  • to remark that anyone who wants to gets a postcard from Germany needs to make a comment by Friday if s/he hasn't already. I welcome totally random comments that have nothing to do with anything on the blog; God knows that would actually be in keeping with the overall tone of this thing.
  • to note that I love Modest Mouse's "Good News for People Who Love Bad News," even though the lyrics describe a worldview much more pessimistic and negative than my own; I usually try to avoid depressing lyrics, but the music itself here is so good that I can ignore the words
  • to observe that I am listening to "Sunday in the Park with George" right now, and it is giving me goosebumps even coming out of my pathetic laptop speakers
  • to post a link to a fascinating article about differences between black and white children's names: (There is something ungrammatical in that sentence but I won't worry about it right now.)
  • to confess that I shoplifted a Lonely Planet guidebook to Germany from my local Barnes & Noble today -- entirely inadvertently; I took a large novel out of my really large purse and put it down while I was digging for my notebook, then, after I had finished writing down all the information I needed out of the guidebook, I put the equally large guidebook in my purse instead of the novel and walked out with it. I was approaching my apartment, rummaging for my keys, when I realized what I'd done, so I ran the five blocks back to the B&N, put the guidebook back on its shelf, and reclaimed the novel, which thankfully was sitting exactly where I'd left it. This is the second or third time in my life I've stolen things out of complete absentmindedness; I accidentally absconded with a pocket calendar from the Brooklyn Museum gift shop a few years ago (and then knocked over the entire rack of pocket calendars while surreptitiously returning it a few days later). Crime would be so much cooler and more transgressive if I were actually aware I was doing it.
  • to recommend "Head-On" highly, and "Hitch" if you need a few easy laughs and eye candy. Rachel and I went to see "Hitch" together and much of it was shot in Soho, around Spring Street, so I kept nudging her to point out locations that are about seven blocks from where we work. There is probably something interesting to say about its view of men, women, relationships, and the New York dating scene, but I'm barely thinking coherently at the moment, so my enormously insightful analysis (ha) will have to wait. But "Head-On" is brilliant. Go see it when it comes to a theatre near you.
  • to wish my father a happy birthday, not that he has any clue that I have a blog, or even what a blog is. But nonetheless: Happy birthday, Dad!
  • to procrastinate, in essence. Don't tell Arthur.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Signs That Spring Has Returned to Prospect Park

  • The Mr. Softee truck at the corner of 11th St. and Prospect Park West
  • Wonderful soft green grass spread like a quilt beneath the still-brown trees
  • Baseball games at the ball fields
  • Me in a jeanskirt, a short-sleeved shirt, and no hose, reading on a park bench with my shoes off
  • Families having picnics
  • Skateboarders at the bandshell
  • Lovers wrapped around each other on blankets beneath trees
  • Later: Me running in shorts and a t-shirt
  • The weather at the perfect temperature for running: warm enough to be comfortable, but cool enough that you don't get overheated
  • Kids on Big Wheels
  • Dry horse trails (as opposed to muddy or snow-covered ones) (better for running, btw)
  • Robins
  • The little Hasidic girls wearing long pink skirts rather than black skirts as they take their Sunday walk with their parents
  • Willow trees frothing green
  • Nicely built men running with no shirts on (you never see the unnicely built ones without shirts)
  • The return of the African drumming circle
  • The sounds of their drums thrumming throughout the park
  • Redbud trees in bloom
  • White flowers on some other kind of tree (sorry, Ted, I'm ignorant on this point)
  • More people than I've seen during all my winter runs combined
  • Daffodils
  • Birds tweetering
  • At home, later still: the sound of the Mr. Softee song as the truck returns to the garage for the night

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Pirate Game.

Last Saturday night, on the way home from the movies, Katy turned to me and said out of the blue, "Do you know what kind of socks pirates like to wear?"

Well, there was only one possible reply to that, so I answered, "Arrr-gyle."

And thus, with Ben's punning assistance, the Pirate Game was born. The two rules of the Pirate Game are (1) the answer has to include the word "Arr!" in some way and (2) you have to say that part of the answer with appropriate relish. Beyond that, you can be as highbrow or lowbrow, serious or silly as you like. Here are some examples:

Where do pirates like to go for vacation? Arr-gentina; also Arr-uba and Arr-kansas.
What's their favorite Bible story? Noah's Arr-k.
And national holiday? Arr-bor Day.
And arr-tistic discipline? Arr-chitecture.
What part of Spain do pirates most like to pillage? Arr-agon.
Who's a pirate's favorite Dadaist? A tie: Jean Arr-p and Tristan Tzarr-a.
When a bad pirate is punished for his misdeeds, what do you call that? Karr-ma.
What's a pirate's favorite way to relax? Arr-omatherapy.

Have fun making up your own! And all together now:


Monday, April 04, 2005

A really long poem by Bob Dylan.

(Note from me: This poem came up in a discussion on the Child_Lit listserv about how to deal with people who try to ban books. While I am not sure all of the advice is sound, eating yogurt and going to bed early seems as practical a way to deal with George W. Bush as any other at the moment. And peanut butter, most definitely.)

Advice for Geraldine on her Miscellaneous Birthday

stay in line. stay in step. people
are afraid of someone who is not
in step with them. it makes them
look foolish t' themselves for
being in step. it might even
cross their minds that they themselves
are in the wrong step. do not run
nor cross the red line. if you go
too far out in any direction, they
will lose sight of you. they'll feel
threatened. thinking that they are
not a part of something that they
saw go past them, they'll feel
something's going on up there that
they don't know about. revenge
will set in. they will start thinking
of how t' get rid of you. act
mannerly towards them. if you don't,
they will take it personal. as you
come directly in contact face t' face
do not make it a secret of how
much you need them. if they sense
that you have no need for them,
the first thing they will do is
try t' make you need them. if
this doesn't work, they will tell
you of how much they don't need
you. if you do not show any sadness
at a remark such as this, they
will immediately tell other people
of how much they don't need you.
your name will begin t' come up
in circles where people gather
to tell about all the people they
don't need. you will begin t' get
famous this way. this, though, will
only get the people who you don't need
in the first place
all the more madder.
you will become
a whole topic of conversation.
needless t' say, these people
who don't need you will start
hating themselves for needing t' talk
about you. then you yourself will
start hating yourself for causing so
much hate. as you can see, it will
all end in one great gunburst.
never trust a cop in a raincoat.
when asked t' define yourself exactly,
say you are an exact mathematician.
do not say or do anything that
he who standing in front of you
watching cannot understand, he will
feel you know something he
doesn't. he will react with blinding
speed and write your name down.
talk on his terms. if his terms
are old-fashioned an' you've
passed that stage all the more easier
t' get back there. say what he
can understand clearly. say it simple
t' keep your tongue out of your
cheek. after he hears you, he can
label you good or bad. anyone will
do. t' some people, there is only
good an' bad. in any case, it will
make him feel somewhat important.
it is better t' stay away from
these people. be careful of is all temporary
an' don't let it sway you. when asked
if you go t' church, always answer
yes, never look at your shoes. when
asked you you think of gene autry
singing of hard rains gonna fall say
that nobody can sing it as good as
peter, paul and mary. at the mention
of the president's name, eat a pint of
yogurt an' go t' sleep early...when
asked if you're a communist, sing
america the beautiful in an
italian accent. beat up nearest
street cleaner. if by any
chance you're caught naked in a
parked car, quick turn the radio on
full blast an' pretend
that you're driving. never leave
the house without a jar of peanut
butter. do not wear
matched socks. when asked to do 100
pushups always smoke a pound
of deodorant beforehand.
when asked if you're a capitalist, rip
open your shirt, sing buddy can
you spare a dime with your
right foot forward an' proceed t'
chew up a dollar bill.
do not sign any dotted line. do not
fall in trap of criticizing people
who do nothing else but criticize.
do Not create anything. it will be
misinterpreted. it will not change.
it will follow you the
rest of your life. when asked what you
do for a living say you laugh for
a living. be suspicious of people
who say that if you are not nice
t' them, they will commit suicide.
when asked if you care about
the world's problems, look deeply
into the eyes of he that asks
you, he will not ask you again. when
asked if you've spent time in jail,
announce proudly that some of your
best friends've asked you that.
beware of bathroom walls that've not
been written on. when told t' look at
yourself...never look. when asked
t' give your real name...never give it.