Trivia is back!

For New Yorkers wanting to match wits and meet new nerds...Tuesday Night Team Trivia triumphantly returns this Tuesday to the Baggott Inn in the West Village! Be there. http://www.baggotinn.com/trivia.html


Who reads short stories?

Once in a while, a beginning writer will ask me: "Is there a point to my writing short stories? Will it get me a literary career?"

There used to be a quarterly literary magazine called STORY that published new writers, and if you got a story in there, it helped you get an agent. But it stopped publishing almost 10 years ago. Fewer and fewer consumer magazines publish short stories these days. There’s the New Yorker, Harper’s, maybe a few women’s mags. But it’s not as if the form ever had a heyday. Even the most prominent writers have very few high-circulation outlets for their short stories.

Of course, you are not supposed to write just to be published. And there are actually hundreds of U.S. literary magazines that publish short stories – it’s just that they are not widely read, and they pay very little, if at all. Most come out of universities and publish during the school year. When’s the last time your cousin said to you, “Hey, did you see the Georgia Review last month”?

There is a benefit to being in there, though. It’s prestigious to get into a review (among fellow writers, anyway), and there’s also the chance to qualify for the annual volume “Best American Short Stories.” Still, those magazines don’t publish any old schlub.

And only a few writers become well known for short stories. You can think of classic novels, but do you know any classic short stories?

Many of us read “All Summer in a Day” in our elementary school anthologies – it’s the 1959 Ray Bradbury story about a bunch of kids on Venus who’ve never “seen it” and they are all excited because they are about to see “it” for the first time. Turns out that the “it” they are waiting for is the sun. It comes around every seven years.

Ray Bradbury, Raymond Carver, and a few others have become famous for their short stories. But if you are a beginning writer, having two or three good short stories rarely gets you anywhere. Agents want books they can sell to publishers and make money on. If you get a story into the New Yorker it’s different – that in itself can land you a book deal (it’s launched careers) and even a movie deal. But for the most part, you’ve got to first have a novel to get anywhere.

So why write a short story? Well, obviously for the pleasure of it. But let’s face it, beginning writers want to get somewhere. The pleasure of writing is fine, but everyone wants to be read!

Still, if you meet enough writers, you may be asked to contribute to an anthology like This Is Chick Lit. You can enter contests. You can, if you become a published novelist someday, hopefully try to sell a collection of connected short stories, if that’s what you want and you’ve written a lot of good ones. Generally they have to have a common theme so that readers will want to stick with them. Recent collections like that have included Melissa Bank’s “The Wonder Spot” and “The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing,” and David Schickler’s “Kissing in Manhattan,” the latter of which is highly recommended by me. Just good, clean writing.

I’m rambling, but I guess my point is: No, writing one or two really great short stories probably won’t immediately land you a career. But there’s no harm in writing. It’s a form that has a lot of merit. It just won’t make you rich in itself, except in very very rare cases (David Schickler’s one short story in The New Yorker got him a book and movie deal). Then again, what in writing DOES make you instantly rich?!?

A response from Andie:

I'm not a writer and this is only partially relevant to today's post. I don't particularly like to read short stories because they are short. If I read something good I want it to last.... However, my favorite show on NPR (I listen in the car) is "Selected Shorts." I have heard some wonderful stories. Most recently I listened to "The Appropriation of Cultures" by Percival Everett. It was replayed at a different time when I happened to be in the car with my husband. He doesn't generally listen to NPR, but he did on this occasion. He enjoyed the story too. I enjoyed sharing it with him.




Finally available for purchase, "THIS IS CHICK LIT," including a short story by yours truly. (I'd give you one, but I only got three of my own from the publisher):


Also, if you are a writer, you could buy the following book by the lovely Farrin Jacobs and Sarah Mlynowski, on how to write Chick Lit:



Little Miss Colorado Sunshine, part II

As I suspected, John Mark Karr is crazy, but he didn't kill Jon Benet.

So he's available for babysitting assignments, if you need him.


Monday again!

Just when you thought it wasn't Monday again, it is.

Next week, Monday is a holiday. Isn't it ironic that there's no work on Labor Day? Maybe Labor Day should be the ONLY day we work.


"Whenever I turn up my windshield wipers, the freakin' rain slows down! What's up with that? People's out to get me!" -- The Boy

I told him I'd blog this.



Do you have a lot of h.w. this weekend?

We CREAMED the other team in kickball today but Amy got pegged w/the ball by Mike. He is a spazz.



How authors drive themselves craaaazy

Someone posted an e-mail to a chick lit listserve saying she saw this on the website of a literary agent she wants to send her stuff to:

"Please send us a query letter of no more than two pages, which includes your credentials, an explanation of what makes your book unique and special, and a synopsis."

She wants to know: Is the synopsis included in the two pages, or is that separate?

Various writers contradicted each other.

This concludes today's broadcast of, "How authors drive themselves craaaazy."



Perhaps as a result of Hurricane Katrina last year, newspapers and major internet news sites are quickly reporting that a minor storm has formed off the coast of Africa. It would take two weeks to hit us, if it even survives, but I guess we have to be on the lookout this time of year.

Still, weather forecasters said this would be a bad year for hurricanes, and this is only our fourth named storm. I wonder if they are trying to save face.

The storm was expected to go from Tropical Depression Four to Tropical Storm Debby, then perhaps within four days, to Hurricane Debby.

I've fixed my link at the right to the National Hurricane Center, which has a map of the storm.


Carl in Louisiana writes:

At my first newspaper job in the 1980s, we had a copy editor who designed most of the front pages. He grew up in the age of Hurricane Audrey and often put weather stories on the front, even when tropical depressions formed off the coast of Africa. He was often ridiculed inside the office, as was the local TV station, which some of our editors accused of hyping storm coverage for ratings.
When I went back to the paper after Rita hit and devastated the area last September, a month after Katrina, I didn’t hear a whole lot of giggling when I mentioned the since-retired desk man who was always the first warning about storms that might approach the Gulf of Mexico.
Look what I got


Amish paradise

That's some big corn!


Some goofy young man was laughing his tush off over the fact that Dutch country includes towns like "Intercourse," "Blue Ball," and "Lititz." Hmmm. He must have a very patient girlfriend.

Time for a horse and buggy tour!


Confused junk e-mailer

This morning I got a junk mail whose subject head said:

BelSouth Bi ll

Then I opened it and it said:

D o y0u want to bu1y a watch?

Then the website it gave at the end was:


This is my lucky day! Waking up today, I was worried that my Bell South bill was out late, my watch just broke, and I was about to plan a trip to Toronto. Some of us are just lucky!



Went to Amish country this weekend. Possible photo or two later. (To friends who went: I won't include any photos of you w/o permission. Don't worry.)

It really is sometimes nice to trundle through beautiful scenery that is different from your own, if only for a few hours.

Monday I am firing a second book project off to New Agent, and then I'll actually have time to relax more.


Next January, when everyone else is having super bowl parties, someone should also have a superb owl party. Because owls are superb creatures.


Miss Snark

There's a literary agent named Miss Snark who has a blog answering writers' questions about submitting to agents. If that interests you, take a look.
Little Miss Colorado Sunshine

Aug. 12 was the second anniversary of McGreevey's famous "gay American" press conference.

I was thinking about it today because of a related matter. Two days after McGreevey jumped out of the closet, there was this doctor in NJ who also said he had an affair with McG's lover too. The Post put it on the cover and only seven paragraphs down quoted the doctor as also saying he was a CIA informant and raving in three languages.

This JonBenet Ramsey suspect situation strikes me as similar. Something is off with the smell test. Just saying.


Writing update

I can now confidently say that I have a new agent, and I also have a Young Adult book (for teens) going out to editors. Since it's August and people are on vacations, I won't get any news back in a hurry, but at least something is going on. It feels great to have a manuscript on the way to editors instead of just bubbling in my computer.

Not a lot happens in the writing industry in August, and then in October there is the international book fair in Frankfurt, so agents try to send books out in between.

In other writing news, yesterday was the first day of this year's Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Ripton, VT, the oldest writers' conference in the nation. 300 writers come from across America to a hilltop in Vermont, stay in cabins, and attend nightly readings and daily workshops for 10 days. I went in 1997 and it was pretty inspiring.

I have been told that the photo of the rainbow on the main page is not doctored, and there really was a rainbow over the main building. Okay.



A guy who used to work as a reporter at my paper is doing comedy tomorrow (Thursday) at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater. It's at 9:30. I probably will head into the city to see it, then come home. His name's Prescott Tolk. He's a rising star! He lives in Chicago now. Anyway, anyone is invited to come.


I'm busy with some articles at work, and with finishing revisions on Book Project 4, but in the interest of providing new content, here is one of the few fresh-sounding songs I've heard in a while.

Of course, this song has been out for three months, making it "old" by some standards. But I'm behind the times.


And here is the song it samples from:




I was looking through some photos and I liked this one. I guess I took this last year in NYC.


Dating idiocy

I've resisted writing about dating here, because a lot of dating posts end up unhelpful, and actually hurtful, even if they're not about anyone specific. If you try to give advice to single people, you end up making generalizations that are nearly cruel.

For instance, if you are a guy and you say, "Well, girls don't look for nice guys," it's insulting to the girls who do try to meet nice guys, but have trouble meeting them, or are constantly meeting self-proclaimed "nice guys" who are really not very nice. If you are a girl and say, "Well, guys are all jerks," you are obviously insulting a lot of nice guys who try their best and are continually shot down. (And I do happen to know a lot of nice people who have bad luck dating.)

But getting to my point...one of the modern dating conundrums is, "Why doesn't internet dating work as well as it should?" Obviously it DOES work to a point. We've all known people who met that way. But since people who do internet dating can get more dates, and more quickly, it seems like it should statistically work more often -- especially since you get to read entire checklists about people's personalities.

But this may be exactly the reason it doesn't work, according to an article published this weekend in the New York Observer.

The article interviews people who, when going down a list of women or men, will reject them based on things like what their favorite movie is, or favorite book. One guy says that if they put The Breakfast Club rather than Sixteen Candles, they don't know what they're talking about.

This is a reason that sometimes meeting someone in person works better...because the general sense you get of someone, the interaction and level of compatibility, ends up being more important than what they put down for favorite song. But if you are going through thousands of ads, sometimes you start looking for a way to narrow the field. Unfortunately, sometimes you weed out people by accident because of stereotypical beliefs you hold.

It is good to reject someone if their values and political views are at odds with yours. And yes, there are valid "red flags" and dealbreakers. But rejecting someone over a favorite song? Hmmm.

A few years ago I had dinner with college friends, and all of them were either in a relationship or had recently been in one with someone whom they never would have "met" online, because that type of person who wouldn't have met their checklist. In one case, the guy was dating a woman 15 years older than he was, and he really was happy with her. In the second, a woman had just dated a man 8 years younger than she was.

But they never would have met their lovers on-line. This guy would not have put his age parameters up to 15 years older if he was on-line. Sometimes it has to do with more than just a checklist, although there are some valid things you need in common.
Movies Seen

Little Miss Sunshine

Recently-released family drama. It was cute and I loved the ending, but I wasn't laughing all the way through it like most of the senior citizens in the audience were. I think it was overrated. Still, I felt happy when I left, because of the ending. I would advise waiting until the DVD, but the critics seem to love it, so maybe you will disagree with me.

V for Vendetta

Just out on DVD. Great movie. I was glued to my seat, or actually, my mattress. Who would think I'd enjoy something set in the future in London, with a weird masked man? Anyway, it's an extrapolation of what would happen in a totalitarian society.


My parents had the record of this musical when I was little, and the movie version used to be shown on TV every year. But it had been at least 20 years since I'd seen it, so when I noticed the DVD version at my local library last week, I picked it up.

I didn't really remember anything about the actual show, except for the amazing music. (I played the tape once in my dorm room in college and my roommate asked me what "group" it was.)

My first surprise was that it was shot in 1972 New York, and there was so much that looks similar to today, with a few things different. Right away, that was interesting. It's worth watching for the luscious New York scenery alone. The music was wonderful, of course. It's not very plot-based -- it's sort of a humorous retelling of the Bible, using New York hippies dancing around -- but I can say was that I enjoyed watching it anyway. There's some humor in it; a guy says "Jesus Christ!" and nearly gets slapped. Victor Garber is the star.

At the beginning, it shows the World Trade Center, and then you hear the sound of a plane and it goes to something else. That's kind of weird.



V for Vendetta:


Little Miss Sunshine:



Oh please

Overheard on ABC TV tonight:

"Monday, the announcement that all of America has been waiting for...Good Morning America reveals the 11 new celebrities of Dancing with the Stars."


Forum up!!

A forum has been started for discussion of chick lit and the new book, This Is Chick Lit, in which I have a short story.

Cloudscapes and storm on the Barometer Blog.

Barometer blog

Hiss! Meow!

Article in the Huffington Post on the chick litters vs. the anti chick-litters.


Court case decided by rock, paper, scissors

Story here (and it's true).

Thanks to Jon the Writer for sending that along.


I was reading some of my entries from the winter, and boy did I sound boring! All the entries were about writing...and yeah, this blog is supposed to be about my writing, but...still, I apologize. I swear that in real life, I have a personality and soul and do other stuff besides writing...maybe.

I kept meaning to link to Chris's disclaimer on his blog, because I like it: "Mission Statement
The goal of the this blog is to help me write, not to hurt my family, friends and co-workers. Please contact me if I have written anything that you believe is inappropriate or offensive."

I told Chris I wanted to link to his blog several months ago, and then kept forgetting to.


Now I've heard everything

There are bars in Hoboken (and apparently other places) that are having Rock, Paper, Scissors tournaments.

And some people thought having trivia in bars was stretching it.

What's next? Red Rover in Giants Stadium?


Writing update (ho hum)

I have a book that is ready to go to editors. It is not the book I have been talking about on here for years.

It may take months for me to hear back on it, or weeks. I'm just glad that (hopefully) it's about to get out there.

I also have another book proposal nearly done that is to go to a specific editor. It also is not the book I have been talking about revising on here for years.

The book I have talked about revising here for years is about two characters who have a strong emotional connection to each other. It has been hard to get just right. I think I am much, much closer. But it will still take a little tinkering.

The books I care about emotionally are usually the hardest to get right.

I was always working on the other stuff, which is generally a good idea. If you hit writer's block on one thing, you can go to another.

However, I'm not sure that I've ever had "writer's block" -- just a period when I needed to take a break from something. As I've understood it, writer's block is something psychological. There have been times when I've become bored with certain books, taken time off from others, or simply run out of ideas, but I don't see any of that as something psychological.

For instance, right now, I am writing this blog and I just don't see how I could ever sto


You're the top

I had a great weekend. Hope you all did.

Nothing pithy to say, but if you're not familiar with the comedic genius of lyricist Cole Porter, here are some lyrics to make you feel good today:

You're the top!
You're the Coliseum.
You're the top!
You're the Lourve Museum.
You're a melody from a symphony by Strauss
You're a Bendel bonnet, A Shakespeare's sonnet, You're Mickey Mouse.

You're the Nile,
You're the Tower of Pisa,
You're the smile on the Mona Lisa
I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop,
But if baby, I'm the bottom, you're the top!


I already got a very intellectual response to my post today:

"I don't recall all the lyrics, but I once wrote a more sexually suggestive version of the song which ended with "but if baby I'm on bottom, you're on top." Just FYI. -- The Anonymous Blogger


An ode

It's almost like you can feel it.

The sun is going down just a little sooner at night. Kids are actually reporting to football practice.

Even if it's a hundred degrees out and still plenty of weekends left to enjoy the beach, fall is very very slowly sneaking up on us.

I don't mean to steal summer dreams from anyone. I like summer, too. It's just odd that I'm already seeing hints of that back-to-school time already.

There are stores with crisply folded sweaters and school supplies on sale. Freshly sharpened pencils and evenly lined notebooks. LL Bean catalogues with hues of navy blue, hunter green.

In a little over a month, the coolness will tumble beneath our ears in the morning like a barely perceptible whisper. We'll hear the buses starting and stopping outside, and we'll know nervous freshmen are heading that way.

It's always been the time to start again, to sit behind a desk and hope that each of our new teachers has a sense of humor, hope we're assigned in at least one class to sit next to that cute boy/girl we've been dreaming about for ages. This is the year we finally wise up enough to figure out how to get their attention.

Does this entry seem too wistful? Or is there a way to spin this feeling around and still look at every autumn day as new and colorful as the leaves?


I forgot that I have three sportswriters reading this blog (believe it or not). The female one writes:

> Kids better not be reporting to official, formal football practice yet. I believe the first day allowed by the NJSIAA is Aug. 21. These are just captains' practices, which "don't count." Except kids who don't show up likely won't be startin' in the fall!


Too hot to blog


I noticed a lot of homeless people just lying on the sidewalks in NYC this evening. I wished I had brought a list of free cooling centers to hand them -- although that may be simplistic. I know many of them aren't with it enough to get up and go, but maybe a few could have used the info. I'm not sure there is an actual list - since http://home.nyc.gov/portal/index.jsp?pageID=nyc_home only allows you to put in your address and find a center nearby.

Anyway, if you happen to live in a big hot steamy city and you see someone who looks like they need it, think about giving them a bottle of water. I'm gonna try it next time I'm downtown in NYC.


In chick-lit news...

The segment on Air America this morning on This Is Chick Lit (scheduled to ship next week!) and This Is Not Chick Lit was pretty good. The astute host said that it seems like there's always a battle between so-called "literary" and commercial fiction, but what is "literary?" One of them said, laughing, something like: "Commericial means it sells."

They both mentioned several times that chick lit is what's selling now. I think both books will get good publicity over this.

Also, I have been informed that this month's Bust Magazine has a review of both books which says: "Like a lot of snotty literary types, I have often sneered at chick lit...I'm here to tell you: I was wrong...These stories, which take chick lit beyond its Bridget Jonesian beginnings, show that it's time to take this maturing genre a little more seriously. In this round of the culture wars, at least, the point goes to the chick-lit girls."

Some other news notes:

Track Tropical Storm Chris. Probably heading for the Gulf.

Because of the insanely high temperatures in NYC, several buildings (like the Empire State Bldg) and bridges (like the Brooklyn Bridge and GWB) will not be all lit up tonight, in order to conserve power.

Recently, the age at which you can join the Army was increased to 42.

Not in the news

I work with a guy in this cover band. I will probably try to catch one of their shows this month.


Random images from my camera

Apparently my town has a welcome wagon:

Park in Jersey City yesterday:

Not long ago, I was in Hell's Kitchen and saw a group of cops and EMTs around a woman who was lying on her back on the sidewalk. The EMTs were doing CPR, pressing on her to restart her heart, as the cops surrounded them to keep people away. When I passed, I saw one of those striped, tattered tote bags that homeless women carry. There was a man guarding it. I also saw that they had her shirt off and she had enormous, beachball-shaped, probably fake breasts. So maybe she was a hooker (why else would she spend all her money on fake breasts?) At first, I worried that she was just a homeless woman who had fainted and had no one to care for her. The fact that she's a hooker didn't make me feel less bad, but...anyway, I was pleased that the cops and EMTs cared enough to bring her back to life.

Which they did. Sometimes we see the worst of society, but I saw some cops and St. Vincent's ambulance workers giving their best.

Only problem was...no one was appointed to clean up afterward. (I happened to pass again on the way home.)

Hey, chicks...

Tomorrow, August 2, Publishers Weekly editor Sara Nelson will be live on Air America Morning Radio at 8:30 am (Eastern). She will remark on the debate regarding women’s literary fiction vs. chick-lit, specifically discussing This is NOT Chick-Lit (Random House, August 2006) and THIS IS CHICK-LIT (BenBella Books, September 2006) respectively.

In NY, NY, Air America is WLIB 1190 AM. To find out your local station, go to www.airamerica.com

I'll be tuning in to hear what she says...