- moving day!
- how to sell a book before it is published
- talking mad men (and women)
- where were you in 82?
- ad space too expensive? publish your own mag
- author lands book deal with Y&R
- going to China? Don't leave home without this
- 45 years ago today
- writing blind
- in case you missed the gordon lish reading last night
- secret source for building fictional characters
- finally! an algorithm for writing that bestseller
- what's making me feel really old today
- @MargaretAtwood's ode in 140 to @StephenKing
- now the scariest man on twitter
- on writing and not
- what an adventure
- happy 93rd birthday to women's right to vote
- poems as op ed?
- for sale: literary laundry
- airbnb solicits your 6 secs of fame
- winnie-the-pooh turns 92
- the creative process
- RIP Elmore Leonard, ex-copywriter
- new interactive literary novel
helenkleinross.com where Ill be posting about writing other kinds of fiction. Some of you may know I am publishing books now. Making It: A Novel of Madison Avenue came out in 2013 from Simon & Schuster. Its a coming-of-middle age story about a woman and a business (advertising.) It’s sort of like Mad Men thirty years later, from the point of view of an older, wiser, married Peggy Olson. This year, I published a novel about kidnapping. WHAT WAS MINE is about a seemingly ordinary woman who does something extraordinary in a desperate moment: she takes a baby girl from a shopping cart and raises her as her own. It’s a secret she manages to keep for over two decades—from her daughter, the babysitter who helped raise her, family, friends, and coworkers at the ad agency where she works as a copywriter/creative director. My next novel is set in an old house in Connecticut that has been in a family for generations. A murder takes place there in 1926. The crime becomes a family secret that everyone knows, but no one talks about until 2016 when the house is being renovated for a wedding and something is found in a powder room wall that connects to the crime--and the reader finds out what really happened. I hope you will join me on my journey into other kinds of writing by following me here. Of course, advertising will always be part of what I am writing because you can take the Ad Broad out of advertising, but...
exhibit includes sets: Draper kitchen in Ossining If youd told me when I was a junior copywriter that one night I’d be standing in a corridor shooting the breeze with Ken Roman, CEO of Ogilvy, and Herb Schlosser, president of NBC and Adweek critic, Barbara Lippert, not to mention two of the most legendary writers in the business, Helayne Spivack and Tom Messner—well, I’d have thought you’d have tossed back too many Harvey Wallbangers at lunch. But, thanks to the Museum of the Moving Image, there I was, doing just that tonight. (I heart New York.) In conjunction with their excellent exhibit of Mad Men memorabilia, which includes scripts and brainstorming notes and actual sets from the show, the museum hosted a confab of execs from the Mad Men era reminiscing about the old days, some of which I (ahem) remembered. and family pics from Matthew Weiner, portrait circa 1975 Barbara Lippert, whose Adweek column was my Monday morning go-to for years, moderated and kicked off by reminding us there was a time when people loved advertising instead of counting the seconds you could swipe it off screen. Ken Roman (author of best David Ogilvy bio) reminded us that Mad Men was a term coined by Matt Weiner—no one on Mad Ave actually used it. Helayne Spivack (claiming to be speaking for all women in advertising—she was only half kidding) talked of her Peggy Olson-ish trajectory of starting as a receptionist at Nadler & Larimer, working up copy between answering phones. Tom Messner (her Don Draper for ten years at Ally & Gargano) treated us to screening of landmark spot he did for MCI when “you only called long distance if somebody died.” And Herb Schlosser, who we have to thank for SNL and Laugh-In (remember?) and Columbo and The Tonight Show remembered Hubert Humphrey refusing to say “Sock it to me” on network television, though Nixon had done it the week before (it took six takes for him not to sound angry) thereby swaying popular vote to help get the Dick elected. AMC’s Mad Men sails into the sunset this Sunday, but you can catch the outtasite exhibition of costumes, props, videos and research behind it until June 14. How will it end? Predictions embedded in Barbaras marvelous Mad Men Cliff Notes.
And 83, 84 and the rest of the post-Mad Men decade when hard drinking executives graduated to hard drugs and ad agencies were being eaten by holding companies? If you were anywhere in the vicinity of Ogilvy, come commiserate with other survivors of the era at O&Ms 80s Reunion in New York on Wednesay, May 14. Tickets still available. (Admission discounted if youve gotten sober!)
Cant get a deal for that novel manuscript? Try ad agencies. Young & Rubicam commissioned Booker award-nominated novelist William Boyd to tell any story he wanted as long as it featured a Land Rover vehicle. Not surprisingly, the commission prompted Boyd to "realize how prominently Land Rover has featured in my life" and write THE VANISHING GAME, a novella published by Land Rover in print and e-version and advertised in display ads and paid posts on Vox, Quartz and NYTimes.com. The story can also be accessed on Tumblr where its a multi-sensory experience including images, video, animation, sound, music and narration. The novel-commissioned-by-client isnt unprecedented. In 2001, Bulgari hired novelist Fay Weldon to write any story she wanted, as long as it mentioned the name of the jeweler 12 times. Perhaps because she was a former copywriter (Ogilvy), Weldon exceeded that count, including 34 mentions. That product placement deal, a first in publishing, created quite a kerfuffle, as reported in in the New York Times and Salon. Its not known whether the commission helped Bulgari sell jewelry, but to Weldons credit, the book still isnt out of print. Thanks to Shareen Pathak of Digiday for letting us know.
Im traveling in Taiwan for a couple of weeks and would be lost in translation without an app created by the good folks at Pleco. It lets me hold up the phone to Chinese characters on signs, on menus, on doors and suddenly what is inscrutable becomes clear. The app is multifunctioned and also features a handy live dictionary. Type in what youre trying to say and it appears in Chinese, so you can simply hold up your phone and be understood. I found this essential to renting a car which was accomplished only because the clerk and I could communicate by handing our iPhones to each other. Pleco downloadable from App store. Nope, this isnt a paid post. Just a hat tip from a grateful user in transit.
© Rudolph J Klein July 20, 1969. Nixon is new to the White House. Ted Kennedy has just driven off a bridge. John and Yoko have shocked the world (at least my small, suburban part of it) by going to bed publicly and staying there for two weeks. Here we are on a picnic with neighbors at Valley Forge Park. My mothers in the plaid Bermuda shorts. Shed ironed the heavy cotton floral tablecloth put down on the table. Thats me on the left, trying to sneak away with an extra Ho-Ho. Im wearing my favorite flower-power pin. That night, I wear it to a CYO dance held in the gym of our parish hall, in a dress my mother made, trying to look like I know how to twist. At some point in the evening, the record abruptly stops spinning, lights go on and we are called to come to the school kitchenette where one of the chaperones has set up a portable television. It is a 5 inch screen, black and white of course, with an antenna you have to keep moving to keep picture. The picture is grainy and the sound is crackly and the most audible narration comes from a pocket transistor radio tuned to the same station. A man, at that moment, is walking on the moon. We live in a new world order in which what was impossible for our parents to imagine, happens to us as a matter of course: presidents get shot, women burn their bras, wars are waged in a jungle by children. Now, this: a man from earth stepping onto the moon. Grown-ups hunker close to the miniature screen, squinting their disbelieving eyes while we kids shift back and forth in our weejuns, waiting for the music to start up again.
When I was little, a game I liked to play with myself was "Blind." Id wander into our back yard, close my eyes and start walking. I was astounded at how much more alert my other senses would become. I could feel the maple tree shadowing my skin as I came within range of approaching it. I could hear the empty swing swaying on rusty chains. My heart would pound in my throat as I forced myself to move forward, walking with my eyes closed, resisting the urge to put my hands out in front of me because I thought the gesture would summon my mother who might glance out the kitchen window and wonder what was the matter with me. Writing a novel is something like that, at least for me. You move slowly forward, unseeing, not able to make out what lies ahead, trusting youll get someplace without killing yourself.
No matter what you think of his work, his persona, his gusto in making or breaking literary comers when he was in a position to make or break them, no matter what you think of the writer, you have to admire the man Gordon Lish. He just turned eighty, but there he was last night at McNally Jackson Bookstore, holding forth at a reading for his new book Goings with more enthusiasm and earnest intent to entertain those of us who had come out to see him, than Ive witnessed at readings by those younger and haler, which is to say readings by anyone else. photo cred: gordonlisheditedthis.wordpress.com There were many more of us than there were chairs, despite the discouraging coldsnap and so many AWP-ing out of town, and speaking of chairs, he refused to use one. He stood for the duration: "Id like to be able to stand and caper for your entertainment, lets see for how long I am able to do so." He held forth for an hour, not reading, except once briefly, from the foreword of a book that wasnt the book he was ostensibly there to promote, but one published several years ago, which involved the reluctant accomplice of a bookstore employee to find the book and remove its shrinkwrapping. What Lish did for the hour, what so impressed me, is that he just stood there and talked. Without notes, without text, without screens of any sort. He talked not about his own work, but about the work of other writers there. He talked about Will Enos "The Bully Composition". And Rick Whitakers "An Honest Ghost." He talked about his childhood and about what it felt like to be the oldest person in the room. He talked about Barry Hannah, said he once brought a luger into a classroom, as visual aid for a discussion on violence. And I thought how his conversance with conversation—albeit one-sided—is an art being lost to those of us for whom communication takes place in places such as this, which isnt any place, really, where talk is done through ones fingers and can be edited or deleted instead of being left to ring, unsanitized, unretractable, in the listeners ears, for better or worse, for years to come and that soon it wont make sense to call languages "tongues." What Lish is famous for, in his teaching, is for harping on the importance of sentences. "The sentence isnt about the world, it is the world entire," I recorded once in a notebook. I was struck last night by the originality of his spoken sentences. (I almost typed "his own sentences" but refrained because "own" was one of the things Li sh went on about last night, complaining of its overuse as unnecessary modifier in todays common speech.) In prior audiences with Lish, I failed to write much down and was later sorry because his speech is impossible to reproduce without notes. His speech isnt common speech, its unique to him, resulting from profound and unparalleled (in my experience) care for and about the English language. Here are a few of last nights sentences, which are very different sentences than ones I might have used: WHAT LISH SAID: Jane Krupp is a lovely person and has an apartment that bespeaks that vivacity. She designs apartments for people who are rarely among us, but we know their names. Many of these people are involved with song. WHAT ID HAVE SAID: My friend Jane has a great apartment. Makes sense, shes an architect. She works for celebs in the music industry. WHAT LISH SAID: I take pride in knowing not much about nature. WHAT ID HAVE SAID: Im a city kid. Nature freaks me out. WHAT LISH SAID: I stopped drinking in 1984 in reply to an entreaty from my youngest child who requested, as a gift for his eleventh birthday, "I want you to stop drinking and smoking." WHAT ID HAVE SAID: Ive got my kid to thank for sobering me up and making me quit smoking. WHAT LISH SAID: Assassins are everywhere. Being one, I should know. Id never have said anything like that. Assassination, I think, is a male, not female, approach to subversion. But thats another post.
Secret, a new app that lets you post anonymously, removing the last bits of restraint preventing people from sharing whatever is left theyre reluctant to share…seemed to me of dubious value. But then, I signed up. And discovered Secrets true (yet unmarketed) worth: as fodder for writers building fictional characters. "Brought a can of cat food to a dinner party instead of pate and no one noticed." And presto! A fully realized character leaps to your screen, one wholl move freely, creating scenes, engaging in dialogue. Cut. Paste.
here. Pardon while I hurry back to my novel-in-progress to find and replace all the "wants" and "promises".
Its not just that Patty Duke is celebrating her 67th birthday (how is this possible?) its that shes doing PSAs for Medicare. Crazy!
If there was any doubt that Margaret Atwood writes her own twitter, it was dispelled by her performance tonite in which she improvd a fractured Xmas carol to newcomer Stephen King. This isnt the first time shes been brilliant in short. A few years ago, Wired asked her to come up with a six word story and she cribbed a checklit novel instead: "Longed for him. Got him. Shit."
Stephen King. Of course, there are plenty of writers on twitter, but most of us are trying to launch a career. Magillas in the publishing world (or their handlers) generally dont feel the need to give it away in a medium that is unfamiliar to them. Some are opposed, even vehemently, to the suggestion, that twitter, or any social space matters. After mocking Facebook, Jonathan Franzen told students at Tulane last March that "Twitter stands for everything I oppose...its like writing a novel without the letter P." (Interestingly, he now has a Facebook page.) I like that Stephen Kings twitter account is, apparently, written by him. His first tweets bear all the endearing marks of a newbie: The wish for mercy: "My first tweet. No longer a virgin. Be gentle!" The stage fright: "On Twitter at last, and I cant think of a thing to say." The flailing for content: "Watching THE RETURNED." But I have utmost confidence that the author of 56 novels and the winner of a bajillion awards will soon find his twitter legs and run with the alpha tweeters. Even with just 13 tweets, hes got 175,000 followers. I commend him for venturing into a new medium, for bringing his awesome chops to the social space, for not delegating the task to a PR machine as some other bestselling authors do. Ill follow his stream not only for what he comes up with, but for his engagement with other authors. I didnt realize Jeanette Winterson tweeted until I saw her listed in the Guardian today. She, apparently writes her own posts, too: "I have bought a light-up reindeer. Even writers need a night off." Seeing what famous people do when theyre not doing what makes them famous. I love that about twitter.
When I worked staff at ad agencies, tap tap tapping late into the night, coming up with copy for face creams or shampoos or cameras or drugs with alarming side effects, I longed to be writing my own stuff, imagining the day--like James Dickey (Coke) or Don Delillo (Sears)-- Id be able to devote time to crafting work of my own invention. Fast forward to 2012, the year I get a (wonderful) agent (Kate Johnson) and soon after that, bid-a-boom, a two-book deal from Simon and Schuster. The first books an ebook. This, Im told, is the new strategy for launching debut authors: first an ebook, then a hardcover thats promoted as a "first book." (Who am I to question?) check it out here) and the hardcover is due out next year. Its not a series. The ebook is about advertising at the turn of the century (1999) and the hardcover is about a woman who does something heinous and gets away with it for 22 years. Writing novels is something Ive wanted to do since I was eight and devoted a school composition book to telling the undramatic tale of a family of robins who took up residence in the maple tree in our back yard. Its the opportunity Ive always wanted--someone wants my work enough to transform it into a bona fide book. The deadline is yesterday--deadlines are always helpful to creatives in getting work out. So why am I having such a hard time coming up with words tonight? Why arent words tripping off my keyboard onto the screen? Why is my brain just as resistant to writing the next page of the novel as it was to writing a spot for antacid? Why is writing so hard, even when its the one thing you most want to do? Why were these 300 words such a cinch to come up with, when the scene Im supposed to be writing stays stuck in my head?
Ive had the thrill of seeing my work in the _New Yorker_ before thanks to media buyers for Nikon, Absolut and others-- but how much more exciting to see work with my actual name on it. Im especially grateful to poetry editor Paul Muldoon for accepting a poem with the word "shampooist" in it.
Four score and thirteen years ago today, women got the right to vote in this country, years after it had already been granted to women in Canada, Australia, Finland, Poland, Latvia, Norway, Hungary, Denmark, Iceland, New Zealand, Lithuania, Estonia. And oh yes, Russia. So why is it that, by most measures of gender diversity, the executive branch remains reflective of a country where "all men are created equal."
Anthony Russo / For The Times / August 11, 2013 In a gratifying departure from the usual guidelines, Los Angeles Times editors solicited views in verse for a feature dedicated to opinion poetry. Grateful to the editors for including mine among them today. And for putting poems where poetry usually isnt. A few years ago, I had the privilege helping the Poetry Society of America in their mission to get poems into ad space on subways and buses. Its surprising how many people who dont like poetry discover they do, when it crosses their path.
Must be the week for airing laundry of literary icons! Not only is a tell-all about reclusive JD Salinger about to break in book and film, but...Eugene ONeills shorts are for sale. Not THOSE shorts. I mean his real, bonafide boxers which can now be yours for a mere $1750. But even if youre not in the market for century-old skivvies, a visit to the purveyor is worth a trip if youre in the vicinity of Salisbury, CT. Johnnycake Bookstore is a booklovers bookstore, the kind NYC used to be full of: stocked with first editions, myriad books youve meant to read and run by a friendly bibliophile who knows his stuff. (Sorry, Dan, Im holding out for Virginia Woolfs corset.) Proprietor Dan Dwyer chats up a customer
"With ONeills monogram upper left waistband, blue high-grade pima cotton, size 34, from Bullock & Jones, San Francisco. Provenance: Purchased early 80s by a book collector from Boston-area booksellers, who had acquired these, along with books and other ephemera, from the ONeill estate when it sold off ONeills summer place in Marblehead Neck, MA."
Remember when commercials were big-budget enterprises, when Travel Depts (remember Travel Depts?) booked you First Class to LA or Bali or even the North Pole? (OK, that spot was for Coke, which I never worked on, and before my time. But still, I MIGHT have been sent there if Id ever written polar bears into a script...) Anyhooooo. Enter fee-based compensations, risk-reward structures and procurement teams and what do you get? Crowdsourced commercials, the bane of agency confrontations with cash-strapped product managers. But clever minds at Mullen figured out how to make this all-too-frequent request work for them: dont leave creative up to the crowd. Curate the pics before you source them. Storyboard the spot. Direct the shots. Dont give up creative control. Starting today, the Airbnb twitter feed put out a call for wanna-be filmmakers to contribute their 6 second Vine to a brand film. The prompts are shot lists, well-thought out and very specific, such as _a paper airplane flies thru diverse landscapes, left to right. Show the best parts of where you live!_ Mullen will choose and edit selects, then premier final montage online and on the Sundance Channel. All you need to enter is a piece of paper and camera phone. So much for gaffers and props masters as indisputable line items.
On this day in 1921, A.A. (Alan Alexander) Milne brought home a stuffed bear for his son Christopher Robins first birthday. A.A. was a playwright, but that writing (to his annoyance) came to be overshadowed by the success of stories hed write about Pooh. The original Pooh, along with the rest of his sons menagerie which inspired the series-- Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Tigger--are on display in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (sadly, the new name for the New York Public Library Main Branch) in New York.
When I was a cub copywriter burning the midnight oil on an assignment Id gotten weeks before, one Id just started with my partner (though it was due the next day) after many Happy Hour drinks and free food-like fried objects at The Rusty Scupper, I imagined how different things would be when I was grown-up writer, when Id learned to master my time-management skills. But. Some things never change.
Elmore Leonard died today, at age 87 while working on his 46th novel. Leonard wasnt always a crime writer, he began as a copywriter, writing ads for cars and trucks in Detroit where his father worked for General Motors. He stayed in advertising for 10 years, getting up at 5 am to write, staying up late to work on his stories, until finally his first crime novel, rejected 84 times, was made into a movie. His mastery of dialogue and plot was legend. No matter what youre writing, your writing can benefit from his rules of writing:
Theres a new interactive novel out today--not from a game publisher or vimeo artist, as you might expect, but from old-line, mainstream, behemoth publisher, Random House. The writer is the award-winning Marisha Pessl, author of Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Night Film is her second novel, a thriller that shes made into an immersive storyworld with website screen captures, old media clippings and photos that link to cyber content. But wait. How can a hardcover novel formidably grounded in the ILR world – the tome weighs in at a 600 pgs. and 1.75 lbs – be "interactive"? Yep, you guessed it – theres an app for that. In the back of her book, just before the acknowledgements, Pessl invites readers who want to continue the storyworld experience to download the free decoder app from itunes or elsewhere. The app is a scan app that lets your smartphone or tablet "read" a bird image that appears on some of the pages. Like a next-generation QR code, the bird jumps you to bonus content. Pessl isnt the first novelist to provide her readers with "extras" in cyberspace (ahem!) but shes the first one I know of to do so from the confines of an analog book. Kudos to her and to the Random House digital team for having the vision to do so and the chops to carry it off.