Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Tale of Three Aacks!!! Three Books, One Woman, Go Figure....

I should talk about what's "pressing my nerve," as they say in Frenglish-Quebec. It's about goals and the need to reach all of them even if it kills me.

To begin with, I feel alone in the challenges I have chosen to put in front of me. I have many wonderful journalist friends who are quite content to work the beat on their non-fiction side of the street, never straying from that type of writing. For years I worked alongside them, first in hard news for both television and radio, and then as a lifestyles writer and editor for magazines and newspapers with a focus on fashion, beauty, fragrance, movie reviews, arts etc. I learned a great deal about the writing process and the various milieux in which I circulated; I earned my keep. I attended exciting product launches and grabbed all kinds of swag. I wallowed in the latest skin care and fragrances.
But, it wasn't enough.

A quirky editor friend with creative fingers in several pots, invited me to write for a Disney licensee and publisher --  board books for very young children, and some fairytale adaptations for a slightly older audience (7-9). I created four original texts for Disney about Winnie the Pooh and his friends. It was so much fun! Imagine sending faxes to lawyers in Burbank, asking permission to put Piglet in a 1920s-style swimsuit with a belt. It was part of a plot twist I very much needed. We waited and waited while legal heads convened and conferred -- such important matters to decide in one afternoon! Then, the answer arrived -- yes, Piglet in a swimsuit was "a go." You can view A REEL FISHY STORY  here.

I have always loved writing for young audiences because that's really where this whole writing business seized me -- how impressionable I was as a kid! How hungry for all those stories, fairytales, legends, Mother Goose rhymes. I devoured everything, inching my way up the ladder to more sophisticated fare. Leaving Honey Bunch books and Nancy Drew for the worlds of Leon Uris and Harold Robbins, I never forgot where it all started -- and even now, Betty Smith's A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN remains at the top of my list as the one book that most affected me, changed me, helped me realize who I was and how I might one day fit into the world.

So, non-fiction...check...children's books...check...and of course, the Holy Grail within still my heart!

There you have it. I have to write in many disciplines, for various markets, in various genres. Well, I don't have to, but I want to. I need to.
Which brings us to the present.

The most urgent Aack! is a non-fiction anthology, LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY MOTHER -- the one described in my Open Call For Submissions post -- it's a joint venture with a need for speed. It has a real deadline.
The second Aack! is THE SCARF DANCE, a literary historical novel, now almost a decade in the non-making. I have completed reams-- reams more will have to be added before I even reach the completed first draft stage. I absolutely adore this book -- I am going to post a wee snip of the synopsis, mostly brief descriptions of three of the main characters:. 

THE SCARF DANCE - Synopsis Snip:
Chance throws three unlikely people – scarred physically and spiritually – into the 19th century melting pot of Berlin’s Bohemian society. THE SCARF DANCE captures their unique alliance and remarkable journey, spanning seventy years and two continents, as they move from Berlin to Montreal and back again. It is a family saga charting extremes – love, betrayal and redemption, poverty and riches, set amidst the relentless clash of politics and culture that thrusts their world toward modern times and destruction.

Anna Garber, born into an upper middle class family in the heart of Berlin, is the daughter of an ambitious science professor and a traditional mother, whose plans for her include a successful marriage and a place in elevated social circles. But, a childhood accident involving frying oil, leaves her badly scarred from the neck to the wrist and the plans change.

Berliner Otto Lerner, whose mother dies in childbirth, is born with a broken hip that leaves him with a limp. His father Jakob, a famous distiller, disowns him at birth and sends him north to Travem√ľnde to be cared for by his unstable sister. Otto is raised as a Lutheran, unaware of his Jewish heritage, unaware of his birthright. Through the most miserable of circumstances, his optimism prevails, and though he is an unschooled fisherman by force, he spends most of his childhood painting and drawing, dreaming of a better world far away from the smell of fish.

Arkady Nekrasov, born Yissur Davidovitch, in the Pale of Settlement in Russia, is spirited away at the age of ten by the Russian army where he is brutalized and forced into a twenty-five year conscription. At sixteen, he runs away, determined to head west. His brief journey takes him first to Elizavetgrad to reunite briefly with his parents. He arrives two days after a pogrom has killed them... he makes his way to Berlin.
Well, so much for levity.

Finally, my third Aack! is a YA called BOSOM BUDDIES told in first person blog format. It's a coming of age with a twist, a story of an atypical mother-daughter conflict that turns things upside down. It's quick, it's compelling, it's funny and poignant and it manages to combine diverse topics such as Johnny Depp, breast surgery and Catherine the Great of Russia in one neat package.

And, that's the lot. I have yet to figure out how to juggle, but there simply has to be a way. I am determined to find it. Apart from the discipline required to make tangible inroads, there is another factor -- the emotional one. I have a tendency to submerge myself into my worlds to the detriment of everything else. Writers talk about this shared affliction...the one that means you listen to someone talking over dinner but you aren't really there. Or, you're stirring a pot of soup but you aren't really there. In the shower, words and ideas wash down like a musical curtain bestowing major insights that you pray will stay with you long enough to grab a towel and race to a pad and pen.
So, how on earth does one write three different books simultaneously? I'll let you know. Maybe it's the Godfather approach -- Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, then Wednesday, Friday. That leaves Saturday and Sunday. Build it, sez I, and they will come! (There is a publisher in the US who is eager to see Bosom Buddies completed. I need an agent who can handle all of my various markets.)

In the meantime, it is now Monday, or close enough...I'm off to write an essay about my mother and Van Gogh.


  1. Well, of course you need publishers, but you've got readers too! I can't wait to hold The Scarf Dance in my hands and I really miss seeing excerpts from Bosom Buddies :-)

  2. Hey as they are wont to say, "from your mouth to God's ears" Heh.

    Thanks, pal! Really.