17 things for sure

October 6, 2009

There are so many things that I don’t know. For example, anything about chemistry. Or how someone could shoot a sea lion for fun. Or what would be the best solution in the Middle East. Or where the last twenty years just went. So it’s reassuring to realize that there are some things I DO know for sure. And here are a few of them – in no particular order, because isn’t life just like that?

1 I should never, ever take a vacation. I absolutely can’t spare the time. I say this because I got back a week ago from my first real vacation since arriving in the USA in 2007. San Francisco was everything I had hoped and more – but let’s just say the tsunami warning sign on the ‘17 Mile Drive’ perfectly summed up the state of my inbox when I got back.

2 I must always remember to take vacations. You can’t stay alert and inspired and insightful in this business without occasionally wrenching your eyes away, watching pelicans swooping over a lake, and thinking other thoughts. An exhausted agent is a no-good agent!

3 Sometimes the things you know are contradictions. See above.

4 The Greenhouse website is . . . somewhat exciting. If you’ve been a regular visitor to this site, you’ll have spotted our new dedicated Youtube channel and redeveloped Author section. Do have a look around. Our aim is to keep it current, fresh and relevant, and we see it as the heart of how we project Greenhouse to the writing world. We’re working on a News page right now, and already fantasizing about Phase 3 of the site. We intend to keep it growing and developing, doing our best to inform aspiring writers and promote our clients. Virtually all our authors now have interviews posted on the site, and our aim is for all to have Youtube trailers in due course.

5 Like Jude Law (interviewed during his run as Hamlet), we don’t believe in reviews. Oh, except when they are good. Hooray for Val Patterson’s in Booklist: ‘In her memorable first-person voice, filled with the minute observations of a young artist, Cyan sketches out with believable detail the beautiful setting, the unspoken family tension, and her fragile recovery of hope after loss.’ Have you read THE OTHER SIDE OF BLUE? It’s just out, and you can read Val’s interview in our Author section.

6 You just can’t have too many animals. We have adopted a 319-pound sea lion called Chippy who was nursed back to health at the Sea Mammal Center on the Marin Headlands. He had been shot and somehow managed to swim up a river and climb on to a police car. Fortunately Chippy hasn’t actually moved in with us. Somewhere out there in the wild ocean, he is honking and playing in the surf. Go, Chippy, go!

7 You can’t help but be excited by film stuff. My August trip to LA was productive. We now have leading Hollywood co-agents on board for two of our authors, and a third is on the way. We don’t work with one agency on film rights – we have close contacts with a small number who get first look at our projects. What happens is that if we sell film/TV rights, the Greenhouse commission is split with the co-agent and our film attorney, who thrashes out the deal. Which all means you get great representation, minus the stress.

8 We love new Greenhouse clients. Welcome to Winifred Conkling from Northern Virginia, whose fictionalized version of a true story – working title, SYLVIA AND AKI – has sold to Tricycle Press. The book will be based on the story of two girls – one Hispanic, one Japanese – whose lives briefly intertwined during World War II, when a landmark lawsuit made waves in the California school system. This is a different kind of book for Greenhouse, but a story we agreed needed to be told.

9 It is hard to imagine a more extraordinary sight than the Golden Gate Bridge emerging from a pillow of cloud. Ethereal, mysterious – and a photographer’s paradise. Hence my 350 pix.

10 Everyone needs encouragement, even literary agents (believe it or not). Lots of you are encouragers. But my personal award for Encourager in Chief goes to lovely Ellen Braaf – SCBWI Regional Adviser for the Mid-Atlantic region. Ellen welcomed me to this area two years ago, she has helped me in so many ways, and she never fails to encourage me every time we meet. Like last Friday when Valerie Patterson and I spoke at the Northern Virginia Writers group (affiliated to the Writers’ Center in Bethesda). It is hard to imagine how many literary people Ellen must have quietly encouraged over the years.

11 Never do Pilates on a mat next to a girl less than half your age, who is part prima ballerina and part gazelle. I know because I have to do it. She is gorgeous, she is supple and toned, she is immaculate and lycra-clad, and she never has a hair out of place. As ‘some people’ collapse groaning, she is smiling sweetly and doing every torturous move to perfection. I may have to thump her in her ‘core’.

12 Death is the new black. It’s amazing how many submissions I’m seeing that involve Death. Hot dead guys. Girls who become dead. Books of the dead. Death is alive (so to speak) and attends my high school. Whole families wiped out. It’s carnage out here in the submissions, I tell you. We’re perennially fascinated and repelled by death; or maybe it’s where we explore when we recognize the vampire and shapeshifter glut.

13 I love New York. And I’m off there Wednesday through Friday. Seeing lots of editors, lunching with Donna Bray of Balzer & Bray; dining with author Teresa Harris (TREASURE IN THE PAST TENSE; Clarion 2010); meeting up with Sarwat Chadda of DEVIL’S KISS, who’s been touring the US for 2 weeks courtesy of his publisher, Hyperion. The tour ends with a launch party at Books of Wonder in New York on Thursday.

14 Titles are extremely important. The power of a good title cannot be overstated. It can almost sell a book for you. Titles tend either to come instantly and easily – or they are incredibly hard to get right. Brenna Yovanoff’s novel FE will now be titled THE REPLACEMENT in the USA (Simon & Schuster are still deliberating the final title in the UK/Commonwealth). FE was an intriguing title but it was ambiguous (it was actually the chemical symbol for iron, not any permutation of fey or fae etc). THE REPLACEMENT is clear and strong, perfectly sums up the plot, is easier to pitch both at home and abroad, and allows for a market of both girls and boys.

15 City Lights in San Francisco’s North Beach is a fantastic book store. Small and idiosyncratic, full of nooks and crannies, it has lots of political works, belles lettres and history – and a nice little children’s section. Around the corner is Vesuvio, the bar frequented by Jack Kerouac and Dylan Thomas. Go and buy a book and breathe in that delectable indie booky aroma.

16 Sometimes you just have to laugh. Which is what I thought when I saw the four submission emails from one writer – all with attachments [we don’t now accept attachments]. ‘I am not breaking your submission guidelines; I am reinterpreting them for our possible mutual benefit.’ Thank you, sir, for making me sit back in my seat and laugh. (But you can probably imagine what happened next . . . )

17 10:00 PM is too late to be sitting at my desk. Good night and see you soon!