The worst part about a new book submission is the waiting. This should come as no surprise, but what is surprising is that there is no way around the anxiety and the obsessive feeling. Each time I think I can handle it better--I'll stay busy, I'll leave my agent alone, I'll plan alternative book projects. I'll expect it this time, the anxiety and the fear and the ridiculous feeling that your whole career hangs on whether this book would be accepted.

Now, I've done a bunch of book proposals, some of which (like the one sexy films, or notorious new york hangouts) haven't sold. You always try to salvage them, send them to a new agent or a new publishing house, but the truth is that the best shot of them getting published is when you become famous for something else. I'm not sure if there are any other writers who want to write about everything, from street law to wicked women to leaving the rate race to sexy films to speakeasies--and I'm not sure what the diversity of titles says about us as writers. It's sort of a weird thing to have such varied interests.

I'm not sure I'll write about law again. I liked writing about social issues, like why drugs or prostitution should be legalized, and I liked writing about pop culture and current affairs. And I really liked the idea of distilling legalease into something that made sense to non-lawyers, because the pedastal that lawyers are put on really irritates me. Lawyers provide a service, a vital service, but there's nothing class or status or intellect-wise that's superior to the profession than any other.

Okay, none of this is any distraction from the fact that I'm probably going to have to wait a couple weeks before I get a final word on my proposal. It's a good sign when it takes a week or two, because if they get back to you fast, it means it was probably rejected before it goes before an editorial meeting. Getting a book published means the whole house or at least imprint is behind it--and that includes editorial, bookstore sales, advertising and publicity, to start. Each editor only has a certain amount of money to spend each year or each season and ou've got to prove that your book proposal is worth a percentage of that budget.

That's why writing a book proposal is such hard work. Each agent I've had has helped me refine my style, and this last proposal is probably the best, because it's not too long and I did some minor graphic design to make it look pretty. These things matter. It isn't enough to have an idea, or even good writing, anymore--you have to have a vision of how you want the final book to turn out. And you have to start conveying that vision in the book proposal--marketing, publicity, graphics, cover, everything.

I'm not much of a saleswoman in most circumstances, but selling a book idea is fun, in a tough way. You really put yourself on the line for it, and the reward is, well, being published. At first. Then dollar signs grow in your eyeballs. But unlike screenwriting, the purchase of a book means the publisher is almost definitely going to publish it. Almost. Unless your publisher is a hack who advertises on craigslist. But even then, the odds are good.

Weeks. Weeks, not days left. Ugh.

An Artist For Rat Race Rebels?

This is the work of an illustrator I've always liked...as an illustrator for Rat Race Rebels? His name is Jullian Williams, and it's kind of a rebellious Wind and the Willows things...

The last one, of course, is my favorite.

Loft Party

I'm not sure when the de rigueur decoration for a loft party became Fellini's Satyricon, but last night it worked. We were at a loft party in South Williamsburg, and I'm assuming the place was live/work as I did see a kitchen (near one of the stages) and a couple bathrooms (covering in tin foil). The roof was mobbed by people watching Blaxploitation flicks on the brick wall or making out near the potted plants or getting burgers from the grill. One room had a ska band; the other had latin hip hop, and still another had a dj spinning drum and bass. Once we walked into a room only to see what appeared to be cavemen (in Flintstones' type attire) doing a Jewish polka. From getting the word out (which they clearly did successfully) to the Surrealistic Kitsch decor, the whole experience was very well organized, down to the Brownies (Yes They Are...) and Chocoloate Chip Cookies (No, They're Not...) and Absinthe (disappointingly homemade rather than Czech). In every dark corner was a cave or a tent or a papier mache staircase where people disappeared into, probably to manage their acid flashbacks or chill out before taking another hit. Those corners always looked a bit sketchy to me.

The most difficult part was climbing up and down the ladders and staircases to get to the roof, which always brought to mind Jimmy Stewart staring down into an alley in Vertigo. But other than the looming threat of my clumsiness, the moon was full, the space was gorgeous and the company was perfect. There's something to be said in this day and age for an "anything goes" kind of party; if you squint or drink enough you can pretend you see Andy Warhol and Nico sitting on the couches, doing something terribly mindless and therefore terribly important. The only time it seemed forced was when a group of folks, apparently rediscovering Urban Primitivism, tried to get a Burning Man-type howl going--with an accordian. I think it worked--or, rather, I think they think it worked. It's hard to go tribal with an accordian.

You go to Rubulad to get wasted, to dance, or to hook up. It's a capital-S Scene, and you really supposed to spend your night wandering from room to room, looking for a white rabbit, or at least a chesire cat with a hookah. It's fun that way, because it feels like a good alternative to the Dimly Lit Lounge or Mega-Disco, which seem to be our only real choices sometimes. Of course, but it helps to have good friends to walk around with, spending the night trying to figure out the performance art and exactly how many of us had dated Moby (not me) and why there are so few people in book publishing who really want or even know how to party. Or maybe it's just nightcrawlers like me who feel sense of pride waking up at noon the next day, with a blue smudge on the back of our hands to indicate that we've successfully returned from the underworld.

No question, a good night--thanks, Penn, for inviting us!


I never do any work on Saturday, even though I always plan to. It's just too lovely outside and god knows how long that will last. I've just started my new job with an educational consultant company that helps international students with their grad school applications. The guys who run it are fun and fabulous and former journalists, and all I do is try to make someone's experience as a drum majorette into an entertaining essay. Or something like that. And I really need to be cracking down on that, but instead I'm planning for this ridiculously unproductive loft party in Brooklyn that is going to lay waste to my whole weekend. Is this the behavior of a useful individual? I think not.

But I did finish my new book proposal, and have picked a title: Rat Race Rebels: Following Your Dream in a Corporate World. It's basically an excuse for me to ruminate in print about my oddball career choices while I work on my fiction. But I'm looking forward to writing it--after I finish Wicked Women, which is a whole other story.

I've always had mixed feelings about the post-Labor Day season. I love summer, the long days and hot evenings spent drinking at some sidewalk cafe, but I run out of money so quickly and end up hungover and not getting any work. And then I feel guilty all the time. It's nice to be working again on a book and feeling calm and creative....

Left Turn Titles

I've spent the last few weeks working on my new book proposal, which has a lot in common with this website. It's a book about trading in a safe, traditional job for an unconventional career. In it, I hope to answer some of the questions that people have thrown at me over the years--is it hard? how do you make money? was it scary? how do you become successful? is it worth it?

The book is tentatively called Left Turn Careers. I envisioned unconventional careers as being the "left turn" on the traditional career path, one that you were educated or trained for. But I'm not crazy about the title. It's not so much a career book as it is an insider's guide to the life and times of unconventional people--not just writers and artists, but entrepreneurs, freelancers, visionaries, you name it. The book has examples ranging from Martha Stewart (former stockbroker) to Angela Davis (professor turned activist) to Gray Davis (former governor) to Harry Houdini (magician, hoax revealer).

I think it's a particularly timely book, mostly because there don't seem to be any rules about careers anymore. I know so many law grads who can't find jobs--so much for law schoo as the "safe" alternative. Still others aren't willing to pay the price (i.e. no life) for working on Wall Street. And now, with the internet and increased specialization, you can literally carve out a brand-new career out of virtually anything. Kite-flying? Animal wrangling? Baby wrangling? You name it.

So if anyone has any ideas for titles, I'm all ears....

Vacation Over...

Even the lawyerwriter goes on vacation. But she will return.