Friday, December 30, 2005

I am a Scorpio, My Lover is a Cancer

To see if you and your lover match up as well as me and my darling, check out Astrology Zone.

Here's what it says about my marriage:

Are you in love with a Cancer? Then you have chosen one of your best possible matches. This pairing gets a "10!" Your Cancer is as deeply emotional and empathetic as you are, and together you will develop a rich, intimate life unequalled by any other sign match (except for Pisces and Scorpio). Both of you have your moods, but you allow that in one another, and view the changing emotional landscape as interesting and adding texture to your life. Cancer is a water sign like you, and your lover understands the need for strong, intuitive bonding. Of the two, you are the more inflexible, but Cancer's ability to flow with changing events will be an asset to you.

Sex together will be outstanding. Cancers want a family, and Scorpio rules procreation, so this could well be a very fruitful union. Cancer also rules nurturing, so you will have the kind of home life you always dreamed of.

Now a word of warning: Scorpios want one great love in their lifetime, so if they marry the wrong person due to pressures and circumstances, the results can be disastrous. Prince Charles is a Scorpio and was married to Princess Diana, who was a Cancer. But his true love was the other Cancer -- Camilla. So here you see a Cancer-Scorpio pair that did not last. The moral, Scorpio, is to be sure that you marry your one true love. Even compatible Sun signs can't override that rule!

A Cancer in love, whether in the beginning or after years of life together, offers food as an expression of love. So cook together, feed one another, make love in the kitchen. Have fun! You've got lots to look forward to, Scorpio. Don't let this one get away!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Fern Meyerowitz



Today is Fern’s birthday. She would have been 47 years old.

We met in college. My cousin Cindy introduced us. She had told me she met this amazing girl during orientation, and knew we would be best friends. I was skeptical, of course. I barely knew myself at that point, and had a hard time believing Cindy could pick a stranger from a crowd and know I would love her.

It took exactly one meeting for Fern and I to figure out that Cindy was right. Within minutes, we had collapsed into one another in laughter and become best friends. It took twenty-five years for fate to tear us apart.

We had a big, messy, complicated friendship all those years. Fern could be as demanding as she was funny, as stubborn as she was charming. But she changed me forever. And while she wasn’t always the easiest person to be friends with, she was fiercely loyal, and I never knew a friend could love me so much or believe in me or deeply. Some people said Fern had magic, and I think they were right.

When I got the news that Fern had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I was confident she could beat it, as I couldn’t imagine there was any force on Earth stronger than her. But I was wrong. And in summer 2002, Fern was gone.

I still think about Fern a lot, and sometimes I consider trying to write about her—I mean really write about her. So far, though, I either haven’t enough talent or enough distance to capture her spirit on paper. The closest I’ve come is to write about my grief, which I did in a Flashquake piece called “How to Say Good-Bye to Fern.”

When we first met, Fern and I thought we were mirror images of one another. But over the years we came to learn that we were as different as we were alike. Take spirituality, for example. Fern was a believer. I remain a skeptic. So even though she trusted in reincarnation with all her heart, I’m still not so sure. I do know, though, that if anyone could find a way to make sure their spirit sticks around, it would be Fern.

So my darling friend, if you’re out there somewhere, Happy Birthday. I miss you so very much.



1/26/07 - EDITED TO ADD:

Dear Visitor,
My site meter shows that people sometimes find their way to this blog because they typed Fern's name into a search engine. This makes me smile, because I know it would mean so much to Fern to know she's still thought about. If you'd like, feel free to treat this blog post as an ongoing memorial. You can share a comment about Fern--some memory or just a note on how you met or what she meant to you--by clicking on "comments," below.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

For updated posts, click the blog title at the top of this page

"The Raving"

A Mother's Chilling Post-Holiday Tale




By Ellen Meister
(with apologies to Edgar Allan Poe)

Once upon an evening dreary, while I toiled, weak and weary
Over many a desperate dirty dishrag and forgotten chore,
While I leaned down limply lugging toys from off the carpet rugging
Suddenly there came a tugging, tugging at the skirt I wore.
"'Tis some little kid," I muttered, smoothing out the skirt I wore,
"Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
Action dolls not yet dismembered lay across the playroom floor.
Each new toy was still unbroken, yet the child still was pokin'
And the only word there spoken was the whining more, "S'more."
This he whispered then his sister murmured back the word, "S'more."
Only this they did implore.

Then the silly, sad, incessant clangor of the season's presents
Chilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now to still the beating of my heart I stood repeating,
"Darling children, I am pleading, let's return some to the store--
Darling children, I'm entreating, let us give some to the poor."
Still they said, "We want s'more."

"You still want more?" I blurted feeling slightly dizzy, my head reeling,
"Get thee back into the playroom where your playthings line the floor!
Go before I need to yank you! Go before I want to spank you!
Leave my kitchen and I'll thank you not to ask for any more.
Take thy sighs from out my sight and thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the child, "I want more."

And the child, so demanding, still is standing, still is standing
Near a portion of my pantry just beside the kitchen door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming
Sights of toys and trinkets gleaming on the shelves of every store.
Unaffected with respect to his demands for even more,
Quoth I, the mother, "Never more!"

* * *

This poem first appeared in Light Quarterly

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Beginner's Guide to Hanukkah


Jonathan Safran Foer had a hilarious piece on the op-ed page of The New York Times today. You can read it here.

(Tip: If the link appears too small to read, click on the lower right hand corner of the image to enlarge.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

2005 was the year that I ...

In the face of the horrific global disasters this year brought, I feel a little guilty listing my personal triumphs. But it was a good year for me indeed, and I'm thankful for that. And anyway, without guilt I am nothing.

So here's the way I finish the sentence, "2005 was the year that I ..."

* Saw my oldest son--the boy I once feared would never speak--become a Bar Mitzvah and read from the torah to a weeping congregation of friends and relatives

* Had a party celebrating the sale of my first novel

* Sold my second novel

* Got a new laptop

* Bought a new minivan

* Celebrated my grandmother's 95th birthday with her

* Started a blog

* Lost my best friend to mental illness; got her back again


Thanks for checking in. Wishing you joy and peace and beautiful things for the New Year!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The inscrutability of Google

One of the interesting things about having a site meter attached to this blog is that I can see how someone found their way here. For instance, if they went through a search engine, I can see the actual word or phrase they used.

Sometimes this gets nauseating, as the pornographic search phrases people come up with are beyond my understanding of human sexuality. But other times it's just perplexing. For instance, if you Google "December Horoscopes," you will get 44,800 hits, and my dinky little blog comes up at number 5. I did indeed post an entry with that title. But why is my blog higher than so many hundreds of dedicated Zodiac sites?

I wonder how many Google hits I'd get if I titled an entry "Great American Novel"? Probably not as many as if I used "desperate housewife amputees with naked barnyard friends."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

ABC Hires Jew-Hater Mel Gibson to Produce Mini-Series on Holocaust

From The New York Times:
...Quinn Taylor, ABC's senior vice president in charge of movies for television, acknowledged that the attention-getting value of having Mr. Gibson attached to a Holocaust project was a factor.

"Controversy's publicity, and vice versa," Mr. Taylor said.

Read more here.


What's next? A biopic on Menachem Schneerson by Louis Farrakhan?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

It pleases me!

I was recently thrilled and flattered to be contacted by fellow writer Thea Atkinson, who teaches a class on flash fiction and wanted to use a story I wrote for discussion with her students. The story is called "Does it Please You?," and it appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, one of my favorite ezines. For you flash writers out there, it's great place to be seen. Submit!

Eva and my book jacket

The girl on my cover might have my hair, but she's got Eva Longoria's face, don't you think?


Thursday, December 01, 2005

December Horoscopes

You got to love a horoscope that starts out like this:

This may turn out to be the most joyous holiday you've had in recent memory. With Jupiter, the planet of happiness and good fortune, now in Scorpio for a year - a placement it began to occupy in late October - you have suddenly become the cosmic favorite. Opportunities for greater love, better health, and substantial job opportunities will all be yours. This month, thanks to the new moon that's set to arrive December 1, good news about your salary should come through, too.

Alas, it also says I'm going to get hit with a whopping bill this month. Oh well.

This is from Astrology Zone, the same place I linked last month. Read yours here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Me and my book jacket

Coincidence? Or did someone show the illustrator a picture of my hairdo? I've never met the artist or the designer, so I honestly don't know. But I suspect it's just happenstance.

Weird, though. Nearly creepy.



Tuesday, November 29, 2005

200 Pages!

I've been toiling away at my second novel, THE SMART ONE, and today I hit the halfway mark. Hooray! I think I'll take myself out to lunch.

I'll bring pages to edit, of course.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Quiction

My friend and fellow writer, Ray Collins, has made it his personal mission to bring flash fiction to the people though a labor of love he calls Quiction Online. This week's edition features work by Donia Carey, David Coyote, G.C. Smith and Julie Balloo, as well as a story by yours truly called, "Stuck," which originally appeared in Hobart #4.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Runaway Mom

On Friday I ran away from home.

Alas, it wasn't exactly a dramatic escape. It was a pre-planned day and night so that I could catch up on my novel writing. Since my parents are in town and had volunteered to watch the kids, it was a rare opportunity to get away.

I had made reservations at an out-of-the-way hotel on the north fork of Long Island, facing Peconic Bay. I thought it would be romantic in a writerly sort of way to be all alone on a chill night, facing the deserted windswept beach as I wrote. Since I'm not a spur-of-the-moment kind of gal, I had reserved my room in advance, mapped out driving directions, and spoken at length with the front desk about assuring me an early check-in time.

But even the best laid plans gang aft agley. (See? I really am a writer!) When I got to the hotel, which was really a sharp right turn from the ass end of nowhere, the place was deserted. The office was dark and empty. The parking lot only had one car besides mine, and a thorough search of the grounds revealed that it belonged to a cleaning lady who didn't speak a word of English. She did, however, rummage through the office desk until she found the home phone number of the woman who was supposed to be at the front desk. I used my cell and tried to reach her, but to no avail. So I waited and waited, and finally gave up. Then I drove to a big, plush, fancy Hilton nearer my home.

So, despite losing a few hours writing time, perhaps it worked out for the best. Being alone in a luxurious room with my laptop and a live line to room service was really just what this writer needed. And now, instead of being behind schedule on my novel, I'm a little bit ahead.

Is there a moral to this story? I'm not really sure. Maybe it's just that a king-sized bed and room service is a damned good alternative to a surfside view.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

My favorite holiday



I'm smiling today, as I have much to be thankful for. And also, you got to love a holiday that's all about food and family and more food, with all the poignancy and none of the pressure associated with religious celebrations.

Blessings, everyone! Here's something to enjoy today:
Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Monty Python's Flying Groupies



This weekend I had a reunion with my high school buddies, Linda, Marlene and Bette. We spent a good amount of time reminiscing about our exploits as Monty Python fanatics, plugging the gaps in each other's memories.

"Were you there the day we sneaked backstage during rehearsals of their Broadway show?"

"No! Where the hell was I?"

"Her parents sent her to stay with an aunt in Pennsylvania that summer, remember?"

"Oh, right."


That particular memory was the highlight of our little group's fandom (and poor Linda missed it). We were suburban girls, and had bridge and tunneled our way into Manhattan during the rehearsals of the Pythons' Broadway show (can somebody please remind me what it was called?). We stood in front of the locked doors of the theater (Winter Garden?) trying to devise a way to sneak in, when we saw a delivery boy try the doors and then head for the side entrance. We followed him right in.

Ballsy little chicks that we were, we parked ourselves right behind Terry Jones and Terry Gillian, who were shouting directions to the folks on stage setting up the scenery. We struck up a conversation, and eventually they asked if we wanted to go across the street for a beer. We cleared our schedules and joined them. Of course, we were underage, so we had to have sodas instead of beers, but we felt terribly grownup.

Several years later, I wound up spending a college semester in London. Somehow, I got Terry Jones's home telephone number (how did I manage that?), and called him on some pretense that escapes me. I know that it resulted in an invitation to a pre-release private screening of "Life of Brian," and later to a dinner invitation at his home, where I joined him and his wife (Allison?) and a friend who, as I recall, was "an American writer chap" who had once interviewed John Lennon for Rolling Stone.

More interesting than all these memories--and a topic we didn't get around to discussing at our reunion brunch--was why we seized on the Monty Python troupe with such devotion. I know that teenagers latch onto celebrities--usually rock stars--with a kind of idolization you just don't see in adults. Not healthy adults, anyway. I have to believe that hormones play a role in this, as teenagers feel things with an almost pathological intensity. They don't like and dislike, they LOVE and HATE. So I understand that there's no line between a fan and being a rabid fanatic, especially if your friends share the passion. Then it just crescendoes.

But. Why Monty Python? Why not The Grateful Dead or The Doobie Brothers or the Eagles or Bruce Springsteen? What was it about this oddball British comedy show that inspired our worship? They were funny, sure, but there had to be more to it than that. Maybe it was because they weren't a rock group. Perhaps idolizing musicians seemed too normal, too much like something other kids did. We felt so fringe, the four of us. There was no place for us to fit in, except with each other. So maybe we were drawn to Terry, Terry, John, Michael, Graham and Eric because they created a world where you didn't have to fit in. They made oddness king. That was important to us back then. I hope it still is.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Stage Fright

It's countdown time and I need your help, dear reader. My first real personal appearance as an author is almost upon me, and I'm fraught with anxiety. I'm not just doing a signing or a reading, but giving an actual speech, which is what has me in a tizzy. Any nonchemical-based tips on how to deal with stage fright are most welcome!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

My book jacket!

I've been dying to post this for WEEKS and just got the okay. So it's official. This is my cover. Do you love it? I do!



(for larger view, click on image, and then click again in lower right corner)

(Edited to add: my 13-year-old informs me that you only need to do that lower right corner click on Internet Explorer. "Firefox is way easier," says he. Live and learn.)

P.S. You can now leave a comment on my blog even if you don't have a blogger account.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

It's Official

My second book deal has been announced in Publishers Marketplace, the trade journal where such things are listed:

Fiction:
General/Other
Ellen Meister's THE SMART ONE, in which three sisters trying to shake their childhood labels of "the smart one," "the pretty one" and "the wild one," discover that there's no place like home (even after finding a dead body in an industrial drum beneath the house next door), again to Carrie Feron at Morrow, for publication in 2007, by Andrea Cirillo and Annelise Robey at the Jane Rotrosen Agency. arobey@janerotrosen.com


For a bit of backstory on this book, click here.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I need to whine today

I'm cranky today, really feeling tired of the way so many writers let jealousy blacken their hearts. I belong to an online writers' group where most of the folks are truly supportive. But in the past week, three different writers have made it their business to lash out at me. The latest came in the form of a review of some chapters I posted. It was so unnecessarily mean that it just broke my heart. I wasn't insulted by her comments about the chapters, as her points were foolish and lame, and really made little sense. Indeed, her criticisms were so obnoxious and pervasive, it was clear she was hell bent on wounding me. But why? I've never had any dealings with this woman. I can only surmise that it's my success that has her so angry.

And then today I read an entry in Tess Gerritsen's blog, where she complains about critics putting her down for being "too commercial." Essentially, they're angry that she's successful. (I just read her latest, Vanish, and can't imagine that anyone who enjoys thrillers could seriously complain about her writing, which is pitch perfect.)

So bleh. All this pettiness has me in a bad mood.

Okay, I'll go play with my kids now. They have such lovely hearts.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

insolent ME



On January 1st, the utterly delicious and sadly missed flash fiction ezine, insolent rudder, will relaunch with a glorious new issue. I'm proud to announce that it will include a interview with yours truly. For a sneak peak, click here.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Sleepover


Yesterday my oldest son slept at a friend's house. And even though the mom is a friend I know and trust, I had a dream last night that my boy was taken away on the back of someone's motorcycle, and then sold for slavery. Sorry this next part is so disgusting, but when I learned what happened to him, I screamed and screamed and screamed until my mouth filled with pus.

*sigh*

There should be a word stronger than love for the way we feel about our kids.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Come hear me speak!


I'm not sure I have anything interesting to say, but if you want to hear my Long Island accent for yourself, you can come to the Suburban Temple in Wantagh, NY on Wednesday, November 16, where I'll be the guest speaker. Come for dinner, and see if can make it through without spilling anything on myself. It might actually be quite entertaining. I'll even do a reading from SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA, if I can find more than two consecutive pages that are clean enough to read in a synagogue. Festivities begin around 7 pm. For details, contact Glen Held at hfamfive@aol.com

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Progress update on both books

Today's page count: 150

I'm plugging away at my second novel, THE SMART ONE, which is due this July. I guess that might sound like a lot of time to some people, but I'm not an especially fast writer. I'm just not the type who can throw it onto the page in any old form and then go back later to fix it. Call me anal, but I have to hammer away paragraph by paragraph, editing as I go. That's not to say I don't do revisions later on, it's just that it has to feel right for me to proceed.

The other day I got kind of jammed up on one of my minor characters, and with this deadline looming, that makes me panic. I just don't have time to wrestle with these things. On the other hand, the thought of sacrificing quality for speed makes me crazy, so I forced myself to focus hard and take a couple of days to rethink this character, and I finally feel better about him. I just wasn't relating to him before--didn't get who he was. But I changed him into somebody else, and that's made all the difference. So I'm moving forward again.

Anyway, I'm on Chapter 14 now, and haven't shown anything to my agents since Chapter 6, so I hope I'm on the right track here. I'm working toward one particular scene before I send it off for their input. I should get to that pretty soon--either in this chapter or the next.

In other news, I'm close to having an approved cover for SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA. Everyone loves what the designer and illustrator did with my suggestion for using a Lichtenstein-esque visual, including me. I'm so thrilled with the cover that I wish I could show it to you today! But I think they're still experimenting with one color element. I'll post it the very second I can. In the meantime, don't forget that you can pre-order the book from Amazon.com today (and be the first on your block to own one!).

I also found out that they're going to need my book jacket author photo by the end of December, so I have to get right on that. Since I can't go back in time and have the picture taken ten years ago, I'll have to find a talented photographer who isn't a stickler for sharp focus.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA on Amazon!

Today I was stunned to discover that my book is available for pre-order from Amazon.com. That's ten months ahead of the pub date! Friends, I don't even have a copyediting schedule yet. (I do, however, have a cover, so hooray! I don't think I'm allowed to post it yet, as it hasn't been officially signed off on. But check back again next week.) Anyway, if you're the type who really likes to plan ahead, feel free to order now. :)
Click here

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hilarious new television show:

The Office

I'm not going to say every TV show I like gets cancelled, but I will say every TV show I like that's this smart and funny gets cancelled. (Two great examples are Sports Night and Buffalo Bill.) So this is a totally self-serving post, as I'd love to get viewership up so this show stays on the air. Please, give this a shot. I promise there's nothing sitcom-y about it. It's completely character-driven, and zeroes in on the relationships between these hilarious, authentic, offbeat (yet recognizable) individuals. It's on NBC on Tuesday night. To see a clip, click The Office, and then click videos. The one called "Sexual Harassment" is particularly hilarious. Hell, they all are. I'm telling you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

If you're clicking over here from Richard's blog ...

I just want to go on record as saying that while Richard Lewis is a talented writer and one of the nicest guys I know, I think he's wrong for trying to publicly "out" anonymous lit agent/blogger, Miss Snark. She provides an invaluable service to the writing community, and I respect her desire to remain anonymous. I also think it does an irresponsible disservice to the agent he wrongly names.

Okay, that's all I'm going to say on the subject. My apologies to my non-writer friends for this cryptic post.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A George Clooney dream


My dreams have such obvious symbolism it's almost embarrassing. And it's been this way as long as I can remember. In fact, back in high school, a friend who thought my dream messages were blatant enough to be comic called them "Ellen's Gilligan's Island dreams."

So okay. With that set-up, here's my dream from last night, which should be pretty obvious to anyone who knows the history of my selling a book with George Clooney's name in the title, and then having the rug pulled out from under me when I found out I couldn't use his name, but enjoying a happy resolution in the end with a great, new title ...

I was in a building with a friend waiting for George Clooney to show up. Clooney hadn't met me before, but knew the woman who wrote the book about him would be there, and expected me to greet him. So I rushed up to him when he entered, but my friend got in front and introduced herself first, irritating me for stealing the attention. Still, I was able to introduce myself and talk to him.

Later, I learned that someone had remodeled a bathroom in the attic over the room we were in, but hadn't yet installed a staircase. So to see it, you had to climb up this very, very long ladder and peer inside through a hole in the floor. Clooney was already up there, and I wanted to be up there, too, so I could get a peek. When George Clooney came down, I climbed all the way up the ladder. I wasn't afraid of climbing the ladder, which surprised me as it was so high, but I was wary about walking around in the room being remodeled, as the floor might not be sturdy. I didn't have to worry about it, though, because when I got to the top of the ladder, Clooney lifted it up from the bottom and rotated it so I could see the whole room, which thrilled me. But later, when I
was in the room upstairs, I found that Clooney had taken the ladder away. Fortunately, I was somehow able to get back down, and then helped some other women who were having trouble getting down.

And that's it. If you think it requires interpretation, be my guest. If not, go ahead and giggle.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Life Imitates Seinfeld

or "Why We Get Home Delivery of The Wall Street Journal"


Again and again, I find that life imitates Seinfeld. Perhaps that's the genius of the show. At any rate, I was reminded of it recently when I saw the episode where Kramer returns his fruit and is banished forever from his favorite produce market.

When we first moved to Long Island, my husband started buying his Wall Street Journal from the newsstand at our train station. The first day he picked up the 75 cent paper and handed the man a dollar, he received two dimes and a nickel change. The next day, same thing. On the third day, a woman in front of my husband paid for her paper with quarters, but still the man gave my husband two dimes and a nickel.

"Why don't you give me a quarter?" my husband asked.

"Why do you mess up my papers?" the man shot back.

"Mess up your papers?"

"You never take the top copy."

"Uh, yeah. That's true, I always take the second one."

The man wagged his finger. "A bad habit, my friend."

With three days of dimes and nickels jangling in his pocket, my husband shrugged and went on his way, thinking the guy needed to lighten up. After all, didn't everyone take the second paper?

The next day my husband decided he'd beat the newsstand man at his own game, and paid in dimes and nickels. The man just glared.

This went on for several weeks--my husband taking the second paper, the kiosk man never giving him a quarter, my husband giving him back his dimes and nickels every fourth day. The tension built until one day the kiosk man upped the ante and gave my husband his change in just nickels.

What did he hope to accomplish? Did he think my husband would call a truce at that point and start taking the top paper? No way. By this point there was principle at stake. This is America, damnit, and if someone wants to take the second paper, he does.

The man continued to give my husband nickels for the next two days. And as you probably guessed, on the fourth day my husband grabbed the second paper from the top and gave the newsstand man fifteen nickels.

The man looked down at the change in his hand, nostrils flaring. My husband smirked and walked away, but the man threw down the changed and yelled after him, "You are a bad man! You cannot buy your newspaper here anymore! You ... are ... BANNED!"

We've been getting home delivery ever since.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Why I'm not blogging much:

My horoscope tells all

No sooner do I start this blog than I realize that if I don't write a chapter a week between now and this summer, there's no way I'll make deadline on my new novel, THE SMART ONE. According to my horoscope, this is a good thing:



You will be highly creative and productive this month, especially when you are in solitude, so don't allow anyone to pull you out of your cocoon into the real world. It's your time to center yourself, because what is to come to you soon will change everything. You need to be ready - this is your month to do the deep thinking necessary to make the coming period a roaring success.

Thanks to Susan Henderson for the link to this excellent horoscope site.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

My To Do List



What does it say about a person if they add something to their To Do List after they've already done it, just so they can cross it off?

On second thought, don't answer that.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

President Stupid


Just had to share this:
Presidential Speech

Should I thank this friend in my acknowledgments?

I need a little advice here.

When I wrote my first novel, I got a tremendous amount of help and feedback from a very dear friend whose name I will not reveal here. She was smart, gentle and insightful. Of course, it was always my intention to thank her in my acknowledgments.

Several months ago, however, for reasons that are still unclear to me, this friend dropped me like a hot ball of wax. She politely told me she was just too busy for the friendship. It was hurtful, but I’m a big girl and a busy mama, and got on with it. However, she followed this up with a few passive-aggressive attacks. This was excruciating, as I wouldn’t have hurt her for all the Hershey’s Kisses in the world, and have no idea why she would want to do that to me.

Again, I turned the other cheek and got on with it, as there was nothing else I could do. (That’s the infuriating thing about passive-aggressive attacks. You can’t stick up for yourself—you can’t even argue—because the attacker will always respond with a righteous, Moi? I meant no harm!)

Still, I intended to thank her in my acknowledgments, because no matter what else came after, her help with the book was undeniable.

Now, as you probably know, I’ve sold another book. And since this individual was such a huge part of the first book, I thought she’d like to know. Keep in mind that though we rarely correspond these days, we do maintain a cordial rapport. So, even though I knew she had already heard the news, I gave her the courtesy of dropping her a line to let her know. She never answered back, which I take as the final statement on this friendship. Am I hurt? You betcha. Because regardless of what transpired between us, there’s no force on heaven or earth that would have kept me from congratulating her if the shoe were on the other foot.

So now, dear reader, I need some opinions. Since the role she played in the book is not diminished, do I stick with my original plan and thank her in the acknowledgments, or just forget she ever existed?

To make this a little more complicated, including her in the acknowledgments is not necessarily taking the high road, as I’m pretty sure she would prefer not to be mentioned. So in a sense, if I wanted to sink to her level of passive-aggression, I would not only include her, but print her name in bold type.

What would you do in my shoes?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Thomas Edison's Heavenly Outbox

This is a silly story that appeared a few years ago in the now-defunct Haypenny.


Thomas Edison's Heavenly Outbox

By Ellen Meister


To: psychpop1@heaven.god
From: sparkyedison@heaven.god

Sigmund,
Good to hear from you, and glad to know that things have finally calmed down for you now that Dostoevsky has transferred out of your sector. I know what you mean about the Russians. Once in a while you just want to say, lighten up.

But I have to disagree with you about Marilyn Monroe. I am not “obsessed” with her. If you want to know what obsessed looks like, go see your friend Ben Franklin. He was drooling all over her at a party last week at Oscar Wilde’s. Even James Dean was rolling his eyes. And then Franklin pretends like he’s my best friend, asking me to explain again about semi-conductors and have I seen what they’re doing down there these days with flat screens.

And speaking of James Dean, did your hear what he said? He said heaven’s like high school with wings. Everyone was rofl, especially Wilde, who must have giggled for twenty minutes. A little excessive, I think. But draw your own conclusions.

So what do you think about me and Marilyn? Should I call her or what?

-TAE


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To: bigben@heaven.god
From: sparkyedison@heaven.god

Ben,
No, I had no idea G assigned you and Marilyn to watch over the filming of a Hollywood movie down there. When did this happen? Anyway, congrats. Sounds like a lot of fun.

I’d love to let you “pick my brain,” as you say, about light and sound. But I’m kind of busy myself these days as G has me watching over the sick and dying in a remote Amazon village. Not as glam as making sure Tobey Maguire gets his due, but somebody’s got to ease the pain, right? Anyway, I’m attaching some documents that should answer your questions.

Send my best to Marilyn.

-TAE


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To: normajeane@heaven.god
From: sparkyedison@heaven.god

Dear Marilyn,
I hear you and Ben Franklin are assigned to watch over the making of a Hollywood movie. So glad you’re back “in the game.” It must be very exciting for you!

Anyways, just wanted to tell you that I’d be happy to let you “pick my brain” if you have any questions about light and sound. As you may have heard, I know a thing or two about those areas, having invented the light bulb, the phonograph, moving pictures, etc.

Best,
Sparky


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To: psychpop1@heaven.god
From: sparkyedison@heaven.god

Sigmund,
Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you. A monsoon hit the village I’m watching and I’ve been crazy busy guiding souls to their final reward.

But anyway, guess who I saw mingling spirits the other day? Oscar Wilde and James Dean. I KNEW something was going on between those two!

Once again, I have to disagree with you about me and Marilyn. My attraction for her has nothing to do with my mother. (Have you SEEN my mother?) Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, Sigmund.

-TAE


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To: bigben@heaven.god
From: sparkyedison@heaven.god

Ben,
Too bad you had trouble opening those attachments I sent. Have you tried downloading Acrobat Reader?

-TAE


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To: normajeane@heaven.god
From: sparkyedison@heaven.god

Dear Marilyn,
I guess you’re right. It’s probably not necessary to understand all that “science-y stuff” when you’re just trying to help people. But no, I don’t think it would help to go to Sigmund for psychological insights into the movie stars. He can get pretty technical and hard-to-follow sometimes. And anyway, he’s just going to tell you that they all feel guilty about wanting to sleep with their own mothers.

Been extra-busy lately easing the pain and suffering of the living, and guiding departed souls to heaven. But it’s rewarding work, and I’m flattered G chose me to do it.

Wanna go out for coffee sometime?

Best,
Sparky

P.S. Did I ever tell you how great I thought you were in “Bus Stop”?


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To: wilde1@heaven.god
From: sparkyedison@heaven.god

Oscar,
Yes, I may have mentioned to Sigmund that I saw you and James Dean mingling spirits. But I was not JUDGING you. I think it’s great. You guys look swell together.

-TAE


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To: wilde1@heaven.god
From: sparkyedison@heaven.god

Oscar,
I’m glad we cleared the air, too. And no, I didn’t know that Sigmund and Marilyn have been seen paling around together lately. Are you sure about this?

-TAE


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To: bigben@heaven.god
From: sparkyedison@heaven.god

Ben,
Were you ever able to open those documents I sent? Hope so, because I’ve attached some others that may interest you.

By the way, I’ve been hearing rumors about Marilyn lately. Is it true she’s seeing Freud (and not as a patient)? Boy, talk about a mismatch!

-TAE


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To: psychpop1@heaven.god
From: sparkyedison@heaven.god

Sigmund,
No, I don’t think it’s big of you to “confess” that you and Marilyn have been dating since she went to you for advice on Tobey Maguire. In fact, it sounds more to me like boasting.

And I can’t help but wonder … what was your relationship like with YOUR mother?

-TAE


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To: normajeane@heaven.god
From: sparkyedison@heaven.god

Marilyn,
Once again, I think your boyfriend, “Siggy,” is reading too much into things. You and I don’t have anything to “work out.” It’s not like we ever dated or anything.

And thanks for letting me know that you two think Janis Joplin and I would make a “nice couple.” Frankly, it’s really none of your business who I go out with, even if she did tell you she thinks I’m “cute in a geeky sort of way.”

Have a nice afterlife.

-TAE


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To: rockchick@heaven.god
From: sparkyedison@heaven.god

Dear Janis,
I got your G-mail address from James Dean, who tells me you have an abiding interest in the rain forests of South America. Did you know that G has me watching over an Amazon village? If you don’t mind, I’d love an opportunity to “pick your brain.” Do you think we can meet sometime?

Rock on,
Thomas Alva Edison
________________________________________________________________________________


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Literary handbags

Check it out. There's this company that actually makes handbags from books. Pretty cool eh? I'm thinking of getting one.



Note that they can make these to order, so I'm trying to think of what might be a fun title to make a purse from. Remember Abbie Hoffman's "Steal This Book"? Might confuse the hell out of purse snatchers. Other suggestions?

See more samples at Rebound Designs

Friday, September 23, 2005

George Clooney is coming to New York



Actually, he's probably already here, touting the premiere of his new film, "Good Night, and Good Luck," at the New York Film Festival.

If you have happen to run into him, can you tell him it's probably not too late to give his permission to use his name in the title of my book? He can reach me through this blog. Or at ellenmeister (at) hotmail.com. Or he can just pop in at my house, unannounced. But he should do it soon, before my husband gets home. (Hey, I'm just being a considerate wife. You know how boring it gets for the spouse when people talk shop, right?)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

And speaking of Dorothy Parker ...


My latest online story, Sub-Zero, published in the fabulous Opium Magazine (bookmark it!), owes much to the voice Dorothy Parker captured in the short story this blog is named for, "From the Diary of a New York Lady."

*bows to Miss Parker and backs out of the room*

Monday, September 19, 2005

A second book deal!




I’m happy to announce that I’ve accepted an offer on my second novel, THE SMART ONE. Yippee!

More about the deal in a minute, but first a bit of backstory on the book. Several years ago, there was a news story on Long Island that captured my attention. A homeowner was getting ready to move out of his Jericho house when the buyer insisted he get rid of the 55-gallon industrial drum in the crawl space out back. The sanitation department wouldn’t take it without knowing its contents, so the seller had to open it, as the drum was there when he moved in and he had no idea what it contained.

Together with his realtor, the seller pried the lid off and made a gruesome discovery: the barrel contained the mummified body of a young pregnant woman.

An extensive police investigation identified the woman as an employee of the home’s original owner, who had since moved to Florida. After questioning the elderly man and telling him they’d be back for a sample of his DNA, he shot himself in the head. Of course, his DNA later proved that he was the father of the dead woman’s fetus.

This all happened so close to home that I couldn’t get it out of my mind and knew I had to wrap it into a novel. At the same time, I’d been thinking quite a bit about writing a sister story, exploring the family dynamic and understanding what kind of role that plays in self-image. The two ideas linked and I wound up with a proposal for a book I call THE SMART ONE. And while I borrow many facts from the real life story, it’s essentially a fictional tale, and more about the relationship between these sisters than the murder. So don’t feel like I’ve already given away the ending. This book is not a mystery.

Here’s a quick synopsis, which I’ll continue to refine:

Former artist Bev Bloomrosen is about to start her new career as a schoolteacher when she and her two sisters find a body in an industrial drum beneath their neighbor's house. On their Oz-like journey to discovering the identity of the murdered woman, they meet two dwarves, one carpenter and a comedy writer who loses his heart to Bev. With the help of her sisters, she is finally able to return his love, and learns that there is indeed no place like home… even if you live next door to a murderer.

THE SMART ONE will be published in hardcover by Morrow/Avon, the same company publishing SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA this summer. With any luck, this new book will be on the schedule for a summer '07 release.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Katrina Photo Journal: new link

Sorry that previous link to the photo journal of Hurricane Katrina went down so soon after I posted it. Here's a new link that works (for now, anyway):
Katrina

Thanks again to Fred Schoeneman.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Today's mail



You'll probably think I'm exaggerating, but I swear it's true. In today's mail, there was not one single credit card solicitation from Capital One. I'm worried about them. Think I should call over there, make sure they're okay?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

George Clooney is coming to suburbia?



"So is your book really about George Clooney?"

I get asked that a lot. Good question, since the original title was "George Clooney is Coming to Applewood." (For more information on why that was nixed, click here.)

I'll take this opportunity to answer it by posting what was nearly the publisher's catalog copy for the book. (The final version was scaled back for one reason or another. When I rule the world, such things won't happen. Until then, I blog.)

So here's the skinny:

Three PTA housewives rock suburbia in this frank, funny and laser-sharp debut novel

Behind the vinyl-sided veneer of Applewood, Long Island, live three women with more humor, heartache and sexuality than one PTA can hold.

With her husband’s affection waning, Maddie Schein is hungry for recognition and wishes she could impress the PTA elite. But you can’t drive a law degree, or slip your IQ over your shoulders and tie it into a jaunty knot. Brash, lusty and rich, Ruth Moss has it all except for one thing: her husband was left brain-damaged, impotent and sexually-uninhibited from a stroke. Talented but timid, Lisa Slotnick wants nothing more than to fade into the scenery, but is thrust before the spotlight by her out-of-control, alcoholic mother.

Together, these women form the publicity committee of the North Applewood Elementary PTA. When they learn that they’re responsible for the most exciting project their town has ever seen--bringing George Clooney and a movie crew to their own backyard--each thinks it will fill a void in her life and make her an Applewood hero.

What they discover in the end is that it’s their friendship--together with a little luck, a lot of honesty, and some newfound trust--that just might help them pull off a Hollywood ending of their own.

Monday, September 12, 2005

On writing and chocolate


"In the beginning, the Lord created chocolate, and he saw that it was good. Then he separated the light from the dark, and it was better."

I go into a zone when I’m writing. It’s a very intense kind of focus and, as I’m in it, I’m madly in love with my words. It’s when I go back later and reread that I decide it’s utter crap. Or not. Either way, I find that treating myself to a few bites of dark chocolate—either as reward or solace—is a valuable part of the process.

Show me a writer who’s 100% confident in his or her work, and I’ll show you a dreadful writer. I think it’s the nature of what we do that makes us second guess our own judgment. If we’re not constantly tormenting ourselves over whether or not we’re good enough, then we just don’t get anywhere.

A long time ago I posted a very short story on Zoetrope, my online writers’ workshop. The style was a departure for me, so I was insecure about it to begin with. Then it got terrible reviews from my fellow workshoppers—some of the worst I’d ever received. I was about to yank the story from the site and throw it away when another writer I greatly respect put the brakes on. She said the story was wonderful and that if readers weren’t getting it, eff ‘em.

I’m glad I listened to her, because it got published and remains one of my favorite stories. The lesson here? I’d like to say it’s to believe in yourself, but this is writing, not a Disney movie. The lesson, I think, is that we have to accept the fact that we can’t be all things to all people. Even our best work is going to be hated by some. There's no accounting for taste, as they say.

I've even heard there are some folks who prefer milk chocolate to dark, though I suspect that's some kind of crazy urban myth.
____________________________________________________

If you're curious to read the story in question, check it out here:
"Back to Sleep" in Pindeldyboz

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Photo journal of Katrina



Thanks to Fred Schoeneman for pointing me in the direction of this astounding PHOTO JOURNAL OF KATRINA, by Alvaro. I didn't breathe once throughout the entire presentation.

ETA: Sorry to report that this photo journal was deleted, so the link no longer works.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Mrs. Esserman's Eggs


Hard to believe it was only three years ago that my first story was accepted for publication by an ezine called Amarillo Bay. A lot has happened since then, including selling my first novel. And while that's an accomplishment I wouldn't trade for all the SUV's on Long Island, I'm not sure anything tops the high of getting that first acceptance.

Know what else? I'm still pretty proud of that first story. You can read it if you want. Mrs. Esserman's Eggs

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Tighter borders for Texas?

I guess Barbara Bush wants to keep those pesky foreigners out of Texas. You know, refugees from places like (shudder) Mississippi and Louisiana. Thanks to Moorishgirl for pointing me in the direction of this quote from the First Mum:

"Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we're going to move to Houston." Then she added: "What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

And if they don't have bread, let them eat cake, oui?

Read more about it here.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Did you say chick lit?



Arguments about chick lit never seem to end.  It’s like some crazy boxing match with writers of literary fiction on one side, throwing epithets of “hack” and “whore,” while writers of popular fiction on the other side defend their right to entertain.  Emotions are high, and everything thinks the stakes are so very serious.

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for these fights.  I sit in the front row with a big bowl of popcorn and watch the folks go at it.  I like being close enough to see the blood and sweat, to feel the heat.

I wonder, though, if the folks in the ring have any idea how silly the spectacle really is.  Go into any bookstore and ask the average reader their thoughts on chick lit and they’ll look at you like you’re speaking Martian.  

Most readers have never even heard this term.  They just read books they like.

My advice to writers is to stop being judgmental and/or defensive, and just keep putting the words on paper that make your own little heart dance.  Or not.  I’ve got a ringside seat and am enjoying the show.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Maureen Dowd on the United States of Shame

Stuff happens.

And when you combine limited government with incompetent government, lethal stuff happens.

America is once more plunged into a snake pit of anarchy, death, looting, raping, marauding thugs, suffering innocents, a shattered infrastructure, a gutted police force, insufficient troop levels and criminally negligent government planning. But this time it's happening in America.


To read more, click here. (If you're not registered with The New York Times, you'll have to do so to read the column, but it's free, and worth the few minutes.)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Finding Cooper

Here's a short story I wrote that appeared in Nassau Review last year. Since it's not available anywhere online--and it's one of my faves--I figured I'd post it here.


Finding Cooper
By Ellen Meister


Cooper was three when I lost him. And I don’t mean lost him in the euphemistic, I-just-don’t-want-to-say-dead sense. I mean lost him, as in, God oh God, where’s my kid? Has anybody seen my kid?

The day started out typically enough. I went to pick Cooper up at the special preschool he attended for autistic kids, and saw him sitting at a table with the aptly named Merry, a new classroom aide who wore an idiotic smile almost continuously.

“Look who’s here!” Merry said to him when she saw me standing at the door of the room. She pointed with her finger, but Cooper just looked at her hand. He didn’t get the whole concept of pointing. Somehow, normal kids understand automatically that it’s a directional cue. But to Cooper it was meaningless.

“Look who’s here,” she repeated, turning his face with her hands.

I stood and waited for recognition, knowing that if she just said the word “Mommy” he would think to look toward the door for me. Merry still had a few things to learn.

His teacher, Miss Nicki, looked up from the colored paper heart she was cutting. “Mommy’s here, Cooper,” she said.

That did it. My sweet-faced boy glanced quickly out the corner of his eye and came running to me. I kneeled to greet him.

“How was your day, Cooper?” I asked after hugging him. “Did you have fun in school?”

“Bub-bub,” he said.

“Bubbles? You played with bubbles?” I looked at the aide who nodded in confirmation. “Yes, Mommy,” I modeled, “I played with bubbles today.” I stood and addressed Merry. “How was he?”

“Wonderful!” she gushed. “He wrote the whole alphabet.”

I nearly rolled my eyes at this. Cooper had been writing the alphabet since he was eighteen months old.

“He said ‘Zach’ today,” Miss Nicki added, walking toward us.

This was big news. Cooper’s vocabulary consisted almost entirely of the names of inanimate objects. The fact that he’d said another child’s name nearly constituted a breakthrough.

I bent over to face Cooper. “Did you say ‘Zach’ today? I’m so proud of you! Should I arrange a play date with Zach? Look at me, Coop. Do you want to play with Zach?”

He didn’t respond, but I didn’t expect him to. I rose and said good-bye to his teachers.

Merry laid a hand on my shoulder. “You’re doing God’s work,” she whispered.

Tell God to do his own damn work, I wanted to say. I’m just trying to have a life here. Then I understood the beatific smile. She thought this was all part of God’s design. I squeezed Cooper’s hand and fought back my fury. How dare she. How dare she think the misconnected synapses that ruined this child’s life are part of God’s grand design!

I gritted my teeth. “C’mon Cooper,” I said, as I pulled him down the hallway. I took a deep breath and tried to center myself. “We’re going to the library.”

It was Friday, the day we always went to the public library after school. Our routine was to go the Children’s Room first, where I would read to Cooper. If I let him pick out the book, he would choose Trollo Takes a Train. Every time. The story was starting to get on my nerves, and I even considered asking Mrs. Stiles, the persnickety children’s librarian, if she would hide it on Friday afternoons. But I was pretty sure she’d have about ten strokes and drop dead at my feet if I asked her to do anything that wasn’t etched in some ancient book of rules they kept hidden behind a ceiling tile somewhere.

When we got there, Cooper headed straight for the shelf where Trollo lived, while I tried to find something else he would like. I spotted an oversized alphabet book with big, lush illustrations, and thought it might do the trick.

How about this one, Cooper? Wanna read this one instead of Trollo today? Look. Look at the pictures.”

Cooper shoved the Trollo book at me insistently.

“Okay,” I relented. “We’ll read Trollo first, and then we’ll read the alphabet book. Does that sound like a plan?”

Cooper hit the front of his book with his palm, a signal to get started. He was getting anxious, so I opened it and read, silently editing as I went along.

“Trollo took a train. A train, a train, a train.”

Mommy took some poison. Poison, poison, poison.

After we finished, I read him the alphabet book, not even realizing there was a picture of a train on the “T” page. Cooper went nuts.

“EEE-eee-ee!” he squealed, flapping his arms, which is what Cooper does when he’s excited.

I grabbed his hand and gently stroked it. “Okay, Coop,” I said. “Quiet down now.”

I was, of course, a beat too late. The ever-vigilant Mrs. Stiles rushed over.

“Is there a problem?”

Yes, I wanted to say. My son is autistic. Apparently, according to some people, God thought it was a great idea to short circuit his brain so that this beautiful, creamy-skinned boy would find it excruciatingly difficult to learn simple things, like what it means when someone points a finger. And nearly impossible to make the natural human connections that you and I do a hundred times a day and take completely for granted. Things like looking another person in the eye or understanding that your mother isn’t just an object that offers comfort and food and brings you to school, but a living, breathing feeling person who loves you so fiercely she would do anything for you. Anything. So yes, Mrs. Stiles, I guess you could say there is a problem.

“He’s excited,” I simply said. “He loves trains.”

Mrs. Stiles brought her lips together, as if to say she’s seen this type of indulgent parenting before and simply won’t tolerate it. She turned her attention to Cooper.

“I bet you’d like to take this book home, wouldn’t you?”

Her way of saying, don’t let the door slam you in the ass on the way out.

“He likes to read them here,” I explained.

“That’s fine,” she said, laying her hand on Cooper’s arm, which he pulled away. “But you have to be quiet in a library.”

Cooper patted the book again, indicating that he’s done with her. He wants me to read. Mrs. Stiles straightened up and walked off.

After the Children’s Room, we headed upstairs to where they kept the videotapes. Miles, my husband, and I liked to watch a movie on Friday nights after Cooper went to bed. It was our version of a date, since Cooper didn’t do too well with babysitters, making it hard for us to get out.

This is where it happened. I held Cooper’s hand as I scanned the cardboard videotape boxes for an interesting title. But he tugged in the opposite direction. Something had caught his eye and he wanted a closer look.

“Just a minute, Coop,” I said. “Let me find a tape.”

He was insistent, pulling and whining, and I feared he’d throw a fit.

“Okay, okay,” I said. “Show me, Cooper. Show me what you saw.”

I let him drag me toward the front of the aisle where he grabbed a box off the shelf and patted the title, indicating that he wanted me to read it out loud.

“Strangers on a Train,” I said. “That’s very good. You read the word ‘train,’ didn’t you?”

He pulled from the shelf the plastic case that was behind the box, the one they keep the actual tape inside. The title was printed on it, and I think Cooper recognized that it said the same thing as the cardboard box. He held the two side-by-side, looking from one to the other. He sat down on the floor and laid them in front of him, transfixed.

“I’m just going to the end of the aisle, Cooper. Can you sit here quietly for a minute?”

He didn’t respond, of course. So I just left him there while I walked about twenty feet away. I went back to scanning the titles, glancing back over at Cooper every few seconds. A certain tape caught my eye, and I picked it up to read the copy on the box. I guess I got engrossed for a moment longer than I should have, because when I looked up, Cooper was gone.

“Coop?” I ran to the end of the aisle and looked in both directions. “Cooper?” My heart started pounding, but I was sure I’d find him any second just around a corner. “Cooper!” I was getting louder, and people were starting to look at me. All at once I didn’t give a shit. “COOPER!” I yelled. Nothing.

“My kid’s missing!” I shouted to the air. “Did anybody see a little boy?”

“What does he look like?” someone asked.

Like a lost kid!, I wanted to scream. Somebody find him!

People started rising from chairs and looking around. I ran down the center of the room looking frantically into each aisle.

“Cooper!” I shouted. “Where are you?”

“Cooper!” I heard from people who had joined in the search. I did a quick lap around the perimeter of the room before dashing down the stairs. “Keep looking!” I shouted over my shoulder.

I almost ran smack into Mrs. Stiles. “Cooper’s missing,” I said.

“What?”

“My son, he’s missing.” I swallowed hard. “He’s autistic.”

Mrs. Stiles’ face went white. “Lock the back door!” she shouted to a small woman behind the desk. “I’ll get the front.”

Now it felt real. I imagined headlines. Posters. Did I have a current picture of Cooper. Oh God, what am I thinking?

I ran to the Children’s Room, where Trollo Takes a Train was still on the table where we left it. But the alphabet book was gone. Did that mean anything?

I imagined, for a second, my life without Cooper. But the picture was blank, like a sheet of photographic paper with no image developing. I’d wake up, have coffee, do stuff. Then I’d go to sleep and do the same thing all over again. What was the point? Without Cooper, my life had no shape, no color. Without Cooper, my life was a meaningless blank. I knew, then, that I needed him as much as he needed me.

I sat down on the floor and started to cry. The dam burst, and I covered my face as heaving sobs took over. And then.

Then I felt a tiny hand on my knee. I opened my eyes and saw Cooper sitting under the table with the alphabet book on his lap. Thank you, I thought. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

“Mommy sad,” Cooper said.

Maybe it wasn’t the hand of God that dropped a gift into my lap at that moment. But it was gift just the same. I laughed and crawled under the table to hug him. It was his first sentence. But it was so much more. Cooper had recognized emotion. He had acknowledged me as a person. And, perhaps most important of all, he had felt the very human need to say it out loud. To me. To make a connection.

“Yes, Cooper,” I said. “But I’m happy now.”

Just then, Mrs. Stiles rushed into the room and saw us. “We found him!” she shouted to the crowd by the door. She kneeled down.

“What are you two doing under there?” she asked.

“God’s work,” I said. “We’re doing God’s work.”

Friday, September 02, 2005

Help young victims of Katrina

For everyone who clicks on the link below and fills out a simple form, the Oxygen Network will donate $1 to children who were evacuated from The New Orleans Children's Hospital. Will you help? It only takes a minute. (Unless the server is very busy, in which case you might have to try a few times.) Thanks!

http://speakup.oxygen.com/campaigns/
neworleans/register/8550b139f09c426673b656385e0c65e4/

What's in a name?


Folks have been asking what the heck is going with the title of my book, but before I launch into my explanation, a few links for the uninitiated …

For a brief summary and info on the deal itself, click on my Publishers Marketplace page. For backstory on the book and other behind-the-scenes lit facts, click on this interview in Susan DiPlacido’s blog or this interview with Steve Hansen for Ink Pot.

Now, my working title for the book was GEORGE CLOONEY IS COMING TO APPLEWOOD.  Some folks raised an eyebrow, asking if it was really okay to use his name.  But when I pointed out that Al Franken wrote a book called RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG, FAT IDIOT, most agreed that it wouldn’t be a problem.  My editor and agents were unconcerned.

However, we discussed using another version of the title that would be more descriptive of the plot, and wound up with GEORGE CLOONEY AND OTHER SECRET LONGINGS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA.  But the green light turned red on that one when others in the publishing company said they preferred the shorter original title.

For me, no worries.  I liked both, and was still as happy as could be.  But then the dreaded thing happened.  The legal department got involved, and they said no how, no way.  Not without George Clooney’s consent.  Of course, this was at the eleventh hour, as the catalog copy was going to press.  I had about 48 hours to get approval from Hollywood’s most sought-after super hunk.  Easy, right?

So okay.  Fortunately, I’m married to a researcher, and he was able to get me the phone number for Clooney’s agent in minutes.  So I called the office and this was the conversation I had with his agent’s assistant:

Hello, my name is Ellen Meister and I’m a first time author with a book coming out next summer.  The book is called “George Clooney is Coming to Applewood” and I need to find out who I need to speak—

What is this about?  I have ten phones ringing.

Well, I … er… I need to t-talk to someone about getting permission—

Can you talk faster?

IwantouseGeorgeClooney’snameinthetitleofmybookandIneedhisper—

Call his publicist.

Then he barked out the number and hung up.  So I called his publicist and had this conversation the woman who answered:

Hello, my name is Ellen Meister and I got your number from George Clooney’s agent.  They said you were the people to call to—

Talk faster.  I have people holding.

IjustwrotemyfirstbookandIneedtotalktoMr.Clooney’sPubli--

Gimme your phone number and he’ll call you back.



I blurted out my phone number and tried to explain the nature of my call, but she hung up before I could get it out.  This was bad, because it was likely she got the impression that I was looking  for a publicist.  So I called again.

THIS-IS-ELLEN-MEISTER-AND-I-JUST-CALLED-AND-LEFT-A-MESSAGE-BUT-I-WANT-TO-MAKE-SURE-YOU-UNDERSTAND-THAT-I-WAS-CALLING-TO-GET-PERMISSION-TO-GEORGE-CLOONEY’S-NAME-IN-THE-TITLE-OF-MY-BOOK.

Write us a letter.

WAIT! I DON’T HAVE TIME! I’m in a terrible time crunch and—

Here’s our email address. Good-bye.

So I wrote his  publicist an email and got a quick reply saying it was a long and complicated issue and George Clooney didn’t have time for it.  I couldn’t let it go at that without a bit of groveling, so I wrote back explaining that the book had been my life’s work for so many years and that I heard that George Clooney was so accessible with a great sense of humor about himself and would he PLEASE pass it by him?  The reply was quick.  He DID pass it by George Clooney and the answer is no.

So that was it.  And it was back to the drawing board on titles.

This was a long, frustrating process, as I was sending my agent forty different title ideas a day, and each one got nixed in favor of a title I was miserable with.  I was looking for something where the irony was obvious, and the one they wanted to use just sounded too corny to me.

And then, at last, pay dirt.  I presented a title I really dig that everyone seems happy with.  If you read my little blog profile you know that the final approved title is SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA.  Now I’m all excited to see what kind of campy cover art the designer comes up with.  

And meanwhile … I’m working on my next book.  More on that soon.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

And the golden paperclip goes to …


One of the reasons I wanted to start my own blog was that it would give me the chance to air my grievances in public.  Snubbed by the local PYMPELS?  Ha! I’ll write about it in my blog!  Furious about the systemic deception of cellphone companies?  Easy.  One day I’ll go off like a firecracker on those effers.  Ticked off by rude or inept salespeople?  I have a forum, baby, and I plan to dish.

And why not?  It’s my blog and I’ll whine if I want to.

But I can also give props when props are due, and today I want to give the Most Improved Customer Service Award to Staples, which was once high on my list of horrid places to shop.  But these folks have turned things around so dramatically that even shopping for school supplies has been pretty headache-free this year.  

So kudos, Staples folks.  When your service sucked, people noticed, and you guys did something about it.  And we notice that, too.

(Party City, are you listening?)

Blood and Money

The victims of Hurricane Katrina need both. Give if you can.

American Red Cross

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

It's only a PYMPEL

I’ll admit it.  I have a problem with people who think they’re better than me, especially if it’s for stupid reasons, like not driving the right car or carrying the right handbag.  

I get a lot of that on Long Island.

I know I shouldn’t care.  I should hold my head high, confident that I have my priorities straight and my values in place.  But time after time I run into women who assert their superiority with an arrogant sneer in my direction, and it makes me mad.  Or sad.  Sometimes it even makes me cry.

Is that pathetic or what?

The women we typically refer to as JAPS are notorious for this kind of attitude.  You know the type—women so shallow they’re horrified to be seen talking to anyone who doesn’t ditch her entire wardrobe every season and start fresh.  They’re miserably unhappy people with bad marriages and unfulfilling lives who try to fill the void with shopping and complaining.  

I want to qualify all this by saying that I’m not entirely comfortable with the word JAP.  First off, while I know that most folks understand it’s an acronym for Jewish American Princess, I worry that there are some who might misconstrue it as racist slang for a Japanese person. But also, it’s given a free pass to anti-Semites, who feel it’s benign enough to throw around with immunity.  And that just gives me the willies.

So I feel like we need new a term for the privileged overclass on Long Island and elsewhere.  Some are Jewish, but certainly not all.  Perhaps we should call them PYMPELS, Privileged Yet Miserable People with Empty Lives.  I’ll try to remember that the next time one of them tries to assert her superiority over me for wearing the wrong shoes, and maybe I won’t feel so bad.

After all, I’m not the type who cries over a PYMPEL … am I?