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Mar Vista Patch is looking to hire contributors!

2 Nov

As promised, WE ARE HIRING! Here’s the scoop on all things Patch and who we’re looking for. If you live on the Westside of Los Angeles, this is what we need:

Be part of the team
Freelancers and columnists: Join our team of paid freelancers, who cover news and sports, write restaurant reviews or write local Patch city-focused columns about such topics as schools, politics, seniors, teens. We need reporters, columnists, photographers, videographers; and we really want you if you’re multiskilled.

When you’re a Patch contributor, you get more than just a byline. On Patch sites, we display a bio on each contributor on the About page. is coming soon to Mar Vista!

Its mission: To be a hub of news, information and commentary, all based on the concept that an informed, engaged community is a better community.

At  Mar Vista Patch, we know you have news and information wants and needs. When Mar Vista patch launches in the coming weeks, the  site will tell you about local breaking news, business openings and closings, school news and crime, local trends, the community’s movers and shakers and average folks who are doing extraordinary things. You’ll find out about sports, obituaries, events, shopping deals. We’ll provide critical local information: the name of the official to call for a building permit or to make a noise complaint, contact details for schools and preschools, where to get information about e-waste disposal.

What you can do: Post birth and wedding announcements. Comment on news stories. Add reviews of dentists, mechanics and restaurants. Discuss story ideas with the editor, Kelly Hartog.

Look for us around town
Our business and organization listings won’t be skimpy Yellow Pages stuff; our team of researchers actually hit the street and visit businesses, schools, libraries, and more so we can provide photos as well as detailed information like maps, products sold, and hours.  (To contact us about the listing for your business or organization, email us at

You’ll see our editors all around town with laptop, cell phone and camera, listening to people and covering what they care about. Each patch community will also recruit a local advisory group.

Our editorial philosophy
We’re locally focused with an emphasis on news you can use, breaking news, watchdog journalism, faces of the community, commentary and reviews and reader engagement.

We subscribe to the idea that news is a conversation. Much of our reporting will emanate from what readers tell us in emails, comments on our sites and in conversations around town. That means before we publish a story we may post an item on our site, letting readers know we’re looking into a topic and asking for their feedback.

Transparency: Our editors and other contributors are involved in the communities they cover. Occasionally, they may write about something with which they are closely connected. When that happens, we’ll disclose those connections with the story and be clear about whether we’re writing opinion or straight news.

Online storytelling: We will take advantage of what the web can do. For every story, we will consider the best way to tell it online. We might use any combination of text, photos, video, live chats, interactive maps and graphics, databases, polls and any other tools at our disposal.

Diversity: We are committed to hiring a diverse staff and having our coverage reflect the diverse communities we live in. And we define diversity broadly. That means we want people oa all ages and backgrounds to feel they can call patch their own. We want you to help us.

Connections with the community

•    Post announcements and events. Click the “Add Yours” link on the home page.
•    Add your photos, videos or comments to any story.
•    Tell us about stories we should cover. Click the “News tip” link on the home page.
•    Post an ad about your business or a classified ad.

Social media
Follow us on Twitter at
“Like” MarVistaPatch on Facebook.

You can’t truly serve a community unless you’re giving it the help it needs most. Giving back to our communities is hugely important to us. We’ll do it both as part of our coverage  — in a dedicated area on the site that lets local charities and willing volunteers find each other — and with a program we call “Give 5,” through which we’ll provide free advertising space to charitable organizations and donate our own time as volunteers in the community.

When can I start using the site?
We’re getting set to open our doors in a few weeks.

Who runs Patch?
AOL is our parent company. Patch was acquired by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong soon after he was named last year to run the company. He had been a seed investor in Patch, a start-up with a big idea and a lot of passion about reinventing community news and engaging the public.

Kelly Hartog
Editor, Mar Vista Patch (launching soon)
Find us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Email me



I have joined in Mar Vista

2 Nov


I can break the news. I’ve been away, and I’ve been covering crazy celebrity journalism for the New York Post, and doing editing gigs, and grieving over my darling Bridget, and awaiting the birth of my new puppy (10 days from now), but mostly I’ve been interviewing for Click on the link for more information about Patch.

It was a long, gruelling interview process but I’m excited to say that I have been hired as the editor of Mar Vista Patch, which will launch in the coming weeks. I was hired last week and went through three days of training and am now working hard to launch my site.

I’m excited to have  a full time job after years of freelancing, excited to have a regular salary, VERY excited by the EXCELLENT benefits offered, and extremely excited that I still get to work from home. Patch outfits us with a MacBook Pro, a camera, video, iPhone, printer, scanner, fax – pretty much everything you need to run an online journalism site from your home, your coffee shop, the local park, wherever.

Most of all, I’m excited to be back working in community journalism, which is where my roots are and is what I love best. I’m excited to get to know the Mar Vista community and engage the locals and be part of their world.  I’m incredibly excited.

In order to launch, I have to have X number of Twitter and Facebook followers. So please, please go to Mar Vista Patch on Facebook and “like” us. And follow me on MarVistaPatch on Twitter.

I’m also looking for contributors to the site. Please see the next Post if you’re interested!

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.

Night of Writing Dangerously sponsorship goal met!

14 Oct


I raised my $200 for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)’s Night of Writing Dangerously, and I’ve booked my ticket to San Francisco for November 22. G-d bless SouthWest airlines – el cheapo dealo. I really wanted to fly Virgin America but their prices were high-in-the-sky. So bye-bye Virgin, for now at least.

Great thanks to my mum (aw shucks), Tania Hershman, James Tumminia, Eddie and Melissa Rabin, Etan Lerner (well his parents Paul and Michelle), Fred Kramer, and Susan Meadows for raising the funds for the Office of Letters and Light. You all rock! And thanks to Lisa Alcalay Klug for offering to host me in SF.

My mum was visiting from Israel in November last year and we went to San Francisco for a few days and I came down with the world’s worst flu – but NOT H1N1 (it hadn’t occurred yet). So it will be great to spend a day in SF and do all the things I didn’t get to do last time (after the six hours of writing for NaNoWriMo), because I was stuck in my hotel room bed.

Of course, this does mean I DO have to write my 50,000 words in one month, and I’ve still yet to come up with a concrete idea. Oh well, I have a couple of weeks. I’ve been checking out all the NaNoWriMo posts on Twitter and it’s all a little daunting. There’s almost 40,000 people signed up for NaNoWriMo and it makes you realise how many writers are actually out there – a lot! It’s also fun to know that others will attempt this deranged, insane, activity.

In the meantime, I’m working on three separate stories. Just sent to my editor an article on an Israeli fashion designer in LA who almost lost her hand in a car accident as a teenager and still is managing to pursue her dream. Pretty inspiring stuff. And I just interviewed a former Israeli soccer player who is now the hair extension guru to Hollywood stars (Zohan, anyone?). And I spoke with Hilary Helstein about her moving documentary As Seen Through These Eyes – a decades in the making film about Holocaust survivors who documented their experiences through their art. Narrated by Maya Angelou it’s extraordinary. If you’re in LA – go see it!

All three articles will be written, and up in in the coming weeks – will keep you posted on the links. And of course there is more wonderful work up at Scribblers on the Roof. Go check it out.

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…

Losing an arm, a leg, and having three sets of twins

1 Sep

civilwarAnd you thought you were having a bad day?

FedEx dropped off a lovely square, heavy package for me yesterday. The package screamed “BOOK”, and sure enough it was a review copy of something called A Separate Country, by Robert Hicks. Mr. Hicks, I have discovered is the New York Times bestselling author of The Widows of the South. How do I know this? Because it says so on the book jacket’s cover.

Okay, let me back up here. Firstly, why do FedEx NEVER knock? I was home, and yet they saw fit to simply dump this parcel on the doorstep. Hmmm… Oh well.

Secondly, it was addressed to me at the California Literary Review, whom I’ve been known on several occasions to write book reviews for. Surprise! I love Paul Comstock and his great site. Go check it out. But the publicist who sent me the book, should have sent it directly to him. A Separate Country is a rather heavy tome about the aftermath of the Civil War. I went to school in Australia and England, and believe me, the Commonwealth has had its fair share of wars. I’ve read and studied them all and I don’t want to read any more war stories from yet another land, so I’m sending this book back to Paul and will let the publicist know I don’t want any more civil war novels to read and review.

Still, this one sounds like a doozy. How can you resist a synopsis like this?

Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A Separate Country is based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army–and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm. At the Battle of Chickamauga, his right leg was amputated. Starting fresh after the war, he married Anna Marie Hennen and fathered 11 children with her, including three sets of twins. But fate had other plans. Crippled by his war wounds and defeat, ravaged by financial misfortune, Hood had one last foe to battle: Yellow Fever. A Separate Country is the heartrending story of a decent and good man who struggled with his inability to admit his failures-and the story of those who taught him to love, and to be loved, and transformed him.

Sounds like great bedtime reading, no?

Oh and they’re plugging A Separate Country‘s Web site here.  So I think I’ve done my duty.

I’m being guilt-tripped by New York Magazine

31 Aug

guiltI just received a scary yellow envelope in the mail, with big black words emblazoned across the top: PLEASE USE STAMPS INSIDE AND OPEN AT ONCE!

Fear not – it’s just from New York Magazine.

When I joined MediaBistro four years ago, every year I’d get sent a free copy of Wired each month. Three years ago that was switched to New York Magazine. No idea why. I understand that MediaBistro is based out of NY but plenty of us live beyond the Big Apple. Oh well. And so, every week I received New York Magazine for an entire year. I never caught up reading them, though. Too many. I have newspapers and other magazines to read too. What’s the point of learning the great shops, restaurants, theatre in New York if I’m rarely there… and I’m certainly not there every week!

Still, two years ago, MediaBistro finally had the foresight to allow you to “opt out” and actually receive a $10 cash back for refusing the mag. I took the moolah and thought I’d sent New York Mag back to the Tri-State area. Ha! No such luck. I have continued to receive the magazine for the past two years  — despite pushing the opt out button every year. And I continue to receive the “last chance” letters from NY Magazine.

I understand that newspaper and magazine subscriptions are falling, failing and flailing, but do they really need to keep me on their circulation list that badly? I’ve been cajoled, prodded and begged into renewing my membership for the last two years and I haven’t caved once. Today, I’m finally being guilt tripped. An excerpt from NY Mag letter:


Dear About To Be Former NEW YORK Subscriber,

…We’re worried. You see, you only have a few more issues left on your subscription — unless we hear from  you now.

Don’t you want to know the meals, bars, gyms, deals, spas, shops, bargains, and galleries…?

Um, in New York? Nope! That’s why I have Los Angeles Magazine.

And the final line…

P.S. Sadly, we won’t be able to replace the issues you’ll miss if you wait to reply.

And this is signed by a very attentive KEN SHELDON.

Poor Kenny, I feel bad for him. However, I’m taking bets. Whoever can tell me how long it takes before my subscription runs out FOR REAL, HONEST, wins a jar of jelly beans.

Writing about the pursuit of Justice – Bet Tzedek

28 Aug

BetTzedekTorchMy article on an amazing LA non-profit that provides free legal assistance to all who are needy (and these days we all are), is  now up on The Jerusalem Post.

Bet Tzedek is an extraordinary institution that has helped thousands of people over the years. Give it up for them!

Creative writing a la Monday

10 Aug


Who stole the weekend when I wasn’t looking? I am in serious brain drain mode after a great great weekend. As promised, I attended Judy Reeves marathon creative writing workshop. 10 a.m  to 5 p.m. Which for me was more like 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (this includes the shlep to San Diego and the not-so-pleasant traffic on the way back). But TOTALLY worth it.

A great room, full of great women (and two guys). I think there were about 15 or so of us, all of whom seemed either impressed that I’d come from LA or considered I was quite barmy. Or perhaps a harmonious combination of both? Either way I had a blast.

Judy is great – inspiring, fun, focusing on the theme of Summer this summery day. We wrote for three minutes, five minutes, 12 minutes, 17 minutes – depending on the prompt. We worked on poems together, wrote alone, read our work out loud, drew inspiration from sights sounds and smells in the street, postacards handed out, little slips of coloured paper.. AND we received cute party favours – a plastic cup with a crazy straw, a cute fan. There were beautiful sunflowers on the table, along with much needed sugar fortification – red vines, M&M’s, trail mix, cherries, little cup cakes. Yum!

But best of all was the writing. Lots of fun, an amazing array of voices in the class – some funny, some sad. Truly incredible how you can come up with vastly different stories from the same prompt. ‘Twas fun, if not a little exhausting.

Here is just ONE piece I wrote in that class. Judy read out three separate prompts at three minute intervals, and we just had to keep writing and incorporate the next prompt into our writing.

The first prompt was: On the inside. We wrote for three minutes and then she threw out the second prompt: a recurring dream. Another three minutes of writing and the final prompt: someone is playing the piano


This is  hallowed space. Here where we prep, wash and cleanse your body. Here is where we will wipe away the scars of your smashed remains and make you beautiful once more so we can send you pristine and perfect into the next world. Back, back, back you go. Sweat soaked, crying uncontrollably, you cannot breathe.  They’ve come to get you; blow you to smithereens, blow you out of this world and steal your birthright. You were born to play the piano but the walls are way too thin. The neighbours complain. You can hear them:

“What do I have to do to get some peace and quiet around here? Those bloody scales. Up and down, up and down. Why don’t they just let the kid take drawing classes?”

“Hey,” you hear him say in his deep baritone. “It could be worse. The brat could be learning to play the violin.”

“I don’t care,” she shoots back. “I just wish he were dead.”

And now you are.

Okay, so it’s not particularly sunny, but then again, I’m not the sunniest person in the world either. Blame my subconscious!

Alright, here’s a happier one. The prompt was: A summer storm

Hail! Hail!

The bullets rain down thick and fast heralding another smashing Sydney summer.

Spitting and cursing on the prefabricted roofs of the box-like classrooms,  inside the children suffer and squirm, waiting, waiting for the bell to toll. And they don’t even know who John Donne is.

But it doesn’t matter. The break, the fault line that runs between the slow, languid build up of dark musky humidity — sometimes days in the making — and the heavens’ release, pushed to breaking point, puffing out their cheeks and holding their breath until they can no longer contain themselves or sustain their glee.

imagesThe gumball-sized icicles devolve into the pavement, scattering rainbow puddles, bouncing along like marbles in a penny arcade. They peel down the hill as the bell peals for recess and 35 chairs scrape back in unision; tiny feet head for the door and tumble into the courtyard.

“Wait!” the teacher cries. “Take your raincoats.”

But they don’t hear. They don’t care. All they want is to fling off their lace-up shoes, twirl their socks in the air and skip between those delicious, icy, dancing, donuts.

We wrote much more on lots of different things, but that’s enough for now I think.

It’s Monday again, and I’m scrounging for work. Thrilled that I got two articles out (nope, three) last week. My latest can be viewed here: It’s the story on Max Said Yes about Woodstock (mentioned in an earlier post).

Now I must dredge up some more pitches for other papers, magazines etc. And now I’m excited to write some more fiction.

How’s the website you ask? Coming along, coming along…. All will be revealed soon,

Happy Monday everyone!

Cheating on a writing site

6 Aug

Mea Culpa,

I have discovered the glory that is Duotrope – a brilliantly organised site full of all kinds of wonderful lists including writing comps,  that also has a fantastic submissions tracker. And so, alas, I am abandoning my listings at Luminary Writer’s Database (please forgive me). You have served me well, but I definitely prefer Duotrope and hope the literary gods are sympathetic and understanding.

Last night I was forced back into old school techniques when my tape recorder failed me as I was interviewing people at LoveFest. My super duper digital DS-30 voice recorder that has never failed me kept demanding “memory full” and yet there were no files on the recorder. Ah, technology glitches, you’ve got to love them. And so, I pulled out ye olde pen and paper, which is fine, but difficult to write when you are interviewing people in a loud, dimly lit bar with lots of noise, music and alcohol (and not necessarily in that order). I must type up my scribbled notes before they just become a garbled mess on the page.


This morning a call to the tech centre revealed that apparently I needed to reformat my recorder, which is easy peasy to do WHEN you know how. I didn’t. But the operator did. And now I am ready to record the ramblings of happy drinking people everywhere.

Sadly, I did not meet the love of my life at LoveFest last night, but there’s a good chance I met the love of someone else’s.

It’s a glorious day in Los Angeles and I’m doing a lot of procrastinating and faffing around. Sigh… I must eat lunch as it is 4 p.m. and I haven’t done so yet. Hmm..

STS100-LAUNCH1The website is sucking me dry right now, BUT I’m becoming more and more proficient. Can’t wait till we launch! Watch this space…(no pun intended, okay maybe a little one).