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Archive for October, 2012

I suppose the biggest question you, the potential reader, might have for me is why I feel my story will speak to you.  You might enjoy my memoir should you agree, even the tiniest bit, with the following.

In this day in age celebrity is not synonymous with great talent, rather, it has become the reach of persons who talk the loudest, dress the most provocatively or live outrageously.  Now hardworking actors and artists or individuals who become hero’s saving a squadron or landing a plane on the Hudson are joined by reality TV personas and over-pampered socialites.  These fly by nights and shock artists have been marketed and propelled forward by big money machines.  They seem to be everywhere these days. That’s all well and good.  To each his own.   I’m not big on complainers and I would be a liar were I to say I’ve never indulged in mindless laughter watching some realty TV episode…but I don’t feel the better for it.  I will not lament further about what’s accepted as the norm in entertainment today.  However, I am looking forward to a curve in the misdirected adorations that multimedia have broadcasted into our world, into our children’s perspective.  I’m hopeful that in the coming years the fad of ridiculous will change its course and embrace a new/old vogue that’s more decent and wholesome.  I do not see 1950’s Americana returning and I’m not suggesting that this earlier decade, nor any other, were perfection.  However, I do believe a reintroduction to family, morals and hardworking role models, injecting this concept back into our TV, movie screens and publications, could be the next great trend…the new black, the new grey, the new whatever.  I might not be predicting the future but I remain optimistic.  Let’s put some non-crass entertainment on the tele, on the coffee table and see what happens.  Mr. Cliff Huxtable, come over for dinner at my house anytime.

Come Back Down to Earth, You Little Twit embraces the good intentions and often humorous imperfections in people, family and life.  The main character, Kaki, did not grow up in a single decade.  She grew up in a century via the influences of many.  Kaki’s memories of her first notable reprimand from an adored father, her run in with a high school bully and even something quite possibly demonic are offset by funny retellings of mashed potato theft and sibling spit tricks.  Her family was not perfect but they were always there for each other and continue to be even after their father, the leader of the band, has died.  It might be a soppy change for a memoir.  Her positive reality is not despite her father but largely due to his wonderful steadfast parenting.  It’s nice to applaud a good hand of cards every once in a while.

Over the last few months I have written 9 full chapters and project roughly 3 more prior to completion.  I have found editing to be quite an art form and enjoy the process of molding my thoughts until they flow beautifully and without excess.  The final chapters, touching on mental illness and grief, will not be weighed down by sorrow because faith and family gave strength and overcame.  Humor gave relief and perspective.  Life as the youngest Karl was and is a blessing.  I want those who like to snug up to nostalgia and reveries that ring a familiar bell, to have that opportunity.  Memoirs come in all depths and sizes.  Mine is intended to be a feel good walk down memory lane.  Fall asleep with my story on your chest.  Feel like you’ve come home a bit having read it.  Sleep happy and sound.

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My Date with an Agent.

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So today I was dumped by my boyfriend.  Well he didn’t really dump me and he really wasn’t my boyfriend.  In fact we had yet to go on a date.  He was more like someone I found through an online dating site.   The only difference is I didn’t want him for love or lust I wanted him for his literary prowess.  I wanted him as my agent.

Surfing through group recommendations, finding writers who I feel have a similar style and then trying to hook up with their agents, has left me feeling well, exhausted.  It’s hard to know what you want in an agent when you’re still trying to convince yourself that someone will find your body of work attractive.  There’s also that flip side.  I might see something in an agent but they might be looking for a petite blond.  My writing is not petite blond.  I’m more of a full bodied brunette, soft, sarcastic with a few too many greys.

Yesterday I thought I had found my match.  Someone who’s background screamed, ‘Baby I’m your man!’  I decided he would be mine.  It was a one sided resolve, I’ll admit, a slight lean toward Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction,  but I went with my gut on this one, less the stewed rabbit.

Certainly, I reasoned, an agent who lists interests and preferences so in line with mine would know upon opening my query that we were meant to be.  Perhaps he had even dreamt I was coming and has been diligently checking his inbox, awaiting our moment.  We would be literary soul mates, agent and I, a happily ever after pairing.

I prepared for this one query submission like Romney at the first presidential debate.  I was going to do my research, give that agency everything they had asked for, dagnabit.  I was formulating the pitch of a lifetime. I wanted the electoral vote, the popular vote and the vote of those four residents of Lost Springs Wyoming. In my zeal I temporarily forgot that all things have two sides.

I poured my heart into this love letter.  Never had I spent so much time trying to put my best self forward for a query submission.  You want to know why I think my story is relevant, you got it.  Couples should know everything about one another, right?  I plucked out the typos and waxed away the stubble of my chapter samples until they were polished and smooth.  I answered all the agencies questions with total honesty because truth is the platform for a healthy relationship and I wanted them to know ‘me’.  I felt ready and beautiful when I hit that send button.

Then the waiting game began.  Sitting by my avocado green corded phone with braces on and an unruly head of hair, I was again that needy teen holding vigil, waiting on a ring.  My phone was now a computer but the feeling had not changed much.   I decided to grow up, get on with my day.  I would focus on all my tangible achievements those undisputable accomplishments like my kids and real boyfriend, that guy I married.  I decided to forget about agent man for a while. If he was any good at his job then he should be busy.  I could wait!

Then an email buzzed in on my phone.  I saw his name.  Without a doubt, this was my quickest agent response ever.  He couldn’t wait!

I had spent 8 hours preparing my submission and in 58 minutes he reviewed my query, scanned my soul, and responded with his Dear John.

It seems he prefers petite blonds.

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At what point did I make my personal cross over from wanna-be to successful writer? Well, I must be truthful. My initial thought, before settling on retrospect, was to jump into this piece for the sole purpose of dazzling you and my literary compatriots. It seems my seventh child need to please and gain praise has ebbed only slightly since my youth. At least I’m headed in the right direction. My rise from self-focus is partly due to parenting. Years of, ‘Look who went on the potty!’ Or, ‘My, that was a lovely K turn,’ have redirected my need for self-tooting hoorah’s. My triumphs are now deeply seated in the feats and personal happiness of my offspring. Still, I cannot lie. Within my psyche remains a bit of that need for external validation and acceptance, yet, my true successes will always be housed from within.

I can compare my literary pursuits to my journey as a gardener. For years, before I committed to my garden, I admired and studied the horticultural triumphs of others. I marveled at climbing roses that seemed too effortlessly blanket a convivial arbor. I was awed by how a mere mortal could partner with nature and accomplished this thing of beauty. When I entered a garden where plump scarlet tomatoes dangled next to vines of endless beans I was all at once impressed, engaged and more certain that I too wanted to propagate edibles. By watching, reading and asking I learned to cultivate the soil in my own garden. I gained knowledge and experience by trial and error. What to put in and what to leave out. When a weed boasted a lovely assortment of flowers or an aggressive plant was overstepping its grounds, though I admired their effort, I took action. I weeded and cut back to ensure the beds leafy cohabiters could breathe and grow properly. In my years of gardening I’ve learned that even my best attempts might not produce a great harvest nor will my yield pair with everyone’s pallet, and that’s ok. You say tomato and I say brussel sprout.

My first heartening moment in the literary world came after I received feedback from a classroom of children. They had just been read a book co-authored and illustrated by my son Ryan and I. They were intrigued, they had questions and they wanted more. I was elated. Still, as the story they read, the first book in our intended series, was written by my son and the success due to a collaborative effort between creative text, artwork and a scholastic Q&A, I did not feel fully validated. If it were my words alone trying to reach an adult audience, could I hold my own? My self-doubt has forever curtailed my creativity. Wearing one’s heart on a sleeve can be daunting particularly if it is not personal validation you seek.

This past spring, however, I made a decision. I was going to dive into this wonderful world of literature, write and dream, and pay less attention to popular demand. I was going to cover my ears to the voice of self-doubt. My father, who passed away in April, was one of my biggest supporters. Always ready with a, ’Way to go babe,’ I sought out his praise regardless of my years on this earth. For whatever reason, the loss of my adored dad, the forced reality of being unable to gain his approval and accolades, fueled me. I was no longer going to hold back for fear of failure. If I wanted to write, I would write. Life is too short and unpredictable. Self-doubt should not be allowed to stifle what is good and in your heart.

The stories I had scribbled down for years, dialogue that bounced around in my brain as I tried for sleep, were finally given a platform. The chapters of my memoir trickled from my heart and swiftly filled the pages before me. The process of personal critique began yet I reveled in the rewrite. Editing and pruning my work, I found, was a joy like none other. I fell in love with the art of writing and that is when it happened for me. That is when I found success.

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Excerpt from Come Back Down to Earth, You Little Twit

Chapter: Handsome & the Beast

…Though I mention styling my hair, I probably had more luck embellishing myself by way of make-up and earrings. You see those Shirley Temple curls of my youth had not diminished through the years and for some reason, probably one too many short hair-doo’s being portrayed in Glamour magazine, I chopped my hair off not long before freshman year.  Now my looks had always leaned more toward handsome, she’s a handsome child, such a handsome young woman.  Why would I want to be handsome?  I would like to be beautiful, flowing, petite.  Handsome was Jo March in Little Women.  I wanted to be Meg, the soft and lovely.   To me handsome meant manly.  So when I chopped my hair off trying to capture the effect of some magnificent Dynasty character, I ended up looking like my brother Jeff.  Jeff was, and is, a good looking guy, but that’s not quite what I was going for.  Come to think of it, Jo chopped off her long locks too though our reasons were vastly different.  Compassionate and earnest Jo March sold her hair to pay her mother’s passage to be with their sick father.  I, however, hacked off my locks hoping I’d become ravishing.  It didn’t work. In cutting my hair, I had lost those long pretty ringlets that helped soften my countenance, pulling off a more feminine façade.  Curls, especially short ones lacking any weight, have a mind of their own.  I would blow my mane out and style to perfection.  Once the effect was achieved, I would shellac into place and say a prayer to God.  Heading outside, and if the humidity was over say 1%, my tresses would in a nano second yank back into
tight ringlets and frizz unpleasantly….

…My head full of curls, such a grievance in my youth.  My senior picture is a testament to this.  I abhor it.  Though my hair was much longer at the time, humidity and rain corresponded with senior picture day and quickly wiped out the carefully blown and curled design I labored over.  Once arriving at school, I assessed the medusa like rats nest that was now my reality.  Standing in the salmon pink tile and stone walls of the school bathroom, I did the only thing possible.  I stuck a banana clip in my hair.  Wearing my shimmery gold blouse, a yellow gold and black lacquer necklace, the top to back of my head now resembling a horse’s mane, I had become the poster girl for Guidette America.  I resembled Gina Genevieve DiGiovanni.  If she were a real person she would live in North Jersey in a house with multiple saint ornamentation praying on her front lawn.  On her wedding day, her dress would be complimented by a gold horn.  Gina and her husband Rocco would have ‘tree’ boys named Bruno, Gino, and Giuseppe.  She would drink ‘cawfee’ as she watched her family play Bocce Ball.  They would listen to Mambo Italiano and exchange lines from the Godfather trilogy into the ‘wee hours of the night.  I apologize, that ‘wee was me’Irish kicking in.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Italian, I married Italian.  When eating a bowl full of pasta or listening to Frank I like speaking my married Italian name out loud, ‘I emma Kathaleena More’a-gan-te’.  However, I don’t like the epitome of big hair Jersey girl circa 1989, my Lip Smacker shiny lips pressed in an unflattering pout, hanging on my mother’s stairwell landing for the last 20 something years!  It’s a God awful picture.  Right below me, in notable contrast, is my sister Jeanne’s senior photo.   Surrounded by a gold filigree frame, Farah Faucet waves softly framing her face, green eyes shining, Jeanne looks like a Meg, and I look like a very disagreeable Jo.

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From:Come Back Down to Earth, You little Twit
…of my earliest memories, in which the neighborhood played temptress to my better judgment, occurred around the age of four.  My Dad was taking me out somewhere, maybe to Dairy Queen for his Dilly Bars and my cherry dipped cone.

…Dad and I were about to hop into the family station wagon I was told to wait a second as he ran back inside.  I recall my father saying something along the lines of, ‘Stay right here.  Do not leave this driveway’.  Piece of cake.  Now, we were lucky to live in a safe little neighborhood.  No boogie men hiding behind the trimmed shrubs of the Ackerman’s, Huckle’s and Houseman’s. Dad felt OK running into the house to do whatever needed to be done while his child held vigil on the driveway.  To fill the time, I probably hop scotched a couple times, tried not stepping on the cracks, poured salt on a slug, who knows.  But time wore on, about a minute, and I became bored.  That’s when I saw them… standing around the bright red fire hydrant on the corner, my friends. Not only did I see them, I could now hear them. Laughing, laughing,laughing!  Oh what could they be laughing at?  The fun was erupting from their grouping and the lure of this assemblage began having an effect on me.  It started with a step, then maybe two in their direction.  It was like the draw of a magnet.  Come play with us Kathleen.

Oh, red rum.  Before I knew it, I was amongst them.  What’s up, hi, what a joy to be here, isn’t this the best hydrant ever… and then I heard him.  ‘Kathhhhhlllleeeen, get over here!’  The elation I was just feeling shot out of me like a bullet.  I didn’t pee in my pants but I felt a new sort of fear and anguish.  My Daddy never yells at me.  Oh the disappointment, he trusted me with this stay in the driveway thing, and I failed!

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Memoir:  Come Back Down to Earth, You Little Twit

…Oh my days on Thomas Street.  At the age of 2 my family moved to Cranford.  It became my home town for the next 18 years and I stuck close by for some time after.  How I love that little gem of a town in Union County New Jersey with its cobble stone town center, splendid sycamores and ivy clad turn of the century homes.  But even with all of its charm, I’ve learned it’s not the character of the town that endears me to Cranford, it’s that this place at one time inhabited some of the most special people in my life.

 

…For the next week or so I listened, learned and took mental notes on subject matter I was not meant to hear.  I began to teach my neighborhood friends this new and powerful tool.  Sue learned in a flash and taught her brother Jeff.  Leanora could understand Gibberish, I believe, but I don’t think she ever learned to speak it.  We would make our daily run to the Butcher Block with our nickels and dimes to buy whatever candy our found money could supply and we would speak our new tongue.  When Charlene would crank at us to, ‘Pick it out girls’ for the 1000th time in our young lives, wanting to shoe us along so good paying customers could access the counter, we would now turn to each other and say, ‘Shethegee isagiz sothego methegean.’  Yes, Charlene was slightly mean to us but she was only doing her job.  Sue and I would snicker at the use of our verbal trickery.  We could now talk back to, or about an adult, and they had no clue!

After a little time had passed and I was fluent in Gibberish and full of enough Jeannie secrets to last me through Christmas, I spilled the beans.  As Jeanne sat at the kitchen table in conversation with my mom, she told her something.  Who knows what it was now but without thinking I interjected, correcting Jeannie’s fib or fluff over, relaying a very detailed fact filled account about one of her friends.  The steam started to rise from Jeanne’s ears as she turned to her pain in the ass little sister.  She was infuriated and astonished, ‘How do you know that?’  Well, the devil inside of me decided it was the right time to enlighten Jeannie of my new found gift.  I responded to her in flawless Gibberish, learned in the land of brat, and explained I knew what I knew because I could understand everything she had been saying to her friends.  She was pissed.  She didn’t care that I hadn’t really tried to learn the language, it just came to me.  I attempted an explanation that it wasn’t my fault that my room, my bed and big un-tired ears resided next to her top of the stairs gossip stoop.  She wanted to hear none of it.  Jeanne was all at once infuriated and defeated.  Her short lived stint with privacy was no longer.

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