Category: Fear & Frazzle

The emotional highs and lows of life in La La Land

It’s never too late to say thank you

This is the Israeli Air Force Hercules we flew home in from Mombasa, Kenya
This is the Israeli Air Force Hercules we flew home in from Mombasa, Kenya

Last week I had the privilege of meeting members of Israel’s Air Force at an event I was covering in Beverly Hills – a fundraiser for the Israel Air Force Center Foundation. You can read that story here

However, there was a very personal element to this event for me. It’s always wonderful to see the incredible men and women that defend the Jewish state every single day. These are the same people who fly into war and disaster zones all around the world – helping victims in tsunami’s and earthquakes, who bring the sick and injured from around the globe (and yes, even Palestinian territories and Syria for life saving operations).

There’s a reason these young men and women are revered and the fallen honored the day before Israel’s Independence Day. It’s because of these people that lives in Israel are protected. Most Israelis, however, don’t get to see the work they do up close. However, my connection to the IAF is deeply personal and very, very direct.

As most readers know, I survived an Al Qaeda suicide bombing in Kenya in 2002, while on assignment from Israel. You can read about that here. And you also know it was the Israeli Air Force that flew in on massive Hercules jets and rescued us. Rescued us from a country who had shut down its airports, where we were trapped and unable to return home. To see those men and women from the IAF waiting for us with open arms, coming to bring us home was a moment that will remain seared in my brain forever.

At the gala event in Beverly Hills thousands of miles and 14 years from that horrific day, Brigadier General Uri Oron stood up and gave an incredibly moving speech about his work in the IAF for the last 30 years and his role as head of military intelligence.

As he stepped off the podium and walked back to his table in a fancy ballroom with even fancier silverware I walked up to him and said, “I don’t know if you remember what happened in Mombasa in 2002…” And he said, “Of course I remember, I was part of the effort that coordinated the rescue.” I couldn’t keep the tears out of my eyes as I told him I was there and I would never, ever forget that rescue and what it meant to all of us to see the IAF bring us home.
It took me 14 years to say thank you but feeling the warmth of his hand, and seeing the smile on his face? It was totally worth the wait.

Writer seeking help: overwhelmed and under the covers

My puppy Bronte (named after Charlotte, not Emily) seeking refuge in her blanket.

Help!

Sorry. Firstly, Happy New Year to one and all. I really do have ONE major resolution and that’s to devote more time to my fiction.  Would love it if you would read this post and offer suggestions, tips etc.  I’m knee-deep in edits on my book right now but I’m getting overwhelmed by the following:

It seems there’s SO many edits required on my novel. The more I delve in the more I realise I need to flesh things out. If I think about them all I get overwhelmed. I know the answer is to go through each chapter little by little and not get caught up in the big picture but sometimes my brain forgets that and I become frozen, paralyzed and/or otherwise inert.

I’m SO thrilled to now be a member of RWA. I no longer feel alone. I LOVE this org.  BUT, there’s so many emails from the group, not to mention the chapter events (many of which I want to sign up for), the SPEW crew (who help you set goals on your writing each week), that that also overwhelms me, as does the RWA website, newsletter etc. I WANT to respond to these great emails and read all the wonderful blog posts and websites my great chapter writers send us to in these emails, but again, I get overwhelmed. Where do I find the time? This in turn leads to…

My subscription to writing mags (okay only one), which I LOVE and is like a guilty pleasure when I find time to peruse it. Then I want to take notes and put little pink stickies on things and create folders – which again distracts from the actual editing work of my novel… Not to mention all the great novels I want to read on my Kindle. AAARGGH!!

Keep in mind I have FULL TIME job. I’m delighted I do. I LOVE my job as an editor and journalist, and I’m lucky I get to work from home – but I don’t work 9-5. I work CRAZY hours – sometimes late into the night or early in the morning. Just this morning (yes, it’s Sunday) I had to write about a big car chase from last night. So while I do have flexibility – I CAN and do take my dog to the park every day – I also have to find time to balance everything.

So here’s my BIG QUESTION:

If you are a fiction writer who ALSO happens to have a full time job (whether that’s as a nuclear physicist or as a full time parent), I’d love to hear your suggestions/thoughts/plans/ideas. How do you juggle your life? How do you find time to work on your novels, do your jobs, split the atom, organise the carpool, keep your sanity, read all the important supportive stuff you need/want to read, be supportive to other writers in your groups or blogs and still eat decent meals, take important exercise AND have a life?

How do you NOT just throw up your hands and crawl under the covers?

Thank you in advance (from under the covers).

What? I’m Back? How Can This Be?

The writing was easy (relatively). It's the editing that's killing me.

Yes, here I am writing after MONTHS of not writing. Well, that’s not true. Just not writing on this blog. I was having an existential blogging crisis about the nature of this blog, so I just kind of gave up. And then I had surgery… what?

Yes, foot surgery, for which I have a separate blog here.  And I have been laid up for the past week, and although I’ve been working, the forced bed rest has enabled me to gather my thoughts and my blogging skills.

That’s not to say my blogging (or writing) has been dormant in other areas. Running Mar Vista Patch is a full time job and I work deranged hours – but I get to work from home so that’s great.

Also, on January 28, I brought home my brand new Golden Retriever puppy from Grand Junction Colorado. Bronte is now eight months old and SHE has been blogging regularly since before she was conceived on her very own blog, which you can read here.

It’s always difficult when you write for a living to also write for pleasure, and I’m still honing the novel I wrote in November 2009. However, this week has seen me revitalised. And my great friend and brilliant writer, Becca Topol has VERY kindly agreed to read my manuscript. And so, I have given myself the deadline of Sunday July 23 at midnight to have completed my final revision and hit the “send” button and send off my manuscript to Becca – the first person who will get to read my novel.

Writing it out here is forcing me to adhere to my deadline and to stop pfaffing around and worrying that it will never be ready. So, check back here and see that I have done what I promised to do. Oy!

I’m also now going to go through my twitter feed – my personal twitter has been very silent of late – and start checking out great writing blogs, novelists, works in progress and commit to ONE HOUR a day of keeping focused on my fiction writing.

The great news about my Patch job is I work my own hours and from wherever I want. The BAD news about my Patch job is that I work way too many hours and at ungodly hours. I have no set start and stop time. It’s not uncommon for me to get up, have breakfast, and then say “Oh, I’ll just edit this one article, or check this one email, or verify this one source,” and bam, before I know it two hours has passed, I’m still in my pyjamas and my dog is wondering why I haven’t taken her for a walk.

Now that I’m limited with my poor foot and I can’t exercise – phooey – I have found more time to focus on things other than Patch.

Although, right now, I REALLY need to go prep an article for tomorrow – that’s right, we work weekends, too!

Okay, but now my commitment is out here on paper.

I WILL make an effort to blog regularly, seek out my writerly support mates once more and GET MY NOVEL TO BECCA before the weekend is done.

Keep on me and force me to meet my goal. Watch this space…

 

Lindsay Lohan and the perils of dubious journalism

No matter what you think about Lindsay Lohan or whether her jail sentence is deserved or not, as a journalist it’s my job to be honest, fair and direct with my reporting.

I have now been on Lindsay Lohan watch for several weeks. I was in court two weeks ago covering her hearing and her jail sentence. I was outside her “sober living home” watching people come and go. I ran down to the court to catch a glimpse (or try to) of her supposed attorney Bob Shapiro when he quit. I’ve interviewed the DA and Lindsay’s defense attorney. I was there inside the courtroom when the cameras were switched off on Tuesday and I saw her handcuffed. From the courthouse I was sent down to the jail to interview inmates coming out. I was  lucky to arrive in time to catch inmates being released who were in the holding tank when she arrived. I had some first hand descriptions from those who saw her and I reported them – ACCURATELY. I knew they were accurate because I had a group of 8 women telling the exact same story.

Today, though, I’m furious. I’ve been on “Lindsay Watch” and probably will be till she’s released. This basically means spending the entire day at the jail waiting to interview inmates being released and catching people visiting her (attorneys, family, friends).

On Thursday I was back at the jail and spoke at length with a released inmate. I know the drill now, having been there several times. I know how to talk to the released inmates and which ones to believe. Who is grandstanding, who is being genuine, who really did see or hear Lindsay and who just wants their name in the paper or on TV. This woman’s name was Cheryl Presser. She was 43, and had been in the mental ward. She was handcuffed at meal times and at any time she was around other inmates and openly admitted she did not see or speak to Lindsay. Her child has been taken away from her – she has SERIOUS mental and substance abuse problems.

Most of the reporters down at the jail have worked together for a long time. We come from various media outlets and see each other all the time – especially those of us that cover court cases. So we’ll all be at the same Lindsay, Mel, Michael Jackson etc. trials (and tribulations). Most of us are friendly and work well together. We’re all there for the same thing and we help each other out.

On Thursday, I was at the jail early – around 8 a.m and stayed until well after 5 p.m.  It’s what most of us do. They are long days and we settle in. We’re used to it. After 30  minutes talking to Ms. Cheryl Presser, a “reporter” from the Daily Mirror showed up around 10 a.m. and stayed only a couple of hours. She didn’t chat with anyone, didn’t join our group of motley journalists and proceeded to pull over every leaving inmate I interviewed. We journalists understand that we all need the same info but there is still some sort of protocol that we tend to follow. We rarely poach interview subjects, but this woman had no qualms. She pulled over Ms. Cheryl Presser and openly handed her a $20 bill. Cheryl even came up to me and said “She gave me $20” and she also said “I hope you don’t mind.”

I understood that $20 to Cheryl was like a gold mine. She didn’t have a penny on her. And suddenly the entire world has picked up the Mirror’s “story” about Cheryl Presser saying Lindsay was screaming, crying, on lockdown etc. and under  24-hour security watch. Repeat: Cheryl was nowhere near Lindsay and knew NOTHING. But suddenly, with $20 in her pocket she was revealing all kinds of ridiculous information. I saw with my own eyes the money exchange hands. Now the Mirror is making a fortune peddling this so-called inside information about Lindsay’s self-mutilation, screaming fits, crying jags and all around hysteria, inmates cursing at her.  I’m here to tell you it’s patently untrue.

I also know that if ANY inmates had said the things they supposedly screamed out to Lindsay or made any threats they would be in serious lockdown themselves and treated pretty harshly by the deputies and rightly so. Anything that constitutes a threat MUST be taken seriously by the jail. How can it not be? And after spending several days over the course of several weeks interviewing released inmates from Lynwood, trust me these women aren’t going to do ANYTHING to jeopardize their time in the slammer. It’s a rough, rough, place. These women aren’t stupid.

I’m not naive. I understand tabloids pay people all the time to spout the most utter garbage, and let’s face it $20 isn’t much when others are paid thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions to say what the media wants to hear: something salacious, something off the wall, something that will sell papers or magazines. It’s a business after all.

However, I’m not just furious at the lies that are being printed. I’m angry that these kinds of stories are making it impossible for real journalists who want to tell the truth to do their jobs. Here’s the deal. The journalists build up relationships and here in LA – The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s spokesman is our link to information and to being allowed access. Spokesman Steve Whitmore is a good guy with a thankless task – namely being driven mad by us journalists every day seeking information, answers to questions. He patiently does press conferences and responds to our endless phone calls, emails and text messages. But when stories such as the ones the Mirror has been reporting land up all over the media, our access suddenly becomes limited.

Last week we had open access in the entrance to the jail and to interview those who were released. This week because of insane untrue stories about what Lindsay was going through etc. we were forced to sit outside the main entrance, we were not allowed in. The trickle of released inmates slowed down and the majority of those who did come out told us in no uncertain terms they had been told they were not allowed to talk to us. The Sheriff’s office rarely returned our calls.

We understand that people want to read information about Lindsay in jail. We understand that if the demand for information wasn’t high, our editors wouldn’t send us out to cover this stuff. The very least we can do if we’re on these stories is to report accurate information. When the Mirror engages in this type of dubious journalism then everyone suffers.

I don’t care whether you believe Lindsay should be in jail or not. I do care that while she’s in there we try and report the most accurate information possible. To do this, we need to cultivate good relationships with the sheriff’s department, the jail, and the attorneys involved in the case. When utter rubbish is printed we are unable to do our jobs properly because the proper channels are then closed off to us.

Ask yourself, why is only the Mirror and its subsidiaries printing these crazy stories about Lindsay? There are a slew of reporters down at the jail every day from every paper, magazine and online outfit. How come we don’t have these “stories?” Because they’re not true and we won’t publish stuff we know is totally made up or bought.

So please, don’t believe this rubbish that you’re reading. Don’t allow muckrakers to shut down honest reporting by buying off their interview subjects and denying us access to proper channels, which totally prevents us from telling the real story. We all deserve better than this. Even Lindsay.

Doing the NaNoWriMo Happy Dance!

Yes, I’m a winner. I just completed my 50,000 word novel with just under 90 minutes left till deadline. My official word count – 50207. Yippee!!!!!

And here is my official badge to prove it.

Of course, I wrote 17661 of those words TODAY. AND I have a raging sinus infection.

I”m so happy – now I need another month to do all the revisions.

Thanks to all my supporters.

happy dance, happy dance!

NaNoWriMo approaches, more articles up!

nanowrimoNaNoWriMo looms large! It begins November 1 and finally, finally, I have my novel idea (in both senses of the word). It’s all very exciting and I can’t wait to flex my 2,000 words-a-day muscles. Please quote me on this as I may live to regret it. I’m also thrilled that there are so many twitterers talking about NaNoWriMo. Makes one feel less, alone, no?

In the meantime, my article on Hilary Helstein’s documentary is up. Please read it. And I’m waiting for my article to be published on an extraordinary Israeli fashion designer now based in LA whose career almost came to a screeching halt after she almost lost her hand in an horrific car accident.

Right, off to do some editing work… oh joy -sigh..