Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Hope everyone's enjoying the holiday season. I finished reading my 100th book of the year on Monday night, realized I'd counted wrong and it was only the 99th, screamed, and grabbed another one for Tuesday. Figured it was time to post my "year in numbers" before 2009 ran out.


Books Read = 100 (I swear this time)

Specifically, 13 non-fiction, 4 graphic novels, and 73 fiction. I also read several friends' manuscripts, which are excellent novels-to-be, so you can add a few more to my fiction count if you're feeling generous :)

Scripts Read = 317

Freelance Articles
Written = 9

Hats Knitted = 3

This year I also celebrated 5 years of marriage, signed with a lit agent, revised a novel, adapted an old screenplay into a novel (failed experiment), and wrote the rough draft of a brand-new novel. Whew!

Goals for 2010 include fixing up the new novel, writing a NEW new novel, moving to Santa Clarita, and getting a bicycle and using it as my main method of transportation (keep in mind I live in L.A. so this goal is actually insane... but I think it's good to have at least one insane goal per year).

Happy champagne clinks, and see you next year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I (heart) Local Television

From 4:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Christmas Day, KCAL 9 and KTLA (channel five in SoCal) will air the yule log! Yes, they really still do this! For those who don't know, the yule log is literally an image of a log in a fireplace, crackling along all warm and inviting, with Christmas music or, for some unexplained reason, classic rock on in the background.

It warms my heart that this will be airing on television for 5 and a half hours on two fairly major stations!

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Black List 2009

Each December in Hollywood, a list of the best unproduced screenplays of the year, as decided by studio executives and producers, gets passed around for a chance to shine.

In the past, many of the scripts were "small" concepts or "too weird/indie" to guarantee major box office, despite attaching name stars, so their inclusion on the list prompted interest in up-and-coming writers (like Diablo Cody at the time) and buzz about the power of the story on the page.

More recently, however, heavy-hitters like Aaron Sorkin are being highlighted. In my opinion, this kind of defeats the purpose of the Black List. I love Aaron Sorkin's work, but it's not like he's struggling to get produced. His script for "The Social Network" (about Facebook) may be technically unproduced as of this second, but it's being filmed (with Justin Timberlake) and will be released next year.

For more on the correlation between the Black List and eventual box office performance, check out this great article from the L.A. Times.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Today we feast all day at my office in an epic pot luck. So far I've had fruit salad, chips and homemade guac, some vegetables, pita and hummus. Each year we decide on a "base" food, like Italian, Chinese Take-Out or Indian food. This year it's Greek (with grape leave things, more hummus, and various lamb and vegetable skewers), plus everyone brings completely random salads, appetizers, drinks* and of course insane amounts of dessert** -- cookies, brownies, pie, cake, chocolates.

We try to pace ourselves by wandering into the main buffet room every half-hour or so from our desks, but it's basically a never ending circle of filling up, grabbing a new plate, going back for fourths, and gathering leftovers.

Lots of publishing offices close today until 2010. If you've ever wondered how many queries a literary agency receives in a year, how many fulls they request, and how many books they sell, etc., definitely check out Pub Rants' end-of-year stats.

I'll be back to post my own end-of-year stats (how many books I read, things like that) next week.

Have a great weekend!

*Okay, wow, edited to add: there apparently exists such a thing as Greek lasagna, and it is tasty. Also on tap right now: cornbread souffle, yellow rice, olive spread for bread, mashed potatoes and fried chicken(??)...

** Last edit, I promise. The desserts have been unveiled, and they include homemade Viennese and lemon/blueberry cheesecakes, a yuletide log cake, persimmons cake, hot apple cider (being ladled in the kitchen!), dark chocolate brownies, vanilla ice cream, cobbler, mini-cupcakes and, well, that's when I went into a food coma.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas in Beverly Hills

In Los Angeles, "good" neighborhoods are stacked right next to "bad" neighborhoods, sometimes even within the same block, which is how the likes of me ended up living 10 minutes from Beverly Hills. :)

No snow for Christmas of course, but on clear days after it rains, you can see snow-tops on mountains in the distance, and I've grown rather fond of the juxtaposition of holiday lights and palm trees.

Hope you enjoy my wee photos, taken last Saturday.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Are We Really Doing This?

The latest fashion trends have me giggling a bit and I assume they aren't only being followed in L.A. Everywhere I go I see oversized belted sweaters with leggings or skinny jeans, tall but flat-heeled boots, and the occasional cape-like jacket or cardigan trailing along... where have I seen this before?

It's The '80s Meets Superhero style. I love it! The '80s need no introduction. The boots and tights, however, remind me of my Halloween costume senior year of high school (I went as Kitty Pryde, long before any of the X-men movies came out). I wore tights, long, flat rubber boots, and a leotard type thing, though I didn't wear a cape. Most people thought I was a Power Ranger.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go knit some leg-warmers. (I'm totally serious.)

These things are cyclical, right? Please let flannel come back in 2020 because '90s grunge was super comfy.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Belated but Heartfelt

I'm probably the last one on the bus for this, but Friday was Agent Appreciation Day, and I want to chime in with props to my agent Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary.

She's awesome!! To specify, she's joyfully enthusiastic and determined, well-read and knowledgeable about all aspects of publishing, gives excellent notes that make you go, "That should have been there all along!", and is one of the most generous people you'll ever meet. I feel lucky to have signed with an agent who "gets" me and believes in me, and I'm very excited for our prospects in 2010.

Bonus: Tonight, Sara's husband is competing in NBC's new reality music show, The Sing-Off.

Check it out!

Friday, December 11, 2009

More Quotes (Less Sad)

So my husband and I are in the process of signing paperwork for a condo, and it's very exciting but also a bit stressful. Our eyes were glazing over last night looking at all the fine print when we came across a question that sent us into hysterics:

Has anything "stigmatized" the Subject Property such as...allegations that the Subject Property is "haunted"?

I can't believe this is a real thing they have to ask! And what if the seller had circled YES?

Also, I get why "haunted" is in quotes, but why is "stigmatized"?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Finished "The Plague" And It Was Worth It

As evidence, I include my three favorite passages now (BOOK REPORT!!), which reflect the new normalcy for the occupants of a quarantined town:

"In this respect they had adapted themselves to the very condition of the plague, all the more potent for its mediocrity... Naturally they retained the attitudes of sadness and suffering, but they had ceased to feel their sting. Indeed, to some, Dr. Rieux among them, that precisely was the most disheartening thing: that the habit of despair is worse than despair itself." (p. 181)

"So the only thing for us to do was to go on waiting, and since after a too long waiting one gives up waiting, the whole town lived as if it had no future." (p. 258)

" hard it must be to live only with what one knows and what one remembers, cut off from what one hopes for!"(p. 292)

In contrast I only recall one line from "The Stranger," but I still contend that "The Stranger" was an easier, at times more engaging, read. (Hmm probably because it was also 1/3 the size.) Here's the line I remember:

"It was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness."

Wow, I certainly picked downer quotes. I guess the sad ones stick with me more, or I find more value in them, kind of like how most people tend to remember sad moments more vividly than happy ones, since during happy moments we're busy being happy.

Anyway, I'm glad I powered through this one.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Recommended Read: "Conflict, Action & Suspense"

I'm the kind of person who reads Strunk & White and Write Right for fun. (Also because I'm paranoid that I break grammar laws all the time, and I want to make sure I'm breaking them, er, properly.)

This week, as I sprint toward the finish line of my current project (goal is to finish the rough draft by December 31st), I decided to flip through William Noble's "Conflict, Action & Suspense." Even so-called quiet novels can benefit from the examples Noble uses, and I love that he refers to both classic and modern books, as well as film masters like Hitchcock, to make his points in a simple manner.

Pacing, tension, atmosphere, dialogue and transitions are covered, but at the moment, the section on "Endings" is particularly relevant to me. Noble warns that once the conflict ends, the story is over, so you've gotta be careful not to keep writing just to tie up every single loose end; instead, try to trust that your reader will extrapolate the smaller points and feel satisfied when the main conflict is resolved.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I spent a good portion of yesterday actively avoiding reading "The Plague" by Albert Camus. I cleaned. I washed clothes. I went grocery shopping.

The version I have refers to it as "A Perfect Achievement" on the cover, courtesy of the New Republic, but it's taken me over a week to read 126 pages (barely half the book), which is so unlike me. 

Why do I do this to myself? I'll be at the library with a perfectly healthy stack of books in my arms, ready to check them out, when I feel a sudden burst of inadequacy and think, "I should've read more classics by now." It's not that I didn't read any classics in high school or college, but I get frustrated whenever I see a title that's part of literary canon but unfamiliar to me.

The Plague is a perfect candidate for NaNoGitMo. I loved The Stranger, so why am I struggling so much with this one?

The other problem is that it's gumming up the works; I wanted to read 100 books this year, but at the moment I'm stalled out at 91, and time is running out. PLAAAAAAGUE!!!!

P.S. I've made the image of the book cover extra large so that you, too, can feel the oppression.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Shall We Play A Little Game? reports on a mini-earthquake in Newhall, Santa Clarita, which is pretty much the area I'm hoping to move to. Yikes! To be fair, there isn't anyplace that's truly disaster-free in California.

Let's see if you can match the region to its life-threatening scenario.

1. Mudslides
2. Earthquakes
3. Fires
4. Traffic-clogging Awards Ceremonies
5. Smog

A) Hollywood
B) Malibu
C) Northridge
D) The Valley
E) Malibu (yep, it "wins" twice)

Luckily we also have miles of beaches, bike trails, mountains, restaurants, awesome movie theaters and outdoor shopping centers to prevent us from reflecting too often on the darker possibilities. But I'm ready for the suburbs, baby.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's Better If You're Not! (A Wee Rant)

Ahh, direct mail marketing. I got this lovely missive in the mail a few months ago and it filled me with rage. And yet, ten minutes later, I was still reading, oddly mesmerized by the outrageous promises of effortless wealth.

Here's the line that finally broke me out of my stupor:

"You don't have to be a good writer to be successful... in fact, it's better if you're not!"

Yep. Anyone can make six figures writing letters. Especially if you're... bad at it (?) Wha--???

Corporate writing and sales letters can be a fantastic source of income, and I totally respect people who do that for a living, or as occasional freelance work. I worked for Indymac Bank for a few years, writing corporate articles for their intranet. It's just when people claim that it's easy, or that it requires no training, that cheeses my crackers (a phrase I HAVE NEVER BEFORE USED IN MY LIFE).

Writing is an art and a skill just like anything else, and it takes practice and time to do it well.