Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I am waiting.

Editor X at Penguin Young Readers Group just emailed, saying he (or she) won't get back to me until January. This could mean that she (or he) is a remarkable person who values family time more--yes, even more!--than reading my manuscript. Or it could be that he (or she) is a lazy bum who is using the holidays to shirk his (or her) responsibilities--to me. Perhaps it means she's already read it and hates the changes. Maybe he loves it so much he wants to extend the ecstasy as long as possible, like some sort of tantric sex thing. Eww.

Or maybe he (or she) just means what she (or he) said: "I want to make sure I give it the time it deserves. So with a week away from phone and e-mail, I should have plenty of time to read without distraction."

She (or he) also made mention of hoping she (or he) gets an iPad Mini for Christmas. I hope (s)he gets one. I hope Editor X is deep in Apple-fied bliss while (s)he reads my manuscript.

I hope the Spirit of Steve Jobs visits him (or her) three times on Christmas Eve and that she/he wakes up, shouts "The Spirits did it all in one night!" then opens a window and tells a boy to run to the Publishing House on the corner and get the biggest, fattest advance check hanging in the window. And I hope Editor X thinks of me as his (or her) own personal Tiny Tim.

Tiny Tim. Tiny Tom. Medium-sized Tom. Whatever.

In the mean time, here's a poem about waiting by one of my favorite poets ever:

I Am Waiting
By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for my case to come up  
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting  
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier  
and I am waiting  
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming  
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona  
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored  
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find  
the right channel  
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth  
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed  
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered  
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did  
to Tom Sawyer  
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting  
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again  
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn  
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting  
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

Friday, November 30, 2012

Nice article on our Beautiful Angle project and party

Check out this very cool article from The News Tribune's Rosemary Ponnekanti.

Read it here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It might be done. It just might.

Today I received my manuscript for A Matter of Life and Seth back from my agent, the esteemed Abigail Samoun. In her accompanying email, she wrote, "Excellent work Tom! Glad I pushed you. Glad you let yourself be pushed. It's reading beautifully. Just a few small notes and edits--then we'll be ready to go back to Editor X." Of course, she didn't call him (or her) Editor X. She used the real name of the actual editor at Penguin Young Readers Group.

I made the changes in about an hour and sent it back. Now it's more waiting. In the mean time, I'm on to another manuscript. This one is a crazy take on a New World tale--invasive species, new technologies, unintended consequences, blood, battles, mayhem, and, of course, love. Tralala.

Having never actually met Editor X, I don't know what she (or he) looks like. Could it be that he (or she) looks like this?

or this?

or, perhaps, like this?

That last one looks amazing. Here's what they sound like.

Obviously, "Agent X" is a much more popular name than Editor X. What's an author to do?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Are we done yet?" and other things I worry about

Night before last was particularly sleepless. I stayed up late editing Seth. Then I woke up early and continued.

I think I'm done. I wrote an email to my agent, the esteemed Abigail Samoun, attached the document, and hit the send button. Abi wrote back, promising to read my changes over Thanksgiving weekend, as a way to avoid falling into a tryptophan coma. But the real question is, will she agree to the changes, or send the manuscript back for more work on my part?

I know I've written about this before, but editing is so much work. Because every little change ripples through the entire manuscript. Cut out the phrase, "I like peanut butter," in chapter two, and the scene with the elephant in chapter three no longer makes sense. That means the motivation of the monkey grinder in chapter seven seems hollow, which means his introduction back in chapter one has to be rewritten. But if you make adjustments to that introduction, you're going to throw off that whole set piece in chapter thirteen, with the cheerleaders in the Camaros. And if you make changes to the Camaro scene--well, you might as well just hold down the delete key until everything's gone except the title. Scratch that. Kill the title, too. It only works with the peanut butter phrase.

So there's that.

Meanwhile, while authors like me have been slaving away (slaving is the best word for it. Trust me.) on rewrites--on storytelling--the publishing gods have been busy on Mount Olympus, making alliances, cashing in chips, toying with the lives of us mere mortals.

If you recall, I'm editing A Matter of Life and Seth at the request of Editor X from Penguin Young Readers Group. But Penguin has just merged with Random House. (Rod Nash says they should call the new company Random Penguin.) I know, on the most intimate basis, that mergers can impact authors. I've been through this before. Some deals get killed. Some authors become orphans.

So, what does this mean for me? For Seth? Hopefully, only good things. But it makes a fella worry.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On editing, rewrites, and firing clay

I'm rapidly approaching the two-month mark on the changes to "A Matter of Life and Seth." And I guess I'm almost done.

Or I thought I was.

I was feeling so solid about the edits I made. I thought I'd completed them. I sent the updated manuscript to my agent, the esteemed Abigail Samoun.

The problem is, she sent them back. With nasty red lines all over them.

So now I'm back to editing. Editing my edits, I suppose. And I'm going to address Abigail's concerns, because--damn her--she's nearly always right.

But I'm not going to be happy about it.

Editing is so much work. It's the heart of writing. The first draft--that's just a way to get a story down on paper. But it's an unglazed pot. The real beauty comes out in the fire.

And as laborious as it was--and continues to be--I have loved getting back into Seth's world. I've missed the tough young smart ass. I like hanging around him, even if he only puts up with me.

So hang in there, Editor X. Seth will be coming to see you soon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Code name: PYRG

I spent about an hour on the phone today with Editor X, from PYRG (Penguin Young Readers Group). I asked Editor X if he (or she) would be OK with me sharing her (or his) name on this blog. He (or she) politely suggested I refer to Penguin's family of youth-y imprints. So that's what I'd now doing. Editor X is officially a part of PYRG, so that is how I will refer to her (or him).

We had a great conversation, tho. He (or she) made some wicked smart suggestions, such as working to make the manuscript more of a teen novel, instead of just a novel with a teen main character. So I'll be reworking some of the other key characters, some of the settings, and some of the secondary characters as well.

Editor X told me to take my time, so I agreed to give it a couple of solid months. Editor X also discovered, just on this phone call, that I'd written another book, The Tilting House. He was quite pleased with the reviews that book has received and said that will help with the pitch to the publisher.

So now the work begins. August is almost over. My goal is to have these changes made, reviewed, reviewed again (and again), resulting in a finely honed version back to Editor X by the end of October.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Let the edits commence.

I've decided to begin working with the unnamed editor at Penguin on A Matter of Life and Seth. The editor, who I hope to name once I get his or her permission, sent me a lengthy set of suggestions today. It looks like a few months of solid work to get through it all. Yeesh. But you know, these folks don't get these editor positions without being good at their jobs. And I can say that his (or her) suggestions all feel right to me. They draw out some of the concerns I've been subconsciously ignoring since I wrote this manuscript.

So nice work, Ms or Mr. Unnamed Editor.

And now, just because they pleased me so, I will share a few of her (or his) more lovely words--the words he (or she) shared BEFORE the pages and pages of suggestions:

First, he or she said:

"Let me start off by saying how much I enjoyed A Matter of Life and Seth. I’ve been working on kids’ books for a little over six years, and I’ve learned that there are three types of manuscripts (at least as far as I’m concerned): manuscripts I wouldn’t bring to my publisher in a million years, manuscripts that I don’t necessarily love but know readers probably will, and then those books that I just have to work on. Of the latter, I’ve come across only about five. Seth is now on that list."

Then he or she said:

"When I got through maybe ten pages, I thought, Holy crap, this is Raymond Chandler. And Seth is Philip Marlowe in a sixteen-year-old’s body."

Then, when I stopped sobbing and kept reading, I realized that he or she said:
"What you’ve done with this novel is truly remarkable. You’ve written a detective story for teens that doesn’t dumb it down. This is the type of book that will hopefully make them want more detective stories, and turn to Chandler or Hammett or any of the other greats. And you’re using all of the classic elements of a detective story, but it feels fresh and relevant to the story."

Then he or she said a few other nice things which sound slightly more legal-ish to my ears, so I won't share them here. And then followed three single-spaced pages of detailed suggestions.

I'm going to talk to my agent, the esteemed Abigail Samoun, tomorrow, to come up with a game plan. Then I'll do my finger stretches and get to work.

I don't really do finger stretches.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The March of the Penguin

Dear Reader, I'm looking for advice.

Here's the latest email from my elusive prey, the editor at Penguin:

So I’m not quite done with SETH, but I did show some pages to a colleague of mine who’s really good at her job and whose opinion I value. She raised some interesting questions and concerns that she feels should be addressed before I bring SETH to acquisitions. Thinking about it, I can see her point.
Do you think Tom would be willing to work on the book with me so we can get it in the best shape possible before I show it to my publisher? I can’t guarantee a contract, but worst case scenario we get it to a place where another editor might take it.
What do you think? I really like this book and want to see it published. But I think my friend is right; it’s not close enough yet for me to get a “yes.”
Let me know what Tom thinks, and I’ll start working on some notes for him.

What should I do, Dear Reader?Should I walk away and hope for a better offer somewhere else? Or should I jump at this chance? 

All he is saying, is give Penguin a chance.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Still waiting to hear from a certain penguin about Seth

 So the unnamed (but most assuredly brilliant) editor at Penguin who is reading my manuscript for A Matter of Life and Seth is still working and commenting. And to show just how connected we all are these days, check out his blog-referencing comment below, via another email to my agent:

Just a quick update: I got a bit sidetracked this week, so I haven’t quite finished SETH. I’m about a third of the way through, so will likely have feedback for you by the middle of next week. (I didn’t want you sitting around waiting for a response that wasn’t coming just yet.)
Regardless, I’m still really enjoying it. You can tell Tom (who I just discovered has been blogging about me reviewing the book. Haha.) that the voice is just right, not too stylized as you might expect from a Chandler-esque novel. 

Then, in a P.S., he states:

P.S. I can’t help but picture Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Seth. Have you seen Brick? 

Have I seen Brick? I suppose it would be overly forward of me to point this most assuredly brilliant reader toward the following blog post from August of 2011:

By the way, here is Levitt in Brick, which really is one of my favorite noir films:

I could live with Gordon-Levitt as my title character in the film adaption, but I wouldn't want to be responsible for his type-casting.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Check out Rotator on Felt and Wire

Felt and Wire, one of the nation's leading design blogs, has done a lovely feature on Rotator Magazine. It's a long, lovely piece that does a great job capturing both the purpose and the process of this beast. And it's jammed with some great photos.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

An encouraging word from Penguin Books!

After an incredibly long dry spell of no feedback from publishers, my agent, the esteemed Abigail Samoun, just forwarded me the following email today, from an editor at Penguin:

Hi Abi,
I just wanted to give you the heads up that I’m reading LIFE AND SETH and am planning to have some feedback for you next week. You weren’t kidding about the voice. It’s awesome.
I hope you’re enjoying your summer.

I'm not gonna mention the editor's name just yet. Maybe in a week. Don't want to unintentionally piss anyone off. But dang, I have to say this email took my breath away. And frankly, I could seriously use some encouragement in the form of an offer. 

So come on, unnamed editor from Penguin, come through for me. 

In the meantime, here are some logo usage guidelines for Penguin, which really does have a beautiful logo:


Thursday, May 10, 2012

TEDx talk picked up by Felt and Wire

One super cool design blog is called Felt & Wire. It's managed by Mohawk Paper (the same paper we use for our Rotator magazine--lovely stuff). Felt & Wire is followed by much of the U.S. design community, and it's really well done. Some very solid writing by the likes of Alyson Kuhn. All this to say that we're that much more honored when they give us a little love.

Which they just did. Check out their coverage of our TEDx talk.