6/05 - 5/05
June 27, 2005
The summer begins officially tomorrow. Maggie and I will drive to Vermont. She will say goodbye to Brooklyn for seven weeks. On Wednesday, I'll drop off at camp. I've spent the last few days organizing her truck, and acquiring the dozens of things that, should she go without, would guarantee weeks of sleep-away misery (aka, after-bite spray, disposible cameras, cute stationery, lip gloss, waterproof boots). I'm sending her with 20 stamps. I expect no more than ten letters. Have I already mentioned that last summer, one of her few notes to me consisted of only a pencil outline of her hand? She will never be an epistolary novelist, that's for damned sure.
Lucy has been in California with my parents, visiting my furniture restorer brother and his Irish wife, and their two sons. I have missed Lucy these three days, but I have to admit: With only one kid around (the older one), things have been wonderfully calm and quiet. I could actually hear myself think. I almost didn't recoginize the sound, it's been so long. Lucy, my parents, Maggie and I will rendezvous in Vermont.
Travel plans have consumed nearly all of my energy, and I wish I had something (anything) interesting to report. Steve and I are taking our honeymoon (a year late) in Amsterdam in August. Between now and then, I have to finish Fringe Girl (nearly there), write an article for Organic Style (alternative fitness; if nothing more, I'll get some much needed exercise), and do an outline for my next adult novel. Just the other night, while guzzling red wine, I told my friend Tomas (whose Victorian in Glen Ridge, NJ, is to-die-for) that I'd coasted through high school, and coasted though college, only to slam on the accelerator ever after.
June 22, 2005
And not a moment too soon. We were staying with my first husband's parents in Boynton Beach, which is, by all appearances, where old people go to bake in the sun for a decade before death. The five days were defined by discussions about neglectful doctors, ailing health, including that of people I don't know and never will, rain, junk food and sweat. The kids had a fine time. And why not? Unlimited TV, movies, a pool, grandparents who showered them with toys. I look forward to the day when the girls are old enough to travel to Florida by themselves. The vibe at the retirment community was depressing as hell (and hot as), and I'd rather not have to absorb it myself.
I am a wee bit behind my editing schedule for Fringe Girl, but (she says with great relief), the pages look pretty good. I'm going to write my pitch for What A Catch, my new grown-up novel idea, and send to my editor this week.
I've decided to start posting killed articles (pieces I labor over that are deemed unfit for publication at the magazine I was commissioned to write for). Killing doesn't happen often—but even rare occurances do occur. Recently, Parenting snuffed out an story on multiple intelligences—the first time Parenting had killed a piece of mine in ten years. You must be thinking: "Man, this article must SUCK!" Well, you can be the judge of that yourself. See "Freshly Killed" under the "For Your Amusement" column to the right.
June 16, 2005
I took Maggie to see Alanis Morrisette's "Jagged Little Pill" acoustic tour at Radio City last night. Her first rock show. The choice was relevant: I was pregnant with Maggie when the album came out in 1995.
We met up with Marcia M. and her daughter Megan for dessert beforehand. Megan is going into 8th grade, and Maggie seemed impressed with her. I was, too. Teenage girls don't HAVE to be awful. And one sure way to prevent mother/daughter distance at that age, is to take girls to rock shows. Marcia mentioned as much in a recap email to me this morning. And it has made me even more determined for Maggie (when appropriate) to be my concert pal. Lucy, too, when she's old enough.
The concert was fantastic. I bought Maggie her first concert jersey, and she changed into it in the bathroom. Maggie loved screaming and yelling. Alanis's voice was in top form. She can make some pretty weird noises with it, as well as the beautiful ones. I cried twice: during "Perfect" (heartbreaking; the video screens showed her baby picture) and "Ironic" (but happy tears). Marcia and I spotted at least a dozen mother/daughter pairs.
Toward the end, Maggie's ears hurt and we had to step into the lobby to give her nine-year-old drums a break. I asked if she wanted to go, and she said, "I'm not leaving until I hear 'Hand in Pocket.'" Which made me so proud! We listened from the concession area, and when we heard her song start, we watched through the theater door window, our heads pressed together. She sang against my cheek.
She'll remember last night for the rest of her life (as will I), and I'm thrilled her first was someone as cool, inspiring and brainy as Alanis.
June 13, 2005
Without going into detail for why I feel compelled to write this now, let me just say: The problem with insufferable people is that there's no hope of ever changing or enlightening them to their insufferability. They are insufferable BECAUSE they're always right. Even their apologies are sanctimonious and snide. Of course, always-rightness is where you start to talk about insufferability—and that's a conversation that could go on all night.
June 11, 2005
School ended yesterday, and we bought a pool for the deck. That sounds more impressive than it is. The pool—five feet in diameter, two feet high—cost $20 at CVS. It's cheaper than spending $20,000 on a country club membership (which reminds me: must line up my summer mooching schedule...). I blew a lung inflated it, then we filled it up with a freezing water from a hose. The water warmed up overnight, and the kids have not been out of the pool all day. I got in there myself. Since our deck is the highest on our side of the street, and I felt secure in our (albeit limited) privacy, I wore a bikini. I don't think I frightened anyone too much. No one leapt from their windows in horror. As far as I know, anyway.
Tonight, there was a 4th of July caliber fireworks show over the East River (no clue why). The girls and I clambored onto our roof and watched. Perfect view from up there, as if the fireworks were for our personal amusement. I almost cried, how close I felt to my kids up on the roof, the sky on fire, the haze, in pink. Yes, indeed, it was a time. Steve missed it. He is in Virginia, performing at Wolf Trap, the famous amphitheater. Sucked he wasn't here for the little pool party/fireworks show. But tomorrow night, we plan to make good use of the pool. After the kids go to bed. With some beers and whatever else. Put on the Xmas lights along the deck fence, and stare at the moon.
June 7, 2005
WARNING!!! The photo (above left) is a shocking and horrible sight. It is proof that savagery beats in the gentlest of breasts. It is evidence, in vivid color, of the basic brutality of animals, even the sweetest, cuddliest, cutest creatures I've ever known. Brace yourselves for the carnage...
The unfortunate result of a deck, a low-hanging birdfeeder, and two bored cats
I didn't witness the atrocity. I took the kids to school at 8:30 AM and stayed to attend a short function there. At 9:00, Steve heard a scuffle and low feline mewling downstairs. He thought Penny was talking to a Beanie Baby (she frequently takes them off the shelf and drags them around by the neck). At 9:30, he went downstairs for breakfast, and found the above pictured feathers and head with bloody neck bone (NO BODY) on the dining room rug. Penny (the fat one) had feathers in her claws. Tulip (the skinny one) was stretched out on the carpet, luxuriating in her collaborative kill. We assume they ate the body. I won't be surprised if it turns up somewhere when I least expect it, though. SAVAGES! A small part of me is glad that they got to satisfy their murderous instincts. The larger part: Grossed out. But fascinated.
June 6, 2005
Five years ago (6/6/00), my first husband Glenn Rosenberg was diagnosed with lung cancer. This anniversary is known as D-Day. I always get a bit freaky at this time of year. And today was no exception. I picked a massive fight with Steve this morning and it's dragging into night.
Otherwise, all is well. Last night, Daryl Chen (lovely in an blue dress) and I attended three BEA parties. She was invited to them in her capacity as book editor at Glamour. I was her guest. Our first stop was at Otto for the HarperCollins (my house) fete. We saw Mario Battali, but not Billy Crystal. Lemony Snicket was there, but I could not identify him (or demand his attention) in the horde of party guests. BUT we did meet Laura Lippman who says she reads my blog (!!!). I talked to Stephen "Freakonomics" Dubner, who I had a lunch with a million years go when I was an editor at Mademoiselle. Daryl and I forced a conversation out of David Hirshey, and he seemed to mind only a little bit. Carrie Feron, my editor at Avon, is always fun to see, as is Michael Morrison, her higher-up, a fabulous dresser and wryly funny guy. Daryl thought she saw Judith Regan.
At the Little Brown party at Whiskey Park, I reintroduced myself to Walter Mosley, who I'd met about fifteen years ago at a mystery writers convention in Toronto (I used to do P.I. novels; they're all out of print now). He remembered me, and even reminded me of snippets of our conversation. That we discusses his being half black and half Jewish, that he said I looked like a sexy secretary in the dress I wore, that I told him I was jealous of his huge success (I was 25 years old and said other stupid things, too, but I'll skip those). Anyway, Walter Mosley is a sexy man. Not handsome, make no mistake. But something about him—how close he stands when you talk, how he pays attention to every word—supercedes his looks and makes him irresistable. Then and now. I pawed him. Really, I did. Daryl bore witness.
Okay, on to the Jennifer Weiner party at the Parker Meridien penthouse to celebrate her new novel Goodnight Nobody and the In Her Shoes movie release (screenplay written by Susannah Grant of Erin Brocavich fame, who I met, again, years ago, when we were both fact-checkers at now-defunct New York Woman magazine; as the small fucking world turns...). The movie trailer looked excellent, BTW. It'll be a huge hit. You heard it here . . . if not first, VERY EARLY ON. Jennifer and I met years ago, too, when she wrote for Madmoiselle. We had lunch with Daryl at Genki Sushi, a conveyor belt sushi place where you pay by the plate. We barely talked last night, though. She was very (very) busy. I was introduced to author Megan McCafferty who, as it turned out, is edited at Crown by Kristin Kiser, the same woman who bought The Best You'll Ever Have (my fall sex guide). The highlight of this party was meeting Jennifer's editor at S&S, Greer Hendricks. We had a long talk that I wish had been longer. Naturally, we had people in common: Greer started out as an assistant at Allure, a mag I've written for.
So the two questions of the night are:
1. Could this teeny tiny planet that appears blue from space BE any smaller? (Or maybe it's just the publishing world.)
2. Since I met so many people "years ago," have I met anyone interesting LATELY? Besides Laura Lippman. And Greer Hendricks. And Megan McCafferty. Okay, I guess I have. But I want MORE. FYI: Daryl is, right now, at the party for Nick Hornby. Gossip posted as it comes in...
Thank you, Daryl, for showing me a good time. I have a pocket full of business cards (simply MUST get some made for myself), and intend to use them!
And now I must go and try to make up with Steve. Hate it that I can be such a hysterical shit sometimes. Rarely. Hardly ever.
June 1, 2005
Too much to do today, so I'll be brief. Fringe Girl is deep in her comeuppance at this point, and will need to redeem herself soon, i.e., sometime in the next twenty pages. I just had an ex-boyfriend scrawl BITCH on her school locker. FUN!
Bo Bice. Have I commented yet? He was robbed, naturally, and will outsell Carrie down the road, just as Clay outsold Ruben. From now on, if you'd like to pick a winner (of American Idol, or the POTUS), go with whomever I DON'T like. With the exception of Kelly Clarkson and Bill Clinton, I can NOT pick a winner.
Daryl Chen has promised to take me to a fancy Book Expo America party this weekend. I am giggly with excitement and hope to meet someone famous. Although, as Darly noted, once you've met John Updike (see post earlier this month), everyone else is chopped liver.
May 25, 2005
Today, Steve and I will get in the car and hunt the borough of Brooklyn for propane gas. I realize that everyone in the suburbs can drive to the 7-11 and trade in a tank as easy as pie. Not so in the city. Propane is a rare and precious commodity here. You have to wake up pretty early in the morning to drive to the Home Depot to claim one of the few cannisters they get each day. I will lose hours on the gas mission. And yet, the search is vital. Memorial Day is coming. We have the American urge to grill! We must inhale the smoke of sizzling raw meat. For, without it, we perish.
Re: American Idol, I'm rooting for Bo, but I forgot to vote. I haven't voted since Constantine's Bohemian Rhapsody, actually. My quest for propane far exceeds my excitement for AI.
Read about a teen novel called Rainbow Party, aka a group oral sex party. The boys in the story were to get hummers, and the girls...zilch. The party falls apart, though, under the cloud of rampant STDs. Ultimately, the girls learn that sex is bad. That's the "positive message" of this book.
Fringe Girl does not have any orgy scenes. But if I ever wrote about teen oral sex, it would read as such:
Boy: "How about a blow job, baby?"
Girl: "What's in it for me?"
The "positive message" for teenage girls about sex (the one I promote in Fringe Girl) is: Pursue sex for pleasure—mainly, your own. A Rainbow Party for six girls to blow six guys? This is fun for whom? And then the ultimate "lesson" is sex equals shame and disease? It's no wonder girls grow up with fear of sex and hatred of their own bodies.
May 19, 2005
1. "Revenge of the Sith," aka Star Wars III. Okay, forgive the anagramming above. I don't really think Sith is shit. I saw it today with my daughter and half of her 4th grade class. Aside from their annoying questions ("But how do you know that Yoda lives?" "Why are you so sure Padme is having twins?"), I recommend seeing this movie with a kid. Any kid. A niece, nephew, neighbor. Because, without a young mind to share it with, the average non-Star Wars freak grown-up will find 75 percent of the movie repetitive and tedious. Except for the last 30 minutes, which had surprising emotion and depth. Anthony Lane wrote a spot-on review in The New Yorker that made me laugh out loud five times. He hit every easy target (dialogue, the character names, Yoda's annoying speech patterns), and a few not so easy ones. That said, those of us who were the right age in 1976 (I was eleven and distincty remember waiting on an endless line in a theater parking lot for hours before we got in to see what-is-now-called "A New Hope," aka Episode IV), the closing in of the plot circle hit me in the nostaligia solar plexus. Just to be part of the cultural conversation, it's worth checking out.
2. I'm telling my five readers the news, but don't make a big deal about it because then he might change his mind (especially you, Mary Quint!): Steve may soon move in with us. Those of you who aren't aware of our unconventional living arrangment might be confused. My husband doesn't live with me? Strange, but true. He spends five nights here (more lately); two at his bachelor pad in Washington Heights. But now, after less than a year of marriage, he's almost, maybe, possibly approaching the point of thinking about temporarily subletting (not giving it up—no, no) his rental. Which would be nice. I'd like that very much. But I don't say so too often. I don't push.
3. "Fringe Girl: The Revolution Starts Now," my teen novel, is on the verge of completion. Another two weeks of writing, and then editing. I have delighted in writing in the first person again. Haven't done that since the mystery novels I did in my twenties. Anyway, I love this character. She's so adolescently flawed. I want Steve to draw some comic book panel illustrations for the inside (relevant to the plot). I need to confer with my editor to drop in art.
4. Still loving my new haircut.
5. My brother-in-law, the journalist and author Dan Fagin, has been offered a tenure track job at NYU Journalism School (post-grad) to teach science writing. Congrats, Dan! He's all As in our books!
6. Speaking of the current issue of The New Yorker, in Jonathan Franzen's short story, he writes that his character's family motto is, "Someday we'll look back at this, and it will all seem funny." I will send two of my books to the first reader who can identify the title of the song this line was lifted from. My sister will know this in three seconds flat. Hint: People from New Jersey are at a distinct advantage.
May 13, 2005
I met John Updike today (!!!!!). I'm still shaking. Allow me to describe every moment of our incredible encounter.
It happened at my kids' school. Every May, the parents gather in the large courtyard garden to watch the lower-school dance concert. I've known for years that Updike had made appearances (he has grandkids at the school), but I'd never caught a glimpse. Well, this year, I spotted him early, and kept my eyes trained on his uber-white hair as it shined brightly in the sun. A few minutes before the concert began, Updike got seperated from his family, and wandered right by where I was seated with Steve and few other parents. Bill Nelson, the dad of a kid in Maggie's class and a good friend said, "Val, here's your big chance."
I sprang off my bench, hand out to shake, and said, "Mr. Updike. I am such a big fan! Your novels are amazing, an inspiration. I'm sure a million people tell you that."
Updike (gratiously receiving gush with a big smile and tight grip): "No, not a million people. Just you, actually."
(We laugh together like old friends.)
Bill: "Val is a novelist, too."
John (since we're on first names by now): "Really? It's very difficult to break into. Very hard."
Me: "Well, I've been doing it for a while." (Pause). "Not as long as you, though."
(Again, we laugh, like dear, old chums.)
John: "No one has been doing it as long as I have."
(We are now in hysterics of bonamie, and I can tell that he has seen something deep in me that he's never recognized in another writer before. He wisely keeps that to himself).
John: "I seem to have lost my party."
Bill (pointing): "Are they over there?"
John: "Yes. Nice meeting you. Good bye."
Me (reverent whisper): "I'll never wash this hand again..."
I saw Spamalot on Wednesday, and I thought that'd be big news for the blog. But an shaking hands with John Updike beats balcony seats at Spamalot, by, I'd say, a lot. Don't get me wrong: Spamalot was awesome, too. But it didn't make me shake for fifteen minutes afterwards.
May 9, 2005
Just for the record, I have cousins in New Jersey (you know who you are, Barbara and Emily) who want it known that they also read my blog. I am at their humble service, and will henceforth refer to my FIVE readers.
New haircut. I'll post a photo of The Flip as soon as possible. It is short. About eight inches shorter than I'm used to. My friend Judith Newman once wrote an article on the Psychology of Hair Style. One of the stylists interviewed described long-haired people as "deeply insecure" having "something to hide." Considering the volumes I've written about my sex life, one might not think that description is a match for me. But now that I have short hair, I'm looking forward to a rush of increased emotional security. I also expect some sudden insight, now that I no longer have anything to hide. I paid good money for less hair. And if I don't get my security and insight but quick, I might have to do something nutty, like grow it out.
Mother's Day. Lucy made me a nice card. Maggie dashed one off on Sunday morning. But she draw a picture of a woman holding hands with a little girl, which struck me squarely in the soft spot. We went to the Seacliff Yacht Club (sounds fancier than it is) for a brunch buffet with my sister and her family and my parents. I ate:
2 scrambled eggs
4 pieces of bacon
2 sausage patties
1/2 bagel with cream cheese and lox
1/2 bagel with tuna salad
1 piece of chocolate cake
1 cranberry muffin
1 cup of coffee
The grand total was probably in the neighborhood of 5,000 calories. Which, incidentally, is about 3,000 calories short of what my father ate (we can always count on him to be the most copious nosher in the bunch). I am still stuffed to the point of pain, and it's been 24-hours. I may never eat again. Until, you know, lunch time.
May 4, 2004
Thanks a million to all the readers who weighed in on the new title for The Good Witch. The general consensus (with some objections) is Hex and the Single Girl. Lani Diane Rich, a lovely and talented novelist, suggesed Hex Appeal, which my editor liked, too. I also suggested this title and subhead combo:
The Sex Sense
Emma sees naked people...
Which I would love to see on the cover of a book. But it may be a bit too crass for Harper Collins. Kind of reminds me of a porn movie title. It may be a porn movie title. Anyone?
Whatever it's called, The Hex/Good Witch/Sex Sense novel is nearly finished. I'll post a first couple of chapters soon.
Human Hexual Response?
The Second Hex?
May 2, 2005
The problem: The Good Witch, my new book, needs a new, sexier, less flat title. The two in contention are...
1. The Best Hex She Ever Had
2. Hex and the Single Girl
Now, personally, I like number two. The Best Hex is uncomfortably close to The Best You'll Ever Have, my non-fiction sex guide. Also, Best Hex doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. On the other hand, Hex and the Single Girl is memorable, cheeky. Or am I wrong?
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE weigh in! Send me emails. I'm talking to the three people who read this site, and anyone else who stumbles upon it.
Much obliged, and appreciative, in advance, for your wisdom.