Our Coming Sabbatical

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Category: Inspiration

I am a huge fan of good design, and also a great fan of pithy expression. So it probably makes sense that Stefan Sagmeister would be a hero of mine. He has a firm in New York that has designed packaging for many things you’ve likely seen but not known came from his team, and he is also a creator of winningly temporary public art installations. For a few years now, he’s been orchestrating a series of strange and stunning artworks that deliver aphoristic bits of wisdom (such as “Assuming is stifling,” or “Helping other people helps me,” or “Complaining is silly; either act or forget”), many of which have been collected in a truly gorgeous Abrams book entitled Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far. Want to give it a gander? … [more]

See that woman up there? She’s swell. That video has nothing to do with this post—and worse, is months old—but it does give you a sense of the wonderful Bridget Zinn.

A few weeks ago, we sold her first two novels at auction to Hyperion/Disney. While a book sale always gladdens drear heart, this one was especially pleasing. A thirty-two-year-old writer and part-time librarian, Bridget has had an extraordinary year. It began with one action-packed week in March: she was offered agency representation; she received the first batch of edits for her novel; she was diagnosed with cancer; she was married in the hospital to her boyfriend-since-teenhood, Barrett Dowell; minutes later she was whisked into surgery. Since then, she has been married a few more times (they had some idea that a ceremony would be … [more]

notebooksAh, inspiration. The fickle beast. The elusive muse. That stupid, no-good, completely unreliable jerk. Some writers churn out good ideas by the dozens. Others wait for that one bold stroke of inspiration to strike them between the eyes.

Whether it’s through daydreaming, careful planning, or simply being aware of the world around you, everyone gets ideas in different ways. What’s most important, of course, is what you DO with those ideas.

Recently I was straightening up my apartment when I came across three small notebooks (pictured here for your amusement). I used to always have one of these on me, in my back left pocket, at all times through graduate school, when I was writing short stories, updates for a defunct blog, and jokes for The Onion (if you look closely, you can see the … [more]

keyboard-on-fireAnother November is upon is, and, as I’m sure you savvy writers know, that means it’s once again time for NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month, for those afraid of acronyms).

Agents and editors sometimes cringe when we think of NaNoWriMo, because we envision a gigantic pile of rushed, ill-conceived manuscripts being wheeled our way.… [more]

the-mad-scientists-club-bertrand-brinleyNot all that long ago, I was in a swell position that allowed me to put back into print great novels that had fallen by the wayside. These weren’t strange books that nobody knew, but major novels—among them Newbery Honor-winners by Eleanor Estes and others; some truly fabulous fantasies by Meredith Ann Pierce, Jane Yolen, and other greats; and various other books that should never have gone out of print in the first place.

It happens more often than we’d like, books going out of print. Part of the natural lifespan of a title. At first it seems a sad thing, and it makes you wonder whether this is all worthwhile, this publishing business. But then a beloved classic is restored to print, and finds a vibrant life with a whole new generation of readers, … [more]

(The post below is another recycled bit from my now living-dead blog, As the World Stearns. Part of our ongoing series on books we adore.)

I unabashedly adore this novel, Edward Eager’s second and best book. I love it despite its pretty glaring flaws (some stereotyping of Arabs as “shifty”; a shamelessly episodic structure with some dead spots in the middle), because its quality more than makes up for such minor quibbles. It is relentlessly fun, written with the kind of wit and economy that only the very best writing has, and—at core—it is a story with real emotion, a carefully constructed tale about four kids coming to terms with loss.

The central conceit of Half Magic is a simple one: Four children find a magical coin that, when wished upon, immediately grants half [more]

I have been an absent Crow recently—my apologies. For those of you who don’t know, I am not only a literary agent, but also a very lax blogger,  a compulsive baker of cookies, and the mother of a tiny and precocious little girl named Alice, who is just over 400 days old.

On Saturday afternoon, my gracious mother braved the drizzle and traffic and drove to my apartment to spend a few hours chasing my daughter from room to room. She did this not only because she relishes being a grandmother but also because she felt it was her duty to grant me the most fantastic gift one mother can give to another: Sleep.

Stay with me here—this post will eventually be about books. I promise!… [more]

Believe it or not, I To-Do Listmeant to post about priorities on Friday. But, as is often the case, other things came up– notes for a manuscript, calls with someone from a contracts department–and I found myself putting this post off. Almost poetic, ain’t it?

And it wasn’t too hard to do. You see, as much as I like writing these blog posts, they fall pretty low on my list of priorities, somewhere near going through the slush pile and reading deals on Publisher’s Marketplace.

Agents are busy people. We must write and respond to emails, make phone calls, talk shop with other agents, prepare for conferences, read manuscripts, and manage a thousand other tasks that fall under the umbrella of trying to find new clients and helping our current ones. Then, of course, many of … [more]

(A silly fanvid of A Room with a View, which features in its opening moments, the question marks I mention in the post below. Certainly not worth watching in its entirety.)

Oh, parentheses—this is your day! And semi-colon? Your moment to shine in the spotlight! And oh, lowly em-dash—so overused (even by me), so misused, so much the go-to guy when lazy writers don’t know how to punctuate a sentence.

Sure, sure, I know. All of you readers and writers don’t need to tell me. You could not be more excited. National Punctuation Day! How will you celebrate? Will, you pepper, your paragraphs, with unnecessary, commas? Spill periods … like sugar … sprinkles over your … every spare paragraph break? (No, wait, three periods in a row? That’s an ellipsis. Tsk tsk, don’t think … [more]

(The post below is a rerun from my now in-stasis blog, As the World Stearns. But I wanted to begin an occasional series on Books We Love, and this seemed as good a launch pad as any. Full disclosure: I’ve edited books by Bruce Coville, so my love of this novel may be suspect. But I didn’t edit this one. This one I came to first as a reader.)

jennifer-murdleys-toadJust as everywhere else, there are injustices in the world of children’s books. One injustice is that many of the best writers are overlooked by awards committees. (Richard Peck gave a dauntingly long list of the overlooked in his Newbery acceptance speech a few years ago now, but I can’t find the damn thing online, else I’d quote from it.) Not because of malice on the … [more]