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.