Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I'll just be under the duvet, weeping

I've never been quite so depressed after reading a publishing memoir as I was this weekend.

Avid Reader by Robert Gottlieb (an extraordinary editor) in and of itself is not depressing. A lot of people might read it and enjoy it.

Me, I'm fixated on the fact he read incoming novels overnight and got back to his writers the next day.  THE NEXT FRIGGING DAY. And he did this all the time. Not only on rush jobs. Not just on important books. All the books.

I gaze upon my list of requested fulls and just weep.

And then there's the fact I'll not only never be as well-read as the Avid Reader himself, I'll never come close.

And of course, he was at S&S and Knopf back in the day before Bookscan and the tyranny of the P&L sheet.

There are some other problems with this book (as in a complete lack of any kind of exploration of challenges faced and overcome)  but I'm too depressed to come out from under the covers and discuss them.

(My favorite books about publishing are Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind by Ellen Brown and The Most Dangerous Book by Kevin Birmingham--interesting that both are about books first and people second!)

Send choccies.


Theresa said...

When I was working on my last book, I read Jill Lepore's latest, which left me paralyzed. Why write anything else when such perfection was already out there?

Loved the GWTW book.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

oh no. Who is this man (jk) who made our QOTKU hide under her duvet. How 'bout some whisky to go with those choccies. That'll make the world right again.

And grab a book. I'm in the midst of a great book starring Juan Salvador, a Magellan penguin, who adopted an Englishman after being rescued from an oil slick in Uruguay. The Penguin Lessons: What I learned from a Remarkable Bird by Tom Michell.

nightsmusic said...

I have no recs right now. is a bit overwhelming at present because of the ongoing over-a-year-and-still-not-done living room renovation from hell. But! You are our beloved Shark! You are your clients beloved Shark. You are not a person who reads a book in one night, you are unique to yourself and we love you for it. And before you think you'll never be 'as famous' as Gottleib, I came here originally from reading an article in a publication that spoke so highly of you, I had to find out. And it was correct.

So drink your scotch, hide for the day, then polish your sharky teeth and let's get back to it!

pep talk for the day ;)

DLM said...

It's a difficult thing, comparing your cred to others'. We don't think of reading or writing as one of those areas where we compete - hopefully - but I see so many people keeping track of their stats (how many books read this year/this month, or how many words written today, etc.), CLEARLY there is concern to "look good" in some way.

I have never posted a "1500 words today!" update anywhere, and I hope I never will. Because, more than producing words, I find moving them around, and even *deleting* them is the greater work with writing. So 1500 words today is meaningless to me. I've never in my life counted how many words I produced in a day. My writing isn't a race, and anyone else's 1500 words are irrelevant to my own work.

Likewise, I have had to give up on caring how much other people read. It actually bewilders me, that something so incredibly intimate is even a discussion or a status update or whatever. I barely discuss books at all, and I know people find that weird, but hey, I find it inexpressibly intrusive for a stranger to ask me what I am reading. Or writing. Why not ask me what I look like naked? Reading is something that happens inside my head, it's not water cooler conversation. I certainly enthuse about reading with people I *know* (including this community), but to suggest or receive anything so intimate as reading with someone I don't know? I might as well try to decorate a house I've never been in, owned by people I've never seen.

And I don't worry about what I've read either. So I don't know Sartre. There are still intelligent people who find my own intellect to be perfectly satisfactory. I know Harington (which so few people do, though he was called America's Chaucer), and I know a curious range of literature I am happy with.

Why be depressed there are things you still don't know? That just means there are still things to experience yet! And chocolate and booze.

Kitty said...

...he read incoming novels overnight and got back to his writers the next day.

And I thought stories of writers who heard that quickly were urban legends :O

Colin Smith said...

There aren't enough hours in the day, nor, for that matter, in my life, for me to catch up with many of you in terms of reading. There are so many books I ought to have read that I haven't. And when you all (you included, Janet) talk books, often I come away feeling guilt over the fact I haven't read the books under discussion.

Why is this?

First, I spent about 15-20 years of my life disavowing most fiction. Partly because my interests were more academic, but also because I believed it to be cough awasteoftime cough. I got over that, but it certainly put me behind.

Second, I'm not a fast reader. I'm not slow, but I don't get through novels in an afternoon. There's no way I could get through a manuscript in a day unless it was short and I had all day to read it. I know how to "speed read"--I even took a course on speed reading. I'm not good at it, but I can at least scan text and pick out salient points. The thing is, that's not the way to read a novel. Or any book where you want to take pleasure in the experience. Speed reading is like shoving food into your mouth for the sole purpose of putting nutrition into your body. That seems a bit of a slap in the face to the chef who spent hours preparing the meal. Likewise, as a writer who carefully crafts each sentence, and considers every word, you kinda want your readers to spend time enjoying the textures and flavors of your novel.

Janet, I know in your line of work, it helps to be able to whizz through submissions. Certainly, the submitters like a speedy response. But is it worth trying to match Mr. Gottleib's feats of reading at the risk of giving the author less than your best in terms of feedback? You're a careful and thoughtful reader (as evidenced by your notes in the contest results), and I think that's more important than speed.

Colin Smith said...

Diane: I do keep track of what books I've read, and when I read them. But it's more for my benefit than anyone else's. I don't share those stats. It just helps me remember what books I read, and how long ago it was. Things that would frustrate me if I forgot. :) Also, I do have a somewhat fluid target for the number of books I read in a year. It's not an impressive target, but it at least keeps me motivated to always have a book I'm reading.

Brigid said...

It's funny, the things our brain comes up with to compare us to. Gottlieb sounds incredible and I want to learn more. I can read a novel in an evening, but digesting it and analyzing it and putting my feedback into the right words takes almost as long as reading it. And my reviews aren't important! No one's waiting on tenterhooks to hear my opinion, even if they've asked for it. It wouldn't have occurred to me to be fussed about it before making this comparison. Comparisons are dangerous. They overlook the important part: at whatever speed, in whatever style, the feedback offered helps actual human beings create art. This is magical. Comparisons leave out the core piece, which is a shame, because when we slow down and focus on it, that core is the most beautiful part.

Donnaeve said...

Howdy y'all...

Belated congrats to Nate and Rebekah on their wins. Superb writing all around on mentions too.

Shout out to Mark Thurber. Thank you for your kind words.

Shout out to Craig Your thoughtful comment on the blog was much needed.

Hey Diane, I think some post "xxxx words today!" b/c it motivates them and others. I do like keeping track - although I don't do for anyone but me myself and I. It's just the way my brain works. Your point about the deleting and rearranging etc., is a good point, but for me, if the end result is I still added 1,000 new words (and possibly more with all the rework) I get a sense of satisfaction. I find your distaste for not wanting to "publicly" discuss books interesting and unique. Does this mean I can't count on your for that word of mouth thing...Hmmmm? :)

It's been a sad, scary, and harrowing 4-5 days. Internet is still out as is the phone. I'm commenting via a wifi hotspot, but about to have to jump off and head home. If anyone wants to read a bit about the hurricane I posted something.

Glad to see y'all!

Colin Smith said...

One other thing... TOTALLY off-topic:

It's been a year since Bouchercon 2015. A YEAR. A year since I met Janet, Patrick Lee (nytba), Donna (stbnytba), and other Reiders, and industry pros. Absolutely the highlight of my 2015, and one of the best experiences of my life (so far). And it's largely thanks to Janet that I had such a good time. Not only was she entertaining company, but also most of the people I met were either Reiders (so I wouldn't have met them if not for this blog), clients of hers, or writers/editors/agents who know her.

Anyway... sorry... just had to mention that. :)

Elias McClellan said...

Books about book folk, especially memoirs (but possibly armoires as well) are like fine-dining menus written by Charlie Kaufman. I sincerely don't need to know what pharmaceuticals the frustrated punk-rock chef ingested prior to whipping up my mackerel melt on raisin toast a la pork-and-bean juice. I just want a compelling story.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I used to read two and three books at a time. Whatever I was in the mood to read, I'd pick up and spend the night enthralled. Years ago ATLAS SHRUGGED and GWTW was the most obscure pair.
Now, I am so overwhelmed with life, work and writing to deadline, all I have time to do is maybe, MAYBE, write (work in progress) around the edges of my life and get a grand down in a day.
Now I'm depressed.

How do you reiders find the time to read?
What do you give up, who and what do you set aside or ignore?

Colin Smith said...

Donna! I'm glad you're okay. I read your post and will post a comment later. Our power flickered a little Saturday evening, but we didn't lose power, internet, or phones. Areas around us weren't as blessed. A town just a few miles to our south didn't get power back until Monday. All that said, the Tar River is forecast to crest on Friday, and that's when they expect the worst of the flooding in Greenville. We'll see... :)

DLM said...

Colin, LOVE your first comment. So perfectly put.

Donna, of course I'll discuss Dixie. :) And I am so glad you and yours are okay. How is Mister?

My reservation is mostly with random people in my office, or when I'm on a plane or something - how could anyone ask me what I am reading!? I know it's a conversation starter, and I know my feeling of intimacy and intrusion are unique, but ... seriously, with something that is *inside my head* it just feels so strange to me, for someone to try to share. I am fairly choosy about inviting people inside my head. (For their own protection!)

BUT I also understand marketing, and I AM enthusiastic about my friends' works. I have recommended Leila Gaskin's Hot Flashes publicly (a middle-aged woman who discovers she's a dragon? and how about that title!?), and have gushed to people about another friend's work, who has not published yet because she is afraid she's not good enough, which is horsefeathers of the first order. And I've told several folks IRL how excited I am to meet Miss Dixie. Even my MOM, with whom I share little in common when it comes to reading - and who I expect might quite like to meet DD as well.

With my writer friends, and with this community, it's different. But I don't think I'll ever do that thing I am "supposed" to do and reform my blog into a book review site. And yet, you will find the odd delving there - unfortunately, it's mostly into very old lit indeed. The Monk, which dates to 1790. Nineteenth century books I find hilarious, and discuss in order to refute the idea that generations-old books are drab. The occasional, arch "look at me, I am ever so cultured" reference, to look good.

(Hah. Caught me! I do do it. I just don't do it with the right books - current ones.)

Elias M ... oh my stars. What a recipe you've conceived there! *Urp*

2Ns, I do that with music. I bought Leonard Cohen, Billie Holiday, and Judas Priest CDs together one time, and the clerk said, "Buying gifts?" When I was like, no, these are all for me, the look I got was either one of peculiar respect, or possibly doubt and fear ...

I read at lunch and whenever else I can. I read so much less when I am writing, which I consider a good thing - I'm writing! But most days at work, I've got a book next to my salad-and-whatever-else. This week, I'm deep in my second reading of Connie Willis's "Doomsday Book". Before that, a couple medieval mysteries of varying quality. I had a long period re-reading Anne Rice last year. Next up? Well, the James River Writers Conference is this weekend. I expect that'll render the TBR pile topple-worthy in no time.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Oh, I wondered what AVID READER was about, but somehow never read a blurb (even though I put in the order at the library). That sounds pretty great!

Colin Smith said...

To answer 2Ns' question, usually when I go to bed (which is dangerous because a good page turner might rob me of precious sleep--it has been known to happen!), and whenever I can steal time during the day. A section here, maybe even a chapter there. And of the two most common bathroom activities, my family know which I am about to engage in by whether or not I'm taking a book with me... ;)

JulieWeathers said...

*comforts the queen*

Years ago I had a dream about walking down one of those Kincaid paths with a canopy of trees arching overhead. Sunlight dappled the path like golden coins thrown before a dancer and on either side of the path was a heavy forest. Every so often was a little, well-worn path leading to a white picket gate. Most of them opened on to an overgrown tangle of brush, but a few led to clear paths branching off into the forest.

I asked what all the paths were.

"Each person has their own path. You can get where you're going by choosing someone else's path, the difficult, overgrown path, but it's best if you take the one that has been made ready for you."

I have a tough time reading some authors. My writing is so paltry compared to theirs, it just depresses me afterwards. In those times I have to remind myself of the path dream. We all have our own path, our own voice.

Diane, I don't post word counts as a bragging tool. However, I do post to a thread at Books and Writers called Butt In The Chair. I'll make some comment encouraging people to write even if it's just for fifteen minutes. Maybe I'll mention something about writing in general and then add in an inspirational quote related to writing.

Sometimes people will post later, "Thanks, I got in 500 words today!" It isn't a race, it's an encouragement to write something no matter how many words it is. Some days I get in a couple hundred words. Some days I'll crack 2,500 or more. Hemingway said he might spent all morning writing one paragraph. There's no right or wrong as long as words make it out of the mire and onto the page. You can't fix what isn't there.

As far as asking someone what they're reading. *guilty* It probably stems from being on B&W so long I'm part of the furniture. Everyone talks about books. "I read this great book by Justin Thyme called A Dash Of Death about a famous chef who is actually an assassin. Has anyone else read it?"

Everyone scrambles to look it up and often buy it or at least request it from the library. By discussing what we're reading we wind up oft times promoting authors and their books and I think that's a good thing.

I wound up recommending several authors from Books and Writers and authors from here, Janet's clients, Donna, etc because a woman saw me stocking up on notebooks and pens during the school sales. She said, "You must have lots of kids in school."

"Nope, I'm a writer."

"Oh, I love to read. What do you write?"

"Well, I'm not published yet, but what do you like to read?"

Then I got out my handy dandy notebook and gave her a list of authors and books to check out.

Dena Pawling said...

But wait! Don't agents just read all day?


I read in the car. I wish that meant I was fortunate enough to be able to afford a limo with driver, but sadly, no. It means I'm in the car a LOT [2 hours minimum every day, some days as many as 5] and audio books are awesome.

I also read on my tablet just before going to sleep.

This means I always have two books going at the same time. As long as they're not by the same author [I tried that once, what a disaster] it works well.

I have learned that a good narrator can make or break a book, whether or not the book is great on its own. I once tried to read The Martian on my tablet, but I couldn't get through the tedious portions. Andy Weir is really a science nut and some of his descriptions could get yawn-inducing. I bailed out after about 50 pages. Then I saw it on my library's audio shelves and tried again. I laughed so much there was one time I actually had to pull over at the side of the freeway so I wouldn't crash.

So Donna, when's Dixie coming out on audio?

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

The most fascinating book I ever read about the writer/editor relationship was "Max & Marjorie - The Correspondence between Maxwell E. Perkins & Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings" by Rodger Tarr. YOWZA! I couldn't put it down. Probably not for everyone, but that's the genre I'm drawn to: real life, memoirs, nonfiction. And M&M was truly such a powerful look at a writer confiding the very depths of her heart to her trusted editor, and how he kept her focused and helped her thrive. Personally and literally.

And because I'm drawn to nonfiction, I'm like you, Colin. A bit behind on what's causing a buzz in fiction.

Word counts: I pay attention to them, they matter to me, and a 2000 word day makes me feel good. YAY me! But I don't see it as a race. I see it as the intention of my goal... which is to finish the book. Of course content matters. And rearranging the words, deleting them, refining them is enormously satisfying and an integral part of the process... but you can't rearrange them if they aren't there.

Donna: I'm so sorry you've been affected by the hurricane. I went through quite a few of them when we lived in FL. Not fun squeegeeing salt water out of your house.

Janet, the song Super Freak by Rick James comes to mind when I think about Mr. Gottlieb reading incoming books in one night and getting back to his writers the following day. That's super freaky. And you are The Shark. That's super cool...

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I can't even imagine being able to read a book in a day - I'm an incredibly slow reader. I do occasionally run into a book that I can't stop reading, but even then I don't finish until halfway through the night!

Although I will say this: when you carry a book with you everywhere you go, you get a lot more reading done.

Although lugging around Zelazney's The Chronicles of Amber in a grocery store line does look a little strange. Like the book is one of those massive alchemy books from a fantasy story and I'm preparing a magical concoction of veggies, oreos, and paper towels.

JulieWeathers said...


I hadn't planned on keeping track of what I read for research on The Rain Crow, but so many historically accurate things seem like pure fiction that we had a discussion about this on B&W. Several people suggested I keep track of where the reference is to something so I have back up at my fingertips if needed later.

Diana Gabaldon keeps a Goodreads list she refers readers to when they ask her what books she uses for reference for her books. With over 2,500 books on the list, I'm not sure how much good it does them, but hey, treasure hunt!

I've started the Goodreads thing, but lawsy what a pain. I think I'm up to a hundred books. If I'd just add ten a day and stop buying.... Plus, so many of my books are very obscure published journals, memoirs, diaries, collections of letters, etc. that may not be easily found.

Carolynn I still keep two, three, or four books going at a time. Currently, two fiction and two non-fiction. Well, three non-fiction, I'm reading haunted San Francisco also. I always carry a book with me wherever I go. I read after I write. I take a book along when I'm babysitting. The kiddos watch a movie or play and I read.

I don't watch a lot of tv. I've been watching Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which is pretty good as well as a bit of Copper.

Cheryl said...

Dena: I read a paper copy of The Martian and I'm so glad I did because I probably would have had the same reaction as you had I tried to read it on a screen. I find that reading on a screen (tablet/laptop/Kobo, doesn't matter) affects my concentration and my ability to connect to a book. I save it for easier reads.

Bethany Joy said...

True Story
Upon seeing the thoughtful remarks on last week's contest entries I thought: The reading comprehension of this woman is amazing. I have to read all the contest entries slowly to catch the nuances & I couldn't believe how much you had to say about them within hours of them being posted.

Rapid reading reminds me of when I was in grad school for French history. With multiple books assigned per week, we quickly learned to "gut" a book for the highlights. It was the only way to survive. I've never been able to do that with fiction.

I'm watching Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell too. The show was supposed to save me time on reading the massive novel, but now I want to read it more than ever.

Dena Pawling said...

Cheryl - it's been a long time since I've read an actual physical book that wasn't a writing-craft book. I keep craft books in the car so I always have one available wherever I go, and I read them whenever I get the chance, which unfortunately isn't often. And I usually only get 10-15 minutes at a time, which is why it's easier to read that type of book in those stolen moments. It's too easy to lose track of the story line reading fiction in such short bursts. But you're probably right, reading on a tablet is definitely a different experience.

JulieWeathers said...


"I have learned that a good narrator can make or break a book, whether or not the book is great on its own."

Yup. I decided to listen to the audio book of an author who was handing out some odd advice on twitter. Yikes. He did it himself and was doing these odd little girl voices for three girl characters and kept getting the voices mixed up.

Though I am considering doing some podcasts to add to the blog, I don't think an author should consider recording their own book unless they are a voice actor, Sam Elliott, or Jack Whyte.

I don't know. We'll see. I don't really care for the sound of my voice. It seems a lot of people are doing the vlog things. I am not doing that.

Even professional narrators can screw a book.

JulieWeathers said...


"I'm watching Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell too. The show was supposed to save me time on reading the massive novel, but now I want to read it more than ever."

Yup. It's one of the books in my shopping cart, though I will stop at BAM and see if they have it. I like brink and mortar book stores.

I can and do read a book in a day, but it has to be a good one. One of the women I'm beta reading for sent me the whole manuscript again. I had already read it over time, but this was all together, and it was...very long.

I kept thinking, "OK, I'll stop after I finish this section. Oh, no! Why did she do that? Now I have to find out what happened." Then I got up to get another cup of coffee and wondered why it was so light outside. The street lights must be messed up or it was a really bright moon. Oh, it's morning. You have to get ready for work in an hour.

Patrick Rothfuss was my last page-turner author and before that Shelby Foote.

Janice Grinyer said...


How do you send encouragement hugs to a shark?

I guess you don't. You send choccies...

Sending lots of choccie thoughts your way, JR!

Bethany Joy- "With multiple books assigned per week, we quickly learned to "gut" a book for the highlights." Agreed-a good survival tactic for future use, esp. when handed a thick document at a tense meeting- been there done that :).

Reading comprehension can be taught, but I believe it takes a certain skill to be a good Agent, to recognize what the market desires matched with on par writing. IMO After viewing Queryshark and JR's synopsis of other's flash fiction here, and her list of successful clients, anyone's submitted work would be in good hands er fins for a complete, and honest review.

JulieWeathers said...

Bethany and Janice

"It was the only way to survive. I've never been able to do that with fiction."

Agreed with the reason and Janice's comment. Having said that, it took me forever to read Spies Of The Confederacy and Mosby's Memoirs because they were so interesting I was making notes constantly and scooting off to research something mentioned in the book. Both of them had me laughing out loud several times, which is hard for a non-fiction or Civil War memoir to pull off. Spies has so many post it notes sticking out of the pages it looks like a ruffled, multicolored neon hen.

Lennon Faris said...

Ah yes but you do so much more than read good books, QOTKU. You read people's worries and answer those, too. A lot of good writers wouldn't be as good (and we'd be a lot more lost) without you.

Plus, (and I'm not downing Avid Reader, still this is true for me), there is something to be said for savoring a good read.

BJ Muntain said...

Chocolate can solve a world of problems, or at least make you feel better about them.

Still, I don't think comparing reading styles is useful. Did this man go out of his way to help writers every day? And not just *his* writers?

We've all got a limited amount of time in this world to do the things we want to do, to do the things we need to do, and to do the things we're passionate about. That often means we have to choose some things over others.

Thank you, Janet, for choosing us.

RachelErin said...

DLM, when I'm drafting I post word counts, because I need to get to the end. When I'm editing I post time or chapter/scenes worked on. I only do it privately, during Nano, or sometimes on a closed Facebook group. I only feel compelled during times when I have a lot of excuses NOT to write. The concrete graphs show me that I AM writing, because I often underestimate how much I am doing.

Barbara Etlin said...

Sorry his reading speed depressed you, Queen!

This book is on my must-read list. He's like Super Editor.

I was relieved to read in Vanity Fair's article that he did edit Katherine Hepburn's wonderful THE MAKING OF THE AFRICAN QUEEN and did not edit her ME, which was published after he left Knopf.

Joseph Snoe said...

I echo Collin smith's experiences. As a practicing lawyer and then a law professor, most of my reading was law related for decades (Except when I traveled by air or was snowed in my house for a few days (Which by the way doesn't happen often in Alabama)).

I read slowly. I write slowly. (I'm one hundred pages away from finishing Theresa Kaminski's excellent "Angels of the Underground" and am excited I may finish it this weekend.)

I am fast book buyer. On my basement shelves I have twice as many "to be read" books as "read" books. (and three more (including Dixie Dupree) on back order.

Off topic - Referencing back to a thread from last week, my waking thought this morning was "How wide is the Amazon River at Manaus?" (I can't find an answer by the way).

Craig F said...

Oh my Queen; hang not your head. Rather, rejoice that you have a benchmark you can strive for if you so wish.

Life should be about the journey and striving for a benchmark can add to that. If,someday, you surmount that benchmark you would just have to find another for humans don't do as well hanging at a destination.

Steve Stubbs said...

He is obviously a speed reader. Here is something you might find amusing. That reminds me of something Woody Allen said, how he took a speed reading course and read WAR AND PEACE in fifteen minutes and said it had something to do with Russia.

This is hard to believe, but reportedly computers can now speed read. Yes, this is relevant to writing and agenting. According to a segment on 60 MINUTES aired last Sunday, innovations in Artificial Intelligence have advanced the field to such an extent that computers can now read books, understand their contents, and remember them forever. A super computer can read twenty-five million books a week. I find that depressing. This is worth watching. Unfortunately you have to watch commercials:

To put this in perspective, a few years ago “AI” meant Expert Systems, in which someone would unpack a skill, reduce it to a set of rules, and program them into a computer. The program was only as wise as the person who programmed it and it could not learn anything new. By reverse engineering living brain cells and figuring out how to simulate them with virtual neural networks, that has changed.

One thing that was downplayed in the segment is that the ultimate goal of companies is to put people out of work using these systems. The original goal of AI was to permanently put computer programmers on the unemployment line. That did not happen yet because nobody knows how to model creativity. All the IT jobs can be shipped overseas, but that is an incomplete victory. Now it appears in due course computers may become creative.

I have read that in turn suggests (to some) that computers will eventually be able to crank out best sellers on an assembly line basis. Sorry, I did not make a note of the URL. We probably will not live to see it, but if that happens there will be no more writers, editors, or agents.

Pass this on to Jeff Somers. I have seen the future ad it is a dystopia.

JulieWeathers said...

Here's the deal, though. Gottlieb reads a manuscript very quickly the first time just to get impressions. He doesn't want to get immersed in it because then the errors are more jolting. He gets back with the author and says what his general impression is and notes there are some problems. Then he goes back and reads like and editor with a pencil and thinks about the manuscript, what's wrong with it and how to fix it.

Janet cuts out the first step and goes directly to edit mode. That takes time, even for Mr. Gottlieb.

Donnaeve said...


Hot diggity. I have INTERNET SERVICE. *sings. cavorts.*

[End of PSA]

Bethany Joy said...

JulieWeathers- thumbs up for supporting "real" bookstores. Sometimes I prefer to go to the store & pay more because I feel I'm helping to fund a way of life I love. I can't imagine a world where there are no bookstores to browse.

Janice- It's a lifesaver! I wish I could do it with fiction so I could get through my reading list & justify buying more books.

Joseph Snoe said... sent me this email:


We now have delivery date(s) for the order you placed on February 23, 2016:

Everhart, Donna "The Education of Dixie Dupree"
Estimated arrival date: October 31, 2016 - November 04, 2016

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hahahaha...not funny, dumb, I posted this in yesterday's comments.
Here’s my reading story.

First year of high school I was removed from English class for a ‘special’ reading class. I was devastated. Was I being targeted because I was behind the others? Why was I being taught to read? I told my mother I wasn’t sure why they picked me, I read fine, actually I thought I really read well. Depression doesn’t even describe the sense of failure I felt.

A small group of us were given machines which our books fit in. A flat device on the machine traveled down the page, with a slot showing only one line of text. We were taught which words out of each sentence to actually read and which to skim.

Pretty quickly the speed of the slotted piece was increased until we were able to “speed read” pages unbelievably fast. Our small group was targeted because we were excellent readers.

That was the only time in my life I was recognized as better than the other kids we all called smart.

Bobbie Falin said...

Please don't be depressed. There are very few people who have done more for aspiring writers than you have. So you can't get back with a writer overnight. One of your columns or comments probably helped that writer hone that manuscript and get it submitted. I think I speak for all of us when I say, Thank you, Janet. I know you have helped me.

MA Hudson said...

This is what happens when you send your shark suit to the dry cleaners! Go get it, bloodstained or not, and zip it all the way up. Thick, sand-papery skin is what you need when comparing yourself to the outliers.

If I compared my writing to JK Rowling, I'd never get out of bed in the morning. (This does happen occasionally but the kids won't stand for it for long.) I have to believe that my contribution is worth something, and if it's only for my own fulfilment, then that's ok.

Also, is it possible that when Gottlieb was doing this speed reading, there were a lot less writers submitting? In which case, wouldn't it have been easier to find the gems which in turn were so fun to read he couldn't put them down til he'd finished? I'm sure you've said there's fulls you haven't been able to put down.

Donna - glad to hear you're back on the grid and no longer need that noisy generator! Hope there wasn't too much damage and that the flood waters have receded.

MA Hudson said...

2N's - there are so many ways of being smart and speed reading is definitely be one of them. It must be a very handy skill in your profession, and in life in general. Is it something you can put aside when you want to luxuriate in a beautifully written story?

JulieWeathers said...


"To put this in perspective, a few years ago “AI” meant Expert Systems"

To me, AI will always mean artificial insemination. At the ranch I was the Head Honcho In Charge Of AI Cows. The HHICOAIC, aside from someone sounding like they are clearing their throat, was the person stupid enough to not mind getting up before dawn so they could feed their horse, saddle up, ride across two other pastures to get to the AI pasture, and check AI cows shortly after dawn before they started brushing up. If a cow showed signs of being in heat, I'd make note of which cow it was and leave her until the next check that night. Lust is contagious.

One day the rep from the AI company came out to see how things were going. They're the ones who sell bull semen. We had two cows ready to inseminate I'd brought in, so he volunteered to do the honors. I sat on Cowboy, my faithful compadre and caballo and watched the proceedings. My stepdad wasn't happy as he thought a young woman shouldn't be watching men AI cows. I, however, had thoughts of being an AI technician.

Bud, my stepdad, kept trying to signal me to go away. I kept ignoring him. Cowboy, being the curious type, decided to mosey on in closer so he could watch better. There was no getting rid of Cowboy when he was interested in something. It helped me become a pretty good goat tyer as if I didn't tie fast the horse wheeled around and came back to stick his nose in the middle of things while I was trying to tie the goat.

Anyway, that's when I decided to recite, "Ode to a Lonely Bull" a poem I made up to bulls everywhere who were being AIed out of a job.

"Julia, do you have to do that?" my stepdad growled.

"Would you like to hear Ode to the Outhouse?" said...

Oh for godsakes, Janet, knock it off. First of all, Gottlieb was an editor, not an agent (as far as I know, not having googled him) (yet). Whole different set of job skills and requirements. And I bet he didn't have the flood of emailed queries/mss coming across his desk that you do. Not to mention, I'm giving some serious side-eye to anyone who claims to be able to give thoughtful and thorough editorial feedback on a novel in one freakin' day. Speed reader or not.

I want to say something about speed, since Carolynn's comment has dredged up painful memories. Back in second grade, we had math sheets with 100 problems and had to complete as many as we could in a given time (two minutes, I think). They were simple problems, multiplication or division. Math has always been very easy for me and I knew ALL the answers. But the moment I was given a TIMED test, my brain froze up and I could only complete maybe 30 of them. Every single time. Never mind that I got those 30 correct, I was reduced to near tears by panic and stress. All the other kids finished with time to spare. I felt so stupid and incapable, utterly humiliated. I just could not handle the timed tests, and dreaded the feeling of someone pacing the room and watching me work. I still hate that. I think the teacher finally let me do them without being timed and I finished in less than half the time.

My point is that you can put so much pressure on yourself -- comparing yourself to others, putting unreasonable time constraints on yourself, feeling overwhelmed by a large task and not breaking it down into smaller more manageable tasks -- you can easily get so freaked out about a thing, you convince your brain you simply can't accomplish it, at all, ever. Don't do that.

I'd send you chocolates and liquor, but they'd come with a swift kick in the rear for doubting your own impressive brilliance and extreme competence. said...

OK, here is what Wikipedia says about Gottlieb's editing style:

Gottlieb is widely considered to be one of the greatest editors of the second half of the 20th century. In a 1994 interview with The Paris Review, he described his need to "surrender" to a book. "The more you have surrendered," he said, "the more jarring its errors appear. I read a manuscript very quickly, the moment I get it. I usually won't use a pencil the first time through because I'm just reading for impressions. When I read the end, I'll call the writer and say, I think it's very fine (or whatever), but I think there are problems here and here. At that point I don't know why I think that—I just think it. Then I go back and read the manuscript again, more slowly, and I find and mark the places where I had negative reactions to try to figure out what's wrong. The second time through I think about solutions—maybe this needs expanding, maybe there's too much of this so it's blurring that.[8]

I'm betting that second read took one hell of a lot more time, or he wouldn't have the reputation he does. So when his memoir says he "got back to them" the next day, it's not at all the same thing as when you, an agent, "get back to" writers who have sent you a full ms for serious consideration regarding representation.

Joseph Snoe said...

To me Al conjures a vision of the guy who ran the malt shop in Happy Days.

MA Hudson said...

I'm sure I'm not the only one here who'd like to hear Julie's 'Ode to a lonely bull' !!