Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell

This post isn't going to be about writing or about books.  I'm going to indulge myself today and talk about Don't Ask Don't Tell.  I was with my family on my way to an early Christmas dinner with the in-laws when I heard that Congress had voted to repeal it, leaving only President Obama's signature left to make DADT a relic of history.

I don't talk politics around the in-laws, and they've only just left, and I feel like I've been holding my breath all afternoon and evening to say this:


Although you know by know that I'm a woman married to a man and have two children, my online moniker Kate in the Closet is not a clueless accident (like Teabagger).  It's an intentional signal that I support the LGBT community and advocate gay rights; I have for my entire adult life.  I vividly remember piling into a bus with dozens of my UPenn classmates to attend a massive LGBT march on Washington D.C. in the spring of 1993.  At that time, gays and lesbians weren't allowed to serve in the military at all, but that seemed like the least of our problems.  Rampant violence against homosexuals was trivialized under the law as a form of domestic violence (itself trivialized under the law), the community was only just starting to understand how to control the spread of HIV (which was still considered a death sentence), and my gay friends were literally terrified that their bright Ivy League futures would end if they came out (or were outed) to one wrong person.

Nine months later DADT was signed into law.  The community wasn't thrilled about the compromise, but it was a step in the right direction, a temporary layover to full inclusion.

A 16-year, 11-month, and 27-day layover.  A time when the military, the supposed embodiment of American honor, forced its own to lie and hide.  A time when the law of the land told young gays and lesbians that no matter what service they performed for their fellow citizens, no matter what sacrifices they made, that we were ashamed of them.  A time when soldiers were required to fight for their country, but prohibited from fighting for themselves.  A time when thousands of servicemen and women and their families lost everything because of whisper campaigns, witch hunts, and cavalier carelessness by unaffected third parties.  It should have been called Don't Ask Don't Tell And Pray Nobody Else Does Either.

It's a little hard to grasp how far the rest of the LGBT community has come during this time, and there have certainly been setbacks, but relative to prevailing attitudes, this repeal was long overdue.  As chief opponent to it, John McCain has forever tarnished his legacy with his last-minute desperate and nonsensical arguments, and I can't express how relieved I am that his ultimately naked homophobia couldn't carry the day.

So now here we are.  Each of the gay men and women in the military, along with their families, will have to decide for themselves how to proceed, and the rest of us will have to decide how to react.  I hope that you will join me in openly supporting everyone in the military as this momentous transition begins, and offering congratulations to everyone who takes a step forward in their lives, their relationships, and their own attitudes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Scale and Perspective

When I was in elementary school, I read Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.  I loved that book.  But the sequel, A Wind in the Door, ruled as my favorite for years and years.  My ten-year-old mind was blown by, among other things, the notions of scale and perspective in that book.  I've adored science fiction ever since.

This little bit of awesome would have gone along nicely.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

On The Subject of Pitches

Like elevator pitches and query letters are pitches to agents, trailers are pitches to audiences. Book trailers are still a nascent artform, in my opinion. But movie trailers are, as an art... mature.

Warning: contains offensive language and characterizations.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


This is for my cat peeps, especially fairyhedgehog.


I'm having a hard time with my personal elevator pitch.

"Hi. Nice to meet you. So what do you do?"

"Oh, I'm a.. uh.. consultant."

When you say stuff like this, people immediately get idea you're full of it. Consultant. If you look like George Clooney they might believe you are an assassin-for-hire or a con man pretending to be an assassin-for-hire. But if you look like me, and call yourself a consultant, they think unemployed. If I'm lucky, they think, Mary Kay.

This would be fine if I just said, "between jobs" or "Mary Kay Consultant", but when I say "consultant" it sounds like I'm trying to pretend I'm something I'm not. Consultant is just one of those words that's taken on a life of its own.

And let me tell you, if gets worse when it comes up that I work from home and set my own hours. Then there is the fact that my clients are all... elsewhere. If it weren't for the business trips I'm not sure even my friends would believe me.

I don't call myself a consultant to be intentionally vague. First of all, it's true. Companies consult me for my expertise. It's just that the actual nature of my work is both varied and arcane, and I have this need to be both precise and complete. So I can either say "consultant" or hand you my resume.

If I ever get one of these novels ready for submission, I suspect it'll take me another year just to figure out how to pitch it to an agent.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Yeah, I Was in a Bad Mood

OK, so I have bitched about antiquated and at-this-point inexcusably unprofessional business practices among book publishers. Now it is only fair to balance that assessment with this one: the answer to why we put up with it is that unlike in most industries, publishers absorb essentially all the risk in the publishing world.

Let's look at the supply chain for books. It starts with the author. In traditional publishing, the author invests no money in the per-unit cost of production. She pays for her wordprocessing/internet/postage and other "R&D", but her primary investment is time. The same goes for the agent. Like the author, the agent is risking intangibles such as reputation and opportunity costs for time spent not selling something else, but essentially the agent risks no cash. It's the publisher who pays both the author and agent AND their own editors and designers and artists and printers and sales force and PR and marketing and legal/accounting to create and track a gazillion different contracts. Then there are the distributors, who get paid in any case. Then there are the booksellers who can return unsold books or keep them and sell them on clearance. Sure, there are costs associated with inventory and risk that they are giving too much shelf space to the wrong books, but again, the real cash risk lies with the publisher.

THIS is why we let publishers have their eccentricities.

But there has to be a better way.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Maybe I'm Just in a Bad Mood


OK, here I go. I'm gonna do the one thing a writer is really really really not supposed to do on her blog: I'm gonna bitch about publishers for a second.

Let me be clear up front about what I'm not doing: I'm not whining about mistreatment. I've never submitted anything to a book publisher, nor do I even have any off-line friends who have had bad experiences with publishers, and I'm not here to bitch about editors' taste or how they wreck dreams or whatever.

My problem with publishers, based on information from agents' blogs, is this: they are so very precious that they can't be bothered to run their businesses like professionals. Ubiquitous errors on royalty statements, the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, inability and/or unwillingness to communicate any status to authors who have provided work at their request. These represent the kinds of basic organizational skills that companies of every size in every other industry have to keep current just to remain solvent. Why do we continue to excuse publishers for sloppiness we wouldn't tolerate in any other business partnership? They are like the Hollywood starlet who shows up five hours late for a photo shoot and then lets her dog pee on the $8000 designer gown, and everyone whose day she's ruined THANKS HER PROFUSELY FOR THE HONOR. Rather, they thank her people, because she can't be bothered to speak to anyone outside her circle.

OK, it's true that I'm bitching about something I've no firsthand knowledge of. But all these anecdotes I hear bug me because I care - I want this industry to survive. But just like a bunch of alcoholic starlets, this brave new world will eat them unless they get their shit together and take some responsibility for themselves.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

High Altitude

First thing's first: Congratulations to all the NaNoWriMo winners out there! I hope you enjoyed your first day of rest. Speaking of which...

Greetings from Salt Lake City, Utah, USA!

Altitude: 4700ft
Temperature: 20's and lower
Humidity: negligible outside and lower indoors with the heat blasting

The mountains are beautiful and the city and surrounds are very nice, but I haven't acclimated enough to enjoy it - or do anything beyond work/eat/sleep. I haven't needed this much sleep since I was pregnant!

Luckily I'll be home Friday night. See you all then.