My ‘grateful’ list

Besides an annual guilt-free excuse to eat until we pop a button, Thanksgiving is a time when we’re supposed to express gratitude and appreciation for our blessings. My thanksgiving dinner is typically held at my sister’s house and, at the urging of her children, we go around the table and list our biggest blessings. My mother always gives thanks for her health and her children; my sister usually expresses appreciation for the people who love her unconditionally like her children, her boyfriend and her ever-loyal sister (me). My nephew is especially cute; he is usually most grateful for his dog, Gypsy. Gypsy is, in fact, the most beautiful and lovable Golden Retriever in the entire world and so we all nod our heads in agreement and hold out our hands to give Gypsy some food off our plates. (Gypsy is often right under my seat because she knows I’m the most likely to drop food on the floor…)

I have a lot to be thankful for this year and since you won’t be at my dinner table, I figured I would write it down and post it on my blog.

At the top of my list is my family. They’re far from perfect and even further from functional but they’re mine and I love them. I am incredibly blessed to have a place to go on this and every other holiday or even on a random Sunday afternoon. And I’m grateful that I don’t have to put on any pretenses or act like someone I’m not. My family knows who I am deep in my core and they love me – the good, the bad, the well-behaved and the bratty, the thoughtful and the selfish, the talented and the clumsy, the extremely intelligent and the insanely ditzy and gullible. They love me. And I love them right back.

I’m thankful for my friends. I’m happy to have friends who want to spend time with me, whether grabbing a beer, seeing a movie, watching football or going on a cruise. I’m happy to have friends to call when I need advice, cheering up or am just bored and want to say “hi” and I am happy that I have friends who call on me for those same things. I’m grateful to have friends I trust and flattered to have friends who trust me. I’m happy I have friends who don’t think I’m weird and other friends who think I’m incredibly weird and love me for it. And, finally, I’d be so bored if I had no friends!!

I’m really grateful for the huge chunk of Muenster cheese my sister always buys to serve with appetizers. And, I love sweet potato pie with marshmallows.

I’m thankful for my health and my strength. I’m blessed to be able to get up every morning and exercise. I thank God that despite getting hit by a car over ten years ago, I can still run upwards of nine miles and challenge myself to do new exercises as well. I’m appreciative that my energy belies my age and my lack of wrinkles do too. I’m thankful that people are constantly surprised when I tell them how old I am. I guess that means I’m thankful for good genes too.

I’m incredibly proud that my book was published this year and beyond excited that so many people have told me how much they enjoyed it. But more than that, I’m grateful for the support that came from unexpected sources. Like the friends who posted the link to my book on their own Facebook pages; the people who took the time to write reviews on Amazon (some without being asked), the people who bought not one, but two or three copies (and they are not even relatives) and the people who I haven’t seen or spoken to for ages who called me/emailed me out of the blue just to tell me how much they liked the book.

Finally, I’m thankful that with every year, I learn more about myself, what makes me happy, what I need, what I deserve and what I’m willing to put up with. I’m blessed with the ability to take responsibility for my own actions, learn from my mistakes and keep trying to be a better person.

Happy Turkey Day (or in my case “Prime Rib day”)

Until next time,
Meredith

NANO OR NO-NO!

For those of you who do not know, November is National Novel Writing Month (“NANO”). The goal of NANO is to write a 50,000 word novel (approximately 175 pages) in a month. Participants sign up from all over the world and track their progress on individual online profiles. You are supposed to turn off your “inner editor” and just write by the seat of your pants.

I entered last year and failed – miserably. To demonstrate how poorly I performed, I started my second novel last year during NANO and, to date (a year later), it is only 47,000 words. In my defense, I did stop to edit “Just Friends With Benefits,” but still, 47,000 words in one year vs. 50,000 words in one month? Thanks for playing. Try again.

Or not.

In television and movies, characters who are writers are often shown hunched over their computers (or typewriters in older films) for hours and hours, lost deep in their work in progress. Not me. If I write two pages in one sitting, it is a very successful effort. In addition to writing, I work full time, organize and participate in a book-club, have an active social life, work-out five-to-six days a week, love television (and am not ashamed to admit it over the internet) and need and cherish beauty sleep. Unfortunately, my schedule does not lend itself to spending full days writing.

I like to think I’m a very well-balanced person. (That’s not to be confused with having ‘good balance’ because I most certainly do not but that’s a topic for another blog.) While I am passionate about writing, I am also passionate about my other interests listed above and at least for now, am not prepared to sacrifice one of my passions for another. So I write in short increments of time whenever I find them. For example, I’ll write when I’m in a waiting room at the doctor’s office. I’ll write on the subway. If I have an hour before meeting a friend for a drink, I’ll sit in a coffee shop and write. The slow progression of my work-in-progress notwithstanding, you’d be surprised at how much progress you can make writing that way. If I manage to write for 30-60 minutes three days a week, I can write ten pages that week. The challenge is actually motivating myself to use those small increments of time to write as opposed to doing something else. But since I love writing and my creative juices flow easily and often, I usually do not have to step too far outside of my comfort zone to meet that challenge. I just whip out my Blackberry and before I know it, my characters have spoken words, experienced emotions and taken actions which 30 minutes earlier were just fleeting thoughts in my overactive noodle.

When I’ve told people I write on my Blackberry, I’ve been rewarded with strange looks and notes of surprise, but it works for me for the following reasons: 1) my laptop is really heavy and I detest carrying it around; 2) my handwriting is not only that of a 3rd grader but that of a 3rd grader with really bad handwriting; and 3) I find it much less intimidating to fill a Blackberry screen with words than a full-sized computer screen. I enter the text directly into my Blackberry, email the new content to myself and paste it into my Word document for editing. Writing on a Blackberry is conducive to making a lot of spelling mistakes, but it’s also a good excuse for making a lot of spelling mistakes! And if you are a writer, you are no stranger to proofreading, editing and revising anyway.

I genuinely respect the many people who enter and complete the NANO challenge year after a year. And I do not regret attempting it last year. Had I not tried, I would continue to wonder if it was something I’d enjoy. (Similar to my feelings about training for and running the New York Marathon but, again, that’s a topic for another blog.) Having attempted to “write a novel in a month”, I discovered it didn’t work for me and that I prefer the “two year, give or take several months” plan. Unless editor imposed deadlines are in play, I do not believe there is a right or wrong way to schedule writing time. It is the finished product that matters and the journey should simply be as pleasant as possible for the journeyman. For those of us who love (and need) to express ourselves through writing, the only wrong way to proceed, in my humble opinion, is to not write at all.

Until next time,

Meredith

Inquiring Minds Want To Know…

Inquiring minds want to know:

Since becoming a published author, all of two months, I’ve been asked repeatedly whether Just Friends With Benefits is autobiographical. I’ve been told by numerous friends and family members that they picture the main character as me. Some have gone further to say that they feel as if they are having a conversation with me and others have said, “the book is SO you.” I’ve received phone calls from friends, “I have questions for you…,” “We need to talk!” and “Did you really allow a bunch of frat boys to stick your head in the toilet in college?”

These questions don’t bother me. In fact, they make me laugh. To all inquiring minds and for the record, however, I hereby declare that Just Friends With Benefits is a work of fiction. “Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author.” Really, the story came from my very overactive imagination. (It was about time I found a good use for it.)

Ok, ok. I see some of my friends shaking their heads, not buying this answer due to the glaring similarities between Stephanie Lynn Cohen and Meredith Gail Schorr. (And for those who know me better, Stephanie’s mother and my own mother.) Fine. Yes, there is a lot of me in Stephanie. We both love the Yankees, we never tire of discussing television trivia, both of us nickname our boyfriends without their knowledge, and we both tend to over-analyze. (And neither of us can hold her gin.) We’d probably be friends if we lived in the same galaxy. Or maybe we’d be mortal enemies. (I’d probably think she was annoying and thank God I was nothing like her.) But Stephanie does not exist outside of the pages of the book, nor do her friends, family or love interest(s). While small bits and pieces of the story have their origins from real-life and some of the characters are loosely inspired by people I’ve known, they were all used out of context and the events of the story are completely fictitious.

I didn’t purposely lend Stephanie aspects of my personality; it just sort of ‘happened.’ You really have to get into your main character’s head and since I’m already in my own head, it felt natural. I wonder whether most authors insert characteristics of themselves into their characters, especially in their first novels. And whether, like me, they were busted by friends and family. It’s worth noting that the main character in my work in progress (Jane) is nothing like Stephanie (or me) and, so far, writing her story is equally as fun.

I’m glad I’ve set the record straight but before I go, I’d like to leave you with a few fun facts – without giving away major plot points/spoilers (or embarrassing myself too much):

1. Like Stephanie, after too many gin and tonics, I once patted the belly of a senior partner like the Buddha. Sorry, Mr. Filardi. *bows her head in shame*

2. Like Stephanie, I sat behind a hottie in Criminal Justice class and fought the urge to lick the back of his neck. (He shall remain anonymous. But for those of you who want to guess at home, he was on the wrestling team.)

3. Like Stephanie, I once walked out in public with my skirt tucked into my jacket. (Hopefully, it was just that one time…)

4. Like Stephanie, I twirl my hair when I’m nervous.

Finally, unlike Stephanie, I would NEVER let anyone stick my head in the toilet. Now that’s just nasty.

Until next time,

Meredith