Friday, December 3, 2010

They liked it. They really liked it!

Two agents have weighed in on my book. Agent #1, on whose critique of the first 75 pages I bid at a charity auction, said, This delivers. You have quirky characters, and people up to no good. I love the humor in the book; you’re very funny.

Here's the but. When I asked if she'd be interested in representing it, she said it wasn't her kind of book; she tends more towards family dramas. But - she did ask me to send her the rest of the manuscript, which she looked forward to reading.

And in even better news....I asked the agent who'd requested the full manuscript a few months ago for a status report. And she said,
We have been considering your manuscript, which we think is very good, but needs some revisions before we'd be able to take it on. We thought that ANIMAL CRACKER was very funny, well-paced, and irreverent. The heroine is brash and relatable, which makes what could be conventional chick lit feel fresh and engaging. We did think, though, that the second half of the book could use some work...the resolution, even for such a lighthearted work, came too easily. We'd love to see a revision that addresses these ideas.

I shall revise away.

Monday, November 22, 2010

An Open Letter to Alec Baldwin

Dear Alec,

You first caught my eye in Married to the Mob. You were adorable in It's Complicated. And you make Thursday my favorite day of the week as Jack Donaghy.

Next up for Alec Baldwin - the film version of Animal Cracker, my yet unpublished, megahit-to-be novel. Don't miss the chance to star as the malapropping, conniving, philandering boss (who makes Jack look like a pussy) at the novel's center. Buy the book, get it published and you own the Academy Award-winning role.

Come on, get in touch, put up your feet and enjoy reading your next part!

All my best,
Andi Brown

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I won!

Okay, folks, we're in do-or-die territory. No word back from the two agents who requested the full manuscript, and a bunch more rejections. So, I just wanna know - is this thing publishable or not?

Grub Street, Boston's fantastic writer's organization, recently auctioned off manuscript critiques by several VERY esteemed literary agents - and I won TWO!. I spent waaaaaaay too much money. But I need the definitive word. I sent off the requested 75 pages to both yesterday, and I intend to ask them point blank: Is this thing worth putting more time into or should I drop it?

Hold your breath with me!

Friday, October 22, 2010

James Franco: The Final Chapter

Well, I think I've "Milk"ed this James Franco thing all I can. For now, ciao, James Franco, and good luck with all your endeavors.

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Open Letter to James Franco

Dear James Franco:

First, can I just tell you how long I've loved watching you perform? Since Freaks and Geeks, that's when. Okay, I didn't really watch it until last year, but still. And your performance in Howl? Wow!

Now, James, imagine a game-changing role in a HUGE film. Based on a best-selling novel that, along with its commercial appeal, is funny and, yes, smart. Like you. And like YOUR character in the movie.

Who isn't nice. At all. Aren't you eager to play a jerk, a ne'er-do-well, okay, a real asshole?

You, James Franco, have first dibs. Because the book isn't published yet. I'm pleased to offer you a first look. You have nothing to lose. Come on, get in touch, put up your feet and enjoy reading your next role!

All my best,
Andi Brown

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two degrees of James Franco

The other day, I turned on the radio five different times, and every single time, guess who was on, promoting his new movie, Howl, the Allen Ginsburg biopic. James's ubiquity cries out for some additions to the lexicon. To wit:

Jamesed: overcommitted. "I know I said I'd meet you tonight, but I'm totally Jamesed, what with my lecture on tools of the Mesozoic era at the museum, followed by my guest star turn at the American Ballet Theater. Sorry!"

Pulling a Franco: Engaging in intense study of wildly diverse subjects. "Hello prestigious university registrar. Could you please add to my Ph.D. in biocarbon dating of insect fossils another in anthropomorphism in 17th century Ghanain poetry. Oh, and throw in that class on Writing a New Greek Tragedy, would ya?" "Wow, you are really pulling a Franco."

Franco'ed up: On an adrenaline high from lack of sleep. "Ten cups of coffee, ten minutes of snoozing and I am way Franco'ed up. Think I'll go to med school."

Two degrees of James Franco: The latest parlor game, in which James Franco is connected to everyone. You (blog reader) ----Me (blogger) ----James Franco (star of the movie version of my novel).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Being James Franco

Actor/writer/artist/grad student/grad student/grad student/ and now....literary tastemaker. The polymath wunderkind has added publisher to his storied resume. In addition to matriculating in several graduate programs, adorable James has, according to a publishing listserv I subscribe to, purchased an unpublished novel. What next for James?

Who cares? I just want to BE JAMES FRANCO.

In my rich-and-famous-author guise, my life will look like this:

Writing my next comic novel
Writing my screenplay
Writing the Serious Important Book that's in my head
Practicing foreign languages online through "international friend" websites
Reading books in foreign languages
Watching foreign movies while knitting gorgeous sweaters of my own design
Doing lots of volunteer work
Taking lots of adult education courses

I'm sure I can think of other things to add to the list of Things I Must Do When I Am Rich.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No News is Bad News

And the tally is (drumroll, please): Thirteen outstanding submissions to agents, five rejections, and one, yes, still reading full manuscript.

I know that many agents never bother to respond if they're not interested. And in my limited experience, if they are interested, they let you know pretty quickly. So I'm not feeling too hopeful about the ones I haven't heard from.

Which is why I send out new queries every few days. Siiiiiiiigh....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A new romance (writer)?

I receive a daily deals report from Publishers Marketplace, listing which agents sold which books to which publishers. And what kinds of books.

Help - I'm trapped in the wrong genre. 99% of the books sold (okay, I exaggerate, maybe it's 70%) are women's fiction, and no, ladies, this does not mean chick lit. We are talking about Harlequin Romances, or, what we called in my family "Mom's Books." Harlequin Romances of the 60's boasted titles like A Case of Heart Trouble, whose cover depicted a nurse in an embrace with a man in a tuxedo - presumably a wealthy and troubled cardiac surgeon in need of her own special brand of TLC. Or Take All My Loves, featuring a couple of guys in a rowboat, a plaintive brunette looking out on them, thinking what? I hope the hitman I hired does a good job? Maybe they'll fall in love with each other and leave me alone?

My dad periodically warned that he would cut off my mother's supply of Harlequins, as they threatened to take over every flat surface of our home. But of course their favorite nesting spot was the top of the toilet tank. You could always count on a bit of entertainment while taking care of business...which sometimes extended your stay in the "smallest room" if the heroine were particularly winsome, the hero exceptionally virile.

My sisters and I had a method for reading "Mom's books." Read the first chapter, then the last page. That pretty much gave you the whole story, though I believe one of us, who shall remain nameless, actually confessed to -horrors - reading one IN ITS ENTIRETY.

Harlequins are still going strong, though I believe they now contain depictions of real sexual activity, as opposed to the chaste descriptions of my mother's books: His hand brushed her ear, almost as if by accident. But he kept it there. No accident then. She blushed becomingly, as he bent down and pressed his lips to hers. His mouth was clean, and she detected an aroma of mint mixed with the manly scent of pipe tobacco. Timidly at first, and later with more gusto, she returned his kisses, her head in the clouds with her feet, winglike, poised to follow, bearing her upwards, into the heavenly atmosphere of true love.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hollywood here I come!!

Yes, I've started my screenplay. Which is to say, I'm working on assembling my cast. But I think I have too many main characters -12 potentials so far, and I'm not done. This is to be a multi-character, multi-plot film. but unlike Crash or Babel, all the characters interact in real time. How can I figure out the size of my cast?

Brainstorm! I shall watch an Agatha Christie movie and see how many people one can keep track of. I welcome any other suggestions for solving this problem.

Re: novel queries, the current count is: 11 sent and pending, 3 rejections, 1 requested manuscript, and 1 queried six weeks ago with no response and therefore presumed dead.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I just re-queried an agent who'd requested the full manuscript a couple of years ago, and who'd asked me to keep her in mind if I did any rewriting. Yesterday, the good old US Postal Service brought this: We greatly enjoyed the first 50 pages of your manuscript and are hoping to read more. Please send the full manuscript.

And guess what! The rest of the book is much stronger than the first fifty pages. I think. I don't even mind the two rejections I also received yesterday.

Off to the post office!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Oh No

Back from a relaxing and rejuvenating two weeks in Spain, one as a volunteer in an English immersion program for Spaniards, the second getting lost in scary mountain passes, drinking lots of Mallorcan sparkling wine and reveling in the warmth of the Mediterranean.

Before I left, I'd queried my dream agent on the book. He replied three hours later - on a Sunday no less - that it wasn't "up his alley" but would forward it on to his "fabulous" colleague. Disappointing, but at least he didn't reject me outright. Agents aren't in the niceness business; if he'd hated it he'd just have passed. Right?

Guess I'm not fabulous enough, since she never contacted me. So...back to the grind of sending out queries to brand new agents. Four today.

Maybe I need a new medium. Lots of ideas brewing for screenplay. Will think about it tomorrow.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I received a response from my perfect agent a mere THREE HOURS after my submission. And my perfect agent said 'this doesn't seem quite up my alley, so I've forwarded it to my fabulous colleague X. I'm sure you'll hear shortly from her if this is something she wants to pursue.'

Eleven days later, email box is empty. Fabulous colleague is on vacation. Fabulous colleague is swamped. Fabulous colleague is too fabulous for the likes of me. Off to Spain soon, where I will not give this a moment's thought, instead fortifying myself with sangria in preparation for full court agent press upon my return.

Adios, amigos.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I'm Done!!

And the jury is in, at least from Amy, my book doctor. In her last email, she said," I think we're getting really close now and the last half (or even more) really just sings along and was fun to read. You've fixed the biggest problems perfectly. "

And so I have. Down to (almost) every single suggestion she made in our follow-up conversation last week.

And now, I have crafted the perfect query letter with my perfect first three pages to the perfect agent to be sent with perfect timing. Well, not sure about the timing, but I can't worry about that. And now, I am hitting....SEND.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No more whining

I went back over my last few posts and thought, God, what a whiner. Who wants to read the complaints of a frustrated author?

Focusing on the postiive, I will just say that Amy, my book doctor, has been in possession of my precious (re)words for about two weeks, with the hope that she'd get back to me with comments by the 15th. Yesterday. I will not bug, I will not bug, I will not bug.

Now for the fun summer stuff! My beloved Camp Mataponi, my home, my refuge, my heart for nine glorious summers, is celebrating its centennial with a blow-out reunion in Naples, Maine on July 17th. I have been busy reconnecting with people I haven't seen in forty years. It promises to be a weekend of singing, crying, gabbing, more crying. I am planning to bring a giant box of tissues, just for me.

And just a few days later, I'm off to Spain, where, for the second summer in a row, I will serve as a volunteer in an English immersion program for Spaniards called Vaughantown. If last year is any guide, it'll be exhilarating and exhausting, and yes, a bit like camp, with lots of rituals and intense interconnections. An English friend from last year and I are going together this time, and following the week of volunteering with one of collapsing on the beach in Majorca where a friend of hers owns a cottage. Heaven!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I know nothing

First the good news, about my lovely weekend, which began with my traditional Friday night dinner with friends, which one calls our Shicker Shabbat (shicker being Yiddish for drunkard). We were joined by two interlopers, I mean non-regulars, and it was very fun. I am lucky to have great friends.

Saturday, another friend and I embarked on a quest for beautiful yarns for knitting, which led us to the world's greatest uber-yarn store, Webs, in Northampton, Mass, which was hosting its annual tent sale. The place was a madhouse, but I came home with yarn for three new projects, and the idea to knit an entire room - a rug, curtain, and pillows. At some point. After I finish with the damned rewrite, for the very last time.

And of course last night, I watched my man, the star of the movie version of my novel, host SNL for his 15th time. For more information on this topic, see my posts of October 31st and March 27th.

And then, today. After reading the paper and taking my 16-year-old son driving, I settled into my backyard hammock to read the entire revised manuscript, checking for flow, but also for what Amy, my book doctor, asked me to look closely at, especially her caution that ""There shouldn't be anything in the book - absolutely nothing - that doesn't relate to [heroine's} overarching goal..." I have SO MUCH trouble with this, and I'm frankly totally confused. I have scenes that I think illuminate character, or complicate lives, but that absolutely do not relate to her overarching goal. Removing those scenes just doesn't feel right.

I have done most of what Amy suggested, and the book is truly richer for it. It moves more quickly, has more dramatic tension. But here's the bottom line. I have lost all perspective on this work. I simply can't judge it any more.

I've decided to wait and see if Amy is able to read it again in June. If not, I'm definitely planning to make a small foray into the marketplace, i.e. send it out to just a couple of agents and see if I get any nibbles. If not, it'll be a sign it needs more work. I just don't know....

I am feeling tortured. Guess it goes with the territory.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I should call this The Lazy Blogger. Or maybe the blogger-without-anything-to-say.

The truth is I'm putting most of my creative energies into, what else, the rewrite. After doubts of self and book doctor, I'm cutting, pasting, and creating new scenes (one quite brilliant one suggested by book m.d.) and guess what! It's getting better all the time.

I should be finished in a couple of weeks. Amy, book doctor, is in Russia at the moment, and had told me she could review the rewrite in either early June or September. Guess which is my favorite month.

I am considering sending it out to one particular agent I've been eyeing even if Amy hasn't read it. Have I mentioned that I'm impatient, impetuous, impolitic and, yeah, immature? This agent says on his website that he has a soft spot for stories featuring animals. And the name of my book is...Animal Cracker! Yes, little critters figure prominently.

He will receive my query and sample pages. He will say, "Damn, she's good." He will email me immediately to request the full manuscript. He will call me a week later and ask me to come to New York to review our contract. He tells me he will begin submitting it to publishers immediately. He will contact me the following week with a two-word email: Bidding War! He will call me back with a $ number that will clear all my debts and then some. He will tell me that negotiations have begun on movie rights.

All of this will occur before August 1.


Now you know why I don't sleep very well.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Daily Whine

I'm almost a week into the rewrite. Before I report on that, I must come clean about a little white lie in my last posting. Yes, Amy did nod and say, sure, your book is publishable if you do this and that. But...I neglected to convey her nonverbal communication. I'm pretty sure she was humoring me, and I'm betting if I ask her next time, as I'm planning to, if I should put this book aside for now, she'd say yes.

I am filled with self-doubt...and a bit of book doctor doubt as well. As I started the rewrite, I felt overwhelmed, especially in terms of the opening. Then I reordered all my scenes and felt I'd scaled Everest. Things went better after that. But there was also a part of me that felt I'd lost control of my own story. Amy has me increasing the role of a character who'd been way in the background, to account for my protagonist's motivation. And while it's making sense, I still feel attached to MY OWN STORY THE WAY I WANT TO TELL IT.

I suppose this is what happens with a real live editor, once you get the deal. But, but, but, I want to sputter, why does every single thing that the main character does have to relate to her ultimate goal? Can't she take a few side trips, just for fun? Amy says no. I suspect all writing teachers say no. I just read something interesting in today's New York Times review of the movie Date Night: "how much livelier this movie might have been if they had been allowed to improvise everything or written the script themselves without regard for plot twists and character arcs and all the other creaky Hollywood machinery..." Does every book require the literary equivalent of the "Hollywood machinery?"

I'm still at it, and I know what I have to do, even as I engage in my usual vacillation between thinking it's unpublishable junk and gigantic bestseller. What? You ask. Is there no middle ground, like a modest hit? Truth is, I'm not a middle ground kind of gal. For better or worse.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book has the flu

Amy emailed me a couple of days ago with her second critique. She did not say, "Andi, you followed all my suggestions! A little change here, a few edits there, and you're good to go. Let's talk agents."

Instead, she said this: Every scene needs to in some way cause a later scene, and every scene needs to be caused by an earlier scene. This is how fiction differs from real life...we need to feel pressure building, things becoming more complicated for the main character and for her primary goal..."

After a couple more pages, she wrote "I know I'm being very prescriptive here. Take these recommendations with a grain of salt."

I say, prescribe away, because I am feeling disheartened and lost. Well, slightly less so after meeting with her this afternoon. We went over her critique, point by point, and analyzed each scene, one by one, getting rid of a few, and adding new ones. She also had some great plot ideas that add both tension and fun to the novel. I feel as if, with Amy, I am getting an individual tutorial in how to structure a novel (Amy teaches creative writing at a university).

I have a lot to do, but I know I can do it. I asked Amy to tell me if she felt that the book was publishable, or was I wasting my time. Her response: "You have a great voice, and it can work if you make these fixes." I'll take that as a yes.

It's all doable, but I almost cried when Amy suggested it needed about year's worth of work. I reminded her how quickly I did my last revision, although of course we now know it wasn't that good. Plus, she may not be available to re-read it until the FALL. Aaargh. We discussed the option of my switching to a different reader if she can't get to it for a while. After our meeting, I tossed that idea around with a friend, and I became persuaded that it's best to stick with Amy, however long it takes. I am so goddamn impatient, I can't stand it. I started this five or six years ago, it's undergone numerous revisions, and I want it done so it can be an Alec Baldwin movie and he can be my boyfriend.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I'm still here

Back by popular demand - okay, one comment - just letting my fan(s) know that I'm still alive. I've been silent because I haven't had any breaking news. I could write about my knitting - I finally finished my adaptation of that sweater from Barney's and mine is more gorgeous. I could say that Jeff Bridges has finally gotten the recognition he deserves. But you don't care about that.

I sent Amy, my book doctor, the revision at 7:00 a.m. on February 26th. Believe it or not, I forgot to ask her when she might be finished. Note to self: Email Amy immediately.

I'm starting to gather agent info, reviewing my list of people I submitted to before, and ordering a subscription to Publisher's Weekly, which sends out a daily newsletter listing agent deals. I've also rewritten my query letter - what an author sends an agent describing her book - in case (fat chance) some agent might get mine and say, "Hmmm, didn't I pass on this two years ago?"

Next time you hear from me, I will have had Amy's reaction to my rewrite. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Waiting Game

Finished the rewrite (or so I think) last night. I emailed Amy-the-book-doctor and asked if she could start reading in five minutes (slight exaggeration). She said she couldn't start until the 26th - that's 12 WHOLE DAYS. She also suggested that it's a good idea after a rewrite to sit on it for a couple of weeks and then take another look before sending it out. Good advice, plus I have no choice.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Once in Love with Amy

My meeting with Amy, my book doctor/editor began auspiciously...with a hug from her. We met at 1369, a charming, old-style coffee shop in Central Square. After about ten seconds of pleasantries, she cut right to the chase.

Here's the short version:
  • The main character needs more compelling reasons- emotionally and tangibly - for everything she does.

  • We need to become more invested in her struggle so we worry about her more.

  • If a character appears, make sure he or she resurfaces later in a way that's critical to the plot. Otherwise, kill her off.
Together, we worked out a number of character and plot problems. And, citing the Odyssey and Oedipus (good thing I'm reasonably literate), she confirmed what the agents had said - Begin the story when the main character finds her purpose.

Amy is worth every penny. And she agreed to read my rewrite when I'm done. I'm giving myself a month AT THE MOST. But I'm nothing if not fast, so I may be able to finish even sooner.

As I've said before (sigh), back to rewrite.

Friday, January 8, 2010


My book has something on the order of a polyp, i.e. fixed and better than ever after some minor surgery.

Here's what Amy, my book doctor, had to say: " I really enjoyed the voice and humor...moves very quickly and makes for a good, fun read. You've got your plot down pat, but your character's connection to that plot remains weak...we need to understand what's at stake for her... But (!!!!) I think these issues can be easily fixed."

Some of her concerns were with the protagonist's motivation, which was covered in my discarded first two chapters. So I've sent those to Amy to see if she can help me figure out a way to incorporate some of that material into the revision. (Jason may live again). We're meeting on Saturday, the 16th to discuss her critique.

Not one to put all my eggs in one basket, I'm sending out my musical to a producer and (what chutzpah) Twyla Tharp. Why not?