FRIDAY

Dear ones! Do not send queries priority mail! Don't do it! There is no sane, competent agent in the UNIVERSE who cares if your unsolicited query is sent priority mail! It breaks the blackened and crusty wreck we call a heart to see you spend your hard-earned Author-dollars on FIVE DOLLARS OF POSTAGE FOR EVERY QUERY SENT! Which will arrive overnight and then languish quietly for a week minimum before being opened anyway! Regular stamps are fine, fine, fine! Really!

"Steve" is out of the office today! Because of blizzard! Does the assistant get to stay home because of blizzard! No the assistant does not! Neither snow nor rain nor sleet &c! The assistant cranks up the Metallica (TAKE THAT, CRETINOUS)! puts her feet up on the table! chomps her cigar*! and REJECTS! REJECTS! REJECTS! Out with your lawyers! your sexy private detectives! your tired vampire rehashes! your new-age spiritual manifestos! prison memoirs! cubicle romps! war stories! tax evasion scams! pirate porn**! something that is maybe narrated by a hedgehog but we can't exactly tell because the entire query is written in a largely illegible shade of fluorescent pink! WHY DOESN'T THIS GODDAMN OFFICE HAVE ROOM SERVICE!

*Okay, not really.

**Yep, really.

Failure is Underrated

Rebecca Brown on failure. The Dogs and The Terrible Girls will melt your face off with their amazing, so GO READ THEM. So creepy, so beautiful, so good. Thanks to Author-friend/certified genius Carol Guess for the link.

Today's Kōan

If the assistant wears a Slayer shirt to work, but with a giant scarf, so that one might have some difficulty discerning that the assistant is in fact wearing a Slayer shirt, and the agent forgot to tell the assistant about a super-important meeting with a hotshot editor, is the assistant still technically wearing a Slayer shirt to the important publishing meeting?

On an unrelated note, did we all see that the television adaptation of Author-friend Carleen Brice's novel was the SECOND MOST-WATCHED ORIGINAL MOVIE IN THE HISTORY OF THE LIFETIME NETWORK???? Sorry, what was that? Was someone saying some bullshit about main characters of color not being commercially viable? THAT'S RIGHT, WE DIDN'T THINK SO.

CONGRATULATIONS AUTHOR-FRIEND CARLEEN! Why don't we all say that together now, VERY LOUDLY!

Agents: Also Human

Last week we received this missive from Author-friend Sanjay Marwaha, which we present to you without comment.

Dearest RJ !!!

One of the strangest things in my not-so-long life happened to me today.

As you know, I have been polluting the mailwaves (be they electronic or snail) with query letters for some weeks now. I have an expected mix of rejections and interest, requests for anything from pages, to chapters, to a full m/s. I keep my head up and my loins girded !!!

Today - I received a letter from an agent that defied description - although I will do my best...

It was a fairly large and heavy envelope.

I tugged and ripped and finally had the darn thing open. Tipping out the contents on my dining table, it took me some time to figure out what I was looking at.

The envelope was filled with numerous queries and partial submissions and a note which read, "Hey Dan (name changed), put these with the others."

Well, needless to say, my name is not Dan and by a happy coincidence, I don't have the others!!!

My ever-more-intelligent friend surmised that this was intended as some internal post at an agent's office and was mistakenly sent to me. I have a happy picture of Dan, sitting at his desk, pulling open an envelope and being told that his submission is 'not right for my agency at this time and I wish you all luck in your search for representation'...

Thought you might get a kick out of this!

Sanjay

Today's Book Review

Michel Houellebecq H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life 247pp. McSweeney's Books. 1932416188

H.P. Lovecraft is one of the strangest and most influential writers of horror in the English language. A complete critical and commercial failure during his lifetime, Lovecraft died of intestinal cancer, alone and impoverished, at the age of 47. But his disturbing, obsessively racist, and adjective-laden stories took on a life of their own after his death, permeating American popular culture to such an extent that modern critics sometimes compare him to Arthur Conan Doyle; like Doyle's famous sleuth Sherlock Holmes, Lovecraft's creations live on almost entirely independent of their creator. His stories have never been out of print since their publication in the early 1900s, and have generated millions of dollars in revenue (where exactly this revenue goes is something of a mystery, as Stephen King notes in his thoughtful and characteristically engaging introduction). Lovecraft is listed as a major influence by writers as diverse--and successful--as King himself and, as we learn in the course of his book, the French writer Michel Houellebecq.

Originally written in 1988, a decade before the publication of his first novel, H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life is an impassioned defense of Lovecraft's ouevre, an insistence that Lovecraft's stories are immensely important. Against the World makes no pretense of critical impartiality; Houellebecq is an ardent admirer of Lovecraft's work, and a sympathetic biographer--though there's not much in Lovecraft's bitter, misanthropic existence to inspire sympathy. Aside from a few happy and unlikely years of marriage, to a woman who supported him financially and who he seems to have loved, in his own awkward way (Houellebecq includes a heartbreaking sample of what Lovecraft considered to be a love letter), Lovecraft spent his life in self-imposed and penniless exile, his only friends a couple of younger writers with whom he exchanged occasional correspondence. Though he does not shy away from Lovecraft's extraordinarily malevolent and pervasive racism, Houellebecq offers an almost dismissive justification for Lovecraft's constant association of the "lesser" races with a species of profoundly evil aliens determined to destroy everything good (and white) in the world. For Houellebecq, Lovecraft's racism is inspired by his colossal professional failures in New York, surrounded by immigrants he believed to be taking away the jobs no one would hire him for (due in no small part to his own social awkwardness and administrative incompetence).

Houellebecq seems at first an unlikely biographer for a writer like Lovecraft. His own fiction has enjoyed tremendous international success, thanks at least partly to his controversial reputation as a sort of enfant terrible of French letters. But like Lovecraft, Houellebecq--whose fiction is as ferociously misogynist as Lovecraft's is racist--exerts a strange kind of appeal for all his hyperbolic excess. Houellebecq's sexual landscape is sterile despite--or perhaps because of--all its gratuitous profligacy, and removed from real human experience. Like Lovecraft, he is misanthropic, obsessive, fantastical, and off-putting; and yet, his work acquires a strange kind of resonance, an insightfulness in spite of itself, and sometimes even a hopefulness that suggests, at its heart, Houellebecq is not quite such a hater of humanity after all. After enduring one of his novels, one sometimes has the feeling of having run an uphill marathon: exhausted, ill, but exhilarated. Likewise, there is something undeniably compelling about Lovecraft's dark and mystery-laden universe where, despite a preponderance of unwieldy adjectives and an aesthetic that frequently borders on outright camp, his hokey aliens and indistinguishable narrators acquire a kind of critical mass of fascination. At the heart of his work is a horrifying loneliness, a conviction that the world is an empty bitter place with no joy to offer, a fixation on the Abyss with a capital A. Lovecraft is enthralling not so much for his (let's face it) hackneyed fiction but its context, the bleak expanse of his own life and the lasting place his work has carved for itself in popular culture.

Though Against the World fails as a work of criticism--perhaps not surprising, considering it's coming from a writer who's made a career out of truculent perversity--it's difficult to put down. Houellebecq's capitulation to, and refusal to examine, Lovecraft's insistence that eroticism has no place in his work ("This was an important point to establish," he snaps, "Now let's move on") is exasperating. It doesn't take a Freud to recognize that a man who writes constantly about decay, pestilence, and a fishy-smelling menace continually emerging from the sea has more than a little sex on his brain, and a lifetime of insisting otherwise is a terror that begs unpacking. One wishes, rather fervently, that Houellebecq might also take a deeper look at what makes Lovecraft such a quintessentially American writer, and what America's preoccupation with Lovecraft says about us as a culture; after all, who's better equipped to eviscerate Americans than the French. Michael Moorcock's hilarious 1978 essay "Starship Stormtroopers" accomplishes in one paragraph what Houellebecq can't or won't do in an entire book (to be fair, Moorcock is no fan of HPL's "offensively awful writing", or, for that matter, of the masses who adore it). Houellebecq is far more interested in the particulars--what made the enigmatic Lovecraft tick, and what there is to love about his frenetic, weird fiction. One can almost picture Houellebecq and Lovecraft huddled together at the back of the bar, lamenting the good old days when "those ones" (people of color, women, aliens) knew their place and a man could really make his way in the world--except, of course, it's difficult to imagine the socially inept and largely housebound Lovecraft hanging out in a bar with anyone at all. As tempting as it is to leave them to their own devices, their one-sided conversation--across the decades, across genres, across the possible--exerts an undeniable pull. Whether it's the proverbial attraction of the car accident, or something more complex, is hard to say.

VIVA

"If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country."

Malcom X, May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965

Some More Public Service Announcements

The televised version of Author-friend/interview alumnus Carleen Brice's book Orange Mint and Honey (Lifetime changed the title to "Sins of the Mother") airs tonight! Go watch it! Buy Carleen's book! Send Carleen fanmails! HUZZAH CARLEEN!

Also, we were totally not the most fabulous person at the Kevin Sampsell reading. That was, like, eighty of the hottest people we have ever seen at a literary event in our entire life. Nice work, Brooklyn! We were also overjoyed to discover the delightful Justin Taylor, who read a very, very funny story from his collection Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever, which we bought, and read, and it is in fact the best thing ever! We would have sworn to you it is utterly impossible to write clever, poignant, and hilarious stories about twentysomething white hipsters BUT JUSTIN TAYLOR HAS PROVED US WRONG.

Please do not take this as encouragement to continue sending us stories about twentysomething white hipsters, gentlemen of Brooklyn. Some things you just don't want to try at home, bless your little hearts. Okay? Okay.

To Be Great Is To Be Misunderstood

Today's outfit: ribbed cashmere leggings worn as drop-crotch trousers, "Las Vegas" t-shirt, enormous white faux yak-fur vest, cowboy boots, many rhinestone necklaces and by "many" we mean, like, ten.

Homeless gentleman on subway: MEOW! SEXY KITTY!

Small child on subway: Mommy! What IS that?

"Steve": Oh! My, that's... I am... are you going somewhere after work?

Le R.: It's FASHION WEEK, "Steve."

(Silence)

"Steve": Oh, I thought maybe you had started some kind of medication.

Don't forget! KEVIN SAMPSELL AT WORD BOOKSTORE, TONIGHT! We will be the most deranged-looking fabulous person there, if you want to say hi.

Today's Fashion Week Moment(s)

Even more hypnotically soothing than Puppycam: watching Gareth Pugh make a (pretty sick, totally work-appropriate, we swear) dress. It is perfectly satisfying with the sound off if you are, you know, at work or something dumb like that; but you won't get to hear the part about seven minutes in where he's all like, "Ah shit, I foocked up the shoulder," in his charming little accent. The link opens a really dumb video of Raquel Zimmerman gyrating around; click on the 'Process' video below it. COME ON GO THERE WITH US. Talking about publishing all the time is BOOOOOOOORING.

Also! speaking of fashions! Dean Spade is currently #1 on our fiancé/es list. Hot damn. Read Dean's whole article here; it is 100% guaranteed to make you smarter.

Also! Threadbared blog is BANANAS AWESOME. This blog is equally #1 on our fiancé/es list, because we are totally pomo like that.

YES we are going to talk about fashions all week IT IS FASHION WEEK, PEOPLE, and LIKE WE SAID PUBLISHING IS KIND OF BORING. You should see what passes for fashions in THIS office. What these people would do without us, we have no idea.

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG

Author-friend Lucy Woodhull made this us for us. We are, like, speechless with joy. You can make your own romance novel covers here, and we are just warning you now: this is for serious the most amazing website in the history of the universe and we are never going to read your submissions again because we will be spending eight hours a day for the rest of our working life taking pictures of ourself with Photobooth on the "Dent" setting and making romance novel covers IT EVEN MAKES A LITTLE PROMOTIONAL MONTAGE FOR YOU. LUCY WOODHULL, WE SALUTE YOU, DEAREST OF AUTHOR-FRIENDS.

Vampire Fashion Week!

It's FASHION WEEK, Author-friends! A very excellent excuse to talk about FASHIONS, which is right up there with Taking Money Away From Rich People, Armed Revolution, and Overthrowing the Man on our list of Favorite Conversation Topics! And you know what YOU like to talk about, dear ones, is VAMPIRES. VAMPIRES VAMPIRES VAMPIRES. So why don't we meet halfway and talk about VAMPIRE FASHIONS.

Because honestly, moppets, the vampire fashions we are seeing are totally not cutting the mustard. If we have to read one more "His soft green T-shirt and glitter body spray perfectly set off his emerald-green eyes which gazed deeply into mine as his firmly muscled chest heaved with passi ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ SORRY WHAT WAS THAT WE FELL ASLEEP. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. Vampires are, like, mad loaded, centuries old, and really really gay;* do you truly expect us to believe they are repeating the tenth grade eternally** in the spring Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue? NO THEY ARE NOT, and if they are, they sure as hell don't deserve a book written about them. So LOOK AND LEARN, LITTLE ONES. If anyone is feeling super generous and would like to send us any of the below items we would not say no.

Here we have some nice looks from Ann Demeulemeester, favorite of vampires and discerning goths everywhere:

Rad Hourani solves the eternal (ha, ha) vampire problem of looking cool in hot weather:

A little Rick Owens, for when all-black ensembles get dreary (as if they ever could! But not everyone lives in New York, we realize):

Rick Owens is in fact so beloved by the bloodthirsty that real live vampires walk in his shows:

Some Gareth Pugh (because if vampires can't wear feather vests as shirts WHO CAN):

And lastly here is wee Gareth himself, modeling a nice dressed-down daily look for the sensible vampire:

It is possible we are partial to this last because it is the outfit we ourself can be found in 98.3% of the time, but whatevs. Now! back to your novels, little creatures! And don't send us any more frumpy goddamn undead!

*If you have another explanation for why the only folks getting the big love bite are eighteen-year-old manmorsels, we're all ears.

**For reals, people, come on. No matter how bored we get we are not going to find revisiting pre-algebra larkish. You want hot vampy-Lolita action, find another conceit besides vampster heading back to high school "for the fun of it."

In Memoriam

won't you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.

Lucille Clifton, 1936-2010

In Memoriam

"I've always been the pink sheep of the family."

Alexander McQueen, 1969-2010

Author-friends, Meet Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich is the author of 8th Grade Super Zero, a book that we would totally add to our ever-growing list of fiancé/es, if such a thing were possible. The story of Reggie "Pukey" McKnight (who earned his moniker by vomiting in front of the entire school) and his best friends Ruthie and Joe C., Super Zero is one of the most warmhearted, smart, and funny debuts -- for kids OR adults -- we've read in a long, long time. Which comes as no surprise, since Olugbemisola herself raises the bar of awesome to unparalleled heights.

Did you make a conscious choice to write for young adults? What books were important to you when you were a young adult yourself?

My parents gave me such a gift during my childhood and teen years --they offered a lot of freedom to browse library shelves, and choose my own books (once or twice they might have asked me to put back a teen romance or two). It was wonderful to be around a family of readers... to be in a family that valued literacy. Books were a place of respite for me during a tough time; they gave me a space to work out who I was, even try on different identities at times.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl were books that I read when I was too young to understand them fully, but I 'got' something, they resonated with me in a major way. Madeleine L’Engle’s books -- A Wrinkle in Time , A Wind in the Door , and A Ring of Endless Light were very precious to me. My mom read Wrinkle aloud to me during a year that we lived in Lagos, and that was a wonderful time. Those books helped me reflect on death, grieving... imperfect heroines... the different ways we learn to love. Around that time, I also collected the “African Writers Series”, and just had a real thirst for ‘regular’ stories about Africans and their daily lives, and enjoyed books by Cyprian Ekwensi, Buchi Emecheta... Chinua Achebe’s No Longer At Ease was devastating, and told a story about relationship to homeland that resonated with me even then.

Their Eyes Were Watching God was big, though it's obviously not MG/YA. In high school, I worked on a term paper on Zora Neale Hurston, and our school librarian told me repeatedly that there was no such person when I asked for research help... That really reinforced my decision to take responsibility for my own education -- and to seek out well-informed librarians, because of course, there are tons! I have had the good fortune to volunteer in my daughter's school library, and the staff there are wonderful at both respecting teen's reading choices and encouraging them to challenge themselves. I was also blessed during junior high and high school with two great teachers, Ms. Glover and Ms. Anderson, who were committed to educating all of their students about the Black experience across the Diaspora, not as something exotic or foreign, but something that mattered. They really challenged us in terms of critical reading & artistic expression. (I even forgive Ms. Anderson for making me “Mama” in A Raisin in The Sun! Not for the interpretive dance at the school assembly, though.:-) )

I loved folk tales, fairy tales, myths. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis is one of my all-time favourites. The line "how can we expect the gods to meet us face to face till we have faces" captures what intrigued me most about this story of a young princess who becomes a true princess. I was a young woman who believed, on the pages of my journals, that I was a hidden princess. Some others... The Cat Ate My Gymsuit! A classic novel of a teenage girl really digging deep to uncover her voice. Pride and Prejudice because Elizabeth had sass and could face her mistakes with dignity. Plus, I was OBSESSED with becoming 'an accomplished woman'.

It was also during the teen years that I learned to read critically -- for instance, I was a huge Agatha Christie fan (she does tight, neat description so well), but also began to look more closely at the racist and/or anti-Semitic sentiments that were present, in those and other favourites. It also became clear that it wasn't much fun so often seeing PoC in literature as a problem to be dealt with or ignored.

Much later I read bell hooks’ essay on ‘writing autobiography’ as a way of ‘talking back’... I’ve always loved memoir. I was always talking back as a reader, and my writing is a way of talking back (and much easier for me than say, actual talking!) I don’t know what I’d have done, or what I’d do now without books and stories. (Side note: I just read something that mentioned the "three perfect books" of American writing, and I feel a little oddballish because none of the three were among my favourites. Not even close.) Anyway, I love to re-read those old favourites, and am transformed every time. I always wanted to write, and did always write, in some form, and I think that in writing for young adults I'd love to give just a small shadow of the gifts that I got from books during those years.

Reggie and Ruthie are like a breath of fresh air in a market oversaturated with books about kids engaged in various self-destructive or scandalous behaviors. Was that also a deliberate choice on your part? Was it challenging for you to sell a book about normal kids struggling with universal but unglamorous problems?

You are way kind! This is sort of in retrospect, because my characters are not usually deliberate, conscious choices, but all of my experiences and relationships certainly play a part in how I write them. I've known kids like Reggie and Ruthie, and meet them every day. And I think that sometimes we dismiss 'regular' kids' stories as boring, or not in need of the same love and attention that the 'superstars' or notorious ones attract. It is pretty lame to quote one of my own characters, but I really do believe that 'everyone has a story, and everyone's story matters', and it is my failure as a storyteller if I can't find the emotional center of an unglamorous life. (Hmmm...I lead an amazingly unglamourous life, so now I'm thinking that this it was all just a thinly-disguised attempt to validate me.)

There were people who thought that Superzero didn't have enough of a 'hook' to sell. I was warned more than once that it wasn't the kind of book that could get published, or read. I do think that it's important for readers to have many different 'ways of telling' to choose from. I read a variety of genres as a teen, and was tremendously enriched by that, and always encourage young readers to do the same. I didn't *only* want to read about people exactly like me, and think that many readers are the same way -- we enjoy crossing borders with books, we love to recognize the familiar, and be thrilled by something completely new; we want a good, honest story.

You have said elsewhere you have a penchant for sweets and cheeses. Any sweets and cheeses in particular? Are you a stinky cheese sort of person?

I should break up with it, but the sugar, it keeps calling me, and sending flowers, and giving me compliments... I love cakes, and I once thought that I'd do better if I only ate cake-ish stuff that I made myself, but that just meant that I baked more. I love candy... Economy Candy on the Lower East Side of New York City is one of my favourite places to be. And cheese! I am way Wallace (& Gromit) about cheese. I like hard, sharp cheeses... I do like gorgonzola, so I guess the stinky cheese answer is yes. And pizza! Good pizza, not just any old rubbery thing. Ah, cheese! I make a super cheesy mac and cheese, with four different cheeses... And I make a mean spinach-cheese casserole. Oh, and there's this recipe I found in Cosmo once, for 5-Cheese Penne...

Ruthie is one of the most awesome characters in the history of young adult literature. Is she anything like eighth-grade Olugbemisola?

Hey, can you interview me every day? Heh. Thank you so much! I love Ruthie. Oh, I wish I wish I wish she was 8th grade me! Maybe in my head I was Ruthie, but I guess I kept it way under wraps. My mother always encouraged us to be engaged with more than our personal issues, or to make larger issues personal; we did a lot of rallying, demonstrating, vigil-ing, etc. She set a marvelous example that I try to remember as a mother myself now. Academically, yes, I was a lot like her. I had an 8th grade teacher, Ms. Simnica, who worked with me on an independent research project on the 'Women's Movement' of the 1970s... I was definitely all about the extra-credit in 8th grade... Oh, and DIY fashion-wise, yes. I was very much into expressing myself that way.

I know that I used to get frustrated with a lot of the female characters I read as a teen, and I think that part of why Ruthie developed the way that she did was because of my desire to read a strong girl who loved herself, who was confident without being conceited, who wasn't self-absorbed and self-pitying -- who woke up every day knowing that she could do something to make the world a better place. A lot of times there were characters in books that I strongly identified with, but I wouldn't have necessarily wanted to hang out with them. I would have liked to have been friends with Ruthie.

You deal with racism deftly but quite frankly in 8th Grade Super Zero , and you are very open in interviews and on your blog about your experiences of racism -- both in publishing and in the world in general. Do you feel like that's affected your career as a writer? What keeps you strong?

I think that those experience inform my work, they are a part of my life, and I don't believe in pretending that they haven't happened, or that they don't continue to happen now. Remarks and assumptions that are ultimately racist, even when they're well-meaning, are still exhausting and painful. And sometimes the concept of what is the default 'normal' or mainstream indicates that who I am is alien or problematic, and I want to give up. But I won't. In the end, I am not defined by small minded souls; it's unfortunate when others don't understand or want to believe that there is more to me than the colour of my skin. I refuse to be limited by their perceptions of who I can or should be. And I thank God for the power of story. There are always ways to make meaning, to work it out, to challenge and be challenged, as long as there are stories. My faith tells me that there is more to me, and to any of us, and what we can do, than we know, and I cling to that like crazy.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on a YA tentatively titled You're Breaking My Heart , about a girl who wishes her older brother dead in an argument, and then he dies later that day. I've been wanting to explore themes of guilt and grief, and the different forms that healing and redemption can take, for a long time, and I've been hanging out with my MC for a while. Years ago, I read an analysis of Till We Have Faces that discussed the Hebrew mashal as a text in which the character is "forced into unwelcome self-understanding"; my MC feels justified and self-righteous about many things, and we find out that all is not what it seems to her. She's the daughter of Nigerian immigrants who were well-regarded professionals back home but are living a very different life in the U.S., and she is navigating that as well. There's swimming, knitting, an abandoned subway tunnel, and a crush. Maybe even a monster, I'm not sure yet. And I have these two characters, Makeda the Marvelous and Tara Belle Bradley, who are waiting for their stories to be told. I think they are chapter books, maybe young middle grade? I don't get the category thing too well, though. I've been playing with a nonfiction project called "Global Girls", and I have fantasies of something PBS and puppet-ish one day.

Some favorite books you've read lately?

Where The Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin is beautiful. Gringolandia by Lyn-Miller Lachman and A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliot both packed huge punches. I recently tore through the first three of Marguerite Abouet's Aya books, those were a lot of fun. I am re-reading Shine, Coconut Moon to use in a writing workshop this Spring; I am all about stories that value character and relationship, and that book just does some exquisitely nuanced, wonderful things along those lines. I re-read two Lenore Look books not too long ago: the first Ruby Lu and the first Alvin Ho... I've been eyeing Yoruba Girl Dancing, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, Joys of Motherhood, and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress for re-reads -- but before that I've got to read One Crazy Summer and The Rock and The River. I just got Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis, and that is definitely at the top of my TBR pile!

In nonfiction, I've recently loved Barbara Brown Taylor's Gospel Medicine, Atul Gawande's Better , and David Urion's Compassion as a Subversive Activity. I've just started and am loving the new edition of Pete Seeger's Where Have All The Flowers Gone: A Musical Autobiography, David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed in Flames, and Kathleen Norris' Acedia and Me.

Oh, and with my daughter, who's just 6: I'm renewing my vows to love and cherish Beverly Cleary, A.A. Milne, Michael Bond, and Eloise Greenfield. I *love* Badger's Parting Gifts, Cynthia Rylant's Mr. Putter and Tabby series, just about everything from William Steig, John Burningham, and Bernard Waber; Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's collaborations, and I cannot WAIT until she gets her hands on Audrey Glassman Vernick's Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? and She Loved Baseball. I am doing a first-grade reading and writing workshop on community and friendship later this year, and I'm looking forward to preparing by reading the Nikki and Deja books, Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel, Subway Sparrow, and Heroines and Heroes/Heroinas y Heroes.

A Reminder: Don't Fuck With the Assistant

You know all those "experiments" wherein various persons send "queries" that are summations of canonical works of literature to agents and publishers? And then, when said queries are summarily rejected, promptly deride the idiocy of the Many-Headed Hydra of Moronity and Back-Asswardness That Is the Entire Publishing Industry Especially Agents Who Are All, As We Know, Personally Responsible for Twilight/That Lauren Conrad "Novel"/Whatever Book You Hate Today, and Cannot Even Recognize Great Literature When It Hits Them Over the Head With a Shovel?

Well, here's what ACTUALLY happens when the Assistant receives a query that is practically a book report for a Famous/Relatively Famous/Actually Slightly Obscure (and Aren't We Clever For Recognizing It Immediately) novel:

Mail: Ping!

Assistant: Oh, a new query! What delight awaits us! Dearest universe, how you continually bestow magic upon us!

Assistant: But what if it's a nasty one, precious, ssss, sss? We hates the nasssty ones, hates them!

(Assistant peruses screen of beautiful new Mac (thanks, "Steve"!). Noble brow of Assistant furrows as initial expression of Rapture is replaced by scowl.)

Assistant: But what! This cannot be! This isn't a query, it's a summary of (insert title of relatively famous novel here)! Surely this cretin is not Fucking With the Assistant! Surely this toadstool masquerading as a scribe is aware THAT THIS BOOK HAS ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN!

Assistant: It's tricksy! Tricksy! WE HATES IT!!! SS SSSSS!!! HATES THE TRICKSY QUERIESES WHERE IS OUR DRINKSY WE NEEDS OUR DRINKSY PRECIOUS!!

(Beautiful new Mac explodes due to psychic force of Assistant's displeasure. "Steve" weeps. "Query" is form-rejected. Assistant prevails. Ssss, ssss.)

FIN

Today's Extreme Font Dork Moment

We find this project so pleasing, we cannot even tell you. Let that be a lesson to you: the Cooper family is ugly AND profligate! Thanks to Author-friend Adam Heine for the link.

Some Public Service Announcements

1. Who do we love? Kevin Sampsell. Who else do we love? WORD bookstore. What do we love even more? KEVIN SAMPSELL READING AT WORD BOOKSTORE. How about that!

2. The Brown Bookshelf has a super-awesome project going this month called 28 Days Later, spotlighting twenty-eight YA, MG and picture book authors of color. There are great interviews and lots of book recommendations. If anyone knows of a similar project for the grownups please let us know.

3. We have been listening to a lot of Bon Jovi lately. Like, A LOT (what, and YOU never do anything cheesy? SHUT UP). So if you get a form rejection reading REJECTIONIST LIVES FOR THE FIGHT CAUSE THAT'S ALL SHE'S GOT or possibly SHOT THROUGH THE HEART AND YOU'RE TOO LATE YOU GIVE QUERIES A BAD NAME, it's from us.

4. Author-friend/fiancé(?) Ink has PUBLISHED AN INFANT HAD A BABY why don't you go and CONGRATULATE HIM. Congratulations, Author-friend Ink!

5. Colleen Mondor has a great article at Bookslut on whitewashing in publishing.

6. NO REALLY, you got a PROBLEM with BON JOVI we can TAKE THIS OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW, PEOPLE. Someday maybe when our mom isn't reading we will tell you about the time we got into a barfight in Iowa over a Joy Division song.

Last Month in Queries

Total queries received: 537 (!!! totally a record, we are impressed, you can stop now). Requests for manuscripts: 12, as we and "Steve" were simultaneously struck by fits of generosity this month. Anthologies of "critically acclaimed fart jokes even my wife thinks their funny": 1. Queries in which author misspelled title of own book: 1 (we did not reject this person for that reason, but it did make us laugh. Not in a mean way, we swear). Queries from person who was clearly like 700 years old and did not include any contact information and now we are consumed with guilt thinking of this poor elderly gentleman awaiting a response we have no way of sending him: 1. Novels "inspired by Hemmingway": 1. Mafia thrillers: 24. Queries from a church (as in the building, not the congregation. No, we have no idea): 1. Novels featuring teenage girls engaged in various relations/tormented affections/accidental ensnarements with vampires, demons, the undead, angels, werewolves, or fairies (not like the gay kind; WE WISH WE WISH WE WISH OMG SOMEONE PLEEEEEEASE SEND US A GAY WEREWOLFS-FAIRIES NOVEL WE WILL DO A FUCKING CAPER): 64. Snail-mail query from Friend of Friend of Friend of "Steve", which relation we were unaware of, as FOFOFOS did not mention this bosom friendship in said (excruciatingly dull) query, but chose to email "Steve" separately TWO WEEKS LATER being all like "What ho, jolly chap, don't you know I've queried you?", at the same instant as we were tucking a form-rejection into his SASE and handing it off to our favorite mailperson, and then "Steve" was all like "Dearest Le R., have you seen my friend's friend's friend's query? Can you please request his ms out of that generous spirit of bonhomie which so often prevails chez nous?", and then we chased after the mailman in an unsuccessful effort to retrieve aforementioned form rejection, and then we had to compose a groveling apologetic missive to FOFOFOS being all like "HA HA SORRY STOP ABOUT MISTAKEN REJECTION STOP FROM MORONIC ASSISTANT STOP PLEASE OF COURSE SEND YOUR DELIGHTFUL NOVEL STOP", and then "Steve" read the first chapter and was all like, "Oh, this is excruciatingly dull, please reject it", and then we cried: 1. Totally bomb-ass submission letters written by Rejectionists which caused ALL ELEVEN TO THIRTEEN RECEIVING EDITORS to request "Steve" Client Novel within ONE TO THREE DAYS OF RECEIPT: TWO, thank you very much. WE TOLD YOU NOT TO FUCK WITH THE ASSISTANT.

Author-friends, Meet Ari

Two weeks ago teen blogger extraordinaire Ari lit the internets on fire with her beautifully written, passionate letter to Bloomsbury; but she's been posting thoughtful reviews and ludicrously smart social commentary since the inception of her blog, Reading in Color, in July 2009. By ludicrously smart we mean really, really smart. Oh, and she's funny, too. Knowing that the future is in the hands of this very capable and charming young person pleases us to no end.

Why did you start Reading in Color? Had you ever blogged before?

I started Reading in Color because I was tired of seeing the same books being reviewed on teen book blogs. Don't get me wrong, the books being reviewed sounded interesting, but they were all about white main characters. I grew frustrated because part of why I started reading book blogs was to find YA recommendations about people of color (POC) and I couldn't find any book blogs that offered that. It was only after starting my blog that I found other resources, like Color Online and the Happy Nappy Bookseller.

I've never blogged before which is painfully clear in my first couple of blog posts. But I think my blog has gotten better and my reviews are becoming more well-written.

You read three books a week, post thorough and thoughtful reviews, correspond with other bloggers, take on the publishing industry, AND you're still in high school. Do you ever get tired? Does your blogging life sometimes take over your "real" life?

I've never seen a list of all my activities but now that I look at it, I think wow. I'm not sure how I do it, I just do what I know needs to be done. To me blogging is like a business, you have to be updated and current and keep your blog relevant and looking fresh. However, it's a business and a job that I wholeheartedly enjoy. I have so much fun writing reviews, emailing other bloggers and authors, and leaving comments. I know that every blogger reaches a burnout at some point in their blogging life, I haven't had mine yet and I hope that I am mature enough to know when to step back and take a break. When I don't feel like writing a review, I post something else so I usually don't get tired of blogging. Blogging takes over my real life only occasionally, sometimes I want to talk about books with my friends, but I stop myself because I would only be met with blank and confused stares. And sometimes I want to talk to my parents about my frustrations with the publishing industry, but they won't really get it or know what book or author I'm talking about.

Any plans to be a writer yourself?

I have zero patience in life to be a writer. I could start a book and write the end but I would not be able to write in the in-between, so no I have no intention of becoming a writer.

Finish the following sentence: In a perfect world, the publishing industry would...

In a perfect world, the publishing industry would publish an equal number of books by and about POC, have more POC in charge, allow authors to have input on the making of their covers, be able to give away as many books as they wanted and still make a profit (not sure how but that's the beauty of imaginary perfect worlds), and e-books would be kaput.

Any advice for old folks on how they can be half as awesome as you?

LOL, just do what the Rejectionist says, under her tutelage I think anyone can be awesome :D*

Seriously, I don't view myself as awesome, just on a mission that I'm passionate about. I do think that adults lose cool/awesome points when they discount the power of teenagers. I HATE being told I can't do something because I'm a teenager, it's ridiculous. But then again, it's helpful because it motivates me to prove that misguided adult wrong and the results usually turn out pretty well.

Some favorite books you've read lately?

Well, I'm currently reading and loving The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork (I LOVED Marcelo in the Real World ).

I also really enjoyed 8th Grade Super Zero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, and The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon.

And two of my favorite books of all time are Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher and A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott.

*We TOLD you she was smart.

In Which We Reveal the Darkest Secret of All

We present to you, Author-friends, the vilest conspiracy of capitalism: Jeff Koons and James Patterson are the same person, and WE CAN PROVE IT.

Work dismissed as kitsch promoted by cynical self-advertisingXX
Work produced by factory-like stable of assistantsXX
Married porn star/member of Italian parliamentX
Married employeeXX
Fond of employing gratuitous sexual imagery in workXX
ShinyX (covers)X (sculptures)
Has referred to self in third person in interviewsXX
Former business executiveX (advertising)X (stockbroker)
Can be described in four words"sick, sexist, sadistic and sub-literate" Patrick Anderson, Washington Post

"artificial, cheap, and unabashedly cynical" Michael Kimmelman, NYT

Or more"absurd plotting, facile trickery and prose that is simply dreadful "

ST Joshi

"a decadent artist [who] lacks the imaginative will to do more than trivialize and italicise his themes and the tradition in which he works..."

Mark Stevens, The New Republic

No anagrams can be made from entire nameXX
Startlingly prodigious outputXX
Recent sales exceed those of anyone else working in field universe combinedXX
Publicly dissed by renowned critic/peerX (Stephen King)X (Robert Hughes)
Post-PopXX
Notable quote“Thousands of people don’t like what I do. Fortunately, millions do.”"There’s a difference between being famous and being significant."

Today's Font Joke Is Also A Lesson

And we thought we put OUR feet in our mouth a lot. Today's font joke also comes to you courtesy of the eagle-eyed Shirin Dubbin, a hot contender for our fiancé/es roster, and who just found out she is publishing a novella with Carina Press, so why don't you go and tell her congratulations. Like this: CONGRATULATIONS, AUTHOR-FRIEND SHIRIN!

The Story of a Fierce Bad Agent

Super-sad, super-true: there are Bad Agents out there, the sort who sign you and never call you again, run off with money you shouldn't have paid them, or are just kind of dumb. Blech. But what's the worst that could happen to you, should you encounter such a person? Your career ruined? Blah, blah, blah, always about YOU, Author-friends! Well, quit your whining! You know what's worse than SIGNING with a Bad Agent? WORKING IN AN OFFICE WITH ONE. We weren't going to tell you about the Back-Office Horror, Cretinous van Poopypants,* we weren't we weren't, despite C van P's many nefarious doings, but C van P is currently working on the Film Deal for his Star Author, Sonorous McTwaddle,** and spending a lot of time shouting things into the phone like, "It's Spielberg or no one, you son of a bitch!", distracting us from our noble work of circulating your queries around the office and laughing at them finding gems amid the slush, AND WE CAN'T TAKE IT ANY MORE. So here, for your edification: The Dark Secrets of Cretinous van Poopypants, Bad Agent.

1. Cretinous van Poopypants EATS THE ASSISTANTS' SNACKS out of the Kitchen Area EVEN WHEN THE ASSISTANTS CAREFULLY LABEL THE SNACKS WITH THEIR NAMES IN BLACK SHARPIE.

2. Cretinous van Poopypants goes through assistants like assistants go through whiskies. Last month's assistant was a gentle soul called "Winston" who would look at the ground when C van P yelled at him (which was ten to fifteen times an hour) and whisper, "Sorry." One day "Winston" left for lunch and NEVER RETURNED. The current assistant sometimes cries in the bathroom. Even the other AGENTS are afraid of C van P.

3. Cretinous van Poopypants has walked past our desk every day of the last year (barring the weeks C van P spends "at the country home") and said hello to us a sum total of ZERO TIMES yes that's right dear ones NOT ONCE. NOT EVEN A SMILE.

4. Cretinous van Poopypants doesn't tip delivery people even when it's, like, negative fifteen degrees and the streets are covered in ice. One time WE tipped C van P's delivery person out of pity and let us tell you C van P makes A LOT MORE MONEY THAN WE DO IN CASE WE HAVE NOT MADE THAT CLEAR.

5. Sometimes we think about putting tacks on C van P's chair even though we would never ever do such a thing in real life but if we did that would be really satisfying, just saying.

*Not his real name.

**Not his real name.