Tag Archives: writing

25 Memorable Moments from RWA National Conference. #RWA14.

30 Jul

In what has now become an annual tradition – if I did it last year and I’m now doing it this year – that makes it a tradition? No? Well, then I’m compiling once again my top 25 memorable moments from RWA14, in San Antonio, Texas.

 

  1. Two hotels means 2000 exhausted writers trying to remember if their sessions are in the Rivercenter or the Riverwalk hotel.
  2. Two hotels divided by a crosswalk with the disembodied voice of a particularly stern man declaring, “WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, ad infinitum until the walk sign turns green. I wasn’t about to try and cross without his say so. Visions of a SWAT team accosting me and throwing me to the ground if I even dipped a toe in the road kept my feet firmly planted on the pavement.
  3. Nora Roberts’ three pieces of advice for writers: Stop whining and write. Stop fucking around and write. Stop making excuses and write.BtjtMIeCUAAFRAr.png-large
  4. Two agent and two editor requests for my manuscript.
  5. An additional agent request at the San Antonio airport in the departure lounge!
  6. Great agent story: Agent in #5 requested my manuscript after we spent four days bumping into each other in the elevator. We were on the same floor and seemed to be constantly running into each other to the point that we both declared we weren’t sure we could get on the elevator if the other wasn’t around. During those four days we chatted – especially about one of her clients whom I know. We both gushed about what an amazing writer she is. And so, at the airport she asked me who I had pitched to and who had requested my work. Then she said, “Why haven’t you pitched me?” I told her I was shy and wasn’t prepared to bombard agents in an elevator even though I had my “elevator pitch” prepared. Not my style. So she said well given that I knew not one but two of her clients and that we’d spent four days sharing an elevator, I should pitch her right there, in the departure lounge. So I did!
  7. Laura Drake winning the RITA for best new book. She’s the poster child for perseverance. It took her 15 years and 400 rejections to get published. How fast can you say her award was SO well deserved!

    Me and Laura Drake. RITA winner!

    Me and Laura Drake. RITA winner!

  8. Laura Drake working in a session on my tagline line for pitching that helped me land the above five manuscript requests. Where can I get my I LOVE LAURA DRAKE T-shirt. Please?
  9. LARA members Robin Bielman, Samanthe Beck and Jennifer Haymore nominated for RITAS!

    Robin Bielman and Samanthe Beck - RITA nominees!

    Robin Bielman and Samanthe Beck – RITA nominees!

  10. Their awesome RITA outfits and their fantabulous shoes that went with said outfits.
  11. Meeting the incredible Claire McEwen on the plane to San Antonio. Her publication success story – having a manuscript requested after entering a contest that she neither won nor placed in – is the stuff dreams are made of. She’s an inspiration. And an absolute sweetheart, too.
  12. Making friends with LARA members I didn’t know that well at all: Tonya Plank, Chandra Years and Cami Brite. Funny you have to go all the way to Texas to meet your neighbours.
  13. Gwendolynn Thomas. WHAT an inspiration! If you didn’t meet her, well, seek her out on Twitter. Now! @GwendolynTweets

    Gwendolynn.

    Gwendolynn.

  14. Having a major celebrity meeting freak out running into Scrivener For Dummies author and fantabulous author Gwen Hernandez.
  15. LARA’s cool headed Maggie Marr talking me off a ledge after going into a panic over a weird request from an editor.
  16. Chilling with LARA-ite Robena Grant. Definition of extreme grace and generosity. Classy too. And a fellow antipodean.
  17. LARA-ite Sarah Vance-Tompkins WINNING the Imajinn writing contest and now getting work with the incomparable Brenda Chin. Sarah, remember I knew you when… And LARA-ite Christine Ashworth placing fourth in the same contest.
  18. The new RWA breakfast policy. LOVE IT. Please keep it for next year. Thank you.
  19. Catching up with the Austin gals from last year.
  20. Hanging with Liana LeFey – the hardest working author I know. 11 books and proposals ALL of which were requested at pitches this year. When do you sleep, Liana?
  21. The entire crew who all met on the roommate seeking board earlier this year and went out for dinner and took a Riverwalk cruise together. That was oodles of fun.
  22. Author Laura Florand crammed in the elevator on a luggage cart.

    Laura Forland trapped on a luggage cart.

    Laura Florand trapped on a luggage cart.

  23. Crying at all the speakers’ speeches that reminded us why we write: to touch lives. And telling us to quell our inner voices that say we’re crap and to never give up.
  24. Coping with the 99 degree heat and 99 percent humidity outdoors while rugging up in a shawl in the air conditioned hotels indoors.
  25. Counting the days and the pennies in the hopes of attending RWA National Conference in 2015 in New York City!

Of holidays, hot springs and cold shoulders

3 Apr

They say a change is as good as a rest… or something like that. Well, I decided that a rest would be a good change. It was definitely time for a road trip  – even if it was just an overnight one, so we headed off to the hot springs in Palm Desert/Palm Springs. The reason for this was threefold:

1. We needed a holiday!

2. Excellent for cobweb clearing the mind and rebooting my editing stint (it worked, I’m feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle scenes that I’ve been avoiding – and I even wrote an entire new chapter because I realised the book needed it).

3. We went to  the hot springs because I have a FROZEN SHOULDER. It’s been going on two months now and despite physical therapy and drugs (not necessarily in that order), does not appear to be getting any better. Last week I headed off to an orthopedist who recommended a cortisone shot right in the shoulder. Hands up if you’ve had one of those? NOT fun. Almost passed out. The shot worked for about 3 hours and then – nada. I’m back to the ortho in a week so who knows what he will recommend next? I’m thinking amputation at the neck.

Anyway, the hot springs, we thought, might help the shoulder. I can safely vouch that it didn’t hurt it. Not sure if it helped. But it was lovely to get away and see some sunshine (er and then a whole lot of rain), lots of wind, and soak in hot springs. Our room overlooked one of the eight “miracle healing” pools and we could just pop  out of our little patio straight into the pool. Here’s our room with a view.

photo-60

 

 

It was also great to wander around town in the sunshine and have brunch in this sweet little garden area where the tea is served in an elephant teapot! (okay, so I brought my own tea bag (PG Tips) and they provided the hot water) but it was still lovely.

photo-61

And if it were not for Palm Springs how could I have ever known that Sancho Panza retired here?

 

photo-62

 

And then the sun disappeared, the heavens opened up and it poured with rain… But then there was a rainbow. Look closely and you’ll see it. (sorry about the car blocking the pic).

photo-63

Back in the real world again, writing again and shoulder is actually feeling a bit better this morning. No shooting pain up and down my arm, but still not able to wash my hair by myself yet. One day at a time. Back to the keyboard.

 

I’m A Morning Person

20 Feb

mornings

She says… writing this at night.

Not that this is any great revelation to me. I’m quite certain I’ve always been a morning person. Even my mum says as an 18-month-old, I”d get up at 6 a.m. and go and bang on the neighbour’s door and want them to come out and play; even in school, I’d rather study till 9 p.m. and get up at 5 a.m. and start studying again rather than stay up all night; even in drama school and the theatre where morning people are looked at askance. Yep, even when I was performing and directing and not finishing shows till 2 a.m. I’d still be up bright and early the next day.

So, it’s not as though I’m coming up with any earth shattering news here tonight, it’s just that I’m finally admitting it. Because, let’s face it. Most people HATE morning people. There’s nothing designed to put you off your day than some Pollyanna-ish goon leaping out of bed and greeting the day with vim and vigour. Ugh. I know people hate it. But there you have it, I’m one of them.

I write this because now that I’m “gainfully unemployed” – albeit temporarily methinks – as promised I’m working on doing edits on my book. So I was up bright and early (even though I’m still not sleeping well), ran errands, took the dog to the park, ran more errands, sorted out washing, sorted out emails and bills, went to the doctor and then crashed. That’s right by 3 p.m. when I resolved to start my edits I collapsed in a heap – and I’ve pretty much been doing the heap collapsing every day for the last several weeks (months) by 2 or 3 p.m.

So THAT is why I have resolved that “working on my book” time will now be mornings, starting tomorrow morning, when my brain isn’t woolly and I’m not trying to pry my eyes open with toothpicks.

There is something to be said to finally confessing to being a morning person. Hands up if you’re also a morning person. And if you’re not, please don’t hate me.

The ‘S’ Word, The ‘F’ Word and the ‘W’ Word

8 Jan

I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions per se. Jan.1  is just an arbitrary date and most resolutions are set up to fail. But this year I kind of, sort of, had a resolution socked away in the far recesses of my mind. That resolution was (and still is) to find a way to live my life surrounded by the ‘S’ word.

The ‘S’ word in question is suicide. My blog (and my life until now) have remained largely frozen in a time warp that began on October 9, 2013, when my best friend and next door neighbour, whom I saw every day for the past seven years, who was my darling dog’s surrogate “dad” chose without warning or pomp or ceremony to pick up a gun and blow his brains out.

I thought about writing the act more eloquently, more delicately, but he didn’t simply “take his own life,” he did so violently, brutally, and not only knowing that I would find him, but just to make sure I got the message, left me a hand written note. Only me. Not his mother or his brother or his two sisters or his boss or his bank manager. Me. A note addressed to me. A note seared into my brain for the rest of my life. A note that was alarmingly devoid of emotion. Short, sharp, direct with a one sentence explanation that later proved to be unfounded. Even in his final farewell he lied about the true reason behind this senseless, horrific act. Meaning, despite bits and pieces filtering through about possible motives, I’ll never REALLY know what drove him to this. Maybe he didn’t either? But I can speculate till the cows come home. Mostly, these past three months I’ve had to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other; how to get through an hour – let alone an entire day; how to live a life that was turned upside down in an instant.

I couldn’t even post on this blog that my novel had placed second in another writing contest – The Catherine. I received the news just days after my neighbour’s death. But it really was impossible to rejoice in the news at the time.

Thank goodness for all who surrounded me with love and support;  my family, friends, and synagogue community who came to visit, talk, hold my hand, bring food (naturally) and listen to me keen and wail and rant and grieve and sometimes remain catatonic.

I’m looking forward to finally starting back at work next week. But the legacy and the pain and the loss remain. They will linger. I know that. I’m not someone who has been coddled from loss. I’ve had a lot of it in my life – including losing my dad as a teenager. But suicide – that’s a whole other kettle of fish. It’s hard to come to terms with a person who chose to take their own life – especially when you know others who have fought tooth and nail to stay alive while battling cancer. Grief, anger, and a million questions that can never be answered have gone to the grave with my neighbour and best friend. For everyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, I know you know what I’m saying and what I’m feeling and justice cannot be done to those feelings in a brief blog post. But we go on. Like baby foals, we stand on wobbly legs; we fall down, we think we can’t take on the world on our spindly legs, but somehow we find a way. Because we lean on others – we do the one thing the person who decided he or she could no longer live in this world didn’t do – we reach out: to friends, to family, to loved ones, to therapists and our communities. They hold us up until we can walk again and we know they will be there to catch us when we fall – as we inevitably will. Which leads me to the “F” word.

The “F” word reminds me why I don’t believe in Jan 1. resolutions. I had wished with a fervour so strong that it shook my being, that 2013 was behind me. That we could close the door on that chapter. As if a New Year means a new start. I knew it didn’t really. I knew it was just an arbitrary date, but I wished it nonetheless. And Jan. 1 came, as promised. But on Jan. 5 we learned that a dear friend of our synagogue community was killed in a car accident on Jan. 4 and my world came crashing down again. How much grief can one person bear?

And so, today, in just a few hours I will go to a funeral. The “F” word. The funeral of a man with so much love and goodness in the world, cut down in an instant. A place where there will be so much grief and pain, but there will be support and an outpouring of love for him and his family. Unlike my neighbour – whose family chose not to have a funeral for him – I will at least be able to stand with my community and show everyone how much this dear man, killed at the beginning of this “New Year” was loved and how deeply he will be missed.

And so we come to the “W” word, which is, of course, writing. Something I was unable to do for months. But yet, here I am now writing about death and loss and grief.

Before Sunday’s tragic news of my friend’s death, I had been galvanised once more by the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association to get back to editing my novel, thanks to the Write-a-Thin (see the badge?)

Image

that was launched Jan. 1. For the first time I could concentrate for more than 10 minutes at a time and was working hard. Sunday’s news threw me off my game (naturally) and I was back in a well of grief. Everything seemed compounded.

But I do know that I am returning to my version of “normal.” I’m looking forward to returning to work, returning to writing. I’m learning to accept the obvious: that the world is not an easy or a safe place to live in; that there will always be tragedy and grief and challenges around the corner. Learning to keep going is what it is all about. And we do that by making sure we surround ourselves with people who can hold us up when we fall down. And knowing that we will do the same for them. So thank you to everyone who loves me, supports me, and is there for me no matter what. I am here for you, too.

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

Moriah College, my op-ed and Mrs Siderowitz

4 Sep

Picture 1I just received my high school’s alumni newsletter and apparently, an op-ed I wrote in the Washington Post’s On Faith column on June 13 (which just happens to be my birthday) found it’s way back to my school in Australia. It was an article in response to the Holocaust Museum killing in Washington DC. It was reprinted from the Washington Post by my journalist friend Lisa Alcalay Klug on her site Tolerant Nation and you can read it here:

Since I wrote the piece, two things have changed. The first is, as a result of that op-ed I found out that the woman I was writing about – a teacher at my school (which was also our pre-school, kindergarten, primary (American translation – elementary) and high school –  is no longer alive. I was saddened to hear it.

Secondly, the company I was working for at the time  and whom I mention in the article was an online comparative religion Web site and I was excited to be working for such an organization. Unfortunately that job lasted only two months as they failed to pay us. I still haven’t received a dime from them – hence my dire financial circumstances at this time.

However, more importantly, I’m so thrilled that my school – Moriah College (full name Mount Moriah War Memorial College) – managed to somehow come across my article and put it in our alumni newsletter.

Here’s what the Moriah Newsletter had to say:

KELLY HARTOG (1982) REMINISCES ABOUT MORIAH DAYS
A very beautiful article has been forwarded to us written by ex collegian Kelly Hartog (Class of 1982) where she writes her memories at Moriah and of Mrs Siderowitz (Z’L) after hearing of a shooting incident at a Holocaust museum in the USA. It is a really beautiful read for those wanting to reminisce.

And this was followed by a note about a tribute to Mrs Siderowitz from the alumni association. I’m not going to make it back to Sydney, Australia for the tribute, but I will be there in spirit.

TRIBUTE TO ALIZA SIDEROWITZ (Z’L)
We all remember Mrs Siderowitz who taught us Yiddish and Hebrew at Moriah as well as being the Yiddish voice on radio 2EA for so many years. We have been invited to attend a tribute to celebrate Aliza’s amazing life, her love of Yiddish and Hebrew literature and poetry, her spirit and her many contributions to Jewish culture and continuity. This weill be held on Sunday 25th October 2-5pm at B’nai Brith 22 Yurong St East Sydney. For more details on how you can contribute to this special afternoon – please see the news section of our website.

My article is an op-ed about tolerance, compassion and understanding and our school’s motto was “To Learn, To Heed, To Act.” I’d like to think that all these decades later, this op-ed in honour of the great Aliza Siderowitz came about because of the lessons learned at Moriah College when I was just a little girl.

Literary submission guidelines: to follow or not?

2 Sep

hiker-cartoon webWhen you go off to a foreign country to trek the wilds or hike a mountain in some remote, forsaken spot, people often hire a guide. That’s a guide (I believe) as in someone who makes it very clear the path you should take. She doesn’t suggest what might be best. She doesn’t cajole and coax and say “Well, I think it would be advisable if…” No. She knows what she’s talking about, she makes it clear what you should do and you follow. So I think the same should apply with guidelines. And specifically, submission guidelines for oh, let’s say, literary magazines.

So, I say all this apropos of my Web site launching very soon – watch this space. I’m absolutely delighted that submissions are coming in from all over the world and from a variety of people. Out went the emails, yahoo group posts, the blog, the Twitter, the Facebook postings and people have heard and are submitting. Hooray!

I spent a lot of time laying out the clear submission guidelines. Basic guidelines. Only send in a Word Doc. Don’t send in body of email. Double-spaced, 12 point font. Two line bio on a separate page. Thank you to everyone who followed them. But to those who have sent me poems that yell (ie all caps in bold font) in the body of the email, or those who uploaded 25,000 word zip files, or those who decided that despite the fact that the site is for poetry and FICTION only sent me their life stories, their personal musings on everything from thumbs to divorce, I say:

  • Did you not read the guidelines?
  • Did you think I didn’t mean what I said?
  • Could you just not be bothered?
  • Did you think you were allowed to be the exception to the rule?
  • Do you think guidelines are just a “jumping off” point and that even though your submissions don’t meet some, one, or any of the criteria it doesn’t matter?
  • Do you think I wrote these for my own amusement?
  • Are you testing me to see if I’m upholding my own standards?

As a writer, you need to do two things: write, and what’s the second one? Oh yes, read. And if you can’t read or follow guidelines, what does that say about you as a writer? If your reading and comprehension skills are sloppy then in all likelihood your writing will be too.

And you’ll probably be the type of tourist who heads out to the Kalahari desert and leaves your guide behind.

Right. I’m done venting. Good night to all.

I look forward to more submissions as per the guidelines!

Does anyone else have this problem? Why oh why don’t people follow the guidelines?

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:

URGENT: THIS IS ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY YOUR LAST CHANCE TO GUARANTEE NO BREAK IN SERVICE

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.

A very tall man looking for a very small child

30 Aug

Ah, the Interweb. The bane of my existence. Love it or loathe it, few of us can live without it, and I pretty much make my living on it. Writing, editing, researching, it’s all done on my MacBook, and thanks to brilliant techie geeks who somehow know how to get all this information to shoot across the universe. I’ve always been one of those people that doesn’t care how it works, as long as it does work.

So, when I found out that my D-Link router (that had served me faithfully for five years) wasn’t working and was no longer under warranty and I’d have to pay for advice to hook me back up to the world-wide spider web, I finally bit the bullet and attempted to hook up my Airport Express. Granted, I’d bought it about three months ago, but on the first try it wouldn’t work and I figured I’d just wait to try again.

a-woman-showing-frustration-at-her-computer-~-pgi0318Finally that day arrived (thank you D-Link non-free advice people), but still, despite my basic grasp of tech-dom I could not get the Airport Express to work. Now, I’m not a big swearer, but something about losing my link to the computerized world gets me in a terrible state and I find myself using and abusing all kinds of expletives (sorry Mum). I cursed the computer, Apple, Steve Jobs, my desk and anything within cursing range. And finally I called the Mac experts (God bless Apple Care – you should all invest).

And that’s when I met Russell (on the phone of course), and Russell went through all the motions  I went through and also couldn’t get it to work. This made me happy momentarily, because at least it meant I wasn’t being obtuse, if even Russell the mac guy couldn’t fix it. Of course, it meant I still had not Internet access, unless – heaven forfend! – I used an Ethernet cable. The horror of it!

And then, Russell suddenly said, “How far is your Airport Express base from your computer?” I said, “About a foot.” And he said, “Try moving your computer at least three or four feet away.” Which I did, and voila, it worked!

Then Russell, mac guru and apparently philosopher said gravely: “When setting this up, the base was just too close to the computer, so it couldn’t tell it was there. It’s like a very tall man looking around for a very small child and realizing that he’s standing at his feet but he’s looking all around instead of looking straight down.”

father-daughterI’d like you all to know that my very tall man and my very short child are now happily reunited and we’re back to living in Mac harmony. Thank you for today’s philosophy lesson, Russell. May you and  your Mac/philosophy skills go far.

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!