Thursday, September 27, 2007

Helen Schulman show is up now

My podcast expert Rob Roy just posted last week's interview with Helen Schulman, author of A Day at the Beach. Click here for the link.

Also, just so my friend, J., won't think I completely lost my mind and am lost to baseball, as well as teaching and editing and working on articles, I've been working on a piece (an essay? a story? depends on how much I embellish....). And yesterday I punched holes in every page of my novel and put the pages in a big white binder with the cover that says Starletta's Kitchen, so now I can easily go through the pages and continue my revision. (Okay, J.???)

One more thing: If you've been visiting this blog for a while, you know I categorize some books according to color. Check this out (thanks to Lacy, who sent it to me).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

West Hollywood Book Fair

Always a fun literary way to spend a Sunday: The West Hollywood Book Fair. I'll be on a panel at 3:00, moderated by the wonderful book publicist (and person) Kim Dower, called something like, "Making a Book a Success."

Say hi if you're there...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Angels clinch American League West title

This has nothing to do with writing, or does it? It does and it doesn't. What I mean is, lots of male writers are sports fans but what about female writers? Joyce Carol Oates is into boxing--or used to be, a sport I Just Do Not Get At All. Male writers wear baseball caps, write about sports in their fiction (The Sportswriter, etc.) but what about women? Where are the stories and novels in which sports play a part?

That's not what I meant to write when I started this post. What I meant to say is, I encourage my students to read the sports page. Even before I was so deeply into baseball, I read the page now and then, to refresh my approach to verbs. Sports writing has to move, can't get bogged down in passive verbs. But when I became an Angels fan(atic) this past spring, my sports page reading progressed from once in a while to every day, first thing, the first part of the paper I look at. I love Bill Plaschke's commentary and Helene Elliot's, too.

When baseball season is over, I imagine I'll enter a state of withdrawal, like I did with Diet Coke and coffee (both of which I drink again; all those headaches for for nothing). I will look at the sports section for any mention of my Angels. And my TV watching will decline by a ton of hours a week. The upside: More time for writing (although I rarely write at night anyway). Actually, there will just be more time with a hole in it where a baseball flew through. Until April 2008 when baseball season begins again. (I looked on the Angels web site; it doesn't say....)

So I keep thinking I need to incorporate baseball into my writing. Justify all the time I spend on the game. As if it needs justification.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Book autopsies

These are incredible....

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Raymond Carver

An article about walking where Raymond Carver walked.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A conference, a dilemma

Just returned from a writers' conference in San Luis Obispo, on the coast midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco where I did a couple of workshops. What an interesting group of writers I found, and nice people, too. (Eric Maisel was the keynote; I also sat in on literary agent Laura Rennert's workshop on YA novels.) And the central coast is a dream, the way I imagine California used to be, lots of sensuous hills with only nubby bushes and occasional trees. Lovely.

This is definitely one to remember for next year, this time. And quite affordable for attendees, too.

What's on your list of conferences--to do or to recommend?

(I tried to post a link and Blogger isn't accepting the URL. Just Google Central Coast Writers Conference, San Luis Obispo, and you'll easily find it.)


Also, what you would do ...

There's an author represented by an agent I quite like a lot. If I wasn't with my current wonderful agent, I would want this agent; that's how much I like him/her. This agent told me a story about an author who, if the story's true, acted unethically toward my colleague. (I'm assuming the story is true because I've never known this agent to lie, and he/she has a good rep in the publishing biz.)

Okay. The author's publicist sent me the author's book for my show. I had been musing over inviting this author on--until I heard the story. My interest vanished--because of my agent friend.

So, my question is, do you let loyalties influence the interactions you have with others?

On the one hand, it's so high school.

On the other, the opinions and experiences of the people you know help you make decisions. This agent didn't say, I'll be upset with you if you have her on the show. He/she would never do that. In that way, it's so not high school.

And on the other, when you let your emotions and loyalties color your decisions, you're never approaching anything or anyone fresh.

Monday, September 10, 2007


I published the following op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times following 9/11/01:

"Out of Sight, but Never Out of Mind"

In the weeks since the Sept. 11 attacks, a few New Yorkers have complained that the rest of the country has forgotten about them and no longer cares.

We may live 3,000 miles away, yet how could we ever forget? Granted, we don't have the glaring reminder New Yorkers have: That space where the Twin Towers once stood must shock them daily. So while the attack may no longer be a major topic of conversation for some, our hearts remain broken.

Since Sept. 11, most everyone I know has experienced two--rather than six--degrees of separation: Everyone knows someone who knew someone who died or whose life was changed in untold ways.

As we drive the streets and freeways of our county, flags continue to fly from car antennas and houses. People wear flag pins and clothing with flag designs, and plaster their car windows and briefcases with flag decals.

They're flocking to blood banks and donating auction items on eBay. It's enough to choke up the most formerly nonpatriotic person.

Surely, the children remember.

Since Sept. 11, at daily opening ceremonies at my 7-year-old son's school, groups of children hold flags high as everyone recites the pledge of allegiance. They sing patriotic songs. And when I asked Travis what he did at school one day, he said his class drew pictures. His was of a beach in Hawaii. "A plane flew into the sand, but sand doesn't burn, so there wasn't a fire," said Travis.

Later he asked how we would know if his dad were bombed where he works.

"If he's not home by his usual time, I'll call," I said.

"What if they don't answer?"

"Then I'll call the police. But it's unlikely Daddy will get bombed at work. We're lucky that way."

At least for now, I thought.

Travis appeared satisfied with my answer, yet I couldn't help wondering how parents--or relatives and social workers--told those children who lost a parent in the attack that their mommy or daddy wouldn't be coming home because something horrible happened at work.

Often, it's the simple things that serve as sad reminders of what others have lost.

For me, my intact family reminds me of too many families who are no longer together. Since Sept. 11, our prayer before dinner now includes the words: "And God, please take care of all those people who need your help now, more than ever."

In a picture my husband took of Travis and me in New York last May, the Twin Towers stand in the distance, directly behind our heads. That image is now the desktop on my computer, the first thing I see when I turn it on in the morning, and the last thing I see when it goes off at night. It's my own personal reminder.

The Sept. 11 events inextricably bind everyone in this nation together. Someone from Illinois said, "We are all New Yorkers now."

I would say it better if I could.


Friday, September 07, 2007

coffee, again, and what you did this summer

Last week Brian accidentally brought home flavored coffee. Brian hates flavored coffee. I tried it. I liked it. I made some for me. He bought his favored French roast, leaving almost a pound of hazelnut-flavored coffee beans. Of course I don't want to waste it? So every morning, after a modest breakfast of a slice of wheat toast and jam, and maybe a fried egg, I make a cup. Black. Love it. I still have tea first thing, though. So far.

Switching topics...a piece in today's Wall Street Journal about summer vacation and what folks did or did not do.

I had grand plans. I made a list on a legal size piece of paper. We were going to go to the East Coast and go to a Mets game. We were going to go on a road trip to San Francisco and maybe Portland. We talked about Tuscany and New Zealand. I kept cutting travel pieces out about Iceland. We were going to go to the Getty and the La Brea tar pits and Julian. We were going to do a bunch of things.

Some friends and relatives did. They went to Hawaii, St. Barts, Italy, France. They saw the world.

So what did we do?

We went to Sea World, went to Angels games ("and sometimes had really good seats," said Travis) and hung out a bunch. We had fun, a good summer. A summer of days with no alarm clock, late nights, a lot of laughs.

I think I'll keep the list for next summer and plan early.

What did you do? Did you fulfill your goals for the summer (and what's your morning drink of choice)?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Reclusive authors

Did anyone see the story in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday about reclusive authors?

Sometimes I think I'm too public, other times not public enough.

What do you think? Are you more interested in authors whose lives are a secret, who don't tour, who are hard to find, or do you like authors who--ahem--have blogs, tour, go on radio, etc.?

Or is it ultimately about the writing anyway, so it matters not whether an author is reclusive or public?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

I feel the earth move under my feet

We were just jolted. I moved toward the doorway. Then that was it. Just one big bump.

Brian, getting up, said, "Well, it's earthquake weather."

Hot, muggy, the sun almost too bright.

So I went here and read that a 4.7 quake was epicentered in Lake Elsinore.

I thought, I'm glad I'm dressed, in case I have to leave the house. But I should wash my face and brush my teeth, too, put on a little make-up, just in case.

Now Brian's in the shower. Soon as he's done, I'll get in there and make myself presentable, just in case.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Do you eat alone and read?

Brian is off to a gig and Travis is with a friend, so I made dinner for one.

Dinner was:

Basmati rice
One sheet of nori seaweed, toasted
Green salad with Aunt Teresa's house dressing (wine, olive oil, spices)
Zucchini broiled with grated parmesan and butter
A glass of Estancia chardonnay


This is a meal that Brian would like. Travis would like the nori and rice. I loved it all.

And I read, fittingly, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone by Jenni Ferrari-Adler, who is going to be on my show next week. I love the essays in this anthology, and I loved my meal.

For dessert, mini peanut butter cups from Trader Joe's.

What was the last meal you ate alone and did you read? If so, what was it? for writers

Seems all I'm doing these days is posting links here, or pictures. (That's okay, right?)

Here's a link to a New York Times article on how myspace works for writers.

It prompted me to work on my myspace page, which is

I don't even know if the link works! But I did a search on my name and my book title on myspace and found someone listed me as their hero. Me! And at least one other person was alternating reading my book and James Patterson. And that also prompted me to work on my page.

Then I went to and signed up there. There's no end to networking as an author, and it seems it could very easily take over doing any actual writing.

Travis is back in school next week, which is when I dust off the cobwebs from Starletta's Kitchen and get back to work.