Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sorry Jane

By posting this, I'm pretty sure I've just jinxed myself. But it seems there's no point in living if you can't tempt fate.

Last night I had a dream that an agent I met at a conference sent a package to my home with a post-it that said: "Secret for you. Meet me at the shop." I was very confused about who the sender might be, where the shop might be and what the secret might be. Fortunately, there was a follow-up phone call that clarified things.

"I'm looking for Jane Merkin," the strange voice spoke urgently.
"Jane Merkin? I don't know who she is."
"I need her to meet me at the shop."
"You have the wrong place. I don't know who she is."
"You can't find her?"
"Well, then...give me a call. We need to talk futher."

I find it pretty hilarious that I hung up the phone and immediately called back to speak to the very same person. I was offered representation from the agent since Jane Merkin was not available.

Sorry Jane! Right place, right time...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Golden Moment

Okay, so I was watching the Golden Girls (laugh all you want) and there was a nice little moment that I wanted to share with you.

Rose, an animal lover, walks into the house with a live chicken in a cage and asks her roommates if the chicken can live with them. There is immediate grumbling and "no's" can be heard from her roommates, but Rose pleads a bit before saying something to the effect of, "This is not an ordinary chicken. This is a show chicken. Wait till you see."

Rose leaves the room for a moment and Blanche sarcastically quips, "A show chicken? What does it do? Play the piano?"

Enter Rose again. "It plays the piano!" Then she sets down a toy piano and the chicken goes at it.

I thought it was a nice little beat and I'll tell you why. Because it's a chicken. Playing the piano. What is thought to be completely far-fetched and ridiculous gets turned on it's head when this chicken can indeed play the piano.

Simply announcing just how inane it was made it okay.

I find that when you write fiction rooted in realism, far-fetched things need to happen from time to time. And pointing out how crazy it is through dialogue or a character's thoughts often makes it okay. If a character is surprised when a UFO lands on her property, she's just as surprised as the reader and that's believable. If she just laughed and walked away, it would not work. This is directly contradictory to writing fantasy or Sci-Fi, where everything has to be part of normal life in that world in order for your readers to believe you.

Just a little somethin' I noticed while watching 80's sitcoms.

Ever pick up a technique from a strange place?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

And it goes on...

The odds are against them. Neither are favored to advance very far in the tournament. But after 10 hours of play in this first round match and nearly 100 aces each, they are locked at 59-59 in the final set. Neither will give in. Neither can afford to slip. And the longest tennis match in history continues until someone falls.

Work hard at what you do. No matter what the odds are. Don't fall to anyone. Ever.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Excitement and Torture

The other day I was thinking about the experience of writing. So far, I have found the act to be one of the most exciting and torturous experiences of my entire life. For me, there is really no in between.

First, you get this idea. It starts small and it grows. You get to meet new people, shake their hands and nod as they share their stories. Soon your eyes grow big and the rest of the world shrinks and you're all consumed. There is nothing more exciting than this moment, you think, but you're later proved wrong.

After you write the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first chapter, things begin to settle. You think, ok we're really in this thing now. We're friends. We're partners. We understand one another, my manuscript and me. It's familiar. It's comfortable.

And just like that, suddenly, without warning, it's absolute torture. Everything and everyone is at odds. The manuscript is your sworn enemy. Nothing and no one can salvage this relationship. But you have to. Because it was once exciting. It was once, an idea.

And you continue moving forward, despite the torture. You take solace in the moments that are familiar and comfortable. You push through the moments when nothing works, when no one is talking to one another, arms folded across their chests, when sighs and groans are the only things you hear, even with your ears pressed to the door, waiting, to be told, something, anything that will help you get out.

After weeks, months, sometimes decades and years of this, you have a first draft. The elation you feel can not be matched, you think, and you're later proved wrong.

The edit starts with good intentions, open hearts and minds. But it later becomes the torture chamber you know it to be. The manuscript is angry as you slash and burn. You are angry when the manuscript taunts and teases.

After weeks, months, sometimes decades and years of this, you have a final draft. Nothing can be more extraordinary than this, you think, and you're later proved wrong.

You send it to beta readers, literary magazines, agents, and editors. Your arms are open. Your heart is hopeful. It's an exciting time, sending this manuscript out into the world.

And you wait for the feedback and it's absolute torture. Because, with the silence, there is doubt. I wasn't ready. We weren't ready. We were never ready. We never will be.

This is where I sit on the journey. At the side of the road, empty-handed. Waiting, with my hands in my lap, for someone to drive by and take me along. Of course, there is a new storyand it's growing all around me. I feel it building and I know that the excitement is not very far away.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fix Me

On Sunday I had the privilege of seeing the Alvin Ailey Dance Ensemble do a performance of "Revelations". There was one section that I found so beautiful, I thought if there was a way I could bottle it up forever and keep it with me, I would. Fortunately, You Tube did it for me.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


On the corner of President and Smith Streets in Brooklyn.

They walked behind me and I heard her sweet voice. "Do you like it Daddy?"

He was firm in his answer. Assured. "Very much."

"But do you love it?" she probed.

There was a moment of silence before he spoke. "No. I don't. The word love is reserved for very special things."

"Like things you want to keep in a glass jar for always?"

I turned the corner and imagined what they looked like. Her little hand stretching up to reach his. Both of them holding on to something so perfect, so delicate, they must find another way to preserve it forever.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tell Someone You Wrote A Book

For a long time, I did not tell anyone I was writing a novel. I was afraid. I didn't want to fail and then be held accountable for that failure. I wrote and kept it secret. Slowly, I told my family members and my closest friends. Eventually, I decided to start this blog, and I officially announced the journey I had been on. That accountability changed my life as a writer. There was no option to fail. I had told people I was writing a novel and there was absolutely no way I was going to go back on my word. I succeeded and it is, in part, because I didn't want to tell my family, my friends, and by virtue of the Internet, the world, that I could not do what I set out to do. I am a very stubborn, persistent, proud person and telling, sharing, became essential to my progress.

When it came time to set this novel free and try to get it published, I experienced the same kind of fear. I did not want to tell people this goal. How many rejections would I receive? How many times would I lose my way? How many novels sit on people's shelves before they get the 5th or 6th or 100th book published? Why would I announce a goal nearly impossible to achieve?

But I thought it through. The first time I started talking, it worked. I finished what I set out to do. I figured it could not hurt to tell people my latest goal. It turns out I was right.

My advice to you is to go tell someone you wrote a book. And here's why:

It came up in random conversation with a co-worker. I told her what I had done. That night she was riding the train home from work and sat next to someone from a big publishing house. Of course, she thought of me. Now I have that person's contact information and a reference I never thought I'd have.

My friend Mike reads this blog (Lord knows why) and his friend from high school is a literary agent. He reached out to her on my behalf and now I have a valuable connection.

I was chatting with a colleague about my novel. Her friend of many, many years, from summer camp is also a literary agent. Another valuable connection I never imagined having.

After chatting with a children's writer I work with at my day job, she told me she was in the process of completing her first novel. I shared that I had just finished one myself. Together, we discussed our writer woes. And she asked me about getting ready to query. She's not sure what her next step should be. I happen to know a little about the next step. After all, I'm in the midst of it. We'll be chatting again very soon, when she has written 'The End.'

What good things have happened to you when you uttered the words, "I wrote a book..." or "I'm writing a book..."?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

True Writer

I had a strange experience today which left me a little lost. Someone in the corporate world (completely outside of publishing) told me that they were looking for a 'true writer'. It was not that they were looking for a good writer. Or even an honest one. What they meant by 'true' was tried and true. A real writer. What they wanted was a published writer.

Their request made me sit back. It gnawed at me. Despite the fact that it had nothing to do with me at all, despite the fact that when they chose those words, they probably did not place much significance on the word ‘true’, I folded my arms and things hung limp all around me. The thought that a majority of people in the world believe that a true writer is a published one is hard for me to swallow.

Maybe the truest writer is the one who writes despite the fact that they are not published. Maybe it is the writer who is told they never will be, but who sighs and takes their pen to paper and writes the beginning of something no one will ever see.

What do you think a true writer is?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


After I completed Spared, I planned to launch into writing a novel about a fifteen year old girl. Her name is Adelaine Cross and I really love, love her name. For a long time, I was excited to tell her story. But, as soon as it came time to actually do it, I hesitated. I froze. I am not quite sure what held me back from telling it but it seems I am not quite ready.

It left me confused. There I sat, free from Spared, free to tell any story I chose and I told nothing. I worked all day and when I came home...I did a lot of biking. I read a lot of books. I watched a lot of television. I ate a lot of food. I read a lot of blogs. But I did not write.

Today, I told myself that this is not acceptable, so I sat down again, to tell Adelaine Cross' story and, again, I could not.

It seems, instead, that there are two houses sitting side by side against the ocean. A pair of siblings in each. And boy do they have a story to tell. I sit and listen and know that Adelaine Cross will have to wait...