Monday, December 29, 2008

Remembering Fern on Her Birthday

Fern, me (with a perm) and Matt Barnes. 1982 or so, I think.

I still miss you, my friend. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas

Wishing all my friends and readers a joyous and healthy holiday.

You won't be getting a recycled fruitcake from me, but here is a recycled poem ...

"The Raving"
A Mother's Chilling Post-Holiday Tale

By Ellen Meister

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!"

Monday, December 22, 2008


By Melissa Clark

Today I'm blogging about an exciting writer, Melissa Clark. Though she's new to the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit and is promoting her debut novel, SWIMMING UPSTREAM, SLOWLY, Melissa is no neophyte to the writing world. In fact, she has pretty glam and impressive credentials. But I'll let you hear it straight from her. My interview with Melissa follows ...

Hi, Melissa. SWIMMING UPSTREAM, SLOWLY looks terrific, and I'm so impressed with the reviews it gets on Amazon. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind this beloved story?

SWIMMING UPSTREAM, SLOWLY is a novel about Sasha Salter, who wakes up one day to find she is pregnant. Only problem is she hasn't had sex in over 2 years. The doctor's diagnosis is that Sasha's body has been harboring a 'lazy sperm'. Sasha must now open up the Pandora's box of her past loves to figure out which of her exes is the father - and what the future holds in store.

The idea was born because I was having lunch with a friend and overate. I lifted my shirt to expose my bloated belly and the friend said, half joking, "Are you sure you're not pregnant?" and I said, "Yeah, right, from a lazy sperm." I went home that night and started outlining the idea for a movie. I decided, eventually, to write it as a novel instead.

If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation, who gets the call?

Natalie Portman gets the first call. I think she could bring depth and humor to the character. If she's busy making another movie or doing something wonderfully humanitarian we give Jennifer Gardner a jingle. She's likable, vulnerable. If she's having a baby then we try Drew Barrymore because she has nailed these roles in the past. There are lots of male parts in this movie, too. I'd love to see Emile Hirsch do a romantic comedy.

You have such an interesting writing background. Can you give my blog readers a short summary?

My dad is a writer, so I was always playing on his typewriter and writing on legal steno pads. I wrote short stories from the time that I could write. I studied writing and literature in both college and graduate school. In my 20's to mid-30's I worked as a writer in television. I created a kid's show called "Braceface" which ran for 5 seasons. I loved that experience, but really wanted to write a novel, so I quit my own show and set out to write SWIMMING UPSTREAM, SLOWLY. It was the best risk I've ever taken!

What is one of the nicest compliments that you have ever received about SWIMMING UPSTREAM, SLOWLY?

"I read it in one sitting." Since it took a year and three months to write, I am amazed and flattered when someone tells me they zipped through it.

Did you have any input on the cover, and are you happy with the finished product?

I was actually very disappointed with the cover at first. I was under the false impression that I had a say in the cover. I suggested a few ideas and then showed them a piece of art I saw at the Venice Art Walk. They were all received with a lukewarm attitude. Once day I got an email titled, "Cover!!!!!!" There were so many exclamation points that I knew I was in trouble. When the cover downloaded, I broke out in tears. A girl blowing bubbles was NOT how I saw my cover. Who was that girl, anyway? Why was she blowing bubbles? After calming down, I phoned the editor and explained my dismay. They made some compromises, like removing the almost-exposed breast and some other things that irked me. Clearly I have not made peace with the cover yet, however, I do think it pops and people have told me that they bought the book BECAUSE of the cover, so I'm humbled by that.

What's next for you?

I JUST completed a draft of a new novel, "Imperfect". It is another medical anomaly type of story, but very different than "Swimming..." This one is more of a coming-of-age story. I sent it to my agent last week and am now on pins and needles waiting for her response.

Good luck with it, Melissa! Hope your agent loves it ... and thanks so much for answering these questions.

Please look for SWIMMING UPSTREAM, SLOWLY the next time you visit your local chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit,, or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Melissa's website at

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Update

* I'm doing two signings for THE SMART ONE this weekend. On Saturday, I'll be at Syosset Borders from 2-4, and on Sunday I'll be at the Waldenbooks in the Walt Whitman Mall from 1-3. If you're around, stop by and say hi.

* Pretty jammed week here, though nothing exciting or glamorous to report. Darling daughter got sick over the weekend with a bad cold and fever, and stayed home Monday and Tuesday. She's not quite well yet, but is on the mend. Fortunately, she was well for her 11th birthday, which was last Friday. (She shares the date with Frank Sinatra.)

* Got my business holiday gifts packaged and shipped. I sent apple pies from the Jericho Cider Mill, which I'm pretty sure are the most delicious apple pies on the planet. I hope they were enjoyed.

* Made some excellent progress with the novel. I'm on page 260 and have passed the 60,000-word mark. A huge milestone and I feel great about it!

* Cooked an awesome dinner last night inspired by Rachael Ray, who I've been watching while I run  on the treadmill. I adore her.

* I just started reading Michael Palmer's THE SECOND OPINION.  It's not out yet but I was lucky enough to score an ARC. So far I'm enthralled. I'm not only grabbed by the plot, but by the main character, a woman doctor with Asperger's syndrome.  You're going to want to read this one!

* This week I spent way too much time on Facebook. Also, I joined Twitter, but I haven't posted a single thing yet. If you want to friend me on either of these sites, please do!

* Am I the only one struck by the fact that Bernie Madoff's last name is pronounced made-off, as in he made off with all your money?

* Okay, I'm off to Target. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


By Malena Lott

My friends, here's a great book to add to your holiday list. It's DATING DA VINCI by Malena Lott, a wonderful writer who recently joined our GCC group.

Malena had some charming and colorful answers to my interview questions, so here goes ...

What's the premise of your exciting new book, Malena?
DATING DA VINCI is a Texas-based Under the Tuscan Sun meets How Stella Got Her Groove Back. A young widow, 36-year-old Ramona Griffen, searches for joy with the help of a handsome younger Italian immigrant named Leonardo da Vinci. Her humorous and heartwarming journey takes her on some unexpected adventures of body, mind and spirit as she learns to let go of her grief to make room for a wholly new life.

How did you get the title DATING DA VINCI?
The title came pretty quickly, early on. I love alliteration and really wanted to incorporate da Vinci since he's the catalyst that starts Ramona's renaissance. Since publishers have final say, I don't get too attached to my working title. I do like getting credit for this one, though! Of course the book isn't just about da Vinci and romance is only a part of the story, but I think it's catchy and hopefully it will catch people's eye to learn more about the book.

What pulled you into this story, and as a writer made you think 'I have to write this'?
Women, especially mothers, tend to put themselves last on the list. I wanted to share the story of someone who has lost the love of her life and has focused on just "getting by" each day, but is ready to find a way to be joyful again, even through the pain. The heart of the story really is, is there love after death, and the courage it takes to not only survive but to build a great life again.

If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of DATING DA VINCI who gets the call?
I did envision the book as a movie as I was writing it. It helps if you can find actors that you can draw from. I imagine Kate Winslet (in her plumper roles) as Ramona, a sexy unknown Italian for da Vinci, Greg Kinnear for handsome, charming doctor Cortland, Jane Krakowski for her egotistical sister, and Sandra Oh for her best friend Anh. I'd only want a bit part. Perhaps the barista at Starbucks? Or be the bed salesperson when Ramona is shopping to replace her marital bed Lumpy. (I do a mean rolling of the eyes.)

Do you have a sample chapter posted?
You can read the first chapter at

Do you pay attention to book reviews? If so, has there been any particular review that made your heart do a little dance?
I use Google Alerts so I'm kind of like Santa. I know when people have said naughty or nice things about my book! Fortunately, reviewers have enjoyed Dating da Vinci, so that's a thrill when you click that link and get to read what people are saying about your "baby." I've selected some of my favorite quotes on

Thanks so much, Malena!
DATING DA VINCI is available at your favorite chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit,, or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Malena's website at

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Update

Pretty quiet week here. I'm not even going to post a bullet list of my activities, as all I did was read, write, edit, parent, waste time on Facebook and watch, in horror, as the publishing world collapsed. And ugh ... my AstrologyZone horoscope for December sucks. I know I shouldn't let that get to me but it does.

It was a swell week for fan mail, though, and that felt good. Also, some Iranian guy on Goodreads thinks I'm nice and cute and wants to make friendship with me. I'm considering a cyber affair, though I wonder if he'll email me in the morning.

I'm up to page 231 on the work-in-progress, but hit a bit of a brick wall in the story. May take me a few days to get back on track.

Tacky reminder of the day: If you want to give someone an autographed copy of THE SMART ONE for the holidays, drop me a line and I'll mail you a signed, personalized bookplate, gratis. It's self-adhesive (tacky, get it?) and goes right into the front of the book. You'll need to tell me who to make it out to and where it send it.

While I'm promoting, here's a cheesy video of me reading from my first book, SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA:

Motto of the day:
"Give love. Give time. Give joy. Give books."

Have a great weekend ...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Buy a book today!

If you're on my mailing list, you already got an email from me asking you to please put books on your holiday gift list this year. I'm writing about this in my blog now because the situation in publishing has reached even more dire proportions. Indeed, the news today has been grim, with massive layoffs, historic losses, frightening consolidations and even bankruptcies.

And trust me, there aren't going to be any government bailouts for publishing companies.

So if you think books are important, please buy one today or tomorrow. Doesn't matter where. You can buy online or at your favorite bookstore. You can go to Target or Walmart or Costco. You can even pick up a paperback at the supermarket. Just do it.

I do, of course, have some recommendations for you. I have so many favorite books it's hard to narrow it down to a one-size-fits-all list, so I've limited my selection to books I've read (and loved) over the last few months. But if there's someone specific on your list and you need a recommendation, post a comment or drop me a line, and I'll do my best to come up with something.

So here some current choices that I think are absolutely outstanding. These are all novels:

THE UNDERSTORY by Pamela Erens - Haunting, intense story about loneliness and obsession that seems to get nominated for every literary award. Well-deserved.

GOING DOWN SOUTH by Bonnie Glover – A tender and absorbing story about the complicated relationships between three generations of African American Women. Gorgeous writing.

THE THIRD ANGEL by Alice Hoffman – Luminous. Hoffman's gift for magical realism woven into a tale of three fascinating women. I loved this book.

MURDER AT THE BAD GIRL'S BAR & GRILL by N.M. Kelby – A smart, funny, rollicking mystery that Carl Hiaassen fans will eat with a spoon. Critics have been swooning over it.

THE SOUND OF BUTTERFLIES by Rachael King - Stunning novel that takes place at the turn-of-the-20th-Century. This one really stayed with me.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee – Still one of the best books ever written, imo

THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy - Post-apocalyptic story that strips love down to its barest essentials. This book will change you.

THE SMART ONE by Ellen Meister – Self-serving, I know, but I couldn't leave myself out. To read an excerpt, click here. To read an excerpt from SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA, click here.

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger – This came out a few years ago but I only just read it and wow. It's brilliant and absorbing.

THE FIRST PATIENT by Michael Palmer – For thriller lovers, it doesn't get any better. Michael Palmer kicks ass.

THE ABSTINENCE TEACHER by Tom Perrotta – The secular left and religious right clash ... sometimes inside a single soul. Funny, tender, real. Perrotta makes it look so easy.

DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD by Saralee Rosenberg – Absolutely hilarious ... but also layered and poignant. I loved this story about an unlikely friendship between two warring neighbors.

BRIDGE OF SIGHS by Richard Russo – Considered literary fiction, but very accessible. No one creates characters like Richard Russo. My favorite living author.

Here are some books my kids recommend:
THE ALEX RIDER SERIES by Anthony Horowitz (adventure)
THE GIVER by Lois Lowry
WAKE by Lisa McMann
ELSEWHERE by Garbrielle Zevin

I hope you'll buy a book or two today! And if you want to go the extra mile, here's an idea: spread the word by sending a list of book recommendations to all your email friends. Feel free to copy my list ... or make one of your own.

Thanks, friends.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


by Jessica Brody

Today I'm thrilled to blog about one of the newest members of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, Jessica Brody. Her debut novel, THE FIDELITY FILES, has a killer hook, a kickass video, and is a national bestseller.

And, um ... Jessica is 29.

The book is getting outstanding reviews, was a USA Today Hot Summer Reads Pick and is being published in seven other countries.

Have I mentioned that Jessica is 29?

Anyway, she's as charming as she is talented, and I'm pleased to present you with the following interview ...

Tell us about THE FIDELITY FILES and the inspiration behind it.

The Fidelity Files is the story of a beautiful, L.A. woman who works as an undercover “fidelity inspector,” hired by suspicious wives and girlfriends to test the faithfulness of the men in their lives. Except no one in her life knows what she does. Her friends and family all think she works for an investment bank.

Before I became a full-time writer, I worked in a very corporate environment. And like all corporate jobs, there were a certain number of “alcohol-related” events that I was expected to attend. I would often find myself at work happy hour functions in nearby bars, observing the interactions between single and non-single co-workers as their behaviors gradually declined from professional to something else entirely. Something hardly capable of being described as “appropriate.”

Witnessing these “indiscretions” upset me on a profound level. I secretly wished that someone would tell the “conveniently” absent significant others about what their husbands/wives/boyfriends/ girlfriends/fianc├ęs really did while attending these “obligatory” and supposedly “uneventful” work functions. But I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to do it. I was brave enough to think it…but not exactly brave enough to go knocking on people’s doors with bad news. You know what people tend to do to “the messenger.”

So instead I created a character whose job and purpose in life was to do just that. To reveal the truth to anyone who wanted to know. To knock on all the doors that I never had the courage to knock on. An invincible superhero-esque woman whose quest is to fight against the evils of infidelity. But of course, she soon finds out…she’s not as invincible as she once thought.

If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of THE FIDELITY FILES, who gets the call?

I’ve always struggled with this question because I’ve never really had one person in mind for the role of Jennifer/Ashlyn. She would have to be beautiful and sexy so that the men in the movie would fall for her but she would also has to come off as sympathetic and a little vulnerable so that audience would relate to her. I would love to see Rachel McAdams in the role because I think she could pull it off. Also Natalie Portman, Jessica Biel, Scarlett Johansson or Keira Knightley would be great casts.

As for Jamie, the love interest, Patrick Dempsey is an obvious cast for me. I think he has that distinguished mature look that’s described in the book and he also comes off as very sweet and genuine. That’s the kind of guy Jamie is in my head.

Do you have a sample chapter posted?

Do you write from a character or from a plot idea?

I’m definitely more driven by character. I like thinking up interesting characters with intriguing back stories and then forming a world around them. Like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a story about a woman who tests men’s fidelity for a living?” Then I go forward from there. “What would her life be like?” And “What kind of interesting things would happen to someone like that?”

Do you have a favorite character in THE FIDELITY FILES?

My favorite character is definitely Jen’s gay friend, John. Every scene he’s in was always the most fun to write. And the easiest. He’s definitely the comic relief of the book. I don’t know where some of his lines come from. They just kind of emerge as if I’m channeling a flamboyant and sometimes annoying gay man from another dimension. I would be writing a scene with him and he’d respond with a line that was so him and I would just stare back at it on the page, laugh and say, “Where did that come from?” Needless to say, he was one of my favorite characters to return to in the sequel.

Thanks so much, Jessica!

I think THE FIDELITY FILES would make a great holiday gift, so I hope you'll put it on your list. It's available in trade paperback at your local chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit,, or any cyber bookseller. For more information--and to see that amazing video--visit Jessica's website at

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Update

* It's officially Black Friday. Please buy books this year! There's no gift that gives more bang for the buck. And you'll be doing your part to save civilization. If you need some recommendations, drop me a line and tell me who you're shopping for. I'll do my best ...

* Thanksgiving was fairly perfect yesterday, thanks to my brother and sister-in-law. I got to spend some wonderful and relaxing time with family, some of whom I hadn't seen in years. The best! Also, I pretty much threw my diet out the window and ate a little bit of everything ... without overstuffing. Hope yours was terrific, too!

* Reached my goal of writing ten pages this week, despite having house guests and the kids at home. Up to page 215.

* I'm finally starting to get the hang of Facebook. If you're there, make me your friend!

* Something I've been wondering about this week ... what's the purpose of those Secret Service code names for the President et al. if they make them public?

* My friend Susan DiPlacido recently posted a blog about the kind of silly humor that tickles her, which made me think of one of my favorite snl skits, the men's synchronized swim film with Martin Short, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest. Hilarious!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

101 Things I'm Thankful For

In random order ...

1. Caffeine
2. Mike's hugs
3. Rollerball pens
4. Honey-roasted cashews
5. Fan mail
6. The DVR
7. Friends who are writers
8. Friends who aren't writers
9. Seasons
10. Chocolate-covered halvah
11. Dreams
12. Good novels
13. Max's accomplishments
14. Ethan's heart
15. Emma's spirit
16. People who hold the door open
17. My parents
18. The Internet
19. The refrigerator door water dispenser
20. Concealer
21. Newborns
22. Post-its
23. Things with handles
24. The Chrysler Building
25. Advil
26. My GPS
27. My publishing contract
28. Sex
29. Laser printers
30. Libraries
31. Bike rides
32. The sunlight on Jones Beach
33. My kids' teachers
34. Bookstores
35. Push-up bras
36. Hair products
37. Email
38. Modern hygiene
39. Barack Obama
40. Lactaid
41. Newsday's Cryptoquote
42. Air-conditioning
43. Contact lenses
44. Good health
45. Spellcheck
46. Elastic waistbands
47. Signed books
48. Heating pads
49. New Yorkers
50. Antibiotics
51. Red wine
52. Sliding doors on a minivan
53. Jokes
54. Cabot's Vitamin E Cream
55. Dogs
56. AstrologyZone
57. Autumn leaves
58. Luggage wheels
59. Richard Russo characters
60. Long hot showers
61. My eyelashes
62. Chocolate truffles
63. The Marx Brothers
64. Barbecues
65. Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert
66. CafeMom
67. The "find" feature on my cordless phone(s)
68. Scrabble
69. Diners
70. Love
71. The nice cashiers at Waldbaums
72. Online shopping
73. Stadium-style seating at movie theaters
74. Forgiveness
75. Retractable cords
76. Nassau-Suffolk Services for Autism
77. Solitude
78. Beatles songs
79. Moist turkey
80. Naps on the couch
81. Art museums
82. Sarcasm
83. Parking spaces
84. Search engines
85. Diet Coke
86. People who write back
87. Sugarfree gum
88. NPR
89. Men
90. My extended family
91. Cotton sweatshirts
92. My new computer
93. Large crowds at my house for dinner
94. Tina Fey
95. Potato latkes
96. Readers
97. Seinfeld reruns
98. Atoms
99. Polite drivers
100. Lists
101. People who read my blog

Monday, November 24, 2008


By Saralee Rosenberg

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I'm a huge fan of Saralee Rosenberg, fellow Long Island author, friend, tour mate, lunch buddy, inspiration and all around partner-in-crime. But today I want to focus more specifically on her magnificently funny and surprisingly layered novel, DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD.

As I mentioned in Friday's update, I recently bought eight copies of this book to give as holiday gifts. Take a look at some of the reviews it's been getting and you'll understand why I'm so besotted ...

“Great read. Hilarious and heartwarming!” - Good Housekeeping Quick and Simple Magazine’s Book Pick of the Week (July 22, 2008)

"Saralee Rosenberg’s latest novel is zany and will have you laughing out loud. But under all the hilarity is a wonderfully touching story that grabs you at page one and doesn’t let go until the end.” -Debbi Honorof, Book Columnist, Long Island Woman

"Through a winning blend of hip and humble humor, Rosenberg simultaneously skerwers and celebrates the institution of suburban sisterhood." - Booklist

“I just had to send you an e-mail concerning your book, Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead. I’m on vacation and finished it late last night. I have never laughed and cried so much while reading a book. Bravo!” - Jennifer Vido, reviewer and columnist,

And the buzz from readers is even better. Click over to to see what I mean.

Since this is my official Girlfriends Cyber Circuit blog entry about Saralee, I got to interview her. Check out my colorful and funny friend ...

What was the inspiration for DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD?

Of my four novels, DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD is the only one that was inspired by, well, me! This story is based on my first novel, ALL IN THE CARDS, which was never published, but did take a very exciting journey to Hollywood. Back in 1997, Bette Midler optioned it for a feature film (she was looking for a follow up comedy to “First Wives Club”). Exactly! Wow! First time out and it’s a homerun. Sadly, the reason you never heard of it is because ultimately, Bette and her partner couldn’t get financing or find the right screenwriter to adapt it. Bye bye Bette... Now fast forward to a few years ago. My novels, A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE, CLAIRE VOYANT and FATE & MS. FORTUNE had done very well but were about single women looking for love in all the wrong places. I wanted to write about my “peeps” in the suburbs and pitched my editor on letting me rewrite ALL IN THE CARDS. She was hesitant because she wasn’t sure Avon was the right publisher for a suburban/soccer mom story with bickering neighbors. Then came “Desperate Housewives” and suddenly it was, get me suburban/soccer mom stories with bickering neighbors. Timing is everything.... So although DEAR NEIGHBOR is an incarnation of my earliest novel, it is a much richer, deeper, funnier story and is resonating with readers of all ages.

What came first, the title or the idea?

For DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD, the title came to me only a few months before publication and trust me, by then I was in a total panic. The original title, based on the very earliest draft, was ALL IN THE CARDS, but everyone agreed that was kind of boring. Then I submitted a list of twenty titles, some interesting, some wacky, some that would never fly because they involved curse words. Here is a sampling: Hot, Hungry and Hormonal; Ask Your Doctor if Stress Is Right for You; Same SH-T, Different Zip; If Lucy Hated Ethel; and one of my personal favorites, The Bitch Next Door. No, no, no, my editor said to all of those. Then I came up with Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead and she smiled. We have a winner!!! And I must admit, it’s a beauty. Everyone gets it. No need for an explanation. As for my novel, CLAIRE VOYANT, that title came to me years ago and it took me a while to create an entire story based on the premise that a girl named Claire would have super natural abilities.

Which scene (or scenes) in this book did you love writing?

I am crazy about writing dialogue and would spend days working on a scene between Mindy and Beth to make sure that I got the tone, the phrasing, the timing and the subtle nuances just right. There was so much that they wanted to say to each other after eight years of making each other crazy, I just had to let it out a little at a time, like air coming out of a balloon. But the scene I loved writing the most was the one where they are in a hotel room and Beth confronts the fact that she might be pregnant. It is a funny, poignant moment where both characters reveal their greatest joys and misgivings of motherhood and I remember when I sat at my computer, the words just poured out and I had to sit still to hear every last word coming through. I realized at the end that they had just broadcast my own conflicts and vulnerabilities about being a mom and it was whoa... where did that come from?

Most authors admit that they dream of being on Oprah, but you have a unique take on this. Please share it with my blog readers ...

Sigh. I’ve actually had the distinct privilege of appearing on Oprah to discuss my non-fiction book, 50 FABULOUS PLACES TO RAISE A FAMILY, and I gotta tell you, it was awesome. She was soooo nice and I and my husband/co-author were treated like royalty. We got the limousine, the fancy hotel, the nice dinner out, hair and make-up and a souvenir coffee cup that still sits on my desk as a pen holder. And Steadman was there, too (he smelled so good!) Would I love to be a guest again? Are you kidding me? It would be a dream come true to be invited back as a best selling novelist. In fact, I had a dream scene in DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD that involved my character Mindy being on the show to talk about what it was like to live next door to Beth, the bitch. It had to be cut because of space limitations, but trust me, Oprah is always on my mind. Nobody sells a book like her.

What is up next for you?

I am very excited about my next novel because the focus is about a child leaving for college and this is hitting very close to home as our youngest is now a senior in high school. But in this story, Jackie, a twice-divorced mom, has one son, 17-year old Daniel and she is in a panic thinking that when he leaves for college in the fall, she’ll be left alone with her ornery, widowed father. Thus, when she sets off on the campus tour circuit, she decides to throw caution and her underwear to the wind and boy does she have one hell of a good time. It’s worse senioritis than even Daniel has and their adventures visiting the Ivies is one for the books. In the end, she rediscovers the smart, ambitious girl she left behind at Yale Law and pledges to get her life back on track. The title of the book is EARLY DECISION and I think it’s going to be my best yet. No publication date as of yet.

I hope you'll consider DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD for your holiday list, your book club or both. You can find it at your local chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit,, or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Saralee's slick new website at

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Update

* Yesterday I had a manicure in a salon where little to no English was spoken. When the young Asian man ran the coarse nail buffer over my pinkie nail, he accidentally cut open skin beyond the cuticle. I pulled my hand away to show him what he did, and he wordlessly took out a small vial of blue liquid and applied a few drops. Antibiotic, I thought. How nice.

At first I felt nothing and then ... holy focaccia. It started to burn. I tried to tough it out, figuring I was just being a wimp. (My pain tolerance is notoriously low.) But the burn started to spread up my finger to my hand and arm. Finally I started to scream, I HAVE TO WASH THIS OFF! I HAVE TO WASH THIS OFF!

No one even knew what I was saying. They just stared, inscrutably, at this crazy American woman jumping around the salon.

Anyway, it still hurt when I went to bed last night, still hurts a bit now ... not like a cut but like a burn. I still have no idea what the hell this guy put on my hand. But my nails look fabulous.

* On page 205 of the work-in-progress. This morning I reread the last chapter I wrote and it needs a bit of work. Don't think I'll be able to move forward until I fix what's bugging me. Yeah, I'm that anal.

* My parents, AKA Morty and Helen Seinfeld of Del Boca Vista, are landing in LaGuardia this afternoon and will be staying with us for the week. (Note to self: buy more bran cereal.) Check back in soon for reports from the front.

* Late to the game, as usual, but I just finished reading Audrey Niffennegger's THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE. It brought me to my knees. If you haven't read this powerful book, what are you waiting for?

* Speaking of late to the game, I just started reading Nelson DeMille's THE GOLD COAST. He wrote a new intro for this decade-old book, and I was struck by the attitude he had toward his own work. At first, I thought it was hubris, and then I realized I just wasn't accustomed to confidence in writers. We tend to be a pretty self-effacing bunch. Made me question my conviction that all good writers are insecure. (The reasoning is that confident people won't torture themselves over the quality of their writing to the point where they're willing to work like desperate animals to improve it.) Is DeMille, who's clearly an outstanding writer, the exception to the rule? Or is my assumption faulty?

* More book news: I bought eight copies of Saralee Rosenberg's DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD to give as teacher gifts this year. That should tell you something about my belief in this book. Just wanted to put a bee in your bonnet if you're thinking about holiday gifts. You'll note that Amazon, in its infinite wisdom, suggests that you pair your purchase of this book with both of mine. Who am I to argue with that? Anyway, I'll be running an interview with Saralee within the next few days, so check back in.

* Last Friday my 16-year-old wonderkid won the award for Best Music Video at his high school film festival. My pride filled the entire auditorium. Better yet? His pride. It was quite a moment. It's a film style called animutation, and it's pretty avant-garde. Take a look:

Friday, November 14, 2008

News flash from Long Island!

News 12 Long Island story on Saralee Rosenberg and me ...

FriDaY uPdaTe

* Last night Saralee Rosenberg and I did a book talk at the Barnes & Noble and in East Northport. Rain dampened the turnout, but the folks who came were smart and fun, and it was a success all around. A big shout-out to Linda Epstein and Jen at Barnes & Noble for all the help. News12 Long Island showed up as promised, and I should be able to post a link to the story by this afternoon. Note, though, that if I look like Quasimodo and sound like a brain injury victim, all bets are off.

Also, a big warm hug to Taryn Rosenberg for taking the pics. Scroll down for more.

Also also ... we left plenty of signed copies of DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD and THE SMART ONE at the store. So if you're on Long Island, I hope you'll remember that when you're doing your holiday shopping.

* My exciting news this week is that I got a brand new desktop computer. It's big and fast and beautiful, and I can't help but wonder why I've been working on a scrunchy little laptop all these years. It's an HP and I got a good deal on it from Circuit City. As you may know, that company is bleeding pretty badly these days, so please consider checking them out if you have electronics on your holiday list this year.

* Up to page 190 on the new book, which means I only advanced 4 pages this week. But I spent most of the week editing the existing chapters, so I wasn't expecting much progress. Anyway, I sent the pages to my editor and hope to hear back soon.

* Celebrated my wedding anniversary this week, and will celebrate my birthday next week. November is a big month around here!

And now some pictures from last night ...

Saralee and I pose with Barnes & Noble Community Relations Manager, Linda Epstein.

Taking a minute to pose before we begin.

The talk starts ...

... and continues.

Signing books at the end.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


By Kelly Parra

Kelly Parra's new and exciting INVISIBLE TOUCH hit the stands just a few weeks ago, and I'm thrilled to be blogging about it. Young Adult readers, critics and fellow authors adore Kelly's exciting stories and engaging characters, and I'm sure you will, too.

I recently interviewed Kelly about this new book, and here are the highlights ...

How would you describe the genre of INVISIBLE TOUCH, and what pulled you toward it?

I would describe INVISIBLE TOUCH as a Contemporary Paranormal. Since it is about a modern teenage girl who has an odd psychic power of seeing signs or visions on individuals' torsos and must piece the clues together in order to stop an unfortunate fate. I've always been fascinated by the paranormal and signs that could have alternative meanings, and believed the concept would make a great story idea.

Do you have a favorite character in this book? If so, why?

My favorite character is definitely Kara. She's dealing with a strong psychic gift that is often at times a curse and tries to get a handle on it all by herself while the family deals with the grief of losing her father. She's got a strong heart and like a lot of teens with personal dilemmas trying to hold it together.6. Is there a story behind the title of this book?

Is there a story behind the title of INVISIBLE TOUCH?

A small one. My agent, editor and myself couldn't agree on a title. It sold under "Signs" which wasn't going to be the title just what we referenced the book as. There were all kinds of suggestions thrown on the table but we couldn't seem to agree, until my editor's assistant was on her way to a Phil Collins concert and offered one of the group's songs as a title--INVISIBLE TOUCH. It was a title that was cool for a song but really stood out for a book title. We all finally agreed!

Do you pay attention to book reviews? If so, has there been any particular review that made your heart do a little dance?

I do read reviews in the early stages so I can get a feel of what readers think of a new book. Its always a great feeling to read something nice by someone you've never met! TeensReadToo gave Invisible Touch the "Gold Star Award of Excellence" and the Salinas Californian gave it "Five Gold Pens". So early reviews have been nice to me!

What are you reading now?

I just finished Marjorie M. Liu's The Iron Hunt and now I'm reading Salvation in Death by J.D. Robb. I like to read my fave sci-fi authors!

Thanks so much, Kelly!

Just a reminder: books make excellent holiday gifts. So if you know a young reader, please look for INVISIBLE TOUCH at your favorite chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit,, or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Kelly's website at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Join us in East Northport tomorrow!

Looks very likely New12 Long Island is going to show up for the book talk at the Barnes & Noble in East Northport tomorrow night, so I hope you can come. Would be very cool to have a decent-sized crowd in attendance when there are cameras around! Besides, maybe you'll get some air time, too. Here are the particulars ...

Thursday, November 13, 7 pm
Ellen Meister & Saralee Rosenberg
Barnes & Noble
Huntington Square Shopping Center
4000 East Jericho Turnpike
East Northport, NY 11731

Look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Update

* Pretty slow week. So little happened except that, um ... we changed the course of history. I'm even more ecstatic than I thought I'd be over this election, and so damned proud of my fellow Americans.

* In other election news, my 10-year-old daughter ran for president of her elementary school and lost. She got the bad news at the very end of day and then crawled into bed and announced that she wasn't going to Hebrew school. I pushed her to go, and by that night she was over it. What an astounding kid.

* I'm up to page 186 in the new book, but expect progress to be slow this week. Right now I'm editing in hard copy, getting these pages in shape to send to my editor.

* Still devouring Tom Perrotta's THE ABSTINENCE TEACHER. Such a funny, smart, sly book. And he's walking such a fine line with the subject matter--pitting right wing religious types against left wing secular types--that I can't wait to see how he wraps it up.

* This Thursday (11/13) at 7 pm, Saralee Rosenberg and I are doing a book talk and signing at the new Barnes & Noble in East Northport. Saralee created a terrific email invitation that she sent to local friends. Here it is:

I copied her and created one, too. If you're on my list of Long Island family and friends, here's what you'll receive:

You don't need an invitation to come. I'll be posting about it again next week, but if you want directions now, click here.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Are you a Long Island artist?

Talent doesn't guarantee professional success in the arts.

Whether your intended career is in dance or theatre, writing or painting, you need an entrepreneurial mindset, good contacts and competence in basic business skills: selling, negotiating, writing contracts. No one is better qualified to teach their skills than Long Island's top visual and performing artists.

The above copy is from a program going on this Saturday at the Southampton Cultural Center. It's called The Art of Doing Business in the Arts, and it covers a spectrum of fine and performing arts, including writing ... which is where Saralee Rosenberg and I come in. We'll be speaking at 11 am. But the program itself goes from 8 am - 2 pm.

Click here to see the agenda and you'll get an idea of the scope of the event.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Update

This week went by in about 3.2 seconds. Here are the highlights ...

* Tomorrow (Saturday), Saralee Rosenberg and I are doing a book signing at the Waldenbooks in the Walt Whitman Mall (Huntington Station, Long Island.) We'll be there around noon, and will probably stay for about two hours. If you're around, I hope you'll stop by and say hello. We'll be sitting at a table by the front.

* Reached page 178 on the work-in-progress, which puts me 28 pages ahead of schedule and finally past the halfway mark. This week I told my editor I was getting ready to show her what I've done, but just hours after I said that I got a huge idea for something I want to add to the book, and I'm excited about it. So I need a little time to get that done. Meanwhile, my parents and my husband are reading the pages.

* Last night the three darlings carved out their jack-o-lanterns. They worked so hard, so long, and so quietly--a rare moment I actually captured on film:

* And while we're on Halloween ... remember that flying squirrel costume I was complaining about last week? I actually finished it. Here's the front view:
And here you can see the tail, which I'm awfully proud of:

* The flying squirrel pictured above is running for president of her elementary school. She had to make three campaign posters, which she accomplished with ingenuity and hard work. When she came home the next day, I asked about the other two candidates' posters and was told that one of them included an audio chip that spoke. (Remind me again why I live in this town?) The following week she had to make a tri-fold poster board, and pleaded with me to let her do something "really big" with it. And so I ran her to the local party store where we bought a light-up necklace to string around the picture of her face. I honestly couldn't believe I had become one of "those" moms, but I felt compelled to level the playing field. The kid deserves a fair shot, after all. The next day she brought it to school, and I expected her to tell me what a hit it was. Instead, I learned that one of the other candidates had a video game embedded in her poster board. *sigh* In my next life, we live deep in the woods with the creatures of the forest.

* Every once in a while someone asks me what I think about GOLD COAST, the Nelson DeMille classic set on Long Island, and I have to sheepishly admit I haven't read it. Now that he's coming out with a sequel, I figured it was time I got around to reading it. So I went to the public library, but alas it's checked out. While I wait for it I'm reading Tom Perrotta's THE ABSTINENCE TEACHER. Such a bold and extraordinary writer ... and he makes it look so damn easy.

* Yesterday, my sister's toy poodle went into heat, and her other dog, a funny-looking little dachshund-mix, mounted her. According to my sister, this prompted a hysterical call from from father, who witnessed the coupling. "You gotta get home! The dogs are stuck together!! Get home right away! They're stuck! THEY'RE STUCK!" I assume that by now the dogs have become ... uh ... unstuck, but I haven't stopped laughing. This is SO going in a novel ...

Thursday, October 30, 2008


By Allison Winn Scotch

Big excitement in the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit--one of our own, Allison Winn Scotch, has just made The New York Times Bestseller list. Way to go, Allison!

I'm hugely excited about the book itself. At first, I thought my attraction for TIME OF MY LIFE might be kind of self-indulgent, as the plot shares a common thread with my novel-in progress. But learning that so many thousands of readers are flocking to it validates my feelings.

To see for yourself, check out the flap copy:

Most readers have had that “what if” person in their pasts, the one they could have ended up with, or maybe the one that they fantasize about even after they’ve married or moved on. In Allison Winn Scotch’s latest novel, TIME OF MY LIFE, (Shaye Areheart Books; October 7, 2008), she explores what might happen if readers could live their lives all over again, and change the course of history.

Jillian Westfield has the perfect husband, the perfect baby, and the perfect home in the suburbs, but sometimes she finds herself wondering about the life she left behind. A few short years earlier, she was living with her undeniably attractive but unreliable boyfriend Jackson, working a demanding job at an ad agency, partying too much, and living in a less than perfect New York apartment. But those days were full of possibility and free of diaper changes, trips to the grocery store, and endless days fulfilling only the needs of her daughter and husband. Now, discontented in her faltering marriage, Jillian can’t help but think about what her life would have been like if she hadn’t married Henry, quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom, or spurned her mother’s attempts to reconcile after two decades of silence. What if she’d stayed with Jackson in their run-down apartment and tried a little harder to make their relationship work? What if she’d answered her mother’s letter? What would her life be like now?

One morning, Jillian gets a chance to find out. She wakes up in her old apartment, right in the middle of her life as it was seven years ago, before she’d left Jackson and her job, and ignored her mother’s letter. With 20/20 hindsight, Jillian has the chance to discover “what if” once and for all – and to decide which life she really wants.

Sounds amazing, doesn't it?

Allison agreed to answer some interviews questions about the book, so here goes ...

How would you describe the genre of TIME OF MY LIFE, and what pulled you toward it?

I write what the industry deems “commercial fiction,” or “upmarket women’s fiction,” which, in less industry-type speak, means fiction that appeals to people who want fun, absorbing, fairly-quick reads, the type of read that you’d find reviewed in People Magazine. (Which, incidentally, Time of My Life was!) I’m pulled toward this genre because this is the stuff I read. I’m a busy working mom to two young kids, and when I read a book, I want to be sucked in and entertained. I don’t want to have to reread every word or sentence and try to keep my eyes open after four pages. I want something that will make me think, but won’t take up too, too much energy because, frankly, I don’t have that much energy to spare!

What can you tell us about the genesis of the idea for this book?

I knew I wanted to write a book that dealt with time-travel in some way…the last episodes of Felicity were among my favorite hours of television EVER, and I was drawn to doing something like that. But I didn’t know how to sort it out in my mind. In fact, I mentioned something to my agent about “time-travel” for my next book, and I think she thought I was nuts! But then one afternoon while this was on my mind, my best friend called while she was on vacation in a city of her ex-boyfriend, and she said, “I’m so weirded out…I can’t stop thinking about what my life might have been like.” Then we had one of those intimate life conversations that you can only have with your closest friends about her what-ifs and my what-ifs, and how this was all very normal, even though people didn’t really talk about it. We hung up, and I headed out for a run, and bam, the idea, characters and plotlines just presented themselves very clearly. I came home, wrote what are now the first 14 pages, and sent them off to my agent, who flipped for them. I think, as so many of us get older and look back on our younger years with nostalgia, it’s very easy (and normal) to consider what the other possibilities could have been – and I wanted to explore that?

Do you have a favorite character in this book? If so, why?

I’m not sure that I had a favorite character, but I certainly had (and have) favorite scenes, and those scenes are when Jillian, my protagonist, runs into her future-husband in her former life. (Got that?) It was so much fun to envision how panicked and overwhelmed and confused she’d be...and even now, when I reread those scenes, I read them with a smile.

Did you have any input on the cover, and are you happy with the finished product?

I had input in so far as my publisher asked me to send them images of other book covers that I liked. They also asked me for any ideas – symbolism, photos, etc – that I might have, but to be honest, I’m good with words, not visuals, and I trusted that the art directors were hired for a reason. So I did certainly send them images of other books, but I left the actual interpreted stuff to them. And I’m so glad! My cover, in my opinion, is incredible, and never in a million years could I have conceived of it: it’s not a literal interpretation of anything in the book, but conveys exactly the spirit of it.

Do you pay attention to book reviews? If so, has there been any particular review that made your heart do a little dance?

Um, yes. Just the other day, I was reading a review and wishing that I had impulse-control, like those celebrities who claim that they don’t read what people say about them online. I wish, wish, wish this could be me, because, while most reviews are wonderful, there are some, of course, that are eviscerating, and those are never fun. The review that truly flipped me out was the one in last week’s People. We didn’t know it would be in there, so after I dropped my son off at school, I stopped at the grocery store and decided to flip through the newest issue to see what books were reviewed. Well, MINE WAS!! I completely lost it in the check-out line and nearly hurdled the conveyor belt to hug the cashier! I don’t remember anything from seeing the review to coming home and putting my groceries away! In fact, later that afternoon, I went into a panic because I had no recollection of putting the ice cream in the freezer and figured that it had melted on my kitchen counter…but fortunately, when I checked, I had…it was like I was in a total black-out from the People review!

Ha! I adore your reaction to the People review! I would have been the exact same way. Thanks for answering my questions, Allison, and again ... congrats on being such a smashing success.

I hope you'll look for TIME OF MY LIFE the next time you visit your favorite chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit,, or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Allison's website at

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Update

* Up to page 162 in the manuscript now. What's exciting is that I feel I have an excellent handle on the outline for the rest of the book, which means it should get easier now and not harder.

* Got my Putnam/Berkley book contracts in the mail today. Woo-hoo!!

* My daughter has decided to be a flying squirrel for Halloween, which means I actually have to make the costume. (Sue Henderson, do you know how lucky you are?) The big problem here is that I DO NOT SEW, despite the fact that I was once the publicity director for the American Home Sewing Association. Worst yet, darling daughter has a costume party tomorrow, which means I have to finish it today. Further, it's almost 4:00 and I haven't yet been on the treadmill or showered. I need staff!

* Getting back to the book, here's something kind of cool. The whole idea behind the portal in my new novel is that every time my protagonist makes a big decision in her life, an alternate life in which she made the other decision splinters off. I thought this was a pretty crazy and fantastical notion, but this week there was a special on Nova about one of the world's most brilliant physicists, Hugh Everett III, who believed that the only way to reconcile quantum mechanics with the physical world we live in is to acknowledge that multiple worlds exist in which all of our possible choices have occurred. Wild, huh? You can read more about it here. And if you can wrap mind around it, you're at least a thousand times smarter than me.

* I did something fun and strange this week, courtesy of Sony Reader. As part of a campaign to promote literacy, a guy name David Farrow is spending the entire month of October sitting in a store window on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, reading to himself from the Sony Reader. The whole thing is captured on live webcam. Yesterday, I was one of his relief readers for an hour. It was a trip, having people gawk at me like an animal in the zoo. I even had my picture snapped by tourists. Please click here to learn more about this great program.