Lena Katz & The People You Meet Writing Travel


My colleague Tina Dupuy recently introduced me to Orbitz travel blogger Lena Katz, who has just begun publishing a series of “Travel Temptation” guides: Snow California, Sun California, and Sip California. She started emailing me about some of the stories behind putting the books together, and I said, hey, how about you share this on my website? And here we are.

I pitched one travel book and got an offer to write five.

Don’t be jealous. The first advance the publisher offered was so piddly that, if I had accepted and written one book every six months, the money split over 30 months would have barely covered my car payment. Eventually, my agent negotiated a contract for a 3-book deal that would actually enable me to pay not only my car, but my rent too. Bonus!!

By the time I finished all my pre-existing contracts and began to write the first book, I was already a month behind, and my publishers had started to hate me. This would continue until the final edit of Book #3. For a writer, all that business of “exceeding expectations” and “delivering ahead of schedule’ ends when you sign your first book contract. Books invariably take on their own life, and you just follow them as best you can.

In the beginning, I knew I wanted to have a lot of “insider experts” in my books. This quickly evolved to an insane ongoing scavenger hunt, with me collecting interviews by the dozen, going after ever more elusive subjects, and refusing to stop even when my editor said, “Please! If you didn’t do another minute of research on this book, we would be just fine!!”


18 July 2009 | guest authors |

A Whale of a Picture Book


I don’t get a lot of pictures books sent my way here at Beatrice, but I heard that Mac Barnett, one of the directors of 826LA, the Los Angeles outpost of Dave Eggers’s creative writing centers for children and young adults, had collaborated with Adam Rex on something called Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, and I was intrigued enough to check it out. I’m so glad I did: Imagine a particularly excellent McSweeney’s item, geared towards a precocious eight-year-old. With illustrations that are just as smart and sly.


The deadpan humor is fantastic; frankly, I think grown-ups may well wind up loving this book more than kids—but I’m not suggesting that kids won’t get a kick out of it. They’ll love the silly pictures, and if they don’t laugh at all the jokes when you read it to them, well, give ’em time.

15 July 2009 | read this |

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