Good evening. I thought of lots of things to write about this evening, like how my very first essay got published because of jealousy, and about a girl who got a $500K book advance and her reviews that are coming out right now (both good and snarky), and other stuff, but I'm too darn tired. Will try to be more interesting soon. Zzzz....

Back, back, back up your stuff!

Computer alert

My computer at work may be dead. I had about two years' worth of digital photos on there, so that's not so good, but I have duplicates of the most important ones. So reminder to everyone: Back stuff up. I *do* back up Word documents constantly, especially my novels, but I downloaded so many photos over the years that I never backed most of 'em up. Most of them are also not incredibly important, but it'll still be nice if I get some of them back.

Back, back, back up your stuff!
Back, back, back up your stuff! (Sing to the tune of Tom Green's "Check your b*lls")

A story I wrote is on p. 36 of the Daily News today, and I ended up in one of the photos in the print edition, with my notepad. I don't look so good - I need a haircut. But they cropped me out of the on-line version - good! ;)

That's the news. Good night and be well.


Ah, publishing

Some of you don't believe me. You get mad when I say I am *still* revising my novel. You don't understand why I get so intense about it, why I take whole weekends to plow into it.

Anything can go wrong until a novel comes out, and it's gotta be at its best when it does.

I am going to be in two anthologies that originally were going to be coming out this summer. One of them is a group of short stories by different female authors and will be published this August or September. It's not up on Amazon yet.

The other is this book of essays that was originally listed on Amazon as coming out this June. Then it was pushed to September. Now it says it's coming out in June of 2007.

In this case, it's only one of many projects I'm working on, so it's not a big bother. But this happens to people's first novels sometimes. Say you are waiting to finally make it as a writer, and your first novel gets pushed back an entire year (or worse, canceled or the publishing company collapses), do you know how much of a setback that is?

Until you hold your book in your hand, you can't bank on it. So I am always simultaneously in a rush to get my writing done, and at the same time, trying to hold myself back until it is perfect.



I am going to be reading on Sunday, May 7. Co-stars are still being finalized. I will be reading from the funnier of the two projects I have been working on. Come and practice your fake laughs. Details will be finalized soon.


Today I met someone who wrote a very famous song from the late '60s, and he played it for me on a keyboard! I got to sing along. More details will not be revealed.

Good bye.


Penguins USA

I saw "March of the Penguins" this weekend. Wow, what those penguins go through!! I looked on imdb.com to see if there were any memorable quotes. There weren't, because penguins don't talk.


Look at me (updated)

A friend writes:

I just saw "Sophie Scholl" at Film Forum, which is an excellent movie. But what I couldn't get over was that the actress playing the heroine looks like she could be your sister. Check it out:


Hmmm. I don't really see it. She looks more like a much younger writer I know.

Other people have said I look like this person.

And a woman in Canada ten years ago said this person (left) (the thin version, of course). Then she asked me for money.

I found this historical photo of me hosting trivia (right).


Sexist Spitzer ad

Eliot Spitzer seems like an OK guy. But I saw this TV ad yesterday that immediately struck me as really sexist. Am I missing something?

"For every New Yorker whose husband or child has to go somewhere else just to get a job. For every New Yorker drowning in property taxes who's been told you can't fight City Hall so many times they've come to believe it. For every New Yorker without a voice."

Spitzer then says: "I represent the people of the State of New York."

This reminds me of the radio ads from the '50s about women waiting for their husbands to come home from work. Wouldn't it have been just as easy to say "whose spouse"? Am I missing something? I'm not a raging feminist or anything; this just seems obvious.


To Jessica on her amazing Jeopardy performance. Even though she lost in the end, she racked up an amazing number of points on questions I never would have gotten. In fact, I don't think I knew any of the hard questions at all. Many years ago, I used to be smart - what happened?!?



Writer, trivia host, and all around cool person Jess Liese is going to be on Jeopardy! Tomorrow. In fact, it flashes a photo of her on the show's homepage! So watch and cheer on your fellow Nicemodernist.
The undead

What happens to characters and plots you create in books that end up not selling, but that you still love?

Most of the things I wrote in my 20s that were rejected, probably deserved to be. I won't resurrect them. But there are one or two ideas that deserve a better life. They keep kicking around in my brain, saying, "We deserve better!"

They'll come back.

The odd thing is that occasionally, a writer or director will do a modest job on a project he loves, then finally gets the resources to do it even better.

Example: Paul Thomas Anderson couldn't get rid of the idea of Dirk Diggler. He made a mockumentary on his favorite fictional porn star in 1988, when he was a mere teenager, and had been toying with the idea for years. Then, nearly 10 years later, he finally came out with BOOGIE NIGHTS.

Some character never die. Boogie Nights is one of my favorite films, and I'm so glad that PTA got to expand the world of Dirk.




A writer named Shanta from across the ocean said that my blog was mentioned in a British on-line writing magazine in an article called "A Smart Girl's Guide to Blogging." Thanks for letting me know, Shanta!

Shanta's blog:


The British writing mag:


Tomorrow: The undead. Ideas and characters in your head for years that just won't die.


Do bees be? Do bears bear?

Yesterday was Bruce Willis's 51st birthday. In honor of that, I declare today
David Addison Day.

Liven up everyone's life by being more like David Addison of "Moonlighting." Play limbo at work. Answer every question with a question. If someone says something you don't like, yell "Fine!", run into your office, and slam the door.


I've figured out what my writing goals are for the next six months - Mostly I'll still be nipping and tucking the two projects I've been working on for a while, not working on them obsessively, but also not starting anything new.

One is done and one is about 70 percent done, but even when they get to editors, those editors will have requests and things, too. So they'll still be my focus.

Since my main writing/revising season is ending, I'm going to be getting out of the house more. I'll do nips and tucks on these stories here and there, but not every weekend. If I didn't still work full time, I guess I could start something new, but it's not really what I want to do right now.

Many (although not all) of the writers who want to live on their writing income have to really churn books out one after another, and I hate that idea. I don't even know that it's possible for me to do that.

Most of the book ideas I work on are things I've been thinking about for years. If I have ideas for 100 good characters or plots, I put some of them together, making for a richer book.

And that's today's public service announcement from Addledwriter Corporation. Please stay tuned for our training film.



Why did the guys in Brokeback Mountain have to keep sending each other post cards? I seem to remember that there was phone service in the 1970s...


Michael writes: "Because a post card is so much more gay!
And besides a post card is delivered by a young boy from the pony express!"

Someone else mentioned that long-distance calls were still expensive and a big deal back then, especially out west. Yeah, but it seems like one little call to set up an annual fishing trip is worth the few bucks...


Disappointment is...

When someone doesn't update their blog.


Happy St. Patrick's Day

I forgot it was St. Pat's and thus forgot to wear green. Oh well. There's an episode of Moonlighting in which a woman comes to the detective agency claiming that she's a leprechaun and that she has hidden a pot of gold. Bruce Willis says, "Where do you stash your pot?"

I woke up today and they were talking about Ryan Seacrest on the radio. Boo. But they also played "Come on, Eileen," so that was good.



I can't take it anymore. What happens on American Idol is NOT NEWS. I don't want to hear all about it during the radio DJs' "newscast" when I wake up in the morning. I don't want to see it as the top two stories on AOL news when I get on the internet.


WHETHER SIMON FINDS EVA LONGORIA ATTRACTIVE IS NOT NEWS. THERE IS A WAR ON. I can accept some trivialities in the name of entertainment, but this eats up half the newscasts now.

Have I mentioned...




Fifty five

Before the classes began yesterday, a successful young-adult author who was in her forties or fifties talked to us about getting published. She said that her first published book got rejected FIFTY FIVE times before it found a publisher. After it got published, it won all kinds of awards, and now it's going to be made into a movie.

Fifty five times. There aren't 55 publishers in existence, I think, but there are different imprints and different editors, and eventually she got to the right one. She also used early rejections to help revise the book (like I did with Carrie Pilby). Sometimes rejections mean the book isn't good enough to sell, and sometimes it's a matter of taste. She said you have to listen to your internal compass.

The other interesting thing she said was that she started the book when she was 23. She wrote four chapters and put it down. She wasn't able to start working on it again until she was 30. The book is in the voice of a 14-year-old girl, and she said she was able to remember what that was like when she was 23, but she wasn't old enough to write the rest of the book. When she was 30, she was finally old enough to have the perspective to finish it. "Nothing changed," she said. "I just got older."

Even though she was speaking to an audience of high school kids, what she said certainly spoke to me as well.



I taught two 90-minute classes in humor writing today at a seminar for young writers in Westchester County high schools (NY). I think the seminars went well, and the kids really liked David Sedaris's essay "Big Boy," which is about trying to flush someone else's poop down a toilet. But I have a question for you teachers: How do you do this every single day? I was exhausted after teaching one class. It went well and all, but to do it 180 days a year, and with kids who aren't always as motivated as the ones today? How do you do it? How do you do it, Sarah?

Anyway, the kids wrote some great essays at the end (then they read each other's anonymously). I gave them five minutes to write and told them to write whatever was in their head. One girl wrote about how she was alone in the vicinity of a party and wanted to pretend she had friends to talk to, so she kept writing text messages on her phone but not really sending them to anyone. I think this was inspired by the "Humiliation Sheets" in Ned Vizzini's Be More Chill, of which we read the first four pages (they liked that too).

Later, I saw on one of the evaluation sheets for the classes, a girl wrote that she learned in my class that anything can be a worthy topic for a humorous essay, no matter how minute. That's one of the things I wanted them to take away from it. Also, all the kids were on their way to lunch and they were asking each other about which seminar they took and whether it was good or not. I was terrified - I didn't want to hear the bad stuff. I heard one girl tell her friend that mine was a lot of fun, but I got out of there quickly because I was too afraid of hearing anything else. Luckily, to them I was just another adult and an authority figure and not a goofy writer who needs more sleep.

The day ended at 2 p.m. - I didn't realize it was going to be so short, but hey, that's a school day. I took a bus, MetroNorth train, subway, and bus home from Valhalla, NY to my apartment, then saw the three notes I left for the mailman (see yesterday's entry) in a pile on the ground, and my blue MOM envelope safely in my mailbox. Yay!!!!

And there was also a UPS notice on my door. I went outside and the brown UPS truck was coming up the street. I sheepishly held out my note in case the guy was kind enough to stop, but I didn't want to push the issue. But he he smiled and stopped so I could get my package. Yes!

My package was a sample of 100 Advils. What happened was that last month I was at the dr's office and there were some reply forms on the table for patients to send for some free samples of medicine they can take when they have a cold instead of always thinking they need antibiotics. So I sent one in. So today I got this box with a cardboard dispenser with 100 Advils, as well as all sorts of literature to give to patients about cold and flu. I guess they accidentally sent me one meant for doctors. There are also posters about not taking antibiotics unless they're prescribed, etc.

I think I will bring all of this stuff to work and run a clinic out of my office.

So that concludes my day. Time for a nap. Happy Purim.

(For non-Jews reading this, I don't know what Purim's about, either. Ask The Anonymous Blogger.)


My totally awesome day

Before, I was doing my taxes and decided to eat some nerds candy. I accidentally dropped one of the strawberry Nerds and couldn’t find it, so I got a flashlight and began crawling all over my rug looking for the Nerd. I spent at least 10 minutes looking around my room for the Nerd. (And yes, ha ha ha I DID look in the mirror, ha ha ha you so funny.) I found it. Breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t want to attract any creatures with extra goodies.

Earlier today, I went to meet my mom for her birthday lunch, and I went to throw my credit card payment into the mailbox on the corner. But instead I threw my mom’s birthday card into the mailbox. So then I had to throw in three notes for the mailman saying, “Please put blue envelope that says MOM on it into [my address].” My mom didn’t seem to care because she still got to eat lobster.

What have we learned today, class?


Okay, I have a few free minutes...


We in the Northeast were blessed with a preview of spring weather yesterday and today. The only downside was something I was reminded of this evening: Those LOUD Motorcycles. Ugh.


Next week I am going to teach at a conference for high school writers. My seminar is called "What's So Funny?" and it's about comedy writing. I'm looking forward to it. Among others, we'll be reading pieces by David Sedaris and the dazzling Ned Vizzini. I am also going to note E.B. White's famous quote, "Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it." I'm not one to quibble with a master, but frogs don't die of being dissected. In any case, it shows that comedy isn't a lot of fun to analyze, but we will. And we'll even be looking at Simpsons dialogue. Betcha never did that in school!


The biggest step you can take as an unpublished writer is to find an agent who wants to represent your novel. They are the ones having lunch with editors, who can say, "I have this great manuscript you've got to look at!!!" But even when you get an agent, they do take a while to read your stuff, just like anyone else in this busy business. So I'm waiting to hear more about my project(s).


I'm slowly coming out of hibernation. I was at a party tonight at which green hamantaschen was served in honor of both St. Pat's and Purim. We're very diverse around here.


E-mail not sent to my agent

well, it's friday at 3. where's your e-mail telling me how much my manuscript sucks, so you can ruin my weekend? where is it? c'mon, no one in my life has broken my heart in at least a day. c'mon, bring it on!!!

(Disclaimer in case my agent actually finds this: obviously I'm kidding, XOXOX!!!! I'm sure you're still working on that letter.)
Can't post today



Tried and


Here's a story of mine in the Daily News today.


So much

So many topics I want to write about, but I've been too busy. I will try to make time tomorrow.


Trite dialogue

A while ago, maybe even a few years ago, I posted on this blog a link to a website that had lists of overused TV sit-com plot lines and devices, and there was even a name for them. Now I can't find it. Anyone remember where it was? E-mail me at lizzner@aol. Thanks!

Lifestyle change

Well, writing season is over. That means it's time to get a life again.

Which is not to say that I'm going to be running into the city every night after work like I used to. It became too tiring. I just don't have the time to be going to trivia every week anymore, and certain other things. But I pledge to not spend every weekend indoors writing.

The end of writing/hibernation season also means no more pigging out as I write. Today, I was back to my baby carrots and granola bars.

I'm waiting to hear back from my agent on the rest of the writing project I gave her. So we'll see.

"Every writer at one point thinks, 'If I just get this one book published, I'll be happy' "

Michael Malice writes about what happens when you're a writer and you finally publish a book, but it's not the book that's most important to you, the one that's in your heart. Yet, you realize you shouldn't complain...



To the people who offered to read the beginning of my novel and STILL haven't gotten it...yes, as usual, I decided to do more teensy revisions. I apologize and still look forward to sending it to you if you aren't sick of waiting yet.

Thanks for your patience!



Another very kind new Pilby review! She's worn out her copy.



Talking out of school

Half-sis: [At school] we dissected a starfish and an earthworm.
Me: You dissected an earthworm?
Half-sis: They're actually quite interesting. There's a lot more in it than you think.


The heat is on

Let's take a moment to be thankful for heat.


If you are inside, bask in the wonder of heat.

Publishers' Weekly

Every week I get a list of books that have sold. Every week I tense up, hoping there isn't one like mine this week. Well, it's been another week that I was spared that anxiety.

As I've said before, though, a repeated plot is not always the kiss of death. Take a look at something that sold this week:

...PROJECT DADDY, about a woman on assignment to find the perfect man, who finds him in her best friend, sold in a two-book deal...

Incidentally, anthologies seem to be all the rage lately. One on anorexia was just sold. I'm sure you can come up with another title, just for fun, but don't:

...Former New Yorker staffer Kate Taylor's HARD AND SHARP AND LIGHT: Writers on Anorexia and an Appetite for Grandeur, a collection on anorexia with an introductory essay that describes the author's own experiences and makes the connection between ambition and anorexia...

If you're old and not anorexic, try cocoa

Here's this week's health news that people will take the wrong way:

Cocoa is good for your heart.

But note the last paragraph. The news doesn't mean you should keep downing fatty chocolate bars, Mavis. Fat is NOT good for you! Unless you're anorexic.