The Perks of Being an Intern by Suite 500 Intern Mackenzie

I have a magic lamp. Not a gold one with Robin Williams tucked away inside, but a cracked, ceramic white one handed down to me free-of-charge by grad students moving out in a hurry. And every night, when I flick the switch - POW! Tiny black words appear out of the dark, zipping in circles around the body of the lamp - quotes from my favorite books that I lovingly inked with a sharpie marker.

"I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn’t try to sleep with people even if they could have. I need to know that these people exist."

Those words spiraling around the neck of my lamp - the first bit of magic I ever added - almost werent there at all. Because they are from page one of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky - one of the 10 most challenged books of all time. As it is Banned Books Week, I wanted to take a moment and personally thank everyone who fought for this book. By recognizing it's power, not to corrupt or spoil, but to engage and enlighten, you have proved that those people, who listen and understand without ulterior motive, do exist - in print and in life. I am proud to work alongside you, the magic makers.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, #3 on the Top Ten Most Banned Books List
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide

Standing on the fringes of life...
offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

That One Night in the Bathroom... ~ by Suzie

I read a lot of books.  Sometimes the circumstances in which I read a book or bought a book end up sort of fuzzy in my mind.  But I remember exactly when I walked into Warwick's my second year of teaching when I had just moved from Miami to San Diego.  It was the bookstore closet to my apartment - within walking distance.

In front, laid out on a table was a copy of book with a blue background and two girls on the cover.  They wore tank tops or something that looked like a ballet leotard.  One girl's face wasn't visible, the other's  was slightly obscured by shadow and just looked...sad.  Shamelessly attracted by covers and shamelessly influenced by in-store recommendations, I bought the book - along with about nine other books as I have been known to do every time I wander into a bookstore.

That book was My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult.

I read it a few months later.  I was spending the Christmas holidays with two friends and their family.  Around 10 when everyone was going to bed, I retreated to the room I was sharing with one of my friends and we each picked up a book.  An hour or so later, she announced she was going to sleep.  I decided to turn off the light and finish my chapter in the bathroom.  And then go to bed.

FOUR HOURS LATER I was curled up in a corner of the bathroom, sitting on the floor, and sobbing.  Yes, sobbing.  As in crying so hard, I had to stop, put the book down, and pull myself together, just in order to keep reading.  (oh yes, there were some tear stains on those pages)

Christmas day, after presents, food, and a nap, I insisted My Sister's Keeper was a must read for everyone in the house.  The day after Christmas, I took my shiny new B&N giftcard to the store and bought every other Jodi Picoult novel available.  Then I read them.  All.

When school started again and students asked me about my vacation, I confessed I'd read a lot of Jodi Picoult books and shared the story.  (As a teacher, there's a point when laughing at yourself is inevitable and what's more laughable that reading on the bathroom floor of someone else's parents' house on Christmas Eve until 3 am?)  Most of my students laughed - at me.  But a few asked to borrow the book. Then a few more.

Until I had teachers at faculty meetings started telling stories.  They'd see a kid with their head down, looking into their lap and not paying attention.  The teacher would approach, expect to take away a cell phone only to discover it was a copy of a Jodi Picoult novel (The Pact was another student favorite), and said student was reading.  To excuse themselves, the student would look up and say "Townsend gave it to me!" (because obviously I meant, "Go read this in math class" every time I handed out a book).

On the surface My Sister's Keeper is a story about Anna, a thirteen year old girl suing her parents for medical emancipation when she's expected to give up her kidney to her sister Kate, who's dying of leukemia.  But underneath that, it's so much more.  It's the tortured story of a family on the verge of breaking from the stresses of Kate's illness.

Jesse, the older brother, would have given anything to Kate, but he's not a match.  He's also sort of gotten lost in the family dynamic because he doesn't have a medical procedure demanding attention.  His way out becomes getting involved with setting fires and doing drugs.

Their father Brian is just trying to hold them all together. Anna is thirteen and confused.  And Kate has secrets of her own.

Their mother Sara is determined not to let one of her children die, and she's going to do whatever it takes to beat leukemia, even if it means conceiving a child - Anna - specifically to be a match and donor for Kate.

And this is one of the moments where Jodi Picoult is brilliant.  Told from multiple perspectives, every character has a believable and unique voice, and they all manage to be beautifully flawed yet sympathetic.  I thought I just hated Sara in those first couple chapters.  Then I got to her perspective and I just got her and why she made the decisions she did.

Cancer. Illness. Death. Family. Growing up. Choices. Respect.  There were so many aspects of this novel that took residence in my heart when I read, and when cancer reared it's head in my own family, there were a lot of times, I thought back to this book.

Christmas day, despite how tired I was, I woke up after finishing My Sister's Keeper, my eyes were open just a little wider.

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, #7 on the Top Ten Banned Books List
Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence

Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate - a life and a role that she has never questioned… until now. 

Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister - and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable… a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves. 

My Sister's Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child's life… even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less?
Many, many things are out of my control. I, too, am astounded on a daily basis by this fact. Some examples:

1. Zits (right?!?!)
2. Trader Joe’s stock.
3. Vegans
4. Whether the subway conductor will open the train door again because I ran andOMGIWasAlmostThereAndGAAAHHhhhh…*pathetic look? *
5. Suzie’s orange soda addiction (it hurts those around you too, Suz)
6. There are more.

In some ways, my career belongs on that list too. Don’t get me wrong. Publishing is an extremely involved industry. There’s the networking, the small-talking, the reading of the queries (GAWD, the reading of the queries—thank that same gawd that reading Janet’s means a certain…quality control), the reading of the bookssss…it’s a lot of stuff. And I’m a newb. Imagine my fellow triumvates’ lists.

But so much of being an agent depends on other people. The queriers, obviously. You guys do so much work before we even see that trim, fit, one-pager. And if you guys didn’t send it to us, we’d never get the chance to rep you. (Thanks!!!) Edits are, obviously, dependant on the manuscript we’re reading. Which you wrote. For me as an assistant, it’s dependant on the projects that I get to work on, the jobs (like reading queries) I get to do. I am active in making sure I excel in those tasks, but beyond that, I just have to absorb.

Sometimes, we all need to be reminded how important it is to absorb. To listen instead of do. Watch the pros. And don’t fool yourself. There’s always someone more pro than you. It’s a good thing.
Here's 10 Ways to Celebrate Banned Books Week.

Thanks to FP-NC Intern Mackenzie for the link :)
In honor of Banned Books Week, Tahereh Mafi and The Rejectionist are co-hosting/sponsoring an Internet Happening where bloggers post about their favorite banned book Thursday, September 30th. If you plan to participate, please be sure and enter your blog on Tahereh's master list.
Last night we went to The Clover Club in Brooklyn to celebrate the launch of Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat, a new steampunk novel from Melville House.

It was a great chance to dress up in Steampunk Attire...

Yes, that's right, check out those fantastic suite 500 interns...

And of course we managed to get swag

Seriously, how awesome is that cover...

Book Description:

1908. New Venice--"the pearl of the Arctic"--a place of ice palaces and pneumatic tubes, of beautifully ornate carriage-sleds and elegant victorian garb, of long nights and vistas of ice.

But as the city prepares for spring, it feels more like qaartsiluni--"the time when something is about to explode in the dark." Local "poletics" are wracked by tensions with the Eskimos circling the city, with suffragette riots led by an underground music star, with drug round-ups by the secret police force known as the Gentlemen of the Night. An ominous black airship hovers over the city, and the Gentlemen are hunting for the author of a radical pamphlet calling for revolt.

Their lead suspect is Brentford Orsini, one of the city's most prominent figures. But as the Gentlemen of the Night tighten the net around him, Orsini receives a mysterious message from a long-lost love that compels him to act.

What transpires is a literary adventure novel unlike anything you've ever read before.

...have never read Pride & Prejudice. Or The Scarlet Letter.

...can't eat raisins. They make me gag.

...just at 3.5 slices of pepperoni pizza for dinner and I didn't even THINK about calories.

...mispronounce "integral" all the time.

...think Bill Murray is the BEST actor in Hollywood.

...still write in my diary.

...wanted to be a marine biologist until I was 16.

...make a deelish tomato sauce.

...only got an 1150 on my SATs.

...think Jason Schwartzman is hot.

...had my first real kiss in 7th grade, at a dance.

...sometimes lie about my age.

...still get nervous before pitching a new project for the first time.

What's your confession?
I hit “slap happy” around 10 this morning after pulling my closest (work related) approximation of an all-nighter since college. By 6pm, I was certifiably crazy. It’s just been one of those 48 hours. One (48?) of those times when you just have to bite the bullet and start the BIG pot of coffee and get things done. It actually feels pretty good, especially for a girl (moi) who went to school full-time, had a full-time horse riding and training gig, a part-time job, and a boyfriend (somehow) all 3.5 years of college. I thrive when I’m running on fumes, crossing things off the to-do list with coffee-tremor hands. It’s not healthy (the coffee hands), but it’s sort of fun. (I was *not* kidding when I said certifiably crazy).
Why, yes, I *did* tag this post "Thriller."

And now, three things that made me laugh today:

Susan Adrian’s tweet: Tomorrow, I am writing "be productive" in my planner & I am going to BE PRODUCTIVE. No excuses or procrastination. Who's with me?

Sarah Dessen’s tweet: Okay, so this is SO not the night for my corkscrew to break. Seriously. (Note: this is where Meredith was like “Screw cogent, I’m blogging about being sleepy and hopped up on coffee”)

And, just for good measure, a reprise of The Alot (click, you'll thank me later):
Those of us involved with books - especially children's books hear of banned books a lot - the controversy is nothing new.  Yet, I managed to be surprised almost every time it happens.

First it was Sherman Alexie's Diary of a Part-time Indian.

Now it's one of my favorite books of all time. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  (Read Laurie's fantastic response HERE.)

I first read Speak a few years ago.  I was teaching high school English in San Diego.  During my second period class, I had 30 students - 28 of which were very open about telling me they 1. Hated Reading and 2. Hadn't Read Anything Since Goosebumps.

We had a rather strict curriculum and students were supposed to read The Scarlet Letter, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, and Catcher in the Rye. In that order. Over the span of 18 weeks. With the exception of The Scarlet Letter, I love all these books (and even Scarlet Letter has merit, it just wasn't ever for me).  But in a class of kids who rolled their eyes at me, I knew it was looking to be a tough year.

I took a chance and brought in a manage of the local Barnes and Noble and asked her to bring a slew of books that were popular for teens.  She discussed them, read a few excerpts, passed them around.  I bought a copy of each one and set up an alternate assignment, an independent reading assignment, where students could replace one low test or essay grade with a higher score based upon a book of their choice (subject to approval).

That was the year I got into YA literature.  And so did those 28 kids who swore to me reading was a waste of time.

I saw Twilight spread like wildfire through the classroom and ultimately the school.  I witnessed students discussing Looking for Alaska without a teacher prompting them to do so.  Students who would have told me poetry was evil and something they couldn't possibly ever understand read Crank and asked me if I could pre-order the next Ellen Hopkins' book.

They still weren't all that stoked about the books they had to read for class (and I don't doubt that many of them didn't read most of those assigned chapters).  But they were excited about reading.  And they read something.

Which is the point.

Weighing in on the newest appalling book banning article.  I can say I think Wesley Scroggins is a moron - one who most likely didn't even read Speak since he misinterpreted the book, and rape is a serious issue, something teens need to read and talk about.

But more than ever I want teens to read.  I want everyone to read.  I want people to love it the way I love it.  They don't have to become book hoarders like I am, but the power of the written word - I want them to experience that.
Wow. So Friday came and went. And NO blog post from Ms. Friday. It's two weeks into Confessions, and I'm shirking on my duties. This was TOTALLY unintentional. I got home last night (fairly early for me), and Joe had a bottle of champagne open and waiting.
"What's the occasion?"

"Nothing," he said as he passed me a glass.

And then he kissed me.

But hold up...wait a second. Before you start going "Awwww" or your mind starts going in other directions, let me tell you what we did after that kiss.

We polished off the bottle of champagne, made a really big, messy plate of nachos together, played video games, and watched Lucky Louie episodes, cracking up until we passed out on the couch.

It was THE. BEST.

And it was also something we haven't done since...well, I think since college (which is sadly already 5+ years ago now). No silly night in over FIVE years?? How does that happen?

It felt so great to wake up this morning, after a night of not having to think about what needs to be done on the house, when we have to drop off that thing, what just happened at work, etc. After a night not having to think at all, but to just have fun. It was the most refreshing thing I've done in a while.

So I challenge you all.

Surprise your spouse or sister or best friend with a night of something you used to do when you first started hanging out. When it was just fun and you didn't have to think about all the seriousness that life has to offer. Does that mean building a fort out of blankets and telling ghost stories while munching on candy all night (without brushing your teeth, of course!)? Or sneaking Taco Bell and a six pack into the movies to watch the latest comedy? Or even if it's something as simple as driving down to the beach and talking about celebs and clothes until the cops come and clear you out. Whatever was silly and fun and perfect for you!

Do you remember when you didn't actually worry about how all of that would look, or if you'd get in trouble?

This is a challenge, guys. Trust me--you'll thank me later.
People throw around a lot of absolutes about publishing. It moves glacially. It's "hard to crack." It's a den of harlots and drunkards which...well, OK, that one goes to the cynics. And there are elements of publishing that support all of this. It takes a long time to get responses from agents and, for agents, there's a lot of following up with editors. For someone trying to break into publishing the industry can be mystifyingly closed. So, the absolutes are partial truths. Conglomerate the partial truths and you've got a pretty elitist, grim, and jaded picture of book people. But I work in publishing, and I can honestly say I've never met a-one that fits that bill.

So. What's the true nature of publishing? Who ARE these people?!

When I emerged, dewey-eyed and fresh-faced, from college, lucky enough to have a publishing gig, I asked this same question. My idealism (did I mention *fresh* out of college?) mandated that publishing be made up of pure-hearted book lovers who desire nothing more than to shepherd debut authors from the slush pile to the NYT list. People who thrive on reading and talking about--nay, obsessing about--books by their and others' authors. People bound by their love and admiration for the artists. The writers. And there are rainbows. Ehhhhhhhhhvvvveryyyyywhere. (Observe -->)

But come on. Wipe the dew out of your shining eyes, kiddo. Welcome to NY, right?

And so I waited with bated breath for my reality check.

Wouldn't you effing know it? I'm still waiting.

If there's any absolute about people that work in publishing, it's that they really are devoted to their writers. Publishing moves glacially because book deals are made in real, face-to-face conversations between editors and agents. They gush. They read. They gush. It takes time. Getting a job in publishing is hard because people hire on personal recommendation. Nearly everyone working today was once an intern, sifting through slush somewhere, and they're hiring people vetted in a similar way. They're hiring people who are willing to sacrifice, to work for no pay, who...OMG. Who love books. That's who these people are.
Lisa Desrochers' debut novel Personal Demons is officially out in the world today!

Frannie Cavanaugh is a good Catholic girl with a bit of a wicked streak. She's spent years keeping everyone at a distance—even her closest friends—and it seems her senior year will be more of the same...until Luc Cain enrolls in her class. No one knows where he came from, but Frannie can't seem to stay away from him. What she doesn't know is that Luc works in Acquisitions—for Hell—and she possesses a unique skill set that has the king of Hell tingling with anticipation. All Luc has to do is get her to sin, and he’s as tempting as they come. Frannie doesn’t stand a chance.

Unfortunately for Luc, Heaven has other plans, and the angel, Gabe, is going to do whatever it takes to make sure that Luc doesn’t get what he came for. And it isn't long before they find themselves fighting for more than just her soul.

But if Luc fails, there will be Hell to pay…for all of them.

This past week, we spotted Personal Demons out in the world a few places, but now it's going to be everywhere!

For your chance to win a copy of Personal Demons and your very own Personal Demons swag pack.

Send me a twit pic of Personal Demons to @sztownsend81 with the name of your city and whether you're Team Heaven or Team Hell - enter by Friday at 5:00 pm!

For more chances to win a copy of Personal Demons or to wish Lisa congrats on her release day, check out her blog.

My friend B recently called me to lament the experiences of his dating life.  He had been dating a girl for a few months and things had been going well.  But on their fifth date, he had her over to his place for dinner and she made the fatal mistake of mentioning where all of her stuff would go if she moved into his place.  Then she went a step further and mentioned that her apartment lease would be up at the end of October so she could move in with him in November.

This is of course an example of COMING ON TOO STRONG.

And it's one of the most common examples.  Girls committing too quickly and guys turning into scared woodland creatures who run for the hills.  (And of course, guys do it too.  Break-Up Bag, anyone?)

But one thing that we don't usually mention is that in the newfound age of social networking and all things twitter, it's also possible to COME ON TOO STRONG. Somehow it's like the safety of having a computer screen in front of people sometimes makes it easier to open up - and the social cues we pick up through observation when physically talking to someone aren't there. And come on, let's face it, no one wants to be that guy - or more aptly, that twitter handle no one responds to.

The Dos and Don'ts - How to Avoid Coming On Too Strong in the Twitterverse

DO start conversations by responding to comments. Since most of us are rabid book readers, they're always a safe way make a connection.
@sztownsed81: Reading *and loving* FAITHFUL PLACE.
@jimnduncan: @sztownsend81 been meaning to get that. Love Tana French.

DON'T respond by saying something too personal.  DON'T compliment people's pictures when you don't know them.  It ends up sounding either condescending ("I'm usually fun and you look chipper") or creepy...or both.
@shallremainnameless: I saw your beautiful agent photo.  I hope i get to meet that smile in person one day. 

DO keep in mind Twitter is about making connections, not necessarily about promoting yourself or your blog (do this, but don't just do this), or asking for query advice all the time.

DON'T try to insert yourself into an A and B conversation - just like In Real Life, it's awkward if two people are talking and a third person neither party knows just jumps in and inserts themselves into the conversation.  Use In Real Life standards.  If you wouldn't jump into the conversation if you were physically standing there, don't do it on twitter either.

Which leads me too...DO think about whether your humor will be lost in translation.  Some times without "tone of voice" comments that might be funny in person can fall flat - or worse sound borderline psychotic - on twitter.  (This does happen to the best of us...)

In the same vein, DON'T say things that make you sound like a stalker.  Things like "I'll show up at your hotel room and make you read my manuscript!" will probably get you blocked.

DON'T spam people with tweets.  Just like you wouldn't spam someone with calls or texts after a first date, you don't want to do the same with tweets.  Wait for a response or wait for a few days and the next time they say something interesting.

DON'T be overfamiliar with someone you don't know.  While the online community is amazing, it does sometimes create a false sense of intimacy.  Exchanging a few tweets and reading blog posts doesn't make people best friends.  Reading someone's blog, doesn't mean you should email them and ask personal questions.  Facebook friending another writer doesn't mean you should call them to ask about their agent.


In the same vein, DO be careful who you trust.  Secrets and personal details that could be potential Gossip (*gasp*) is probably better told to someone you actually know.  Like family or real best friends.
Today was the Brooklyn Book Festival.

 And after brunch the FP-NC Entourage and friends headed over there to browse around and listen to some of the panels.

While we were there, we saw this guy...

And this guy...

Who read from Numb...

It was rainy, and a little cold, but it was also fabulous :)
This week has been books, books, books--talking books all the time, non-stop. And while that's quite a dreamy thing to do all day and night (literally), I think I'll take a short break right now and talk about something else I love: color.

Confession: I'm a born-and-raised New Yorker and I don't wear black every day.


In fact, I rarely wear it. Today I'm in a blue-white-orange-red stripped shirt with a solid Carolina Blue-extra long vest, an extra thin black-blue-teal-navy scarf, charcoal gray cargo capris and sandals--and btw, my toes are different colors: hot pink on my left foot, and Mint Apple on my right. It may seem like overkill to you, but I do at least know how to match (well...except for the hot pink...but that's just one foot!).

I love a little color in everything. Even when I do wear black, I usually accent it with necklaces that have bright pendants/stones/beads/shells of some sort, or maybe a big, flower headband, and colorful shoes are the best.

This probably explains my obsession with Jeffrey Sebelia. (Why couldn't I afford for him to design my wedding dress?? Why? WHY?!)


So what does my wacky taste in clothing have to do with anything???

Well, I think it reflects my taste overall. Like a metaphor (Ha, I'm being all literate and stuff). I am a big fan of unique stories, loud voices, brightshinyfresh ideas, and if it's dark it's got to be vivid. And while black is always in fashion (or the latest book genre trend), you need to throw something else in there to make it stand out.

I've seen a lot of black in my submissions lately...a lot of the same. And while these submissions aren't bad, they don't stand out either. So I ask you: where are all the purple dresses, or red sandals, or the big yellow flower head band??

Wow, I am SO in the mood to watch Project Runway now....
Guys. OMG Guys. Guys! GUYSGUYSGUYS!!!!!!!!!! OK.

The lovely friend Cassie brought some books to Triumvant (yes, I made that up. not the point.) Suzie. In her infinite and graceful benevolence, T.S. held up IF I STAY and was all "Hey, Meredith, this is good, would you like to borrow it?" and I was all "Yeah, sure." (Thinking: Suzie never leads me astray. It's not like I read much anymore...I should really get on that.)

OMG. OMGeeee!! alfhNAFCN:iueyfWEHFklnfclaofhb fv'. Guys.

This book. Is. So! Good!

I started it on the subway home from work tonight. Where The Hat Trick commenced. 1. Crying on Public Transportation 2. I missed my stop 3. I walked home reading. (Not true. I started, but that's unsafe. Safety first, readers!)

Guys. Read this book.

The last normal moment that Mia, a talented cellist, can remember is being in the car with her family. Then she is standing outside her body beside their mangled Buick and her parents' corpses, watching herself and her little brother being tended by paramedics. As she ponders her state (Am I dead? I actually have to ask myself this), Mia is whisked away to a hospital, where, her body in a coma, she reflects on the past and tries to decide whether to fight to live. Via Mia's thoughts and flashbacks, Forman (Sisters in Sanity) expertly explores the teenager's life, her passion for classical music and her strong relationships with her family, friends and boyfriend, Adam. Mia's singular perspective (which will recall Alice Sebold's adult novel, The Lovely Bones) also allows for powerful portraits of her friends and family as they cope: Please don't die. If you die, there's going to be one of those cheesy Princess Diana memorials at school, prays Mia's friend Kim. I know you'd hate that kind of thing. Intensely moving, the novel will force readers to take stock of their lives and the people and things that make them worth living.
The cover just might be my favorite thing about a printed book. The character has to woo me from page one, but the cover has to woo me even before page one. And for me, the first aspect of a good cover is the “Ooh!” factor.

The “Ooh!” factor is what snags you, makes you pick up a book. It’s only after I’ve ogled that I flip that bad boy over or look at the jacket and find out what it’s about. But a cover isn’t really just about stopping book browsers in their tracks. They have to be true to the pages being covered.

Agents, editors, and authors, in conjunction with marketing and art departments, are dedicated to finding balance: a strong image that also speaks to the essence of the book—what the story is about, the tone, the character’s voice and appearance—everything. It’s rare that everyone agrees, and authors are sometimes hit hard when they have to relinquish creative control to the “Ooh!” factor. It helps to remember the folks in marketing are as much experts in the Art of “Ooh!” as the editors, agents, and authors are experts in the craft of writing. Ideally, everyone’s working to tell the same story.
I love First Contact’s cover because it captures the book’s quirk while also being an eye-catcher (how many yellow covers does one see in Borders?). I think You has that balance too—that stark, white pronoun seems to refer to you personally. There’s the in-your-face cover of The Duff (launched yesterday!). Are there covers that have particularly struck you recently? Any pick-this-up! images that also whispered hints of what you’d find inside?
The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by the fabulous Kody Keplinger is officially in stores TODAY!

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.
I have a confession to make.  Keeping up with a blog, reading manuscripts, and trying to make some sort of a dent in my ever growing TBR pile has taken a toll on my social life (and by that I mean the time I spend watching Veronica Mars reruns and twittering).

And there are a lot of brilliant people in Suite 500 that just so happen to have a lot worth listening to.  So with some arm twisting (sorry about that, by the way), we decided to form a triumvirate (not of the Star Wars or the LKH variety).

So here it is.  The new About Us:

Meredith Barnes is assistant to the inimitable Janet Reid at FinePrint Literary Management and is currently not acquiring clients. She is acquiring a good editorial eye, an appreciation for scotch, and good flower arrangement skills (I’m hopeless—let’s hope Janet forgets). She loves brash, daring, imperfect characters who manage to remain completely loveable. Some favorites are Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell, Jeff Somers’ Avery Cates series, and, oh yeah, those Suzanne Collins books. One of her favorite things about her job is getting to see the next lovable, larger-than-life characters come alive—and getting to meet their brilliant creators.

Joanna Stampfel-Volpe has been with Nancy Coffey Literary for two years. She represents children's and adult books, fiction and non-fiction.

Joanna's specific interests are: non-fiction for kids and teens, chapter books to YA novels, adult romance (historical, paranormal), fantasy (urban fantasy, steampunk), up-market fiction (dark, literary, horror, women's fic, commercial thrillers, historical, magical realism, speculative fic), and commercial non-fiction (pop culture, environmental, foodie).

*She is also interested in graphic novels for kids/teens, or novels with a high graphic element.

Right now she is NOT looking to acquire: picture books, cozies, cookbooks, academic nonfiction, epic fantasy for adults, hi-science fiction for adults, poetry, collections/short stories, screenplays, true crime, corporate/legal thrillers, adult contemporary romance.

When she's not reading (which is almost never), she enjoys cooking, watching movies, playing video games, and hanging with her husband and her Chihuahua, PeeWee.

"From children's to adult the most important part of a manuscript to me is the voice. The characters really need to come alive for me on the page whether it's a fast-paced adventure for kids, a beautiful, family-drama for women, or a dark, horror for teen boys. I often look for more character-driven stories rather than strictly plot-driven (although plot is important, obviously). So I guess my taste in children's, YA and adult is the same: strong voice, no matter what it's about."

Joanna accepts email and hard copy queries - please see her Submission Guidelines for further information on how to query her. And make sure to check out the Events Schedule for conferences she'll be attending this year!

Suzie Townsend started at FinePrint Literary Management as an intern and is now actively looking for fiction and non-fiction: specifically Middle Grade and YA novels (all subgenres, but particularly literary projects), adult romance (historical and paranormal), and fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy).

Recent sales include Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers (Tor, September 2010), All These Lives by Sarah Wylie (FSG, winter 2012), Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson (Harper, winter 2012), Sea Rose Red by Cat Hellisen (FSG, spring 2012), Zombie Tag by Hannah Moskowitz (Roaring Brook, fall 2011), and Tempest by Julie Cross (St. Martin’s Press, forthcoming).

She’s interested in strong characters and voice driven stories: she’s particularly keen on strong female protagonists, complex plot lines with underlying political, moral, or philosophical issues, and stories which break out of the typical tropes of their genre. Some of her favorites are When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series, and Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series.

She drinks too much diet orange soda, has a Starbucks problem (those soy chai lattes are addictive), and lives in Brooklyn with her two dogs, Slevin and Fate, who know that chewing on shoes is okay but chewing on books is not.