Let them read chick lit

I hate it when Boobs comes to my desk. She normally just emails me which I prefer. When she comes to my desk, it’s usually with the specific task of berating me, and while today was no different on the berating front, the whole episode lead to a new blog project…a revamp of ‘thoughts on literature’.

Today she came to my desk to ask why an invoice from a contracted copyeditor hadn’t been paid. She said that she’d had an email from the copyeditor who was complaining that the invoice was two months overdue payment. I reminded Boobs that I haven’t been here two months, and her response was ‘You should know what’s outstanding and what isn’t. That’s your job.’

I asked her to forward me the email, and I’d sort it out. (All I’ll do is make sure it’s logged in, and send London the form to have it paid. It’s not like I can write the bloody copywriter a cheque.)

Before Boobs wandered off, NFEditor came up to the desk for a chat. The truth is, I think NFEditor is easily distracted. The walls are so thin you can hear everyone’s conversations, and she just likes to be in the centre of things. If there’s ever a conversation going, she’s out her office like a shot and in the middle of the chat.

Leaning on my desk, NFEditor casually asks what everyone got up to over the weekend. (Usually a hint to ask in return what exciting things she did last weekend.) Boobs went on about her kids, and I said that I spent my weekend reading the Land Army book – which I thought showed initiative, drive and enthusiasm for the job.

Well, it didn’t. They snorted at me, and said that I was even ‘more of a saddo’ than they thought. (Yes, these are grown women, not school kids.) NFEditor then went into a diatribe about going to see Bare Naked Ladies on Friday night (not very rock-n-roll if you ask me) where she met some young men and they spent the evening drinking and socialising in a way some may find offensive and possibly illegal (okay, a bit more rock-n-roll).

In an attempt to bring the conversation back to work appropriate topics, and in hopes of instigating some faith in my editing abilities, I brought the discussion back around to the Land Army book. I said that while it wasn’t the type of thing I usually read that I found it okay and workable.

To this they asked, ‘What do you normally read?’

Well, I can tell you, I was so excited by this question. All that hard work memorising best seller lists and Booker Prize winners was about to pay off. I had had an answer to this question prepared before I even started the job. This is what I said:

‘I’ve just reread Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam. I know it’s a few years old, but I find the character interactions incredibly relevant, and I often turn to that book if I’m looking for a little insight into the human psyche. However, I’m a huge fan of Emma Donoghue, and with her being nominated for a Booker this year, I had to read Room. The fact that it was so intricately written with an eye set to both current events and deeper Platonian philosophy, it is hard to believe that the book was written in such a short period of time. But, you know, to be honest…current literature simply does not hold the same integrity as the pre-beatnik authors. Without Woolf, Stein, Wharton or Rhys, Donoghue would not have been able to shine as she does today.’

(Sadly, I have this response written on a note card and pinned to the wall over my desk in the flat.) This answer is what three years of Uni has trained me for — the ability to analyse and talk about books I’ve never read. I sounded dead smart, or at least I thought I did. Well, they didn’t find my response clever.

NFEditor just stared at me for a moment, then Boobs says, ‘Oh, you’re reading what everyone’s reading.’

Then NFEditor said something that made sense, ‘You have to read what you love in this business. Not just what others are reading.’

So what if I love chick lit!

So, I confessed that I had a dirty little secret, and that I am a total chick lit fan. I rattled off some of my favourites: Wendy Holden, Diane Johnson, Sophie Kinsella, and Pauline McLynn (who I also love as Frank’s love interest on Shameless). But to show that I wasn’t sexist, I also included Stephen Clarke, who some people are calling ‘Fratire’ but that’s only because he’s a guy. I totally think his stuff is chick lit.

This was evidently not good enough. Boobs snorted and gave NFEditor a look.

Boobs said, ‘That’s not just a dirty secret. That’s literary blasphemy’, and NFEditor said ‘I’m into Hyrippidfri DonMcSmithelson.’

Actually, I don’t know what name she said, because I’d never heard of the person before, and it was a weird sounding foreign name, so even if I knew who they were I probably wouldn’t be able to spell it.

This person that NFEditor is ‘really into’ is a newly published writer with some small press in London. His books do a very small print run because ‘he so esoteric that a lot of people just don’t get him.’ She then justified her interest, ‘He’ll be the next big thing on the literary front, quite revolutionary. Kind of the Eliot of the 21st century.’

Then Boobs just had to one-up NFEditor, ‘I don’t really read published authors anymore. If they’re published and not with MNM, they’re dead to me.’ Yes, she said ‘dead to me’.

Between you, me and the internet, I call bullshit on Boobs’ comment. I have totally seen her with Elizabeth Gilbert’s book sticking out of her bag. However, she and NFEditor do – even if only indirectly – have a point. If I want to be in publishing, I not only have to publish books that will make money, but also books I love. Because can you really talk about how great a book is, and try to get others to read it, if you don’t love it yourself?

Also, if I’m going to be in publishing, I need to know what’s out there. Okay, I’ve got half the slush pile as a daily task, but what about authors who don’t submit work? What about those who are too shy, or are just getting started?

With these things in mind, I’m going to revamp my ‘thoughts on literature’ section. Instead of reviewing books that other people say are good, I’m only going to review books that I want to read. On my way home I stopped at the Tesco’s and picked up Jill Mansell’s Rumour Has It, and that will be the next book in the ‘thoughts on literature’ review list.

ALSO, I am going to start looking for new talent – people who aren’t published but who are, in my opinion, really good writers. Personally, I don’t know what I’ll do when I find them, but it’s good practice for the old employment skills. So, the second revamp to ‘thoughts on literature’ will be a section in which I list websites that show new and upcoming talent.

Wow! Despite the nasty atmosphere in the office, I’m starting to get into this whole publishing thing. I hope this feeling lasts.

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