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12.31.2010

2011: Looking Forward

The new year is coming in about an hour and a half, and I am as prepared as I can be. I have just spent the last four hours going through shipping and inventory folders, the last couple days driving and visiting and getting my hair cut, and the last week drafting lists and outlines of projects (generally work-related) for the new year.

Usually, years come and go a little too quickly for me to prepare. I find my resolutions are usually made closer to March than January. This year is different. I've been mentally preparing for the changing tides for almost a month. I have looked forward to this otherwise superficial shift in the calendar with a patient eagerness. The song in my head for Christmas 2009 was Sufjan Stevens' "Sister Winter," but for 2010 I have been humming his "Chicago," with the joyfully resounding lyric "All things go, all things go!"

I am packing up the sack I will take with me from one season to the next. I am keeping little, but all of it precious, some of it awkward, and still more of it a little adventuresome. The things I'm leaving behind? I am too close to 2011 to recount them. They are at my back. I have moved on.

I have fears about the coming year. They are pretty enormous, actually, and most have to do with honoring serious commitments to other people and paying bills. I rarely worry, and I'm even less often afraid, so this is unusually hard for me. Please ignore the deepening lines in my forehead and at the corners of my mouth. Ignore them, or pray for me.

I have hopes for the year, too. They also have to do with the commitments I've made to others and the paying of bills, but they also have to do with remembering a lot of things I've forgotten in the last five years or so, rebuilding some things I've let crumble, and exploring some other things I've only just begun to discover. Vague, am I? Sorry, but this blog is still too public for everything in my head.

(I can share this small one, though. I am greatly hoping to read more non-work-related books in 2011. I read four such books last year, and that had to be some sort of record of lameness. Incidentally, all four were YA books. Much as I love them, that is just not right.)

I will not last till midnight. I say goodbye to 2010 an hour early. In sleep, I forget you. The morning brings a new day. Goodbye, and God be with you.

12.23.2010

All I Want for Christmas are Good Graphics

The following is not a reading wishlist. It's a small compilation of cover art that inspires me.





12.17.2010

Did you catch Google's tribute to Jane Austen yesterday? Probably not, if you were checking your computer in the US. The Washington Post takes a look at the controversy. Oh Google. Oh Jane.

12.14.2010

Not to over-do it or anything, but this video is a darling downer after my recent post on rejections. If you recognize the form of it from So You Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities, please look at Millinerd's take on the same.


Book Lists

It's that time of year when book bloggers, reviewers, and readers of any public forum gather their top ten books of 2010. An odd time to do it, you might think, as there are still a few weeks of reading left to the year. But people are buying books now, you see, for the season of giving is at hand. And if you don't know what to give the literati in your midst, these lists should provide some sort of guide.

I am not making a list because I have hardly read anything but the fast-growing ZOVA catalog this year. Preceding my panel at Steamcon with Lisa Mantchev, I read her debut novel Eyes Like Stars, and along with everyone else on the planet finished up the Hunger Games trilogy with Mockingjay - for which, unlike with the first two, I did not provide a blog review.

In the absence of my own rigor, here are some lists from the more attentive world:

The New York Times Best 10 of 2010.

Amazon's list of the best from January to June.

and Amazon's list of best Comics & Graphic Novels.

Felix Gilman on Omnivoracious lists his top ten read in 2010. How we love him.

The Millions has been asking readers for their own lists of bests from 2010.

Indie booksellers share their favorites with NPR.

Laura Miller lists her bests at the Salon.

There are many more where these came from, but I think I'm much more interested in the lists people have for 2011. Not to rush the coming of a new year, but it is just around the corner, and 'twill be the season for unattainable resolutions. Anyone know what they'll be reading next year?

12.13.2010

Unique to Renegade: A Day of Crafting

Yesterday I joined my mother and sister on our semi-annual foray into the world of DIY crafters. Strangely enough, two of the largest craft fairs in L.A. were selling on the same weekend, so we got two fairs for the price of one trip. Unique LA spreads its wares on the top floor of the California Market Center. Amidst the booths of various sellable delights, they handed out free drinks and offered free photo ops with a yeti. Renegade, held in the Los Angeles Historic State Park, was smaller than last time we'd been there, but there was also more room to browse. Many vendors had roped family and friends into helping them so they could display at both sites. I took as many pictures as I could - which is rare for me. Here are a few:

We went to Renegade later in the day, but that meant the sparkly lights showed all the prettier.


The Weekend Store, Unique LA.
We always spend some time here. If you don't own a piece of her jewelry, you haven't been to a craft fair in LA.


I didn't get the name of this vendor, but I love the durability of these re-purposed book-marks.


Hmm . . . Didn't get this name either. Just loved the colors of this display.


Shoppers resting their feet.



London Manori.
I see these every year. Can I have the whole pile for a centerpiece?


Love Nail Tree.
The design of some of these sites is fascinating. Here, wooden structures were strung from the pipes in the ceiling. Their t-shirts and necklaces spoke "steampunk" rather more than they do "let's change the world." But who knows? Maybe we can do both?


Rock Scissors Paper.
Always a favorite. Not only are their products clever and darling (and fabulously designed), these women are utterly delightful. And check out that paper wheel!

We'll be back again next time around. For either or both of them, of course. If you're still struggling over Christmas presents, I'd suggest running down the vendor lists on the Unique & Renegade websites, linked above. I can pretty much guarantee that you will find something.

12.10.2010

Rejections

It may or may not be common knowledge that I work with books in a sort of publishing fashion. (No, I do not personally take submissions. No, I cannot refer you to an agent.) While I talk about books on this blog a lot, I don't generally say much about my work. That's mainly because this is a personal blog written mainly for people I personally know, and because of this I have felt free to express potentially alienating opinions (in the past, not so much recently) as well as observations and reflections on the life of faith or the current state of the Church (always and forever, no public eye shall silence me). When you do that sort of thing, it can be inappropriate to mix in your professional business.

But there are some things I do think ought to be said aloud somewhere.

As an amateur writer, I sat in creative writing courses for several years being told - as all writing students are told - that you have to receive a lot of rejection letters before you get accepted by a publisher. They don't really tell you what to do if you don't get accepted at all. They kind of pretend that otherwise inevitable future doesn't apply for this particular graduating class.

But it is quite probable that your manuscript will not be accepted, and when it isn't, you have to take a look around you at your other options. What surprises me is how rarely those options are either: a) radically revise the manuscript so that it is a viable work of fiction for the publishing houses you're aiming at, or b) find another hobby. The options frequently involve finding a publisher small enough to take your work regardless of its content. Now, I work for a small publishing firm. But our print runs are big enough that we care about the content. We care about it very much.

Frequent readers of this blog may recall that I am something of an academic snob (possibly read: elitist?), and this means I take canon very seriously. The amateur writer generally considers the purpose of a publishing house to be the printing and distribution of lots of books, especially their own. (Remember, when I refer to the amateur writer, I am also speaking of myself. There's an unfinished novel that's been sitting on my desktop for about five years now, and I am quite certain it is Penguin's purpose in business to publish it with one of their very beautiful covers.)

This is wrong. The purpose of a publishing house is actually much simpler: it is to tell the world that someone other than the author or the author's friends and family think this book is worth reading. That is, a publishing house is the first filter in the formation of the contemporary canon of public literature.

If you have received multiple rejections, you really must consider the fact that your manuscript either needs considerable revision, or it is just not what the public is looking for. The most likely reason for a rejection letter is that the editor who picked up your submission has already read multiple submissions that sounded almost exactly like yours. The second most likely reason is that your writing isn't very good.

Those of you who have read the last two sentences and objected, saying "My story is wholly unique! My writing is above the fold!" well, then you can be one of the members of the third reason: your writing, although unique and well-formed, unfortunately does not fit into a strong enough market for that particular publisher at that particular time. Perhaps you have written a brand new take on the vampire phenomenon; but new as your take may be, the vampire market is too saturated to bear an addition, however revolutionary. Perhaps your book introduces cyborgs to the zombie crowd, but the zombie craze has yet to descend from its peak; it is too early to convert zombie fiction readers into cyborg fiction readers. There are any number of reasons.

I have a weird sort of faith that if your book is very good then a good publisher will pick it up.

11.29.2010

Doors


Father Stephen writes about doors. I have always loved doors. They can be beautiful works of art, magical opportunities to enter or be freed from. This post reminds me of when I took shelter from the rain in a Prague cathedral full of tourists.

11.17.2010

Book Links

More book links today!

Lonely planet compiles the best bookshops around the world. Have you visited any of them?

Not quite book news, exactly - but Amazon will be launching a new film studio sort of thing in which amateur filmmakers and scriptwriters can submit their work and just maybe get some funding for it.

The casting for Baz Luhrmann's Great Gatsby has been the subject of considerable internet gossip. Good to hear the role of Daisy Buchanan has gone to the brilliant starlet Carey Mulligan. Though I must confess that the disparity in age between her and DiCaprio seems just a bit . . . odd.

11.16.2010

Book Links

Screenwriter Steve Cloves talks about the process of adapting all (but one) of the Harry Potter films for the big screen over at the NYT. A fitting trailer for the fast-approaching release of Deathly Hollows, Part One.

The new Barnes & Noble Nook Color shipped out today, and Gizmodo gives us a wee introduction to the techno-infant.

Penguin has at last released their new line of hardcover children's classics Stateside . . . through Anthropologie?
The trouble with listening to Psalm's album while you're trying to do anything else is that it refuses to be background music. I'm in the middle of an oceanic whirlpool, a siren-beast-woman sucking down the hapless pirate lad in the middle of the unsuspecting theatre (can you tell I'm reading teen fantasy again?) - and I keep pausing to breathe in the notes, little and big, of "Silent Song" and "Songs of Angels." Thank you, Psalm.

11.14.2010

New Release!!!!!!

If anyone happens to have a ticket to Tel Aviv in just over a week, I'll gladly take that off your hands for you. One of my favorite artists (and college roommates and top of the list of most fabulously beautiful people in the world) is releasing her second album on November 25th. The album release party just happens to be on the other side of the world from me. Oh. Well.


In the meantime, at least I can listen to the music in advance! Hear Psalm along with her (incredible) accompaniment here.


11.11.2010

Steampunk Day Something: Finishing Books

I finished Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan the other night, and it was excellent. The major characters were given just enough time to develop on their own before they met up with each other and we started to see them through each others' eyes. I finally got used to people walking around the inside of a flying whale. I finally also got used to thinking of metallic legs rather than wheels/those-treaded-conveyer-things on a tanker as being a good thing. I also got used to the characters, the tone, the general world of it all, so that when I set it down upon its final page and picked up Boneshaker by Cherie Priest a few moments later, it came as a wee bit of a shock. There's the difference, you see, between YA lit and adult lit. I don't know what it is exactly, because they're both beautifully written books (and beautifully designed, too - Keith Thompson's phenomenal illustrations in Leviathan vie with Boneshaker's incredible graphic design and formatting). But whatever paves the path between the two sections of the library, that is what lies between these two novels. I set down Leviathan feeling like a daring, clever adventurer. I picked up Boneshaker and felt like a grown-up. (In the best possible way. But still.)

I am still making my way through the latter. For Westerfeld fans - or newcomers - just know that you'll have to read this one with the sequel waiting in the wings. Because this is no stand-alone introduction to the series. It's a proper launching pad. And I'm so very excited to continue with it - once I've gotten a hold of a copy of the second one, of course.

11.05.2010

Steampunk Day Four: We Begin Our Dissertation

So, I've actually been reading Leviathan, pictured and posted below, and I find myself continually approaching it as an academic. It's hard not to, since the book re-imagines the origins and development of the first world war. There's so much cultural, social, historical, philosophical richness to those origins. Who could resist a little intellectual elaboration?

I scribbled about four pages worth of thoughts on steampunk's revisionist historicism as a method of preservation against eschatological fears (among other things). Then I read this post over at Millinerd, and I get a whole other wave of thoughts on steampunk as a way of infusing post-enlightenment history with the aesthetic consciousness it originally lacked. I have no idea if I'm off-base with this or not, but we have wandered around for so many years regretting the apparently ugliness of the inheritance of the enlightenment. Could steampunk be a way of unconsciously (or otherwise) re-imagining that brief history with the beauty it lacked? It would explain why it focuses on that specific span of time between all that business with the French and WWI.

Or should I just cut it out and keep reading?

Steampunk Day Three, Just a Quick Link


Scott Westerfield picked up on the steampunk train because he is smart about stories and creative with his brain. Mucho kudos to him for that. But as much as you should read his books (Leviathan, for a start, which is sitting by my bedside even now), you should also read his blog. If nothing else, read it for phrases like "RATHER MORE BAD" referring to costumed Storm Troopers as opposed to aristocratic nobility, all in response to that Charles Stross article that's got steamers all fabulously defensive of their genre. Gah. He's delightful.

Charles Stross, on the other hand, is not. At least not in this post. We'd probably have some lovely conversations over even lovelier tea in any other context. But really, only someone very short-sighted would be so condescending both to history and to fanboys all in one fell swoop - and on the internet, no less! The irony will come around in about a hundred years when Stross's grandchildren look at our generation and call us dictatorial barbarians with no sensitivity or intelligence or sense of democratic well-being, and then criticize their own novelists for romanticizing our own period. My dear one, it is fiction. This is about as nutty as previous linkage to readers getting up in arms over the difference in vampire skin conditions between paranormal authors. Not to mention the fact that the moment you start thinking your own generation is so much better than the last one, you fail to learn from it.

11.03.2010

Steampunk Day Two, Featuring Felix Gilman

Felix Gilman, author of The Half-Made World, was discussing the trend toward anachronistic fiction over at Omnivoracious yesterday. (Sidenote: If you are interested in trends in the book industry and you don't follow Omnivoracious, you are doing yourself a disservice. It's Amazon's book blog, and they do a fabulous job of letting you know all the most relevant book buzz in the most unpretentious and jovial sort of way.) I had seen the cover for The Half-Made World somewhere else last week and was half a click away from posting it to my Pinterest board featuring lovely cover designs when something (squirrel?) distracted me. Serious failure. This cover just makes me love cover art all the more.

I double-perked up about the book when I noticed the Ursula K. LeGuin blurb on the front. Sometimes when a notable author blurbs your book that just means you got lucky. Or you found yourself a really awesome publicist/agent/editor/spy who managed to blackmail said notable author into making up something about how great your book is. But there are certain authors whose names actually tell the reader something about your book. If Ursula K. LeGuin has blurbed you, you have a special piece of fiction on your hands. Hear it: Special.

All this I noted before reading the aforelinked post over at Omni. Everything Gilman says about the move toward steampunk and the possibilities in contemporary fiction just make me want to read his book all the more. It's not a long post, but this paragraph in particular struck me as hitting the nerve of the thing. It's especially relevant because he's mostly addressing the "weird, weird west" element of steampunk that is the featured theme of this year's Steamcon (see previous post regarding reason for my post-fest on steampunk in the first place).

Read on:

. . . all of this stuff--steampunk generally--is fiction about the future, for people who can’t really believe in the future right now. The future is closing off, the natural world dying, technology no longer looks very optimistic to a lot of people. SFF looks back to the birth of modernity, the birth of technology, and imagines how things might have started off differently--what went wrong--how things might have been better, or maybe worse -- but either way it imagines alternative paths, there at the beginning. And if that’s what you’re into, then America, the west, the frontier, is inevitably where you’ll end up. The most open and optimistic of beginnings, the moment of greatest perceived potential; and the moment when the original sins of civilization are at their starkest.

I have to admit that steampunk is most appealing to me in the context of (anachronistic) Victorian England, but this makes so much sense that I can't imagine why I never though of it myself. Read that last line again: "the moment when the original sins of civilization are at their starkest." That sounds to me like the heart and soul of a great novel.

11.01.2010

Steampunk Day One

In about two and a half weeks, I will be making the trek to Seattle to join a hoard of rather fascinating people celebrating a fast-growing subgenre of fantasy/sci-fi most commonly known as Steampunk. As a publisher, I will be sitting on panels acknowledging the importance of the sub-genre, the growth of the sub-genre into it's own genre proper, and a number of other things I haven't figured out yet.

The truth is that I know very little about steampunk in general. What I do know, I know as a not-so-distant observer of culture. I know as an expert in my field - the book industry. I know as much as anyone else who has visited steampunk blogs, webshops, and bookstore shelves with the curious fascination that comes over one who feels too old to join a new trend but young enough to realize that I would have eaten it up ten years ago.

Even so, when I mention steampunk to friends/family/acquaintances, I realize that I do, actually, know a lot more than I give myself credit for. Much of the world still hasn't heard of the movement - if I may be so bold as to dub it so. I may not yet have donned the ubiquitous goggles, and I may not yet own a bronze-ribbed corset, but I could at least begin to answer the question "In what way is steampunk a modern myth?" Which is a good thing, since I'll be discussing that very topic at Steamcon in three weeks.

In the meantime, I'd like to use this blog to chart the development of my learning. I will be taking a three week intensive dip into the steampunk world in preparation for the great convention. It won't be very difficult; I've been studying Victorian literature and culture since high school. I have examined the various moods and possibilities of modern mythology since I first stepped foot in the Edman Tower at Wheaton, where Dr. Hein opened up for us wide-eyed collegiates the anagogical mysteries of A Canticle for Leibowitz, Lilith, and Till We Have Faces. In so many ways, this will just be a freshening up. Regardless, I'd like to take you with me.

To start, I'll link you over to a recent critical post over at NPR. This article is more interesting for the reader comments than it is for the content. While you're at it, take a look at the main site for Steamcon itself. Have fun. :)

Twilight Keeps Buzzing

Anne Rice gives her thoughts on the Twilight series, and everyone is up in arms on one side of the fence or another. Which is funny, 'cause I don't see these lines as being very critical:

['Twilight']’s based on a really silly premise: that immortals would go to high school. It's a failure of imagination, but at the same time, that silly premise has provided Stephenie Meyer with huge success," Anne said. "The idea that if you are immortal you would go to high school instead of Katmandu or Paris or Venice, it’s the vampire dumbed down for kids. But it's worked. It's successful. It makes kids really happy.

Sure, calling the Twilight books "silly" isn't very flattering, but "it's worked" and "it's successful" and "it makes kids really happy" sound pretty good to me, considering the vast expanse between Anne Rice's version of vampires and Stephenie Meyer's. The article later concedes she even referred to the concept of Twilight as "almost a stroke of genius." So...why all the fuss? There's a point at which sales figures outweigh any idealistic purism you might have for a genre. I can moan and groan all I want about the absurdity of The Da Vinci Code. Or the inanity of Eat, Pray, Love. After a few million copies fly off the shelves, my convictions just sound a bit...well, pretentious.

So I'd like to tip my hat to Anne - center of so much fuss herself lately - for giving credit where credit is due. There's just no sense arguing with a phenomenon.

10.29.2010

Dear World,

God provides. Don't believe me? Well . . . he does. That's all I can say.

On a strangely not unrelated note, I've been thinking about how Harry Potter, or more specifically, Hogwarts, has set the cultural stage for the successful rise and dominance of Steampunk as a legitimate and widespread aesthetic. Just stick that in your cap and chew on it. Or . . . something.

10.27.2010

Developing Healthy E-Habits

The morning is already thick with book news. It was only a matter of time before a full-fledged children's e-reading system hit the market, and it looks like today is the day. I am typing this with the sound of a creepy voice reading "Jamberry" from the NOOKKids website in the background.

I know, simple interactive e-readers have been around for kids for a while now, but none of them have been mainstream. They've been overpriced, under-quality devices with a very limited library. Now with about 12,000 titles ranging from Rick Riordan's popular series (which has been available on e-readers since the beginning) to Go, Dog. Go!, the new color-based Nook has youthful legs. Of course, unless the techno-savvy parents who are considering these devices for their children have unlimited resources, there is one very obvious concern: What parent is willing to spend $150 dollars to give a sensitive, easily damaged, touchscreen e-reader to their three year old? The last thing we want to do is teach children not to pick up their books because they might hurt them. This is why we teach them to read with board books and tough paperbacks. So, in a practical sense, how are parents going to handle this? Or will they bother at all?

I might ask why bother with this development at all, but I already know the answer. We do it because we can. That seems to be a great impetus of most modern technology. Little of it is really helpful or even essential.

People have been wondering about children's e-reading for a while. I don't know anyone in particular who has been waiting for this break-out with baited breath. None of the five-year olds I've met with have begged me to give them an update on the latest digital media for their demographic. But we've expected it. It was inevitable. And it's just like Barnes & Noble to come up with the latest feature that will add to their list of perks without ever actually setting them above the market (shall we say book lending anyone?). Color is cool, but the Nook people have a way of releasing the newest thing ahead of anyone else just to get those initial sales. I assure you, before the novelty has worn off, Kindle and perhaps even Kobo will come out with a color device that will function more smoothly and work more accessibly - all because they took a little time.

I am being generous with the e-culture, of course, because I know that more inevitably than color screens, future generations will read almost exclusively through pixelated monitors. To balk against it will be as futile and absurd as objecting over the development of the steam engine. But I will say for the record, because many of you are with me on this, that the sight of Jamberry on that screen, pausing mid-creepy-voice narrative for a capture the berries game was beyond depressing. Our children will have very quick brains, able to capture and conceptualize information at an alarming speed. That is certainly a good thing. But they will have lost the ability to ruminate, dwell, contemplate, and even be careful.

Not to mention - which is a whole separate argument - that the spread of technology like this only serves to further broaden the gap between developing nations and our own. But as I said, that is a whole other argument - and certainly not one which is intended to suggest halting the flow of progress so that our sister nations can catch up with us.

Oh, the changing world. Who can keep up with it?

YA Shelves

Here's an excerpt from an article on dystopian fiction over at Popmatters:

It’s possible YA shelves act as a sort of magic 8 ball for the rest of the literary scene because they are so unbiased. Few bookstores break their YA sections into defined genre shelving. Sure, there are series shelves, and some very broad genre shelving, usually associated with age breakdown. Beyond these, though, most YA books are shelved in alphabetical order. Magic realism lives next to humor, which cuddles up to romance, which nudges sword and sorcery. Most teens, too, are open about their reading choices—when was the last time you heard a teenager claim they prefer Jack Q. McWriterson’s less mainstream, more critical earlier work?

I knew there was a reason I loved that stuff. Have I not always been talking about genre-melding? The beauty of the young adult section is that sci-fi, suspense, and serious all sit right next to each other, on an equal playing field. Of course, they have their cover art to distinguish them, but there's no implicit division of worth or quality based on their location. Thank you.

10.22.2010

This is my idea of investing: http://www.cnbc.com/id/39340301/

10.11.2010

Philippians 3. 12-14

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, though I have assurance of salvation through the sanctification of the Spirit of God. We live in a time-bound world. We obtain nothing, nor is perfection a thing to be grasped. We live, and life is a process. Change is, in fact, proof of life.

But I press on to make it my own. What is it? Knowing Him and the power of his resurrection, becoming like him in sufferings and death, that by whatever means (because life is a process) I may attain the resurrection from the dead (because death in Christ is also life in Him).

I make this my own because Christ bothered to make me His own. He went to a lot of trouble for me, too. This is not about evening the score. What other response can you give to the Hound of Heaven than hot-blooded pursuit?

Brothers and sisters, I haven't made it yet. Because life is a process, of course, and because my failures can be counted just as well as my successes. But one thing I do: failures and successes both, I forget. They're in the past, and don't do me much good anymore - being past. I forget these things because I'm no longer responsible for them, though I may live with their consequences. I am responsible for what I do now. With this in mind, I put them behind me where they belong. And I strain forward to what lies ahead.

I press on. Which is the same as pressing into. Press forward, into the Spirit of God who lives within and without, who paves the forward way with a Will. There is a prize ahead, and it is my high calling. I press on.

10.10.2010

9 Things I Wish I Could Do:

1. sew all the clothes in anthropologie myself
2. decorate cakes
3. carve ornate furniture
4. oil paint
5. play Bach
6. speak three other languages fluently, particularly Russian, Italian, and Greek
7. fashion books by hand (working on that one)
8. make people feel welcome
9. shop at thrift stores

9.29.2010

Hogwarts Humor

This is absolutely my favorite thing the internet has produced in for-ever. Check out what it looks like when Hogwarts gets Wi-Fi!!

9.28.2010

The New York Times discusses recent developments in west coast libraries. Is privatization taking over our public literacy and education? This article makes it sound like a bad thing, but there have been other examples of such developments working better than we'd like to admit.

9.25.2010

Recently, literary legend Neil Gaiman posted a photo on twitter of Diana Wynne Jones and Robin McKinley that he'd taken when the three of them crossed paths at Diana's home one pleasant afternoon. The photo was much squealed over, for what fantasy fan would not want to be in the room at such a meeting of minds? Robin subsequently blogged about the post, which led to Leila, my go-to YA librarian blogger, linking to it, which led to me clicking and scanning and oohing and aahing over one thing and another. The real gem in all this (because the only people who can really, truly appreciate three such writers sharing conversation and tea are those three writers themselves) is that I stumbled across the first three chapters of Robin McKinley's next book, Pegasus. You may read them here.

9.23.2010

Dreams

Last night, I dreamed that Dr. Lundin and I were musing over the development of humor in a young mind while reclining under a summer tree waiting for the principle to unlock my apartment. I had just saved the entire student body from being confined in the main building by happening to have the second key for a small window. After filing most of the students out between the panes, we rested there. My boat to the mainland wasn't leaving for a while, and I had temporarily lost my passport anyway. He told me he was teaching a summer course on punctuation, and I begged to audit. The schedule was convenient, and I forgot I wasn't a student. At last, the truth behind the elusive ellipses would be discovered! Then I woke up and realized I had slept in . . . again.

9.22.2010

Limited

I have always been fascinated by limited edition books, books as art, cover graphics, unique bindings, etc. So you can imagine my fascination and delight when I came across Puffin's limited edition collection of Treasure Island, The Secret Garden, James and the Giant Peach, and several others. It reminds me of the Penguin video made in response to the ebook phenomenon during the series of clips made for the publisher's 75th birthday (yes, that's this year) in which some Penguin designers discussed the increased importance of cover graphics in the digital age. We will be much more likely to consider a physical book worth spending money on if we find it beautiful on the outside as well as within.


Penguin has long taken that seriously, and this is yet another testament to how much so. My only sorrow (apart from the fact that the Lauren Child edition of The Secret Garden is already sold out) is that these are products of Penguin UK - not Penguin USA. Deep, deep sigh.

9.21.2010

Okay, this is not nearly as interesting or important as Amanda's work in Madagascar, linked below, but . . . I sooo want to see this movie.


Check out Amanda's most recent blog post on her work with Operation Smile this past week. You can see pictures and read more about it here.

9.11.2010

Remembering

I tried posting this as a Facebook status, but it was too long. Apparently, Facebook has limits. I'd be frustrated, except for the awareness in the back of my mind that something requiring this many characters probably shouldn't be relegated to a forum of glib, occasionally clever, momentary comments on a social networking site. The blog, awkward and ethereal though it may be, proves a better shelf.

It occurred to me this morning that fourteen and fifteen year olds probably only know why this day is a big deal because they've been told about it. Not because they remember it. Which doesn't make me feel old, actually. It just keeps me fascinated by the workings of time and the nature of history. Like when I first realized I was not only alive when the Berlin Wall fell, but old enough that I could easily have remembered it if I'd been paying any kind of attention.

It's the sort of realization that inspires me to turn on the news - though a few minutes of that quickly dispels the inspiration. One thing I remember vividly about the events of 9/11 was how surprised I was at the number of people who just 'woke up and turned on the TV'. The likelihood of me just happening to wake up and turn on the news is about as likely as me waking up and deciding to go for a jog. It's not completely unlikely, of course. It happens once every three or four years. The likelihood of me doing so on the precise morning of a national disaster, well, that's a little closer toward the impossible. It was interesting, though. Amidst all the emotional turmoil, national feeling, shock, awe, confusion, and what-have-you, there was this mental poll going on in my head. 'How many of you woke up and turned on the TV?'

Everyone shares where they were when they heard the news. I was in my morning psychology class. Most people, including the sloppy, lazy, Freudian 'professor' with her 7-11 soda and uncombed hair, were late to class. That is, if they bothered showing up at all. The 'professor' (whose name I have chosen not to remember she was so completelyhorriblyawful) immediately launched into a conversation about the planes and the towers, and I had no idea what she was talking about. It was a full half hour of her rambling before I realized she was discussing some sort of attack that had happened that morning that she had witnessed after she just 'woke up and turned on the news'.

There is some information that can only be delivered with care. If information of a certain tender nature is not delivered with a special kind of honor, reverence, dignity, and mourning, it will take much longer for the receiver to process than it should. It reminds me of the first time I came home from college for Christmas. I went to church and was lovingly greeted by my dearest friends. The service was starting in a matter of moments when one of them plopped next to me, giving me a big hug and welcome home. The first words out of her mouth were 'Did you hear about Levi?' Her face was glowing with her first greeting. She spoke with a kind of eagerness that made me half expect Levi to pop up behind her saying, 'I'm visiting your church because I love the Lord and have found peace at last!'

Levi was a friend from high school whom we'd all been praying for for years. He was a ballroom dancer, and I took algebra II with him, occasionally passing notes between desks on our graphing calculators. I used to give him rides home in the gold 280 Z. He always seemed a little disgruntled, at odds with life, or himself, or something. The kind of kid that you remember to pray for years later. 'Did you hear about Levi?' 'No! What!' I am filled with sudden excitement, readiness for joy, an anticipation of long-awaited good news.

'He was stabbed to death in his dorm room at school. No one knows why.' Another friend walks up with a big smile to welcome me home. The service starts. We're hugging and smiling and singing and I'm wondering, 'What did she just say?'

There are ways to deliver all kinds of news. Maybe that's why people turn on CNN the moment they wake up, so that a professional can deliver it to them in impersonal tones the moment it happens. Sitting in my psychology class, having my grungy gnome of a teacher allude to the planes and the fall of the towers like we all knew what she was talking about - not the way to go. Amy DiBello, my English prof, made up for it later on that day. She had us write it out. We sat in some silence, and later we talked it through. There is a way to honor a tragedy. I am not sure if I've learned that way myself, but I know it when I see it. It's something other than pity. It's reverence for an experience close to you that may or may not be your own. There are words, like 'murder' and 'attack' and 'death' and 'grief' that should be spoken slowly and with a careful eye to the person who hears, to watch their minutest reaction, to know whatever change in heartbeat or bat of eye signals 'slower yet,' or 'now keep quiet'.

Almost ten years now, and we argue over mosques that do or do not honor the dead. I wonder if perhaps the passing of time unlearns our reverence. Our awareness. Our closeness to these things. And I wonder how to learn them again.
When I grow up, I want to be Marilynne Robinson. It's not gonna happen, of course. But I guess it's something to strive for, right?

9.08.2010

Mockingjay

Finished reading Mockingjay yesterday. Much as I utterly love these books, this third and last one did, in fact, bother me a bit. Apart from the unnecessary reliance on death and destruction this book resorts to - in measures wholly different from the first two, it seems - there was something generally dissatisfying about the main character's attitude throughout the whole. Laura Miller dissects this feeling in her article at the Salon, here. Don't read it if you haven't read the books! Spoilers beware!!

9.04.2010

More Other Blogs


Emily, I'd ask you to add this to your list, but I think Jenny B will have to take this one. The other blog I would write if I wasn't already blogging five times over (more or less) would be one on maps. I have maps hanging in my bedroom in Long Beach and a very well-framed map hanging in the guest room that occasionally bears my vague sense of ownership over at Emily's in Oxnard. They give me the same sense of security, familiarity, and comfort that a full bookshelf does. My maps are not the bright blue and red kind that you get for free from AAA. They are usually sepia toned, whether by accident or design, and feature places I care about, like Rome and Edinburgh. They are all gifts (though now that I think of it, I don't think I technically own two of them).

The mapping blog would discuss the various necessaries of a map, which truthfully I know nothing about. It would mostly go into the history of things, narrowing in on clever and perhaps even fanciful anecdotes about various characters and events in the lives of one or another map. There would be book reviews, critical comparisons from east to west, interviews of geography experts, and reproductions of maps both actual and fantastical. Posts on the relevance of maps appended to fantasy novels. Posts on the creation of maps during Imperialism and their effects on European worldview. DIY projects involving discarded maps. Maps in elementary schools. The translation of maps online. The pros and cons of the GPS mindset.

There is so much one could do!!!!

9.03.2010

Blogger blog blog...

I know. I hardly post at all for months, and then three rapid fire posts in a day. What can I say? Guest blogging over at the Freesparrow blog got me inspired, I guess.

Anyway, just wanted to drop a note to say that I have reorganized (and added to) all the links on the left. You now have a summarized version of my Google Reader subscriptions, at your fingertips. You'll find them sorted, in general, by topic. From authors I'm following either because I publish them or, as in the case of Shannon Hale, because I wish I published them - to the book blogs that keep my eye more or less fixed on the industry's pulse. Okay, we all know I follow Penguin and Chronicle because I wish I was them. You'll be able to watch Amanda's gradual developments in Madagascar, take a look at causes I care about, and much more!

It's a veritable link-fest. Whatever a link-fest is.

Other Blogs

Everyone has a blogger they follow that they'd really like to be friends with, but aren't. (Can I explain how hard that sentence was to construct?) You know, like the cool kid in school you wanted to be best buds with. But weren't. Anyway, there are two blogs I follow that are written by very different women living radically different lives. One of them I have always known I wanted to be friends with. Someday I will comment on her blog in a non-stalkerish way and express that fact. Not yet.

Today, I realized for the first time that I do, in fact, wish I was friends with the other one as well. I post links from her blog all the time, so I hesitate to give away the source of so many of my blog's more interesting features. Oh well. It's only fair: http://bookshelvesofdoom.blogs.com/

Blogs

I was thinking on my way home today, pretending to be a spy, that I should write a blog called "How To Be a Spy". It would be like a spy version of 1001 Rules for My Unborn Son, only probably not actually anything like it at all. Except it would give a few little tips and things every couple days. Like 'Spies blend in' and 'spies always drive carefully except during a chase' and 'spies keep their personal and professional lives rigidly separate.' It would be the coolest blog, like, ever. Eventually it would be printed as a book that would sell tons of copies around Father's Day.

Unfortunately, I just don't quite have the time. If you'd like to write it for me, I'd happily contribute a post or two in a few years when I'm not busy anymore.

8.31.2010


L.O.V.E. this book trailer for Cassandra Clare's upcoming release. It is cheesy and croppy and all sorts of awkward things, but the best part is the last line. Oh yes, "holy water and blood!!" I am sooo looking forward to these books.

8.24.2010

Guest Blogging

Between work and my personal internet life, I publish and manage a total of five blogs - none of them nearly as faithfully as I should. So I'm not sure if it's natural or awkward that I'm guest blogging this coming week. Those of you who already have whiplash trying to follow all my online scribbles, I greatly apologize. But I'm so excited!! Why? Because it's for my favorite entrepreneur!!

Check out her blog before I get there. You'll like it better than this one, because there are lot of pretty pictures!!

8.21.2010

Sufi.

At laaaaast!!

A new album from Sufjan Stevens!!!

I'm only a minute and a half into the first song, and I already love it. Yes, I do.

Check it out here:

http://stereogum.com/480171/sufjan-stevens-all-delighted-people-ep-out-this-instant/mp3s/

8.12.2010

Referral

I know that the last thing you all need is another blog to read, but I thought I'd let you dear readers know that I have started a second blog. You balk, I know, considering how I have no time for this one. This second blog is more professionally oriented. As in, that's where I'll post anything and everything to do with the world of books. You can find it here: http://mollywords.wordpress.com

Yes, wordpress, I know. There are so many buttons and windows to that thing. Anyway, this second blog may get moved if I ever set up a more professional website sort of thing. The point is to get it started. I will happily feature guest bloggers if you ever feel like posting something literary and edgy. You are also under no obligation to check the thing with any kind of frequency.

Thank you, and... well, just thank you.

8.06.2010

Nothing Little About It

What could possibly be the most offensive book-to-screen effort of all time? That's right, turning The Little Prince into a 50+ episode animated series, video game, and 3D film. I am hoping this is some kind of hoax. And beginning to wonder if maybe I do wish I lived in the days before penicillin after all.
The sad thing is this spoof has better special effects than the original movie.
Apparently the next big thing in the digital book world is this thing called Copia. You can check out the website here, but I'd advise you to skip the promotional video. It doesn't actually tell you what Copia does, how it works, what it looks like, or how it could be tailored to your unique reading habits. It tells you 'we're in it together,' and features a lot of smiling people. My favorite is the blonde girl reading Vonnegut and laughing like the book is a shopping mall buddy. Maybe Vonnegut's funny, but he's just not that kind of funny. For all I know, Copia could be the next best thing. You just really can't tell from the video.

7.28.2010

Everybody and their mother is posting this thing, so I might as well jump on the bandwagon. I don't think it's as funny as everyone else seems to, which is why it didn't end up here right away. But it's still a little funny. I guess.

7.26.2010

I am learning everything there is to know about paper, thanks to my current work as publisher emeritus. Here's a boring-looking web page that has suddenly become my paper bible: iPaper! With my new-found knowledge, there will never be surprises! Looking forward to putting my paper-genius to work on Jeff's book in the next few weeks.

7.24.2010

Thanks to Father Stephen for this, appropriately timed for me.

Everything you do, all your work, can contribute towards your salvation. It depends on you, on the way you do it. History is replete with monks who became great saints while working in the kitchen or washing sheets. The way of salvation consists in working without passion, in prayer….

May God give you the strength to keep your spirit, your mind, and your heart in the spirit of Christ. Then everything that happens to you can very quickly be radically transformed. What was tiresome and discouraging will disappear, transfigured by your desire to be there where Christ your God is….

Elder Sophrony of Essex

7.20.2010

a la Madagascar

My sister, Amanda, has had an unusual amount of internet access over the last few days. This means a few more updates to her blog than usual. I am sure I have referred to her blog here before (right? surely I have...), but I'd like to link to it again: http://lamander.blogspot.com/
There are some lovely lemurs pictured here, as well as highlights from her initial training and subsequent village indwelling. Take a look!

7.16.2010

After Hours

Remember reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and then every time you went in a museum or gallery afterward, you thought of what it would be like to live there? Well, now you can. Not the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but a pretty fascinating alternative. Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry is offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (unless, of course, they offer it again next year) to live in the museum for one month. You get paid for it too. $10,000. (Of course, this should clue you into the small detail that this is more of a job than an rebellious adventure, but still....) Check out the link here. There are some submissions requirements, of course, and the more this is blogged about, the harder the competition will be. I can think of about five people I know off-hand who would be fabulous at this.

7.13.2010

Being Smart

I just came across an email I wrote to my favorite professor at Wheaton College many years ago. It was in response to a class conversation we'd had on Emily Dickinson and her manipulation of seclusion for the purpose of social control. It sounds a little fancy there, but let me tell you, the email I wrote was fancier. I don't think I was trying to be smart, either, because I used a very personal example - which I will not elaborate here - regarding my understanding of Dickinson's motivations and the manner in which her behavior would translate into the world of modern technology. I was not trying to be smart, but from my present perch, it sounded smart. I'm wondering what happened to that deep-thinking academic. Wondering all the more how it is possible that such thought processes actually diminished during my post-graduate education rather than flourished. Oh, academia. What a fickle beast you are.

7.12.2010

Click for book

I simply have to link over to this omnivoracious article because, 1) I like China Mieville, 2) I like this book cover, and 3) this is a great website.

7.09.2010

Blogworthiness

Dear Readers,

My sister's blog is awesome. No joke. It's cute and little and lively. Which is why it's called: http://cutelittlelife.blogspot.com. Click through and show your support for bloggers, crafters, and cute people across America!

Thank you,

MollyBGood

7.07.2010

I'm thinking of changing the URL of this blog, which is tricky, since it's been my blog for several years and you all know me by now.

You'd have to change all your settings and stuff.

Let me know if you'd be prepared for this, or if it's a terrible, terrible idea. I mean, obviously I'd provide a little link saying 'to read more from this phenomenal blogger, please click here'.

You know, just let me know.

7.06.2010

Just went on a walk with my mother down to the beach. It's a beautiful view, despite the rubbish along the waterline, and it was good to see a few other people enjoying it. After the hoards along the bluff on the 4th, it can be difficult to enjoy living on such a public street. The calm walk and evening view is a restful reminder of why we do.

6.27.2010

When I was a child I often had a toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for the night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother--at least, not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would give me something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain: but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists; I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie; if you gave them an inch, they took an ell.

Now, if I may put it that way, Our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take an ell. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of (like masturbation or physical cowardice) or which is obviously spoiling daily life (like bad temper or drunkenness). Well, He will cure it all right: but He will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if you once call Him in, He will give you the full treatment.

That is why He warned people to "count the cost" before becoming Christians. "Make no mistake," He says, "if you let Me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect--until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with Me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less."

- C. S. Lewis, taken from The Joyful Christian: 127 Readings

6.26.2010

Lists

I have been too busy to read anything but legal documents, vendor forms, unedited manuscripts, packing slips, social networking sites, and the book of Matthew for a few months now. My brain feels tight around the edges. My eyelids are losing elasticity. Here are a few books I've been eyeing for the last little while in hopes for a rainy day:

1. Jane Eyre (re-read)
2. Out of Africa (bought a re-print of the original translation, very pretty)
3. anything by C. S. Lewis (and I mean anything. From Miracles to Perelandra to the one-sentence quip on the daily calendar in the kitchen, I'm all over it.)
4. Mockingjay!!! (comes out in August. This will be the first in the series that I haven't received early as an advanced reader. I'm so excited!!!)
5. The Message in the Bottle (Walker Percy, NOT Nicholas Sparks. Read much, but not all of this piece of genius. Also want to read everything else he ever wrote)
6. Godric (again)
7. War and Peace (but only after I finish...)
8. Les Miserable (no, I never did finish it. Surprised?)

6.24.2010

I've been feeling a little conflicted about my life as a blogger. There are so many things I want to post about, but I'm suddenly aware that running a company makes me in many respects a 'public' figure, and what I write here on this very personal blog has implications for my work and the reception of my company by the outside world. I'm not worried about the personal stuff - I don't post much of anything I wouldn't mind anybody reading. But when I visit the printer or get an acceptance letter from our distributor or any number of awesome things happen, I want to write about it. And then I stop and think, is this too much information? I'll figure it out eventually. For now, just know that all is going very well. I am excited to do what I do, and everything is falling beautifully into place. Thank you Jesus.

6.18.2010

The Novel

Going through the files on my computer, I found this passage plucked from an article by David B. Hart, from First Things, many moons ago. It seemed particularly relevant considering the sermon I listened to (while driving), from my pastor two weeks ago. I've been thinking about the importance of the novel, and of storytelling, all the more since I've made publishing my career. It is good to know I'm investing in something I have believed in for so long. Whatever quality the writing, the seeds of this higher possibility remain.

At the same time, one must acknowledge that part of the special enchantment of the novel, considered as a distinct literary form, is the illusion it can create of a fully realized world; a truly great novel is like a magic mirror, whose surface reflects not only the appearances, but the souls of living men and women. Precisely because of its special combination of immensity and intimacy, it affords its author room, scope, time for the subtlest gestures and finest strokes of psychological portraiture.

From 'Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (and Christ)'

- David B. Hart

6.15.2010

The time between blog posts just gets longer and longer. I have become one of those people who does nothing but work. This would be a sad thing, except that I am beginning to see the fruits of my labor. Perhaps I shall post a picture of said fruits sometime soon. In the meantime, please bear with me. I miss you all more than I can say. But it won't last long. I promise.

5.31.2010

Church Tourism

I talked with someone a while ago about how I like to visit churches. There's even a post or two below about the careful processes behind it. I don't consider myself a church tourist, of course, because the implication behind that phrase is a disinclination to attach oneself to a given church. And I am far from disinclined. I am eager for the Church I will call Home. I think I have such a one in Long Beach, but I know that I am hesitant there. Not because of theological disagreements, although I know I have a few. Not because of the people or the preaching or even the largeness of the space. If anything were to deter me, it would certainly be the presence of a coffeeshop on the church grounds - but strangely, that's not it either. It's the general feeling of nomadism that I still have. I will settle in a church when I settle in myself. But I am still unsettled.

One of my favorite bloggers just posted about her own church 'tourism', and I was delighted to read it. I am always delighted to read about good experiences in the Orthodox church, because I have a not-so hidden love for them. They are still my least familiar of the churches (I have only once attended an Orthodox service), but perhaps for that reason, I have this sneaking suspicion I will be Orthodox one day. I may be sixty years old when it happens. I may never officially 'convert'. But I associate it with all the possibilities of resting after restlessness. Perhaps, perhaps....

5.28.2010

It has been a long time since I've actually blogged about my life. There's a reason for that, and it mostly has to do with work. As long as work people have access to my blog, there are certain things I can't be wildly open about - like starting my own business.

Of course, this is not a problem if you quit. Which I just did.

Out of the blue? Yes. But then again, no. I have known I would quit as soon as publishing got off the ground for a while. I jumped the gun by a month or two because I quickly became convinced that publishing couldn't get off the ground if I didn't devote myself to it full-time. These are the things that convinced me:

1. a release date set for one month from tomorrow.
2. two other authors waiting behind it, plus an additional e-book, all three which need to be edited.
3. the first author's first book which we may be able to get the rights to, which also needs to be edited (again).
4. needing to set up in-store events for every weekend from July through forever.
5. needing to set up radio interviews, library discussions, rotary and kiwanas talks, books groups, internet forums, and who knows what all else for all the weekdays in between.
6. repeating numbers 4 and 5 for other authors...
7. oh, why bother. the list will just go on forever.

So that's why I quit. In just over a week, I will be spending 50-60 hours a week working on a publishing company. We will be the next Penguin. Just you wait and see.

5.27.2010

I know I can be rather critical of certain authors at times (how anyone thought D. H. Lawrence was worth reading past the first few pages of arrogant, noxious, formulaic Freudianism, I do not know), but it seems I am in good company.

5.26.2010

It's been a while since I've linked over to my favorite blogger, so here's a brief snippet from him. Mostly I just like the quotation.

5.23.2010

Here's one courtesy of my dad. I heart Lane Smith big time. Could one make any kind of commentary on the fact that this is a youtube video trailer I found on twitter and am reposting to my blog? Probably. But it's cute. And relevant. So, deal.

5.10.2010

I'm still trying to figure out if this is for real. Not sure if I think it's weird or wonderful. Maybe a little bit of both?

Happy Mother's Day

It's after midnight, so I am technically late for mother's day. It's worse, really, because I didn't call my mom today either. She was at Disneyland, so it's not like she wasn't having a good time. But I should have called her on my break at work, and somehow that just didn't happen. I was too busy chasing down Ben & Jerry's ice cream. That's right. You heard me. I eat ice cream now. For dinner.

Despite my lame daughterness, my mother is pretty incredible. I missed her all day, and was severely bummed that I had to be at work instead of celebrating her awesomeness at the happiest place on earth. Barnes and Noble, you owe me. You owe me big time.

Mom, you are wonderful. Thank you for being.

5.07.2010

Ewok

This is my last day of dogsitting in Goleta. I started here on Monday, just after work, and was so distracted that when I rushed into the apartment and grabbed the dog for a walk, I couldn't remember his name. Emily had already told me he looked like an ewok, and it was true. So during the majority of his first walk (during which I had his harness on sideways - I don't know about these things!!), I kept calling him Ewok. 'Walk, Ewok Dog! Walk!' It was amusing.

During my week with Ewok, I have discovered my cell phone chewed up and paw prints on the pillows. Bad Ewok. I will not demand compensation. I was slow to notice he was also chewing up his owner's ethernet cable. We all suffer the Ewok teeth.

Only a few more minutes here, and I'm throwing my stuff back in their bags (and the Ewok back in his crate) to join the working world yet again. Perhaps now that I've been working at the store over a month, I might get there in good time to handle my parking pass. That would be convenient.

(Ewok is now chewing up his bed/blanket. Don't blame him. That thing smells nasty.)

4.27.2010

Work at New Store is getting better. I've learned to just do things instead of asking 'how is it done here'. Their ways inevitably seem irrational and inefficient. This has less to do with their incompetence and more to do with my uncalled-for sense of superiority. It is a strange lesson in both confidence and humility. I do not have a problem admitting when I don't know how to do something. But when I do know how to do something, I have a big problem being told to do it differently. I am stubborn like that. And strangely controlling. Who knew?

Told Other New Manager that I'm learning to be flexible. I think he was none too happy to hear it, since he's been having even more trouble with the adjustment than I have. Being flexible, to him, means doing things Wrong. And that's rather uncool, since we're supposed to be learning how to do things Right. And Right doesn't necessarily mean by-the-book, since some things have no 'book'. In this case, Right means 'according to a method easily transferable between stores'. And most of our methods simply wouldn't fly at any other store. Simply. Wouldn't.

I am not feeling remarkably invested, though, and that helps with the sense of flexibility. If I thought 'this is training for my future, and I'm being trained wrong,' then I'd have some serious problems. I would be taking notes for conversations with my district manager. But I do not feel invested. I feel gradually less and less invested as the days pass and I become more competent at my work. Because I am doing other things. And those things are far more interesting.

4.18.2010

It's my birthday. I have a cold or allergies or something. But my mother and sister have decked out the backyard in spring colors. They have whipped up chicken salad and lemon pie. So I will celebrate and be celebrated.

Thank you.

4.16.2010

I just watched the trailer for the new film Ramona and Beezus, and it is so horrible I cannot even post the link here. I might say it looks like a fun, poppy, family film if it wasn't premised on the Beverly Cleary classics!!!!! Gah!!!!!!!

4.12.2010

So I started filing my taxes. I know, they're due in three days. Then I find that I owe. More particularly, I owe more money than is presently sitting in my checking account (or checking and savings combined - I know, a sad state).

This means that I'm not paying with TurboTax online. I'm going ghetto and mailing a check, crossing my fingers that it won't get deposited until after Thursday.

Sad, sad state. Let's hear it for that raise.

4.07.2010

How to Start a New Job

1. Don't worry about being super friendly to everyone you work with. In fact, don't really worry about how you appear to them at all. You already got the job. You don't have to impress them with how clever you are; you just have to show them your work ethic. Nothing is more transparent than a fake smile.

2. Ask the dumb questions. They are totally legitimate, as long as you acknowledge that they're dumb. Chances are, the response will be, 'that's not a dumb question at all.'

3. Withhold judgment. Because your judgment will change.

4. Now is not the time to act like you know how things work when you don't. You're new. A greater degree of ignorance is assumed at this point. A greater degree of humility is strongly suggested.

5. That being said, be confident in what you do know. You don't have to tell people you've got experience. Just do what you can, and your experience will speak for itself.

6. Do your best, your very best, not to constantly refer to your previous job. 'Well, at my last store....' is the most isolating phrase you can spout. There will be valuable skills, methods, practices, and experiences that you can transpose from the last place to this, but generally, in conversation, try to limit your references. I mean, it's one thing if you find out your previous boss just got fired. That might be worthy of a comment. But if you're just observing that your new boss has a different policy on office privacy than your old boss... do. not. mention. it.

7. Remember what you did well. Keep doing it.

8. Sometimes spend your down time getting to know your new coworkers. Sometimes let yourself disappear.

9. Indulge in extra coffee goodies on your breaks. You're new. You need special sustenance.

10. Don't carry the job home. There will be time enough for that later. For now, when you clock out, leave it all behind you. This is easier said than done, but really. Go bowling if you have to. Visit the elderly. Join a club. Start an independent publishing company. You can spend fifteen to twenty minutes discussing work with friends or family, but then move on. Your brain needs a diversion. So does your heart.

4.04.2010

Addendum

I'd like to make a note on the previous post. You are allowed to feel awkward if, as the greeting is coming to a close, an adolescent comes up behind you, taps you on the shoulder, and says 'HI' as he walks past. That's not how these greeting times are supposed to go. That is strange behavior, and probably indicates a Condition that you are not responsible for. Move on.

How to Visit a Church, Part 2

There are some things you're just gonna have to brace yourself for. Like the moment they say, 'Greet the people near you.' Expect that, and do not panic. Refuse a fake smile. Let yourself love the strangers. Refuse to feel awkward. Wait for them to turn toward you, then shake their hands confidently. You don't need to tell them your life story. Just smile and say, 'Good morning.'

This part of the service is infinitely simpler - and more of a blessing - when you are offering each other peace. It was always my favorite part of the Catholic and Anglican services I attended, and it is one of the parts I miss the most now that I am frequently Evangelical services again. If you're not used to it, the rules above still apply. Look these people in the eye. Do not wonder what they think of you. Wait for them to turn toward you, then clasp their hand and say, 'Peace be with you,' or 'The peace of the Lord,' or 'The peace of the Lord be with you.' If it's confusing, wait for them to speak and just repeat what they said. But mean it, please. Don't be so concerned with getting it right. Smile at your mistakes and move on. It's church. Contrary to secular assumption, no one's judging your ungraceful demeanor.

How to Visit a Church

What to Wear:

The question of apparel is paramount in preparing to visit a church. The cause of this can be traced back to the 1960s... or perhaps the '70s. I'm not entirely sure, because I wasn't around back then. Anyway, at some point in our recent history, it became the 'thing' to go casual. It had something to do with authenticity and being welcoming, I guess. Because Jesus didn't dress up all the time, why should we? Although there's no indication that he didn't groom himself more particularly on Sabbath days, the idea is that he would not have rejected anyone based on their clothing. (Where this notion came from, I also do not know. Especially as there's a specific parable in which a guy is kicked out of the Banquet of the Kingdom of God for not wearing the right outfit. Go figure.)

Not all churches participated in the 'go casual or go home' philosophy, thus creating the dilemma we face today: to dress up or not to dress up. Perhaps the answer is obvious to some of you, at least in theory. But stand in front of your closet on a Sunday morning an hour away from walking through those stranger doors, and you might feel differently.

I'll give some practical advice, assuming you're visiting a church for the first time and have been given no indication of its 'style'. For women: a dress or a skirt, and I don't care if you never wear them otherwise*. It should be a casual dress or skirt, the kind you might wear to work. Follow the seasons on this. If it's Easter Sunday (like today), wear spring colors. (I doubt your first visit will be on Good Friday, but if so, do NOT wear spring colors. This shouldn't take much thought to figure out.) For men: a button-down and slacks. If it's chilly, wear a coat or jacket. If it's not, the shirt and slacks should be fine. You do not need to wear a tie (this rule may be different in other parts of the country).

*Except I just saw my sister and she's wearing the most lovely outfit with pants, so there are exceptions. But you have to be my sister.

4.03.2010

I've had the entire week off, and the only book I've read was a book I was editing. It was also the only work of fiction I've read since before Christmas. Something is seriously wrong with me. I wanted to post yesterday about Good Friday, but I felt like I was trying too hard. I don't really have much to offer right now, and it seems hypocritical to pretend that I do. So, silence.

I moved to Oxnard today. I'll be starting work in Santa Barbara on Monday. Emily and I can carpool together, which is wonderful - particularly because it gives me an excuse to wander around State Street for an hour or so after work. Fabulous!

Thankfully (I suppose), I'm out of cash from getting my car all fixed up yesterday. So there's no splurging at Anthropologie (even though I need pants) or stuffing myself in every restaurant or coffee shop that appeals. Providence inflicts self-control! Thank you, Providence.

3.27.2010

In case anyone in the blog world hasn't heard, I'm moving to Ventura County this next week to work in Santa Barbara and live with my sister. That's all I have to say about that.

3.26.2010

Art, including juvenile literature, has the power to make any spot on earth the living center of the universe; and unlike science, which often gives us the illusion of understanding things we really do not understand, it helps us to know life in a way that still keeps before us the mystery of things. It enhances the sense of wonder. And wonder is respect for life.

-William Steig, Caldecott acceptance speech, 1969

3.18.2010

Pretty luggage. Since I'm going somewhere.
Tomorrow I'm going to be speaking to an entire school full of elementary students, and I have no idea what I'm going to say. This is a problem.

3.11.2010

Haven't posted recently, I know. And one should hardly break the silence with the unlikely meeting of Ricky Gervais (who also has a very creepy kids pop-up book available now in stores, titled 'Flanimals') and Elmo, but this made my morning more than a little bit better today:

3.04.2010

briefly unlenten

Here's a link to the next upcoming kids-film-adapted-from-series. The picture's so pretty, I might actually read the books. Maybe. Later.

3.03.2010

'...who can duly adore that love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape?.... the hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and his compulsion is our liberation.'

- C. S. Lewis (quoted in the classiest Christian tract I've ever seen.)

3.02.2010

About chief of sinners I don't know, but what I know about sinners I know chiefly about me. We did not mean to do the deed, of course. The things we have done wrong seemed, or mostly seemed, small at the time. The word of encouragement withheld, the touch of kindness not given, the visit not made, the trust betrayed, the cutting remark so clever and so cruel, the illicit sexual desire so generously entertained, the angry answer, the surge of resentment at being slighted, the lie we thought would do no harm. It is such a long and tedious list of little things. Surely not too much should be made of it, we thought to ourselves. But now it has come to this. It has come to the cross. All the trespasses of all the people of all time have gravitated here, to the killing grounds of Calvary.

Not only about our entanglement in the loss of each but also in the consequence of our deeds, John Donne was right: "No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." It was not only for our sins, but surely for our sins too. What a complex web of complicity is woven by our lives. Send not to know by whom the nails were driven; they were driven by you, by me.

Is there a perverse presumption in confessing that we did the deed? There could be, I suppose. But there is also prudence, and an irrepressible awareness of John Donne's truth about our entanglement with the whole. We pray with the Psalmist, "Who can discern his errors? Cleanse me from my secret faults." Foolishly we hold back from the admission, separating ourselves from the full burden of common deed. We do not know the measure of our trespass, whereas we know God's mercy is beyond measure. Be grateful that forgiveness is not limited to the sins that we know. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

- Richard John Neuhaus, from Death on a Friday Afternoon
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