Sunday, September 11, 2011

Moving to WordPress

After much debate over the last two years, I've finally decided to make the move to WordPress. To everyone who's been a follower of Publishing Lane, I owe you a huge thanks! And hopefully I'll see you on the other side!

You can now find me at...


Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Winds of Change

There are some changes in store for Publishing Lane, and I'd really appreciate it if you guys could take a minute to fill this out!

(Just keep hitting 'next' until you get to the 'done' button.)

Thank you!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Breaking into Publishing

I'd love to say I was one of those people who was lucky enough to know what they wanted to do before they even came out of the womb. Pop! I'm gonna be a doctor! But that just wasn't me. As a kid, I had big plans to join the circus as a trapeze artist (and I'm afraid of heights, so I have no idea where that one came from) or become a member of the US Olympic dressage team (I rode horses for a few years, but was never very good).

Then, when I was about ten, I saw the movie Left Behind with Kirk Cameron. I was writing by then (although not very well), and suddenly being a journalist sounded like the perfect profession for me. Not so much the espionage-getting-shot-at-blackmailing part, but I liked reading teenybopper magazines. I figured that was something I could do. So I applied to colleges with the intent of becoming a journalist.

...Which lasted all of a semester. I took one of those giant 500 kid intro classes on communications 101 and basically wanted to shoot myself. And not even because of the professor, who was the meanest, most socially awkward man I've ever met. I just didn't like what I was studying. It wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped, and I ended up with less than zero interest in taking any more journalism classes.

So what did I do? I transferred schools (twice) and switched my major to creative writing. Over the course of my first semester of college, I realized that I wanted to write for myself, not because I had a deadline on a story that I wasn't even remotely invested in. 

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn't make a living being an author. I needed a new plan of attack. Being an editor had always sounded great to me (I tend to be the punctuation nazi when going through manuscripts), so I figured I'd shoot for that. Which meant getting involved in book publishing. This is perfect! I thought. I love books! 

Then I found out how hard it is to get your foot in the door. Fast-forward to my senior year of college -- I needed to get an internship for the summer between my senior and super-senior year. I applied to over fifty programs, including the Big Six publishing houses, as well as every literary agency under the sun. My resume was pretty good -- 2 years as a Madison Review staff member, small publisher intern, local magazine editor -- but I wasn't having much luck. I got calls from about seven of the 50+ places I applied to, none of which were a Big Six. One was in California, and one in Jew Jersey, neither of which I could make work. The rest were in New York, which is where I wanted to be. I phone interviewed for a few of those, then sat around waiting to hear back.

And then, something happened (which, looking back, totally changed my life in the best way possible). I got a call from a small agency in D.C. I interviewed with them, and less than a week later, I had the gig. Even better, I knew someone in D.C. that I could stay with! Needless to say, I took it. And it was the best summer of my life. I learned all about agenting, and in the process figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I, too, wanted to be an agent. I wanted to be that first stepping stone on the way to publication. I liked reading slush. I liked editing manuscripts. I liked everything about it.

Fast-forward again, this time to May 2011. I'd just graduated from college, and knew I had to get my ass out of Wisconsin. All of the best opportunities are in New York, I told myself. So... I guess that means I'm moving. By mid-June I was on a plane bound for the east coast without a place to live or a job. I crashed on friends' couches and spent the majority of my days applying for jobs (most of which I probably wasn't even qualified for). I applied for every entry level position that came up, even if it meant sending Penguin my resume seven times in one day. My resume was even better now, with real industry experience, and yet I only got one call back.

Disheartened, I decided it was time to find a "stupid job," and began applying for multiple part-time jobs. I figured I could work three "stupid jobs," and in my free time (I have no idea where I thought that was gonna come from) apply for "grown up jobs." (Yes, that's how I differentiate between the two.) After all, I was essentially homeless and needed to find a place to live. But I still wanted to be working in publishing, so I figured I could maybe intern one day a week, or online. I had a friend who was interning for a well-known agent, and was kind enough to float her my resume. Awesome Agent asked if I was looking for a full-time job, and that she knew someone in need of an assistant. She was kind enough to float them my resume, and that's how I ended up interviewing at N.S. Bienstock.

I admit, I wasn't sure what to expect going into the situation. Bienstock is a talent agency that reps people like Anderson Cooper, and all sorts of broadcast journalists and reality TV folks. At that point in time, I was sorely behind on the news, and I hadn't had a television in months. I was way out of touch. But the company has a lit department manned by Paul Fedorko (formerly of Trident) and JL Stermer (formerly of Donald Maass), and I walked out of that first interview elated. The three of us clicked instantly, and the position was exactly what I was looking for.

Sure enough, I got a call back for a second interview. And then a third. And after three weeks, was offered the position. I've been at Bienstock for three weeks now, and absolutely love it. I'm doing all the things I loved about interning, plus learning everything else I missed out on. I'm surrounded by great people and crazy opportunities.

But I'm constantly pinching myself. I know how unusual my situation is, and I know how lucky I am. I moved to New York resigned to working a minimum wage job for a year before I managed to find something in publishing. I'd planned to be just scraping by. So the fact that I now have a roof over my head and a solid job has not gone unnoticed. I thank my lucky stars every morning when I wake up, and every night before I go to bed. Sure, I kind of live in the ghetto (Jay-Z grew up across the street from me -- I don't know if I should be proud of that or not), and I live off a shitty train that makes my commute in the morning the better part of an hour, but I wouldn't change a thing.

So my advice? Hit the ground running and never give up. You're going to get rejected, and it's going to suck. But when you want something bad enough, you have to go for it. Maybe I'm too much of an optimist, but I truly believe that if you work hard, eventually it'll pay off.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lecture: Industry Trends

We live in a crazy time. The publishing industry is constantly changing, adapting to its readers and the technology they use. But where are things now, and where are they going? I had the opportunity to attend a lecture at NYU last night that covered exactly that. Libby Jordan, president of Misubu Inc., and Jay Ehrlich, executive director of online editorial for Women’s Health, put into words all the things I’ve wanted to tell you guys. And then some! (For the record, I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee lately. My brain’s a little bit whack. I apologize.)

Libby really delved into current industry trends. Did you guys know there’s been a triple-digit growth in self-publishing in the last few years? And to accommodate all these new writers and their audience, 3000 new publishers were registered in 2010 alone (95% of which were created strictly to serve  self-published authors). Crazy, right?

Nowadays we have sites like,,, and that are there to help people who think they have a story to tell (another fun fact for you guys: 81% of the population wants to write a book). If you want to write a book, and you don’t want to spend the time looking for an agent, and consequently an editor, you’ve got loads of options. Some are better than others, so like any other major venture, you need to do your research. But the option is out there if you want it.

And how about that Amazon, ey? They recently announced that they, too, were planning to dive into the world of publishing. Which only makes sense when you consider the fact that they are responsible for roughly 80-90% of all print sales, and that they sell more ebooks than they do every form of print combined.

But with these new and expanding markets, there’s also some major competition. As a seasoned publisher, Libby spent some time talking to us about marketing, and what she’s found that works. And this information is relevant for any of you — published, or hoping to!

The first thing she told us was to remember that you can’t be wrong. Things change so quickly that you need to be willing to try new things. Best case scenario, you stumble upon something great. Worst? You don’t do whatever you did again. But there are proven methods…

- Sampling. More and more authors are posting the first chapter of their novels online, free of charge. The beauty of this is that we all like to try things before we buy them (For example, shoes!). And who doesn’t love free things? Sampling also creates buzz. Say you read the first chapter of someone’s novel online five months before the book came out. In those coming months, you tell a bunch of your writer friends about this great book you heard about, and they, in turn, check out the sample and then tell their friends. Everybody wins!

- Net galleys. is definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re a book blogger. Once you sign up, you can download galleys (ARCs) of upcoming books. It’s another great way to create buzz for books that are coming out.

- Promoted tweets and facebook ads. Annoying at times, but worth their wait in gold. Both of these offer extensive analysis on the people clicking on your link. If you want to know that your key demographic is 14-year-old girls from Alabama, you can. So if you want to promote your book, twitter and facebook are great tools to utilize.

I tend to reiterate this a lot, but the more involved I get in publishing, the more useful twitter becomes. So this is just another service announcement telling you that, if you want to network, twitter is a great tool.

So many people these days are worried about publishing and where it’s going. Are books dying? The answer, my friends, is no! I truly believe there will always be print books. However, the shift toward digital publishing is obvious, and it’s moving fast. I think we all need to accept the fact that ebooks are here to stay, and in a big way. But publishing will continue to provide jobs, along with books (in multiple forms) to those who are looking. Libby and Jay especially noted SEO writing, video editing, design, coding, and social media as jobs that are definitely on the up and up.

But what about you guys? How are you feeling about the publishing industry as it continues to change?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Week 1: Survival of the Fittest

It's Friday. And you know what that means?

It means I made it through my first week of work!

It's still kind of weird to think that I have a job. A Real Job. I moved out here expecting to toil away in a coffee shop somewhere (while maybe waitressing at Hooters, as well as shining shoes for pennies) while I furiously sent out resumes and prayed someone would call me for an interview. And maybe I had the abbreviated version of that -- I certainly sent out a crap-ton of resumes and had some interviews -- but I got lucky. So while it's still surreal to actually be working and doing something I absolutely love (and working with some really incredible people whom I also love) (and also, avoiding homelessness), I am SO incredibly grateful. Anyone who played a part in me getting this job, thank you. I owe you a cookie.

Bienstock isn't your typical literary agency, and at the same time, it's exactly what you'd expect. The company is known for its broadcast clients since it is, first and foremost, a talent agency. But the literary department (aka three people, including me) operates exactly like a lit agency would. I'm just surrounded by people who shout names like Anderson Cooper and Bill O'Reilly across the room. And that's cool, too. If Paul and JL's offices were closer, I'd shout names like... Well, I don't know. But I'd shout names too. Because who doesn't like shouting?

I'm already busy reading manuscripts, editing, doing contracts, acquainting myself with our clients, and all sorts of stuff you'd expect an assistant to be doing. And I've loved every second of it. Coincidentally, I got to meet Hannah Hart this week, and if you haven't seen My Drunk Kitchen, well... now you have no excuse:

If you get the chance to go to one of her Q&A's, go. She's lovely. And told me I should watch Portlandia, and now I'm kind of hooked. So.

I think someone needs to pinch me. I still feel like this is all one really awesome dream.

Minus the part where I tried to drink writing utensils out of my pencil holder today because I wasn't paying attention and mistook it for a water bottle.

Highlighters. Fucking delicious.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cash, Money, Hoes. Minus The Hoes.

I was going to write this earlier today but couldn't form coherent sentences. There was a lot of arm flailing and phone calls, but things have calmed down now. Which means I can tell you my good news!


As of this morning, I am officially employed by N.S. Bienstock Talent Agency. I'll mostly be working with the book department as a literary assistant, but I'll also be a general assistant to the other agents who deal more with broadcast journalism. I moved to New York to find a job in publishing, and I managed to do that and work in journalism, which is what I originally went to school for. It's absolutely perfect. I start on Monday, and I couldn't be more thrilled. I owe a huge thank you (and my first born child) to Kat Zhang and Jenny Bent, who basically got the ball rolling for me. Without them, this wouldn't have happened.

So! I've been in New York for about a month and have an apartment and a job. I'd say things are looking pretty good right about now.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

We Always Return to the Ones We Love

I don't know about you guys, but there are a few books that I can't seem to keep my hands off of. We all have them -- our childhood favorites that we reread with newfound love each and every year. Every summer I take the time to go back and rediscover a few of the items on my bookshelf, and no matter how much older I get, I still feel that sense of wonder whenever I pick them up. Sadly, my books are still all packed away in boxes at my parents house in Wisconsin, but as soon as I officially move into my own apartment, my mom promises to send them to me. In lieu of not being able to read those books right now, I thought I'd share with you my summer reading list.

What about you guys? What are some of your childhood favorites that you keep going back to?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Notes to New York, Edition the First

Dear New York City,

It still hasn't hit me that I live here yet. I take the subway into the city and walk around Union Square at least four days a week. I've given directions to tourists. I'm slowly building an arsenal of great places to eat. I picked the bodega I will forever be loyal to (well, at least until we move). I've done Saturday brunch. I have yet to get on the wrong train (knock on wood). I already have apartment horror stories to tell. I've so far counted 9 subway critters. It took a while, but I'm pretty familiar with most of the Brooklyn neighborhoods now, and can tell you which areas I'd like to live in (at the very least, I can definitely tell you the areas I don't want to live in).

I think, for three weeks, that's a pretty solid list of accomplishments. Especially the subway rats/mice. I mean, who doesn't love tiny animals with fur that run through muck and withstand all sorts of diseases on a daily basis? It's pretty impressive.

That being said, I'm not going to lie: you scared me at first. You're big and intimidating, and nothing like Wisconsin. Which I knew, obviously, but it's always much different to see in person. I've been nearly run over by a taxi more than once, you provided me with a heat wave when I didn't have access to AC, and unreliable realtors who never get back to me. Somehow you allowed my debit card to get hacked, so now I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off while I try to set up a new bank account. I need new shoes to counteract all the walking I do, and I long for the day when summer fades into fall and I can go back to layering and hats.

And yet I still like you. Love you, in fact. I'm convinced that moving out here was the best decision I've ever made. I love that there's always something to do, someone to see. Any type of food I could possibly want, you have it. The job opportunities I'd hoped to find really do exist. I haven't seen any celebrities yet, but I'm counting on it. I'm much better suited to the pace of life out here, and while I hate summer, I hate summer in any part of the country. So it isn't your fault. I'm excited to walk around Central Park in October, when the leaves change colors and I can actually wear a sweater. And though I'm horrifically clumsy, I may just venture out to Rockefeller Center and ice skate this winter. You're making me try new things and test ideas I already have, and I kind of love you for it.

After three weeks, you don't seem so scary. You feel a little more like home each and every day, and I suspect, given a few more weeks, I won't be tempted to write WI after my Brooklyn address. When that happens, I think I'll officially be able to call you home. And I can't wait.

Crushing on you,

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Exciting Things are Exciting

Dearest readers, hello! I am back from my week-long excursion to New York, and while I did not find an apartment yet, I did find a roommate. And managed to navigate the subway on my own. I'd call that progress. This next week's going to be a little hectic, since I'm heading back to NYC on Tuesday with some more of my stuff, am coming back to DC for the weekend, and heading up next Sunday with the last of my bags. So, three five-hour bus trips ahead of me this week, but then I'll have all my things (at least, what I brought out here with me. We're renting a pod to get the rest of my junk across the country) and won't have to live in squalor! Well, I will. But at least I won't be wearing pants when it's 93 degrees.

Baby steps.

Now, in terms of news, I have something really exciting to share with you guys! Until I find my own place, I've been staying with my best friend, Lara, in Brooklyn. She and another friend, Dave, have begun creating a new comic entitled Tales of the Night Watchman, and it's basically the coolest thing I've ever seen. Here's the blurb Lara sent me:

Tales of the Night Watchman is about Nora, a blogger stuck working a dead end job in coffee, and her roommate Charlie, who happens to be possessed (in the nicest way possible) by a spectral detective called The Night Watchman. Baristas by day, heroes by night, Nora and Charlie are the only ones who can save the day when an influx of paranormal activity summons the return of their arch-nemesis Merrick.

It's got zombies, inappropriate language, snark, New York, and a whole lot of awesome, all rolled into one. Dave wrote the script (who knew you had to write a script for a comic?) and Lara's doing all the illustrations. I watched her work on it all week and let me tell you, it's badass. And makes me horribly jealous because, as I've said before, I can't draw a convincing stick figure. So you guys should probably check it out! They're hoping to show the finished product at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival later this year, but there's a sneak peek on Lara's website. Check it out!

In other exciting news, New York is growing on me. I was totally overwhelmed the first two days I was there, since being a tourist and actually becoming a resident are two very different things, but by the time I left yesterday, I was already looking forward to going back. I got to meet up with my friend Miriam who works at Tor, which was great because I hadn't seen her since January. As I mentioned, I found a roommate, and we narrowed down what areas we're hoping to live in (if any of you are from NY and know of any three-bedroom apartments opening up along the L, let me know!). I didn't get to eat from any street vendors yet (god, I miss some of the ones in Madison right now), but I've got the rest of my life for that. It'll happen. I somehow managed to not get lost, which I consider a Big Deal (although I felt like an idiot when I went to meet Miriam at the Flatiron building and realized, when I was two blocks away, that the subway let me off right in front of it). Really, the last week was a total whirlwind, but I'm so glad I decided to move out here. I've been saying since I was a kid that someday I'd move to New York, and it feels good knowing I actually managed to do it.

I've also been working on SILENCE a lot lately, and am aiming to be completely finished with edits by the end of August. So keep your fingers crossed!

And that's where the excitement in my life ends. Hope you're all doing well!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

To the Boy Who Lived

Every generation has its thing. Something people remember it by. My grandparents bore witness to two world wars. My parents grew up with Star Wars.

Me? I had Harry Potter.

I remember the day the first book came out. I was in fifth grade, attending a tiny Catholic school in Wisconsin. I begged my parents to buy me a copy but they refused because apparently their priest told them people who read Harry Potter would go to Hell. (For the record, I’m pretty sure if there is a Hell, and I’m going there, it isn’t because I read Harry Potter.) Rambunctious, sneaky child that I was, I did what anyone else in my position would have done: went to the library and checked it out anyway. I read it under my covers at night (Just like Harry!), and by the time I’d finished it, I was hooked.

To this day, I still can’t pinpoint what it was about that first book that made me fall in love. Maybe it was my not-so-hidden desire to transfer to Hogwarts, which seemed infinitely cooler than any school I would ever attend. (I still stand by this.) Maybe it was all the magical treats Harry got to eat; as a growing child, I was always shoving food in my mouth. It could’ve been the fact that Ron and Hermione seemed like the two best sidekicks ever, and my best friend at the time didn’t even know who Harry Potter was. These days I’m pretty sure it was a combination of all the above and then some.

By the time the second book came out, my parents had come to their senses and made sure I had a copy waiting for me the day it went on sale. I devoured it in less than a day, and then spent months waiting for the next one. Prisoner of Azkaban came out while we were on vacation, and then my parents played a cruel game and made me wait until we got home before I could procure a copy. Needless to say, I spent six hours in the Colonial Williamsburg gift shop reading it. I didn’t run into any snags after that. Thanks to some creativity and a little hard work, I managed to get a copy of each book the day it come out. (I wasn’t so lucky with the movies, but that’s another story entirely. (I blame the fact that most of my friends don’t possess the same nerdy gene that I do.))

What I’m trying to say here, dear readers, is that Harry Potter is full of memories. It was, essentially, my childhood. I can define points in my life by when the books came out. I can tell you where I was on 9/11, and I can tell you where I was the day The Deathly Hallows came out. In their own ways, each event has had huge significance in my life. 9/11 forced me to look at the world a little bit differently, and Harry Potter made me look at myself. In comparison, I had it pretty good. I wasn’t living in a cupboard under some stairs, and my parents were still alive and loved me. No, I didn’t get to go to a kickass school like Hogwarts, but I got a good education anyway. (And I could play witches and wizards any time I wanted. (I still do.)) It made me grateful for the things I did have. I already loved to read, but my hunger for books grew ten-fold after I stumbled upon JKR’s series. That, in turn, led me to where I am today, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Books are what you make of them. Harry Potter defined my childhood, but also restored my love of books at times when school tried to destroy it. It convinced some of my friends that books really were as awesome as I’d tried to tell them. It got my siblings to read. The written word is a powerful thing, and I’ve loved watching people’s opinions change over the years. With the last movie coming out tomorrow, it’s time to officially bid farewell to my childhood. Ironically, the ending of Harry Potter really does coincide with my shift into being an adult. Where Harry’s closing the final chapter, I’m just beginning a new one. So while I’m sad to see him go, it’s exciting, too.

So really, all I have left to say is…

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Using Method Acting in Your Writing

The first time I ever acted on stage was my freshman year of high school, when I played a 90-year-old nun in the show (warning: terrible pun ahead) Nun of Your Business. I’d never acted before, and knew next to nothing about it. I figured it couldn’t be that hard to pretend to be someone else, but it proved to be more of a challenge than I thought. As a 14-year-old, I had no idea what it was like to walk around using a cane. I still had all my teeth. Hell, I wasn’t even Catholic.

Lucky for me, I wasn’t the only one feeling like a fish out of water. So, to help us get into character before rehearsals, our director would have us sit in a circle and ask us mundane questions like ‘what’s your favorite breakfast food?’ or ‘what kind of errands did you run today?’ And we’d have to answer them from our character’s point of view. Now, as a frigid old woman who could hardly walk, I didn’t run many errands, but I waxed poetic on my love of all things breakfast, particularly buttermilk pancakes. I still remember that. I also remember insisting that I did not wear dentures.

Writing, it turns out, is a lot like acting. You have an entire cast of characters, each of them unique, and you have to manage to keep them all straight. You have to make sure they don’t blend together, and that each has a very distinct personality. I’ve been hard at work editing my current WIP, and was having a little trouble with one chapter in particular, where I couldn’t seem to get the mother to sound like herself. Up until that point in the manuscript, she’d been kind of sarcastic and grumpy. In this particular scene, the main character was in need of some comfort, and I couldn’t figure out a way for this older woman to offer her support without sounding trite and completely out of character.

So what did I do? I went back to my high school days of method acting. I sat myself down, closed my eyes, and tried to envision myself as a 47-year-old woman who’s hiding a fugitive in her basement, whose eldest son has turned out to be a major disappointment, and whose world is crumbling around her faster than a leaning tower of Jenga. I may have considered even putting on a frumpy dress and an apron for this, but couldn’t find any. (But if dressing up helps you, then by all means, go for it.) I envisioned what she’d had for breakfast that morning, and what kinds of errands she’d had to run. Knowing the scene took place in winter, I thought about how snow might affect her mood. Then I read through the entire scene out loud, much like you’d do at a play rehearsal. The problem, I found, was that a script is all dialogue, save for very specific sections of blocking. In between my lines of dialogue, I’d have a paragraph describing the lump in someone’s throat, or how badly their head hurt. When the thing I needed to work on most was voice, all those extra words just got in the way.

How did I solve the problem, you ask? I opened a new Word document, copied and pasted the scene I was working on, and deleted everything that wasn’t dialogue. And after I read through that, I realized why I couldn’t get the mother to act the way she’s supposed to. The problem was that the paragraphs between the dialogue were concentrated on the main character, as she’s the one narrating. So her voice was pulling me away from the one I needed help with. Once I took away my MC’s narration, the scene began to fall into place. I had a much better grasp on the mother’s voice. Keeping those emotions I’d dug up at the front of my mind, I was able to rewrite the scene in a way that stayed true to who both the characters were.

I haven’t acted since I started college, but I’ve found method acting to be a useful took I like to keep in my writer’s toolbox. It’s come in handy on more than one occasion, and I hope you guys can take advantage of it as well. Just start with the basic question of what’s the best breakfast food, and see where your imagination takes you!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Catching Up & Moving On

The time I spent in DC last summer/over Christmas break was invaluable. Not only did I learn a lot about publishing, but I learned what it was like to live in a place that wasn't Cows Town, Wisconsin (I wonder if that's actually a real place...?). More importantly, though, I made some really great friends. I stopped by my old internship last week to play catchup, only to find that a manuscript I'd edited last summer recently sold in a three book deal! Soon enough I'll be able to hold a copy in my hands and talk everyone I know into buying it. (And as soon as I know I can officially say something, I'll let you guys know -- that way you can start getting excited too!) It was fun meeting the new foreign rights person/former intern, and catching up with Elaine. I'm jealous I'm not at RWA, though I can't say I'm sorry to be missing out on the 14.7% tax on hotel rooms in Manhattan.

Then this week I got to have dinner with one of the girls I interned with last summer, who now works at the Sagalyn Literary Agency, which is just outside of DC. It's always good to hear that your friends actually like their jobs, and hear about all the stuff they're learning. It just reinforces how much I want to work in this industry. Lauren and I had dinner, then headed over to Kramerbooks, which is a staple here in DC. It's a really fantastic indie bookstore in Dupont Circle, and if you're ever in the area, make sure you check it out. Not only does it have a wide selection of books, but there's food and alcohol to boot. It's like the best of pretty much everything. We also made our way up toward U Street and had dessert at ACKC, which was incredible. Another place to check out if you're ever in town.

Today I caught up with Naomi, who used to do foreign rights/handled YA submissions with Elaine. (As long as I'm plugging local DC hangouts, I'll tell you guys to hit up Nooshi as well. I'd never been, but it was awesome.) Seeing her brought back memories of last summer and how much I loved my internship and the people I worked with. And now, even though none of us work there, it's good to know those friendships are still intact, if not stronger. (Anna's included in this, but she's in New York right now, so I haven't had the chance to see her yet.)

So this is basically me being a big ol' sap and saying how glad I am I had the opportunity to intern out here last year. It was, by far, the best experience of my life. (Minus graduation, which goes without saying because, hey, who likes homework?)

Now, I don't know what's in store for me. Sometime next week, or the week after, I'm going to take the train up to New York City for a few days and see if I can't track down an apartment. I've applied for jobs, but even if I don't get any of them, it's time to head up that way. DC was always just a stop on the way, and as much as I love it here, I've got cabin fever. I'm itching to dive head-first into New York City living. So while my Plan That's Not Really a Plan is still kind of vague, it's slowly but surely solidifying. I'd definitely say things are looking up.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Living Through History

I am So. Proud. to be moving to such an incredible state. Congratulations, New York! You've done this country proud.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Writing in Style (Or Style in Writing?)

Anyone who knows me in real life (or just follows my inane ramblings on twitter or tumblr) knows that my not-so-secret second love in life is fashion. Every morning I wake up and check the publishing blogs I subscribe to, then immediately move on to the style blogs. My writing may be influenced that day by some tips I picked up, and my outfit may just be an interpretation of something I saw online. Either way, my day has been impacted by the two things I love most.

But what does fashion have to do with writing, you wonder. Besides the obvious fact that your characters wear clothes (or maybe they don’t. Maybe you’re writing about a nudist colony, in which case, this post may not be relevant).

As writers, we’re told to infuse our characters with personality. No one wants to read an entire novel where the main character is as bland as a piece of burnt, unbuttered toast. We’re told to give them quirks, a distinct voice, and maybe a few defining physical features. Clothing, I think, falls into the same category. Maybe it’s just me, but I pay close attention when an author takes the time to describe what a person is wearing, even if it’s only a passing sentence. Suzanne Collins doesn’t really waste a lot of words on Katniss’s dress for the opening ceremony. In fact, this is all we get:

“I am dressed in what will either be the most sensational or the deadliest costume in the opening ceremonies. I’m in a simple black unitard that covers me from ankle to neck. Shiny leather boots lace up to my knees. But it’s the fluttering cape made of streams of orange, yellow, and red and the matching headpiece that define this costume. “

“My face is relatively clear of makeup, just a bit of highlighting here and there. My hair has been brushed out and then braided down my back in my usual style.”

It’s pretty vague, if we’re being honest. We have absolutely no idea what the headpiece even looks like. But that’s okay, because we’re given an impression. In our minds, we’re able to understand that the dress is, in a lot of ways, like Katniss herself: simple yet powerful.

Period pieces require a little more effort than a contemporary novel. Instead of saying a character’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt, you’ve got to worry about historical accuracy. I took a class on the history of fashion in college, just so I’d have the basic information if I decided I ever wanted to write in that genre. The text book is actually a really great reference for anyone who’s looking for one: Survey of Historic Costume. There’s also a great website (the KCI Digital Archives) that has a lot of fantastic images compiled for your perusal. If you’ve read any historical romance novels, you’ll know that fashion plays a bigger role than it does in contemporary stories, if only because a person had to change so often, and a specific garment meant a specific thing in a specific situation. These days we don’t really have that problem; at least, not to such a degree.

Taking characterization into consideration, I think clothing is a totally legit way to help your readers understand them. I mentioned once how black clothing doesn’t make your leading man a bad boy, but it’s still making a statement. Same goes for that girl who’s always wearing frumpy clothes inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Maybe she’s poor and can’t afford nice things. Maybe she doesn’t believe in wearing pants. Maybe she thinks she’s stuck in the 1800s. Whatever the reason, it speaks to her character as a whole.

Lately I’ve been trying to pay more attention to my physical portrayal of people and places. I’ve made a conscious effort to include some sort of clothing description where it’s necessary, and one of my CPs mentioned the interior of my main setting seemed a bit lackluster. Needless to say, I took the time to spruce it up. I realized she was right — initially, it was just a standard house. There was nothing defining about it. Now, as I go back and edit, it’s begun to take on a personality of its own. Which goes to say that clothing doesn’t just belong on people — you can dress up a setting, too!

If you’re anything like me and prefer a visual to help you with your descriptions, the above websites should be pretty helpful. Also, take a look at Not only can you create visual representations of outfits, but interiors as well! I’ve definitely found it to be a very helpful tool in certain situations.

What about you guys? Do you think clothing can be an important aspect of characterization? I’d love to hear what you have to say!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Musical Secret

We’ve had plenty of articles about the importance of outlining here at LTWF, but today I thought I’d throw one more at you. Something a little out of left field, if you will. Something different. Because when it comes to outlining, I’ve never been a fan. In fact, I pretty openly despise it. Only recently have I been somewhat converted to the monstrosity known as the Detailed Outline (meaning I’ve only done it for one book); in every other instance (including the novel I actually made a Detailed Outline for), I’ve gone about things a bit differently.

My secret? I outline using music.

Writers are inspired by all sorts of things. Maybe for you it’s a conversation you overheard on the subway, or a really incredible piece of art. Maybe your ideas come to you while you’re in the shower, or in the middle of taking an exam. For me, music’s always been my muse. I tend to write my novels as if they were movies — I can see them play out in my head and, more importantly, can imagine the soundtrack playing faintly in the background. Ironically, I can’t write with music playing, but it’s a huge factor in actually getting me to write.

Allow me to explain how this all works.

Step 1: I get an idea for a novel. For realism’s sake, we’ll use my current WIP as an example.

Step 2: I open iTunes. That’s right — before I even open Word, I’ve got to get a playlist started. I even come bearing an example:

As you can see, this is the playlist for SILENCE. It’s still growing, but the initial playlist, before I even began writing, consisted of about 20 songs. Because the story’s very melancholy and quiet, I put together a compilation of songs that I thought would work well to set the tone. For example: William Fitzsimmons, Peter Bradley Adams, and a bunch of instrumentals.

Step 3: Start writing.

Step 4: Add songs to playlist. As new scenes are written, I try to imagine what song might be playing in the background if it were actually a movie. Most of the time the song actually inspires the scene, but sometimes it’s the other way around. For example, I consider SILENCE’s theme song to be If You Would Come Back Home by William Fitzsimmons, which is at the very top of the playlist. It isn’t directly related to any scene, but I always listen to it before I start editing. It really helps me sink back into the story and how I felt when I was writing it. Some people set the mood for a romantic evening at home. Me? I set the mood for a romantic evening with me and my computer.

Pivotal scenes often get more than one song. In the first chapter of SILENCE, the main character has a flashback to the night her parents died. The scene initially starts with a song from Yann Tiersen’s Amelie score, but as the tension grows, it turns into a song from Mansfield Park. Different instruments lend themselves to certain feelings, and in some cases, instrumentals aren’t even good enough. Sometimes you need lyrics. My soundtracks are so random and mismatched, but somehow, it just works.

By the time I’m done with a story (written and edited), the playlist is usually between 30 and 50 songs. It really depends on how scene-specific I get. SILENCE is a bit more like that, while my playlist for THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD is more generic and mood-setting than anything. It all depends on the story. All I know is that this is the only real way I can outline. I start associating songs and lyrics with specific scenes or characters. The first novel I wrote had a pretty short playlist (short being 25 songs), but every time one of those comes up on my shuffle, I’m still reminded of scenes I wrote nearly a decade ago. Music sticks with you, which is why I think it’s been such an effective tool for me. So for those of you who are like me and are having trouble outlining, maybe give the musical route a go. If anything, you’ll get an awesome playlist out of it!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

And So Summer Begins

Being 23 is weird. Like, legitimately weird. 23 means actually being an adult. It means I finally made it through five years of college. That my loan payments start in a few months. That my little sister is graduating from high school. That I have to take that step and start to make something of my life. That I have to leave everything I know behind me and make a life for myself.

Two weeks from today, I'm moving to New York. Well, I'm going to DC to visit first, but my end destination is New York. What will I have with me? Two suitcases and a really big dream. I don't have a place to live, and I don't really have any money that I can call my own. All I've got is a dream at this point. And you know what? That's okay. Because I'm willing to do the work. Publishing isn't the easiest field to snag a job in, I know that. Finding an agent isn't easy either, but I'm almost ready to start querying again. This summer, things are going to change. Sammy Bina is going to get her new book out there, she's going to get a job, and she's going to finally be free of Wisconsin and its endless miles of fields. And mudders. (You know, I'd never even heard of mudding until this year? And now I see it everywhere and it makes me want to vomit.)

I'll try to document the big move as much as possible! And since I am now unemployed until I get to NYC next month, I'll actually have time to update this blog again!

Hope everyone's enjoying their summer!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: Bossypants

I admit, I do not religiously watch 30 Rock. In fact, I’ve only seen two episodes in my entire life. And while Iwatch SNL on occasion, it’s a very rare occasion. I can, however, quote Mean Girls with the best of them (“You go, Glen Coco! Four for you, Glen Coco!”) and really respect Tina Fey. I think she’s incredibly smart, hilarious, gorgeous, and totally in charge of her life. When Bossypants came out, I was hesitant to pick up a copy because I don’t really follow 30 Rock, and thought a lot of the humor would go straight over my head.

Boy, was I wrong. In fact, if anything, I think I took away some very important lessons after reading this book.

Some things I’ve taken away with me:
- Make sure I know where the lifeboats are when/if I ever go on a cruise.
- My Sarah Palin impersonation could use some work.
- If you even remotely look like someone famous, use it to your advantage.
- I should’ve spent more time with theater kids after high school.
- Never hike up a mountain at night to impress a boy.
- Don’t provide my children with informational packets meant for adults.
- It will be a huge hassle to get Oprah to appear on my future Emmy-nominated reality show.
- I need to be in more professional photo shoots.

Bossypants is essentially a memoir detailing the (not-so) finer points of Tina Fey’s existence. It covers her awkward childhood, reminding me of some of my own mishaps. Of course she talks about her time with SNL and her current place at 30 Rock. But above that, it’s incredibly empowering. The feminist in me fist-pumped at many points throughout the book. Tina Fey sets a great example, not just for women, but for anyone (especially the awkward and average) trying to do something with their life. After I finished, I felt like I could go out there and do anything. Except maybe fly.

Tina Fey tells it like it is. She encourages people to be who they are and nothing less. If there’s one thing I took away from her book, it’s that.

Also, to have a box of Kleenex nearby. To wipe away the constant flow of tears caused by endless laughter.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Author Interview: Susan Dennard

I've decided to start a new series on Publishing Lane! We'll call it Author Interviews, since I'm bursting with creativity right now (10 hour days breathing in espresso fumes will do that to you). Recently, a bunch of my very talented friends have landed book deals and I want to make sure you guys get the heads-up on what kind of things you have to look forward to! 

We're starting things off with the lovely Susan Dennard, whose debut will be appearing on shelves in 2012. I've read Sooz's novel and am basically obsessed with it (zombie steampunk. How can you go wrong?). So when this one comes out, I suggest you all pre-order it. Trust me, it'll be well worth the wait.

Author Interview:
Susan Dennard

1. So, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY. What’s the lowdown?

It’s 1876, and Philadelphia is hosting the first American World Fair. It’s also hosting rancid corpses that refuse to stay dead. When one of those decomposing bodies brings Eleanor--a 16-year-old with a weakness for buttered toast and Shakespeare quotes--a hostage note for her brother, she resolves to do anything to rescue him. But to face the armies of Dead that have him, she’ll need a little help from a ragtag spirit-hunting team.

2. If you could be any item of clothing, what would it be and why?

A really flattering, really cute yellow sundress.  Why?  Er...because I like summer, sunshine, and smiling, and anyone who wore me would be partaking in all three. :)

3. How long did it take you to write the book?

First draft took about 1 month.  Revisions?  About 7 months!  The first draft was in third person and a completely different kind of story.  It was light and silly--light and silly!  How did I ever think that would work with Victorian zombies...?  ::headdesk::
4. You’re throwing a party: who’s invited? And what are you serving?

Um, I don't throw parties.  I don't really attend them either.  That introvert writer stereotype is 100% accurate for me.  But...I guess I'd invite my closest friends--not many--and serve COOKIES and CUPCAKES.

5. How was the querying process for you?

Quick.  Nerve-wracking.  But also the most EXCITING week of my life.

6. Name one TV show you couldn’t live without.

Arrested Development.  Oh still my heart.
7. Any cover ideas for SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY?

Oh yeah! My editor and I had to submit a bunch of covers I liked to Harper's design team, and then tell them what I absolutely wanted.  I said I wanted a voluptuous girl (or at least not skinny!) in Victorian garb, but I was told not to specify hair or eye color.  These are the covers I submitted (um, it's a lot....):

My favorite is definitely THE VESPERTINE--I would LOVE to have a cover like that!
8. Biggest crush on a fictional character?

Han Solo.  Scalawag, cocky rogue, actually good captain of a space ship? Yes, please.

Oh, I would also follow Howl (from HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE) to the ends of all those earths...

9. Now that SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY sold, any clues as to what you’re working on?

I'm working on SCREECHERS, a YA fantasy/sci-fi.

10. You're playing two truths and a lie. What's your lie?

I never lie.

11. If you had to pick one theme song for your novel, what would it be?


12. Take a silly/goofy/random photo of yourself.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Come Bearing Parodies

I like books. This is not a secret. But what I love even more (sometimes, not always) are parodies of said books. So because I'm drowning in the filthy mire known as midterms (or just school in general), here are some particularly wonderful parodies that will have you in stitches.

I dare you to stop at just one. I spent some quality time procrastinating the last two weeks and watched both this and A Very Potter Sequel. And got my roommates hooked on it.

Oddly enough, I enjoy The Vampire Diaries tv show more than the books. Even funnier, I think I like this parody better than the show.

I know I posted this a long time ago, but it's time to bring it back. It's just that good.

We will return to our regular blogging schedule next time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


I was going to do a vlog, but then I got sick. So I was going to actually write out an update, but it was tedious and not very exciting. So, instead, you get this lovely post full of images that have helped inspire SILENCE! Way better, right?

I'm still pretty tight-lipped about the story at the moment, but I might confirm a few thoughts if you guess correctly ;-)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Workshops: A Survival Guide



Ah, the workshop. Something the Creative Writing major fears, yet simultaneously adores. It is a place where our work is torn apart, then put back together by esteemed (or not-so-esteemed) classmates and professors. Where we are able to hone our craft in the hopes that it will someday lead to publication.
Yet so many people are intimidated by it. The other day I spoke with some freshmen at my college who were considering majoring in Creative Writing. The reason they had yet to declare? Fear of workshops. Before my first one, I felt like I was walking headfirst into the zombie apocalypse, so I can understand their anxiety. However, I will tell you what I told them: don’t let your fears hold you back.
So, for those of you still on the fence, or who may be dreading your first workshop, I’m here to give you the 411 on how things work. Keep in mind each school runs them differently, but I think the basics are all pretty much the same.
1. Class sizes are small. My school caps a workshop at 15, and I’ve had one as small as 10. This is good news for you because the smaller the class, the more opportunities you have to share your writing. The more you share, the more you learn. It also means that, yes, you will have to speak.
2. Participation, as I mentioned, is kind of mandatory. On the weeks people critique your work, you may not be allowed to speak for the entire period (I’ve heard a few people say this), or you may be invited to ask questions of your peers based on their comments. Conversely, when it’s someone else’s week, you’ll have to give them feedback. A lot of times this will come in the form of marking up the pages they gave you, or turning in a critique.
Critiques themselves can be a bit tricky. Sometimes you’re going to come across a piece you didn’t like, made no sense, or was obviously thrown together the night before (trust me, it happens). And while you need to be honest, be nice about it. Constructive criticism is what people look for in workshops. Be sure to tell your classmates what you did like! Even if it’s just the character’s name, or the title, you can always find something nice to say. I had a professor whose rule was to write a paragraph talking about the things you enjoyed, and then a second detailing what you thought could be improved upon. This way the writer didn’t go home feeling craptastic at the end of the day. The one guy in my class who neveronce said anything nice about anyone’s work? Well, he never got nice comments in return. Give and take, people.
3. Know that you’re not always going to agree with what people say about your work. Workshop is essentially a giant group of beta readers and, as we’ve talked about here before, you’re not always going to agree with people. And that’s okay. Keep an open mind during workshop. I learned some really valuable techniques and advice from people who gave me some tough love. I also learned when to pick out and toss aside comments that didn’t matter. At the end of the day, it’s still you’re story. Never forget that.
4. Writing styles vary, so be prepared. One of the things I enjoyed most about workshops were the varied writing styles I came across. My favorite class had a mix of horror writers, a satirical writer, one girl who loved to imitate gothic literature, and a taxi driver whose stories stemmed from wacky conversations he overheard in his backseat. I read some really fantastic things that semester, but there were also a few experimental writers whose pieces I could never understand. It’s okay when you don’t get something; chances are someone else didn’t either. But it’s still a learning opportunity.
5. Be prepared to do some reading. Not only will you be reading work by your classmates, but you’ll probably be reading some short stories or novel excerpts as well. Hemingway, Joyce, Poe, Updike, and Oates are all names I’ve come across when reading for class. Read from the best, learn from the best.
6. Expect to see people of all ages. I’ve been in classes with freshmen as well as middle-aged and old men. The varying ages mean varying life experiences, and some really interesting stories and life lessons. Discussions don’t always wind up revolving around the written word, so you might pick up some valuable tips along the way. Take note!
7. You don’t always have to write short stories. I was petrified when I joined my first workshop because I am a terrible short story writer. My first one was torn to bits, and I went home feeling totally defeated. Then I found out I could submit chapters from my novel instead, and my love of workshop increased ten-fold. I can’t guarantee that your school follows this rule, but I’ve talked to a fair number of people where this is allowed. So if writing short stories is what’s scaring you off, just ask!
8. Sometimes there’s food. And free food is always a good reason to go somewhere. I had one summer workshop where we’d occasionally meet at the campus bar. That, my friends, was a good time.
9. Like any class, you can’t always pick your teacher. You might wind up with a lousy instructor, in which case you might feel as if you’re not learning anything. But if the instructor isn’t fantastic, just pay attention to the other kids in class.  You can always learn something from them.
On the other hand, you might wind up with a fabulous instructor. I’ve studied under some really fantastic people, and I wouldn’t trade my time with them for anything. My writing definitely improved because of them and I still see them around campus. Because of the small class size, you get to know your professors pretty well and they can be invaluable resources when you need letters of recommendation, or even just advice.
So hopefully that’s taken the scare out of the dreaded workshop. I can promise you you’ll learn an insane amount if you pay attention, and your writing’s definitely going to improve. If you’re considering signing up for one, I encourage you to do it. Having your work critiqued is never an easy thing, but you can’t really improve until someone tells you what you’re doing wrong. So take a chance. Live a little. Learn a lot.
For those of you who’ve taken workshops before, did you enjoy them? Learn anything particularly useful?

Monday, March 7, 2011

You Can't Please Everyone



If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that you can’t please everyone. No matter how hard you try, someone is always going to dislike your book. It’s all a part of the vicious cycle of writing. What matters is how you respond to such negativity. You can respond in any number of ways, but we’re going to highlight two that I’ve seen a lot of, and happen to be polar opposites:
1) People who are majorly offended and retaliate/lash out
2) People who accept it and move on
Let’s pretend you wrote a book. Your friends have been nagging you to let them read it for ages, so after you’ve edited the crap out of it, you finally agree to send it to them. You anxiously await their feedback, but what they tell you isn’t what you’d hoped to hear. Two of your friends hated the book. One didn’t like your main character, and the other thought the plot was stupid. If you tend toward option #1, you pointedly tell your friends they know nothing about literature and maybe don’t speak to them for a while. They aren’t writers, you tell yourself. What do they know?
A few days go by, and your anger’s starting to fade. Replacing it is a nagging feeling that maybe your friends were right.What if your main character isn’t likable? What if the plot really is trite? You dive back into your manuscript, dissecting it for the things your friend clearly disliked. You’re filled with doubt, and it starts to eat away at you. Maybe your writing isn’t as good as you thought. Maybe you’re a total hack. I think we’ve all wondered that, no matter what stage of our career we’re in.
If your friends are writers, things might pan out  a bit differently. You may be more inclined to believe them when they say your main characters have no chemistry, but only a little bit. And you won’t change anything based on their suggestions. When they send you their manuscript to look over, you’ll look for every little detail you hate, just to get back at them for not loving yours.
Or you could just totally go ape shit and tell them they’re idiots with unfounded opinions and that you have no idea why you ever respected them as a person. (Trust me, it’s happened. You’ll see it all over the internet if you look hard enough.)
These are all really self-destructive ways to respond to criticism. In each instance, you’re the one holding the short end of the stick. You’re left with unending self-doubt, an anger management problem, and quite possibly a few less friends.
So how do we take criticism and respond in a more positive way? Ho do we grow as writers when people are telling you something’s majorly wrong with your book?
The first thing to do is consider the fact that they may actually be right. Even people who flame your story on, or trash your story on goodreads may have a point, just said in a not-so-very-nice way. So look for the truth in their words. If it’s there (and it may not be), take note. Maybe you had too many descriptive passages, and it slowed the book down. In book two, you’ll know what you need to work on. Sometimes people who criticize your book will mention that it can’t compare to X book that Y wrote. Take a look at Y’s book and see what’s so great about it. Maybe you’ll learn something, maybe you won’t. Either way, it can’t hurt to check it out.
Say you don’t learn anything, though. Maybe the hater was just spewing negativity and had nothing substantial to say other than, “THIS BOOK ROYALLY SUCKS!” In those cases, it’s best to just leave things well enough alone. So someone didn’t like your book. That sucks, but there’s not much you can do to change their mind. If you think about it, I’m sure there’s a book you’ve read that you strongly disliked, regardless of the fact that everyone else raved about it. You may not have left a scathing review in a public forum, but you wanted to. Sometimes there are just books we don’t like. It’s a fact of life. The best way to handle it is to just move on. Be the bigger person. Accusations may be unfounded, and you have every right to stand up for your work. Just be gracious about it!
Have you guys ever run into this problem? How did you respond?