Thursday, July 30, 2009

Children of the Waters

Carleen Brice won the 2009 First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and the 2008 Break Out Author Award at the African American Literary Awards Show. Orange Mint and Honey was optioned by Lifetime Movie Network.

Her second novel, Children of the Waters (One World/Ballantine), a book about race, love and family, just came out at the end of June. Booklist Online called it “a compelling read, difficult to put down.” Essence says, “Brice has a new hit.” You can read an excerpt at her website

She is at work on her third novel, Calling Every Good Wish Home, and she maintains the blogs “White Readers Meet Black Authors” and "The Pajama Gardener"

Please find my interview with Carleen:

mc: Which came first, the title or the novel? 

cb: The story.

What other art form inspires you as much as writing? 

Probably film and then music come closest, but writing is most inspiring to me.


Which comes easier for you - beginnings or endings? 

Both. Middles are the hardest!


How many drafts until the final draft? 

Who knows? Some scenes have many, many drafts and some scenes stay pretty much as first written and the whole thing goes through the thresher a few times, at least. I really wouldn’t be able to guess.


What are you reading right now? 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston (it’s her autobiography).

What's next for you? 

A 3rd novel called Calling Every Good Wish Home and maybe a graphic novel!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Je Me Souviens

...translated in English, "I remember," and also the Montreal license plate catch-phrase. I've been traveling to Montreal since I was a wee one and have many of my own memories of the city, along with my parents', even my grandparents' memories, which sometimes get tangled with mine. When I'm there, I often think about people who have moved away from home, especially those who have moved here to L.A. to pursue their dreams. Perhaps it is easier to start fresh when you ditch your ghosts, your memories, generations of memories, some yours, others forced upon you by your family history. Whenever I'm in Montreal, I can't help but picture my parents as little kids, trudging through the snow, hanging out in their respective childhood neighborhoods with their gaggle of young cousins, now grandparents themselves, inspiring new collective memories for the younger generation. 

I arrived from Toronto via train and just in time because the whole Canadian rail system went on strike a few days later. From my arrival on Monday, to my departure on Sunday the trip passed in a blur of relatives, hotels, food... I attended a funeral for my aunt, dined at Moishe's steakhouse (I always order the fish), a place I've been visiting since I was born, shopped on Ste. Catherine Street, hung out with cousins, drank Ouzo, marveled at the greenery, helped my parents clean out my aunt's house, which was also my grandparents' house, unearthing layer after layer of more memories, I ate a coffee crisp, stored up on Montreal bagels, missed Mimi, (who has since moved to England, creating new memories for herself) ran into someone I knew at the Just For Laughs Comedy festival, swam laps in the hotel pool, pinched my 99-year old great aunt's cheeks (something I've been doing since I was a kid), explored Old Montreal, ate Chinese food, Greek, Indian, and more Chinese. Here are some pictures to prove it...

Visiting the Ann Kahane exhibit. You might recognize the look of this artist as my parents own one of her sculptures (and are receiving another one once the exhibit is over).
Drinks on the roof deck of a hotel in Old Montreal. Our waiter Jimmy was enthralled that my parents moved from Montreal to Los Angeles.
The Just For Laughs comedy festival flags, dotting the city.
Montreal skyline.
Pinching Minchu's cheeks.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blogging from the sky

I am currently enroute to Toronto from L.A. for a 10 day Canada trip, mixing work and play. A semi-reformed phobic flyer, I still have lots of anxiety dreams the night before I have a flight. Last night's was filled with ants and mice and then later my nephew Peter saying to me, "You're not scared of kids, you're scared of responsibility." I woke up thinking what a smart 3 1/2 year old he is, and he definitely is - but then I remembered it was my dream and I wrote that dialogue. 

The 8am flight is packed. Why is everyone going to Toronto at 8 on a Thursday morning? While the stewardesses were pimping 6-dollar breakfast sandwiches, I dug into my bag and extracted my noodle/green onion/tofu/garlic melange, stinking up the plane, I'm sure, but getting a homemade meal. I even brought my own tea. Yes, I've turned into THAT person. 

My favorite part of this flight was watching Season 1, episode 4 of Mad Men. What a fun show! I'll have to catch up on 1-3 and then I fully plan on continuing on with episode 5 and beyond. I am such a late bloomer to good television. Sadly, I can get sucked into the lowest of the low. I was about 3 years late on The Sopranos, finally renting the entire series and watching it with awe and delight. Mad Men takes place in 1950's New York in an advertising agency. In my alternate universe I, too, came of age in 1950's New York and coincidentally worked in advertising, so this show completely appeals to me. The acting is a little stilted, like seeing a play in the theater, perhaps, but once you get used to it the show totally takes off.

Speaking of take off - we are landing now. I will post this from Toronto soil. I've got some animation pitches happening but also a lot of extended family time, starting with cousin Rochelle and eventually weaving my way to my 99-year old great Aunt Minchu!

Monday, July 13, 2009

This LIttle Mommy Stayed Home

Joy McGuire, a seemingly normal person with a seemingly normal marriage, has a baby, after which point, nothing is normal again. Not her breasts or her belly or her heart or her marriage. It’s a hilarious, rueful, laugh-out-loud post partum tale about the grueling work of the first nine months of the first baby when change is an urgent necessity that you wish you could run away from.  

Below are my questions for author Samantha Wilde:

mc: Which came first, the title or the novel? 

sw: The novel. Way ahead of the title. In fact we had a list of possible titles even after I’d revised the novel.   

What other art form inspires you as much as writing? 

Poetry. E.E. Cummings, Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver. But that’s writing, isn’t it? How about nature? Is that an art form? Maybe yoga too. It’s a different kind of art form altogether.  

Which comes easier for you - beginnings or endings? 

I’m okay with both. It’s the middle that’s hard.  

How many drafts until the final draft? 

It depends on how many people read it. I have a tendency not to revise as I write. I’m worried I’d never get done if I did that.  

What are you reading right now?

THE YEAR OF LIVING BIBLICALLY. It’s hilarious. Since I moonlight as a minister and graduated from divinity school, I lap up religious stuff when it’s true, witty and liberal. 

What's next for you? 

I just finished my second novel I’LL TAKE WHAT SHE HAS out from Bantam in 2010. It’s about envy. Another topic I know nothing about.  

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Nerve

Just as I feared, I have fallen victim to the Michael Jackson frenzy. This from someone who never even owned an album (though I admittedly have "Beat It" on the iPod - great running song!) Neither Michael Jackson nor his music was ever at the forefront of my life, instead, he was always in the background. "Rockin' Robin" always reminds me of elementary school, "Rock With You" is so Junior High, "Billy Jean" is Crossroads circa 1983 and "Man in the Mirror" triggers memories of Emerson College, 1988. I was always aware of the cute brown-eyed boy who morphed into the afro adolescent and then strangely slipped into a deranged white clown.Along with the rest of the world, I bopped to his music, marveled at his Neverland Ranch and cringed at his repeated pedophilia accusations.

WIth his death came the end of his story and now looking back I see his life with a whole new poignancy. As I wrote in the previous blog entry, I was at Esalen when he died and barely anyone spoke of it. Since getting back to L.A. I have been obsessed. I have spent too many hours on YouTube watching old Jackson 5 variety shows, old videos and interviews trying to see where it all went so terribly wrong. How did the beautiful, alert, insanely entertaining performer turn into the Diprivan addict? I've pored over his song lyrics and titles, looking for clues. ("Off the Wall", "Bad", "Thriller," "Dangerous", "Invincible" - if he did dabble in the pedophilia, could these titles be clues?) I watched Oprah's 1991(?) interview with MJ where he claimed his white skin was due to the condition Vitiligo, and tried to propose an argument based on why the media doesn't bother white people who try to get tan. He's already wrecked by 1991 with that eerie Anna Nicole Smith speech pattern and vacant, unblinking eyes. I watched a few moonwalking videos and tried to do the same across my living room floor, the beach, the sidewalk. I am haunted by the whole Jackson showbiz family - isn't family supposed to be your rock if you go into the business? But the Jacksons were ALL in it - so who did he have? Elizabeth Taylor? How could she, of the pill-popping, 8 marriages ilk, provide emotional security for him?

As my friend Lizzie said, "I feel so sad for Michael Jackson. Not the freaky person he turned out to be, but the little boy that he was,"and I so agree. His death has obviously struck a nerve. It is the stuff of myths and legends - the rise and fall, man vs. self, man vs. nature. His story has played out during the course of our lives and now that it is over I think we all feel a little lost, a little sad.

No, I did not try for memorial tickets for tomorrow. I will be driving to San Diego with my friend Maggie, to visit our other friend Eileen, who is there on vacation. We will probably eat lunch, talk about life, about writing, and when we drive back to L.A. tomorrow night, perhaps this obsessive Michael Jackson phase, mine and everyone else's, will finally be laid to rest.