Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


“Rarely has there been a novel that has dealt quite so honestly with the issues that assail urban women today. Unflinchingly honest and devoid of self-indulgence, Henny on the Couch is a compelling, brave, and beautiful novel.”

-Kaylie Jones, author of Lies My Mother Never Told Me

Monday, December 5, 2011

From one son to another--on his Bar Mitzvah

Lies About My Brother
This poem is tricky
Like my brother, so spastic.
Everything I now say
Should be heard as sarcastic.

When he was born
My brother was skinny.
No roles of fat
On his chinny chin chin chinny.
When he grew up
All of that changed.
He’s gotten fat, he’s gained weight
He is oh so very strange.
He is always behaved
And he never says never.
He’s like Justin Bieber
Only one third as clever.
He gets horrible grades
In math, he doesn’t know factors.
And he has no friends,
All you people here are actors.
He sucks at all sports
And he’s slow as a snail.
His Chinese name should be “Shibai”
Google translates that to “Fail.”

He has never shown rage
And looks like Syd from Ice Age.
He’s the least impressive person I know
He gives devious a new low.
He gives new meaning to “don’t judge a book by its cover,”
Because he’s even worse inside than he is a brother.
Whenever he sees me he pretends to admire
But really he’s just wishing I were on fire.
Nobody likes my brother
Not even our mother!
You’ve all seen her yell at him
It’s like a story written by Brothers Grimm!
His head is so full of hot air.
He thinks kicking and screaming is the definition of “share.”
Worst of all: he’s chock full of sass
Whenever he sees me he smacks me in the……........stomach.

He’s the worst kind of guy
He tells everyone the truth
Except to me he does lie
And it’s ruined my youth.
So friends and family
Of Ellis-da-mellis
Please make sure you know
You don’t have to be jealous.

Okay here we go
Now the lies are through
For a short stanza
I’ll say things that are true.

He’s a cool guy
The best I’ve ever seen
He’s got more talent
Than that winner Charlie Sheen.
Ellis, you’re the best brother I have
This should make you all know
He’s the greatest friend I could asked for


Sunday, November 6, 2011

In Anticipation

Dear Joyce,
There are many reasons I’m not making the deadline to submit a memoir piece for the upcoming workshop. Perhaps most importantly is … I don’t have one. I mean, I have a few old narrative essays—some even garnered agents’ attention some years back, but the consensus was they lacked a cohesive thread and an offer of representation was not forthcoming. They were right. (Unless you considered me a cohesive thread.) MOMoir was on its way out and since I didn’t have a substantial platform (shoes didn’t count) they weren’t confident my collection would sell. It was recommended I try to turn it into fiction.
At first I assumed they were being polite. Turn it into fiction sounded like agent code for don’t-call-us-we’ll-laugh-at-you-over-drinks. Besides, about a decade earlier I HAD tried fiction and while character—or more specifically voice, had landed on the page with somewhat ease, plot … not so much. Plot eluded me. I’d managed to create layered, vivid characters brimming with angst, but by page twenty or so I sensed something was missing and lost momentum. In hindsight, I see that I’d equated that which eluded me with that which was evidence of my inherent incompetence. The conclusion: I/m not a real writer.
And yet I continued to write. I figured fiction wasn’t my genre and stuck with true to life experiences. This was especially practical since my true to life experiences were busy being born. Four of them in six years. As you know, motherhood is (among many things) chock full of the necessary components that make a good story: compelling characters, conflicting needs, high stakes and endless obstacles and/or epiphanies. Additionally (don’t tell anyone) mothering young children could also be(at times) profoundly boring. And lonely. I mean juxtaposed between delicious burrito-baby snuggles and compelling conversations deconstructing Clifford the big red dog—one does a lot of wiping (noses, counters, backsides …), so in order not to lose my fucking mind to make sense of my world, I turned to the page.
Interestingly (perhaps only to me), during these years, I could no longer stomach reading fiction either. A lifelong lover of literary novels, I found I couldn’t bear to leave my reality for made-up worlds. I wanted truths. Not parenting-manual truths—those irked me. I yearned for the wise words of (m)others. I wanted to read some version of my story from another's telling. These musings were my mirrors. Echoes in reverse, if you will. And at the time, they were essential.
Years passed. My children got older. We all got older. I’d accumulated enough narrative pieces to query those aforementioned agents (and receive those aforementioned rejections).
And then a miracle happened.
Now if this was fiction, I’d set my miracle in Central Park. Or perhaps the scene could unfold in Lincoln Center as the main character arrives ten minutes into the first act. But this is not a novel (or a screenplay) and my miracle came via email. An agent who had already passed on my collection of essays wanted to know if I’d considered her suggestion and given a try at fiction. It occurred to me that if an agent suggests I attempt fiction—I should probably attempt fiction. I started my novel that day.
This time I went to the experts. Not only did I resume reading in the genre, I devoured books on plot and structure (and many more on the writing life). I learned that those nuanced characters swimming around in my unconscious needed to want something and it was my job to provide the obstacles until she either succeeded, or failed. This seemed manageable. This I could do.
So as I set out, here is what I knew: I wanted to write about an artist who wasn’t making art. I knew it should take place in New York City. I was determined to portray a long-term committed marriage that had a problem other than fidelity. Also, I wanted to illustrate the intricacies in women’s relationships with friends, mothers, nannies, mentors, bosses, colleagues, and daughters.
I also knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want this to be a story about a woman whose husband and kids were the main hindrance to her owning her artist self. I didn’t want the solution to be that she just needed to set boundaries or find a metaphorical room (and money) of her own.
I looked to my own experience. Something profound had happened when that agent contacted me. My sudden confidence could better be understood in the context of my life—and not just my current-day married-mothering life. I figured the same context should be true for my main character. If I wanted my novel to be rich with meaning, her story needed to unfold over pivotal time periods in her life. I believe an artist neither suppresses nor unleashes her creativity in a vacuum. And this context—these influences and obstacles—I continue to find compelling.
Fast forward three years. Henny on the Couch comes out this April. (Interestingly, I ended up signing with a different agent.)
Which brings me to now. Today—the day my workshop piece is due. I guess the truth is this: I don’t have a narrative piece that I’d like to spend your time (the group’s time) or my time working on because I don’t want to write one. I already have an agent and a publisher who want to read what comes next. Which leads to this … what comes next?
I have a novel percolating. I am also in the thick of turning Henny on the Couch into a screenplay. I’m aware unknown novelists are discouraged from doing this—but having written and sold my novel, I no longer diminish my goals before attempting them.
I’m not sure how to use the workshop time but with four kids (now ages 9-15), a husband, a Bar Mitzvah less than a month away, marketing demands for Henny … time is a precious and scarce commodity. I need to refuel my writer’s self. I hope to spend some of the weekend digging into my screenplay. I would also like to give some much needed attention to the currently faint characters I hope will people my next novel.
There’s also this: I’m a for-real fan of your work—both memoir and fiction. I wept during Labor Day and At Home in the World resonated long after I read the last page. I imagine spending the weekend in your orbit and surrounded by other writers—will be plenty. Who knows? It might even be one of those life altering, memoir inspiring true-to-life experiences.
And if not, it doesn’t matter. There’s always fiction.

Monday, September 5, 2011

JC Penney: Where is your judgment?

I’m too pretty to do my homework … so my brother has to do it for me
I think JC Penney showed terrible judgment removing their controversial T-Shirt. I mean what kind of message does it send girls that JC Penney doesn’t think American girls are pretty enough to manipulate the men in their lives? I, for one, think it’s important girls feel empowered by a finely crafted ditzy persona, and if using their sassy-ness frees them up for more important things than education, I say bring on the Justin Bieber albums, pronto!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pros and Cons of Moving to Los Angeles


10. ¾ of my kids are in schools that are perfect for them.

9. I'd have to pack.

8. I have a posse of NYC women who soothe my soul.

7. I swear too much for the west coast.

6. I don’t have ankles which rarely bothers me in NYC.

5. My kids would want to get driver’s licenses. Then they’d want to drive cars, probably.

4. The 405, the 101, the 10, Hollywood Blvd, Fairfax, Sunset …

3. What they call bagels are actually rolls with a hole in them.

2. Extended family wouldn’t be able to say “I’ll be right there” and vice versa.

1. I can’t handle the pressure (of remembering to bring my own bags to the grocery store).


10. Pulsing with inspiring, creative people.

9. Fact (no-one-knows-about-on-the-east-coast): You can wear jeans and sweaters in the summer.

8. We could get a dog.

7. And a house with a backyard—yet still be near art, restaurants and a creative industry.

6. Mitchell is more relaxed in L.A. (Interestingly, he is the least relaxed person in L.A.)

5. The kids would make new friends—then they’d be bi-coastal which is easier than being bi-lingual but still kind of cool.

4. The architecture and design are phenomenal.

3. The Pacific Ocean, Santa Monica Mts., near: Big Sur, SF, Seattle, Vegas, San Diego, Portland, etc.

2. A sense of adventure (meeting new people, discovering new places …).

1. This makes no sense. Totally stupid to even CONTEMPLATE! We’re NEW YORKERS. Stop this nonsense right now. Forgetaboutit.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What's all this talk about Twitter? ... Oh. Never Mind

Since many of the people who read my blog (Mom) are not on twitter, I thought I would cut and paste a bunch of my tweets for all of you (Mom) to get a feel for what this social media twitter thing is that all the kids have been talking about. (And by kids, I mean--for example--all those wacky Egyptian revolutionaries or those crazy jokesters who broke that Bin Laden tidbit a few days ago before any of the networks could say, we interrupt this episode of The Apprentice ...)
Please note, when words are preceded by this # it's sort of a symbol for a clever joke or sarcasm.
Now then, shall we?

I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that I enjoyed Lady Di's wedding. I'd be remiss if I didn't admit I just googled 'remiss, definition of'
Lucky 2 catch @RaeMeadows read novel MOTHERS&DAUGHTERS-Then I devoured 1st chapter over wonton soup #Gr8Nite @ElisabethWeed @Darinstrauss
Today I scootered w/ my girls to the orthodontist, yogurt shop & library. Yeah. I was that mom.
I give great bread #PassoverPorn
Talking to my girls about how much i love them Kid1-Some people don't even HAVE a mom or dad Kid2-Yeah, some people just hv a mom & a donor
Just heard vaguely upsetting news & now I'm trying to decide if I want to talk to a real friend, twitter or my mother.
HARD NIPPLES is what I used to call my Bubby! It's like her ghost is communicating via twitter trends-Which is totally NOT plausible. Right?
I need a vacation. That, or 25 people coming for Passover on Monday. #SayWhat? #Seder
I just deposited the last of my 'Advance' for HENNY ON THE COUCH Wonder if I'll ever feel as proud of the $ as I do of my agent's masthead
Loved Sheri Holman WITCHES on the ROAD Tea Obreht TIGERSWIFE RulaJebreal MIRAL& @AlisonEspach THE ADULTS last nite @KGBbar @Behind_the_Book
PaySuck, repeat #PassoverPorn
Hard(matzo)Balls #PassoverPorn
The theoretical--invite 25 people for Passover Seder--got real today. Excited.
The lost 14 yr old boy in NYC was found alive (but shaken) I don't know any other details

It's hard to plan a Seder while reading Good Squad every spare minute. Fuck the brisket. (At least that's what my Bubby always used to say.)
To fix a terrible haircut I went too short. Husband said he liked&then asked if I did. I told him I respected it He walked away laughing.
@KateAurthur That Rob Lowe cover grosses me out. An example of bad-naked, albeit an idealized male form. I prefer imperfection.
@syntactics spoiler alert-but my favorite life of Pi sentence (in the context of all the other sentences) ... The ship sank.
@fuggirls Oh dear God, Please *please* let's not diss THAT WOMAN. Donna Tripp-yes. ML, no
Twitter has taught me this: mothers who are famous cherish each moment with their delightful children. I'm happy for them.
i explained to kids why tgiFridays in an airport is fine- In union square-hells no
I release the filth of these sidewalks-dogshit/vomit/piss/butts/goobers &litter in favor of the heaven that is this William Fitzsommons song
My teen son has a mannish body. I paused uncertain what to add ... ... And now I'm weeping.
It's like I'm in a twilight zone. Just misread a massive billboard for vitamin water. Thought 'revive' was REWRITE
Is it me, or do #TheFooFighters sound like Rush?
RLSoo Rebecca Land Soodak
I think it's best for all involved if I wear my comfy jeans
Gonna shake things up this Passover & hide the QADAFFI-KOMMEN ... & when the kids try to sell it back we'll gang-rape em @SarahKSilverman
If one pays 100$/ticket 4 UNTREATED bipolar/addict/woman-abusing/unmedicated/narcissist-h/she might b part of the problem @Justin_Stangel
I just read NYT article on Cathie Black chancellor ousting-I can't BELIEVE they didnt mention her YouTube Friday vid. Fucking dinosaurs.
The Unbearable Lengthiness of Being in the Movie Theater#unnecessarysequels
A Tale of Two Sex in the Cities #unnecessarysequels
The Pursuit of Happy Gilmore #unnecessarysequels
Im pretty sure Epsom salt was my Bubby's aphrodisiac (And now I feel a sense of unresolved loss tinged with nausea.)
@Sirenland @mcnallyjackson Like a wise, aging caterpillar keeping his nose company. Nice, in these uncertain times.
Ass-Over #PassoverPorn &/or #sheenshow
Skank Bone #PassoverPorn
The laying of the first-born son #PassoverPorn
Bitter Whores #PassoverPorn
Next Year In ... Jerlissa #PassoverPorn

The Parting of Her Red C #PassoverPorn
My Burning Bush #PassoverPorn
I'm concerned there might be a gefilte-fish smack-down involving my mother & Aunt. I'm not gonna lie-I'm frightened. #Passover

Wait, did CathieBlack get canned because of that Friday song?
Damn-I hate being wrong.
I would really like to see Sheldon and Blossom do the nah-nah. Like on one of those adult channels. #TheBiggestBang#CantTakeItMuchLonger
I am dubious that these brownies will do much for Japan, but I'm a team player.
Two Independent bookstores on UES are out of Bossypants and admit to only buying a few copies. This reflects a disconnect, I think.
@GCPeditor @mitch_hoffman @grandcentralpub Good. Because ALL editors need and deserve an assistant! (Seriously)
@bnreviewer Yeah, that's 2012.
@bnreviewer Mine's coming! Henny On the Couch-Spring 2013 GrandCentral It's Bright LightsBig City from an UES feminist/artist's persp. kinda
the norm for acceptable table switching varies In LA-once, maybe-and only if you have a penis. In NYC? Who gives a shit?
After sitting a table away from Duchovny I'm left w/ this: our not fucking might be due to more than proximity. Possibly.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Next Project

Confession: I have not started my next project.
I want to start my next project. I am trying to start my next project. I am confident I will at some point start my next project ... but, alas, I have not started my next project.
Some would say this is a time of grappling and inquiry and in fact it is this act of not yet knowing that marks the beginning of the process. I agree with this sentiment—that a period of uncertainty tinged with yearning is part of the process; however, it is not what I mean when referring to my next project. I don’t want to be wrestling; I want to be writing.
For one thing, writing fiction is a terrific escape and though I have a fantastic life (and for the most part, have always had a fantastic life) I’ve also always been keen on escaping reality and what better way to alter one’s mood than to create a world of others? All I have to do is create compelling characters and give them something to long for, throw in an obstacle or two and voila: hours, days, months go by where I’m (checked out) writing.
I don’t mean to suggest that writing is my crack. It’s more that (at the risk of sounding new-agey) in order to feel like myself (dare I say—my best self?) I need to be immersed in a creative endeavor. Like, daily. And when that creative endeavor is flowing—the feeling is …

Actually, what is the feeling? I struggle to find the word. Sated. Resolute. Relieved. Proud. Thankful.
Damn. No wonder (writing is my crack) I can’t wait to get back to work in earnest.
I mean, I loved writing Henny on the Couch. Except when I fucking hated it. But for now, I only want to think about the good ol’ days. The days when any responsibility other than writing felt like an imposition instead of relief. The days when I closed my eyes and asked myself, what should happen next, and the answer materialized: an autumn walk in Central Park, or chocolate pudding at Ponderosa, or crisp chips in green bowls, or Balduccis in the 80s or Amway in the 70s or the night Andy Warhol died … and before I knew it, I’d written a book.
A book.
So yes, I want to recreate that love affair that is creative-orderly-direction.
The thing is, unlike with Henny on the Couch, I’m not sure of the story I want to tell. Or the characters, let alone other details like tense or point of view.
So, in the meantime, I keep busy. I read—devouring the art of other (poor bastards) writers who managed to put pen to paper. Exercise helps too. Besides, it’s an opportunity to reconnect with family—I’m trying to be a better parent (more patient, attentive) and wife (more patient, attentive).
And I’m sure this is part of the writing process. Certainly if I wrote one novel, I’ll be able to do it again. (Maybe not. What if I can’t? I knew it was beginner’s luck.) Yes. I’m sure in no time, a character will present herself and I’ll be back on the literary beam.
And if not—well, there’s always twitter.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We Love Charlie Sheen

I am concerned about Charlie Sheen. Sure, there are other things going on in the world—a revolution in Egypt, stonings in Afghanistan, narcissistic judges who want to do away with healthcare reform. But it is Charlie Sheen that keeps me up a night.
For those of you off-the-grid-anti-tech-neophytes: here are some Charlie Sheen tidbits.
He stars on CBS’s Two and a Half Men.
He’s the highest paid actor on TV.
He has a drug and alcohol problem.
Oh, and he assaults women. (More than once.) (Weapons have been involved.)
I’m not sure if Mr. Sheen has been under-the-influence every time he’s been violent, but I think it’s safe to say—the drugs and booze don’t help.
Which is why I would like to assist Charlie. But since Mr. Sheen is a famous addict—I’ve taken a few liberties with the Twelve Steps. I hope he finds solace in the recovery process.

The Twelve Steps (for Charlie Sheen)
Step 1: Admitted he was powerless over his erection & his wife had become unmanageable

Step 2: Came to believe there was NO power greater than himself.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn his will and his life over to the care of CBS network

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless more-whore inventory of himself

Step 5: Admitted to God, to himself and another human being the exact nature of his wrongs & then paid to destroy the evidence

Step 6: Entirely ready to have God remove mandatory sentencing.

Step 7: Humbly asked her not to press charges

Step 8: Made a list of all persons he'd harmed—except for the ones with vaginas, ‘cause those bitches don't count

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people whenever possible except when to do so required admission of any wrong doing

Step 10: Continued to take anything he wanted & when wrong promptly pummeled her

Step 11: Sought through prayer and self-prescribed medication to improve next year’s contract

Step12: Having had habitual rapening as result of these steps—he carried the message that bad-boy Actors can get away with anything

We love you, Charlie. Keep coming back.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Who You Calling Chinese?

I don’t want to write about The Chinese Mother. Not tonight. I’m too tired. And I doubt I could contribute anything meaningful to the virtual conversation anyway. Some people are meant to be on the sidelines. Me for instance.
Plus, in a few minutes, (after I’m done not responding to this Parenting tome on how to rear perfect prodigies), I’m heading to the livingroom to watch Parenthood, The Good Mother and/or Modern Family with my husband and two sons. Tortilla chips will be involved. We will all stay up far too late and there is an excellent chance there will be swearing (me) and regrettably—farting (them).
I am not certain either son has completed his homework despite several earlier discussions. Allow me to include a little snippet that illustrates my parenting style. I think it might be useful here. You know, to clarify my philosophical approach to rearing the legacies I bestow on our future generation. (You’re welcome, by the way.)
Me: Did you do your homework?
Boy: Yes
Me: raises eyebrow
Boy: Most of it, anyway
Me: Jesus Christ (I find prayer an excellent parenting technique with gifted children) I’ve been reminding you all friggin day. (Curse you snowday) I swear, if I have to tell you one more time I’m taking that computer away.
Boy: But I need it for school
Me: Don’t be smart.
Boy: (mumbling) Well, I do.
Me: Then I’ll take that game you like to play
Boy: You can’t. It’s an internet based game
Me: (I momentarily lose ability to formulate a sentence because I’m not sure how to say, oh yeah? Wanna watch me Mr. Smarty Pants! I’ll hack into your account . So help me god, I will.
Boy: Besides, I only have a little bit left
Me: Oh. Well … go do it.
Boy: Ok. I will. In a sec.
I’m not sure how this exchange ended. Maybe I got a phonecall. Tough to say. But the point is, it’s essential I take a stand when it comes to my child’s education. I mean, if not me … who?
That’s why I’m going to make certain I discuss this during the commercials.
Shit. DVR. Well, I’m going to make sure we discuss it while we debate the pros and cons to watching Modern Family BEFORE The Good Wife. There is an art to this sort of decision and my husband and I like to give our children the opportunity to express themselves. (Though it is unspoken that my husband will trust my parenting prowess, should there be a tie.) Still it’s a worthwhile exercise, I think.
Okay, like I said, I’m exhausted. Short blog post for me. Probably won’t even proof-read it.
I guess you could say, NOT proofing this post is a perfect incapsulation (pretty sure that’s not a word, but stay with me here) of my parenting philosophy. You see, (and I feel very strongly about this) I think it is essential one MUST do very important things in a half-assed sort of way. I mean, and I hope I’ve taught my children this … the imperativeness (not really the right word, but fuck it) of imperfection cannot be underestimated.
Said another way, almost good enough is better than nothing.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I Hate-Youville

I’ve had an epiphany: Motherhood is traumatic. I don’t mean the act of giving birth, I mean MOTHERHOOD. Before I explain—a caveat for those who might take me words out of context. Real trauma=BAD. Motherhood=GOOD.
Now then.
First, let us look at the criteria of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Apparently, it’s necessary to have difficulty in three categories. The recurrent re-experiencing of the trauma, avoidance to the point of phobia and Chronic Physical signs of hyper-arousal. For the purpose of my epiphany, let us focus on the last category: hyper-arousal.
Prior to motherhood, hyper-arousal probably conjured up a whole other set of symptoms—moist, gooey, can’t wait to get back to his apartment symptoms. But not so with PTSD (Post TrauMAMA Stress Disorder). In fact, let us go to DSM description of hyper-arousal.
Chronic physical signs of hyper-arousal include sleep problems, trouble concentrating, irritability, anger, poor concentration, blackouts or difficulty remembering things, increased tendency and reaction to being startled, and hyper-vigilance (excessive watchfulness) to threat.
Hmmmm. Let’s see, sleep problems? Check. Trouble concentrating? Check. Irritability? What the hell are you looking at? Can’t I get some goddamned peace around here!?
Where was I? Ah yes, the symptoms of debilitating PTSD. For shorthand, let’s just call it another day in I-Hate-Youville.
I guess I must have remembered the physical manifestation of PTSD from my prior life as a psychotherapist, because the other night, as I lay peacefully in bed awaiting sister sleep to greet me, I pondered why I’d accomplished so few items on my to do list during the lovely ten days known as Winter Break. I mean, my children aren’t babies anymore. Why did I find it so difficult to read a novel (let alone write one) or return emails or say, think with my kids in the next room. After all, I’d been looking forward to working on that photo album from my son’s Bar Mitzvah two October’s ago, and I’d every intention of perusing the three different school calendars in order to research a jaunt this spring. (Let alone the whole summer camp situation.) Why was I having such a hard time concentrating on very basic tasks?
And then two thoughts came to me at precisely the same moment! One, I’ve been hyper-aware all week because at any moment there is an excellent chance one of my monkeys will enter my psychic space and need something: gloves, dinner, assistance drying off the remote that a certain someone just licked … and Two, it’s 1:15 AM and I’m fairly confident that I hear I’m On A Boat coming from across the hall even though I specifically said YOU MAY CHARGE YOUR COMPUTER BUT DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TURN IT BACK ON SO HELP ME GOD. This is when I gracefully got out of bed and sauntered into the boys’ room and yanked the computer away from the magnetic charger (which is actually a very cool feature; yay Apple) and said through gritted teeth, if we don’t have trust we don’t have much-Mr. Or maybe it was, you fucking ingrate go to bed. Details. Anyhoo, after hiding the computer under my dirty laundry newspaper, I got back into bed and returned to my next comforting thought: Monday will be here soon.
And then I remembered … professional development day, AKA for two of my kids school wouldn’t resume until Tuesday. Fabulous.