Tuesday, April 17, 2018

No Cat or Dog Stories, Please...



When it comes to what picture book publishers are looking for, there are general please-don’ts some editors and agents have posted over the last few years.

One I have seen a few times is “no cute cats or dogs stories.”
Nothing wrong with the above, it’s just that the market is saturated.

And yet, I keep seeing more picture books that are new with feline or canine protagonists.

Another is no rhyming stories.


I keep seeing those, also. And I’m glad, because as rhyming has gone out of fashion in “serious” poetry, its last vestige is in picture books, and we all *love* rhyme when done well.

 Here’s a good example—

May I suggest we write the stories we most want to write and more-or-less ignore these please-don’ts?


& Tell great stories &

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Looking for Mr. Monk

On the last day of the last year, noon-time December 31 2017, Mr. Monk vanished.
He left to go in the back yard, and I have not seen him since.

I took this photograph half an hour before he left that last day.


We have three cats, and I love them all. But Mr. Monk was, for me, the cat of a lifetime.


For eight weeks, I walked everywhere and looked, called, tapped on closed garages, rattled cat treats, and prayed. I posted with the microchip company, pasted Lost Cat posters nearby, and sent notices to all the shelters within thirty miles. I went in person to nearby shelters a few times. I let the neighbors know, posted on the neighborhood site, and spoke to people feeding feral colonies nearby.

Two different neighbors spotted a cat they thought could be Mr. Monk. We bolted immediately, both times, to check. Nope.

A kind neighbor thought she spotted a dead cat that could be him. Our car was in the garage, so she came in person with her car to take DH to check the body. Nope.

Another neighbor spotted a cat that looked like Mr. Monk on her security camera in the dead of night. She sent me the video. I looked at this lookalike and saw the makings were not the same. Nope.

Recently, through our listing on a website for lost/found animals, I got contacted by someone two neighborhoods away, asking if the enclosed photo is of our Monk. That lost kitty showed up in her backyard. His face came closest, and we spoke on the phone. The kind lady sent more photos. My heart was pounding.
Alas, another nope.

Yesterday, more than three months after we put Lost Cat posters nearby, (and the posters survived much rain and wind to still be hanging) we got contact from the chip registry that a neighbor saw our poster and may have seen our cat. We made contact with this neighbor, another photo exchange, and another nope.

I didn’t know any of these neighbors before, and felt so grateful to have their eyes and ears.

And my four-year-old soul-cat, my beloved Monk, is still missing.


While looking in person, the local animal shelter advised checking cats that are found and cats that are offered for adoption, because even microchips fail occasionally. I continue to do this every day.

In the course of looking at the cats online, I spotted one of the cats in a rescue, who needed a forever home. Something about her face and description just nagged at me. Day after day, and this kitty was still there. I did what I didn’t intend to. I made contact with the rescuer.

A few days later, this little one became our cat. DH named her Nougat, a play on “New Cat” and her coloring. He also said that should Mr. Monk miraculously return to us, well, “we’ll have four cats.”

Meet Nougat---

Little Nougat came to us with diarrhea, tapeworm, ear mites, cow-hocked hind legs, chin acne, (yup, cats can have that) a slight fever and a croupy cough. We have dealt with these, (minus her Charlie Chaplin legs, as "cow-hocked" is genetic and permanent) and with her adjustment. She’s doing beautifully, and our other cats have slowly been more accepting.



And I will never give up on Mr. Monk. I made my Instagram a one-topic site, where I can at least see him when I need to. I call it Looking for Mr. Monk.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

LET THE CLASSICS BE


At the SCBWI meeting I wrote about in the last post, I had an interesting discussion with the younger writers near me. It was about current social sensitivities and the classics of kid-lit and general literature. Do we read/teach/recommend books written only decades ago that convey notions about gender/race/faith no longer deemed acceptable to us?


Think of the N-word used liberally in Huckleberry Finn, one of the great American novels for any age. Think of the misuse of Native American terms in The Sign of the Beaver, another great book. For that matter, think of any of Jane Austen’s main characters whose sole goal in life was to marry, (preferably well$$) or Shakespeare’ Merchant of Venice whose Jewish character is villainously greedy in the classic anti-Semitic tradition.


And so on, and on, and on.
Some parents opt to keep the classics out of their kids’ library. Many school districts have similar policies. They mean well, I’ll give them that. They want their young’uns to feel safe at all times. They feel these currents can wait until the kids are grown and able to understand the context.



I’m on the other side of this debate. I think the classics should be taught, albeit with a contemporary forward by a knowledgeable historian. Because, if we wait until kids are “old enough,” they will be suspicious. If people are exposed to mindsets of another time only when they are adults, presuming they were carefully shielded until then, they are likely to feel incredulous.


“How come I never heard of it?”
“If this were so, I’m sure I would have seen/read about it before.”
“Yeah, they teach it in history class. But I never saw it in anything that was written in those days.”
And, finally— “This is fake news. Fake information from evil interests looking to take over our minds.”


Sounds familiar?


Great books should be taught, and taught unaltered, and to any age. With it, the historical context should also be explained.


Only those who know where we came from can be truly educated and prepared to make thoughtful judgements, which, I presume, is the purpose of education.





I made this pitch to the poor souls who happened to be sitting by me, and I am not sure I convinced anyone. They listened politely. But I got the feeling that reading The Classics was not a priority, and no one wants to stick his or her neck out where the politically sensitive might bite.


But I said my peace, just as I do here, uncensored. Teach the classics and don’t change a single period.


Seems to me particularly poignant at this time of Passover, when my people remember and remind and teach our young that were were once slaves in Egypt. Because not knowing, not remembering, and not teaching-- is a recipe for future disasters. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Out of the COMFORT Zone~~~


There is a valid suggestion, not only for artistic creative folks but for all, to get out of one’s comfort zone now and then.




The thing about comfort, which has much to recommend it, is that it has a lulling affect. You don’t want to walk through life lulled all the time, do you? Certainly not if you want your muse to keep talking to you.


So this last Sunday I did something that took me out of my comfort zone. At least that’s what I told myself to get Self there. I went to an in-person meeting with lots of folks I don’t know, without a single person I do know. The last time I did that was before the invention of the wheel, or so it seems to me.


The meeting was of local SCBWI members, (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and for the first time this chapter was meeting in a café practically in my neighborhood. It was too good not to go to. Sunday morning is a perfect time for me. I know the café and I like it. It stopped raining and the sun washed the streets with rays of positive vibrations. I had no excuse.


What’s the big deal, you say?


For a shy person it is a big deal.


Everyone there was lovely and many were lively. I pretended not to be shy, (that’s one of my specialties, developed of necessity) and tried to be helpful. It was nice.


But here’s the real deal— I got out of my comfort zone and the creative juices reconstituted into liquid flow. A good, good thing.


What would you do to get out of your comfort zone?


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

IS IT ALL RIGHT TO WRITE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU KNOW?

We frame our reality is stories. We remember life’s occurrences not in the continuous minute details of everyday, but as episodes, or chapters. Memories become the fictional story of life, a subjective interpretation of objective reality.


Thus, fiction and non-fiction tread a fine line. A writer who conjures imaginative stories may believe her telling has little to do with people who have crossed her path.


I always write about what I know. Let me put it here. Every character I’ve ever written (and I only write fiction) had a connection to someone or someoneS I know or knew.
But they always wound up so changed that they were no longer, factually, those people. That’s the beauty and the truth of fiction. It allows shaping people/characters in service of the greater story.


When my father read a very early draft of THE VOICE OF THUNDER, he bristled at the actions and sayings of Mira’s father.
“I would never say or think that way,” he said.
“But Mira’s father isn’t you,” I said.
“People would think he is,” he said.
“But he ISN’T,” I said.

My literate, poet father, who understood the power of fiction better than most, also understood how blurry the line would be for most readers. Even if the story were never published, some friends and beta readers would have read it. He was right, because many of them clearly did not make the distinction.

I then went into my frustrated mode and said the unthinkable. I quoted Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird)
     “A writer should write as if their parents are dead,” I said.
     “But I’m not dead,” my father said.

My father died some years later, and before the story had a publisher.



Herein lies the dilemma. You should write what you know. What you know are the people and stories you know. But you should not kill anyone real in the process.

The way I have managed telling the truth in my fiction is to begin from what I know and then let it be sufficiently different, let it sail away, to where only the unimaginative would insist it is a memoir. (And, by the way, everyone is entitled to write an honest memoir, also. I just never did.)



When it comes to non-fiction posts mentioning real life family members or friends, (such as this blog's posts, comments on social media, or articles) I follow the golden rule. I will not speak of others as I hope they will not speak of me. If I need to say something unflattering, I will disguise the person beyond recognition.


Fiction is liberating. I especially like magical realism, where the story can fully manifest and the theme can glow because listeners/readers are unlikely to confuse it with real life. There I get to tell it like it truly is, or at least as I understand it.


I welcome your thoughts on this, as a writer or a reader.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Go VIRAL

How can you make your blog/tweets/Instagram/site/whatever catch on?



As one who has never had a post take over the Internet by storm, (or as they call it, go viral, which sounds ominously sickening) I can’t speak from experience. I’m an observer, just like you.


I find there are three kinds of posts that sometimes (but statistically rarely) catch massive attention.


The first are inspirational yes-we-can and never-give-up and the-best-is-yet-to-come sort of posts. When written with passion and conviction, (and especially from experience) they are needed and wanted and— let’s face it— like water on parched earth. I save, disseminate, and re-read these.


The second are the things-are-so-hard-right-now and I-could-use-your-support for-the-challenges-I’m/my friend/someone I know-is- facing and feeling-overwhelmed sorts of posts. If the story is told well and from a place that feels authentic, our empathetic nature just gravitates to disseminate these and try to enlist help.


The third sorts that catch attention are the mysterious, impossible to explain. At least I can’t. These are the nonsensical-peculiar and can-you-please watch-this-because-it-is-intriguing/amusing/or I don’t know what and what-the----?!?
Example of such is here.


The third kind of viral posts exemplify why no one can reliably plan an economy, or predict the future, or answer the ultimate matter of why we are here with complete accuracy.



And these third viral kinds of posts are the most interesting to me. Even though most are strangely inane, I continue to marvel at what our species will deem worth our while.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Holding My Horses

There are a lot of ‘how-to’ books about how to become a writer, i.e. one who produces regular output of writing with the intention to publish. Whole chapters dedicated to the disciplinary aspect say to—

Write every day [many successful writers don’t)
Write until you have produced X-number of words/pages (Ditto^)
Set a time and don’t vary nor let anything get it the way (Ditto^)

{I will admit this last one is one I have found to work for me. I’m a five-days-a week morning writer.}



But what I have not found in any of the mavens' sites or books is the suggestion to not overdo it.
 Of all the things I have learned about myself, this one has been the most helpful.
 

So here it is:

No matter how inspired I feel and how well it’s going on any given day, this is not a horse race. I set a maximum of pages/word count/time that I will not exceed.

Because there is no reason for a self-caused burnout. I’m in here for the long haul.



For me, this has meant a personal minimum and a maximum output. This is not a fixed output, because novels and picture books are different in this regard, and I write both. But for either, I have come to understand how important it is for me to hold my fire and my horses. 

I intend to write for as long as my life and focus allows. I hope that will be many more years.

And you know what? Of all the how do I do it, this one is the hardest, especially at times. But it turned out to be the most helpful. I doubt I would’ve braved a second, third, or fourth novel without sticking to not overdoing.


Here's to a productive lifetime. Understanding how you work, and finding what works for you.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

All the Reasons to Like PURIM

The Jewish holiday Purim, celebrating the Jewish people’s (once again) salvation from mortal threat, starts tomorrow evening.


How do I like thee, Purim? Let me count the ways~~~ (Apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)


            *The chance to wear a goofy costume
            *The scroll of Esther is a hoot. J   Look it up and re-read if you don’t believe me
            *Hamantaschen, when made right, are delicious
            *Getting baskets of goodies (MISHLO’ACH MANOT) is fun, and giving such is even more fun
*It’s religious-observant “light,” perfect for the family I grew up in
*Jews are commanded to get seriously tipsy, which makes everyone daffier
*It falls right around my birthday
*And just for good measure, again— COSTUMES!


So even if you’re not Jewish, it’s a good time to join us.

{Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York—
Only the children are in costumes there^}


CELEBRATE!


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

VOICES FROM BEYOND...

...or, in this case— BEYOND THE FIREWALL L



One of the many perils of the internet, like the rest of life’s realms, are the fakers, thieves, hackers, and spammers.


About six weeks ago they sort of crossed a boundary, at least for me. Someone hacked into my father’s Facebook page and “friend-requested” myself, my kids, and no doubt others.


My father’s been gone from this world for eight years.


All righty, then. No real harm done. But I. Didn’t. Like. That.



DD sent me an amused screenshot of the request. DS sent a somewhat alarmed question about it. Otherwise, no progeny was harmed in that ill-intentioned maneuver. But it got me thinking about the too many fake “friend requests” I’ve been fielding for the last few years.
You know they are fakers when you have nothing in common professionally; you don’t know them; the photo is generic and often meant to get through your otherwise discerning eyes.

I’ve had plenty of such from “young men serving our country in Iraq.” You want to be thankful for service to our country, no?

And then the handsome middle-aged men looking lovely with some island vacation spot in the background. Looking for a special friendship, honey-babe? Never mind that I’m married and wouldn’t think of it, but if I were, I’d prefer real people ;)  

Because my first name may gender-confuse some of these hacking engines, I’ve gotten a smattering of scantily clad deep cleavaged young females with their tongues sticking out in what some imagine is unbridled lust, who mysteriously need a friend and don’t have any. Anyone will do, I guess.


But now they have to resurrect a dead relative?


So if you think this is just an annoyance and maybe mildly funny, let me suggest it is less banal than that. These are attempts to get into your contacts and have access to what your friends post under the privacy layer of “can be seen by friends of friends.” Everything I do on Facebook (save personal chats on messenger) is completely public. There is nothing they can get from my posts that they won’t see even if we are not friends. Mine is an Author Page, not a private friendship page. But some of my Facebook friends do use layered privacy settings.


If you have been tempted to accept any and all, please consider protecting your friends and deleting these malicious requests.
Back to the Great Beyond, I still want to hear from my father in heaven. But I know he wouldn’t ---EVER—do it on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Dear Author

So I woke up feeling frisky. I decided it was time to respond. This response is to the likes of which I (and every writer I know) had received at some point. In fact, a baffled colleague had just shared getting one to a manuscript for which I was privileged to be a beta reader. Sometimes it’s easier to go to bat for someone else whose work is as good as it gets, in my not humble enough opinion.


From my never-to-be-sent response, you can pretty much reconstruct the original rejection.


Dear Publishing Professional,
I thank you for reading my submission, and for saying you loved-loved-loved it. You needn’t have thanked me for offering, as you said, just the sort of work you are always looking for. I researched and made certain this is the sort of story you have worked on before, and are still looking for. I was most happy that you found it among the best you have seen, and shared this assessment with me. I noted with joy your delight at the relationship between the two protagonists, and the edge-of-one's-seat plot. Your comment on the beautiful phrasing and pacing was most rewarding, because I had worked diligently on both aspects.
Of course, I was saddened that you ended with having to pass on this story, because it is not a fit for your list. Mea culpa. I should have realized your list is made of poorly realized relationships, plodding plots and tired language. I now understand better why you needed to pass on this manuscript.

I will do my best to target next time.
Sincerely,

Author




Okay, steam blown and serenity restored.

‘Tis baffling, but there it is. All publishing professionals are beyond overworked and overwhelmed with less than wonderful offerings by the zillions. But variations of effusive letters that ended with a pass leave a writer with nothing to fix but existence itself.

And no, this particular rejection really was not one I got. But I did see it and it really did happen just now to someone else, and that someone else is going---.


Still, we're ever hopeful, and waiting for some love. C'mon, it's almost Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

SACRED TIME

Or—
Why “I just don’t have the time” doesn’t fly

A dear friend who is an accomplished musician lamented that she has not been able to touch her instrument in ions. Life’s demands have gotten all of her time and stamina.

This reminded me of countless occasions where someone said to me, “I’d love to write,” or “I started to write,” and invariably followed with “but I couldn’t find the time.”


I used to be that person, also.

Some years ago, I realized that the only way I know to get from under this sort of loop is to think of what I want to do most for myself and what time I can practically quarantine on a regular basis, and then treat that time as sacred.


“Sacred” is not just for the religious. It means a realm not be violated for any but the few reasons I set ahead of time. Even the most orthodox Jews will break the holy Sabbath if it is a matter of life and death, but for no other reason.
I made the decision that only medical emergencies of self or family will break Sacred Time.

For me, this meant setting a reasonable amount of time five days a week for writing. I disconnect the phones, (or their ringers, anyway) and I don’t answer them-- or my door. Sorry if this seems fanatical, but to do anything with consistency, (something the world doesn’t necessarily rewards and is “just for me”) required fanaticism. I don’t apologize to anyone who knocked on my door, virtual or physical, for making that time scared.


Realistic demands, job, family care, health maintenance and communal obligations will determine how much sacred time you can allow. It can be five minutes a day (meditation, or stretching exercises) or half an hour, or many hours. Realistic self-knowledge will determine if you make it once a week, every other day, or daily. But is must be sacred if you are to live it for the long haul.


Because otherwise, the “I always wanted to but...” will become yet another relic in the half-done, once begun, couldn’t stick it out box of broken promises. Too many of these lying around everywhere, and I resolved not to add to that heap.

The key word for me was Sacred. That was many years ago, and I can vouch that it worked.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

January 30, This Day in HISTORY

There is something ominously grim when I look at January 30th’s notable marks. On this calendar day in 1933, Hitler was sworn as chancellor of Germany. On this calendar day in 1948, Gandhi was assassinated. On this calendar date in 1956, African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.'s home is bombed in retaliation for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

That’s just for starters. On this date, also---

·         1925 – The Government of Turkey expels Patriarch Constantine VI from Istanbul.
·         1930 – The Politburo of the Soviet Union orders the extermination of the Kulaks.
·         1969The Beatles' last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records in London. The police break up the impromptu concert.
·         1972The Troubles: Bloody Sunday: British paratroopers open fire on anti-internment marchers in Derry, Northern Ireland, killing 13 people; another person later dies of injuries sustained.
·         1979 – A Varig Boeing 707-323C freighter disappears over the Pacific Ocean 30 minutes after taking off from Tokyo.

And so much more.



If this is your birthday, I apologize. I hope you celebrate with gusto and do something wonderful so the cloud hovering over this date lightens a little. Many small and a few great actions can make the kettle less black. Let’s polish it into a beautiful reflective silver shine.

I don’t know what is set in stone, predestined, or guided by unseen patterns. What I am sure of is that what we do matters.

History was. Now let’s make some.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Web-search YOU ;)

My last post was about web presence. This took me onto self-googling, now a verb. But in proper lingo, it could be any search engine.


Why do it? I think it would convince you of the value of your own website. It really is the only place where you control the content and look of your face in the digital world.


If you have a horror of looking at what a search would uncover, there must be deeper issues involved that a good therapist or a close friend may help you sort out. But for most of us, checking on what pops up when we insert our own name is not so bad.


Because, for most of us, there will be something but not a lot.
I have two close friends who informed me I would find nothing whatsoever if I searched them. Both are proud to not be on any social network, have no websites, and no arrest records. Yup, any of the above will bring up something, and they assured me there shouldn’t be anything that pertains to them. So I took the dare.


WRONG.


If you have a common name and surname combination, you will have to wade through many links to find the right you. Both of my not-on-Facebook-etc. friends have distinctive names, and oh-mama, I found them right off the bat. I found where they live, what they paid for their home(s), names of people in their immediate families, and more that I will not list because they chose not to be searchable, so why make it more grating than it is.


There are ways to eliminate some of these finds by opting out, but more info aggregators constantly pop up. It a game of whack-a-mole, or whack-em-all, which is exhausting and unachievable.


This bring me back to those who want (or need for professional reasons) to be found on the net, but would like the finds to be accurate representations. Self-googling has shown me that my age was confused with my husband’s, thus aging me prematurely. (Though my age was given to him, which he thought rather nifty.) I supposedly lived in the past in cities I never did, (but lived near them in a shared zip code) and a few more inaccuracies. Thus, I know the “facts” aren’t right.


The social networks provide free exposure, but they determine the aesthetic. If your place of employment has your name and photograph, this, too, is graphically a reflection of their sensibilities.

And so the only place where you are really you, or the public you that you care to be, is your own site.


And if you really don’t care who sees what wherever, have no external reason to care, count yourself off the grid and happily so, then this is of no relevance to you.
But maybe think about it after self-googling.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Web Presence— to or not to?

I have seen this question posted on chatborards and elsewhere: should an unpublished writer have a website?


If time is short, please head directly to this link, from the master herself. Jane Friedman tells it like it is, and the short answer is YES.


There is nothing I can add. But I can write about my personal journey to having a website, a blog, a Facebook Author page, a LinkedIn account, and more. I came to it reluctantly, but I’m glad I did.



Confession: I had little web-presence and no website until I had a book about to be published. This was more a case of fearing the dangerous and choppy waters that is the virtual ocean. I have read too many horror stories of fraud, abuse and torment, and never stopped to check how prevalent or relevant these dangers  would be to most folks. (The truth is, not very.)

My first publisher informed me that having my own website was necessary. They were ready to design it for me. This scared me more than having it in the first place. I mean, it would have my name and my image and someone else’s sensibilities. Their own website, now defunct, (they closed their doors, sadly L ) was a marvel of technology with top-notch graphics. In fact, it was so active with moving graphics that while I know kids would love it, it was more than a bit much for me.
I wanted it plain. I wanted it understated. I wanted it comfortably quiet. In short, I wanted it to be my voice.


At the time, my daughter was twelve, and so sure of herself (doubts will come later) that she informed me it was “no big deal” to make a website. I will provide the content, and in no time she will set it up and voila, there it will be, live.


Which is what happened. On Christmas Day 2010, my website was born. The labor took just about two hours.


But post-partum was an adjustment and it felt odd for a time. Like wearing earrings or a wristwatch, I got used to it. (Does anyone still wear a wristwatch? I do) I adjusted fully just in time for my second book contract, where that publisher strongly advised blogging.


My website today is the same one, still homemade and still un-jazzy, though with added content. 
In other words, it’s still very much me.

That’s my story. But do go back to the linked article for better how-to and what-for.

Just in case you missed my inserted link, I copy it here, again.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Three H of Revision


Working on the second draft of a new novel, I encounter the three H.
(No, not Horrible,L Hairy,L or Hilarious.J)
Mine are HEADY, HUMBLING, and HUMILIATING.



Stephen King, in his book On Writing, recommends a long break between drafts. This is so the writer loses the memory of the exact phrasing. Although she remembers the general plot and subplot, she encounters the writing as if she is the reader. This allows the distance needed for effective revising. Mr. King takes a minimum of six weeks in between drafts.


My novels are shorter than his and my breaks have always been shorter, too. But this time I managed a few months’ break because of important family events, a revision request to a different manuscript, and various life intrusions.


Turns out a longer break is a good idea, because I really don’t recall any of the sentences I find myself going over. No mental lapse here (I think)— just the right distance where I get to be surprised at a turn of phrase or the use of a word.

And this is where the three H come in.

Heady— because some of it is downright good.
Humbling— because some of the sentences do not have the eloquence I intended.
Humiliating— because of these...these... blasted typos (!!!!!!!!!)

That’s where I am, in a nutshell. Remind me to never go back to recheck casual posts and Emails. I’m likely to stop writing those altogether, lest I can have a couple of months to revisit and revise.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

It, is, Yes it is---

Happy New Year

But then, it’s just a number, Right?
I think about it, and realize something. From now until the next new year, everything that happens will be recounted as “In the year of our lord two thousand and eighteen such and such took place.”

I never felt close to numbers. Unlike words, they are not my friends. But I know people who adore them, and some even love numerology.*
*Numerology: the branch of knowledge that deals with the occult significance of numbers.



One of the people I know who swears by numerology believes there’s significant information in something numerologists call the master number. You get this number by adding all the numbers of one’s birthday, or the date of an event, until they are reduced to a single digit. Then, each of those single digits imbues significance to one’s life path, or in this case, the coming year’s essential path. It is its “master number.”

In this case, it would be 2+0+1+8 = 11
And then 11 is further reduced 1+1= 2
And so this new year’s essential path is the number two.
{If this sounds like mumbo-jumbo hocus-pocus to you, I agree.]

But what’s the harm? It’s kind of fun. It gives a strange illusion of some control over the future, in the way that knowing where the stock market is headed gives a sense that you can navigate it.
(Disclaimer: even the experts do NOT know where the stock market is headed. Apparently, chimps have made predictions that were just as good or bad, and this was the conclusion of a scientific study.)

So what does numerology have to say about the life-path of the number 2?

Quite a lot, it turns out. 

Here’s one summary

As the second of all numbers, 2's symbolism is the union of and peace between different entities. It seeks to end separateness and unite all for the greater good whether it be music, food or humanity.

That’s kind of nice. But it’s still just a number.

Let’s try to make it thus.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The day of Mad Reckoning*

*a.k.a. Retunes (or exchanges)

We don’t “do Christmas,” unless you count the general good wishes of Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and homemade cookies. It’s been years since I spent time in department stores scouting for gifts in the month of December.


But what I do hold onto this time of year is to not go anywhere near stores the day after the holiday. I have made that mistake twice, but no more. The first time, long ago, I was lured by promises of uber sales. The second time I did it by mistake. I forgot the madness of the day and thought it might just be the time to look for something that could have waited. I should have.


The day after national gift giving, hoards descend on stores with gift certificates that fell from the trees or were handed in office parties. They make a rather joyful bunch. They were not the problem.
The ones that got to me were the other faction crowding the stores— the people with return receipts to exchange gifts they refuse to use. They never seem joyful. In fact, they seem angry, cantankerous, and garrulous.



That first year I saw a young woman in tears that the bathrobe she got cost so little there was nothing she wanted to get for it in exchange. She had some choice words for the gift-giver who was not present. I saw a child who got a toy he already had, in tears because his mother would not pay for something he wanted as she would have to add too much $$$ after the exchange. The worst was an older woman who refused to take anything other than cash for her return, because she said she hated that store.
It was not pretty. The energy was the most unhappy and unspiritual that I could recall. I vowed to accept gifts from now on and only return them, if I felt an overwhelming inkling, sometime later. From then on, this was the day to NOT go anywhere near stores. It was the day to count one’s blessing that I was here, and not there.


The day after Christmas. That’s today.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Nothing Wasted

When a job application does not result in an offer, when an audition did not yield a part, or when a story failed to find a publisher, many sum up the time and effort as a failure.

Here’s my take, which is also a sort of moto for me:
Nothing wasted if I learned from it.


I have written middle grade novels that have not sold. (Yet. Let’s be positive.) But in the process of research for each my world got richer, fuller, and the purse of riches is still with me and continues to grow.


The only writing failures in my eyes are the stories that came with little inner motivation, such as attempting something that was fashionable, or repeating a variation of a story and setting I have plowed and fully mined before. Those taught me nothing. (Unless I count the “don’t do this again,” so maybe they are not complete failures, either.)


Striving and learning are the most worthwhile of all. Prizes may be the frosting, but striving is the cake.

Eat cake, folks!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

My Guarded Hanukah Secret is Out...




Tonight is the first night of Hanukah.
No, that’s not the secret.


In years past, we had a small crowd for our yearly Hanukah party, and that meant making latkes.
I have a trusted recipe for latkes. It’s not hard, and I’ve shared it here. This recipe makes very good latkes for a small family. The grating and squeezing of the potatoes is part of the dues we pay for eating them, and the tears shed grating the onions must stand for any penitential feeling we have about taking in so much oil then, and for eight days to come.


But for a party, (that is, more than twenty latkes gobblers) it’s different. Not only will the cook be grating until there’s no strength left to eat, but the onion-tears will make more than a puddle. You are liable to drawn before anyone arrives.



My kids attended a Jewish preschool, where I volunteered to be part of the latke-making crew. The teacher in charge of the kitchen was a legendary cook. I mean it literally; as the rumor persisted she’d been a real chef in some fancy shmanzy three-star restaurant in France in her younger days. She most certainly had a French accent, so it was not impossible.

She taught us a thing or two about child rearing. She was wise that way. But her lasting contribution for me was her latkes-for-a-crowd secret. I’m paying it forward on to you, which is my Hanukah gift this year.

So here goes: For half the amount, use your favorite traditional “from scratch” latkes recipe. The second half you will make with potato pancake mix. Yup, the kind you buy in small boxes in the “ethnic” section of the supermarket. Then use one half cup less water for each boxed mix. Make the mix first, and add to it the hand grated traditional ingredients as you grate them.


A.    You will not need to squeeze the potato water as much.
B.     You will have more time to play with the dreidel, because you will not need to grate as much
C.    The Monoglycerides and Sulfite to Maintain color in the mix will keep the whole batter nice and yellow before the potatoes oxidize into an unappetizing gray, and you won’t have to hurry as much
D.   This combination absorbs just enough oil to make it the miracle of the oil,  but not quite as much


Finally, this half-and-half recipe actually makes the best large-batch latkes.