Polishing the Rough Draft of My YA Novel, Sissy

On Friday, I had a good conversation with my agent Michelle Andelman about my rough draft of my YA novel, Sissy.  I had finished the rewrites and had written an ending.  But as most writers know, that doesn’t mean it’s over quite yet.  Michelle was right to point out that the ending needed more “ugly things to happen to my characters.”  It’s true.  I wrote a completely happy ending.  And truthfully, being a teenager in love with the wrong guy usually doesn’t have a happy ending.  Michelle always gives me her honest opinion and most of the time she’s right.  I have to disappoint my characters and let them mess up.  

I’m spending November and December in Rewrite Land, working on the end, the beginning and everything in between.  My hope is to finish a nice polished version by mid-January for Michelle’s feedback.

Here’s to rewriting!


Writing About Picky Eaters: Part 2

Through my blog stats, I found that a lot of people were checking out my Writing About Picky Eaters post (in total, so far, about 250 views). Researching my Rachael Ray article (due out Feb. 2010) about picky eaters, I found a lot of people were yearning to conquer their fears, their spouses, or their children’s fears about food.  The article I wrote was short so I couldn’t include everything I found so instead I’ll share some interesting points that I learned.  I hope it’s useful in helping picky eaters out there overcome their food phobias.  I spoke to molecular biologist Adam Ruben and registered dietician Eric Nowicki as well as research online to find out what is behind the science of picky eaters.

I used to be this kid. I tried to give my dog broccoli. She didn't eat it.  Now I love vegetables.  Tastes can change.

I used to be this kid. I tried to give my dog broccoli. She didn't eat it. Now I love vegetables. Tastes can change.

Important Food Facts (from the Q&A listed below)

  • Flavor is a combination of sensory qualities, so our sense of taste is also based on our sense of smell. See how much your nose knows by eating a jellybean while pinching your nose. It will taste flavorless until your nose is opened. As people age, the sense of smell changes, which explains why people may like food they disliked as a child.
  • Kids are notorious picky eaters but their cautious nature is part of predatory instincts to learn what is safe to eat and what will keep our bodies running. Sweets are packed with energy while bitter grub is usually a warning that the food may be potentially poisonous.
  • On average, men and women have different food preferences.

Breakdown of Food Fears

Chemical Aversion: Our taste buds detect five flavors: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami (a Japanese word for savory tastes like meat, cheese, mushrooms). 
How to get over it: Eric suggests not overcooking vegetables which tends to bring out their bitterness.

Emotional Aversion: This type of food aversion comes from childhood associations or memories that you have about certain foods. Adam Ruben’s parents hated onions so he thought he hated onions too.
How to get over it: Try incorporating the food you hate in small doses, at least 8–10 times. Most people only try the food they hate 2–3 times and then give up. For example, with onions, Adam shares, “I ate them in sandwich that and I was fine. When I first started cooking, I left out onions and then I made a butternut squash soup and blended in the onions in soup, and now I don’t mind raw onions. I made a pineapple salsa recipe that didn’t work without raw red onion. So I made it with the onions.”  Don’t go hog wild and dump a ton of onions on a sandwich.  Instead try blending them in a soup you like, or chopping them finely and adding them to a sauce.  From the Q&A listed below, “The other method is to eat non-preferred foods when very hungry—the body begins to associate those flavors with a positive benefit (relief of hunger). there are two ways to change your food preferences: (1) time and exposure; and (2) manipulating how hungry you are when you eat disliked foods. The more you eat a food, the better you like it.”

Textural Aversion: While there is no scientific reason texture affects certain people—like the mushiness of a tomato—Ruben recommends cooking the food you can’t stand to change its texture. The mushiness of a tomato dissolves when cooked.

Great Resources About Picky Eaters

My friend Gennie pointed me to a great PBS online article that discusses the science behind picky eaters.

The video on that page is a great introduction into explaining why we dislike certain foods. A Q&A with Danielle Renee Reed is especially helpful.

An article on Psychology Today’s website about adult picky eaters.







Quick Tips for Dining Table Etiquette

My article for Every Day with Rachael Ray about dining table etiquette just hit newsstands.  It’s on pg. 142 (with my writing credit on pg. 145) as part of the Get Together holiday season guide in the November 2009 issue. I’m so excited!  I love the magazine and to write for them is a dream come true.  Researching this article was so helpful when I sat down at a friend’s wedding in San Diego.  I knew exactly what were my utensils and which was my water!

I wanted to share some helpful hints that I learned while interviewing etiquette expert Deborah King.  She has a fantastic video online that illustrates a lot of these points visually.  Check it out.

This holiday season, here are some easy to use tips to help you navigate any formal dining table:

  • Think BMW.  Bread, meal, water, that is.  Bread is on your left, meal in the middle, water on the right.
  • With outstretched palms, touch your middle finger to your thumb, and stick your pointer fingers up. Your left hand will form a “b” shape (for bread) and your right hand will form a “d” shape (for drink).
  • Count off. Items on your left are four-letter words: fork and roll. Everything on your right has five letters—knife, spoon, drink, glass.
  • Quickly find your water and wine. The tip of your dinner knife will point to the water glass. The wine glass with a larger bowl is for red; the smaller bowl holds the white.
  • You can count on dessert if a dessert fork and spoon are above your dinner plate—with the head of the spoon facing left and the top of the fork facing right, showing you exactly how you should pick them up.


My article is in the November 2009 issue on pg. 142 at the bottom of the page!

My article is in the November 2009 issue on pg. 142 at the bottom of the page!









You Grow Girl!

My vision of my backyard is having a lovely robust garden full of lush vegetables and herbs.  Instead right now, it’s a pile of nothing.  My mom tried to teach me and for about two weeks the garden was growing.  Then the summer came and the 100-degree temps zapped all life out of my garden.  So I’m attempting on a second try, a garden of my own.  I just got a book from a friend called You Grow Girl: The Groundbreaking Guide to Gardening by Gayla Trail.  Fantastic!  I knew this book and I would be a perfect fit once I saw the back cover blurb by Debbie Stoller, editor of Bust and author of my favorite knitting books, Snitch ‘n Bitch.

I just started reading the book tonight and it’s already way easier to understand than most gardening books I’ve looked at.  So here’s to my forays into gardening.  Wish me well!

Links: You Grow Girl


I will grow!

I will grow!

Heading Towards the Finish Line with Sissy

I had a great call with my agent, Michelle, last week. She loved the direction I was taking Sissy and wants me to finish this rough first draft. It’s been quite a journey with this book since I originally started it back in 2000. The draft I’m working on is vastly different than the original but I think the changes are good. Really good. Thanks to Michelle and her wonderfully honest notes, this new version of Sissy is more mature, sophisticated, and the characters are revealing themselves to me in the most surprising ways. I told Michelle that 23 year-old me could have never written the draft I have now. So now I’m working on just finishing the rough draft to turn in to Michelle the first week of November. Heading towards the finish line of the rough draft!

Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas: Turning Bad Reviews Around

As a theater reviewer for the website Edge Los Angeles, I recently reviewed Blair Singer’s play Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas. I thought it would be a fun, campy play about a washed up 80s actor trying to turn his career around, and it was, sorta. The premise of the play is interesting but how it plays out is not. My friend and I were the only ones who laughed (and some of it did make me laugh) but most of the theater was quiet. The older couple next to me, who are regular Geffen theater attendees, didn’t like the show. They asked me if I was reviewing it and the wife gave a prompt thumbs down.

After I review a show, I always let myself think about it for at least a night so I don’t harshly judge something. As a former playwright, I can imagine negative reviews make a playwright want to stop writing, so I aim to be fair and look at it from all sides. But I still didn’t like it. The play was supposed to satirize Hollywood, but instead it was clumsy and sketch comedy at best. I did a quick search of recent reviews and found I wasn’t alone. The LA Times, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, LA Weekly all panned the play. I read the comments under the LA Times review by Charles McNulty with comments (I’m paraphrasing) like “it was supposed to be silly,” “reviewers don’t know much,” and “lighten up.” 

So what’s a play in LA to do when it gets trashed by LA press?  Turn the bad reviews into good publicity.  

From the LA Times article:

Pull quote: “Just plain crass… Loony? Definitely!”

What Charles McNulty’s L.A. Times review really said: “Suffice it to say that the flamboyant flourishes of this A-list flack seem strained, and the wit Singer inflicts on her, instead of being smutty in a satirically revealing way, is often just plain crass… A veteran of loony comedy, Rando keeps revving up the high jinks, but this backfiring spoof cries out for a cease-and-desist order.

Lesson learned: When your play is a lemon, make some campy lemonade.


Sweet Valley High — Diablo-sized?

Back in 6th grade and onwards, I was a huge, huge, huge Sweet Valley High fan.  I saved my allowance to buy books.  For Christmas one year, I was allowed to pick out about ten books (score!).  I hunted books down at my local library, Monmouth County Eastern Branch, often reading the books out of order just to be able to read them for free.  One of my best friends, Celena, and I actually bonded in college over our love of Sweet Valley High, and after discovering this, ran to Barnes & Noble over on Astor Place and re-read some of the books.

So Celena sends me an email (and I read on Mediabistro’s great blog GalleyCat) that Juno-scribe and Oscar winner Diablo Cody is adapting a screenplay version of the series.  How do I feel about that?  I liked Juno.  Probably one of the few people who will admit that.  I never watched the TV series based on the books but I’ll admit I’ll see the movie.  And Diablo better love the series if she’s adapting it.

I wonder if they’ll keep the 80s version where they were size sixes or go to the updated version where the twins are size fours.  Seriously, does this mean a size six is fat?

Where in the series will the screenplay start?  The very beginning?  Towards the middle?  Will it be the version I grew up with or the newly updated “keeping up with the times” version?

Here’s the blurb listed on GalleyCat.

UPDATE: From my Facebook status, a friend pointed me to a great Jezebel.com article that confirms that Diablo is a SVH fan.

And, from the looks of Cody’s Twitter, she knows her subject matter: She recently wrote, “You have no idea how many bitches I took down to do this project. I went ‘full Jessica.’ Believe it.”

And more…

She Tweeted: “Frankie says relax: Sweet Valley High is set in the ’80s. Don’t feel like brokering some deal with T-Mobile to give Enid a Sidekick.” Alright then, bring on the side ponytails and rubber bracelets! [Twitter]

A huge sigh of relief!  Diablo, you have my vote!  The fact that she said she went “full Jessica” gives me confidence that she gets the series 100%.


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The new and old covers of SVH.  I love the old school circle covers.

The new and old covers of SVH. I love the old school circle covers.

Shameless Plug: The New Season of the Mighty B

My super talented husband has spent the past year working on a great Nickelodeon show called The Mighty B starring the great Amy Poehler. If you don’t remember who Amy is, she was the co-anchor on SNL’s Weekend Update (best sketch ever—her rap for Sarah Palin when she shot a moose), star of Baby Mama, and more.  

I’m re-posting my hubby’s note about the new season in hopes of inspiring more fans.  It’s seriously smart, funny, and has a dog named Happy who can bark in different languages.  It doesn’t get cooler than that.

Please watch the season premiere of THE MIGHTY B! on Monday, Sept. 21st at 5:30pm on Nickelodeon. I’ve been writing on this show for the past year and this marks the first of my episodes to make it to air. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s a damn funny cartoon in the Ren & Stimpy/SpongeBob tradition, co-created by and starring Amy Poehler. 


Watch The Mighty B!

Watch The Mighty B!


London Calling

I’m officially in London!  Brendan is here on business so I decided to tag along and enjoy the city while he works.  We just completed a whirlwind tour of the east.  NYC on Friday, NJ on Saturday, PA on Sunday and London on Monday.  It was great to see family and friends, eat at my favorite places, and see my cousin get married in a lovely outdoor ceremony and reception.

I haven’t been to London since 2000 when I studied abroad with Eastern Michigan University through Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.  It’s surreal to be here again.  It’s like a dream.  I love the British buildings, drinking Ribena again (Brendan calls it the fizzy lifting drink), the fun words (crisps!), and the fact that this is my first trip to Europe with my hubby.

But before I can wander around London, I need to finish my Every Day With Rachael Ray article about food aversions.  Luckily time is on my side, literally, since London is ahead of NY by 5 hours (8 hours ahead of LA) so I’ll still be able to turn it in the morning NY time!

Writing about Picky Eaters


One of my food aversions: brussel sprouts

One of my food aversions: brussel sprouts

Today I got an assignment from a Every Day with Rachael Ray to write about how to help people overcome food aversions.  I’ve been doing research to find some food experts to interview and I found an overwhelming number of articles about helping kids who are picky eaters, but hardly any adults who are picky eaters.  It leads me to believe that we emphasis changing a child’s eating habits, but not an adult’s.  Fascinating.  


Here’s what I found in an article from Psychologytoday.com about adult picky eaters:

The adult picky eater was almost always a choosy child, Pelchat’s research shows. Parents excessively concerned with food—whether positively or negatively—are more likely to have picky eaters, she says. And those who harshly punish non-plate-cleaning children, or, at the other extreme, cater to the child by fixing them exactly what they request, exacerbate the situation.

For full disclosure, I only dislike two food items: brussel sprouts and grapefruit.  I’d be willing to eat brussel sprouts if they were prepared well.  I’ve given grapefruit a chance multiple times and I still hate it.  If I poured sugar over it, I’d be eat it, but that defeats the purpose of fruit.  On Food Networks’ show Food Detectives, they talked about miracle fruit, a berry that if you chew on it before eating something sour, then it will make the sour food taste sweet.  So maybe that would work for me.

So what are your food aversions?  And I already know Brendan is going to write olives (Olives are delish!).

Link:   Article about Adult Picky Eaters


My other food aversion: grapefruit

My other food aversion: grapefruit

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