Brooklyn Botanical Garden Parties

March 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

The New New Yorker

by Courtney Hilden

I went to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.  What I expected to see where plants and flowers and be a generally nerdy scientist girl that I secretly was in a past life.  And I did get to see those things, but the garden was far bigger than I anticipated, and I found myself merrily exploring the area.

And then I came across a performance area, one that was built in the style of those ancient Greek amphitheatres.  I found myself thinking about another past life, where I was a theatre nerd, and I reviewed in my mind the history of theatre, when one actor broke away from the chorus, giving us the inspiration for the term thespian.

Reviewing one’s past lives is always tricky, as you begin to hop from one to the next in quick succession.  I thought about my time as an undergraduate, when I worked for the Center for Poetry.  I loved it there, and one of the things we did most was hold readings.  They were always inside, but I always wished we could have them outside.  Looking at this theatre now, I wished I could somehow make readings at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens happen, because poets have always been keen on plants.  I suspect there would be something magical about listening to a poet read their work just as the sun was rising or falling.  I began to mourn that I did not have more time here in New York to put a plan like this to work.

Conversations Already Happening

March 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

The New New Yorker

by Courtney Hilden

Midway through lunch, Alexander sat me down to work on a new project, which was basically collecting promo materials for our next three books, making what is called a sales kit.

I started with the first thing, which was finding articles on the books themselves or on the topics the books were about.  I’m one of those rare freaks who enjoys researching, so I was off and running on this project.

The idea of collecting articles is simple: when the distributor goes to sell our book, he or she needs to understand what he is or she is selling.  In collecting articles on the book and topic, we as the publisher give him or her the context of the book, or, as my boss told me “the conversations already happening.”  It also helps the distributor get a better sense of who would be interested in buying a particular book, as certain kinds of online blogs, journals, newspapers and other sources write reviews of books and articles on topics based on their demographics.

As I sat down at the computer in my cubicle, I realized the article I had been reading before this meeting was perfect for one of our books.  The article was from a Black man talking about why we need feminism and the book I was working on is, in part, a Black man talking about why he’s a feminist.  The article in question did not go in depth the way maybe the book does, but that is okay.  The article was a good primer, and like the boss said, a part of a conversation already happening.

February 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

The New New Yorker

by Courtney Hilden

It’s a sad truth that I do not get invited to meetings much, but today I was lucky to be invited.  We were brainstorming titles for an upcoming book.

Book titles are perfected crafts of art, and we started the meeting going through about six pages of suggestions from various people involved with the book (including the author himself.)  Then we listed off who we wanted the book to target.  The list consisted of about six audience types based on the topic of the book.  The goal was to use the title as a way to market the book to as many of those audiences as possible (recalling that a good title can’t do it all.)  We chatted about what the book was about and how to avoid using titles that might make the book seem like it was about certain things it was not.  We talked about some recently vetoed titles, ones the author mostly did not like.  I found myself taking notes not just on what we needed but on certain rejected titles that I liked.  Our title conversations naturally went into discussions about what a cover with a title like that would look like.  (“I love when we find the title before the book,” one of my co-workers commented.)  There was a joke about maybe making the cover look like a bathroom stall.  As I was sitting there, pondering things over, I could see why people like this work and why certain people in particular like this work: it is cerebral.  It lets your mind dance.

Book Celebration

February 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

The New New Yorker

by Courtney Hilden

When the first shipment of a new book comes in, there’s something exciting about it.  Everyone gathers in one of the offices.  The box gets opened, and everyone gets a copy each in their hands.  And we start flipping through it, and we start talking about it.  We’re book people: we love what we do; we love books, especially our books.

This book is interesting to me because we publish books for book people, not books for people who dislike reading.  This book had a shiny cover, which vaguely reminded me of magazine covers.  It had a beautiful, bizarre painting on it.  It looked like a historical fiction novel.  If I saw it on a shelf in a bookstore, I would pick it up immediately.

Other people commented on the type of paper we used, what the book smelled like.  The usual things you’d hear from book people.  And then that was it.  Celebration over.  Time to get back to working on other books that are coming out soon.  Time to write up promotional material.  Time to get reading submissions to see if, in a year from now, they’d be books we pull out of a box, smelling the inside, admiring the cover art, talking shop and feeling relieved.

A Morning at the Frick

January 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

The New New Yorker

by Courtney Hilden

One of the hardest things about being in New York is the constant reminder of how expensive everything is.  In some ways, it’s a good thing, because you find yourself using things carefully and considering what is most important.  But it also makes you one of those people who is always looking for something cheap or free.

Here I was at the Frick Collection, their one morning every week where they allow you to pay what you want to enter.  The Frick Collection itself is one of those many rich-man-with-too-much-money things, like Hearst Castle or many of the characters in Running Wilde.  Frick collected the majority of his art in the collection, and then set it up so that his home could house the art, and thus a temple of his great achievement in what is apparently being an eccentric art fiend.  It’s a dazzling and wonderful collection, sure, but it does remind you that you are not as lucky as Mr. Frick; you do not have a house next to Central Park, filled with El Greco’s, Goya’s and Monet’s; the most famous image of Thomas Moore does not sit in your living room, next to the fireplace.  You are at such a disadvantage that you are the young woman or man who was too cheap to pay the normal museum entrance fee (an outrageous sum, really, for a relatively small museum) and had to miss church to come on a Sunday to see the collection.

Tips On Tipsheets

January 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

The New New Yorker
by Courtney Hilden
I spent the day working on tipsheets. Tipsheets is a bunch of marketing information, all together, to make selling a book easier. What makes writing a tipsheet hard is not the writing so much as the rewriting. In the process of writing a tipsheet, I’ve been asked to write at least ten descriptions and at least ten sales handles for the same book. You write the first one and it is fine. Easy. Then you write the second one, and it is a little harder, because it has to be original, because it has to be new, because it has to be different from your first. For a while, it keeps getting harder, because it is a process of elimination: you are eliminating more of the things you can reasonably say about the book. You start to say daring things, borderline inappropriate things, things that might be controversial. Maybe the supervisor will not like this, but then again, maybe he will; afterall, controversial sounding books sell better than boring ones. So you keep writing, keep fighting the urge to give up and say “I have written it four/six/eight times now; surely that is enough.” And then something strange happens. It is like something in your mind clicks, like your brain has its seat belt on, now you can go for a ride. And you are off, writing all sorts of things about this book, remembering details, finding new, interesting, yes, controversial ways to write about this book, and then you realize you have exceeded your quota; you are done.


December 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

The New New Yorker

by Courtney Hilden

I was having dinner a couple of nights ago with some friends, several of whom were British. When deep into a conversation, it is like a tunnel:  You come out into the light and wonder how you got there. This happened when I realized we were discussing fat people. I was really disappointed by the way the girls were being fatphobes, talking about how much they hated fat people. One of the girls works for a company that provides clothes and home furnishings for fat people, and she was saying some unpleasant things about them too, about how they buy a lot of clothes because it makes them feel good, about how their weight fluctuates a lot so thus they have to buy clothes, and about how they sell products to make their lives easier.  This last part of the conversation was doubly heartbreaking, because I had never thought that people needed that kind of help and because the look of disgust and revulsion on people’s faces disgusted me.  The girl started talking about how they sell toilet accessories so “fat people can sit on them” and special sticks that literally help them wipe their ass.  There were lots of comments about how could people let that happen to themselves.  I’m the fattest girl at the table, and although not actually fat, I thought about how much I had struggled with my weight and self-acceptance and self-confidence. How does someone who weighs much more than I do even begin to deal with the kind of bigotry? I can’t even imagine.  I was offended and hurt and I realize that I am not nearly as big as some people and they have to live with these kinds of attitudes all the time.

Tech Problems

December 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

The New New Yorker

Courtney Hilden

It is that time of the year when technology goes badly for me.  And indeed, there I was, standing in a Best Buy on the Lower East Side, dealing with a tech problem.  And even though I take pride in solving certain problems without even informing my parents there is a problem, sometimes I am just too tired to deal with something anymore.  Which is when I call my Mom.

So there I was, standing in a Best Buy in the Lower East Side, on the phone with my Mom, dealing with a tech problem.  This was one of those fun problems that involved buying an external hard drive.  Which I was happy to do, but I did not know which one to buy, so I asked my Mom what she suggested, being the family tech guru.  She was suggesting one when another tech problem hit me: my phone died.  My phone is glorious for all the abuse I’ve put it under.  Even after three massive falls and a water incident, it still basically works, even though the one button is sticky and now makes a few strange noises, like it is running through a printer.  But now the one person I need to make it easy for me was gone, despite her suggestion.

I pick up the box for the product she suggested.  I turn it over in my hand, thinking about it.  I ask a worker what the return policy is.  30 days, even if it has been opened?  Okay.


December 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

The New New Yorker

by Courtney Hilden

I often am assigned research projects for this internship, which is fine, since, as an undergraduate, I spent massive amounts of time researching.  This time, I was researching nonviolence and radical thought.  I was searching specifically for courses on radical thought.  The only school I found?  Michigan State.

On one level, I’m really proud of MSU for being awesome enough to teach courses on radical thought and African American literature and other liberal things. On the other hand, I am feeling really sorry for the rest of America. I’ve heard complaining of how liberal universities are for years, but when I actually encounter information about schools, I find that they generally aren’t as radical as anyone would think. And even when I was at MSU, I was often struck by how conservative or apathetic certain members of the student body were.

Possibly I am going about this the wrong way, which is why next week, when I get a chance to talk to Alex, who is my internship coordinator, she’ll have some suggestions.  But in the meantime, I’ve discovered another reason to love MSU, which, considering how long I’ve been gone now, is a surprise.

An Evening with a Graduate Student

November 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

The New New Yorker

by Courtney Hilden

I had a long, exhausting day, so clearly, this was the time to go out for a drink.  We had ended up at this nice restaurant and bar.  It wasn’t packed, but there weren’t many places to hang out or sit either.  So we had a unstable, little table, just my friend Sarah and I.

Sarah and I had a nice chat.  I’d been so busy the last few weeks and she has been on deadline for a paper that neither of us had really seen each other much.  She’s one of my new friends I’ve made here in the city.  She reminds me a lot of my best friend Ashley, so I guess that Sarah qualifies as my best friend in New York if only because personality-wise they are both so similar.

Sarah is a graduate student, so I find myself wanting to learn more about graduate programs from her.  Before I came to New York, I wanted to go to graduate school.  I didn’t manage to get in, but New York and the internship I’m on are my way of trying to gain the kind of experiences a graduate school wanted to see.  One of the things I didn’t count on was being around graduate students, but that’s okay because it’s an opportunity to learn more.

Sarah told me, among other things that night, that being a graduate student in the U.S. is far harder than it is in the U.K., where she’s from.  She suggested going to school there.  I was expecting her to tell me about how much work it was, but I didn’t expect her to advise me to go the easy route.

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