Thursday, June 29, 2006

Do you remember your first...

Firsts are special. First steps, first word (mine was "hammer"), first kiss, first relationship, first you-know-what, first job, first baby, first spouse (haha). My first book acquisition is special in so many ways, least of all because it was my first. It's special because it was the perfect book to BE my first. It was a book I absolutely loved, and even though the first draft (that I read--not the author's first draft!) was so different from the published book it became, I loved each manifestation of it along the way. The book is Blow out the Moon by Libby Koponen. It's a book about a feisty young girl who moves with her family (by ship!) to England, where she deals with dreary grayness, prejudice, and unpleasant change. She eventually ends up at a boarding school in the English countryside where she finally finds her bearings, learns to ride a horse, learns proper manners, and grows up just a little bit. It's a charming, wonderful book that reminded me of all my favorite books growing up: LITTLE WOMEN, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, LITTLE PRINCESS, CADDIE WOODLAWN, etc etc.

The manuscript originally came to me after my boss at the time, Megan, received her own imprint at L,B: Megan Tingley Books. She decided to open up our submissions guidelines somewhat and allow unsolicited query letters, and I was in charge of reviewing these letters, as well as the manuscripts I requested to see. I liked Libby's description of the book and sent a letter that I'd like to see the whole manuscript, and the letter was returned to us as "address unknown." Luckily, we also had a conscientious intern who took the time to track down the author's email through her website which was (also luckily) on the original letter. It turned out that Libby had a major typo in her return address!

Well, I read the manuscript, loved it, my boss read it and saw something in it as well and told me I could ask for a revision, which I did. After I believe two revisions, we took it to our acquisitions meeting where it was well-received, but unfortunately several key members of the committee were not in attendance, and they were not as enthusiastic about it. So, I went back for another revision. Happily, though, because my boss saw my passion for this project and was willing to give it a chance, we were able to sign it up, and I made my first-ever call to an author to make the offer. That is still one of the highlights of my career so far.

Libby and I met for the first time for lunch at Silvertone (the BEST mac and cheese EVER) for my first expensed lunch. We had, of course, talked on the phone and had many correspondences since then, so we were already dear friends, but that was confirmed when we met in person. Libby is a kindred soul!

At this point, our relocation to New York was taking place, so again things were a bit in limbo in terms of its publication date, but after many more revisions and several moving of lists, it was finally published in the Spring of 2004. Its first review was from Booklist--a star!

"The word delightful is overused in reviews, but it's difficult to find one that's more appropriate for this novelized memoir -- though warm and cozy would do in a pinch."--Booklist

It's since received many other glowing reviews, was picked by the NYPL as a Top 100 Title for Reading and Sharing, and was a Massachusetts Honor Book. It has just come out this Spring in paperback (with a newly illustrated cover!), so I'm hoping that it will reach a whole new audience.

This was a very sweet first for me, and also Libby's first published book. But the best part of all of this is that I gained a new friend for life in Libby. She wears glitter on her face, cooks a kick-ass meal and is a wonderful host, has traveled the world (and isn't done yet!), reads voraciously, and has a unique view of the world. Her personality really shines through in her writing, and I hope to work with her on many more books to come. But she and I will always remember our first time.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Defense Finance and Accounting Service

I get a lot of wrong numbers at work. And many of them are looking for something to do with the military--the defence finance and accounting service? I've discovered that the area code for that number is 216, while mine is 212. I would better understand all the wrong numbers if the correct area code was 213 or 211, but 216? That's a number over AND a number down.

Oh well.

Maybe I should start doing what Kramer did when he started getting calls for Moviefone. "Welcome to Moviefone!"

"Defense Finance and Accounting Service, may I help you?"

Monday, June 26, 2006

Food adventures

I can tell that I've been devouring too much television/blogs/media when I start feeling like my real-life experiences are mimicking them. This weekend roadtrip to Western Mass for Julie and Jim's wedding felt very much like a Food Network show like Rachel Ray's $40 a Day, or even The Hungry Cabbie blog.

On our trip up, we decided to stop for lunch around 1 pm, and decided to exit the next time "food" was designated by the freeway sign. I thought it would be nice to try something local, non-chain fast food, and after passing this place:

we did a U-turn and went back to it. It was called Carville's Ranch House, and it looked great. Sachin and Dennis both got cheeseburgers, and I got a veggie grinder (we were in grinder country!) and fried clams. I can't say any of the food was the best I've ever had, but it was solid, and the place had a good vibe. As I was taking the picture, and older patron told me mid-chew that the place had been around for 60 years, and he used to come there as a kid over 40 years ago. He now lived in Florida, but decided to stop by while passing through. "But don't come here at night" he said, "this is a horrible neighborhood." Heh. Seemed okay to me.

Once in Deerfield, MA we passed a sign for "Bub's BBQ" off the 5/10, and so on Saturday we had some free time for lunch before the wedding and decided to check it out. It was 5 miles away in Sunderland, MA.

Yum! We decided to share a combo of spare ribs and pulled pork, which came with all-you-can eat cold and hot bars, so we were stuffed. The ribs and pork were delicious--great seasoning--but I think we were both taken by the sides of hickory smoked potatoes, orange glazed sweet mashed potatoes, dirty rice, collard greens, etc. etc. Sachin got a local beer: Berkeshire Brewing Company's Steel Rail, that was very flavorful and good. And only $3. The total bill came out to be about $25--maybe a bit pricey for lunch, but a ton of food and totally worth it.

After the wedding we dropped Dennis off in Flushing, and then since we had the car we took the opportunity to go to Sachin's favorite Falafel place, Naomi's Kosher Pizza, which is nowhere near a subway stop. Yeah, sounds weird (, but it was awesome. Sachin was disappointed I wasn't raving about the Falafel more at the time, but I was a bit nauseated from the car, and really, although I like Falafel, I generally don't find that one place is so different from another. But truly, they were great, and certainly worth trying--and actually different from other Falafel I've had. Not as crispy or hard as usual, a bit softer and with a nice smooth texture. The tahini and hot sauces there were excellent. The place was a total trip--pizza and Middle Eastern food on the menu, a very diverse clientele, and buzzing at 4 pm on a Sunday. Anyway, afterwards we went to Chinatown Flushing and walked around a bit, and then found a random teashop called Tong's or Tang's on Main Street where we got drinks (Watermelon Milk Shake for Sachin, Plum Red Tea for me) and a bowl of wonton noodle soup. Perfect.

I also bought a bundle of my favorite vegetable kong xin cai (water spinach--or literally translated as empty heart vegetable, as the stems are hollow) to cook when I got home, stir-fried it up with garlic and olive oil and ate it for both dinner that night and lunch the next day. The perfect finish to the perfect food weekend. And I didn't even mention the wedding food which was also excellent. Tuna shish-kebabs, noodles with peanut sauce, mahi mahi, and the desserts! Oh, the desserts. This was one of the cakes from that awesome dessert party:

When I was a kid, I remember reading about how in the future people will be nourished via pills, and I was horrified. I get so much enjoyment from eating. I look forward to each meal, each food adventure, and since I don't have picky taste buds, I tend to like almost everything I try.

I'm hungry now. What's for breakfast?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

I'm famous!

Every now and then I think about writing about my career, but never get around to it. But I just did this lengthy interview that's up now on, so read all about me if you want. Thanks to Jarrett for referring them to me.

Just got back from Julie and Jim's wedding in Deerfield, MA. It was an incredible time, so unique and perfect and fun, and full of this amazing couple's personality. It was great to see old friends, make some new ones, and just enjoy a weekend away from the city. I'm so honored that they included me in their special day. They had a zydeco band perform at the reception--months ago, when I heard that this was the plan and also heard about Jim's "No 80s music" rule, I was a little apprehensive. But I have to say, I didn't even miss the 80s music. High praise indeed, coming from me.

A few pics (had to throw in the one of the beautiful cakes from the dessert party on Friday night):

Thursday, June 22, 2006


So, I haven't been posting anywhere for a while, and I've decided that I'm going to stick to Blogger instead of friendster. I hope all of you who used to read my posts there will now visit me here.

I found out this week that I got a bid into the NYC Marathon. I had entered the lottery and found out a few weeks ago that I didn't get in, and even though I had been half hoping for just that, that I wouldn't get in so I wouldn't have to train, I was disappointed. You know how when you decide to flip a coin to help you decide something, and then the coin tells you to do one thing, and you realize that what you really wanted was the other thing? This was like that. So I looked into running for a charity, something that I would have done anyway if I had gotten in, and signed up with Fred's Team to raise money for pediatric cancer research. They didn't have any more guaranteed slots, though, so I had to wait to see if more space opened up, and then on Monday I got an email with the subject heading: Congratulations! and sure enough, I had a slot. hasn't really sunk in yet, except that I keep telling myself that I have to start running more--I haven't run more than 5 miles since I did the 10 mile Cherry Blossom Race in DC on April 2. So I decided to go running last night. At first I thought I'd start by running 5 miles. But it was a beautiful summer solstice night, perfect running weather, and once I got to McCarren Track in Greenpoint where I sometimes run, I decided I would run 26 laps to represent the 26 miles I'd be running in November. I like to be all symbolic and sh*t.

Running is such a mind game. Sometimes 1 mile seems like nothing, sometimes it takes forever. After 6 laps I was despairing at whether I'd finish, but by 13 laps I felt like I could run forever. The Park was the most crowded I've seen it, and I was constantly dodging soccer balls (kicked three last night) and little kids zooming around every which way on bikes and scooters. Sachin ran a few laps with me and compared it to a video game. But anyway, I finished the 26 laps and felt great. Of course, it's daunting to think that I only ran a quarter marathon, and I'd have to run 104 laps to run the distance of a full marathon! This is why I don't prefer to run on a track for long distances. Counting laps is so much more of a task than counting miles. Or just doing one lap in Central Park.

I have to thank my roommate Rose for inspiring me to run. She reminded me that it was at brunch with my father, Lisa, and Rose that I decided I would enter the lottery, and if I made it in, that would decide for me. Before last year, I've never had even an inkling of desire to run a marathon. I've had other friends run, and I've always thought, no way, 26 miles? And watching Rose train last year definitely didn't make me want to run. It was just watching the marathon and watching Rose run, seeing the people in pain but trudging on, seeing the people who were exuberant, smiling, having fun, cheering everyone on, and feeling the electricity of the moment. I wanted to be a part of that.

So, more running posts are to come! Happy summer, everyone.