Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Every once in awhile I brave the dark corridors of my closet, or a filing cabinet and throw things out. The truth is, if someone crept in while I was away and threw everything out that is in the back in a box, I would never miss it. But once you expose short stories and letters from camp pen-pals and dusty little buttons from your grandmother to the light, they somehow reclaim a feeling of importance. How did I live without that? I finally threw out all rejection letters that didn't have a note of positive in them. It's strange to read the rejection letters next to the acceptances. In one breath my writing hasn't caused them to fall in love, and just a page away, it has.

To one editor, my writing was melodramatic. To another, it was stellar. How strange. How maddening. How funny a way to look at oneself.

Mostly I like to read my old writing. Stories and vignettes long forgotten and abandoned, half started about obsessive-compulsives with dying mothers or ticket scalpers or virgins in Italy. A strange melange of thought and dream, these papers. I still miss the rapture that came in those days, when writing felt alchemical--transformed me from screwed up girl into someone with a sense of purpose.

Writing still transforms me, or maybe more accurately it keeps me balanced, but I am often mystified by the girl who wrote a particular paragraph. Wondering who I was at that given time, with only those few sentences there to explain anything.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Rebellion Has Begun

All over my yard, and dropping upon my roof every minute with loud, jarring ker-thunks are acorns. I can't walk an inch without stepping on one.

You might think it is the wind. But I know the truth.

The Squirrel Rebellion has begun.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why I love Daniel Radcliffe.

Week's inventory:

--Four phone interviews done for four work-in-progress articles, two of which are blessedly done early! Only three more calls left for the next two days, barring the unforseen.

--Three of five email interviews done.
--Seven phone messages left for prospective interviews for work-in-progress articles.
--three documents edited (and a partridge in a pear tree).
If I haven't called YOU back, please understand why.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Apparently the word is out that I'm a heathen.

I have no other explanation for why two different sets of door-to-door religious prosletyzers have come to my door in less than a week to offer my damned soul some salvation. Maybe it's the statue of Buddha on our doorstep. Maybe it's the fairy hanging in my window.

Whatever the case, it's no cause for being an assumptive asshole. I find myself feeling very hostile towards someone who comes to the door of a stranger's house with a Bible and a cute child (insurance against name-calling?), opens it and says, "Hi, I'm going to read you a scripture this morning," as if it's just perfectly acceptable to assume I am interested, or that I don't already have a faith with which their Bible verses might conflict.

The nerve. There are a lot of beings that need saving: The whales, the dolphins, those who are starving and those who are being abused...please just leave my soul alone!


Monday, September 10, 2007

Living for the Praise

We writers erroneously learn to thrive on praise. I, unfortunately, crave it like I once jonesed for candy bars, and while I think this post might be leaning a bit towards the self-congratulatory, this is the only place I regularly feel safe crowing about my own achievements. I was pleased to receive this email from my editor this morning regarding my upcoming book:

Hi Jordan, I just wanted to share this note I got from the indexer: BTW, I really enjoyed reading this book. It's very well done, in all ways. Congrats to the author and the editorial staff. And GREAT title!!"

I also got a similar response from the proofreader, who wrote: “I found [Make a Scene] very helpful and inspirational to my own writing, so that’s a testament to the text.” Normally, the copyeditors, proofreaders, and indexers don’t comment on the quality of the text. But your book seems to be making a strong impression across the board!

Friday, September 07, 2007

My interview with Chuck Pahlaniuk is now online at Writer's Digest Magazine:

Here's the lede, and a few excerpts below:

THE WD INTERVIEW: Chuck Palahniuk
Shock And Awe
by Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Controversy rides Chuck Palahniuk's back like bad weather, which is exactly how he likes it. When he tried to get his first novel, Invisible Monsters (then titled Manifesto) published in the early 1990s, some editors secretly loved the dark novel about a model who's shot in the face, but they shied away from acquiring it. Frustrated and rebellious, the Portland native embarked on an even darker book. The result was Fight Club, a novel about fist-fighting, anti-corporate power and identity, which rocketed him from obscurity to success and then fame when the book was adapted into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.

While critics are still uncertain of what to make of 42-year-old Palahniuk's unique blend of dark, irreverent and discomforting fiction—labeling him a "shock writer"—his fans are so passionate, they've organized "The Cult" website (, where they act as his unofficial PR team, staunch defenders and cult of worship.

Though Palahniuk claims he still isn't sure he's made it as a writer, his 10 books (two nonfiction) have sold more than 3 million copies, and at least three more of his books have been optioned for films, with Choke set to begin filming this year.

For a man who writes about violence and sex in unabashedly graphic terms, the writer himself is disarmingly soft-spoken, even shy, and extremely private about his personal life. When we spoke, his new novel Rant had just been published and was garnering harsh reviews from critics. But Palahniuk is a testimony to the aphorism that there's no such thing as bad publicity. Even as critics pan him, his books continue to rise effortlessly on the bestseller charts.

Here are a few excerpts:

My workshop laughs a lot. My editor laughs. I have a secret goal with my editor—he has asthma and uses his inhaler, and after I send him a new manuscript, I'll have his assistant phone me and tell me how many times he had to get his inhaler out while reading a draft. It's my secret laugh meter.

That's the idea, the juxtaposition of those opposite states. Tom Spanbauer, who taught me to write, said you have to make them laugh and then, as soon as possible, try to break their hearts.
I started to write a children's book about a little boy whose mother dies. After coming home from the funeral, his father leaves him alone in the apartment, and he finds a phone number on a business card that says: "Ladies for all occasions." He phones up and says, "I need a mother," and a jaded escort girl shows up thinking he's a pervert but ends up having this sweet afternoon with this 6-year-old boy after he's just buried his mother. As a children's book, it didn't go very far.


Just when I'd decided I stopped writing short stories because I wasn't any good at the form, I received a nifty little certificate in the mail today for something I had totally forgotten about:

The Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition is created by the master's granddaughter.

Honorable mention may not come with a prize, but check out where I fall in the honorable mentions. That's pretty exciting! They received 905 submission. I feel pretty damn honored all right!

First Place
Bruce Overby of Los Altos, California, for "Bookmarks"

Second Place
G.L. Osborne of Caulfield South, Victoria, Australia, for "We Were at the Edge of a Gorge"

Third Place
Cecily Anders of Houston, Texas, for "Thump"

Honorable Mentions:

Jordan E. Rosenfeld of Morgan Hill, California, for "Shut-ins"

Mike Jones of Webster, Texas, for "Who We Left in Amarillo"

Marjorie E. Brody of Schertz, Texas, for "In the Underside"

Tracey Lion-Cachet of New York, New York, for "Noticed"

Caroline Roberts of Knoxville, Tennessee, for "The Dream Carriers"

Melissa Jackson Brister of Panama City, Florida, for "Sandcastles"

Oji Godwin of London, the United Kingdom, for "Guilt"

Eugene Hwang of Norwood, New Jersey, for "Counterclockwise"

Nancy McKinley of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, for "Goat Meat"

G.L. Osborne of Caulfield South, Victoria, Australia, for "The Feeder"

Amina Gautier of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for "A Cup of My Time"

Joseph J. Franco of Staten Island, New York, for "Betty's Dead"

Stephen A. Baker of Pleasant Hill, California, for "First Love"

Todd Powell of Duvall, Washington, for "Burn Pile"

Kelley Walker Perry of Fairland, Indiana, for "Lake Effect"

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Incremental anxiety

I've returned from vacation with a slowly mounting sense of panic at how many deadlines I have this month. I said 'yes' to one, if not two too many projects. What I mean by "too many" is more than one article due per week, and yes, I've been here before, and yes, I will get them all done. In fact, if I look at the history of my article writing over the past five years, I think there have been only a handful or maybe fewer, that I have ever written NOT in a state of panic. There have been a couple exceptions where I needed to ask for an extension--particularly when I was finishing my book Make a Scene--but really, I have always, always gotten them done. I like to think this anxiety is akin to what performers feel before they go on stage--part fear, part hope that you will get it right, even if you've already set the precedent for yourself.

So my deal with myself now is this: I am only allowed to panic about one project per week. The one whose deadline is most pressing. And by "panic" I mean, worry over, focus on, and think a bit obsessively about. Last night, this actually worked for me. As I lay awake, unable to fall asleep and therefore thinking about my article, the lede of the article came to me, which always helps me structure the rest of the article. That led to a feeling of competency: "I can do this! I have written articles before!" (only several hundred, Jordan, in case you've forgotten).

Strangely, that's helping. When I start to look ahead to "the next" thing I just tell myself, "you can worry over that next week" and it works! I recommend it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

My friend Tricia sent the following and it made me laugh:

Tips to improve your writing

1. Avoid alliteration. Always.

2. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

3. Employ the vernacular.

4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

5. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

6 Remember to never split an infinitive.

7. Contractions aren't necessary.

8. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

9. One should never generalize.

10. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."

11. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

12. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

13. Be more or less specific.

14. Understatement is always best.

15. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

16. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

17. The passive voice is to be avoided.

18. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

19. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

20. Who needs rhetorical questions?

21. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

22. Don't never use a double negation.

23. capitalize every sentence and remember always end it with point

24. Do not put statements in the negative form.

25. Verbs have to agree with their subjects.

26. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.

27. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.

28. A writer must not shift your point of view.

29. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)

30. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A quick bitch

I realize that I really only blog under two circumstances: one, when I have gone away from my daily routines and therefore have a different point of view on it, and two, when I need to bitch about something that irks me. This post is of the latter variety.

I'm irked most recently by the comments I'm getting on a reading-related web site I belong to. The idea of this site, ostensibly, is to rate and review books you have read and share these with others in the spirit of sharing books and ideas, a conversation of sorts. By way of one's review, you state your opinion of an individual book. I haven't updated my list in a long time, so finally today I did and I added the 7th Harry Potter book because I thought it was a satisfying end to the saga.

I'm an unabashed HP fan and have been from the beginning and that's no secret to this blog. And I also know that there are plenty of people who don't like the books, or are turned off by the hype and attention. You know what they say: you can't please all the people all the time. Show me a book that's won the Pulitzer or the Nobel and there will be a group of people who will tell you why the book didn't deserve that prize and was a waste of their time. These are opinions.

So I find it a little bit irritating, like I do when I'm at the movies and a bunch of teenagers loudly begin acting out in a crowd to draw attention to themselves, that as many as four people so far felt the need to go out of their way and comment on the fact that I like Harry Potter books by posting me how much they don't like them, and what a waste of time they clearly are, and how only sheep would ever read them (I'm paraphrasing :). What would be more to the point, and useful and interesting, is to tell me what books they DO like, and why. Trashing something I love just makes me think: why should I bother to look at your book list when we clearly have opposing tastes?

End of bitch session.

Are you a snob?

I used to be a full-fledged, 100%, no bones about it snob. My last boyfriend insisted I was a snob about food, me having grown up in Marin county--known for its wealth, where my parents always bought organic and spent more money on food than on anything else, even when they didn't have it to spend. He might have been right, but I wasn't going to give up on eating well just because it made him feel bad.

And then I became a snob about literature, founded on very little except the idea that if you knew something about books, particularly the classics, and read a lot, you were somehow "better." I'm sure this was encouraged in my liberal arts undergraduate college program,and I came from a family of readers, so it was an easy one to uphold for a time. That is, until I got to graduate school where I realized that I was in the minority with my knowledge. What I had read and knew was nothing compared to most of my classmates and all of my teachers. And it was the first time I got to encounter other snobs--snobs who were far better at it than me. Quaking in their cold wake, I began to realize that if I was to stay a snob, I'd need a whole lot more work.

Still, I held fast. I held on to the idea with a deathly grip that educated people are more interesting and complex than those who don't have college educations. It lasted for awhile longer, but then, perhaps because the universe does indeed have a sense of humor, I began to meet more and more "un" educated people, or people who had never heard of Madame Bovary, much less read it, and people who care more about their families or their gardening, or their hearts to give two shits about being well read who were intricately complex and lovely people. When they read, they did it because it gave pleasure, not made them smarter or better.

All that being a snob ever did for me was to hold me separate from others, to give me a false illusion of safety. To build a moat of fake confidence that I could stand behind and pretend to know more than others.

While I know that like any bad habit, being a snob will not entirely just go away over night, I'm chipping away at it as best I can, reaching toward people to understand and connect, not move away from.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

I am a huge fan of the Law of Attraction--and was, just so you know, before it was popular--a good few years before that book-whose-name-I-shall-not-speak ,with the fancy red cover that made it on Oprah, came out. The concept is, after all, the inspiration for my book with Rebecca Lawton, Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life. But I confess that I am troubled by the constant use of it in the context of making money. Maybe I'm just still my bohemian parents' child. Maybe, some of the life-advice gurus would say, I have a bad relationship to money.
Or maybe it's just that I think nobody really wants money for money's sake. In essence, if the law of attraction really works (and experience has proved to me it does) then there's no point in even bothering to think about money, but rather to focus one's attention on the qualities and experiences you want more of.

After all, what would you rather have? A bag full of hundreds, or a paid-for vacation? A bank replete with cash, or a lifetime supply of food? We want what money can buy. For some people that leans more toward the material--and hey, I'm an American, I like things for sure, though I found on my trip that even shopping for whatI like most (jewelry) gets quickly tedious and I have an internal limit that says "enough" even when my lustful eye is drawn to more shiny things. For others, it leans more toward the freedom from responsibilities. And hey, I'm an American, I like freedom from responsibility (extra credit for the joke getters) but i've never been able to warm up to attitudes about amassing wealth because wealth is nebulous, an idealized concept. We think it's something we want, but a week in paradise, while relaxing, makes you realize just how dull a life like that would get.

On the plane there was this catalog full of items that I never even considered existed, like a custom brand to burn your initials into your steaks, and display cases for your watch collection, and floating sound systems. I realized it was a catalog for people who already have everything one could think to need. This catalog was for people who have to think of things to buy because their basic needs are long since taken care of.

I'm damn lucky--for being born in the country I was to the parents I had in the income level they were at, even though, at times, my mother was on welfare and times were dire. I got a very good head start, and had help at crucial junctures when I was young. And the rest, my husband and I have carved out for ourselves by ourselves and while it may not be called wealth, it's more than enough. I suffer from no lack. Yes, we would like to trade in the beater of a car for a new, hybrid one, and own our own home. But do we lack? No. We really don't. We just took a Hawaiian vacation, which was paid for, came home to further relaxation, and while I have plenty of work on my plate, it's of the variety of thinking and talking to people and writing, not using my body in hot sun, or serving people behind a counter all day, or in any way having to seethe with the roiling masses of humanity.

I guess the fact is, wealth would be nice if it could make me or my honey happier, or better people, and I'll be the first person to sign up for the guinea pig job if someone wants to hand out free money, but what I'm going to spend my time desiring and visualizing, and therefore, hopefully, attracting, is joy and creativity and health and passion, not hundred dollar bills.


Back to Reality

Coming back from vacation is tough. Especially when you've been somewhere as beautiful as the Big Island, Hawaii. I feel reflective and interested in my life again, though. Going away makes coming home richer, too. It's like returning to a garden you haven't tended in awhile. You are both happy to see what's still blooming, and aware of the taller weeds. You want to make improvements, and you stop to appreciate both.

Since I can't post all 60 photos here, I'll post only those that were taken on my birthday on thursday. Usually I'm hesitant to discuss my age, but here's a hint: My lucky number is 3, and there are two of them in my age this year :)

The "backyard" of our hotel

Birthday breakfast over the water

Lava boy

Amazing extremes in sky

Hamming it up with Hibiscus

E. at the Pululu valley

Soon to be sore riders

A birthday sign of luck

The Sushi I didn't eat

happy birthday girl