Posts in New York City
The One About Working in Publishing

Okay, so. Did you know that you can ask me questions on my Tumblr? (Now you do!)  It's another direct way of getting your question answered if you don't want to wait for me to get to my GoodReads messages every six months or don't want to feel constrained by the 140 character limit on Twitter.

One question I keep getting over and over again is (seriously, there are currently 20 different versions of it sitting in my inbox on Tumblr): What advice do you have for someone who wants to work in publishing?/How do you get a job in publishing?  I've answered this same exact question another 20 times, but Tumblr doesn't let you tag Ask replies, so you can't search for them.  I'm going to go ahead and answer over here to keep it in a permanent place.

So you want to work in publishing, eh?  Brave soul!  I'm going to go ahead and start with some very basic advice, aimed at both high school and college students--but mostly the latter.

GENERAL ADVICE

1. Educate yourself as much as you can about the publishing industry.  By this I mean, sign up for Publishers Weekly newsletters that reflect your general interest.  For instance, if you want to work in children's books, I recommend PW's Children's Bookshelf, which is now a twice-a-week newsletter that send out with industry news, the most recent deals, articles about marketing campaigns, etc.  If you see articles about the industry in newspapers or magazines, READ them. Know that there are other departments aside from Editorial (more on this later).

2. Read as widely as you can in the field you'd like to enter.  Know which books are being buzzed about or hit the NYT Bestsellers list.  Read quiet books, bestselling books, books for different age ranges (picture books, MG, YA).

3.  Try to volunteer, work, or intern in a creative field.

4. Create a compelling resume and cover letter.  I highly recommend the book Can I Wear my Nose Ring to the Interview? for everyone starting in on the job search. The resume tips are especially great.

5. Be willing to be flexible in getting your foot in the door.  The Children's side of the industry is smaller than the Adult side--if you can get a job working for an Adult imprint, you'll still be gaining valuable experience you can later use to transfer either within the company or to another company. I've had a number of friends switch between departments (Sales to Editorial and vice versa.  I went from Editorial to School & Library Marketing. The list goes on and on.), but it isn't impossible to switch between divisions.  Always take a paying job over waiting for a job that doesn't exist or may never open up.  Base your acceptance of a job over the chemistry you have with your future supervisor and corporate culture.

6. Know that this can be a really tough industry to break into, and you will not be living a dazzling NYC lifestyle--AKA make sure your expectations are realistic.  There aren't many houses and there aren't many jobs available.  Someone I respect once told me that you should only choose to work in publishing if there is absolutely nothing else you can do with yourself.  This is an industry where assistant salaries start as low as $28,000 (the highest is $35,250, I believe).  You might be saying to yourself, well!  I can live on $30,000 a year!  And yes, you can.  But trust me when I say that New York City is EXPENSIVE.  It is CRAZY EXPENSIVE.  Rent costs keep going up, outpacing cost-of-living raises.  You should expect to pay between $800-$1200 for small apartments with tiny bedrooms and kitchens--and that's your share of an apartment you live in with two or three other people.  There is a chance that if the job hunt doesn't kill you, the search for an apartment will (and the cost of moving will officially bury you).  In addition to rent, you are also paying both city and state taxes, which are ridiculous.  Unless you can walk to work, you'll also need to buy a monthly subway card, which is currently at $104 and is expected to rise up toward $120 next year.  You will have to ride that subway every day, twice a day, and it will probably kill your soul just a little bit.  And if that's not enough to scare you, food costs more here, too.  My favorite Chipotle burrito bowl is $5.50 in Arizona.  It is $8.50 here.  Restaurants have to account for the higher rent costs, too.

It's not a comfortable lifestyle.  You will have no savings, but hey.  You get free books every once in a while.

If you're still nodding saying, yes, okay, I'm ready for that, then read on...

INTERNSHIPS

Internships are in no way required to work in publishing, but they definitely help get your foot in the door.  Here's the sad truth--a lot of internships are the result of who-you-know and straight up nepotism.  They are crazy competitive in the Big Six publishing houses.  Publishing has always been a bit of an Old Boys network, but you have to try to work the system as best as you can.  Contact your career services department at your school to investigate if there are any alums (especially recent ones) that work in publishing, and contact them to see if they'll be willing to pass along your resume straight to HR or if they'll be willing to meet or call you for an information interview.  Always remember to be polite and professional--people never have as much free time as you expect them to, and you're not entitled to it.  Luckily, most publishing people are passionate people, and they're happy to spread the love.  It is always worth it to ask! Don't forget that you can request informational interviews with HR departments, too.

(I should stop here and warn you all that job websites/online submission forms are black holes.  I remember an HR person telling me that she received over 1500 applications for one job position over the course of a WEEK. It is ALWAYS better to find a friend or friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend to pass along your resume and cover letter.)

If you can't get an internship with the Big Six, consider interning with a literary agency.  There are SO many literary agencies in comparison to publishing houses, and they always need unpaid interns for reading and filing.  Many of the skills you'd pick up in an agency are transferable to life in a publishing house, especially if you want to work in Editorial. What people want to see are demonstrative examples you can read and think critically and that you're knowledgeable about the market.  This also gives you an insider's view to one leg of the publishing triangle of author-agent-publisher and the dynamic between them.

Here's a secret: I never interned in publishing before I started working at a publishing house.  Many people I know didn't intern, though a good number of them did.  I applied to a few, but stopped myself because I felt, personally, that I couldn't ask my parents to pay for three month's expensive rent and food in NYC.  I did, however, intern in my college's Office of University Relations--basically, their PR/publicity department.  Guess what?  Any kind of marketing, publicity, editorial, and writing experience is GREAT!  Really.  Even better is if you participate leadership activities on campus.  Even BETTER than that is if you are knowledgeable about social media, which the majority of you are since you were born after 1990.

Here is another important thing to remember if you're feeling insecure about this: publishing is what's considered an apprenticeship business.  That means that while it's nice to come into a job with extensive background knowledge and practical skills, you will be taught everything you need to know by your supervisors. You think a History/English double major like me knew ANYTHING about marketing before I started at my current job?  Nope.

THE ACTUAL JOBS

I would say that 80% of people who say they want to work in publishing really mean that they want to be an Editor.  Again, an unwelcome reality check: these are the most competitive jobs in the business.  Not only that, but going into Editorial is really more of a lifestyle choice than a job--you do a lot of work on nights and weekends because there is almost ZERO editing done in the office, and no time to read the five submissions you have waiting for you, either.  I started as an Editorial Assistant in children's books, and while there were aspects of the job I liked, I knew I didn't want to stick with it because the work-life balance was such that it interfered with my writing time.  I also knew it wasn't a natural fit for my personality.  What you do actually do as an Editorial Assistant largely depends on who your boss is.  I did a lot of administrative work, read manuscripts and offered comments on them, routed author contracts (and requested them), routed passes to Managing Editorial, and wrote A LOT of copy.  A LOT OF COPY.  Sales presentations, Launch presentations, Pre-Sales presentations, titlesheets, bound galley copy, jacket copy... it's insane.

One other thing a lot of people don't realize is how long it takes for you to be an Editor. Here's the Editorial hierarchy:

Editorial Assistant (two years)

Assistant Editor (two-three years)

Associate Editor (one-three years)

Editor

Senior Editor

Executive Editor

Editorial Director

So... it generally takes between 5-7 years for you to earn the title "Editor," though a lot of your upward mobility depends on the success of the titles you acquire and the environment of the publishing house.

There are SO many other departments within the publishing industry aside from Editorial:

  • Publicity
  • Marketing (Trade, Brand, School & Library, Digital--all are separate departments**)
  • Subsidiary Rights
  • Managing Editorial
  • Production
  • Sales
  • Finance
  • Design (Book design and Marketing Design)
  • Corporate Communications

I was going to describe what each department does, but HarperCollins has a great brief description of each.

** Someone asked me to clarify what the difference is between each department.  It's really all in the projects and books you work on. We create marketing materials for many different markets--wide commercial audiences, teachers, librarians, teens, parents with babies, etc.  For instance, Trade Marketing handles our commercial fiction titles; they place ads in magazines and newspapers, as well as creates posters, kits, and materials for fiction titles going out to a wide commercial audience. Brand Marketing focuses on what we call "brand titles"--those being books that we produce for companies like Disney, Nickelodeon, and Pixar that tie into movies, TV shows, or pre-existing properties. If you see a coloring book for BRAVE or CARS, or a sticker book for DORA THE EXPLORER, Brand Marketing has handled creating ads and promotional materials for it.

Digital Media creates online banner ads, runs our series and main sites, commissions companies to work on book trailers, etc. Depending on the company, some run the social media accounts (Publicity runs them where I work) and develop apps (Digital Publishing at my company, a separate entity).

School & Library Marketing focuses on developing materials for educators and librarians to encourage them to bring books into their classrooms and libraries. These include things like reading group and educator guides, book marks, kits educators can use to teach a book to their class.  On the kidlit side, S&L also submits to all of the ALA awards, like the Newbery and Printz, as well as to state awards. It's an interesting blend of marketing and publicity, because it involves going to several conferences over the course of the year and managing the authors who come for panels and signings, as well as running the company's booth.  It's really, really fun--but S&L tends to be small, and jobs don't come up all that often.

SUMMER PUBLISHING COURSES

Because I didn't have an internship and I am an overachiever, I applied for the three summer publishing courses: The Columbia Publishing Course, the NYU Publishing Course, the Denver Publishing Course.I attended the Columbia Course and loved it.  I would recommend Columbia if you're interested in book publishing and NYU if you're more interested in magazines.  I know plenty of people who have enjoyed the Denver course and got a lot out of it, but, if you can, attend one of the NYC courses.  It will make your job search MUCH easier.

These course are not free--in fact, they're actually on the pricier side, and they've become very competitive to get into.  I could only attend because I had sold my first book and got a scholarship that paid for half of it from my college. (Again, talk to your career services people--there might be scholarship money you can apply to the courses.) They usually run a little longer than a month and serve as publishing bootcamp--different people from the industry (high profile people in senior positions AND lower level people) come in and give lectures on the business and what they do.

The Columbia Course also an intensive week called Book Workshop, where you form fake publishing houses  and you're assigned a position (editor, publicist, designers, etc.). The team has to develop book ideas that could actually sell, create marketing plans, publicity plans, run profit and loss statements, and design covers.  It's incredibly stressful but SO fun.

The biggest benefits you get from this course are the alumni network and the access to jobs.  Again, I can only really talk about the Columbia course, but Lindy Hess--who has run the program for years--is basically the godmother of publishing.  She calls in favors, creates jobs that aren't there, goes to bat for students when they're interviewing, hooks current students up for interviews with past students.  The courses are respected and well-known within the industry.  They do NOT always lead to a job.  I have to stress that.  But after you "graduate" you're placed on a listserv where new jobs are constantly sent out your first year out of the course, and they continue to come two, three years after for higher-level positions.  There is a huge career fair at the end of the course with all of the big houses and many large agencies represented.

Remember how I said this is the kind of industry where you really need to know someone to get your foot in the door?  These courses introduce you to A LOT of people.  You can connect with the different workshop leaders and lecturers after the course, and you come away with dozens of contacts in the form of your fellow graduates.  Because it's a relatively small industry, it's easy to keep in touch and pass along resumes for each other.

RELATED INDUSTRIES

There are a number of creative industries that have some kind of relationship or tie to publishing.  For instance, film studios use book scouts to find manuscripts or books they might want to option. There are publishing imprints that focus on video game strategy books.  You can work for a literary estate like Dr. Seuss Enterprises, or a book packaging firm like Alloy. Even museums need editors to create their books and materials!

WHERE TO FIND JOB POSTINGS

You can check each publisher's individual site, but there are other, easier-to-navigate boards available:

I hope this helps you guys.  If you have any specific questions, please leave them in the comments!

 

The One Merging

Soooo... how was your weekend?  

I should back track a little and explain that the reason why I disappeared is that I went home to Arizona last week to surprise my mom for her birthday.  To fully appreciate this, you have to know that my mom is IMPOSSIBLE to surprise. She's the person that watches a movie and can guess, twenty minutes in, exactly how the thing is going to end. She's always one step ahead of you when it comes to plotting things.  I like to believe this is because she was an angel-faced-devil-child when she was younger and that helped her hone her skills, but I digress.

I made her think I had a work even late on Tuesday night, and waited until my brother had picked me up from the airport to pretend like I was in a cab, heading back to my apartment.  She must have bought it, because when I popped out and screamed "SURPRISE!" at her when she walked through the door, she actually yelled "WTF?!"

On her actual birthday, which was last Wednesday, we decided to be different and go up to Verde Valley to Out of Africa.  It's about an hour and a half outside of Scottsdale, but in a really beautiful area that most people only know as the place you stop for food and gas between Phoenix and Flagstaff.  The zoo has, admittedly, seen some better days, but we got to go on a "safari" bus tour and feed Pilgrim the giraffe.

The zebras were basically little monsters.  The park guide/bus driver has these things he calls "cookies" that he throws out to the animals to get them to come over (I'm pretty sure they're made with soy and protein?). Well, the zebras have pretty much figured out how to work the system.  They will physically block the bus to prevent the driver from leaving, so he has to keep throwing cookies out to them.  One of the males also "smiles" aka bares his teeth to get cookies and all of the girls have started doing it, too.

While I was in Arizona, I kept hearing these rumblings of some kind of "super storm" in New York that was supposed to happen the weekend I was flying home.  Luckily (or not luckily, since I wouldn't have minded being stranded in Arizona with my family for a few more days), I had a red-eye on Saturday and beat Sandy in.  The whole weekend leading up to the storm was like something out of a crazy dream.  It felt calmer than preparing for Irene did last year, but everyone in the city apparently decided to wait until that Sunday to buy food and supplies.  You would NOT believe the lines I encountered at the grocery store (I didn't even buy food at the big grocery store by us--Fairway--I literally walked in and out when I saw the line), at the little bodega next to us, and even Duane Reade. The line at DR practically wrapped around the store:

I don't know that many NYCers were taking the storm seriously until they started getting emails from their offices about how they'd be closed on Monday, possibly Tuesday.  There was a bit of guesswork involved in when the storm would actually hit, but, more importantly, all of public transportation was shut down to try to prepare for possible flooding.

I'm sure you guys have seen the news reports--it ended up being pretty damn bad, especially for lower Manhattan.  My roommate and I used to live in a big apartment complex called Stuyvesant Town, right on Avenue C and 16th street.  And, well, this is what Stuy Town looks like right now. Our old building was right across the street from the Con Ed power plant where the transformer exploded--basically, it was a flood zone (how horrifying is that blue light?).  All of lower Manhattan is still without power, but we fared much, much better on the Upper East Side.  My roommate and I were joking that this was probably the first time it was cool to live uptown, because it really does seem like there are two different cities at the moment.

Yesterday was the first day I went into work this week, and... it took us an hour and a half by cab to go across town and 20 blocks south.  We ended up getting out and walking the rest of the way.  The traffic was SO awful.  The MTA and city got the buses mostly up and running, but everyone else was trying to drive and it just wasn't happening.  I wasn't even going to drive to hail a cab or squeezing onto one of the SUPER packed buses.  Even though Central Park (all of the parks, actually) are closed, I decided to walk home.  Unfortunately, it was freezing and I wasn't wearing the right coat, so I had to stop in a store and buy a hat and gloves for the 40 block trek home.  It was so, so, so strange to see just hordes of people out trying to do the same thing.

Midtown is also a bit of a challenge right now, because the police have enforced a mandatory evacuation zone around the partially collapsed crane we've all taken to calling "the dangler."

I wish I had snapped a picture that better showed how A) massive this building is and B) how massive the crane itself is.  They've blocked off everything between 59th and 56th street between 6th Avenue and Broadway.  For a while, my office was completely blocked off and employees were having to show their ID to the police guarding the barricades to get in, but they finally moved the blocks back a ways.  We're really not in any kind of danger unless some rogue wind snaps the thing off and it bounces off of five different buildings to get here.  The immediate concern is that thing falling onto the ground below, but I think they've managed to mostly secure it.

I keep thinking I want to go downtown and see what it's like, but it's honestly such a hassle to get below 34th street. You can see what I mean about there being an actual line between Power/No Power here on the subway map they released yesterday to show what lines would be open.  I left my apartment at 7:50 this morning to try to avoid the big crowds they were expecting.  I also took a different route than usual because the N wasn't running to the stop by my office due to the evacuation zone.  So it was... different, to say the least.  But guys, it's such a mess for anyone that lives in Brooklyn and downtown right now.  Look at this snap  of the line to get on the shuttle bus between Brooklyn and Manhattan:

That goes down the block and around the corner! (The reason Brooklyn travel is messed up is because the East River is between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the East River decided to flood into every single subway tunnel running under it.)  To drive a personal vehicle across any of the bridges, you have to have at least three people in the car to help with the flow of traffic, too, which caused some headaches for people who got to the bridges and were turned away. The best part of this situation is that fares are free today and tomorrow, so I don't have to buy my $104 monthly card just yet.

We have some downtown friends staying with us in our little place, but I do feel bad about our inability to do much more at the moment. We were really, really lucky--the only problems we've experienced have to do with the lousy cellphone reception in the city. It really is just bizarro world out there.

Aside from Hurricane Sandy merging with the cold front, we also had Penguin and Random House merge (which, OMG), and Disney and Lucasfilm join forces.  I have a lot of feelings on both of those happenings; the opinions for the former I have to keep to myself, but I'm sort of... not excited about the prospect of more Star Wars films?  I'm just not sure what direction they're going to take, and seeing what Disney did to John Carter of Mars makes me super, super nervous.  But that's a post for tomorrow.

For now, here's your Teaser Thursday:

The One for Lovers

As I mentioned yesterday, I did, indeed, just return from a trip down to Virginia.  Y'all know how I feel about that state.  Love is too shallow a word. I will try to restrain myself.

I've been pretty much all over Virginia at this point--north, east, west, tidewater, you name it--but I'd never made it down to Virginia Beach before.  We rented a house in the adorable Sandbridge section (which, if I understand correctly, is sort of the southern, slightly more rural stretch of beach--at least in comparison to the northern section which has the magnificent boardwalk and Neptune statue).   I won't bore you guys with the details of the drive down, but man.  Delaware.  What is in Delaware?  Do people live in Delaware?  I think we drove the entire length of the state and there was very little to see.  Delaware, you are the land of my ancestors!  You were the first state!  You have Wawas!  WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU!

(* Other interesting observations: NJ rest stops are named after famous people, so when we were trying to locate the other car, the conversation was almost always "Well, we just passed Grover Cleveland..." and "I think we were just at Molly Pitcher?" and  "We were at Clara Barton an hour ago!"  while we were on the Turnpike.  Hardee's [otherwise known as Carl's Jr. to the West Coasters] is basically the only fast food joint after you leave Jersey.  The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is FREAKING AMAZING.)

We mostly bummed around our house, which was named Five O'Clock (love it) and out on the beach, which was a hop, skip, and a two second walk away.  The weather held up for the most part.  It can be a little dicey in that part of Virginia in August (as the ten thousand thunderstorm/tropical storms at W&M taught me), but there were really only two days of heavy rain. Unfortunately, one such day was the first full day we had there, when we all planned to go to the beach.  It was actually pretty tragic--we were all up fairly early and eating brunch, and the hot second we got out there, right around noon, there was a massive thunderstorm.  From that point on, I'd just get up early in the morning and go down to the beach by myself, on the off chance that happened again (of course it didn't).  I really loved my peaceful little mornings!  I saw a guy catch a baby shark, a pack of dolphins (that I thought were sharks) swimming close to the shore, and a million dogs that I got to pet and play with for a little while.  I also did a ton of reading!

Another rainy day was the one we had planned to go to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg.  Alas!  But, as I told everyone, as bad as the rainstorms can be, they tend to pass pretty quickly--and BG won't close unless it's seriously thunderstorming.  So we ended up having the park pretty much to ourselves for the first half of the day... and, surprise, surprise, it cleared up a few minutes after we got there rendering the super classy brightly blue ponchos we bought kind of irrelevant (except for when we went on Escape from Pompeii, in which case they were awesome and worth it).

The bonus was that my friend Carlin (she of Brightly Woven birthday present fame!) was able to drive down and meet us for the day.  We hit up the Cheese Shop and Sno-to-Go in Williamsburg and I got to see my presh William & Mary, but the group was... not super inclined to doing anything history-related, so we didn't even get to walk through even part of Colonial Williamsburg.  Their loss!  Ye olde 'Burg is hilarious and wonderful.  I'm still a little bummed no one wanted to see Jamestown or Yorktown (or even visit the adorable Yorktown beach)--but I'm trying to accept the fact that not everyone is a crazy planner when it comes to vacations. I like to keep a pretty full agenda and really get to see the sights/the area, but some people... just want to go to the beach.

Other highlights included:

Seeing my friend Mike (VA Beach native) and forcing asking him to take me to see the Cape Henry Lighthouse(s).  Did not realize they were on an active military base, which involved Mike having to show his insurance, registration, ID, and getting the whole car checked for bombs.  Yikes.  But the lighthouses are really beautiful and worth the trip out if you're in the area.  The blue and white lighthouse is the modern one, the old stone one was the first federal construction project after the Constitution came into effect.  They've restored it so you can climb up inside. Totally forced poor Mike to climb up all 190-something steps so we could bake in the extreme heat at the top of the lighthouse.

Going to see the Virginia Aquarium, which, for whatever reason, had a Komodo Dragon (not complaining):

Anyway, I'm happy to be back in the city and I'm definitely ready for autumn.  This wasn't much of a summer for me since I spent about three quarters of it in a mad dash to finish book 2.  I've been giving myself some time off writing-wise, really only scribbling down random scenes from random books I'll never write.  But I've kept myself busy doing a number of other things--in particular, finally organizing the crap out of my room and giving it a good scrubbing down.  I donated two huge laundry bags of clothing, and my karmic reward from the Universe was discovering a block on the Upper West Side that had TJ Maxx, Home Goods, and Michael's all next to each other.  Check out these cute luggage-style storage chests:

I feel a little bit better about life now that I have everything settled and organized again, which I know sounds silly, but it goes a long way in making me feel like a capable adult.  As soon as I have my editorial letter from my editor, it'll be back to writing every free chance I get (and planning book 3!), but for right now... I'm really enjoying my real vacation.

How was your long weekend?  What did you guys do?

The One About BEA #3

I like that Wordpress always greets me with "Howdy, Alex!" So I'm going to start off with a hearty, "Howdy, folks!" because that's how we souls from the American West roll. Book Expo America was this past week and, needless to say, I'm still recovering. It's an intense experience as a publishing professional--my department (School & Library Marketing) doesn't do a whole lot with BEA, but it's such a huge event in the publishing world and the stress and planning for the different events inevitably trickles out from Publicity to everyone else. To give you some sense of the work load involved in any kind of conference planning, you have to know that in addition to the parties that have to be organized and planned (and the materials that need to be made for said parties like cover posters, prints, etc.), you have to put together itineraries for authors, plan visits into the office, order books, set up booths, organize signings. That's the very tip of the iceberg.

As an author, BEA is mostly just fun. :)

My favorite part of BEA is always, always, ALWAYS running into people I know. I love seeing friends from my old job, from my publishing course, and author buddies that I've never had the chance to meet in-person. I love meeting bloggers and finally putting faces to Twitter handles and blog names. It's basically a lovefest all around. I also FINALLY got to meet the people who have been working on The Darkest Minds for the past year--believe me, when I tell you that I won the publisher lottery, I mean it.

BEA started on Monday for me with BEA Day of Dialog. It's an event that's sponsored by School Library Journal, hence it fell under our S&L umbrella. We got to Javits around 7 AM for set up, and proceeded to wander around the bowels of the building until we finally found the room we were looking for. Can I say here, just this once, how truly awful the Javits Center is? The location, the layout, the airflow--EVERYTHING. AWFUL. ALWAYS. FOREVER.

Ahem. Anyway, Day of Dialog is an event for Librarians and trade reviewers. Most of the publishers set up tables with galleys and F&Gs (F&G = folded & gathered = advanced picture book copies that are unbound) and promo materials. Throughout the day are panels and publisher presentations of upcoming titles they're excited about. I think my favorite panel ended up being the first one--when I, like James Dashner, finally learned that Eoin Colfer's name is not actually pronounced "e-oine," but "Owen." Let me follow that up with a swift #duhalex

DoD will live forever in my memory mostly because of how freezing the room was. Guys, at one point I actually thought to myself, "Now I know what it would feel like to die on Everest." My mom and brother were coming back to NYC from Massachusetts for that one night, so I had brought an overnight bag to stay with them at their hotel (which was within walking distance of my office), and, no joke, we were using the extra clothes like blankets.

I worked our booth on Tuesday and Wednesday, mostly trying to control autographing lines. We're one of the publishers that uses their booths mostly for signings, so I never had to brave the autographing stalls (until Thursday!). I had about a million people try to ask me questions about our adult authors, to which I started shrugging and pointed them in the vague direction of someone who looked like they worked on the adult side of things. One highlight of Tuesday for me was watching some conference-goers stroll up and ask our company's (incredibly handsome and cool) CEO where the bathroom was.

My author funtimes started on Tuesday night, with the legendary, infamous Disney*Hyperion author dinner. Good. Lord. First of all, it was at an insanely gorgeous, delicious restaurant. Secondly, I got to hang out with the incredible D*H team. Do you know how to make an author feel very loved and special? You love up on their books, you ask them questions, you talk about their characters, you try to steal secrets about sequels. I can't even tell you how close I came to crying at one point when one of the Sales reps started telling me how much she loved the book and how hard she was fighting for it at her accounts. The House of the Mouse is the place to be.

I was really, really, really nervous for this dinner--I've been to so many on the work side, but I've never attended one as an actual guest. So aside from meeting everyone and hoping that I was going to make a good impression, I went into this dinner also knowing that all ten or so authors had been asked to get up and speak about their books for a few minutes in front of a room full of booksellers and media types. From the second I got to the hotel where we were all meeting, I pretty much zipped over to Dan Krokos and Tamara Ireland Stone, and we all kind of huddled together in a corner and freaked out quietly. My poor, poor Table 2 knew how nervous I was while I was waiting for my turn (I spoke 8th), and by the time I finally got up there, everyone else had NAILED their speeches. You have to know, too, that part of what makes the night so fun is that many of the authors have been coming for years (like Eoin Colfer and Mo Willems) and they basically just roast one another, Hyperion, White Plains, Rick Riordan--seriously, nothing is sacred. It's hilarious, but a little intimidating to jump in your first time out. Like Rachel Cohn said: next year. I will get the boys next year!

Anyway, here's a fun fact for you: I cannot talk about myself or my books to save my life. It's one of the few times the crippling shyness I had as a kid really comes out to play. I worry about boring people, coming off as totally into myself, about being funny, about what they'll think of me killing off 98% of America's population of young people, etc. I'm generally fine speaking in front of groups and giving presentations, but it's hard to have a room's attention focused fully on me (it's one of the reasons I don't like birthday parties, weird as it sounds). At one point, one of my fellow Table 2-ers wisely advised me to pretend like I was talking about someone else's book when I got up there. The only problem with that was that, after my editor introduced me, I got up and started talking like an NPR lady. Seriously. My voice actually lowered a full octave. The whole time my brain was screaming what are you doing what are you doing what are you doooooing?!. But I made it through! I talked about the college road trip I took with my dad, about exploring what it was like for me, as a teen, to grow up in the wake of a national tragedy (this being September 11th), about the feral kids at Waffle House, and I hope--I HOPE--I actually conveyed what the story is about. As much as I love The Darkest Minds it tends to defy being summed up in two or three sentences.

Wednesday was the blogger party! Guys. Again, how can I even express how awesome you are?! I secretly loved being all, "To Chambers and the Hudson River!" to the cab driver when I got in--the drive down was so worth it to see your faces and check out the amazing view of Manhattan. Thank you, thank you, thank you for inviting me!

(Also: where did you get those delish lemon cookies?!)

Now, as you may or may not know, I have two critique partners: Anna, who lives in NYC and I get to see on a regular basis (♥) and Sarah, who, unfortunately, lives on the opposite coast. Because Sarah's incredible book Throne of Glass is hitting shelves this fall, it mean she was going to be in town for BEA--and pretty much any time I get to spend hanging out with her is time I love. Let us pause, for a mo' to appreciate her awesome book trailer:

(Seriously. It is awesome. It is really, really awesome.)

I dashed into the Apocalypsies Meet and Greet on Tuesday to say hi (where I also saw another favorite author of mine, Veronica Rossi [who I shamelessly complained about writing sequels to]). I didn't really get to hang out with her until the blogger party on Wednesday--and, BONUS! I finally got to meet Kat Zhang, who is pretty much just as incredible and adorable as you'd imagine. Her debut, WHAT'S LEFT OF ME, is my first read from my BEA grabs and I'm loving it to pieces so far.

Thursday was my "Author Alex" Day. It started bright and early with my signing at 9:30 AM. Just like last year, my morning got off to a bit of a rough start. I woke up late, my contacts refused to go in without doing that whole, "HAHA TRY IT AGAIN, WE'LL JUST KEEP BURNING YOUR EYEBALLS!" routine, I couldn't get my hair to keep a curl, I couldn't get my hair to go straight, so it just sort of... hung there. I wish I had had the time to go get a hair cut earlier in the week, but that's life. Thank god I moved out of the East Village, because I was actually able to hail a cab this year at 8:30 without bursting into tears (unlike last year, which found me weeping at the corner of 14th street and First Ave). Naturally, traffic was awful and I had to sprint into Javits to meet my editor, Emily, on time. We made it to the Green Room/Staging Area that I could not find for the LIFE of me last year, and the signing went off without a hitch. Thank you again to everyone who came out to see me and my wild ass hair.

But I have amazing friends, and amazing readers, and an amazing editor and the whole hour flew by. Look who were #1 and #2 in line!

Thursday was also the day that Hyperion arranged to have its authors shoot author videos at a real, fancy pants studio. I wish I had thought to bring my phone into the room to snap a picture, but, alas, I shall have to ~paint a picture with words~

So the whole room was set up, including a green screen behind me. I sat on a chair facing Nellie, a Marketing Manager from Hyperion, and the whole filming crew. My chair was tilted toward Nellie, but I was supposed to turn slightly and look directly into the camera whenever I spoke. Before we had gone in, Nellie had briefly talked to me about what kinds of questions she would be asking and told me to try to think of a short way to pitch TDM's plot (brain: nooooooooo DO NOT ASK THIS OF ME).

(Also, I totally didn't bring a hair brush with me. Crazy hair is captured always and forever for the internet's enjoyment.)

All I can say is poor, poor Nellie. The whole thing was like pulling teeth, and I pretty much just wanted to die to put the poor women and crew out of their misery hearing me stumble and fumble over words. At one point, I was repeating things line-by-line after her, because I couldn't, for whatever reason, make the ears --> brain --> mouth connection with what they were trying to coach me with. We got through two questions through sheer tenacity on their part. As I told Editor Emily later, I think I just psyched myself out. It's sort of like when you're taking a timed test, and you know that you've messed something up and you get so upset and flustered it just builds and builds. It also doesn't help that I work in marketing, so I really wanted to talk things through from a marketing perspective with her. The film crew and Nellie were incredible and so patient with me, but I walked away feeling like I had blown it. I didn't feel better about the whole thing until later, when I got on twitter:

Lloyd's cookies WERE pretty amazing. I maybe pulled a Grandma move and packed one or two in my purse...

Anyway, my BEA #3 was amazing. AMAZING in every sense of the word, and exhausting, and a total blur. It's hard for me to believe that after almost two years (!) many, many people now have The Darkest Minds galleys in their hot little hands, and I'm already getting feedback on Twitter and reviews on GoodReads. Y'all are fast readers! If you didn't make it to BEA and you're interested in a galley, I did grab a few extras to give out in contests and the like, so stay tuned!

The One Time They Thought I Was a Terrorist

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw this saga unfold in real time, but I think it's worth recording here, too, on the off chance that my future descendants (should our species survive the upcoming apocalypse) decide to hit up Google to see what kind of person their great-great-greatgreatgreat Grannie was. A bomb-maker, apparently, but let me start this sad, sorry tale from the beginning.

So December was a total wash for me in the sense that I barely got any writing work done and was waiting for copyedits. This is largely because things were so busy at my day job, and, let's face it, everyone's schedule goes cray-cray right around the holidays. So I was SOOOOO ready to head home to Arizona on the 22nd. SOOOOOOOOO ready. I left work around 3 that afternoon with my huge ass suitcase in hand and hailed a cab from the corner. Traffic, naturally, was awful. It took 40 minutes just to get out of Manhattan (LaGuardia is in Queens, in case you didn't know), and then there was more stop and go traffic once we were out of the city.

We got to the airport on time--thanks mostly to my dad paranoid teachings that one should always leave two and a half hours early to go to the airport--and I didn't have any trouble checking in aside from my continued bitterness about having to pay to check my bag.

Let me circle back again and just reiterate what I did during the hours between 7:30 AM and 3:30 PM: - Woke up, got ready - Dragged my suitcase down the stairs, nearly killing myself - Hailed a cab - Went to work - Had lunch - Left work - Went to airport

Shockingly, no part of my day involved me handling explosive materials, unless you count me moving my picture of Coach Eric Taylor from one end of my cubicle to another. Nor did I handle heavy duty chemicals.

So fastforward again to me at LaGuardia, standing in line for security. I tend to consider myself a pretty patient person when it comes to the airport, because I appreciate the fact that the Fake Police (as I refer to TSA agents in my head) are trying to keep everyone from blowing each other up, or knifing one another over who gets to hang their coat up in First Class (more on this later). I never complain or sigh or roll my eyes when I'm stuck behind a huge family with a zillion kids trying to take everyone's wee sneakers off, etc. I might get a little smug and judgey in my head because I'm super fast about getting my shoes off and my laptop out, but I would never make a soul feel guilty about it.

I let one pilot cut in front of me, and another one took that as an invitation to cut in front of me, too. Okay, fine! I'm heading home. I do not care! Free cuts for everyone! Except... when I walked through, I set off some random selector thing, that let off this horrible shrill beeping noise. I don't know what I thought, but my first instinct was to RUN LIKE HELL, and it must be most people's first instinct, because Fake Police Guy #1 ushered me into this closed off, clear-walled waiting area that immediately made me feel panicky, and hot, and embarrassed, and spiteful.

Fake Police Guy #1 then lifted my palms--without really explaining what he was doing, which was also alarming--and swabbed my hands with this square of cloth. He exited the Plastic Prison and walked over to the machine, where he put the cloth in.

And there I am waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

Finally he calls over Fake Police Guy #2 to see the results on the screen, and #2 makes #1 rerun the test twice. Then they finally let me out of Plastic Prison and walked me over closer to the machine, where they had Fake Police Lady give me a full pat down.

Side note: It took a lot of willpower not to giggle every time the woman went "Sensitive area! Sensitive area!" as she was feeling all over my ladyparts and on the inside of my undergarments.

Then they run the test again, this time using a hot, wet pad. And for the fifth time, I ask them what's going on and why are you swapping every inch of me with little pieces of white cloth? Finally Fake Police #2, who was an older, slightly more senior Fake Police person, begins asking me a series of red-flag questions like, "Have you handled any harsh chemicals today? Have you been gardening? Are you on any medication?" I swear to you, readers, he asked me these three questions at least fifteen times, in the kind of way that made me wonder if he wanted me to lie to him about it. At this point, they start going through everything in my carry-on bag and wiping it down, but Fake Police Lady, who clearly has had enough of this shit, was all, "It's only on the palm of her hands. There's no other trace of it!"

Fake Police Guy #2: What have you done today? List every place and every vehicle you took. Me: I took two cabs. I was at work all day. Fake Police Guy #2: What do you do for a living? Do you work in a lab? Or landscaping? Me: Uh... I work in children's book publishing. FPG#2: Like that Percy Potter series? Twilight? You work on those? Me: Yeah, sure. Percy Potter.

Eventually I told him that I had used Drain-o the night before (it was actually the day before that, now that I think about it), and he finally, after 20 minutes of this, went off to talk to his supervisor. The woman apparently also was sick of this shit, because she sent him back to me with a warning that if I hadn't brought up Drain-o, they would have been forced to take it to "the next level" and call the NYPD. He dumped about a half a container of hand sanitizer on me and told me to go scrub my hands.

I'm the kind of person that feels guilty about EVERYTHING, so I immediately had to call my mom and confess, like I actually had been making bombs or plotting some nefarious act. I still have zero idea what was on the palm of my hands that would have alerted the hyper-sensitive machines, but I have theory it was something in one of my face products. In any case, the rest of that trip was uneventful and I eventually made it home.

I seriously don't know what it was about my luck traveling these past few weeks, but I also had issues trying to get back to NYC. My flight out of Phoenix was late, so I missed my connection in Dallas. They (thankfully!) rebooked me on a later flight, but said flight didn't get into Newark until 11:30 PM, which is always a downer when you have to go into work the next morning.

I walked up to the gate counter to have them print my new ticket, and was immediately turned away by this flight attendant who held up a hand in the classic "bitch, please" pose and almost yelled "I AM NOT THE GATE AGENT, MA'AM. SHE WILL BE HERE SHORTLY." So clearly this guy was having a bad night, and I got to hear all about his work drama as he bitched loudly to his friends about "seniority politics." Also bitching loudly was this guy sitting to the left of me as I was trying to work on my copyedits and eat my sad Subway sandwich (sad because it had no cucumbers on it, FYI), who was REALLY angry that he didn't get upgraded and that the dog sitter hadn't washed his dog while he was away.

Anyway, so gate agent (who, yes, finally arrived) began announcing the boarding and all of first class/military/special people got to go on. Then this happened:

Gate Agent: Now boarding Group 1. Group 1? *No one stands, no one moves* Gate Agent: Now boarding Groups 1 and 2. Groups 1 and 2? *No one stands, no one moves* Gate Agent: Um... Group 3? *No one stands, no one moves* Gate Agent: Nobody wants to go to Newark??

That should give you a good idea of how crowded the plane was. First Class was packed, but the rest of the plane was maybe 50% full. I got a row all to myself and worked on copyedits the entire flight without someone looking over my shoulder (annoying!). But before we even took off, I witnessed my first flight attendant-passenger confrontation!!

I was sitting up towards the front of the plane, so I had a clear view of the same grumpy flight attendant from before bursting through the first class curtain and loudly asking, "WHOSE COAT IS THIS? WHOSE?!" And--well, have you guys ever seen the movie or read the book Misery? If not, I highly recommend it for authors, especially those who have no qualms about killing off beloved characters. Anyway, I swear, this guy just ERUPTED like Kathy Bates' character does when Paul, the author, says she didn't get the right paper. It was such a Misery moment that I really thought the flight attendant was going to end every sentence with, "Mr. MAN!"

As you probably already guessed, this coat belonged to the passenger who had been pissed about his dog babysitter. The flight attendant was, I kid you not, yelling at him from the curtain. "SIR, THESE HANGERS ARE FOR FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS ONLY!" And the passenger shot back, "But my overhead bin is filled!" and I could hear the guy/friend sitting next to him telling him to shut up, but it was too late. The flight attendant came storming over and flung open the three (EMPTY) nearby overhead bins and continued with, "LOOK SIR, I HAVE HAD A REALLY LONG, TRYING DAY, AND YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT THERE ARE RULES. I NEED THOSE COAT RACKS FOR FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS!!" The passenger's friend was frantically apologizing as the flight attendant walked away, but the sassy passenger let out a loud, "YEAH. THANKS FOR NOTHING." which basically made the flight attendant's head explode.

He and the other flight attendants had to spend the rest of the trip apologizing every ten minutes to the passenger, which got annoying after a while. Still didn't get bumped up to first class, though!

I hope you guys had a very happy holiday season--happy New Year!!

The One That Took a Week to Write

Cripes! It's taken me a week to write this post (I think if I hit "Save Draft" in Wordpress one more time, Wordpress is going to delete all my text and write, "Girl, give it up.") and it's September! September! SEPTEMBER!!! Monday: I know everyone is sick to death of hearing about Irene at this point (or dealing with her, as the case may be), but humor me for a bit. I feel like I need to write about this past weekend, if only so I can come back in a few years, reread this entry, and be totally boggled by how cray-cray New York City went for 48 hours.

Friday, Roommate J and I took the water taxi to Ikea since we had a list of Things We Really Needed, these being: a new cover for our couch, an area rug, and a coffee table.

dolly

We left the apartment before Mayor Bloomberg decided whether or not to issue mandatory evacuations for lower Manhattan and parts of the outer boroughs. To be perfectly honest, it was kind of a gorgeous day--breezy and cool. The only real sign that there was trouble ahead, I think, was the choppy waters on the East River as our faithful water taxi, Dolly, made her way to Brooklyn. I've been reading the Outlander series, as you know, and a good portion of the third book takes place on a ship, and I maybe got a little bit excited when the water was rough and we were rocking about, and I maybe started pretending like I was on a real ship, heading out to the high seas. Poor J just looked at me when I was all, "MAN. WOULDN'T IT HAVE BEEN SO COOL TO HAVE BEEN HERE IN THE 18TH CENTURY TO SEE THE REAL SHIPS COMING UP AND DOWN THE RIVER?!" And she was all, "Uh huh, why don't you go buy your ticket so I can pretend I don't know you for five minutes?"

(Actually, my favorite moment on the water taxi was when we were coming back and I was doing my whole, "It's white water, Pa!" routine, which is a really horrible joke from the movie How the West Was Won. When I tried to explain it to J, she was convinced I was talking about the Mary Kate and Ashley movie, How the West Was Fun.)

So we went to IKEA and we do what people are wont to do when they go to IKEA: we started adding more and more stuff to our original list of Things We Really Needed. I know I've mentioned this before, but our new kitchen is itty-bitty and doesn't have any drawers. It's also pretty narrow, which makes me feel like I'm tempting fate every time I try to use our stove. We found these cool bars we can install on the wall and hang doo-dahs off of, including little cups of silverware. Now we don't have to walk the three extra feet around the corner to get a fork! Huzzah. We also found some wall shelves for the living room, a bath rug, etc. What we didn't find: anything off our Things We Really Needed list. They did have couch covers for our couch model, but they were A) Hot pink B) This crazy lime green striped beast that maybe resembled a circus tent C) Black. Black wasn't a terrible option, but our living room doesn't have any windows, is small, and already has two tall black bookshelves and a big-ish TV unit, and we're kind of against the idea of turning our living room into the Batcave, so...

Tuesday Where did I leave off? OH! So after we left IKEA, I made Roommate J take a cab back to the Upper East Side, since I was ALSO kind of against lugging our heavy-ass/ginormous/twice-the-size-of-a-small-child IKEA bags on the subway during rush hour on Wall Street. By then, Mayor Bloomberg had decided that all of lower Manhattan needed to evacuation. Also by then: at least ten people had called/texted/Facebooked to ask if I was being evacuated. Well, friends, let me tell you--not only do we live well above the potential flood zones, our street is actually on a bit of a hill. So if the day should come that Manhattan does, indeed, flood, you can be sure that I will be safe and sound in my castle on the hill.

Wednesday Where was I going with this--ohhh, right. So, let me tell you something about myself before I get on with the story. I would say, for better or worse, I'm equal parts of my parents. I have a particularly nice blend of stubbornness from my mom's side and an almost manic drive from my dad's, which basically means that when I get some idea in my head, I can't be shaken from seeing it through. When my dad gets this way, my mom refers to it as "one of [his] moods." For me, at least, when I want to get something/do something, I just want it done NOW. I want to see it all the way through, as soon as humanly possible. So while Roommate J was like, "I think I'm going to take a nap..." when we got back to our apartment after IKEA, I was like, "HELL NO. WE ARE GOING TO TARGET AND WE ARE GOING TO BUY OURSELVES A FANCY COFFEE TABLE."

The closest Target to us is up in Harlem. And, in typical New Yorker hubris, I was like, "116th street? WALKABLE." even though we passed about four bus stops along the way. For whatever reason, my brain had processed the number of blocks we needed to walk as about 10, when in reality, it was about 30.

The Target up there is REALLY nice, and is a typical, normal person Target. By that I mean it's only one floor and is laid out exactly like you'd expect it to be. There's none of that two-cramped-floors B.S. that you get at the Brooklyn Target, or the crazy layout that looks like it was designed by a two-year-old with too much time on their hands. The whole shopping center up there is really nice, actually; there's a Costco and Old Navy and a number of other random stores that make it seem like it would be fun to walk around when it doesn't feel like we're on the verge of Armageddon.

Thursday So, okay, I like to think that New Yorkers can handle stressful situations fairly well. Sort of like, they have a slow-fuse when it comes to panic and freaking out because they're so numb to the noise/people/smells/lights that are constantly flashing around them. My unscientific estimate of the percentage of people Freaking the F Out to the Eye Rollers about Hurricane Irene was 20% vs. 80% before going to Target, and 70% vs. 30% after going.

Part of the problem is that there was just so much hype about the storm and all of the damage it was going to do. They shut down the subways(! This is what actually freaked me the F out a little bit) and Mayor Bloomberg started holding press conferences every five minutes to update everyone on the sitch in the city. It was media hype and overload, being told constantly by radio hosts and newscasters to stock up on water and non-perishable food because CLEARLY we were going to be roughing it for a few days without electricity and running water because OH-MY-GOD WHAT IF IT IS A CATEGORY THREE STORM AND WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO SWIM TO WORK ON MONDAY.

If you managed to avoid hearing and seeing all of the newscasters get a news boner about the possibility of massive destruction in NYC, then a sight like this in Target might have been enough to send a twinge of panic through your heart:

bread

That being, of course, the bread aisle at Target. I only meant to pick up a couple of snacks to help me get through revisions, but when I saw multiple food aisles like this, all of a sudden I was all, I am going to starve. I am going to starve in my apartment because the only thing I have in my refrigerator is half a bar of Cracker Barrel cheddar cheese and sugar-free Jell-o. I'm not proud of this, friends, but I definitely went into scavenger-survivor mode. I kept hearing people say that the store and all of the grocery stores on the UES were completely out of water, which naturally made me EXTREMELY thirsty and panicky. I mean, I've trained by body to survive on Mountain Dew and Mountain Dew alone, but AHHHHHHH. Crazy-making.

Friday But, obviously, we got lucky and the storm sort of pooped out on us and gave a half-hearted shrug in our direction before moving on to destroy upstate New York and Vermont. I was up working on revisions until 4 or 5 AM that entire weekend, and I can honestly say that aside from some wind and five to ten minutes of heavy rain, it was nothing remarkable. The newscasters were very, very disappointed.

I think the thing that will stick with me most, though, is going outside on Sunday afternoon after the storm passed and seeing everyone slowly start trickling out again. There were branches and leaves everywhere, but it wasn't raining. Stores and movie theaters were closed, but a lot of restaurants opened and served brunch (the English have their tea, we have our brunch, I guess). Chipotle was, I'm happy to report, also open.

And now it's time for another weekend of revisions, so I'd better sign off. Happy Friday, happy weekend, happy September! xx