MONDAY

WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR BLOG?!? What happened is WE GOT FANCY, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of our Support Team, who stayed up until four in the morning EVERY DAY FOR A WEEK (on TOP OF a 55-hour workweek! for NO REWARD other than our delight!) to bring you our splendid new format. In addition to being an expert maker of soothing noises, cutter of hairs, sewer of garments, poacher of eggs, creator of beautiful objects, and calmer of rampaging Rejectionists (not to mention the only human being in the known universe both foolhardy and courageous enough to put up with us on a daily basis), our beloved Support Team is a total wizard of the internets!!! We hope you are as pleased as we are with our classy new look. Our content will not change, you may rest assured, dear Author-friends. Putting us in a nice outfit does not change the fact that we are bonkers.

So, HOW IS EVERYONE'S NANOWRIMO NOVEL? We offer our enthusiastic congratulations to those brave souls among you who have completed your 50,000 words. In the extremely unlikely event we go home and write 40,000 words this evening, we will be proud to join you. We ARE proud of ourself, however, for making our writing a priority this month, which is why we signed up in the first place, and thus we consider our efforts a Success. Who else Succeeded this month, hmm? You tell us, dear ones!

In other exciting November news, last week we received a PERSONALIZED REJECTION from a Prominent Literary Magazine!!!!!! ENCOURAGING US TO SEND MORE WORK!!!!! We could not have been more excited had said Magazine sent us a basket of unicorns!!!!!! And you think we don't know what you go through!!!!

THIS WEEK: Holiday book-buying guides! Exciting interviews! New Year's Resolutions! And, as always, MORE AWESOME!

Vacation Auto-Response

For today's dose of rejection, please investigate our scintillating article in this week's issue of The Stranger. Even longer sentences! bigger words! and NO CUSSING!!!

Have a very nice holiday, fellow Americans! Perhaps tomorrow everyone will take a moment to honor the memory of the countless indigenous inhabitants of the Americas who were (and continue to be) lied to, cheated, stolen from, forcibly relocated, murdered, and denied basic human rights so that we can sit around stuffing our faces with turkey and pretending we are celebrating family and not genocide. Just do it for us, please, okay? Okay. Thank you.

See you next week, Author-friends!

Memoir Topics That Are Not, In Fact, of Inherent Interest, And Do Require Some Effort On Your Part In Order to Constitute A Successful Book

Asia (travel to, dalliances in, obsession with, adoption of infant from), car sales (career in, as metaphor), courageous forebears, chronic insomnia, current generation (feebleness of, May-December liaisons with), eating disorders, extraterrestrials (abduction by, romances among), failure, famous people (attempts to become, brief sycophantic encounters with), genocide (evasion of, heroism in), imprisonment, medical difficulty, melancholy, military service (evasion of, heroism in), personal collapse, problem solving, sex (introduction to, activities concerning), spiritual journey, terminal illness (noble battles with).

Today's Font Joke

For US?* NOOOOO. You SHOULDN'T HAVE. From Collapse Design.

*MOM. We AREN'T DOING DRUGS. We just thought it was a funny shirt. LORD.

Rejectionist is the New Cool

We have noticed an odd trend developing of late in the Office, where from time to time one of the Other Agents will emerge from their little agent-hole clutching some project proposal on a "counter-cultural," "edgy," or "outré" topic (tattooist memoir, Burning Man photo-essay, hippie childhood, Black Bloc semiotics manifesto, Nomadic Journey and Spiritual/Sexual Awakening Amongst [Insert Tribe/Ethnic Group Here]), scuttle to our desk (bypassing their own able assistants) and ask us if we think it is "cool."

We are not sure what it is exactly we have done to have earned this dubious privilege (giant fake-fur coat? spandex + cowboy boots? stuffing our face with homemade granola whilst frantically apple-tabbing every time an Agent walks past us looking at goth fashion blogs instead of working on the sub letter we are supposed to be writing for a book "Steve" hates as much as we do?) but these days we're infallible: if Le R. don't think it's cool, it ain't gonna fly. Our verdict of uncoolness alone has totally axed a number of Other Agents' projects (before you erupt into conniption, dear Author-friends, re: The Total Arbitrariness/Injustice/Agent-Dominated Conspiracy-ness of the Publishing Industry, let us please reassure your quavering little hearts that a. these proposals were very most likely not yours and b. they were really, really dumb. Also: the Publishing Industry is arbitrary and unjust. Sorry. SO IS CAPITALISM).

It does kind of make us wonder if somewhere, in some Illustrious Office of Super-High-Powered Agents, there is a Much More Career Track-Minded and Properly Dressed Assistant being all like, "OMG, a dude who is, like, a Cryptologistomancer, taking on the Catholic church, in a vast interconnected web of poorly-formulated conspiracy? That's, like, TOTALLY COOL!" Hmmm. Food for thought.

Today's Extracurricular Reading

Why There Are Pages and Why They Must Turn, by our personal hero, the poet and typographer Robert Bringhurst. If it gets you misty-eyed you can buy the letterpressed and handbound version (printed by Peter Koch, who is a legend in his own right) of this essay here If you haven't read The Elements of Typographic Style you should probably do that too. It is not so much a guide to book design as it is a meditation on the necessity of making beautiful things. It will change your life. We're not joking.

Author-friends, Meet WORD Bookstore

WORD Bookstore (126 Franklin St., Brooklyn, NY), in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, could be summed up (like most things) with a line from Shakespeare: Though she be but little, she is fierce. The love and care behind WORD's selection and displays are evident from the moment you step across the threshold of this community-oriented store. Also, they serve GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES at their readings. Okay, at one of their readings. BUT STILL.

WORD's very excellent manager Stephanie Anderson was kind enough to answer a few questions.

Please tell everyone a little bit about what makes Word special.

What makes WORD special is Greenpoint. Above all else, we intend to be the best bookstore for our neighborhood that we can be. So if we have a good selection of books and fun events, it's because our customers have good taste in books and events and we like to make them happy. Luckily, they have such good taste that people from other parts of the city (and the country!) like us as well! Seriously, though, we have great customers. That is the core of it all.Oh, and our stationery selection is pretty special, I think.

How do you think independent bookstores will continue to survive as the industry changes so rapidly? What makes indie bookstores so important?

Independent bookstores will survive by 1) being able to change nimbly because we're smaller, especially in technological ways (I hope). But also 2) by standing firm by the principles that made us want to be booksellers. Now more than ever, people put a lot of stock in good customer service, and now that a trillion new books come out every year, people wantrecommendations from someone they trust. These are both things that indies have done well for a long time and that we need to continue to do.There are lots of reasons indie bookstores are important, but I'll limit myself to this: because books are not widgets. Books are not underwear; they are not water bottles; they are not toothpaste. They change lives, whether it's cheesy to say that or not. We lose immensely as a culture when books are primarily judged by profit margin and short-term sales. And don't get me wrong, indie booksellers like to make money, but that's not why we got in the biz. We do it because it's important to us that good books find their readers, and it's an honor to be the person who facilitates that connection. So we fight hard for the books we love, even when keeping them on the shelves isn't the most efficient way to do business. Obviously you have to be business-minded to keep your doors open, but you've got to support people who are trying new things (both authors and presses), you've got to promote international literature, you've got to take a chance and believe that people want to read the new and different alongside the tried-and-true, even if it means at the end of the year your profit margins are a little thinner.Put another way: a healthy literate culture needs evangelists, and that's what we are: professional book evangelists.

Some current staff/customer favorites?

Oy, this is such a difficult question. I want to make sure I get everybody's taste represented, so I'll just list some titles and authors, divided by section (I'm literally just reading the staff picks off the shelves here). You can also get a sense for the randomness of what people like around here by looking at what our book club reads.And of course our Top 10 gives you a good idea as well.

Fiction: CLOUD ATLAS (David Mitchell), THE DAYS OF ABANDONMENT (Elena Ferrante), THE GONE-AWAY WORLD (Nick Harkaway), BROOKLYN (Colm Toibin), IN HOVERING FLIGHT (Joyce Hinnefeld), VILE BODIES (Evelyn Waugh), TWENTY FRAGMENTS OF A RAVENOUS YOUTH (Xiaolu Guo), ABSURDISTAN (Gary Shteyngart), EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (Jonathan Safran Foer), MISS LONELYHEARTS/THE DAY OF THE LOCUST (Nathanael West)

Non-fiction: THE TEN-CENT PLAGUE (David Hajdu), SALT (Mark Kurlansky), THE BOOK OF DEAD PHILOSOPHERS (Simon Critchley), THE TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL EXPERIMENTS (George Johnson), COLUMBINE (Dave Cullen), WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED (Gail Collins), WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING (Haruki Murakami)

Children's books: WHEN YOU REACH ME (Rebecca Stead), all Sandra Boynton board books, BIG RABBIT'S BAD MOOD (Ramona Badescu), THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH (Norton Juster), KING DORK (Frank Portman)

Graphic novels/illustrated: ASTERIOS POLYP (David Mazzucchelli), THE INVISIBLES (Grant Morrison), FRAY (Joss Whedon), THE GREAT OUTDOOR FIGHT (Chris Onstad), PROMETHEA (Alan Moore), THE PRINCIPLES OF UNCERTAINTY (Maira Kalman), THESE THINGS AIN'T GONNA SMOKE THEMSELVES (Emily Flake)

We are also incredibly partial to cookbooks here, especially Mark Bittman, who is probably our bestselling cookbook author. Food lit is the only non-fiction genre with its own shelf (everything else is just shelved under non-fiction).

And we can't forget our Greenpoint authors: Jami Attenberg, Kate Christensen, Wells Tower, Adrienne Marie Vrettos, Sarah Manguso, Sarah Magid, and many more.

I have to end here even though I am having terrible anxiety about all the books I did not type.

WORD also has a blog, a Facebook, and a Twitter, and lots of fabulous events. Oh yeah, and a matchmaking service. How can you not love these people?

Motivate is Spelled B-L-O-V-I-A-T-E

Oh dear, it is well past the halfway mark of ye olde November, which means we are 18,000 Nano-words behind, which means it is TIME FOR CHEATING. Here is some fine Nanowrimo manuscript-padding advice in convenient and easy-to-digest Tweet form (a part of us just died as we wrote that) from Famous Writers, courtesy of the very erudite staff of Inkwell Bookstore Their blog is mad fab also. Go read it. WE TOLD YOU INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS WERE CLEVER. Being a belligerent Marxist anti-racist feminist doesn't mean we are WRONG. Mmm hmmm.

Happy Independent Bookstore Week NYC!

It's the very first Independent Bookstore Week in our very own New York City! If you are so unfortunate as to live in one of those sad little towns that ISN'T New York City (HA HA HA. Oh GOD we love saying obnoxious things like that, it almost makes the rent worth it) you can PRETEND you live in New York City by sending your love to your nearest independent bookstore! And how do we send love in America, Author-friends? WITH DOLLARS, IS HOW.

In all seriousness, now: Independent bookstores are one of the last real bastions of literary culture in a world almost completely dominated by corporate interests and profit margins. People who work in indie bookstores care about books more than they care about pretty much anything, including a living wage and sometimes functioning personal relationships (not that we would know); they are people who have spent their whole lives surrounded by, obsessed with, and immersed in books, people who get all giddy when they introduce their favorite authors at events, people who are pushing books on you that they love and feel passionate about and believe in, not celebrity memoirs that they feature prominently because a publisher paid for display space.

Independent bookstores reflect the quirkiness of their staff and the predilections of their community; whether it's the cavernous ceilings and endless staircases of Seattle's Elliott Bay Book Company or the rarefied atmosphere of New York institution Three Lives & Company, every indie bookstore has its own personality, as distinct as the people who work there. For us, walking into a real bookstore is like coming home; there is nothing like the smell of paper, the creak of floorboards, and the joyful sense of possibility that comes with shelves upon shelves of lovingly curated books we haven't read. Supporting indie bookstores means supporting a diversity of ideas, keeping money in your own community, and having the opportunity to interact with the people who are buying the books for the store you are frequenting (hint for Author-friends: LOVE THE STAFF of your local bookstore, because if they love you they will SELL YOUR BOOK, and there is more than one writer whose career has been made out of indie bookseller love).

We can vouch for these fine people, Author-friends, because we once labored among them. Indie booksellers, we can tell you with the utmost authority, are smart, funny, awesome, and often very cute. This week we shall be featuring interviews with a couple of our very favorites for your delight, because we love you, and how WE show OUR love is by making you read better books. Huzzah!

Today's Font Joke

Discovered on the internets by our Support Team. What a delight it is to be known so well.

Image via ffffound.com

FRIDAY; Or, This Week in Queries

It's ANGELS WEEK, Author-friends; angels angels angels. We have no idea why this happens, but queries come in waves. Last week was 238,000-word Conspiracy Tome week, the week before was Revisiting the Old Testament With Dubious Intent week, the week before that was Medical Thriller week, next week will be Revenant Apocalypse with Hobbits week, or something. This week we got: serial-killer angels, existentially angsty angels, teenager-guarding angels who develop Forbidden Attractions to their charges (lots and lots; those WACKY TEENAGE GIRLS just can't SPIT these days without hitting some kind of paranormal entity hot to trot with 'em! and we thought being a teenage girl was hard back in OUR day!), happy angels, mopey angels, and WAY TOO MANY Dirty Bird Angels, with the "vividly sensual" bits attached for our delectation. Angels are INSATIABLE, Author-friends. Did you know? We didn't either. Here we were, thinking they were all ANGELIC, but NO. Smutty, smutty angels! Tormented by Earthly Desires! Frolicking and gamboling with Lucifer! Enticing the single ladies with their smoking-hot bods and snowy snowy wings!

Some days we want to email Le R. Père and be all like, Pop, you were right. INVESTMENT BANKING WAS THE WAY TO GO. AUGH.

Author-friends, Meet Hannah Tinti

Hannah Tinti is the author of the short story collection Animal Crackers and the New York Times Notable Book of the Year The Good Thief , which won the John Sargent Jr. First Novel Prize and the American Library Association's Alex Award. She's also the editor and co-founder of the very fabulous One Story (WHAT DO YOU MEAN you are not a subscriber, Author-friend? DO YOU NOT CARE ABOUT FICTION?), and winner of the 2009 PEN/Magid Award for Editorial Excellence for her work with the magazine.

Please tell everyone a little bit about who you are and what you do.

I’m the co-founder and editor in chief of One Story magazine. I’m also a writer and have published two books: Animal Crackers and The Good Thief . I’m Irish/Italian, worked most of my life in publishing (bookstores, literary agencies, magazines) and grew up in Salem, MA—so I’ve always had a bit of a dark side.

You have a near-legendary reputation as an editor (including winning the 2009 Pen/Nora Magid Award). What do you think makes a great editor? What do you love most about working with writers?

I think the best editors listen closely to their writers and ask them questions that help them focus their work. I always start each session with a new writer by asking them what the seed of the story was, and also, what they think the story is about. My favorite part of working with authors is the friendship that develops between us. Many of my good friends are writers I’ve worked with over the years.

Is it challenging to balance nurturing other writers with focusing on your own work? Do you find anything particularly useful or rewarding about navigating that balance?

It’s a constant challenge, because my editorial work always has deadlines, and my creative work rarely does, unless I’m under contract. That said, editing has helped my own writing enormously—it’s easier for me to find the distance and see my own work with a critical eye.

How do you see One Story fitting in to the rapidly changing world of publishing?

I believe that one of the reasons One Story has caught on so well is that it breaks the mold of the traditional literary magazine, by focusing on just one writer at a time, and considering short stories as individual works of art. Our format makes for easy, portable reading—and our subscribers feel engaged and part of a community, because we come out so frequently.

Americans don't read short stories: total myth of publishing? Kind of true? Why does the short story get such a bad rap?

If you look at the numbers from publishing companies, it’s nearly always true: short story collections sell less than novels. But that doesn’t mean that people don’t read short stories, because that number doesn’t take into account individual short stories published in magazines and online and being read in schools. In just a few years we’ve grown to 7,000 subscribers at One Story , and I think that shows people are eager for short fiction.I also believe, with the advancement of technology, short stories will get an even bigger jump, once people begin to read on their cell phones and other portable devices.

Some books you've read lately and found pleasing?

Once the Shore by Paul Yoon, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us by Laura van den Berg, Reasons For and Advantages of Breathing by Lydia Peelle, The Cradle by Patrick Somerville, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson, That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

Does the One Story staff practice their dance moves, or are they just naturally that good?

It’s natural. Although there has been some talk of preparing a choreographed dance for AWP, where we rip off pairs of matching Velcro pants.

Author photo: Linda Carrion

Today's Book Review

Maggie Stiefvater
Shiver
400pp. Scholastic Press.
9780545123266

Maggie Stiefvater's third book debuted at no. 9 on the NYT Bestseller list and is already generating speculation re: its movie franchise, sequels, and product spinoffs. We are always optimistic when approaching the Next Big Thing of YA; after all, Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy did spectacularly well and is as complex, beautifully written, subversive, and brilliant a triad as any lover of literature could hope for (although DEAR GOD do not subject yourself to the UNFORGIVABLE film version of The Golden Compass , which was so bad we actually walked out in the first half-hour, SHRIEKING (really; just ask the people sitting in front of us, who changed seats to get away from us before we departed the theater in a frenzy of ire)).

Alas, we were sorely disappointed. In a nutshell: Shiver is the story of a young lady who is attacked by (were)wolves as a toddler and is rescued by a young (were)wolf pack member who is Mysteriously Drawn To Her and subsequently lurks about her premises for a few years until! lo and behold! she Hits Puberty and the Impassioned Forbidden Werewolf Romance begins. Under ordinary circumstances, we wouldn't bother to mention this book; there are so many magnificent books out there that it seems a far better use of our energies to expound upon their virtues rather than tromp down the path of intellectual disdain and public evisceration of hardworking authors, etc. etc. But our dislike of Shiver served only to remind us of a certain displeasure we have been feeling lately with young adult fiction in general and YA aimed at teenage girls in particular; namely, the Enfeebled Heroine.

There is a particularly misogynist school of romance critique which we are not interested in espousing; no, Maggie Stiefvater is not a great prose stylist, but neither is Tom Clancy, and we have yet to read a book review elaborating on what silly and addlepated creatures men are for their biological yearnings toward homoerotic narratives of exploding submarines and menacing Russians. We certainly do not think an affinity for romance is some tragic weakness of femininity, nor do we have any interest in writing off an entire (and hugely significant) segment of the reading population.

What we are heartily sick of, however, are feeble and inept teenage-girl main characters, whose lives come into focus only through the addition of some melodramatic attraction to a charismatic male figure who seems to carry all the personality in the relationship. Stiefvater's heroine Grace is even more insipid and insulting than Stephenie Meyer's Bella, who at least manages to commence Twilight with a predilection for the Brontes and an occasional demonstration of feistiness, even if she almost immediately devolves into a sobbing mess who hangs about in the more sordid corners of Forks awaiting rescue and who states repeatedly that she cannot live without vampire-beau Edward after spending all of a biology period with him (Grace thinks, I need this to live , the very first time her werewolf paramour kisses her). Yes, adolescence is a volatile time, and yes, adolescents (of ALL genders, thank you) develop obsessive and incredibly intense romantic attachments to all kinds of people who do not have their best interests at heart, and no, we don't have a problem with books willing to tackle those kinds of relationships head-on. But love that is self-abnegating, all-consuming, and totally erases any kind of independence looks a lot more like domestic violence than fabulous romance, and doormats aren't actually very interesting as protagonists. Grace has literally no interests outside of her werewolf boyfriend and COOKING; if Shiver were set in the fifties, it might make a little more sense (parody? meta-commentary on heteronormative romantic narratives via the fantastic? something? something?).

So what gives? Why are we settling for the same old crap tied up in a paranormal package? Is this really what the ladies want? To hang out moping over some dude all day, occupying ourselves in the kitchen, hoping he does something exciting like get hurt or have a temper tantrum so we can engage in some high-stakes caretaking? Can we maybe aim a little fucking higher, please? Don't try and tell us This Is What Sells; plenty of books with toughass young ladies at their hearts have blown up all over the place. Pullman's (NYT bestselling) Lyra is as fierce and complicated a wee heroine as a reader could ask for; likewise Katsa of Kristin Cashore's (NYT bestseller) Graceling , who is an UNDEFEATABLE ASSASSIN, for pete's sake, and who refuses to marry her tasty morsel of a manfriend because she's worried about cramping her style; Clary of Cassandra Clare's (NYT bestselling) Mortal Instruments trilogy manages to harbor a salacious forbidden passion for a hot Bad Dude while having, you know, a rich inner life, worrying about her family, and delivering sassy one-liners; even Ever, the heroine of Alyson Noel's (NYT bestselling) supremely trashy (and not exactly infused with a feminist politics) Immortals series manages to cultivate a few hobbies whilst pursuing her Monosyllabic Tormented Demon Man.

So all we can say is: KNOCK IT OFF. Knock off buying this shit, and knock off cranking it out. It is tough enough being a lady in this world, Author-friends, without having it hammered into our goddamn heads that we're STILL supposed to sit tight, shut up, and look pretty. We are NOT HAVING IT. If anybody around here gets to be a werewolf, it's gonna be US. And we will eat you right up, believe it.

Today's Nanowrimo Inspirational Diatribe; Or, Don't Say We Never Did Anything For You

We signed ourself up for some kind of NaNoWriMotivation mailing list on accident, and are now receiving regular chirpy emails ("Eat chocolate! Take a break! Don't give up! NaNoWriMo LOVES therejectionist!" REALLY? you DO? are you SURE? we are a cranky pain in the ass and require extremely regular feedings, just ask our Support Team, and don't say we didn't warn you) that make us want to kick a puppy a little bit. But also remind us how IMPORTANT it is for us to ADHERE TO OUR GOALS. How are YOUR Goals doing today, Author-friends? Hmm? Hmm? Do your Goals need a little watering? Some snacks? A nice WHISKEY? We have faith in you, little tigers! Rowlr!

So maybe Our Goals are languishing quietly in the same dank hidey-hole wherein we have abandoned our Conscience, our Faith in Humanity, and our Work Ethic, but we're sure they will all get along JUST FINE TOGETHER.

Author-friends, We Have A Winners

Oh good lord almighty, Author-friends, we knew you were clever and talented BUT REALLY THIS IS TOO MUCH, and, thanks to you, we have spent our ENTIRE WEEKEND IN AN AGONY OF INDECISION. But it was a deliciously happy agony, all the same. We laughed so hard we cried, ladies and gentlemen. We are so proud of you. For reals. EVERY ONE OF YOU deserves a pat on the back and a nice pastry (except for maybe one or two persons who mistook "incorporates foxy assistants" for "please pen a totally delusional and fairly creepy fantasy about the office help," AHEM).

We were expecting awesome, but we were not expecting quite so much awesome, and thus have revised our contest slightly by incorporating a small quantity of Additional Prizewinning Categories, as is our Prerogative. Because YOU have inspired US to be a little more amazing, ALL of the following longlist of persons may feel free to email us at rejectionistandyourmom [at] gmail.com with your mailing address and, as promised, either your query letter or the first five pages of your manuscript, and we will presently a. mail you a treatlike item and b. provide you with insightful critique of said query letter/pages BECAUSE THAT IS THE SORT OF GENEROUS, SELFLESS PERSON WE ARE.

And now! THE WINNERS!

HONORABLE MENTIONS; Or, The Longlist of True and Total Amazement

Best Musical Number: Jess Haines

Best Zombie/Best Insinuation That Reading Young Adult Literature Is More Fun Than Our Actual Job, Which is Definitely True: Rachel Menard

Best Usage of the Acrostic From Someone Who Probably Does Not Need Our Help With a Query Letter: Janet Reid

Most Pleasing Haiku: Hiero

Most Delightfully Succinct and Deliciously Subtle: scott g.f.bailey

Most Severely Mindblowing Misappropriation of Canonical Text To Create A Narrative That Cannot Exactly Be Described As a Form Rejection But Is So Amazing We Had To Make Up A Special Category For It: A TIE between Ink ("OMFG MY HEAD JUST MELTED," says Chérie L'Ecrivain) and Ulysses ("ULYSSES WINS, although he seems to be laboring under the misapprehension that you have cleavage," says Chérie L'Ecrivain)

AND NOW... DRUMROLL PLEASE!!!

The Right Honorable Compositor of THE MOST AMAZING Form Rejection in the History of the Universe is...

BRIAN BUCKLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dear Sir or Madam:
Please don't be offended.
Your query's horrendous.
We can't understand why you'd bother to send us a missive so deeply in need of an edit
we wanted to vomit as soon as we read it.
Its hook was insipid, its grammar revolting,
its font microscopic, its manner insulting,
its lies unconvincing, its structure confusing,
its efforts at comedy less than amusing.
We think that on average the writing is better
in comments on YouTube than inside your letter.
"No matter," we said to ourselves after retching,
"The novel itself may be perfectly fetching.
"On reading your pages we promptly were greeted
with something a wallaby might have excreted:
a plot so moronic, a premise so weary,
and characters so unrelentingly dreary,
descriptions so lifeless, a setting so boring
that only our nausea kept us from snoring.
In short: if your book was a vaccine for cancer,
its margins inscribed with Life's Ultimate Answer,
and all other novels on Earth were rejected,
we're still pretty sure we would not have selected
this terrible, awful, impossibly hated,
unspeakably horrible thing you've created.
But thanks for submitting! We hope you'll consider
alternative ways to get published (like Twitter)!

DEAR GOD, sir, YOU HAVE AMAZED US.

Thank you so much, Author-friends, for making our week. We adore you. ONWARD!

Axl Is As Pleased As We Are By Your Efforts

"What does it matter to you / When you got a job to do you got to do it well / You got to give the other fella hell."

Seriously, we were tempted to cut our Contest off early, because if your entries get any more awesome OUR HEAD IS GOING TO BLOW UP. But we're not here because our job is EASY, Author-friends, and we have what it takes to make it to the end. FIVE P.M. TODAY. YOU MAKE US PROUD.

Aaaaaand, we spent this whole WEEK on a rock-concert-and-sake-bender, which means we will be writing, like, fifteen thousand words of our Nanowrimo-totally-stalled-in-scene-two-and-already-we-hate-it-and-why-are-we-writing-about-orphans-again?-AUGH novel tomorrow. Wish us luck. It was a really good rock concert, though.

Author-friends, Meet Paul Constant

Paul Constant is a former indie bookseller, man of letters, and Books Editor at The Stranger , Seattle's alternative weekly newspaper, where he discourses with equal facility on Jay-Z and J-Leth. He is also the 2009 International District Spring Roll Eating Champion

Please tell everyone a little bit about yourself and what you do.

I'm the Books Editor at The Stranger. I think I'm one of the only books page editors left at an alternative weekly in America. I compile and edit (and usually write) The Stranger's book review page and readings calendar event listings for Seattle. I also blog about books and anything else that catches my eye for Slog, The Stranger's blog.

How do you choose what books to review? Are there books you refuse to read, or some that you seek out in particular?

Basically, I read what I want. I figure, at a page and a half a week and with a very, very small freelance budget, there's no way I'm going to do a comprehensive books page, New York Times-style. So what I think is important is to keep track of my reading life. That way, faithful readers can sort of determine where I am on the reading compass and calibrate their tastes against mine to determine whether they're going to love or hate the books I read.Luckily, I have pretty catholic tastes, so I can get a little bit of everything on my page. I was a bookseller for twelve years, and I remember that every time I asked a customer what book they wanted and they said "Oh, I read everything," that meant they only read crazy cat lady mysteries. But I review blockbusters and locally produced poetry books and everything in between.

There seems to be a pretty vast gulf between books people think are literature and books people actually read in large quantities. Would you identify this as cause for despair? Something that's always been true? A weird thing Americans do?

No, yes and no. I think that's always been the case everywhere around the world. There's nothing wrong with pulp. If literature can't manage to drag a reader away from trashy romance novels, that's certainly not the reader's fault. It's literature's fault.

Do you think that's connected to the declining number of book reviewers?

I think so. But I think you're leaving something important out of that question: I think it's the reason for the rise of book bloggers. I think that mainstream, print-edition book reviewers have crawled so far up their own asses that they think everyone will rejoice at the idea of, say, a new Laird Hunt novel. If they cover genre, it's usually in a condescending roundup column written by an inferior writer. The only people who read all literary fiction all the time are people who work in publishing or MFA students who want to be writers. Movie reviewers review every movie that comes out, and for the most part, a reviewer who writes about, say, Brokeback Mountain will also review Iron Man . Why do books get to be so goddamned snotty?

Just read your AMAZING article about the 2006 BEA Okay, seriously, how do you find the post-expo bookseller secret society rave? Does that only happen in D.C. because they have more to prove? Were you really that close to Pat Buchanan AND G. Gordon Liddy without your head exploding?

Aw, thanks. You just have to ask around about Hellfire, which is the bookseller afterparty. You have to know some independent booksellers. But the Hellfire parties aren't always as fun. The 2008 Los Angeles one was in an awful, crowded hipstery "dive" bar and nothing fun happened at all, and New York BEA parties are generally lame. I think maybe booksellers in D.C. know how to bring the party. Someone from C-Span made his brother wear the bunny suit, and that added a lot to the party, especially the impromptu pagan ritual at the end where they all tried to beat the bunny to death. And, yes, when you're standing next to Pat Buchanan, your head explodes a little bit on the inside. Especially because his head is so enormous that you can't quite take it all in. I don't know. I did a vanity Google search after that piece came out—I ain't ashamed—and I saw a blogger who wrote something like "Paul Constant is a wuss! If that was me, I totally would've marched up to Buchanan and Liddy and given them what-for." It was the worst kind of armchair quarterbacking, which is a hugely unfortuante tendency in bloggers. If you're in a strange city, in an exclusive club that you ordinarily would be too poor to work in, surrounded by ambassadors and media personalities, do you really think you're going to get in a screaming match with Liddy and Buchanan? If you do, you might want to reconsider your self-image, because you're just not that awesome.

Some books you've read recently and found pleasing?

We're in the middle of a great fall for books. I loved Chronic City —fuck a Kakutani—and War Dances, Sherman Alexie's latest. Big Machine by Victor LaValle is a really special book by a really special talent. Two Dollar Radio's Wurlitzer reissues are great. Monsters , which is a graphic novel about having herpes. And the Lydia Davis collection, of course, is the best collection I've come across in a long while. Somehow, when you're touching the book, it feels holy.

Wolverine or Batman?

Batman. Wolverine never had to work for anything. He just suffers like a whiny little emo crybaby.

Paul has also got a Tumblr and a Twitter.

YOU AMAZE US

No, really. We are SO PLEASED WITH YOUR CONTEST ENTRIES PLEASE CONTINUE. We keep SHRIEKING WITH JOY!!!!! AUTHOR-FRIENDS!!!!

We were going to deliver another Nanowrimo inspirational tirade today, but we finished off a bottle of sake last night, after having a Top Secret Rendezvous with Industry Professionals, and today we are feeling like a NaNoWiNo. HA HA HA. Oh man, we have been sitting on that joke for WEEKS ALREADY.

We love you!

You know who we DON'T LOVE right now, though? The state of Maine Voters of Maine, if y'all were in our slush pile right now, we'd reject your asses to the next CENTURY. KNOCK IT OFF and QUIT BEING ASSHOLES.

Chérie Has A Special Form Letter For You To Send Your Friends and Family

Chérie is a Real Writer, agented, working on her first novel. You may view her previous guest-post compositions in the posts menu, conveniently tagged "Chérie L'Ecrivain."

Dear [Loved One]:I understand that your [wedding/baby/birthday] is the most important thing that has ever happened [within the confines of the five boroughs/on the Eastern seaboard/throughout recorded history], and because we are [friends/family/awkwardly thrown together due to overlapping social circles], it is my most sincere desire to support you through this [joyful/costly/potentially disastrous] endeavor. However, please try to appreciate that my own resources are quite limited in terms of [finances/patience/the number of hours in a given week that are not spent catering to the needs of others] and that I may only be able to attend [one/two/three] of the [four/nine/sixteen] events that have been deemed necessary to thoroughly celebrate your [aforementioned occasion].

My love for you is [infinite/unconditional/beginning to wear a bit thin], and please understand that when I [ignore your phone calls/cancel our plans/change my address without telling you] is it not because I do not enjoy the pleasure of your company, but because there are times when I derive the greatest pleasure from having no company at all. I am anxiously awaiting the creation of a social networking site designed to isolate me from, rather than connect me to, the incessant yippity yap of the universe. Just having to share a species with [Jon Gosselin/Glenn Beck/Fred Durst] feels like indignity enough, yet the fact that this person's [name/face/narrative] is taking up space in my brain seems completely fucking unfair and makes me want to self-induce some sort of crude lobotomy by banging my head against the hardwood floors of my apartment until I mercifully black out. I literally saw a man answer his cell phone in the library the other day--not in the hushed tones of "I hate to do this but it could be an emergency, I shall whisper into my iPhone whilst sprinting outside, mortified," but in a standard "Hey brah, what are you doing? Yeah, I'm in the library" type of voice, pacing back and forth in front of the checkout counter as though he were alone in his own kitchen. [Loved one], sometimes I think I would have been happier in a time when you had to speak to an operator to call from Brooklyn to Queens and if I went out on more than five dates with a gentleman, I might begin referring to him as my "fella," but there's no use pining for that lost era, and also, I'm not sure I would like having my ass grabbed constantly at work.

It does not help that much of the time my brain seems to only operate in two modes, dazzling euphoria or paralyzing anxiety, and there are nights when I am kept awake by my [obsessive/compulsive/hysterically circular and paranoid] thinking, going over and over humiliations both real and imagined, from recent times and the long long ago, much like a meth addict single-mindedly taking apart every radio and telephone in his prefabricated mobile home. The universe graciously bestowed upon me [John Jameson Finest Irish Whiskey/astonishingly loud rock and roll music/movies about asteroids sharks and dinosaurs] so that from time to time I might blissfully stupefy myself and maybe even sleep for more than four hours in a row. Still, these delights are not quite enough to keep me a fully-functional human being, and I rely firmly upon both reading and writing to turn off the itchy, toothless, meth addict part of my brain that can't seem to quit dismantling the toaster oven. Only a good story--whether I'm the reader or the writer--can get that motherfucker to put down his screwdriver and take a goddamn nap.

Therefore, [loved one], if a moment presents itself when I can actually get down to the business of writing and magically forget about [the stupid thing I said when I was drunk last weekend/the lack of funds in my bank account/my pathological fear of intimacy and subsequent inability to find a suitable mate], if I can somehow escape from both the universe's yippity yap and my own, then no, I can't [answer the phone when it rings, even if you only want to talk for five minutes/just take a break for an hour to meet you for dinner/attend your week-long birthday celebration, conveniently located in the magical forests of Endor].And while you can plead all you want for me to take a break from my work and come join you, please understand that, most of the time, the work is the break I need from everything else.

Love,

[Author-friend]

SPECIAL CONTEST ACTIVITY

In the wake of the BATSHIT AWESOMENESS of the comments section last week, we are pleased to offer YOU, our dearly beloved Author-friends, an Official Rejectionist Death Match of Wittery.

YOUR CHALLENGE: Come up with THE MOST AMAZING Form Rejection in the History of the Universe.

THE RULES:

1.Your entry must be posted in the comments section of THIS POST by FIVE P.M. FRIDAY.

2. You may only enter once. ONCE.

3. Your form rejection must be amazing.

4. We will not impose a Length Guideline but please remember: Brevity is the Soul of Wit.

5. Your form rejection must be triple-spaced in ten-point Courier only, accompanied by a CV (ONLY International Standard Business Format will be accepted; ALL OTHER ENTRIES WILL BE DELETED); include a SASE with 3.75 46-cent stamps affixed .25 cm from all margins; all bribes must correspond with Greenwich Mean Time treaty regulations; only bourbons will be accepted; your entry must be carbon-copied in quadruplicate with additional forms available through the Submissions page of our auxiliary website. Hee hee. Maybe we want to be an agent someday after all.

Extra points will be awarded to entries that rhyme and/or incorporate zombies, werewolves, and super-foxy assistants to literary agents. But you know what they say: if you have true genius, you don't need to worry about conventions.

THE JUDGES: Us. Obvs. If we can't make up our mind we will enlist the assistance of our dear friend Chérie L'Ecrivain and our Support Team.

THE PRIZES: The author/ess of THE MOST AMAZING Form Rejection in the History of the Universe will receive the following:

1. Power, glory, potential conquering of global and domestic markets.

2. Our admiration and approval.

3. Exhaustive written evaluation (by us) of your choice of either your query letter or the first five pages of your manuscript WHICH WILL NOT RESULT IN US PASSING EITHER OF THOSE ITEMS ON TO "STEVE" NO MATTER HOW GOOD THEY ARE BECAUSE WE ARE ANNNNONNNNNYYYMOUUUSSSSSSS. But we are very good at giving useful feedback, promise.

4. We will also mail you a Book or possibly a Hotly Coveted Galley chosen at random from our immense library, or maybe bake you a treat if our landlady ever fixes the oven and we are feeling industrious. Or maybe BOTH if you are very lucky and we have gotten paid recently and can thus afford baking supplies and postage.

REMEMBER: FORM REJECTION. ONE ENTRY ONLY. IN THE COMMENTS SECTION OF THIS POST. FIVE P.M. FRIDAY. MAKE AWESOME. MAKE US PROUD. The winner will be announced MONDAY NOVEMBER 9.

We Will Be Your Occasional NaNoWriMo Browbeating Motivator

It's NOVEMBER FIRST, EVERYONE. Now SIT DOWN AND GET TO WORK. We wrote TWO THOUSAND WORDS ALREADY. You don't want the ASSISTANT to show you up, do you? No, we didn't think so. GET CRACKING.