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December 2010
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January 2011

Deadline Eve

Images-1 At this point I'm down to copy editing. I've printed out the entire book in hard copy (currently weighing in at 354 pages, double spaced, Geneva 12 point) because I can often catch things on paper that I might not see on on my computer screen.

Two of my favorites typos:

-I had written about a conference that was "brining" mothers together. With one dropped "g" from the word "bringing,"  I seem to be suggesting that a group of moms were being pickled.

-In the book I refer to the legend of Achilles. I explain that when he was an infant, Achilles' mother dipped him in the river Styx, holding him by the ankle, to try to make her son immortal. Except that I dropped the "t" in "immortal" so I have the mother hoping to make her son "immoral." 

Ah, the power of one letter. These are small things, but little mistakes undermine the credibility of the bigger arguments. 

Not exactly sleeping these days - troubled dreams of manuscripts, agents, publishers and computer breakdowns.

 


Introduction

Unknown The only feedback I have gotten thus far from my editor (months ago when she read 3 chapters) is that I need an introductory chapter to make the case for why this book is important now. Making that argument is easy enough -there are plenty of compelling reasons why the time has come to look at the topic of mothers and sons.

Here is where I'm flummoxed, though - the difference between the Introduction and Chapter One. I need to lay out my basic argument and make my case for its relevance. But where? Not everyone reads the Introduction of books. I often skip them. So I want this material in Chapter One. But my agent says I should make the argument in the Introduction. ACK.

You may be thinking - wait, isn't her manuscript due in six days? Yes it is. And both the Introduction and Chapter One have long been written. They do differ - the Introduction now focuses on how I came to write this book, while the first chapter lays out the main issues. But I'm still worried about overlap, and cutting and pasting all over the place. 


Jack LaLanne

Images At the risk of dating myself, I was a Jane Fonda girl - I owned her work-out tapes, and even wore leotards and leg warmers. But the very first exercise video that ever came into our household was a Jack LaLanne workout tape. It belonged to the Weatherman, and I don't remember much about the exercises, except that they often involved a chair and deep knee bends. 

What does stand out in my memory, though - other than the image of Jack's tiny waste and bulging biceps - is a moment in the tape where he calls for his wife Elaine to enter the room. She is carrying a tray, which is covered with fat. Literally. It must have been hacked off slabs of raw meat, but there it is, a huge pile of nasty, white, jiggling stuff. And then Jack says, "That's 10 pounds of ugly fat!"

You know how certain images stay with you? That tray of fat is permanently embedded in my consciousness. Rest in peace, Jack.

Anyway, you know what I'm doing this week. Book. Book. Book. That's all I will say on that subject.


Zero Degrees

In light of the fact that my thermometer is reading zero degrees this morning, and that there is at least a foot and a half of snow in my backyard, and more predicted for tomorrow night, I thought I would share these winter photos that my friend Sally sent me. Enjoy!

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And for when you are REALLY sick of winter....

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My Editorial Helper

Maddy on My Mouse One of the most difficult things about writing a book is the isolation. As a journalist, I was used to nearly instant feedback on everything I wrote. But as an author, it's a whole different scene - you are on your own for long periods of time, just hoping you are on the right track. 

Fortunately, I have an assistant who keeps a close watch on my work. As you can see, she is always on the case. Sometimes she gets right on the keyboard and makes direct edits.  (see small photo on right.)DSCN0725

My interpretation of her actions in the bigger photo on the left is that she wants me to pause and think about what I'm writing. After all, she is sitting on my mouse.

Which, I might add, is about the only mouse she'll ever catch.




The Home Stretch

Images Spent most of the weekend editing Chapter Four, which needed a lot of work. At this point I swing between thinking the book is actually pretty good and quite interesting, and then that the whole thing is an embarrassment. As always, I'm into black and white thinking.

In other news, I couldn't help but notice a news item yesterday that Gabby Gifford has recovered to the point where she was able to give her husband a back rub. Like all Americans, I am pulling for the congresswoman's recovery, and am amazed and delighted with her progress. But Gabby, really? Must you set a bad example for all of us by petting your husband from your hospital bed? Surely The Weatherman wasn't the only husband who took note that if she could do it, an able-bodied wife could provide her guy with a back rub too...


Re-Writes

Images Chapter 7 has to be completely re-written. It is clear to me now. This is the "Great Mama's Boys in History" chapter. And while it includes some fun and interesting anecdotes about famous men and their moms, there is nothing that's tying it together with the bigger themes of the book. What's more, some of the relationships I describe seem supportive and healthy, while others are downright creepy. So what I am actually saying in this chapter?

I am trying not to push the button at left. 


Snooki and Me

Images-2 When you're really struggling with your craft, it is good to be in such august company. I am referring to my fellow writer "Snooki." I have never actually seen Snooki on TV but I do know she is a pint-sized, foul-mouthed, big-busted star of a reality TV show about New Jersey. And now she is an author.

What makes Snooki's literary career so ... I'm at a loss for words here...amazing? appalling? whatever - is that she claims to have read only two books in her life: Twiglight and Dear John. I am not familiar with either of these works, but that's not really the point. Snooki worked with a collaborator, and here is her take on the writing process: "I just gave her scenarios, (a character) possibly working at a tanning salon, there has to be drama in it, fights. She would write it up, I would read it, and if I didn't like it, then she would fix it for me."

It's great to have colleagues who really understand the process.


Look What I Found!

DSCN0719 It only comes once a year. And it was meant to be here in December. I have been scouring the shelves of multiple supermarkets, only to be left disappointed. And then yesterday, I found it! My all-time favorite ice cream, Turkey Hill's Ginger Snap, which is in stores only during the holiday season.

I discovered this amazing product last year. I fell in love.  And then it left me . I blogged about my loss then.

OK - here is the really shameful part. I was so worried about not being able to have my Ginger Snap ice cream that I saved a small amount in my freezer for a year. It was covered with freezer burn and completely lost its texture. This year, I am not going to hoard it, but just enjoy it.

 As for the book, edit, edit, edit, edit. The conclusion isn't written yet either.


You Are Here

Kesslerothercountry When The Boy is home on a  break from 05ART1WE-articleInline college, he and I usually try to do one fun mother-son outing. We are partial to the New York Historical Society, but yesterday we stayed a bit closer to home. We went to an exhibit at the Katonah Museum of Art called "Mapping: Memory and Motion in Contemporary Art." It was such a cool show! Basically the various artists were playing with the concepts of boundaries - geographic, national, political, as well as ideas of orientation, perspective and one's place in the world. 

I am in awe of some of these artists - so creative and talented! The museum is a very manageable size. After the exhibit, The Boy and I had lunch in a coffee shop. All in all, an excellent outing.

Then it was back to the book for me. I was plugging away on the conclusion when I realized some of the material I was putting in really belonged in Chapter 3. Don't ask. I'm told by more seasoned authors that this happens. 


Gym Newbies

Images-1 I spent most of yesterday hunched over my computer, working on the book. At about 4:30 my neck and shoulders were killing me, and I decided to go workout at the gym. I like to workout in the late afternoon - it's a good  break, it gets my ya-ya's out, and then I'm mentally refreshed. Also it tends to be a quiet time at the gym.

Except, that is, for the first week or two in January. I forgot. It's New Year's resolution time. The gym was absolutely packed, mostly with people I'd never seen before. We regulars know each other, but these were people who had obviously decided that it was time to turn over that new leaf and get moving. But why were they hogging my favorite machines?

That's ok, I remember this happens every year. They'll be gone by early February. I know it's cranky of me, but it's still true.


Beginning of the End

Images See these people running? They are in the last mile of a marathon. For a long time I used to tell the kids, "Don't fall down before the finish line." It wasn't about running; it was about completing what ever you started. 

Well, the book is due in 28 days, and this is no time to stumble. As I promised myself, I finished the new Chapter One before the New Year. Next - the Conclusion. It's funny how I have to finish with a new beginning and a new ending - kind of like bookends. A journalist friend of mine told me she recently interviewed a singer-songwriter who writes a lot of musical theater. He told her he writes the opening number of a show  last, because it is only then that you know what the whole thing is about. Makes sense to me.

Onward.


New Year's Eve Dinner 2010

This year we went to our friends Libbie and David's house for New Year's Eve. The plan was to have a long, leisurely dinner and to relax and ring in the New Year with old friends. Libbie and I decided to split the cooking, and we planned the relatively simple meal ahead of time in a two-minute phone call. 

Both of us commented on how little preparation was involved and how easy the whole thing was. She would do hors d'ouevres, except for one, which I would bring. She'd make the salmon; I'd make the risotto and a vegetable and bring the bread. She'd make the salad and dessert. David was in charge of the wines and champagne Come to think of it, I think I got off lighter.

Anyway, here is a photo of what I brought over.

Bringing stuff over
You'll note a small round of brie. I didn't take photos of this but I will now admit the very, very shameful thing we did with the cheese. It was dipped in an egg, which had been beaten with some cream, and then covered in bread crumbs, and then pan-fried in butter. Yes, that's right. We had fried brie. It was amazing, savory, gooey, and yes, 90 gazillion calories. What is your point?

Here is the dinner:

Dinner
I don't have Libbie's salmon recipe, but I do know it was the center cut of wild Alaskan salmon and delicious.

The asparagus was made as follows: After trimming 1 and 1/2 pounds of asparagus, I put them in boiling water for about 5 minutes, and then refreshed them in a bowl of ice water. After draining them, I made a layered casserole. A little olive oil on the bottom, then a layer of asparagus, salt and pepper, and some freshly grated parmesan cheese, then on top of that another layer of asparagus, s and p, and cheese, and then a third layer of the same. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Now for a confession about the risotto - I made it in the microwave. The recipe is from Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet and it works like a charm every time:

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter        2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil                   Freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup minced yellow onion         Freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 cup arobrio rice

3 cups of chicken broth

1. Heat butter and oil in 10-inch quiche or deep pie dish, uncovered at 100% for 2 minutes. Add onions and stir to coat. Cook, uncovered at 100%, for 4 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat. Cook, uncovered for 4 minutes more. 

2. Stir in the broth. Cook, uncovered at 100% for 9 minutes. Stir well and cook for 9 minutes more. 

3. Remove from oven. Let stand, uncovered, for 5 minutes to let rice absorb remaining liquid, stirring several times. Stir in salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. I threw in some chopped parsley at the end for color but it's not necessary.

For dessert, Libbie made orange souffles. She served it with a bitter chocolate sauce. What a way to ring in the New Year!

Orange souffles