Thursday, April 26, 2012

On the Gradual Process of Reaching Your Dreams

Several things have happened in the past couple of weeks.

  • I went home to Baltimore and stood outside the big house in a small city that was once mine. I sat with friends on cobbled walks and sipped sugar-soaked drinks, drank in sunlight and the easy comfort that comes with people who know your whole soul. I remembered telling those same friends, one night when lightning struck by the harbor and we watched it from our porch, that one day the city I loved would be too small to hold all the dreams I harbored. During my visit, I walked familiar streets, felt the thrum of energy beneath my feet, the warmth of the earth itself. Felt again the strain of pulling my roots up from that rich loam, heard the groan of damp soil disturbed, the creak of branches and the snapping of twigs. I visited my favorite coffee shop and found that I no longer had a taste for the coffee there; it hadn’t changed, but I had.
  • I started taking Spanish classes because it’s been a goal of mine—because I want to belong in the city that’s chosen me, and because I want other people to feel they can belong when they’re in my presence; I see that as my responsibility. I am blessed in that learning has always come easily to me, so long as I set my mind to the schoolwork. But returning to the classroom made me realize all the areas of my life in which I’m learning and it in no way mimics the classroom, all the areas where trial and error equals real-life success or failure, where the difference between getting it right and screwing it up can be your job, or it can be your principles, or it can be your happiness. Or they can all three be tangled together, and maybe you can’t tell where one ends and another begins, and so you try to satisfy all of them in perfect balance, if you can do that, but I don’t know how.
  • I read this beautiful post by The Rejectionist—I mean Sarah McCarry, goodness, we can say that now—and the second I realized my cheeks were damp was also the second I realized I was sad. I wondered what I had to be sad about, when I’d earned my dreams, when I’d spent my day doing what I’d labored since high school to have the right to do. I read and re-read this line, over and over, again and again: “If you think getting what you want changes your life, you're most likely mistaken; there you are, still, in your same old body, fucking up, getting it right, no telling which.” And I cried, because I don’t know which. I don’t. It changes, day to day.
  • On another day, I cracked open a fortune cookie after a takeout lunch, unfolded the scrap of paper inside, and read:
    “The only way to enjoy anything in life is to earn it first.”
  • A week later I went somewhere I’d never been before and left with new friends, and then I went somewhere I’d been often and found it seemed to welcome me for the first time. The next day I sat down in the office with a pen and a notebook and I spent all day doing work I was proud of, and when I left for the night I thanked those around me for the opportunity.

This isn’t the kind of blog post I meant to write after so much silence. I guess I just hope it’s the kind of post that you needed to read. Perhaps you, like me, tend to live in the Where You’re Going and forget to enjoy the Where You Are. And maybe you must always be moving forward, because getting what you want will always, must always, be a gradual process. I’m not even sure there is a What You Want, not that doesn’t morph once you’ve reached it.

But in all that reaching and staying hungry and letting your dreams evolve, don’t ever forget that you’ve made it. Wherever you are now, you’ve made it to there, and that’s no small thing. That’s something to be proud of.

You’ve made it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday Muse: Figuring it Out (with Feminist Teens)

This is today's Tuesday Muse (and every day's inspiration) for a number of reasons:
  1. Teens. They are so smart and inspiring, right?!
  2. I wish that at fifteen I'd had even a fraction of the feminist gusto this girl has. (Actually, I wish that at fifteen I'd even known I wanted to be a feminist; I hung out in the "Sure I believe in equality, but I wouldn't call myself a feminist" camp until college.)
  3. I think this girl is on to something: whenever you acknowledge a problem, be sure to also acknowledge those who work to fix it. That's a good practice for life in general.
  4. It's not true that you must be perfectly consistent in your beliefs. Feminismin fact, everything (and yes, that means writing, too)is not a rule book, but a discussion, a conversation, a process.
  5. Be unapologetically present, and unapologetically you. In your writing, in your reading, and in your life.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tis the Season: Job and Internship Search Tips from the Archives

It's getting to be that time of year again; everyone's smiling, wearing their nicest clothes, and stocking up on thank you notes in preparation for... interview season! Who out there is just starting a job or internship search? Well, dust off those notes from your college's career workshop, have your interview outfit dry-cleaned, and get ready to slam out a cover letter and resume. If you're interested in working or interning in publishing, I wrote a blog series on how to get an internship in publishing last year, and much of it applies to job searching as well. Here are the topics:
Once you have that awesome job or internship, you'll want to make the most of it so you can move up in the industry and have even more fun in your career. Jessica from BookEnds LLC wrote an excellent post recently about the types of interns who ultimately get hired. It's well worth a read!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Muse: John Cleese on Creativity and Play

Today's Tuesday Muse is long but entirely worth your time, so put it on play in the background while you brush your teeth this morning or open the mail this afternoon. John Cleese insists that creativity isn't a gift some people have and others don't, but a frame of mind anyone can learn. The most creative people are simply more open to playing than others, and more efficient at switching between play and efficiency. And there are only four things we need to reach this state ourselves, which Cleese shares in this awesome video.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday Muse: 1000 Awesome Things

Today's Tuesday Muse is a reminder of all the little (and secretly huge) joys in life: 1000 Awesome Things, a blog I found via PostSecret's founder, Frank Warren.

A thousand is a lot of things, so you might try starting with the first bite of a piece of gum, picking up a Q and a U at the same time in Scrabble, anything that can grow wings, and especially smiling and thinking of good friends who are gone. Even reading through the list of links for the top 1000 guarantees a smile.

Another awesome thing? The fact that there are two books of these!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A New BookExpo America: Is it Time for BEA to Become "Book Con"?

It’s time to bust out your badges and prepare your bag for ARC-stuffing, because it was announced last week that BookExpo America will open its doors to general consumers for the first time ever this June. Publishers Weekly announced last week that the show manager's plan to welcome consumers in 2013 had been accelerated by a year.

Granted, the change will start small, with the show’s managers offering no more than a thousand tickets to consumers. And in its first year tickets won’t be sold directly to consumers. Instead, they’ll be doled out to publishers and booksellers to offer to their avid fans or most active book-talkers—a move which is likely to ensure that this year’s consumer attendees are still unlikely to include many customers far removed from the mainstream publishing bubble. But it’s nonetheless a move that could drastically change the feel of the show in future years, especially if at some point down the line the show decides to make consumer ticket sales its main focus.

And many within the industry are less than enthusiastic, to say the least. “This is a booksellers [sic] convention and we have become the least important entity as to the floor,” said one bookseller in the comments on the article. “Giving the jump on industry professionals is a privilege," commented another. "Now consumers and e-hawkers will be scanning and selling books illegally. Bad move."

Personally, though I think it would take many years and a very drastic change for the show to become entirely consumer-focused, I think the idea of a convention that welcomes customers is a fresh one that could have huge benefits for the industry. In 2005 I read a fantastic article on Publishing Trends which pointed out Comic Con’s strong role in both promoting comics to fans and, perhaps more importantly, keeping comic publishers informed about—and directly in touch with—their market base. Publishing Trends quoted a correspondent from the traditional book publishing industry, who said it even better than I could:
We all talk to each other, to buyers, to marketing and we may even have some research to let us know who is reading our books. But these are numbers, not interactions with real people. This attention to the fan is what I believe has kept comics and will keep graphic novels alive, even in hard times… Imagine if you will a BEA, open to fans, where publishing showcases their best and the brightest they have to offer. How many would show up? How many would dress up like their favorite characters? Is this the type of passion that needs to be ignited in publishing in order to survive the hard times and build for the future?

How much better could we as publishers, and especially as representatives of individual imprints, brand ourselves if given that kind of direct face time with—and avid enthusiasm from—fans? Few general consumers know their Knopfs from their Bantam Dells, but I think we could see a positive change in bookselling if they did, and if they used that knowledge to follow the publications of imprints whose sensibilities they like, just as avid fans might follow a particular author who's struck their fancy. I think it's no coincidence that one of the few imprints which I would argue has come close to achieving household name recognition is Tor, an imprint which produces genre working for a highly specialized audience and devotes significant time to networking and building a community with actual consumers via its forums at But while genre fans flock to Tor's booth at BEA, could a literary audience flock to another imprint's booth to discuss the latest Atwoods and Franzens? Could general consumers of children's books be counted on to dress as their favorite character and drop by the booth of the publisher who brought them that character? Could die-hard fans of a whole variety of genres be brought together in one celebration of the written word—and how much could publishers learn from and connect with their fans if so?

With consumers making up only a twenty-fifth of the show's attendees this year, any such change is a long way off. But still, I have to wonder: could the BEA that Publishing Trends's correspondent imagined be around the corner? Would you welcome it, if so?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday Muse: How to be Emotionally Stable without Getting Bored

For anyone who's ever been to dark places and then come out of them, this is a beautiful tribute to both the darkness and the light in life. To hope and elation. To finding the most miniscule of things fascinating and uplifting. Most of all, it's a tribute to the power of the human spirit and the role inspiration plays in exciting it.