Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Open Letter to My Stupid Bladder

Dear Stupid Bladder:

I once heard a comedian say, “The only time I don’t have to pee is when I’m peeing.” Yes! I thought.

I used to think you were merely small, dear bladder, a genetic oopsie like my mom’s tiny one. From college well into my 30s, I was teased for peeing all the time, especially after I started drinking alcohol around 20. I’d always say, “I have a small bladder” to explain why I’d hit the restroom 15 minutes after I already went. For years, I planned my days based on where the next restroom would present itself. You ruled my life. I often wished there was bladder transplant surgery, so I could just swap you out. I even took antibiotics on my wedding day, thinking you were infected then! (You weren’t.)

Forget window seats on airplanes or road trips with friends with camel bladders. Forget concerts with large crowds, long lines, and porta-potties. And holy cow, teaching high school was like Chinese water torture when it came to having availability to use the bathroom. Walking around Manhattan sightseeing? Miserable. I distinctly remember standing next to the 9-11 site thinking, “Oh my god, I’m going to pee my pants.”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

‘The Internet is Not a Cigarette Break’ and Other Gems

An Evening with Dani Shapiro

On October 22nd, national bestselling author Dani Shapiro ( spent the evening with an intimate group of us at the Scape Gallery in Corona Del Mar, California, as part of Barbara DeMarco-Barrett’s Pen On Fire Speaker Series (

She shared compelling ideas about the writing process in relation to her recent book Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life. The book, she said, is about “everything I know about how to live.” Not just about how to write.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Third Parent

The first couple days of a ski trip I took with my family to Lake Tahoe when I was 11 in 1985 were horrendous. A blizzard overtook us when we were trying to enjoy the slopes, and it was two degrees below zero at the top of the mountain. Being a prepubescent kid, I did not take kindly to the cold or the lack of visibility. I was used to skiing in the local mountains where it was sunny, and I could hold both my poles in one hand and snow plow with ease. I was fearless because I had so little space between the top of my head and the ground: not far to fall. I learned to ski when I was 7, and by the end of the day, I was zipping around like a pro.

Not in Tahoe. I cried, bitched, and moaned because my fingers were frozen. I got so angry that I threw my new white gloves down the slopes, and my mom had to carefully retrieve them as the snow whizzed past our faces. My mom was so mad at me for throwing my gloves that she said to me, while still on the mountain, “We are never taking you skiing again.” I didn’t believe her. She wasn’t kidding. They never took me skiing again. Instead I took up snowboarding in my 20s. But not before I found myself hovered over a hibachi at the lodge thawing my frozen fingers after the last run down the mountain as a skier.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

UCLA Writers Faire 2013

Publishing Today: Promoting Your Work and Branding Yourself as a Writer

Michelle Meyering
Maxine Lapiduss
Colette Sartor
Norman Kolpas
Tom Fields-Meyer

Pearls of wisdom

Norman: Part of “branding” is professionalism and producing writing that is engaging and clear.

Michelle: Read submission guidelines and follow them completely.

Maxine: Find your persona. How are you going to get your book out into the world? Publicity, branding, social media. You’re on your own. Start thinking about this in the beginning, not the end.

Colette: What are your themes? What is your niche? What is your collection? “Don’t go viral. Go human.” (from Writer Unboxed)

Tom: Have a story that fuels you that you have to put out into the world. Be passionate about it.

Norman: Do you need an agent?

Tom: Yes and no. It is easier to get published than ever before. But to find an audience, you need an agent. An agent is an intermediary that develops relationships with New York publishing houses. An agent is an advocate and a cheerleader.

Norman: An agent keeps the relationship with the editor pristine. It removes the business from the relationship [the writer has with the editor].

Colette: Having an agent to the do the negotiating is a beautiful thing.

Maxine: I couldn’t disagree more. You get a 7% royalty if you’re high up on the food chain. 93% goes the publisher. You pay the agent 15 to 20%. I’m not a big believer in agents. [Publishing right now] is all blown wide open. Getting seen drives an audience.

Michelle: Learn to represent yourself.

Norman: What are the advantages and disadvantages of publishing types today?

Michelle: Literary journals are a good place to start.

Norman: The first things you publish become your calling card. Can you deliver the goods?

Colette: Be professional, even if you get rejected. Editors and agents read other magazines. They will remember you if you’re professional.

Tom: Publish pieces of your book in other publications. Websites need things constantly. Even one article is good for credibility.

Friday, May 24, 2013

My Summer of Love

By Donna (and Chelsey) Drysdale

My Summer of Love came one year early. It was June 1968. One month short of 19, I was transferring to UCLA with my high school sweetheart, after spending my freshman year with him at a far-away college. Our four-year relationship was at the age-appropriate tail end and needed no excuse to be over.

Back in California, I had to find somewhere to live for the summer. My mom had just moved to a small town in Colorado, and I definitely didn’t want to go there. I stayed for two weeks at my boyfriend’s family home in Upland. His mother worried about me living there and encouraged me to place an ad in the local paper for a room to rent.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Fest 2013 Highlights

My mom and I now have a tradition of attending the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books annually. We nerd out and reserve tickets to panels the day they go on sale. It's our version of Coachella. We've enjoyed seeing well-known people speak, such as Betty White, John Cusack, and Michael Ian Black. We've learned of the origins of Go the Fuck to Sleep. We've had conversations with Merrill Markoe, Chris Erskine, and Kristen Hersh. We've trekked all over UCLA and USC, and I now have a solid collection of signed books. The festival is filled with interesting, creative people. It's my version of church.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Writing essays with a faulty memory.

The other day, my dad read the post I originally had up about a babysitting fiasco I had when I was 14. The boy I was watching split his head open and had stitches at the local hospital before his mom came home. I SWORE my dad had stayed at the house with me while my mom took the ambulance to the hospital, but my dad said he went with my mom in the car to the hospital while I stayed home because they wouldn't let her ride in the ambulance. So I pulled the blog post down because I am now questioning the effectiveness of my memory. I was dead wrong. How could I have been so wrong? Why did I remember the story that way?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Back to school. Sort of.

I signed up for a personal essay class at UCLA through the school's extension program. Today is my first class, and I got here early to scope things out. I'm currently sitting on a curb at the post-rain Bruin walk watching and listening to "real" students as they walk by.