finding balance

You know how sometimes you really want to do something, but you avoid it because you’re scared of how it will affect you?  That’s how I feel about seeing Man On Wire.

Man on Wire    Man on Wire

This is the story of Philippe Petit, who walked across a steel tightrope between the Twin Towers on August 7, 1974.  The first part of the film documents the construction of the Twin Towers.  I really want to see that, but I don’t think I’m ready.  And I have no idea how to get ready.

It was such a cool summer night last Sunday, so my friend Jim and I went for a walk in Hudson River Park.  We kept walking down to Ground Zero.  Here’s what it currently looks like, almost seven years later:

Ground Zero 2008

The Freedom Tower is due to be completed in 2012.  Concrete for the foundation is being poured and steel columns are being installed.  After much delay, changing of plans, and other assorted hoo-ha, the Freedom Tower is now up for sale.  But if you buy it (for $3 billion), you have to make sure it gets completed as currently designed.  Find out its measurements and what will be inside.


For everyone enjoying a staycation…

Mutts staycation

…don’t forget to eat lots of these!


Take time to notice the things about your neighborhood that make it a special place.  You probably don’t have any of these jerboas hopping around your area, but they sure are cute.

Jerboa = cutest thing ever

I am obsessed with window boxes, so here is a recent Zen neighborhood sighting:

New York City windowbox

Enjoy the summer breeze!

fun with reader questions

Dedicated reader and writer Steph K. asked the following questions:

1. Exactly how long should a novel be?

I’m not sure if there’s a quantifiable cutoff between the number of pages in a novella versus a novel, but I think this more has to do with the writer’s style. Some YA authors have written several books under 150 pages and others only write novels that are over 300. My first drafts tend to always be 283 pages for some weird reason. By the time the manuscript goes through all of its revisions, this turns out to be about 310 book pages.

Your book should be as long as it takes to tell your story. That said, keep in mind that most YA novels are less than 300 pages.

2. How is the review and editing process done?

Once you have an editor, she will read your manuscript and most likely write an editorial letter to you. The editorial letter includes her suggestions for how to improve your book and can be anywhere from 2 to 20 pages. It is very important that you incorporate as many of her suggestions as possible without feeling like you’re compromising the story. This is because your editor knows how to make your story a lot better!

When I received my first editorial letter for When It Happens, I felt a lot of internal resistance to some of my editor’s suggestions. I couldn’t imagine changing the story in some of the ways she suggested. But after letting her comments marinate and applying those changes, I realized that she was right and the story improved immensely. So it’s a good idea to sit with your letter for a few days before making any drastic decisions.

After your manuscript has gone through enough revisions (decided by your editor and publisher), your editor will do a line edit of your manuscript. This is where she writes comments directly on each page, suggesting final ways to improve the story with a more detailed focus. After you submit the revised manuscript, it goes to your copyeditor, who will make grammatical and stylistic corrections and do fact-checking. You’ll apply these changes.

Then it’s time to check the first pass. This is the printed version that looks like galley pages. You wouldn’t believe how many tiny details and even some typos get overlooked up to this point! You’d think that by the time you’ve read your manuscript a billion times (and yes, you will get sick of it) you’ll have seen these errors, but there they are. Sometimes there’s a second pass if a lot of changes were applied to the first pass. Then the galleys are printed (or they could be printed before the first pass – I think it varies) and about six months to a year later, your book is finally published! This is a good day.

As for reviews, I’m not really sure. Some reviews come out before the book’s pub date and some aren’t done until months later. There’s an air of mystery about this.

3. I wrote most of my story on Microsoft Word, is that acceptable?

Sure. But I recommend switching over to the magical Apple land, where everything is puffy hearts and sparkly rainbows. Mac saved my world and I worship Steve Jobs in a godlike way.

4.  How exactly do I go about contacting publishers and sending my novel?

You can find contact information for publishers in the writer’s trade section of any bookstore.  Some houses accept unsolicited manuscripts during certain times of the year, but most do not accept manuscripts unless they’re submitted by an agent.  I used Writing for Children and Teenagers by Lee Wyndham for help with the submission process.

And reader Catt wants to know:

Are you going to write anymore books or are you going to take a break?

No breaks for me!  My third book, Waiting for You, will be released next summer.  I’m not sure which month yet, but I will keep you updated here.  My fourth book will be out the following summer.

Do you have any advice to aspiring authors?

Read and write.  Do both of these things every day.  Read all the time.  Always have a book with you so you can read while you’re on the train or waiting in line or when you’re bored.  The more you read, the more you learn about writing and the better your writing becomes.

When you finished writing When It Happens did you just immediately think, “Oh wow, now I’m going to publish it!” or did you wait a couple of years?

Sometimes in life I have a knowing.  That’s where I know, under all of the doubt and fear and anxiety, that something specific will happen.  I had a knowing about having my book published.  There were hard times and major challenges and many rejection letters, but I never gave up.  I never stopped believing.  I guess that’s what creative visualization is all about.

why i don’t cross the street when a fire engine is coming like some flippin idiots do

There was a sound this morning coming from outside. And not my fave outside sound of mourning doves, either. It was more like someone was hacking down tree branches or something. But when I looked outside, I saw a fire. My building looks out onto the roof of schmancy restaurant One If By Land, Two If By Sea, with its loud ventilation system and maze of suspicious pipes. A flame kept sparking on the outside of a pipe. I made one of those freaked out 911 calls (I guess they’re all freaked out, duh) where you can’t even hear what you’re saying because the terror is taking over your senses.

While I was waiting for the fire engine, I tried to ignore my biggest fear (well, definitely on the Top Five All Time Fears list) of having everything destroyed in a fire. But it wasn’t working. This annoying vision of the pipe exploding and projectile metal parts crashing through my window followed by a tremendous woosh of flames wouldn’t go away. I reviewed the terrorist attack plan that SP and I established in case we need a meeting place. I couldn’t remember our third backup location. And then I tried to remember the list of stuff I want to take with me that I put together after September 11. All I could remember was:

1. iBook
2. Wallet
3. Scrapbook

But then I was like, Which scrapbook? The one from growing up to age 30? Or the one from age 30 to now? And should I also bring water? Won’t my bag be crazy heavy?

Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about any of that. The FDNY neighbors got here in about ten minutes and saved the day. Good thing I work at home and made the call. What if no one saw? There would have been a raging fire! We could have lost our whole building! But I calmed down because negative What Ifs are a waste of time. Here’s what the roof looked like when the FDNY neighbors were done:

Fire aftermath

My fluffy mourning doves came to say hi later, all puffed out and ruffled feathers:

Fire aftermath

They always know when I need some company.

keeping cool

These are the days when you just want to bust out an icy Popsicle and chill in front of the fan with a good book.  Not that I can bust anything out of my non-existent freezer.

Recent discovery:  Liv’s Book Reviews.  Check out her Summer Hiatus Reviews.

Felicity and Ben

In my ongoing project to watch shows that I’ve missed because I’ve never owned a TV, I’ve been Netflixing Felicity.  And loving Felicity.  Well, I absolutely loved season one.  It has some essential components in common with My So-Called Life.  But by season three, they apparently decided to razzle things up with silly plots and random sex.  See, Dawson’s Creek did the exact same thing at the beginning of season three (which, interestingly, was on the same year) with that ridiculous Eve person.  It detracted from the sweet, intense quality of the show, and that’s what happened with Felicity.  They even changed the opening credit sequence from those serene black-and-white shots and quirky vocals to something more commercial and cheesy.  I still have season four to go, so there’s always a chance the show might return to its roots.


By the way, did anyone else notice that the other band member you never see in Juno is named Tino, just like the other band member you never see in My So-Called Life?  No way that’s a coincidence.

sweet things

I’ve been staying up way late reading I Love You, Beth Cooper.  Larry Doyle is a freaking genius.  This book is so hilarious and smart on every single page and his observations of universal experiences are perfect.  Like this one, during graduation when everyone is packed into a gym with no air and someone tries to open the back doors:  “Three thousand heads turned simultaneously, expecting the doors to fly open with minty gusts of chilled wind, maybe even light flurries.”  This story opens with the valedictorian announcing his love for the head cheerleader in his speech.  How fun is that?  And why is this book classified as adult fiction instead of YA?

Speaking of YA, John Green explained why the paperback edition of An Abundance of Katherines will be available for the low low price of $3.99.  Go on with your fine self, master nerd fighter.

As an even more low-budge way to spread the love, why not let that special someone know just how you feel by making your own virtual candy heart?  They’re good all year, you know.  Of course the ultimate candy destination is Dylan’s Candy Bar, where my friend Joe and I went after our frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity.  Dylan’s has miles of every kind of candy in existence, including random old-school finds like Sky Bars and Moon Pies:

Dylan's Candy Bar

Even their stairs like candy:

Dylan's Candy Bar

Joe located the ultimate dentist’s fantasy.  It’s this candy called Grillz, where you actually deposit your teeth and gums directly into this mold of sugar:

Joe Torello at Dylan's Candy Bar

On that disturbing note, here’s the daily Deep Thought by Jack Handey to chew on.

summer in the city

Now that my revision of book three is done, I can focus on some sweet summer stuff.

Last night we saw Ricky Gervais doing stand-up.  As a hardcore Office fan, I was stoked.  Ricky is funny.  IMHO, his funniest joke was about Humpty Dumpty.  His point was that if an egg breaks, the last things you want to send over to fix it are horses.  Can you imagine a more destructive element to an egg than a hoof?  Not so much.

Cherries are so delicious.  And they’re only in season for about three seconds, so you have to enjoy them while they’re awesome.  This is how I justified spending $12.64 on a bag of cherries at Whole Foods.  No, the bag was not big.  Yes, they were on sale.  Cherries are worth it.  I will remember how incredible they tasted when I’m slogging through my fruit-starved winter.  At least, I will try to.

Manhattanhenge was freaking righteous!  I’m still getting used to my Nikon Coolpix, so I forgot that it has a special sunset mode when I was taking these photos.  But I think you can get the general idea.  There’s nothing like the thrill of standing in the middle of the street, being a total dork taking pictures.  These were taken on July 11 from 8:16 p.m. to 8:25 p.m.

Manhattanhenge, July 2008

pc load letter?!

Your TGIM thought of the day is brought to you by the most excellent film Office Space.  If you have not seen Office Space, you need to do that immediately if not sooner.  If you have seen it, then you’ll totally remember this scene where the boys beat up the fax machine.  “PC load letter?!  What the f@#! does that mean?”  And it’s nice to see Berger doing something productive instead of leaving a sorry Post-It note on Carrie’s computer.

This is for everyone out there who’s feeling some career frustration on a Monday, everyone who knows what it feels like to have their computer eat their book, and everyone whose printer decided to stop working right when you’re on deadline.  Cheers, baby.


The only thing that can drag me away from polishing my revision of book three today is Manhattanhenge.  That’s where the sunset will be perfectly framed at the western end of each street running east to west.  The setting sun will illuminate every single cross-street in Manhattan for the last 15 minutes of daylight.  So tonight I will go observe Reason #824 of why I heart NY.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, explains the phenomenon.