About Book Industry Veteran Margaret J. Langstaff


I am an author and …

mjl photo 6

A voracious but discriminating reader.

A book critic and reviewer.

A member of the National Book Critics Circle.

A Writing and Publishing Consultant.

I’ve written lots of books, both under my own name and as a ghostwriter for others.

(Above, to the right, I think that’s me, although I’m rarely that serene, let alone focused. I hate that picture, actually, but my husband likes it better than the one with me wearing a ball cap pulled low over my eyes looking like I’m reading a suicide manual see below).

[This one, me in my writing hat, hatching plots (I’m always hatching plots!)]


Who cares. Not me.

Anyway…the highly edited highlights of–



This was long thought to be the only portrait ...

This was long thought to be the only portrait of William Shakespeare that had any claim to have been painted from life, until another possible life portrait, the Cobbe portrait, was revealed in 2009. The portrait is known as the ‘Chandos portrait’ after a previous owner, James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos. It was the first portrait to be acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1856. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, so… trite and commonplace as it is, I’ll admit Shakespeare (the well dressed, serious guy on the right) was my first hero and is still an inspiration and example in many ways for me.

But my own creative fiction probably has been most influenced by Flannery O’Connor  (the witch beneath the guy on the right).

English: Portrait of American writer Flannery-...

English: Portrait of American writer Flannery-O’Connor from 1947. Picture is cropped and edited from bigger picture: Robie with Flannery 1947.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why?  Two reasons, I suppose. Maybe more. But primarily: because in our time, although she has been dead many years, she remains the undisputed master of the short story form and that is the form that most draws me, the one I’m most comfortable with and in which so far, though some may disagree with me, I believe I have done my best work.

Secondly, I share her ferocious sensibility and write from an intuitive moral, though not theological, standpoint.  I am similarly intent upon (and enjoy), calling out and firing at villains, sinners, reprobates and dangerous subversives what I hope are lethal poisoned darts of humor.

There is a possible third factor in that, for better or worse, I am naturally drawn to the American South as the sui generis of my characters and stories.

Oh, and a possible fourth thing, maybe actually a similarity between us:  our often freakish fictional characters and the freaking duck soup they’ve made out of their lives.

However, I am more compassionate and forgiving than O’Connor and far less doctrinaire.  Less severe.

I don’t think most people are going straight to hell, for instance. (She is a STITCH.)  I think too many people are already in hell, have engineered themselves there in the here and now, through poor choices.  I am  certainly less accomplished.  She would probably dismiss me as a slacker, a spiritual weakling,  and deficient in moral “fiber.”  She was tough.

But a little perspective on this.

If I were seriously sleep deprived or tipsy, and found myself in the ER as a result of one or both of those conditions, and someone asked me my blood type, like a robot zombie I’d automatically blurt Catholic.

It’s more than a state of mind, it’s more than belief, faith, theology, ritual and observance.  If they get to you early enough, they suck out your blood, get the Holy Ghost to swirl it around in certain secret patterns, say words over it in Latin, dilute it with holy water, swing incense over it, pipe it back in, and you are Catholic. ( Below, what they did to me.)me 1st grade St F AcademyPeriod. For your whole guilt-ridden, tear-streaked, confused, cowering life. For all eternity you are thus marked, scarred and cursed (If there is such a horrible thing as eternal life I will have to live it as a Catholic).  There is no escape. None whatsoever. There is no known cure for it yet and people will quit looking for one, even the most highly motivated seekers of such, other Catholics, once they realize what Catholic really is, assuming, that is, anyone (other than myself) ever does.

Nevertheless, I  also admire and have picked up a thing or two from Twain (cool dude just below).

A portrait of the American writer Mark Twain t...

A portrait of the American writer Mark Twain taken by A. F. Bradley in New York, 1907. http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/publications/siycfall_05.pdf http://www.twainquotes.com/Bradley/bradley.html See also other photographs of Mark Twain by A. F. Bradley taken in March 1907 in New York on Mark Twain Project Online. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I adore his work and return to it often for sheer enjoyment. The humor angle, the tendency to skewer by satire, the American stamp, his fluency in my native soil’s lingua franca, his delight in the absurd.

On a more personal note–

I live on a small farm and spend as much time as I can outdoors.

In passing, before I forget it, I think I should just mention that I hate kale. You may not think this significant, but I do.

Anyway, Twain has Huck Finn say in a certain context, “There ain’t no harm in a dog.” Well, I agree and I love dogs. I seem to have a visceral understanding of dogs. I can speak “dog,” apparently. If there are dogs within a 500 foot radius of me, they almost always suddenly stop whatever it is they are doing, look up as if surprised, check things out, and somehow sense me.  They suddenly become, as it were, transfixed by my presence, transported to a state of happy blessedness, and will abruptly leave their owners, bones, the bottoms of other dogs they are investigating, you name it, and make a beeline for me as if I were the long awaited canine messiah, the Dog Jesus, and they would become my apostles. They want to sit at my feet and hear the gospel, the good news,  according to Dog.

Funny, I love it. Strange, but this often makes my husband quite annoyed and uncomfortable.

dogs following

(Those are NOT my legs up there by the way.  But you get the picture.)

I seem to hold the same charisma and fascination for horses, cats, chickens, wild birds, even lizards and snakes. I could do well without the latter, thank you very much. No idea where all this, this gift of mine, came from. I just get these guys and they get me. Too bad they don’t read.  If they did, I know I could sell a lot of books to them.

Incidentally, my favorite food is Pinot Noir.

I also love birds and I’ve tried keeping peacocks several times a la O’Connor, but so far each time I’ve bought a pair–and I’ve bought several–they have suddenly taken off on a hot lazy afternoon, launched themselves straight up in the air like helicopters or Mary Poppins, and whop-whop-whop, whirr-whirr, headed for the woods next door. In those dark woods there now flourishes a flock of peacocks, an angry histrionic chorus of critics, that sometimes shows up at the fence at twilight, my favorite time of day to be outside, to hurl vehement ear-piercing insults at me.     The whole neighborhood can hear it. It’s like being bashed in public by a mob of loud-mouthed bedlamites on crack.

I suspect O’Connor is behind this. It has all the hallmarks. (Below: my most severe critics)

peacock critic3peacock critic2


Finally, I have to own up to a serious debt to the mysterious but charismatic Emily Dickinson to whom I was introduced first (seriously) in college and whom I studied most seriously as a graduate student.

edI began with poetry, poetry remains my first love and abides in my highest estimation as the superior literary form.  Dickinson’s work and life were my introduction to and (remains my archetype for) the sere sacrifice (as well as the indescribable transcendence) of what it means to be a poet.

Whew. That was tough. Seriously.

A somewhat different, more flippant (Yes! I can be even less serious and more flippant! I hate talking about myself.) author bio is available on Goodreads.com.

The stark unadorned details of my professional publishing experience and background, my creds and education are available on LinkedIn. Actually, I wouldn’t call them “details”  per se. The info there is the bare minimum, an author’s equivalent of  a soldier’s “Name, Rank and Serial Number.”  More like my Dog Tags or my toe tag in a morgue.  Just in case.  I mean, who knows? You never know, you know?

But true to say, you can check the details on LI, I’ve done it all. Yep, been there done that, and am writing and editing now full-time having transitioned from exec positions with NY trade publishers, and book retailing, the top marketing spot with largest book distributor in the world, been a board member in the Book Industry Study Group and other august organizations, written reams Book Industry trade journalism for Publishers Weekly, done gobs of book reviewing and author interviewing for major media, provided expert witness in publishing industry litigation (whew! it’s a long list!), busted my tail ghost writing for public figures … it goes on and on. Tiresome to repeat. I’ve been in the book industry in lucky spots since I was 12 (not really, but right out of college) and have loved every minute of it.

BTW, I also buy and sell rare books.

That’s what happens when you hang around, you know, and keep your nose to the grindstone.  One thing elides to another, and I just followed my nose and inclinations, kept at it.

 As far as I know, those are the facts as I know them.

It occurs to me, as I try to wind this windy whimsy up, that I write to defer, deflect and improve upon The Facts as we know them ( always provisional), especially the most dangerous ones, and to lay bare The Lies that get in our way and subvert our lives.

Somehow it is impossible for me to do this seriously and effectively, and (most importantly) sincerely and authentically in my own voice, without humor. I guess that makes me a spasmodic optimist. Or something.

57 Responses to About Book Industry Veteran Margaret J. Langstaff

  1. J.B. Long says:

    “the loud operatic squalls pounded and soaked the landscape with Wagnerian vehemence” – Really not trying to be obnoxious, but I must say this. That’s a brilliantly written phrase. Well done.


    • Gee whiz, thanks. I guess. As I recall, I was feeling rather operatic and over-blown when I wrote it. But still seems to work in the book’s context. Out of context, I sound in that snippet you quote as if I should be on stage in a metal helmet with horns sticking out its sides, holding a spear, and singing in the chorus of the Ring at the top of my lungs.


  2. mwojcie says:

    Thanks for following Life Measured in Coffee Spoons. I hate kale and love this blog. Can’t wait to read more of your work.


    • You get right to the point, don’t you? Thank you for the love. I love your blog back OXOXOX Thanks for following me too. I’ll try to stay interesting. Love isn’t all about kale, you know. A friendship built on vegetable -hate alone rarely lasts, I would think


  3. Thanks for stopping in and following What The Hell. And for adding it to your blogroll to boot! I look forward to milling around in your blog and finding a lot of gems.


  4. Hi Margaret: Thanks for visiting and following Bookshelf. Huge fan of Faulkner. His nobel prize speech is one of my favorite and is such an inspiration to writers (artists) of every generation.
    Look forward to reading your future posts. Cheers. Alex


  5. Richa Kedia says:

    Hey I have nominated you for the Liebster Award! Please check http://randommuzings.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/liebster-award/ for the details! Congrats for the Award!!


  6. Hi, Margaret! I’ve nominated you for the coveted WordPress 5 in 1 Award. If you want to participate, you can read the rules here: http://wp.me/p3sx1Q-dM. Participation is not required. In fact, you might be upset that I’ve nominated you, but think of it this way: with the 5 in 1, you won’t be nominated for any of them ever again!


  7. anna mosca says:

    Thank you Margaret for following my blog, I’m here to warn you it’s a bilingual one, so if you get a post in Italian please use your patience, an English one will soon follow 😉 doing my best to keep things balanced.


  8. MuseWriter says:

    what a great bio! i loved spasmodic optimist…thanks for following 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for the follow. Your blog looks interesting. Sue

    Liked by 1 person

  10. 0over0 says:

    Hi, thanks for following my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. suehallnet says:

    Thanks for the follow! Love your site and content. I lived in Durham NC in the 80’s and also enjoy Flannery O’Connor

    Liked by 1 person

  12. So nice to see you here, Sue. I love your site too.


  13. 1WriteWay says:

    What an entertaining intro! Your favorite writers are my favorite writers. The South has a pull on me too, although I really don’t want to live here anymore. Fortunately, I am merely a cat magnet, unlike yourself. Good thing you live in the country. It would be hard to explain all those animals following you to your condo 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad we found each other’s simpatico blogs! As for my canine charisma and following are concerned, I have a hard time explaining the phenom to myself sometimes. Maybe I smell like hamburger? Gawd, I hope not! I do love dogs, though, often to distraction (as my husband is tirelessly fond of pointing out). 😉


  14. Micah says:

    Gotta chuckle. Cool blog. Though now, having read this, I’m beginning to wonder whether all canines are catholic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That, friend, is something I have never considered, actually. But it would indeed explain a lot: they are forgiving of just about everything, and, in return, fully expect to be forgiven for everything. I’m going to have to think about this. The implications, if true, are truly staggering


  15. LClark says:

    I’m giving kale one last chance – I have a bag in the fridge and I’m going to grind it down to juice in a smoothie with lettuce, parsley, and zucchini.
    Incidentally, the last time I cooked kale my partner thought she was having a heart attack from its gas producing qualities.
    Great blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. HoooOOOOoooWWWWWLLLLLLOoooooooo!!!!!! Cool blog 🙂 And thank you for viist and the follow… welcome to the Pack 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Fear and the Will to Write | 1WriteWay

  18. So glad to have discovered your blog. I love your moxie. I’ll meet you at the intersection whenever I have time! Thanks so much for visiting me at Engaging….Sabrina

    Liked by 1 person

  19. mscharlies says:

    Thank you for following WordBowlbyMsCharlieS.com (hope to have a “word” from you) and for introducing me to your wildly entertaining site! As a recovering Catholic, former Southerner and lover of Flannery O’Connor, I am looking forward to reading your work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, that makes at least 2 of us 😉 Just kidding. Recovering Catholics don’t have (pardon the trope) a snowball’s chance in hell. Might as well give it up. God always wins; He has an unfair advantage, of course, He’s hard to win an argument with, I have found. But how could bear to leave the South? Where do you get your greens and grits? I’ve lived everywhere and found the manners universally deplorable north of the Mason-Dixon line. At least down here, before somebody stabs you in the back, he/she says, “Bless your heart, darlin’. Care for any more sweet tea?”


  20. Pingback: The Scoop, The Dish – “Twilight’s Indian Princess” | Margaret Langstaff

  21. roughghosts says:

    Thank you for following my blog. I love your bio. I can relate to the experience of being steeped in a Catholic upbringing – it leaves its mark no matter how far you roam. I look forward to reading more of your entries.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Me too you! Another tortured Catholic soul! Oh my gosh. Wonderful to meet you. You have a very fine blog 🙂


  23. Lynn Cecil says:

    Thank you so much for following my blog! I will look for your books to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thank you. They are easy to find. I bet yours are too! Lovely to meet you, Lynn 🙂


  25. Proctor S. Burress, Jr says:

    You sound like a super person. But you are overlooking the facts that F. O. was a seriously tortured and sick person. Her self negation is seen in her total lack of love for her misshapen characters all of whom came from the depths of her soul. Her papal-like pronouncements and “premature arrogance” barely offset her deep vulnerability and insecurities. God would obliterate himself if he had seen the world through the dark vision of Ms. O’Connor!

    It is of no matter if Catholics venerate and adore her as they are always on the lookout for
    the most remote figures to turn into saints. The nihilism…not as F. O has it…but as the superficial evangelicals who read only portions of her work have it, is the most strange cult ever in America. Two or three courses of electro-shock therapy should clear matters up. Until completion do not operate farm machinery or drive on interstate highways. Even so I cannot match the mordant and sarcastic comment of that sad soul. May she rest in peace.


    • Wow. I can only say that while I respect your opinion and your right to give voice to it here, I respectfully disagree with you.


      • I would only add that as far as I can tell few
        Catholics “adore” her or have even heard of her. She was strange, harsh and dogmatic, but some of her stories are classic commentaries on the fallenness of mankind. She was TRYING TO SHOCK and she did one heck of a job at that you must agree.


        • Proctor S. Burress, Jr. says:

          Respectfully, I think NOT. She was trying to exorcise the hidden private demons she struggled with. The result was her “imaginative sadism” as an editor at Oxford publishing describes it.

          This snarky and ever so bright little girl …who thought herself to be the brightess in the room…grew up to produce what is mentioned above, as her Lupus psychologically
          and physically took her to her grave.

          Those who adore her are confusing causes and effects as none have…as yet… really explained Flannery O’Connor in totality. They wish to deny her illness as a rather minor inconvenience. Her mixed theology and horrific condemnation of humanity that springs from her severe Roman Catholicism is what is of real interest. Her personality due to Lupus was of a “mixed type.” That is she saw herself as enormously superior to those characters she created…from the depths of her soul…and also as a humble, frightened little girl who said her prayers faithfully.


          • Good grief. “as none have…as yet… really explained Flannery O’Connor in totality” (from your comment). Ultimately, no one can be fully explained “in totality,” in my humble opinion. At least she said her prayers 🙂


  26. gbsp says:

    Great to meet you, Margaret! Thank you for following our blog. We’re huge fans of Flannery O’Connor, too. Looking forward to reading your posts! Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Margaret, Thanks for following FIGHTER FAITH. I’d love to have you follow the progress of the book I’m working on. I’m also providing a free copy of my e-book Far Better Men to service members, veterans, and e-mail subscribers. Come on back if you’re interested in this free digital download.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Thank you for visiting my blog and liking one of my posts. Blessings, Natalie 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  29. bowmanauthor says:

    lol…just as I was checking out your site…again…you must have been on mine! Like minds and all that! Love your “About”!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Hello! This is Amreen Shaikh from Paint The World With Words and thank you so much for the follow!
    You’ve an amazing blog and some wonderful posts!
    I wished to contact you, but did not find a suitable contact ID, so could you please drop in your email ID on painttheworldwithwords@gmail.com

    Liked by 1 person

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