Tag Archive for: EXTRA CREDIT

What do I do now???

I wish I were the kind of writer who approached a new book
methodically with notes, a plot outline, and a list of characters and all of
their quirky traits noted for consistency.

I wish I were the kind of writer who kept copious notes—a la
Sue Grafton who I heard say that she has countless notebooks dedicated to one
Kinsey Milhone mystery alone!—to refer back to during and after a book’s
completion. (This would be a good way to avoid the dreaded “did I already kill
that character” after a book has gone to the printer.)
Sadly, I’m not. 
I’m the kind of writer who hears a snippet of dialogue and
who closes her eyes, going into a trance, hoping she can remember it. 
I’m the kind of writer who writes brilliantly, in her head,
at three in the morning and promises herself that she’ll remember everything
she wrote and put it to paper the next morning. 
(Usually, what I end up with is a question mark at the beginning of the
page and a random word like “orange”…something that is supposed to jog my
faulty memory.  It never does.)
I’m the kind of writer who when she does have a story in her
head, sits down to write it only to find out her characters have a completely
different idea of what’s going to happen and when.
I’m the kind of writer, who, when asked what her profession
is says “freelance college textbook editor” because I forget that when I’m not
editing college textbooks, I’m creating stories.  Lots of stories.  Some that will never see the light of day.
I’m fascinated by what makes writers tick and the processes
they employ to get their stories written. 
I’m also fascinated by people who can accomplish a lot in short periods
of time.  So, today, as I embark on a new
writing journey—the second in my Maeve Conlon ONCE UPON A LIE series—I ask you,
regardless of whether or not you are a writer: 
what do you do before starting a new project and how has this tactic
proved successful for you?
Maggie Barbieri

What Am I Missing?

You know when you’ve lived somewhere all of your life and
realize that you haven’t done most of the things tourists do when they come to
your fair city?  Watching the
Thanksgiving Day parade, I realized just that. 
With the most fabulous city in the world—sorry, San Francisco; pardon, Paris—right in my backyard, I
realized with shock that I am a lousy New Yorker.
Or, as many a jaded New Yorker might say, just a normal one.
I had the pleasure of visiting the lovely Laura Bradford
last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and asked her what her holiday
plans were. 

“We are going to the parade in the morning,” she said, as if
it were the most normal thing in the world.
See, I’m a native New Yorker.  We hate traffic. We loathe crowds.  We avoid both like the proverbial
plague.  We opt, instead, to watch parade
organizers blow up the balloons for the parade rather than stand in a crowd
watching aforementioned balloons drift by. 
We do not go to the parade.  (Or
at least this native doesn’t.)  I looked
at her as if she had just said, “we’re going to search for the Loch Ness
monster and then look at the eclipse without sunglasses.”
Then I realized that going to the parade sounded like a
whole heck of a lot of fun, crowds and traffic be damned.  The Bradford clan had the right idea:  do this quintessential New York thing and
enjoy yourself while doing it!  Now there
was a novel idea, foreign to many New Yorkers.
If it weren’t for my kids’ class trips, I never would have
been to Ellis Island and even though my grandparents didn’t come through its
hallowed (and kind of scary) halls, it was still fascinating to visit. If it
hadn’t been for a friend who worked at Windows of the World, I never would have
been inside the North Tower of the Twin Towers (as we New Yorkers always called
them back in the day).  A work event
brought me to South Street Seaport—in 1989 and never since.  Am I lazy? 
Disinterested?  Hard to know.  But I do think I need to see some of our
city’s amazing sites and participate in some of its special yearly occurrences.  I am making a resolution in 2013 to do just
It got me thinking about the other things that are truly New
York and what make our city special. 
Here’s a list of things that I haven’t done:
Climbed to the top of the Empire State
Building.  Sure, I’ve passed it a hundred
times or more while walking to another destination but I’ve never been inside
its art deco walls or even climbed to the top. 

Been to Coney Island.  And I’m from Brooklyn originally!  Of course, Coney Island may need a few months
to get itself back up and running after Hurricane Sandy but a visit to the
Boardwalk and the famed aquarium are definitely in the cards for the new year.
Taken the Staten Island Ferry.  From what I gather, there is no better view
of Manhattan island than from the bow of the Staten Island Ferry.  And it’s cheap!  Like a dollar or some ridiculous sum.  Why haven’t I been on the ferry?  Why haven’t I taken the kids?
Visited the Intrepid.  I’ve driven down the West Side Highway a
thousand times and every time, I think, “We should really go to the Intrepid.”
But we never have?  Why?  Nobody knows.
Walk along the Highline.  In my defense, this is a fairly new
attraction but at least 90% of my friends—and their kids—have been to the
Highline.  Not us!  Why? 
Again, we are not sure.  Heck,
it’s tough to get out of the attic (where I write); it’s even tougher to draft
reluctant family members from the couch. 
But we will walk the Highline in 2013. 
Mark my words.
So, Stiletto friends, what fantastic sites or events in your
neck of the woods have you missed?  Why?
(Oh, and by the way, EXTRA CREDIT, the seventh installment in the Alison Bergeron/Murder 101 series, publishes next Tuesday, December 4th.  Something tells me there will be a contest shortly…check back for details!)
Maggie Barbieri

Post-Sandy Reflections

My last blog post romanticized waiting for the storm to hit.  We had wine, chocolate, and enough junk food
to last a few days, so what was the problem exactly?  The problem was that the power went out and
didn’t come back on for nine days. 
And we were the lucky ones.
I learned a few things during that time and they are listed
The radio comes in handy.  I, like most Americans, listen to the radio
while driving.  Otherwise, I have my iPod
in, controlling the music I want to listen to, or I’m watching television. To
be completely dependent on the radio for a link to the outside world was
something that I hadn’t experienced ever. 
My son certainly hadn’t.  He and I
stuck it out until Election Night when we decided that we couldn’t take the
sub-freezing temperatures in the house anymore, sleeping my big bed with our
animals, listening to either news radio or sports radio until we fell
asleep.  In the dark, our breath coming
out in freezing puffs, we lay there and listened to the stories of people far
worse off than we were as well as updates on the subways, commuter trains, and
businesses in and around New York City.
Living in a house that relies completely on
electricity is a bad thing.  I thought of
this while I stood in front of the barbecue grill, making the dog’s special
food (she’s on a diet for her skin allergies that requires me to cook for her)
in a frying pan. I lamented the fact that every appliance in our house runs on
electricity, even the stove.  Many of my
friends have gas running into their house so never lost hot water or their
stoves; many, like me rely completely on electrical power.  Others, in the worst-off category, have well
water and hence, couldn’t flush their toilets for up to twelve days, depending
on where they lived and how quickly the local power company restored their
power.  The situation at my house,
however, prompted me to go to Home Depot and snag the last generator that
apparently existed: one that had been returned by a neighbor of mine (I didn’t
know at the time that I bought it that it had been hers), the timing of which
coincided with my desperate visit.  Now
we have a gas-powered generator that will help out during storms but living in
an old house without a garage means nowhere to store it.
Don’t underestimate the luxury of showering in
your own house.  We were lucky enough to
have family members and friends who did have hot water; unfortunately, going to
one of their homes meant driving, in one’s pajamas, and bringing clean clothes
and toiletries along for the rid.  After
the thought of doing so on day five seemed too daunting, I decided I would be
brave and take a cold shower, something hubby and child #2 listened to with
glee; heck, the sounds I made were better than anything they were listening to
on the radio.  Once you have taken a cold
shower and you stop shivering, you do feel refreshed.  However, your feet are numb for most of the
day and your hair really isn’t very clean. But at least you aren’t driving in
your slippers, looking for a place to land. 
There’s that.
You start to go a little crazy.  I was fine from day one until day seven.  On day eight, I snapped.  I’m not sure what it was about that point in
time, but it was on that day that I was officially broken.  I had sworn I wasn’t going to leave the house
before power was restored but with the temperatures dipping into the twenties
for the second night in a row, I realized I couldn’t take it anymore. It was
election night and I didn’t even see the returns for some of the early-voting states
before my head hit the pillow at my in-laws and I fell asleep, in a warm house,
for the first time in over a week.  (We
got power back the next day at 11 a.m.)
People are wonderful.  It’s sappy and clichéd but people really do
come together in a crisis.  Granted, no
one here in my little village lost their home and the damage was relegated to
trees and felled power lines and telephone polls, but people really stepped up
the generosity and opened their doors to their cold, unshowered neighbors.  And two organizations in our village
organized pot-luck suppers for people who still didn’t have power and wanted
hot, home-cooked food, events that remind you that we’re all in this
together.  It was an especially good
reminder during an election week when the vitriol dial was turned to “11.”  Although we were uncomfortable and didn’t
have our creature comforts for far longer than was acceptable, for a few days,
we had each other and that reminded me of why I live here.
My heart goes out to the people who lost homes, and even
worse, family members. Not having television made it hard to picture the
devastation but once power was returned and I started seeing what had actually
happened, I was overwhelmed.  I spent a
lot of my formative years at the Jersey Shore and realize that it will never be
the same.  But I hope we can build back
these beautiful areas of the East Coast and hopefully weather more storms that
are sure to come our way.
Maggie Barbieri

A Traveling Jones…

I’m heading out on Sunday morning to Chicago, a city I love yet haven’t visited in the last fifteen years, my traveling time cut way back
when I left my in-house job as an editor at a textbook publisher.  Back in the day, my schedule took me away
from home for a total of two-and-a-half to three months a year, visiting
campuses, talking to professors, and trying to find some new authors to sign to
our list.  I didn’t enjoy traveling then
because I had a small child and was away what seemed like all the time.  Now, though, after fifteen years of working
in my attic, I look forward to a little time away.
This next trip, I’m lucky enough to be traveling with my
good friend, Mary Ann, who is an intrepid international traveler and who has
arranged every last detail of the trip, right down to the brunch reservation we
have the minute we arrive in the Windy City. 
I like taking the guess work out of where I’ll be eating eggs benedict
on Sunday morning.
While in the Chicago area, I’ll be speaking at the Oak Lawn
library (Monday night at 7:00) to a group of people—size to be determined—about
my series, writing, and anything else that pops into my head.  One thing that I’ve taken to doing lately
during speaking engagements, however, is responding directly to frequently
asked questions so that those questions are answered before we get to the
Q&A portion of the evening.  I think
I’ve hit them all, but what I’d love to hear from all of you out there in the
Stiletto-wearing world is any question you’d like to ask an author that you
haven’t heard asked before.  The person
who asks the most pertinent question that gets added to my speech will win one
copy of the Advanced Reader’s Copy of EXTRA CREDIT, the latest Alison Bergeron
title to be published in December of this year.
So, get cracking. 
What do inquiring minds want to know from those of us who toil in solitude,
creating imaginary worlds?
Maggie Barbieri