Sunday, May 31, 2009

Writers, Writers Everywhere!

In case you haven't heard, it was a big week for writers in Manhattan this week. The ginormous Book Expo America was held at the Javits Center, overlapping with the Backspace Conference. I didn't participate in either of these events (I'd planned on going to one day of BEA, but, long story short, I had to spend the day getting my daughter tested for swine flu. It was negative. Yay.) but I did meet up with some writers I've met online and IRL. 

On Friday, I met AWer mikeland for coffee near Union Square. He critiqued one of my short stories and gave me fabulous feedback a few months back. We've been communicating online for a while, so it was great to see him in person. Much chatting of agents and the publishing industry ensued.

Last night, I went out for drinks with some other AWers (ClaudiaGray, NeuroFizz, Lara, and Sharonb423) and some Backspace attendees at the uber-writerly Algonquin Hotel Bar. (Pictured above. Notice all the booze on the table.) 

Then the hubs and I went out to dinner with the very fun Debbie and her husband, Chuck. Debbie was a conference queen this week, attending BOTH (and having great success, might I add.) I'm sure she'll be posting her pictures when she gets home.

Fun week! 

And if any of you come to NYC, please let me know. I loved talking shop.

Friday, May 29, 2009


I've had a few people ping me to see how my novel is coming along (this is in addition to the 12 times per week my mother asks--no, that's not irritating) so I thought I'd give you loyal followers an update. 

Nothing super exciting to report, really. My agent wanted some further revisions on a technical issue that required a bit of research. Some of the chapters are written from the point of view of a character who suspects she might be going insane. I had her a little *too* far over in Crazytown and needed to pull back a bit. Since most of her scenes take place in 1975, I also needed to research how people with these symptoms were treated by professionals before the advent of Prozac and everything that came after it. Luckily, a good friend of mine is a psychiatrist and I called her for advice. (Thanks, Gail!) 

I just finished yesterday and sent it back. 


I wait.

How are things on your end?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Picky, picky

I spent an hour or so in a bookstore yesterday. I don't know if it was my bad mood or what, but I found it difficult to find much that resonated. Now, admittedly, this was a small independent bookstore with a slightly different focus. If you wanted a non-fiction book about the economy, you were in business. (That's a big "no thanks" for me as I hear far, far too much about the market in my daily life. Although I do plan to read my friend Justin's book when it comes out.) So my browsing options were limited.

I'd pick a book up, read the flap and first page, put it down. Up, read, down. Repeat. I finally settled on Olive Kitteridge, which, so far, I'm loving.

I think I must be getting old and grumpy, because I've recently had a spate of books I just didn't feel like finishing. And I hate that. It feels like a failure looking down at me from the shelf. You didn't have the patience to finish me. Maybe I got better. You'll never know. One in particular was a book *everyone* seems to love, and the author has a god-like status among writers. 

So help me out. Recommend something. Please. I'll be finished with Olive within a week, and I need a next at bat. Recently I've enjoyed:

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon (nice job, Cindy!)
The Inheritance of Loss bye Kiran Desai
The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

You guys are always good for a few suggestions. Thoughts? What have you enjoyed recently?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


You've probably been following the news about swine flu, which tapered off for a few days and now, at least in New York, is back full throttle. I'm not typically one to fret about big, newsy items. After all, I was here for 9/11 and although it was heartbreaking and terrifying, I didn't run for the hills. 

But Ack! As of today, 17 schools in NYC are closed because of swine flu concerns and the city seems to be the U.S. epicenter for the disease at the moment. A private boys' school in my neighborhood closed yesterday because 12% of the students had flu-like symptoms. My next door neighbor's five-year-old son attends school there (he's fine), and my younger daughter was scheduled to visit the school yesterday for a cooperative project. Okay, so yeah, that's a little unsettling. 

I did send my daughters to school today, but we had a long talk this morning about washing their hands frequently and using the many Purell dispensers set up throughout the school each time they pass one. 

I do still think that maybe the media is overreacting about this illness. But I'm watching it closely to see if summer vacation should come a little early for the Cebula family. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kids in Playland

As some of you already know, I'm involved with a non-profit on the Upper East Side called Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. Last year alone, LHNH:

--helped 59 mentally ill women move from the Park Avenue Armory shelter to permanent housing
--educated 141 low-income children in their nationally acclaimed Early Childhood Center
--facilitated more than 14,000 trips to critical social, health, religious, and recreational programs for disabled older adult clients
--provided more than a million hours of home care for disabled and poor New Yorkers
--represented hundreds of clients in housing court
--served over 300,000 meals

They have an amazing staff that does truly amazing work. 

If you happen to have a kid (or can borrow one) and live in New York, please come to our fundraiser KIDS IN PLAYLAND on Monday, May 18 from 4:00 to 6:30 pm. Carnival games, jumpy castles, face painting, magic shows, musical entertainment and more should keep them busy for the afternoon.

It's a great time!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Target Practice

I read this article over the weekend in the New York Times about an online real estate gossip site. Basically, current listings are posted, people attend open houses or showings, then they log on to add their comments, (i.e., rip them apart.) Gems like "The bathroom looks like a Chinese bordello" and "If this apartment isn't ugly, I don't know what is" come up, for starters. Thank God we aren't selling right now. 

Those of you outside the city may or may not know how *obssesed* New Yorkers can be when it comes to real estate. It's one of the city's favorite topics. I know of many people who frequent just to see what their money would buy in Duluth or Darien or Des Moines. They call it "real estate porn" and it comes from living life in a box in the sky. 

But online jerkitude in general has been on my mind lately, especially when it comes to books. If I'm lucky enough to get published, will I have the mettle to deal with the critics? And by "critics" I don't mean "people who don't like the book." That's fine. Some won't. Maybe many. It's the bullies who make personal jabs--sometimes witty, but more often than not, racist, misogynistic, or just plain mean. Just read some Amazon reviews. Many times they are either over-the-top effusive or over-the-top venomous. I've gotten to the point where I never trust them.

It's said that writers need to develop a thick skin. I have it. I can face rejections and criticisms about my writing without taking it personally. But I think personal jabs cross the line. I've read comments that insinuate (or outright state) that the author is a bad mother, or has mental problems, or is a pedophile, based on a work of fiction. Come on.
So what do you think? If you are trying to get published, will you be able to hack it? What do you think of these types of "reviews?"