Archive | September, 2011

Penguin Canada Publishing Director Lynne Missen

27 Sep

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Date of lunch:
Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The company:
Lynne Missen is publishing director of Penguin Canada Young Readers, its children and young adult program. Lynne has been an editor for over 20 years. Prior to joining Penguin Canada, she was executive editor of children’s books at HarperCollins Canada. Young Adult (YA as Lynne calls it) is at a really interesting spot right now as the books that fall in this category are being read by adults too and some of the best-selling books out today fall in this category – think Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games. Next spring, she will be launching Razorbill books here in Canada, an imprint of books for teens that are authentic, compelling and entertaining. I, like many others, have always dreamed about one day being a published author so it was great to hear from Lynne about what goes into publishing a book.

The food:
We ate at Barque Smokehouse on Roncesvalles. I have been meaning to check out this place for a while so was happy when Lynne suggested it. If you haven’t had the chance to check out Roncy since the construction was completed, you should definitely get down there and go for a stroll. It’s lovely. The lunch menu at Barque is a bit too small. They offer five or so sandwiches, a few salads and sides. That’s it. Lynne had the special – pulled pork sandwich with a spinach salad on the side. I had the pulled chicken sandwich with bacon and a smoked tomato soup on the side. My sandwich was delicious but the soup was too acidic – it didn’t have anything in it to cut the acid. We both drank sparkling water. Overall I will be back to try the dinner menu as I’ve seen pictures of the ribs and they look amazing. Total bill was $27 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
I asked Lynne how one might hypothetically get a book published, say if that was, you know, something someone might want to do. She let me know that Penguin, as well as most of the other big publishing houses, doesn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts and they receive manuscripts from unknown authors through agents. She mentioned that there are publishers that do accept unsolicited manuscripts. She said that finding an agent can be just as or more difficult than finding a publisher. She said the most important thing is to find a publisher or agent that is putting out the type of books that you’re writing. Lynne doesn’t publish a lot of picture books so if that’s what you’re shopping around, she isn’t the best target. Finally, she said when you do pitch your book, don’t say “it’s the next Harry Potter” but do indicate what type of book it is similar to and then explain why it’s similar and most importantly, what makes it different and more interesting than what else is already out there. It helps them to understand how it will fit into today’s market.

The lunch:
I was really excited to meet Lynne for lunch because I have long thought about taking a publisher for lunch to learn more about the book world and once I did outreach to Penguin, Lynne was incredibly kind in her emails and seemed to be looking forward to the lunch as well.

Lynne spends a lot of her time editing manuscripts. She reads through them and provides a list of questions and comments and sends it back to the author – questions about character development, plot lines, areas of confusions, etc. The author revises the book, sends it back to her, she reviews, then it goes to a copy editor, then proofreader, back and forth a few times and then printing. To be safe, Lynne says it can take about a year from when a manuscript is received to publishing. However, Penguin’s sales reps are now meeting with book sellers about Spring 2012 releases, so orders come in for books while they’re still going through the editing phases. She showed me a brochure of Penguin Canada’s 2012 titles that include a novel that Lynne was going home after lunch to continue editing. Now that’s a lot of pressure. But even with the pressure, reading books all day, revising them and making them better does sound like a pretty fun job.

I have always loved reading and usually my reading falls into three categories – beach reads (chick lit, detective novels, etc.), more serious fiction (mostly chosen by the smart people in my now defunct book club) and non-fiction (like Thomas Friedman and my previous lunch guest Doug Saunders). To be honest, I haven’t read a lot of YA books as an adult but I think they would fall nicely into my beach reads category – great stories, great characters and the inability to put the book down. I think Lynne really won me over on our lunch today.

But whenever I do think of YA, I think of an overabundance of books about vampires. And I don’t really want to read a bunch of books about vampires. Well Lynne said that the vampire market is pretty saturated right now. She said a popular genre right now is dystopian, which Hunger Games falls into. These are stories that take place in a society in a repressive or controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian. I wonder if somehow vampires could exist in this state. Two birds, one stone. Boom. Best seller.

I remember reading YA books back in the day. We had Babysitter’s Club, Judy Blume, Sweet Valley High and one of my faves – Christopher Pike. His books scared the crap out of me. I used to throw it on the ground when it got too scary and would wait days to pick it back up. But when I was growing up, we never had a Harry Potter type series that EVERYONE read. Seeing kids in line to buy a book is pretty awesome. And that’s what Lynne thinks too. Not every book has to have a lesson – getting kids into stories and reading can create a lifelong passion for books and is just as important.

**Lynne was kind enough to give me some books. I was SO excited about it that she said she is going to send me a few more so I can do a giveaway! I will post it soon. Stay tuned.

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My Nonna Ida Pollarolo

11 Sep

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Date of lunch:
Sunday, September 11, 2011

The company:
This was a Lunch with Mary first. My first lunch out of town (it was in my hometown of Ottawa) and my first lunch with a family member. I had lunch with my nonna (that is Italian for grandmother) Ida Pollarolo. She is awesome! She moved to Ottawa from Italy in the 1950s with my mom, my uncle and my nonno. Quick aside: Since there weren’t many other Italians in my elementary school, I never heard the words nonna and nonno except with my grandparents. I thought they were their actual names and I thought it was such a lovely coincidence that these two people with such similar names had found each other. I have always been very close with my nonna. I remember in high school on a P.A. Day, a lot of my friends were getting together for something fun, but I declined and biked over to nonna’s to hang with her. I miss her a lot since I have moved to Toronto but I try to call her often and send cards and letters when I can.

The food:
We ate in the dining room of the Lord Lansdowne Retirement Residence where my nonna lives. The food is pretty good at this place. I sort of wish I could have stayed for dinner as it was lobster tail and filet mignon. Although not surf and turf, our lunch was pretty delicious. We both started with the Lansdowne salad, which is a salad that includes grapes, melon and strips of ham. Nonna let me know that she does not like having sweet salads and salads should just be salads without fruit, except tomatoes “which they say is a fruit”. For the main course, I had the meat lasagna and she had chicken cordon bleu. I had apple pie for dessert and she had a fruit bowl. I also had coffee and we both drank water. Total bill is unknown to me as meals are included in her rent and I do know she has to pay a little to have a guest but she didn’t tell me how much.

The lunch lesson:
We talked a lot about her childhood in Valdagno. She lived there all her life before coming to Canada and it’s where my mom was born. I have been there a few times, it’s a very lovely town in the foothills of northern Italy. She grew up on a farm and started working where she could as early as she could. She had jobs such as collecting eggs from the chickens and helping her grandfather plant the potatoes. She was the youngest of eight – 7 girls and 1 boy. She spoke very highly of her mother and told me how great a mom she was and that the best thing she taught her was to respect everyone. Nonna said how her mom taught her that no matter someone’s background, education, etc., that we’re all equal. This is a great lesson that her mom passed on to her and one that was passed down to me as well.

The lunch:
I love my nonna a lot and treasure all the time I can spend with her since I live in Toronto and don’t get to Ottawa that much anymore. Lately she hasn’t been feeling that well so I decided to come to Ottawa for a weekend and spend as much time with her as I can. I was very happy that she seemed in great spirits, energetic and able to head down to the dinning room for our lunch.

We talked about the books that she’s been reading lately. She’s an avid reader across all sorts of genres. She just finished Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy by the same author as Under the Tuscan Sun. She then told me that the book is nice but how do people live like that? She said Tuscany is like that if you’re rich, but not if you actually have to work for a living. It was a great observation. Italy isn’t all about tasting wine, eating and basking in the sunshine – there is work to be done!

I also just have a general observation about Italian homes. Any Italians that read this, please feel free to weigh in. When you go to a home in Italy (and I have seen this in Italian-Canadians’ homes as well), no matter the size of the home, there is a room somewhere, often in the basement, with a table that seats about 20 people. I always found it strange. So although there is work to be done, we do love to eat!

I was telling my nonna how I was going to a wedding the following weekend in Toronto (yay Maja and Mike!) and that I had just recently been in Vancouver for another wedding (Ali and Adrian!!). She looked at me and said that she doesn’t know about weddings anymore, it’s just a ceremony and what’s most important is honesty and being honest with one another. She said if you have honesty, that is all that matters. She is a wise lady.

After our lunch, as I left her room to head out and catch the train back to Toronto, we said our usual “I love you” and she followed with what she always says “be good”. So I said “nonna, you be good” to which she replied “there is not a lot of chances here to be bad”. Oh nonna, you’re the best! Tanti baci.

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