This is what happens when you go to a June literary reading entitled
at Housing Works
in Soho with your New York City girlfriend. You
don’t really expect to anyone to be nude, but then you don’t expect to be so
entertained by Dave Hill, Michael Kupperman and Rebecca (aka Debbie Downer from
Saturday Night Live) Dratch and readings from their new books—
You walk out in a great mood and see graffiti art on the
construction in the front of the turn-of-the-century (19 to 20th,
having now to be precise about what century) building. You cross the
cobblestone street – and you see --
That flames are spitting out of the graffiti man’s mouth—
You take a picture thinking it’s cool downtown art—
You don’t think:
FLAMES ARE SWIRLING OUT OF ITS MOUTH until two people stumble out of the
building choking on the smoke. They call the super and someone pours a cup of
water into his mouth as if he’s giving him a drink—
You and your friend quickly decide it’s time to go to dinner.
You pick a not too expensive place nearby and order a white wine and a nicoise salad
and watch fire trucks race by—
After dinner, you go back to that turn-of-the-century
building because you parked your Honda CRV with the Junie B. Jones books piled
in the backseat right in front (street parking available after 6 p.m.). This is
what you find—
You and your friend agree: this was a night neither of you
will ever forget. You get in your car and drive back to Long Island in awe.
A summer of 2012 must read.
I think most of the world's LEGOS are actually at my house. And to all my new readers of LIE in the Netherlands -- welcome!! I'd love to hear what you think of my debut novel. Truly, the author of LIE.
The other morning I was walking through Harlem -- on my way to teaching at The City College of New York and saw this poem by ee cummings written in chalk on the sidewalk. So I stopped to take a picture and a blind man swung into me and I said I was sorry as if I was fault. He asked where was I going and I said campus and he said I could walk with him the rest of the way, and so I did, and we talked about how walking was better than driving any day. All along I was thinking: what a strange, wonderful day so far and what does a blind man know about the thrill of driving a fast car? I started thinking of how he became blind, was he always? did he lose his sight in a car crash? was acid thrown on his eyes, turning them white, scarred, useless? Did he know I was there and bump into me on purpose? Why did he leave me with a "be safe" as if I was the blind one on the streets of Harlem? And who the hell wrote on that sidewalk: I carry your heart/I carry it in my heart. Anything strange and wonderful happening out there in cyberspace today?
I am a skeptical believer when it comes to all things
astrology. What does that
mean? I read my horoscope
religiously. I have even had my
“chart” done -- by the insightful
and thoughtful Madam Lichtenstein.
But even so, I question how much is in the stars and how much is in
ourselves when it comes to the creative sphere.
In trying to figure this out, this week, I interviewed Madam
Lichtenstein aka Charlene Lichtenstein, author of HersScopes, now in its ninth
printing with Simon and Schuster, and creator and writer of the must-read
astrological blog Madame Lichtenstein’s Cosmic World at
sign is the most creative? Please
make it my sign: Scorpio.
Every sign has a certain level of creativity. For example: Libra in the social sphere
--creativity through beautiful things; Sagittarius --more international and
cosmopolitan; Taurus – might be inspired food or food writing in particular; and with Scorpio in the
area of passion and intensity. Something mysterious should inspire the Scorpion.
Okay, I’ll take
that. You are disciplined
and prolific with your blog, have
you ever faced writer’s block? Do
you have any advice?
Don’t force the writing process. Sit down and try free
thinking automatic thinking. Just
write anything. But of course,
there are some days that are more conducive to writing than others
For me stress adds to
writer’s block. Is there something
that you would suggest to alleviate a writer’s stress?
Aromatherapy. Citrus. Grapefruit or orange energize and
activate the brain.
Going back to your
comment about days that may be more “conducive” to creativity -- as a woman there are always times of
the month that are more productive creatively, but I don’t think you mean that,
Not exactly --
but I believe what you are speaking about the “void of course moons.” You can be more creative during the
void of the moon. What is the
“void of course moons?” The moon changes signs every couple of
days and at one point it will go through “tunnel” one side into the other. Those are not great times for decision making. Those times signal the strong
possibility of cloudy thinking, of
the propensity to focus on wrong things.
But it’s a great time to focus on other things, especially in the
creative fields such as writing. I have a chart of the “void of course moons” on my
When do you write?
With HerScopes, I found that I wrote much better in the
middle of the night. I would work all night: 11 o’clock I would sit down -- and I’d write until 5 o’clock in the
morning – in those moments of supreme quiet.
Speaking of night
time writing, I noticed on your website that the moon as a symbol in astrology
may be an important one to writers?
I always think of a T.S. Elliot line about “bleeding between
two lines” when I think of the character of the writer. You have your real life and then you
have your created space in the world that is of your writing – so writers
naturally bleed between two lives.
For example, if you are writing your memoir you are writing your life
and leading it at the same time.
The moon has this duality – and it could be related more closely to
Do you do readings
for writers? Should I get my Tarot
Cards read? My chart updated?
Yes, I do it
all! Tarot Readings. Charts. See my website for details.
writing has been described as honest, insightful, but also a bit “biting” or “snarky.” Would you agree?
I hope it’s fun to read – I like to have fun with it – I
even like being a little spicy too.
Though people take astrology seriously, and so do I. I can be very analytical. I believe I have this kind of writing in
me because I have a mixture of Scorpion and Sagittarian energy in me.
Last question: in
preparation for the week ahead, what do the stars tell us?
Starting this week, as the Sun enters Taurus and conjuncts
lucky Jupiter, the cosmos unleashes a chain of fortuitous events that are bound
to have long term implications for us. Not a moment too soon! Don’t
accept anything except first class. You will traveling on this particular dream
for a while and will need more leg room.
(reprinted from Madam Lichtenstein’s Cosmic World – for more details on your
sign go to thestarryeye.typepad.com)
I wonder if it’s the right time to start a new piece? The stars seem to say so! Are the stars in your writing
Truly, the author of LIE
Never Quit! That's what my fortune at the Chinese restaurant said tonight. Not quite a fortune, but a command I try to live by.
I drew the right fortune cookie. This past week, I had one of those weeks -- I taught two upper level communication classes at The City College of New York; gave a speech on writing fiction for young people that is "ripped from the headlines," to 50 or so wonderful young adult librarians in Suffolk County; and wrote a daily "guest editor blog" for the inspiring websiteshe writes
(check out my blog entries... from "what we talk about when we talk about Titles" to rejection letter immunity!).
In between it all, I was chief cook and bottle washer in the personal lives of an active 12-year-old (stressed from three days of state testing) and a 6-year-old (with a packed social calendar). I squeezed in some thinking (in the car) and creative writing (early in the morning) on a new idea and checked in regularly on my elderly dad (lunch time). So, I had to laugh when I got this fortune. I don't have time to even consider quitting. It's not an option. And most of all, I like my life -- it's my good fortune!!
Truly, the author of LIE.
Kiss me I'm Irish! At least, today I am. In reality, I am a very American mix of different cultures (Italian, Polish, Russian). But today I am Irish -- and as this is St. Patrick's Day, I am celebrating all things green, including being an immigrant or, at least the grandchild of greenhorns. I thought of this a lot as I wrote LIE
-- my debut novel -- the idea that each generation has its new wave of immigrants, and each generation of Americans rejects that new wave of immigrants. My novel is about a hate crime in the suburbs against Hispanic immigrants. Yet, The New York Times, in an editorial today, "It's About Immigrants, Not Irishness"
points out that the Irish were along the first immigrants who were reviled by established Americans. In the mid-to-late 1800s, the waves of Irish fleeing from famine in Ireland, they were met in America by signs posted in front of businesses that stated: No Irish or Blacks need apply. They were ridiculed by established newspapers, made fun of in newspaper cartoons as drunks, and denigrated for their Catholic religion. But today, we celebrate being Irish, for all the great accomplishments of the Irish -- the writers and poets, the proud workers who built our railways and our major cities, and for their children and their children's children who contribute to the richness of America today. And as Peter Behrens, today's New York Times editorial writer, points out, perhaps we should all celebrate being immigrants as well. Erin Go Bragh!
Ireland Forever! Truly, the author ofLIE,
the critically-acclaimed young adult novel about a hate crime by white teens against Hispanic immigrants. LIE, from St. Martin's Press, is available in print and ebook versions.
Sneak Preview: The cover of LIE
from its publisher in the Netherlands! If you haven't read LIE
in English, it's time - don't be behind the rest of the world. LIE now available everywhere books are sold -- in English and soon in Dutch! Truly, the author of LIE
, a story of race, prejudice, hate - and even love.
Inspiration tip -- a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 5th Avenue and 86th street in Manhattan -- one of the greatest museums in the world -- can be very inexpensive. But, you have to be smart about it. In small print under the admission price -- you will see that the cost is 'suggested.' You can, as I did this week, walk up and say, 'two adults,' and hand them whatever money you want for admission. No need for any explanations. Just say two adults for ten dollars, or five dollars, or any price you want to pay (the suggested price is $25.00 for adults, and in my mind, strictly for tourists!). Children under 12 are free. And for children under 12, next to the museum is a wonderful playground -- called the 'Ancient Playground' and set up to look like the Egyptian temples one can see inside the museum -- this is absolutely free to all. The Temple of Dendur, the mummies, and the Greek galleries were particular favorites of my 6th grader, who is studying ancient civilizations in social studies (warning you will see full nudity in the Greek galleries -- but, hey, it is a statue:). Last hint: Do not eat in the museum, especially the cafeteria -- overpriced -- go outside and buy a hot dog and NY pretzel -- tastes better and half the price! More at www.metmuseum.org
Haiku Among the Greek Statues in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
His eyes rage against
the cruel disfigurement:
Cold stone still breaking.
now available everywhere
books and ebooks are sold
Two Haiku Reflections on Valentine’s Day 2012
We are like those birds--
Swans: pearl-white, long-necked, in pairs--
one as much as two.
School day. Time to get
Up. Wash up. Brush teeth? Breakfast?
Hearts hurry. Kiss. Kiss.
Sometimes we all need an adventure. Yesterday was one - to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, the true 'Little Italy.' Shopped for fresh mozzarella, sweet Italian sausage, right-out-of-the-oven olive bread, marzipan cookies. Had dinner at old-style Italian restaurant -- Marios - on Arthur Avenue with husband and kids. Veal parmigina. Highly recommend. Then, we drove to Pelham Parkway.... stopped along Williamsbridge Road and Morris Park Avenue, and remembered being four-and-a-half, living here. We drove further down Pelham Parkway and found what we were truly looking for The New York Christmas House
(yes, someone's actual home - the Garabedien family - a family of costume designers!) decorated with over 200 costumed mannequins --from Cinderella to Cher to Mickey to Santa on the roof -- and lights --and crowds all in good cheer at the spectacle! An adventure!!
Last thought: looking for a different holiday present -- signed copies of LIE now available at Barnes & Noble in Carle Place and at Book Revue in Huntington!
(And yes, that's Michael Jackson behind Cher). Joy of the season to all!!