Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Kids in distress

I live in Hoboken, which is NYC's unofficial 6th borough, and urban, but pretty safe. I was coming out of the market today--a bright, gorgeous day--with lots of goodies for brownies and sugar shock, when I saw this five year old little boy sitting in the middle of the sidewalk crying. I didn't see his mom, so I crouched down and asked him if he was okay. He shook his head. "Where's your Mommy?" I asked and he cried harder and said, "We got separated! I don't know where she is!" I swear my bones turned to water. I asked him if his Daddy was around and he said, "I don't have one!" Then I noticed his dirty jacket, so I told him as soothingly as I could that I was going to call someone to help. "Who are you calling?" he said, alarmed, and I told him I was calling the police and I would stay right with him and they would come and help him.

I fumbled with my phone, while trying to keep the little boy calm. As soon as I got the cops and hung up, I was surrounded by lights, cameras and these very polished, well-dressed and broadly smiling people. I was baffled but one guy said, "You did such a great thing! We're NYC ABC news! This boy is an actor! The cops are in on this!"

I was really pissed because I had been so upset, and I said, "What, this is your idea of some sort of sick candid camera? You think it's funny to do things about lost kids? To trick people like this?" I was really mad and I said, "Right now, stop filming me," and I started to walk off and they FOLLOWED me and I stopped again and this woman said, "Look, we're working with this organization to find lost children and I have to tell you that you were the ONLY person who stopped for this little boy and he's been sitting out here for over half an hour."

That got me.

That made me stop and listen.

The woman told me that they wanted to make people aware that there are lots of lost and kidnapped kids right under everyone's noses and it's important to stop and notice who is around you. She also wanted people to know that no one stopped for this boy and how horrific that is and b. that I had stopped instantly and I was an example of what a good person should do. We talked for about half an hour and I got less angry and I finally began to think that maybe this was something important for people to know about. I told her she could use the footage but I didn't want to be filmed anymore and I've spent the rest of the day feeling sort of sick that no one else stopped for this little boy! So I'm going to be on Abc news, but I'm really upset that no one else stopped on a gorgeous sunny day for a little crying five year old but me. That scares me.

Then Max came home with a 101 fever and that scared me, too.
What's wrong with people that no one else stopped?

Friday, October 26, 2007


Let us now praise famous writer friends' work!

Edges by Leora Skolkin-Smith is doing so fabulously well that it is now in its third printing. This is simply a tremendously moving novel, which I've posted about before. Leora wasn't just edited by the great Grace Paley, she was also a friend, and in this editon, she provides a special foreword. Tovah Feldshuh did the audio book and Leora's got a film deal in development.

Miriam the Medium by Rochelle Jewell Shapiro is now in paperback--which means tons of you can buy it and tuck it in your backpack and take it on the subway and everywhere you go, too.

And late breaking news, (oh yes, this is really important.) I figured out my Halloween costume. Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year. The whole town here gets dressed up and parades around, including adults, and we never miss a chance to act like fools. I'm going as a sock farm--you know that place where all the mates for socks that you never can find wind up? I spent all last night painstakingly sewing socks of all shapes and sizes onto my black jeans, black hoodie and I'll tape some on my black leather jacket. And of course, I have a long purple day glow wig with bangs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Channeling Andy Warhol

I was trying to upload this photograph and it somehow got corrupted in this very Andy Warholish manner. (I lived in Pittsburgh for a while, which is prime Warhol territory, but when I first moved to NYC, I used to see Andy walking around in a haze. And I never spoke to him because I thought that would be uncool.) In any case, this photo montage is a strange case of immortalizing my son's dogs, Bell and 101.

I also have found myself on Facebook and MySpace, and I have no idea why. Call it an experiment...

And yes I still feel horrible and my throat hurts from coughing. And I have two more pages of my new novel done.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

new noveling

I am dripping in Kleenex, feverish and vaguely hallucinatory from lack of sleep. I hate being sick and if anyone has a quick natural cure for a respiratory infection, please, please, please let me know. I'maready taking oil of oregeno, which makes me smell like felafel.

Starting a new novel is such a strange process. I always feel as though I am trailing parts of the last novel I've written with me into the new, like the train of a skirt. I always worry because I certainly don't want to be writing the same novel twice, but maybe this is just part of my process because the books never do turn out the same. At least, I hope they don't.

Right now I'm in the bliss stage, writing out scenes that explore the characters, which maqy or may not be used. I'm not so sure about anything yet...except that I need more hot tea and more tissues.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Rachel in the World by Jane Bernstein is a truly astonishing account of what it is like to love, raise and send out into the world a child with special needs. Jane's incredibly honest--this is no treacle and spice account, but rather a gritty, fearless and heart-wrenching story about the love she feels for her daughter, as well as the irritation, and her anger at a system that doesn't make things easy. Filled with photographs that are prose poems in themselves, this is a really wonderful, wonderful book.

Jane's a friend of mine (full disclosure) and I've met Rachel when I was in Pittsburgh. Rachel was bouncy with energy, gorgeous, feisty and her own person. But the real story is that I first met Jane through her novel Departures, one of my favorite novels of all times. I read it while I lived in Pittsburgh and was wading through an increasingly unhappy first marriage, and when I got to New York, I pressed her novel on my friends in one of those "You've got to read this" moments. And I finally got bold enough to email her out of the blue and tell her how much I admired her work, and we hit it off. And I've come to know her more both in person and through her incredible brave books like Bereft, about the murder of her sister, and Loving Rachel, about the very young Rachel. Jane's daughter Charlotte's a talented filmmaker and she's making a film about Rachel, so check out Jane's website for details.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Most writers I know always show their novels to other writers before they dare to show it to the beloved agents. You don't want to make a fool of yourself, after all or have your agent wondering whatever he or she saw in you in the first place! Mostly there is a bartering system going on (I will show you mine if you show me yours) or sometimes money changes hands, but truly all writers understand the agony of letting a manuscript go and the need for said ms. to be as perfect as possible. I have a few beloved readers, and I bartered with one who helped on my synopsis and my pages with the offer of a handknit sweater. We trekked uptown to Knitty City where I wanted to buy everything in the store and she chose the most delectable yarn--part silk, part cotton, part mysterious fiber--in this rich green. I couldn't wait to knit it! So knit I did, six inches all the way around when I got terrible asthma from the yarn! This is mysterious! This is appalling! But what made it even more strange was that for the whole four years I have been writing my last novel I haven't had any asthma and one of the characters is a child with severe asthma. As soon as I finished final revisions: BOOM. Lungs crunch up. Breathing is at a premium.

After dashing to the pulmonologist (meds are a wonderful thing), I decided the yarn was toxic to me, but I couldn't let it go. So thank you, thank you to a friend who offered to knit the rest, and thank you to my fabulous friend Sarah who was also considering doing me the favor and was just as warm and wonderful about taking on the task as she could be. Sarah has this very cool blog called two pointy sticks and she's also one of my favorite people on the planet.

So my sweater project is now in good hands and my asthma is gone! And I have ten pages of a new novel!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Website slight

I just reviewed Crazy Aunt Purl's book in the Globe and the website needs a correction: it is www.crazyauntpurl.com. Mea Culpa.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Come on and help yourself

My very first new column (I used to write some of the "A Reading Life") about books that deal with self-help issues appeared in The Boston Globe today! I'm really thrilled and my goal is to give a smart, provocative spin to a genre of books that many people wrongfully dismiss. (Please stop making any sort of face. Would you make a face at Peggy Orenstein's smart and sparkly tomes? At Anne Lamott's books on faith? At Eat, Pray, Love? All can rightfully be called self-help.) My column will be every other month. Frankly, I love the genre. There's a part of me that yearns to believe in anything that will make things easier, better, faster, more fun or any number of wonderful adjectives. I've always been the one to jump at the chance to earn more money, see a medium, try fengshui or dogwhisper. And these books do tackle very serious issues. Keeping an open mind is the only way to be surprised. And I'm just so delighted I get to do it in The Globe!

Speaking of sparkling, one of my UCLA students, Gina Sorell just told me about her very exquisite line of jewelry. Since I consider jewelry (especially earrings) to be an essential of life, this is news, too.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Writing fever

I'm still hallucinating over Traveling Angels, my last novel, but now that I've started a new novel, these new characters are starting to whisper in my ears and follow me down the streets. I find I have to know everything about my characters--how they comb (or don't comb) their hair, what toothpaste they like. Right now I'm trying to get a picture of them in my mind, so I'm collecting photographs and images. You can't clip pictures from magazines usually because those people never look quite real, but the image file of google has a lot of interesting characters.

I might as well admit it. I don't want to say goodbye to my characters. I worry about them. Will they be okay in the world?

I also want to mention that I discovered a new bookblog that I love a lot. Reading is my Superpower. And this one, too, called Upper Fort Stewart. Mosey on over and take a gander.

Read This Book

Book critics have ethics. I review for The Boston Globe, People and Dame Magazine, and I never review anyone I know, or anyone who is a relative of a friend, or even anyone who shares my editor or my agent. You've got to be pure here! To be critical, you can't let your feelings about how someone really is a great cook or a good friend who loaned you money when you most needed it or held your hand during a horrific crisis get in the way of how you look at a book.

However, this is my blog, and with full disclosure, I really want to talk about the books of people I know. This one, Broken Colors, is by Michele Zackheim, who just happens to be the sister of my friend Victoria Zackheim, who edited the Today Show favorite anthology THE OTHER WOMAN and the upcoming FOR KEEPS (I have an essay in that one, too, though it's a reprint from a Salon piece I did.)

Library Journal calls Broken Colors "comic and wise," and Booklist says it's absolutely haunting. Vanessa Redgrave (!!!!) loved it. I say it's a strong, mesmerizing portrait of what it means to be an artist (and that includes being the artist of your own life), what it costs to confront the past and what it takes to recast your future. Truly, it's a great read--and it has the most amazingly beautiful, light-dappled cover I have ever seen.