Sunday, October 29, 2006


I've been tagged by Lisa McMann, who says I have to list 5 interesting or unique things about me. Are you ready for this? Here's goes ...

1. Remember Son o' Sam, a.k.a. David Berserkowitz, the mass murderer who went around shooting people in the head in the late seventies? He's my cousin.
Seriously. His mama, Pearl, was my grandmother's first cousin. (Now don't go telling me you see a family resemblance--he was adopted.)

2. Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) and his wife Allison once had me at their house in London for dinner.

3. At one point in my freelance career I wrote every issue of WorldPass, Pan Am's frequent flyer newsletter. They were my favorite clients, and some of the smartest people I ever worked with. When flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, a part of each of them died. I'm pretty sure of that.

4. I was once barricaded in an office because a crazed gunman was loose in the building. When someone banged on the door we were afraid to open it, but we did. It was the SWAT team.

5. My grandfather made the original orange neon Radio City Music Hall signs.

And now ... I tag Richard Lewis!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Donuts and other holes in the universe

I'm posting this from my local library because my cable Internet service, Optonline, went down in a rainstorm last night and is still offline. It's more than 12 hours since I've had service. And because my phone and television also come through their cable line, I don't have those either.

I've called them four times, racking up insane amounts of minutes on my cellphone as they keep putting me on hold. But they can't tell me when service will be restored. Anyway, I wanted to blog about it so that when people Google Optonline or Optimum Voice or Cablevision, they get this message warning them about how crappy the service is.

On another topic, have you seen the Dunkin' Donuts commercial where people put air quotes around the word "coffee" every time they say it? The tagline is something about Dunkin' Donuts coffee being air quote free. Does anyone understand this? I think they're trying to say their coffee is better than the competition's, but what does it have to do with air quotes? Is it supposed to mean that Starbucks sells fake coffee, i.e. "coffee" and not coffee? I'm not a fan of the dark roasts they use, but it's surely real coffee.

Am I being stupid? Does anyone get this commercial? Are they purposely being idiotic so people will blog about it and give them free publicity?

Perhaps I should consider myself lucky cable is down ...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Stupendous Barnes and Noble appearance!

Sarcastic? Moi?

Attendance was, as I had predicted, sparse. Hard to believe it's even more difficult to get people to show up for readings than it is to get them to buy books, but it is. Anyway, for the few people who were there, I think it was fine. I did a talk about the saga of my title and then a reading. Except for a guy in the back with such high blood pressure he looked as if he was concentrating on keeping the top of his head from blowing off, the tiny crowd was responsive and laughed at all the right places.

Anyway, I'm not going to have an all-out moratorium on appearances, but no more weeknight bookstore events. Kaput.

In other news, Lisa Kudrow's audiobook narration got another rave, this time from a top Amazon reviewer. Click here to see Gail Cooke's review.

Now, if Amazon didn't HIDE the most sought-after edition of the audiobook, people might actually buy it.

Yes, Amazon hides that edition. Lord knows I don't want to bite that hand that feeds me. After all, Amazon does a GREAT job of selling the hardcover. (Thank you, Amazon! I worship your massive and sublime virtual glory!) But the regular edition of the CD is kept out of view.

Here's the thing. There are many versions of the audiobook:
Audiobook on CD, regular edition
Audiobook on CD, library edition
Audiobook on CD, Mp3 edition
Audiobook on CD, abridged edition
Audiobook on cassette

The most popular, of course, is the first one. It's also the one you can't freaking find on Amazon, unless you click through a precise and complicated maze. If you don't believe me, click here, and you'll see a box that lists a whole bunch of editions, but not the REGULAR CD EDITION (the one that sells for $61.27 is the library edition, even though it doesn't say that). But aha ... there a place you can click to see all 5 editions and formats. Guess what? IT'S NOT THERE EITHER!

It is, in fact here. I'd explain how I found that, but your head might explode. Anyway, according to my industry sources, Amazon is not being wily and trying to get you to shell out for the more expensive library edition--they're just screwed up. It's maddening. Hard enough to sell a product when it's right there on display. But try getting people to buy something that's hidden in the storeroom behind a wall-to-wall barrier. Sheesh.

But you know what's easy to find? The paperback edition, which doesn't come out until August 2007.

That sound you hear is my head smashing against the wall.

Okay, I'm better now. No more whining.

Happy Birthday Myfanwy Collins!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Join me tonight!

7:30 pm
Barnes & Noble - Huntington Station
380 Walk Whitman Road (Route 110)

I'll be talking about my book, doing a short reading and signing books. I'd love to see you there!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Boy Book by E. Lockhart

It feels like forever since I've done one of these Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Goes Hollywood blogs. Nice to get back to it with one of the most popular authors in our group, E. Lockhart, who writes delectable Y.A. books that fans go insane over.

Her newest is THE BOY BOOK, which is a sequel to the beloved THE BOYFRIEND LIST. If E. had the opportunity to pitch it to a Hollywood producer, here's what she'd say:

Teenage girl, social butterfly turned social leper after the ignominious demise of her first major love relationship. She looks over the secret notebook she and her ex-friends wrote about how to deal with the opposite sex, and tries to follow its advice while flirting with the guy who dumped her, a guy who wants her, and guy she isn't supposed to want.

And here's how she'd cast it:

Well, all these actors are TOO OLD to play teenagers -- and everyone important in both The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book is about 16 years old. But they're the best I can do ...

Roo, my heroine, is smart, neurotic, and prone to footnotes. Zoey Deschanel.

Noel, her friend-boy maybe boy-friend, a punk-rock prep school kid who's got a quiet way with words: Lukas Haas. (Did you see him in Brick? amazing)

Jackson, the no-good ex who's still kinda good: James Spader.

Angelo, with whom there are kissing adventures: Adrian Grenier.

If my daughter was a smidge older, I'd run out and buy her all of E. Lockhart's books! I KNOW she's going to love them. If you know a tween or teen girl who loves to read, you really should check these out. THE BOY BOOK is in stores now. For more information, visit E. Lockhart's website at

Monday, October 23, 2006

Welcome to my nightmare

I notice that when I tell people about my reading this Thursday (7:30 pm at Barnes & Noble in Huntington), they get this terrified look on their faces, like I'm going to try to sell them a timeshare. They tend to smile politely as they back away, and then make a mad dash out of my sightline.

Everyone had warned me that it's hard to get people to come to readings, but I just didn't anticipate that I'd have so much trouble getting people to show up at events that are so close to home.

I was fortunate that I had about 100 people at my first reading. But that was an official book launch, complete with a wine and cheese party and ersatz-engraved invitations. So it was largely family and friends. In fact, I think it's safe to say it was a room full of people who love me.

I promoted the hell out of my second Long Island reading, and had about 40 attendees, which is still considered pretty darn good. (I've heard plenty of stories from authors who had 2 or 3 people at their readings ... or even zero. Ouch.)

But now that I'm approaching my third one, I'm in a bit of a panic, as I'm running out of people who love me enough to show up. I have this nightmare that the only people there will be me, hubby and the Barnes & Noble staff. God help me.

So I've been trying desperately to get the word out there. Here's a list of the things I've done to get people to come:
1. Sent an email to everyone I know who lives within 20 miles of the reading location
2. Sent a mass email to my high school graduating class
3. Sent a mass email to my brother's graduating class
4. Sent emails to the teachers from my children's schools
5. Made a flyer promoting the fact that anyone who comes is eligible for a drawing for a "free signed copy of the book," inscribed to the teacher of their choice
6. Mailed the flyer to PTA presidents at all the schools near the reading, asking them to distribute it to their membership
7. Dropped copies of the flyer at my daughter's elementary school
8. Emailed the principals of my children's schools, inviting them and their staffs to the reading
9. Snail mailed invitations to all local friend whose emails addresses I don't have and who weren't at either of the previous readings
10. Wrote a press release about the event and faxed it to a long list of local media contacts

But I have this terrible feeling in my gut that I've been shoveling against the tide. It's a weeknight, for one. Plus, for the last reading, about a dozen people who said they'd "try" to come didn't. This time, no one's even made the gesture. Yikes. I guess the signed book giveaway isn't much of a draw. Maybe next time I'll promise a free weekend in Orlando.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday wrap-up

Not a big blogging week for me, as I was caught up in mommy stuff and marketing stuff, all the while trying to push through these freaking sinus headaches which have been clobbering me on a daily basis. I'm tired of swallowing pills to fix it, as I know that's going to catch up with me and it's not going to be good. I'm trying to work up the courage to try acupuncture.

Did I mention that I used to faint at the sight of a needle? Sometimes I didn't even need to see the needle, just think about it, and the world went dark. Years ago I went for hypnotherapy and actually got past it. But there are still enough traces of it for the thought of acupuncture to make me whoozy.

Anyway, there's a long list of things I could continue to whine about, but I'll spare you. Herewith my bullet list of news and announcements:

  • I had the honor of blind-judging the first annual 666 Flash Fiction Contest for Edifice Wrecked. Once I understood that it didn't mean I had to read the stories in Braille, I had a blast. Congrats to all the talented winners: 1st Place, Kristen Tsetsi; 2nd Place, Tania Casselle; 3rd Place, Marion de Booy Wentzien; 4th Place, Patricia Parkinson; 5th Place, Susan O'Neill; 6th Place, Jason Shaffner. I only got to read the ten finalists, and they were all excellent. I understand all the entries were outstanding and it was tough for the editors to pick their favorites. So kudos and thanks to all who entered.

  • Reminder to my Long Island friends: This Thursday (10/26) I'm going to be at the Barnes & Noble in Huntington Station at 7:30, doing a reading and signing. I hope you'll join me and bring lots of friends!

  • This week I got some love on the blogosphere, which makes me one happy writer. Seems my website contests for teachers and parents are attracting some attention. I got a nice plugs from the good folks at Trashionista, This Next, and A Bookworm's Diary. Huge thanks, cyber pals!!

  • Not that I obsessively check my Amazon ranking or anything (cough), but the other day I clicked into the page and had a total panic attack. Amazon said my book was no longer available and could only be bought through third party sellers. WHAT??? A normal person might have assumed it was a glitch in the system. An insane, twisted, paranoid, insecure lunatic goes into meltdown mode. She has visions of HarperCollins finally deciding she's a total fraud who never should be been published in the first place, and without warning recalling all her books and burning them. Turns out Amazon had system problems, and a lot of books had that same message. Anyway, it's fixed now. So if you're one of thousands and thousands of eager readers who tried to purchase "Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA" on Amazon this week, please try again.

  • If you bought the book or are planning to and would like a personalized signature from me, I'll be happy to send you a signed adhesive bookplate you can stick to the inside front cover. Just drop me a line telling me who to make it out to, and enclose an SASE. Send it to: Ellen Meister, PO Box 52, Hicksville, NY 11802-0052.

  • Good luck to my darling E. who's competing in the middle school spelling bee today!
  • Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    The Great American Grovel

    Hello class. Today we're going to discuss groveling for blurbs, and I hope you can give me some advice. (For the uninitiated, the blurbs I'm talking about are those little endorsement quotes you see on the back--and sometimes the front--of your favorite novels. )

    When "Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA" went into production, my agent asked me to come up with a wishlist of authors I'd like quotes from. "Let's aim high," she had said, "cast a wide net." She explained that she and my editor would split up the list and go after the authors for blurbs.

    So I wrote up a list of writers I adored and whose endorsements would be meaningful. I knew most of them were long shots, but it was such a lengthy list I was confident I'd get at least a few thrilling blurbs. After all, I had a top agent and a top editor beating the bushes for me.

    While I waited to hear back, I asked Lisa Kudrow for one, and she came through with a killer ("The best time I've had in years. Ellen Meister's characters are so funny, smart, and real, I feel like I've made three new friends!" )

    As luck would have it, a friend of mine told me he was buddies with Lolly Winston, one of the writers on the top of my list, and would hook me up. (If you don't already know, Lolly is a bestselling author who writes smart, gorgeous women's fiction with equal doses of humor and pathos. Just the idea of emailing her gave me a buzz.)

    Lolly was wonderful and gracious and agreed to read the galleys for a possible blurb. To say I was delighted is putting it mildly. And then she came through with "A funny and wonderfully irreverent look at the dark underbelly of suburbia." Wow.

    Lest you think I batted a thousand, understand that I also emailed an author who's one of my heroes and she turned me down. She was gracious as hell about it, and I really do understand. If these big authors blurbed every schmo like me who asked, they'd have no time to write books.

    So I moved on. And with two such outstanding blurbs under my belt, I rubbed my hands greedily, waiting to see what my agent and editor would come back with it.

    And then I found out. Nothing. They came back with nothing. Not a single blurb. I was crushed. I know they tried, which made it that much more depressing. And to be totally honest, I was terribly frustrated that I wasn't told until it was too late for me try to get more blurbs on my own. Of course, their perspective was that two fantastic blurbs for a debut author was hot stuff, but I had been envisioning a back cover filled with quotes, so I was bummed.

    So here are the lessons I've learned:
    1) Getting blurbs from big authors (and celebs, of course) is nearly impossible and it was just dumb luck that I had connections to Lisa Kudrow and Lolly Winston, two very generous individuals;
    2) Despite their best intentions, I can't assume my agent or publisher can come through for me on this.

    Is it any wonder, then, that I'm feeling utterly desperate about getting endorsements for my next book, "The Smart One"? Though I don't even have a production schedule yet, I've been putting out feelers, trying to connect with people who can connect me with the people I'd like blurbs from. So far, I've crapped out at every turn. For instance, I learned that an acquaintance is friendly with a bestselling author who's not only a brilliant writer, but has covered thematic terrain kind of similar to mine. Getting a blurb from him would be a huge boost to my book (and my ego!), and would score me major points with my publisher. So I wrote to the acquaintance who forwarded my request to the superhugebestselling author. The superhugebestselling author was kind enough to write to me directly, but explained that he was too busy. I wrote back to explain that my galleys wouldn't be ready for months and months, and would it be okay with him if I checked back in down the road to see if his schedule was any looser. (Desperation has turned me this relentless and annoying.) He never wrote back.

    I have a few other similar stories, and now that I've blown through most of the connections I can think of, I'm going to write directly to authors and hope for some miracles. Problem is, I can't think of the best way to approach these emails. If you were a big author star with a jam-packed schedule and someone approached you for an endorsement blurb, what could they say that would persuade you to take a look at their book?

    Maybe I'm wasting my time, but I have to give it my best shot. Thanks for any input!

    Two new reviews ...

    ... both excellent, I'm happy to say!

    From Rachael Dimond at Fresh Fiction

    From writer/blogger Mary Akers

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Why I love being a mom (part 2)

    (Setting: 8 year-old girl and 11-year-old boy are at the kitchen table eating dinner. Mother puts one hand on each child's head and pets.)

    MOTHER: You fill me up.

    GIRL: What does that mean?

    BOY: It means we fill her with happiness ... though I have no idea how that's possible.

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    Novel Journey interview

    Today there's an interview with me on a very cool and widely-read site called Novel Journey. I'm thrilled and honored Gina Holmes asked me to participate. You can read it here.

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    A plug on NBC!

    My talented and articulate friend Jordan Rosenfeld Pedersen talks about some terrific books (cough cough) on this Bay Area NBC affiliate:
    Click here and then click play.

    What's in a name?

    A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But we wouldn't be buying them by the bunch for our loves if they were called Cruelthorns, would we?

    Today I'm trying to find a name for a character in the title-less novel I'm working on. Sometimes names settle gently in my consciousness as I develop the character, while other times it's more of a struggle.

    The minor characters are often harder than the main ones. This is partly because the names have to work together. For instance, the character I'm trying to name right now is the mother of my protagonist. So in addition to the parameters of age and ethnicity (she's about 65 and Jewish), I have to be sure her name is different enough from "Marla" to keep the character distinct in the reader's mind. I asked some friends to help me out by telling me their mothers' names, and I got some great ones that I had to reject offhand. I can't use Norma or Ada or Eva, as much as I like them, because I don't want another name that ends in A. Someone else offered Geraldine, which I like for this character, but I have another main character named Gene, and I try hard to use different initials for everyone, unless I'm making a Frick and Frack point about similarities.

    So right now I'm leaning toward Carol or Evelyn, though that could change at any time. One of the great things about writing a draft is that you can alter your choice at any time. Thank god for that search and replace feature.

    If we could do that with children, it would be so much easier to name them, wouldn't it? Boy, did I suffer those decisions!

    Speaking of children, today is a school holiday so I'm home with mine. And, I'm stranded without a car. That's a very big deal in the suburbs. But we planned it this way. My husband's car needed to be serviced, and since I don't have to do any carpooling today due to the holiday, we figured this would be a good day for me to relinquish my minivan while his Altima is in the shop.

    So. The kids and I will finish the Halloween decorations, bake cookies, check over weekend homework. Doesn't that sound just perfectly domestic? Don't get too excited. The cookies are slice-and-bake. But I'm still allowed to call them homemade, aren't I?

    Saturday, October 07, 2006

    Collingswood and other weekend updates

    The Collingswood Festival is moving indoors due to rain today, but alas I won't be there. I truly hate being a bad sport, and if it was an hour or so away I'd still go. But it's a huge trip for me (probably three hours or more each way, depending on traffic and weather), and if the rain cuts attendance like I think it will, it's just too hard to justify. Anyway, there will still be a ton of great authors there, so if you're in the area, I hope you'll go and report back to me about what a great time I missed.

    I'm also disappointed because it was going to be a day spent with my sister, which I so rarely do. It was going to be just the two of us making this trip.

    Ah well. Next year.

    In other weekend news, the smart and adorable Jennifer Prado interviews me today on her blog.
  • ETA: This interview got picked up by a site called The Clooney Project.

    Speaking of interviews, you can find a great one today on Susan Henderson's LitPark. Author Stephanie Lessing is interviewed by author Lauren Baratz-Logsted on her books and about being designated a "chick lit" author. It's a smart read, and I'll be interested to see the comments because I find the great angry debate about chick lit truly hilarious. I just love seeing how angry certain writers get over it, as if the very existence of chick lit is an affront to literature. Don't you think it's amusing that they don't get as bent out of shape over romance novels? Why is that? Romance novels get at least as much real estate in the book store as chick lit novels do. So why isn't that just as threatening?

    I'll tell you why. It's the tables. I'm serious. Romance novels are on shelves in their own section. But chick lit dares to be on tables toward the front of the store. You can actually see people looking at them and buying them. This drives writers of literatoor into a jealous frenzy. Ha!

    And also, chick lit dares to be published in trade paperback size as opposed to mass market paperback. Know what else is published in trade paperback? Literary fiction.

    Anyway, I find myself in a strange place while this debate rages, because my book is not technically chick lit, though a lot of people assume it is. See, in the publishing industry, chick lit is a very specific term referring to novels about young, single, urban females. (Think Sex and the City.) My novel is about middle aged, married, suburban females. But not everyone knows this official definition, and many folks see my pink cover and assume my book is chick lit. Do I care? I do not. They can call it "chick lit," "mom lit," "hilarious and poignant" (Publishers Weekly), "comical yet poignant" (Kirkus Reviews), or even "heartbreakingly funny" (Library Journal). As long as they bring it to the register, I'm happy.

    In other news, I'm proud to be participating in Julie Kenner's 10-day e-Bay Auction to benefit Love Without Boundaries, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping orphaned children in China.
  • Monday, October 02, 2006

    Audiobook review!

    Publishers Weekly gave Lisa Kudrow a big thumbs up for her narration, and I couldn't be more thrilled. Actually, I could, because they called the book "chick lit," which is inaccurate. ("Chick lit" refers to a very distinct segment of the women's fiction market--books about young, urban, professional protagonists. My book doesn't qualify in any way. I don't mind the designation, but in the publishing biz it's a marketing differentiation and Publishers Weekly should know that.)

    Fortunately, they say enough nice things to make up for it. Here's the review:

    Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA
    Ellen Meister, read by Lisa Kudrow

    Kudrow shows her deft comedic skills in her audiobook debut about the machinations and scandals of rival PTA factions in a small town whose school may be used for a George Clooney movie. Kudrow reads with a light comic tone but never goes over the top, and the warmth in her voice makes the characters sympathetic and likable. Kudrow gives each character a distinctive voice: raspy Ruth, whose confident, wisecracking exterior hides the pain of caring for a husband disabled by a stoke; shy, timid Lisa and her embarrassingly loud, brassy, alcoholic mother; conflicted Maddie, trying to decide whether to work on her troubled marriage or have an affair; and their nemesis, snooty hilarious bitchy PTA president Suzanne. The comic tale is rooted in reality that keeps the reader sympathetic to the protagonists even during the plot's most absurd twists (e.g. during a midnight covert operation, the women expectedly come upon the PTA president engaged in a menage a trois). By turns hilarious and poignant, this is chick lit that works perfectly on audio.

    Ordering links:

    Unabridged, on CD
    From Amazon
    From Barnes & Noble

    Unabridged, on MP3 CD
    From Amazon
    From Barnes & Noble