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