Sunday, November 30, 2008

More questions and answers about Milk

David Gardner answers questions about The Harvey Milk Story!  (See post below!)

1. What made you decide to do a book about Harvey Milk? And why for children? 

The biography's a time-honored sub-genre in children's books, telling kids the stories of our heroes: Washington, Lincoln, Dr. King, Babe Ruth, Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks -- why not tell them about our historic figures who happened to be gay and lesbian. I felt Harvey's story needed to be told, so I jumped at the chance when Two Lives Publishing asked me. As a gay man, I want life to be better for the next generations, straight and gay. One way this can happen is by telling our children the stories of people who grew up to make a difference. When I received the manuscript to illustrate, I loved how the writer, Kari Krakow, approached Harvey's story as one of a kid who was different, and who embraced his differences, and grew up to help others who were different. I think that's a universal story, one that children especially grapple with. At least I did as a boy.

2. You've said you felt Harvey's spirit while you were illustrated the book--can you talk about that? 

I read Randy Shilts' "Mayor of Castro Street" and watched the brilliant documentary "The Times of Harvey Milk" over and over, but still, there were periods in the text that I could not find reference for. So I did all kinds of research -- the story spans from the Thirties to the Seventies. Then, like a novelist, I had to dream. For example, I imagined what a Jewish wedding would look like in the Fifties, how Harvey's parents would look, how they might age. Photos of them were all blurry. 

By that point, Harvey was real for me, he felt like a long-lost friend. I felt his big spirit guiding me -- smiling, flashy, charming, brave and scared and gregarious. (Harvey's much more outgoing than I am.) Painting his life felt like remembering, capturing moments as if he were showing me his personal snapshots. I felt a responsibility to get it right -- I didn't want to disappoint him. In the end, the book is, for me, a memorial to Harvey MIlk's spirit. That's why the candlelight memorial scene repeats, why the illustrations move from darkness to light, to reflect the hope that Harvey talks about. "You gotta give them hope."

3. Besides my son, who saw the book, plucked it up and read it, asked a million question and then clamored to see the film, what's been the response from kids and parents and educators? (I clearly think this is a book that should be in every school library.)


Honestly, I was bracing against more protest, but the reaction has been positive. (Maybe things are changing!) Librarians, I've heard, have been most supportive, like K.T. Hornig on her blog Worth the Trip -- a fan from the start. She heads the CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center), who have a popular librarians' listserve. The CCBC listed Harvey in its "best books" booklet in 2001. I think it's gotten to teachers mostly through GLSEN (Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network),  teachers using it for "social justice" units. Apparently there's a curriculum guide to the book at the Bank Street School of Education in NYC. Kids who see the book seem to get it -- maybe kids see through all the negative social conditioning easier than grown-ups.

4. What are you working on now?

I'm happily putting the finishing touches on an adult novel, "Mercyville," which happens to have the same theme as "The Harvey Milk Story": How hard, and yet, how vital it is for us to stand up for who we are. I'm shopping that manuscript to publishers and agents now.  

5. What questions didn't I ask that I should have??

Hmm. One thing no one's asked yet, that I took a secret delight in putting in: Who's the girl and woman who appear in the beginning and end, the candlelight vigil. I snuck in 11-year-old Medora Payne, who's mentioned in the book working on Harvey's campaign. Since this is a book for children, I thought it would be neat to see Medora in more of the book. I imagined she would go to the memorial, with her mother. She'd be in the neighborhood, so she even appears in the background of Harvey's camera shop, peering in the window with her friend to see who's just moved into the neighborhood. There -- now my secret is out.

There's more information at


Milk is an extraordinary film--and an important one. In an age where Sarah Palin dares to say that the true America is the "little pockets, the small towns, where everyone is the same" which, in her way of thinking and speaking, seems like her particular code words for intolerance, a film likes this explores and challenges prejudice.  Penn is astonishing, the movie is heartscorching, and the lines were around the block an hour before show time.

 My friend David Gardner illustrated a kids' book about Milk, written by Kari Krakow.  It was on my couch when Max came into my office, saw the book and snapped it up.  He was engrossed and when he finished, he was full of great questions.  It was actually Max who saw the ad for the film and gasped, "Oh! I have to see this!"  Not only did he sit gripped through the movie, but afterwards, he asked all sorts of questions, in particular: Why would anyone care whom someone loved? Isn't love a good thing?

Max doesn't see color or sexuality (but he does see kindness and intolerance). His school is diverse, plus we live in the NYC area, which is as mixed as you can get.  For me, this is the real America.  Or it should be.

The Harvey Milk Story got a rave Kirkus (they called it "a significant contribution") and David will be signing books in Santa Fe, Dec 12 and 13th at Devargas Mall 6, following the 7 showing of the film, which is a benefit for the Human Rights Alliance.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving fingerless gloves

In honor: wish and hope.

Dana, if you are reading, these ones are for YOU.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksturkey!

We veggies/vegans don't eat turkey, so here is a nice map of Turkey instead.

Here's what I am thankful/grateful for this holiday:

1.  Love. My husband, my son, my mother, my sister, my community of friends. I could not do without any one of the above. Not for a nanosecond.

2. Work. In this tough publishing climate, it is indeed a blessing to be able to do work I adore, to be writing scripts and to have a novel coming out! 

3. Health. From one who was critically ill for a year, my great health now is just the frosting on the brownie, the marshmallow on the City Bakery hot chocolate!

4. Obama as president! Change, hope, the big Everything.

5. Home. From the time I was 14, all I wanted to do was live in New York City! I did, for 15 years, with my tortoise in a postage-sized slanted apartment on a block that was half Brownstones and half Welfare hotel,  and now we live just a subway stop outside the city in a 3-story 1865 home we renovated ourselves. I never, ever thought I would want a home and a family, (I was really wild in my younger days...) but it is the blessing of my life.  I am still hoping for friendly ghosts in our home. (But not Caspar. There is something wrong with that pathologically friendly ghost. He reminds me of the man next door that everyone says is so nice, right up until he bludgeons all the neighbors and is taken away.)

6. Movies and books.  I once had a boyfriend who told me with great disdain, shortly before we broke up, "All you ever want to do is read, watch movies and knit."  I say, "And what's the problem with that?"

7. A sense of surprise.  Anything can happen. Isn't that sort of wonderful?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Suspending Acquisitions of New Manuscripts

This is terrible, sad, shocking, and unbelievable. Read the story here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Celebrating friendship

Getting Along Famously by Melissa Hellstern is the kind of book you want to give to all your best friends.  I raved about it for Dame

and I peppered Melissa with questions, which are below.

 1. What led you to write a book about friendship and what made you decide on the friendship pairs that you did?

When I went through a particularly rough patch a few years ago, I really came to appreciate the joy, laughter and moral support that my girlfriends provided.  While I had always felt my friendships were important, it occurred to me that as we get older with more responsibilities – husbands, homes, children, jobs – that we might need to be reminded to take a little time out to stay in touch with those we hold dear.  So, the idea was to create a way to honor the wonderful women we hold dear – and the book was born.

When I was researching my last book, How to be Lovely:  The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life, I learned a bit about Audrey’s friendship with Sophia Loren.  From there, I researched who was friends with who.  Also, I tried to choose relationships that represent the various types of friendships we all encounter.  For example, Lucy Ball and Vivian Vance as co-workers, Katharine Hepburn as a mentor to Lauren Bacall and Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds as a mother/daughter friendship.  There were some friendships that perhaps did not have enough information to become a chapter and so you can find them as smaller stories throughout the book.

2. What surprised you about these friendships? (I know I was surprised by the depth of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynold's relationship.)

Overall, I would say I was surprised at how normal these friendships were.  Certainly, these were women who led extraordinary, public lives – and yet privately, I think they looked for the same things in a friendship that we all do – companionship, compassion and laughter.    They rallied together in times of tragedy and celebrated together when the time was right.  They gave each other professional and personal advice.

Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds are a very interesting pair – not only because they are both fascinating and seasoned women, but also because they have managed to go through so much together and still keep laughing.  There is something especially beautiful about family members who become friends.

3. Were there any famous friendships you didn't include that you wished that you had?

I wish I could have known more about the friendship between Vivien Leigh and Katharine Hepburn, but both were fairly private about each other.  I also considered including a chapter about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford – perhaps the ultimate frenemies.  There are some ridiculous and amazing stories there!  They worked hard at getting under each other’s skin.  But in the end, the book was a celebration of friendship, and so I decided to leave them out.

4. What do you think this book says about modern day friendships, in relationship to some of these very classy, vintage ones?

Perhaps it comments on the fact that no matter what the social culture, era or lifestyle, female friendships don’t change all that much.  For me, this is a very reassuring fact.  We need each other and often for the same reasons our grandmothers and great-grandmothers needed their friends.

5. What is in the works now for you?

I am working on a few ideas.  Writing Getting Along Famously, I was fascinated to learn that Lucille Ball became not only the first female head of a studio, but also the largest studio in Hollywood at the time.  She made landmark shows like Mission: Impossible and Star Trek possible.  And so I have been looking into what other female firsts might be worth learning about.

6. Was there a question I should have asked that I didn't?

Nothing comes to mind!  It was a pleasure!


Annoyed with Obama ALREADY?

I was not thrilled to read in the news that Obama has decided to allow tax cuts for the rich until 2010. I am putting this up along with my other rants:
1. The fact that Bush and Cheney et. all are not being prosecuted for war crimes and for what they have done to this country
2. The fact that the three auto industry honchos might get a bailout
3. The fact that local government is so corrupt that they all need to be in jail rather than raising our taxes 47% and doing a reevaluation of properties that will punish most of the people who moved here back when no one wanted to visit, let alone live in Hoboken and no property was in the million dollar range the way it is now.

Sigh...and alas.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Life's Photos are now online!

Life magazine has put thousands of photos online for you to look at, and to buy. This one is called simply "hairstyles worn by teenagers" and is from the 50s.  The one below--and what a beauty!--is from a drive-in the 50s, and isn't it amazingly great?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Laura Benedict is Cool and so is Ray Bradbury

Laura Benedict is really, really cool.  Not only does she write fantastic, smart thrillers, like Isabella Moon and Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts (coming in December), but she has a fantastically interesting blog.  Notes from the Handbasket is hip and smart and talks about popular culture as inspiration.  I was thrilled when she asked me to write about some kind of pop culture that inspired me, because I got to write about my hero, Ray Bradbury, and how reading The Martian Chronicles when I was a kid changed my life--and my writing.  Please mosey on over and read her blog (She wrote about Perry Mason!) and then read why I adore Bradbury so much. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Caroline gets a shout out from Booklist

Ya hoo!  I have an essay coming out  in a new anthology FEED ME, edited by the wonderful Harriet Brown, and my essay, THE GRIEF DIET got a really nice shout out from Booklist, who called it "one of the most moving essays in the collection." It's about a time in my life when, rather than grieve over the death of a loved one, I hurled myself into a toxic relationship with a man who would not let me eat. I was 95 pounds and a size 3 and my friends and family were all very worried, but every night I would endure comments like, "God, did you have to have lunch? Wasn't breakfast big enough for you?" all said in a soft, loving tone of voice that made me feel like Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight. I couldn't leave because that would mean I would have to grieve, so I stayed for two years before one pivotal event broke the evil spell and I was able to leave (and grieve and grieve and grieve.) And then a few years afterwards, I met my husband, who on our first date, insisted, to my astonishment and delight, that I try two desserts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

File under Don't I Wish

This is a wonderful, very real looking issue of the New York Times, which lists stories like "Bush indicted for high treason", "Troops come home from Iraq immediately." "Health Care Bill passed," and more.  ALL the links work, and it really makes you feel that Utopia is still just out of reach.

It's snowing. Or it was.  Max is delighted and Jeff and I are sort of staring out the window critically.

And on other news, does anyone else think it is disgusting and grossly unfair and ridiculous that Sarah Palin is getting a book deal worth 7 million?Please don't buy this book, because then she will write (I mean her ghostwriter will)  another, and since we already have Ann 666 Coulter and Bill 666 O'Reilly writing, do we really need another painfully crazy voice in the fray.  Would I ghostwrite her book? Not for a hundred million.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Let's hear it for love

Support gay marriage.
Support equality.
In this day and age, no one should be a second class citizen and certainly no one should legislate against love between two consenting adults. The poster is by Shepard Fairey and I think it's great.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Photos speak louder than words

These are two panels from the infamous Mrs. Mustard's BabyFaces.  One side showcases about six really pissed-off babies, the other side shows them happy as clams.  We used to show this book to Max when he was a baby because babies love looking at themselves (it's true!) I've kept it because I love it, too, and today, I admit, I could be the babe on the right.

Why am I in a bad mood?
1. I haven't had time to do my own writing which makes me crazy and cranky.
2. I've been sick which makes me nervous and cranky.
3. It's getting colder! (OK, I admit, I like the cold...)
4. Did I mention I was still sick?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

So why am I still sick again?

I still cannot quite knock away the last vestiges of being sick and it is making me really, really cranky.  That said, besides vitamins and oregano oil, I am dousing myself with old movies. 

 I grew up bookish and movie-loving, and I had a mother who allowed me to stay indoors as much as I wanted to read and watch every single film that was on afternoon TV, so I grew up knowing and loving old movies.  I got worse in college and was part of various film societies and sometimes went to festivals where I saw 5 films a night.  So now I am trying to fill in any gaps I might have had.  So far, we  have lined up:
1. How the West was Won--I never saw this one!  We saw a bit last night before I conked out, but it's surprising in its old school racism (American Indians are "primitive man") but the hokey story still charms. Halfway through!
2. The Beautiful and the Damned.  Can't find it in tape, really want it.  About Hollywood with Kirk Douglas.
3. That Touch of Venus.  Someone at The Blue Note, where we were seeing Boz Scaggs, told us about this one.  Never saw it. Want to see it.

So, what else should I see? I have seen all Bette Davis, All Joan Crawford, most of the film noirs around, all of Hitchcock, too.  I've seen a lot of Japanese, French, Chinese, Russian and Italian cinema, too. So I need obscure and great. Actually, there is one French film I have been looking for and I don't know the name and haven't found in through Google.  Stars Gerard Depardieu and it is about the daughter he never knew he had who comes after him for revenge when her mother kills herself.  I'm not a huge Laurel and Hardy fan, or Buster Keaton and I prefer the dark, stormy movies where someone ends up falling off a cliff. (Thinks Waterloo Bridge, where Vivien Leigh hurls herself off a bridge rather than reveal that she has been a whore.)

If you stump me and mention one I haven't seen you get a watercolor of a ladder floating in the sky!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Screenplay Prize! (sort of...)

I spent all morning supporting a friend at a very sad funeral and came home exhausted and sad (and cured of my cold, thanks to Oregano oil).  I was about to nap when  I found out that I am a quarter finalist in the Fade -In/Writer's Network Screenplay Competition for a script!

I was a quarter finalist for two scripts last year, but never made it to the semi-finalists, so I am not counting on anything, but this was a nice little fist-bump from the universe. But I'm still really sad and it is strange to have this yin-yang (sadness/happiness) all occupying me at the same time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Caroline is a big baby about being sick, part two

I am still a big baby and still sick, and there are some pros among the cons.  First the cons.

1. I feel like a giant squid is living inside of me.
Aches, coughing, lungs in shaky shape, drippy nose, headache.  Even my hair hurts.  (Whenever I get sick, my hair feels wrong on my head.  It's the one time I have to stuff it into a braid otherwise I feel like hitting it.)
2. A sweater I finished knitting looks like *&^%$#.
Wrong size. Fits stupidly.  Looks horrible.  Hate the color, too. Of course this has nothing to do with being sick, but I want to blame it on the illness anyway.
3. I have to go to a funeral tomorrow. I'm supporting a friend I love, but not being able to physically do more for him makes being sick hard.

Now, the pros:
1. Reading for pleasure. 
Every month I read just about my weight in books to see what I am going to review for either The Boston Globe, Dame or something assigned to me for People. But when I'm sick, I get to dip into the pile of books I want to read, titles which somehow won't work for review, for one reason or another--or I don't know yet whether I will review them. Oh what bliss!  I read three novels yesterday, and ended up loving two so much I AM reviewing them, which means I can't tell you what they are right now. The third I am on the fence about, but just laying in bed reading and snoozing and reading some more was pure bliss.

I hate medicine.  Hate antibiotics.  Hate the way they make you feel and look and whenever I can do something in a more natural way, I  am happy. I am especially fond of oregano oil (google it and you will see I'm not just talking in a deluded illness sort of way) has tested just as well as antibiotics in clinical trials. It does make you smell like a felafel and the taste is not great, but you can disguise it in juice and gulp fast. Airborne, despite the claims that it does not work--works for me. Is it all in the mind? Maybe, but who cares if you get the great results.

3. Not having to do any work. 
In our house, we work 7 days a week (with lots of time for play, of course), but I have not done a lick of work for two days and it's lovely

4. Being babied.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Chocolate Show

Yes, this is Obama rendered in chocolate.  The Chocolate Show, held by the Piers this Year, was ..well delicious.  We trundled down, even though I am sick and the place was actually not too crowded.  (Usually, it is a zoo.) We sampled enough chocolate to be sick (I am partial to lemon dark chocolate and white chocolate with apricots and pecans and chiles) and bought some outrageously expensive hot chocolate and something called a firecracker bar--dark chocolate with chile that somehow fizzes when you eat it.  Yes, I know it sounds childish, but it was delicious. 

Now I am hunkered down nursing a cough and a cold and wondering...doesn't dark chocolate have medicinal value and don't I owe it to myself to eat half a bar of it right this moment even though I haven't had breakfast yet?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Read This Book!

David Henry Sterry's Master of Ceremonies: A True Story of Love, Murder, Roller Skates & Chippedales is written with  punch,  heart, and so much energy, that there's a virtual jolt on every page. Sterry tells the story of how, during the 80s, as a green, new-to-NYC actor, he finally found a job-- as Master of Ceremonies at Chippendales, of all places, a glamorously sleazy gig which didn't sour until the brutal murder of his boss.  From Brooke Shield's party to behind-the-scenes glimpses at the "men of Chippendales" and the women who hoot and holler at them, Sterry chronicles a world that is as seedy as it is fascinating.  A tough-talking book with a tender heart, Master of Ceremonies is moving, real, and a whole lot of fun.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Caroline is a big baby and doesn't feel well

Family portrait done with photobooth mirror...if I look wan and washed out, it is because I AM.

It's all that anxiety from the election, and being run-down, and overworked and not exactly taking the best of care of myself but driving myself to do more, be more, etc. etc.

I feel terrible. Achey. Fluish. Coldish. Warmish. Nightmarish. (Well, now I am getting a tad dramatic.)

Lots of tea, knitting, videos, books, Life on Mars--and so much gratitude that I work at home so I can slink around in my pajamas and so grateful, too, that Jeff works at home so he can go down the block and bring me back soup.

And if you think this is keeping me from going to the Chocolate Show tomorrow night, you are mistaken. The Chocolate Show in Manhattan is held in a huge space and all these master chocolate makers from all over the world arrive in droves.  It is, of course, crowded and loud.  There are chocolates that go for $50 a square, hot chocolate, chocolate licquers, coffees and wines, and dresses made of chocolate, too.  Chocolate demonstrations.  Chocolate talks.  And FREE SAMPLES.  Tons of them!  We were tipped off to bring plastic baggies for the samples.  The air is so loaded with chocolate that you can easily get sugar shocked.

And on the other news front, we are about to be an all mac family.  Max's computer, an odious Dell which has never run right, has had one problem after another.  We all loathe Vista, but the folks at Dell said we cannot get rid of it unless we want to pay an extra $250 to put back XP. This machine is only a year old. After being on the phone with Dell technicians who say things like ,"There is nothing else we can do for you," we are fed up. Of course, I am still a bit of a bigamist because besides my beloved iMac, I keep my ex, my Dell, just in case I need a spare. 

What can I tell you.  I'm insecure.

Alice Walker on Obama

This comes by way of my friend Jeff Lyons ( and he urged me to reprint it here, and since his wish is often my command, here it is.  It's gorgeous.

Open Letter to Barack Obama from Alice Walker

Nov. 5, 2008

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


These four and a half pairs of fingerless gloves (one I started to decorate) prove my anxiety level all day yesterday! I was so nervous I couldn't work and knitting seemed very zen to me. 

I am so relieved and so hopeful.  Smart won over fearful. Hopeful over negative. Cheers over boos. I am exhausted and we are going out to breakfast to celebrate this whole new world.  

Monday, November 3, 2008



Vote tomorrow. 

Vote early in case some one tries to stop you or the machines don't work properly.

Vote because after 8 years of Bush we cannot have 4 years of McCain and certainly not 4 years of Palin.

Vote because we have a chance of something truly historic happening tomorrow.

Vote because it could be the chance of real change.

Vote because it is time to stop the "damn those elitists who think they are better than we are" sort of talk. And I'm also tired of people giving my beloved NYC a bad rap. If you ask me, WE are the real Americans, a melting pot of every nationality and group right here on the city streets, and we all get along and no one would even think of asking someone what church they go to.  (OK, maybe I don't want to include Guiliani)

Vote because we believe in science and women's rights and gay rights and because we don't believe in golden parachutes for billionaires.

Vote because it matters. Vote because if Obama does not win, you will hear my heart shattering all across the Globe, and if you thought I cried hard when Bush won, well, then....

Saturday, November 1, 2008

HOW WE DO IT: TWO WRITERS TALK TECHNIQUE, Clea and I talk about friendship and envy among writers

Writers and envy.  How do we handle it when a friend gets something we want? Or when an acquaintance snags a prize and we weren't even in the running?  It's something writers deal with day to day, or let's me honest, second by second.

Please visit Clea Simon's great blog for my entry on this provocative topic.  I always think of Clea and me as equals. I always perceive us on a see-saw.  Some days I'm struggling with rejection and Clea has won another accolade, but other days, I'm doing well and we are in balance.  I think what makes our writing friendship and our regular friendship work so well is that we really are in the trenches together. We boost each other up, we soothe wounds, we celebrate together. We make each other writer, write, write.   I know I absolutely depend on Clea as my daily writing vitamin, as I do with other writer friends.  We are all in CONSTANT email connection, because really, who else knows what we are going through but our writer friends? Who else knows what it means to spend ten hour on one line?

So here is Clea's great take on this issue. Thank you, Clea.

"Oh, I hardly wrote today! Am I a bad person?"

There's only one person I can ask that question of, and you're reading her blog.  Yes, I talk to my husband and a variety of other friends about my writing. How could I not, when it's the heart of my waking, working life? But to have one friend who is also working on fiction, a friend who knows the highs and lows of creation, of trying to spin something out of air, that's invaluable.

That's also why, on the days when things go right for her – or for one of the dozen other authors who I know, if not as intimately – I have to be happy for her. I remember, for example, when Caroline told me that Algonquin had offered on her latest novel. Oh, the excitement! Oh, the virtual celebration! Was my own completed manuscript making the rounds by then? I think it was, still in the hands of my agent and a half dozen editors who just can't seem to get around to it. Still waiting to be sent off to a half dozen more. And I was still here smarting from the rejections it had already received. "Good" rejections ("love the voice!" "if only it wasn't similar to something else in my line...," etc.). But rejections nonetheless. 

Was it difficult? I don't remember, we were all so thrilled. But honestly, sometimes it is, horribly so. When one friend wins a prize or a multi-book contract, and I'm still sitting here, wondering if anyone will care about my work-in-progress, I feel it viscerally. My chest tightens up and I can't breathe with envy.

So how do we do it? How do we stay friends and find a supportive network in such an uneven and difficult field? Well, basically, we have to find a way. We share too much – the love of writing, our love for each other, our commitment to a crazy, wonderful discipline that has defined our lives – to let jealousy stand in our way.

What works for me is not pulling back, not distancing myself. At the times that I feel the most envy, I try to put myself in the prized one's place. How did she get there? How many tears did she suffer? In my heart, I know she worked for it. I know she earned it. And I try to learn from how she earned it, to channel all that excess, unwanted emotion. To think, "well, she wouldn't have won that if she didn't work hard, so get back to work."  And I do. But it's hard.

The payoff is that I know that everything I feel, my friends have, too, good and bad. Through my friendship with Caroline, I know that I am not alone with my anxiety, my desperation, or my fear of being an artist in a failing economy. That helps. A lot. And so with Caroline (and Karen Olsen, Vicki Croke, Vicki Lane, and a dozen other good author friends), I need to celebrate, as they will with me, next time fortune shines my way. We share the anxieties. Let's share the good times, and simply put those negative energies back to work.

Clea Simon
"Cries & Whiskers" 
"Highly recommended!"- Booklist