Sunday, July 29, 2007

Interns Wanted

If you'll be in New York this fall, you're passionate about really great children's and YA books, and you have eight to ten hours to spare during the business week, you're welcome to apply for an internship with Arthur A. Levine Books. Our interns help us track, read, and respond to manuscripts; perform basic clerical tasks like opening the mail and making copies; and complete special projects based on personal interests and need. The position is unpaid, but if you're a college student, we will do whatever's necessary to see that you get college credit -- and there are always lots of free books around the office! Preference goes to college students and people interested in pursuing an editorial career in children's publishing, but anyone is welcome to apply. For more information, see our FAQ page here.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Racing for the Cure 2007

Longtime readers will know that every year, I run the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure in honor of my grandmother, Carol Sadler, who died of breast cancer in 2003. It's always an awesome, inspiring event, as 20,000 people stream through Central Park to fight a disease that kills more than 40,000 women and men each year. I'm running it again in 2007, and again organizing a Carleton College alumni team to participate as well. The race is Sunday, September 9, at 9 a.m. If you would be interested in joining us, please follow this link (you don't have to be a Carletonite to be on the team); or if you'd like to contribute to the cause, click here.

And either way, thank you, very much.

Where the Magic Happens

Off a meme from Elizabeth Bunce/Susan Taylor Brown:

This is where I do a good two-thirds (let's say) of my reading, writing, and editing -- in a battered yellow wing chair my dear friend Katy purchased from the City Opera Thrift Shop seven years ago, then kindly bequeathed to me when she left for Old Blighty. I set my cup of tea on the side knob, put my feet up on the file box, rest the clipboard and a manuscript on my lap, and mess with sentences. A board balanced between the chair arm and the bed holds finished MS pages, and in summer a box fan by my feet keeps me cool. It's all quite cozy and comfortable and lovely. . . . Now if only they'd let me replace my chair at work with a La-Z-Boy.
P. S. Also via Susan's livejournal, I love the idea of Tell an Author You Care Day. It's past now -- it happened July 16 -- but it's never too late to show your favorite writer some love.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Back to Harry: News (including Incredible Famousness), Thoughts, and a Theory

(This cartoon of Harry drawn by my friend Jeremiah, who has an excellent webcomic called Five Bucks to Friday.)
Do we need more spoiler space? Here:







First the news: The first of the "Today Show" interviews with Jo yielded some wonderful tidbits on the trio's future careers, what happened to Luna, and Jo's feelings about Snape; check out the article and video. The second part of the interview will air tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. EST, the third at 7 p.m. Sunday on Dateline (you should double-check that Sunday time).

Also, if you didn't see the Colbert Report opening, it's hee-larious.

We have found one verified typo in the U.S. edition thus far, which I am announcing so none of you HP fans write to us about it when you discover it yourselves: "suceeded," on page 5. We are disappointed, of course, because we always want to make the most perfect book possible; but given that the book is 784 pages and we're only human, we'll cut ourselves some slack.

And my personal period of Incredible Famousness comes to a close this week with a brief profile in one of my favorite magazines, "Entertainment Weekly." I don't know if any of it's online -- I actually haven't even seen the article yet, and I have my fingers crossed about the picture that's supposed to accompany it. . . . The magazine also profiles Arthur and Jo's terrific longtime publicist, Kris Moran.

Next, thinking a little bit more about the epilogue: I think some of what we're seeing in the split over the epilogue is the split between readers who feel like there's too much infodump in that section and therefore dislike its style; and readers who are like, "Dump! Dump! Dump! Rain that sweet information down!" But it is hard to satisfy the latter readers without further inflaming the former: If you're disappointed with the epilogue because it didn't include the trio's careers, for example, imagine the exceeding awkwardness of "Then Harry turned to Hermione and said, 'So, how are things in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement? We're really revolutionizing things over in the Auror Department! And have you had a letter from Luna recently? Wonder if she found those Blibbering Humdingers in Bolivia, ho ho ho!'" I think the author came to the right balance in the end, with a scene that showed us all the essential things discussed below without going too far in the dumpy direction. I can't imagine the book without it, myself -- how cold it would have felt, to know only that they survived, and not that they achieved all the happiness it showed . . .

Finally, here's my personal theory regarding Teddy Lupin: I've always figured he was raised by his grandmother, Andromeda Tonks. As her daughter, son-in-law, and husband would be dead, she'd want to keep this remaining member of her family close; and Harry, at 17, may have been able to defeat Lord Voldemort and all his Death Eaters, but I doubt he was equipped to care for a screaming one-month-old.

(Having written that, my continuity editor instincts kick in and I think, Wait, is it really a month? How much time passes between Lupin's appearance at Shell Cottage and the trio's departure for Gringotts? Isn't it more like a week or two? But I'm going to give myself a break here and not check it in the book. :-) )

Monday, July 23, 2007

Now for Something Completely Un-HP-Related: Recent Romantic Comedies

Warning: spoilers for "Knocked Up" and "Waitress" ahead.

If you're interested in romantic comedy as a genre, don't miss David Denby's terrific article in last week's "New Yorker" on its twentieth-century development in film, and particularly the current spate of male-slacker vs. female-striver movies. (And click quick, as I don't know how long that link will last.)

Exhibit A in his discussion: The very funny "Knocked Up," from the writer-director Judd Apatow. I liked "Knocked Up" a lot, but I agree with Mr. Denby that the romance is distinctly underdeveloped; it seems like Apatow knew those two people would never actually fall in love (or, let's face it, that she would never fall in love with him), so he cut around it as much as possible and focused on the relationship between the two couples instead. On the other hand, there IS a fantastic romantic moment in Act III of the film: Ben moves out of the slacker house, gets a job in web development, and decorates his apartment with an amazing semblance of taste for the man who came up with "" In other words, he sacrifices his previous unproductive lifestyle in favor of the woman he loves (sort of) and the child they'll have (he hopes).

And sacrifice is pretty much Tool #1 in the romance-creator's arsenal: Darcy giving up his pride (and entire previous character) for Elizabeth, Jack giving up his life for Rose (yes, my second "Titanic" reference in two days -- again, shut up), Randolph Henry Ash giving up his right to his daughter, a whole lot of bachelors giving up their all-business-all-the-time lives in bad category romances. (There ought to be some examples of women making sacrifices here too -- romance ought to run both ways -- but because the genre is generally designed to please women rather than men, it's usually the men who change.) Ben's decision to get a life, and his follow-through on it, made "Knocked Up" unexpectedly Austenian for a film that contains the line "Steely Dan can gargle my balls," but the ending is quite appropriately un-Austenian and uncertain for these uncertain romantic times: They'll love their child, live with each other, and see how things go.

I also think there's a very interesting comparison to be made between "Knocked Up" and "Waitress" -- another film about unplanned pregnancy by an undesirable father, but this one written and directed by a woman, the late Adrienne Shelley. It's a charming little film -- one of the best examples of directorial "voice" I've seen recently -- but outside its fairy-tale cinematography and ending, it's deadly realistic about how pregnancy ties the protagonist Jenna (the woman, I'd like to emphasize) to her awful, abusive, controlling husband, and to her dead-end life. Jenna hates her baby, truly and virulently, for a good deal of the movie, which impressed me a lot because it made me so uneasy. A gift from her mentor enables her to kick the husband out, and she eventually decides to drop her unreliable married lover as well in order to focus on her baby and what's best for her -- another fictional choice that really impressed me with its guts: getting rid of all the useless men in favor of a matriarchy with pies. "Waitress" isn't meant to be a romantic comedy, I don't think, so it's not trying to do the same things as "Knocked Up"; but stylized as it was, its women and their choices felt much more real to me, and taken seriously to me, than Katherine Heigl in the latter. . . .

I want to see new-millennium remakes of "Adam's Rib," "It Happened One Night" ("The Sure Thing" (sigh) was twenty years ago now -- we're due for a new take), and "His Girl Friday" -- great romances where the men and women are equals in work and in one-liners. I want more women to write and direct romantic comedies (or really anything). I want more male directors to pay attention to women -- Judd Apatow is actually great at women's characters and issues, comparatively speaking. I want Michael Bay to have to direct a romantic comedy and not get to blow one single thing up. I want romantic comedy to explore marriage, living together, break-ups, friendships after break-ups, hook-ups, serial monogamy, all the interesting dimensions of love and sex outside the standard one-true-love courtship model. (Actually, this probably means I want "Sex and the City," simply because it had the time and characters to work all the complexities.) I want romantic comedy as a genre to stop being identified and dismissed as "women's pictures," and more great relationship stories on/from both sides of the Y-chromosome divide.

Also, I want a pony.

But these things are possible. People: Go write them.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Some Thoughts on "Deathly Hallows"












I’ve spent a good deal of the last two days reading comments on various websites about Deathly Hallows and talking to friends about their opinions. And while I really, really, really don’t want to debate here or apologize (in the rhetorical sense) for every plot point readers dislike, I’d like to write a little about two things that keep coming up in the reactions, and that deserve further thought before everyone hates on them completely. For the record, I have no special insight into these subjects beyond that of a reader who’s had the privilege of thinking about them for seven months rather than twenty-four hours; and this is also of course only my interpretation: I am definitely not speaking for J. K. Rowling or Scholastic or anyone else.

The Deathly Hallows: “What is their point?” some readers gripe. “What role do they serve in this book?” "She had the Horcruxes, she had to add another magical device?" This series, like any fantasy novel in which the characters wield magic, and like much of children’s literature in general, is at its thematic heart very much about power: who has it, how far it goes, the wise use of it, if it should be used at all. Voldemort is obsessed with it, like most evil overlords are, and he sees it as unequivocally good: the more, the better. And this approach parallels his obsession with death, which he sees as unequivocally bad: a weakness (the opposite of power), a failure.

The Hallows combine these two obsessions in three objects and use them to test Harry’s character: Will he chase down the Hallows? Will he take the ultimate power over death? That is certainly what Voldemort would do, if he knew all three existed; it was what Dumbledore wanted to do, when he was the age Harry is in this book; and it would provide Harry with the conventional means of destroying Voldemort—accumulating greater firepower (emphasis on the “power” there) with the Elder Wand, rather than undermining him from within by chipping away at the Horcruxes.

And Harry rejects them. He keeps his Cloak, but drops the stone somewhere in the Forest (there’s a fanfic waiting to be written); and most significantly, he decides not to keep the Elder Wand: He rejects fame, power, and immortality in favor of normalcy and a sandwich. I am not well-versed enough in epic fantasy conventions to know how unusual this is in the genre, the decision that the best use of power is abstention from it; but it is the perfect ending for Harry’s story, when he’s constantly been the victim of power, from page one with his parents’ deaths. His decision proves him truly the opposite of Voldemort, because his understanding of love, power, and death is so much richer and deeper than Tom Riddle’s; and he would not have been able to make that choice (that key J. K. Rowling word," choice") if he were not confronted with it in the form of the Hallows.

And this leads me to the epilogue. It is not receiving much love, I see—some people hate it because it doesn’t answer all their questions, some people hate it because it gives answers they don’t want, and some people just find it cheesy. I think it paid off five essential themes of the series (not just the book):

  1. Family. At the beginning of this series, who was Harry? A boy without a family, orphaned, friendless, belonging to no community, unhappy in the family he did live with, who gave him no love. At the end, he not only has a wife and children who love him (and whom he loves), he has a godson, many brothers-in-law, all their wives and children, and the acceptance of the full wizarding community.
  2. Maturity. Harry’s son’s name signifies that Harry has come to recognize Snape’s sacrifice and supreme courage (“Sometimes I think we sort too soon”), and to value those virtues over the pettiness with which Snape treated him at Hogwarts. Such a judgment is the mark of a intelligent, thoughtful, and empathetic adult, so it shows us that Harry has grown up and become wise.
  3. Fame. We see that Harry is happy being simply a father like the other fathers, and when all the kids on the train are gawking at him, he (and Ron) accept it matter-of-factly, rather than displaying the awkwardness that’s stalked him since his first visit to the Hogwarts Express in Book 1.
  4. Choice. He tells Albus essentially what Dumbledore told him in Book 2 -- “It is our choices, far more than our abilities, that show who we truly are” -- carrying that wisdom into the next generation.
  5. Power, or Where Real Happiness Comes From. Repeating a bit things I’ve said above . . . The epilogue is resolutely domestic, with kids squabbling and dads talking about parking—it’s a scene straight out of typical middle-class family life, plus wands. As far as we know from it, Harry is not powerful, he is not super-important, he does not wield any significant power. He is just a dad who loves his family. This, I think, may be part of the reason why people dislike the epilogue so much—the Chosen, special one, the Boy Who Lived, the one we’ve identified with all this time, has become just a regular guy, which means (by fictional standards especially) that frankly his life is a little boring. But J. K. Rowling is showing us clearly that he’s finding his happiness in everyday love and domestic life rather than big fantasy heroism—he is a Jane Austen and not a World of Warcraft hero in the end. And that is a kind of happy ending we can all aspire to: “All was well.”

Finally, some things I love about the book (not all, but some):

  • I had to say this line out loud every time I read it: “Vot is the point of being an international Quidditch player if all the good-looking girls are taken?”
  • I found a liveblog somewhere where a reader remarked, “I knew Regulus Black was R.A.B. as soon as I saw the handwriting!” This made me throw my arms in the air and shout “YES!”, as we deliberately set the handwriting on the door in the same font as the note to give readers (and Harry) precisely that clue and payoff. Yay!
  • Also a good liveblog: The Onion AV Club read.
  • “The Silver Doe” is my favorite chapter in the book. I love the wonder of the doe; the miracle of Ron’s return; the awkwardness in the conversation that follows; the pure Ron-torture the locket puts him through (so much delicious pain!); the Harry and Ron hug afterward; and Hermione beating Ron up, because he does totally deserve it. It’s heartrending and hilarious.
  • You know what JKR is amazing at? Hairpin emotional turns. Consider all the emotions in that chapter, or in the “Tale of the Two Brothers” or the “Deathly Hallows” chapter, from Harry’s broodiness to the lightness of the radio program (other people, at last!) to the terror at the Snatchers . . . I am so right there with them the whole time. And that ability to pull you into the moment and direct your emotions with ease is one of the things that makes J. K. Rowling such an incredible and popular writer.
  • Ron's line about Death having an Invisibility Cloak -- I don't have my book with me, but it's something like "Sometimes he gets tired of running at them and shouting 'Woo! Woo!'" To me that just encapsulated Rowling's magic and humor and interest in death all in a single one-liner.
  • The beginning of the "Wandmaker" chapter, where Harry digs Dobby's grave.
  • The brilliant payoff for Sirius's mirrors, and Aberforth in general -- I really liked him.
  • Jane Austen would have LOVED the fact that Hermione and Ron only kiss after he has expressed his sincere concern over the house-elves—thus demonstrating the completion of his moral education, and therefore his worthiness of Hermione’s love. I love it too.
  • The professors defending Hogwarts in the "Battle" chapter: McGonagall waking the suits of armor and telling the desks to "CHARGE!", Trelawney hitting crystal balls, Grubbly-Plank dropping Venomous Tentacula -- in the midst of the grief and chaos, these touches were delightfully funny and in character with the magical world.
  • Snape's last request for Harry to look at him, and "the green eyes meeting the black" -- I gasped out loud when I hit that line and realized what it meant.
  • I do not cry at books much. I did not really cry when Dumbledore or Sirius died—I had my arms over my head, sure, but my eyes were dry, and I didn't really cry through most of the deaths here. But I wept as I’ve never wept at a book before throughout the chapter where Harry is going to meet Voldemort. Sacrifices for others always do this to me; it's what made me cry in "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" (a comparison a lot of readers are drawing) and in "Titanic" (shut up).
  • Another favorite line: "Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, pity those who live without love."
  • Did everyone notice the lack of adverbial dialogue tags in this book? If you did not, do. :-) $300 million bucks -- or however large her fortune is -- and she still listens to her critics and uses what's useful.

ETA: For more thoughts on the epilogue and a theory on Teddy Lupin, click here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry and We PotterHeads

My photos from yesterday's release festivities in New York are now up here (you can use the comments to read about my night), and you can see the Nightline profile of me here. Some thoughts on Deathly Hallows to come.

Friday, July 20, 2007

On Harry Eve

Exactly 24 hours from the minute I'm writing this sentence, people will rush toward boxes, grab bound stacks of paper from them, and read as though nothing else on earth mattered. And while Muggles (and Roger) may scoff at the term, it truly is a magic moment: a reunion with old friends; the beginning of a great adventure; an experience shared with millions of other people around the world, when our world so rarely unites in love of anything, much less a book. I remember my pure joy when I first laid hands on Goblet of Fire at a midnight release party in Leawood, Kansas -- the longed-for story, mine at last -- and I wish you all that joy, and all the reading pleasure that follows.

The colophon at the back of the American edition of Deathly Hallows mentions a number of people involved in its production, but many others deserve recognition and remembrance for their roles in bringing this book to readers:

  • Emma Matthewson, the Bloomsbury editor
  • Isabel Ford, the Bloomsbury desk editor -- my "continuity editor" counterpart in the UK, who (with Emma) did truly heroic work
  • Rachel Griffiths and Emily Clement, editor and editorial assistant at AALB
  • Susan Casel, Veronica Ambrose, and Cheryl Weisman, our copyeditors/proofreaders
  • Francine Colaneri and Kirk Howle in supply and manufacturing
  • Ed Swart, who managed the shipping
  • Mark Seidenfeld and Dev Chatillon, our HP legal team, and Teresa Connelly, who supported us through many late nights
  • Rachel Coun and Suzanne Murphy, the marketing managers, and Katy Coyle, who oversees the Harry material on
  • Kris Moran, Kyle Good, and Sara Sinek, who coordinated all the publicity
  • Francesco Sedita and his Creative Services staff
  • Alan Smagler, Mary Marotta, and Margaret Coffee, our heads of sales
  • and Ellie Berger and Lisa Holton, who oversee everyone

Finally, if you are home at 11:35 p.m. EST tonight (Friday) -- awaiting delivery of your copy on Saturday, surely -- you can tune in to "Nightline" on ABC for an interview-cum-profile of me and my work on the HP books. A camerawoman actually came to Queens with me this past evening for the Harry and the Potters concert (which was fantastic), so besides shots of my unnaturally neat office and unprecedentedly made-up face, you can see me and several of my friends rocking out to "Save Ginny Weasley" and "Stick It to Dolores." Good times! (There will be one more item in this Parade of Incredible Famousness, coming next week, and then midnight strikes, the mice run home, and I revert to being a happily behind-the-scenes mild-mannered children's book editor. But in the meantime, it's fun.)

The happiest of Harry days to you all!

Monday, July 16, 2007

And the Incredible Famousness Continues!

I was (very briefly) a guest on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" this afternoon, discussing my role as continuity editor and two errors that can be found in the series; the audio is not yet available, but should be up here shortly. In the meantime, if you seriously need an AALB-HP radio fix, you can listen to Arthur's NPR interview from Weekend Edition Saturday, available here. (Fun fact: He received the orchid in the background of his picture on that page from Linda Sue Park after Book 6, with the message "R.I.P. [character who dies in Book 6]." Kind Linda.)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Vacation Notations

In the last ten days, I:

went to an Indian wedding with James (here we are being cool);

climbed a mountain (Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, behind me);

hung out with my awesome family (this is me; Angela, my cousin Bruce's girlfriend; my sister Melissa and brother-in-law Joe; and said cousin Bruce on Half Dome, showing our guns. My parents and James were below);

and saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in IMAX and partly in 3-D (and I liked the movie a lot -- as opposed to Transformers, which we saw to satisfy the eight-year-old boy in James, as well as the adult video-effects geek: "Optimus Prime has 64,000 moving parts!").

Hurrah for vacation!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Keith Olbermann on the Libby Commutation and Bush vs. Nixon

This is one of the best pieces of political commentary I've heard in ages, expressing exactly why the Libby commutation was so outrageous, how disgusted many of us are by it, and begging for the long national nightmare to be over. Obama should hire Olbermann as a speechwriter *now*. You can also read a transcript here.

(via Five Bucks)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

On Hiatus

I'm heading off for a long-awaited vacation over the next ten days -- a wedding near San Francisco with James, then hiking in Yosemite with my family -- so the blog will be quiet for a while. See you in Harry Week!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Ten Miracles I Usually Take for Granted

  1. My heartbeat. The sound of blood pumping through my veins, letting me breathe, move, think, type, run, read, dance, live. This could also be "my brain," or "my stomach," or "my eyes," or "my little toe" -- the human body in general.
  2. Photosynthesis.
  3. Bread, cheese, and beer/wine. All of which required some primitive man or woman saying "Hey! Let's take this stuff, let it ferment for a while, and then consume it!" Bread especially amazes me, as it involves first grinding up the seeds of a random plant, then adding the fermented stuff and other ingredients, then figuring out how to bake it . . . So many little steps in each piece of sourdough.
  4. Electricity.
  5. The telephone. I just finished Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik, the second book in the Temeraire series, where Will Laurence and the dragon Temeraire go to China in 1806 and do not receive any mail from England for three months because everything has to be carried over land and sea. Also today I spoke to people in the U.K., Minnesota, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Brooklyn, in real time, exchanging up-to-date news -- some of it over cell phones, which meant the calls went through space!
  6. Flight. Also in Throne of Jade, it takes them five months to travel by boat around Cape Horn and across the Indian Ocean. On Wednesday I'll get on a plane in New York; six hours and three thousand miles later, I'll be in California. Deeply weird and cool.
  7. The Internet. Fifteen years ago, virtually none of this existed, and now there are communities for every conceivable topic, some of them connecting millions of people.
  8. People playing guitar. And other instruments too, but ever since I tried "Guitar Hero" a few weeks ago and took three tries to get through one Beginner-level song, I've been obsessed/impressed by people who play guitar: They can move their fingers into all those different patterns for different sounds! And strum at the same time! And some of them sing as well! Incredible.
  9. Language. You can read this and understand what I'm thinking. Enough said.
  10. Love and friendship. These people were at this place at the exact right time to meet me, and we said and did the just-right things to connect, and now I'd do anything for them. It's wonderful.