Life’s rich tapestry

January 7, 2009

Welcome to my very first blog of 2009 – and welcome to the Greenhouse. If you haven’t visited us before, I do hope you’ll continue to drop in and enjoy keeping up with news of the agency, which now enters its second year – after a fairly storming start.
But first, I have some very sad news for those of you who are regular readers. It’s taken me a few days to be able to face writing this and it’s still far from easy. Our beloved Greenhouse Hound died on Monday night. In fact, I can now tell you that his name was Hogan – much better known as Hogey. A pure white Golden Retriever, nearly fourteen years old, and the sweetest, kindest, cleverest dog you could ever wish to know. Hogey was facing various health issues and these overtook him over the Christmas break, with an incredibly fast slide downwards since last Thursday. As we watched him deteriorate and turn in on himself, we knew he was ready to go and that we couldn’t let him suffer any more. We were able to spend time sitting with him, talking to him (although he’d been stone deaf for the past two years) and stroking him, before the moment agreed with our wonderful vet came, and we took him on his last journey in the back of the Mini Cooper.

He was a dog who gave joy to everyone he met. Strangers would stop us in the street to say how beautiful he was, and he never lost his happiness at meeting people, especially children, whom he loved. The office feels very empty without his large, shambling presence; despite the arthritis of his final years he would haul himself up the stairs and collapse on my manuscripts with a groan, doing all he could to interrupt me with small but very clear reminders about the urgency of lunch or walkies. He loved to climb on to the sofa with me, entwining himself around my legs to get as close as possible. And he loved his multitudes of stuffed toys – especially Polar Bear, various ducks, a grey and disgusting Snoopy. No creature ever took as much pleasure in being given a new toy, which he would chew, throw around and growl over with huge delight before going out to his private stuffed-animal-stash to grab a new one.

Right now I see Hogey all around the house and yard. Lying out on the deck with his nose stuck between the bars looking for his mortal enemy, the Fox. Rolling down the slope in the front yard, a look of great delight on his face as he scratched his back on the long, slow downhill slide. Coming in out of the rain and going straight into his big dog-crate – because of course he knew his feet were wet and must be dried off. Carrying a towel to the washing machine in the hopes that his ‘helpfulness’ might elicit a Milkbone. Struggling up the stairs at bedtime – one of his favourite moments of the day, when he and I would lie on the floor together and commune a while. In his final months he was increasingly vocal – groaning, sighing, smacking those black lips, and barking when he felt we didn’t jump to it quite fast enough. He was all personality; a big character.

So now we move on, but I’m posting here one of his very last photos, taken on Sunday when he’d struggled down to the backyard one last time. We can’t imagine how he got down there – he could barely walk – and I fear you’ll think me soppy if I say it’s as if he wanted to survey his empire one last time. I knew it was important to remember that moment. Rest in peace, Hogey Bear, and I hope that somewhere you are free and young again, romping with your friends.

But January now lies before us and I turn my head towards all the exciting things that are in the future. On January 24, Greenhouse marks the first anniversary of its inception – and oh, how much has been achieved in one short year. Lots of deals done, a number of lives changed, speeches made, many miles travelled, friends gained . . . and I wonder what 2009 will hold. One thing I can definitely tell you is that on January 26 my new colleague Julia Churchill starts with Greenhouse over in London. Just to clarify (because some of you have already been sending submissions marked for Julia), Julia will be focusing on building our list of British authors and selling to the UK market. While we’ll be keeping a degree of flexibility between us, and will no doubt be speaking daily, her efforts will focus on the UK, with me mainly focusing on the USA (with some notable exceptions). All will become clear as we make changes to the website (submission guidelines etc) over the coming weeks that will reflect Julia joining the team. I’ll also be interviewing Julia on this blog in early February so you British readers in particular can get to know her a little.

There are other good things in the pipeline too. Today (I believe) an in-depth interview I’ve done for Cynthia Leitich Smith will go live on her blog. So if you fancy reading a lot more of my pontifications, do tune in to Cynsations! Then in a couple of weeks I’m off to the Space Coast Writer’s Conference over in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Well, you know, someone had to go to the sunshine state in winter, so why not me? The month rounds off with a swift trip over to New York for part of the SCBWI Winter Conference, hopefully fitting in appointments with a number of publishers at the same time, plus the chance to meet lots of old and new editor/agent friends at the brilliant cocktail party that kicks off the conference.

So January is a busy month, and my thoughts are already turning towards Bologna, which comes particularly early this year – in late March. Should be really exciting, with Julia popping over briefly and also DEVIL’S KISS author, Sarwat Chadda, making the journey to meeet his international publishers. Last Bologna Greenhouse was a little babe-in-arms. This year we are all grown up, and my Rights People colleagues have high hopes for a number of our titles on the international market as final manuscripts become available.

Meanwhile my reading pile is towering. So many of you have been writing like dervishes over the break, for which many congratulations! I’m gradually making my way through the piles of both new submissions and full manuscripts, and I hope not to have to keep you waiting too long.

Today I look back at the past – all our happiness with our wonderful dog Hogey, and the huge and aching hole he has left in our lives. I know that soon the painful memories of the past few days will give way to the happy recollection of his long life, well lived. But I also look forward to the future and to what I hope will be a challenging but successful year for us all.

Take care, all of you.