Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

The invitation to my 30th High School reunion is haunting me. It seems impossible. Thirty years?

At my 10th High School reunion, JL., one of the Popular Girls in my suburban High School’s impenetrable social hierarchy, wondered aloud in the Ladies Room why Andy H., one of the popular boys, hadn’t decided to come.

Andy was my neighbor in Greenwich Village.  I saw him all the time. “Oh,” I said. “It’s his birthday, and his girlfriend is throwing him a party.”

“How would someone like you know where someone like he is?” was J’s oh, so, High School reply.

I laughed out loud.  Wow, I thought, some people never really leave High School. (more…)

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David Rakoff at the Texas Book Festival, Austi...

David Rakoff at the Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They’re rosy, they’re peachy, they understand Nietzsche,

Those beautiful brainy girls.

They write well, they work hard, they understand Kierkegaard,

Those beautiful brainy girls.

Each one is undeniably intellectual.

And thank God they’re certifiably heterosexual.

They know their Cervantes, although they wear panties,

Those beautiful brainy girls.

And with those lyrics, written for the Columbia College Varsity Show in 1984, David Rakoff solidified his place as the funniest, wittiest, cleverest person I have ever had the good fortune to know.

It was the first year of co-education at Columbia, and David, along with future TV writer superstars Alexa Junge and Adam Belanoff, and composer Noel Katz, wrote this song as the opening to our show.

Years later, I still remember every word, and it still makes me smile.

David was like that.  Once you read something he wrote, or listened to him on the radio, or hung out with him in London, with your mother, ordering Turtle Soup (“Wait! It’s really turtle! he was shocked. “How horrifying!”), you remember every word he said and it makes you smile.

That’s why I’m so sad today.  Because even though, in the decades since college ended, David and I only spoke about once a year, I could always count on him to make me smile.  And last night, all too soon, at the age of 47, David died.

You know those friends that you don’t speak to for ages, but then when you do, it seems as if you never were out of touch?  That was David.  Our friend Jayne ( a talented writer in her own right) once told me that she thinks everyone who knows David feels that they have a special bond with him.  That was him.  Always making you feel special, when in fact, he was the special one.

Smarter than anyone.  Funnier. Brighter. Wittier.  And completely, totally, unimpressed with that indisputable fact.

A few years ago, David went to the Southampton Writer’s conference to teach a seminar.  He hated leaving the city. “You want greenery? Order the spinach salad.”  was the way he put it in an essay for Outside Magazine.  But he came, and he joined me (and my mother, again, for once she met him in London in 1986 she never forgot him, and always wanted to be included) at my house for lunch.  When my husband arrived, David got that look on his face that he got – that grin, those flashing eyes. “I had no idea you’d married Stanley Tucci!” he gushed, in his “I’m your saucy gay friend” sort of way. And then proceeded to make my husband feel extremely flattered…and a bit uncomfortable…for the rest of the afternoon.

That was David.  At once making me feel special for having such a husband, and my husband feel special for having movie-star looks.  All the while ignoring his own specialness, though with every word he wrote, every arcane bit of language he somehow managed to make sound fresh and current, that specialness – that extraordinary mind and talent –  was apparent.

David was generous with his talents, too.  I sent him my book proposal years ago, after an agent read an essay I had published, and contacted me interested to know if I had a book she might rep. David helped me craft a proposal.  And when the agent ended up telling me she didn’t want to rep me after all, she didn’t think I really had a book –  she did add that it was quite possibly the best book proposal she had ever received.

That was David, too.

Every email from him started “Oh honey.”

Every phrase he turned was sweet.

Every observation incredibly true, universal, yet somehow singular at the same time.

The world has lost not just a unique wit, but a lovely, lovely person. Everyone who knew him, who read him, who saw his Academy Award winning short film, who listened to him on the radio,  will miss him.

I know I will.


If you didn’t know David or his work, listen to this. It is a lovely tribute to him, his wit, and his work from his friends at This American Life

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Typewriter adler3

Typewriter adler3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I went to CE Week here in New York.  And here’s what I learned:  I’m not  journalist, and I’m fine with that.

For the second year in a row, the fabulous folks at Techlicious hosted a Media/Mom Blogger tour of the CE Week floor, highlighting various companies and products. Imagine it!  Actual journalists and bloggers co-existing and seeing the SAME things without coming to blows!

We saw Power Bag – a back pack with its own built-in charger, a family tablet from Kurio that allows you total control of what and how much content your kids can see – and to program it for each kid.

We saw Woven, a free app that aggregates your photos from all those bazillions of different websites you use to store them – Facebook, Picassa, Shutterfly, etc. etc. etc — so you can see them all in one place.  (Being able to share them from that one place would be nice — but for now at least, it’s just a viewer.  Still handy.)

We got a look at the latest ipieces ipad/app based toys from venerable toy company Pressman.  Their upcoming pool game looks pretty cool.  We saw the new, incredibly well priced streaming soundbar from RCA ($99), which also allows for video streaming from internet providers like Hulu and Netflix for no extra charge.

We learned about the super cool Control4 HC_250 Controller, which basically turns your home into a smart home.  Letting you control lights, temperature, even door locks and window shades with a remote, or from your smart phone.

Speaking of smartphones, we were treated to lunch at BLT Fish by HTC, who showed us a demo of their newest smart phone, the  HTC Droid Incredible  4G LTE.  Which has an awesome camera, a cool live widget system, and really, surprisingly good sound for a phone.  The thing has beats. I’m a Windows Phone girl…but I could be convinced.

And we got swag.  Lots of swag.  Including the Control 4. Which I called super cool just a few sentences back.

So does saying it’s cool when I got one make me NOT a journalist?  Nope.  I’m NOT a journalist because I do not get paid.  I do not get assignments.  I do not have a journalism degree.

None of this is news to me. (more…)

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The day I was supposed to leave for Nashville to go to Blissdom, a blogger conference in Nashville, NYC got 19” of snow.  Flight cancelled that day, and then that night, and the next morning, afternoon and evening, until the only flight available was Friday morning at 6:30.  And the whole conference ended Friday night at 5.  So what did I do?  I woke up at 4am, hopped in a taxi with Beccarama, and hightailed it to the airport to hit Blissdom for the day. And you know what?  It was worth it.  Because here’s what I learned.

10. Flash Mobs are AWESOME.  At the “State of Blissdom” talk, we heard Alli Worthington and Barbara Jones, the conference organizers, talk about blogging from the heart, the brain, and the home. (We also heard from Her Bad Mother, and Velveteen Mind). That they did it dressed like characters out of The Wizard of Oz was just a quirky bonus.

Then we had the keynote, from @unmarketing, Scott Stratten (more on that later).  When it was all over, Barbara tried to make an announcement, but the music cut her off.  Why?  Because someone had organized a flash mob. The fact that women from around the country had figured out how to make this work, that they had bonded together to make it happen…well, it really restored my faith in the blogging community.  It really is a community – one willing to go the extra mile to do something fun and fabulous, and not at all easy to pull off.  All just because.  I loved it.

9. There’s such a thing as a Nun Conference – OK, so maybe it’s called Catholic Campus Outreach, but what I saw in the ballroom adjoining Blissdom’s was basically a conference of nuns, checking out the latest in habits.  I found it ironic that they where there, since the last conference I attended, CES, also had a conference that was held simultaneously: a porn star conference. Couldn’t be more opposite a crowd. And I liked having the nuns around a whole lot more.

8. Community Counts: I think that had Blissdom been a humongous conference like Blogher, with it’s 1500 attendees and 4 bazillion sponsors, I might not have gotten so much out of it.  Too much to navigate, too much to see, too overwhelming – certainly for one day.  But Blissdom is a streamlined compact conference of approximately 650 women. So instead of being overwhelmed, I was welcomed.  When we finally arrived at the hotel, I tweeted that I’d made it at last.  And people I’d never met tweeted back welcomes.  Thanks @chambanalaura and @temysmom. Community- not anonymity.  That’s what got me blogging in the first place.

What I loved about Blissdom was the overwhelming sense of community I felt there.  I connected with former SVmom-ers I haven’t seen in years, like Kim Modolfsky and yes-she-has-another-book-coming-out Megan Francis; I had a little tweet-up with @hollyhaman.  I ate lunch with a young, newbie blogger who never said so, but probably thought I reminded her of her mother. It felt warm and welcoming, and not clique-y.  And it reminded me that that’s why I blog.  That’s what blogging does: brings me a far bigger community than I could ever get in this city of 12 million. And far more intimate, in its own weird way.

7. Women Rock: The only panel I was able to attend was Advance Monetization is Not for Whiners. And you know what they talked about?  Making your own opportunities, creating good karma by sharing the wealth, being faithful to your voice and vision…and not whining about not getting opportunities, but simply putting yourself in a position to get them yourself.  They talked about kindness, and supporting each other.  Show me a man’s conference where they talk about that stuff.  I dare you.

6. Southern Women get Glammed Up.  While the East Coast women I knew wore muted tones and natural looking no-makeup makeup, the Southern gals at Blissdom glammed it up big time. Big hair, big jewels, big smiles. And, New York snob that I am, I thought I’d find that tacky.  Instead, I thought us faux natural New Yorkers looked like plain Jane’s in comparison.

5. Delivery matters Scott Stratten’s keynote was a riot.  He was charming and funny and informative, and I was tweeting him like crazy.  But the truth is, he didn’t say anything all that Earth Shattering.  You are your brand, relationships matter, put out quality work, engage your readers.  But the WAY he said it all was inspiring, and affirming, and made me feel like blogging again.

4. When it Comes to Sponsors and Swag: Less is More I knew this already.  But I’m kind of hoping some other conference organizers read this post and take heed: a manageable number of good, involved sponsors beats a boatload of who-the-hell-are-these-people sponsors any day. If you’d asked me before Blissdom if I’d ever eat at a Red Lobster, the answer would have been an unequivocal no. Too low-brow for snooty New York me. But there was Red Lobster – not one of a bazillion sponsors, but one of a handful, and there were the lobster rolls they were handing out. So I tried one.  And you know what?  It was good.  Mind changed.  I will use my swag-gift card (I don’t know how much it’s for) and go there.  I’d even pay for it myself. Similarly, I don’t know that I ever would have tried Freschetta Pizza – which was surprisingly good and un-frozen pizza-ish, but that’s what was for dinner Friday night, so I did.  I might not have noticed Lisa Leonard Designs in a bigger space.  And Hallmark makes just about the best paper plates ever. You can put your own photo on them.  How awesome is that?  I don’t know that I would have noticed that detail in a humongous pool of sponsors.

Lots of crappy swag= bad. Small amounts of swag you really want =  excellent.

3. There’s Such a Thing as a Bible Blogger. And there are a lot of them. Living in NY, you’d think we’d have a lot of diversity – and we do. Ethnic, sexual orientation, socioeconomic.  But we don’t have a lot of (at least not open) Bible Bloggers.  I loved meeting a whole breed of bloggers I never knew anything about.

2. Barbara Jones does an eerily good Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. (see #10, above)

1. It’s not (contrary to my previous post) time for me to stop blogging. Almost missing Blissdom because of the storm, made me realize what I was missing.  I like these people.  I want to stay in this community.  Being at Blissdom made me realize that – not just am I more than my stats – but I’m more than myself.  I’m part of something bigger and more important.  Something that empowers women, gives us a voice.  We will be heard!!

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I think it might be time for me to hang up my keyboard, pass on the WordPress, stop with the stats.  I think it might be time for me to stop blogging.

I had a lot of friends in High School who wanted to be actors.  Most of them  auditioned for years and years, waiting tables all the while, until they finally reached the point where they accepted they weren’t going to make it, and made a career change. Makes sense to me. It’s discouraging to keep on being rejected.  You might love acting, love performing, but if no one is watching, well, it just doesn’t give you that same thrill. And at some point, you have to face reality: not all dreams come true.

I’m starting to feel that way about blogging.  I love writing.  I’ve been writing my whole life.  My first “book” was a mystery which I wrote and illustrated myself in third grade.  I was editor of my High School Yearbook, had the featured essay in my college yearbook.  I’ve been in anthologies, and magazines.  I’ve ghost written books.  I’ve written copy for movie trailers, and  100’s of tv commericals, and countless episodes of Intimate Portrait on Lifetime Television. And I’ve blogged.  And blogged and blogged.

I don’t doubt that I’m a good writer.  It’s been reinforced by teachers and editors and publishers, and by being picked ten times for syndication when I was part of the SVMoms Group.  So logic would tell me that if I blogged, the readers would come, and that the more I blogged, the more readers I’d have. Not so. The more I blog, the more I pay attention to key words and linking and SEO – the more it stays the same.

Maybe I should look at blogging differently.  Maybe I should see it as an outlet – who cares who sees it?  Or maybe I should take a cold, hard, look at how I can use this blog to “enhance my brand.”  But that’s a phrase I hate — at least when it’s applied to my writing.  My writing isn’t my brand — it’s me.

I get the occasional boost.  This post, for instance, got over 2000 hits in one day when it was selected for WordPress’s Freshly Pressed feature. But overall, it’s slow. Not too many people are reading, and it can get discouraging. Maybe it’s because I don’t do giveaways, or product reviews, or tell everyone every personal detail of every aspect of my life.  I don’t send an email to everyone I know every time I post. (Yes, there are people who do that.) I don’t write about breaking news, or about subjects with big shock value.  Whatever the reason — maybe I’m just not that good – the numbers tell their own story. Every day, I watch my stats stay stagnant, and inexplicably – my Twitter followers rise, while my klout score decreases.

When I started blogging over at NYC Moms Blog, I had big dreams:  “Someone will discover me.  Someone will read my posts and offer me a book deal/magazine writing gig/nobel peace prize (hey, I said it was a dream!)”  That is not what happened.  But something else did.  I met a great group of women, and a few of us decided to band together to create The Blogging Angels, a weekly podcast about blogging, social media, brand/blogger relationships, and tech, targeted at women. In only five months we’ve come a long way, winning sponsorship from Microsoft Windows to go to CES, and averaging a 40% increase in downloads each month. I’m also days away from launching a new online venture with another friend met through the blogosphere. (I promise to tell you all about it as soon as it’s up and running.) The new website is a business, not a blog, and who knows where it will take us next?

So already, blogging has brought me to podcasting and a new business.  Maybe that’s enough.  Maybe my blogging has done what it was supposed to do: lead me to bigger things.

Yesterday, at a luncheon sponsored by Din Dins and Moms on the Move, Linda Swain said “You only fail when you stop trying.  So never give up.”   But the truth is, trying endlessly ends up feeling remarkably like failing. Only it never stops. If I stop blogging, it won’t be because blogging has failed me.  It’s brought me a new community, and two new businesses.  But my blog has failed.  Two successes, one failure. Not a bad result, really.

So why do I feel so defeated?



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My friend Beth Feldman is the founder of Role Mommy.  Which means she runs PR events for women amd brand events for bloggers. It means she offers online courses in PR and blogging, and that she passes on press opportunities to her giant database of bloggers.  Oh, and it means she blogs, and sings, and writes parody songs.  It means, dear readers, that she has her own Role Mommy credit card. Yes, a credit card.

So I wasn’t at all surprised when she decided that, you know, since she had so little going on in her life (did I mention the two kids, the husband, and the beautiful house in the ‘burbs?), that she decided to start a magazine.

Project You.  It’s all about women, and pursuing your passion while raising your family.

Except for my essay in the mag – it’s about how sometimes (just sometimes) I meet kids that I don’t like.

Yes.  I’m just that evil.

If you want to read it, click here, then turn to page 13. (you can read it online, or print it out and read it magazine style.)

One more thing: If you think that you recognize your own child in the piece.  Well, you’re wrong.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I LOVE your child. Really.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

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Earlier this week my post about how to behave at a Broadway Show got a lot of attention when the  lovely now-they’re-my-best-friends people at WordPress chose it for Freshly Pressed, their daily pick of the 10 most comment-worthy posts on the nearly 240,000 blogs housed there.  I got a lot of hits (nearly 3000), a lot of comments, and quite a few crazies.  Herewith, an analysis of the craziest comment of them all.

The comment came from a guy named Ed.  And this was his opening line.

So you ended up being just a mother.

Just another mother, like a chimp, a cow, an elephant, a whale, just another mother, like an insect, or an octopus, or a worm. Just another sad mother.

The guy had me laughing already. What a jokester he must be.  And quite a laugh at family gatherings.

He went on to give his insightful commentary on how others must feel about my motherhood.

Your kids will not thank you, your husband will not like you, your own mother will pity you for making her own same mistake.

Just another mother.

Somehow, I don’t think he and his mom have the best relationship.  I’m very intuitive.  That’s how I know.

Next, the lovely Ed waxes poetic about “parental-brain-atrophy-syndrome” (ooh!  ten dollar words!  can my mom-brain take it?!) I won’t bore you with his entire oeuvre, just a summary.  I’ve biologically dumbed down my brain. My life is “dirt and feces.”   Blah blah blah. Again, just guessing here, but do you think that our friend Ed may have some slight socialization problems?

Motherhood, according to Eddie-poo, has doomed me to “a life of dandruff and diseases, vaccine and lice, high school and drool.” Poor Ed.  Sounds like his High School years were pretty tough.  What with the drooling and all. Kind of makes it hard to get a date. I can imagine the phone call:

“Hi, Susie?  This is Ed?  You know, from your science class?….What? Yeah, that’s me.  The one with the bib.”

When you’re in High School, you hate your mother,  and you have a drooling problem, chances are, you didn’t get a prom date.  Which may explain this next choice tidbit from my friend Ed’s comment.

You lost your dignity through your open legs, first inwards and then outwards, first-in-first-out, garbage-in-garbage-out, a boomerang of boredom.

Wow.  I don’t believe I have ever heard a man describe sex in quite that way. Especially the penis as garbage analogy. Most men I know think of the penis as the pinnacle of perfection, the private part of pleasure, the….well, perhaps I’m getting carried away. But the comment does make me wonder if Ed’s lack of a prom-date problem may have led to him missing out on sex all together.  Which would explain a lot.

After a bit more poetic rambling about my “loss” and how I’ve chosen “prison voluntarily” (guess his Mommy dearest kept him locked in his room most of the time. Thanks, Mom, for keeping away from the rest of us as long as you did!), he devolves into crazy Virgin Mary inexplicabilities.

“…Virgin Mary you are not, because Mary was not a Virgin, and you are not a Mary.


This last line really bummed me out.  For while he may be a psychopath, Ed is no dummy.  His psychotic ramblings up to this point were positively literary! Also, how crazy do you have to be to find MARITAL sex sinful?  Poor Ed. Destined to a life of unrequited love for an inflatable girl.

In fairness to Ed (though why I think he deserves fairness is beyond me), his comment ended up in Spam – which means he didn’t necessarily direct it at me – just at any blog having anything at all to do with motherhood.  Though I guess I’m not really helping Ed out here.  This means that he sent this psychotic crap out to a number of women.


And some of them might not have found him quite as amusing as I.

Ed winds down with this serial-killer-esque gem:

You were manipulated into just another life wasted on the heap of trash of a lost humanity dedicated to popular procreation and proletarian proliferation, to please the leaders of a domain of plebeians.

Hey!  Ed knows all about alliteration.  What a positively perfect position for a psychopath who preaches to parents!

Although this whole last passage makes me wonder if Ed even knows where babies come from.  “Popular Procreation?  Well, yeah. Of course it’s popular. It’s sex.  And here’s a newsflash for you, Ed: most people come from the  procreative act.  Except of course, you, Ed. (now now – we don’t want to upset to upset the crazy man!)

Ed ends with this little gem.

Good bye, sad mothers, good bye, old cows, with dried-out utters and distorted hips, good bye, and so alone you all will die.

Good bye to you, too, Ed.  Goodbye to what’s left of your sanity.  And hello crazy-hood!  You’re finally where you belong.

I just hope there aren’t any other people wherever that is.  Because, you know, they might all have…..MOTHERS!

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