Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Moved to WordPress

Ladies and Gents, I have made the move to WordPress. Why? I have loved Blogger - so simple, so easy, the perfect way for me to learn to blog. It's time to kick it up a notch. WordPress seems to hold more credibility in the writing world, and I already have a successful WordPress blog with my writers' group, MUG. So goodbye to blogger for now. All future posts will appear at my WordPress Penned Pennies site.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Hammer Reading

 Last week, I went to see a reading with a fellow writer friend, at his invitation, at the Hammer Museum. It just happened to be Aimee Bender (I just finished reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake a couple weeks ago). The other reader was Etgar Keret. I hadn’t heard of him but he turned out to be quite entertaining. He is from Israel and apparently revolutionized literature there. The two of them played off each other well, particularly during the Q&A section.
            Keret explained his impact on the literature in Israel somewhat like this:
            The written word has not changed in Israel in thousands of years. Authors who write in English worry about seeing their book up on a shelf next to Shakespeare. Israel’s authors worry about seeing their book next to the Bible. (Also, as I learned while in Israel, anything with Hebrew writing on it does not get thrown away, rather archived or buried.) Yet, while the written word has carried through, the spoken language has changed. It is common in Israel, when saying something like “see you later,” to say, “Tov yalla bye.” This phrase is a combination of three languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and English. (Tov meaning “good,” yalla meaning “come on” or “hurry up.”) Keret incorporated Hebrew slang into his writing, which was unheard of, and caused quite a reaction in the Israeli community.
            This was an incredible story, especially since I recently went to Israel, but mostly because this is so different from writing in English. When studying creative writing I have always been told to get the dialogue as close to what people actually say as possible. A common writing exercise is to go to a public place and just listen to people, recording it all down, because this informs the veracity of the writing.
            Not to mention their reading selections were fabulous.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Notes on a Manuscript

Received notes on my manuscript from a friend in the mail. Great comments, as usual. Got stopped, as usual. In the interim I revised a short story and wrote a whole new one – this was refreshing, since I hadn’t written anything new in a long time. It was proof that I had not forgotten how.
            I have to remind myself to be discerning when I accept notes from people. I had a creative writing professor who warned against prescriptive comments – both giving and receiving. These are the types of specific notes like “you should kill off x character,” or “you should have x character’s back-story be that he was beaten by his father,” etc. When giving notes, a person’s focus should be what the writer wants the story to be. When receiving notes, an author should be wary of prescriptive ideas not his/her own.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Santa Barbara Weekend

            Spent a long weekend in Santa Barbara to celebrate myriad events: my sister’s birthday, my father’s upcoming birthday, Passover, Easter. Ate lots of good food, spent wonderful time with friends and family, relaxed in a min-vacation, did the things I love to do in SB. Hiking, walking on the beach.

Above, a gorgeous view from my house, and below, another gorgeous -sunset- view from my house.

            Amidst everything, yes, I managed to write. The novel goes. Slow as ever. Yet steady.
It was inspiring to spend time with my sister, who is transitioning from a steady, pay-check culinary job to full-time painting. Talking with her is reminder of everything I’ve gone through to get to where I am, and a reminder of why I’m doing what I’m doing.

The incredibly delicious birthday cake my sister made. She sent the leftovers with me to LA - I was supposed to give them to my writers' group, but ended up eating it myself!

 Above, my boyfriend and my dog taking a moment to rest during our hike. Below, the Easter goodie-bags my sister made for her birthday picnic.

Being there also made me think a lot about my life. I have always jokingly said that my plan is to sell this first book and move back to SB to revise. I have an incredible life in LA, one I’d be reluctant to give up, but being in Santa Barbara made me want to be in Santa Barbara. I was reminded of how much more productive, healthy, and relaxed I am there. The question is, as ever, how to reconcile my lives?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fading Writers' Group

            One lonely wine bottle. Used to be I’d host a writers’ group and send four or five bottles to the recycle. The group is dying out.
            We’ve faced this before. Life gets in the way and people end up doing other things. We have two members moving to Boston and several with other work or personal commitments. The thing seems to go in ebbs and flows. The flow, last time, happened when I took a couple of classes at UCLA Extension and invited fellow students to join. This time, I’m not planning to take any classes.
            My other group is thriving. I can’t help but compare, and wonder, what makes a writing group tick? Why are some people so committed, and others not? And inevitably, what can I do to spark that commitment, or how do I find other people who already have it?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Getting over the Hump

The key to this, I think, is allowing myself the time I need. Work on other things, perhaps. It’s hard to dissuade the nagging feeling that I should be able to speed up the process.
I've been reading some inspiring articles. Useful during this slump I’m in. Remember: failure is a pathway to success, doubt is a tool. Be the artist that I am.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Just a Speed Bump

     Recently I've been struggling to put in more than a hour a day of fiction writing. Sure, there are things like life getting in the way. All that stuff that just takes time to do. Everything takes time. There are relationships to maintain, other projects I want to work on. I've also started a new personal growth and development program that is seven months long, not to mention a 10+ hour commitment each week. It took some adjusting to get back into the swing of things after traveling, too.
     But none of that really has anything to do with writing or not. I know I can work my schedule out. So what is it?
     About a week and a half ago, I met with one of my readers. He is an actor, a screenwriter, studied literature in college. He knows something about story. See Julian Conrad's blog here.
     He gave me an incredible critique. I'm grateful for his feedback - he is the only one from my last round of readers who took the time to sit down with me and go through his comments. Yet, since the critique I've been stopped. I haven't been revising.
     Why? I'm processing. Solutions are being generated, I can feel it. And sometimes, it takes time. Is there a way to speed this process? When I wrote papers in college, usually I didn't want to, and I had to force myself to just sit down and slog through. When I was finished at least I had something to work with. Creativity isn't like that.
     There are ways to generate creativity, but I don't think this is one of those times. Sometimes you have to let the ideas roil around, so when you sit down to revise, something comes out.
     I wouldn't call it a block. Merely a bump.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Another Birthday

An incredibly delicious birthday cheesecake from my mom 

gorgeous birthday tulips from my boyfriend

Another year passed. I am still working on my novel with no near end in sight. My mentor asked me today if I am experiencing frustration with the fact that this is taking longer than I thought it would. Yes, yes I am. This, he tells me, is normal.
 I am also experiencing frustration over not writing for a month while traveling. This, my mentor tells me to simply give up. It’s done. “That dog won’t hunt.” There’s no use beating myself up about it.
So, here we are, another year gone and yet – very much closer to being a successful writer. Almost halfway through the third draft. Now I am back to the daily struggle of scheduling, of writing. The first time I sat down and worked on my novel for an hour since my travels – oh, that felt good.
All of my birthday celebrations, in NY and in LA, were amazing. And, regardless of frustration, I am so happy to be writing again.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Big Apple Vacation

            I am so grateful for the relative security we have in the US. After the whirlwind of Israel, I spent a week in New York, and I was happy to be home.

            My boyfriend, who had never been to NY, met me there. We saw two shows (How to Succeed and Avenue Q), went to the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Guggenheim, the Met, and MOMA, and ate lots of incredible food. We celebrated my birthday and Valentine’s Day, and it was all over in a blink. We barely scratched the surface.

            I had all these plans for what we were going to do and see every day, how I was going to show him the city and made his first trip to NY so incredible. I forgot we were supposed to be on vacation.
He reminded me to slow down, relax, enjoy. This was hard to do, especially because the other thing always in the back of my mind was: wasn’t I supposed to be writing again? I’d given myself a break while in Israel, but now that I was back in the US with my laptop, what was my excuse?

Vacation. Right. Romantic holiday.
I took a deep breath and gave myself permission to slow down, relax, enjoy myself, and not write for another week.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Trip to Israel

Going on the 10-day Birthright trip to Israel was an incredible experience. I would highly recommend this *free* program to anyone with Jewish heritage. I saw so many amazing sights and did so many amazing things. We went to the Western Wall. We hiked Masada. We rode camels in the Negev and floated in the Dead Sea. 

And I was exposed to a part of the world that I hear about on the news but never really got the full impact of until I saw that way of life. Every citizen is required to serve. Their soldiers walk around with huge guns like it’s no big deal, because it’s normal. We had Israelis join our group and we cried together in the Holocaust Museum. But when we went to the veteran cemetery, each one of them knew people buried there.

The women and the men are separated at the Western Wall. There are 26-foot concrete walls on either side of the road leading to Rachel’s tomb, and a checkpoint where 18-year-old soldiers have to decide whether or not to let a woman in because she could be pregnant or she could be carrying a bomb under her dress.

Ignorance is everywhere. Over there, the threat of violence is constant.

My current book is about sororities. It’s really about the way women treat each other. In Israel, I was reminded of the bigger picture. It’s about humanity. I don’t know what I will write next, but I suspect I will write it with the intention of bringing awareness. Of asking those questions: how do we treat each other? How can we unite as people, as humans?

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I am sitting at my friend's apartment in New York, about to take a bus to Newark airport, about to get on a flight to Israel! Excited, nervous, worried about not working on my novel for 10 whole days. (And regretful that I haven't posted on my blog for this whole month - trip prep is my excuse!) My mentor, and others who know me well, or have experience as writers themselves, told me to take the vacation. Give myself a break, and when I get back, I'll have new eyes. There was one chapter in particular I've been stuck on. Perhaps the time away is the perfect solution.