Thursday, August 28, 2008

Happy Labor Day

Of course, I would have preferred cupcakes in this ad, but you can't have everything. This actually reminds me of this book Porno For Women which was a series of photographs of men doing the laundry, cooking dinner and saying things like, "Of course those pants don't make you look fat, darling!"

We're off early Saturday morning. See you all Wednesday!


Amazing Opportunity from Publisher's Weekly

Every writer and media person knows and reveres Publisher's Weekly. It really is the writer's Bible, full of publishing info, reviews, interviews. When I published my first novel, Meeting Rozzy Halfway, I was flown from Pittsburgh to NYC to be interviewed by them, and it changed my life in so many ways. (Really.) The prepublication reviews from them are not just essential, they can be career-making. (Especially if you get a star!)

PW has its fingers on the pulse of publishing and now Nicole Bruce, from another great organization Authors on The Web, part of the Book Report network, alerted me that they are presenting a full-day seminar, where experts from Publishers Weekly will guide aspiring writers through everything they need to know about the business of getting their books published. With the help of top agents, authors, editors and marketing professionals, PW will show writers the way to get published. The seminar will take place on Monday, September 22nd at the NYU Kimmel Center, 60 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012 from 9 AM to 6 PM.

In advance of the seminar, PW will collect and read proposals, or a piece of a manuscript. One lucky writer selected by PW's deputy reviews editor and staff will be profiled in an upcoming issue of PW read by agents and publishers. Submissions are due by September 5, 2008. Submission guidelines and details can be found at

The seminar's keynote speaker is Wally Lamb, the New York Times bestselling author and two-time Oprah Book Club pick, whose work includes I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE, SHE'S COME UNDONE and THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED (Harper, November 11, 2008). Each attendee will receive a complimentary copy of I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE.

The program includes:

-Continental breakfast
-Welcome remarks from Sara Nelson, editor-in-chief of PW and Andrea Chambers, director of the Center for Publishing, NYU
-Keynote address from Wally Lamb
-The Nuts and Bolts of Publishing panel
-Lunch and networking
-Agent/Author/Editor Relationship panel

Attendees will also attend two breakout sessions in the afternoon for more interactive discussions; each track will be repeated twice. Breakout session topics include:

-Alternative Publishing
-Marketing & Publicity
-Writing for the Children's and Young Adult Market

The day will conclude with an on-site Cocktail Reception

More information on the panelists, breakout sessions and details on cost and registration can be found online at: NYU students can receive a 50% discount.

This is an amazing opportunity for any writer!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cupcake of my dreams

I don't really like cake, candies or cookies (though I adore chocolate in bar form), but I admit to being a cupcake-aholic. Recently opened two blocks away is Sweet, this incredible store that makes these gorgeous little cupcakes like the red velvet beauty pictured here. Yes, they are pricey, but they are so gorgeous and they are a fantastic reward after a day of writing. And the place makes them in mini-versions so you don't feel too guilty about wolfing one down.

Plus, I just bought one of those new vibration exercisers (a steal on Amazon Prime with free shipping) so don't I deserve a little sugar? I'm thin and pretty healthy, but I want to stay healthy and strong. The research on these machines is fascinating, by the way. Built to build bone and prime muscles for astronauts who couldn't exercise, they're now finding that these machines can reverse osteoporosis (it did for my friend, Barb), tone muscles, help with MS, tinnitus, hormone imbalances and any number of things. Yes, I know it sounds vaguely snake oilish, but the research is sound. Plus, they really give you a workout. I have no idea what it is actually going to FEEL like, but it should be arriving for its place in my crowded office any second. (And I'm just waiting on one more check to go get my Mac!)

On the writing front, I wanted to comment on a Youtube video interview by Alice Hoffman about the writing process which helped me enormously. Alice talks about how she outlines and then throws the outlines away and then remakes them and then tosses them again. She talks about how important it is to forget any future audience and simply be in the zone and write the book you need to write, the book that obsesses you, which is something I tell my students--and believe myself.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Teaching tolerance to kids

The Harvey Milk Story illustrated by by David Gardner and written by Kari Krakow is one of the most wonderful kids' books I've come across.

The story of the "little kid with the big ears makes history" is also a warm, engaging story of one man who made a real difference in the lives of so many people. But the book isn't pedantic about Milk in any way. Instead, he's a real, living, breathing person on the page, owning a photography shop that becomes a meeting place, fighting for the rights of gay people, and going on to leadership. There's a wry sense of humor in the book and the terrific illustrations are full of warmth.

What is so great about this book is that my son spotted it on my desk, and took it and read it and then had all sorts of thoughtful questions about why anyone would want to kill someone just because he was gay.

Why indeed.

Books can open minds, and hopefully, change them, too. I can't wait for the upcoming Sean Penn Harvey Milk film, but in the meantime, go grab up this book.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Save us from these books!

I hate this one, which helps kids deal with Mom's incessent need for plastic surgery. Let's see, can't you just see Mom musing, "Hmmmm, tummy tuck or making Johnny's lunch? Face lift or another game of Candyland?" Notice that the self-obsessed mother isn't really looking at her child!

Ok, this next one is a little unnerving. The title, Momma,Is Daddy Going to Hell? is offensive enough, but it turns out the reason why Dad might be heading for the Inferno is because he is a big fat cheater! What a nice message for the kids! I can't wait for the sequel, Daddy, is Momma the Devil's Spawn?

Can these titles be far behind?
Mommy's Been Drinking Again
Hooray, Daddy's Scored New Needles
Our Family Members are all Heathens!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Roaming at home

Isn't that gorgeous? Some people vacation by sprawling on a beach or doing nothing. Not us. Every morning we biked ten miles on the boardwalk, then played minigolf, then hit the arcades (we do love our honkytonk) and then went to the ocean for a grand total of an hour at most (we don't love the frying pan quality of the beach) and then off to a movie, and then to a whale watch and then to the go karts and then to the rides and then to another movie and then...

I did have a jaws moment. My son was in the surf and i noticed a black fin slicing through the water. I stared, blinked, and there it was again, zooming closer. I became cool, clear, determined, and I strode into the water and grabbed Max who was becoming panicked by my expression. "Shark," I said and then I was about to shout SHARK to get everyone else out, when Jeff ran into the water and grabbed me, shaking his head and pointing. "Dolphin!" he said, and there they were. Three of them, arcing out of the water and back again. I didn't know dolphins swam so close to shore, but then again, it IS their ocean and not ours.

I also fell smash bang off my bike and bonked my head so soundly that three, count them, three bikini'd nurses rushed to my rescue. I have a bump the size of a doll's frying pan over my right eye, but I'm better than the woman we saw who tripped in front of a restaurant where we were eating and broke her nose in a torrent of blood.

I think it's because as writers we tend to sit in our offices all day, breaking for lunch, so a vacation to us is doing as much as we possible can. Which leads me to an important question.

What is the worst candy you have ever had? I contend that it's Circus Peanuts, those orangey soft candies that are supposed to look like peanuts (if you live on Jupiter, maybe), but my son insists that Swedish fish are the most disgusting. Jeff votes for Boston Baked beans, those little rat pellets of flavor.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What in a name and V-A-C-A-TION!

Names in a novel are important. They define a character and they have to sound right, and feel right, and somehow lead to plot, too. Would an Adrienne cheat on her partner? Would a Nancy? Or what about a Neal? When I'm starting a novel, I go through a few names until I hit the ones that feel right--and sometimes, the right ones just appear. Almost all the time, they aren't names I would actually name a child of my own, but they somehow fit the character, which of course, is what you want.

The Baby Name Countdown from Da Capo is an excellent book for parents to be, but it's also a gem for novelists. It's columns and columns (140,000 names, actually) of wonderful, earth shattering, funny, moving, compassionate, angry, mean, loving NAMES. (But really, do you really want to name your kid DEMONIKA?)

I'm off on vacation from Monday to Thursday, and sans computer, so No new blog posts until I come back happy, rested and ready to write again.

Beauty is in the eye of the Mac beholder

Aren't these gorgeous? We are now the proud owners of two of them--a laptop and an Imac, and two ipod touches. Jeff's Dell laptop and desktop both died at the same hour (RIP) and since my Dell is only a year old, I have to soldier on. (Of course, I have all sorts of plans for splurging and getting a new Mac anyway, but that's a whole other issue.)

I seem to not have the regular female shopping gene for clothes or shoes (though a great lipgloss can sway me)> But put me in a store with any sort of technology and I want to shop for days.

There is something about beginning a new novel on a new computer that has its own kind of joy. It's got that hopefulness about it, as if you and the computer are beginning this journey together--I know this sounds insane a bit, but trust me, most novelists I know are indebted to their computers. It's a wonder we don't put them in the acknowledgement pages!

I now have twenty pages, and because we are off on vacation, I'm a little nervous. Will the fever sustain itself while I'm away? On the other hand, the beginning of any novel is always a wonderful time, because you're just dipping your toes in and the water is lovely. You haven't reach the thorny middle part when you realize you have 400 pages and none of it makes sense, and there isn't a dramatic question in any of your chapters.

Still, the thought of four days doing nothing but biking on the boardwalk, getting sugar shocked with fudge, playing mini golf and wasting--um, I mean, spending--lots of money in the arcades and staring at the ocean (I'm phobic about sharks and jelly fish and giant squid, so I stare and watch my son, who is fearless) is remarkably appealing.

Who knows, maybe when I come back, there will be my own shiny new Imac waiting for me!

PS, will the poster Fenway Fern please email me? Your post lets me know that we went to HS together and I want to know who you are!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cbs early show

Oh sigh! For two hours I was supposed to be on CBS Early Show tomorrow on a panel of writers discussing John Edwards and infidelity and The Other Woman, which just came out in paperback. I spoke with the fabulous producer, then worried what to wear, what was clean, was black okay to wear on TV, would my hair look stupid, and where were my mirror earrings? And then just as I was getting really happy about having a car come and pick me up and take me there (and the studio is right next to the big Apple store on Madison), they called and said the segment was postponed.

It would have been really fun....

Now let us all praise UCLA

I'm thrilled to be on the faculty of UCLA and every year they have a fabulous Writers Faire where you can connect with writers, courses and get inspiration--and all for free. Here are the details:

Sunday, September 7 UCLA Extension Writers' Program proudly presents Writers Faire 2008 11 am-3 pm UCLA Campus: Young Hall Courtyard Admission is free. Parking on campus in Lot 2 is $9.

Be our guest at the ninth annual Writers Faire featuring 24 free mini-panels and lectures in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, writing for the youth market, playwriting, publishing, feature film writing, and television writing. Writers of all levels are welcome!

Listen to 70 instructors/writers as they participate in lively discussions about the art, craft, business, and life of writing.
Enroll in most fall courses at a ten percent discount (advanced courses not included).

Get one-on-one advisement on courses and certificate programs.
Learn more about Los Angeles-area MFA programs and speak to representatives from five top schools.

Become familiar with Blackboard, the platform used in all Writers’ Program online courses.

Watch Final Draft representatives demonstrate their software (discounts are available).

Visit with more than a dozen professional and community organizations and writing-allied businesses, all of whom share a common goal of promoting writing in Los Angeles.

Click here ( to access a PDF of the 2008 Writers Faire schedule and videos of panels from last year’s Writers Faire. Or contact the Writers' Program office at (310) 825-9415 or at for more information.

The mac is here!

Oh my God, it is so cool and now I want one myself. The itouch is charging and I can't wait to figure out how to use it, though my son insists it is his. (Well, of course, he jsut turned twelve so he has seniority over all of us...

Monday, August 11, 2008

A royalty and Mac and a thousand thank-yous

A royalty statement came in! You have no idea how happy and thrilled and excited I am--Girls in Trouble is four years old and it is still selling, which is amazing and wonderful, and part of the royalty was also for Coming Back to Me which is six years old. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, whomever bought my book. I owe you a signed watercolor. I owe you a hug. I owe you a night out on the town. I owe you everything because royalties mean that the publisher is happy because you earned back your advance. It means your chances of publishing again are that much better. And best of all, it means you have readers, which is really the most important thing of all.

As for us, we're heading for the Mac store where Jeff is getting a Mac laptop and I'm getting the itouch.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

PC or Mac?

This dandy photo is a series that Max and I made at the incredible huge and wonderful and giant Mac store in Soho. It's some feature called Mirror Stretch, I believe, and we played with it for about a half hour, before moving on. What's most strange, beside the double Carolines is that Max's head is floating over his neck with white space in between. Actually, there IS no neck. And he looks nothing like himself, except for the major hair.

I want a Mac.

I've had a PC for a zillion years, though I worked on a Mac at my horrible Columbia House job (get a thousand videos for a penny...Bruce Willis back and better then ever, and a boss who chided me for calling films about ponies Horse Tales, because he said no one would get it.) I love my Dell, I really do. It's just the Dell service people I loathe. They never really help. They are all based in India, which is outsourcing which I don't approve of, and they always say, "Reinstall Windows."

The Mac store is so cool. Two huge floors and a theater (a theater!) where they give demonstrations and classes. It's open 24 hours a day, so you could mosey in at four in the morning and hang out if you wanted. Their help is called the Genius bar and the people who help you geniuses. Plus the Macs are so cool. We spent all our time playing on the big Macs, then on the lap tops, then on the iphones, then back to the laptops. one guy was at the same machine for all three hours, talking to himself.

And also, I asked if I could at least get a mac keyboard, and they said they wouldn't work with my PC. Is this true? I asked about six different people, just in case they were hiding info on me and they all said no.

Sigh. I got my new dell last year, but I think Jeff's going to get a Mac laptop.

So who has a PC and who has a Dell and who has a Mac and who has used both? (Original Mac owners tend to be very "nothing else will do-ish"....I know aprt of this is just my yearning for new technology, whatever it is, but stil...

What the hell is wrong with John Edwards?

Let me count the ways.
1. Hypocrite
2. Moron who might as well hand the election over to the Republicans who will have a field day
3. Moron who can't keep it in his pants
4. Lying idiot

His attitude reminds me of Roman Polanski, who, in the brilliant documentary WANTED AND DESIRED very matter of factly discusses his love for young girls and his insistence that he has done othing wrong. There's the whiff that because he's such a brilliant (and I do believe he is brilliant. He's one of my favorite filmmakers of all times) director, he's allowed special privileges, no matter whom he damages.

I admit that all things considered, I care less about someone's sexual dalliances than I do about people like Bush, Rove et al screwing the country with shady politics and a disatrous war. But given the moralistic climate of our country, this is just a stupid act.

I am also irritated with Edwards wife who should really show him the door and then lock it with a 90 pound deadbolt.

But wait, there's more! I feel like Ed Anger from the old Weekly World News, but I'm highly irritated with both Clintons, because they both seem as though, once again, they are hoping for a democratic lose, so that Hillary can run again in four years.

Don't you all feel that these politicians are five years old?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Let us now praise Backspace

Backspace is a wonderful organization online which supports writers (they also have a wonderful forum.) I just got back from the conference and I'm a little dazzled. The warmth and comradery of the writers there was incredible, and the dialogue we all had after the panel Leora Skolkin-Smith and I did, sparked discussions that continued out into the hall. As a panelist, I was completely thrilled, absolutely comfortable (I tend to be a bit nervous, to say the least) and the whole experience was filled with laughter. And as a writer, I thought the panels were great--really informative and great discussions. I definitely want to do it again, (the incomparably generous MJ Rose won an award for her service to other writers) and now I have my ebay new-with-tags Black rayon beaded dress to wear again to it!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Backspace writers conference

Tomorrow, I'm going to be at the Backspace writers conference in the heart of NYC talking with Leora Skolkin-Smith about the perils and pleasures of using your life in your fiction. I'm very excited to be there, ticked that I missed the cocktail party tonight, but happy I'll get to meet a lot of other writerly types. But it means getting out of my fave jeans and fave red tee shirt and putting on a dress!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

OK now I'm frazzled

So my blog was locked again for about an hour by the robots. If you never see a new post and want to know what's up, chances are I'm LOCKED. So email me and I'll tell you where my new blog might me! (Because if this keeps happening, I'm out of here.)

Monday, August 4, 2008


I have been writing all morning on this new novel and am alternately excited, terrified and obsessed by it. I don't know if I can pull it off, but I'm so drawn to it, that I can't stop. My friend, the writer Rochelle Shapiro, told me that I've been wanting to write this particular novel for years but never could figure the right way into the story. Which goes to show you that ideas can simmer like soup, that sometimes there is indeed a right time to write something, and this is also a great nudge for all writers to keep notebooks of ideas, to never throw anything out. It may not work now, but it could ferment into something later.

That actually was the case with my first novel, Meeting Rozzy Halfway, which began as a story that I struggled over for two years. I couldn't get it--it was forced and wrong and it was written from a child's point of view about why her father was so terrifyingly distant. After a particularly bad week of writing, something sort of revealed to me. I don't know where it came from, but this voice emerged, and I began writing the beginnings of the story from an adult point of view. Ah, the mysteries of creativity!

On other mysterious fronts, our TV is possessed. We had DISH and the TV kept stopping so after four different replacement boxes, we went to DIRECT TV. Same problem, even worse. Now we have Optiumum and guess what happened? I think an electrician has to get in here, which will probably cost the price of a small country. Has anyone ever had such a problem?

Back to writing. I feel like I want to write all day, but I'm anxious about the well running dry. I love the sensation that all is great and tomorrow I can't wait to get back to my desk. Which is another question: When do you know when to stop writing for the day?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

My blog is back~!!!

I'm hugely relieved! My blog was locked and they said it might take 20 days, so now I am thrilled!

After strugglng so hard with this new novel, I went back to the other novel I was working on-showed it to a few people, and all were excited (or at least, very, very kind) so now I'm newly obsessed. It's a much simpler structure with a strong through line, so I'm putting the other complex novel on the back burner for now until I figure out how to do it. Sometimes just obsessing and stressing about something shows you the way into the story, which happened with this one. And the comments of some very smart, tough writer friends--one in particular whom I can never thank enough-- also helped quite a bit, too.

We spent the day at the Fear Exhibit at one of my favorite places in the world, The Liberty Science Center. You could test your fear of falling, loud noises, electric shock, but where were tests for fear of clowns or giant squids or having to drive a car? Where was the exhibit about fear of demons or ghosts or another 8 years with Bush?

I know I always tell my writing students to write about what obsesses them, but it isn't a bad idea to also write about what you fear.