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.