Monday, April 20, 2015

Meaty Memoirs

     I had the great pleasure of meeting both Patricia (Patty as she likes to be called) Volk and Sonia Taitz yesterday at ORT's annual luncheon in Chicago.  I arrived early, and the two authors were sitting in a corner of the large room at the Bryn Mawr Country Club where 300 women would eventually gather.  

     I had just finished reading Shocked for my book club and had been bowled over by the creative structure that Volk used to compare her mother ("the most beautiful woman in the world") and the inventive fashion maven Elsa Schiaparelli.  The author had never met Schiaparelli but had read her memoir as a young girl.  She was smitten and reread the book many decades later in researching her own memoir about a daughter's relationship with her mother and what set her mother apart from a woman like Schiaparelli.

       So, I walked up to Patty, shook her hand, and waxed eloquent about how much the book moved me and how the structure blew me away.  She seemed genuinely pleased, something I wouldn't necessary assume from an author whose book was reviewed by the New York Times as "a meditation on the plastic possibilities of womankind and a very special treat."  

      Maureen Corrigan, NPR Books, had this to say:

     "Did your mother read at least the galleys of the book before she died?" I asked.
     "No," Volk said.  "I couldn't have written it while she was alive."
     "That's a problem I'm having.  How do you write about family and friends when they are still around and risk offending them or ending the relationship?  Maybe you can address that when you speak later today."
     "Yes, and if I forget, please ask me that question during the Q&A."
     There was no Q&A, but Volk began her talk by asking the woman who had asked her about writing memoirs to raise her hand.
     I proudly raised mine.  She'd remembered.
     And even though she'd said earlier that she couldn't have written her memoir while her mother was alive, she took a very different stance this time around.  "Write whatever you want.  Don't care whether or not you hurt someone's feelings.  Tell the truth."
     Now I hadn't read Taitz's The Watchmaker's Daughter but immediately plopped down my money before walking to her and Volk.  I didn't want to offend her.
     I was honest.  "I bought your book and am looking forward to reading it.  Judy Levin whom I think you've met recommended that everyone in our book club pick it up."
    I handed her the book.
    "Would you please sign it for me?"
     Taitz picked up the pen she had at the ready and, having seen my name on my name tag, wrote "To Jane.  Enjoy!"
     And enjoy I have.  I've plowed through half of the book and didn't put it down later on Sunday when the Chicago Blackhawks played their third game against the Nashville Predators.  And I'm a big Blackhawks' fan.
     Like Volk, Tatiz has written a mesmerizing memoir.  Her parents, both of whom are Holocaust survivors, came to the U.S. where Tatiz was born.  Straddling the worlds of both the Old Country ad the New, Ziddish versus English,  Tatiz manages to find her place while keeping her heritage alive.

  I have a lot of work to do.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


“This is an industry that is really built on people’s hopes and dreams. Authors write books for all different kinds of reasons. In the past, we were seeing that more of the authors were talking about building their careers and telling their stories. Those were the key things that they were interested in, and fulfilling a lifelong ambition by publishing a book,” Weinberg notes. “This year, what we saw was that more of the authors were very interested in making money, and this was also one of the top priorities. People this year expressed a more career-focused kind of perspective. They were interested in publishing books and building a reputation, and of course in making money.”
                                        Digital Book World and Writer’s DigestAuthor Survey 

Wow!  More authors interested in making money!  Imagine that!
Hey, writers need to make a living, too.

But for those of us "retired" folks who have scraped together enough money to keep afloat, writing is no longer about the financial pay off . . . probably never was.  Because, let's face it: Only a fraction of authors make it big . . . And I mean big.

Authors like J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, John Grisham rake in millions and millions.

But the rest of us?  Well, it's often a struggle.  How many times have you heard about the budding writer who holds down a full-time job and writes at night or early in the morning?


Some of those writers have miraculous stories to tell about suddenly writing a best seller.

Alas, most do not.

So, why write?  Here are some of my reasons.  Please share yours.

I write because I must.

I write because I have something to say about something I feel passionate about.

I write because the journey winds in miraculous ways.

I write because I want to share the stories of extraordinary people and, sometimes, my own.

I write because I hope my readers will laugh, cry, learn, and act.

I write because I learn something new every day.

I write because the challenge consumes me.

I write because it's just plain fun.

If you respond with your list, I'll publish them all over social media.

Can't wait!

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Baby Boomer's Lament

At the risk of offending my younger (make that much younger) friends and family, I just don't get this selfie thing; in fact, I don't understand the whole "smart" phone deal, either.

Sure, I use a cell phone to google some important piece of information (Who is the actress who stars in "Madame Secretary?), to call folks, to get directions, even to access my emails.

But I don't use my cell while I'm walking with a companion, having dinner with friends, or to take selfies anywhere I happen to be.  In fact, I don't take selfies at all.  I mean, okay . . . If I ran into, say, Gloria Steinem or Mary Karr, even a hunk like Paul Newman when he was still alive, I might be inclined.

But at an intimate dinner --- indeed, an anniversary outing --- with my husband?

That's exactly what happened a while back.  A young woman with long black hair and already tons of makeup, took out her mirror, combed her hair, blotted her lipstick and starting taking selfies while her husband sat there, silent.  I have to wonder what he was thinking.  Was this self-centered wife of his really so stuck on herself instead of him?

Call me old fashioned.  But don't people spend time together so they can share stories, worries, future plans?  You know, that age-old art of conversation?  If not, why do they bother spending time together at all?  

When we Boomers wanted to see a friend, we didn't put our phones on the table, available at a second's notice to answer a call, check an email, read a text.  

Okay, so we didn't have cell phones back then in the dark ages.  Ma Bell was still in business.  And if we needed to make an important call, we'd go to a pay phone or phone booth, put it our change, and dial.  And that we did in private, aside from those crazies who squeezed into a phone booth to set a Guinness record.

Our conversations were private to be shared with the person on the other end of the line.  We didn't want strangers on a bus or train or walking down the street to hear what we had to say.  And we certainly didn't want to be rude by talking on the phone when with friends or family.

Alas, I think society has gone around the bend with no chance to return.  Tech companies will continue to introduce even more devices, more apps, more programs to allow users to "plug in" anytime, anywhere.

My solution?  Declare a mandatory 24-hour moratorium on the use of any and all cell phones.  Those who break this "Day of Rest" will face a $100 fine.  Then we'll see a pause in the world of immediate gratification and maybe some face-to-face communication that encourages eye contact, a bit more privacy and, yes, a bit less invasive chatter.

The only problem:  A new class of addicted citizens who will require immediate care.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Another Decade, Another Blog


Unique, often humorous take on life experiences and events from award-winning author and journalist, Jane Leder. The 60 something survivor of the 1960s (Whew!) rarely considers herself too seriously and encourages readers to "Take her advice because she's not using it.

Get a good look at my blog name and its description.  Why?  Because in a matter of months, I'll no longer be a SixtiesSister.

Nope.  I'll cross the proverbial line from one decade to the next and will have to either come up with a new title that has nothing to do with age (That sounds like the best idea) or create something catchy like SexySeventies or SeventySomething, or SeventyIsTheNewFifty.  (Someone told me that the other day.  My question to her was, "At what point can we safely admit that we're just plain old?")

Like other Boomers who are about to take the plunge, I can't believe that it was . . . (picture me covering my mouth and mumbling to myself) years since we did all that great stuff from marching against war and for civil/feminist rights, going door to door in support of Eugene McCarthy's run for President, discovering the Beatles, eating a lot of ice cream after imbibing on a Saturday night, experiencing the deaths of two Kennedys and Martin Luther King, saying "no" to just about everything our parents stood for, watching "Woodstock" and so wishing we'd been there, committing ourselves to our chosen professions but never hesitating to have a good time . . .

I often yearn for those times when everything seemed possible, when the naysayers were in the minority.
Computers, cell phones, eMail, social media hadn't yet been invented.  We actually wrote letters, talked on the phone, and talked to one another.  (Oh, brother!  Now I'm sounding like my parents.  Blah, blah, blah.)

But we were more personally connected.

We were more optimistic.

We believed in change.  (Not the b.s. we hear during every local/national political campaign.)

I could go on, but you get the point:  The Sixties rocked.  My sixties rocked.
If you have a suggestion for my new blog name, please send it my way.

Peace and love.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Forgetting How Old We Are


March 4, 2014; Washington, D.C. – Carl Kasell, the famed voice of NPR News for three decades turned comedy star of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, has announced he's stepping down this spring after a five-decade career in broadcasting. Kasell will record his final broadcast for Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! this spring; celebration shows are planned in the show's home city of Chicago, and in Washington, D.C.

Carl has been gone from "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!" for over a month.  But we were in Mexico and missed the news and his final show.
When I turned the radio dial to 91.5 Saturday morning upon our return, I was surprised to hear the voice of Bill Curtis.  I would know that voice anywhere.  Curtis has been a media staple in Chicago for decades.
But I was confused.  Where was Carl?  Ill?  On vacation?  He couldn't be off the show for good.  His voice on a winning contestant's phone message remained the grand (and only) prize.
For several weeks, I listened to "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!"  No Carl.  
Just this morning, my husband, his family from Ann Arbor, and I were hanging in the kitchen.  My husband spun one of his exaggerated tales.
"You know," I said.  "That reminds me of the stories on . . . the NPR show.  What's the name?"
"'Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!'" 
"Right.  It's the time in the program when each panelist reads a supposed news snippet about a most improbable event.  It's the contestant's job to somehow guess which one is true."
I turned to my husband's cousin and his wife.  "So, your challenge is to decide whether what this esposo of mine says is true or not."
Everyone laughed.
"Whatever happened to Carl Kasell?" I said.
"He retired," my husband said.  "I think he's ill.  He's 75.  What do you expect?"
"Well, my dear," I said.  "You turn 72 this year!"

I recognized the voice of Bill Curtis straight away.  After all, he's been a media staple in Chicago for decades.  
"Why is Curtis doing the show?" I asked.  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Years Flying by

Every time I have to fill in my birthdate online by scrolling down the years, the exercise rudely reminds me of the years behind me and the decreasing years ahead.

The whole process brings my mortality into clear focus.  I realize how many folks are younger than I am and am shocked that I've gotten so old!  Well, maybe not SO old but old nonetheless.

Where has the time gone?  Sure, we've all asked ourselves that question many times.  But now I REALLY mean "Where has the time gone?"  And how much do I have left?

Initially, the whole business freaks me out.  Then I breathe deeply, close my eyes, and say to myself, "Okay, if you stay healthy and don't get hit by a bus or die at the hands of some lunatic who flies a plane into the side of a mountain, you may have a good 20 years or so."  My parents both lived into their early 90s and, so why shouldn't I?

Then I choose a twenty-year period in my life, say from my 50th birthday onward or from the day I married the second time around until the publication of my second book.  Wow, I think.  A lot went down between those marker events.  So, yippee, I've got a lot more stuff to look forward to.

I guess I should think about compiling the proverbial "Bucket List" and all those things I want to do before I kick the bucket.  Somehow, that seems a bit too daunting.  I'd rather just let things play out as they may and take my chances.

And the next time I'm asked to complete an online form by filling in my date of birth, I think I'll opt not to sign up for that online app or apply for that loan.  I'll print out the damn form and actually fill in the blank by hand.  Imagine that!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Youth Suicide: What To Do About It?

The following article appeared in the April 26, 2015 edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Officials: Crystal Lake teen suicides highlight prudence needed in response