Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Miss New Jersey

Key West -- okay, so I'm not exactly Miss New Jersey. But I've just found out I'm in the 2010 Class of the New Jersey Hall of Fame. Does that count?

This is how I heard the news -- an early morning phone call from Bill Yankee, my friend and personal trainer in Key West --who always wanted to be the first, he said, to congratulate someone who'd made it into the NJ Hall of Fame. He found this wildly funny. You know, all those New Jersey jokes. (Bill is from Cleveland so plenty of opportunities to get back at him.) Hey, I'm in good company -- Philip Roth (our mothers went to high school together) and many others, including Jack Nicholson and Susan Sarandon (who knew they, too, were raised in the Garden State?).

Good thing I've never denied my roots. And why would I? I spent my first 37 years living in New Jersey. And my next book will take place in Elizabeth (my home town) in the 1950's.

(Here I am in 1956 with my sister editors of High Spots, Battin High school's paper. From left: Joanne, Judy, Mary, and Ellen. Mary and I were co-feature editors.)

But will I ever get back to that book? Since my last blog, and even before it, I've been working long hours on the screenplay for Tiger Eyes. Larry (my son) and I are collaborating on this project. We had a three day working session in Key West a few weeks ago, where we were joined by our UK producer. After presenting our first draft to her, Ilene had some good and very welcome ideas for us (kind of like working with a creative book editor). I'd already filled four notebooks with various drafts -- and that was before the official first draft.

I'm about to go into hiding again to tackle the next draft. Then it will go back to Larry for his input, and finally, to Ilene. You'd think this would be easier -- after all, I wrote the book, I know the characters, I like to write dialogue -- but it's not easy. So much of screen writing is about structure. Larry is good at structure. So is Ilene. I'm more about character. But all three of us want to see the best scenes, the scenes that tell the story on the screen -- and it's such an emotional story. A get-out-your-hanky kind of story. So we're fighting to keep the schmaltz out of it. I dislike emotionally manipulative movies, the ones that tell you how and when to feel. But I'm not opposed to a good cry, as long as it comes naturally, from the characters and their story. I'm thankful for Jason, Davey's little brother, who brings in some much needed humor.

So you'll understand, I hope, if I don't get to post another blog between now and the holidays, though I'll try.

George and I had Thanksgiving dinner with friends in Key West (Randy, Larry, and Elliot were together in Boston, and Amanda and Jim were in New Mexico) then drove up to Miami for a long weekend -- stayed in a hotel in South Beach and celebrated our 30th anniversary. Nice. Romantic. Seems like yesterday that we met in Santa Fe.

(Here we are 30 years ago)

Hope you were all able to enjoy your Thanksgiving weekends, too. I've discovered this year how much I love sweet potatoes.

Not the icky sweetened, marshmallowed recipes, but a simply baked sweet potato, cubed and tossed with whole wheat pasta, olive oil, parsley (lots of it) basil, and parmesan cheese. I'm not much of a cook but this is my latest favorite meal. Yum! And did you know, sweet potatoes are one of the best foods you can eat?

It's been ages since the NCAC event in New York in October but I promised I'd post photos and a video of some of our special performers. To see it all

Whew! That's a lot of catching up.

One more thing -- get well soon to SCBWI's beloved Lin Oliver who had emergency surgery a few weeks ago. If I know Lin, she'll be racing around before we know it.