Snowflakes in France

Reflections of a 20-something woman in publishing

Category: Books

An Editorial Ass

I’m looking for a book about an up-and-coming health trend. It must have a strong enough hook to be on the Today Show a few weeks in a row. The author must be famous, recognized by a swarm of health nuts in his or her diet or disease community. As I said, it must be trendy, but it must not be overdone and worn out. I need a spin on something that’s in. Oh, and it cannot have been published yet.

This is my job. Sounds exciting right? Except for that little detail of me having no clue how to find these books. Every time I find a brilliant new health idea, I can’t find an author. Or I find an awesome author with an awesome idea, and I can’t manage to get my marketers to agree that people will buy it. (Add to that my normal duties of essentially managing the daily affairs of a publisher and 5 editors — the boring stuff that they don’t have time to do — and you have a real image of my job.)

They say getting a book published is hard and that’s why people are self-publishing. Let me tell you, becoming an editor has to be harder. I remember when I started in publishing and I came across Editorial Ass, I decided that I was too good to end up like that, I was too smart, too dedicated, too likable. I would get promoted because I always have.

Two and a half years later, I’ve taken a different tone. I am still smart, dedicated and friendly. When it comes to actually editing, I know what I’m doing. I know when I find the right author, the right topic… it just happens so infrequently. And I can’t help but feel that it’s my fault. If I knew the subject area a bit better, or if I read the right magazines, went to the right nutrition health stores. In short, I’m not sure I can make it in this highly competitive, New York centric business. Despite the fact that I understand balance statements, budgeting, contracts, and (gasp) I can edit.

So you out there with the brilliant health manuscript, you the person who’s always quoted in USA Today about your subject area, tell me how I can find you. Because in the meantime, Editorial Ass has been promoted. And I’m still an editorial assistant trying to prove myself as an editor.

Paper goods sorted out

I had a minor freak-out moment yesterday when I heard that one of my friends thought he wasn’t invited to the wedding because he didn’t get a save-the-date. Like any good bride, I immediately whipped out my guest list and the file that I printed address labels from to confirm that I had not forgotten him. And then I blamed USPS. Because how sad is it that he did not get to see how adorable Jon and I look on this save-the-date?!

*Note, the date is NOT April 18. That's a template.

OK, that’s not the only reason I was upset. He was the fifth person I’d heard of who didn’t get this in the mail. Who knows how many other people didn’t get it. So I sent around an email as a catch-all (with the pic! yay!) and all is now right with the world.

(In the end, the rumors were wrong. He did get the save-the-date; it’s on his fridge — awww. But a few friends thanked me for the e-STD anyway because they had either lost or never received the paper one.)

In other paper news, I ordered my invites earlier this week. Initially, I was disappointed that my mom preferred something classic without too much of that pretty design that I see on all the wedding blog invites. But in the end I’m very happy with it.

Here’s a sneak peak:

It’s very elegant and some how managed to match the save-the-date. How very blog worthy of me! And for those who are squinting to see the script at the bottom, it’s my very favorite author’s very silly character Miss Bates, who once said,

“It is such happiness when good people get together — and they always do.”

Little Women Grown Up

Little Women is one of those universal stories that you can read and love as a 12-year-old little girl, and again as a 24-year-old woman. But perhaps I’m getting a bit more reality out of it now than I did 12 years ago.

When I picked it up two weeks ago, I thought of how disappointed I was when I watched the movie years ago because clearly Jo was supposed to marry Laurie. Wasn’t that implied in the book! How dare these scheming movie directors give him to pretty and perfect Amy!

I must have been looking for a love story formed in childhood, trying to validate whatever crush I had at the time, convincing myself that this boy was the ONE…even if we were still in elementary school. Because here I am, with only 100 pages to go, and it’s pretty clear that Jo and Laurie are not meant to be.

He proposed, she doesn’t love him and said no, and now he’s all fumy and rebellious off in Europe. And Marmee is right, they are too much alike in their temperaments and their sense of adventure. There’s no give in their relationship and their union would probably lead to utter disappointment.

So why did I think that Louisa May Alcott supported their inevitable marriage? Given Marmee’s savvy advice throughout the story, including her refreshingly modern counseling on Meg’s marriage, I’d say that she’s usually right when it comes to her girls.

Somewhere between preadolescence and my twenties, I’ve learned that women have a sense of wisdom that should be trusted. Because the first time I read this, I didn’t believe Jo when she told her Teddy that she didn’t love him. And I didn’t believe Marmee’s advice that they were too much alike. I didn’t believe my own mother’s advice that I had plenty of time to date and find the right guy or when she told me there was someone better than the schmuck I dated in high school and the unambitious boy in college. But now I see that they are right.

Hindsight can be a bitch. But it can also be a good lesson. The next time I watch the movie, I’ll judge it a little less. And as I enter into marriage, I’ll try to pay more heed to the women around me. Especially Marmee.

Update: So it turns out that when I was little I actually only read Part 1 of Little Women. Not Part 2, The Good Wives, which is where all the Amy & Laurie stuff comes in. Who knew? In any case, I’m glad I decided to re-read it and discover that!

An itch for a dream

I have an itch. For days I haven’t been able to find it. To cope, I’ve been short with people around me, jittery at my desk. Frowning more than smiling, and spending way to much time and money on online designer discount shopping sites.

And then this morning I read an APW post on dreaming bigger:

I’d forgotten what it was like to knock on door after door after door, and get told no, over and over again. I’d forgotten how depressing it was. I’d forgotten how determined it can make you. I’d forgotten that confusing, partially excited, mostly terrified feeling that you get in the pit of your stomach when someone finally says yes. I’d almost forgotten that art is my hustle.

As for me, I had also forgotten, and it made me lazy. During the day, I add 20 pages of footnotes to a manuscript because the author didn’t know how, and then I listen to Lily Allen radio, read BUST magazine, plan my wedding with an open, practical mind, and expect that to be enough. As if surrounding myself with smart, ambitious, daring women would naturally lead to the success of my own big dreams. Despite my comfortable existence as an editorial assistant.

But now it’s my turn to knock on doors. To be rejected so that I can move on from my safe little cocoon of entry-level work that I’ve perfected over the last two years.

And the itch? It’s the pit in my stomach. Because I know that a door is about to open. Now I have to walk into it. And it’s terrifying. Without really knowing what I’m doing, I have to work with authors who don’t know what they’re doing. See if the executive editor likes my work, and if he doesn’t move on. Because I’ve learned all I can in this position.

I need to blog more, find an interesting job, and build on the community of women that has been supporting me.

Or maybe I’ll go to law school. Who knows.

Exciting But Risky

When was the last time you picked up a dictionary and looked up a word?

Actually, I  did this yesterday, but that’s because I have about 70 of them on the shelves of my desk.

I’ve always loved dictionaries. They hold a list of the little pieces that we use to create stories, draft contracts, post LOST DOG signs, talk on the phone.

In the age of Google, dictionaries are a bit constrained.  While language naturally evolves and expands, dictionaries are bound to a certain number of words, of pages.

But I still like dictionaries. And I think I want to help them keep up with language and technology.

Wordnik , among other similar sites, is doing this pretty well, but with a few key problems:

  • Misspelled words
  • Foreign words, which have no definition listed because the site’s definitions are based on English dictionaries
  • Not enough time/staff to keep up with the words

And perhaps the biggest problem with sites like this:

  • No profit

How to make a profit on words in a digital world without overwhelming viewers with advertising? As my boss says, it’s an interesting business problem. Exciting but risky.

I see memoirs, self-help books, philosophy essays on TV shows, and other “infotainment” literature fly through the files on my computer on a regular basis, but the dictionary stuff makes me think the most. Maybe I can save them…