Things I am looking forward to: 1. Dinner this week with Weetabix! 2. The COMEDIANS OF COMEDY show at the Vic on Thursday. 3. Slightly colder weather. 4. Having stuff in two anthologies to be published sometime late next year. 5. Getting this last book I’m editing at work off to press. 6. The holidays and all the dippy stuff I will do to enjoy them, savoring them like fat schmoopy sugarplums. Are you with me on this?
Things you should not do: Call me at work. Really it’s just the one thing, but it’s a big thing. I mean, if you are actually part of my life you can call me at work, because of course I gave you the number and we have to figure out what time we’re going to Pequod’s for lunch. Obviously, if you’re someone I work with, you can call me at work. And if you happen to be one of the idly curious souls who randomly call my company with questions about the big weird confusing world of children’s book publishing, questions like, uh, do I need to draw the pictures and stuff? (FYI: no), I tend to forgive you on the premise that you don’t know me and therefore don’t even know not to call me, because of course you don’t know anything; you’re like a lumpy little baby at the beginning of time, and your head is all soft, and you’re usually friendly and harmless enough that I don’t mind taking five minutes to tell you to check out SCBWI or The Purple Crayon.
(And now that you’ve just read this and know not to call? That still means you should not call. Just so you know. Your innocence is over.)
But here I haven’t even gotten to when you should really really not call me at work, so I will tell you now: Do not call me at work if you know who I am and think I can help you get your children’s book published. I don’t know how to stress this enough. This doesn’t happen very often, but each time it’s happened it’s been awkward and disastrous and traumatic, both for me and the Person Who Thought I Could Help Him/Her Get Published. Because Person always wants to take me out to lunch or coffee so that I can see what a totally nice person Person is, and then he/she can tell me his/her idea and I can give a few pointers. But see, this never works, because a.) explaining how to become a published childrenâ€™s book writer is just too complicated and involved to attempt in the timespan of â€œcoffee,â€ much less in pointerly fashion; b.) Person invariably isnâ€™t interested in becoming a childrenâ€™s writer anyway and instead has just an Ideaâ€”This One Idea, from which at least three books can be made, and probably also an animated series and a line of interactive toys; and c.) nice gets you nowhere, especially when youâ€™re in truth being kind of pushy.
Because the kicker here is that I work for a publisher where you can actually just send your manuscript, unsolicited and without an agent, and I will read it. Thus when people call at work and try to pitch me something itâ€™s doubly uncomfortable, because either they have no idea their whole weird Glengarry Glen Ross schtick is totally unnecessaryâ€”or else they do know, but think that those guidelines we post are for chumps and not for People-with-Ideas like themselves. And if you feel this way, DO NOT CALL ME AT WORK, because, like I said, it will not go well. Like I can’t even bring myself to tell the story of the last Person who called me at work, because it was just that horrible for both of us.
(Well, maybe I will, but another time, with many details changed.)
At the same time, I realize that I do know some stuff about writing and publishingâ€”both from my children’s book job and my own experience with the memoir, and for the past couple years people have been writing me (not calling me at work) with questions, and I actually like to be helpful. So in order to make karmic amends for the rage I feel towards People Who Call Me at Work I think I’ll be posting any advice I may have here on the blog. I know I won’t be able to answer every question, but feel free to ask away about children’s publishing, adult publishing, blog-to-book stuff, whatever. And I’ll give it my best shot. (Tip#1: do not call me at you-know-where.)