Thursday, February 24, 2011


Yesterday was a gorgeous late winter day here in Brooklyn. Blue sky, sunshine and, what seemed like balmy, mid-thirties temperatures. Zoe and I went for a long walk and, along the way, I finally pulled out my camera. I thought it would be fun to share some of the sights of our walk through Brooklyn Heights.

When we walk to BH from our apartment, we cross a plaza and park that run from Borough Hall (which I should have gotten a picture of... Will remedy that soon - it's a wonderful old building) to the Brooklyn Bridge. A small winter Farmer's Market inhabits this plaza three days a week. I'm told that it is significantly bigger in the warm weather. The top of the Manhattan Bridge can be seen in the background.

After crossing the plaza, we walked to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, bordered on the left by the East River and the right by wonderful, old brownstones. Unfortunately, it's probably no more than a quarter mile in length so it's more for strolling than jogging. We discovered it's a great place to spend some time on a beautiful day. Zoe and I planted ourselves on one of the park benches and watched helicopters take off and land at the heliport across the river. 

Brooklyn Bridge is in the background and in the far distance is the Empire State Building. The area you can see to the left, along the river, is the site of the new Brooklyn Bridge Park which is currently under construction. Someone told me that it has been more than a hundred years since the city of New York has made this significant an investment in a park.
The southern tip of Manhattan, which is the Financial District and The Seaport
A small playground tucked in among the trees and grand homes.

It's hard to really see, but the entire first floor of this home is a solarium.
I was absolutely blown away when I discovered these flowers. It had been seventeen degrees the morning before! Yes, they are real! They look a bit like a large primrose. Does anyone know what they are?

On the walk home, we passed several big trucks with huge cables and equipment spilling out, then an open tent with food and several large coffee urns. Sensing a film shoot nearby, Zoe and I wandered in the direction of the activity.

Just seconds after I shot this last picture, Sarah Jessica Parker walked past me and into the blue tent to my left! She's taller than I thought...

Finally, a couple of pictures of some of the wonderful architecture we passed on the way home. I am completely taken with the many spectacular homes - and windows and doors. I fear you'll be seeing many of them in the future. 

Grace Alley is a tiny dead-end street lined with old carriage houses that have become homes.

Another amazing carriage house

And it's grand next door neighbor.
All these streets are tree-lined, so getting pictures without either branches or shadows is nearly impossible.
All in one afternoon's walk.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Proposal

Part 5 of: From Blank Screen to Printed Book OR Writing the Book was the Fun Part...

The manuscript was completed (or so I thought). It was time to find an agent to help me navigate the wild waters of the publishing world. 

To find an agent, one must first write the perfect query letter. I did my research and learned that it must be a one-page, three paragraph letter. The first paragraph explains why you have selected this particular agent. This paragraph requires a great deal of research as each letter must be targeted to an agent who represents other works like yours and must be personalized - either "so-and-so referred" me or "I read in an interview that you said..." or some other tidbit that shows you have done your homework. The second paragraph must be a compelling, but concise, synopsis of the book. One that leaves the reader just aching for more.

The last paragraph is the author's credentials - Masters degree in Creative Writing, Movie Star, Political Star, Nobel Prize winner, First Woman to...  The idea is to blow the agent away with how amazing you are. Founder of a brownie mix company was not exactly what they were looking for. On the other hand, it wasn't something that crossed their desks every day. I hoped it would be enough to at least spark some curiosity.

I re-wrote the second and third paragraphs at least ten times until Suzanne declared it "Perfect!", then worked on the personalized first paragraph. I had targeted about thirty agents for my first mailing, so those first paragraphs took some time, but the research was interesting and kind of fun. Then came the task that I didn't dislike, I hated. If your book is non-fiction, before you send out your query letter, you must be ready with a proposal for your book, because if the query peaks any interest in an agent, the next thing they will ask to see is your proposal. 

A proposal is really a business plan for your book and makes complete sense if the author is trying to find an agent/publisher before the book is completed. But my book is called "creative non-fiction" and is more like a novel - only it's true. The manuscript was complete and I couldn't (still can't) figure out why I needed to write a fifty page document that included a detailed synopsis of the book, a full page on who I was and once again, my credentials for writing the book. It also required specific statistics on who my audience would be and why; what books I considered my competition, why, when they were published and how they sold. Then, the piece de resistance: a complete and detailed marketing and promotion plan with statistical information on every potential marketing avenue, how I intended to pursue that avenue and what I would do to promote the book. Isn't that what the agent and publisher do? Why again, will I receive only 10% of the revenue from my book?? 

Finally, a one paragraph summary of each and every chapter.

I sent out twenty-two queries. I had eight people respond and ask for the proposal and one ask for the manuscript. Of those who asked for the proposal, I received a polite "No thank you" from four and never heard from any of the others. The one who did read it, said that it might make a good magazine article, but there wasn't enough substance for a book. She suggested that maybe if I added a history of the baking mix industry, it would be better. Suzanne's comment that she'd rather have her teeth drilled than read a history of the baking mix industry made me feel slightly better.  

It became clear that the success or failure of my book rested in the hands of people who didn't have either the time or the interest to read it. And, whether Jane Q. Public realized it or not, these people wielded a huge amount of power on her behalf. Going this route, there was a very good chance the book would never get printed. It suddenly hit me that getting my book into reader's hands was very much like getting my fat free brownies into customer's mouth. An agent is the equivalent of a food broker. A publisher? No different than the buyer at a big grocery chain. I was faced with the same options I had when I started No Pudge!. Sit and wait, or take back control and do it my way.  

To be continued...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My, how time flies...

I know I started a story and then left you hanging, and I'm sorry. But living in The Big Apple is kinda time consuming... 

Every morning I roll out of bed, pull on jeans and a fleece, hat, scarf, down coat, warm boots and mittens, and Zoe and I head for the park. We just discovered Fort Greene Park, where dogs are allowed off-leash until 9 in the morning, and that's now our daily destination. It's about 4 blocks from here and every morning the sidewalks are filled with commuters walking purposefully to work, and moms or nannies, often with full strollers, walking their kids to a school near the park. Zoe has adapted amazing well to the crowded sidewalks and trots right along. Until she notices someone she finds particularly interesting and then she either tries to say hello, or just stares at them as we go by. She makes people smile, and at 7:30 on a frigid Brooklyn morning, I think that's pretty cool.

It would be wonderful if I could get all my errands done when I'm up and out early with Zoe, but since I can't take her in any store that sells food, I have to make two trips. Often covering the same territory. It's a bit frustrating, but I keep telling myself that all this walking is keeping me healthy. 

I decided to paint the apartment. Given the size of the place, I figured I could get it all done in one day. Someone told me the nearest hardware store that sells paint is about a mile and a half away, so one morning I walked there, lugged home paint and supplies, painted the living room - two coats - and hated the color. So back to the hardware store, lug home more paint and supplies (I'll bet you're thinking: aren't there those yellow cars called "cabs" in New York? Yes, there are cabs, but I'm determined to only take one if it's absolutely, positively necessary. And so far I haven't run into a situation that fits those parameters), and paint the living room again. This time I love the color - but run out of paint before I'm done. Another someone tells me about another hardware store that sells Ben Moore and it's only about a half mile from here! Yippee! I walk there, pick up just a little more paint, come home, finish the living room and... the colors don't match. Different store, different mixer, slightly different color. Back to the first store, more damn paint and the living room is DONE. A one-day task that slipped into a one-week ordeal.

Then there's the subway trips into Manhattan. I made it to Crate & Barrel and back in 45 minutes the other day. Forty-five minutes to Crate & Barrel! And back! For a girl who has lived in the wilds of New Hampshire for twenty-five years and who has had to drive an hour and a half one way to find a C&B, that is LIFE ALTERING! There was this pillow I'd seen on the Pottery Barn website. I wanted to see it in person. That trip took a little over an hour. That includes round-trip on the 4/5 train (I sound like a New Yorker, huh?), wandering the store and coming home. 

I have no idea how the days fly by, but they do. And I'm loving every second.