Some days are explosive, others are just firecrackers.

Born and bred in The Heights in NYC. Never heard of the neighborhood? Great, because I don't need your gentrifying ass gettin' my rent raised. A rebellious teenage mom until I grew up and turned mother. A highly unfocused writer and university student. Literary agent's assistant with delusions of my own Hispanic imprint because plaintains and stories go hand in hand.
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Name: Mrs. Brain Bomb
Location: New York, New York, United States

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Something I'm Working On

I was listening to that new reggeaton song on my ipod- the hot one with the quick thumping beat- and imagining I could dance like a low-rent Salome when he squeezed onto the train.

He stood with his back to me, holding onto the pole. And what a back it was. He was broad like a linebacker with muscles that announced themselves from under his green polo shirt. The shape of his back reminded me of those sex-ed classes in sixth grade where Mrs. O’Donoghue explained that boys acquired a V-shape during puberty while girls got hourglass figures. The lucky ones did anyway.

I made myself look away before someone noticed I was blatantly staring at this guy’s ass and we’d have play awkward eyeball tag where they’d know I was one desperate chick and I’d pretend that oh no, I really wasn’t, I was just staring into space. Dude had a rounder ass than I did which speaks volumes considering I’m Dominican and we’re all supposed to be shaped like the Hottentot Venus. Meanwhile, back in high school that baboso Guillermo gave me a pair of padded underwear for Valentine’s day.

My breasts picked up the slack though. I was a 36D by the time I was fifteen. Sure that sounds great except in the real world gravity didn’t care that I was only fifteen and my nipples made kamikaze dives straight to the ground. I suppose that’s why it was such a relief to find that boys didn’t care that my breasts were as lazy as two water-balloons. They were eager to stare at them up-close in wonder and feel them with so much euphoria you would’ve thought they’d reached nirvana.

The guy on the train got a seat across from me somewhere around 96th Street. He had the thick neck of someone used to gritting their teeth and straining when they lifted weights. His meaty palms rested on his inner thighs and I seriously considered following him off the train just to watch him a little longer because he was sure to get off by 125th Street. Most white people did.

But no, I had to go home to get an earful from Chico about Athena. He’d start in before my keys even crashed on the side table, Athena left jelly on the kitchen floor or Athena hasn’t started her chores or have you seen the mess in Athena’s room? He was sure he was being helpful. After all, I was the one that made a list of chores for Athena to do and he was just trying to have things done by the time I got home, right? When I had complained to my mother about feeling bombarded as soon as I walked in the door she was quick to point out that he was doing the right thing in bringing things to my attention instead of punishing Athena himself. Hoy en dia, she’d said, you never know what you get with a husband that’s not your daughter’s father and she’s a señorita already, as tall as you with cenos the size of plums so you should be grateful he’s so decente.

But no, I didn’t feel grateful. Instead I felt in his debt.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

As Promised

I promised I'd share some suggestions on good query letters. Now keep in mind all query letters have a certain element of hit or miss. Every agent is different. They have different tastes and different genres they gravitate more towards. I've submitted query letters and had them rejected and I work at a literary agency! It's just the way it is. As selective as agents are, the editors they submit to are even more so.

So what you want to do is give yourself the biggest leg up possible and query widely in the hopes that your letter is right for one of the agents you've submitted too. It's an intense process and one that requires endless persistence and patience.

I looked through the queries that we've selected for manuscript request this week to give you an idea of what they share.

-A query should be a page long, that's it.

-Include the title of the book (really, really annoying when it's missing and yes I've seen it happen), the word count and genre.

-Not all queries in our selected pile have this. I'd say half of them do. It's a line that says something like, based on your representation of such-and-such book OR interest in such-and-such genre, I thought you may be interested in my book XYZ. I've also seen the tactic where the author says, My book XYZ is similar in the themes of love and forgiveness in such-and-such book. I was just picking our in-house editor's brain on this very topic this morning. Mentioning a the work of an agent's client of preference in genre is 1)flattering and 2)let's them know you've put some thought into selecting an agent to query. Comparing your book in tone or theme or culture to another book gives the agency some sort of idea on your writing style.

-The premise of the book has got to be compelling, dramatic, exciting with a strong sense of conflict. These elements have to stand out in the query. You want to use roughly two paragraphs to get this point across. What makes your book so good? Is it the bond of two women during harsh times of war (A Thousand Splendid Suns) or ill-fated lovers in the circus (Water For Elephants). Think of descriptions on book flaps or the backs od DVDs.

-Writing credits. This should be one paragraph. It's where you would mention any newspapers, magazines, literary journals that your work has appeared in, your educational background as it relates to writing or subject matter. If you haven't been published at all then this is where you would answer the question, what qualifies you to write this book. Are you culturally steeped in the same world as the one you based your book on? For example, you wrote a thriller and you worked for the Secret Service then that should be mentioned.

Hope I helped and good luck!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My Favorite Stories

I've loved short stories ever since I was young. I was obsessed with fairy tales when I was a pre-teen. The darker the better. I'd check out volumes from the public library where the grandmothers got devoured and children were beaten, not the watered-down stuff we get today. Since then, I went through phases depending on what I was exposed to in school or what I became curious about.

These are some of my favorite short story writers. Their stories are inspiring in terms of their artistry but also terrifying when it comes times to put my own pen to paper. Feel free to chime in with your own favs.

-Edgar Allen Poe (The Cask of Amontillado, The Tell-Tale Heart, The House of Usher)

-Nathaniel Hawthorne (Young Goodman Brown)

-Junot Diaz (Every single story he's written)

-Alice Munro (Dimension)

-Juan Bosch (Encarnacion Mendoza's Christmas Eve)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

For My Fellow Scribes

Sometimes I try to post stuff that will help writers since I work at a literary agency and I am a writer as well (although I guard that secret as if my life depended on it at work). I don't do it more often because honestly, I think a lot of "tips" I could give you are common sense or easily available by doing some investigating online.

This is a great list of tips when you're giving your story/novel the final look before submitting. It's intended for short stories but it applies to novels as well.

I'll mention a couple of do's and don't when it comes to seeking an agent:

-It is okay to call an agency if you want to double-check who you should address your letter to or the address.

-It is NOT okay to call and ask to speak to the agent, try and pitch your book over the phone or to ask what a query letter is. Agents are not going to get on the phone with someone who isn't a client and they have assistants, ahem, who are trained to weed the violators of ettiquette. Pitching your book only makes you annoying and shows your lack of respect for how the biz works. An assistant like me will cut you off mid-sentence and tell you to either send your query letter via email or regular mail and goodbye. Do yourself a favor and find out how things work. There are a ton of books and websites that will explain what a query letter is and proper procedure.

-Follow procedure. I can't emphasize this enough. If the agency's guidelines say they accept queries by regular mail only, don't call them to ask if you can email. Same concept applies if you're asked only for a query letter or only for a partial. Don't ask them if you can send the whole thing. Listen! And then just do what they ask. I once requested a full manuscript via regular mail from an author only to get a reply asking why we don't take advantage of technology and allow us to email because it's so much quicker. No shit? So I cut him down and told him to send a partial instead. It's not your company so don't try and change someone else's modus operandi.

Query letters, I find, are not the easiest things to write. Even I look for help in writing them and I see them every day. I'll come back with some inside dope on how to put one together because it's probably the trickiest part of hooking an agent.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


In my wild imagination, if I had a choice of types of government to be the leader of I would choose dictatorship. Don't look at me like that, it would be a benevolent dictatorship. Okay, that's not completely true because I'd hold onto the firing squad. Never know when they'll be an uprising.

If I were a dictator:

-Hate crimes would be punishable by exile.

-Schooling away from home would be mandatory until 21. I'm talking about Spartan-like, rip-you-away-from-your-momma and send you off to school education. Required courses from kindergarden up would include: fluency in a second language, phys ed (with real gyms and fun sports not running around in the cafeteria), art (you'd be surprised in how many public schools don't have art programs), music (again you'd be surprised), drivers ed.

-Mandatory employment. Everyone works. Everyone. Unless you're incapacitated. I would decide that. Anyone caught cheating the system goes on the chain gang.

-Pay scale for all jobs. No more cops working for 25,000 a year and baseball players making 30 million. No politicans giving themselves raises (then again, no politicians since I would be dictator but maybe I'd make up a senate-like body to help me out because it's hard work being a tyrant) and goodbye gazillionaires and starving babies.

-Unhealthy food would be prohibited and destroyed. Of course I get to decide what's unhealthy but it would go along the lines of fried food, and dubious ingredients like cheddar cheese powder and yellow #6. Screw freedom of choice, the masses cannot choose for themselves. That crap is worse than crack! I should know as I just polished off 2 mini bags of Ritz Bits (DAMN YOU, NABISCO!).

-Persons found smelling offensively shall be hosed-the-fuck down.

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