Quote of the day

"I didn't get a hug today, jerk." - The Boy


Why they pay me the big bucks

Other editor: Is there a way on Microsoft Word to get an "e" with an accent mark over it?
Me: Usually I just write "cafe" and hit enter.
Other editor: Get out of town! That's hot!!
Me: I'm sure there's an easier way.



I wonder if Golden Delicious apples are part pear.


Welcome back to work

Yes, I know. It's hard to go back to work after a holiday. But cheer up: It's a short week, and then you get a three-day weekend again. Not bad, eh?

I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. I sure did.

Thought for today

Too many cooks
spoil the book



Special holiday newsflash.

My stepmother revealed that she was walking past the house of the goat the other day (the goat in question is a goat that lives by my dad & stepmother's house) and she asked its owner what the goat's name is.

You may or may not recall that two summers ago, I told my half-sis, who's 13, that I'd give her $20 if she found out the name of the goat by the end of the summer.

I now know the goat's name.

It is...

It is...

tell ya tomorrow.

No, just kidding.

It's "Spooky."

Because it's a black goat.

OK, then.


Happy holidays

Blogging will probably be suspended over the next few days because of the holidays. And because I feel like it.

Happy holidays!!

Here's a Forbes article about the top-earning authors (I'm not in it; sorry.)


Notice the musical similarities?

Christmas carol:

Oh come all ye FAITHful
Joyful and triUMphant...

Twisted Sister:

We're not gonna TAKE it
No, we ain't gonna TAKE it...

Dee Snyder must notice. He performed the former this morning on the radio, and it definitely sounded like the latter. I never woulda known!


Blog entry

Okay, going to try to fire off a quick entry before I go to work.

I'm on some Yahoo newsgroups (listserves) about writing, and sometimes a "guest agent" will appear and answer questions from the writers who are on the loop. One time, a woman who was working on a novel for teens asked a question about the plot of her book, which involved a teen traveling through time to another decade. The agent responded that if a book is about time travel, it's usually a sign that it's done by an amateur.

I was surprised, as I'd never heard this. Luckily, I am not writing a book about time travel. But hmmm, who comes up with all these little rules in publishing?

Of course, there are exceptions - I guarantee that if this woman's book was really great, it would sell. Any great book that keeps us rivited will sell. But if her book is less than great, there are so many hurdles to get through. Having a plot that agents consider overused is just one more.

It's also said that a chick lit book about a guy is flat-out not going to sell. 80 percent of book-buyers are women. Guys don't buy. But books like "High Fidelity" will sell because even though they're written by a guy and about a guy, they could appeal to women.

The funny thing about some of these rules, though -- they vary from agent to agent. I've heard agents contradict each other on some of them. What one agent or publisher may see as a drawback, others may love.

Ultimately, a great book will sell no matter what. If it's anything less than great, it has to have a readymade market.

But you already knew that publishing was complicated, didn't you?



Sorry. I was a bad blogger today. Very busy, plus, I forgot.

Superagent is willing to look at my book project early next year, so right now I have to finish getting it into shape.

Priority is, of course, the Boy. Don't worry, schnookums.


Playing on the rug

It's rare these days that I wake up on a Saturday or Sunday morning with nothing to do. But occasionally I do. And when I do, I flash back to the days in elementary school when a Saturday or Sunday with nothing to do meant I would roll onto my rug and spend the day happily creating.

One day I remember especially was when I was maybe 10 or 11. The sky was sheer white, frozen, and flurries fell outside my window the entire day. There was a corner of my room left open, between my dresser and the wall, and I pulled a box up to it and sat behind it, in the corner. The box became my "desk" and the corner was my office. I spent the day drawing magazines, watching the flurries outside the window that was to my left.

My younger brother sat in his room next to mine and did the same thing. All day, we went to each other's offices and traded magazines. I drew some that I knew he'd go for -- "Pac Mag," about Pac-Man, and the "Tush Times," which included tushey world records and comic strips about a family of buttocks.

I had a tape dispenser on my desk and a little cup of pens, and I was completely happy.

Sometimes I miss such unfettered creativity, knowing I didn't have to worry about being published, that I could just draw whatever I wanted.


To-Do List

More Stuff
More Stuff
More Stuff
More Stuff

I will write something more thoughtful soon.



Tomorrow night is Hannukah. The festival of lights.

I have nothing much to write today, so go wash your tights.



I'm behind on e-mails and pretty busy this week, so I apologize if you sent me something and I didn't respond yet. If it's really important and I somehow overlooked it, please feel free to e-mail me again. Otherwise, I'll catch up, I promise! I'm whittling down my in box.

Here's the aforementioned roast pig (he's the one in sunglasses).

It kind of tasted like turkey (maybe it was the seasoning.)



Roast. Suckling. Pig.



I. Eating

I'm trying to get back on a bout of healthy eating after being tempted by so many delicious holiday treats, but that won't stop me from trying the ROAST SUCKLING PIG at my office holiday party this year. I've never had a RSP (Roast Suckling Pig) and I am very excited about it.

II. Titles

During my monthly visit to my writing group last week, some people said they liked the title of my writing project-in-progress, and some really didn't. It reminded me of when I started writing a kids' book in college called The Run of the Hills. The main character, Justin, was 10 and lived in Vermont and was pleased to run through the mountains. When I passed out part of the book in class, one person wrote next to the title, "Cliche." The title is NOT a cliche, though! Run of the MILL is, not run of the hills. The phrase itself only appears 50 times on the internet, in different contexts (and for the internet, 50 times on any phrase is pretty low.)

Just goes to show, you have to pay attention to criticism but still filter it through your net of experience and instincts.

III. This Is Not Chick Lit

Finally got ahold of the book This Is NOT Chick Lit. I'm really enjoying the stories so far. I'm not offended by the title or the intro or really much else about it; the intro even says good things about chick lit. I'll write more after I get further into it.

I'm glad that it got published. I doubt that chick lit was obscuring womens' literary fiction, but I think we can all stand to have both types of fiction on the shelves.



I just got back from my monthly writers' group meeting, where I had my first and last glass of eggnog for the year. I love eggnog, but it has to be saved for special occasions. This was "light" eggnog, but probably still not very light. I have also enjoyed soy nog.

I have met many people who do not like eggnog. Sorry, you are missing out!

Oh, by the way, no, there wasn't alcohol in it. I like it by itself.


More author snark

Gawker has a periodic feature that makes fun of publishing. Two days ago, they listed some types of authors. They included this paragraph:

Type 1: Her favorite author is Bridget Jones. Oh! She totally means Helen Fielding. (Giggle)
Type 2: Please don't assume I'm like all the other chick lit writers. I'm just doing this for the money. I went to an Ivy League school, you know. I'm smarter than this.

Heh heh.

I wonder if I ever gave anyone that impression...I really am truly grateful to be part of the trend. Very grateful. I've said in the past that my book is different from other books out there, but it's an important part of marketing to show why your book is different and fresh. Hopefully every book I write is different from other people's books.

Still pretty funny.

In other news, I came across this fiesty paragraph in the Nov. 27 entry of Jennifer Weiner's blog and had to share...

"...the Observer points out that Flanagan’s much-ballyhooed TO HELL WITH ALL THAT sold a grand total of 8.700 copies. 8,700 copies would be a disappointing performance for a literary novel that was acquired for ten thousand dollars, written by a clubfooted, mute troll, and received zero review attention or publicity. For a book that was undoubtedly acquired for much more money, that was reviewed in the New York Times and the L.A. Times and the Wall Street Journal, and practically every other newspaper of note, whose media-savvy, witty, telegenic author was profiled in Elle and appeared everywhere from “The Today Show” to “The Colbert Report,” it’s flat-out shocking."

In other news...

I saw "Annie" last night at MSG and it was great, especially the scenery.

It's cold out. Please wear your hat and gloves today.


From bad to worse

I was curious if people have started coming up with Taco Bell jokes, so I went on a Google search.

After these were the first two items that came up, I wished I hadn't.

The following is not suitable for those under 18 or over 65 (or, come to think of it in between.)

Update: PHOTO TWO HAS BEEN DELETED because it is degrading to Chihuahuas.

There are more important things to talk about - like "Annie!"


Writing update

I'm still waiting to hear back from editors on both of my book projects - one for teens, one for adults. I finished both of them in August, my agent sent them out in September, and I'm still waiting to hear from the majority of editors on them. Yes, it DOES take this long!

Part of the reason is this: It takes a long time to read piles of manuscripts, and certainly a long time for publishers to decide whether to invest $10K and a year or more to publish someone. We writers always do have to anticipate months of waiting.

Of course, some books have sold in a matter of days. It's the exception rather than the rule, but it happens.

I want to give my agent the many-years-in-progress book soon, but I really should wait until I finish hearing about these other things.

Here is a nice summary on Saturday's chick lit panel, appearing on Galleycat.com. Thanks to Ron Hogan for writing about us.

Also thanks to my friends who turned out, especially the Boy for being so supportive, and even a few of the cupcake panel people for staying late.


Classic edition

Woke up,
Put on clothes,

I know, I know. "Too much information." Right?


The hills are alive

For all of those wondering, the Sound of Music will air this year on ABC on Dec. 23. They're not allowed to cut it the way they used to, because now it's in some sort of historic film registry. So you get the full four hours, and all of screenwriter Ernest Lehman's funny asides.

On MAD TV last week, they aired a parody of "extras" from the 40th anniv DVD, with alternate endings. Warning: May not be suitable to watch at work.


In other holiday-special news, Rudolph is on this Friday at 8 p.m. I always want the Misfit Toys to be rescued, and they do. Hooray!

Thanks to all who attended my panel on Saturday. It was great fun.


Good morning! Here's your itinerary

Okay, maybe not, but here's the address for today's panel. If you come, please try to be positive so we can keep our hungry authors selling their books!

December 2 & 3, Independent and Small Press Book Fair hosts over 100 top-notch presses & leading authors from Nation Books, PEN American & New York's literary & political scene, including: Relentless Aaron, Dore Ashton, Amiri Baraka, Jennifer Baumgardner, Colin Channer, T. Cooper, Michael Cunningham, Luis Francia, Steve Freeman, Matthea Harvey, C*ren Lis*ner, Joe Meno, Jonas Mekas, Mark Crispin Miller, Eileen Myles, Sara Nelson, Greg Palast, Rachel Pine, Peter Plate, Katha Pollitt, Eyal Press, Paul Robeson, Jr., Martha Southgate, David Levi Strauss, Anne Waldman and much more.

(*yes, I added asterisks to make it harder to Google this blog. But I am on the list...)

Free Admission ($1 suggested donation). The address is 20 West 44th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, Manhattan. Tel: 212/764-7021.

Hours: 10am to 6pm on Saturday and 11am to 5pm on Sunday. For a complete list of panels and events please click here.

Events at the Book FairSaturday, December 2
11:00 am to 12:45 pm - Readings from selected small press authors
11: 00 am to 12:00 pm - Here’s lookin’ at you, cupcake
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm - Chick Lit: More than just Bridget and Blahniks
1:00 pm to 2:00 - Partner with your publisher: How not to feel @#%*!ed whenyour book comes out...


Jumping through hOOps

When I applied to graduate schools (a long time ago, and no, I didn't go), I was incensed by the fact that each school expected me to get three recommendations from former professors. I'd been out of college for seven years, and I didn't think my freshman year English seminar professor would remember me, nor would my junior year political science prof who'd had 400 people in class.

It's okay to get recommendations while you're still an undergrad if you're planning to apply to grad school right after graduation, but if you've been out of school for a while and gathering real-world experience, it's a terrible burden to put on both applicants and professors. Especially if you're applying to a lot of schools.

And now, I'm finding something else irksome - having to write the recommendations. Three people have asked me to write them recommendation letters for grad school in writing or journalism. I am *HAPPY* to do it, as they are all good people. But some of these schools required me to attach their own form to the recommendation letter. So I have had to continually check off things like whether the applicant is, as compared with others I've known:

Academically _in the top 1 percent, _in the top 5 percent, _ in the top 20 percent
Good-smelling _in the top 1 percent, _top 5 percent, _top 20 percent
Sexiness _in the top 1 percent, _top 5 percent, _top 47.8 percent

etc. If these people were applying to one school only, it wouldn't be so hard. But some are applying to 10+ schools. Which I guess these schools would like to discourage, but hey, you have to give people options, right? Especially when they need to compare financial aid offers, etc.

The other hard thing is writing recommendations for each person and having to dig up exactly when the person was hired, and other specifics. So I left those parts blank and e-mailed the letters to the applicants I'm writing letters for, so they could fill in the details. Then they e-mailed my letters back to me. You may say, "Well, then you're giving the applicants an unfair advantage because they see what you're writing," but I'm sure there are other applicants getting far bigger boosts out there. And they are competing with my applicants.

Anyway, maybe I'm just whining, but I wish grad schools would keep it simple when asking for letters of recommendation. Otherwise it's an unfair burden on the applicant, as well as the professional person he or she asks to recommend him or her.

I never realized how hard it was to bug my professors and bosses to take time to sit down and write me a rec - and I felt bad doing it as it was.



Local color

Okay, everyone has a different definition of beauty. Sometimes gritty areas of New Jersey can even cough up a little color. So here are some random photos from nearby.


Writing update

I worked on my many-years-in-progress book yesterday, reading a printout of the beginning and making more minor changes. Now I have to print them out again and see if they made things better, or worse.

Will I ever be satisfied? Sure. I'll be happy with being 95 percent satisfied. I can't give it to my agent now anyway. I have to wait until I hear back on the two other books I have out to editors.


Mike White Appreciation Club

Do you know who Mike White is? His name is generic, and so are his looks, but his comedy writing is fresh and original. If you go to the movies to see a comedy that you think is going to be stupid, and it turns out to be surprisingly funny, then it might well have been written by Mike White.

Besides being a screenwriter, Mike White also is a character actor who appears in small roles in some of his films, with his light blonde hair and meek, innocent-seeming looks.

He wrote "Orange County," which seemed like it was going to be stupid, but it surprised me because I found it actually funny, with non-trite humor and sweet characters. He wrote "School of Rock" as a vehicle for Jack Black, a friend he often collaborates with - and he played a teacher in that movie. He wrote "Nacho Libre," which I confess I haven't seen, also as a vehicle for Jack Black.

More importantly, he wrote two films I really enjoyed - a subtly humorous black comedy called "The Good Girl" starring Jennifer Aniston (I encourage you to see it) and his indie film, the disturbing but poignant "Chuck and Buck." He had a minor role in the first one and a major role in the second one.

I read on Wikipedia that Mike's father was a preacher who used to write speeches for the religious right, then eventually came out of the closet and now preaches for gay rights. Interesting. I also found out that Mike was a writer and producer for Dawson's Creek in the late '90s. He's a friend of and collaborates with Jack Black as well as the Weitz brothers ("American Pie.")

Anyway, I am writing today's entry in appreciation of the comedic stylings of Mike White, so that you may recognize and adore him when you see his oeuvres.


Chick lit panel

Reminder: It's this Saturday at noon at the Small Press Book Fair, just two blocks from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

And it's FREE!


Although the market got oversaturated with the standard chick lit plot (single girl goes on lots of bad dates), there is still room for humorous women's fiction...so where do we go from here?

Come, enjoy, support your friendly writers, and have fun!



What is an "Unskinny Bop?" Why not just say Fat Bop?

I did have a good Thanksgiving - hope you did.

Conversation on phone with my mom:

MOM: Pigs are very smart animals. They're clean, too. They make good pets. The only thing is, if you get injured, they drink your blood.

ME: I told you that!

MOM: No, I told you that!


Happy Thanksgiving!

And a wet one, where I am.


Nothing personal...

I was talking with a friend about blogging yesterday, and the topic of getting too personal in a blog came up. I don't think there's any benefit at all from it -- except for the fact that it's more entertaining for your readers. But most of them just read personal blogs the way they look at an accident. It can cause a lot more harm than good. I think offering your most private thoughts and actions as internet bait is risky.

With that in mind, I offer some thanks without getting too personal:


I am thankful that I have some wonderful, kind, giving people in my life.

I am especially thankful that I met the Boy, who is definitely wonderful, kind and giving.

I am thankful that no one close to me is very sick right now.

I am thankful that I have a stable job where I've been for a long time. I remember how awful and degrading job-hunting could be. Not to mention being broke.

I am thankful that I have a warm place to go every night and every day, for work or play.

I am thankful that my dog Meg lived for 14 years and got and gave 14 years of hugs.

I am thankful that someone actually paid me to read my words (more than once!) It may or may not ever happen again, but I appreciate it.

I could think of 100 more things, but I just want to thank you.


Train wreck

I watched Kramer's appearance on Letterman tonight. It made a bad situation worse. He just kept rambling and made less and less sense as he went on. He would have been better off just saying he was sorry and that he'd talk about it more another day. Instead, he went into African-Americans being angered by what happened during & after Hurricane Katrina, which I guess if it was in a coherent context would have been ok, but he just looked incredibly confused and uncomfortable. The he talked about how African-Americans should take racism to task, and how "the rage inside of all of us" is a big problem - basically saying that the problem is that every one of us is a racist. Letterman stopped him at that point and changed the subject a bit.

There were also people laughing in the audience, probably because Kramer's attempt to be serious, with his odd pauses and stares into the camera, had the look and feel of a parody, as if it was Saturday Night Live making fun of him (which probably they will do this weekend). Jerry Seinfeld said to the audience, to stop them from laughing: "This isn't funny." Well, it wasn't, but probably the audience was just so uncomfortable that they didn't know how to react. Sometimes laughter is a nervous reaction to something really uncomfortable.

Anyway, the 'apology' was pretty weird. I'm sure it'll be widely available on YouTube today.
A New Deal for Xmas

The sun'll come out
December seventh
because I'm going to see "Annie" in NYC
on December seventh!
There'll be sun.

Just thinking about
seeing Annie
clears away the cobwebs
and warms my fanny!
Come what may...

O Annie
O Annie
I love seeing
it's only 17 days

Well, sorry you had to read that, but look on the bright side...
You didn't have to hear me sing!
Now that's something to be thankful for this year.


Maybe I was suspicious of the shooting below because it reminds me of this famous Boston case.

Update: Okay, why mince words - the guy probably did it himself, or hired someone to do it. It wasn't some mysterious "6-foot Hispanic man" who emerged from the shadows. Besides the sketchy details that are setting my journalistic alarms off:

1. The Post was all over this story, just like with John Mark Karr. However, responsible papers are being careful and attributing everything "According to police, the guy told them he was attacked...." rather than "according to police, the guy was attacked." They are qualifying everything. Some are even using "claimed he was shot..." rather than "said" he was shot.

Lest you believe police would not release this story if they didn't believe it themselves - yes they would. They can't release the fact that they think the fellow did it himself or hired the hit man who did it. That would hinder the investigation. If the press convicts him, the police have less chance of getting him comfortable enough to confess.

2. I guess I said everything in #1.

Coming tomorrow

Things I'm thankful for.



Is it possible to have too many free t-shirts?

It's more a problem among women, because t-shirts given out for free are usually in sizes too big for us.


Is it possible to have too many free nightgowns?
Between the lines

Just like the John Mark Karr story, here is another story that doesn't pass the smell test. How much do you want to bet that the guy confesses in a few days to either having hired the shooter, or there is no shooter at all? [Editor's note: Someone asked me how there could be no shooter if they got shot. I meant, no outside shooter - sorry. Other than the dude himself.]

New Castle, NY -- A husband and wife who live on the same cul-de-sac as former President Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton have been shot after being forced off the road. Police say Carlos and Peggy Perez-Olivo were driving back to their home in Chappaqua, New York, from Manhattan Saturday night when a car cut in front of their SUV. A man with a gun got out, got into the SUV and struggled with Carlos Perez-Olivo. Peggy Perez-Olivo was shot in the head. Her husband was shot in the abdomen but managed to drive to the hospital. Police say they don't have a motive.


Have a good weekend, y'all.



Luke and Laura got married again

A woman at my office sells these chocolate confections every year around the holidays. How is this not supposed to distract me??


Random thoughts and links


I am always moved by a family who puts up a holiday display outside their home -- it's like they go to all this work just to bring cheer to strangers. Especially a holiday like Thanksgiving that normally doesn't elicit decorations. Thanks to the people a few blocks from me who did this. There are some Halloween lights in the window too.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year, way more than just turkey...

Interesting writing links

Below is a link to a somewhat frustrated post by young-adult agent Nadia Cornier, on why she gets so personal on her blog. This post was a reaction to someone who criticized her for being too personal. But also has interesting comments on the writing industry, and why she became an agent instead of a writer:


Here is an article published in the Village Voice this week on the struggles of writers who are published at a young age, like Ned Vizzini who briefly ended up in a psych ward last year:


TV or not TV

I am enjoying Season 6 of the Sopranos. Fast forward over the dream sequences and it's riveting.

Still have to catch the special "General Hospital" today.

Luv that guv

Yesterday evening, I managed to snag a copy of James McGreevey's book "The Confession" from the local library (Sorry but I didn't want to buy it). Here is a quote from page 233:

"When we finished our lovemaking, our thoughts returned to the enormous task we shared, building an administration from scratch in just two months, governing in a post-9/11 world."

Wow. Most people would have just smoked a cigarette.


Love in the Afternoon

I'm not quite sure how any of us can go to work on Thursday, seeing how General Hospital is going to be airing some sort of "commemorative" episode at 3 p.m. in honor of the 25th anniversary of Luke & Laura's wedding. Okay, I'll just tape it like any normal person.

What is so special about those two? Their dialogue was just funny and magical. Plus, they hold a special place in my heart because they were on right after school every day when I was about 11 years old - good timing.

I'm sure all boys will hate today's entry, but at least I didn't write about Sex And the City.

Note: There are some updates on yesterday's entry if you look below.


Customer disservice

Update: A reader writes: I moonlight as security at one of those huge service centers. I can tell you from experience, there are very few accidents. Most likely when they cut you off, they either had a really hot poker hand, needed a smoke break, or their pizza had just arrived. quality help, like a good man, is hard to find. And the turnover rate here is horrendous. ...xo.

Update 2: I just got my weekly rundown of manuscripts that were sold this week. Maybe when this one comes out, it will sheld light on the situation: Emily Yellin's YOUR CALL IS (NOT THAT) IMPORTANT TO US, an investigative narrative about the customer service industry, from outsourced IT helpdesks in India, to Mormon housewives taking reservations for JetBlue, to the corporate boardrooms where the policies that make customer service experiences so frustrating are made, to Liz Stein at Free Press, for publication in fall 2008, by Jennifer Gates at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency (NA).

Making calls to customer service allows one to engage in many rewarding opportunities: being rerouted to difference voice-operated options, having to say long strings of numbers into the phone, and explaining a complex situation to three different people. All of that is fine; I can handle that. What I hate is that they can finally understand your situation, be in the process of resolving it, accidentally hang up on you, and then when you call back -- if you are lucky enough to even remember the person's name -- they won't put you back on with that same person. Nor will that person call you back to finish the process. You are expected to completely start over, even though they accidentally hung up on you.

I think it would be a big improvement in customer service (we're talking phone service, gas, cable, internet, any service business) if the person on the other end can ask you for the number you're at so that if you somehow get cut off (meaning, they don't know how to properly put you on hold), then can call you back and pick up where you left off.

I always ask for their name first thing now, so that I have proof that I actually talked to someone. In case you don't already do that, I encourage you to do the same.

I hope you have a most pleasant day.

O.P.P. (Other People's Projects)

From time to time, hopeful writers e-mail me and ask me if I can read their writing projects and give them feedback. I always tell them that my opinion isn't much more valuable than anyone else's, but I'm happy to help if they look at it in that context. Years ago, I used to always read their creations (well, not the whole thing, but perhaps a few chapters) because I was in the same place not so long ago, just desperately wishing someone would read my writing and publish me. And now I still want to read people's stuff, but this is what happens:

1. I download the file and get too busy to read it.
2. See 1.

So these days, I tell them to send the first five pages. I can tell a lot based on five pages, and that way, I get to it quicker.


Good morning!

I know it's Monday, but try to hang in there.

I think a sudden wind almost just blew my window in.

I'm in an apologetic mood, so I might as well apologize for the boringness of today's entry:

Mon·day (mnd, -d) n. Abbr. Mon. or M
The second day of the week.[Middle English, from Old English Mnandæg(translation of Latin lnae dis, day of the moon) : mnan, genitive of mna, moon; see moon + dæg, day; see day.]

At least it's educational.

Over the weekend, someone e-mailed to ask if the chick lit panel is free and open to anyone. Yes it is, although there's a $1 suggested donation. Here are other panels going on that day.


Incidentally, I also want to say hello to the most adorable boy in the world.

Cheers, all!


Chick lit, or something like it

The panel at the NY bookfair has been confirmed for Saturday, Dec. 2, in easily-accessible midtown Manhattan, noontime. There will also be booksignings. Here are details...

We are confirmed for
Saturday, December 2
Room 208 (second floor)
The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen (20West 44th Street--south side of street).
Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Caren (me) and Rachel Pine will be on the panel.

Here is the panel title and description:


The recent publication of two anthologies, THISIS CHICK LIT and THIS IS NOT CHICK LIT, has generated a lot of debate about a genre that is both beloved and hated. Join the editor of THISIS CHICK LIT, Lauren Baratz-Logsted, and authors Caren Lissner, Rachel Pine, and others for a lively discussion of the phenomenon.

What is the future of chick lit? Well, even if it's more like general "humorous women's fiction" now, we definitely still need something like it around. The throngs of people heading into bookstores next June probably won't all want to bring Thomas Pynchon on their next pleasure trip! (Well, at least, not Mason & Dixon.)


S*x And The C*ty

Tonight I watched "Sex And The City," and it was the episode about the "f**k buddy." Except, since it was on Channel 11, they changed it to "sex buddy."

It's always funny to see how shows dub over things.

Remember that book I was working on for several years? I took six months off from it and then went back to it in August. I revised on it an awful lot and just sent the new version to my friend in California to give me feedback on. It's leaner and better now.

But I can't let myself look at it again for a while. I can't read it objectively, and there's nothing I can do with it anyway. I'm still waiting to hear back on two other books, and if either of them sells, I'll be in a better position to ask an editor to look at this one.

Dum da dee dum. Publishing takes a long time.


Writers' Vuja De

(n.) The fear that somewhere, someone is working on a book just like yours.

Related fear: Writers' Deja News: The fear that somewhere, a news event will happen that is similar to your book or movie project, scuttling it or causing serious problems. (For example, you are working on a novel about kids who shoot up their school, and then Columbine happens, meaning you either have to wait a few years and then revise it to account for that, or toss it completely.)

Just to prove how often Writers' Vuja De happens, check out this entry from Flux, a relatively new (and excellent) publisher of young-adult fiction:


Note: I really was trying to come up with a better term than Writers' Vuja De...something that combines something like "pen" or "ink" with deja vu. But nothing was working. Any thoughts? You might coin a term. You will get full credit!!

You can e-mail me via my webpage, www.carenlissner.com

In related news...

Obviously this applies to other arts. When people first started telling me about Weird Al's song "White and Nerdy," I thought, "Gee, isn't that the same concept of that Chronic-les of Narnia" song from Saturday Night Live? But I shouldn't have been so cynical, because if Weird Al's album just came out, then he was working on his songs waaaaay before the SNL geeks ever came up with their own white, nerdy rap song. I wonder if Al was a little frustrated when he heard it and worried that it would pre-empt his own song.

Luckily, there is great room in the arts for similarities if done right.

There is, after all, another movie on Truman Capote coming out this season. According to a recent New Yorker article, the screenwriter was more than a little anguished when the other one came out and got awards. But luckily, his came out too.



In the last few days, I got recorded messages from Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and Joe Piscopo telling me to vote.

Piscopo was endorsing Tom Kean Jr.

I guess they couldn't find an incumbent Republican whose endorsement would actually help!



Some photos from a NJ park that The Boy and I went to yesterday. Go enjoy the beautiful leaves before they're gone!


Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Remember, remember the 5th of November.


Doogie out

The actor who played Doogie Howser has come out of the closet. I had already heard that he was gay, though. He seems content with his life and proud of who he is, which is excellent.



Got your attention? Anyway, I just ordered the new season of the Sopranos, which comes out on DVD Nov. 7. Now I can watch all 12 episodes when I want instead of having to wait over three months. I'm skipping any dream sequences, though.

I primarily will be watching this on the treadmill. The suspense will likely keep me running and not as bored as usual. I bought a mini-DVD player to put in front of my treadmill last month.

The Boy said to me, "A lot of gyms are doing that now," but for some reason I heard it as, "A lot of Jews are doing that now."

Amazing animals

On another note, a guy I went to college with has started this venture - collectible animals. I like the cobras (oops, not asps as I originally guessed). Who says businessmen aren't creative?



What are you going to do today?

You have a lot of freedom today. It's a whole day to do what you want. A whole day.

Okay, not exactly what you want. You probably are going to work for most of the day. And if not, you probably already have a schedule of things you have to do.

But let's say that there's even an hour or two of free time today.

We have an incredible amount of freedom. Sometimes we forget the freedom we get by having two working legs, or enough money to buy what we want for lunch. We can dance a jig right now and no one is stopping us.

We can change the world today. Or maybe not the whole world, but change someone's life. Or maybe not change it, but help it a little. Even if we drop a quarter on the ground to make someone happy who finds it, or compliment someone at work on the job they did. Or call a friend or relative just to say hi and tell them what they mean to you.

What will happen today? It might not be a significant day at all. Or it might be terrible. We can try to be safe.

Two weeks ago, this 28-year-old guy was playing basketball on one of the local courts, and he jumped up and then fell down in an odd way and hit the ground and died. He didn't have an aneurysm or heart attack, no one pushed him; he just had a very unusual injury. He probably got up that morning and didn't think it would be any sort of unusual day.

There are 21.5 hours left in this day, as I write this. Fewer for you, but there are still some.

Most days, I don't think about how much freedom I really have, all the things I could do. I go days and weeks without thinking about it, and I'm sure you do too.

Even if it's something as small as smiling at a co-worker when I come into the office today, I might just try to do it because I can. Not to sound like Suzy Sunshine, but the ability to do such things is a really great gift, isn't it? Almost as great as a whole day - and we get 365 of them this year!


Letters of recommendation

Reminder to myself: In the next month, I have to write three letters of recommendation for people who want to go to grad school for writing.

Hmmm. Pay *me* the $20,000 per year instead, and I'll teach you everything I know.

Okay, okay, $100 then.

In other news...it's November! Happy Turkey month.

And I am not really posting this at 4:29 a.m.


All about agents

Dystel & Goderich Literary Management started its own blog six weeks ago, with one informative post a week. It gives a really good insider's view of the publishing industry and the agents' perspective. A few posts down is a post about how writers shouldn't pitch their books as "chick lit" right now. If you scroll down you can read it. Click here to know more about my industry and why publishing drives us all crazy!
Great pumpkin

Before third grade, my family moved to a new town. Luckily, we moved in June instead of August, so I had a few summer months to get to know the kids on my street, and find out about what school would be like. I asked an older girl whether people at school made fun of kids for being new. She said, "There's only one girl who does, but you might not meet her." This was bogus, but I was still scared.

In my third grade class, I never met the supposed girl who made fun of new kids. I made friends with a girl named Jodi who was also relatively new, and a girl named Missy who talked a lot and was friends with everybody, both popular and unpopular.

The previous year, in second grade in my old school, I'd been in a class that was just for gifted kids, the whole day. In my new school, there was no class just for "gifted" kids; we kids were all together in regular classes, but got separated into different academic levels only for reading and math. Those times, we temporarily switched into different classrooms. I found it interesting that I got to change classrooms for reading and math.

In Mrs. Ellman's math class, I always came in and sat down at a desk that said "KARIN" on it. Karin was the name of the girl who sat there most of the day.

We were allowed to read and draw if we got done with our math work before the bell rang. One day, a few days before Halloween, I decided to draw a pumpkin. I was coloring it in with orange Crayon when the bell rang.

As the bell rang, I hurriedly wrote on top of my pumpkin, "KEEP THIS KARIN" and left it on the desk. I returned to my homeroom.

The next afternoon, I was waiting in the cafeteria for my bus, as all the kids who took the bus did. A Chinese girl who was also waiting for Bus 13 said hi to me. It turned out that she was the Karin in question.

She actually lived on a nearby street in my development. She was nice, and we became friends. She was the one I trick-or-treated with every year. Her house was a green split-level with fascinating crawl spaces and a partial view of the tiny "pocket park" where kids made out in the graffiti-coated pavillion or searched for frogs in the stream.

One day in sixth grade, she invited me over because two boys from our grade were supposed to have a fight at the park after school. I watched from her upstairs window, but all we could see was the smaller kid running from a bigger kid. I don't know if any punches were thrown.

At the end of sixth grade, all the kids in my grade had to take a math test to determine whether we'd take pre-algebra in seventh grade. Only kids who did really well on the test got to take pre-algebra. We got our scores back during the summer. My mail said that I'd gotten into pre-algebra, and I was happy.

That night, Karin called me on the phone and tactfully asked, "Did you get something in the mail today?" She'd gotten into algebra too. She'd never been in the highest math before, so I was pretty happy.

After seventh grade, I moved to a new town. As most of you know, and as today's kids might never know, if you moved to a new town during grade school, it was pretty hard to keep in touch with your old friends. Mom didn't want you to tie up the one phone line, and there obviously was no e-mail. We would trade a few letters and then forget it. And that's pretty much what happened.

I haven't talked to Karin since seventh grade, but an internet search shows that she was in the Navy for a little while. Perhaps someday our paths will cross again, and perhaps not, but it's nice to think that there were times when friendships came in uncomplicated ways, sometimes just because I didn't finish coloring in a pumpkin.


Mischief night

For some reason, there's a lot of toilet paper in my house right now. Maybe I will swaddle your trees tonight!


I'm proud

My barometer has sunk to a rare low: 29.42 inches!

Wonderful Boyfriend seems not very excited about it. Amazing he puts up with my display of nerdiness at all.
Warning: Drinking beer can make you drunk

I think maybe that's the message of this nonsensical ad in my hometown.


Luke and Laura

I woke up today to an AOL newsbrief that Laura (played by Genie Francis) is coming out of a coma on General Hospital today. This isn't the first time it happened, but it filled me great memories of watching GH after school in the early '80s. I know that most people reading this either couldn't care less or have the same fond memories, but it was just a really well-written soap -- particularly the electric, sometimes funny dialogue between Luke and Laura. I've watched tapes of '80s GH in the last few years and it pretty much holds up.

After the show started harboring space aliens, it got a little too silly for me, but it did have some golden years. Every summer, Luke and Laura saved the world.

It's going to pour and have heavy winds tonight.


Marsha, Marsha, Marsha...

I'm fascinated by which baby names get trendy and which ones fall from favor. We all know that there are some that are so reviled and old-fashioned sounding that they will never fully come back, like Edna, Bertha, and Hildegarde. Sometimes someone will dredge up a little-used name to be cute, and that's not always bad. But it occurred to me that there's one very normal-sounding name that I haven't met anyone with in decades:

Marsha (or Marcia).

Why is that? It's not a weird sounding name.

Could the Brady Bunch really have slowly killed its popularity? I mentioned the name to a friend recently and she right away said "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!" proving that it's definitely in the pop culture lexicon.

Click this link and look at the popularity of the name over the years (it's the same trend for either spelling). See what you think!


P.S. Pork chaaaaps and apple saaaaaas.


New England in fall

The Massachusetts countryside

We visited a wonderful orchard where I got to try a warm bowl of delicious apple crumble.

Apparently, there was even a stigma of being a single woman in Salem, MA.




I have been asked to judge a doggie Halloween costume contest this weekend.

I'm very excited!



Hello. Boo!!

Halloween is Tuesday. Is anyone planning anything special? I feel like I want to celebrate somehow and not miss out on the fun, but I'm a tad too old to trick-or-treat. All ideas are appreciated.

The boyfriend and I were in a town this weekend that celebrates Halloween all month long...Salem, MA. I will post a few pix if time and my low technical skills permit.



Val keeps posting pictures of people on her blog who look like me. I am not too happy about what happens when you remove the face from this guy:

Luckily I just got a haircut so I don't look so much like that right now. And I don't wear leather.

No resemblance at all

I can put any time I want on these posts. Sometimes I write them and then put the next day's time on them so that they will come out the next day.

So just because you see a time of 12 p.m. on one of my posts, for instance, it does not mean I am posting from work. Often I write them at night and postdate them. So if you are my boss, now you know.

For instance, I am going to give this one a time of 3 a.m.

My condolences to Mets fans (esp. the Boy).

But it was a really good game, at least!!


Oh well

Conversation with my haircutter tonight in the Very West Village, as she's cutting my hair:

HAIRCUTTER: I have to find a new apartment. I hate apartment-hunting. It sucks.
ME: Move to New Jersey.
HAIRCUTTER: (Pause) (Laughter)
ME: No one ever takes that advice.


I have gotten some ribbing over this, so need I remind you that there is life beyond the highways:



Climb ev'ry mountain

Yesterday's post was supposed to be more interesting, but I couldn't get the photo to load that I wanted. So instead I had to put random shih-tzu jokes on. But one reader actually sent me a really funny Petster profile of a "bull-shiht," or a French bulldog/shih-tzu mix. Check it out: http://www.dogster.com/pet_page.php?i=46767&j=t

On another matter...here's a gripe. Why do certain waiters resist writing down your order? I'd rather them get it right than show off by standing there memorizing it. Half of the time, they come back to your table a minute later to verify one of the things they didn't write down. I am impressed and overwhelmed with many incredible things in the world and even with people. Just not with trying to memorize orders if you're a waiter. (But balancing all those plates, that impresses me.)

Last thing for today. This is what I wanted to post yesterday. Last year, when I drove to NH in October, I saw snow-capped mountains, so I used a zoom lens and captured the top. This was in October! Believe it or not.



Yes, I know you've been dying for a writing update (or maybe dying FROM a writing update...)

1. Teen book - Agent has sent to editors. Several have received it. Waiting to hear back.
2. Women's fiction book - Agent has sent book to one publisher who is more likely than others...we'll see.
3. Book-I've-been-working-on-for about five years - Worked on revisions last week and cutting stuff out. It's a lot easier to cut stuff out when you've taken time off from something. You can see it for how unnecessary it is.

Personal life

That's personal! Don't be nosy.


Someone forwarded this link to me with the subject head: "Poor Keith." Hoo boy! http://www.nypost.com/seven/10092006/gossip/pagesix/pagesix.htm


Conversation from yesterday

ME: There are a lot of butterflies out today.
THE BOY: That's a really girly thing to say.


Starry night

It's beautiful, clear and autumn cool. By writing it in my journal, can I make it last a little longer?


I guess a weird night brings the freakish types into the streets. I was walking in front of this couple who were in their fifties, and the woman in the couple was talking to a third person who was with them. I think the couple was dating, not married. She mentioned an ex-husband.

Anyway, the woman kept saying things that seemed a little weird. Not crazy, just a liiiittle weird. For instance:

She told her friend (the third person) that she and the guy were going to go to the Halloween parade in New York. "It's all gay people," she said. "It's gay people, all dressed up!!"

She was talking and in the middle of it, she stopped and said, "What?? You don't have to be Italian to talk with your hands. You can be Irish, you can be Indian, you can be Egyptian. Anyway..."

She said, "He likes noise. I like my quiet. At night, I get up to pee and I come back and he's asleep with the TV on. I pick up the remote to turn it off and he complains."

Then she was saying that a friend of hers was a medical resident who once worked 36 hours straight. "I could never be a physician," she declared. "I am a psychologist!"



Happy Friday!

Here are some things to read.

My friend Jodi hardly ever updates her blog, so when she does, it's bound to be good. She is a really good writer but doesn't write for fun much, which I guess is lucky for people like me, because that means less competition for now.

Read about young author Robyn Schneider's lucky thrift shop...her first novel comes out in a few months.


Check out this guy's name!

I got this on a chick lit-writers' e-mail listserve. It just made me laugh.


I wanted to let you know about an issue in Texas that affects all romance writers and readers. The Democratic candidate for Texas State Comptroller, Fred Head, is waging a negative campaign against his opponent, who wrote one romance novel in 1990. He's calling her novel and pretty much all romance novels pornography.

You can check out his website at
www.votefredhead.com. He's also posted the "pornographic" pages there.

How can someone whose name is clearly a porn star name (Fred Head) complain about anything?!

Anyway, I clicked the link and this is real...click it and look at the bottom of the page. A riot!


Mom always did like you best!

I know I've said this before, but whenever you take time off to write, you always end up doing a million other things to procrastinate. It does make sense to plan little breaks from having to think so hard about your fantasy world. One thing I did tonight was catch up on my mail and pay bills. I put the TV on while I did this, and I caught a little bit of a show on the WB, or CW, or UPN...one of those. It was on for a while before I realized it was Veronica Mars, the show a lot of people rave about. It seemed pretty good.

Anyway, at one point, a character said to his brother, "Mom always did like you best!" It made me wonder about cultural references. The 15-year-olds who watch the show probably wouldn't know that the line was from the Smothers Brothers...or would they? Sometimes those lines get passed along, even if kids weren't old enough to see the Smothers Brothers' show. I wasn't old enough to have ever seen the Smothers Brothers show either (it was canceled before I was born) or heard their comedy albums, but I still knew the line - likely because it was in some TV commercial in the '80s that featured the Smothers Brothers.

I wonder how careful TV writers have to be to make sure the references speak to the generation they're writing for, and not to people their own age. Of course, those WB/CW/Whatever shows are often watched by people older than teenagers anyway, and are written at a higher level (or at least they try). It's also true that you could enjoy the line without knowing it's from the Smothers Brothers. It still interests me, though, to think about the cultural phenomena and references that end up getting passed down.

TV has only been around for a few generations, so there are a lot more pop culture references to get and understand. In fact, I'm not sure there was ever such thing as a catch phrase before the last century (except maybe from military and political campaigns). Since people my age learned some of their parents' TV references as well as their own, will the next generation develop its own arsenal of culled lines from the best from all three generations? Which ones will prevail?

I'm sure most people reading this have heard hundreds of times about the Beatles' appearance on Ed Sullivan even if we weren't born yet, or maybe even know where the term "Sock It To Me" comes from. I think you tend to pick up a lot of your parents' generation's references as you grow up. What about the kids of the kids of the Baby Boomers...will they know my generation's TV and '80s references, and will they still know all the '50s and '60s stuff too?

Random things that I bet are different about school now

No filmstrips. I heard they have those things called DVDs now.

No "dittos" or "dittomasters."

No one page at the end of a history textbook with three paragraphs on Vietnam, that you don't really get to by June anyway.



A lot of people looked at my blog yesterday. More people must have been working than I thought! Because we all know no one would have looked at this unless The Man was paying for it.

Today is 10/10. In four years it will be 10/10/10.

I bet that means something in binary, but even I am not nerdy enough to know.

Update: Predictably nerdy response from a reader

101010 in binary is 42 in decimal. Insert your own Hitchhiker'sGuide... joke here.-Jon



No thankyee

The garbage men across the street are having a very loud conversation about Saturday's Yankees' game. This should be the last day I have to hear any Yankees talk outside my window, I hope.

It's Columbus Day, and the boyfriend is reading my favorite book, Goodbye, Columbus. Isn't that nice? I recommend it for all.

A reader of mine was moved to start his own blog, with a great title: Qwertysomething. (As you probably know, the first five letters in a standard keyboards are QWERTY.)

Have a good day, even if you're one of those poor suckers who has to work. There, there.


Failure to launch

Dear Mother Nature,

It's getting cool and windy again. Can I finally unplug my air conditioner and pack those summer clothes away? Or are you going to wait until I do and then taunt me with another 80 degree day, sticking your tongue out from between two clouds?

Well, you have given me such happiness that I will just have to trust in you.

- CL


Now that fall is here and winter is coming, read this book: At Home in the World by Joyce Maynard. It's a memoir. I say this every year - it's wonderful. If you read it, let me know what you think.


More on chick lit vs. not chick lit

MJ Rose makes a good point in today's Huffington Post: The pro/con chick lit debate really stems from a larger issue, namely that books have to fight so much in general to be recognized.

On another note, it was 80 degrees yesterday. Pleasant, but very strange. It is fall, you know!
Separated at birth

Am I the only one who sees a resemblance? (Yes, yes, I know...I probably am.)

Mark Foley and Victor Garber.


Reading and writing

When people say "I'm behind on my reading," that's not really a statement that makes sense, because it implies that you're supposed to be on a certain schedule or that you have deadlines. Of course, I've used that phrase, too. Especially when someone mentioned a book that everyone's read except me. It sounds better than, "No, every time I have time to read, I write my own stuff instead" or "No, I was tired out from work so I rented all of Adam Sandler's movies." Although that's never quite it - I think it is an author's responsibility to try to interest the reader in the beginning. If a book catches my attention, I'll be glued for hours. If it doesn't, I won't. I've gotten past the point where I force myself to read things just because I feel like I "should." I've also read most of the classics that are taught in schools, although I don't necessarily remember all of what happened. I actually did re-read Gatsby last year on a plane because it bothered me that everyone loves it and I couldn't remember anything at all that happened in it.

The Boy and I were talking a few weeks ago about literature taught in schools. Let's face it, some of the classics are dull. But there are also some that it's important to know as you go into the world - Romeo & Juliet and the like. Still, there are lots of people who don't read, and that's because they are either not drawn into books right away, or because they are constantly told to read things that are actually quite boring.

There are a few books I'd like to read right now, but really, I can wait on them without anything horrid happening. I want to finish writing that book that's been taking me five years (yes, I've gone back to it). I can see perfectly inside the main character's world now. Unfortunately, there are things happening in other literature that mimic aspects of the storyline, but that happens. You just have to hope that you have a story a reader can't turn his or her eyes away from. At least, some readers. It's hard to please everyone.



It's not Monday.

I'm going to trivia tonight at the Baggott Inn.

In honor of fall, here are more pics I took in Salem, Mass and in NH last Oct.

Salem is spooky all month long.

NH is not spooky.


Here's a toast

It's football season, and The Boy and I went down to my alma mater for a game. He was impressed by our droll tradition of throwing toast after a school song that goes, "Here's a toast to dear old Penn." Funny, aren't we? See toast below in the circle.

Oh, we won the game, which was against Dartmouth. It was a pretty good game.

Now, stop reading this and get back to your other illicit activities...

By the way, it's Yom Kippur today, Jewish day of atonement. We could all use a day to atone for our sins.




In case anyone was wondering, today I did the following:

-Woke up
-Put on clothes
-Went to work.


Oh, I see.

No wonder no one saw the Lhasa. It's a shih-tzu!
Now the Boy thinks I'm crazy. Doesn't anyone see the Lhasa?

Update: "Bunny" has written in to whine that she can't see the Lhasa Apso. You must tilt your head to the right. No more clues, darlings.
Tissue box, or hidden Lhasa Apso portrait?

The simple tissue box below is supposed to have flowers on it.

But can you find the hidden image of a Lhasa Apso, the "lion dog of Tibet"?

Don't see it? Look more closely!


CLOOOOSERRRRR...and stop cheating!

All right, I'll show you.

Think they did that on purpose?


Beautiful morning

One of the best mornings I had in college was when I got up at 7 a.m. on a Sunday. I happened to wake up and I wasn’t tired, and the air was cool because it was autumn. So I figured I would take a walk outside.

I lived on the 18th floor of one of three very undistinctive gray high rises for upperclassmen, an area known as “Superblock.” When I looked down from my window, I could see a few things: Locust Walk, the long brick walkway that ran all the way through campus; the other two high rises across the Walk; and a metallic sculpture of two red cylinders, which were derisively called “The Dueling Tampons.”

But I also saw something else: Several skeletal trees whose pointy red and yellow leaves were tumbling to the ground, covering the Walk. No one was outside, as they were probably still hung over. My two roommates had taken me to a few fraternity parties, and I never felt like I belonged (which was no surprise). I didn’t want to drink the beer, which one roommate of mine had said “tastes like warm piss” before she drank three cups.

By the time I got downstairs, the little pointy community church across the street, which was somewhat out of place on our campus, was having an outdoor rummage sale. I looked through the boxes on one particular desk and noticed something alluring: A cache of quaint old post cards.

I bought several of them and headed along Locust Walk toward the center of campus – the College Green, with its lush grass and Gothic buildings. It was such a beautiful day, and I didn’t want to go back inside too soon. Once there, I sank under a tree and began to read these quaint genuine letters from the 1940s. Spade-shaped leaves darted off the trees and landed all around me.

Dear Mrs. Riley,

Yesterday I joined the 2nd sportsmans Batt. Royal and go down to camp tomorrow. I will let you know how things go later. Sincerely, R.J. Pearce.

It was written in spiky black ink, to Mrs. H.J. Riley of 127th St. in New York, on a colorful postcard showing Hungerford Bridge in London.

Dear Elizabeth,

Will you please get in touch with me at MA4-6143. Call any morning after 10. I want to talk to you re: A matter Sy Travers asked me to look after. Ask for Millicent.

Dearest Betts:

The nuns were baking bread. Are the nuns still baking bread. O where are the purest of loaves. Go to Atlanta. Don’t come here. It is quite fruitless here. But please write. And 1943 will be better than 1942 if you still like apples. The best of my love. Nat.

Dearest Betty:

Lost your address for quite a spell but today found it – wish you were here to have a shot of soup with me…

Envelopes bore stickers saying OPENED BY EXAMINER 5872 and BUY WAR BONDS AND STAMPS.

As I read these, I felt relaxed and at peace. I enjoyed the quaintness of the missives, as well as the overall simplicity of the morning. The only thing that bothered me was that I imagined that if I went back to my dorm room and told my roommates how much I’d enjoyed it all, they’d just say “Whatever” and think I was weird.

So now I’m telling you instead. Hope it's okay.

How bizarre, how bizarre

Someone wrote a comic strip that talks about This Is Chick Lit controversy and skewers the literary scene in general. You have to keep clicking the arrow at bottom right to get the whole thing. There are a lot of pages of this, so only read if you have a few minutes and your boss isn't watching. There are a coupla swear words too.



**This year, the Frankfurt book fair is being held from Oct. 4-8 instead of later that month. That means that agents and editors who just came back from vacation after Labor Day are already hugely busy getting ready to go to Frankfurt, where they sell (and buy) foreign rights and see which books are going to be hot.

Luckily, I heard back from my literary agent last week on something I wanted her to submit. I'd already revised it once with some of her suggestions in mind. She said she thought it was ready and wanted to send it out...tomorrow. As a typical writer, I wanted to read it again and make last minute nips and tucks, so I got it in the mail to her today. Now I just have to wait and hope something happens. It's a nice feeling for it to be out of my hands.

**On the news, they say the housing bubble has finally burst. Prices have dropped 3.9 percent from last August to this August, especially in the Northeast. That still means a $400,000 house is going to be $384,000.

**The Boyfriend was kind enough to take me to a Met game this weekend (or is that MetS game? Which is correct?) I always enjoy the atmosphere, but shouldn't baseball only be seven innings? I know, if I was a bigger fan I wouldn't think so. I still enjoyed it.

**Speaking of sports, tonight, the Louisiana Superdome hosted its first football game since Hurricane Katrina. Yay!


It's hard out there for a gourd

Barnes & Noble has these tiny kits up front called "Pimp my Pumpkin." The kit includes feathers and things to turn any pumpkin into a pimp. Don't give this out to little kids on Halloween.

Sunday is the first day of October, the best month all year. Rejoice!


It's all relative

The boyfriend spent some of today with my relatives for the Jooish holidays, and wasn't completely scared by them. Isn't he great?

Apparently, in certain junior high schools, it is now the rage for girls to dye the tips of their hair various colors.

It's fall at last. Happy fall!!


Pinata party

I never got the chance or inclination to buy a scanner, but it occurred to me recently that I could use my digital camera to just take a photo of any photo I want, thus bypassing the "scan" process. Now I have the above photo on my computer as well as in an old photo album.

Anyway, hope everybody has a great Jewish New Year (5767) and a good weekend.



You might want to check your heating unit before it really gets cold and then your gas or oil or electricity provider is swamped. Just turn it on to see if it works.

See, I care about you.


Speaking of agents...

Tonight I went to a celebration thrown by the relatively new but highly successful literary agency Firebrand, notable for having two young and dynamic agents: Caren Johnson, whose parents spelled her first name correctly, and Nadia Cornier, who keeps a popular blog called agentobscura on Livejournal. Their new office is around the corner from the Union Hall bar, where they sat in the back and offered delicious hors d'ouerves including pizza-like wedges of bread with tomatoes, duck, and carmelized onions. YUM.

I talked to an exec from Books-a-Million who says that right now, the biggest seller is teen fiction. Sounds good to me!


Literary agents

Literary agent
is a funny profession. There is no college major for it. Yet, most people who do it need a college degree anyway to get in the door. To do the job, you have to know (or learn) about a few different things: literature, publishing, business, and contract law. To get into an agency, as far as I know, you usually become an agent in two ways: You work for a looong time at a publishing company as a book editor, or you work for several years as an assistant at a literary agency – sometimes as an intern first. Eventually, you are allowed to develop your own clients and be a full agent.

Even if you are straight out of a master’s program in creative writing, you might have to start as an intern or assistant, which basically means that you could be starting at a lower salary even than journalists.

If you become an agent, you also won’t have a lot of money at first, because you are basically playing the stock market with books. If you agree to represent my book, you are doing so because you predict that it will sell, and you will make money from getting 15 percent of the advance and royalties. If the book advance is $10,000, you get $1,500, even if it took a year to sell the book and work with the author to get it into good shape. That’s $1,500 spread over a year. Of course, royalties can kick in after it comes out. And obviously, if you end up selling a best-seller, you can get wealthy off it, just like picking the right stock. And if the book becomes a movie or TV show or anything else, the profits can be huge. It's a gift that keeps on giving.

So picture the literary establishment in New York: Half the people you meet want to write a book, or they’ve written one and want to sell it. They all want agents. It’s true that you can send your manuscript straight to a publishing company, particularly if you have an editor’s name, but they get so many submissions that it can take months for them to look at yours. If you have an agent who is moderately respected, an editor will take a look at the book sooner, knowing that the book has to be pretty decent to have this agent going to bat for it.

SO you have all these authors trying to get agents. And a number of agents in New York who get swamped with query letters and manuscripts.

Still, many of them are willing to work with new authors if they get a project they really love. It’s just that there are all these obstacles, everyone fighting for time and ink. As a result, you hope that the books that do end up making their way to the finish line are really good, or at least, really serve a purpose.

Fall starts in three days

I took the photo below last autumn in New England. I try to get up there at least once each fall.


E-mail of the day

"I wish I'd met Florence Wolfson 70 or 80 years ago!" - a male reader

Link of the day

Someone in Kansas said nice things and linked to me (scroll down a few days):




I get a weekly summary of books that have been sold to publishing companies. I just saw this one, which has me really curious. I'll want to read this:

NYT reporter Lily Koppel's THE RED LEATHER DIARY, based on her recent piece in the Times, about her discovery of a 1930s teenager's diary in a dumpster and subsequent solving of the mystery of its owner's identity, Florence Wolfson, now 90, once an aspiring artist who loved Balzac, Central Park and male and female lovers with equal abandon, to Claire Wachtel at Harper, by Kate Lee at ICM (world).

A woman who loved male and female lovers 70-80 years ago?!?!? Who trundled through New York City reading Balzac? She sounds like a great literary character, but she is real. I'm looking forward to hearing more about old Flo.



Addledwriter.blogspot.com EXCLUSIVE:

John Mark Karr says he killed Steve Irwin!

Says he met him in a seafood restaurant and accidentally stabbed him with a swordfish. Report does not jibe with eyewitness accounts of stingray attack; police also say he was in jail at the time.

New York tabloids plan to run with cover story about Karr's confession tomorrow.

Claims to have photographic evidence of his accomplices:


Tsk tsk

Only a few people shared their mental health tics with me. Therefore, no post for you. Ha ha!

Someone wrote to me and said, "I wish I had only one." Then he said all of his were too embarrassing to reveal.

Which can only mean one thing: Weird fetish.

For everyone who is turned off by silverware near their mouth, there is someone who likes it a little too much.


What's yer problem?

Several years ago, I knew a guy who said he would get sick if he saw eggs cracking. He couldn't stand the sight of eggs cracking.

When I was a kid, for several years, I couldn't eat yogurt without mixing it all up with my spoon first to make sure there wasn't a beetle in it. I had to check thoroughly. That's because I had read a newspaper article about a woman who was suing Dannon because she was eating her fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt and saw half a beetle in it and realized she'd eaten the other half. In court, she said she suffered from shock and her hair fell out.

I couldn't eat that yogurt without thinking about the beetle. I knew the odds were 99.99999 percent that there was not a beetle in my yogurt. Just like my friend knew there was nothing wrong with eggs cracking. But we all have our little irrational things that we must do, or feel, even though in our heads we know it is completely irrational.

A psychologist might say that they come from something early in childhood, or something our parents did, but maybe sometimes it's even genetic. Who knows.

I had a math teacher in high school who kept the windows open even in winter because he'd spent several years on a submarine where there were no windows...and now he always wanted to know the windows were open. He otherwise was pretty normal.

In college, my psych professor asked us this question: Would you wear a sweater that had been worn by an AIDS patient?

Most of us said we wouldn't. We knew you couldn't get AIDS from a sweater. But still, we didn't want to wear it.

You can be otherwise normal and just have a tiny issue, something you don't even think about most of the time and that people don't know about: Being repulsed by eggs cracking, needing windows open so you won't be claustrophobic.

So, today's topic: What is YOUR tiny mental health issue? (Note: I am not talking about the major ones. ;) Just tiny things you barely think about that are irrational and hardly even affect your life. If you deny having any, then that counts as one! Fear of spiders may or may not count. Some spiders are poisonous.)


A reader writes:

I absolutely, positively hate putting anything metal in my mouth. Whenever I eat with metal silverware, it can't touch my teeth at all, and at home, I pretty much use only plastic silverware. Someone scraping their fork on their teeth with every bite - even thinking about it makes my pulse double. This is probably due to the amount of dental work I've had done over the years, but I also read recently that it was a side effect of a medication I take.

Either way, it's a good case for eating pizza or some other utensil-less food.

That's interesting, and pretty much the kind of thing I mean. Weird.

But that brings me to something related: Does anyone know why most people can't stand fingers scraping down a blackboard? There must be some simple answer in science, and I don't remember ever hearing it.

Someone else wrote to say he checks and re-checks to make sure doors are locked, and the stove is off. I do that too...but it's not a bad practice to have, since leaving a stove on or a door unlocked can lead to disaster. I guess it's hard to draw a line between safe and mental tic.