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So. Yes. I waited until the very last moment to write today’s blog post. Editorial Intern Erin and I brainstormed for a while and came up with an idea; I polished off some line edits on, oh, a few tens of thousands of pages, as one does every day; then I settled into my office to blog.

And was promptly interrupted by an urgent message from a fellow editor in children’s book publishing, contacting me via the convenient Facebook chat window, which for some reason I happened to have open.

2:10pm Molly: hi there

2:10pm Carol: Hey! Long time no anything! What's up?

2:11pm Molly: well not too good at the moment and i need your urgent help i was mugged at a gun point in london,england last night

2:12pm Molly: cash,credit cards and cell phone were stolen

2:13pm Molly: it was a brutal experience but i am ok and thank God i still have my passport i need some sort of financial help

Holy Moley! Of course one’s first instinct is to help. So I asked what we could do for her.

2:14pm Molly: like a loan to pay off the hotel bills and also get a cab to take me to the airport i am in a internet shop right now and return flight leaves in less than 3hours

(“a internet shop”? That is a very traumatized editor.)

2:15pm Carol: Have you had any luck at the US embassy?

2:15pm totally-the-real-Molly: no not really.. the process is taking too long
2:18pm just-a-bit-traumatized-Molly: all i need right now is $800 and i promise to refund it back tomorrow

2:19pm really-feeling-guilty-for-not-having-spoken-with-Molly-in-ages-Carol: How would that work?

2:19pm honestly-this-is-Molly: via western union.. you can wire it in my name.. Do you know of any western union outlet close to you? can you do it online?

I am now imagining the con artist as a Nigerian prince, in resplendent robes, sitting in an internet cafe on a trunk full of gold bullion. Gold bullion that he will totally share with me if I send him some of the big publishing dough I myself am sitting on here in NYC. Little did he know, though, that Lerner has tentacles—I mean, operations in England. Pat Shepherd holds down the fort for us overseas, bringing our books to readers in the UK, and adapting Americanisms or convincing British booksellers that Americanisms hugely enhance a graphic novel.

I got in touch with Pat via e-mail, and she suggested I get as much information as possible and keep the prince talking until she could alert police to his location.

2:24pm Carol: Pat just got back to me. If you can tell us exactly where you are, she might be able to ask some of her friends to come over with cash in hand. That might be simpler than wiring.

2:24pm not-at-all-Molly: that would be a long process

2:26pm Carol: They're happy to get there to help an industry colleague. What's the name of the hotel?

2:26pm not-at-all-Molly: try doing it online its only going to take a couple of mins

The real Molly knows where to put an apostrophe.

We had another few minutes of jolly conversation, mostly consisting of the prince asking whether I had wired the money yet, and me making small talk about pigeons and busses. The prince did not seem to know which pigeon I was referring to.

2:28pm Carol: That would be wired to "your name, London"? any other details? How will you be able to pick it up without ID?

2:30pm Prince of Nigeria: i'll use my passport so that won't be a problem

2:31pm Carol: don't go away--how long can you stay online?

2:32pm Prince Molly of Nigeria: will be here for atleast 45mins

2:32pm Carol: k... don't go away yet

2:33pm Prince Molly of Nigeria: ok

Pat and I were about to lay down the long arm of the London constabulary on the scammer, when, apparently, Facebook authorities were made wise to the felonious behaviour in progress. The next message was:

2:35pm Molly is no longer online.

Molly is now dealing with the repercussions (many of her friends contacted by an impostor, her personal Facebook account shut down, her voicemail stuffed with concerned messages). Whereas I had much too fun an afternoon.

And got a blog post out of it.

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(posted on behalf of Greg Hunter, assistant editor)

I vividly remember my first comic book, as most comic nerds probably do. It was Spectacular Spider-Man #197, and I was in second grade. The issue isn’t very good in hindsight, but it didn’t matter—I was hooked on the color, the characters, the whole new way of reading it demanded. In spite of the fact that few friends of mine were regular comic readers—or maybe because I liked having the hobby to myself—I stuck with the medium, and eventually moved from Spidey books to artier fare like Asterios Polyp (a recent, massive graphic novel by artist David Mazzucchelli, acclaimed for its experiments with style and form). Okay, I also kept up with Spider-Man.

After reading comic books more or less in a vacuum throughout childhood, it’s interesting to see the places where this means of storytelling is gaining traction. At 22, I’m not sure I’ve earned the right to start sentences with “When I was a kid . . .” but when I was a kid, there were no graphic novels in my school library. Consequently, it’s been exciting to help out with a couple of Lerner’s Graphic Universe titles since starting as an assistant editor—they’re the kind of books I would have seized upon as an elementary-age reader.

The Twisted Journeys series, under the GU umbrella, is a perfect example. A TJ book “lets you control the story”—they’re part comic, part prose, with multiple plotlines for readers to choose from. Two new Twisted Journeys titles are arriving next year, and I’ve recently had the chance to see different moments in the production cycle for these titles, from concerns about word balloon placement to decisions about what color to make a giant insect. It’s almost a relief that I get to see pieces of these books ahead of time—otherwise, I think I’d start feeling a little envious of the kids who will be taking them off library shelves.

(posted on behalf of Julie Harman, production editor, occasional Scrambler)

The Scrambler's secret weaponsOne of the most unusual roles in the Graphic Universe imprint is that of The Scrambler.

In GU’s Twisted Journeys series, the reader decides his or her path through the journey and reaches a different ending each time. Twisted Journeys authors write each storyline in linear sequence. When the book is ready for layout, The Scrambler scrambles the manuscript. This mixes up the story to allow readers to make choices at each junction without knowing what comes next. Hand-scrambling each book ensures that no two books will follow the same pattern.

The rules of scrambling read like a logic game: Each text page must face an art page. The reader shouldn’t have to flip back and forth more than necessary. The facing page must not give anything away. The Scrambler maps the layout (see photo of recent scrambling worksheets below), using some of the tricks of solving logic puzzles: diagrams, charts, and color-coding.

The Scrambler's secret arsenal

After making sure the map follows all the rules, The Scrambler rearranges the manuscript to match the new order of pages. Then the story goes into a Twisted Journeys layout, with choice pages leading to each plot turn, surprise ending, and shady (or heroic) character.

click to see spread larger

click to see spread larger

So, if Agent Topaz never sits next to Robin Goodfellow, Dr. Nimbleton must face Fa May, and pirates always sit to the immediate left of the good guys, where is Agent Mongoose? That’s for The Scrambler to know, and the reader to find out. Choose wisely.

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