Thursday, April 30, 2009


Tonight I took a Rorschach test for my friend Elana, who needed to evaluate some people for a class in her Psy D program. It was quite enjoyable and Elana figures my results are pretty normal. After seeing my disappointment upon hearing that, she was nice enough to tell me that there's a chance I might have some crazy in me when she tallies up the score.

After my exam, I decided that instead of writing tonight I would listen to some music and chill on the internet and I rather enjoyed myself doing that too. But I noticed that as soon as I started listening to Bobby Dylan, I started getting all romantic and sigh-y, and I got what Joni Mitchell calls the 'urge for going'. 

So, how do you deal with the urge for going? Do you just...go? Or do you stay put and wait it out? I think I'm tired of waiting it out and ready to go somewhere and see somethin' new and be somebody.
I wonder if studying inkblots all evening leads to feelings like that.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Time. It is a changin'

When I write, I am literally obssessed with place. What it means to me, to my characters, to society, to Sally Tutu. To everybody. Whatever 'scene' I write, I'm obsessed with the setting. What it looks like, smells like, feels like, where everybody fits inside of it. I'm insane about how my characters might be feeling while they are there. What that place looks like in relation to the last place they were. What that place looks like in relation to a place they would rather be. I'm just crazy for place.

So crazy, in fact, that I have let something else fall right to the bottom of the figurative waste basket. A little thing called...time.

In a novel, people do things, they go places, things happen, and all the while, time is just ticking away. And if you want somebody to be in France one minute and Japan the next, all the sudden these tiny little logistics start creeping in to ruin the party. Sure, you can put a little chapter break, or a line of dialogue, and you're allowed to jump into a new day or skip over a 14 hour flight. But it's not just the narrative timeline writers have keep track of.

Every time a writer refers to something timely, your character is stuck in that year, that month, that day, sometimes that very minute... And if somebody slaps on a pair of jeans and a tee-shirt, suddenly it's all 'Toto, we're not in the 1800's anymore' and there's no ruby slippers to help anybody get back.

If you're like me and you're crazy for place, you start a novel thinking it's timeless. Anytime from 1975-2009, you foolishly think. This is so money this could happen in 2049, you tell yourself. And then your character says 'That's so money', and she's pigeonholed into 1996 (I made up that date by the way, please enlighten me if you know when that phrase was coined).

Time is now. Time is then. But above all, time is necessary. And it's hard. And lately, it is not my friend :-/ But we're getting there. Because we have to.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I'm blogging from the bolt bus today, fascinated by the prospect of blogging while on a bus. While I write this, I'm moving. The world is saying, welcome to 2009 Melissa. And I am saying, thank you for welcoming me. I am amazed by bus blogging.
I felt like doing this meme because it's about books and that's one of my favorite topics of all time.
1. What author do you own the most books by?
That would be Haruki Murakami. I was on a beach in Naples, FL and a friend lent me Dance, Dance, Dance. I got a tan. I swam a bit. I finished it. Then I immediately read everything Murakami ever wrote EXCEPT Hardboiled Wonderland and the Rest of the world. Because I couldnt finish it in the time that the New York Public Library gave me and I had to send it back to avoid a late fee. But someday, I will get it back.
2. What book do you own the most copies of?
I do not own more than one copy of any book.
3. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Howard Rourke. And its no secret.
4. What book have you read more than any other?
Ya know, I think there's only one book I've actually read more than once. And that would be The Diary of Anne Frank.
5. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
I'm pretty sure I was rockin' it out with the Babysitters Club at that point in my life. And I'm pretty sure it made me into the woman I am today.
6. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
I did not like Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. In fact. I loathed it.
7. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
Kafka On The Shore by Mr. Murakami.
8. If you could tell everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
Anna Karenina
9. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
The Devils by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I didn't think it was possible to read an entire book without understanding a single word that was written. But it is.
10. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
Why, the Russians of course. Although I do like Andre Gide.
11. Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?
Full disclosure on this site. I don't remember the Canterbury Tales but I think I read it in high school. And I don't know who Milton is. Seriously, I don't. So, by sheer process of elimination, Shakespeare.
12. Austen or Eliot?
There's something I need to confess to you. I have never liked Jane Austen. I know a lot of people that will faint and/or die on the spot upon hearing this. In fact, I've seen it happen and it's really not pretty. I just feel awful about it. And this one college...I read Adam Bede. And I disliked it. So I prefer not to answer this question.
13. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Apparently Milton.
14. What is your favorite novel?
Well, this isn't fair. If I had to pick I'd pick Anna Karenina.
15. Plays?
I like them very much. Edward Albee is my hero.
16. Poem?
I don't read poetry. But I probably should.
17. Essay?
I don't read essays.
18. Non Fiction?
At one point in my life I read 4 biographies in a row by Barry Paris about the lovely Louise Brooks, Julie Andrews, Greta Garbo, and Audrey Hepburn. And I consequently wanted to wear long black gloves, pearls, and get a cigarette holder.
19. Graphic Novel?
I've never read one.
20. Science Fiction?
I used to read books based on the X-Files series. But only because I loved Fox Mulder.
22. Fantasy?
I don't believe I've ever read a fantasy book. Is Harry Potter a fantasy?
23. Who is your favorite writer?
Jhumpa Lahiri.
24. What are you reading right now?
Women in Love by DH Lawrence. And 14 novels by people in my writing workshop which is why Mr. Lawrence is not getting the attention he deserves.
25. Favorite Genre:
I don't think I read any genre fiction. So I'd have to say literary fiction. But I do like Chick Lit. Which I believe, is a genre called women's fiction. So maybe I do. Sorry, I've been reading a lot of sites by literary agents these days. They are obsessed with categories. And I'm confused.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I apologize that I have been the most delinquient blogger ever. Let's just say that the babes in toyland are out of control these days. It often feels like I might as well be working for the Department of Defense rather than the toy industry...

That being said, I want to let you know what else I've been doing.

Watching the first season of Madmen.

Don Draper is my new Fox Mulder...
Oh my. There's something about men in suits with intense stares.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sally Tutu

There are a lot of things about writing I'm completely unclear about. Despite the fact that I've been writing since I was 6 years old, every time I write a sentence, I feel like I learn something new. Or, I learn something new I need to learn more about. Today, I realized, I have no concept of when a writer should tell their readers what their narrator might look like. Please note, my novel is in 1st person so I can't just hunker down one day and say: "My name is Sally Tutu, I have blonde hair, blue, eyes, and I'm tall." No, I can't do this, because then I sound like that 6 year old girl writing a composition in a marble notebook.

So, I'm about 23,000 words into my novel (roughly 85 pages) and I've only just loosely described (in relation to another character) what my main character looks like. So this a problem for you? Is this too late? Too early? Inquiring minds want to know.

(BTW, I have no idea who Sally Tutu is. But I'm pretty sure she's the next best thing in the world of serious literature.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Asser Levy

It's been nearly 2 and 1/2 years since I joined the Asser Levy Recreation Center. It's $75 a year for a crowded, sweaty, ancient exercise room, an indoor AND outdoor pool, one ping pong table, one pool table, and a locker room that I'm pretty sure lets the poor and down-trodden (i.e. homeless) of New York City bathe. Yup. This is where I've been working out the last couple of years. Yup. I'm cheap.

I know all you people at your New York Sports clubs and Crunches, wearing your spinning shoes and drinking your protein shakes at Equinox, will look down on my poor Asser Levy Rec Center, and to each his own...but I'm proud to be a member of a club who only has 3 of their 7 treadmills working at any given time. I'm proud to be a member of a club who had to hand-write on the pretty, professional sign sharing the 'rules' of the fitness room with such additional rules as 'please wear shoes at all times.' I'm proud of the 85 year old woman singing 'He's Got The Whole World In His Hands' while she power-walks at break neck speed (about a 40 min. mile) on the treadmill next to me. And I'm proud that every time I leave I find I still haven't contracted lice. I love it. Because, just when you think you've seen it all at Asser Levy, another NYC Park Professional has to climb up on their little ladder and add another hand-written rule to that poor sign, and you know that, by gosh, you haven't seen the half of it.

And the dress code there, well...let's just say, it's always been a little...non existent. Now that everybody knows they have to wear shoes, I thought maybe the fashions might get a little classier. But for the most part, we've still got people with their beer bellies hanging out of a sweat-stained wife beater, 65 year old women wearing nothing but nude colored sports bras and purple spandex with stir-rups. Once I saw someone wearing a near perfect Flashdance getup with the special addition of a faux Coach fanny pack around her waist. I guess it's those little touches that really kick things up a notch.

Well, on my last visit, I was pleased to learn that someone had taken things to a new level of class. I saw a man in a track suit. No, not just any old track suit. A track suit made of garbage bags. Garbage bags DUCK TAPED together to create a suit. Dear readers, I implore you to run and get an annual membership at Asser Levy. Where class...meets garbage bags. You won't be disappointed. And I'm proud to say that, against all odds, you will not contract lice.

Monday, April 6, 2009