Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zee End

Stick a fork in me...I'm done.

Thank you all for playing along as I took on the A-Z Challenge.

This has been a really busy month for me with travel, family visitors, blogging and writing, and I'm glad I kept up with the posts. It was touch and go for a while. But the discipline was beneficial in surprising ways. It helped me be more disciplined with my fiction writing. Because it was such a busy month and I planned to make a really big push on my novel, it required me to carefully plan my writing time. In addition to these 30 posts, I also wrote 14,000 words of my WIP (as of 4/25, when I'm scheduling this post.) I hope to get a little more before the month ends.

My only regret is that I got really behind on my blog reading and I'm still catching up on a lot of posts. Please know that I love visiting your blogs, but I had to be a little selfish this month and use a lot of time for my WIP. It's really important for me to finish it soon. I'll be back to visit as soon as I can.

Thanks for reading this month! Things will be back to normal on the blog in May. And you should look forward to a giveaway very soon...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for You

Yes, you!

This A-Z Challenge is about to kill me. I've never blogged this much in my life and, I've gotta tell you, I'm sick of hearing from myself. I'm thinking you're all sick of me too. I don't blame you.

So, I want to thank all of my old followers for always being so lovely and commenting on my posts. And say 'hi' to all of my new followers and hope that you haven't experienced too much Melissa and are scared away.

Since I don't know how much more I can possibly say, I want to use this opportunity to hear from you.

But first, a little more about me (lol) : For the first year or so that I blogged, I was a pretty big lurker. I read a lot of blogs but I didn't join in the discussion. Once I did, I made a lot of wonderful writing friends and met critique partners and felt a part of a larger writing and reading community and it was nice.

So I hope, if you are lurker you will comment on my blog today. And if you're not a lurker I hope you do your thing and comment like you always do.

Want to play along?

This was inspired by Allison at Allison Writes

1. What do you blog about?
2. What is your twitter handle?
3. Where do you live?
4. Are you going to BEA in May by any chance?
5. What is your favorite snack of all time?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for X-ray

When I was in high school, I had to have an MRI because I had these strange bumps on my legs. The MRI detected that all was well, but it didn't explain the bumps. I had to go to several doctors before a specialist determined that the sheath around my muscle was weak and that my muscles were bulging out of the sheath. Kind of like sausage breaking through the casing. He said there was no treatment and it's not dangerous in any way.

To this day, when I engage in repetitive physical activity, these bumps become more pronounced. I have yet to meet another person who has this happen to them.

But, then again, I was that kid who had all the weird diseases. The kind that multiple doctors had to diagnose.

The first was impetigo. I'm told this is a common problem. But, like the leg bumps, I have yet to meet another person who has ever had this. It's not the most attractive description, so let's just say it involved lots of oozing and scabbing around my nose.

The next was lice, which is quite common. However, I haven't heard of anyone who had it more than 3 times. Yup, I was that kid. And it's pretty funny, because:

1. My mother is obsessively clean.
2. I'm an only child.
3. I got it when school was out of session.
4. No one else I played with around the neighborhood had lice.

I guess it has to start with someone...

However, I've saved the best for last. The strangest ailment I had as a child was Fifth Disease. Fifth Disease is real. My doctor told me they named it because, quite literally, it is the fifth kind of skin rash you can get. The others being: measles, scarlet fever, rubella, and roseola (thank you wikipedia). The symptoms are:looking like you've been slapped in the cheeks and a lacy red rash all over your body. This took a few trials and errors to diagnose but ultimately some doctor out there had paid attention in medical school.

I bring it up because I have heard of one other person who had fifth disease! My father's coworker's daughter's friend. Who was actually quarantined in the hospital because no one knew what the heck she had.

I'm sure you're really glad you came to my blog to learn about all the weird diseases I had as a kid. But hopefully, if you or someone you know has bumps on their legs or looks like they've been slapped in the face repeatedly, you'll be able to shed some light.

And, what can I say? I'm on X of the A-Z challenge and I'm losing steam.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Bookstore Wedding

This past weekend, I went to a wedding at the Housingworks Bookstore in Soho. Tyler's cousin, Mathias, and his (now) wife Allison were married amongst thousands of books. In the past few years we have come to know Mathias and Allison really well and I'm so excited that they will be a part of my family (more officially once Tyler and I are married). I adore them so much that Tyler and I often joke around that I'm only marrying him so that Mathias and Allison can be my cousins.

Well, for a book lover like me, there is no greater treat than celebrating the marriage of two people I love in a bookstore. Sipping my wine next to a little Stephen King. Dancing next to new non-fiction. Eating falafel beside Hemingway. I

Can we buy books while we're here? I asked Tyler.

He looked at me like I had five heads. I don't think that's an option.

There are a few books on my TBR list right over here. Do you think they have the cash registers up and running? The prices are really good.

I don't think so. Why don't you sit down and eat.

It's a non-profit bookstore, Tyler. They need the money. They really should let me buy books. It's only practical.

Sit down, Melissa.

Apparently, the only downfall to a bookstore wedding is that the guests can't go home with any books. Hmph.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Victory

Ah...the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat...

I have begun to think seriously about what I consider a 'victory' when it comes to my writing. To be perfectly honest, this writing 'journey' often feels more like a battle and not a pleasant stroll to a particular destination.

And with every battle, there are victors.

Some victories are small: I wrote 294 words today and I didn't die! Because there are days when I can sit for hours and the words are just not flowing and it is both physically and emotionally painful. These are the days I click on microsoft word count and nearly fall out of my chair when I realize I'm only at something like 294 words and those 294 words took every fiber of my being to get on the page.

Some victories are pretty big: I wrote a novel and I didn't die! I know some of you are knocking out multiple novels a year. I bow down to you. It doesn't work that way for me. I started writing seriously in October 2008 and I have 1.5 novels to show for it. Right now, I'm in the midst of my second uphill battle and the fighting is pretty bloody right now. But since I did it once and I didn't die, I figure this will have a similar outcome. I guess the big concern now is how many psychological wounds I'll come out with in the end.

For me, there are some victories that still need to be won. I want to see a book I wrote sitting on a real or virtual shelf somewhere actual people shop. I don't want Tyler or my poor critique partners and beta readers to be my only readers (though I bow down to you as well and thank you from the bottom of my heart.)

The big question is, which victories are enough? Is it enough to say: today I wrote 500 words? Or: this year I wrote a novel?

I really, really want these victories to be enough but lately they feel like nothing at all. In my head, I know it is NOT nothing. But in my heart, it feels like the battle has not been won.

What do you consider a victory in your writing life?

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for University

More specifically, Cornell University, which is where I got my undergraduate degree. I always think that Cornell is where I found my voice. Not just a voice in my writing, but an actual voice as well. Up until that point I had been a little frightened to speak up and be the person I wanted to be. But, in my time there, it seemed I was not afraid to say or do anything.

When I think of the things I did, I surprise myself with the memory. I think of the classes I spoke in front of, the singing auditions I attempted, the actors that gave voice to my short plays in theatre classes, the stories I read out loud in workshops. And of course, I remember my closest friends, who are the friends I always imagined having. The bars we frequented, the plantations we wandered through, the midnight swims in the steep gorges, the drives to the secret swimming hole where I sat underneath waterfalls in the pouring rain.

It's been nearly ten years since I graduated, but I remember that being a time of true freedom. A time to explore and become.

I always think of this bench which sits on top of the slope and overlooks the lake. The quote carved into it encompasses everything I felt during my time there. It was a time of extreme emotions. The first time I felt a part of something larger and more real than anything I had experienced before it. It might also explain why I never felt afraid.

To those who shall sit here rejoicing

To those who shall sit here mourning

Sympathy and greeting

So have we done in our time


Photo Credit: vonhohenstaufen

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Tyler

Tyler warned me that the T post can not be sappy in any way. I don't even think I'm allowed to use the word love. So, in no particular order, here are the best things about Tyler that are not sappy. Not even a little bit.

Tyler does the dishes while I'm writing. It's, seriously, the nicest thing a person can do for another person.

He does a really good, exaggerated Lawng Island accent, which means that if someone had a hidden camera, they would find us wawking around the apartment tawking like that all day. And while we're wawking down the street on the way to the subway. And while we're on the subway when we think no one is listening. Oh, and while we're tawking on the phone.

He watches golf all Sunday afternoon so that I have no choice but to go in my little office and write. It's, seriously, the second nicest thing a person can do for another person.

He likes to ride bikes with me.

He is a human GPS. I don't even pay attention to where I'm going anymore because I just assume he knows where we are. And if he's not with me, I'll just call him on the phone and ask him where I am. And he'll know and tell me the landmark that's right in front of my face. And I'll be like, oh yeah, that's right in front of my face.

He knows everything that is going on in the news. He has to explain every current event to me because I can't understand the newspapers or the Rachel Maddow show.

He has a knack for making parallels between dog behavior and people behavior. For example, someone will make a face and Tyler will say, "That was a total Bella face." (Bella is his sister's dog) And the best part is, I'll say, "Oh my god, I know. And that's a Charlie stance." (Charlie is his parents' dog)

And finally, the best part about Tyler? The boy can cook. 'Nuf said.

Anyone have anything to say about the Tyler in their life? It can't be sappy.

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Sondheim

Oh the things I have done for my favorite composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim...

Back in 2001, I waited all day to see Merrily We Roll Along at the Donmar Warehouse. And that was after having waited all day long and been denied once before.

In 2005, I woke up at 5am and hiked up to the Upper West Side, where I sat on the concrete outside of Symphony Space and played 6 hours of 'celebrity' with my friend Daniel, just so I could get in to see Wall to Wall Sondheim, a 12-hour, free concert for Sondheim's 75th birthday.

And just last week, I became the mayor of crazytown yet again. I called the Lincoln Center box office incessantly to see if there had been any cancellations for the sold-out, EPIC, performance of Company, starring people like Stephen Colbert, Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, and my girl crush Christina Hendricks.

When that failed and Laura at the box office (yes, we were on a first name basis) was sick of hearing from me, I actually went to one of the matinees without any tickets, to badger unsuspecting patrons walking into the theater for an extra ticket.

When all was said and done, there was an option to pay $250 to see it (there had been some last-minute cancellations after all, but only for the expensive seats.) So I stood outside of the theater, debating whether or not this was reasonable, and whether I should dip into my savings or my hard-earned bonus to watch 3 hours of my favorite musical of all time. And just when I had rationalized it, because what is $250 but an expensive flight to Florida or 2.5 unlimited monthly metro cards? I eventually concluded, no, Melissa, this is absolutely NOT reasonable and you must go home.

I did go home but there may or may not have been some tears...

It's true, I'm a Sondeheim fanatic. I don't know what it is about his music that makes me so insane, but I love it. The idea that Merrily We Roll Along, which originally flopped in 1985 after only 25 performances, had such a small chance of being revived and I had a chance to see it. That those wall to wall 12 hours were only going to happen once in a lifetime. That there were only 5 performances of Company with a cast that can only be described as the uber cast. It's all been too much for me to handle.

The good news is that a taping of the uber cast doing Company will be playing at select movie theaters across the country in June. And you better believe that, if necessary, I will be doing something extreme to get tickets.

Is there anyone you will go to extremes for?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Reed

Early last week, I was in Boca Raton with Tyler. He was on business. Since I hadn't had a day off since early January, I figured it was worth it for me to go with him to the lovely Boca Resort and sit on the beach for three days while he worked. (grins)

Because I shared a room and all of the amenities with him, I was known by everyone at the Boca resort as Ms. Reed.

The assumption was interesting. Not a bad one because we are getting married next May. But interesting. Perhaps even more interesting was that the rental car was under my name and Tyler was assumed to be Mr. Sarno. I liked that.

Of course, we have had the name-change discussion. Tyler has no strong opinions on the subject. I can't imagine being someone other than Melissa Sarno, particularly in my professional life. I've already made the decision that if I ever get published..oh wait, thoughts become things...I mean when I get published, it will be under Melissa Sarno. That's a done deal. And there will be no hyphenating. I'm not interested in that.

So, the professional aspect aside, the idea of being Melissa Reed put it eloquently...tripping me out.

But these assumptions really put things in perspective. If I don't change my name in my personal life, I will forever be called Ms. Reed anyway. If we have children, they will be probably be known as Reeds and everyone will assume I'm the Mama Reed. And everybody in South Florida already thinks I'm a Reed anyway.

So, maybe Reed is a done deal without my say. Maybe I don't even have to officially change it because people will just be calling me a Reed and I'll go with the flow. And Reed is actually quite a nice name. It's not like I'd be going to Lipschitz or something (sorry if I offended anyone named Lipschitz, but you know that's tough, right?)

I wonder what all of you think of the name change. Have you or your spouse had to change your name when you tied the knot? Was it an easy decision?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Queen

When I studied abroad in London, one of the museums I liked best was the The National Portrait Gallery.

This portrait is one of my favorites. It was taken by Phillipe Halsman and depicts the Duke and Dutchess of Windsor. Prince Edward abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorcee, who was not allowed to be Queen.

As a side note, I love Halsman's jump photos and think that the next time you take someone's picture, you should require them to jump.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Pantster

When it comes to my writing style, I am a pantster. Which means I write by the seat of my pants. No outlines. No idea of where the plot is going or what my characters are going to do next.

I like writing this way. I can't believe some of the things that happen to my characters. Just a few minutes ago, I met somebody I had no idea would ever, in a million years, be in my novel. And he's added a lot of tension to the story. Necessary tension.

To me, these surprises feel right. They feel natural. And I like that they come in and make my story better and take it to places I may never have imagined if I sat down to write an outline.

But, of course, like anything that sounds too good to be true, there are some drawbacks to life as a pantster. Sitting down to write, with no specific idea of what is going to happen next leads to a lot of blinking. And staring.

And once that wears off, it can lead to a lot of unnecessary wandering. A very literal, "well let's go down this street, or open this door, or take these stairs, or talk to this stranger, and see what happens." The thing is...sometimes you can make the decision to go there and...(gasp)...nothing happens. Nothing useful, anyway. That means a lot of Ctrl X-ing.

The good thing is, the more I write, the better I can see when I am going down a wrong path and stop myself a little sooner. Not soon enough. But sooner. :-)

So far, that's the way I write. That's the way it all goes down. I don't expect it to change, but who knows.

If you are a writer, are you a plotter or a pantster?

And what about in real life? Plotter or pantster?

I'm pretty sure I'm a pantster in both cases, although sometimes I keep a strict calendar. A strict...flexible...calendar. Ok fine. My calendar is very flexible.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Essence of Olivia

Oh Olivia. How I adore her. I like overly rambunctious, hyper-active characters who love life and always want to have fun. To me, that is the essence of Olivia and I've always enjoyed her books because of this joie de vivre.

In my current WIP, I have two secondary characters who have the essence of Olivia (should I try and make that into a scent?). And in previous projects, I usually have at least one. But they are always secondary characters.

It occurred to me that I tend to have very saracastic, brooding, sad main characters. Always the too-smart, quiet, melancholy wall-flowers. The girls who are on the brink or the edge of wanting something more. The ones who admire the Olivias but are not totally sure how to get to that place in life. They are never the loud, take-charge of the world kind of people.

To put it in the terms of one of my favorite television shows, My So Called Life, I've always got an Angela Chase and never a Rayanne Graff in the leading role.

I thought how interesting it would be to write a main character with such a passion for life, a la Olivia or Anne of Green Gables. I may try it out next time around.

Do you tend to write a certain type of main character?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for New York City

I grew up on Long Island about a 45 minute train ride from New York City. My mother used to take me to NYC to go to the doctor and get her hair cut. Two things she thought you were better off doing in a city like New York. For me, the best part about 'the city' was that I got to go to a toy store near my mother's hairdresser. And they sold muppet baby stuffed animals.

After spending time in Ithaca, London, and Boston, I finally settled my roots in the city I always thought I'd known but never really knew. Before I lived here, New York represented a place of wealth. A place where you could be and do anything. And you could do it bigger and better than anywhere else.

I soon learned that, not only is New York bigger and better, but it is taller than you. It is smarter than you. It gets better grades. And it wins more games. It gets the girl. And the boy. It can eat more than you and stay skinnier than you. And it has A LOT more money than you.

When I first moved here, I made $24,000 a year and I lived in a teeny tiny room in a 3 bedroom apartment that I paid $800 a month for (and that's considered cheap). There was one week where I had $20 in my bank account and I ate the following: A banana every day for breakfast. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day for lunch. And pasta for dinner. One day, I got 5 dumplings for a dollar in chinatown and that was considered a splurge.

Somehow, I still managed to buy $15 martinis every weekend.

New York City is nothing if not completely impractical.

And when I first moved here, I thought the $15 martinis were the thing. The elaborate Broadway shows. The wild crowds in Times Square. The carriages in Central Park. The meat packing district clubs. The Upper West side penthouses.

As it turns out, that's not New York at all. New York is 5 for a dollar dumplings in Chinatown. It is the markets tucked on the lower east side. The dog run at Tompkins Square park. Dive bars, cozy cafes, and used bookstores. The bike path up the Hudson. The deli on the corner. The bagel shop. The restaurants you have to walk downstairs to. Sunday brunch at the diner with friends. The toy store with the muppet baby stuffed animals.

It upsets me when people think that New York is high heels and Wall Street and Times Square and $250 broadway tickets and long waits at the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. I was guilty of it when I first moved here. But if that's all you see, you've missed out on the best parts of New York. They are the things you can't see right away. You find them when you turn a corner you never turned before. And they don't cost a lot of money. The best things are the things that don't boast or make any promises at all.

Is there something about your city or town you wish people knew about?

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Murakami

Well, it's 2011. Finally.

I've been waiting 4 years for one of my favorite authors to release his next book in English. Which is a long time, considering that the last book, After Dark, which was released in the states in 2007, was only 191 pages. 191 pages is nothing when you wait years for a book to be released.

Haruki Murakami came into my life in 2005 while I was sitting on a beach. Someone lent me the book, A Wild Sheep Chase, and I became completely obsessed. In the next year, I read everything that Murakami ever wrote and then had to wait impatiently for each one of his subsequent books to be released.

I can't be all that eloquent when it comes to Murakami. I try to figure out what it is I love about his books and I just can't express it. All I know is that I devour them. I will follow his characters anywhere. It's as simple as that. When I read a Murakami book, I become so involved in a world that feels like ours but is all kinds of crazy. And the level of detail in his writing which, under normal circumstances, I would find monotonous, is incredible. I feel like Murakami could write a minute by minute account of his life for the next 30 years and I would eat it up.

Come October 25, 2011 (I have the date on my calendar) IQ84 will be released. I have no idea what it is about because I relish in the surprise. When it comes to his books I read no reviews. I look at no plot summaries. I can't even bear to look at the flap copy.

I just wait to become totally immersed.

Do you have an author you feel that way about?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Lavender

When I took a trip to Provence in France last November, I couldn't help but notice how the evenings were purple there. Here in Brooklyn, the sky can go on fire. Wild orange and red as the sun sets behind the East River and Manhattan. But in Provence, there was such an extraordinary haze of lavender at dusk. And I loved it. What color does the world turn where you are?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for the King

Not this king... Or this king...
I'm talking about this King:
I used to love reading Stephen King books when I was in high school but I haven't read his books at all in the past 15 years. I feel sad about that. Because I used to enjoy his books so much. I recently read On Writing and it made me like King even more. Of all the things he taught me in that book, my favorite was this little lesson: writing is something you sit down and do every day. You shut the door. You write your words. And you just do what you can. After a while, you open the door up and you go about your life. He didn't make it seem like this epic, dramatic thing. It's just something you do. Do you like that view on writing? I do.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Jealousy

This is a bit of a difficult post for me to write because I'm a little ashamed... Lately, I've been experiencing some jealousy. It's something I've read on other blogs and dismissed because I consider myself a person who rejoices in other people's successes. But, I'm afraid that I've been bitten by a very mean jealousy bug.

Reading about people who have agents and book deals makes me feel like crap.

There. I've said it. I don't like the feeling. Not even a little.

In fact, when I read about someone who landed a book deal or an agent I often make a big show in the comments by overusing exclamation points and screaming congratulations to compensate for the bad feelings I have in the pit of my stomach.

It's not to say that I am not happy for you if you've worked really hard and your talent has been recognized. In fact, it's just the opposite. I'm usually thrilled. It's just this really awful feeling that says: I want what you have.

And I feel like an absolute turd for it.

Lately, I've tried to combat that feeling by telling myself that the people who have succeeded have done so because they work harder than me. It's the only way I can justify it. I tell myself, I must not be a good worker. I must be lazy. And I must work harder. My work ethic is just not good enough.

Whether or not it's true, I don't know. I don't know how hard all of you work in comparison to how hard I work. But I assume you work harder than me. If I stay up until 1am writing, you must stay up until 2am. If I take off from writing for 2 days, you must be using that time to knock out 20,000 words.

I can only assume that if I work harder, I will have what you have. So I'm going to bust my a** until I have it all too. And that's all there is to it.

I I the only one who feels this way?

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Imaginary Friend

when I was a little girl, I had an imaginary friend named Megan. And she had a pretty elaborate backstory. She lived next door and had a brother named David. She often left her house to sleepover at my house because her parents were having some turmoil and she liked the security of our house better. David often wanted to join us for sleepovers and, sometimes, did. He had to sleep on the floor. But Megan and I slept on bunkbeds (note: in reality, I had a twin bed.)

Megan came out mostly at night or when I was playing in my room by myself. She didn't make huge appearances at dinner or outside of the house. My parents say that there was some mention of her but she wasn't a constant presence.

What I mostly remember about Megan was that she was responsible for a lot of activity with my toys and stuffed animals. I had actually designated many of my toys as her's. To this day, there are some books at my parents house which have a jacket cover that reads:

This book belongs to ___________.

More often than not, Megan is the name filled in.

I am curious how many of you had imaginary friends when you were children? (Or as adults...I won't judge ;-)

Friday, April 8, 2011

H is for Hermione and Other Uncommon Mistakes

When I first began reading the Harry Potter series, I mispronounced Hermione's name in my head when I read. I pronounced it: 'Her' - 'me' - 'own'. When the film came out and the correct pronunciation was uttered, I was shocked.

It's similar to my experience with the phrase, "Up and Adam". Or should I say: 'Up and at 'em.' Because for the longest time, (I'm talking the first 18 years of my life) I thought 'Up and Adam' was a biblical reference. I thought it meant, 'be the first one to go for it'. And I realize, all of this can have very naughty connotations in that context, but I was thinking of it purely as a motivational thing. When I read the expression 'Up and at 'em' in a book, it nearly blew my mind.

When I was little and I sang 'The Star Spangled' banner, I used to sing about the 'dawnderly' light. I figured it was a word I didn't learn yet. A really hard word. Like an SAT word. I was singing it one day by myself and my mother stopped me: You mean dawn's early light? Well, gosh darn it, I guess I did.

It's funny how your mind can play tricks on you. Ever have an epiphany about a mispronounced word or saying?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

G is for Genre

Since, I like to have discussions on this blog and the A-Z challenge is quickly becoming a never-ending episode of the 'Melissa Show', I wonder how you would answer these questions:

1. If you could only choose one genre to read for the rest of your life what would that genre be?

I would choose literary fiction. I have always gravitated towards character driven stories. I don't mind stories that are hard to read or that make me think. And when I write, I am most interested in exploring complex relationships between people and the emotional journies we take through life. I enjoy many genres, but when I walk into the bookstore, there are certain kinds of literary fiction books I immediately want to devour. The realistic ones. Books about people and the things they do.

2 What is a genre you rarely read but wish you read more of?

For me, it would be memoir. When I do sit down to read an interesting memoir, I can not put it down. As I've said above, I like true-life stories, so it's no wonder that this a genre that appeals to me. I hope to read more of it.

I'm curious to hear your answers! :-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

F is for the F Train

I live in Brooklyn, which means that I take the subway nearly every single day. In the warmer months, I commute to work by bicycle but for all the rainy, snowy, cold days (which is a majority of the year in the Northeast) I take the train. And the F train is my train.

To be honest, I don't have many good things to say about the F train. It takes me 10 minutes to walk to the Carroll Street stop, which isn't all that convenient. In the summer the line is almost always delayed due to extreme heat and electrical failures. The rest of the year it is the victim of major construction and shuts down a lot on the weekends, leaving me stranded. And, every year, when the New York Post grades the MTA, the F train...gets an F.

But, the F is my train. I don't have a car and my bicycle can only get me so far. I've read a lot of books on the F train. On days when we sit in the station for 45 minutes and the MTA forgets to announce that they're suspending the line, I get 45 extra minutes to read. And that's 45 extra minutes I don't have to be at work!

So thank you F train. You may not be the fastest. You may not be the most reliable. But you're mine.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

E is for Eatin'

It should be noted that most of my life revolves around food. If I'm not eating, I'm thinking about where, when, and what I'm going to eat next. Ever since I got my smart phone (it's an Android for those keeping track) I've taken a lot of pictures of the food Tyler and I cook. People ask me why on earth I do this and what purpose it serves. Well. Would you look at that? It now has a very specific purpose! It's going on the blog!


Guinness Meat Pie

Homemade grilled pizza with arugula, ricotta, & goat cheese

Braised short ribs. 6 hours to cook. 2 minutes to eat.

Chocolate pecan pie

Homemade mozzerella (my hands were practically on fire at this point, that water is hot!)

Lebanese couscous with tomatoes, feta, and olives

Monday, April 4, 2011

D is for Dreamland

This is part of the inspiration for my current WIP, a Contemporary YA, with the working title: Rabbit Island. It depicts the Coney Island amusement park, Dreamland, in 1904.

Does a place or time inspire your work? I hope you'll share that inspiration in the comments!

Photo Credit: Photographs of Old America

Sunday, April 3, 2011

C is for Character Day

When I was a little girl, my elementary school had an event called "Character Day". Everyone had to dress up in a costume depicting their favorite character from a book. We would choose a book from the library (but we were welcome to choose a book we read outside of school) and a week later we would dress up and present to the class why we picked this character. Each class would vote for their favorite character and that child would present in front of the entire school. So, at the end of the day, fourteen children would stand on stage, two from each grade, representing their individual classes.

What I remember most about that day was the excitement I felt when I saw the older kids present. These were characters I hadn't heard of yet. Books I couldn't even begin to imagine reading. These were hard books and someday I was going to read them and know their characters too.

When I think of "Character Day" now, I think how special my elementary school was, to honor books and characters the way they did. It was the smallest school in the district and, due to budget cuts, it closed a year before I graduated. I had to go to another school and I never got a chance to participate in Character Day as an 'older kid'.

But, my senior year of high school, at an awards banquet, they honored the top 10% of the graduating class. We were grouped by what elementary school we had went to. Since our original elementary school had closed, our school was not represented, but we petitioned (and won) to be grouped as: Willett Avenue students. Because out of 35 students in that top percent, 10 of them had originally went to Willett Avenue. We were one of the largest groups of students at the banquet and our group included the valedictorian. Considering that there were only about 30 students that had even gone to Willett Avenue in my entire graduating class, I consider that a major achievement. A testament to a place that held events like "Character Day" and honored learning in such a unique and fun way.

The photo above is a cement turtle that still stands outside of the school (I believe it is now a school for disabled children). The turtle was our mascot, proving that slow and steady does indeed win the race.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


When I was a little kid, I used to play on my swingset in the backyard all the time. The swing was the thing. A lot happened on my swingset. Some award-winning lyrics were created: "I'm swinging! Swinging! While I'm singing! I'm swinging!" Friendships were made and broken when one child was able to swing higher than another child (these competitions were serious business). We used to hold prisoners there during a friendly neighborhood game of "War". The usual.

But, one day the swingset was rather unkind. Unbeknownst to me, it housed a bee's nest, nestled right in the little crick between the chains of the swing and the metal bar at the top of the set. So that when I began to swing, and oh did I swing!, I disrupted that little bee's nest. Needless to say, the bees were not impressed.

I ran screaming through the yard so loud that our neighbor almost called the police because she thought someone was being murdered. When my mother recalls the story, she likes to bring that up. What a disruptive child I was!

Anyway, the swarm of bees followed me as I ran down our street (still screaming) and I escaped the incident with about 20 bee stings. One of them was just below my eyelid and my eye blew up like a tennis ball.

And yet...I still like swings. More than the average person, I would say. I write scenes in my novels that involve swings. If I see a swing, I will cut in front of a child in line to use it. I really like them.

Bees, on the other hand? Not so much.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for Alphabet

Today is the beginning of the A-Z blogging challenge! I'll be participating this month along with 900 of my soon-to-be closest friends. Things should stay pretty much the same on the blog except there will be a greater frequency of posts and somehow I'm going to have to wrap them all up with the letters of the alphabet.

Today, A is for...Alphabet.

I don't often discuss my work as a writer and producer for a toy company, because there's all kinds of confidentiality issues (you'd think I was in the CIA) but I think this topic is pretty general and I won't get fired for being unethical. And it will give you a good idea of what I deal with on a daily basis. Because toys are serious business, people. Serious.

As a children's media professional, I feel pretty qualified to talk to you about the alphabet, just to let you know what you got yourself into when you signed up for this challenge.

Here's the deal:

1. The Alphabet is sung the same exact way every single time. It never changes. Don't try and mess with the song. It is what it is.

2. Once you commit to the alphabet, you are in it to win it. There's no way out. However you choose to display or teach the alphabet you must commit to the number 26. 26 flashcards. 26 games. 26 animals. 26 blog posts. You'll think things are fine and dandy. A is for Aardvark! B is for Bear! C is for cat! I've got the hang of this! Awesome! Then you're getting to the end and suddenly you're proposing that V is for Vampire Bat. It's not all fun and games. It's commitment. So if you can't take the A-Z heat, get out of the kitchen.

3. Which brings us to the letter X. I know what's going to happen. You're all gonna try and get clever and fancy and talk about Olivia Newton John in Xanadu or something ridiculous. But I'm here to tell you that X is for Xylophone or X-ray. That's it. And even xylophone is a little tricky. Because it's pronounced slightly Z-ish. And that could really set a child back a few years. Trust me. I've got educational consultants with PhD's jumping all over this stuff. It's X-ray or bust.

4. It's a pretty well known fact that if you even so much as bring up the ABC's, if you even so much as slap it as a label on anything (even a blogfest), you've become learny (I've trademarked this term, by the way) and learny is good. In other words, as we say in the toy biz, "MOMS EAT THIS S*** UP." They believe that if they buy the toy advertising the ABC's, their children will become geniuses with this insane alphabet knowledge. Since you have now ABC'd your blog, you are a hot commodity. For serious.

Good luck!