Friday, August 31, 2007

Novel revisions Three AM

Sigh. I think the photo says it all. Beloved agent is thrilled with the novel. Friends are thrilled. Husband is thrilled. But there is still work to be done. My time line was a little off, so I have chapters paperclipped and dotted with post-its. Things need a touch of tightening. I love it and I am tightly wound and excited and worried and happy and sad and did I say worried and in that hallucinatory state where my characters are constantly talking, talking, talking.
Chocolate is needed. Lots of chocolate.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Miranda Magazine

One of the most wonderful things about teaching at UCLA is that every once in a while I become friends with one of my students. The whole teacher/student relationship shifts and we get to hang out and I don't have to be on my smartypants best all the time (if I have a smarty pants best, that is.) Anyway, my former student Jennifer Gooch Hummer is now one of my closest friends. We switch pages, we gossip, we email just about every day, and she's got two fabulous novels out there with editors right now. But for a taste of just how good she is, I want to tout her latest story that's now in Miranda Magazine, called How To Stay Lost, which is a part of her novel, Apron.

Go and look!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Grace Paley

Grace Paley's friend and protoge, Leora Skolkin-Smith has an absolutely gorgeous tribute to her in today's Washington Post. You have to register (it's free!) to read it, but it's well worth it.


Friday, August 24, 2007


It’s her 9th novel, and M. J. Rose’s The Reincarnationist is being showered with accolades. Starred Library Journal, Starred Publisher’s Weekly, Booksense, praising reviews in Entertainment Weekly and People (three and a half stars and the most they ever give is four!), and film interest. Plus, even better, it’s a truly hypnotic book. I carried the arc around with me for days because I was unable to stop reading, and because I loved the book so much, I wanted M.J. to answer some questions.

1. What drew you to reincarnation?
When I was three years old, I told my great grandfather things about his childhood in Russia that there was simply no way I could have known.He became convinced I was a reincarnation of someone in his past. And over time, after more incidents, my mother – a very sane and logical woman -- also came to believe it.So reincarnation was an idea I grew up with. That my mom and I talked about and researched together. At some point, the idea to write a novel about the subject, was just there. The way ideas seem to suddenly appear. And then for years I flirted with the idea of writing a novel about someone like my mother – who was sane and logical – who started out skeptical but came to believe in reincarnation. But I kept putting it off, afraid if I did people would think I was a “woo woo weirdo”Until a few years ago on the exact anniversary of my mom’s death my niece said some very provocative things to me about my mother – things she really couldn’t have known – and the pestering idea to write this novel became an obsession.

2. What astonished me was that there wasn't one wrong note in the whole novel. How did you achieve that?
I worked on it non stop for years in this life and I'm guessing I wrote it at least three times before in previous lives.

3. How is this novel different from your other books? Was the writing process different?
Not really other than the historical research I did for the book. I've never had to do that much research before for any of my other novels.* What are two of the most amazing, interesting things you learned about reincarnation through your research?1. The story of Dr. Ian Stevenson, s doctor who spent his life working with children… over 3000 of them… documenting their past lives.2. The correlation between birthmarks in this life and scars from past lives. There are many people who have marks on their bodies now that when researched prove to be the site of the bullet or knife wound that killed that person in a past life.

4. And finally, just for fun, if you could go back to another lifetime, what meal would you have and where?
Great question. I'd go back to Paris in the late 1880's and have hot chocolate at Angelique's on Rue de Rivoli when it was first created... or I'd go Paris in the 1920s and go to Cafe Deux Maggots when Hemmingway and Fitzgerald hung out there and have red wine with them.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

There is nothing like a DAME Magazine!

It's here! The brand new Dame magazine, and I'm writing for them about books. Please come and take a look. Meant to smart, snappy, edgy and very urban (think a mesh of Salon and John Stewart), Dame is just starting out and I hope you'll all read it (and my column) obsessively.

Monday, August 13, 2007


It's fever dream time.

I'm waiting to hear from my incredibly wonderful literary agent about my just-born novel, Traveling Angels.

I'm working on a new novel (okay, all I have is the first line, but still--)

I also delivered a script of my "High Infidelity" New York Magazine piece to my incredibly wonderful film agent.

AND I'm busy writing a script, an adaptation of an extraordinary novel, EDGES by Leora Skolkin-Smith.

I've written scripts before, but always based on my own novels (though once, I did an original script for the now defunct Nick show DOUG--"Doug Follows a Fad" in which Doug wants to buy a striped shirt to follow the fad, but of course, they're all gone by the time he gets there. But that's a whole other story.) But adapting someone else's work is so much fun, I can't believe I didn't think of doing it before. There's none of the angst at taking apart your own "baby" because you didn't birth this child, someone else did and you get to approach it as something brand new. It's your job now to raise the baby into something full grown and wonderful. Oh Lord, forgive my adoption metaphor. I think having spent years researching and writing my last novel GIRLS IN TROUBLE about open adoption has made me very susceptible to adoption symbolism.

Anyway, in working on this project with Leora and with the director, I am feeling my Jewish roots. My grandfather, a writer, was an orthodox rabbi, but my sister and I were raised as lackadaisical sorts of Jews. We knew the holidays, but not much history. EDGES is all about being Jewish, and suddenly I am immersed in the Israeli War of Independence, the Haganeh, the Arab-Israel conflicts and a very powerful human drama. I didn't create these characters but I hear them talking to me. I hear their voices. I know their stories. I'm working in a fever dream.

See you later, alligators. I'm happily going back to work.

P.S. The clothing swap gave me a brand new uber-cool black leather jacket (a girl's got to look cool, though now that I am increasingly vegan, the leather does give me pause), and a realization that I don't look or dress like most other people. And I have half a glove knit up. My very first pair. I'm afraid of the fingers, but I have made peace with the thumb.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Delivering a novel!

Yes my office is chaos. (I have to admit this is an old photo. The exercise machines are gone, and the computer screen is now flat screen, which is more wonderful than chocolate.)
But there is a reason for the office mayhem.
Oh. My. God.

I delivered my novel to my agent. You have no idea what that feels like. As soon as I emailed the whole file to her, I was filled with panic. I suddenly remembered all these places that I needed to fix--Couldn't I make the dialogue better, richer? What about adding a scene at the end? Did I have too much backstory or not enough? And of course, how humiliating was it going to be for me if I talk about it here and my agent hates it and says it isn't ready? How can I teach my class at UCLA and pretend to be an authority when I am filled with my Jell-o heart? How can I take on private clients when I am in such angst?

Welcome to the world of being a writer. As I've said before, the only cure for this is to hurl yourself into a new project, so, in between obsessing, I am getting back to work. I'm back in 1950s suburbia and there's a murder. It's germinating from a short story I published (sometimes stories can stretch their legs) and so far, so good. And I'm writing a script, which is so much fun, I feel dazzled with happiness.

And I'm treating myself to this fabulous thing that goes on in Hoboken--a clothing swap! It's held in this huge airy loft by my friend Gerri Fallo, who organizes the Arts and Music festival here). Everyone jokes that somehow my girlie genes were short circuited because not only do I not like to shop, but I have never worn high heels in my life, I never have more than three pairs of shoes at a time, and my shoe of choice is stretchy black and flat. I've always dressed well...eclectic might be a good word, and there was a period when I was writing about high fashion for Macy's and I would walk into meetings wearing plastic pig earings, much to the disapproval of the fashionistas there. But, but, but, this is a blast. People bring in the clothing mistakes they have worn once or twice and you can pretty much pick whatever you want and walk out of there with bags of wonderful stuff! Last year I got some high end designer dresses and leather jackets--all in black (You can't take the NewYork City out of the girl, and anyway, the city is just 7 minutes away by PATH subway.) More than that, it's fun to hang out with other women, sip wine, and look at clothes that all have these amazing stories whispering up their sleeves.

Please stay tuned to the debut of this wonderful new magazine DAME. I'll be writing about all sorts of wonderful books for them.
In the meantime, is there such a thing as a post-novel-turning-in novel to read? I'm reading Golden Country by Jennifer Gilmore again, and it is flat-out wonderful.