Wondering about other writers

Just when I needed a little kick in the butt to get writing again, I saw this awesome post by Nina Badzin that was inspired by another post by Kristen M. Ploetz. I love being nosy like this, getting a brief glimpse into other writers’ lives and habits. And to get my writing juices flowing, I am going to post my own answers—just in case you were wondering about me as a writer.

1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet? 

This is a toughie in my house. Drew is very supportive of my writing, but he is also a sensitive soul. Of course, I have never written—and I never will write—anything that might be hurtful to him, I have no reason to write such things. Strangely, what upset Drew in the past is exactly this, that I haven’t written about him. I write about myself, Sam, old friends and lovers. But not him. Some things I like to keep private—like my marriage. So, after all that: I do show him my work, mostly just so he knows what I am working on. He does give me some feedback if things don’t make sense, or if he finds a small typo before publication. And I do show him things before they are published—especially if I think the topic is sensitive—like past loves.

2. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback about it?

Hm, I am really not sure. I know I have friends who are regular readers, and I also know that I have friends who I consider to be some of my closest friends, who have never set foot on my blog. I am OK with it—we are all busy and I know that not reading my blog or my published essays is not because they are not supportive of my writing. And I feel icky about pushing my writing on anyone—and now that I think about it, I don’t even post my blog entries on my Facebook page. So if you want to read my blog, you really have to be into it and follow me.

3. What do you do with the pieces that continually get rejected–post on your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let it go?

I can only think of maybe two pieces that never found a home, and I have to say that even as I was writing them I knew that they would be hard to place. And I am OK with that. Many times I just want to write what I feel like writing, without aiming for a specific publication. Getting published is great, and that is my ultimate goal with every piece, but I also want writing to be its own reward. So yes, some pieces do end up on my blog and some pieces end up on The Huffington Post. Is that awful to say?

4. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?

I feel like the things I write about are somewhat flexible and even if I was originally aiming for a specific publication, the piece will most likely work for another place. But I try not to aim as I write.

6. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?

Daily life is my biggest inspiration. I have gotten much better about jotting things down—usually on my phone—because ideas can come to me from a brief sentence, something that Sam says, or something that happens as we just go about our lives. I love that unpredictable nature of the creative process—you just never know when an idea will strike.

7. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so underappreciated?

I have to agree with Kristen about the brilliance of Lauren Apfel. Every time I read her writing I am amazed at how easy she makes it look and how much I want to be like her when I grow up. I am also always, always amazed by the eloquence of Dina Relles and Jennifer Singer Meer. Their writing knocks my socks off.

8. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”?

Well, if I can’t list Anne Lamott, then I am not sure. I have to admit that it’s been a while since I read a craft book. It feels like just reading in general is a craft lesson every time.

9. Have you ever regretted having something published? Was it because of the content or the actual writing style/syntax? (Obviously we all grow as writers and looking back at our “clunkier” writing can be cringeworthy…that’s not what I’m talking about here. I mean are there things you wish you hadn’t said out loud either because of what you said or how you said it. I’m not in this position right now, but some things I’d like to write about might get me there. And yet…how can I ignore those topics, you know?)

No. And I have written about some personal topics—breasts, anyone? I sometimes wonder whether writing something and publishing it for everyone to read somehow cheapens the experience or the person… But no regrets.

Happy boobday

It’s actually tomorrow, but tomorrow is supposed to be crazy since I have taken up this other little part-time gig, plus the kid, plus Christmas party, plus my regular job… But I wanted to stop and talk about my boobs for a little bit.

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of my breast-reduction surgery. A year ago on this day, the day before my surgery, I looked completely different. Well, maybe not completely. But different enough. I took a picture of myself that night a year ago, just in my bra, so that I can look back on it and see the difference. I will spare you—and me—the embarrassment of posting that picture right here, but I still do look at it from time to time. I mean, I am still chubby and thanks to my smaller boobs now my stomach looks bigger… But still, I feel so much… lighter. More free. Even after a year, I am grateful every morning when I put my clothes on. I don’t have to hide my boobs, or figure out ways to make them look smaller, or make sure that I am not showing too much cleavage, or that my bra straps don’t leave my shoulders painful and bruised. Ugh, just… Such a huge difference in my life, it’s hard to even put into words.

And what is weird is that in a strange, unexpected twist, my boobs that I have tried for so long not to let define me, in a way launched my writing career. Writing about them got me on The Huffington Post, and the confidence from that got me to submit to and get published by other publications. Before I wrote the essay about my surgery, I did hesitate about putting it out there. I mean, it is a deeply personal, intimate subject. But the universe returned so much goodness to me thanks to that article — not just in the form of publishing success, but in the form of other women who wrote to me in private, admitting that they, too, struggle with their breast size, or are thinking about surgery. I hope many of them have gone ahead with surgery in this past year and I hope they feel as amazing as I do.

It was such a lightbulb moment to realize that just because nature made me certain way, I don’t have to stay that way. I can change things. I can cut off or erase any part of me that I don’t like or that makes me uncomfortable. And why not? Would it have been heroic or honorable in some way to carry around this weight for the rest of my life? For what? For whom? Why? No need to suffer—whether the weight is physical or emotional—chop it off.

Anyway, I just wanted to acknowledge the day and the date and the occasion. My essay is still up on Full Grown People where it originally appeared. It’s still one of my favorites.

Math Problem

Sheets crumpled at the foot of the bed,
the white, silky ones.
Pillows thrown here and there,
mismatched, warm, sleepy.

A foot across my chest
toes twitching from dreams of running
biking
swimming
adventure.

One arm tucked under his chest
rising, rising.
Another arm twisted,
chubby palm on my thigh.

A soft snore
breath of lemon and honey and milk
sweaty curls on his forehead
like baby hair.

This is how we nap,
tangled,
all curves and lines spread on the sheets,
like a complicated math problem.

What is the angle of the body
as it grows away from yours
if time is twice as likely to
speed up and rush away?

What is the slope of the belly
once you are unfamiliar
with its intake and output?
What is the distance these feet travel,
when they no longer fit into your palm?

Does the plane of the back change
once it’s not yours to examine, heal, caress?
When the open-mouthed laughter
the tiny, square teeth,
the round cheeks
are not yours to kiss anymore
will your own mass change?

Will you become shapeless
all negative numbers
and undefined lines
never meeting in the distance?

Will there be holes where
once soft hands rested
unashamed, unaware
that they were right over your heart?

Things Every Household Should Have

When I rented my first apartment right after college, I had two pots, a glass baking dish, a set of four plates and mugs, and a colander. And wine glasses, of course—mismatched, most of them left over from college parties. Even though it wasn’t much, I couldn’t imagine when I would use most of these things. Under what circumstances would I need more than four plates? When was I going to bake anything?

Then a care package arrived from my parents. Inside the box was a wooden cooking spoon and a pair of salt and pepper shakers that looked like tiny mushrooms with red caps. When I opened the package it struck me how I never even thought to have any of these things, but how obvious, necessary, and indispensable they became as soon as they entered my kitchen.

My kitchen now is much better equipped with electric mixers, spatulas, pie plates, a garlic press, cutting boards, matching glasses, and place settings for at least eight. But my arsenal of tools and gadgets will never live up to my parents’ kitchen when I was a child—and even now. As I was setting up my first household with just the bare minimum, I think it was hard for them to imagine my life without wooden spoons and saltshakers.

Read the full story at Sweatpants & Coffee

In Which I Meet Benedict Cumberbatch…But Not Really

My crappy picture of Benedict

My crappy picture of Benedict

I am sure that you, too, have fantasized about what “The Meeting” would be like. Perhaps there is a small crowd of fans outside an event, with you at the front. Your fingers brush his as you hand him a Sharpie to sign his name and you exchange meaningful looks and maybe a “hello” or “thank you.” Or you pass him on the street and you manage to both acknowledge his presence and respect his privacy with a quick wink and nod of the head. Or he saves your life on a busy London street by pulling you out of the way of a speeding car. Or he comes up to you at the launch party for your new book to tell you how much he wants to play the main character in the movie version. I am just saying — it could happen.

In reality, “The Meeting” will not really be a meeting at all, and it will go down like this: By some weird, uncharacteristic stroke of luck, you score tickets for you and a friend in New York City for a screening of his new movie, The Imitation Game, followed by a Q&A with him. It’s only two hours away from where you live! It promises to be a fabulous evening with dinner and drinks and a city shimmering in early Christmas excitement and lights.

You get ready. You wear skinny pants and big earrings and sparkly eye shadow, because if any occasion calls for sparkly eye shadow, it’s this one. You draw the line at wearing Spanx. A girl has to be comfortable for “The Meeting.” You accidentally spray perfume in your mouth right before you leave the house, so for the rest of the evening everything tastes slightly of daisies and alcohol.

Read the rest of the story on The Huffington Post

A year of writing seriously

I just realized the other day that on November 13 it’s going to mark a year since my first essay was published by Full Grown People.  That was the day that I started to dip my toes back into writing and to take it — and myself — seriously.

I guess I have always been a writer, albeit one that doesn’t write. So maybe that doesn’t count. But I look back on this year and part of me wants to yell “why haven’t you done this earlier!” and part of me is just happy that I finally got to this point, where I feel confident(ish), happy, and proud to be writing. Maybe I just wasn’t ready before. Maybe I didn’t have anything important to say before.

I have written more in this past year than ever before and I hope my streak will continue. I am in fear every day that my pen will dry up, that inspiration will leave me, that my confidence and enthusiasm will vanish. I don’t think they will, but who knows where the magic of writing comes from and who knows what it is that really keeps it nearby? I certainly don’t.

If you would have told me a year ago that my writing will appear in The Washington Post and The New York Times, I would have laughed at you. But both of those things happened and I hope they will happen again. And I hope that even bigger things will happen to, and because of my writing. I guess maybe that’s what changed over the past year — that I am allowing myself to think big, outside of my comfort zone, outside of what I once thought was possible. Because apparently, anything is possible.

Some of my favorites from the past year:

Young Love

I’m letting my son be in love

Five Things I Learned About Love and Life from Having a Crush on Benedict Cumberbatch

My Complicated Relationship with My Jewishness and What It Means for My Son

 

 

Can a new mascara change your life?

photo-3 copy

“This new mascara routine will change your life,” the salesgirl assures me as she slips a couple of shiny tubes into pink tissue paper and into a tiny glossy shopping bag.

I had just spent the past 45 minutes with her, applying, removing, and then reapplying lipstick until we found the shade and texture that made it look and feel like I had no lipstick on at all. After all that she also sells me a tube of mascara and this magic mascara foundation that will not only separate and lengthen my lashes, but apparently also change my life.

I am a latecomer to makeup. My mother never wore makeup — not even face lotion. I don’t think she ever used any product on her skin, yet even now, in her 60s, her face is plump and smooth and rosy like a peach. When I was a young girl she once received a round case of eyeliners from France. She had no use for them so she gave them to me, but of course I had no idea what to do with them. But I remember the black, transparent case and the silver pencils bunched together with tiny dots at their ends showing blues and greens and grays. They smelled like crayons dipped in perfume.

Read the full story on The Huffington Post!