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Posting From the Post Surgery Trenches

10 May

kermit-surgery-06

I’m recuperating from frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) surgery and have been pretty useless the last 10 days or so. Mostly I’m on a pain, physical therapy, sleep cycle. It’s getting better slowly, and I‘m blogging about it over here at Not Another Frozen Shoulder Surgery Blog.

Do head over and check it out.

Writer seeking help: overwhelmed and under the covers

22 Jan

My puppy Bronte (named after Charlotte, not Emily) seeking refuge in her blanket.

Help!

Sorry. Firstly, Happy New Year to one and all. I really do have ONE major resolution and that’s to devote more time to my fiction.  Would love it if you would read this post and offer suggestions, tips etc.  I’m knee-deep in edits on my book right now but I’m getting overwhelmed by the following:

It seems there’s SO many edits required on my novel. The more I delve in the more I realise I need to flesh things out. If I think about them all I get overwhelmed. I know the answer is to go through each chapter little by little and not get caught up in the big picture but sometimes my brain forgets that and I become frozen, paralyzed and/or otherwise inert.

I’m SO thrilled to now be a member of RWA. I no longer feel alone. I LOVE this org.  BUT, there’s so many emails from the group, not to mention the chapter events (many of which I want to sign up for), the SPEW crew (who help you set goals on your writing each week), that that also overwhelms me, as does the RWA website, newsletter etc. I WANT to respond to these great emails and read all the wonderful blog posts and websites my great chapter writers send us to in these emails, but again, I get overwhelmed. Where do I find the time? This in turn leads to…

My subscription to writing mags (okay only one), which I LOVE and is like a guilty pleasure when I find time to peruse it. Then I want to take notes and put little pink stickies on things and create folders – which again distracts from the actual editing work of my novel… Not to mention all the great novels I want to read on my Kindle. AAARGGH!!

Keep in mind I have FULL TIME job. I’m delighted I do. I LOVE my job as an editor and journalist, and I’m lucky I get to work from home – but I don’t work 9-5. I work CRAZY hours – sometimes late into the night or early in the morning. Just this morning (yes, it’s Sunday) I had to write about a big car chase from last night. So while I do have flexibility – I CAN and do take my dog to the park every day – I also have to find time to balance everything.

So here’s my BIG QUESTION:

If you are a fiction writer who ALSO happens to have a full time job (whether that’s as a nuclear physicist or as a full time parent), I’d love to hear your suggestions/thoughts/plans/ideas. How do you juggle your life? How do you find time to work on your novels, do your jobs, split the atom, organise the carpool, keep your sanity, read all the important supportive stuff you need/want to read, be supportive to other writers in your groups or blogs and still eat decent meals, take important exercise AND have a life?

How do you NOT just throw up your hands and crawl under the covers?

Thank you in advance (from under the covers).

What? I’m Back? How Can This Be?

23 Jul

The writing was easy (relatively). It's the editing that's killing me.

Yes, here I am writing after MONTHS of not writing. Well, that’s not true. Just not writing on this blog. I was having an existential blogging crisis about the nature of this blog, so I just kind of gave up. And then I had surgery… what?

Yes, foot surgery, for which I have a separate blog here.  And I have been laid up for the past week, and although I’ve been working, the forced bed rest has enabled me to gather my thoughts and my blogging skills.

That’s not to say my blogging (or writing) has been dormant in other areas. Running Mar Vista Patch is a full time job and I work deranged hours – but I get to work from home so that’s great.

Also, on January 28, I brought home my brand new Golden Retriever puppy from Grand Junction Colorado. Bronte is now eight months old and SHE has been blogging regularly since before she was conceived on her very own blog, which you can read here.

It’s always difficult when you write for a living to also write for pleasure, and I’m still honing the novel I wrote in November 2009. However, this week has seen me revitalised. And my great friend and brilliant writer, Becca Topol has VERY kindly agreed to read my manuscript. And so, I have given myself the deadline of Sunday July 23 at midnight to have completed my final revision and hit the “send” button and send off my manuscript to Becca – the first person who will get to read my novel.

Writing it out here is forcing me to adhere to my deadline and to stop pfaffing around and worrying that it will never be ready. So, check back here and see that I have done what I promised to do. Oy!

I’m also now going to go through my twitter feed – my personal twitter has been very silent of late – and start checking out great writing blogs, novelists, works in progress and commit to ONE HOUR a day of keeping focused on my fiction writing.

The great news about my Patch job is I work my own hours and from wherever I want. The BAD news about my Patch job is that I work way too many hours and at ungodly hours. I have no set start and stop time. It’s not uncommon for me to get up, have breakfast, and then say “Oh, I’ll just edit this one article, or check this one email, or verify this one source,” and bam, before I know it two hours has passed, I’m still in my pyjamas and my dog is wondering why I haven’t taken her for a walk.

Now that I’m limited with my poor foot and I can’t exercise – phooey – I have found more time to focus on things other than Patch.

Although, right now, I REALLY need to go prep an article for tomorrow – that’s right, we work weekends, too!

Okay, but now my commitment is out here on paper.

I WILL make an effort to blog regularly, seek out my writerly support mates once more and GET MY NOVEL TO BECCA before the weekend is done.

Keep on me and force me to meet my goal. Watch this space…

 

How do you prioritise your writing?

4 Aug

Has anyone suffered from the same problem I’m currently finding myself in? I spent 11 years living in a country where access to English books, magazines etc. was limited, let alone writing magazines, outlets, classes, courses, etc.  Now I find myself in reading/writing overload. So many magazines each month to read, so much stuff on the web, so many blogs to follow, so much to twitter. I find myself becoming completely inert. Which competition to enter? Which magazine to read? How do I file the great article in Writer’s Digest that I don’t need now but one day will?

I know that I shouldn’t complain about an embarrassment of riches, but seriously, I don’t know how to stay on top of everything. I hold down two jobs that can last anywhere between 10 to 15 hours a day and I never know which days I’m working or not. When I do I have no time to tweet, facebook, check out the latest literary goings on.

Even on the days I have “off” and I get to work on my novel and go to the supermarket, bank, post office, whatever, I still can’t possibly find the time to read all the great articles, blogs, tweets and references that should keep our writing community together.I could spend forever reading about writing and never actually writing.

So, writers- please tell me how you do it. Whether you have a full time job, a full time family or a full time Facebook obsession. How do you make sure that you stay abreast of what is going on in the writing world? How do you not feel guilty about not keeping up your blog and twitter account or more importantly not checking in on all the blogs and twitter accounts of writers whom you admire? How do you keep your writing goals on track without becoming isolated from the writing community around you?

I’d love to hear your tips and priorities!

Happy writing

Lindsay Lohan and the perils of dubious journalism

24 Jul

No matter what you think about Lindsay Lohan or whether her jail sentence is deserved or not, as a journalist it’s my job to be honest, fair and direct with my reporting.

I have now been on Lindsay Lohan watch for several weeks. I was in court two weeks ago covering her hearing and her jail sentence. I was outside her “sober living home” watching people come and go. I ran down to the court to catch a glimpse (or try to) of her supposed attorney Bob Shapiro when he quit. I’ve interviewed the DA and Lindsay’s defense attorney. I was there inside the courtroom when the cameras were switched off on Tuesday and I saw her handcuffed. From the courthouse I was sent down to the jail to interview inmates coming out. I was  lucky to arrive in time to catch inmates being released who were in the holding tank when she arrived. I had some first hand descriptions from those who saw her and I reported them – ACCURATELY. I knew they were accurate because I had a group of 8 women telling the exact same story.

Today, though, I’m furious. I’ve been on “Lindsay Watch” and probably will be till she’s released. This basically means spending the entire day at the jail waiting to interview inmates being released and catching people visiting her (attorneys, family, friends).

On Thursday I was back at the jail and spoke at length with a released inmate. I know the drill now, having been there several times. I know how to talk to the released inmates and which ones to believe. Who is grandstanding, who is being genuine, who really did see or hear Lindsay and who just wants their name in the paper or on TV. This woman’s name was Cheryl Presser. She was 43, and had been in the mental ward. She was handcuffed at meal times and at any time she was around other inmates and openly admitted she did not see or speak to Lindsay. Her child has been taken away from her – she has SERIOUS mental and substance abuse problems.

Most of the reporters down at the jail have worked together for a long time. We come from various media outlets and see each other all the time – especially those of us that cover court cases. So we’ll all be at the same Lindsay, Mel, Michael Jackson etc. trials (and tribulations). Most of us are friendly and work well together. We’re all there for the same thing and we help each other out.

On Thursday, I was at the jail early – around 8 a.m and stayed until well after 5 p.m.  It’s what most of us do. They are long days and we settle in. We’re used to it. After 30  minutes talking to Ms. Cheryl Presser, a “reporter” from the Daily Mirror showed up around 10 a.m. and stayed only a couple of hours. She didn’t chat with anyone, didn’t join our group of motley journalists and proceeded to pull over every leaving inmate I interviewed. We journalists understand that we all need the same info but there is still some sort of protocol that we tend to follow. We rarely poach interview subjects, but this woman had no qualms. She pulled over Ms. Cheryl Presser and openly handed her a $20 bill. Cheryl even came up to me and said “She gave me $20” and she also said “I hope you don’t mind.”

I understood that $20 to Cheryl was like a gold mine. She didn’t have a penny on her. And suddenly the entire world has picked up the Mirror’s “story” about Cheryl Presser saying Lindsay was screaming, crying, on lockdown etc. and under  24-hour security watch. Repeat: Cheryl was nowhere near Lindsay and knew NOTHING. But suddenly, with $20 in her pocket she was revealing all kinds of ridiculous information. I saw with my own eyes the money exchange hands. Now the Mirror is making a fortune peddling this so-called inside information about Lindsay’s self-mutilation, screaming fits, crying jags and all around hysteria, inmates cursing at her.  I’m here to tell you it’s patently untrue.

I also know that if ANY inmates had said the things they supposedly screamed out to Lindsay or made any threats they would be in serious lockdown themselves and treated pretty harshly by the deputies and rightly so. Anything that constitutes a threat MUST be taken seriously by the jail. How can it not be? And after spending several days over the course of several weeks interviewing released inmates from Lynwood, trust me these women aren’t going to do ANYTHING to jeopardize their time in the slammer. It’s a rough, rough, place. These women aren’t stupid.

I’m not naive. I understand tabloids pay people all the time to spout the most utter garbage, and let’s face it $20 isn’t much when others are paid thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions to say what the media wants to hear: something salacious, something off the wall, something that will sell papers or magazines. It’s a business after all.

However, I’m not just furious at the lies that are being printed. I’m angry that these kinds of stories are making it impossible for real journalists who want to tell the truth to do their jobs. Here’s the deal. The journalists build up relationships and here in LA – The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s spokesman is our link to information and to being allowed access. Spokesman Steve Whitmore is a good guy with a thankless task – namely being driven mad by us journalists every day seeking information, answers to questions. He patiently does press conferences and responds to our endless phone calls, emails and text messages. But when stories such as the ones the Mirror has been reporting land up all over the media, our access suddenly becomes limited.

Last week we had open access in the entrance to the jail and to interview those who were released. This week because of insane untrue stories about what Lindsay was going through etc. we were forced to sit outside the main entrance, we were not allowed in. The trickle of released inmates slowed down and the majority of those who did come out told us in no uncertain terms they had been told they were not allowed to talk to us. The Sheriff’s office rarely returned our calls.

We understand that people want to read information about Lindsay in jail. We understand that if the demand for information wasn’t high, our editors wouldn’t send us out to cover this stuff. The very least we can do if we’re on these stories is to report accurate information. When the Mirror engages in this type of dubious journalism then everyone suffers.

I don’t care whether you believe Lindsay should be in jail or not. I do care that while she’s in there we try and report the most accurate information possible. To do this, we need to cultivate good relationships with the sheriff’s department, the jail, and the attorneys involved in the case. When utter rubbish is printed we are unable to do our jobs properly because the proper channels are then closed off to us.

Ask yourself, why is only the Mirror and its subsidiaries printing these crazy stories about Lindsay? There are a slew of reporters down at the jail every day from every paper, magazine and online outfit. How come we don’t have these “stories?” Because they’re not true and we won’t publish stuff we know is totally made up or bought.

So please, don’t believe this rubbish that you’re reading. Don’t allow muckrakers to shut down honest reporting by buying off their interview subjects and denying us access to proper channels, which totally prevents us from telling the real story. We all deserve better than this. Even Lindsay.

Turning pain into prose

17 Feb

This blog is about writing… not about cliched breakups and men who are jerks. Why? Because there are enough blogs out there that cover this topic. Probably too many. However, I confess that this starts out as a “men who are jerks” missive, but it does go beyond that, so please bear with me.

I’m just starting to get over a “man who is a jerk” because even though I’d only been dating him for a month (which let’s face it isn’t too long), betrayal is still betrayal any way you slice it. So, when I found out that he decided to sleep with his ex-wife the other night, you could say I wasn’t exactly thrilled.  I will spare you the sordid details, but the whole  thing did (finally) elicit a very simple email that attempted some type of apology and the de rigeuer line of “I respect you so much.” And all I could think was, “Phew, thank GOODNESS he respects me, because imagine how he would have behaved if he didn’t respect me? Aren’t I just sooo lucky?”

So while I plot revenge fantasies that of course I won’t indulge in because I’m just not that type of person, and why should I waste my energy on this excuse for a human being anyway?, I’m actually struck by two terrifying thoughts:

1) I saw him the night before his birthday (on his actual birthday the next day, his present was his naked ex-wife – which I guess is difficult to beat in the gift department). However, I’m obsessed with the fact that I gave him a GREAT present and now he has it. THAT makes my blood boil. And you know what that present was? A book of John Donne’s poetry – complete with annotated explanations, and a very good reading of one of them (if I say so myself) to him by yours truly. Yes, the sad part of all this is he was/is a lover of great literature and that of course turns me to butter. Now if only he was into monster trucks and football, instead of Russian novelists and metaphysical poetry, maybe I wouldn’t feel so awful right now. I say to all you other writers out there, how can you NOT fall for a guy who is all about beautiful prose? Ack.

2) In that weird, writerly way (and also a throwback to my drama school and acting days), I find myself obsessing with the minutia of his betrayal and looking for ways to incorporate this in my writing, you know, USE the experience. Not in an “write this stuff about me and I’ll sue the pants off you” kind of way. I don’t think he knows my blog exists anyway, so it’s not like he’d come after me on that level. No, I’m not interested in the cold, hard, facts, which are too painful to talk about anyway. I’m talking about taking kernels, snippets, the essence of the betrayal and crafting them into a short story, or a scene in my novel, or a glimpse into a character. After all, what’s the point of someone treating you like shit if you don’t get to take that experience and use it to your own advantage? Maybe success is the best form of revenge; maybe revenge is indeed a dish best served cold; but I think the best revenge is taking the experience, learning from it, and using it to write even better stories that allow people to connect. Now, if I can somehow combine the images of John Donne, a Harley,  a missing earring, two guinea pigs and the ruthlessness of Jack Bauer, I think I’ll have something unique on my hands. Quentin Tarrantino meets D.H. Lawrence. I’m sure there’s a great story in there somewhere.

In the meantime, to everyone who has been treated like crap by someone who is a piece of crap, I truly empathize. Now, go write about it!

Writing into the end of the year

24 Dec

As everyone gears up to shut down over the Christmas break, I’ll be tapping away on my computer – an excellent time for those of us not of the Christian faith to catch up on being behind. Of course, I will do the de rigeuer Jewish celebration tonight of Chinese dinner and a movie with friends, but beyond that I’ll be keeping my nose to the grindstone. In fact, my latest article just went up. It’s about Jews and Yoga. Can you connect your Ohms with your Amens? Abso-bloody-lutely. Read it here. Yoga: Good for the Jews? .

I’m also excited to be revising my novel written in NaNowWriMo. It finally has a title: Word Painting. I’m very excited by the messiness of it all and the new Scrivener software (a 50% discount purchase as a result of winning NaNoWriMo), that I’m using to unsplit my split infinitives and reconnect my subject/verb agreements et al.

Here’s hoping for a wonderful 2010 for all those of you with literary dreams. Nurture them, coddle them, then get rich off of them – hopefully.

Happy Christmas to all my non-Jewish friends!

Doing the NaNoWriMo Happy Dance!

30 Nov

Yes, I’m a winner. I just completed my 50,000 word novel with just under 90 minutes left till deadline. My official word count – 50207. Yippee!!!!!

And here is my official badge to prove it.

Of course, I wrote 17661 of those words TODAY. AND I have a raging sinus infection.

I”m so happy – now I need another month to do all the revisions.

Thanks to all my supporters.

happy dance, happy dance!

NaNoWriMo approaches, more articles up!

26 Oct

nanowrimoNaNoWriMo looms large! It begins November 1 and finally, finally, I have my novel idea (in both senses of the word). It’s all very exciting and I can’t wait to flex my 2,000 words-a-day muscles. Please quote me on this as I may live to regret it. I’m also thrilled that there are so many twitterers talking about NaNoWriMo. Makes one feel less, alone, no?

In the meantime, my article on Hilary Helstein’s documentary is up. Please read it. And I’m waiting for my article to be published on an extraordinary Israeli fashion designer now based in LA whose career almost came to a screeching halt after she almost lost her hand in an horrific car accident.

Right, off to do some editing work… oh joy -sigh..

Down the rabbit hole… and back

5 Oct

alice-falling-down-rabbit-hole-1I appear to have gone down the rabbit hole for the last couple of weeks from Kellifornia Dreaming. Was I in fact dreaming? Not a whit. I’ve been slammed. The combination of work (nice to know something is keeping me busy), my new Web site (hooray) and the month long Jewish holidays (exhausting but exhilarating) have left me a little off kilter.

Nonetheless, I’m thrilled to say that with the advent of the Jewish New Year, I’m renewed and ready for a great year ahead. Here’s hoping.

First off, I’ve had a fair amount of articles published lately. I don’t even remember writing them. Isn’t that thrilling? All the gain, none of the pain. But, here are a few of my latest missives. I’m so glad that Religion Dispatches published my piece on the Women of the Wall, here. And Blueprint has kept me busy too with my article on The Moishe House LA, an upcoming Sukkot piece with the AJC, and an article on a Matchmaking Conference (hold the Fiddler on the Roof jokes, please).

Please head on over to Scribblers on the Roof – my wonderful new Web site to check out my regular blogs there, along with the latest, greatest postings. In addition, I was interviewed by the super-duper talented Erika Dreifus over at her Blog – My Machberet – all about my inspiration for and running of Scribblers on the Roof. Please read it!

In absolutely bloody wonderful news – the company that paid me ZILCH and sent me into the black hole of debt, finally sent me an email (hey five months late is better than never, right?) telling my I will in fact be paid for my services (sans interest – naturally – ha), the week of October 12. I will be RICH, RICH, RICH!!!! Okay, I’ll be able to make a dent in my credit card debt – which of course would never have occurred had they bothered to pay me on time as promised. Sigh.

So, mea culpa. I will be back regularly from here on out. More interesting things afoot. Watch this space…