Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Move over Alvin & the Chipmunks! Here comes Hamster on a Piano (Eating Popcorn):
This is the perfect setup for the Netflix DVD that arrived today, "The Velvet Underground: Under Review."
Happy New Year!
He whipped out THE GREAT CRASH: 1929, by John Kenneth Galbraith, which the Ex sent him for Christmas. (BW is starting college on Jan. 20 as an economics major.)
From Galbraith's new introduction, written in 1997:
Always when markets are in trouble, the phrases are the same: "The economic situation is fundamentally sound" or simply "The fundamentals are good." All who hear these words should know that something is wrong.Last night, BW, Darling Husband and I had dinner with Chris Matthews. (OK, we ate off trays while watching "Hardball," on DVR.) Yesterday's show listed the best and worst political moments of 2008. Guess what was #1 in "Biggest general election moments"?
"The fundamentals of our economy are strong."
"We all didn’t quite see what was happening.”
--Margaret Hedberg, director of the International Debutante Ball, per the NY Times.
She brushed off the $14,000 cost of a table — “Watches cost more.”
--Marie Antoinette. Oops! I mean Margaret Hedberg.
"I spend my days inside stomachs, and believe me, you could get lost in some of them."From Whether True or False, A Real Stretch, in which NY Times writer David Kamp deconstructs Diamond Jim Brady's legendary appetite.
--gastroenterologist Nicholas Belitsos
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The problem with authors having to sell books is not having to do it, but their lack of skill at thinking on those terms. The skills required to write a page-turner are not the same as scheduling events, mailing postcards, being interviewed, and keeping copious notes on who was helpful for the second time around.The first paragraph lays out why I started Book Promotion 101 six years ago: because of authors' lack of promotional (read: business) skills. I say and write this till I'm blue in the face & fingers:
I love speaking as an author or even motivational talks using my novels as material, but the work that goes into requesting a spot is endless and takes me away from what I do best, working through dilemmas with my characters, using words as paint. It's not all bad, just hard and time-consuming. And the establishment (newspapers, TV, reviewers) don't give small press authors nearly their due, so it's frustrating to spend the time and not be deemed 'worthy' of recognition based on not having a large NY house behind you or not having received a newsworthy advance.
YOU'RE IN THE WRITING BUSINESS.
Which means you have to manage your business. Which means that, just like every other businessperson--whether artist, contractor, doctor, shopkeeper or lil ol' me--you have to do:
- promotion & marketing
Yes, the promotional work is endless. As I wrote in the previous post, it's a marathon, not a sprint.
Small press authors aren't the only ones who "don't get their due"--which is what, exactly?--from the "establishment" media. I could tell many stories about clients who couldn't get no respect from their large NY houses; though after working with me they usually clawed out some. And very few authors (especially children's & YA) have been receiving "newsworthy" advances; even fewer will in the current dismal economic climate.
Speaking of the economy, if you look at Publishers Marketplace, you'll see that book deals are still being made. And though newspaper book review sections have been decimated, authors and books are still being covered in print, broadcast and online media. Bookstores are still hosting signings; organizations across the country are still hosting author talks; book clubs still want to have authors visit or phone in; there are still book festivals all over; schools are still paying to have authors do programs for students.
In short: It's time to get down to business for 2009.
As anyone who's done them knows, "simple" things--putting together a mailing list, producing promotional materials, searching out community & online interest groups--can take vast amounts of time.
What to do? Hire a Virtual Assistant. Here are a couple of places to find one:
Monday, December 29, 2008
One article, dated 108 years ago today, details a gala reception held by the Twelfth Night Club (the women's answer to The Players) in honor of actress Sarah Bernhardt, scheduled for 3 till 6pm the previous day:
...elaborate preparations were made...There were many decorations, flowers, and a prettily set tea table...[but] for a long time the divine Sarah did not appear....It was after 5 o'clock and only the very hungriest of the guests had ventured to take a cup of tea, when a genuine message came: 'Tell the ladies to wait. I am on the way.'The article immediately below it was just as interesting. Under the headline, "Divorce for Robert Graves: Court Order Gives Wall Paper Manufacturer Custody of His Child," we learn:
...and suddenly there was a flutter of black and white, a whisk like the passing of a breeze...It was Sarah herself, picturesque in her big black hat, her black chinchilla-edged coat thrown back, from a beautiful gown of white, with roses and orchids on her breast, looking young [ha! she was 63 with a bum knee], animated, and altogether charming. The club gave her an ovation....while Bernhardt beamed ecstatically. "I zank you wis all my heart," she said.
The domestic troubles which led to the divorce began when Mrs. [Charlotte De Grasse] Graves met J. Hamilton Jaffray, Jr., of Yonkers. He called frequently on the Graves home, at Irvington, until warned to keep away.Here's the odd thing: I went to high school in Irvington, and had a friend there who lived in Jaffray Park. I wonder whether J. Hamilton moved there with the ex-Mrs. Graves; or maybe he was a frequent caller in Irvington because he had family close by.
Mr. Graves sold the Irvington property and came to New York City to live. His wife still met Mr. Jaffray, and the divorce proceedings followed....Mr. Jaffray proclaimed his willingness to marry Mrs. Graves should the Court set her free from her husband; declaring that she was a woman of whom any man might feel proud.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
From my friend Stefanie, artistic, social & culinary doyenne of greater Schuyler (pop. 1,286):
One of these large amorphous shapes is a carbon-based life-form. The other is an inanimate object. Can you tell which is which?Its constant presence notwithstanding, the object on the left (aka "Snickers") officially belongs to Stefanie's neighbors down the road.
Friday, December 26, 2008
- UNDONE, by Brooke Taylor (July '08)
- WILL I EVER BE GOOD ENOUGH? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, by Karyl McBride (Sept. '08)
- CANCER IS A BITCH: Or, I’d Rather be Having a Mid-Life Crisis, by Gail Konop Baker (Oct. '08)
- VIDALIA IN PARIS, by Sasha Watson (Oct. '08)
- THE ENTIRE EARTH AND SKY: Views on Antarctica, Leslie Carol Roberts (Oct. '08)
- LAST KNOWN POSITION: Stories, by James Mathews (Nov. '08)
- THE BLACK GIRL NEXT DOOR: A Memoir, by Jennifer Baszile (Jan.)
- ACCORDIAN DREAMS: A Journey into Cajun & Creole Music, by Blair Kilpatrick (Jan.)
- HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER & SWEET, by Jamie Ford (Jan.)
- GLOBAL WARMING IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS: How Savvy Entrepreneurs, Large Corporations, and Others are Making Money While Saving the Planet, by K.B. Keilbach (Mar.)
- VAMPED, by Lucienne Diver (May)
- THE KING OF VODKA: The Story of Pyotr Smirnov & the Upheaval of an Empire, by Linda Himelstein (May)
- REAL LIFE & LIARS, by Kristina Riggle (June)
Thursday, December 25, 2008
An instant classic from last year:
And yes, Darling Husband, the Boy Wonder and I will be going out for Chinese food and a movie today. Too bad we can't be in NYC for the Chinese buffet and Monty Python double feature at the 92nd St. Y. ("Holy Grail" and "Life of Brian" on Christmas--how perfect!)
Update 11:30 pm:
We were in despair of finding a movie that would suit all three of us, but then discovered that today was the last day for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" at Starz Film Center. Woody Allen! The perfect Jewish Christmas! Which we capped off after the movie by lighting the menorah and tucking into traditional English roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with horseradish mousse (we're very Reform), followed by the best chocolate chip cookies EVER. (Besides the ingredients, the secret's in refrigerating the dough for at least 24 hours.)
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
You know, sometimes during a photo shoot with the boys, nerves get frayed (you can see that in the images, can't you?), words get barked that can't be unbarked, somebody eats a biscuit that was meant for somebody else. It's all part of the wear and tear of the creative process.Happy holidays to all!
Yet seeing our finished work in print on your blog, knowing that our take (or should I say "fetch"?) on the world is reaching millions...well, it makes it all worthwhile.
Thank you thank you thank you,
--Stefanie & troupe
I know what you've been thinking:
"Enough about book publicity, and your self-absorbed musings! What's been going on with the dogs in Schuyler, VA?"
Well, my friend Stefanie, social and culinary doyenne of Schuyler, just sent me the above photo. As you can see, Onslow and regular visitor Snickers (aka "the canine Kramer") are working on a holiday-themed synchronized napping routine. I like how Onslow's hind foot is tucked into his armpit. Note the supine penguin at rear (for scale); and in the basket at upper right, part of the banner of Charlottesville's own newspaper, The Daily Progress (aka "the Regress").
For more awwww-some photos, check out GalleyCat and the Rocky Mountain News Holiday Pets Slideshow (my favorites: #4, 13, 19, 43, 57, 58, 60).
Monday, December 22, 2008
My favorite webmaster (and all-around nice guy), Steve Bennett of Authorbytes, gets top billing; and Carol Fitzgerald, founder of the Bookreporter.com empire, gets the best quote in a Publishers Weekly piece: Finding Value in Author Web Sites. (In my day at PW, we wouldn't have mislabeled bestselling novelist Chris Bohjalian as a "journalist." Hmpf!)
Author Marianne Mancusi shares excellent book party tips at Agent Kristin's Pub Rants. Be sure to read the comments for even more pointers.
Client Alison Larkin's debut novel, THE ENGLISH AMERICAN (which makes a great gift!), has been optioned by ABC TV for a half-hour series, with the Mark Gordon Company ("Grey’s Anatomy") attached to produce. Woo hoo!
Book Promotion 101 alums Jennifer Kaufman & Karen Mack just got a deal with Bantam Dell, who published their first two novels (which make great gifts!), for their third. FREUD'S MISTRESS is described as a "what-if" novel exploring the potential affair between Sigmund Freud and his sister-in-law, and looks at his complicated (ya think???) personal life and family relationships. I wonder if there'll be any cigar jokes...
The Pit Bulls of New Orleans calendar, a pet project of author Ken Foster, is on sale. (Hint: It makes a great gift!)
But when he looked at page 3 of the National section, his chuckles abruptly turned to tears. As did mine.
There was another full-page ad, with "Imagine peace" in large type, in many different languages. Much smaller, centered on the bottom line: "love, yoko."
Sunday, December 21, 2008
The video reminded me of a not-so-funny incident on my 30th birthday. The Ex "didn't have time" to buy me a gift, though he passed any number of stores between home, work and his favorite bar(s). My parents had thrown me a little celebration the day before, so the no-time argument was particularly lame.
After a storm of sobs and tears directed at him and another on the phone to Mom, the Ex went out shopping next day. Upon return, he magnanimously presented me with these gifts:
- a bottle of Moët & Chandon champagne (cheap, because the franc was way down);
- a brand-new hammer in a paper bag (on weekends we were renovating an old building out in the sticks).
Friday, December 19, 2008
Last March I borrowed an old copy of the book Pal Joey from a friend in New York. I quoted some choice passages in Pal Joey: Still Wise After All These Years. Little did I know that a revival of the musical was in the works.
Well, the reviews are coming in and let's just say they're...unflattering. Ben Brantley's assessment in today's NY Times begins: "How did a racy little ditty about girl-chasing turn into a dirge?" Worse, he uses the T-word to describe the production:
The vultures of Broadway — those kindly creatures who perk up at the first scent of a turkey carcass — have been circling “Pal Joey”...Ouch! Unless there's some major retooling, the vultures probably won't be circling more than a month or so.
Out of curiosity, I checked the Internet Broadway Database to see how long the revival ran in which my father appeared: 540 performances, from January 1952 till April 1953. Wow! And he got 4th billing. (Elaine Stritch, then in her 20s, is near the bottom.) Now Daniel Marcus, the guy playing Ludlow Lowell, is #11 in the cast list. Obviously the character has been downgraded; Brantley noted that the book had been rewritten. In marked contrast to Brantley, in 1952 the NYT's Brooks Atkinson pronounced the show a "brilliant production." (He lauded Stritch's "caricature of a tough columnist" and Dad's "unctuously ferocious gangster.") Another NYT reviewer termed it a "happy restoration." I'll bet the current company is wishing for praise like that.
But at least it was sunny and above freezing, and I got a good laugh from this Breathing Places video, courtesy of the Beeb:
The UK Guardian explains how her condition could be so much worse:
I hadn't had anything to eat or drink since midnight and for the first time ever, the dentist was running late. So I sat in the waiting room for 20 minutes with a parched mouth and rumbling stomach. Grr.
However, I read a very interesting article in Vogue magazine, after leafing through scores of advertisements for expensive ugly stuff. (A cobalt blue fur hat? What is Ralph Lauren thinking?)
Once I was finally ushered inside, the dentist informed me that today's procedure would have to be done in two sessions. He'd finish up in mid-January, when I'd be knocked out again--for an additional non-reimbursable $500 because my dental insurer considers IV anesthesia "optional." Grrr.
The session went well enough; then with the left side of my mouth numb and rubbery, I slid into a taxi and went to Presbyterian-St. Luke's medical center, for yet another MRI of my right arm and shoulder (still giving me trouble after 2-1/2 years and 3 surgeries). They had me fill out the exact same 3-page form as I did yesterday, when I had an MRI of the right brachial plexus (upper chest by armpit) at P-SL hospital directly across the driveway. Why couldn't they just have that form faxed over? "Oh, we can't. It's been sent to Records." Grrrr.
After spending 2+ hours in a narrow, banging tube (thankfully, still drowsy from the morning's anesthesia), I took another taxi home. There I found that the Boy Wonder hadn't:
- brought my bag of holiday gifts to the post office;
- walked Jenny;
- left to take care of business at Metro State Denver (he's starting there next month) until 3:30, rather than in the morning as I'd requested. So I was left alone--hurting and nauseous--to contend with the guys who were installing additional cabinets in the kitchen.
- checked to see whether the microwave was empty when he moved it to make way for the cabinets Wednesday afternoon. I'd forgotten a large open jar of honey in it, and BW didn't bother to look inside when he heard it fall over. "It's just the tray banging around." You would not believe the sticky mess all over. (You would believe how I blasted him when he got home.) ARGH!!!
Jane wanted to know:
- whether I'd be giving a Book Promotion 101 workshop any time in her area, as she is "also working with a few writers who are thinking along these lines (self publishing) and I think they would be interested";
- "I'm especially interested in creating and developing a website (related to my book and my consulting work) that is itself a revenue stream. Is that something you cover in your workshops -- or can cover?"
- "I am on a brutal budget, so if there's an opportunity to help you publicize it and/or help you with it logistically in exchange for a discount, that would be great."
After turning the air blue, I wrote Jane that she's crazy to ditch her editor for self-publishing in the current economic climate. More to the point, if her "brutal budget" won't cover my workshop, how can she afford a book designer, editor, website designer, publicity materials, postage, etc? And that it's critical to have not only a marketing plan, but a distribution system to get her book into people's hands [which is where most self-published authors fall face flat]. And that unless the workshop is sponsored by an organization, I take care of all the logistics myself. Finally, as prominently stated on my website: I only work with authors of commercially published trade books.
The crux of the matter, which I didn't put in my response, is this:
Why should I give away my hard-earned expertise (not to mention my time) to help someone, whom I barely know, to make more money?
I'm not the only one who was pissed off today. See:
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
...96 percent of foreign-donated medical equipment fails within five years of donation...Hence the nonprofit firm, Design That Matters, was contracted to design a neonatal incubator made of used or new car parts. (How brilliant is that?)
...no matter how remote the locale, there always seemed to be a Toyota 4Runner in working order.
“The idea was to start with a 4Runner,” said Timothy Prestero, the firm’s founder and chief executive, “and take away all the parts that weren’t an incubator.”
Monday, December 15, 2008
On Monday morning the official low temperature plummeted to -18 degrees at DIA.* The coldest temperature on record for Dec. 15 was -6 degrees, last set in 1951.*Denver Int'l Airport
With her permission I'm posting it here. From what I've seen lately, this should be EVERY author's to-do list.
- Do a major remodel of my website.
- When I go to NY, include my agent in the meetings with the publicity people and my editor.
- Have a marketing plan on paper that I’ve sent to everyone ahead of time.
- Come bearing gifts for everyone in the publishing house—cookies or something on the theme of the book, or something from my hometown.
- Come with the attitude, “What can I do to make your job easier? How can we work together?”
- Send the folks in my publishing house holiday cards thanking them.
- Get my illustrator’s snail mail and email addresses.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
All she had to do was back up a few feet and pull into a space by the curb so we could pass, and everyone would have been on their merry way. But NOOOO..... she wasn't about to give way to anyone. So there we sat while she ranted and railed.
"Use your head," she yelled at the van driver.
"Use your car," he retorted, though with none of her venom. I and the two other passengers roared with laughter.
More ranting, then she grudgingly backed into the space. We drove north; she drove south. I pity her students.
I've been in (mostly) sunny Southern California since Wednesday. The official reason for the trip was to give a Book Promotion 101 workshop yesterday, sponsored by the Tri-Regions of Southern California chapter of SCBWI. I decided to take a couple of extra days, which I crammed with visits to friends old and new in Santa Monica, LA and Venice.
When I left Denver, it was about 30 with a couple inches of snow on the ground, forecast to shoot into the 50s. When I arrived in LA at noon, it was 72, with bougainvillea and roses blooming everywhere. Bliss!
The weather here was balmy thru Friday, when I spent a couple of supremely happy hours at El Matador Beach, just north of Malibu. I enjoyed the clime even more when Baby Brother filled me in on the wretched time he was having with the ice storm in Maine. (Schadenfreude is a great sweetener. And Baby Bro's power is back on now.)
The last laugh's on me though: It dropped to 40 last night in Simi Valley (home of the Reagan Library--guess where I won't be going) and there's no heat in my hotel room. (Yeah, there's a thermostat, but it doesn't do anything.) I slept in a sweater zipped up over my nightgown and the covers over my head.
Better/worse still: It was ZERO and snowing in Denver a couple of hours ago; it'll be maybe 5F when I touch down tonight. I am soooo glad I'm taking a shuttle van home, so I won't have to shlep through the frigid, snowy parking lot in my lightweight LA clothes. And I am soooo going to drink in all the greenery and flowers in my remaining few hours here. (Next stop: Topanga Canyon.)
Update, Dec 15:
It was -14F (FOURTEEN DEGREES BELOW ZERO!!!) when my plane touched down last night. You should have heard the shrieks and groans when the pilot announced the local weather. As of noon, it's warmed up to all of +1F. I mean, seriously, WTF?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Among the five nominees for the American Library Association's new YA debut award for books that "illuminate the teen experience and enrich the lives of its readers through its excellence" is MADAPPLE, by Christina Meldrum. The winner will be announced January 29.
Monday, December 08, 2008
I followed lots of your advice and with great success. TOWERS OF GOLD was favorably reviewed in the LA Times, was the lead review in the Nov. 30 SF Chronicle and it made the Chronicle's bestseller list!Fabu pull quotes:
What I did:
I've been blogging for three years, so had an online community I could talk to. I still have a long way to go, but I'm happy with the sales of TOWERS OF GOLD so far. Of course, the fabulous Meryl Moss helped me, but I also did a lot of stuff myself. She has gotten me on numerous radio shows.
- Collected email addresses over the years and mailed out an e-mail newsletter about TOWERS OF GOLD.
- Joined Facebook, set up a book fan site, and reached out to many long-time friends.
- Got op-ed pieces in both the LA Times and SF Chronicle on the financial meltdown. [Way to go!!!]
- Sent out postcards to many people.
- Set up more than 30 speaking engagements. While bookstores are good, co-sponsorships are best. I spoke at the California Historical Society, the Huntington Library, Temple Emanuel in San Francisco, the Mechanics Institute, etc.
"Impressively researched and engagingly told." -- Los Angeles TimesAs noted in the Chron review, Isaias Hellman was "a model of fiscal sobriety":
"A marvelous resource, a dramatic slice of Western history and a splendid read." --
San Francisco Chronicle
"I am not a speculator," he once told a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. "I am strictly an investor, and I have all my life paid for things as I go along. I never borrow money. It is against my principles."The LAT's review opines:
Greed and folly are constants of human nature and, therefore, of market economies, but it's hard not to wish Hellman wasn't still around to take a seat on President-elect Barack Obama's council of economic advisors. He'd feel right at home with the problems the new administration has inherited.
First was The Rocky Mountain News holiday book gift guide: Nonfiction (scroll down to Travel), for her memoir, QUEEN OF THE ROAD. Which would indeed make a fabu gift.
Today, Doreen was quoted--as Dr. Orion, psychotherapist (but not author)--in a New York Times article about book groups, Fought Over Any Good Books Lately?
Friday, December 05, 2008
By Mr. Trump’s account, sales [of condos in the Trump International Hotel and Tower] were going great until “the real estate market in Chicago suffered a severe downturn” and the bankers made it worse by “creating the current financial crisis.”Read the whole thing; it only gets better. The penultimate graf--and Deutsche Bank's legal filing--has a quote from Trump's 2007 bestseller, Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life:
Those assertions are made in what The New York Times’s Floyd Norris calls a fascinating lawsuit filed by Mr. Trump, the real estate developer, television personality and best-selling author, in an effort to avoid paying $40 million that he personally guaranteed on a construction loan that Deutsche Bank says is due and payable.
Rather than have to pay the $40 million, Mr. Trump thinks the bank should pay him $3 billion for undermining the project and damaging his reputation....
Mr. Trump is vigilant in protecting his reputation... after Mr. Norris interviewed him and two associates, his general counsel sent Mr. Norris a note saying “it was a pleasure” talking to him, and adding: “Please be assured that if your article is not factually correct, we will have no choice but to sue you and The New York Times.”
“I figured it was the bank’s problem, not mine. What the hell did I care? I actually told one bank, ‘I told you you shouldn’t have loaned me that money. I told you the goddamn deal was no good.’ ”
John Hodgman and Professor Bunsen Honeydew of The Muppets. (See how great minds think alike.)
The Donald and The Medusa, by Caravaggio. She has better hair.
And if you think Frank Langella as Richard Nixon in "Frost/Nixon" sounds familiar, it's because his voice is identical to the original Sam the Eagle, by Muppeteer Frank Oz.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Carleen's video is coming soon, though my cameo ended up on the cutting-room floor. (I have calls in to my agent and manager.)
Be sure to read the Top 10 reasons white people should read books by black people:
8. Seriously, haven't you read enough Philip Roth? Jewish guy obsessed with sex and death. Oy! Enough already.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I just realized that it's November 30, which means that my father died 14 years ago today. By coincidence, I was scouring the New York Times online archives for family information, prompted by a woman who recently got in touch with me, claiming kinship. As it turns out, we're technically not related (she's my 2nd cousin's 2nd cousin, and worked for his mother in NYC 50 years ago) but I consider her family all the same. Given how often the Standers married their cousins back in Latvia--and even in the UK & US--for all I know she and I could have some common blood.
One of my searches turned up a Sunday NYT magazine article from June 9, 1968: "How Revolution Came to Cannes" by Harvey Swados, about the 21st International Film Festival. It contains this wonderful passage:
But no matter how they got themselves up, the girls found it difficult to compete with the men. The male birds of paradise, preening themselves in flowered prints and ruffled cottons and silks, were simply more interesting. Unquestioningly the fashion king of the festival was Lionel Stander, the gravel-voiced movie comedian, in triumphant re-emergence from his years of obscurity after the era of the McCarthyite blacklist. The actor, who will surely never see 60 again, appeared in a succession of brilliant costumes. One evening, he surpassed himself in a blue and white brocaded Nehru suit, set off with freshly bleached hair, ruffles and Miles Standish pumps with giant silver buckles. He was rewarded by the greeting of a dazzled friend: "Lionel, you have never looked more beautiful!"Actually, my father had turned 60 five months previously. In late December of 1968, I stayed with him and his 20-something then-girlfriend at the Dorchester Hotel in London. I have vivid memories of his sumptuous, wildly colored threads and her micro-mini skirts. Also of the clove cigarettes they smoked, which I was terrified were marijuana.
Few who admired the rejuvenated movie star were aware that among the girls whom he outshone was an extremely attractive, extremely mod girl with short-cropped blonde hair and a short-skirted white dress who was not a girl at all but a transvestite. It should give one pause when even a transvestite can be upstaged by a super-elegant male in full plumage.
He's wearing the pilgrim shoes in the picture at top, which is much the worse for having spent the intervening years in a billfold-size photo album. That's me, age 13, on the right. Can you believe I thought I was fat? (I wore those green jeans with a matching sweater to school just once, whereupon I was known for years as "the Jolly Green Giant.") On the left is my friend Tory, who lived near the Dorchester. Dad's suit was of pumpkin-colored velveteen, the shirt striped bright blue. He cut quite a figure on Carnaby Street. "Your old man's a real swingah!" he crowed.
Several years later, I asked his 20-something last wife what happened to all those marvelous clothes. I was particularly fond of an enormous black cape, with a scarlet lining if memory serves (below, with London g.f.).
"Oh," she said in her Dutch accent, "I got rid of them. He looked like a feg."
Friday, November 28, 2008
De Beers Group brilliantly mines (pun sort of intended) this philosophy. There's a full-page ad in today's New York Times that I think is absolutely inspired--and inspiring. It's a powerful antidote to the empty consumerism displayed by the martyr mommy and her "stuff" in my post Which Quote Is More Nauseating? It reads:
Our lives are full of things. Disposable distractions,
stuff you buy but do not cherish, own yet never love.
Thrown away in weeks rather than passed down for generations.
Perhaps things will be different now. Wiser choices made with greater care.
After all, if the fewer things you own always excite you, would you
really miss the many that never could?
Near the bottom of the ad is De Beers' trademark phrase, "A DIAMOND IS FOREVER," with a pair of diamond solitaire studs just above it.
Now I'm not about to rush out and buy myself diamond earrings, or ask Darling Husband to do so. I'm perfectly happy with the $50 crystals I bought at a Georgetown consignment shop on my last trip to DC. Fake diamonds are forever too, and I'll never worry about their being lost or stolen.
But the ad's message really hits home. Thinking back on all the presents I received as a child, few have survived, either in memory or reality. The toys I so ardently begged for were early casualties: Chatty Cathy, Play-Doh Fun Factory, Barbie's Dream House (then made of cardboard, not plastic). Two gifts are unforgettable: the parakeet I got for Christmas when I was nine (I didn't start celebrating Hanukah till I hooked up with DH) and the puppy I got at age ten to replace the lost parakeet. (The bird was returned the next day and lorded it over the dog ever after.)
What do I still have decades later, besides fond memories of my pets? Things with emotional resonance, containing not a speck of plastic: a little pearl pendant on a whisper-thin gold chain, given by my father when I was five; a clay plaque he made me when he was recovering from his first heart attack; a crewel-embroidered velveteen koala bear, made by my mother; a pair of silver wire earrings, given by my mother and stepfather for my high-school graduation.
When I hold those gifts now, they still make me happy. Treasures for a lifetime.
Here's what I'm thankful for:
- President Obama.
- That I live in the USA, where we can count on a peaceful transfer of power after an election, and (usually) the rule of law.
- That I don't live in Congo, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Afghanistan, Haiti, Cuba, Russia, Mumbai...the list gets longer every day.
- That I have a safe house to live in and enough food to eat.
- My wonderful husband.
- My son, the light of my life.
- My parents.
- My friends far and wide.
- My clever and generous business associates.
- The kindness of strangers.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
It was just us three for Thanksgiving, as everyone turned down our invitations and we weren't asked anywhere. (SIGH...) But I went ahead with plans to make dinner with all the fixings: turkey, rice stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, garlicky cranberry chutney (recipe here, but the vinegar is omitted in the cooking directions), green beans, salad and apple walnut brandy cake.
Well-caffeinated (I recently bought a stove-top cappuccino maker on eBay), at 9:45 a.m. I prepared for the kitchen onslaught.
First order: music. Darling Husband had a wicked headache, so rock 'n' roll was out. I'd been in the mood for Russian music since hearing a snatch of Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kizheh" on the radio the other day. So I headed to our music library (thanks to DH, we have a vast collection of CDs and vinyl, though I supplied much of the classical and funk), then cranked up the Russkis:
- Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 6 ("Pathétique") and "Romeo & Juliet"
- Prokofiev, "Ivan the Terrible," "Alexander Nevsky" and "Lieutenant Kizheh"
- Rimsky-Korsakov, "Scheherazade" and "Russian Easter Overture"
- Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor
For variety, the last CD I put on was Beethoven's 9th Symphony, conducted by Leonard Bernstein with a cast of thousands in Berlin on Christmas 1989. We chanced to sit down just as the "Ode to Freedom" began. (The "Ode to Joy" was retitled for that performance, in honor of the Berlin Wall coming down.) What inspiring music for Thanksgiving!
I said, "Was Beethoven deaf when he wrote this?"
DH answered, "Yeah, that's why it's so loud!"
I lowered the volume and we had a very joyous and thankful meal. Delicious too; which is a good thing, as we'll be eating leftovers for a week.
The apple walnut brandy cake (I used cognac) was a huge hit, especially with the Boy Wonder. Darling Husband and I had one piece each last night, and this morning the cake was half gone.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Come Christmas, McKenna Hunt, a gregarious little girl from Safety Harbor, Fla., will receive the play kitchen and the Elmo doll she wants. But her mother, Kristen Hunt, will go without the designer jeans she covets this season....Martyr mom Kristen Hunt with the all-important stuff she bought her daughter for Xmas. (Instead of buying a play kitchen, why not save the money and just--gasp!--spend time with the kid in the real kitchen and--double gasp!--teach her to cook?) Photo for NYT by Charity Beck.
“I want her to be able to look back,” Ms. Hunt declared, “and say, ‘Even though they were tough times, my mom was still able to give me stuff.’ ”
On the other hand, there's On the Block: Anarchy and Nostalgia, about Christie's recent auction of punk memorabilia. Cue The Ramones!
“I lived through it, and now I can afford it,” said [Scott Wittman, Tony- and Grammy-winning composer and lyricist for “Hairspray”], who like many of the buyers viewed the sale as not just music history but also New York City history.The infamous men's john at CBGB, courtesy of urinal.net. (The women's was just as terrifying. I made it a point to go at home, a few blocks away, before I went to the club. And to drink as little as possible once there.)
“I look at it as revisiting my youth,” he added. “I ran into John Varvatos,” the designer whose pricey boutique now occupies the former CBGB space on the Bowery, “and I said, ‘I used to throw up in that corner.’ It brings a tear to my eye.”
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
“Thank you for your opinion. I’ll think about it.” When you receive unsolicited advice at a family gathering, such as Aunt Sylvia’s suggestion that you change your hairstyle, just smile and respond with this casual conversation terminator. If you’re rudely asked a question like, “Are you still single?” don’t reply with a lengthy excuse. Say, “Yes, and I’ll let you know if anything changes.” The goal is to be polite and end the conversation. There is no need to be defensive or rude.Ah yes, how well I remember being asked, "Why doesn't a pretty girl like you have a boyfriend?" And later: "Why are you still single?"
I believe I may have once or twice replied, "Because I'm an awful person." An intensely satisfying, if not altogether peaceable & polite, conversation ender.
Monday, November 24, 2008
“What Valerie developed is the art of telling people to go to hell and making them look forward to the trip.”Jarrett keeps a list of 21 aphorisms--"life lessons"--on her hard drive, which she cites in speeches, including:
- All leaders are passionate about their beliefs, even the ones you don’t like.
- Put yourself in the path of lightning.
- The world is filled with wankers.
- When the going gets tough, the tough go to bed.
"What life lesson have you learned?" Andrea asked.
Steinem's response brought down the house:
"If you're part of the wrong group, nothing you do will be right. So you might as well do what you fucking well please."
Friday, November 21, 2008
Tune in if you (or your offspring) need a refresher on what NOT to say at the Thanksgiving table. Example:
"Do you actually prefer Cool Whip, or do you just not know how to make whipped cream from scratch?"
Thursday, November 20, 2008
90 minutes, 90 bucks; includes 15-minute individual follow-up consultation. Such a steal! Details here.
The LIFE magazine photo archive, with millions of photos (some never published), is now online--and best of all, searchable--via Google. Start looking HERE.
I searched for "stander" and found pix of my father I'd never seen before. The one above is by famed photographer Gordon Parks, taken in May 1950 on the NYC set of St. Benny the Dip. Dad played one of a group of cons (a "dip" is a pickpocket) who disguise themselves as clergymen. He's flanked by Roland Young (misidentified in archive caption as Charles Ruggles; I sent Google a note) and singer Dick Haymes.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Inspired equally by Carleen Brice's new blog, White Readers Meet Black Authors, and Stephen Colbert, here I am with NO PLACE SAFE by Kim Reid and NATIVE SON by Richard Wright.
More props: I did the first print interview with Edward P. Jones for THE KNOWN WORLD.
Coincidentally, my father was involved in the 1941 Broadway production of "Native Son." According to Hazel Rowley's biography of Richard Wright:
For once, the Mercury Theatre had no trouble attracting funding. Not with the name of Orson Welles -- the biggest man in Hollywood -- attached to the play. Lionel Stander, a left-wing actor known for his fundraising skills, easily persuaded the Hollywood investor Bern Bernard* to produce fifty-five thousand dollars.Not so coincidentally, Kim Reid is a consulting client and fellow member of the Denver Literary Ladies Luncheon, as is Carleen.
*the show's associate producer, per Internet Broadway Database
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I'm going to bed soooooooooo happy tonight:
Stevens Loses Alaska Senate Race
Can't wait to see what Jon Stewart has to say about this tomorrow!
One down, two more to go... (that would be Saxby Chambliss and Norm Coleman)
[It's] the official invitation for EVERYBODY to check out the African American section of the bookstore. Every Tuesday I'll review/introduce a black author or comment on an issue about race and publishing. First up is starting a movement in which we all give a book by a black author to somebody who's not black for the holiday season.
For example, memoirist Jane Doe (name & book title changed to protect the guilty) currently has a home page titled, "Jane Doe, Writer." It should read, "Jane Doe, author of TOO CUTE: A Memoir."
The page with the nav bar link "About the Book" has the title "TOO CUTE." It should be, "About TOO CUTE: A Memoir by Jane Doe."
Jane's links page is titled "Links." Bad Jane! (More accurately: Bad Webmaster!) The title should be something like "Author Jane Doe: Links to My Favorite Websites."
The page labeled "About the Author" on the nav bar should be titled, "About Jane Doe, author of TOO CUTE: A Memoir."
And so on.
I'd been mulling ideas (I've had lots of thinking time on airplanes lately), but hadn't come up with anything other than apple pie. It's good, but hardly festive.
A few minutes ago I checked out the blog of consulting client Gail Konop Baker, author of CANCER IS A BITCH: Or, I’d Rather be Having a Mid-Life Crisis. And there, posted Nov 5, was the recipe for:
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Suicide in the Trenches
by Siegfried Sassoon
I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Edit: Note the cigarette; he died of lung cancer.
Last week, my mother and stepfather, who live in Maine, sent me a Tomato Card showing a smiling Obama in front of the Capitol, and in handwriting by his head: "Happy Birthday & all the Best! Barack Obama."
Inside was this message:
You have no idea how hard it was to get a very busy Barack Obama to sign your birthday card. But he knows how special you are to us, and we did promise to vote for him a few extra times.A major advantage to living in the Mountain Time zone is getting "late-breaking" news well before bedtime, so we got the happy news, courtesy of Jon Stewart, at a civilized 9 pm. My stepfather told me Wednesday that he'd been too tired to stay up for Obama's acceptance speech. But then he woke up at 2 a.m., went downstairs and turned on the TV, just to make sure it was really true.
And here's another terrific birthday present:
Good ol' boy (read: cracker) Democrat turned Republican congressman Virgil Goode, who's represented Virginia's 5th district for lo these many years, was defeated in a squeaker by Tom Perriello. Overall margin of victory was a mere 745 votes, though in enlightened Charlottesville, my late home (also of Thomas Jefferson, in case anyone would let you forget) the vote was 15,908 to 3733. See results here.
Everywhere I've lived went for the Democrats this time: NY, DC, MD, NC, PA, ME, VA & CO. (I've lived in a lot places; no wonder I feel rootless.)
Incidentally, all the pundits failed to identify the real reason why Obama won: he got the "Boy Wonder bump."
We'd been keeping it under wraps, but my darling child has special mojo. The home team wins every college or professional sporting event he attends: UVa football, Penn State football, Atlanta Hawks and Denver Broncos. And both politicians he's worked for have won: Chris Romer and Barack Obama. In the primaries, BW worked for Obama in Iowa, Colorado, Pennsylvania & Texas. (Yeah, Hillary won PA, but Obama won Philadelphia, where BW was. And Obama ultimately picked up more delegates in TX via its 2-step process.)
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Emanuel is dramatic, impatient, and profane, willing to speak truth to power in the crudest terms and the most difficult moments, as in the heat of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
"You got it backwards," Emanuel, who is Jewish, reportedly told Clinton at the time. "You messed around with a Jewish girl, and now you're paying a goyish lawyer.”
Monday, November 03, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Few things are as scary as a client new to the book business, where there's an inverse proportion of knowledge to dreams. A sense of enthusiastic unreality, if you will.
The book? A nonfiction title discussing political movements among under-30 voters.
The company? Owned and operated by a 28-year-old.
The goals? Publicity for a book by a new author and new company.
The task? A press conference. Old style, with big-name talkers introducing the author.
When advised about the lack of worth for this type of publicity for a book -- after all, press conferences are for court cases, politicians and the Beatles -- the client insisted on forging ahead.
Hours upon hours spent on the set-up: calling dozens of media, finding the perfect room, massaging the message.
The day came and drew dark. Podium, microphone, rows of folding chairs. The moderately famous person talked. So did the author. Then a few polite questions from a modest turnout of media. Then lights out.
The next day, the fury of the book company's young 'un: "What happened? What went wrong?" the beast railed to the hapless publicist.
"Did we not just have a press conference?" she wondered.
Turns out the book company owner wanted a press conference just like in the movies, with photographers flashing bulbs and rushing the podium, and reporters shouting over one another. In other words, complete pandemonium.
So to all of you gentle book people:
Beware of the non-knowing...they will eat your brains.
As yet no one has responded to my call for publicity horror stories. I guess everything went great this year, notwithstanding the plummeting economy and layoffs at publishers and newspapers. But Darling Husband came to my rescue (as always), pointing my attention to The Bad Pitch Blog.
Y'know how you're supposed to make your book or product newsworthy by relating it to some current event? (You don't? Well, you are, and a great way to monitor news related to your topic, and journos/blogs covering it is to sign up for Google Alerts.)
Well, some enterprising ghoul decided to shill a shotgun rack (!!!) by tying it to the ghastly murders of singer Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and nephew. Here's how the original press release (since amended in response to general outrage) blasts off:
Chicago, IL (MMD Newswire) October 28, 2008 -- Tragedy strikes in a Chicago home leaving 3 people dead and an Oscar winner forced to identify the bodies of her family.In addition to its complete absence of taste, the press release omits some salient facts:
Jennifer Hudson's mother and brother were gunned down in their home Friday. Could an invaluable device have saved their lives? It's called The BackUp and it is a bedside shotgun rack.
- Chicago bans handguns (and presumably shotguns).
- Guns should be locked away in a home with children.
- Per this timeline, the murderer hit the adult victims by shooting through a door around 8-9:00 a.m., when neither was in bed.
A. John Peters, president of Home Back-Up Protection, said Tuesday that he didn't issue the news release to capitalize on the Chicago family's pain.
"I really feel sorry for these people," said Peters, 60. "I just don't want this to happen to someone else. Sometimes I think people need to be hit between the eyes."
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"Writing a book is the most important thing a human being can do," says Hodgman. "But literary immortality comes with a price: book promotion, the demeaning ritual known as 'the television appearance.' Where the solitary genius is forced to hold a conversation with the likes of...cable jester" Jon Stewart.
Watch as the self-proclaimed "brain candy" struts his stuff and offers "important tips to new authors on how best to sell your own work."
So send me your hair-raising tales of rampaging authors, power-mad publicists, berserk booksellers, ditzy event planners, wacko journalists, travel snafus and readers gone wild.
C'mon...it feels SOOO good to vent! (Anonymously, of course; confidentiality is guaranteed.)
Monday, October 13, 2008
"Beginning this week—16 October to be exact—my very own radio show will premiere on Hay House Radio. It’s called Sex... with Barbara Carrellas (yes, we all love that double entendre). It will air every other Thursday at 9 am Pacific time and 12 noon Eastern time. If you miss the live show, you can listen to it in the archives by joining Hay House’s Wisdom community. This show is really a dream come true for me. Not only do I have a radio show where I can have intelligent and enlightening conversations about sex, it’s also on my dear friend Louise’s radio station. I am thrilled and proud to be part of this amazing community."
Photo: Barbara Nitke
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Besides all the candidates running for election--president, senate, congress, school boards--there are many addenda and referenda, plus a list of sitting judges and a Denver school funding issue to decide on. Estimates are that it will take around 20 minutes for each person to vote at the polls. If they have to read through every single addendum and referendum proposal, I figure it'll be more like an hour.
This morning, it took me a good 30 minutes to fill out the densely printed ballot (2 pages & 4 sides). And that was with the help of a tub o' tea, the Blue Book from the CO Election Commission (which includes a handy "cheat sheet" inside the front cover) and the special section in today's Denver Post. (See Colorado Voter Guide that you can print out for your own cheat sheet. Ballotpedia has detailed analysis of ballot initiatives, searchable by state.)
So I STRONGLY urge you to get a mail-in ballot. If you haven't received an application form in the mail, or from the many volunteers blanketing the area, you can download one HERE. Then mail/fax it to your County Clerk; contact info HERE.
The mail-in ballot requires $1.17 postage. If you don't have stamps, or don't trust the USPS, you can drop off your ballot at the early voting stations listed on it, or at your neighborhood polling place on November 4.
Don't delay! Deadline for mail-in applications is October 28; in-person is Oct 31.
Here's to civic duty!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
The Tenth Justice, the original opening lines are: "Ben Addison was sweating. Like a pig." In the Hebrew translation, it became: "Ben Addison was sweating. Like a horse." The author's not sure if it's a kosher thing or what.Actually, it's a fact thing. Because PIGS DON'T SWEAT. Per the Wikipedia entry on Pig:
Pigs do not have functional sweat glands, so pigs cool themselves using water or mud during hot weather.And as anyone who's been around horses knows, they sweat like crazy. One of the more arresting sights after a hot race or cross-country event is the horses being led around with one groom at their head and another at their hind end, holding a huge icebag wedged into their crotch. You'd think the horses would kick anyone who did such a thing, but they seem to enjoy it.
And on Sept 25, client Carleen Brice won the African American Literary Awards Show prize for Break-out Novel of the Year for her lovely debut, ORANGE MINT AND HONEY. (Her 2nd novel, CHILDREN OF THE WATERS, will be released in July; read the prologue.) Hooray for Carleen!
Hint: The books would make excellent holiday presents. And they're in thrifty trade paperback!