24 April 2007

My Editor and a Cambodian Saturday in the Park

This is my new editor, Alison Janssen at Bleak House Books. She is way cool, and way smart, and apparently hell on skates too. You can watch an interview with her here.

Working with an editor can be a tricky business. I ought to know, I was one for a long time - magazines, not books. We writers love what we write and don't usually cotton to someone messing with it.

I've been lucky. Win Blevins, my editor at Forge Books for The Living Room of the Dead truly helped make that a better book. I learned from him and the book benefitted.

At first, I was a little nervous about working with Alison. She's obviously smart and all that, but I'm old enough to be her father. (I can't believe I just wrote that. I must really be getting old.) Just before we started working together on the book I jokingly asked if I should be concerned. She "reassured" me - jokingly (I think) saying that I didn't have anything to worry about, she didn't think she'd want me to do much with the book, but she did feel it could benefit by my adding a cookie-selling girl scout to one of the scenes in Cambodia; which was, of course, ridiculous.

Alison then gave me her notes. And they were good, very good. Following her notes and some of her suggestions have made Grave Imports an even better book than the one I'd originally written. I learned some important things about my writing from her. That's the way it's supposed to work. (Maybe I'm not old enough to be her father after all.)

And I showed her. I tossed in a cookie-selling girl scout, sort of. And I did it in a way that helped satisfy one of her editorial notes. She liked it. I liked it. You'll have to read the book to find our girl scout for yourself.

Having worked with her, I can now hardly wait to see Mel Ignant, her roller derby alter ego, in action.

As for Cambodians, they feature significantly in my new book Grave Imports (this is my blog, I have to get in plugs whenever I can) that's coming out in September. A lot of them, more than anywhere else other than in Cambodia itself, live in Long Beach, California - about 35 miles from my house. And a whole lot of them were in El Dorado Park last Saturday to celebrate Cambodian New Year.

It was a reminder of a couple of things. One, how much I miss Asia, some countries - Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, Macau and Cambodia in particular - more than others.

And it was also a reminder of how great it is to live in a big city in the U.S. where there are large groups of people from all over the world. In the greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area we have the largest immigrant populations in the world from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines (I think), Mexico, most Central American countries, Iran and Armenia. We have increasingly large immigrant populations from Western and Eastern Europe, Africa, South America, the Middle East and other countries in Asia as well.

Despite all the problems, in spite of all the political arrogance and stupidity that this country inflicts on people all over the world, this is still, particularly in Los Angeles, a truly great and exciting place to live. And a whole lot of people around the world know that, or at least suspect it. Which is why they keep coming here and adding to the good things about living here. Here's some more pictures from what is not really an unusual (at least in L.A.) Saturday in the park:
There were kids with cool hair.

For some reason, there were a lot of women with streaked hair.

There were men playing traditional games.

And women on the receiving end of those games.

There were kids beating each other up with American flag clubs. (I'll leave any political implications up to your imagination.)

There was a temporary temple.

And live bands.

And beauty queens, of course.

And families cooking satay on portable grills.

And some nasty geese. I'll bet they'd be pretty tasty.

And strutting herons. You wouldn't think it, but L.A. is lousy with herons.