Friday, September 28, 2007

UCLA Writers Program Website

It's no secret that I adore teaching at UCLA. Teaching online is electric for me. I love it (and I won UCLA Extension's very first Best Instructor Award for it!) and I love my students, love the community and everyone associated with UCLA. Teaching writing, being able to pick out what works and what doesn't work in someone else's work, really helps me to do the same in my own work.

Now, UCLA has a fabulous new Writers Program Website. There will be all sorts of news about UCLA, the writing programs, the teachers, and more. Mosey on over!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Elizabeth Rosner

Elizabeth Rosner (Blue Nude--which is incredible) is one of my favorite writers on the planet. This is a quote from her that I just love: Books are portals to the soul, whisperers of secrets and stories, openings and closings. Metaphorical windows, they invite us to see beyond the obvious, ask us to bear witness to our own lives and to the nearly invisible lives of others. Sometimes there is a burning core at the heart of things; sometimes words can shatter us into truth. We are inside and outside, almost allowed to touch. What if we really can touch one another, fragile and fierce, illuminated from within?

Cries and Whiskers

My friend, the fantastic writer, rock and roller and cat afficiando Clea Simon's newest book, Cries and Whiskers (pre-order it now!) just got a rave prepub review from Booklist! This is spectacular because a. Every library on the planet reads it and b. Every person in publishing reads it and c. A great review from Booklist looks fabulous on your book cover! According to Booklist, Clea's book is "anything but cozy...and is a fast-moving story, full of lively characters, both two and four-legged." How could anyone resist that? I'm thrilled, thrilled, thrilled!

Monday, September 24, 2007


I was on the Today Show twice! I do have a nice picture of the green room (which isn't green, by the way) to post but I can't find my cell phone, which I bet is in the bedroom under my Today Show good clothes, unlike my usual funky attire of jeans, tee shirts and sneakers.

The Today Show called me again to ask if I would like to talk about the essay I wrote for the anthology THE OTHER WOMAN, which was reprinted in NEW YORK MAGAZINE and which has some film interest. Um, yes I would, and yes I did. Even better, Victoria Zackheim, the editor of the anthology and my friend was there with me!

It's very strange to walk past all the people hovering by the studio waiting for celebrities and the green room was crammed with crunchy veggies, two kids who wrote a cookbook who were being urged by a parent to "have better hair", and my fave--a woman in jeans who was funny and down to earth and who told me she lost 150 pounds just by walking.

I was very nervous about the makeup and hair, but the makeup person actually had a really light hand and made me look as if I weren't spackled. I'm used to people looking at my mop of curls and not knowing what to do with it, or even worse, suggesting straightening, but the hair person took one look at me and said, "We love curly hair here," and then told me that it had to be more TV curls, though. I was game and curious and she used a curling iron and gave me lotsa squiggles. I lost a few inches of length with the TV curl, but I really liked it.

The studio is freezing. Matt Lauer is very nice and so is Ann Curry and I got to see the producer who came to my house last time and she gave me a big hug. But they introduced me not as Caroline Leavitt, novelist, or screenwriter or even author, but as "Caroline Leavitt whose husband cheated on her!!! " I quickly spoke up and said that I had very happily remarried. I didn't have a lot of chance to say much else, and every time I glanced at the TV monitor and saw myself I noticed that either my pants were hanging funny, or my blouse was gaping.

But boy, was it all fun, fun, fun.

See you later, alligators

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wait, there's more!

I admit I thrive on chaos. First, everyone has to admire the sweater I knit! It's actually this deep, dark hazy blue and if you think the cable down the front was enough to make you run screaming, you would be right. I like this photo because it shows off our wide plank 1860 floors, which were buried under layers of linoleum when we bought our house.

In between writing my new novel, working on two (count 'em) scripts, teaching novel writing for UCLA, reviewing books for Dame and People, reviewing films for More, professional naming (a fabulous job), private writing mentoring, family life with fabulous husband and fabulous kid, I now have a great new gig. I used to write some of A Reading Life for The Boston Globe for years. Then they had cutbacks and I lost the column. Now they've offered me a new column and I am so thrilled because a. I get to talk about books and swirl them around a theme that interests me, and b. I get to work for the Boston Globe which is one of the all-time best places to work. Utopian.

Anyway, I am going about transforming the world of self-help books. Think Peggy Orenstein--smart, quirky, provocative topics, rather than 101 Ways to Organize Your Wallet. My first column should be appearing October 1, and I will be in the newspaper every other month.
Back to work. My novel calls. I've just named three characters and two of the names feel right, but one isn't there yet. Names are really important when you start a novel. I almost never use names I like, but the names have to feel true for the character, they have to belong to the person in some deep way. I go through baby name books, I look at the phone book online. I try to find something that will lead me deeper into the novel.

Monday, September 17, 2007

How do you write a novel?

I officially started a new novel today. As soon as I did I realized I didn't really have a clue how to do it. You'd think I would, after all these novels, but every book is so different. So I did a lot of the same things I make my UCLA students do--figure out desire lines, map out the characters, think about what a character wants vs. what a character needs. For me to be attached to a novel, I have to have a killer first chapter, so that when I am slogging through the mire after that chapter, I can't quit because, after all, there's that chapter! There were times with my novels where I hated every word except for the words in the first chapter, and that was the only reason I couldn't hurl pages out the window and myself after them. I have glimmers of life in my characters, and I think I have the heartbeat of the novel--the what if, the thematic twang that gets my own heart beating. But it feels so babybird brand new that it's a little nervewracking.

I also started a new sweater for my son--a knit in the round deal which is so easy and so zen that it's the perfect project while watching videos. You know, I once had a boyfriend who accused me of being boring because he said all I liked to do was read, write, watch way too many films, knit and run around the city. What's wrong with that? Those all seem perfectly wonderful things to me to do. And anyway, he forgot bikeride and cause trouble. Lucky for me, my husband likes to do the same things--except he doesn't knit.

Back to writing. See you later, alligators.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

When is a book done?

Clea Simon (she has a great blog, cats, crime and rock and roll) asked a great question about when you know a book is done. For me, it usually has to do with feeling. I can't think of anyplace else to go with it. I've read it so many times, and shown it to enough people that I can't find any openings to even add in an adjective. This is when I use my outlines and synopsis and character mapping--that lets me see if I have any holes in the story. Of course, a novel is never really done. You can always think of more things that you wished you had changed, can't you?

For me, though, a lot has to do with my next project. It starts taking on more life and crowds out the old project, bit by bit.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I've been tagged!

What's this? I've been tagged! This is from my friend Cindy, who has two wonderful blogs, Conversations with Famous Writers and Hello, Dollface.

Makeup Junkie in Canada (which is a wonderful and fun blog by the way!) tagged Cindy so she was obligated to share things about herself. Things that she wouldn't ordinarily share.
Here is how the tagging game works and I took this right off of Miss Makeup Junkie's blog,
What does tagging mean? Here are the rules: Each player starts with 7 random facts/habits about him or herself. People who are tagged need to then report this fact on their blog along with their 7 things, as well as these rules. They then tag 7 others and list their names on their blog. They're also asked to leave a comment for each of the tagged, letting them know they have been tagged and to read the blog.

1. Before I saw the light, I hated my curly hair as a child and used to iron it when I was a kid. I also put scotch tape around my whole head to straighten it, and slept with a nylon stocking on my head.

2. I believe in ghosts, reincarnation and the spirit world. I think it has to do with quantum physics, actually.

3. My sister and I not only held a funeral for one of her dolls but buried the doll in the backyard. Much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

4. I always read the last page of a book first.

5. I sucked my thumb until I turned THIRTEEN. The only reason I stopped is a friend of mine caught me, told everyone, and luckily no one believed her.

6. My sister and I used to make phony phone calls and once sold a piano to a woman down the street.

7. I hitchhiked in a car with Hell's Angels.

I'm going to tag Rochelle Shapiro, Clea Simon, Gayle Brandeis, Jennifer Gooch Hummer, and more! Go over and look at their wonderful blogs!