10/29/10

Carrot ginger dressing...on everything!


I was in NYC recently and wandering around NYU looking for a place to lunch. It was the end of my trip and I needed something healthy, something green, something that didn't have alcohol, butter, or cheese. I was saturated and in need of some clean food, and the cheaper the better as I was starting to already dread getting my credit card statement. And that's when I remembered Dojo, a campus favorite that a friend of mine had taken me to almost twenty years earlier.

It was just where I remembered it, and my favorite item, the carrot ginger dressing, was still on the menu and I ordered it and poured it all over my brown rice and black bean burrito. I could eat that carrot dressing with a spoon, it is so delicious! And as I am a cooking dynamo these days, undaunted by new challenges and equipped with a fine food processor, I began looking for the recipe before we even got on the plane.

I found the recipe on the Parsley Thief, through a google search right when we landed at LAX. There are many variations, but this one looks the closest to what I was looking for. The next morning after laundry and cleaning the apartment, I headed out to buy the ingredients. I was a woman on a mission and my mission was successful! This dressing is spectacular. It is just like the dressing I had at Dojo, and it really is great on veggies, rice, quinoa...everything! This is what I am having at my desk today as I prepare to re-read my whole novel and check out my revisions.

Click on the word recipe for...the recipe!

What will you be eating at your desk today?

10/28/10

Temper Trap


I love the Temper Trap! This band is on heavy rotation right now as I finish up my revisions. It has been a tough week, as I have been fighting major allergies and fatigue. All I want to do is sleep and eat chocolate simultaneously, which I don't recommend at all, as it will mess your sheets. But seriously no amount of caffeine or chocolate can get me out of this allergy fog, and yes, I have tried copious amounts of both in the name of research. Ugh. The only thing lifting my spirits is a good song! Damn they look happy in that picture.

What about you...band favorites right now? Writing tunes that get your blood pumping? Please do share.

10/25/10

Sitting on it...

I have some wise friends. These friends listened to me hoot and holler about my revisions being done and then told me to sit on them for a few more weeks. I didn't want to sit on them. I was done revising, I was ready to send my manuscript out into the world, I was good to go. I sent my husband my new draft and asked him to read it and he said, uh, yeah, sure, soon. He hasn't read it yet, and I am still waiting. And so is he. He thinks that if he waits some more, there will be more revisions, things that come to me, things that I might suddenly see differently. Two days after sending him my revised version, I sent him another one, with new changes. And today I could send him yet a different version. It seems he is right, there may be more changes coming. My dear friend and mentor, also told me to sit on it, and visit it now and then, and to just take a deep breath and to get serious about my next book as it will take my mind off of things. I love how crazy that once sounded to my writer brain..."Another book will be easier than the waiting?!" But it is. Doing is always better. Working on one thing and waiting on the other. And when that doesn't work...cook.

Today's desk lunch: Pureed Sweet potato soup with steamed kale. Delicious.

10/22/10

Paper Plates! A new category!


Alright so, I have added a new category to this blog called Paper Plates, which is all about food and especially what we eat at our desks!

For me writing and cooking are intertwined. Cooking helps me think, the chopping is meditative and methodical, providing me with an order and a rhythm, that my thoughts sometimes lack. I find it calming to make a big pot of soup, to stir it on the stove, just as ideas, and characters stir in my mind, trying to come together in some sort of cohesive form. My time in my kitchen, just down the hall from my office, allows me a break without going to far, or getting too engrossed in something that I won't be able to break myself away from, and return to my writing. And best of all, I can take the fruits of my labor back to my desk and continue working. Writing and cooking, and working and eating...they're the perfect pairings!

I'd love to feature what you eat at your desk! Send me a pic if you can, and tell me about what you eat at your desk, when you're working. Do you have a favorite combo, say sweet foods as a reward for boring book keeping? A go to desk meal? A must have snack or beverage? I know that everyone has to eat and work sometimes, so tell me about it!

Click the hello button to send me an email!

10/21/10

Love...one year later


A year ago, Jeff and I contacted Bichon's and Buddies animal rescue, and made an appointment to go to the Culver City animal hospital to see if we could find a hypo-allergenic buddy for Mabel. It was a rainy day, much like today and the one day off that Jeff had from a film that he was doing. The new dog was something that we had talked about, but I was the one who pulled the trigger, calling the organization, making an appointment and surprising Jeff. Surprise one, I had planned his day off, surprise two, Bichons and Buddies, isn't a foster organization, you take 'em, their yours.

At the shelter there were about 6 dogs that we were told to look at, sweet, sad, needy, some crazy from their days at the puppy mill, others with nerves frayed from the barking and smells of the other dogs that they shared space with at the hospital. I ventured back to where the cages are kept and saw Lily. It was hard not to notice her, she jumped as high as my chest and barked loudly for me to notice her. I checked my list of available dogs and she wasn't on it, and so I apologized to her and took the first candidate out to meet Mabel. Mabel had to like the other dog. After about an hour it was clear that Mabel wasn't interested, and also that these dogs for a variety of reasons weren't right for us. It was heartbreaking. And then the woman who was helping out said, "Oh there's one more, but you wouldn't be interested, she's not pure bichon."

I didn't care if she was pure Bichon, it was about my allergies, and so I asked what she was, "a poodle bichon mix," she answered, "her name is Lily, interested?"

Lily...the little jumper that I had seen, came running out of the back and up onto my lap. She placed her front paws on my shoulder and looked me in the eyes. She wasn't going anywhere. Eventually she nestled into the side of my body, sharing my lap with Mabel, who made room for her! We took her for a walk, and wanted to cry as we watched her twist on her leash, and scramble along the sidewalk afraid of the cars and the noises. Turns out she had been found wandering the streets. Turns out she was the dog that we had been interested in months before that got adopted before we could get her, only to be returned 2 days later by someone who found it too hard to have a pet and kids.

We went back inside and waited for the woman who runs Bichons and Buddies to come and meet us. The moment she walked in the door, on her lunch break from her real job, she exclaimed, "Congratulations Lily! Looks like you have found a home!"...and she had. And we adore her, and a year later, she and Mabel have learned that the other is here to stay, that there is love enough for both of them, and that there is even love between them. They have become buddies.

10/19/10

Susan Henderson


Another Amazing Author Interview from Amazing Author Caroline Leavitt! Look for Caroline's new book, Pictures of You (Algonquin Press) this January!
Susan Henderson talks about Up From The Blue





Just about every writer I know adores Susan Henderson. Let's talk about her shining resume: a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the founder of the literary blog LitPark: Where Writers Come to Play (www.litpark.com). Her work has appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story, the Pittsburgh Quarterly,North Atlantic Review, Opium, and many other publications. But let's also talk about how Susan is also so generous to other writers, so warm and full of spark, that I nominate her as the patron saint of all writers. I know that she's mine.

Up From the Blue is a knockout debut, about love, vanishing and memory. "Rapturous prose," raved Library Journal and in a starred review Publishers Weekly called it "beautify, funny, sad and complicated." I'm thrilled that Susan is here--and that I finally get to do something for her! Thank you, thank you, Susan.


So, after all your short stories (and you are a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee), what was it like writing a novel? What changed from writing stories? What was the whole writing process like?

Well, first of all, I love the short story format. I'm crazy for Jean Toomer, Flannery O'Conner, Eudora Welty, Richard Wright, Denis Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, Amy Hempel, Annie Proulx, Jimmy Baldwin, Ellen Gilchrist, Aimee Bender, Carson McCullers, Langston Hughes, D. H. Lawrence, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And I wish more publishers would take on short story collections and actively promote them.

Writing short stories definitely taught me how to be concise, how to cut out the clutter, and sharpen a scene, how to get to the meat of the story. But I started finding recurring characters and themes in my shorter work, and that was my first hint that I had a longer story to tell.

I had no idea what to expect because I never tried it before, but I sort of fell in love with the form. Writing a novel is so freeing. There's room to slow down, to go deeper, and to take some side journeys. I could make the setting one of my characters. I could give minor characters their own arcs. And I liked that I could just stick a detail here or there that seemed incidental— a coin collection, an apple, an abandoned swimming pool—and later you'd find it had taken on more importance. Best of all, I could really get to the gloriously complicated nature of these characters, and I found that so satisfying.

Imagination plays a huge part in Up From the Blue. Tillie’s creating story out of her life both saves her and keeps her from the truth. Can you talk about the way story both makes sense of our lives and blurs reality?


I loved playing with this concept in the novel because I think every family, every marriage, every friendship has seen this happen, where two people experience the same event and have wildly different interpretations of it. Because there's what's physically happening, and then there's your filter—how your fears and desires change what you see, or what you'll let yourself believe. And there's also what each individual will create out of the gaps in information.

Tillie is someone who believed in certain truths and believed in certain people, and those beliefs, though she had many of them wrong, gave her hope. I think it's a self-preserving instinct, and some of the biggest fights in the book are when other characters wants to take those life-saving beliefs and overpower them with their own way of seeing things. That's a very painful process when you tamper with someone's reality.

The novel is structured so that it moves from the present to the past and back again, from the child Tillie to the adult about to have a child of her own. How did you decide on this structure and what do you think it says about what we choose to remember?

This was my editor's biggest influence, and I think it's just brilliant—I never would have thought of it on my own. When HarperCollins bought the book, the entire story was narrated by eight-year-old Tillie. And my editor said to me, I think there are questions the reader has that Tillie is too young to understand or communicate. And so she wondered if I could have someone narrate a frame story and show what's become of Tillie some years down the road.

That's all the direction she gave me. That, and the fact that this frame story had to have its own separate plot. I went to bed with no ideas at all but thrilled with the leeway I'd been given and thrilled because, rather than simply tightening up the book, I could really say much more about memory, about love, about the impact of a tragedy, about how a person carves out a sense of security and hope.

And it gave me a lovely opportunity to give the book two endings—one that a little girl holds to, and one that takes in the full weight of the truth.

I was very curious why, given her childhood, Tillie was going to have a child of her own. Where did that bravery come from?

I think I was the one who wanted her to have a child of her own. Sometimes kids grow up feeling damaged and don't believe in their capacity to create their own future. I think I believed in her more than she did, and wanted her to step over that fear that she would be inadequate. But honestly, I wasn't sure, as I was writing the ending, if she'd be up to the task. We were discovering that together—how much fear or others doubting her would get in the way. Together we saw whether the instinct to attach was there.

What’s obsessing you now in your writing work?

I'm obsessed with this social pressure to stay young and beautiful. I think there were seeds of this obsession in UP FROM THE BLUE—the mother who wouldn't let herself be photographed in sunlight, and the boy who got his tooth fixed and found it sort of emphasized all of the other things he didn't like about his face. But now this meshing of vanity and self-hatred is at the core of my work, and it's really fun to have a brand new set of characters and begin to get to know them.

What question should I be mortified that I didn’t ask you?


Nothing about your questions felt mortifying. I was thinking, in fact, how brilliant and thrilling they are, and how nice it is to talk with someone who's such a close reader.

10/18/10

When to be clear...

I am revising my novel, making changes here and there that relate to the theme and it is an incredible challenge. I want to pull the theme out a little bit more, but I don't want it to be too obvious. I don't like clear cut answers, or characters, I like things in the gray area, characters whom you love, though don't always like, characters whom you detest, but are forced to understand and empathize with. I like people to have a feeling about the writing, an understanding about the world the characters live in and to see the connections to their own lives. I like my readers to imagine those worlds, and the people who inhabit them, even if the pictures that they paint are different than the ones I see in my head. But of course, I want to clear. I don't want anyone reading and being confused and I need to make sure that all the seeds I lay are tended to. It is a challenging task, and an important one.

I have been revising all week, subtly changing lines here and there, choosing my words carefully, crafting images that will illuminate and not spell out the story. I am making progress, but there is more to do.

Tell me, do you like ambiguity or do you want things crystal clear?

10/14/10

NYC!!!


I'm back from NYC, exhausted, elated, and inspired!

The week away was a whirlwind! We flew in Wednesday night on the red-eye, tired and happy from a 12 hour shoot the day before. We checked into The Franklin, which is a gorgeous boutique hotel on The Upper East side, and the amazing concierge got us a room...5 hours early. Lucky. I loved the Franklin, with it's deco feel, teeny tiny freight/passenger elevator, and only 50 rooms. The wedding that we were in town to attend had arranged a group rate, so we could afford to go for 5 nights! So decadent and wonderful.


As soon as we had showered and caffeinated we met my parents who made the trip from Toronto to see us and celebrate their 45th Wedding anniversary! They stayed at the W hotel, which treated the lovebirds to an upgrade, champagne, and a fruit and cheese plate! Lucky. After more coffee for all of us, we began our NYC marathon. Our days were insanely packed. I can't even believe that we did half of the things that we did! Our itinerary looked like this...


Thursday: Stroll through Central Park, lunch at The All American Health Food Bar, window shopping uptown, drooling at the gems at Bergdorf's (and doing research, as it is a location in my new screenplay), mozying on over to Moma, checking out the Matisse, exhibit, loving the tunes of the DJ, hanging in the sculpture garden and finally dinner at a hip, inexpensive Asian restaurant called Obao, that we just stumbled, okay staggered into. Late night drinks with the bride and friends in Gramercy.

Friday:
Slept in, thank goodness. Took the train out to Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, had lunch at an Italian cafe, walked over to Prospect Park, hung out, walked over to Library, trained back into the city, strolled down Broadway towards Soho, shopped at Uniqlo, scored Cashmere sweaters at great prices, made our way to our delicious Italian anniversary dinner destination at Max's at 4th and Ave B. Got back to the hotel around 11:00pm, collapsed.

Saturday:
Brunch at the Standard downtown, walking the highline, Chelsea Market, Chelsea Neighborhood, Soho, Lunch at the Cupping Room, Noho, The East Village, Greenwich Village, dinner in Gramercy Park at Friend of a Farmer, in bed at midnight.

Sunday...Starbucks breakfast and hugs and kisses goodbye to my parents! Next up, the Wedding. What a glorious and beautiful wedding!! So much love and joy! After the wedding, we all gathered at Elaine's, and crawling home, grabbed a slice of Ray's Pizza and feel into a coma at 2:00am.



Monday and Tuesday were filled with meetings and greetings with friends old and new, and much more wandering in the city!! It felt great to walk so much, to be on vacation, to see new things, and old things in a new way and to feel good about returning to Los Angeles. I love our home here, and although I still adore NYC, my desire to live there, is for now, a desire, to visit more often. But until then, a ton of work awaits me!

10/11/10

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

It's Canadian Thanksgiving and I am celebrating it in a rainstorm in NYC with a bowl of moules et frites! It has been a remarkable weekend of celebrating; the wedding of dear friends, the 45th wedding anniversary of my beloved parents who came to NYC to visit with us, new work and opportunities on the horizon...and so much love.

I have a lot to be thankful for, friends and family that are both things to me and the joy of loving what I do and getting to do it daily.

One more day in this fabulous city and then I will return to L.A., to work, to home, to my sweet pups whom I miss so much.

Pictures and tales of the city coming soon!

10/6/10

Commercial Love...

Sorry I am behind on the posting, but it has been a crazy start to the week!

Monday was a marathon of a day, with fittings, a rehearsal, a class, and finally a late dinner with two of my favorite shows, Mad Men and Rubicon. And yesterday I was up at 5:45 and home late, after spending the day shooting a commercial. The shoot was fantastic, the people on it were all fabulous, the twins playing my kids were so delicious, the entire experience was such a great one, that I really enjoyed every minute of it. Such a treat! And I can not wait to see it.

I always tease my husband that novel writing is a really expensive business...it takes so long, and I actually haven't been paid yet, (I need to be published first!) that any and all work helps, and commercial work is especially great.

As always, it is nice to work with people who are all at the top of their game, professional, personable and working their butt off. When that happens, I find everyone brings their best, and it is a joy to be around. A joy and a privilege and I am grateful to have been chosen for the job. I hope that the commercial is a huge success and plays forever! I have a lot of books to write!

Off to NYC tonight, so posting may be sporadic, but I will take lots of pics!

10/1/10

Surprises...

A friend recently said to me, "You've always known." She was referring to my surprise that I am living the kind of life that I want, writing all day long and still working as an actor when I can. In many ways she was right, I have known what I wanted to be doing, but seeing it clearly and making it happen, are another matter entirely. While part of me, has known/wished/desired to evolve into what I am doing now, pretty much a full time writer, another part of me never believed it. We talked a bit about the fact that sometimes my goals for myself, my aspirations wouldn't come true until years later, but they would and could come true.

It was an interesting exchange to me because although intended to be praise, it had a ring of "see it all worked out", a phrase eerily reminiscent of one that I grew up with "don't worry it will all work out." I never found this comforting. I understand that it is intended to be so, but I find much more comfort in action. I'd like to change the phrase to, "don't worry, as long as you work your ass off and do your absolute best, and approach your goals as a marathon and not a sprint, it will probably all work out, in some pleasing fashion or another." I know, you can't fit that on a bumper sticker but still.

Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of positive thinking, and visualization, and I believe in Feng Shui, but most importantly I believe in my responsibility to meet the Universe halfway. I gotta do my part. There are so many things beyond our control, and in order for that not to make me crazy I do my best to control the one thing I can...my effort. And when things do work out, I write the book that 5 years ago was just a sentence in my head, I meet like minded colleagues who are generous and supportive, I find representation that supports me as a writer-actor hyphenate...I am so pleasantly, joyfully surprised. When all those hours, days, weeks, months, years, of angsting and working my butt off turn into rewards, I am bowled over. And grateful. And yes, surprised.

And just when I think I've got it all figured out, another surprise comes my way. Next week, I'll be more actor than writer, shooting a commercial...and no doubt being surprised at how good it feels to be back on set again.
 
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