Monday, June 2, 2008

Two Minutes Can Just Whiz By In A Flash

Who knew that as an author I'd be back auditioning myself and my book for a roomful of strangers who are looking for an easy fix for their booking problems. I was part of a two hour slog, where dozens of other writiers were also delivering their two-minute pitch as we all dutifully clapped every time someone was introduced and then when they finished. The girl next to me couldn't stop texting except when it was her turn and she suddenly was doing stand up as the Chinese chef of a book for Jewish noshers, "the chosen food for the chosen people."

What chance did I have next to that and "good girls doing bad things," or "orthodox Judaism, with sex, drugs and rock and roll?" A novel about gaining insight and striving to fulfill your dreams over the summer of 1943? Who would book me next to Alan Zwiebel? Or the two singing Jewish princesses, dressed in their high heels and aprons, qvelling about only making reservations, not dinner?

But it was an oppoortunity (a very expensive one, I might add) and who am I to say no to any opportunity? I'll know better next time. Stilettos, mini-skirt, feathers (who cares if I'm too old, it will get attention) and I'll throw in the sex, drugs and rock and roll or maybe a little klezmer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What if you wrote a blog and nobody came

Writing is considered a solitary game, so blogging without readers shouldn't be such a catastrophe, but even when you keep a diary, you're always hoping that someone will actually take a peek once in awhile. That's why I finally decided to self-publish my novel, so that finally people could read it after all my years of talking about it. And you know what, having people read AND like it was really good, validating, you know, now I could legitimately call myslef a writer.

But when no one ever bothers to read or comment on my blogs (which I admit will win no prizes even in blogland) it gets a little lonely. So for further validation, I've come up with a list of thing I do that make my day worthwhile.

Rescue animals
Being a good friend
Mentoring a child in reading
Volunteering at the Zoo
Helping my neighbors (that includes strangers aroound the world)

Not that much when you consider how much crap is going on around the world, but the best I can come up with just now.

How about you?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Diets don't work but writing workshops do

Last night four of us got together to form a new writing group. If you've never been in one, it sometimes feels a little intimidating, but to us old-timers, it's like coming home. To have a group or workshop or whatever you decide to call it, where the focus is on the writing, the process of writing, the joys as well as the pains in the journey is a wonderful experience. I know ultimately we all have to sit down by ourselves and face the blank page and no one can do it for you, but having the discipline of the group, the knowledge that you have to come up with something to bring to that group, helps to push you forward. I've missed having it, am real happy to be starting with this new group, four very different women, with very different stories to tell. It's exciting and I still have to face that blank page by myself, but I'm no longer alone.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Talking to Your Readers

Next to actually having a good day of writing, what could be better than getting to talk to your readers or potential readers. So that makes last night, my first time of book reading, signing and selling at the Westwood Library a fully great experience.

Even when you say you're not nervous, the prospect of being alone in a room when you're hoping to read to the public is daunting. It conjures up every memory of a time when you were stood up or ignored starting back with grade school, when your second grade crush walked right by you without a glance.

But life has a way of evening the score sometimes, so there I was watching the room fill up with both strangers and the friends who surprised me by coming. You get to qvell about your characters, hoping people will find them as interesting as you did for so many years of your life. When they sit there, listening, quiet and attentive, then ask intelligent questions, well is there anything better? Not for a writer there isn't.

And when they come up and plunk their moneys down in order to buy a copy, that's just the cherry on the whipped cream on top of the cake. And not fattening either. It's definitely a good day. And it makes the next writing project seem a little bit more validating, as you sweat over the research, the characters that become frozen, the drama that doesn't feel dramatic.

Such is the joys of writing!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Woman Writer On the Stage with Ed Asner, Keith Carradine, Fran Dresher, etc.

No one but could ever say I had a career in the theater, even though I spent several years in New York studying with Herbert Berghof, Bill Hickey, Lee Strasberg, Allan Miller, also appearing in strange little venues, where the director would come back and say, "Tonight we're doing one for ourselves, kids!" That was because there was more of us on stage than in the audience. Still once, someone came up to me at concert at Cooper Union and told me they had enjoyed me in a play I had been in, so you never know.

But anyway, this weekend I had a taste of being on stage again, as I volunteered to help my friend Stephanie with a festival of play-readings she produced (including two of her own) which benefitted the WGA Support Fund helping non-writers who were affected by the strike. I thought it would be just narrating the stage directions in one or two plays, but it turned out to be all six of them, both days, all day starting with rehearsals in the morning. Geez, I forgot how tired you can get just sitting talking. But the plays were fun and serious and poignant and poetic. People who didn't see it and didn't know about it missed a great weekend of theater. How often does a complete unknown get to share the stage with Ed Asner, Keith Carradine, Ralph Waite, Frances Fisher, Melanie Mayron and Fran Drescher. It made me want to write something theatrical, as well as getting back into my novel.

Oh lord, I'm running out of excuses as to why I'm not writing. Discipline, self-discipline, strict daily discipline. It doesn't count if you only think about writing, only if you sit down and write. Janet Fitch always told us it was a muscle which needed to be exercised every day. So I'm off to write. You too, I hope.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Woman Writer Abroad in the World of Pre-Owned Cars

I'm feeling very pleased with myself today but unfortunately it has nothing to do with writing. I had decided to get a new car, actually a pre-owned one. Notice how no one calls it "used" anymore, it's pre-owned. And for that privilege they charge more. However, as much as I have loved all my Volvos (3), especially the ones that safely crumpled after being hit, I decieded that a Prius, which gets about 45 miles to the gallon, might be the better part of valor, with gas prices surging upwards (thank you President Bush). But buying or even looking at cars is not my thing. First of all I know very little about cars and I always feel that I'm being taken. Bargaining or negotiating is also not my thing because I know I'm being taken.

Still I really think I did okay this time. I knew that Priuses were good, Toyota is good (my first two cars were Toyotas) and I checked out on the internet, what the "pre-owned" ones went for. Then I kept saying no until they came down, agreed to let me test drive the car all weekend, and then the next day agreed to lower the price yet again. I still feel that they must have taken me, because they gave in, but the car drives well and I'm happy, so what the hell. Writers aren't negotiators, they can't do math as Janet Fitch used to say, but with a fully loaded car, 45 miles to the gallon, how miserable should I be!

(Someday I'm going to faint dead away because someone will have actually read my blog and left a comment, even harsh criticism would be welcome. Well, not too harsh).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Woman Writer Abroad in the World

I actually remember the excitement when JFK was President and the horror when he was asssassinated. So I understand the feelings of young voters who think they've discovered someone new, like Sen. Obama, but I also know how extraordinary it is to have a woman candidate up for the office. I'm sorry that the Clinton campaign didn't speak more to that landmark opportunity. Obama keeps saying how he doesn't want to inject race into his campaign, which of course immediately injects it, so I wish Hillary had talked about how women are still dismissed and denigrated (just look at the way the media has referred to her as opposed to anyone else in the race). She sneezes and it's dissected, Obama can only walk on water. People are human, they want to jump on the bandwagon if they think it might be a winning one, issues be damned. She good, she's smart, she just doesn't have the speaker quality that he has. They made fun of Al Gore because of his lack of charisma and look what happened to us. And he actually won! I just hope that Obama is full of smoke and mirrors because our country can't go down any lower on the scale than it has with the Bushies.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

According to Karen Syed, CEO of Echelon Publishing, promoting your writing could be a fulltime job, and the most important one, if you want to sell books. At the past weeekend conference of the SoCalWritersConference in San Diego, I was bombarded by information and ideas on how to market your book. People were there with business cards, post cards, stand ups, bookmarks - all promoting their book. Some would collar you to tell you about their book and not so subtly suggest that you buy it. I felt like a waif, totally unprepared to do any of that. And I'm a former publicist (and was a very good one too!)

Karen stressed that you have to be shameless if necessary to get your book sold. Nothing illegal or illicit, but everything else in between. Putting my book along with dozens of others on a table that was crammed together was not the way to get sales. Not being a speaker or a group leader also relegated me to an unknown position. Still the weekend, in addition to give me the chance to meet Karen and some other agents, especially Adrienne Rosado of PMA Mgt. That and being surrounded by nothing but people who care about writing and reading - a great opportunity.
Now I have to get back to writing, BUT save time every day for some kind of internet push. Oh God, if only I were twelve years old, so it didn't all seem so overwhelming.

Friday, February 15, 2008

This has been a great week for the writer mode, not so much on the writing mode. I did two interviews, one phoner and one tv interview. I found out how much fun it was sitting and talking about myself, my book, my writing, my approach. my, my, me,me. me. My clients used to complain about having to do interviews. I think they lied, it's really fun! (Of course I haven't had the nerve to watch the tv interview. All those lines and dark circles, ugh.)

But writing is really the job of a writer and it's time to get back to a schedule of doing it. Just as soon as I return from the Southern CA Writiers Conference this weekend in San Diego. Then it's sitting at the computer and trying to push the new book along. I got some ideas at the UCLA workshop about character, but not so much about plot. It's hard having one without the other. More research should also help. Creating new worlds for your characters is exhausting work and the more details about what they saw, smelled, touched, wore, ate, - all these specifics are so important. But it still isn't story, just the grounding of story.

Someone in the UCLA class insisted that when she gets stuck she dreams the next part. Me, I'm lucky if I remember anything when I wake up. But maybe tonight will be the lucky dream.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Wow! After four days of intensive workshopping at UCLA, I both exhausted and jazzed. There's nothing like focusing on nothing but writing, surrounded by nothing but writers, which to jumpstart the creative processes.

First of all, I was lucky, being in a small class which had such diverse voices, but all interesting and engaging. Secondly, our instructor, Noel Alumit, (wrote "Letters to Montgomery Clift" and "Talking to the Moon") is a well-recognized novelist, who is giving and caring about the students. Thirdly, he brought in Sandra Zane, a literary agent from Global Literary Management, who also seems to care about writers, writing, reading, good work - along with all the rest of the business aspects. But she did remind us, as I've heard many times before, first page, even the first page of your work, as well as your query letter, most important words you might ever write. As a publicist, you always knew that an editor would give you ten seconds to engage their interest, make it work. (Now of course with emails, you probably don't get that much time before the delete button is engaged.)

Also, the class reminded me how much exercises can help in getting the creative processes going. Even those which don't seem directly connected to your work. It all feeds in and besides you can always find a way to use it for the work if you are truy open to new possibilities.

Okay, after four days non-stop, I have to go lie down and take a nap.
More later.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

There's nothing like being in class to force the creative energy. If only I could do this everyday on my own. But having a chance to work all day at writing just makes the blood flow quickly and the brain open up to all the possibilities. I'm at UCLA for a four day intensive workshop on "Memorable Characters and Dialog," and after just one day, I'm both exhausted and jazzed.

I'm thrilled at the level of work from my other classmates. You always go into this worrying whether they'll be so far beyond you or so far below. Even though the voices are so different, the work is really good and I think I can learn from their critiques.

Of course tonight I sit here nursing a twisted ankle, having a weak ankle is beginning to be a bore, but a frequent bore. So instead of writing some more, I'm off to apply ice so I'm not a cripple for tomorrow's class.

The saga continues.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Every teacher and mentor has said the same thing: you have to write everyday, even if it's just a paragraph, just sit and write for an hour. Writing is a muscle you have to keep exercising or it grows slack and soft. Sounds easy enough, but so many of us find that harder than getting on a treadmill or lifting weights. You can lead a writer to the computer, but can you make him/her start?

When you're in the middle of a project, when the ideas are swirling, it's so much easier. Even when re-writes seem endless, at least you have the outline of a story to deal with. Then you can point to something and tell your friends, that you need just one more chance, one more crack at making the novel right. Now that my first novel is finished, I have to sit down at and look at an empty screen and try to make my brain light up with the next line, the next word. Some people use prompts to jump start their brain, one workshop I was in mandated a word and decreed that everyone can write at least "six lines" to bring into the next session. Others like Natalie Goldberg (who wrote the wonderful "Writing Down the Bones,") encourages setting up writing partnerships where you meet with a buddy in public and do timed writing exercises. Another writer, Judy Reeves has written several books with all kinds of exercises and prompts do excite that writing muscle. Janet Fitch would suggest reading poetry before you started writing or listening to music. Being part of a writers workshop was very important to me in the development of my novel, FLYING OUT OF BROOKLYN, where I knew I was expected to bring in at least eight pages every week or every other week.

I finally learned that I'm a deadline junkie, I work better when there's a guillotine hanging over my head ready to strike if I don't meet my quota. No matter what the deadline, I wait until I've been backed up against the wall before my creative juices start flowing. This week I'm doing a four-day intensive writers class to juice my brain so I can go back to the new project I've started. I'll let you know how that works out.

Unitl tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Woman Writer Abroad in the World

Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008

First blog ever, so this is a new experience writing a public diary of thoughts.

As a newly published novelist, I wanted to share my experience of the process of getting a book out there for the world to chew up and hopefully not spit out. It may be a cliche but letting go of a creative project is very much like sending your child out by him/herself without Mommy protecting it. You've sweated over it, worked it, molded it, kept it by your side for years and now it's gone, finished, you can't take anything back.

The important thing to remember if you're in this situation is not to go up and down with each and every review or comment that you get about your work. You've given the work out as a gift to the world and you can't be killing yourself over every little nuance or imagined criticism you hear in someone's voice or quote. The cure for all of this is going back to the computer or the pen and paper (people do still write that way I'm told) and get right back on the horse and start writing again. It's getting late and I'm writing too many cliches for a first blog.

More tomorrow.