The 30-Year-Old Intern

Breaking into the publishing world is not fun. From any standpoint. Whether you want to be a writer, an agent, an editor, or whatever else. Possibly the only easy way into publishing is gaining employment in a basement mailroom. But seeing as I’ve already done the mail-sorting thing, I figured that I’d try another route into this whole shebang: an Internship.

It’s been years since I penned my first story for my undergraduate degree, a five-pager written for my “Intro to Creative Writing” course. For the most part, I hated that class. However, it was the first time I realized how much I enjoyed writing—no, not enjoyed, but loved writing.  Ever since I was in Kindergarten—where I’d dictate the story to my teacher, who then let me create the illustrations—I’ve written off and on, always enjoying myself but never really having aspirations to be a Writer. That all changed in my intro course, when I realized how much I wanted to tell stories. I haven’t looked back since.

Sure, I’ve questioned my purpose or if I’ve chosen the right path. I mean, what writer doesn’t feel like they’re just wasting their time when the rejection letters start rolling in, especially the impersonalized form rejections? But I keep on, simply because of my love.

It’s led me through some highs and lows, everything from publishing short stories to hearing “No thank you” after “No thank you” in regards to my master’s thesis novel. And, honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if my writing aspirations aren’t a key factor with my building anxiety issues. Still, I knew things would get better. And they have, on multiple levels.

First and foremost, I met my amazing writing counterpart, Holly Cagney, with whom I’ve now written one completed manuscript and am on the verge of finishing a first draft of our second novel. It’s been ridiculously fun writing with her and rekindles my love for the written word every time it’s my turn to write the next section of our novels.

Next, I realized how much I not only enjoy writing, but how much I enjoy editing. I’m not talking about my own work. Fuck no. I hate revision. It’s a necessary evil to writing, but I’d much rather be like Cynthia Ozick and say that when a story or novel is finished, it’s finished, no questions. But working on others’ material? I heart it almost as much as writing itself. This realization led me on a quest to figure out what it would take to become an editor in this overcomplicated publishing world. Everything direction I found pointed to an internship.

So I poked around the internets, trying my best to track down any literary internship. Problem was, the majority of them all want you to be able to work in house—complete with fetching coffee, sorting files, and answering phones. I’ve done that as an editorial assistant—and got paid for it. I wasn’t about to do such a thing for free. Besides, I can’t, seeing as I’m not living in one location long enough to cover a full stint of an internship. Worse still, the few satellite internships I found had just passed their deadlines. But I still discovered two to apply to.

Any of you job hunters out there know that these odds blow.

For once, though, the writing world wasn’t going to simply ignore me or raise my hopes only to shat them back out on me with an oh-so-courteous, “Thank you for letting us consider your work. Unfortunately…”

One of those two emailed me back. One of those two exchanged a couple more emails with me. One of those two scheduled a phone interview, whereupon a sixth-month internship was offered.

Now, I’m interning for the Andrea Hurst & AssociatesLiterary Management. Through them, I’ve been working with both Andrea and Margaret Bail (an extremely wonderful person, by the by), helping assess manuscripts, trolling through the slushpile, and will be able to see the rest of the “back end” of the publishing process. I couldn’t be happier.

It may seem weird to some to become an intern in your post-graduate life, working for free for the next sixth months, but when you’re deadest on accomplishing one of your lifelong goals, a step like this feels pretty fucking fantabulous. So go ahead, call me a 30-year-old intern because it’s exactly where I want to be—side-stepping my way into the publishing world.

"The Next Big Thing" Blog Hop

My good friend, A. E. Stueve, asked me to participate in the blog hop of “The Next Big Thing.” You know, one of those setups for some good ol’ fashioned self-promotion. Basically, it asks a few questions of writers and what they’re currently working on. So, without further ado…

1) What is the working title of your next book?
Frenetic Connections

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
Seeing as it’s one that I’m working on with my coauthor, Holly Cagney, it stemmed from one of those conversations where we were, mostly, talking about something else, and the novel grew from tossing around a few “What about…”

3) What genre does your book fall under?
Young Adult Contemporary—though for the older crowd since the characters are on the verge of graduating, and seeing as the novel is set in Vegas…

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Much as I love Michael Cera and think he’d do a great job here, I’m thinking that Andrew Garfield would knock one of the narrators, Donovan, out of the park. As for the other narrator, Frances, while she doesn’t really look the part, who wouldn’t want Ellen Page?

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When Frances gets Donovans valuables stolen on the Vegas Strip, their flight home isn’t the only connection in jeopardy of being missed. (This totally came from my coauthor, so in this vein, I guess I cheated.)

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The goal is to be represented, though it’s a bit from the querying stage still.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
As mentioned above, it’s still not ready to be queried, and that probably has quite a bit to do with the fact that the manuscript isn’t finished yet. Still, we’ve only been working on it about a month, and even with the holidays, we’ve gotten about ¼ of the way through our word count goal.

8)  What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Any of the YA romances with multiple narrators, but most notably Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Most of it stems from enjoying the coauthoring setup as much as I have. Once we finished the first book, we knew that we were going to write another. And while the last novel was more on the “quiet” side of things, we wanted this one to be—and I quote, “Mother Fuckin’ LOUD.” So, since I was currently living in Vegas and got to know the area fairly well, well, it doesn’t get much louder or more frenetic than Vegas.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
While it’s set in Vegas—and even much of it taking place on The Strip—this isn’t the typical Vegas most are used to through the traditional Las Vegas films, The Hangover and the like. This is less party-tastic and more a tribute to all the colorful characters that inhabit this space, including cosplayers like Winnie the Pooh and Kratos from the God of War video game series. It’ll hopefully be a peek into the Vegas that most don’t see or ever know—unless you’ve lived there.

There you have it. And if you’re interested in what others are doing, there should be some posts coming next week, Jan. 9. from a few folks I know. (I’ll provide links as I receive confirmation of their participation.)

Top Films of 2012: Number 1 - Cloud Atlas

After some rave reviews and a recommendation from a trusted mentor, I read this book during my MFA stint. While I enjoyed the novel well enough and could see what Mitchell was going for, it just didn’t seem to “hit” me like so many other readers. It was good, but I didn’t see why it impacted others as it had. So when I first heard about the possible adaptation brewing between Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis, I was more than a little interested. (I’ve been a huge fan of Tykwer since Run Lola Run, and say what you will about the Matrix sequels, the Wachowskis can put together some of the best sequences and eye-candy better than most currently working directors.)

In short, the film simply blew me away. It finally “hit” me. Hard. Right in the chest, and I don’t think another film affected me with such a huge emotional impact as this one did. I finally understood what everyone was talking about with the novel and what Mitchell had attempted. But why I think this worked better for me is not only that I’m a visual person, but the blending of the six stories completely and wholly, rather than Mitchell’s matryoshka presentation in the novel, made the connections in the narrative that much stronger, and both visually and emotionally engaging. Seriously, some of the montage sequences of this film are simply mind-blowing; the editing and thematic links created between the “Cut Tos” build a whole so much bigger than the individual parts.

On top of that, the acting is wonderful—even if it’s a bit too easy to get caught up in the “Who is the actor playing in this section?” as you watch. Hugo Weaving is all sorts of amazing as “The Devil Georgie” and “Nurse Noakes.” And while there’s nothing particularly “amazing” about Hugh Grant’s characters, he was the only actor that I completely missed all of his other roles, so take that as you will. (I will be more than a little disappointed if there isn’t some “Best Actor/Actress” love shown to this film.)

Visually, too, this film is stunning, as it has a wonderful juxtaposition of a gritty, down-to-earth beauty combined with a glowing/horrific version of the future. Really, though, considering the directors, I’d have been more surprised if the film HADN’T been aesthetically pleasing.

Ultimately, though, what makes the film work is the editing. Yes, it might not be something most folks notice or will pay any attention to, but condensing and jumping through time as this film does without a skilled editor? Well, it would’ve been shit, plain and simple. This, in particular, I will be more than a little annoyed if Alexander Berner does not get an Oscar nomination for this film. He’s what makes this film work.

True, it may be over-bloated and pompous to some, but when you consider the source material and how cohesive of a narrative these directors were able to create? You should be able to ignore a bit of overindulgence from time to time. Because, in the end, a film that produces such an emotionally-engaging romance film that spans hundreds of years in terms of settings and characters, well, it’s almost impossible to be unimpressed by the accomplishment of these directors.

Top Films of 2012: Numbers 2 & 3 - The Avengers & Looper

As promised, here are Films Two and Three for the year. These, of course, are in a particular order…

Number Three – Looper: Like so many films, I’d heard about this one LONG before any real footage or info started showing up—basically because I stalk certain directors via IMDB, and Rian Johnson is one of my stalk-ees. Brick and The Brothers Bloom are both excellent films, even if the former trumps the latter. So when I heard about Looper, its premise, and the actors involved, I wanted it so, so badly.

Unfortunately, as I tend to do when I’m anticipating a film, it builds into unrealistic proportions. Sadly, when I first watched this at the midnight showing, I left the theatre feeling more than a little disappointed. Sure, I’d enjoyed it well enough, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a phenomenal job at mimicking Bruce Willis’ speech patterns and mannerisms (really, it’s worth it just to see this mighty fine bit of acting). But I still felt like, in the end, it ruined itself in many ways.

Then I received a ranting praise email from a good friend of mine that made me rethink the film. I decided to give it another shot.

On second viewing, everything “clicked” much more wholly than the first time. Maybe because my initial expectations had already been let down and I knew what to expect. Maybe seeing it in the day with a fresh mind, rather than one that had been up for too many hours as it was, helped. Maybe I simply saw it for what it was: a story of hope.

Whatever the reason, I loved this film, and highly recommend it to any and all. Johnson has created a future that’s as freakishly possible as Mike Judge’s Idiocracy—though even more likely. This grounding allowed the time-travel and such to simply “exist,” along with the other fantastical elements. And, ultimately, its theme of hope and “love trumping all” made this one even more emotionally engaging than you’d expect a sci-fi film to be.

Number Two – The Avengers: How can you NOT have enjoyed this film? Seriously, this is a prime example of what films were made for in the first place: an escape of pure entertainment.

However, entertainment alone doesn’t always cut it, which is why The Avengers earns its Number Two spot. This film is AMAZINGLY balanced. Yes, the majority of these characters have had their own films to build their characters and back stories. But you’d think they’d all be fighting for screen time and one might be left wondering “Whose story is this?” Yet Joss Whedon managed to give each and every character their own ideals and growth throughout the film. (One might still argue that Robert Downey Jr. takes the spotlight with Iron Man, as usual, but even so, the other characters are one small notch below him in terms of screen time and character growth.)

It’s full of humor, has excellently staged action sequences, and still manages to slip in not only some fantastic lines, but also a few “deeper” thoughts that deserve consideration, from self-sacrifice to being a part of a team to what it means to wield power over others.

I think out of every film I saw this year, not one held my attention and kept me entertained as this one did, from second one to the final “bonus” scene after the whole of the credits.

It’s times like this, when Hollywood actually makes a “smart” choice by turning such a project over to the right hands, that give me hope for future films—not only in the comic book realm, but for films in general. There are a handful of directors that may not have the “Spielberg” and “Scorsese” status, but I’ll be damned if they can’t make a mighty fine film, and both Whedon and Johnson fall into this category.

Top Films of 2012: Honorable Mentions Part 2

Here is the other half of my “Honorable Mentions” for the year. Numbers Two and Three will be revealed on Monday, and Number One will drop on Tuesday.

Wreck-it Ralph: Being the videogame nerd that I am, of course I was drooling over this film, as it looked to pay tribute to so many things that I hold dear. I’ll admit, it takes a bit to really pick up some steam, but once it does, this turned into one of the more heart-warming and wonderfully put together films of the year. Besides, all the subtle videogame nerd-dom had me giggling for much longer than is probably healthy.

Moonrise Kingdom: Not many directors have such a distinct visual style as Wes Anderson, and like him or not, his films can be identified as such within watching less than a minute of them. Anyone with that sort of vision and style deserves props, and I think he carries through once again with his cross between absurdity, emotional insights, and energetic presentation. His films have that element where you think anything and everything could happen—and often does. Yet even at it’s most unbelievable, he manages to hold it together into one cohesive piece. As always, I look forward to his next work.

Django Unchained: For whatever reason—I’m guessing simply the timeframe in which I watched them—I never much cared for Taratino’s earlier films. It wasn’t until Kill Bill that I was anticipating the release of his films (this because I knew how much he’d been influenced by samurai flicks, and I couldn’t wait to see what he’d do with them). But since then, his films have grown and grown, with Inglorious Basterds being nothing short of amazing. And while Django isn’t quite as good as IB, it managed to keep me entertained, laughing, and cringing for the entirety of its two hours and 45 minutes. This, mostly, worked because of his gift of dialogue and conversation (not many can write a conversation like him). Plus, the performances are too good to ignore, on all fronts, from Jamie Foxx to Christopher Waltz and even Leonard Dicaprio. Each and every actor and actress is spot-on in this film, and I will be more than a little surprised if this film doesn’t garner some heavy Oscar nominations—if not wins—on this front.

Ruby Sparks: When I first saw the trailer, I thought it was a reverse version of Stranger Than Fiction; however, while watching, that view quickly shifted. Ruby Sparks is very much its own film with its own ideas and an original presentation. It navigates from the laugh out loud comedy to the uncomfortable to the downright dark, yet still manages to stay cohesive as one unit. Really, this film is all about relationships and what we do for, with, and even how we manipulate one another to shape them into who we want—or expect—them to be. That commentary, alone, makes this film worth watching. And, you know, I like Paul Dano, too.

Silver Linings Playbook: Like Tarantino and McDonagh, David O. Russell squeezes perfect performances from his actors and actresses—despite his explosive temper. (Google the clip of him and Lily Tomlin on the set of I Heart Huckabees.) This one is no different, as everyone—and I’m including Bradley Cooper in this—is wonderful. It’s a dysfunctional love story where everyone involved is broken in some way or another. So the different levels of redemption and what’s considered “normal” become that much more emotionally engaging, as it makes one question what, in the end, can truly be qualified as “healthy” and “The Norm.” True, it plays out much the way you’d expect and guess, but between the great acting, squirm-in-your-seat uncomfortable scenes, and the emotional resonance, this film is just shy of hitting my top three.

Top Films of 2012: Honorable Mentions Pt. 1

Continuing on with my “odd” presentation of the year-end films, I’m breaking these last parts into four sections. You get five “Honorable Mentions” today, five tomorrow, then my “Tops” on Monday and Tuesday next week. (There were too many movies that I felt like I enjoyed equally, and ranking them was stupid. However, three did, indeed, rise to the top.)

As you read, please note the following: Yes, I have seen The Hobbit, and while I enjoyed it, I enjoyed these films more. Also, at this writing, I have yet to see Argo, Lincoln, Life of Pi, or Les Miserables. Take that as you will.

These come to you in no particular order, simply five today, five tomorrow.

Seven Psychopaths: I love Martin McDonagh. After watching In Bruges, I knew this would be a director I’d be following for the length of his career. And while I didn’t quite like SP as much, this is still a very enjoyable film. Mostly, I think he’s a director that can get some wonderful performances out of every actor he works with. (He’s the reason I started liking Colin Farrell.) Everyone is spot-on in this film. And while the “meta” portions of the film almost become a little too self-indulgent at times—reminded me of Adaptation in some ways—the colorful characters and dark humor carried me along for a wonderful ride.

Safety Not Guaranteed: I worried this film would be one of those “quirky for quirkiness’s sake” films. However, I was glad to see that my worries were unfounded. There might be a few scenes that feel “oddball” just because they could be, but overall, the heart of the film lies in its examination of relationships, how they form—if they form at all—and the lasting impacts they can have when you remember the past in different lights. Plus, both Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson are all sorts of wonderful. True, the ending might—and seems to irk—many, but it worked for me, as I couldn’t see it wrapping up any other way.

Hunger Games: Like the last few Harry Potter films, this one was so much better than it deserved to—or was expected—to be. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the novel enough, but I never thought the film would have been so well-realized, taking the novel from a “fantasy” and turning into something that felt much more grounded and “real” than I expected it would be. It’s a shame Lionsgate pushed out the writer/director simply because he was going to “take too long” for the next films. They had a good thing going, and I won’t be surprised if the second film will do what the second novel did for me: all but kill the series. Still, this one on its own is more emotionally engaging and well-acted than I ever thought possible for an adaption of this series.

The Dark Knight Rises: As one of my friends said, there is simply no way Nolan would be able to top The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger’s Joker is now the stuff of cinematic legend in terms of mind-blowing performances. But, to me, this one didn’t even top Batman Begins. Honestly, I don’t think it really works as its own, singular film—like the other two do. Yes, it’s entertaining enough, and I love much of what Nolan has done here, but without the other two films, this would’ve been less than “Meh.” That being said though, as a finale to the trilogy, this film does an amazing job tying up all the threads and giving a sense of closure to the trilogy that’s a rarity these days. (Plus, I don’t care what others say, Anne Hathaway nailed Catwoman.)

Pirates! Band of Misfits: I read Gideon Defoe’s first two Pirates! books more than a few years back—and thoroughly enjoyed them. So when I heard Ardman was adapting the first one into a stop-motion film, I eagerly anticipated this one for quite awhile. And the waiting was worth it. This film is all sorts of amusing, with bizarre one-liners and an extremely well balanced sense of humor, as it keeps both the kid-friendly “physical/visual” humor and “asides” for the older crowds in check. Plus, this film is face-melting when you think of all the detail and time that must’ve gone into filming some of these scenes. In particular, the bubbles on the beer are ridiculous. Kudos to the filmmakers that had the patience to animate such things. Films don’t get much more fun than this one—especially when keeping to a “family friendly” audience.

Top Films of 2012: The Visual Feasts

As promised yesterday, today's post focuses on those films that were visually stunning in one capacity or another. While some are good films as a whole, others were simply chosen because of their aesthetics. Without further ado, here are my picks--in no particular order.

  • Snow White and the Huntsman: Say what you will about Kristen Stewart, her Derek Zoolander “One Look,” and her acting in general, but you’d have a hard time arguing that this isn’t a visually impressive film. From the hallucinogenic swamp to the realization of the fantastical creatures to the fluidity of the mirror and milk and crow mush, this is a grotesquely gorgeous film. Yes, it has some serious flaws overall, but aesthetically, it’s more than worth your time.
  • ParaNorman: Unlike the above film, I loved this one on more levels than its looks alone. It would definitely make my Top-Ten list of the year. But, taken on looks alone, this is the prettiest stop-motion film that I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how many times I lost myself in the visuals and thought: “I can’t believe this is stop-motion…” I’ve tried my hand at such films, and to not only work in that exacting of a medium but to also create such a beautifully realized world… well, there are no words for this accomplishment.
  • Rise of the Guardians: In film school, I was often taught the importance of the close-up. The more, the better became the mantra. And while I still hold this to be true, there is something to be said about a perfectly composed extreme wide-shot, and RotG has some amazing wide-shots. Almost mind-blowingly so. It’s a film that took full advantage of its animated medium and produced some of the most well-composed frames and nothing short of jaw-dropping visuals of any film this year. Period.
  • Dark Shadows: Overall, I didn’t really care for this film. But, in terms of Tim Burton fully and completely realizing his “vision,” I don’t think he’s come close to this level of sophistication in any of his earlier works.
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin and Killing Them Softly: I’m lumping these two together, as they are very much in the same vein. For being films with such dark themes and melancholic/disturbing/disheartening tones, these are still beautifully shot films. I’m always impressed when a film without all the fantastic elements and special effects can still be so visually engaging, and both of these films did it for me—even if I felt like shit after having watched them.
  • Skyfall: When I’d heard Sam Mendes was directing this, I went from being like “Oh, another Bond film” to “I can’t wait for this freaking film!” Mendes has always impressed me with his visuals, right from the start with American Beauty, and I knew that he’d be a good choice for Bond. He did not disappoint. Not only was there both stark and lush beauty in this film, he added something that’s been missing from Bond films for years: heart. True, I won’t argue with the purests that say it “misses the point” of what the earlier Bond films are, but for someone who never gave two shits about Bond before these last few films, I am more than impressed with how these films have grown—despite the slight stumble of Quantum of Solace.