Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The miracle of running water

No, before you delete this post from your inbox I'm not asking for World Vision sponsorship although, if the renovation on my block doesn't stop soon I may well be entitled to it. Yes, I realize that old buildings need to be rejuvenated and I know the downtowners are moving in but sometimes I can't help but think, 'can't you just leave well enough alone!'. Particularly when it comes to taking away my basics (and those of the elderly Mrs. Simon's in apartment 4D).

On one of the hottest days this steamy summer, I found myself with, gasp! horror!, a day off. At home. Without room service. Or a front of house receptionist to listen to my complaints.

I had a revelation that day. A moment of self discovery. I am okay with no couch. I am okay with no TV. I'm okay with no ac but I'm not okay without a fan. I needed one. Quite desperately. Add to my desperation the fact that I was left with no running water.

Which on reflection is quite hilarious for anyone that can imagine me at my home fanning myself with a cheep Chinatown hand held (that I'd bought cause it looked pretty rather than provided any real breeze) in my bikini in Harlem trying every tap in the house like a maniac.

After a long day of others yelling at the problem. Turns out it was a burst water main. Problem fixed 8 hours later. Ah, sweet, sweet running water.

Then the next day, thankful to have water once again, my toilet got possessed by evil ju ju. Yes possessed. With no TV noise to drown out the weird apartment noises I found myself peering cautiously around the bathroom door expecting an evil Gremlin to jump out at me. Seriously it was like a D Grade high school horror film complete with suspense building, gurgling fountain of (thankfully) clean water.

I would like to add here that I still love my apartment and my neighbourhood. I just don't like workman who once again, turned off our running water from 8am to 6pm. It's a simple thing in life, running water and exorcised toilets. But people when you wake tomorrow and you brush your teeth under the free flowing h2O be thankful. Say a prayer and hope the toilet demon doesn't visit your bathroom anytime soon.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Swapping smarts with author Ellen Meister

In her latest book, The Smart One, two-time author Ellen Meister takes us on a page turning journey into the lives of three sisters. A sister plot, with numerous twists and turns it was recently named one of the top ten beach reads by Woman’s Day. She dishes the dirt with me for www.WriteNowToday.com about her creative process.

1) What was the major catalyst that led to the creation of The Smart One? Was it a professional or personal?

It's always personal for me. It starts with some thought or question that pokes at me begging to be explored. With The Smart One, I was thinking about the family dynamic and how it influences us as adults. In particular, I was contemplating how children sometimes get labeled, and how hard it can be to break away from that.

Note: In The Smart One, the three adult sisters find their labels both a blessing a curse, and need to understand this before their relationship can move to a healthy place.

2) How long did it take to get published?

This one moved fairly quickly because it was my second book and was sold based on a proposal (seven chapters plus an outline, in this case). My first book, Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, was a much longer journey. It took about two years to write, nine months to find an agent, six months to rewrite and get an offer from a publisher, and then two more years before it found its way to bookstores.

3) The Smart One has so many twists and turns, how hard was it to layer the plot and keep track of everything that was going on?

Sometimes it can get tricky to stitch together a complicated plot and keep track of it all. I write notes to help myself figure out where I am and where I'm going. I hope no one ever sees these. They look fairly schizophrenic. The funny thing is, now that it's done I often can't remember what I left in and what I took out. So sometimes people ask me about the book and I give them the wrong answer!

4) What was your greatest challenge?

When I first starting writing The Smart One, I thought the humor was going to be a challenge. One of my characters is a comedy writer and I worried that it was a pretty ambitious thing for me to do. But once Kenny was fleshed out, the jokes just came. And I have to admit, it was kind of fun.

Writing, of course, has all sorts of challenges. I know authors who are natural storytellers and struggle when it comes to crafting sentences. For me, the story is the hardest part. Once I know what's going to happen in a scene, the writing is easy ... sometimes even joyous. But the hardest part of the whole process? Waiting. The publishing business is all about waiting, and I'm just terrible at it.

5) What motivates you?

Groupies! Kidding. It's the drugs. No, no. Kidding again. I'm motivated by deadlines, readers and the ideas themselves.

6) Any advice for budding authors?

Don't listen to all the horror stories about the state of publishing industry, and don't try to write for any specific market. Just focus on the idea you're in love with and write the best book you can. Also, read. If you're paying attention, every book has something to teach you.

For more author profiles head to http://writenowtoday.com/author.html

Chewing the fat with author Paul Bacon

Paul Bacon is among the new crew of creative non-fiction writers, penning the hilarious Bad Cop: NY’s least likely police officer tells all. He has been garnering great reviews and took time out to speak to me for www.WriteNowToday.com.

1) What prompted you to write Bad Cop?

In the beginning, I wanted to show how cops, who often come off as mean and violent, are just everyday people working under trying circumstances. As the project evolved however, it became more about how I personally wasn't cut out to be a cop. In the process of making cops look human, I made myself look like an idiot. Strange how things turn out.

2)How long did it take you to find a publisher?

It took about five months, which I don't think is extraordinarily long, but it seemed to take forever. Spilling one's guts on paper is an emotionally charged endeavor, so it felt like waiting for an answer to a marriage proposal.

3) How difficult was it to put your life into a formatted structure?

The structure wasn't too complicated in my case; I just started at the beginning and referred to my personal journal of the experience. The hard part was leaving out funny anecdotes and details which didn't necessarily serve the greater story. All told, I wrote about 200,000 words; only about 85,000 made it into print.

4) Have you been surprised by the reactions of friends and family? How did your fellow NYPD react?

I had a hunch people would take to it because it had a lot of things people usually like in a book: crime, humanity, physical comedy, and a self-effacing narrator. But I was surprised at how well it was received. My former NYPD coworkers praised the book for its accuracy, and more than a few civilians told me they read Bad Cop in one or two sittings. I couldn't have asked for more - from a critical standpoint, that is. I am still waiting for a big check to arrive in the mail.

5) What was your biggest challenge?

Not jumping off of a bridge during the four long, confusing years between the book deal and the pub date. There were times when it looked, at least to me, that the work would never be published.

6)Any advice for those budding authors wanting to put their experiences down on paper?

Be as transparent as possible in your storytelling. Reveal all your relevant weaknesses and motivations, no matter how embarrassing or crass they may seem. The more you admit to your readers, the more they will trust you and care about your story.