Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On Word Counts: Shorter is Harder

After 10 years, I'm finally realizing that I have a comfort zone when it comes to word counts. At least when it comes to magazine articles. I'd much rather write 1200-1500 words than anything much longer or shorter.

When an editor wants me to write front-of-the-book type stuff-- 400 to 800 words or so-- I cringe a little. I know it's going to be just about as much work as the longer stuff, for less pay. I'm still going to have to do interviews, I'm still going to transcribe them, I'm still going to write the same meat of the article... and then I'm going to struggle like crazy to trim it down to what almost always seems like too small a space for the topic.

Worse, though, is that there seem to be many editors who cannot grasp that 400 words is not enough to pack in everything they ask for in their brief. "Please write the entire history of the the automotive industry, and a sidebar about bicycles" is just not do-able.

So then I do the mental equivalent of stuffing 2 weeks' worth of clothing into a small suitcase, sitting on it and jumping on it and breaking into a sweat trying to get the darn thing zippered. Then I get the editors' follow-up questions: "This is interesting, but you haven't mentioned why tires are round, or the name of Henry Ford's great-grandson, or why puffy dice became a rear-view-mirror fad." And I have to reopen the darn suitcase and figure out how I'm supposed to stick MORE stuff in it without making the toothpaste explode.

By the end, I'm just closing it up with duct tape and a staple gun. The resulting word count is almost always longer than it was supposed to be, because there's just no way to do it otherwise. But I still get paid for the original assigned count, unless I manage to negotiate otherwise during the request for revisions. (If the editor is asking for something outside the scope of the original assignment, I can try negotiating for more money at this point. Otherwise, I'm pretty much out of luck.)

One of my fantasies involves my asking an editor what word count she wants, and having her reply, "Oh, you choose. I trust you. Heck, we'll just wait until your article arrives and format the rest of the issue around it."

That comes right after the "we'll-pay-you-$5-a-word" fantasy.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Thank you for the songs."

We go to a "Mommy and Me" group, where Sarina and I hang out and do a craft, play, have a snack, sing and dance, listen to a story, and learn about numbers and letters.

Sarina is very proud of her crafts-- almost as proud as I am. She likes to show people and say, "I made this!" Truth is I wouldn't have realized she was ready for that kind of stuff. I saw the glue and foam and glitter on the craft table and thought, "Yeah, right." But then Sarina began sticking on sequins and calling for green glitter like a little craft diva.

As we left this week, I prompted Sarina to say thank you to the owners. She did, then paused and added, "Thank you for the songs."

It snowed here today, all puffy and slushy. She wasn't here. I miss the heck out of her.

I think if my life circumstances were different, I would have been an Angelina Jolie type, with 7 kids. These days, I visit "waiting children" sites, where they show pictures and short profiles of kids who are in foster care awaiting adoption, and I dream about adopting them all. I think I'm only beginning to understand the person I'm meant to be.

Small steps. Small steps.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Other Sorts of Firsts

I remember reading an article in a parenting magazine about less-popular "firsts": sure, we all notice the first step, the first word, and the first tooth, but this writer mentioned the first time her toddler picked up the phone and said, "Hewo?"

I'm not sure if Sarina had even been born at the time, or if I was still pregnant, but I remember thinking how toddlerhood was a far way off.

Tonight I had one of those sorts of firsts.

I had cleverly hidden her Christmas gifts in my closet-- which I do a good job of keeping closed-- but my parents came over today to help me install a ceiling fan, and apparently they left the closet door open. Later, when I was cleaning up dinner, Sarina walked off for a moment... and returned with three items: Mr. Potato Head, a Doodlebops book, and her "big" gift: the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse play set. I ain't exactly rich this year (I know, who is?), so it's not like I can just go out and buy more toys to replace the ones she discovered. So I briefly tried to just take them away and hide them again. Maybe she'd forget that she saw them?

Yeah. No.

"Open it, Mommy! Open it," she begged. I finally gave up and opened the Clubhouse. She was thrilled. Thrilled. The annoyance I had about her opening it before Christmas wilted away. It was too much fun watching how happy she was.

And that's when the "first" happened. She recently began playing with figurines and arranging them on shelves, pretending to feed them, telling me what they wanted, etc., but this was the first time she actually made up a story and had them interacting with one another.

"Minnie, let's go to the bakery and get some happy birthday cake," she said, posing as Minnie's pet elephant. Then she picked up Minnie and said, "Okay, but first, let's do the Mousekedance. Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dooooog!" Back to the elephant. "Let's go to the bakery in the big red car." And she put them in the car.

I flashed back to the days when I used to play The Littles with my mom. I always wanted her to be Daphne. She made up good stories. And here was my little girl, 21 months old now, so smart and so sweet, giving me a glimpse into what's ahead for us.

The other first came yesterday: "I need to be held, Mommy." I'm glad she knows what she needs. And I'm glad she's such a snuggly girl. Otherwise, she'd be so sick of me by now.

Do you remember any sentimental sorts of firsts that aren't pre-printed in any baby books?


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mickey Mouse is invading my child's brain

Have to say, I'm not a big fan of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse series, but my daughter is, so... yeah. We have a bunch of the books. In them, Mickey Mouse and friends call on Toodles to come bring them their Mouseketools when they have a problem that needs fixing. Our latest book describes a machine. When it works, it makes the noise "chugga-chugga-chug-chug," and when it's broken, it makes the noise "chugga-chugga-squeak!"

Okay, that was background information. Now I can tell you what happened.

Sarina was trying on Mommy's shoes again, as she does several times a day. She toddled around in my shoes until she stumbled and fell on her bottom behind my exercise bike (which makes a great clothes hanger).

"Do you need help?" I asked.

"Yes," came the reply. "I need a Mouseketool."

The next day, we visited my parents, and Sarina tried to get water from their water machine. She doesn't know how to use it, though. The hot water button is safety-locked. Sarina pressed it a couple of times, then looked at me soberly and said, "Chugga-chugga-squeak!"


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The best excuse I've ever received...

...for why an interviewee will have to postpone our talk for a little while:

"He can't come to the phone right now because he's in a tree with a rifle."

(That would be hotelier Tim Dixon. Quite a character.)


Monday, November 24, 2008

Freelancers Union: Worst of the Worst

Freelancers Union, also known as Working Today, offers freelancers health insurance in 31 states. I signed up with them two or three years ago, when the National Writers Union lost its health insurance provider. It seemed like a good idea-- an organization for freelancers, by freelancers, to negotiate good health insurance rates for the group.


I began experiencing trouble with their customer service right away. It was clear that the organization's president, Sara Horowitz, used lots of nice words that had no actual meaning. She wrote to us about their commitment to better customer service and how glad she was that people kept them accountable... then did nothing to improve anything, and ignored our letters.

To be more specific, I'll use my current example.

They made a math error on my August bill. I had overpaid for two months, and they owed me a refund. Instead, they charged me again. I began politely e-mailing; they refused to acknowledge the problem. They told me to call-- I did, and was put on hold for MORE THAN ONE HOUR, then hung up on.

You'd think that would be enough torment, but no, I called back-- and got hung up on again.

I e-mailed several times. Here's the main point I made:

I overpaid for two months at $1067.49 (total: $2134.98) when my plan cost $683.65 (total: $1367.30), so I should have been credited a total of $767.68. That would have meant one month (my 8/15 invoice) where I didn't have to make any payment, plus a credit of $84.03 toward the following month. Instead, I was charged $299.81, which means that only half of my overpayment was credited. Or I was charged for an extra month. Either way, I do not have a credit for the full $767.68 that I overpaid.

They have ignored me for weeks. I wrote again to let them know I had been on hold more than an hour, and asked them to call me instead. They did not.

Then-- surprise!-- they sprang a fast one on their members. They decided not to provide health insurance through other providers anymore. Instead, Freelancers Union would be its own health insurance company... with higher premiums and fewer benefits than members had in the past with other companies. No choice: all of us would be dropped from our current plans at the end of December. Hey, thanks for the notice!

Even people who had just registered for Freelancers Union last month specifically for the health plans offered were not informed that they would get only one month on the plan they selected, then be forced to switch to the (for-profit) plans offered by the brand new "FIC" (Freelancers Insurance Company).

So here I am on hold again. I'm typing this as I wait. So far, it's been 28 minutes. I think I'll go make lunch.

Here's a link to read more in the meantime: http://upsetfu.blogspot.com

UPDATE: After I stayed on hold for 31 MINUTES, they hung up on me again. Nice system!


Friday, November 14, 2008

No autographs, please!

And now I'll blow your mind (unless you're a published author, in which case you may already know this scenario).

There I was in Barnes & Noble the other day. My book The Marilyn Monroe Treasures has just come out, and I happened to be across the street with my mom, so I suggested we stop in and take a look at it in all its glory.

I already knew it was selling pretty well at that store, because a friend of mine had seen 16 copies on an endcap, then my mom went in two days later and there were 12, and when we walked in this time, there were 5. So at least 11 copies had sold that week. I felt good about that.

Since it was an impromptu stop, I didn't have a Sharpie on me. I went to the customer service desk to borrow one.

"Hi," I said. "I'm the author of The Marilyn Monroe Treasures, which you have in stock up front. I'd love to sign the copies you have if you can lend me a Sharpie."

The clerk actually looked upset. She referred me to a woman I assume was her supervisor, who looked the way you might look if someone offers you a plate of pickled mice.

"Well, we don't usually do that," she said. "But I guess... tell me about your book."

I pointed down the aisle. "It's right there. Why don't I just show it to you?"

She walked with me, with a face that told me she was trying to look polite, but was truly not happy that I had come to the store.

"Oh, it's one of these books with the memorabilia. How nice. People really love these books."

"Yes," I told her. "I love working on them. They're such beautiful coffee table books."

"This will do well for the holidays. Okay, I'll need to see your ID," she said. I laughed. My mom had just asked me in the car if bookstore employees ever ask for ID before I sign books. I told her no one ever had.

My mom laughed, too, and flipped to the back of the Marilyn Monroe book to show the woman my author photo. "There's her ID," she said.

The bookstore worker smiled, but still wanted to see my ID. I pulled out a credit card or something, and she was satisfied. I also mentioned to her that I was happy to see that they had sold so many of my books already this week.

"Well..." she said hesitantly, picking up two out of the five books. "Why don't you sign a couple?"

At this point you may be wondering why in the world a bookstore worker would ever want to discourage an author from signing her books. Doesn't that make them more valuable, more likely to sell?

Yes. But I already knew what this woman was thinking: "If she signs them, we might not be able to return them."

So I tell her, "Oh! Barnes and Noble actually published this book, so you don't have to worry about returns. You're not going to return it to yourself."

She kind of believes me. But she explains, "Yeah, that's the problem. When we try to return signed books, publishers won't take them back because they say they're 'damaged.'"

I've heard this before. I don't know whether this is wholly true or not. I suspect that maybe a few publishers do use this excuse, but I'm skeptical about this being a widespread problem.

See, bookstores still work on consignment. They can order in, say, 25 copies of your new book, then wait and see how they sell. If only 5 sell, they can just return the other 20 to the publisher and get full credit (sometimes including shipping). And generally, they can return those books at any time. They might pull them after just a few weeks, or they might literally let books sit on the shelf for years-- long after the publisher believes the books have been sold and spent the money from them. Publishers know that the money they've received can be taken back at any point. It's a crazy business model, and everyone knows it.

I once had a bookstore refuse to let me sign books at all-- because the books were shrink-wrapped. (This was Celine Dion: For Keeps, which was shrink-wrapped so the memorabilia wouldn't fall out or get damaged. I hated that, though, because it meant no one could thumb through the books and see how beautiful they were-- and how likely are you to spend $39.95 on a book you can't look through first?) For me to sign the books, they would have had to take off the shrink-wrapping, and... you guessed it. They worried they wouldn't be able to return them.

This bookstore worker "let" me sign the five books, and my mother asked if those were the only ones left, or if they might have more in stock in the back.

"I don't know," she said, "But I wouldn't have her sign more than five anyway."

So much for my explanation about how, y'know, they PUBLISHED this book, so they weren't going to return it to themselves. Sigh.

As I was signing the books, though, a woman looked over and asked, "Is that a biography of Marilyn Monroe?" I said yes and handed her a copy to look at. She told me she was going to buy it.

"Great," I said. "Do you want me to personalize it to someone?"

"Um, if you do, I have to ask you to buy it first," the bookstore worker interjected.

I don't mean to blame the worker. I get that she's doing her job as assigned. It was just such a sad state of affairs, as I apologetically followed the woman to the cash register.

I hear this treatment of authors isn't the same everywhere. I suppose a lot of this is because I live in New York, state of authors on every corner. I've even heard tales of authors being treated to muffins and scones and whatnot. Though I suspect the scone author was exaggerating. I mean, seriously. Scones! For free!

You think they'd do this to Stephen King?

"Um, okay, Mr. King. You can sign five of these books. Could you do it in pencil so we can erase it if they don't sell?"

I'm glad I picked a field where they keep my ego in check. I mean, my self-esteem was approaching lukewarm when I entered the store. That could be dangerous!


Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween 2008


Our First Grammatical Debate

Sarina's new favorite song is "When the Lights Go Out" by the Doodlebops, which is lucky for me, because I really like the song, too. But she believes that the correct wording should be "When the Lights Go Down."

We argued about it for a bit. I told her that she was indeed right that it could be "When the Lights Go Down," but that in this case, the song lyric was "When the Lights Go Out," which was also acceptable. She would have none of it.

"Of course, 'When the Lights Go Down,'" she told me.

She made me put on the music video again, and I thought this would settle the debate, but instead, I believe she was making me watch it so I could see just how very, very wrong DeeDee Doodlebug was. Perhaps she wanted me to write a letter of protest to make them change the title.

Or perhaps she was just stalling bedtime again.

Here she is singing the Sesame Street theme song. 19 months old.

Here she is singing the ABCs.

And here she is cracking up in a video I like to call "Down, Cat," to prove that even budding geniuses can still laugh at stupid stuff.

Halloween pics coming up in the next post. Stay tuned.


Monday, October 20, 2008

A message from Sarina

Our friend Lisa and her sister-in-law sent over a ton of fall and winter clothes for Sarina. Sarina has been modeling in front of the mirror for two days now, and exclaiming, "Cute!" about everything (her favorite is the Wiggles hat, which she's wearing at totally inappropriate times). She has a message for Lisa:


Sunday, September 28, 2008

She wrote a song

This just can't be normal. Are 18-month-olds supposed to make up their own songs? Her first one went something like this:

We go shopping
And we buy white socks
And purple socks, too

She serenaded me with it while she ate dinner tonight. Then I realized she stuck purple socks into the cart, in the wrong size. You know how it feels silly to go back to a store to exchange one pair of socks? So you wind up keeping them for five years until finally realizing that, no, you're never going to meet someone who needs this particular pair of size 3-4 1/2 purple socks, so you stick them in a donation bag? Is that just me?

Anyway, this week has been all about questions. Sarina is asking whatever's on her mind now-- "What's that noise?" "Is something wrong?" "Aunt Pat, what are you doing with the saw?" "How 'bout pancakes?"

She also has shown her first fear: the door. When someone walks in the door without knocking or ringing the bell, she screams, "Mommy! Mommy!" and runs to me for protection. It's so sad to see her get this nervous, and the only thing any of us can figure that might have triggered this is Elmo's World-- an episode where Elmo hears things behind a door and opens the door to find out what's making the noises. That's the first time we saw her get really freaked out by a door opening. She ran behind a chair and shook while Elmo opened the door.

We're in the process of moving now. Actually, we moved into our new place already, but it's still a work-in-progress. It's been a challenge, but we're definitely getting there. I'm slowly getting furniture on Craigslist and at garage sales, mostly, and I got all new carpets put in last week. I wasn't able to finish painting before the carpets went in, though, so I still have a good deal of painting left to do.

The first decorative item I bought is something I really love, though. It's this:

Our new neighbors are great. One already had me over for lunch, and the couple next door have grandkids who played so wonderfully with Sarina. When she went in for a nap, they actually hung around waiting, eagerly asking me if she could come back out and play when she got up. These are elementary school-age kids-- it's so touching to see them pay attention to a toddler, and she really loved them. All I heard that night was, "Thomas! Thomas! Thomas!" Hmm. Perhaps I have failed wih my "Boys are icky and you should not even look at them until you are 25" lesson.

I got to introduce Sarina to Celine Dion before a concert last week, too. We hung out in her dressing room, where Sarina promptly stole whatever she could grab of Celine's makeup. Celine is always a good sport, though, and said, "She's a girl! She's supposed to like makeup," and put lipgloss on Sarina, who kept checking herself out in the dressing room mirror and grinning.

A photographer took professional pictures of us ("us" being my parents, brother, brother's friend Jacqueline, Sarina, and me), but I don't have them yet. I do have a few pics from Jacqueline, though-- this one's my favorite.

OH. And The Marilyn Monroe Treasures arrived! It's scheduled to be in stores by November 6, but I got my author copies this week, and they look pretty amazing. I love working on this series of books-- you can't help but feel proud to be a part of something that looks so darn pretty. The designer picked a perfect last shot, too-- Marilyn puckering up for a kiss, looking like she's kissing the reader goodbye. I hope the serious fans will like this book. I think they will.

Another gratuitous Sarina picture:

I think this is the last picture taken of us in our old house (on an autotimer). That feels significant somehow.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive

Diapers and I are not friends, in general. I've never found a brand and type that really works for Sarina, who apparently has an unusual body type for a toddler. (She's tall and thin, so the leg holes are always... insufficient.) But as the months go on, I've switched brands and types a few times, because different types have worked better for her at different ages.

What started it all were the Pampers Swaddlers, which I kept her in as long as possible. And now they've introduced Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive, which is a nice step up. Pampers sent me a pack to review-- hey, thanks, Pampers-- but since Sarina is beyond the "Swaddlers" sizes (which go up to only size 2), I can't give a tried-and-tested review, only a review of my observations.

What got me excited about this diaper (yes, moms DO get excited about these sorts of things) was the "wetness indicator." The PR person emphasized this, but I was surprised to see that it wasn't at all highlighted on the package. In fact, it wasn't mentioned on the front of the package at all-- just this tiny little blurb on the top part of the package.

Turns out maybe it was best not to mention it too much. There's a stripe down the middle of the diaper that turns from pale yellow to blue when the baby is wet... at least in theory. In practice, I had to put an awful lot of water into that diaper before it decided to "indicate." By then, I think I'd be able to tell the diaper was wet without needing to see an indicator. I'd just notice the giant puffy diaper.

But what really did deliver was the softness. Ohh, the softness. I picked up this diaper and wanted to cuddle with it. (Hush your mouth.) I swear. It's that soft. I had to rub it again 10 minutes later just because it gave me softness glee. (Stop looking at me like that.)

There's a touch of aloe in it and it's made to allow air to reach baby's skin to stay drier. The idea is that this is a very breathable, gentle, hypoallergenic diaper. Which sounds like a good idea to me.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Excuse my bumbling background erasing skills

but this is one of my favorite pics ever.

Also, the other day, I bought Sarina a toy guitar at a garage sale, and there were no batteries in it. Sarina spotted the guitar and tried pressing its buttons.

"It broke," she told me.

"It just needs batteries," I said.

She walked into the living room, pulled out the television remotes, and removed the batteries from them.

"Got the batteries!" she announced.

17 months old.

I love this kid.

P.S. I'm getting divorced. It's not something I want to talk/post about, but it's something that's awkward having people not know about for so long. So there it is.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Before I Was a Mother

Before I was a mother, I thought women who said things like "My kids are my whole world" must have pretty sad lives.

I thought it must be a drag to have to think of someone else's needs before your own all the time.

I thought my career defined me.

I didn't understand all the fuss about breastfeeding and why women would ever want to continue it for more than a year.

I cared about suffering children, but I didn't physically ache every time I heard about a child who was abused, starving, suffering from a disease, or abandoned.

I didn't know that spending a Friday night making stacks of paper cups and watching a toddler knock them down could be a really great night.

I didn't know baby kisses could be the most memorable kisses of my life.

I hated pink.

Shopping really wasn't my thing. I had no idea it could be so much fun to shop for things for my child.

I didn't understand that all the gross things kids do aren't gross when they're your kids.

I didn't know that I could go days without sleep and not even be mad at the person who made me go days without sleep.

I didn't know how what an honor it would be to have someone give you complete trust, to feel that little body "let go" and fall asleep in your arms.

I didn't realize how deeply I could love.


Monday, August 04, 2008

There Goes My Baby

On August 3, 2008, at approximately 9:30 p.m., my baby ceased being a baby.

It all started last week, really, when she began talking in complete sentences. I asked, "Sarina, do you want me to open the door?" and she responded, "Mommy, open the door."

Several 4-word phrases and sentences followed. She dropped a quarter in her grandparents' pool and said, "Money in the pool!"

What got me the most, aside from the fact that she was 16 months old, was that she was speaking in gramatically correct terms. I was unstoppably happy, glowing with the pride of a parent who's just found out her daughter will be the valedictorian of her class at Harvard AND has paid off her schooling with the money she's made as a cover model for tasteful magazines. Then the unstoppable happiness stopped.

It happened when I was preparing for Sarina's bath. She was playing in her room, and I went to her closet to check for diapers. She came up behind me and tapped me.

"Yes, Sarina?"

"Mommy," she said, looking up at me, "What are you doing?"

I stammered, "I'm looking to see if we have any overnight diapers left," and my heart momentarily stopped mid-beat. I was explaining myself to Sarina. My baby was gone. In her place was this brilliant child, capable of expressing original thoughts and questions. She wasn't parroting me. She was just coming over and asking me what was on her mind.

It's all fun and games until someone expresses original thoughts.

Suddenly, it was serious. No more squealing to my dear relatives about the latest bit of Sarina brilliance. No, this was a moment of mourning. I felt like she skipped so many stages at once-- leaping straight from one word at a time to complete sentences within a week, bypassing the cute mixed-up sentence structures toddlers are supposed to have. She's even using pronouns and contractions properly. Where's the fun in that?

She also decided to use her potty today for the first time, just to rub it in. And she said, "My big girl potty!"

This girl astounds me, not just because she's so bright, but because she's the sweetest, most loving, non-complaining, tough little giggler I could have imagined. I could work the rest of my life at being the best parent I can be (and I sure plan to), and never feel like I'm worthy of her. Her awesomeness is just too awesome.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. I'm glad I have people who I can share this stuff with.

P.S. Hey, guess what? Did you know it's possible to really and truly get sick of reading a story you wrote to your own child? ("Yes, Sarina. Hattie, Hattie, Hattie. She gets a haircut. Blah blah blah!")


Friday, July 04, 2008

A new kind of joy

I experienced a new joyful "first" today, and it caught me off-guard. I was reading Sarina a book, and she decided-- as she is wont to do-- that she wanted me to read her a different book. So she popped off my lap and went to her bookshelf, and brought me the book she wanted me to read.

And it was a book I wrote.

*Dies of happiness.*


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Scott, Kimmi, and Sarina

A few months ago, my former editor at Nomad (hi, Lauri!) recommended me for a job writing a book proposal for Scott Rigsby, the first double-amputee to complete an Ironman. He was featured on NBC's 2007 Ironman special-- a great show, which you should definitely watch if it reruns again. I'm no sports person, but this was a human interest piece to the extreme. Great stories.

So that's what I've been doing these past few months: working with Scott to get this book proposal ready. Slowly. (Yeah, this balancing-motherhood-with-writing stuff is still a huge challenge to me.) How lucky am I to have found a person who doesn't mind being interviewed at midnight?

The proposal is just about done, and I can't wait to see where this book lands. A few publishers are already interested, just based on the pitch, but I suspect a lot more will be excited about it once they read this proposal. It's the longest one I've ever written... closing in on 60 pages. I thought it was important to write three full sample chapters on this one, which I've never done before. I wanted to give a sense of the highs and lows of the story, which is hard to do in just short snippets.

Anyway. The reason I'm mentioning him now is that he's a top-10 finalist in the Energizer "Keep Going" Hall of Fame, which will be decided by online votes. It would be a great accomplishment for him to win it, so I'm asking you to click on over and vote for him if his story inspires you. You don't need to register, and you can vote once a day. Right here.

You can also learn more about Scott at www.scottrigsby.com. He's a very cool guy.

Also want to give a shout-out to my friend Kimmi, who just SOLD HER AWESOME MEMOIR, currently titled The Unbreakable Child. 'Bout time.


And some more Sarina pics. ;)

She's more and more affectionate these days. She's very into the "leg hug," and squeezing really hard around the neck.

New-ish feats: she signs to me to let me know when her diaper is dirty, she's starting to dance, she's attempting to feed and offer drinks to her stuffed animals, she blows kisses to strangers, she removes her high chair tray and says, "Done!" as it falls to the ground (naughty, naughty), she knows how to use keys, she sticks things into the VCR (already?! Sheesh. This thing is going to be filled with crayons within days, I know it), and she writes with a pen.

Also, she's reading. I know, now I just sound like a show-off, but I kid you not. Without my coaxing, she started pointing to words and reading or signing them. I've heard her do "all gone," "milk," "done," and a few others. She also recognizes some letters-- the ones that show on her alphabet mat that I mentioned several posts ago. There are toys on top of the mat, so only certain letters are showing on the floor. When I ask her to find the letter R, or Y, or O, she goes right over and points to it.

And that's all the news that's fit to print today.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

No, Seriously, You Look Like Poop

Little in life is more disheartening than this conversation I had yesterday with an acquaintance I see every few weeks:

Her: You don't look good.

Me: That's because I'm not wearing makeup.

Her: No, really. Your eyes are very puffy.

Me: No, that's how I always look. You just normally see me with makeup.

Her: You look like you've been crying.

Me: I haven't. I promise.

Her: You really don't look good.

*Sigh.* Thanks, lady. Could you perhaps point me to the nearest bridge that I could hurl myself off?

My eyes aren't aging well. The rest of me is fine, but I've always, always had a problem with big bags under my eyes, and they're only getting worse with time. I've tried dozens of products, but no success so far. I'm actually contemplating plastic surgery eventually, because it's just hard to feel good about yourself when people actually insist on a regular basis that you must not be sleeping. (I am.)

Of course, I've tried the cucumber slices, tea bags, frozen spoons, and yes, Preparation-H, but no luck.

I hereby offer a challenge to any company that makes products for undereye circles or puffiness under the eyes: if you want to send me your product for review, and it works, I'll blog the heck out of it. I'll blog it till the cows come home. Till the river meets the sea, till lovers cease to dream.

Meanwhile, more sweet Sarina pics...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I got a kiss!


Do you understand how long I've been trying to coax a kiss out of this girl? Tonight, as usual, I asked, "Sarina, can I have a kiss on the cheek?" And this time, she did it. Twice.

Bartender! Smoothies for everyone, on me!

FREE! I mean it. The Street-Smart Writer.

The Street-Smart Writer: Self-Defense Against Sharks and Scams in the Writing World is one of the more important books I've written (co-written, actually, with publishing attorney Daniel Steven).

My publisher has kindly released an ebook version totally FREE, no strings attached, through Wowio.com. They add in a sponsor's ad in the front and back, but aside from that, it's exactly the same as the print book (which costs $16.95).

Here's the link: http://www.wowio.com/users/product.asp?BookId=2646

You have to register with Wowio, but I did that a few weeks ago to make sure they wouldn't spam or do any funny business... they didn't. So NO EXCUSES! It's free, and you don't even have to leave the comfort of your computer. Please, read this book, blog about it, send the link on to all the new and new-ish writers you know, and let's help save people from becoming easy prey for scammers and schemers in the publishing world. Thanks!

Here's the book's description:

Veteran writer Jenna Glatzer teams up with publishing attorney Daniel Steven to expose the scams and unsavory deals writers are likely to encounter along their path to publishing success. The Street-Smart Writer is an essential reference for all writers to getting published without getting swindled.

This book will help writers spot an honest agent or manager, determine the value of vanity publishing, and avoid getting conned out of hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars when signing a contract. Sections on writing contests teach writers how to determine which contests are useless; other sections offer tips on avoiding costly conferences and shady seminars. A special focus on copyright ensures that writers protect their work from schemers who want to use creativity without paying for it. Appendices include sample publishing, agent, and manager contracts.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Motherhood Photo

5 Minutes for Mom is having a photo contest, and the challenge is to find a photo that exemplifies what motherhood means to you. This one is mine.

Three generations. One little girl who makes my world turn. I finally "get it," what life is all about.


She sings!

Sarina is attempting her first song. And it's Old MacDonald. A week ago or so, she started saying "E-I," which I knew was the beginning of "E-I-E-I-O." Tonight, she attempted to sing it. "E-I-YIIII... E-I-YIIII..." Four times, and she smiled, pleased with her attempt.

These are the times I feel like one giant feeling. Like I'm just a big fuzzy ball of love and pride and more love. This is my daughter. My daughter sits in my lap and wants to read books and sing. She's a real little person, figuring out her likes and dislikes, letting me come along for the ride. Even when nothing else is going right, I still get to be Sarina's mother, and that's enough.

Happy birthday, Connor!

Connor is turning one, and his mom, Angela, feels just the same way about it as I did about Sarina turning one... happy and sad at the same time. Lucky and blessed and wishing time would slow down.

Do you know what we did tonight for half an hour? Flopped around on the bed. She got a huge kick out of "falling" on the bed and realizing she wasn't going to get hurt, so she started flopping herself all around on the pillows, cracking up the whole time. So I joined her. And remembered something-- hey, it's fun to bounce around on a bed. Thank God for this silly little person who reminds me how to smile.

Friday, April 25, 2008

My kissyface

She now pulls out the book she wants me to read, hands it to me, then sits on my lap. Then, as I turn pages, she kisses the characters she likes. Sometimes I feel like my heart will burst.

Normally, she doesn't kiss actual people yet-- though I did trick her into kissing my hand and she spontaneously kissed my arm one morning-- but she kisses pictures and clothing pretty often. Her favorite book remains Don't Be So Nosy, Posy, and she loves kissing the pig and cow in that book.

She says about 30 words now; Elmo, purple, cookie, and neigh are some of the more recent ones. And she's making up some of her own sign language. One is driving me bats: she'll sign "eat," and I'll ask, "Are you hungry?" Then she'll do this very weird sign she made up-- she clasps the fingers on her right hand together and turns her hand upside down and sticks it over one eye. What in Zeus's name is that supposed to mean? I can narrow it down-- it's not cereal, milk, cheese, or cookie (she knows the signs or words for those). So I'm guessing it's one of her other favorite foods or drink: yogurt, crackers, bread, juice, or Peach Puffs. But she hasn't told me yet.

A new pic that I'm in love with. Warm weather means outdoors photos. Yay!

Between this photo and the one below it, which is your favorite?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Good news for Marilyn

I'm very happy to say that my next book, The Marilyn Monroe Treasures (coming in October from Metro Books), is a Book of the Month Club pick, and the Spanish and Italian rights have been sold. It looks like other foreign editions will follow soon. I've seen the galleys and they look terrific.

I've had just one other foreign edition before, so this is exciting to me.

I'm still having a heckuva time trying to figure out how to balance motherhood and writing, though. I need to sell something huge so I can take a break until Sarina's in elementary school! Got any bestselling book ideas that you don't plan to use lying around?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Oh, the Fabulousness of it All!

Lookit! Lookit who's a "Best Eyes" finalist!


She does have fabulous lashes, I must say.

I'd sure love it if you'd go over there and vote for Sarina. Winner gets a $50 gift certificate to their shop and a blanket.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Happy birthday, my lovebug

This is a picture that, to me, sums up my daughter pretty well:

That's from a couple of days ago. She has a cough, cold, double ear infection, and sore throat. You can see that one eye is more closed than the other. And still, she is so grinny and so full of love.

This is today:

For her one-year birthday, she decided to just talk up a storm. I'm sure I'm leaving some out, but here are the words she now says, in approximate order of when she said them:

mama, baba, cat, dada, ball, girl, "bo" (almost boy), uh-oh, coat, good girl, boom (or bummmm!), moon, comb, car. She learned "comb" and "car" today.

I should add, though, that she still doesn't know who "mama" is. I thought she did, but alas, then she pointed to the photo of a black 4-year-old girl and said "Mama!" Hoping it was a brief case of amnesia, I forgave her. Next she pointed to a little blond boy and declared "Mama," too. Then a turtle. I give up.

She is walking all the way across the room, turning, and coming back. Today, she's doing it sort of sideways and drunkenly because she's on so many medications.

I'm trying hard not to think about the idea that she's officially no longer a baby now. I think I reject that notion. She's still my baby! But she certainly is "toddling."

I have never been more certain of anything in my life than that this little girl was meant to be mine. She is so much more than I hoped for. I wish I had something poetic and profound to say, but I feel like I've been at a loss for appropriate words since the day she was born. She turned me into a hack writer. Everything I want to say about her sounds like melodrama, or cliche. But all those greeting card sentiments are true... she does give my life meaning. She is everything to me. I am so lucky to be her mom.

Sarina, my sweet, if you ever read this blog, know that you brought your mommy, and so many other people, so much joy this year. I hope I can do the same for you. 'Cause you're stuck with me, kid. ;)

Monday, February 25, 2008

We are Communicating

Whoever invented baby sign language gets an A+ in my book. Sarina now tells me when she's tired or hungry. She does the sign for "sleep," and if I don't pay attention fast enough, she grabs my hand and does the sign for sleep with my hand, too. And she does the "eating" sign roughly every 3 minutes... 'cause the girl likes her snacks!

She's a sign language whiz, I tell you. She knows: more, cereal, moon, stars, eating, hat, love, sleep, bib...

Her first birthday is so close now (March 2). I can't believe her baby year is almost over already. I'm not going to have a baby anymore... I'm going to have a toddler! I'm not ready for that!

But anyway... have some new pics. I hope they make you smile.

Thanks to Amanda and and Lisa McGrath for the great lounge set! Amanda made the pants and Lisa made the shirt.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I Probably Got Whistled At

As I passed him, a man working at a booth in the mall whistled. At me. Probably at me. I mean, I'm almost certain.

I was wearing my winter coat and pushing a stroller containing my exquisitely wonderful 11-month old, which made it more exciting to get whistled at. It's funny how, when you're under 30, you want to clobber the louts who wolf-whistle at you. When you're over 30, you think maybe you should give them $5 tips, those sweet gentlemen!

So I walked away thinking, "Go, me. That classy mall worker thinks I'm a hot mama. It must be so! This bulky coat can't contain my explosive inner hottitude."

But then I second-guessed myself. Maybe there was a gorgeous little college woman walking next to me and I didn't notice her because I was too busy cultivating my inner hottitude. Maybe that was someone else's whistle that I was taking credit for.

And I briefly contemplated walking back to the mall worker and asking, "Excuse me, but was that me you were whistling at?" ("It was? Oh, thank you. Here's $5.")

But I still remember asking if there really was a Santa Claus and getting the honest answer, and two crushing disappointments in one lifetime might have been too much to bear, so I just pushed that stroller right outside. My self-esteem has been in limbo ever since.

Pardon me. I need to go find a construction site.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Congrats, Jennifer!

Congrats to Jennifer at The Word Cellar, who won herself a copy of The Street-Smart Writer. If you haven't already, go read the comments on my giveaway post-- they're great.

She Touched a Boy on His Butt

Sarina has really never been around babies or kids. There just aren't any in my family (I'm the oldest among all the siblings and cousins, and the first to have a baby). So I brought her to Gymboree last week, in part to see how she'd react.

There was only one other baby there (9 months old and petite, whereas Sarina is a giant, so they didn't look close in age). So the sweetest thing was that Sarina kept crawling her way over to the baby, trying to play. She tried to pass a ball to her, but I don't think the other baby was interested. Still, Sarina waved to her at the end of class. I nearly cried from adorable overload.

I brought her back this week, and there were bunches of babies! And what she wanted to do was touch the babies. She would crawl over to a little one, then touch a leg or arm or whatever. She often tried handing them her toys-- she's REALLY into sharing. No one took her up on her offers, though.

One baby boy was standing, and she used his leg to help her get into a kneeling position, then she touched his butt. Good thing his mom has a sense of humor. I apologized for the odd fondling, but really, I was elated-- I love that she's trying to make little friends. I didn't know what to expect, because I've read that babies normally aren't social creatures until around 18 months, but I've seen how she reacts to pictures of babies in magazines, and I suspected she might want to meet some in real life.

She's also picked up a fun new habit: dancing or conducting whenever she hears music. When the radio is on, she raises her hands like she's conducting an orchestra. When I sing, she just sort of bounces up and down like so:

P.S. Why, yes, those are more clippies from our friend Tabitha at Bow Baby Bow.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bloggy Giveaway: Bullyproof Your Child For Life

Hi, Bloggy Giveaways people! I've vaccuumed and set up a couple of gallons of coffee and tea and baked up some pigs in blankets in anticipation of your arrival. Oh, and some potato puffs and a veggie platter for the vegetarians among us.

This is my first bloggy giveaway. Yay, me!

I'm giving away one of my books-- your choice between Bullyproof Your Child for Life and The Street-Smart Writer.

Bullyproof Your Child for Life is a book I co-wrote with Dr. Joel Haber ("The Bully Coach"). It teaches strategies for warding off current bullies and making your kids less attractive to bullies in the future. It covers a variety of situations: school, camp, sports, and online, with a special section for kids with special needs. Read more here.

The Street-Smart Writer is a book I co-wrote with publishing attorney Daniel Steven about avoiding scams and seedy characters in the writing and publishing world, so you can publish your work without worrying about getting ripped off or taken for a ride. Read more here.

The winner chooses which one she or he wants, and I'll gladly autograph it. U.S. mailing addresses only.

To enter, you must entertain me. Tell me one little funny story about your family. If you can't think of funny, I'm all for touching stories, too. I'll pick one winner at random on Feb. 1st and e-mail that person (so make sure you have an e-mail address in your profile, or leave an e-mail address in the comment).

Thanks for visiting me! Hope you'll come back again sometime. I'll woo you with pictures of my sweet, sweet baby...

And this one is my entry for the silly pic for ...and the rest is history.

There's more where that came from! See you soon.