Wednesday, May 8, 2013

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Interview





Rebecca Land Soodak


photo by Laura Mozes.
Photographer's page: CLICK HERE





The site for the interview: CLICK HERE
I’m so happy to introduce today’s LTYM:NYC cast member, writer Rebecca Land Soodak. I don’t know what I can possibly say about Rebecca that will do her justice. She is a powerhouse of a writer and a person; small on the outside, with a vast intellect and creative spark inside. We’re thrilled to have her in our cast.





THE INTERVIEW:

Q: HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN A WRITER?
Yes. But until rather recently, it didn’t occur to me to become a writer. And though my reasons are layered and specific— I think this is typical for many women. Ambition is a feminist issue.

Q: SO WHAT DID IT TAKE FOR YOU TO TAKE IT SERIOUSLY?
More than a room of my own and money, which was the second and less popular prerequisite Woolf mentioned. For me, it wasn’t until someone in the industry told me my writing had potential that I was able to commit in earnest. Actually, it took two people: first an agent, then an author.

For years I’d been writing essays—mostly about motherhood and NYC. One night, after perusing the Internet, I decided to query a bunch of agents and say I had a collection of edgy essays. When they asked to see it, I worked like a maniac and sent off about a hundred pages. I kept getting the same feedback: I had strong voice, but the pieces lacked a cohesive thread. (They were right.) They also said I didn’t have a large enough following or platform. (Right, again.) Many recommended I turn the material into a novel, which I interpreted as a polite brushoff. Besides, over the years I’d tried to write fiction and had never gotten very far.

Then, unexpectedly, one of the agents emailed again. She said she’d been thinking about my work and wanted to know if I’d considered her fiction suggestion. I was stunned. An industry insider was contacting me not because she was being polite—she actually thought I had potential. I’d been near a Borders when I received the email, so I went right in and bought some books on structuring a novel. I started working on HENNY ON THE COUCH that night.

The second source of inspiration came after I’d written about thirty pages. I ran into an author I knew, though not well. She had a reputation for being smart and straightforward. I told her I was trying to write a novel and she graciously offered to take a look. When she called with feedback, she quoted a sentence I’d written that had moved her. Hearing my words read back to me was unbelievably empowering. She also recommended I get rid of the first seven pages and change the point of view from third person to first. (I ended up using some of the pages in a later section, but she was right—my story began where she suggested.) I suspect her feedback about point-of-view saved me months of toil. (The take away—don’t be defensive or fragile.)

It’s tricky, though—looking to others for validation. I’ve learned that I must be my own source of encouragement. Still, at that time, their encouragement was a game changer.

Q: WHAT’S YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
With HENNY, I was extremely motivated and wrote every day—usually at four different intervals. Right after drop-off, I’d go to a diner and read over what I’d been working on the day before. (My husband works from home most mornings; I needed to stay out.) I would tip the wait staff as if the table had turned over several times. Considered it cheaper than renting an office.

Then I’d go home and write until pickup. In the afternoon, our full-time babysitter and I navigated the needs of my four kids, which usually meant I went with the ones who had activities where I could write— violin lessons, orthodontist appointments, Hebrew School, drop-off-playdates, etc. After the dinner-bath routine, I’d put my youngest kids to bed and be back to the page from 8-10:00. (I went to the neighborhood diner, because I didn’t want my older kids—or husband—to suck me into a drama.

Two things to notice: One, Woolf is right about the money. All of the above required a lot of it. Two, The reason I offer this much detail about my routine is because mother-writers need this information. The artist-as-recluse archetype does us a disservice. We need to make our process visible. Using a privileged, white, male model for writing, a Jonathan Franzen, cabin-in-the-woods, was never going to work for me. That said, what I’ve outlined is most definitely a privileged, white woman’s model. It’s likely my race, and not merely my purse, contributed to my ability to loiter in many UES cafes.

Also, consider my domestic context at the time. The whole time I was working on HENNY, there was no evidence I would actually write it. I didn’t study writing in college; I’d never taken a writing class. And even if I did produce a manuscript, I had no idea whether I’d get an agent. (That agent hadn’t guaranteed representation.) And even if I got an agent, who knew if she’d be able to sell it. For one thing, it was 2008 and I was writing about a wealthy New Yorker.

And yet … I took my writing seriously. I learned to guard my time by saying no. No to volunteering at schools, no to attending every function, no to having lunch with friends, no to watching TV with my husband, no to letting guests stay at my house … no. I’d say, I’m working. And I felt like I was working. Except work usually involves money.

My husband was almost always encouraging, in words and actions. But this was not his world. Not only wasn’t he familiar with the publishing industry— but he wasn’t a reader of fiction, either. I was deeply immersed in a goal that was outside of his expertise and known to be highly unlikely. Basically, for many months, I was the only person who truly believed I would write a novel. (Okay, except for my mother.) I frequently felt like Annette Bening in American Beauty— I will sell this house, today. I will sell this house, today. (Only guess what? She didn’t.)

I did love the actual process of writing. There were times when I’d close my eyes and type scenes as I imagined them. And when the work didn’t flow, I learned that if I persevered, if I continued to show up to the page, an answer would come. I never went online to crowd-source a solution. (In fact, I wasn’t yet on twitter or Facebook.) Related, I never talked about what a character might do, or what I planned to write. Speaking diminishes my urgency to write.

Despite loving the process, I was often in a foul mood. I was terrified. What if all this work was for nothing? What if I wrote the damned thing and it never sold? I didn’t care if I made a lot of money—but I wanted the validation of a publishing contract. I wanted an ISBN number. I wanted it on bookstore shelves. And mostly, I wanted people to read it. Preferably, ones I’d never met.

And … I didn’t want my kids to see me fail.

A few years earlier, I’d ended my professional life as a psychotherapist to pursue painting. Like writing, I’d taken it seriously. I’d had some success—my work had been in a few galleries and I’d sold paintings for thousands of dollars (to strangers). But I was far from being an established artist, and here I was pursuing a new endeavor. While a case can be made for my children watching me work toward a goal— I didn’t want to be perceived as always striving and never arriving.

Here’s an understatement: I am grateful it worked out.

Q: AND YOUR WRITING NOW? WHAT’S NEXT?
Now, when I say I’m working, people believe me. I have to be even more vigilant about my writing routine because I no longer have childcare. My youngest kids are ten, so my workday basically ends at 2:30. (I rarely write at night, now.) My daily solitude is crucial. Stories come to me when I’m alone. I have to be disciplined. I have to make myself show up to the page. My social circle is smaller than it used to be and there are many people I care about, and never see. Or people I’d like to get to know better, and never do.
Since HENNY, I’ve had many false starts with novels and screenplays. I’ve had better success with shorter projects—essays, short stories. It’s disheartening, but I believe what I’m supposed to write next will come to me as long as I stay in the writing habit. At least I hope so. I’ve never done this: write a second novel.
In the meantime, all of my writing takes much longer than it used to. Even emails or a simple author bio. (I’ve probably put ten hours into this interview, which seems excessive.) I belabor sentences. And yet, I persevere.

Q: FINALLY, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE UPCOMING LTYM SHOW?
I’m excited. I love the personal narrative form. And as soon as I heard about LTYM, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

Telling the truth is a political act. It’s also spiritual—a way I connect with others by exposing my humanity.

I could easily focus on being nervous. Indulge in self-deprecation. But I’ve made a conscious decision to let that shit go. Instead, to behave like the kind of women I admire. The ones who recognize when they have something to contribute, and then they do so, without apology or feigned modesty, or trepidation.

I want listen to everyone’s experience. And witness everyone’s courage. And when my turn comes, I want to stand and speak with clarity. To be in the moment. To trust my story … and my ability to tell it.

I want to speak my truth. Standing. Both feet on the ground.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Listen to Your Mother Show!




I first heard about Listen to Your Mother Show (LTYM) on Twitter. The brainchild of Writer/Performer Ann Imig-- LTYM is a live reading series on motherhood. With it's first show in Madison, WI (in 2010) -- LTYM has grown to productions in *24* Cities--each show written, directed and produced by local talent!

And get this ...

I will be joining the New York City Cast on Sunday May 12th (Mother's Day) at 5:00 at Symphony Space

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SOCCER SNACK: A Satire

From: Lois Langston

Subject: Red Dragons Snack

Dear Red Dragons,

Welcome to Upper East Side Soccer Squad’s (UESSS) spring season. I’m Lois Langston, your snack parent and I’m writing to set up a snack schedule. While there are no official UESSS rules regarding snack, it’s customary to provide fruit at half time (often sliced oranges) and a ‘sweet’ after the game. Doughnuts work nicely. Brownies, too! Be creative. Have fun with it.
Let me know ASAP which week you’d like to volunteer so I can put together a master list in plenty of time for the game.

Yours,

Lois

PS- Water or juice boxes are always appreciated, but no pressure!


Dear Lois.

Put me down for the third week. Would homemade chocolate chip cookies be good?

Val Montagne



Dragons,

Thanks, Val--you reminded me … Absolutely **no** peanuts in any snacks!! But to answer your question, chocolate chip cookies sound delicious. I’ll put you down for the third week.

Lois



Dear Lois,

Is it okay if I bring snack the last week? My husband’s in London for most of the season, leaving me with our three kids. :(

Harper



Lois, Did I say the third week, I meant the fourth.

Val



Val,
got you down for the fourth. Harper, you’re on for the last.

Yours,
Lois



Hi Red Dragons,

I propose that this season we skip snack altogether. Below is a useful link to a website that shows the latest research correlating sweet snacks to learning disabilities and ADD/ADHD. (Not to mention the obesity epidemic plaguing our kids today. Plus, we only eat organic citrus, so I’m concerned someone might bring in oranges (or grapes) dripping in pesticides which have been associated with Autism and/or conduct disorders in incarcerated youth.
It’s up to us to model healthy choices.

Best,

Cecile Randolph

www.modelhealthychoices.com



Dear Cecile,

I really like the camaraderie when teams break bread together. Perhaps we should take a vote? What do you think Lois?

Warm regards,

Selma Sacks



Red Dragons,

I’m with Selma re. the camaraderie thing. Not to mention, I love doughnuts.

Hannah Palmer



Girls,

I think a case can be made for both perspectives, but if we’re going to vote on this, shouldn’t each side have the opportunity to present their viewpoint in a venue more conducive to consensus building? I volunteer my apartment for a meeting. We’re on 82nd and Park.

Just an idea,

Tessa



Tessa,

My husband is in London on business and it’s VERY difficult to attend any meetings, especially on weeknights.

Harper



Hi All,
Here’s some food for thought, no pun intended. A similar issue came up on my older son’s travel league. Instead of bonding over food they did a team-building exercise that involved relay races with eggs on a spoon. Or something like that. He’s at Harvard now. I’ll email him and see what they did.

BTW—Harper, I know an excellent sitter.
(Or skype?)

Sharon Fontana


Lois,

Are we going to table volunteering until after Tessa’s meeting? If not, I can do the fourth week. BTW I read Cecile’s link about conduct disorders and saturated fats. Scary stuff.
FYI, Fresh Direct has excellent organic produce.

Risa Raymor



Dragons,

After much thought, I think as snack parent, I should make an executive decision. I mean, if that’s okay with everyone. Let me know.

Lois

Ps. Fresh Direct has an organic department!? Who knew?



Lois,

Decide away!

-Tess



Good idea Lois. Go for it.

Best,
Val



So no meeting?

Harper



Guys stop pressing reply all, it’s jamming my in box.
Warm Regards,

Lauren Sherp

CEO- Equities Solutions



Risa,

The fourth is taken. Any other week? (Assuming we’re going ahead with snack …)


Red Dragons,

It’s not a problem. My children understand that our family values healthful living differently than most other families.

Cecile



Thanks, Cecile! The rest of you, please let me know ASAP which week you can do.
Lois


Hi Lois.
I can do the fifth week. For some reason my son will only eat clementines. Hope that’s cool. But if I can’t find organic, Harry will make do. (Or he’ll just have his own clementine, and I’ll bring everyone else oranges. Whatever.)

-Risa



Girls,

I got it all wrong. The egg on the spoon thing was for debate team, NOT travel soccer. Lois, put me down for week number 3.

Sharon



Red Dragons,

I just received the below email. Perhaps we can discuss further on Saturday morning. 8:00 (106th entrance, Riverside Park) Go team!

Attention all Upper East Side Soccer Squad players and their families:
Due to insurance constraints UESSS now has a strict NO SNACK policy, effective immediately. We recognize this may be an unwelcome change but we thank you in advance for your vigilant cooperation in the matter.

Friday, May 25, 2012

WHERE THE WILD THINGS GROW

Almost three years ago, my oldest son became a Bar Mitzvah. When I set out to write a toast, I realized none of my words felt relevant to the relationship I had with him at the time. Everything felt contrived. Too much telling--not enough showing. So I borrowed the words of a writer we both admired. Here is my 'toast'. (I found it tucked in the book this morning--and wept.) THE NIGHT RUBIN WORE HIS WOLF SUIT AND MADE MISCHIEF OF ONE KIND AND ANOTHER HIS MOTHER CALLED HIM 'WILD THING1' AND RUBIN SAID 'I'LL EAT YOU UP1' SO HE WAS SENT TO HIS ROOM WITHOUT EATING ANYTHING. THAT VERY NIGHT HE WENT ON FACEBOOK AND CHATTED AND CHATTED UNTIL FABRY, SUGARMAN AND YANG HAD TO DO THEIR HOMEWORD AND RUBIN SWITCHED TO FARMVILLE AND YOU TUBE. AND WASTED NIGHT AND DAY AND IN AND OUT OF WEEKS AND ALMOST OVER A YEAR TO WHERE THE WILD VIDEOS ARE AND WHEN HE CAME TO THE PLACE WHERE THE WILD VIDEOS ARE, THEY ROARED THEIR TERRIBLE 'MOTHER LOVER' ROARS AND GNASHED THEIR TERRIBLE 'I'M THE BOSS' RHYMES AND ROLLED THEIR TERRIBLE 'LAZY SUNDAY' RIFFS UNTIL RUBIN SAID, 'MY TURN!' AND POSTED HIS OWN MAGIC VIDEO. (LINKED TO SILLY VIDEO HE MADE OF HIMSELF." AND RUBIN GREW. AND GREW. AND GREW. AND LEARNED MANY THINGS AND HAD MANY ADVENTURES. AND MADE GREAT FRIENDS. AND EVEN GREAT MISTAKES. AND FOUND HIS WAY. THEN ALL AROUND FROM FAR ACROSS THE WORLD TO THE UPPER EAST SIDE, HE WANTED GOOD THINGS TO EAT SO HE CALLED HIS MOM. 'LET'S MEET,' HE SAID. 'AT E.A.T. ON MADISON.' AND SHE SAID, 'OH PLEASE LET'S GO, WE'LL PAY TOO MUCH, I LOVE YOU SO!' AND RUBIN SAID, 'I KNOW.' SO HE SAILED BACK OVER A YEAR AND IN AND OUT OF WEEKS AND THROUGH A DAY AND INTO A CORNER TABLE OF THE VERY TRENDY ROOM WHERE IS HIS VERY OWN MOM WAS WAITING FOR HIM. AND IT WAS MAD FUN. MAZEL TOV, RUBE. I LOVE YOU.

Friday, April 27, 2012

ARE YOU MY AUTHOR? Mothers on the Writing Life

ARE YOU MY AUTHOR? Mothers on the Writing Life Thursday, May 10 7:00 – 9:00pm THE STRAND BOOKSTORE 828 Broadway, New York City Join us for an evening of readings, discussion, book signings …and a champagne toast for Mothers Day! The Strand Bookstore has partnered with six talented authors for an honest look and discussion on motherhood, creativity and the writing process. Each author will read a piece about the intersection between motherhood and writing, followed by a Q&A and open discussion with the audience. A $10 gift card to The Strand must be purchased for entry to this event. FEATURING: SHERI HOLMAN – Sheri Holman has written four award-winning and bestselling novels published by Grove/Atlantic, including The Dress Lodger, a New York Times Notable Book and longlisted for the Dublin IMPAC Award; The Mammoth Cheese, named a Publisher's Weekly and San Francisco Chronicle Book of the Year and shortlisted for the UK's Orange Prize, and most recently, Witches on the Road Tonight, a NYTBR Editor's Choice, winner of the Independent Publisher's Gold Medal for Literary Fiction, and named a Book of the Year by The Boston Globe, The Toronto Globe and Mail, and PopMatters. Sheri is a founding member of The Moth. KAYLIE JONES - Kaylie Jones is the author of five novels, including A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, which was made into a Merchant-Ivory film, and the memoir Lies My Mother Never Told Me. She teaches in the MFA program at SUNY Stony Brook – Southampton, and in the Wilkes University low-residency MFA program in professional writing. REBECCA LAND SOODAK - Rebecca Land Soodak has contributed to Salon, Big Apple Parent, About Our Kids, and The Huffington Post. A former Psychotherapist, Land Soodak is also a painter. She lives with her husband and four children in Manhattan and Litchfield, CT. Henny on the Couch (Grand Central Publishing, March 2012) is Rebecca's debut novel. JILLIAN LAUREN - Jillian Lauren is the author of the memoir Some Girls: My Life in a Harem and the novel Pretty. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review Daily, The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine and Vanity Fair among others. She has performed at spoken word and storytelling events across the country and is co-host with comedian Melinda Hill of the new hit podcast Eat My Podcast. MARTHA SOUTHGATE - Martha Southgate is the author of four novels. Her newest, The Taste of Salt, was published in September 2011 and was named one of the best novels of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle and Boston Globe. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Her essay “Writers Like Me,” published in the New York Times Book Review, appears in the anthology Best African-American Essays 2009. Previous non-fiction articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, O, Entertainment Weekly, and Essence. www.marthasouthgate.com; Twitter: mesouthgate RACHEL ZUCKER - Rachel Zucker is the author of three books of poetry including Museum of Accidents which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She co-edited Women Poets on Mentorship, an anthology of essays by younger women poets and co-wrote (with Arielle Greenberg) Home/Birth: a poemic, a non-fiction book about birth, friendship and feminism. She lives in New York City with her husband and three sons. She teaches poetry at NYU and is a certified labor doula. PRESS CONTACT: Jillian Sanders 212-364-1523 jillian.sanders@hbgusa.com

Tuesday, March 27, 2012