Friday, October 29, 2010

It’s really just that I so very much like using rather superfluous words.

by Rachel S.
For my very-first-ever real blog entry, I thought I’d have to look hard to find something both relevant and personally interesting to write about. Surprisingly (to me), it took under 5 minutes before this Huffington Post article, written by Linda Silversten, came to my attention. I jumped on it immediately in a guilty rush to see what she had to say about writers who use too many unnecessary words in their prose. Noting that in recent years published writing has become more and more conversational, Silversten took it upon herself to pick two recent bestsellers and count the number of taboo “filler” words peppering the pages for comparison. While Elizabeth Gilbert and Seth Godin didn’t err too far to overuse, Silversten still found an overwhelming amount of ‘thats’ and ‘sos’ in the portions of text she chose to tally.

I’ve known ever since in-class essays became a normal testing method in grade school that I have a strong tendency to write far too much and use more words than are necessary to convey a point or image. While this was a point of pride in school (I was always a little bit smug, though I tried to hide it, when I asked the teacher for more paper during every exam), I’ve eventually come to understand that MORE writing doesn’t necessarily make for BETTER writing. I’m still working on the short sentences thing, though. I don’t think that these little filler words that this article brings up are as much of a problem in my own writing as are an overabundance of adverbs and split-infinitives (the phrase still sends me running to the dictionary every time someone tells me I have too many). Are Linda Silverton’s taboo words just as much a problem for you as they seem to be for most writers, or do you have words or tendencies of your own that you work to suppress?

Perspective, dinosaurs, and death machines

by Lauren

I was so happy to read this post on PWxyz about a new book co-edited by Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics, who you already know I love.  Machine of Death is an anthology of stories from a variety of incredible contributors (including xkcd's Randall Munroe) spawned from a particular Dinosaur Comic about a machine that tells people how they're going to die.  I can't believe I'm only hearing about it now, but I'm about to order my own copy.

There are a few things about the PWxyz post that warmed my cold, cynical NY heart.  One was the editors' appreciation of the efforts of people who tried to move the work through the great traditional publishing machine.  The anthology's editors worked really hard, produced what is surely a fabulous product, and found people who'd go to bat for it.  It didn't work out, so they self-published.  But rather than complain bitterly about how broken publishing is and how all authors should abandon it, they didn't take it personally:

This isn’t some vanity-press sour-grapes effort. The simple truth is that we probably can’t compete on the shelves at Barnes & Noble alongside every other book in the world. The agents and the publishers are right; it might not work for a mass market. That’s okay. We don’t need to sell it to everyone. We don’t need to sell 100,000 copies; we don’t have the rent on a New York office to pay for.

I don't think all authors should self-publish.  In fact, I don't think most authors should self-publish.  But for the right project, with the right platform, at the right time, it can be the right way to get a book to the audience that wants it, as long as you can put together a team of people who know how to get all the right pieces in place. 

The second thing I loved was how well this demonstrates that people who are truly dedicated to a great idea can build a community supportive enough to make their projects economically viable.  Sure, MOD-Day benefitted from the existing platforms of the people involved, but those people built their platforms online from the ground up through hard work, great content, and presumably a little luck.  No one says it's easy, but I love seeing the proof that it's possible if you're willing to make it happen.  The internet isn't a cornfield baseball stadium, but if you build it, and you work really hard to get people to see it, especially people with influence, and they like it, people are gonna come.

P.S.  This is a great excuse to link you to a delightful recent Dinosaur Comic.  You're welcome!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


by Michael

Now that I live on the West Coast, I do a lot more traveling than I used to. Previously, I'd go to a couple of conferences a year, travel for the holidays and vacation, and that's it. Between Labor Day and Christmas this year, I'll be taking six trips to three different locations, so I'm suddenly paying more attention to travel news, books and apps.

The New York Times yesterday ran a review, of sorts, on travel apps, the gist of which is: books are still better than apps. And, in fact, they recommend that the iPad is actually a better travel companion that the iPhone, if you want the right app for the job. This surprised me a bit, considering my previous blog post about the usage of the iPad. But it makes sense: more screen real estate can be a huge advantage, not just because it can display more information, but because it's much easier to navigate. But the lesson learned here isn't that books are better travel companions or people should take their iPads everywhere they go (not everyone is me!). Rather, the book publishers and their app developers need to work harder to make the travel app experience a better one. From the review, it seems like the fixes could be quite simple. And, as apps mature, I think we'll see that the apps can actually do a better job of showcasing guidebook information on the fly.

But until then, I'll still carry my beat up, dog-eared guidebooks when I travel. How else would I have ever found the Mütter Museum? (Sorry, I couldn't resist linking to it!)

via PWxyz

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing to extremes....

by Miriam

Life at DGLM has been so hectic today with back-to-back meetings and important literary agent things to do that I’ve not had time to come up with a blog topic, much less write one for your amusement, annoyance, and/or edification. So, in desperation, I looked up writer’s block in Google Images and I found the following from AmazingSuperPowers by Wes & Tony:

A little extreme, but I get it. Haven’t you ever gotten a little crazy when a deadline’s looming and you’ve got bubkis?

Books on food

by Stacey
I've been really into food and cookbooks lately, as I've mentioned, both because I represent a lot of them and because I love to eat (plus I'm trying to cook more, in my dreams at least). There is a lovely little indie bookstore in San Francisco, Omnivore, that a couple of my clients have done events at, and that I visited when I was in SF last spring. It's totally adorable and they have a wonderful, eclectic, well-curated selection of classic and contemporary books about all things food and wine. They get great authors to visit, even though the store doesn't hold more than a couple of dozen people and even then it's tight quarters. It's worth checking out if you're in SF, or even if you're not, you can subscribe to their newsletter, which is always a lot of fun to read. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Austen question

by Stephanie

As a former college undergraduate who majored in English literature, I was never too far removed from the world of Jane Austen. Hers are novels that are firmly situated in the literary canon, and rightfully so. Her writing is more than well-known for its ability to weave elegant moral thought with comically ironic plot turns that prove to be not only witty but profound as well.

So I was interested to see this article at BBC News regarding a three-year-long study that suggests that someone else was heavily involved in the editing process of Austen’s manuscripts, namely an editor who worked for her publisher, John Murray II. This is a pretty big revelation, and indeed one that could incite both discussion and derision. Some could argue that the claim diminishes Austen’s prowess, making her writing not the product of her own talent, but rather something from an editor’s red pen. In other ways, as the article suggests, it could stand as an indicator of Austen’s openness to trying new things with her writing.

Either way, it’s interesting to think that new discoveries can still be made two hundred years after a book is published.

I Know, It’s Only Rock N’ Roll…

by John

...But I haven’t been this excited for a book in years! Of course, I’m talking about Keith Richards’ LIFE, which officially goes on sale today. And even if the excerpt from Rolling Stone didn’t live up to the hype (which it does), or if Michiko didn’t give it a rave review in the Times, I’d still be first in line to get my copy.

As a new agent, I’ve done several interviews over the last few weeks, and one of the usual questions is what did you read as a kid? Typically, my answers reference grade school or middle school, because once high school hit my pleasure reading pretty much dried up—except for rock bios, which aren’t exactly considered high literature. But looking back now at my well-thumbed copies of No One Here Gets Out Alive, Hammer of the Gods, and ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky, it’s fun to remember how I devoured these sordid tales of excess, and also to recognize the profound effect they had on me—no, I’m not talking about a raging heroin addiction, but how Beatles biographies like Peter Brown’s The Love You Make made me want to learn guitar almost as much as their music did.

So now that Keef has made the plunge, I can’t wait to dive in with him—partly because it promises to be an amazing story, but also I’m eager reconnect with that teen reading experience. By the way, if anyone wants a primer on rock bios/memoirs, check out this slideshow from The Wrap. And is anyone else as excited for LIFE as I am? Who else had their teenage world “rocked” by books as much as music?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween horror

by Jim

Less than a week to go until Halloween, the best holiday of all time. Keep your fireworks, July 4th. I don’t need your candy canes, Christmas. I just want some candy corn, a scary movie, and the chance to see people wear crazy costumes and wander around.

I love a good scare. Admittedly, I go from zero to terrified pretty quickly and have been known to sleep with the lights on for days at a time when something really gets to me. But that’s never stopped me from going back for more.

I’ve said before (and maintain) that I’m looking for great horror novels. They’re not easy to find for a few reasons. There are no cheap scares in books—you can’t have a “gotcha” moment. So the suspense needs to be built, the discomfort seeded, and the terrifying aspects need to develop fully enough to stay with you as you turn each page.

As many folks know, House of Leaves is one of my favorite books. As the narrator begins to come apart, the narrative itself does as well. The author removes the safety net, and you realize that anything could happen. I still remember the act of reading one passage—how scared I was, and how hard it was to shake the feeling of being watched that the book implanted.

I’m also a big Shirley Jackson fan. Whether it’s the horror that people do in The Lottery or how convincingly spooky We Have Always Lived in the Castle is, she’s a master of unsettling.

Stephen King was pretty much my hero growing up. Looking back, some of his books don’t hold together as well as others. Let us never speak of Gerald’s Game. But when he’s on, no one can come near him. He has such an exceptional eye for what people are afraid of, and he can zero in on the most disturbing of our feelings. Whether it’s the viral fallout of The Stand, the killer clown of It, or the psychopathic fan of Misery, his great talent is in exploring (and exploiting) just what it is about these things that we find so terrifying.

What are your favorite scary books? And what’s the scariest?

Who would you want to be?

by Jane

So October 31st is a date I can never forget because it is my father’s birthday. It’s also Halloween, though, and a time when we all, young and old, at least think about who or what we might want to dress up as. Last week I saw a list of the most sought after costumes for this coming Halloween and guess who was at the top? Lady Gaga, of course.

But that and these two blog entries that Lauren forwarded to me made me think about what literary character from a book—fiction or non-fiction—I would want to be if I were to don a costume this year.

It didn’t take long for me to choose Cleopatra. After all with Stacy Schiff’s upcoming book Cleopatra: A Life being touted everywhere and given the queen’s fabulous make-up and clothes, becoming her for a few hours would be great fun. The question would be whether my husband, Steve, would agree to be Mark Antony?

I wonder what literary characters our readers would like to be and why; so please join the Halloween fun and let me hear from you.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Apology from a pedant

by Lauren

Courtesy of my friend Leila, I bring you this amazing video from Rogers Creations.  Apparently it's called kinetic typography animation, and it features the oh-so-wise and entertaining words of Stephen Fry, who you all already know I adore.  When I can sneak some pleasure reading in around the metaphorical pile of work reading, I'm currently enjoying Moab Is My Washpot.  Genius, as expected.  So in the spirit of Fry's words—which I can't argue with even though I want to, because he came up with cogent counterarguments to every point I would have made—I apologize for being so uptight about other people's grammar and punctuation.  I know I'm not above reproach in that regard in general or likely even in this very blog entry. 

To be honest, I'm probably still going to snicker at errant quotation marks and sigh aloud at inarticulate comments strewn across the internet.  Just please don't tell Mr. Fry!

Better titles!

by Jim

Jessica Regel tweeted this wonderfully entertaining blog today that gives some books slightly more accurate titles. Can anyone argue that Franny and Zooey could be retitled Wealthy and Mopey?

And wouldn’t it be easier to choose books if their titles were pithier and more to the point? British Battle Royale…that’s not just a title—that’s a book pitch!

Of course, there’s the immortal My Teacher Ruined This, which here stands in for Wuthering Heights. But don’t we all have a book that a well-meaning English teacher somehow overanalyzed to the point where the reading of it became a deep, dark slog? I still need to try reading The Great Gatsby again outside of the tortured process of high school English class. How about you? Any books that were tortured beyond recognition in your past?

New look for teens at B&N

by Michael

Though I think it's a fantastic idea, one built around the concept of merchandising (a word people hate to use with books), B&N's rearranging of their teen book section is already pulling in derisive comments from the web.

I don't think this is any way the sign of the apocalypse, but rather an admission that readers of certain genres stick to those genres. They also buy a lot of books. And if this makes it easier for them to buy more books, I'm all for it.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Freckleface Strawberry Live!

by Stacey

Following up on my piece last week about book to theater adaptations, I was happy to learn that this type of thing is also taking place on the kid's side. The actress Julianne Moore's first children's book, Freckleface Strawberry, has now been adapted as a stage play, with music! You can learn more about it at the website or read the review in today's Huffington Post or New York Times. One thing I really love about this show is that they offer a Study Guide on the show's website which talks not only about the book and its positive messages for children of all ages, but offers ways in which all of us can help kids develop their own self-esteem, and teach kids to appreciate each individual's uniqueness. As the study guide says, "After all, differences are what make us individual and special."

To me, this book to show adaptation illustrates another great way in a tight market to broaden a book's audience, keep it relevant, and generate additional publicity for the book years after its release in bookstores. I'll be ordering the book myself, and will definitely try to take my kids to see the show. If any of you have the book or have seen the show, let us know what you think and if it's really as cute as it looks!

Memoirs and Montaigne....

by Miriam

I’ve been beset and besieged by memoir queries of late. An inordinate number of them seem to focus on a bad/negligent/crazy mother and the lasting scars she inflicted on her child—in this case, the memoirist. As the parent of a precociously knowing five-year-old, I feel a level of sympathy for these maligned moms (we mothers don’t have a good track record when it comes to literary depictions of us by our offspring). I feel less sympathy for their whiny kids who not only blame everything that’s wrong with their lives on the poor women who spawned them but, worse yet, do it in ways that are both artless and, frankly, tedious.

Which got me thinking about why so many people write memoirs and why so few of them end up successfully published. Simply being the victim of physical or psychological abuse, real or perceived, doesn’t do it. Well crafted prose that lovingly explores the contents of one’s navel doesn’t either. Exotic experiences involving travel or bizarre encounters don’t guarantee a good read. Universal themes are a good starting point but don’t always add up to anything more than intellectual meanderings that either veer toward the Hallmark Card or obscure German philosopher ends of the literary spectrum. I’ve always felt that, like good fiction, a successful memoir is powerful, moving, charming, well-written, well-paced, and relatable in that been-there-felt-that kind of way, with a minimum of tiresome self-absorption (despite the fact that the subject is the self).

And then I came across this piece about the delightful Michel de Montaigne whose solipsism is, well, the whole point of his essays, and whose interest in the minutiae of everyday life is boundless. So, how come he still engages us across the centuries? And how come so many authors with more interesting life stories and horrible mommies fail so often to do so?

What makes you pick up a memoir? And what personal narratives are among your favorites?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gender Talk

by Stephanie

Lauren brought this link to my attention this morning, and I had to share with you.  The people at created a fantastic flowchart representing the one- and two-dimensional female characters that repeatedly appear in contemporary fiction.  First of all, I never met a flowchart I didn’t like.  But I really enjoyed this one because it puts a tongue-in-cheek spin on something that manages to appear over and over in literature.  And as the accompanying article points out, while there certainly are male stereotypes out there, there seem to be far more female characters whose development gives in to the stereotypes.  Which makes me wonder if it is, for some reason, more challenging to construct a female character not entrenched in these stereotypes. What’s the deal with that?

Five years?

by John

If you’re like me, you’re probably getting tired of the whole ebook/print debate. But even so, I had to take note of this assertion from Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child, on CNN that not only will physical books disappear, but that they’ll be gone in five years.

Five years? Really? To be fair, while Negroponte appears to mean this statement generally, his evidence rests firmly on his work in Africa, where he sees ebooks following the ubiquity of cell phones in developing nations. And indeed, if a society with no access to or history with any book format is suddenly given the choice between a bunch of dusty old tomes or a laptop with thousands of titles, the winner seems obvious.

But again—five years? While I’m sort of impressed by the sheer brazenness of Negroponte’s prediction—this is the first time I’ve seen an actual expiration date for the printed book—it does seem a bit hard to swallow, for any number of well-discussed reasons. I guess the only true way to test Negroponte’s theory is to check back with him on October 2015 and see what formats we’re reading. But then again, maybe Negroponte’s talking head days will be over in, oh, 2 ½ years? Maybe CNN will be gone in 4? The internet in 3 ¼?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Welcome to DGLM, Rachel Stout!

by Rachel S.

Reading all the past blog posts, I feel like there's a lot to live up to here as the new Rachel in town. While I've only been here a week, I've grown comfortable, and it's all thanks to the wonderful people here at DGLM.

I'm incredibly excited to be here, finally, as I've been trying to find my spot in the publishing world for quite some time now. With a degree in English, a minor in Irish studies and no practical, handyman type skills to speak of, I pretty much focused on my dream of working in book publishing and left little option for anything else. I interned with another literary agency, LJK Literary Management, in my last year of college and the summer following. Before that, I had no idea that literary agents even existed! It all makes sense to me now, and I fell in love with the reality of what I had tentatively been envisioning for my life. It's nice when things work out as good or better than you'd hoped, isn't it?

Words and books have always been my passions and I'm looking forward to being able to observe and actively participate in the process where one becomes the other. I keep lists of words I like the sound or look of, and one of my most embarrassing moments to date is still the spelling bee in sixth grade when, over confident 12 year old that I was, barely listened to the teacher and spelled "BUNK" as "BUCK" and was promptly told to sit down in the very first round. Humiliating.

Since then, I've grown to take more time and exert a little more care over my work (though the exhilaration of it all still makes itself known) and always listen to the words I'm supposed to be spelling. Or reading. Or writing. It hardly matters to me as all aspects of the literary process are still new enough to fascinate, and as soon as I find my particular niche I know it will always hold a similar allure.

In any case, I'm really looking forward to growing and learning under DGLM's wing as well as taking part in this blog. I’m also over on Dystel and Goderich’s website for a more complete bio. You'll hear from me again soon.

So long, farewell...

by Rachel

In my blog post on Friday, I touched upon the need—or the compulsion, really—to revise my blog entries, and then to revise them again. This blog entry is no different and I'm sure to self-edit a handful of times before I send it off, as I want to leaving a good lasting impression (!) on all of you, because, as Jane mentioned earlier, I'm leaving the DGLM crew to go back to Australia for a short time.

Working as Jane's assistant has been a true pleasure. I started my position knowing only a little about the publishing industry, but I've learned an incredible amount since my time began here (after all, I'm learning from the best of the best), and I've been so fortunate to get as many wonderful opportunities as I have. I've had quite an amazing run with the DGLM team, and it's been a delight to work with such dedicated and passionate people, who truly love what they do; the enthusiasm and drive of each agent has been inspiring.

I'll miss a lot of things about working with the DGLM family. Of course I'll miss the (sometimes) weird and wacky queries that sometimes made my skin crawl; I'll miss reading wonderful manuscripts by talented authors, and there's no doubt I'll miss the morning stampede to the kitchen when breakfast arrives (and of course the eyebrow-raising conversations that take place there!).

So, I might've failed in getting anyone in the office to eat Vegemite, but—as corny as it sounds—I really did succeed in falling in love with books all over again, and making wonderful friends here at DGLM whom I hope to cross paths with in the future. I know Rachel Stout is going to be a great addition to the team and really enjoy working with this incredible group of people.

The two Ms. Rachels

by Jane

So there is good news and bad news at DGLM. The bad news first:

Our dear Rachel Oakley has had to depart. Originally from Australia, Rachel was well ensconced in our company and doing a superb job. She had even signed her first client. In short we all loved working with her.

Sadly, about four weeks ago, Rachel learned that her father, who lives in Australia, is critically ill and so she is leaving the States to be with him during this difficult time. Because she doesn’t know how long her stay will be, we were forced to accept her resignation.

And then came the new Rachel—our good news!

Rachel Stout is a graduate of Fordham University here in New York with a degree in English and has always wanted to be in book publishing. After a year working in the retail clothing business (the perfect background for our very fashionable office) and pursuing publishing internships, she has joined our team. We are absolutely delighted to have her, and I hope all of you will welcome her to our staff.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What's New at DGLM

We are pleased to welcome John Rudolph and Stephanie DeVita, DGLM’s newest agents. John was most recently executive editor at Putnam Books for Young Readers, where he oversaw books in the children’s, middle grade, and young adult categories, and Stephanie started her career in publishing as an intern at DGLM. We are also pleased to welcome Rachel Stout, DGLM’s newest member, and Jane Dystel’s assistant. Rachel recently graduated from Fordham University with a degree in English.


Dystel & Goderich Literary Management is pleased to announce that Stacey Glick, who has been an agent with the company since 1999, has been named Vice President.  With an impressive roster of clients, Stacey, a former child actress who started out as a film scout, has distinguished herself in the industry for her dedication, her passion and her professionalism.  She is an invaluable part of the DLGM team and has contributed to the agency’s success over the last ten years.


Dystel & Goderich Literary Management is pleased to announce the opening of a West Coast office in Los Angeles, spearheaded by Vice President Michael Bourret.  Michael, who has been with DGLM for 10 years, will continue to maintain and grow his own list of clients while aggressively pursuing new film and TV opportunities for the agency.  Jane Dystel, Miriam Goderich and the entire staff of DGLM are excited by this opportunity to extend the agency’s reach at a time when we are proactively pursuing a number of initiatives to better serve our clients.  The L.A. office will be operational as of December 1st. 

Germany loves us!

By Lauren

I was heartened to read this recent piece on Deutsche Welle (via Publishers Lunch Automat) about Germany’s love affair with American fiction. It’s been my experience as rights director that Germany is the one market we can really count on to buy the books we have rights to in a wide variety of categories—the one market where we don’t tend to hear, “Well, we know it’s big everywhere, but here we just don’t buy American (fill in the blank).” It helps of course that it’s among the largest book markets in the world. It’s a nice counterpoint to a discussion we had here a while back about how American literary fiction is often too insular for everyone else to get excited about. Those interested in the ways in which books cross borders should give it a read!

Editing for Eternity

By Rachel

Every Friday I sit down and I start to write my weekly DGLM blog, and after writing and revising, revising some more, and then perhaps one more edit, I'm ready to send it off to Lauren (who'll look over it - sometimes suggest more edits - and then post to the blog). When I read my blog posts, I usually think I could've said something more interesting, or would rather have touched on an issue in a different way, so if it was up to me, I'd be revising my blog entries for hours before I turned in the final version (which is why I never start writing them until late Friday morning - so I'm forced to meet a deadline).

Blog posts are one thing, but thinking about the endless self-editing that goes with book writing exhausts me! If I ever had the guts to sit down and write a novel, I know I'd never be able to hand in a finished manuscript because I'd want to rewrite every page, and then make edits on the edits. Take a look at Jean Hannah Edelstein's Guardian article on the dangers of "overcooking" books, and if you're a compulsive self-editor, you'll relate easily to this one.

So, how many times have you revised your manuscript? And, are you ever really satisfied with the end result?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The medium is the question

by Michael

I was very taken by this article I read on yesterday. It features an interview with Scott McDonald, SVP of Market Research at Condé Nast, who talks about the results of the surveys of iPad users. Some of the results were a bit surprising: people spend more time with the iPad version of the magazine that a print one; most people leave their iPad at home, making it more of a personal computer than a mobile device; people didn’t understand what in the magazine was interactive or how to use it.

This interests me for several reasons. First, hearing that the device is not a mobile device for most people changes how developers and content providers should be thinking about their material. How you craft your material for someone on the go is very different from what you’d make for someone sitting at home. For instance, it seems that location-based apps or features aren’t as necessary on the iPad, whereas on mobile devices, they’re pretty much required. Travel publishers, it seems would be better off spending their time developing their material for the small screen than the big one. I think that’s actually pretty big news as we all consider what the future holds for “content providers.”

The other part that really stood out was that people didn’t know how to use the interactive features and ads, and they need to be taught how to interact with them. As publishers begin thinking about how to add value to e-books through doohickeys and gizmos, this is something they need to keep in mind. We know that e-book readers are not all techies and kids, and publishers should think very carefully about their audiences as they consider “enhancing” books. I know I’ll be thinking about it as we discuss new avenues for our authors.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The price of prizes....

by Miriam

Years ago I found myself positively gleeful at the news that Oscar Hijuelos had won a Pulitzer for his gorgeous novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. I’d not long before finished reading the book and was foisting it upon everyone and anyone—people would read it just to shut me up. Of course, part of my delight was due to the fact that Hijuelos was (and is) Cuban American, as am I. The prize seemed to validate not just my wonderful reading experience but also Hijuelos’ and my shared cultural memories and references.

A few days ago, I was thrilled to hear about another prize won by a Latin American author. This time, it was Mario Vargas Llosa’s Nobel, a prize that eluded him for decades—long after his arch-nemesis Gabriel Garcia Marquez won it and proceeded to rub it in his face at every gathering of illustrious Spanish speaking novelists (okay, maybe this just happens in my imagination and the first congratulatory phone call Mario received was from Gabriel).

On the one hand, it seems silly that these prizes (and their siblings, the Booker, the National Book Award, etc.) should in any way influence our regard for these authors. On the other, check out what the indefatigably witty Adam Gopnik says about this laudatory season.

Do prizes make you pick up books (or avoid them)? Do they influence how you view certain authors? Are you above such trifles?

Gatsby personified

by Stacey

Before I had kids, I had time and money to go to the theater. I went a lot and really enjoyed it. I also read (and still read) a lot, both for work and in my personal time. I was pretty fascinated by two recent pieces in the New York Times about the new show, Gatz by Elevator Repair Service at The Public Theater, one by Charles McGrath and the other by Ben Brantley. Although McGrath has some criticism about the play's approach, both pieces describe the show as such an interesting and experimental way to adapt a book, and I love the way Ben Brantley explains the connections between reading and watching a show. It sounds like this clever and contemporary retelling of a classic book brings on stage brings it to life in such a unique and exhilarating way. I like how Brantley explains it: "Books and theater are different arts, and they frame reality in different ways. This is the first time I have ever felt those frames become one."

Our business is changing all the time, and with books seeing so many transformations in the digital arena, this feels more in my comfort zone, like a big bowl of mac and cheese. An interpretation of a classic and well-known book that's played out live and in person, on a stage with actors and a simple set, using familiar words in an unfamiliar way. If any of you lucky readers have a chance to see the show, let us know what you think since I don't think I'm getting there this time around.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Big, bad technology

by Stephanie

The debate over technology and the threat it poses to book publishing is one of those topics that continues to persist—and rightfully so.  No one can deny that the rise of technology and its impact on publishing has been and will continue to be profound.  The concern is tangible throughout the industry, but this article at USA Today makes a worthy case in favor of the book.  The piece highlights five specific myths surrounding publishing, ranging from the degree to which authors need publishers to the market for e-books, both now and in the future.  This article is just one of the many opinions being thrown around, but it provides an arguably valid and sound case.

Like I said, the technology debate is one of those things that isn’t going away any time soon.  And considering the impact it has already had on the industry, it’s one of those things that needs to remain at the forefront.

Funny business

by John

Saw this piece by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, on the Wall Street Journal website (). I have to confess, Dilbert has never really done much for me, but the story Adams tells here is pretty amusing, and the tips that follow are extremely useful. I hope writers heed his advice, because while humor is central to young people’s literature—think Dr. Seuss, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Olivia, Lemony Snickett, DIARY Diary of a Wimpy Kid, etc., etc.—I’ve always been surprised at how few kids’ book submissions even attempt to be funny, much less actually succeed at it.

So here’s a thought for all you writers struggling with your dark, paranormal romance—maybe it’s time to leave the vampires in the ground, take a tip or two from Dilbert, and give your funny bone a workout?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Leaping Ahead

by Rachel

Ever find yourself writing and then wanting to skip ahead to write the more exciting chapters?  Well, author Jennie Nash touches on this in her Huffington Post article, and says that beating the temptation to write ahead is actually working for her. 

My uncle, an editor and sometimes-writer, mentioned to me once that his ideal way to write a book is to write whatever comes to mind, and to jump ahead in chapters if you feel compelled to.  His reasoning was that writing should come naturally, and structuring it the way Jennie Nash does (by way of Ann Patchett) seems unnatural and forced.

I can't say I've ever had enough dedication to sit down and pen a novel, so I wouldn't know how I'd want to write it, but what method do you prefer? Starting from chapter one, or writing different chapters whenever you get struck with an idea?

The death of picture books?

by John

The New York Times ran a front-page article this morning on the recent decline in picture book sales. Blame is assigned widely, from the economy to parents urging their kids to read up to publishers over-pricing the books and emphasizing YA. To the list of culprits, I’d add merch and tie-in books, which have cannibalized picture books sales due to lower price points and characters that kids recognize from TV and other media. And then there are school and library budget cuts—while trade publishers ostensibly target bookstores for their picture book sales, they used to be able to rely on schools and libraries for at least a few thousand copies to help break even. Sadly, those sales have evaporated, too.

So, how to reverse the trend? I hope there’s an answer, because as an art form, picture books have only gotten more beautiful, exciting, and innovative in the last decade. It would be a tragedy if consumer tastes or publishers’ timidity force picture book creators to focus their energy elsewhere. Any ideas out there?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The thing about writers....

by Miriam

It’s been my experience that writers (especially great writers) seem to see-saw between outsize egomania and despondent insecurity. But, as this delightful excerpt from Hunter S. Thompson’s job application demonstrates, they tend to be wittier than the average Joe at expressing both of those states (and all the ones in between).

What are your favorite examples of writerly arrogance (or self-deprecation)?

via The Millions

Cookbook heaven

by Stacey

I love cookbooks. Mostly because I love food. Having worked on many amazing cookbooks over the years, I enjoyed seeing this eclectic list that compiled for their 15th anniversary of their favorite cookbooks since 1995. It's nice to see our own Alice Medrich's Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts, which Jane represents, as their #1 pick! There are some classics, and some familiar faces (no Rachael Ray?!), and of course it's such a small sampling of the many wonderful books available. Enjoy looking at these, and I hope they inspire you to cook something fun and different, or at least to read some of the books listed, even if you don't actually have time to cook -- one of my favorite pastimes, especially with four little ones at home!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

For the Long Term

by Stephanie

Leap-frogging off of John’s post from earlier today about developing the art of writing, I wanted to share this post from Rants & Ramblings, a really great blog belonging to literary agent Rachelle Gardner. In it, Rachelle examines the ways in which a writer, once in possession of representation, can improve their chances of remaining with an agent “for the long haul.” To that end, she advises both on a larger scale—by being the kind of writer agents and editors will want to work with, as well as on a level more individual to the writer—by developing a uniquely compelling voice, and of course, keeping a positive attitude throughout.

I think something like this is important for writers to keep in mind, particularly when reading in conjunction with John’s post. When viewing these two topics in conversation with one another, they further exemplify how the writing process, when interwoven with the publishing process, is a complex, sometimes confusing, and constantly evolving process. And it’s one that requires multiple pieces of the puzzle in order to be successful. That said, when it all falls into place? That’s what it’s all about.

Who's your audience?

by John

There was a fantastic op-ed piece by Michael Cunningham in this past Sunday’s New York Times, a must-read for anyone who wants to write. While ostensibly a piece about translation, Cunningham brilliantly articulates how writing is not an act of solo invention, and how it’s crucial not only for writers to recognize that they’re writing for an audience, but to identify specifically who that audience is as well. It’s a secret that successful genre writers know instinctively, but I’ve never seen it so neatly laid out for the general reader.

And I was particularly struck by how Cunningham improved his art through learning to write for an audience of one, namely Helen the hostess at a restaurant bar where he used to work. On first glance, it seems to go against common sense—I always assumed that even if you’re writing for a specific audience, like mystery fans or teen readers, you want to create something with broad enough appeal for all members of that audience. But then again, as Cunningham suggests, targeting a specific reader like Helen might actually create a more intimate conversation between author and reader and, hence, result in a better piece of work.

Obviously, there’s no right or wrong answer here, but again, kudos to Cunningham for framing the issue in such an elegant and accessible piece. No wonder this guy won a Pulitzer!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Bleak afternoons

by Jim

It’s a rainy, cold October afternoon in NY. With the rain streaming down the slanted windows next to my desk, I feel like I’m trapped in a bad music video for a sappy mid-90s ballad. Maybe Michael Bolton can shoot a video here about his early dismissal from Dancing with the Stars (which—did you see it? most amazingly cringeworthy performance ever, right?).

In any case, it’s a bummer of a day which had me thinking about all things terrible. And led me to wonder what the worst book I’ve ever read is.

I’ve read some terrible stuff in my day—published, unpublished, desperately wanting to be published but destined not to make it. But what would make something the WORST? So bad I couldn’t read past a page? 50 pages? Something I actually made it to the end of and THEN realized how bad it was? I admit I’m not one to finish books I loathe. So the worst book I’ve ever finished is probably still not atrocious.

What should my criteria be? Give me some ideas, and I’ll let you know next time what sticks out like a sore thumb. And what’s the worst book YOU have ever read?

A welcome to the new kid on the block!

by Jane
Over the last couple of years, due to the deteriorating economy and a lack of advertising revenue, many of the nation’s major newspapers have dropped their book review sections. We have all watched this with great sadness (much as we watched the closing of so many independent bookstores over the past fifteen years) as the fewer book reviews consumers can read, the less they will be inclined to search out new and interesting authors and their work.

So, I was absolutely thrilled yesterday when I opened the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal to see their new Book Section. Not only are there lots of interesting and well written reviews, but there are also articles about bestselling authors (Jeff Trachtenberg, for example, writes about Philip Roth) and pieces about subjects like writers’ retreats and how blogging has influenced the economy. There is even an op-ed (sort of) on the Kindle and its effectiveness and another on writing.

All of this is very exciting and I can only hope that this new section will be hugely successful so as to encourage other major market newspapers to rethink their decisions to eliminate their book reviews.

What do you think?

Friday, October 01, 2010

Caution: Snooki writing

by Rachel

Thanks to Michael for pointing out this Salon article on celebrity novelists (don’t be turned off by Snooki’s photograph heading the story—you should read this!). Michael Humphrey notes that it takes a “special daring jump” for celebrities to pen novels, if celebrities are penning these at all (I really don’t believe Lauren Conrad wrote her novel—do you? Do you care?), and I have to agree. Memoirs I understand; everyone wants to read about someone else’s life, but when it comes to fiction, should celebrities stay away from trying their hand at literature?

I, for one, won’t be reading Snooki’s novel, but for fun, what do you think the opening line to the book will be?

Touring Manhattan in literary style

by Lauren

If you love books and/or New York, I hope you’re not too busy today, because if you haven’t already seen it the New York Times Book Review has an amazing interactive map of literary Manhattan. Apparently the fine offices of DGLM are located near the site of a brisk walk in Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts as well as Newland Archer’s first spotting of the Countess Ellen Olenska at what is now an NYU dorm down the street from here in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. Not to mention that Chip Lambert in The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen sells some books back to the Strand bookstore just off Union Square, a New York rite of passage that many of us here at DGLM know well.

If it weren’t such a bleak and rainy day in New York, I might take a lunchtime walking tour of the literary neighborhood. It’ll have to wait for another time. In the meantime, I’ve got the Times website and if I crane my head out the window, I can almost see Countess Ellen Olenska from here.