One of the best parts of working at a startup publisher is the insanely wide variety of projects. On any given day, I could be editing manuscripts, searching the Internet for dirty pictures (for book covers!), QA-ing our tech, or Googling the color of Adderall (for fact checking purposes!). But last fall Lisa dropped a doozie in my lap called the Rock Bottom Remainders. Could I product manage the book and co-edit it with Sam Barry? Absolutely not. Kidding! Hell yes, I could.
Nine months later, I am so proud of our book and all the collaboration that took place to make Hard Listening a reality. It turns out, I not only had the honor of spending time with the authors’ words but I also learned a few things along the way. Here is the short list…
1. It is scary as shit to edit bestselling authors.
I’ve been fortunate to work with some talented and amazing writers, but there are bestselling authors, and there are BESTSELLING AUTHORS. No matter who you’ve edited before, when the works of Stephen King, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, etc. cross your desk—all at once—it is scary as shit.
Stephen King’s essay was one of the first to arrive for editing. Oh. My. God, Stephen King sent me something! (Really that last sentence should be animated and in all caps). Sam, however, seemed largely unfazed…probably because he knew him so well, but I like to believe he reached for the flask hidden under his desk too.
But I soon remembered that the scariest moment is always just before you start. Once I was appropriately fortified (with donuts and chips), I found that it was an unbelievable pleasure to read Stephen, and each and every author’s piece. They are bestsellers for a reason, and my job was to be an informed and helpful reader. I quickly realized that we could make a difference.
2. Sometimes you have to kill your darlings. Repeatedly.
When you’ve been given extensive access to faxes, emails, letters, photos, and videos of the Rock Bottom Remainders, you, tragically, have to leave some of your favorite clips on the cutting room floor even if the clips are—to work in as many metaphors as possible—music to your ears. Like this video of Mitch Albom, Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Greg Iles, and Stephen King rehearsing…
(Apologies in advance to anyone who gets “Surfin’ Bird” stuck in their head)
Or a letter that Dave sent to Tipper Gore inviting her to perform with the band.
So for the sake of narrative cohesion, you have to make cuts, even if you’re kicking, screaming, and crying as it happens, even when a little piece of you just dies along with it. And especially when FOX says you can only use one Simpsons image and so you have to lose this one and this one.
3. It takes at least 6-8 hours to think of a funny email reply to Dave Barry.
And by then, it’s way too late to act upon your witty genius. Take, for instance, when I emailed the band to say that advanced review copies for the iPad version of Hard Listening were available.
Dave Barry, Thursday, 5:49 PM
What about us Windows people?
[Mass panic ensues at Coliloquy headquarters. Is Dave joking? What if he’s serious? How does he not have an iPad? Quick email to Ridley confirms lack of iPad. Discuss solutions. Sit down to compose reply.]
Jennifer Lou, Thursday, 6:09 PM
If you have a Windows computer and an iPad, the transfer process should be the same. If you, however, don’t have an iPad, we’re happy to send a loaner.
Dave Barry, Friday, 11:51 AM
No, I can get an iPad. It’s just I’d rather not put iTunes on my computer, and then have it do all of its iTunes things.
Jennifer Lou, Friday, 12:09 PM (long reply sent)
Dave Barry, Friday, 12:17 PM
I think you just sent me an email, but I did something that sent it somewhere where I can’t find it. It’s not even (cue spooky music) in Trash. So if you did just send me an email, please re-send it. Thanks.
Jennifer Lou, Friday 12:22 PM (Forwarded email)
I have to confess, I *just* returned from the store and picked up an iPad. I was planning to ship it your way with the book preloaded on it (that’ll also get around having iTunes on your computer). Sorry to complicate this, we feel strongly that you should see the interactive version of the book.
Dave Barry, Friday, 12:27 PM
No! Sorry you did that! I was just being a whiner. I put the book onto my wife’s iPad and will read it this weekend.
Jennifer Lou, Friday 12:35 PM
It’s all good. I got some exercise up and down the SF hills, which is a nice break from being in front of the computer.
Jennifer Lou, Friday 12:37 PM
PS. I’m on crutches.
Pretty good, right? Except that I never sent that 12:37PM email because I only thought of a reply later, like 8:14 PM later, while recounting the story to my husband, who is required by marital law to laugh at my jokes.
4. I learned where my spleen is.
5. Enjoy the process.
When the Remainders and Coliloquy came up with book titles, it was one of the most no-holds-barred brainstorming sessions ever. Here are some of the utterly funny and ridiculous ideas that came up:
Stephen King and 11 Others Die in Fiery Crash (Not Really)
The Joy Suck Club
I Know Why the Stephen King Sings
50 Shades of Gray Hair
Three Chords and a Bibliography
And Now, the E-Remainders
The True Reason Santa Lives At The North Pole
If I Remember the Chords I’ll Forget My Pants
Clearly, we ended up in a better place. But a little part of me wanted to keep brainstorming, just to see what Roy Blount Jr. came up with next. And sometimes, enjoying the process can also get you to the destination, even when you can’t quite picture where you’re headed.
6. Trying to encapsulate my experience with Hard Listening is like trying to fit an elephant into a Planters Cheez Balls container.
The Rock Bottom Remainders were beyond gracious in letting us into their lives and archives, even when we asked them for more, and more. Especially Sam Barry, my co-editor, who humored me when I was in fan-girl mode, and humbled me by entrusting me with boxes upon boxes of Kathi Kamen Goldmark’s treasured Remainder archives, not to mention access to his own email (which if you’re reading this, Sam, I never ended up needing to log in to…so your secrets are safe with the NSA).
For the duration of the project, one of my favorite pasttimes was holing up with Kathi’s archives and reading correspondence from the early days of the band. I was captivated by the literary greatness sitting in my very own apartment, within reach of my fingertips. I fell in love again with words and writing as I pored through faxes upon faxes between Remainders, notably the ones from one-time band member Robert Fulghum, whose talent was so obvious even in his most mundane communications. I’ll be relinquishing those archives soon, but will always cherish the time that they’ve been in my keep.
Wow, did I have fun working on this. But what will remain with me is more than just laughs. The Remainders impressed me with the fact that you can be famously talented yet still gracious and grounded (so long as you choose it); they reminded me that there is humor even when you hit rock bottom (or at least as you surface from it); that any interest that feeds your soul, no matter how big or small, is worth nurturing; and that it’s good to keep perspective and not lose your head too much over the small stuff because life is so, so short and there’s still so much to explore.
The Rock Bottom Remainders were together for 20 years, that’s well over a quarter-millennia of wisdom distilled into this one little book. This one little insightful book infused with a whole lot of humor and love.
They’ve clarified how it is that I want to be in this world. They taught me a thing or two on how to live life right, and more fully. And I hope that you’ll get that too as you rock out to their tales and tunes.
Personally, I can’t wait for the band to get back together. Until then just remember…
7. Everybody’s heard about the bird
Bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word ♫
By Wendy Werris | Jun 14, 2013
Less than 18 months after the launch of Coliloquy, the Palo Alto-based digital publisher that provides a choose-your-own-adventure option in its YA series’ titles and now also publishes adult standalone books, bestselling author Ridley Pearson and the superstar author band the Rock Bottom Remainders have signed on with the company to create unique interactive apps and e-books.
Pearson’s app, Kingdom Keepers Insider, allowed the author to reach out to fans to help him write the seventh and final book in his popular YA fantasy series. “To celebrate the end of KK (as we know it!), I’m picking special scenes from past books, as well as a few from KK VII, and inviting readers to write their own versions of what should, or could have happened,” Pearson writes in the Insider app, which attracted over 40,000 users since April and has generated a substantial number of entries from his fans. Winners in the four categories have been announced; their names will appear in a special section at the back of KK VII. “The first third of Kingdom Keepers VII, or Act 1, will be written in this format,” says Lisa Rutherford, Coliloquy’s founder and publisher. “In October, Ridley will finish the book on his own.” Disney will release it in April 2014. “I really credit Disney for being so willing to engage with the project and be creative,” Rutherford says.
“We publish all our books as active apps,” says Rutherford. “Based on the traffic on Ridley’s app, we know now that the next generation of readers is willing to engage on small screens. 71% of them are reading on mobile phones.” Pearson approached Coliloquy with his idea for theKingdom Keepers app after hearing of Rutherford from a mutual friend.
“In the business world, Coliloquy is that unusual combination of brilliant creative thinkers, terrific communicators, and humility,” Pearson says. “They are as good at listening and evolving as they are reinventing and putting into action. From the start I sensed a partner instead of a publisher, a group that was willing, even eager, to put in the long hours to make something like crowd-sourcing the writing of a novel into a workable reality and then engineer both the apps and the infrastructure to make it happen.”
Pearson was also a founding member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, the band of bestselling authors that played together for twenty years and raised millions of dollars for literacy groups. Other members included Stephen King, Amy Tan, Matt Groening, Roy Blount Jr., Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Scott Turow, and others. But the heart of the Rock Bottom Remainders was the late Kathi Kamen Goldmark, who came up with the idea for it in 1992, recruited the authors to play music and sing, and performed onstage in every concert. Goldmark, who was married to Dave Barry’s brother Sam, died in 2012. To honor her memory the band wrote the enhanced e-bookHard Listening: The Greatest Rock and Roll Band (of Authors) Tells All ($16.99; non-interactive version $13.99), which Coliloquy will release on June 16.
The book, mentored by Pearson, took about a year to complete. “It’s a celebration of friendship,” Rutherford says, “a very personal and intimate look at these huge authors as they write about the band and about Kathi. It includes actual emails they sent to one another during their 20-year run, original essays, and hilarious Q&As and pop quizzes.”
Hard Listening includes video clips of the band’s performances, home movies taken backstage with the authors, photos, and four original short fiction pieces contributed by Greg Iles, Pearson, King, and Dave Barry in which the reader must guess which one was actually written by Stephen King. All author proceeds from the sales of Hard Listening will be donated to offset Goldmark’s medical bills. “Sam [Barry] would have been uncomfortable accepting charity from anyone in the Remainders,” says Rutherford. “It was more important to him to create this book project and ensure Kathi’s legacy.
Publicity for Hard Listening will include a Google Hangout with several band members, a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) with Mitch Albom, and an event at the Apple Store in New York’s Soho neighborhood. The band will also release a Spotify playlist through popular blog Large Hearted Boy.
Coliloquy now has more than 15 titles available, equally divided between YA and adult books, and is working on its first picture book that will be published by the end of this year.
Summer is upon us! Here at Coliloquy, that means Lisa is playing country music (something about sweet tea, a lake, and her very own Pennsylvania-based YA memories…), Waynn is wearing ironic t-shirts WITHOUT zip-up hoodies, and our team lunch debates revolve around whether we want a table in the sun or the shade. It also means…INTERNS!
Last summer, our editorial team was spoiled rotten by the utterly fabulous intern Mary. This summer, it’s our marketing and PR team’s turn to fall madly in love with interns Nia and Jordan. When they’re not working for us, both Nia and Jordan are voracious readers, so we asked them to give us their take on some recommended summer reads!
Nia’s Summer Picks
Nia just completed her freshman year at the Pennsylvania State University, where she is an advertising and public relations major. She also webmasters two sites and bakes the world’s best banana bread.
1. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray - When contestants for the Miss Teen Dream beauty contest crash land on a deserted island, what will they learn about themselves and each other? And (more importantly) how will they survive without eyeliner? One part Miss America pageant, one part Lord of the Flies (or Lost), one part hilarity and one part social commentary, this book is my kind of beach read.
2. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides - The Virgin Suicides definitely has a summery feel, which I attribute to the beautiful and enigmatic presence of the Lisbon sisters, but it is also a much darker read than the others. You pretty much know the end of the book from page one, so as you keep reading, the question you ask yourself over and over is “why?”
3. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan - This one is my Christmas in July pick. Written by one of my favorite author duos, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, this quirky and adorable teen romance is perfect to cool you down in the middle of a hot summer. For a slightly warmer read, check out their first book together, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.
4. Dead Letter Office by Kira Snyder – My Coliloquy pick is the Parish Mail mail series. I love a good supernatural mystery, and it’s an awesome example of active fiction if you haven’t tried the genre yet. Kira just started writing for one of the fall’s buzziest new TV shows, and you’ll love the twists and turns she packs into this series. Celia and Tilly are so much fun to hang out with, and the boys…let’s just say there’s someone for everyone!
5. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood - Charlie St. Cloud is the young caretaker at the cemetery where his younger brother is buried, but his life takes a turn for the brighter when he meets Tess Carroll, a professional sailor. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is a sweet summer romance in the style of Nicholas Sparks (though perhaps a bit shorter) with an unexpected supernatural twist.
Jordan’s Summer Picks
Jordan just finished his freshman year at UNC. He is a Global Studies major and spends his free time reading, playing video games, and taking care of his school’s poison dart frogs.
1. Georgetown Academy Season One by Jessica Koosed Etting and Alyssa Embree Schwartz – My Coliloquy pick is Georgetown Academy. The series is set in an elite DC prep school, populated by the children of politicians. It’s so interesting to see how the teens are influenced by their parents — everything from classroom debates to the color of their Solo cups at parties. One of my favorite parts of the book is that it lets you choose your favorite characters to follow. The book is very well written, full of pop culture and political references, and very fun and engaging to read.
2. White Noise by Don DeLillo – If you’re looking for a serious summer read, I always recommend White Noise, a brilliant postmodern work by Don DeLillo. It tells the story of Jack Gladney, a professor in a small college town, and his family. The plot isn’t the most important part of the story– it mostly serves to hit the themes DeLillo wants to cover, including contemporary family life, how society responds to disaster, and fear of death and drug culture.
3. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett - Ken Follet’s Fall of Giants, the first part of the Century Trilogy, reads like a book version of Downton Abbey. It follows the fictional lives of various families of various social classes (Russian worker family, British nobility, Welsh miners, German diplomat) from around the world before, during, and immediately after World War One. A large book, it has something for everyone, including romance and political intrigue, along with enough well-researched historical information that makes you understand what it felt like to be in the Great War.
4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - With Baz Lurhman’s adaptation recently released, Summer 2013 is the perfect time to re-read or discover the life of Jay Gatsby. The book is narrated by Nick Carraway, a bond salesman living in a small house next to Gatsby’s opulent mansion, and follows Gatsby’s romance with Daisy, his pre-war love, now married to another man. Dealing with themes of opulence and excess, it questions the relevancy and reality of the American dream.
5. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough - I think everyone should try to read at least a little nonfiction during the year, and The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris is a fun, engaging, and interesting read from one of my favorite pop history writers. McCullough tells the story of young American intellectuals who stayed for extended periods in Paris, and how their stay both affected them, the city of Paris, and eventually America. These intellectuals included Oliver Wendell Holmes, Samuel Morse, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Mark Twain. The writing does not bore–instead, it tells like a collection of stories that you can’t put down.
A careful blog reader asked if I died on 4/2, referencing last year’s mysterious post-it note. While it absolutely made my day to know that someone out there noticed my blogging absence, it was also a good kick in the pants to write about the new project that’s been keeping me busy: Kingdom Keepers Insider.
KKI is an interactive app and web experience that lets readers of the Kingdom Keepers book series follow along as author Ridley Pearson writes the seventh and final book in the series. You can find it on the web at www.kingdomkeepersinsider.com or as an app for your iOS, Android, Kindle, or NOOK devices.
Every 10 days for the next four(ish) months, Ridley (who is nicer than pie, btw) posts a new chapter outline with requests for “Insider Input” – everything from voting on plot points to contributing actual descriptions and dialogue to be used in the final book, which will be published by Disney in 2014.
Yes, you read that right – Ridley is letting kids help with the final book! And everyone whose writing is chosen will be mentioned. Coliloquy’s involvement aside, let’s all marvel for a second at how awesome it is to see a large publisher and bestselling author doing something like this for kids.
In addition, we’re running fan fiction contests around prior books, and Ridley has given us access to his vault of secret “behind-the-scenes” footage, so we’ll be sharing a bunch of exclusives, as well.
We just finished the first month of KKI, and the response has been overwhelming. If you’re a teacher or parent, just go check out the volume and quality of the fan fiction entries – these kids are amazing writers!
For Team Coliloquy, it’s been a blast to work on our first middle grade property, and we take great pride in the creative work that went into making it a safe and protected environment for the kids.
So check it out and get your kids writing. Or enter yourself…we promise not to tell!
When Penny Harrison, the main character from my debut new adult novel, GAME. SET. MATCH. popped into my head, I knew she was a tennis player. I knew that in the same way I knew her dad was biracial, that she had two brothers, and that she was possibly the most internally motivated character I’ve ever conceived. Penny’s chosen sport offered a world of opportunities without any preset limitations or glass ceilings because tennis is the only major sport where men and women are on an equal playing field. Wimbledon is Wimbledon, Olympic gold is Olympic gold and being Number 1 in the world is Number 1, whether you’re a man or a woman. Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are just as famous as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Or as close to equal as it gets.
There are debates to this day about equal prize money at Grand Slams. The ATP (the men’s tour) and the WTA (the women’s tour) are very much separate and do not always get the same prize money for similar tour events and of course there is the issue of looks and what makes a female athlete “marketable,” but when it comes down to it, tennis fans are tennis fans and stars in women’s tennis have as many and sometimes more opportunities as their male counterparts. Thus, when I was writing, I could approach my characters and their stories organically.
Had Penny been the best basketball player in the world, her fame would maybe have been equal to that of a decently well-known NBA player, certainly never reaching the level of a LeBron James. Soccer? There are famous women’s soccer players in the US, like Alex Morgan and Hope Solo, but around the world, the popularity of women’s “football” is almost nil compared to the men’s game. Golf? There’s Tiger Woods and then there’s everyone else and even an uber-sports fan like myself is nearly at a loss to name a famous female golfer (okay, that’s a lie, Michelle Wie and Paula Kremer both come to mind, but again I’m a HUGE sports fan).
There is a reverse effect as well. Had Penny been a gymnast, I would have had to consider that men’s gymnastics is not nearly as popular as women’s and that any fame on her part would likely eclipse that of an equally or even more accomplished man.
It’s because Penny is a tennis player that I could make her, her friends, her love interest and her competitors as famous or as under-the-radar as I wanted. Therefore, Game.Set.Match is not about whether you are male or female, but how you play the game.
- Do Moms Keep Each Other Down? - Oct 31
- Guest Post from Holly McDowell: Do You Mind the Wait? - Oct 8
- Stop: Ginger Time! - Oct 1
- Why Do Writers Write? - Jun 18
- We’re on Fire, NOOK, and Android! - May 10
- 4.2 Lisa Dies - Apr 2
- Education and Technology - Jan 20
- Seth on Distribution vs. Publishing - Jan 20
- Launch Press Round-Up - Jan 18
- New Authors Announced - Jan 18
- PRESS RELEASE: Coliloquy Launches Active Fiction on Amazon Kindle - Jan 17
- He Said/She Said: Raping Paper - Jan 16
- Happy Pieday! - Jan 13
- How to Get Published by Coliloquy #1 - Jan 6
- Welcome to the official Coliloquy blog! - Jan 3