Sunday, February 19, 2006

When I Grow Up

I used to work in publishing.  I worked for a literary agency in Chicago, acting as the general office manager (sort of – I kept track of interns and ordered supplies), and I was an “associate agent” and handled a lot of the foreign rights crap.  My original boss was a wonderful, intelligent and fantastic lady who, unfortunately, passed away about a year and a half after I started.  Sadly, she made what I think is one of the few poor decisions in her career shortly before, firing the existing VP and hiring another person who had worked for her before.  The new person was a good agent but had/has no head for business.  D would freak out over little things, slack off when something didn’t appeal and generally was insecure about those of us who were there first might think we were smarter or better than we really were.  This forced D to do crazy things in order to let us know that we weren’t so smart.  And the pay was shitty.  I mean, nowhere in publishing is the pay good for an entry-level position, but the pay was really, really bad.  When I was working for my first boss, this was ok.  It was paying my dues and I was learning a lot.  It was a field in which I felt I could make a very satisfactory career.  With D at the helm, it was soul-crushing.  So, I left.  I got an internship through my uncle as a Marketing Assistant, which turned into a permanent job.  I applied and was accepted to grad school to get my masters in English Lit.  I was thinking that maybe teaching really was my passion.  However, I can’t seem to escape my former profession – and I don’t want to.  I liked publishing.  I loved helping people take their writing to another level (not that I got to do that often, but… the possibility was there).  I am reminded of this whenever the publishing process comes up in class or one of my writer friends asks me for help.  

Today, I read through a short story of a friend of mine.  It was a very rough draft, and was unfinished.  My friend is a great writer.  It was so fun for me to read where she started and talk to her about where she wants the character to go and how to get her there.  I love the idea of taking a great piece of work and helping it find its home in the world.  So, I was thinking that, if my friend manages to write a novel – which she is totally capable of doing (really, you are) – that maybe I could rep it.  Maybe, if lighting strikes and she becomes a New York Times Bestseller, I could really have my own agency.  

Alas, I don’t know if this is possible.  I’ve already been out of that industry for almost two years and I didn’t have that many contacts to begin with.  Everyone who is an agent starts out somewhere else in publishing.  I like fiction.  I can appreciate non-fiction and of course, as an agent, I would rep it, but if I were to be an editor, I would want to be a fiction editor.  Unfortunately for me, there is very little fiction in Chicago.  There’s business publishing, some magazines, educational publishing and lots of other stuff I’m not really interested in, but no fiction.  The only fiction is way, way, way far out in the ‘burbs – far enough out that, when I interviewed, they basically said they don’t hire people who live in the city because the commute kills them.  So, what am I supposed to do?

In a perfect world, these details wouldn’t matter.  I would finish school, teach at a community college and slowly build the best clientele ever, working from home.  Once I got some steady authors, who I could depend on, I could quit teaching and run my own agency full-time.  I’m just afraid that this is not really an option.  AND to make matters worse, my old agency is really, honestly, the only successful one in the entire city and surrounding suburbs.  Outside of LA and NYC, there are not a whole lot of successful literary agents.  It’s tough to get the ear of NYC editors (and they’re ALL in NY) if you can’t take them out to lunch on a regular basis.  

So, I’m left wondering: what will happen to me when I grow up?  I think I would be a good teacher, and I think I would find it satisfying, but I know that what I really want to do is be in publishing.  That thought, however, is always followed up with – but not as much as I want to live in Chicago.  I mean, how could I leave all the pizza?  It’s really tough.  NYC is not an option.  I just don’t want to.  And California?  Um….  No.  I’d rather… I don’t know but California is just not an option for me.  I’ve already found my home.  I like it here.  I guess I just have to hope that the rest will work itself out.  

Friday, February 17, 2006

When You Have the Right of Way, Just Take it

Living in the city, there is a lot of pedestrian/car interaction. Most people know how to handle this - there are crosswalks which tell us when it is safe to enter the street and cars (generally) respect that. What I can't stand is when suburbanites (or maybe just assholes) decide to be extra nice and let you cross.

I live in the city and, like most city-dwellers, I frequently cross the street at random, nowhere near the crosswalk. I understand that this is risky business. What I can't stand is when people - in their big, fast cars who have the right of way - decide they are going to be magnanimous and let you cross. Think of it. I'm waiting to cross the street, the side I'm on is clear, so I meander towards the middle, ready to cross as soon as the big guy in the suburban finishes turning. He is coming off the HIGHWAY where there are LOTS OF OTHER CARS ABOUT TO DO THE SAME DAMN THING. If he had just made his turn, I would have plenty of time to cross before the next wave of cars, but no, he waves me on. Now, he could have been out of my way in two seconds. Me, being on two feet and not four wheels, I take a little longer and now there are cars behind him and honking. It's really ridiculous. You have the right of way. Take it. Gah.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Pictures of Hank

This is Hank when we first brought him home; he's about 4 m onths old. I love his giant paws and floppy ears. People used to always ask about the spot on his nose. "What happened to his nose?" Nothing happened. Hank has no pigment in some places. The whiskers on one side of his face are black, the other side white. His nose spot is filling in now.

Hank just a few days ago, about 10 month old.

I did't really realize how much bigger he'd gotten until I saw these two pictures side-by-side.

We never figured out what breed he is. His butt muscles are super-huge and chiseled, and he's very fast when he wants to be. We think he's a lab / greyhound mix. I call him a North American Tan Head.

The Digital Age and Hank

I have officially entered the digital age. My wonderful boyfriend bought me a digital camera for Christmas. This is a big deal for many reasons. A). I have never really used a digital camera. 2). Though I love taking pictures, I have a hard time keeping track of my camera. I lost it (my old Olympus, not the new one), found it again, lost it again and now I have the case, but no idea where the camera is. How is that even possible? D). I'm a klutz and I have a tendency to break anything that I really like and really don't want to break. Then I cry and beat myself up. It isn't pretty.

But I am determined to break these bad habits with my New Fancy Digital Camera. Mostly though, I've just taken pictures of my dog, Hank. I'm going to try and post some. We'll see what happens. Hank is a wonderful mutt. I found him at the Anti-Cruelty Society here in Chicago. My office is nearby and I used to wander over sometimes on my lunch break and look at the doggies. Then, one day, there was Hank. He was so cute and little - about 4 months old - that I had to have him. So, I called Boyfriend and told him to meet me there after work. Then, I raced over as soon as the end of the day came and I took Hank out to play so that no one else could take him home. Puppies don't last long at shelters. Every one wants a puppy. It's the poor dogs over a year old that sit there forever.

But I digress. Boyfriend finally shows up, and we play with Hank (who, at this point was not Hank - they were calling him "Flip" - but I had decided after lunch that his name was Hank. It is never a good idea to name a dog before you adopt him. It just makes it harder if you decide you can't have him). We played too long to adopt him that day, so we went home. We discuss the merits of dogs in apartments. How much exercise he'll need, what will happen to him during the day. What breed he might be. Boyfriend thought he might be an English Pointer - which need a ton of exercise and can become "destructive" if they don't get enough exercise. We decide Hank would not be happy here and we can't have him. But, now the dog-fever is in and we want one. We decide to go to some adoption events that weekend. The dogs we see suck. They're aggressive or abused or too big. Generally, they are not Hank. "Maybe we should check the Anti-Cruelty Society" I say. "Maybe they have some new dogs in. I'm sure Hank is gone." Hank is not gone. He is there. He wants to say hello. We play with him. We talk to the volunteers who tell us that any home - no matter how small - is better than a shelter. We adopt Hank. Yay! My first Dog! Now Hank is almost a year old. He is wonderful. At the moment, he is sleeping next to me, as he does most days when I am home and supposed to be writing a paper or doing research.

He isn't perfect though - he does need a lot of exercise. At the moment, I'm trying to find a good daycare place - he had a good place, but it isn't really convenient anymore. He needs to run around with other doggies and get tired. Unfortunately, most places charge an arm and a leg to let your dog play with other city dogs and I don't have an arm and a leg to spare. I need mine.