One perk about working in book publishing: free books. At a career fair I received a copy of the new book Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. It takes place decades after Dorothy left Oz. The catch? Dorothy returned to OZ and became a relentless leader, controlling all magic.
I read the book in one afternoon (partly due to my current unemployment). It was filled with cliche phrases that reminded me of the childhood classic. The first man the protagonist meets in Oz? A boy with “emerald green” eyes.
But I enjoyed returning to L Frank Baum’s familiar world, frantically searching for the munchkins and the yellow brick road. Paige did a wonderful job creating a post-dystopia world. I saw elements of that familiar world, but the world seemed broken. There were craters dug throughout the land, the magic extracted directly from the ground.
Amy is a young girl from Kansas, taken to Oz by a tornado. (I’m sensing a theme here.) Overall, I thought the book was very well written. While I love the classic story of The Wizard of Oz, Paige created a strong story. Like Gregory Maguire gave us the other side of the story, Paige explains what happened following the Happy Every After. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants another taste of Oz.
Just a fun fact to leave you with. As a proud Nebraskan, you all should know that the author was from Omaha, NE. In the original story, the wizard was from Omaha. That’s why the balloon in the movie says State Fair Omaha, as a tribute. But at the time, his location was changed to Kansas because they thought Kansas was better known. Many of the characters in Wizard of Oz reflect certain political strifes that occurred in Nebraska during the time Baum wrote the story.
The second half of my NYU Summer Publishing Institute was as intense and time-consuming as the first half. As with the magazine portion, we were divided into groups and given an imprint to launch. My group was assigned science fiction and fantasy books. From that emerged 42 press (named after the infamous answer to the meaning of life from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).
Our mission statement is to rediscover things that have been overlooked. With the imprint, we had to come up with three books to launch our imprint: one lead title and two others. Our mission statement influenced the types of books we created.
Our lead title, The Battle of Du-Khang, was inspired by the TV show Firefly, canceled after one season. The dedication of the Firefly fanbase inspired us. Even years after the show was taken off the air, their love for the characters is unrivaled. The book we decided to launch would be a prequel to the show, expounding on the war and the history of the Browncoats.
After working with this lead title, I decided to watch the show for myself. In less than a week, I watched the entire first season, and the follow up movie. And I finally realized why the characters are so important. Joss Wheton created a show where the story line didn’t matter. It was the characters. And I miss them.
Firefly was a show that ended. We wanted to tap into that fanbase and give them something back. We found something forgotten, and wanted to make it new.
Our second book, John X. Kennedy, was based off a line from the latest X-Men movie, hinting that John F Kennedy was a mutant. It was a small line, quickly forgotten. But we wanted to use that idea. And John X. Kennedy was born (the X a tribute to the x-men movie).
With the cover, we tried to make it something that looked like a non-fiction book about Kennedy. The cover gives the feeling that it’s something possible, not science fiction.
Our final book was called Sysix. A fantasy book by a debut author. And author who no one had given a chance. While also picking up titles with a pre-existing fanbase, we also want to show that we support the authors who haven’t established themselves yet.
We created a virtual online game to increase interest in the coming book.
While all of this planning was hypothetical, it was fun to sit back and think about different marketing tactics.
For this launch imprint I was assigned the roles of Finance Director and Subsidiary Rights Director. As finance director, I worked with the P&L (profit & loss statement) and the numbers for the book. How many copies of each book would we sell? Where would we sell them? How much would they cost? Based on the costs of production, and the money made through sales, how much did we have for marketing? As subsidiary rights director, I had to think about what other countries would express interest in our titles. For Firefly, I looked at the countries where the TV show was well received. And for John X. Kennedy I looked where X Men was a success. For Sysix, it was much harder to decide where the book would be sold. But I basically chose English speaking countries.
I was drained after the magazine portion of the program. It was difficult to switch groups and work with a new team on a new project. But in the end, we created a strong group with creative titles. We were even awarded best book concept for Firefly. A wonderful conclusion to the end of the program. I’m going to miss everyone.
A lot happened over the course of this last year. I finished college and graduated. I moved to New York for the summer and completed the NYU Summer Publishing Institute. I look back to where I was just a year ago and it’s crazy. I’ve grown as a writer, student, and adult.
As my time in New York comes to an end, I’m not upset. This is just another chapter in my life and I’m ready to see where I’ll go next. I’ve heard the saying that by the time a writer is 25, they have experienced enough to keep them writing for a lifetime. I know that I’m going home with stronger experiences, and many more ideas.
In fact, I’ve started writing again. I dug out my old Moleskin notebook and the ideas poured out.
So when you get stuck and don’t know what word to write next, just look out your window. There’s a world of possibilities just outside, waiting for you to uncover. Just write about what you know. But most importantly, just keep writing.
Cellar door: [English compound noun] has often been used as an example of a word or phrase which is beautiful in terms of phonaesthetics (google definitions).
I can kind of see why this is often considered the most beautiful combination of words. Cellar door. There is something so smooth and clean about it. It almost rolls off your tongue. My new goal is to use cellar door at least once in my novel. I mean, who doesn’t love a good cellar door?
with the dark quickly approaching
I hear the wolves howl in the night
the glow of the full moon seeps from the window
a creak from the cellar door resonates through the house
I pull my sheet higher and close my eyes
and only then will sleep come
Three weeks down and I’m done with the magazine portion of my program. The days were grueling and the nights were sleepless. But through it all, my group came up with an amazing Brand and launch issue: Roster. College sports across all fields.
At times it seemed like the final product would never come together. I, along with the 10 other members of my team, worked individually on portions of the project so the final product wasn’t pieced together until the very end. As digital director, all I saw were the digital components. But when everything finally came together, it was amazing. Then our magazine was presented to a panel of judges, representatives from Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Everyday with Rachel Ray. It was intimidating to have our new brand critiqued by such a distinguished panel. But after many long hours of magazine presentations, our magazine placed second among the 11 launch magazines. And the prize? Two bottles of wine: white and red. It was a victory.
And through it all, we tried to still have fun. As a magazine representing college teams, we even considered the idea of presenting to the judges with the trademark black eye paint athletes use to reduce sun glare. But in the end, we decided to remain professional.
It’s weird to now to completely shift focus from magazines to books. Before this program, I didn’t realize how different the two were from each other. To me, publishing encompassed the two. But I am slowly learning that there is so much more to publishing and I’m excited to keep learning.
I piled into an elevator with twenty other people, a silent bellhop standing in the corner. The darkly lit elevator creeped up floor by floor. When it jolted to a stop, the bellhop pointed us down a hallway. “Welcome to the McKittrick Hotel,” he said. “I hope you enjoy your stay.”
My friend and I walk towards the check in counter where a man hands us each a playing card: the 10 of spades. “This is your room key for the night. Keep it close.” My card is called and we are taken down a long hallway and guided towards a dark staircase. The glowing lines that mark each step keep me from falling. “Welcome to the McKittrick,” a bald man in a white suit says. “We only have a few rules here. You can’t talk. And you have to wear these masks at all times. The anonymity is for your protection.” We slid our masks on and suddenly I felt separated, like a ghost lurking in the corner, watching.
Last Saturday night I saw Punchdrunk’s performance of Sleep No More at the McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea. It’s an immersive theater show loosely based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. After I put on the mask I was led down another staircase where a young lady in a floor length gown met us. “Why hello darlings. And welcome. Please come on in. And remember, this show is best experienced alone.”
I walked through a doorway, alone, and arrived in an apartment room with eerie music blasting all around me. My heart pounded as I looked around. Suddenly a pregnant woman in a velvet gown pushed past me, clutching her suitcase. Confused and overwhelmed, I rushed after her. And so my experience at the McKittrick began.
I spent the next three hours running up and down the 6 floors of the set, trying to find fragments of plot line. There were elements of Macbeth, but also elements of Hitchcock’s movies. I entered club scene, greeted by strobe lights and Macbeth dancing on the table with two bare-chested women. A man came running out wearing nothing but a goat mask. Through the disorienting flashes I saw flickers of a bloodied baby passed around. The next moment, the lights stopped and the actors disappeared.
I spent some time following the characters around, favoring the pregnant woman and her psychotic breaks. I noticed that all the pictures in her house were turned around, facing the wall. But I also investigated every space I could find. In the same woman’s apartment, there was a boy’s room. Clean and organized. But when I glanced into the floor length mirror I saw a reflection of the same room, but in disarray. The toys were scattered on the floor and there was a large blood stain in the middle of the bed. Just another one of Sleep No More’s mysteries.
I saw many different scenes, but everything created more questions than answers. Why did the maid at the hotel tease the pregnant woman with a warm glass of milk? Who was the nurse I found, acting as if she were possessed by something?
With my remaining thirty minutes, I ventured up to the top floor and found a very different scene. It was a psych ward strangely decorated with religious objects. A few moments later Lady Macbeth ran in, covered in blood. A nurse gave her a bath before Lady Macbeth ran off again.
The night ended in a grand room with all the actors sitting at a long dinner table. A green haze settled over them as the scene progressed in slow motion. The ghost of Banquo entered and sat down. But then Macbeth was pulled up on the table, a noose dropping down from the ceiling and set around his neck. There Macbeth stood on the top of a stool, looking out at the crowd. A large crack sounded and the chair was kicked away. As his body flung forward, the lights went out.
My time at the McKittrick was over. While the experience was unique and unable to be replicated, I still don’t know what I saw. And I’m not sure I will ever understand what happened during my stay at the McKittrick Hotel.
Over the past two days I’ve been working on an Edit Test. Basically, the goal of an edit test is to test your editing skills. There’s plenty of pressure to do well. So my publishing program gave me a practice edit test and let’s just say it’s been no easy feat.
The first half of my assignment was to cut a 1,000 world article in half. While that was extremely time consuming, I enjoyed making a wordy article more direct and concise.
But the second half of my assignment is to come up with 5 story pitches for the travel magazine AFAR. While that sounds easy, it is much harder than anticipated. Any idea I come up with isn’t original. The more and more I look through the website, the more and more distressed I become. Everything about travel has already been covered, right?
Well, I have three out of five done. Just two more to go.
Does visiting Minnesota’s Spam Museum sound like a popular vacation destination to anyone?
Sundays feel like the best days. A whole day devoted to relaxing without any deadlines to meet.
But then Monday rolls around and work appears from nowhere. I woke up this morning to a list of rapidly approaching deadlines, and I’ve been chugging coffee ever since.
I guess I should backtrack a little. The first three weeks of my summer publishing institute focus on magazine publishing. At the end of the three weeks we have a final project: designing and launching our own magazine brand. As the digital director I get to plan out all media platforms, establishing a strong online presence for our brand. I have to decide the website strategy, intended demographic, and the additional content the website adds to our conversation on college sports.
Today has been a long day, but our final magazine presentation is only two weeks away. My team is determined and hardworking. I can’t wait to see how this magazine unfolds. I guess it’s time for another cup of coffee, black.
Aside: Our magazine is The Roster, college sports across all fields. If you want to be a part of our final product, judged by heads of Vogue, Cosmo, and Everyday with Rachel Ray, upload pictures promoting spirit and athletic pride to Instagram, #jointheroster. Foster the Roster!
New York is huge. 8.3 million to be exact. Before arriving I hadn’t spent much time in big cities. But so far I’ve only managed to get lost once (primarily thanks to my iPhone and its GPS capabilities). After spending a month in London, the subway here is easy.
Today, after walking past the tenth pizza place in the two blocks from the subway to my door, I treated myself to pizza. I don’t know if it’s something about the air in NYC, but the pizza tastes incredible. In lieu of cooking dinner each night, I’ve decided to test all the pizza joints around me for comparison. All in the name of science, of course.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been here since Sunday. I’ve been thrown into a magazine whirlwind with over 12 hour days. I practically feel like a pro when it comes to anything magazine publishing. We’ve heard AMAZING speakers, like the design director of Esquire, the senior vice president of International Publishing from National Geographic, and the incredible duo from Men’s Health. And it’s still just the first week. I can’t wait to see where this program continues to take me.
Hopefully towards a job…
This summer, I am spending 7 weeks living in New York City, attending the Summer Publishing Program at New York University. While I’m sad to leave my life in Minnesota, and all the great friend’s I’ve made at St Olaf college, I’m looking forward to this new chapter of my life.