Thursday, February 25, 2016

Soup and Salad: Negotiating a writer’s worth, Where are all the patrons?, Alexander Chee’s 13-year journey, Max Ophuls at The Lincoln, Punctuation kills words, Great cover designs, Lee Boudreaux’s careful reading, “I wanted to publish a book before I died,” Paul Giamatti channels Balzac

On today's menu:

1.  Manjula Martin, editor of the anthology SCRATCH: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, which will be published later this year by Simon & Schuster, on how to negotiate ways to be paid for your art:
The one super-strict rule I hold myself to is: Always ask for more. Every time. No matter what. Because no one is going to give you more money unless you ask for it. And if you ask for more and the person instantly agrees without even blinking... then you should probably ask for even more next time. When I negotiate, I sometimes don’t get more. And I sometimes get more than more. But I never get less, I can tell you that!
Manjula’s occasional tiny letter newsletter is well worth subscribing to. (Also, it’s free!)

2.  $peaking of $upport for writer$: “No longer supported by the state, today’s writers must meet market demands. Those who succeed often do so by innovating no more than is necessary.”

3.  Listen, my children, and you shall hear...of the rollercoaster ride of Alexander Chee. His novel The Queen of the Night tops my To-Be-Read stack and after reading this interview at The Millions, it’s almost a wonder the book is in our hands at all. As Claire Cameron (author of The Bear) describes it,
The Queen of the Night is Chee’s first novel hardcover release since Edinburgh in 2001 and its reissue in 2003. While he has hardly been idle, I wondered how that felt. As novelists often talk of the pressure to publish, were the intervening 13 to 15 years productive or full of angst? What I found was a story filled with all the twists and turns of the greatest writing careers, a publisher bankruptcy, bouts of teaching yoga, the consequences of missing a deadline by 10 years, the advance money running out, an Amtrak residency, surviving through four changes of editor, and whether it’s all worth it in the end.
Chee says when he thought about working on the manuscript for The Queen of the Night,
It was like wandering blind into a storm. I moved to Los Angeles, where I really just sort of rested for a few months, read things, and went to parties and libraries and tried to put my head together again. When I ran out of money, I moved to my Mom’s in Maine....writing in her basement every morning starting at 5 a.m., taking a break for Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns at 11 a.m. and making an early lunch before working more. It was like the weirdest saddest colony stay, about three months.
And then these comments, of course, spoke directly to my heart (which is often torn between writing this blog and doing some “real writing”):
My friend Maud Newton and I were talking about our history with blogs recently, and we agreed to think of them respectively as the sort of minor books that you publish in between the books that matter, an experiment done in a way that eventually helps the sale of the next book — people read it, treat it like a blog and not a book — and which allows to sustain a readership without suffering the damage of a tragic sales track record.

4.  If you’re in the New York City area, you might want to drop by The Lincoln Center on March 2. That’s when Chee will be on hand to help bring Max Ophul’s 1953 classic The Earrings of Madame de... to the screen. The Print Screen series “invites our favorite authors to present films that complement and have inspired their work, with discussions and book signings to follow screenings.” Click here for more information on the recurring series.

5.  Punctuation posters. Who needs words anyway?

6.  I can always count on The Casual Optimist to drop some delicious eye-candy into my inbox. The blog’s February Book Covers of Note includes some stunners, including one of my favorites: Jamie Keenan’s design for My Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir by Chris Offut.

7.  Over at Lit Hub, Lee Boudreaux takes us into the mind (and heart) of an editor:
The editing process is asking every question that occurs to you and reading the manuscript as carefully as anyone is ever going to read it. This is the time to ask those questions and it is always the author’s…well, they have permission to reject anything, it’s just that you’re raising the question. I believe the author always has a better idea on how to solve the problem than anything I would suggest.

8.  If you can read this and not be moved, you’re a stonier person than I am: I wanted to publish a book before I died.

9.  I leave you with Paul Giamatti channeling Balzac and his 50-cups-of-day habit:


  1. did YOU read The Queen of the Night? I thought there were some good elements, but it would have been much better with serious editing and cutting down

    1. No, I haven't read it yet....but it's on my never-ending list of books to be read.