In the eleventh episode of This Podcast Needs a Title, Peter and Erica chat with editor Zack Knoll about work/life boundaries, his dream projects, pros and cons of creative writing degrees, the collective despising of voicemail, season 41 of Survivor, and zodiac signs. Featuring: Violet, Zack Knoll’s roommate’s most excellent cat.
Hey everyone, welcome to this podcast needs a title. I'm Erica Davis. And I'm Peter Malone Eliot. And this is real talk about Writing, Publishing and everything in between. In just a few minutes here, we're going to be talking to our splendid guest, Zach Knoll, who is an editor at Abrams books. The first one people want to know. Hmm, Erica. Yeah. How are you doing? actually pretty good. I had my first check in with a physician who in like, maybe a decade because we've been moving so much, we only ever just went to an urgent care for stuff that we need in like a prescription filled and just never felt like settling in but we own the house down. So I bit the bullet and the physician is from Buffalo. So how about that? I also got the flu shot today, and didn't think I needed it yet, because I just got one a couple of weeks ago, but then my husband who I texted to check when we had gotten it told me it was like almost a year ago. We got it I'm like well, okay, there goes time. What about you? How you doing? I'm good. Just you know, trucking along with unpublished judging, getting close to announcing the winners and runners up. So stay tuned for that writing is going well. Starting to gear up for the PR push for my movie in November. That's crazy. And you know, just loving life. That's good. How's panda doing? She's fine. She's currently looking her crotch right now. Oh, good for you, honey, Panda. Then she looks at me all like sheepish like she's embarrassed. Like, right? I mean, I'm doing it. You're looking you're hot right in front of me. Okay, well, before we hear more about who our guest is today, we would typically be checking in on accountability goals here. But guess what, Peter? We didn't do any. We did not do any. And I liked that break. That was nice. It was a mental break. And I was still pretty productive. I mean, I don't have a choice right now with deadlines coming. So how was PAH didn't going patient is actually going really well. I'm not my agent was correct that the shape of the chapters, the outline would probably end up shifting based on what I gather from the interviewees. And that's been very true. Not like I was totally off. But not only has everybody been corroborating parts of my experience. There's so many new issues coming up that I was very lucky that I never even faced that I never even thought of people going through this is gonna be thicker book than I thought and I'm overwhelmed and humbled and scared to be great. Thank you. So that's how pH didn't is going. Thank you for asking. It's cathartic to talk about it. But speaking about talking about it. I want to hear about Zach. No, no, no, it's a great name. Yeah. So Zack Knoll is an editor at Abrams books, where he started his career in publishing as an editorial assistant. Before returning the Abrams. He spent six years working at the flagship Simon and Schuster imprint, acquiring a range of fiction, narrative nonfiction and illustrated projects. Born and raised in the city of Chicago. He now lives in Brooklyn. He's kind of my neighbor, tackle. Let's bring him in here. Hello, hello. Hello, Zach. Hello, Welcome. Nice to be here with you. Thank you so much for coming on. My pleasure. You really do have like a catchy name. No, staccato the short thought. Maybe that's what it is. That's good. I'm also I'm loving the exposed brick behind you. It's very New York. I'd love it. Big fan. Aggressively remind everyone I love him. So Zack, I'm really curious to get into all of the wonderful perspectives on the industry you have. But you know, let's start off with the basic nuts and bolts for our listeners to learn more about you. Can you just tell us a little bit how you got into publishing and kind of your your origin story, if you will? Yeah, absolutely. So I was a creative writing major in college. And, you know, I mostly wrote fiction and I it never really dawned on me that there was like a whole industry or like a professional path to pursue with that kind of study, other than being a writer. And what I really loved about the kind of like workshop setting was as much as it was fun to write my own stuff and talk to people about it was the workshop process, right to like, reading someone's work and giving them feedback and kind of, you know, building out a story or an idea with them and operation. And, you know, essentially that's what editing is, and it just never really dawned on me until I started to explore what I might actually do, you know, with my time once I left college, so I thought for a little bit that I was interested in publicity or you know, using language to kind of convince someone of something of pitching and having those conversations I'm kind of an extroverted person, so that felt natural but It was really not for me, I did an internship in a publicity department of like a major television network. And it just oh boy, yeah. I just have not really seen how the sausage gets made. And click some people are excellent pictures and love that stuff. And a lot of editing is actually pitching. You know, you get like, two sentences to kind of convince your internal team and the external world of why they should read a book. It just wasn't for me in the end. But what was great about that job was at the time at shared an office building with Penguin, penguin bugs. And so you know, I would walk by Penguin every day on my way into work and be like, I bet, I bet there they have jobs. dawned on me, so I actually did an internship in an editorial department of the penguin imprint the following summer. And from there, you know, I sort of took the advice of my colleagues there to pursue what are called these publishing courses. So there's a couple of well known ones throughout the country. And I did one here in New York City, where, you know, I got to brush elbows or shoulders or whatever with the street people and so on. When I left, I actually got my first job in publishing, just by applying cold to Abrams, which is where I work now. So I started there as an editorial assistant, and worked for a bunch of people on a lot of amazing books. But at the time, they didn't really publish narrative nonfiction or fiction. And that was something I was interested in exploring more. So sure. After Abrams, I worked for the editor in chief of the flagship Simon and Schuster imprint for a couple of years until being promoted to the point where I was buying my own projects and editing my own books. And I was at Yeah, it was, I mean, it was such a great experience. And you know, we can talk more about it. Yeah, I was, I was there for almost six years, until very recently being lured back to airbrush out doing, you know, they've since developed a narrative nonfiction line in a fiction program. So it's an exciting way to come back and see the ways in which they've grown and I've also grown Sure, yeah, I have a quick follow up, how did they learn you, they had an opening, and I think because they, you know, already knew me and had also seen some of what I had done at SMS, they thought I had enough of the kind of like, latitude to work across their sort of like illustrated publishing program which they do so well and more experience on the trade nonfiction and fiction side. So it was kind of just a right offer at the right time kind of situation. I mean, I really the people, it was a promotion, I was excited about them, they were excited about me. It was certainly hard to leave you know, SNS I've been there for quite a few years at that point. But it's you know, you do someone leaves you take a job, that's Sure, yeah. How did SNS, how did they react when you told them you were leaving? They were happy for me. I mean, you know, it's always hard to see someone go and someone who has been there kind of from the assistant level upwards, because you do you just you have a wealth of process knowledge, like you have things are done. And, you know, they all agreed that it was just the right kind of opportunity. For me, as someone who really does acquire, I think, a pretty eclectic range of books, you know, I think a lot of editors find a lane, or they have one book really well. And that kind of becomes a calling card for other books. And certainly, I'd want to be known for doing a certain type of thing. But I also have a lot of different interests, and a background in the visual arts. So it's been fun to you know, try that out at a place like SNS, and it's rewarding to be able to do it at a place like Uber. Yeah. Funny you bring up that the eclectic kind of body of body of work isn't the right phrase, but body of stuff that you have. And those kinds of one of the reasons why I reached out to you in the first place because I was seeing all the the deals and Publishers Marketplace, and they were so there was a through line, like you said, but they were all very varied. It was okay, this is really interesting. I could send a lot to this guy. This is great, kind of talking about your home coming to Abrams, I mean, you you're in a really interesting position of you've worked at one of the huge, you know, mothership publishing houses, and now you're going slightly, you're going back to a slightly smaller one, although Abrams has kind of exploded in the last few years, which has been awesome to see. I was wondering kind of what what are the major differences between the two in terms of from an acquiring standpoint, and what writers can kind of expect in terms of the attention they get? Yeah, I mean, you know, I think there are pros and cons to sort of both publishing models. I think at a big place, like a you know, a big site publisher. Yeah, there are just types of resources that I think maybe as an author you don't think about that are all internal for the staff, right. Like there, there tend to be more thorough systems in place for things. And there is, you know, I think it's worth saying that the coin purse is a little deeper in terms of what you can sure, offer a writer, you know, in terms of marketing and publicizing their books, but I think small publishers are or smaller publishers are getting more competitive in terms of advances they can offer, what sort of resources they're putting into their publications. So I think that gap is kind of closing a little bit. You know, I think at a smaller place, you get a little more of an intimate experience, I think you tend to know all of the people who touch your book, out in the world in a different in a different way. What I loved about the flagship s&s imprint was that, you know, despite its size, and despite the size of the company, we sort of broke ourselves off into four smaller groups. And so interesting work with like, I met weekly with, you know, the same small group of editors, the same small group of publicist, the same small groups of marketers. So we did kind of give that more like intimate indie sort of feel, I said, the the relationship that kind of is mimicked out of a place that's, you know, smaller than one of the big five for the Big Four, the big three, or however many there are going to be right, you almost touched on something that I was going to ask anyway. You mentioned that you you don't mind being known for that particular thing. And so, to that end, what would you say your editorial brand is right now? I think, you know, I'm always looking for something that's a little unusual. And takes a investigates like a bigger idea, or issue through a personal lens like I do, I really respond to things that are voice driven. And writers who have a very assured sense of their own voice, I tend to like things that are a little snarky, a little funny, or don't shy away from humor. And you know, I always no matter the topic, or the type of book look for something that really has a point of view in both what it's trying to say and how it's saying it. But I also, you know, have really tried to make a point of working with queer writers and writers of color and writers who are telling stories that I think are coming from an experience that major publishers have perhaps overlooked for a while. Yeah, I think in general, the industry is doing a better job of sort, of course, correcting that. So you know, I guess, if it checks one or two, or both of those yet one or two of those boxes, it's a book that I'm going to be interested in part B, that question is, is there a project you've been craving to see, but you haven't seen it yet? Yeah, I mean, I'm always looking for, you know, memoir that really investigates the sort of, like, Blurred Lines of like human sexuality. And I, and there are many, many books that do that, but I'm always looking for something like that, and a really specific way. I am a huge survivor fan. So I've been trying to cook up, you know, like an oral history or a cultural history or something related to survivor so if anyone is listening to this and is also a survivor or not, you can survive a survivor TV show. There are many types of survivors. I'm referring to the reality television noted. So then follow up, follow up. What's your favorite season? No, I would have to say it's Micronesia fans versus favorites. Wherein they brought in fans of the show and then people who had already been on it, I think it's just such a delicious season of reality television and conniving and Yeah, after that. Definitely heroes versus villains, which is all nice. But that takes a little more homework like you have to you have to really know 20 previous seasons Well, I am behind the last time I watched it was 2,003/41 season just premiered last year, Jeff probes hop on hop on the survivor train and have like a huge draw over the past like year and a half in quarantine because I think a bunch of it became available online and people had a bone abundance of time to be watching. Right. So it really has surged. And it's interesting. I was like, I don't know, I've been here for quite a few years. Then my final Follow Follow Follow up question for that is how many times have you applied to be on survivor? You know, I actually none. Simon and Schuster was owned by CBS which driver and I don't think CBS employees were eligible to audition. So dang honestly, is this I know you're speaking honestly, is that the only reason you haven't applied them? Is that No, I mean, there's also the like, quit my job and move to an island kind of right behind kind of forget about that part, I eat at least three meals a day that our full meals, gone, like halfway through the first minute. I mean, I will say, you know, leaving SMS, I was like, Well, I can finally audition for Viber. My mom at the moment, play a clip of this, when you do apply, would you like back in 2021? This very moment. Right, amazing kind of rewinding your what kind of trends are you noticing overall, in terms of what people are requiring? What kind of things people aren't? Is there anything that you wish you could change about that? You know, that's an interesting question, I think something I would change is that there seems to be usually like two or three novels a year that every single house beds on and spends tons and tons and tons and tons of money on. And then, you know, necessarily has to make that book a huge hit. Which is not to say those aren't good books, because often the enthusiasm is, is warranted, right? across many types of publishers, many imprints many types of editors. But I think that really creates a sort of it's it's disappearing the Midwest a little bit like we have these huge priority books, especially in fiction. And a lot of books that get published and maybe make a splash, maybe don't, but you know, there will be at least those, you know, 234 or five books a year that are going to be the splashy ones that we I think on our side know, before the general public knows, like will be the splashy book because we came to happen. Sure, sure. That's not necessarily like a thematic trend in the types of projects they see. But that is I think, a trend across the industry that witnessed, you know, I think people are really, I've seen I've seen a lot of dystopia and workplace dystopia. But yeah, some of which are excellent. You know, I would receive on submission, and basically just say, like, I feel as though I'm living this, I can't, I cannot read this and enjoy it. You know, wish you all the best, but I just don't have the appetite for it right now. Yeah. So I think I think that's, that was something that was, I think, happening quite a bit even before the 2020 20 COVID pandemic, but there was a huge uptick. I felt like in you know, six to nine months after March of 2020. in those in those books. Publishers are now also really investing in writers of color and gender diverse writers in a way that they weren't before, which is a great trend but and sustains itself. I it is. I mean, I'm on a different side of the industry, I guess. But yeah, I mean, even the submissions that that we get that we see it's so like in the last year, the amount of dystopian apocalyptic stuff that I've read, it's like I can't I don't, I can't I can't do this right now. I'm sorry, offical. It's all people enjoy reading about, you know, the world. They're living right. would rather not so right. Yeah. Yeah. I think for a lot of writers, that's probably a huge piece of their coping. Yeah. It's like you have to get that out almost like this exegesis of getting it out of your system. First, Jesus. That's a great word exegesis. I don't remember where I know that word from probably grad school. Our word for sure. I need to break Hold on, we get kind of kind of adjacent. If there was one thing that you wish was different about the process of publishing a book, what would it be and why? You know, I think partially answered in Yeah. I wish there were a little more financial diversity in what we in the Sure, yeah. People, you know, I would love to see more books coverage. I mean, I think a lot of it in terms of the like, now the book is going out in the worlds and we're gonna need reviews, I mean, books really, their success hinges on that sort of word of mouth review driven type of publication and you know, the, the slow death of print has changed. And equity of people having opinions online has really diluted a lot of, you know, anyone can be a critic. It's just a question of do which critics do we want to listen to? A lot of digital media publications have scaled back some of their book coverage, like there are places you know, at my last job, at least, like probably steadily rely on in that I knew someone there would review this, you know, I knew the person at XYZ publication who would love to assign this to someone but I think those options are are slowly disappearing interest and I wonder how much of that has to do with Goodreads because Goodreads is such a sway over things. Now, you know, stuff like substack, where I think people are doing great writing on substack. But if you can, you know, review something on your newsletter and some of its a subscription model and push that out to your subscribers, you're probably not going to take a small commission review from like a vacation, right? If you know how to do it yourself, and you know that people will read it. So we're, I think publishing hasn't yet quite figured out like 10, we say that this person reviewed this book, if they talked about it in their sub stack, like, can we put in the metadata feeds? Can we show that online? Can we use this on the cover? I mean, I've certainly had to reach out to, you know, writers representatives to be like, hey, so and so posted about the book on Instagram and called it acts like can we print that on? Like, it's a great endorsement? Yeah. And sometimes those endorsements mean actually more than like a glowing review in the New York Times Book Review, you know, sure. What is substack sub stock is basically just like a newsletter subscription program. So you you can you create your own newsletter, people can subscribe there sort of like tiered options of like, if you only want the free content, if you if you want more additional content, you can pay a little you know, and some people are making great, great money off of it. So Oh, that's awesome. Yeah, I mean, I think some writers are like, I don't even publish a book or I don't don't need to review at XYZ anymore. Have a salad. Right? Yeah. Because they they know who their audiences and their audiences in many cases, you know, I think coming to those publications for that writer, not necessarily for that publication obligation. Exactly. This episode of this podcast needs to title is not sponsored by sub second. You will hear their keyword. Shout out to substack. I'm gonna check it out. That sounds really interesting. I will give you some recommendations off the podcast for the ones that that I'm following. Give them a shout. Now I'll plug one because it's one of my own authors. Oh, yes, absolutely. JP Bremer, the author of hola papi. He has migrated his column across many, many, many different publications over the year and it now has a home on his own substack and you can check it out. It's a great advice column. Awesome. Thank Violet is was just in the way of your microphone for a split second. You need me to repeat something? Nope. No, it just you sounded like you had a cat in front of you. I did. It worked. Well played violet. Circle. And now speaking of circling, I'm going to circle back to what violet kind of points to violet as a cat, everybody a beautiful cat. I think it's safe to assume that you are working from home right now. Correct? I am Yes. And working from home since March of 2020. I moved into this apartment on March 10. Oh my god. And on March 12, or 13th I was told like take home what you need for a couple of days. Oh, we're gonna see what happens. And I was like, I'm just gonna take everything because it sounds ominous call. Yeah, seriously. So where do you work best for things like if I'm in a video meeting or having a phone? Well so for a video meeting I like to be where you see me now which is my table because it has the nice exposed brick wall. It has like kind of psychically become like okay, I'm moving 15 feet into the kitchen. This is where I am my serious professional put together so I find emailing I don't really need to like it doesn't really matter where I am. I mean, my phone while I'm like walking into the grocery store if I need to for reading I really need to be like in a comfortable setting. So on my couch and a nice chair a coffee shop and then you know days of old I used to coffee shops. You know occasionally in bed when it's raining and I just I'm not feeling it today. That is one of the joys of sort of what I do and also doing it from home is it's really space specific. I am a pacer. I cannot sit still on the phone. Because yeah, it's I mean, I must get my 10,000 steps just from what oh god that sounds exhausting. Hey saying no I find it so invigorating. And I go into you know the four different rooms we have here and I'm just doing what needs cleaning. Right now I'm I'm definitely a phone multitasker. But to anyone who's listening to this, who's had a phone call with me, I'm also paying attention. It's a question that I mean a lot of us have been dealing with given that our work is now at home and how what do you do to decompress? How do you turn your brain off from work mode to you know, personal time Zachman self care mode in many ways. Little I think has changed probably for editors in that a lot of the reading and editing was happening at home already. I certainly did not have an office with a door when we were going in the office. So that became an impossible place for me to focus on reading or editing where I really need some quiet or like my music or just to tune everything out. Sure. So in some ways, that hasn't changed. And I've been used to the idea of like, turning off the work part of my brain when I'm in my home and turning it on, because I've had to, since you know, editing books, but I, you know, I just tried to, like, close my laptop, put it in another room, if I'm reading or editing, I like will very much try to turn my Wi Fi on my like, laptop off or put my phone in airplane mode like I was, I tend to be a very focused person when I need to do something, but there are just so many distractions at home. So I really need to be like, Okay, now I'm, I'm turning this off, I'm disconnecting. And then five minutes later, when I pick my phone up, I'm like, Oh, you're in airplane mode like that I can know when to contact me, and I can't contact anyone. So I think some of that, but I think also just like, making an agreement with yourself that like, if I'm going to read tonight for another hour, hour and a half after like 530. I might like, say, Okay, I'm gonna work out from four to five, or I'm going to go to the grocery store, I'm going to go, like just making that agreement with yourself that it's okay to step away in the middle of the day, because you will return to your work and you can I think we're always working in some way. So I've come to terms with the fact that my job is not a nine to five, and I don't get that way in the same way. Yeah, I try as best I can. Like, at a certain time at night, I just I put my phone and do not disturb and just don't look at it anymore. And you know, I don't always succeed. But I tried to serve as your great friend. I remember my old boss once telling me like, I'm so sorry, I'll like email you at like random hours of the night or do this and that but like you don't, you should never feel like you have to respond until you're at work or the day has started. And I was like you could call me and tell me your house is on fire. I would not get the call my phone mode. Yeah, I'm pm and I saw my alarm in the morning. Nice. I feel like a really horrible professional because my phone is usually on Do Not Disturb. I use it as a pager. I sometimes have it in I shot in case of an emergency. But I mean, the emergency is gonna be like we're getting low on dog food, knock on wood, like real emergencies can obviously happen. But I think it's it's at least a compromise for me to keep it on Do Not Disturb most of the time or silent most of the time because I'm looking at it anyway. I usually have it near me I work from there. I'll send emails from there. I'll follow up with interviewees from there and it's fine, but I think it's just I missed the days of yore with just a telephone. Do you remember those Peter? Yeah, sure. Yeah, I really do. I miss the separation because I like having a micro computer in my palm. I remember one of my grief counselors telling me that humans we were never wired to be this available. We were never wired to be this exposed to information. Yeah, it was. It was nice to hear that and I don't bring it into the bedroom with me when I go to bed. I'm not that well trained. But a smart No, I mean, I think you're totally right. And not only as an attention thing, there are so many ways for people to get in touch with you now. I mean, yeah, I DM with writers on Twitter, I get cold pitches on Instagram. Oh, you know authors and agents who used to only be able to reach me on my landline when we were in the office now can text to give our everyone so there's there is an unprecedented amount of information and also an unprecedented amount of ways to access it and to share it and to and to be in touch with people that like at some point you just have to set your own boundaries. Convenience comes at a price I don't like not having it if there's an if there really is an emergency if I get sick or something or the dogs are struggling and I need help from my husband who's across the house and all that stuff. So I gotta I gotta rethink that a little bit. Or if I need to text Peter something at 11pm Like, Peter, I have a great idea for that and I will be I will be fully in a melatonin induced sleep. Would you guys have answering machines if you could? I know that I wouldn't be able to figure out how to use it. Voicemail as there's nothing I hate seeing more than someone leaving makes me irrationally angry. I'm like don't ever text me on a weekend but I'm like if you're gonna call me leave me a voicemail like text me? Yeah, my friends and I in middle school we used to leave each other voicemails to see you could run their parents tape out first. You have no room left on this tape. Please flip it over. I do remember for a little bit my voicemail box just being like at capacity and somebody leave you a voicemail but your voicemails fallen like oh, that's so weird that you're gonna live forever? Peter I don't know how to segue. Okay, well, questions. We'll just do we'll just do a part. Yeah. Do you Zack, do you have a jingle that we can use for future segues like where there's no good segue? Not without like a royalty and a contract now? Yeah, Peter. I'm totally, maybe that'll be the sound blip of you saying that without a royalty and a contract? Well, Zach, I'm curious, especially given your background, you said you your university, you majored in creative writing, right? Yeah, you did? Yeah. So I'm wondering if you have you ever tried your hand at writing yourself? Yeah. I mean, I started as a creative writing as an English double major. So I don't like academic analysis type of writing and also writing, writing. And I was not going to be an academic. So that was answered pretty quickly. My mom is a professor, which, you know, I think academics are incredible. I just also know what that life entails. And I never developed the love of like, a primary or secondary, like source analysis, for you know, in that academic kind of way. But I did write a lot of fiction and college, mostly short fiction, you know, I had to submit, essentially a short story collection for my senior thesis. And I also wrote a, like, how would you put it I guess, like short shorts, you know, like stories, like a collection of stories that were maybe like one to five pages each. So and then, you know, stuff that was also longer, you know, I don't think I've ever tried to get any of it published anywhere. Now. Now that I think about it, I was also the editor in chief of our like, literary magazine. Cool. So I'm sure I probably, like, had one or two of my own things. Over my tenure, that was never an ambition or a goal for me. As of yet. I mean, that might change. I think there are a lot of people who are recovering or current writers who do what I do. And some of them are really successful at being great editors, and also writing and being very successful in their own writing careers. I do think my skills and also my interests really do lie with, you know, that editing process and collaborating and helping people with their vision rather than my own. It's common issue in the publishing industry, for agents to also be writers is it doesn't work for editors also being writers. Yeah, 100%. And I have friends who are editors that also write, or were editors, and are now writing full time, a job and publishing is a great way to figure out how a book gets made, and not only from the standpoint of like, what is the process through which we produce a book, but what kind of books are publishers buying, you know, that kind of insider knowledge of seeing what gets people excited, and what sells and what we can market and publicize, can be invaluable in shaping your own writing, if the goal of your writing is to sell and publish your book, without that goal in mind, or publishing in ways that, you know, isn't a printed full book. And that's totally valid and exciting, too. But it's, I think, if your goal is to, you know, publish a big book in a big way at a big house, and you have worked at one, you have some knowledge of how that happens. We did not prep you for this question, because it just occurred to me, given your academic, it's pretty underhanded, dodgeball under Yeah. Yeah. I'm not that athletic. Unless it's Badman, fourth period. Jim, do you believe that it's crucial to have a creative writing degree? Great question. I would say this, too. I mean, I've said this to friends from my college creative writing program, who then did go on to get MFA is like, don't do it unless it's paid. I mean, there's, there's very, I think, very little reason to get an MFA unless it's funded partially or, ideally. Because you don't know what, ultimately you work on in an MFA program, a if it will sell to a publisher be how much it will sell for, and see if it does sell. And even if it sells for a lot, how long? You know, advances are paid out in installments, so you're not getting a lump sum of whatever I'm offering you write your contract. So I would say, try not to go into debt. If it's an MFA. I think what's great about an MFA is that it offers you time and space to really critically think what a project is and what it can be and working through that. In a setting with other people who are doing this very specific thing of writing a book or writing a story collection, or an essay collection or a memoir, and getting invaluable feedback from people who know that process because they are going through it. I mean, I think there's also of course, like the networking aspects. Certainly I know literary agents visit MFA programs, I visit MFA programs. Oh, great. And people are very specific about which MFA programs the really top tier ones, some people are a little more the cast a wider net. So I don't think the name of your MFA program or even having an MFA is a barrier in getting a book published. But I do think an MFA can often beget other things that help get a book published, like connecting with a literary agent or having a mentor and a well respected writer who has their own network or, you know, magazines or literary agents pick up your pieces because they are scouting MFA lit mags. Right. So I think there are advantages, I think there are disadvantages. I would never not pursue a project from someone because I didn't have an MFA. Great to hear. And was your creative writing degree helpful for your career? I think so in that it gave me kind of a Will it pointed me in the direction of figuring out what type of work I like, and what type of creative settings I like to be in. So yes, I think also, it just gives you some of the vocabulary and helps you start building muscles that you use in editing of like feedback on how to you know, what I think of myself and a lot of other people call like, the criticism sandwich of like, compliment, right? Yeah, it just it starts to give you a vocabulary to know how to talk about work, which I think is so important, because something being interesting, or liking something or not liking something. Oh, vague. And in my job you have to be really able to, is that can you hear the cat? Yeah, that's okay. That's like even in hello to you, Violet. You You have to really be able to know how to articulate specifically why something is for you or isn't for you. And knowing why. And then also knowing what you would want to fix is your editing, you know? Sure, right. Just today for the book pipeline, workshop evaluation search blog. I read a genre that I don't ever read, just out of never having been interested in it. It is some of the best writing I have ever read. It changed my mind. I'm like, okay, is this what it's doing? Very good. gateway drug. Absolutely. So hey, Erica, I know it's time. I know. It's time for the ultimate question, Zack. No, I was going to let this question go. Okay, but in our pre interview, you gave me hope that I might not need to. Do you snack while you work? Absolutely. There you go. She got one. Hey, I'm a snacker I grew up a snack or snack or? Welcome is so I feel like a kindergartener because I'm like, Okay, I'm gonna like edit this manuscript. Let me get a glass of milk slice up an apple get some peanut butter and go like five Doritos. Yes, I mean, I love a good like hummus pita chip carrot moment. I really like cottage cheese. Not a lot of people are into but if you if you do like a piece of bread with some cottage cheese, and some olive oil and everything, but the bagel seeds from Trader Joe's like sprinkled on top. delish. Oh, God, that sounds like you know French fries. Yeah. Exactly. The only other person I've ever heard admit that they also like how to cheese. I love kind of cheese. Oh, good. Great. I get it. It's weird luck. It's the texture was a bizarre bizarre, honestly. But I think it's delicious. For anybody considering changing their opinion cottage cheese how my family dresses it up is. Don't judge me. A little bit of sour cream, a little bit of dill, a lot of dill and then a lot more dill. And then garlic salt, pepper, and salt and then more dill. And maybe dill dip as well. And you do and the the next few days, it's just congeals and it gets even better and it's just great. I'm gonna need another episode for this one Peter. oddities episode. That was awesome. Thank you guys. That's all we got everything. Okay, bye. Are you serious? We thought that was our list of questions. So now now it's round table. Oh, we should play this or that was that no pleader will play a course my dogs start barking now we played this last episode it was my favorite thing to edit so that Nolan Peter Malone Elliott we're gonna play this or that and we okay turns shouting out thing a or thing B, and we reply, and that's it. And there's just there's no rhyme or reason to it. We just zeros. Okay, so I'll start for either of you. Road Rules or survivor. easy ones. I haven't seen any of them. Survivor though. I do. I am an avid watcher as well of the real world Road Rules challenge on MTV, which I never understood that one but I never Yeah, worth getting into but the theme of me and this conversation is clearly like reality television. Reality television. You know what I love? Either of those two shows, but I love I love any interior design show. Big fan. And then I also I'm obsessed right now I'm on a kick of tiny houses who do you guys are you really are? Yeah, they're like, I wouldn't want to live in one full time but I think they're just so interesting. And I saw I've been like binging all these like paintings tours. I want to see a bronze published a book about tiny houses. browse their catalog. Yeah, absolutely. This is more interesting. So talking TV, you're into survivor and it's just launched episode or season 41 Isn't 41 seconds the second episode is tonight. God the people that created that show must just be rolling in money good laughing all the way to the bank. I would love in another life to be one of the like set designers or even or man or like the medic who just like hang out for 40 days. Here's the I don't know why I'm raising my pointer finger. But here's the fun fact the writer of Do you guys like the show Peaky Blinders, you know what it is? And I enjoyed it was also the writer of that show Steven Knight and he's written a bunch of other Film Television stuff. He is also one of the creators of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. So he's just set for life. He doesn't need anything else. I actually I remember hearing recently that I think it was in special features for the office episodes. They intentionally reached out to survivor crew members to be on the Office for the authenticity yeah for the authenticity of like zooming in on random conversations and said I also I know it's incredibly I mean, I know all reality is fake obviously but like this is incredibly fake Gordon. I love anything Gordon Ramsay I love him. Even though it's incredibly staged incredibly thick, but like a huge talk chef person. Yeah, I really made an eye are really are she's really into and by extension, I've gotten more into the British baking show. That's always so funny to me about food reality television as like, I'm agreeing with the judges and I'm saying pasted. I mean this food. No. Did you see the great British baking episode with the dairy girls cast? No. Oh, I miss you. You've seen dairy girls, right. Oh my god spawn McSweeney. Did I have subtitle Yes, I Yeah. You want them on the progress too much. It's so incredible. It's It's like they're half still in character, but they're not like and you get to see all like, Yeah, I'll have to check that out. I don't know that their girls are here we girls is Mad Men for us. It's a period. It's a period piece. I love it. I love it is the period as the Irish troubles Okay, right. Yeah. Yeah, the cadence reminded me of Scrubs where it's like slap happy Funny, funny funny and it will just button on this poignant moment like the episode where they're watching the actual because of crisis on the bridge live. And the dad who hates his son in law, like puts his hand on the shoulder and I lost it. I'm like, Oh my god. That was just Peter. You don't know. I'm sorry. I'm not sure. That's fine. Um, it's a very funny show. Like yeah, one of the ones that is reliably laugh out loud funny. So yes, Episode Episode, reality TV aside, is there anything out there that you are reading and or watching right now that's new that you're excited by? I had the pleasure of reading a book called Jonah's okay by Mikey Wong, who wrote a book called chemistry that I loved. It was my favorite books that year. And a friend of mine works at the publishers I got a galley and I believe this spring it's it's really fascinating. I mean, she's assured but also dry and kind of humorous writer and she's, the story basically follows a young Asian woman and a hospital leading up to COVID. Wow. And it's sort of well, I don't want to give away too much but it's, it's a quick read and it's so rewarding and smart and just so many different ways, but very funny. Cool. Look for that in the spring. I also, finally, like 10 years late, jumped on the Madeline Miller train and just finished reading Song of Achilles. I was like, I don't know why I waited so long to write a no brainer. I loved it. I actually listened to the audiobook, which I've gotten much more into. Since working from home. Yeah. And TV, TV, I mean survivor season 40 I mean, I will give a shout out to the other two, which is a hilarious comedy that debuted. I keep hearing about this show can what it what is it? I just everyone loves it. I don't know what it is. It's basically about a family and there's three siblings and the two eldest siblings by quite an age gap, but the youngest sibling are both kind of like in their late 20s, early 30s struggling in their careers one is a failing actor. The other is sort of like an ex dancer turned she doesn't know what she wants to do. Overnight their brother basically has like a Justin Bieber rise to fame by getting discovered on YouTube. Oh my god. So the story is about the other two siblings and sort of their their much interesting things like sudden rise to fame, but it's it's just one of the most I think, the smartest and funniest shows I've seen that talks about media like specifically as someone who lives in New York and works in Sure. Yeah. New York. I find it hilarious. It's so on the nose with everything. And the mom is played by Molly Shannon. Wanda Sykes, isn't it and Ken Marino, I mean, it's amazing. What what platform is this on? So it's on HBO Max. Okay. All right, HBO Max. Okay. All right. I'll have to watch it. Yeah, yeah. And one of the episodes in this season, the older brother decides he needs to become a writer. So is very funny. My final question for you, Zack, is, is there a wildly popular show out there from any time in your life that you can't stand or will never watch? That's a great question. Because I'm, I know the second we hang up, I will have my answer. Yeah. If it comes to me, I will send you a note and I get a mission to tell everyone what it was. Oh, good. Which brings us to the really final thing. Okay. Yeah, I could do that. Eric, would you like to go first? My mind is absolutely blank right now. Okay. Okay, I'll go. So I would love to by the next time we record have chapter 18 of my novel done. And also I'm good, because you know, we're getting into the PR starting to get into the PR push for my movie coming out. I have to get professional like shots of me taken. And I hate looking at pictures of myself, because I don't think I photograph well. So I'm hopeful hopeful by two weeks from now. I'll have two good photos done chosen and retouched. So now that's reasonable goal. Zack, what about you? Yeah, no, this came really easily because I meaning to do this for years. I would love for one of the weeks in between now and when we speak again, to go to bed before midnight, at least five days in a row and get eight hours of sleep is a great goal. I really, I'm very much a night owl. That is sometimes to my own detriment in health, happiness. So yeah, healthier sleep hygiene. That's really good. That's a good way to to not pigeonhole yourself into going to bed before midnight, your body might just be acclimated to that. If you were living on the West Coast, that'd be like 7pm bedtime, so or whatever the math is. I don't know if you can guess my zodiac sign based on me talking about sleep and food. Duration sound sounds like me, so I'll guess Aquarius, who? I'm a Taurus. Oh, I have no idea. No. I don't know anything. I don't know anything lessons. I know. I'm a Sagittarius, but that's I don't know what that means. Okay. Now. Wow. That's a whole other podcast. So I surely have time. I can edit that. That's good. Oh, you're a fire sign. Peter. Oh, Erica, you're an Air sign. Yes. Okay. What do you think of with Aquarius, right? Aries? It's water based. I don't know too much about Aquarius. Aquarians actually sagittis are the type to like Sajin you might disappear tomorrow and like, we'll hear from you in two months. And you're like, Yeah, I moved to Aruba that tracks later part of you do I love the mood of Aruba. Happy great. Love. You're very untethered to places and people and things. Tauruses are very tethered. Like Yeah. Interesting. That pandemic was hard but not difficult for someone who was already kind of like spending a lot of time at home. And praying like someone will cancel on me this evening. Like oh, god, yeah. That's no, that's fair. When the pandemic start like got underway. There was memes going around like oh introverts or Aquarians or whatever, pretending to be uncomfortable in the pandemic and like, it's not a joke like this was not a hardship for me. I am very occlusive. Anyway, I'm an outgoing introvert, which is exhausting. Yeah. Going by different directions. No, like after this I need to decompress for at least like six hours after after this recording with you to find people. Just, I've spent my emotional energy. Makes sense. So Pete, I got a call on a work after we hang up. Sorry, I would not mind having a Zodiac conversation, a podcast with your buddy. That's a scary topic. Some people really are like, I don't know anything about it. And I don't care at all. And I'm annoyed you asked me. Where and when were you born? Do you know what do you know what I did find out recently with my zodiac sign. It wasn't specific to Zodiac but I was just really got in an Instagram feed whole rabbit hole was that people born on a full moon regardless of the month or whatever? Or date if the date they were born was a full moon, not being in a full moon makes it feel makes them aware during the yes makes us about Well, if that's true, and I was born on a full moon. And so it's like when it's not when people are like, Ooh, is it a full moon? I'm like, I hope so. Because that's when I feel most myself and feel most yourself like once a month. Not. No, I I'm saying this poorly. It was like, Do you know do you ever feel like your bones are trying to come out of your skin? Like it's just everything feels like if something's in retrograde? Yes, I didn't know. But yes. I understand. I have no idea what feels like when you feel uneasy or uneasy, either. For me it's a precursor to anxiety or it's a precursor to getting sick or precursor. Like if I just had Benadryl and that weird like slippy place. That's what it feels like when it's like a new moon for me. And I never knew why. And I'm like, Wow, I'm very witchy which is fine. I am maybe a little witchy. And it turns out like that could explain a lot. Shut up. Erica. Okay. What Erica, what's your accountability? Jinx, yummy coke. My accountability goal is to have no more than 10 interviews that I'm conducting the physical transcripts printed by two weeks from now. I think those are I think those are three very attainable goals for all of us. I think they are. I'm gonna get a head start and go to bed now. Yeah, I feel it's getting dark there in New York. Thank you so much. It was a wonderful conversation. Thank you for having me on. It was a pleasure, fortunately, and I hope to hear I got nothing my brain starting right now. Thank you for joining us. My pleasure. I'll see you guys later. Say bye. Bye. Violet. I love you. She says she's in different but registered. I can tell. Yeah. And that does it for episode 11. Erica, we did it. 11 episodes in the can you 11 That's really good. That's one of my favorite numbers. Yeah, yeah. 711 11 I could go for a Slurpee right now. Honestly, what flavor? The Coca Cola thank you for classic. Okay. Yeah. But Zack was a great guest here. Thank you, Zack for coming on and being so awesome. Didn't know that. Up next in Episode 12, though, we have one of my own emotional support writing buddies. Isabel Sterling. She's a published author of why a witchy fiction and a writing coach. Hey, so we're gonna get to pick her brain about that. Awesome. And if you have any questions, rants or raves about writing or you just want to learn more about us or pipeline please visit pipeline artists calm and follow us on Twitter at the podcast title on Instagram and Facebook at this podcast needs title. Or you could follow me and Peter at the Davis girl or at PME writer will let you guys figure out which ones which Hey, no you hang up. No you