Friday, May 16, 2008

If You Love Books...

And don't we all, check out Jen A Miller's blog. Jen is a notable book reviewer (and the author of The Jersey Shore, Atlantic City to Cape May: Great Destinations: A Complete Guide), and for the past year, she's been reading (and blogging about) a book a week, and now, she's finished the (exhausting!) experiment, BUT, she's giving away a Word document of all of her posts. What a great way to find new-to-you books, just in time for summer!

Check it out here:!

And then, check out Jen's five picks for beach reading, as posted in the Philly Inky! I spy Trish Ryan! :)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rounding Out a Round-Up

Question of the Day: Please tell about your February WOMAN'S DAY article about saving time. 1)How does one go about writing an article that is mainly comments from readers? 2)Did you or a WD editor ask for their ideas on WD's website? 3)Did you query the idea of the article or did the editor suggest it to you?

FYI: the question is about this article that I wrote for Woman's Day.

And here are my answers:

1) This type of feature is called a round-up, I guess because it's a round-up of quotes. Frankly, these articles can be super-easy, but aren't always because, as you suggested, you have to find all sorts of sources and out-of-the-box quotes and ideas. How does one go about writing a story like this? You gather as many quotes as possible, then filter through them to see which are usable, then plonk them (often edited) into your piece. Because I often get way more answers than I need, I usually try to organize the emails as they come in: deleting (though not permanently) the ones that definitely won't fly, sticking the maybes in a folder designated for the particular magazine, and cutting and pasting the winner's quotes right into my document. When I start writing/editing the piece, I pare it down from there.

2) Did I get quotes from the WD website? Nope, these quotes and sources came directly from my contacts, friends, friends of friends, Profnet, etc. When you do a round-up, because your editors are always looking for "fresh" ideas and quotes, it's important to cast as wide a net as possible. Which is why these types of stories can appear deceivingly easy. Sure, you might get lucky with your direct contact list, but most often, you won't. And in this case, I didn't. I begged and pleaded and emailed everyone I knew and posted on PR sites, etc, until I had a fully fleshed-out story.

3) Did I come up with this idea or did an editor assign it? Hmmm, here's the funny thing: I wrote this piece, like, well over a year ago - maybe even 18 months ago- so to be honest, I can't remember! I *think* however, that I pitched it based on my own life, things that I'd found myself doing to shave off a few minutes in my day: I bought a more efficient hair-dryer; I'd read about some cream that slows down hair growth so you only have to shave your legs once a week and so on. And so from there - yes, it's coming back to me! - I pulled together four or five new products and ways that women were attempting to salvage their minutes and plopped them in a pitch.

Hey readers out there, for those of you who write round-ups, do you find them easier or harder than the standard straight reporting piece? I'm curious to hear preferences...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Where Do You Draw The Line?

A few weeks ago, I got the inkling to start drafting an essay for a major national column. I had the perfect idea and started fleshing it out in my head as I strolled around the city, worked out on the Precor, tossed and turned awaiting sleep. I knew it was perfect for this notoriously hard-to-crack column, but I also knew that publishing it would come with a price. Namely, the essay was about an incident in my life that occurred almost a decade ago. Over the course of the years, the emotions have faded and most of the scars have healed themselves, and so, dragging the incident back up - in as public a forum as you can get - might have reopened a slew of entanglements that I'd worked hard to put behind me.

But still. I knew it was perfect. And I felt tugged in two directions: one, the one that as writers we often feel, that in some ways, we're voyeurs of the every day, and it's our job to expose that as lyrically as possible; and two, as simply me, who had struggled with this incident for many years, and who knew, at least the smarter part of me knew, that publishing a piece about it would open an enormous can of emotional worms for all parties involved.

After some wrestling, I opted not to forge ahead with the essay, recognizing, of course, that this personal decision flew in the face of a professional decision. I realized that I had another fitting - though maybe not quite as perfect - subject for this same column, and while this subject, too, exposes some personal laundry, it's laundry that I can handle being in the public domain. So I sat down and started writing, so far, it's not half bad. Maybe it will get accepted to this column, maybe it won't, but either way, it was the better decision for me and those who would have been affected by the other essay's publication.

All of this is a long way of opening up the discussion on what a lot of writers deal with: how much of ourselves are we willing to not just put on the page but put out in public? I've had chats with friends who say that they'll write about the happier times in their marriages, but never the bad ones: it would be too much a violation to their husbands. Or friends who will write about their kids but not their husbands. Or their parents but not their children. I, personally, will joke about my husband's annoying habits, but I'd never write an honest expose of the ups and downs our marriage, even though ours is a happy and solid union. It's just not something that I'd ever feel comfortable with other people examining. Why should I? And why should they?

I don't know: where do you draw the line? For me, it was just instinctive this time around. I wasn't willing to restart a conflict that all parties had seemingly gotten over. Publication simply wasn't - isn't - worth that to me. But it's a sliding scale, one that we all face every day, and I guess the best you can do is listen to your internal compass and hope for the best.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tag! You're It!

So the fabu Alexa Young meme-ed me the other day, which, if I'm to understand this young-speak (and by that I mean the youth speak, not Alexa Young-speak), means that I've been tagged. (Alexa, a YA writer, took the time to explain this to geriatric moi, who, I should note, hasn't even hit the ripe old age of 35, but I guess that's just the way it rolls these days. Sigh. I'm so over the hill, even though I swear I can tell you who all the people are on The Hills, as well as name-drop several top 40 singers. Oh well. Such is life.)

Anyway, Alexa tagged me to do the following:

1. Pick up the nearest book.

2. Open to page 123.

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the next three sentences.

5. Tag five people and post a comment to the person who tagged you once you've posted your three sentences.

As it would happen, I was reading through the proof pages of Time of My Life when Alexa harked her call. we go:

"Could she really have been here the whole time? I think, as I stare down at the handwriting, which is as familiar to me as my own. I'd asked my father this very question when I called to tell him about her correspondence, but he had no answers. He just hung mutely on the phone, stuttering his responses, as surprised as I was, I suppose that my mother hadn't needed a true escape; she just needed an escape from us."

And so, with that, I hereby tag the following five people!

1) Eileen Cook

2) Diana Peterfreund

3) Erin Zammett

4) Sarah Jio

5) Swishy Girl

Tag, you're it! Go!