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Rants and Stuff / High heels, interviews, and other sundry rants
« on: November 18, 2003, 12:50:00 PM »
So I had an interview at Barefoot Books this morning. If you're not familiar with the company, they're a small press that focuses on picture books for young children. About 2 months ago, I sent them my resume for an associate editor position, but was told I didn't have enough relevant experience. Last week, I got asked to come in and interview for the U.S. editor position, a senior position that would be in charge of the entire U.S. line.  :o I thought at first that they must have confused me with someone else, but in doing a little research, they're currently restaffing, and it looks like they're wanting to hire young, relatively inexperienced people so they don't have other business models already stuck in their heads, since Barefoot is trying out some new marketing methods.

So--until talking to a couple friends recently, I was just figuring I'd go in, meet some people, have a nice morning and never hear from them again. But my friends encouraged me that I should go in with confidence that they really did want to talk to me, and so I prepared more for this interview than I do for most. Not only did I do the manuscript evaluation the publisher requested of me, I also went over in my head the way I should answer some questions I knew were bound to come up, not least of which is why someone in the middle of a master's program would be interviewing for a highly demanding full-time position.

Well, I think I answered that one okay--as well as can be expected, for there's no really good professional answer. I just feel that I can get as much experience working in the field as I can from my program, and plus I'd rather be making money than spending it. How do you say this nicely in an interview? I still haven't found a good way.

But the one that got me was this: she asked me how many hours I've been working at Houghton Mifflin, and I told her full time, and she said, "Wow, that must give you absolutely no time for homework." Well, my professional, prepared answer was this: it's helped me to prioritize, it's helped me to know that I can get through the tough times, etc. This is what I said, however, because my mind went blank: yeah, it's hard sometimes, but it's all right. My teachers have been very understanding, and I just need to survive the semester--or something like that.

Augh! That's an honest answer, sure, but not a very good one. Basically, I said that I'm a loser who's not doing well in school (which isn't true--I have a 4.0--and she asked me my undergrad gpa, but not my grad, and my grad one is better, and I should have offered it! augh!) and that I have to work because of money problems (true, but not to the point).

I can only hope that she was impressed by my knowledge of picture books and my experience in publishing.

And THEN! Here's my other rant.

a. They should not make 3-inch heels.

b. Even though they make 3-inch heels, I need to throw mine out, to avoid temptation. The problem is that these shoes are so uncomfortable to wear that I've had them 2 years and they still look brand-new. So, when I have something important--like, say, a job interview--those are the ones I choose to wear, despite what I know will be excruciating pain, because I haven't been able to find a new pair of nice black shoes that go with any of my professional outfits. So all I have are two pairs of dress shoes with scuffed toes and broken soles, and this pair of 3-inch heels. They're nice and big, chunky loafer-looking shoes, so they look good with professional outfits, but man, is it painful.

And did I mention I live in Boston? Yeah. I walk 6 blocks to the bus stop, transfer to the T at Harvard Square, and walk another 4 blocks to the office where the interview is. Just sitting with these shoes on is painful. Why do we allow this!??!

Well, I'll let you all know if it actually went better than I thought. Lately when the interview goes well, nothing comes of it, so maybe the opposite is true.

Oh--and one last thing. I come home, change my clothes, and I'm sitting here in an old t-shirt that I just realized I put on backwards. This isn't my day.

Movies and TV / Master and Commander *SPOILERS*
« on: November 15, 2003, 01:20:12 AM »
So, just got home from seeing it. Normally I don't like movies set at sea--Waterworld was pretty dumb in the first place, had no desire to see The Perfect Storm, etc. But I really liked Master and Commander. The plot moved along well, gave us some good historical background about what it was like to be a navy sailor in Her Majesty's service without sugar-coating it.

Some parts were rather more gruesome than I would have liked. Cutting off the kid's arm--what was his name, the gentleman's son?--that was gross. And at the end, the close combat--that was very cool, but some parts were too close for comfort. I can't explain why I cringed. It's not that I thought those parts were inappropriate, but it was just that they were so real. I mean, in a movie like LotR, there is close combat, but it's not so gory, and even though your belief is suspended, you still have part of you that knows it's not real. This seemed so real. And that's good, but also disturbing, if that makes sense. I felt like I was the one holding the sword, swinging in the melee for my life. Yikes.

So, despite--or maybe because of--how it pulled me in emotionally (throughout the movie, not just in the battle scenes), I'd say it's one of the best movies I've seen all year. Now, that's not saying much, as not many of the movies that have come out this year have been worth spending $11 on (no, that's not a typo, I spent $11 to get into this movie tonight  ::) ). But I do mark it up there on the chart.

Also, as a Jane Austen fan (movies and books), I thought it was fun to imagine that Lucky Jack was Captain Wentworth (Persuasion) when away from home.

Everything Else / You know you've been waiting for this
« on: November 08, 2003, 05:26:19 PM »
Blah blah blah--took the pics off because they weren't working anyway. Try this link:

There really was a Luke there!
(or, at least, some sort of Jedi)

And just to see if you can guess who my roommates were, they're on the bottom right.

Everything Else / A collection to rival Saint's
« on: November 06, 2003, 05:23:51 PM »
Oh my goodness SE.  :o You should see the guy's cube here at Houghton that I just passed while delivering some papers to another office. His collection must have at least 100 or more, mainly comic book characters, I think, though I'm not really sure and didn't get a close look. I did see Spidey. However, his are all just standing side by side, rank and file. I think your description of your desk arrangement is much more interesting.

Music / wav to mp3?
« on: October 31, 2003, 06:04:09 PM »
I'm the farthest thing from an expert you could find on this. I've copied some of my own cds to my laptop so I don't have to carry all my cds around with me when I'm at school, and I know that mp3s use less space, right? Is there a way of converting from .wav to .mp3? A program or something? If it's a program, would you guys recommend one in particular?

Books / Philip Pullman in NY Times
« on: October 31, 2003, 05:18:20 PM »
Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, was featured today in the NY Times:


Some people really like the trilogy. It's quite well-written, and the first book is quite good, but when you start to realize what he's saying in them, especially if you've read other things he's written (he's an avowed atheist who has some odd ideas about what religion is).... well, I don't agree and got turned off by the series, despite Pullman's artistry as a writer. At any rate, in this article he brings up some of the same issues we've brought up, about how fantasy is considered by the critics to be a lesser form of storytelling.

Everything Else / Cubs vs. Sox?
« on: October 09, 2003, 12:16:20 PM »
I'm not much of a sports fan, but I'm way excited about this possibility, since I've always been a Cubbies fan and I happen to live in Boston right now.

Plus, my old roommate from Chicago (a major sports fanatic) says she won't come visit me in Chicago unless there's some major sporting event involved. What better than the World Series?

Books / My news/Madonna's new book
« on: September 16, 2003, 10:08:11 AM »
My own bit of news is that I interviewed at Candlewick Books last week and very well may be either their next editorial assistant or executive assistant to the president and publisher. I have to wait to hear back from them this week or next. Either position would be great--the ed. asst. position would be more editorial right away, but even as the executive assistant I could have my hand in because the publisher edits her own book. If you haven't heard of them, they're a relatively small children's press here in Boston that have been around for about 10 years. They only have about 65 employees, and they're NOT IN NEW YORK!! A lot of their books have won awards recently, like the book Feed by M.T. Anderson that I told you all about last spring.

So, maybe someday, if any of you decide to do a book specifically for children, I might be looking at it for Candlewick! (And that includes middle readers and YA, not just picture books. Feed was science fiction, and another recent book they did was a historical fiction with a fantasy twist. So they're dabbling in SF/F.) But please, whatever you write, write it better than Madonna's recent release. Yes, Madonna has jumped on the writing celebrity books for children bandwagon.  ::) Reviewers have finally gotten to look at it with the rest of the world and this is what they say:

Here's a taste:

"Read attentively, it yields an extremely personal, almost confessional glimpse into the author's raw feelings. Unfortunately, those feelings bespeak a persecution complex so narcissistic that she ought rather have paid readers $100 an hour than charged them 50 cents a page."

The rest of it is here:

Another review:

p.s. Can anyone tell me why it's adding spaces to the links where there are no spaces in the text I entered? The links aren't working.

Everything Else / Aye, ye scurvy dogs! Sept. 19's the day!
« on: September 03, 2003, 01:07:58 PM »
Given the new role-playing game I see on the forum, I thought you'd all be interested in knowing that Sept. 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day.  :D

Posted on Sun, Sep. 08, 2002
Arrrrr! Talk like a pirate -- or prepare to be boarded

Every now and then, some visionary individuals come along with a concept
that is so original and so revolutionary that your immediate reaction is:
``Those individuals should be on medication.''

Today I want to tell you about two such people, John Baur and Mark Summers,
who have come up with a concept that is going to make you kick yourself for
not thinking of it first: Talk Like a Pirate Day. As the name suggests, this
is a day on which everybody would talk like a pirate. Is that a great idea,
or what? There are so many practical benefits that I can't even begin to
list them all.

Baur and Summers came up with this idea a few years ago. They were playing
racquetball, and, as so often happens, they began talking like pirates. And
then it struck them: Why not have a day when EVERYBODY talks like a pirate?
They decided that the logical day would be Sept. 19, because that -- as you
are no doubt aware -- is Summers' ex-wife's birthday.

Since then, Baur and Summers have made a near-superhuman effort to promote
Talk Like a Pirate Day. As Baur puts it: ``We've talked like pirates, and
encouraged our several friends to, every Sept. 19, except for a couple where
we forgot.''

And yet, incredibly, despite this well-orchestrated campaign, the nation has
turned a deaf shoulder to Talk Like a Pirate Day. In desperation, Baur and
Summers turned to me for help. As an influential newspaper columnist, I have
the power to ''make or break'' a national day. You may recall that almost
nobody celebrated Thanksgiving until I began writing about it in the 1970s.

I have given Baur's and Summers' idea serious thought, looking for ways to
improve it. One variation I considered was Talk Like a Member of the
Lollipop Guild Day, on which everybody would talk like the three Munchkins
in the film version of The Wizard of Oz who welcome Dorothy to Munchkin Land
by singing with one corner of their mouths drooping down, as though they
have large invisible dental suction devices hanging from their lips. But I
realized that would be stupid.

So I have decided to throw my full support behind Talk Like a Pirate Day, to
be observed this Sept. 19. To help promote this important cause, I have
decided to seek the endorsement of famous celebrities, and I am pleased to
report that, as of today, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Britney Spears, Brad
Pitt, Oprah Winfrey, the Osbournes, Tiger Woods, Ted Koppel, the Sopranos,
Puff Doody and the late Elvis Presley are all people who I hope will read
this column and become big supporters. I see no need to recruit President
Bush, because he already talks like a pirate, as we can see from this
transcript of a recent White House press conference:

REPORTER: Could you please explain either your foreign or your domestic


To prepare for Talk Like a Pirate Day, you should practice incorporating
pirate terminology into your everyday speech. For example, let's consider a
typical conversation between two co-workers in a business office:

BOB: Hi. Mary.

MARY: Hi, Bob. Have you had a chance to look at the Fennerman contract?

BOB: Yes, and I have some suggestions.

MARY: OK, I'll review them.

Now let's see how this same conversation would sound on Talk Like a Pirate

BOB: Avast, me beauty.

MARY: Avast, Bob. Is that a yardarm in your doubloons, or are you just glad
to see me?

BOB: You are giving me the desire to haul some keel.

MARY: Arrrrr.

As you can see, talking like a pirate will infuse your everyday
conversations with romance and danger. So join the movement! On Sept. 19, do
not answer the phone with ''hello.'' Answer the phone with ''Ahoy me
hearty!'' If the caller objects that he is not a hearty, inform him that he
is a scurvy dog (or, if the caller is female, a scurvy female dog) who will
be walking the plank off the poop deck and winding up in Davy Jones' locker,
sleeping with the fishes. No, wait, that would be Talk Like a Pirate in The
Godfather Day, which is another variation I considered (``I'm gonna make him
an offer that will shiver his timbers'').

But the point is, this is a great idea, and you, me bucko, should be part of
it. Join us on Sept. 19. You HAVE the buckles, darn it: Don't be afraid to
swash them! Let's make this into a grass-roots movement that sweeps the
nation, like campaign-finance reform, or Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I truly
think this idea could bring us, as a nation, closer together.

But not TOO much closer. Some of us will have swords.

Rants and Stuff / Too bad I'm a poor grad student
« on: August 25, 2003, 11:36:50 PM »
...or I'd be on a plane to Scotland this weekend. Travelocity has tickets to Glasgow on BMI (arguably the best airline I've ever flown, but maybe it's just because it was a transatlantic flight--they feed you every 2 hours, give you about 15 movies to choose from, etc) for only $223. Yes, that's less than it costs to fly me home to Illinois. Or I can fly to San Diego from Providence for $193. Depends on if you want the beach or the Highlands, I guess. Neither of which I have any money for right now, but I can dream.

Of course, right now is the time to enjoy New England weather. As someone was saying the other day, we get about 2 months of really nice weather a year, so enjoy it while you can!

Everything Else / I'm done!
« on: July 30, 2003, 06:34:40 PM »
Just very very very happy today, as not only is my summer class over (as of last weekend) but I've finally finished my paper that goes along with it--not quite a week late....  :D  [For She's a Jolly Good Fellow played double-time here]

If anyone's interested in reading my take on how Beauty and the Beast is a repudiation of Sleeping Beauty and how both protagonists are Eve figures, I can email you the paper--it's 16 pages long, though, I warn you. 42 told me that Orson Scott Card had something to say about Sleeping Beauty being an Eve figure, but I didn't have the time to find the reference. If anyone knows where it is, now just for my information, let me know.

Books / Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« on: April 29, 2003, 02:55:48 AM »
I'm trying to flesh out my SF side of my rewritten syllabus for this class that's ending next week. I know, I know, most of you have better things to do than help me with my homework. But if any of you have suggestions on books about mutants and/or gene-manipulation, please let me know.

The only one I've found so far is a collection of short stories edited by Asimov called Young Mutants. It seems that we have a lot more TV shows/movies/comic books about them (the obvious example being X-Men, of course).

Also, does anyone know when Starship Troopers was originally published, and if it was originally written for children? I found a copy of it in the children's section of the library, but I didn't think it was really children's or YA. Maybe it is considered YA now--if it was written before 1970 or so, there was no YA genre for it to fit into. Anyway, the computer catalog entry for the copy I have says this is "highly abridged" but I can't find anywhere in the book that says that.

Aha--just found it on the copyright page: "A much abridged version of this book was published in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine under the title 'Starship Soldier.'"

The copyright on my version says 1959.

Books / Harry Potter fakes
« on: April 20, 2003, 08:35:09 PM »
This is an interesting article. Of course, there's fanfic everywhere, but they're taking it pretty seriously in this case.

Books / Coraline
« on: April 08, 2003, 01:47:07 PM »

So, now that I've read it, I'm ready to discuss. Everyone in my class said they absolutely loved it. They were thrilled to pieces, scared to death. I read it at 2 in the morning, all the lights off except the reading lamp, and barely felt a chill up my spine. It was unoriginal, in my opinion, and though the writing was tight, the subject matter wasn't anything I hadn't seen before in a fairly good fantasy/horror book. The writing itself also felt rather trite, especially at the beginning, as Gaiman was talking down to his audience (oh, it's a children's book, I'd better be cute!).

I also felt it was pretty didactic in Coraline's reflections about which world was better, how the other mother was so obviously evil, how the outworldly great food and toys were just so wrong, and playing with rats?!? Um, kind of weird. And then there's how she needed to save her parents--as soon as she picked up the snow globe I knew her parents were in it. Maybe to a 10 year old it wouldn't be as obvious, but the whole thing, excepting maybe being stuck in the wall behind the mirror, which did get to me a bit, seemed too linear and obvious.

The ending, however, when the hand followed her, I must admit was good. I liked her calculation in going out to the well, though it probably freaked me out more because of the imagery I've already got in my head from The Ring.

The descriptions were well-written, and maybe it's just that I've been reading SO many books that it blended in, but if it's so outstanding as everyone says it is, you would think I would have noticed. My classmates are not particular fans of fantasy and don't read nearly as much as I do--many of you read a whole lot more than I do. What did you think of it?

Everything Else / If you could design your own fantasy/SF class
« on: April 06, 2003, 03:25:03 AM »
If you were taking a fantasy/SF class (keeping in mind that the books involved have to be directed at the under-18 crowd, since it's also children's lit), what would you want on the syllabus? I'm asking because for my final project/paper for my fantasy class, I can rewrite the syllabus, and I'm looking for suggestions. There's a lot I can think of, but I don't know if I'm covering all my bases. I have to turn in my prospectus for it on Monday. Not that I'm trying to have you guys do my homework ... :-) but I knew I'd get some good suggestions from you.

So, any really well-written fantasy or science fiction books out there, either for kids or for young adults, that you think would incite great discussion? Any articles you've read that are must-reads?

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