I am so excited to announce that my new book comes out today! It’s called Testing For Kindergarten and it’s something I’ve wanted to put out in the world for years. For those of you that don’t know, it was my son’s learning delays that first inspired me to start Smart City Kids, the company I co-founded in NYC to help families get their kids into the Manhattan’s best schools. It was the experiences I had at Smart City Kids that inspired The Ivy Chronicles, my first book. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Sam (that’s him on the left) was one of those toddlers who had an ear infection every other month. By the time he turned 3, we noticed that he wasn’t developing the way his older sister had. Eventually, we mustered up the courage to take him to a doctor who ran a battery of physical and psychological tests.
“I have good news and bad news,” the doctor told us. “The good news is…Sam’s speech and motor delays stem from the fact that he can’t hear, the result of fluid build up from all his ear infections. Physically, we can fix that.”
“The bad news is that we gave him the WPPSI – the same test he’ll need to take next year to get into school. He failed miserably. I don’t believe he can catch up.” And then came the kicker. “Mrs. Quinn, no private school in town will accept your son.”
I was devastated. We lived in one of the worst performing public school districts in New York City. With Sam’s delays, I felt he would need the small class size of a private school in order to thrive. Naturally, I called my mother. I’m lucky. My mother was a Professor of Early Childhood Education. With her guidance, she and I mapped out a program I could do with Sam at home to build the skills he would need for kindergarten. Every night, Sam and I worked together. To him, we were just playing. But in reality, each activity was selected to develop the 7-abilities he would need for testing and school.
One year later, Sam took the test again. I’ll never forget the call I got from our nursery school director a few weeks later.
“Sam’s results are in,” she said. “You’re never going to believe this, but he made the top scores in his class!”
Sam was admitted to our first choice school. Today, he’s a bright high school student taking honors and advanced placement classes. In fact, by first grade, his teachers were surprised to learn that he hadn’t been exhibiting genius qualities since age one.
The experience with Sam inspired me to co-found Smart City Kids, a company dedicated to improving every child’s chance of acceptance to the school
of their parent’s choice. While there, I taught parents how to work with their children, just as I had worked with Sam. These kids did amazingly well when they had to test in for private school admissions, gifted program qualification, and even just ability group placements in regular kindergarten classrooms. This stuff worked for Sam, it worked for countless NYC kids, and it will work for your child.
For years, I felt like I had an obligation to put what I knew about kindergarten testing out there for all parents to take advantage of and finally, it’s happening! This is the perfect book for parents with a child between the ages of 1 and 6. Even if your child won’t be tested for private school or a gifted program, it’ll teach you how to bring your child up in a way that he’s absolutely ready to tackle the academic demands of kindergarten (and yes, that’s what kindergarten is these days)! Even though the book is informational, it’s also quite funny and autobiographical (lots of bonus Karen-Quinn- bringing-up-her-kids stories included!).
I’ve also created a new website for the book with a blog that I update all the time. So, if you have a child (or if you want to read my latest ramblings), go to www.testingforkindergarten.com and sign up for my Tips. You can also sign up for a free daily test prep question you can practice with your little one. Finally, for those of you who are really into kindergarten testing, go to www.kindergartentestingwithouttears.com where you can get 8 short videos of moi reviewing all the test prep products that are out there today. The video is actually pretty entertaining. We shot it in my kitchen and you get to see the amazing view out my window. I swear, it’s not a backdrop even though it looks like one. If you look closely, you can see waves.
You can buy a copy of the book at your local bookstore or go to Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, or Borders.com. I would be eternally grateful if you would do that and I promise, the child in your life will benefit. Also, if you have friends with young children in their lives, please forward this newsletter to them, or better yet, buy them a book! (just kidding, okay, not really, I’m being serious. In fact, buy them 2!)
Here’s what some moms said who read the book early and used the information with their own kids. Hope you enjoy!
June 4, 2010
The Old Creative Frenzy Excuse
Easy there, you’ll get to Don King soon. He’s farther down in the newsletter. But first, please forgive me for not having written since the beginning of the year. I’ve been in one of those creative frenzies. That’s what happens to me. I get interested in a project and don’t come up for air. In this case, I have a new book coming out in July called Testing For Kindergarten. It teaches parents how to get their very young kids ready for any test they might have to take for private school admissions, gifted and talented qualification or public school ability group placement. Even though the book is non-fiction and about a pretty serious subject, it has lots of humor and is very autobiographical. I reveal no sex secrets (HELLO! Not with “Kindergarten” in the title!), but there are a lot of personal revelations about the struggles my own children had in school and the pain they suffered as a result. And you know what they say – a mother can only be as happy as her saddest child.
I loved writing this book. It’s for parents who want to help their kids get into an excellent kindergarten and to succeed once they start school. It’s full of information I’ve known and wanted to share with parents for years. I spent the last few months editing draft after draft of that book, getting it just right. Then I decided to create a board game for parents who wanted to practice IQ-type questions with their kids, but in a fun way (you know, “a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down”). I’m calling it IQ Fun Park!
After creating that, I realized I had to develop a separate website to go with the whole shebang so that led to www.testingforkindergarten.com. If you have time, please check out the website. I’d seriously love to get your feedback. It’s not too late to change anything and I’m just getting started with it. You even get to see me on video confessing how I became so obsessed with all this testing stuff (Mom says it’s riveting, but you be the judge). You can’t really tell, but I was wearing false eyelashes for the video shoot (Schuyler’s idea). That night, as I ripped them off, most of my regular eyelashes came off with them. FYI, it takes a very long time for eyelashes to grow back.
Pretty Please Would You Join My List?
One more thing, if you have young kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews, please sign up for my daily IQ test question and newsletter. You all are my friends and it would mean a lot to have you as my first members. Tell me how I can make it better and stop me if I’m doing anything offensive. I’m hoping to strike a balance between giving super helpful information and being entertaining. Press any word in this paragraph to sign up. See how easy I made it for you!
Do you know what I love (and hate) but LOVE MORE? I love throwing myself into a project where I have no idea what I’m doing. The first time I wrote a book, I didn’t have a clue. The experience was heaven! When I created this game, it felt much the same way. I’m like this mad scientist inventor, totally focused on the task at hand. What will the board look like? How do I find an artist to execute my vision? What should the rules be? Which IQ tests should it prepare kids for? How do I make it fun for children to play? Do you need to patent a game? How do I produce it? Should I make an on-line version? How many kids do I have to play it with before I know it’s ready? I’m still figuring a lot of this stuff out, but I get totally pumped up when I’m engaged in something new and exciting. Do you get that way?
The Downside of Creativity
I will say this, the downside of falling down a creative rabbit hole (for me, at least) is that I get exhausted. Then everyone around me gets exhausted watching me, even my pets. And then I get fat. Yes, at the end of a busy work day, I’m so tired that I tell myself I need to eat for strength. It’s not true, but I’m very convincing. Then, nine months later, I look like I’m about to give birth. It has happened with every book I’ve written. Sadly, that’s where I find myself now. Oh well. Next project. Lose weight.
As we get older, even at the risk of getting fat, I think it keeps you young to follow your interests wherever they lead and push through the fear that comes with being in unfamiliar territory. I’ve always had a passion for working with young children, helping them develop the readiness skills they need to succeed in school and beyond that, I’m a zealot when it comes to supporting kids with learning issues. Now I’m actually doing something about it. It’s a scary and exciting place to be. Maybe your passion is building schools for girls in third world countries, helping women start businesses, saving the environment, or doing something less magnanimous and more self-pleasing like Bedazzling tennis shoes for fun and profit. Whatever it is, I say, “go for it!” I may start a new website called “Scared Shitless but Chasing My Dream Anyway.” Would you sign up for that one?
The Latest From Turnberry Ocean Colony
I had this interesting (slightly surreal) experience recently that made me think about being at the end of my life and how I would feel about having chased my dreams. You might recall that I live in a fancy building in Miami Beach with many older, retired folks. It was a Saturday night. Mark was in San Diego. [Digression: Did I mention that Mark has a job in California now. I'll be moving there when Sam graduates next year.] Anyway, the restaurant in my building was advertising dinner and a show with a Broadway singer, so I decided to go. It turned out that she sang songs FROM Broadway, hadn’t actually appeared there, although she had appeared on many cruise ships. A woman in the building heard about the event and decided to hold an impromptu birthday party for her husband who was very sick with cancer.
I got all decked out and met my friend at the restaurant. Half the party was regular people in the building who wanted to have a relaxing dinner and enjoy the show. The other half was the birthday party. Now, the birthday party half of the room was much fancier. They got special appetizers and cool centerpieces with boxing gloves that we weren’t allowed to have. It was rumored that there was an electronic fence that zapped the regular people trying to get over to the fancy party side, so I didn’t even try. To everyone’s delight, the birthday boy (man) made it to the event. We’ll call him “Sid” because we were never introduced (me being on the wrong side of the party tracks and all). People were worried Sid wouldn’t be well enough, but he was. Sid was an ex-boxer and they surprised him by having Don King at the party. Yes, Don was there, hair and all. I kept thinking to myself, who is that tall man with the hair that sticks straight up? Someone confirmed that it was Don King. The reason I didn’t recognize him is because he was better looking than I remember him being which made me suspect he’d had work done. Yes, even Don King has an ego.
Here’s where it got surreal. The party people all started to get up and give moving tributes to Sid. Ignoring the fact that half the folks in the room didn’t know him (and were miffed about being excluded from the better appetizers), guests began to grab the mike from the band and talk about what a great guy Sid was. A woman in her 80′s who looked like she was in her 40′s (not close up, just from afar) gave a heartbreaking speech and then did the splits while wearing her fancy designer dress. I don’t know why she did the splits. It had nothing to do with her emotional testimonial. Maybe she was lording her good health over Sid (meanie!). Luckily, Don King brought us back to earth with a touching tribute to the guest of honor and his colorful boxing history.
Sid’s son took the stage to speak about his father, but was so moved that he mostly cried. Now, I’m going to admit something horrible. I was irritated that I had to listen to this grown man cry. Then I felt bad and selfish about feeling irritated. All I wanted was to have a fun evening out with a friend and instead, I found myself embroiled in another family’s end-of-life drama that reminded me way too much of losing my own father. I thought about demanding a refund and leaving before the cruise lady sang, but didn’t because the dining room staff would think I was heartless. Then I thought, “Indeed, I must truly be a heartless witch.” Actually, that’s a stretch. I didn’t think the words “indeed” or “truly.”
Finally Sid got up to speak. “Welcome to my funeral,” he said. That was when I realized how lucky Sid was to have gotten this preview of what everyone would be saying at his actual funeral. Most of us miss out on that. He talked about what a full life he’d had, how much he loved his family, enjoyed his work, how lucky he’d been to have pursued boxing, which was his passion. The speech went on, but it was eloquent and I was grateful to have witnessed it.
Clearly, this was a man with no regrets. As sick as he was, he beamed all night long (and not from radiation treatments!*). Later, they turned off the electric fence separating the exclusive party and the regular schlubs, allowing us to mingle. Everyone was dancing (me included, and with Don King!), and Sid was right there boogying – kind of slowly, but boogying nonetheless – with a great big smile on his face. Sid was a man who lived hard, loved fully and got a famous guy to come to his “going away” party. Cheers to Sid or whoever you really are! We should all be so lucky.
*Lest you think I’m heartless, I was just practicing. I recently agreed to contribute to a proposed humorous anthology about death and dying called (working title) Exit Laughing, to be edited by my friend Victoria Zacheim. Some really outstanding authors have signed on including Jane Smiley, Malachy McCourt, Joshua Braff and more. Can one laugh in the face of death? That’s a tough one, but I guess we’ll soon find out.
Friends Of Mine Who Are Doing Cool Things
And now, on a lighter note (as they say on The Today Show when they switch from a report about a murdered child to how to choose the right bra for every figure), here’s my favorite feature – telling you all the cool things my friends are doing. If you’re doing something cool, please tell me and I’ll try to get it in next time.
Tracey is a comedy writer (The Guru, Lucky Ducks, Confessions of a Shopaholic) who wrote the first draft of the movie The Ivy Chronicles (no, I still don’t know if that will ever get made). But anyway, she has a hysterically funny book coming out in January about aging. She also writes a wonderful blog that I actually open and read every day. It is always interesting and thought-provoking. So, I invite you to check it out and subscribe if you love it as much as I do. The blog can be found at www.TraceyJacksononline.com.
Jennifer Deare and Sharon Wood
Jennifer is one of my very awesome friends. I first met her at a Carole Hyatt workshop called, Getting to Next. Jennifer (that’s her on the left) and Sharon (who I don’t have a picture of, but she’s very pretty) are creating video games focused on teenage girls and young women. You can get their first title, Women Lead The World at the iTunes store for $2.99 under the ‘Karizmac’ brand. It offers hundreds of decisions by famous women against which players can compare their own opinions. I played it myself and compared favorably in my opinions versus those of famous women. Yay me! It was really fun. To learn more, visit www.stonecreekentertainment.com.
Dr. Christiane Northrup
I met and fell in love with Dr. Northrup through a course we both took at Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts. She is an amazing doctor, so brilliant, warm, funny and wise. There she is on Oprah! Am I jealous? You betcha! Christiane has just released a new edition of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. When she released her first edition of the book in 1994, it was based on her years of experience as an OG/GYN physician. She had seen up close and personal everything that could go wrong with the female body. Now, with her new edition, she has focused on creating an “owner’s manual” to teach women everything that can go RIGHT with the female body. It’s full of new, updated, life-saving information that everyone should have access to. Go to Amazon.com to pick up your copy today!
Another blog I read religiously is written by my friend, Joanne, yet one more friend from Mama Gena’s. Yes, I made many wonderful friends through The School of Womanly Arts (I mention it so much you’d think I’m getting a commission, but I swear I’m not). Like me, Joanne is a corporate refugee, having gotten her pink slip about two years ago. Her blog is called One Woman’s Eye and in it, she observes life after corporate America. She writes about reinvention in a way that I find totally inspiring. Joanne believes that the pink slip can open the door to what you really want to do. It certainly did that for me. She has written two wonderful books and I can’t wait to see which one gets published first.
Haya Leah Molnar
I’m so excited to announce that my friend Eva Okada, who writes under the name Haya Leah Molner (much more literary, don’t you think?) has just published her first book, Under a Red Sky. I remember sitting at a cafe in NYC with Eva years ago and both of us talked of our desire to write a book. I got mine out first, but Eva wasn’t far behind. In this young adult novel, Eva recreates stories of living in post-war Romania in a crowded flat with three generations of relatives. It is a fascinating story of growing up behind the iron curtain in the 1950′s. Eva is a fabulous writer who began her career writing advertising copy. Publishing this book is a dream come true for her. Pick up your copy today at Amazon.com.
I have many other wonderful friends who are doing the coolest things ever, but I’m afraid I’m going to overwhelm you so we will continue this discussion later. Until next time, have a great summer!
P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for my new newsletter and daily IQ test prep questions if you have young children in your life. In fact, you can do it right here by clicking any word in this paragraph. I’m a shameless plugger, I know. Please forgive me as you are signing up.
January 6, 2010
Happy New Year to all!
Our Big Fat Celebration
So was your New Year’s Eve? Ours was kind of a giggle-fest. We learned in early December that there was no sparkly New Year’s Eve event, dinner, or soiree in Miami that you could attend for less than 250 bucks a person. Even our own building’s party would cost 500 big ones! A cabana at the Fountainbleu was 25 grand. Bet they sold a lot of those! We considered going out for Chinese Food and renting a movie, but Mark wanted to celebrate. Lucky for us, a country club in town was soliciting our membership. They had already treated Mark to a round of golf. Then they invited us to – Ta da! – their New Year’s Eve Party (normally 500 bucks a couple) as their guests. Mark didn’t think we should go. We weren’t likely to join the club and he’s very ethical about taking gifts under false pretenses. Me, I’m more of a bad girl, willing to push that ethical envelope. And besides, my facebook friends convinced me that by going, maybe we’d love the club so much that we’d join. Yeah! That’s true. We just might join! The Head of Membership promised to seat us with hip people from New York that she was certain click with. I was psyched. New friends! Yippee! Being new to Miami, I could use a few of those. I got all decked out in my finest evening wear – even pulled the fake diamonds out of the vault.
When they seated us, we were sure there was a mistake. Our dinner companions were all over 90 (as in, YEARS OLD!). I am not even exaggerating for comedy sake. Don’t get me wrong, they were lovely people (who had served in World War I). Truly, I have nothing against old octogenarians. I aspire to be one someday. But these were the hip people the membership director thought we’d click with? Maybe we’d misheard her. Maybe she promised to seat us among people with replaced hips. Of all the couples at our table, Mark and I had been married the longest, but only because we hadn’t buried any previous spouses.
Here I was, celebrating with people as old as my grandparents. Can you imagine how irked I felt when Mark happened to mention that the nude beach by our house was having the biggest nude New Year’s Eve party anywhere in the world. We could have gone to that for free and I wouldn’t have had to dress up!
But back to our new (old) friends. They tried to talk us out of joining the club, claiming it had seen better days. There was lots of reminiscing about the massive shrimp they used to serve in the glory days of the club. Louis, the man next to me, fell asleep while we ate and then, well, the picture says it all. Yes, he looked like Janet Reno. I’m not complaining. And there actually was a silver lining. This evening reminded me of why I love my husband so much. Mark finds the fun in any situation – there he was, downing whiskey shots the elders, twirling their wives on the dance floor, admiring Jules’ open heart surgery scar. He even got us the name of the best prostate man in South Florida. Irving showed me a thing or two about the cha cha cha and he did a pretty mean tango. Eventually, the ball dropped and we thanked everyone and left, crashing the party at our own building, which was in full swing. It turned out to be super fun. Lots of dancing, drinking and singing with the neighbors. Next year we won’t be such cheapskates. We’re going to the party at home.
Quinn Holiday Letter Portion
As you know, I’m kind of famous for my Quinn Annual Holiday Letter. This year, I’m shaking things up and writing a Quinn DECADE Holiday letter instead. Yes, I’m a maverick, just like John McCain.
Mark lost a lot of hair over the past ten years and for that he is sad. He attended tens of national and international track meets (including the Olympics) and for that he is happy. He worked his ass off for a subsidiary of AIG until he’d had it. Then he said, “Take this job and shove it,” kind of like the song. I was really proud of him for that. And it served AIG right! After he left, they didn’t know what to do. The company completely fell apart and had to be bailed out by the government. Ah, sweet vindication! Mark has spent the last year and a half at home hanging out in shorts (no, not boxers), trading stocks, and blasting CNBC from every TV set in our house all day long. I’ll be happy when he goes back to work, which is going to be soon. Actually, I loved having him home for the last eighteen months. He does all the laundry, cleans the kitchen, walks the dogs, gives me massages, pays the bills. He has been the perfect house husband.
Schuyler went from being a tween to a woman over the last 10 years. She graduated from high school and went right to Stella Adler Acting Conservatory. Now she has her own apartment in NY, a job, and pursues her passion every day. She loves it. Frankly, I’m jealous. Wouldn’t it be fun to have your own Manhattan apartment (that mom and dad pay for!) and go to acting school? Plus, she’s so beautiful and sweet and adorable that nice guys line up to take her out on the town any time she wants. Ah, that’s the good life.
In the last decade, Sam went from being an adorable, talkative little boy to being a withdrawn, angry and then a considerate, cool teenager. Don’t you hate it when kids go through those awkward stages? Anyway, he was pretty pissed when we ripped him from the only life and friends he’d ever known and moved him to the hell-hole known as Miami Beach. He took his anger out on his parents (I know you’re surprised). I was just about to have him kidnapped and sent to one of those wilderness camps where he would hopefully experience an epiphany and realize how much he appreciated and wanted to please his parents. But then, without resorting to drastic measures, he miraculously turned around and became the Sam we knew and loved. Maybe it had to do with getting a car. Perhaps it was that he started to work out. Or who knows, maybe he overheard me plotting his abduction. All I know is that I have my boy back and for that, I’m grateful.
Finally, moi. At the beginning of 2000, I was at American Express slogging away in the trenches. By 2001, I’d been fired. After that, I started Smart City Kids, left that business, wrote a novel about the experience, then wrote 5 more books – 3 novels, 1 young adult novel that didn’t sell (rats!), and my newest book that comes out this summer – Testing For Kindergarten (more about that in future newsletters). I’ve gotten involved with Hollywood (something I never would have imagined in my whole life), lost a few pounds, gained a few and lost a few again. At least I haven’t lost my hair. I’ve bought and sold two apartments in Manhattan (what a schlep!), moved to Miami, and took up mahjong (no, not really on the mahjong).
I attended lots of Mama Gena Classes, which I adored. [For those of you interested in Mama Gena's classes, she's doing one mastery program this spring - just click this sentence to go to her site]. Oh, besides two new cats that we got in ’01, we got two puppies that are so cute. The first puppy (Olive) was Schuyler’s bribe for moving to Miami. She immediately abdicated responsibility and Olive became mine. Lesson: Never trust a child who says she’ll take care of the dog that she has been begging for. She won’t. The second puppy (Bronco), I got against strict orders from Mark not to buy another dog. But he has forgiven me. If you’ll click below you can watch a short video I made about them. It started out as an innocent playtime video but then, mid-play, vultures began circling and the situation became dire. Click below to see how Olive saves Bronco, her little brother:
Oh my goodness gracious, now how did that picture find its way into my newsletter. Well, since it’s here, let me explain. Those are two of my dear Mama Gena friends, Joanne Porzio (with pearls) and Amy Aho, who got to meet Huge Jackman and Daniel Craig at A Steady Rain on Broadway. Hugh and Daniel auctioned off their undershirts and naturally, Joanne bought one (after lots of back and forth bidding and front-row flirting with Hugh). It was for a good, charitable cause. Do you see what happens when you take a Mama Gena class? You develop new found chutzpah to bid on Hugh and Daniel’s delicious, sweaty tee-shirts and then you get to hang out with them backstage (Hugh and Daniel, not the tee-shirts).
Friends Who Are Doing Cool Things
I have so much to report in this department! First, my brother, Michael, opened the coolest, hippest jewelry store in Denver, Colorado. It’s called Sonny’s Rocks. Visit them next time you’re in Denver or check out their website at http://www.sonnysrocks.com/. Tell him you’re my friend and he’ll probably give you a huge discount.
Hooked for Good
My friend, Vicki Kline (we had our first babies within months of each other), just started a website called www.Hookedforgood.com. Check it out for some very cool merchandise. What woman doesn’t need cute hooks to hang her purses from?
My friend, Robin Newman (we met at Canyon Ranch, where she was lecturing), has started a site devoted to women who become mothers after age 35 called www.motherhoodlater.com. Their blog is terrific and it’s a fantastic place for any mom who takes on motherhood later in life to find others going through the same experience. For all you single women out there, Robin also wrote the book, How to Marry a Mensch. Robin actually followed her own advice and married a mensch. Then she had a baby later in life and, well, you know what happened next.
Know Shampoo and Body Wash
I do have the most creative friends! George and Scott have developed the BEST “green” shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. George and Scott were my hairdressers in NY for years. They do Meridith Viera’s hair and were instrumental in getting me on The View. Well, now they’ve invented these amazing bath products. If only I could send you the smell through this computer, you would plotz! These products smell so fragrant and delicious. They are like a fresh burst of grapefruit and leave you feeling so clean. I use the products every day. Try them at http://www.knowhairandbody.com/.
South’nfrance Bon Bons
If you’ve never tasted the Bon Bons made by my dear friend, Charlene Dupray, what are you waiting for? Charlene left a big job in NY to go to Wilmington, NC with her husband to follow their dream – opening a chocolate factory. That’s Charlene in the picture with her cute French hubby. The bon bons are absolutely delicious and not expensive. My favorites are the coconut bon bons. If you yearn for chocolate and want to support two people who followed their passion, check them out at http://southnfrance.com/.
Okay, now we’re out of the section about cool things my friends have done. I don’t know the author of this book, but I do admire her. If you haven’t read The Help, definitely pick up a copy at Amazon.com. It’s about maids in the south during the 60′s and the women they work for. Having grown up in the South and seeing this phenomenon first hand, I found the book fascinating. I promise that you won’t be able to put it down.
Facebook and Twitter
If you haven’t found me on Facebook, I’m at karen nedler quinn. I’d love to be your friend. That’s my current Facebook picture. Schuyler and I took it at the photo booth at Sonny’s Rocks. If you’d like to follow my hilarious escapades, I can also be found on Twitter at karenquinnnyc. Frankly, I’m still figuring out Twitter but it’s fun to see what my friends are thinking and doing, plus I’m following some very smart people who have way more profound thoughts every day than I do.
Happy New Year to you all. Thank you for reading my newsletters. It means a lot to me to stay in touch with you. May all your dreams come true in 2010.
P.S. If we haven’t talked in a while (or even if we have), let me know how you’re doing. I love hearing good news and even bad news when it’s spun correctly.
October 12, 2009
Close Encounters of the Naked Kind
Alright, so Mark and I were walking Olive and our as-yet-unnamed-puppy on the beach last night when a naked man approached us. As you may recall, I inadvertently moved my family next to a nude beach about a year ago. It’s the nude beach for aging gay guys to be exact. The nude beach for hot young gay guys is located in South Beach. I don’t know where the nude beach for heterosexuals or lesbians can be found but perhaps you can google that. Anyhow, this man wearing only (and I mean ONLY) black knee socks, brown sandals and a couple of mosquito bites went absolutely gaga over our dogs. ”Oh my God! They’re adorable. What kind are they?” ”Pomeranians,” I said as I stared at his penis trying to decide if he was indeed naked (he was). Then, several other naked men approached (8 to be exact), all making adoring remarks about our dogs. ”Is the black one one a puppy?” Nude-guy-with-saggy man-breasts asked. ”What are their names?” Naked-man-offering-Mark-a-beer wanted to know. ”Where is Pomerania exactly? Is it near England?” Nude-guy-whose-entire-body-was-waxed (ouch! ouch! ouch!) wondered.
Now, I consider myself an open-minded person. I adore gay men – young ones, elderly ones, hairy ones, hairless ones. I am perfectly fine with nudity. I love when people compliment my dogs. But for some reason, the combination of the above alarmed me. Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of Law and Order, but my gut said that we were about to be attacked by a gang of naked gay old men. Could one of them be carrying a gun? But where? Did they have rope to tie us up? Oh my God, I thought, the leashes! Even with Mark by my side, I was unnerved to be surrounded by so many random penises on that dark, lonely beach. ”Where is Pomerania, Mark?” I asked in an effort to bond with my possible future captors. ”It’s in the far east,” one of the guys suggested. ”Ah, of course it is,” I said. ”Well, not to be nude, er, a prude, I mean rude, we must be going,” I said, grabbing Mark and very possibly saving his life. Did I overreact? You decide.
An act of husband disobedience
In case you’re wondering about our as-yet-unnamed-puppy or Bronco-Bandit-Brownie-Teddy Quinn as we sometimes call him, I found him on my trip to New York a few weeks ago. Ever since, Schuyler moved to Manhattan to attend acting school, she had been clamoring for us to replace her with a puppy. Mark was adamently against that idea and as I boarded my plane, he said to me (via cellphone), “Whatever you do, DON’T get a puppy.” I don’t know about you but when someone tells me not to do something, that’s all I can think about doing. On day-2 of my trip, I visited the pet store where we’d gotten our beloved Pomeranian, Olive (Schuyler’s bribe for moving to Miami, for which she immediately abdicated responsibility) and there he was – this perfect black little bear-like puppy with big brown eyes that said, “Buy me. Buy me.” So, I bought him thinking I would give him to Mark as a surprise because, let’s face it, what better surprise than the puppy you ordered your wife NOT to get. That was the plan but the day after we took the dog, the store owner called my house and left a message asking how the new puppy was doing. Damn that store owner and her big, fat mouth! Mark reacted exactly as I expected – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Luckily, he didn’t insist that I return the dog and he has since fallen in love with him (whew! Dodged that bullet.) We now have two cats and two dogs, but at least I’ll never suffer from empty nest syndrome.
This will gross you out and make you think less of me
I’m back in Miami after a six-week hiatus (visiting Berlin, New York, Tucson, and generally goofing off). After a week at Canyon Ranch with my mother, I was anxious to put my new workout schedule into practice. So Saturday, I’m in the gym doing my interval work on the cross-trainer when a giant bug attacked me from behind. Seriously, it looked like a roach with TV antennas and angel-sized wings. The thing was as big as a flying mouse (the kind they have in Pomerania). I was afraid to kill it (the crunch, the crunch – eawww!) so I asked one of my neighbors who was on the Elliptical machine to do it. ”Tom” refused my request even though I told him to suck it up and be a man. His name isn’t really “Tom.” It’s Joe, but I don’t want to use his real name because he subscribes to my newsletter. Whoops. Anyway, Joe thought we should call maintenance and have them come in with bug spray. This is what happens when you live in an ultra-luxury building where the staff does everything but wipe your ass. You forget how to do simple tasks like taking your own groceries upstairs, carrying your own luggage, or killing a bug. I’m not blaming Joe. I’m as guilty as he. Recently, Bronco-Bandit-Brownie-Teddy tinkled in front of the health club and a staff member immediately appeared to clean it up and I…this is the truly awful part…let him. Eventually, a maintenance man showed up at the gym with a broom and he pummeled the flying roach to his untimely death. I kissed him (the maintenance man, not the roach) and called him “my hero.” See how little it takes to make you a hero, Joe. Think about that.
A new book I recommend
Finally, my friend, Joseph Kanon, has a new book out that I want to recommend. It’s called Stardust. Joe is a wonderful historical novelist, having written Los Alamos and The Good German (this was made into a movie starring my favorite actor, George Clooney – sigh!). As the story opens, Army translator and filmmaker Ben Collier has returned from war-torn Europe and is on a Hollywood-bound train surrounded by industry players. He’s on his way to the hospital where his only sibling, his brother Daniel, is in a coma and not expected to live. The details, delivered by Danny’s wife Liesl over a bad phone connection, were numbing. Danny was alone at a hotel…a fall from a balcony…a tragic accident, or so the papers said. Later Liesl would suggest that Danny’s employer, or more specifically, his studio’s publicity department, had intervened, turning what was most likely a suicide attempt into a less sensational accident. But Ben can’t quite wrap his brain around the idea that Danny would actually try take his own life. True, the brothers hadn’t been particularly close since their parents’ divorce, but still, the details of what happened are just off. Why would a man with the world by the tail – a beautiful wife, a successful producing career, and a heroic past – try to kill himself? The book has everything you want in a good page-turner – Hollywood in the 40′s, murder, anti-communist loyalty hearings, Auschwitz horrors, war stories, romance and family secrets. If you’re looking to lose yourself in a book, this is a good one. Click this sentence to buy Stardust
I hope you have a great fall!
P.S. My friend, BL Ochman’s dog, BennyBix Ochman is in the running to win the cutest dog competition contest (there’s a $1,000,000 prize!). BennyBix is an adorable Labradoodle who is as sweet as he is cute. Check him out by clicking this sentence and give BennyBix your vote.
July 6, 2009
I have spine-tingling news to report! My new book, The Sister Diaries, is being released today in the UK. So, for those of you in the UK, you can go to your nearest bookstore to get a copy. And for those of you in the US who want to read it now but aren’t traveling to the UK this summer, click AMAZON.COM (right here!) and you can order the book from England. I’d tell you to wait until it is released in the states but that will be a while.
Let me share some juicy bits about The Sister Diaries…it is the story of three sisters who live in Tribeca (my old Manhattan neighborhood). Amanda, the oldest, is a hotshot real-estate broker whose business is in a slump (given today’s difficult market). Serena is a self-centered Manhattan momzilla with a genius son and a troubled marriage. Laura, the youngest, is an aspiring singer who spent the last six years caring for their mother, Sunny, who just died from Alzheimer’s. The book opens with the reading of Sunny’s will.
The sisters expect to divide the inheritance between them – a multi-million dollar home on Duane Park and a priceless painting. Each desperately needs her share of the estate.
Her sisters don’t know it, but Amanda used the power of attorney Sunny had given her to take out a four million dollar mortgage against the family home and (in an attempt to diversify their portfolio) invested it with Bernie Madoff! After losing everything, she fell behind on the mortgage payments borrowed from an unsavory loan shark and is now being chased by a ruthless collector. Serena and Laura have equally compelling needs for cash, so they are as anxious as Amanda to divide the estate.
When the will is read, Sunny has left everything to Serena, the least worthy of the sisters. No one can understand why except for Serena who (naturally) thinks she deserves it.
People often ask me how I come up with the plots for my books. They are always inspired by something in my own life and this book is no different. One of my husband’s friends had been promised an inheritance. At the reading of the will, he discovered that a person close to him, someone he trusted completely, had unduly influenced the woman who died, causing him to be disinherited. You can imagine the feelings of betrayal and anger. That got me thinking about how money can destroy families. I wondered how three sisters who had always loved and supported each other might (or might not) get through something like this.
As always, people I know inspired the characters. Amanda, the hotshot real estate broker, is the sister who always took care of everything, the responsible one. Doesn’t every family have one of those? I also really wanted to write a broker character. To me, there is nothing more intriguing than Manhattan real estate. Peeking inside those multi-million dollar mansions in the sky and imagining the lives led within is the source of endless fascination. I spoke to several brokers in New York who shared their most riveting real estate tales, and those provided fodder for the plot. Trust me, you can’t make this stuff up!
Serena is based on a combination of momzillas I have known. Surely you have met one yourself – a woman so impossible that she drives her child to drink (orange juice, but still).
Serena will stop at nothing to promote her son’s meteoric rise to his first Pulitzer (including plopping him on a portable potty in the aisle of first class during take-off to “move his bowels” – momzillas always use proper language). Much of Serena’s wretched behavior is based on real things I’ve seen these women do, only I had to tone her down or you’d just hate her. As it is, she’s this ridiculous, self-centered, comical woman whom you will laugh and shake your head at, and be glad she’s not your next-door-neighbor. As misguided as she is, the moms I based her on are worse.
Laura is a combination of two good friends (with a lot of imagination mixed in). She’s one part my single friend, Laura, who gave me some hysterical dating stories that I managed to weave in. She’s another part Anne, who is now a big media executive, but who used to deliver singing telegrams for a living wearing these nutty costumes. That’s a job I gave to the character of Laura. Anne went back to her roots, writing all the singing telegrams that Laura delivers in the book. She was also kind enough to share her experiences and feelings about caring for her mother, Margaret, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. The character of Sunny was inspired in part by Margaret whom I never met but grew to love through her daughter’s stories.
Each sister is the heroine of her own dramatic tale. Will Amanda make the sale she needs to ditch the loan shark and pay back the money she lost on the house before her sisters discover her secret? Will Serena’s marriage end as badly as her son’s interview at Madison Prep? Can Laura raise the money her band mate needs for a lifesaving operation in time to audition for the film soundtrack that could make her a star? Will the sisters discover why Sunny left everything to Serena? Will they find a way to make peace with each other? Besides these sizzling subplots, the book is filled with steamy romance, tearful moments, and lots of laughs.
As you can tell, I’m excited about the story and I hope you love it. It’s a real page-turner that will keep you glued to the text on a long plane ride or by the pool this summer. I hope you’ll let me know what you think after you read it! If you’d like to order a copy right now, just click AMAZON.COM (right here) to get your copy.
P.S. The story about Laura applying for the hostess job for a billionaire on his private jet is absolutely true! It happened to a friend of mine. You don’t know what I’m talking about right now but you will when you read the book and you will be SHOCKED! I was.