Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Merry

You probably won't hear much from me until January, as we have our Christmas festivities tomorrow and then we are off to Beaver Creek, CO. IF we get there, given they have had 8 1/2 FEET of snow so far this month. Gah! What does that even look like? And now, given my tendency to be totally neurotic about my kids' safety, I am worried about avalanches in addition to the existing fear of them crashing or falling off the chair lift. Ah yes, how relaxing this vacation will be.


Oh, and happy birthday to me (a New Year's Eve baby.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Santas, Santas everywhere

Last weekend, my daughter and I were sitting in the back seat of a cab when what before our wondrous eye should appear but hundreds of Santas parading down the Third Avenue. Girl Santas. Boy Santas. Even a Hanukkah Santa. We both laughed while I crossed my fingers that she wouldn't witness a Puking Santa, since the majority of them were streaming out of local pubs.
I guess I didn't realize that this was A Thing, until I saw pictures in the Styles section of the NYTimes this morning. I'm a bit too old and grouchy (grinchy?) to participate. Maybe 10 years ago.
Anyway, apparently there were 5,000 Santas this year, donning red suits and walking around Manhattan for no reason whatsoever. I'd say "only in New York," but I guess they share the joy in other cities as well. Maybe "only in New York" would I see hundreds of Santas, think WTF?, chuckle, and then forget all about it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Awful. And yet, I can't stop laughing

At the 9 most disturbingly misogynistic old print ads.

Caution: so, so offensive! Especially the first one. Ew. But the others are funny/scary.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Happy Birthday, Cutie Patooty

It's my kid's 7th birthday. The one on the left wearing the doggy shirt. I'm sure you all care, but it's my blog and I'll be as sappy as I wish. So there. Happy Birthday, Charlotte!

Tomorrow we leave for Christmas break, which will include a visit to the in-laws, a visit the parents, and then a ski trip to Colorado. Let me tell you how much I love skiing: not at all.

This terrifies me.

But my family likes it, so off I go, to sit at the bottom of the mountain and hold everyone's stuff. I have one private lesson scheduled, but frankly, I have the wrong attitude. (Namely, skiing sucks.) I'm having second thoughts after last year's bruised-ass-snowboarding-fiasco. I kind of pity my instructor.
So, I may or may not be blogging, depending on the success of my lesson (fat chance) and the availability of an internet connection.
What do you think? Should I suck it up and take the lesson?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Why it's important to know your body type

Let me get one thing straight. I am not someone obsessed with my appearance, nor am I a Watching-My-Figure type or a No-No-I-Couldn't-Possibly-Have-A-Slice-Of-Cake type.

But. Apparently there IS some truth about knowing what kinds of clothes are flattering on your body. A really LOVELY picture of me ran in one of those local magazines, and now some people who haven't seen me in a while think I'm...


Can't imagine why. That puppy's going off to Goodwill, and I think I'll catch a few episodes of What Not to Wear.

And, sorry. I really couldn't think of anything better to blog about today.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Strange and harmless crushes

With an emphasis on the harmless.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, who, just for the sake of context, is tall, blonde and gorgeous. And friendly and adorable. She is also married to a very tall, very handsome, and very charming man who everyone likes.
The conversation quickly wound to the absurd and confessed to me that she had a TV crush on this guy:

That's right, Jim Cramer. The screaming trader from Mad Money. I don't get it.
But then again, I used to have a thing for Woody Allen, and he's no looker.

This was pre-Soon Yi Previn--that kind of ruined it for me. So now my TV boyfriend is Jon Stewart. Better looking and just as funny.
I suspect my husband has a crush on Padma Lakshmi, but that one is boring. Who wouldn't? My dad, however, holds a torch for....Queen Latifah.
How about you? Any weird crushes? (Harmless! Please don't confess any real-life affairs. TMI!)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

PSA: About those Christmas brag-o-grams

...also known as "family updates," often included in holiday cards. I have no problem with them, theoretically. In fact, I enjoy hearing about Janie's interest in soccer, your trip to Disneyworld, or the birth of Little Snookums. I do. Especially when your family lives far away.

But. Perhaps this isn't the year to go on an on about the new 40 foot boat, or your husband's huge promotion, or all the time you are spending at your third country house. All that's nice and all, and I'm glad you are having a great time.

Just, you know, tone it down a little this year. And maybe pick up a newspaper.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Heedless of the wind and weather

One of my favorite Christmas traditions to huddle with strangers in the middle of a busy street and demonstrate my dreadfully low contralto voice by singing carols. Luckily for me, New York City actually blocks traffic on Park Avenue one night a year to do this.

The Park Avenue Tree Lighting was tonight, and despite the 25 degree weather and the blow-you-over winds, my husband and I suited up our daughters in their ski gear and went. I thought for certain there wouldn't be much of a crowd, but still, a thousand or so people showed up to shiver and sing. Everyone is invited, and lots of different types of people come--people of all faiths or of no faith at all. Whatever. You can grab a carol sheet and sing or just stand and watch them turn on the trees. The Park Avenue Memorial trees (lights in pines for Christmas, in cherry trees for Hanukkah) are dedicated to those who died in our country's wars.

The trees run down the mall, from 96th street to the Met Life building in midtown. Like so:

I didn't actually take this picture, but mine were terrible so I copied it off a travel site. Don't tell on me.

We stood in front of Brick Presbyterian Church:

I'm not the most sentimental person you will ever meet, but there's just something about caroling with a group of cold-but-happy people that makes me smile. And sing loudly. And badly.

Any special holiday traditions you'd like to share?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Gimmie all your money!

This could just as easily be titled Why People are Avoiding Wendy These Days. For some bizarre reason, I have been pegged as someone not afraid to ask for money. No, I haven't been out panhandling (yet!), but I've been asked with more frequency to help out with fundraising. Some of you know I'm involved with this charity, and I help out there in any way I can. Which usually involves squeezing dollars out of donors, both individual and corporate. I also make calls for my daughters' school annual fund, along with some other worthy causes.

That's all been just lovely up until this fall--New Yorkers, despite all their faults, are a generous bunch, especially if a party is involved. But now everyone is cutting (slashing!) back. For good reason, I might add, what with all the job cuts and general crappiness in the economy. We're doing it, too.

However, things have been getting...testy...when I have to make an ask. Believe me when I say I'm softening the pitch, but still, I'm quickly becoming persona non grata. Soon people will be throwing tomatoes at me as I walk to pickup.

Ah well. At least my blogging friends will still like me. Right? Right? And I promise I won't ask you for anything.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pere Noel pour les chiens

Why did I write that in French? No real reason. It just sounds more dignified in another language. My parents are friendly people. Uber freakishly friendly people. They will talk to anyone. And they looooove parties.

Example #1, Everyone's a Buddy: Cocktail party at their house. Mom says, "Wendy, let me introduce you to Abby. We met her at the furniture store last week." She sold them their couch, so they invited her over. To see it in it's new habitat, I guess. This kind of thing happens frequently.

Example #2, Harass the Driver : When visiting us in Manhattan, my dad will try to engage every taxi driver in conversation, to varying degrees of success. What if the driver is hostile? What if he doesn't speak English? No matter! Keep going until you find a topic he likes: sports, politics, family, country of origin. There must be *something* he wants to talk about with the old white guy in the back seat, right?

Example #3, Dog Santa: On a recent trip to the pet store to pick up some Eukanuba, my dad chatted up the owner about their new (pain in the ass) Maltese puppy. After a few minutes of conversation, the owner asked my dad, who is a round and jolly-looking guy, to be the store Santa for an upcoming Christmas party for dogs. And, of course, he said "Sure!" So now it's all set. Ho ho ho. Let's hope he doesn't get bitten.

I consider myself a moderately friendly person. I'm not shy, and I'm generally happy to talk to anyone. I have friends (real ones!) and I'm polite. But other times I just can't be bothered. I'm baffled at how they have the energy, not to mention the inclination, to be so talkative *all* the time.

How about you? Are you as friendly as my parents?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Two weeks in July

Over the weekend, I found a photo stuffed into my copy of Revolutionary Road, which I was re-reading months ago. It was taken in July at the Southampton Writers Conference. That's me, in the peach-colored top, squinting into the sunlight along with the other wannabe novelists. How hopeful we all look. Holding court in the middle is Meg Wolitzer, our group leader. (She was a fantastic teacher, by the way.)

I sometimes think of my fellow SWCers and how their writing is coming along. I only keep in touch with one other person from the group (and I won't say who because she's bashful), and she's doing very well. Are other people submitting? Revising? Did anyone give up? It was a craft workshop, so the majority of time was spent critiquing each other's first chapters and attending lectures. For 14 days, we were all serious writers. Jobs, kids, spouses--they all took a backseat for a short time. It was wonderful.

I hope they are all still writing.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bored in the Hamptons

I didn't think I'd be blogging this week, but frankly, I'm bored out here. My kids are out building a fort and my husband surprise here...on his BlackBerry. We are spending the holidays with my parents in Southampton, NY. I can hear hunters shooting ducks nearby, but that's about it for action. Our house is near the Peconic Bay, north (a.k.a. the wrong side) of the highway. I like our area--it's a little more rural, a little less posh than our ocean-side neighbors. 

My mom's friend came over yesterday, bearing a pot of pig's feet. You heard me--pig's feet. Want some? Both she and my dad were raised on farms where the motto apparently was Don't Waste No Matter How Gross. So she had him in mind when she cooked up the feet. She threatened to bring chitlins as well, (which are, as I understand it, fried pieces of chopped pig intestine) but she must have changed her mind. 

I haven't yet tried the feet. Not sure I will.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not making fun of her. She's actually someone I most admire because of her outlook on life despite her difficult upbringing. She was raised in the deep South (she's African-American) and had a tough childhood. But she managed to raise five kids by herself and every one of them are successful. Besides that, she's fun to be around and my parents adore her.

Perhaps people sitting around shootin' ducks and eatin' feet doesn't fit your mental image of the fabulous Hamptons, but there you have it.

Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


You probably all saw this bit of crappy news, so I'm not going to dwell on it. It's just too depressing. And if you haven't, sorry for ruining your day.

I'll be taking off tomorrow for Thanksgiving break and I doubt I'll have much time for blogging. We'll be visiting my parents, so I'm off the hook for cooking the Big Meal again this year.

My job is to pick up the turkey. The poor thing probably meets his death sometime today. He's been picked out at the turkey farm down the road from my parent's house. It's kind of sad to drive by and see the turkeys grow from cute little chicks into adult turkeys strutting around the yard, all full of confidence. Then one day--*poof*-- gone.

Don't worry, though, I've viewed the Sarah Palin Turkey Massacre and I know what to expect. It's almost enough to make you go vegan. Almost.

Have a happy Thanksgiving! Any big plans?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It was just that kind of weekend

It's freezing on the East Coast, so all I did all weekend was watch movies. One was an all-time favorite, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Which, incidentally, I'm pretty sure I saw in the theater when I was 11 years old. It was rated R, so that means my mother probably dropped me off at the mall and my friends and I bought movie tickets for Black Stallion Returns. Then sneaked into Fast Times.* Masturbation! Teenage sex! Drugs! How appropriate!

I read about a book coming out soon called Free Range Kids--that pretty much describes my childhood. And somehow I survived.

Anyway, not the point. I noticed something about the teenage actresses from movies in the 80s: no one looked pin-thin, like many today. Everyone looked, well...healthy.


Jennifer Jason Leigh, how cute was she back then? And who didn't want to be Madonna? This is a much better look then, say, this:

Or this:
I'm hungry.

We also watched Beetlejuice (with the kids, who loved it, although I didn't remember quite so much cursing when I saw it last. Oh well.) and a really bleak thing I ordered from Netflix called Half Nelson (most assuredly WITHOUT the kids, since it's all about drug addiction.) Can't say I recommend the latter.
So, how was your weekend?

*Sorry, mom! It's true!

Friday, November 21, 2008

While I was researching...

...I found this dude's great blog and I thought I'd share it with you. I haven't seen it linked to the blogs I visit. Anyway, enjoy.

And have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If writing causes mental illness, I'm in serious trouble

Or maybe it's that one has to already BE mentally ill to write (or, more specifically, attempt to become published.) I dunno. But lately I've been experiencing symptoms that MUST be like what manic/depressives go through.

There are days when I walk around thinking I am a GREAT writer! Soon, fame and fortune will be mine...ALL MINE!* I even allow myself to think about who might be a good actress to play my MC in the movie version of my wildly-successful book. (If I can convince Phoebe Cates to come out of retirement, she'd be perfect. She runs a store down the street from me and she still looks fantastic.) I know that's not really how it works, but indulge me here.

And then there are the Why Bother days. Eeyore and I would be great pals (well, if he wasn't just a drawing.) No one cares! Get a real job!

Anyway, as many of you know, I'm in the process of trying to get an agent. Which is not so easy, turns out. I'm happy with my query letter and it's received a good response. My query letter stats are impressive. I have some partials and fulls out, some with agents I would kill to have represent me. But all that means bupkis without an offer. Bupkis!

I guess all these wild ups and downs are still better than just the flat nothing of not trying. And you all will come visit me in the institution, right?

*I'm exaggerating a little here, if that's not clear. My ego is not quite that large.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

For the Kiddos

I just finished reading aloud the most beautiful book to my daughters. The Miraculous Story of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo was an exquisitely-written, moving story about a china rabbit learning how to love. I know, the plot sounds lame, but trust me--if you have kids between the ages of 6 and oh, say 11 or 12, run out and buy this book.

And just try to read it aloud without crying. I dare you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What are YOU getting for Christmas?

Or Hanukkah. Or Chrismukkah! Well, if you are on MY list, the answer is...a book. That's right, everyone on my Christmas list is getting at least one book this year. It's my little part in helping save the publishing industry.

I went e-shopping last night and bought 17 books. I thought it would be easy--you know, the one stop shopping experience and all. But selecting just the right books were more difficult than I anticipated. Instead of picking a scarf or gloves (again!) I actually had to think about everyone's preferences. For example, Eminem's autobiography might not be the best selection for my literature-loving mother-in-law. And my dad might not adore Chuck Palahniuk's Choke.

But I think I found just the perfect book for everyone, and it gave me the opportunity to really sit and consider what it is that makes all my loved ones tick.

Books. Get ya some.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reading, 'Riting, and...well, that's it.

It's been tough to think of new and exciting topics for ye ole blog, because lately I've been doing this amazing thing called "writing." Not thinking about writing, not talking about writing, not obsessing about seeing my writing in print...but actual, honest-to-God, clicking-the-keyboard writing. On something new, no less! Big deal for me.

And, as always, I'm reading. I recently started The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski because I heard it was a modern take on Hamlet. And, hey, I like Hamlet, so why not? The writing is elegant--poetic, actually, but it's a little slow to start. To be fair, I'm only about 40 pages in and it seems like it's starting to pick up.

What are you reading (or writing) at the moment?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hangover Day

I'm probably going to make a lot of typos today because I am bone dog tired. I've been working for months on a benefit for my kids' school, and last night we actually pulled it off. I was able to speak in front of a crowd without falling or drooling or anything of that nature.

Luckily for the school, one of the current parents is a Big Movie Mogul and he always arranges for a premiere screening in a local theater. (And by premiere, I mean the movie isn't completely finished yet, so NO ONE has seen it. It doesn't even have a release date.) The movie starred Forrest Whittaker and was great--everyone cheered at the end. Hooray! Then the crowd moved on to a seated dinner for 300, whereupon I drank a little too much wine and am paying for it today.

Anyway, that's over, so now I can concentrate on novel-sort-of-in-progress #2 that has been neglected and is screaming for attention. I've finally named my MC, and I'm going to spend some time with her today, trying to figure out exactly what she wants and what is stopping her from getting it. I usually start stories with a character in mind, or sometimes a setting or plot, but this time I started with an idea for a climax and now have to fill in the rest. It feels odd for me. How do you usually start?


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Things I like

1. The Ramones

2. Aloo Gobi Punjabi

3. Our new President-Elect!

And the fact that the election is over. Hooray.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yet another blog about voting. Yawn.

So I'll make it short. My husband and I took out daughters to vote today. They had a half day at school, so we went around noon, fully expecting a looooooong wait. Not so! Only a few people were ahead of us. New York still has the old school voting booths with the giant lever that makes the satisfying KER-CHUNK when you finish.

Did you vote? How'd it go for you?

Oh, and if you are in the hellish querying process like me, be sure to check out Jessica Faust's blog entry today.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween, Manhattan-style

Over the years, I've had many people ask me how the whole trick-or-treating situation works in a big city like New York. It makes much more sense if you knew my neighborhood. Visitors come to Manhattan and see Times Square and Midtown and can be under the impression that we all live in crowded chaos.

I live on the Upper East Side in an area called Carnegie Hill, which is very residential. And, since there seem to be roughly 10,000 schools in a 20-block area, it's also full of families. The traffic isn't bad, but at certain times of the day we have stroller gridlock.

So yeah, Halloween. Most people live in apartment buildings. Often the staff puts on parties in the lobby and the residents sign up if they want to give out candy as well. All the trick-or-treaters get a list and go apartment to apartment, taking the elevator to the top and working down. Sometimes the halls are decorated (I spent about 2 hours yesterday doing mine.) All well and good, but I'd rather go outside. So we did.

The townhouses in the neighborhood go nuts with decorations -- on some blocks, every townhouse is covered with ghouls and spiderwebs. I took my kids up Madison (the stores all give out candy) and we wound our way up several of the better side streets, hitting the townhouses and buildings one by one. HUNDREDS of kids were out, many of whom we knew. Some streets blocked off traffic. One of the owners was holding a giant bag of candy and asked her how many she had to buy. "About thirty," she said.

We went home after about 2 1/2 hours of non-stop candy-grubbing.

How was your Halloween?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm so becoming that crabby woman who writes angry missives

It's a little frightening, actually. So many things in the news have been teeing me off as of late. Maybe I just need to step awwwway from the computer. And the TV. And the newspaper.

Now, don't get me wrong here. I don't like Sarah Palin (I guess I shouldn't put it that way...maybe she's a nice person. But I don't *support* her.) I don't want her to ever be president, or VP for that matter. Ever. Never ever. She's not my cuppa. Clear?


Treatment like this by the press both annoys and offends me as a woman. As a human being, for that matter. (If the link doesn't work, it's a Yahoo! News/Reuters article about a Vegas strip club that hosted a "Sarah Palin Lookalike Strip-off.")

So effing sexist.

I have no problem with the stip club having their fun. That's what they do. Fine. But for a news organization to report it nationally (along with some T&A pics, of course!) is just un.freaking.believeable. No wonder we Americans are so ill-informed. Syria? Who cares? Unrest in Congo? Zimbabwe collapsing? Huh? Whatever! Let's see some boobies!

So I shot an email off to Yahoo saying this:

How disappointing to see this sexist article on Yahoo News. I'm not a fan of Gov. Palin, but neither am I a fan of this kind of "reporting."

and got this reply:

...Please note, Yahoo! News does not write or edit any of the news on our site. If you have comments about the tone, angle, accuracy, or coverage of a story, please address them to the news provider directly.To identify the provider of a story, look at the upper-right corner of the page where you read the story. You'll see a graphic identifying the provider.

What? As if they have no responsibility to what gets on the news pages ON THEIR SITE? No way to edit or select topics? Just tell that to the users of Yahoo China.

Argh! I'm so sick of the inherent sexism in our news. Just like this. There are many reasons to mock Gov. Palin. No shortage! But her sexuality is not one of them.

Rant over. Whew, I feel better.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What are your favorite writing blogs or sites?

Aside from your own, of course.

<---Lookie over here, and down. Under "Writer's Resources." This section is in need of an update. Yeah, sure, these are helpful sites, but I think I need a few more. And some blogs I visit every day aren't even listed. So what writerly sites get you going? Two blogs I read every single morning while drinking my cup of coffee are by literary agents Kristin Nelson and Jessica Faust. I love that they update every weekday, and it's always about something interesting and insightful--plus both blogs just have a great tone.

Writer's Digest and Poets & Writers have fantastic articles, but they don't update enough to warrant a visit every day.

I also enjoy:
Nathan Bransford
Editorial Ass
Absolute Write (of course!)
The Swivet
Janet Reid
And even though I don't write for the Christian market, I like Rachelle Gardner's blog.

I recently found The Writer's Edge as well. It's a group blog, and the posts are informative, albeit a cold, hard reality check about the state of publishing today.

But I'm sure I'm missing some great blogs. What are your recommendations?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fighter or Flighter?

A couple of Saturdays ago, I took my daughters on a walk through Central Park. They like to zip along on their scooters, and I’m always afraid they are going to inadvertently knock down an old lady, so I steered them to a track that runs around some empty basketball courts.

They were racing along and laughing when I heard someone shout out of nowhere, “GET YOUR KIDS OUT OF HERE! GET OUT! GET OUT!” and on and on. A man stood up, wild-eyed, dirty, and obviously crazy. He ranted about 9/11, the police, aliens, and God knows what else.

I can be a bit of a bitch sometimes and my first instinct was to shout back at him—who was he to be ordering people around?!--but since my kids were with me, we just ignored him and moved along. Swiftly. Much safer that way.

“Why was he yelling at us?” my daughters asked. I opened my mouth to tell them that he was crazy, that he had no right to scream those things, to forget all about him.

But then I remembered how I harp on them about being compassionate. Hadn’t I just lectured them about considering other people’s feelings? I guess that’s easy enough for me to say.

So instead I talked to them about what that man’s life must be like. He was obviously in need of help. What happens to people when they lack the skills to take care of themselves even in the most basic ways and they have no family for support? New York City offers services for the homeless, (in fact, in NYC, everyone has a *right* to housing) but they can’t MAKE anyone go to a shelter. If we called the police, that guy probably would just end up in jail.

I assured them that they weren’t doing anything wrong, but that in addition to feeling compassion for others, it’s also important to judge when to get the heck out of dodge.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about that guy a lot lately. Especially now that it’s getting cold.

Monday, October 20, 2008

At the risk of sounding like an uptight fuddy-duddy...

My daughter and I were in search of a friend’s birthday present this weekend and happened to be in the Times Square area, so we stopped by the giant Toys-R-Us store (note to readers: do not attempt this on a Saturday, unless you happen to enjoy crushing crowds).

“Stop by the 3rd Floor for Club Libby Lu! It’s just for girls!” the perky salesgirl said as we walked in, shoving a flyer into my hand. Take my advice: don’t--unless, by chance, your 3-12 year-old girl is in dire need of a cheesy makeover. Seriously. Look at these girls. All lined up like mail order brides. I don’t know if it was the sight of four-year-olds putting on makeup and hair extensions or kindergarteners getting manicures that did it, but my daughter and I ran screaming from Club Libby Lu. (She's a tomboy. My six-year-old wasn't with us--she'd be much more interested.)

Of couse, they had lots of Halloween costumes, so your daughter can look like this:

Or this:

Or perhaps this:

Hot stuff! Isn't that just adorable! Let's dress them up like sexpots!


Thankfully, her friend prefers Legos. No problem.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oh goody! A book recommendation!

I used to think that YA wasn’t my thing. I’m a 37-year-old woman, for God’s sake. Why would I want to read about teenagers? I’ve had to eat a little crow because two of my favorite books this year fall under the category of YA: The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and, most recently, Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One Before by David Yoo. Maybe I just like stories about misfits? I dunno, but both of these books resonated with me and they were both desperately funny.

The book trailer above does a great job of summarizing the plot (and I think book trailers are very cool—but that’s the topic of a different post.) The story is about Albert Kim, teenage eccentric and intentional loser, and his very unlikely love affair with the most popular girl in school, Mia. When Mia’s super-jock ex-boyfriend is diagnosed with cancer and uses that as an excuse to win her back, Albert finds that the whole school (the whole community!) is against his relationship with Mia.

There were enough late 80s/early 90s references for me to feel like I wasn’t reading about a different generation entirely, but the story is still relevant to high school students today.

Although they might wonder what are these things called “pay phones?”

Check it out. It’s hilarious

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back from the long weekend

Five whole days without internet access! I survived!

As the stock markets were collapsing (and recovering!) here in New York, I've been in Boston with the family doing some sightseeing and brother-in-law visiting. The weather has been glorious, and the trees in New England are beautiful right now.

So Boston is a lovely city--who knew? I'd only been through it a couple of times, but had never spent a day there. For anyone interested, they have a great science museum overlooking the Charles River--you can also catch the Duck Tours there for an overview of the city. We saw lots of interesting Revolutionary War-related sites, but my daughters were most fascinated by the following:

Salem Witch Trials
Salem is only about 40 minutes away from downtown Boston and worth the trip, especially in October. Several museums have renactments of the trials and the kiddos were transfixed with the whole story, especially the hangings. My youngest is giving a show and tell presentation on it this week. Hopefully she'll skip the part about the dude who was crushed by stones.

Boston Ghosts and Gravestones Tour
This riding/walking tour took us through some of the city's burial grounds (at night) and recalls ghoulish events, murders, and ghost stories like the molasses disaster , a haunted hotel , and hauntings at a library where they have a book bound in human skin. Yuck.

When my daughters' teachers ask what they saw in Boston, I hope that they mention the Freedom Trail and Paul Revere's house, but most likely they will talk about the Boston Strangler and what happens when an executioner uses more or less than 13 knots in a hangman's noose (you don't want to know.)

Okay, so yeah. My daughters like creepy stories.

I'm half expecting a call from the school today.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Off to Beantown

With the Yom Kippur and Columbus Day holidays falling back-to-back, my family is taking off to do some sightseeing in Boston. My daughters, always fans of the macabre, are looking forward to visiting Salem as well.

Hopefully there won't be any Great Floods of Molasses while we are there.

See you next week!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

And now for something completely different

Southern trees bear strange fruit…
Billie Holliday

My family and I got our lazy butts out of bed on Sunday and actually made it to church for the first time in weeks. Despite having to shush my daughter 400 times, I’m glad we went because there was a very interesting speaker after the service.

Dr. James H. Cone spoke on the topic of Black Liberation Theology. An offbeat choice for an Upper East Side Episcopalian church with lots of Old New York names on the roster, that’s for sure. When I heard he was Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s teacher, my first reaction was to close off. Like a lot of people, I didn’t love what Rev. Wright said about AIDS and 9/11 and all those roosting chickens. And I didn’t particularly want to hear the rehashing of old YouTube clips.

But I’m glad I stayed around. I won’t go too much into his speech, because I wouldn’t be doing it justice, but Dr. Cone lived through the days of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and the Jim Crow South, and most of his viewpoints about Christianity were formed in that environment. This was a time when the public meaning of Christianity was white, even within the black community itself. A time when theologians ignored white supremacy and the black struggle against it. He drew parallels between the Cross and the lynching tree. It was a shocking and painful but heartfelt speech on a subject most people try to forget (lynching as well as crucifixion.)

I think we, especially as writers, but also as citizens, are always enriched when we hear things from another point of view. His speech doesn’t necessarily change my opinion on Rev. Wright, but I do feel that I’ve gained some insight as to where all that anger was coming from. Parishioners after the speech were talking to each other about social justice, and my husband and I debated it as well. (That’s actually a big theme in our family—that and the broader theme of kindness—we have ongoing discussions with our daughters on these topics.)

Seeing things from another perspective is a good thing, as Martha would say.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hello, my name is Wendy, and I'm a BlackBerry addict

I've been trying to keep my obsession with agents under control, at least in public, but I think it's time for an intervention. Can someone please figure out a way to keep me from my computer and BlackBerry so that I'll stop checking my inbox? And, by the way, checking QueryTracker doesn't make agents respond any faster than they normally would, did you know that?

I was in a yoga class this week and I heard my BlackBerry go off (I forgot to silence it--honest! I'm not that woman.) It just beeps once for incoming email, so I didn't have to sheepishly run over and shut it up. But what did I think about for the entire remainder of the class? I wonder if that's a response to a query or partial. Not exactly very zen, right? I'm sure you know what it was, by the way... f&#^$ing spam.

I need to practice what I preach and get going on my next WIP. It's all plotted out and ready to go. I just need to focus. Ohhhmmm.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The nice thing about being unpublished is...nobody reads your stuff

I know, that seems to make no sense at all, does it? Given how much effort I'm putting in to actually GETTING published. (And I'm not *completely* unpublished--see the column on the left.)

I'm probably being more than a little deluded here (the total chicken count is 12, even though they haven't yet hatched) but I've been thinking lately about the possible fallout if my book is ever actually available for purchase by people I know in real life.

There's nothing in there that will offend anyone *personally,* since none of my characters are based on anyone in particular, but I do have some slightly disturbing scenes tucked away. Including:

--A twelve-year-old girl who posts a naked video on the internet. (It's actually a little worse than that, but I'll just leave that part unsaid for now.)

--Two affairs, one written into a scene.

--A scene in which a little girl witnesses a violent crime.

Ok, so yeah. I don't particularly want my young daughters reading this content. It's not really all that illicit, but there's just enough there to know what's going on.

I also have the fear that people might think my MC's viewpoint is the way I see the world. It's only partially that way. I made up a character based on a tiny little sliver of me--a fear of mine, actually-- then exaggerated it and shaped it into an entire person. But her mom is dreadful (my mom is nothing like that), her husband clueless (I adore my husband), her best friend turns on her (mine's great), and she has it out with her daughter's slightly bitchy school headmistress (my daughter's headmistress is lovely).

I'm getting way ahead of myself, but these are the things I tend to obsess about.

Anyone else worried about unintentionally pissing anyone off with your writing?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Some Self-Indulgent Back-Patting and Horn-Tooting

I feel kind of like a heel putting this on my own blog, but I can't seem to help myself. My editor over at Literary Mama put my name up for consideration for the 2008 Best of the Net anthology by Sundress Publications!

I'm not sure when the winners are announced or what all is involved, but it feels great even to be nominated!

I'm using a lot of exclamation points today!


Sunday, September 28, 2008

So yeah….uh…hmmm

Today was the last day of the Pitch and Shop conference. I think the biggest overall takeaway, for me at least, is how differently people can react to the same thing.

We pitched four editors. The first really seemed enthusiastic about my pitch and wants to read my manuscript (hooray!). She didn’t have anything negative to say. The pitch, at least, totally clicked for her. She would be my dream editor, so let’s hope the writing does, too.

Two editors liked elements of my pitch, but when they asked further questions, it was obvious to me that I should have presented the same story in a completely different way.

With one editor, it was just so not her thing.

The funny thing is that I researched all four editors and had them pegged completely backwards. Based on the books the last woman edited, I thought it would be perfect for her. AND I thought the first editor wouldn’t be in to my kind of book at all.

So where do I stand now? I’m working on *two* versions of a query letter, at the recommendation of my workshop teacher. My “commercial version” is polished and ready. Now I need a more “literary version” in the hopes that I can be smart enough to match the right letter to the right agent. I’ve been told that my writing is literary and my plot screams commercial, so maybe two versions is the right way to go.

Ay yi yi...I'm all befuddled.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Finding the right comp

Two more pitches at the conference today. I’m getting more confident with each one, but the nervous energy in the hall as we wait is palpable. Today the dancer/ actors were trying out for Grease, so EVERYONE in the hall was anxiously waiting for a tryout.

So, Melanie asked in the comments yesterday about finding comparable books. Over on Absolute Write, it seems that evoking other authors in a query letter is taboo, but I have to say, it was HUGELY important at this conference. Maybe the difference is that we are pitching editors directly--I don’t know--but we spent a lot of time finding good ones in preparation for the pitch and several of the editors have commented about having them to market a book.

I am by no means an expert on the subject, but I can share with you what I learned:

--Make sure your comps match the tone of your pitch (or, I guess, letter.) My pitch was making my novel seem a bit more breezy than it is. Partially because of the setting, but partially because of my word choice. My comps at first were The Position by Meg Wolitzer (because of the whole multi-POV, family dynamic thing) and Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates because I’ve been told my novel is similar to that, but not quite as bleak. Revolutionary Road seemed to throw everyone. It’s a very literary, very dark book and my pitch just didn’t feel heavy. So I tweaked the pitch to be a bit more serious and switched both comps to sound like this:

In the style of The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer and Little Children by Tom Perotta, Up from Drowning explores the mother / daughter dynamic and idea of accepting the imperfections of the people we love.

Much better, and more clear.

--Don’t use a book everyone else would use (“It’s the new Harry Potter!” It’s just like the Da Vinci Code!”), but don’t use a book that no one knows, either. Try to pick a recent book that sold well.

--Be careful how you word why your novel compares. Use phrases like “With the honesty of ______.” Or “With the intimate voice of ____.” Think about HOW your novel compares and WHY you are using that book. It doesn’t have to be *just* like it. I’m not writing about an affair between a stay-at-home mom and a stay-at-home dad, but Tom Perotta writes about families well, and I have a similar style and pace. The Wolitzer book is set in Manhattan and is all about mothers, plus she uses more than one POV and touches on mother/daughter relationships.

--Actually read the book before you use it as a comp.

--Amazon is a great way to find comps. I looked up a book I thought might work, and magically Amazon suggested two more that actually worked better.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Brain. Fried.

Sorry I haven't been checking in for the last few days. I've been spending my days at the Pitch & Shop conference here in NY and I come home just exhausted. Of course, it doesn't help that I seem to be catching a cold as well.

And yes, my husband has been doing a fabulous job picking up the kids and getting them where they need to be. Yay him. Now he just needs to get them to soccer and fencing and he's all finished.

At the conference yesterday, we broke into small groups based on genre and worked on our pitches. Then worked on our pitches some more. I think my butt is going to be completely flat and about three feet wide after this is over, because there is a lot of sitting and listening and working. Whatever it takes, I say, flat butt be damned if it the result is a strong pitch. Our teacher has been fantastic and really knows how to focus on the compelling part of a story to make it interesting.

So today I pitched my first editor, and it went very well. Surprisingly, she didn't have claws and fangs and she didn't say things like "Terrible!" and "What were you thinking?!" She was actually a nice person with good insight and suggestions. I'm feeling more confident after meeting her.

The conference is held in a dance/actor studio in midtown. I think people are trying out for Guys and Dolls and various other Broadway shows. Every once in awhile I take my flat butt out into the hall and see actors stretching and warming up their voices. During the pitch session today, we could hear la-la-LA-LA-la-la-la coming from another studio, and someone screaming like he'd been shot. Maybe I'll put on my jazz hands and go tryout, while I'm there and everything. Or maybe not.

Two more editors tomorrow, and one the day after.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nervous Nelly

My conference is starting tomorrow and what makes me the most nervous? The fact that my husband will be caring for my daughters for the next four days. And he's ENTIRELY capable of the job, my brain is well aware of this fact. He's wonderful and patient and able to pick them up from school on time and take them where they need to go. And with the stock market in its current shaky condition, I'm grateful that he's going to pitch in and help me with my schedule. How much have I made of this writing quest so far? Oh yeah, that's dollars.

I know this is probably more of a reflection on ME than it is on him. The girls will be thrilled that dad is picking them up from school. Other parents might wonder if he just got laid off, but that's okay. Everyone will be happy and healthy. Yet, I'm sure I'll be sitting at the conference, checking my watch around 3 pm, wondering if he got there. I'm ridiculous. The root of the problem is that I'm a control freak. Is there some sort of AA program or rehab for people like me?

Monday, September 22, 2008

My outfit is picked out and my messenger bag's all packed

Starting this Thursday, I'm attending the NYC Pitch & Shop Conference. So, I've been putting my pitch together, think about my hook, and simultaneously working on a synopsis that was requested by an agent. All this requires big-picture thinking, and as someone who is prone to getting bogged down in the details, it was quite a stretch for me.

It ended up being a good thing. I'm now thinking about my novel in a more precise way, and when people ask me what I'm writing about, I can tell them without too many "uhhs" or "umms." I have a background in marketing, so one would think a plan for selling would come easily, but it's tough when it's your own work and you've been obsessing over every little detail for the past year or more.

The first day of the conference is devoted to perfecting your pitch and making sure your novel has all the elements for commercial fiction. I've heard that the workshops can be tough and blunt, but that approach works for me. The 3 days that follow are devoted to pitching your story to editors. I'm slightly nervous there, but I think it will be fine.

I'll be sure to blog and tell you how it went!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nothing But Drama

I hate to be blogging about the financial markets again, but it seems to be all anyone is talking about in my neighborhood. The moms (and dads) at pickup. My hairdresser. The taxi driver. My kid's piano teacher. Things are fearful on the Upper East Side.

And with good reason. A good 70% of the parents in my kids' classes are related, somehow, to the financial markets. New York City is not a one-industry town by any means, especially compared to where we last lived (Los Angeles), where all anyone could talk about was movies, movies, movies. I worked in advertising back then, and I always got the distinct impression that many of my colleagues would rather work for the film industry. But still, Wall Street is HUGE here, and it impacts lots of other kinds of jobs.

Like, oh, trying to raise money for non-profits, which is what I do when I'm not writing. I'm expecting fundraising to be slim this year. That's just my opinion and I hope not, because it *directly* relates to the programs we can run for disadvantaged kids.

Also, overheard on Madison Ave: a woman haggling with a pedicab driver. "15 bucks to go 12 blocks?! Have you SEEN the stock market today?" Anyway, I noticed the Dow was up today. Let's hope it holds.

On a lighter note, my dog has an enormous wart on his face and it's growing exponentially every day. It's bigger than a marble! I'm taking him to the vet tomorrow to see if we can cut that sucker off.

So while you are worried of the potential collapse of the economy, keep poor Truman in your thoughts as well.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Writes in Peoria" just doesn't have the same ring...

As some of you may know, my husband is in the finance business here in NYC. It's been a crazy couple of days here. And although I know lots of people at Lehman, my husband is not one of them. Still, scary times for the investment world. My husband has lived through a meltdown before, back when he was a young, bright-eyed analyst at Drexel Burnham Lambert. So showing up for work one day to find your stuff in a box is always been something that he's entertained as a possibility.

This crisis did prompt a discussion about the priorities in our lives. Number one by a wide margin: family. As much as we love living in Manhattan, we could be happy most anywhere, doing most anything. Just saying that out loud made me feel better--much more secure. Everything else can fall into place after that.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Love the 70s

What is it with me and the 1970s? Clearly it wasn't the most fashionable and pleasant decade in our history, so it's a bit of a mystery why I'm so obsessed with it in my writing. Over 1/3 of the novel I've just finished takes place in 1975 suburban Chicago. A short story I'm working on now is about a woman who was a Bunny in the Hollywood Playboy Club in the late 70s. And last night I was plotting out my new novel about a young girl with a neglectful mother. I'm thinking of setting it in...wait for it...St. Louis in 1978.

Some of my favorite movies are One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, and Annie Hall. if I told you I liked The Clockwork Orange as a teenager, you'd think I was some sort of violent weirdo, so I'll leave that out.

In the late 1970s, I was busy peddling my bike round and round our cul-de-sac while my mom baked casseroles inside or ranch-style house. Pretty boring upbringing. So what's up with my fixation on the grit and sexuality of the 70s? not to think about that too long.

What were you doing in the 70s? Were you even born? Or were you, as my mom would say "in the milk river?"

Monday, September 8, 2008

Spammers: *raises middle finger*

Seriously, ugh. I hate spammers. I'm not sure "spammers" is even the right term, but apparently some p*rn people linked some of my work to their pervy little fetish site. (I'm not using the "o" because I don't want strange visitors, not because I'm such a delicate flower I can't type "p*rn.") I know this because I received a Google alert about someone using my name, and when I clicked on it---yowzas. No thank you.

So now when someone googles my name, someone like, oh, A POTENTIAL AGENT, that's one of the hits. Big ladies doing naughty things. Please, please, please, don't think that's me, agent person.

I've already had that experience before. When I was in college, one of my dorm-mates had a dirty magazine and one of the featured women looked EXACTLY like me. (Well, not exactly, she was a bit more...bodacious. But exactly like me in the face.) So what does he do? Why, he makes copies and plasters them all over the hall, that's what.

How nice of him. Thanks, guy!

And, to be clear. That is NOT how I paid tuition.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Maybe *you* can be my inspiration

I'm sure different writers have different sources for inspiration. Some people are more plot-oriented ("Hey, what would happen if a sailor discovered the ship he was on was full of ghosts?") and some, like me, much more character-driven.

New York may be a lot of things, but there is NO shortage of people around who are just a little "off." Or a lot "off." And I am drawn to people like that. Many of them are characters in my stories. Like there is this old woman who sits in a lawn chair on the toniest part of Madison Avenue, watching the people go by. She sits right on the sidewalk, pretty much in everyone's way, directly in front of the Carolina Herrera store. And she's all dolled up--dress, jewelry, makeup. She's there every day. I say "hi" to her, and I wonder What's her story?

She's next on the list.

Or there's the homeless dude who plays the harmonica around the corner from my building. He plays loudly. Badly. Apparently, that's his angle. But, he's a super nice guy. And he's made it into my novel. I'm considering giving him a copy once it's published (confidence! make it so!), but I'm afraid I'll hurt his feelings about the bad harmonica playing. Is it possible he thinks he's good?

Or, really, I can just take my notebook and sit outside if I am lacking ideas.

What inspires you?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Home Again Home Again, Jiggety Jig

Ah, New York. How I have missed you. Despite the fact that you are crowded, and noisy, and sometime just a huge PITA, you are still all right with me.

If anyone would like to point and laugh at my feeble attempt at query writing, I've posted it for all to mock here on SYW. There's a reason they call it Query Hell, but hopefully a pretty polished query will rise up from the ashes.

Happy Tuesday, everyone.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Twitter Dee and Twitter Dum

As some of you might know, I tweet. No, it's not a speech defect. I'm one of the zillions of people who write up to 140 characters at a time about whatever is going on at the moment. Such as "Does someone give Wolf Blitzer a cookie every time he says 'the best political team on TV?'" or "I just ate a pickle. I hate pickles." Or someone was tweeting from the floor of the DNC convention. Then I found myself looking for her during the crowd shots on TV. 

Waste of time? Sure is. But fast and more entertaining than I thought it would be. And like I have anything better to do. So I was all fine with my tweets until I read this blog post about why people "unfriend" others on twitter. And now I'm concerned--are my tweets interesting enough? (Probably not.) Will I get a notice that someone dropped me as a friend? How will I feel about that? (Meh, I don't think I'll care.) 

But if you tweet, check out her post. It's good to know.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Getting it together

Yeah, I know. I've been a crappy blogger. Update your blog, Wendy! Slacker. Truth is, it's been pretty slow around here and although I'm a little sad summer is ending, I'm happy to be getting back to a fall schedule soon. As some of you may know, I spend the majority of the summer outside of New York City. I'm SO happy to be going back this week. 

So I've been trying to get my sh*t together long distance. Not the easiest thing, but that's okay. To me, September feels like the beginning of the year. Maybe that's because NYC is that way, or maybe it's just because my kids are on a school calendar. I dunno. But I did find some helpful School Year Resolutions over at To Pass the Torch. 

I don't really have any kid-related resolutions, being that I'm the perfect mom (Ha!), but I do have some writing and non-writing related resolutions for myself:

1. Even though I haven't started my new WIP, write every day. Even if it's just a few words on a flash fiction piece. It makes me feel productive.

2. Jump in head first about getting an agent. Quit making excuses for putting it off. 

3. Say "no" more often when asked to volunteer for something I don't really want to do. 

4. Make more of an effort to get together with friends. Sometimes I can't be bothered, but it really does keep me sane. 

That's enough for me. How about you?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Just a Little Summer Reading

I'm taking a couple of weeks off from thinking about writing. Knowing me, I'll pick up my "finished" manuscript again and find some more tweaks, but right now, fuggetaboutit. Since this blog is intended to be about writing and whatever, I'll stay slightly on topic and let you know about some good books I've read lately. 

For kids.

My kids still love for me to read to them, even though they can both read themselves (and they do that, too.) I suppose I'll keep the nightly routine of reading for 30 minutes or so until they tell me to stop. Or they go off to college.

My girls are 9 and 6, and I typically read to both of them at once. But not always. So some books on the list are for slightly older kids as well, since my oldest tends to like "older" books. (They still have to pass the mom test. She's not reading Gossip Girl.)

I'll leave off most of the classics, since you probably know them anyway. I like all the Judy Blume and anything by Roald Dahl or EB White. 

Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander
Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows (So freaking cute. I love these.)
Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards
Girls to the Rescue Series by Bruce Lansky
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
Warriors Series by Erin Hunter (About tribes of wild cats. Naomi recommends this highly.)
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Koningsburg (My daughter's class read this in school, then walked down the street to the Met and acted it out. Very cool. It's an interesting book.)
The American Girl "History Mysteries" are actually pretty good. My 6 y.o. loves books about history, especially when they are girl-centered. Her favorite book to read on her own is The Battle for St. Michaels by Emily Arnold McCully. I had to look up facts about the War of 1812 to explain it to her. I couldn't remember much of anything! This is why I stink at Trivial Pursuit.
And I just have to add A Wrinkle in Time because my older daughter loved it, and I loved reading it again.
So that's what the Cebula girls are into. Do you have any favorites to add?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Somebody Give Me a Cookie

Today I did it. I finally finished edit # 41,506 and completed my WIP. 

It wasn't looking good this morning, what with a sick kid who had to skip surf camp and hang out with me all day. But hooray for Jimmy Neutron, because I plopped her down in front of the TV nanny and finished my last chapter. 


I would suggest reading your WIP aloud *yourself,* but...

This is fun, too. 

Damn it, I can't seem to get my avatar to embed, but you can make your own (mine's name is Bertha) and copy and paste your WIP to have her read it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pitch It, Baby

As I mentioned before, I have recently signed up for a pitch conference here in New York in September. I'm just finishing up my edits now, so I've just started writing this sucker. 

In a pre-conference email, the good people of the NY Pitch and Shop conference have let me know that I'll need to have all these elements in my pitch: 

Scene Set
Major Complication 
Rising Action

I don't think I'll have a problem writing this up. It's the actual pitching that I might just flub.

Any tips for that? Shots of whiskey? Valium? 

What settles your nerves?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Getting that Agent

I'm linking to this great post by author and fellow AWer Adrienne Kress (aka Toothpaste) about the process of getting an agent. She did a fine, fine job summarizing the process, and this comes at a good time for me since I am thisclose to finishing my WIP, and currently researching agents and shining up my query and pitch. 

So thanks, Ms. Kress!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Call + Response

Sorry I've been radio silent for the last few days. We had guests staying with us for the weekend and I was too busy playing Little Miss Hostess. And--get this--I've actually been working on my WIP. Shocker!

My friend Cindy from Miami sent me this link about a new documentary coming out this September highlighting the abuses of the slave trade. Did you know that there are more slaves now than ever before in human history? And that slave traders make more money than Google, Nike, and Starbucks combined? Shameful.

I can't seem to get my blog to embed today, so please click on this YouTube link for Call + Response.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Just call me Conference Girl from now on

Apparently I can't get enough of conferences. Just as the Southampton Writers Conference was wrapping up, I decided to go ahead and apply for the NYC Pitch and Shop conference in September. While SWC was a craft workshop, and very beneficial, this one is for pitch sessions. With editors. Like, face to face. Yikes. 

So I received the email today that my synopsis was accepted and I can go ahead and send them my 500 bucks. I have no clue if that's a great thing or if they take every schmo who bothers to apply, but I DO know I have to get my ass in gear and finish this sucker now. 

It's okay. I work better under pressure.

I think.

Anybody wanna babysit my kids for the next two months?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

SWC--*sniff* It's over.

I did my reading yesterday (the flash fiction piece "Watching Harlem" on the left column if you are interested) and I was less nervous than I thought I would be. It was kind of a rush, actually. I think I was okay.

The readings went all day --9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.--and I was surprised at the overall quality of the work. Some people there were so talented. The day ended with the musical theatre people putting on a very funny performance about the conference set to the theme of "West Side Story" -- Poets vs. Playwrites. There was a quip about Billy Collins that had everyone laughing...I'll just leave it at that. 

We went out to dinner last night with about half of my novelist group and a poet. And my husband who works in finance. I've been to so many Wall Street dinners with him, now it was his chance to smile and nod and have no clue what we were talking about. I'm sad to see my new writer friends go.

Now I need to actually get back to writing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

SWC Nearing the End

I'm so sad my conference is nearly over. Another week would kill me since I can't possibly keep up with this pace, but I would die happy. Today was our last workshop with Meg Wolitzer and we had a goodbye lunch (complete with booze and a sing-along) on a classmate's bayfront deck. And it was a perfect day for it.

Tomorrow we are all reading our work in front of everyone at the conference--including Pulitzer Prize winners, National Book Award winners, and a Nobel laureate. No pressure.

So today I attended a lecture called Presenting Your Work. Here are some tips:

Advice Mom Might Give
--Drink plenty of water before you go on. Makes a huge difference.
--Rest (I'm hoping I can do that tonight with help from my little friend Cabernet.)

About that Tricky Microphone
It's awful when someone doesn't know how to speak into a mic. DON'T SPEAK DIRECTLY INTO IT. Point it at your adam's apple and speak OVER the mic. Much better. And if you have to adjust it, hold on to the mic holder, not the mic itself. 

What Is It I'm Reading Again?
--Know your material.
--Use at least 14 pt. type.

When You Get Up There
--Square off your stance
--Take a clear breath away from the mic. It settles yourself and your audience.
--Pause and make eye contact before you start your piece. 
--Play to your ideal audience. Don't doubt yourself before you go on. Think about those who support you and love your work. 
--Pacing: speak slowly. Give them time to absorb the words. 

And Finally...
--Receive their applause. Don't rush off the stage.

That last one will come in handy. I'm sure I'll have to hang out on stage for many, many shouts of Encore! More, please!

Yeah right.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

SWC Day...oh, I don't even know anymore

My brain has swollen to three times its normal size with all the information on writing that has been shoved in it for the last few days. It's Thursday, right? I've lost track.

I've been too busy to update regularly, so here are some highlights:

Amy Hempel gave a craft lecture on Lunging at Vacancy, or, How to Recognize What's Right in Front of You. If you haven't read her short stories, do so. She has a very interesting approach. Instead of starting with a character or idea, she usually starts with language and evoking emotions with the sounds of words--the acoustically incorrect sentence is dead. Read aloud, people! Think about pairing off words that might otherwise never meet, or turn around the meaning of a mundane thing. Your take just might provide insight and clarity. 

Frank McCourt, Meg Wolitzer, Roger Rosenblatt, and Melissa Bank sat for a Q&A on novel writing today, urging us to write what is important. I know that the question "Why are you telling me this?" has caused me to rethink a few scenes in my WIP. The deeper truth is there, I think, but I just need to find a better way to bring it forward. (Hence the swelling of my brain.)

Oh, and I'm doing a reading on Saturday! Like in front of people and everything! Ack! 

Monday, July 21, 2008

SWC Day 6--Research

Yes, I know I skipped days 4 and 5, but in summary my piece was workshopped (well-received, might I add, and I got some very helpful feedback too) and I bagged some lectures to go to the beach. Not much has changed about me since high school in that regard. 

Today was another workshop with Meg Wolitzer to go over other people's work, but I do find that I learn something about my own writing even when discussing specifics of someone else's.

We also had a great lecture about research (one that I very nearly skipped!) from Catherine Creedon*, a research librarian at the Sag Harbor Library. Thank goodness I was a serious student today, because this lecture will directly impact my upcoming WIP. She spoke about the limitations of Google and provided us with a nifty little handout of other sources for research. I'll give you the Cliff Notes:

Regular Search Engine Stuff besides Google:
Clusty--this organizes the returns in clusters to refine your search
Dogpile--searches several search engines at once
SPUTTR--another good source

Reference Sites:
Bartleby--this one was very cool. It has just about every reference book you can think of online, plus lots of fiction.
Gutenberg Collection--another very cool site with thousands of whole books available to download. I'll use this a ton.
Jstor--search academic articles from scholarly journals

Specialized Sites:
PodScope--search videos and podcasts
CyberCemetery--archive dead government web pages
Wayback Machine--archive dead non-governmental web pages

And, of course there is Wiki, but you all know that it should only be used as a starting point, right? 

Go forth and research!

*Let's make a librarian happy and cite sources here. Thanks Catherine Creedon. 

Friday, July 18, 2008

SWC Day 3--Dark Comical Sex

I'm going to regret posting that title. Some pervert is going Google "sex" and stumble upon my blog, only to find a bunch of stuff about writing. How very disappointing. Sorry. 

So. Today's morning lecture was on the topic of writing sex, and much nervous giggling and tittering ensued the first few minutes. Elizabeth Benedict lectured (author of The Joy of Writing Sex) on what makes for a really interesting sex scene that's not just full of heaving bosoms and panting. She says that a good sex scene is always about sex and something else--it's the conflict of what they want and how that motivates their behavior that makes for good reading. The relationship between the two people (or three, or...whatever) is key to originality. She also said we need to turn off the sensors about what other people will think (I know that's an issue for me. My mother might read it! Ack!) and just write the scene. She also said a bunch of other useful stuff, ss here's her website:

After lunch, the cartoonist Gahan Wilson spoke about dark humor and how being playful with the grotesque can help people cope with tragedy and turn it into something that can be handled. As someone who is prone to bursts of inappropriate laughter, I agree. 

Then literary agent Chris Calhoun answered questions about the agent/author relationship. Some of the stuff you might already know, like how to write a query letter, and if you don't, please see the list at the left and click on Nathan Bransford. He's a lit agent who blogs and he has some very useful information on this topic. (And here's a tip about Chris Calhoun: he strongly prefers snail mail.)

Homework time again. 

Thursday, July 17, 2008

SWC Day 2

Today started with a workshop with Meg Wolitzer and a room full of 12 writers and wannabe writers sizing each other up. Seems like a fairly diverse group of people--some published, some not. Feigning braveness, I volunteered to have my piece put up for workshop first. I've been in a couple of workshops before, so while I know my submission needs a lot of work, I'm not too nervous about having people comment. Meg seems like a very giving teacher, and she reminded me of one my former Gotham teachers (and fellow AWer.)

Next was a lecture on dramatic action by Alan Alda. I have to confess that I haven't read any of his books, but wow, what an intelligent guy. I picked up his book to add it to my stack. He spoke about forward motion in writing, and how every line has to earn its keep to propel the story along. Not so much of a lover of narrative exposition (but really, who is? Still, it did get me thinking about some parts of my WIP that might drag.)

Tonight's reading was from Meg Wolitzer from The Ten Year Nap and Amy Hempel from The Collected Stories. Both women have very different styles of writing, but they couldn't have been more entertaining. 

Off to do my homework....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Southampton Writer's Conference -- Day 1

So after much fretting about my writer's conference ("What if I'm the oldest one there?" "Who will I sit by at dinner?"  "What should I wear?") I went to the first day. Well, first evening. And it was fine. Answers: I wasn't, some other nice writers, and a cute little sundress. Tonight was orientation and a cookout.

It's a full (12 day!) schedule, starting with tonight's reading by nobel prize winning poet Derek Walcott. He writes about his native St. Lucia and his words were so vivid and beautiful--like brushstrokes across a canvas. 

My workshop starts tomorrow at 10 am with Meg Wolitzer. I've already met some of the people in my group and it seems like a diverse and interesting crowd.  

Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hypothetical: To Sell Out or Not to Sell Out

So I was reading this article in the New York Times this morning, which talks primarily about brand names in teenage fiction, but it did bring up the question as to whether or not companies paid to have their products placed in the books. (Turns out no.) 

As a former advertising chick, my first thought was how smart (for the advertisers) and that competed with my second, writer-chick thought of no way would I do that in one of my books. 

It's certainly not the first time brands have been featured in books. I remember a litany of luxury brands in American Psycho which I found very annoying. I suppose that was the point. And I suppose if it fits the character, brand names can be useful in description. But what do you think about authors getting paid for it? Let's say Pepsi offered you a fat sum of cash if you would just write your MC as having an affinity for their soda? She cracked open a cool, refreshing Diet Pepsi before turning to him and saying...  

Would you do it? What the sum were REALLY fat? Obese, even.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Help Me Name My Baby

I've never been good at titles. Never. Each of my two daughters were born without a name and we had to come to a decision before they were each christened Baby Girl Cebula for life. (Zoe? Eleanor? Naomi? Doctor, what do you think she looks like?)

So, big shocker, I'm struggling with a title for my WIP, and it's nearly time to send this puppy out. It's been called, in order of appearance: Working Title, Pinnacle, Wendy's Novel Rev. 1, The Albatross Around My Neck, Whispered and Revealed,  and now it's Up From Drowning. 

Meh. None of these are really resonating with me. I read this helpful article on choosing a title, but Still. Can't. Decide. 

What's your baby's name?  

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Editing. What's Your Strategy?

I'm thigh-deep in the muck of editing my WIP at the moment, after getting some valuable feedback from a beta reader. I have quite a few changes to make.

Being ever the organized, spreadsheet-and-list-oriented person, I have an Excel document entitled Edits To Make and I tick them off as the days go by. Fix dialogue on page 72? Check! Tie in detail in Chapter 4 to the end? Check! Making the checkmarks is gratifying and all, especially with a sparkly blue pen, but I'm wondering if there is a better way. 

This is the first time I've written anything this long, and editing this way feels piecemeal to me. Of course I'll give it another read-through (or 10), but I'm interested in how others tackle their edits.

So? Lay it on me.

Friday, June 27, 2008

What? Another Meme?

'Tis true. I've been tagged by Janna over at Something She Wrote to do a music-themed meme, which is strangely difficult for me because I don't spend much time in the car, and that's really the only time I listen to music. When I lived in LA and spent my life in the car, I was very hip and knew all the new artists.  Now I listen to a NPR on a little clock radio while I get ready, and that's about it. When did I turn into my father? Huh. 

But first, I thought I would let you all know about a great book I've been reading. It's only been around since 1961, so I'm really  cutting edge on this one. Somehow, I've never read Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates even though it's a very writerly book to read. Or so says the introduction. My beta reader said that my book reminded him of it--many of the same themes and tone at least--so I though I should check it out. Wow, it's amazing so far. And um, just a little better than mine, I'd say. I just started it, but if you are into family angst, this is the book for you.

Ok, so the meme. Name seven songs you are into right now, or that influence you in some way. And why. I can't do seven, but this is my list:

Amy Winehouse--Rehab 
I know, I know, she's a little junkie. But I find her so watchable and I love her music and her voice. I hope she doesn't mess it up too bad with her crack pipe. Get it together, Amy!

Coldplay--Viva La Vida
I don't know why, but this song says with me. The lyrics are interesting, too.

Ramones--Anything by the Ramones. It all sounds like the same song anyway.
My rule in the car: no kid music. Yeah yeah, bad mom, I know, but my daughters are crazy for music and if I have to listen to it through their doors at home, I get to choose in the car. We can agree on the Ramones, the Rolling Stones, the Violent Femmes, The Cult, and my last entry:

Good Charlotte--The River
I'll admit to buying this CD for the car only because my youngest daughter's name is Charlotte. But I actually like it and my daughters do, too. This song takes me back to LA.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A-Z Meme

I've been meme tagged today by our dear Auria Cortes (aka Escritora) at So here goes:

A-Attached or Single? Attached. I've been married for 13 years this October. Good God. 13 years.
B-Best Friend? My husband, my mom, and my friend Jennifer.
C-Cake or Pie? Cake. Cupcakes from a bakery called Two Little Ren Hens, if I get a choice.
D-Day of Choice? A BlackBerry-free Saturday.
E-Essential Items? BlackBerry, laptop, my favorite boots
F-Favorite Color? Cobalt blue.
G-Gummy Bears or Worms? Bears. The worms look gross hanging out of my kids' mouths.
H-Hometown? Springfield, MO, although I was born in St. Louis.
I-Indulgence? pedicures
J-January or July? July. At the beach.
K-Kids? Two girls named Naomi and Charlotte
L-Life isn’t complete without…travel. I love to travel. To anywhere, really.
M-Marriage Date? October 21, 1995 in Los Angeles
N-Number of Siblings? None! Only brat.
O-Oranges or Apples? Oranges. Apples don't do it for me. Unless they are baked in cinnamon.
P-Phobias or Fears? Sharks. I'm terrified of them.
Q-Quote? "If you haven't got anything nice to say about anyone...come sit here by me."
R-Reason to Smile? My crazy daughters.
S-Superman or Wonder Woman? Easy. Wonder Woman.
T-Tag 5 people. Melanie, Janna, Ed, and Polenth
V-Vegetables? kale
W-Worst Habit? Complaining, especially when it's hot outside.
X-Ray or Ultrasound? Um, what?
Y-Your Favorite Food? BBQ potato chips
Z-Zodiac Sign? Capricorn

Saturday, June 21, 2008

POV Problems, or, Everyone Sounds Like Wendy

I recently attempted writing a piece in the 1st person/past POV of a 12 year old girl. I wasn’t sure I could pull it off, and, as it turns out, I didn’t. My beta reader remarked that she was like a 37 year old trapped in the body of a 12 year old. Which she was. Although she probably sounds a bit like I did at 12.

So yeah, most of my characters tend to be women between the ages of 25 and 45. None of them are me, but all of them are me-esque, at least when it comes to voice. (Not their actions! I promise!) My next short story that I’ve plotted out is about an oversexed, insecure man in his late 60s, so I hope he doesn’t sound like he’s had a strong dose of estrogen.

Do you have a certain type of character you rely on? Is it anything like you? Or do you easily crawl into someone else’s psyche?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Camp Mom

Where ya been, Wendy? Working hard on that novel? Not exactly. Why, I've been entertaining my daughters day and night, what else?

I did get some comments back on my WIP. LOTS of comments. But good ones, and I'm excited to read them. And get to work. Tonight. How's your WIP coming along?

Sunday, June 15, 2008


We're headin' em up and movin' em out today with more suitcases than one could imagine. For the next couple of months, "Writes in the City" becomes "Writes at the Beach." Maybe I'll find some inspiration there. We do have internet access (thank God), so I'll be updating my blog. Plus, come mid-July, I'll be attending the Southampton Writer's Conference, and my plan is to update on all 10 days, so that I can bring all of you along with me. I'll need the emotional support.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads! I'm off to whip together a breakfast for my dear husband before we give him his gifts, then I'll see my own dad later today. Yes, I know it's a made up, Hallmark holiday. But still. I have some great dads in my life and they deserve some handmade cards and token gifts. What are your plans for Father's Day? Do you celebrate?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

That's Right, I'm a Writing Weenie

I'm the kind of person who thrives on routine. I'm more productive, anyway. I probably made the ideal toddler, but as an adult, one has to be able to shake it up every now and again.

Conditions must be perfect for me to write. Quiet house, full stomach, green genmaicha tea at the ready on my right hand side (in my favorite mug, the one that's not too big nor too small.) So one could imagine how much writing I've been doing since my kids have been out of school. Zippo!

I admire people who can make it all work, and often I feel like a spoiled princess when I hear about people writing with seven kids running around and a house to clean, or working 50 hours per week at a stressful job and coming home to write late into the night. Maybe I could do it if I had to, but it's more likely that they are just made from a hardier stock. So are you one of those people who make me look like a wimp? What's your writing routine?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Something Else Before I'm Off

No matter what your political views are, and believe me, I don't care who you are voting for in November, this video should piss you off to no end. Chris Matthews is such a putz. And he has a turkey neck.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Off to See the Fifes & Drums

I'll be away from a computer for the next few days (I'm a little concerned about having withdrawals, but a blog-free detox might do me good.) I'm driving down to Williamsburg, VA to do some tourin' and some learnin' about American history with the husband and kiddos. The girls are ridiculously excited about the trip, primarily because of the Felicity series of American Girl doll books. ("Do you think she'll be there?" "Felicity would be long dead, honey." No, I didn't really say that.)

In the meantime, I recommend you pick up David Sedaris' new book When You are Engulfed in Flames. I'm in the middle of it now and it's kept me up late into the night, snickering.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Join Me for a Quick Brag, Won't You?

I’m feeling pretty good about myself today. I’ve completed my first novel-length piece and just sent it off for a critique. This is a big deal for me because a) I haven’t worked for money in over 8 years (although I’ve been busy doing lots of child-raising and fundraising for non-profits) and b) because I could have grown bored or stuck and quit writing at any time, and in very non-Wendy fashion, I didn’t.

I so rarely get a chance to just out-and-out brag about my own accomplishments, so dammit, I’m gonna do it today. Yay me.

Let us all be narcissistic today! Please share a brag about yourself