Seinfeld on Writing

A book full of jokes is not nearly as funny as watching a comedian do his act. I bought this book because Seinfeld said in an interview, pressed on this exact point, that really it’s a book for writers. I’m probably the only writer who believed him and ordered the hard cover.

The book is divided by decade, beginning with the 70s. This is when Jerry began writing jokes. They were short.

Still, I persisted. Maybe, I thought, he would have a little commentary on how to write humor at the beginning of the 80s section. He did not. Just more jokes. The jokes got longer and more complex in the 90s and beyond, but I wasn’t reading them anymore. I was looking on every page for writing wisdom. Particularly, I wanted to amp up my humor.

My editor says my novels have a “subtle” humor. The trouble with being subtle is that quiet ironies may land a bit too softly for others to recognize. I looked at every page of Jerry’s book. Twice. There was no writing advice anywhere within. There were witticisms by the dozens, jokes on every page, and, although I laughed a lot, I received zero advise on how to prod others do so while turning my pages.

To give him credit, he never said it was advice he was giving the reader. It was jokes, specifically, every joke he’d ever written. I realized he was teaching by example. I prefer things spelled out. My stomach hurt from laughing; I almost stopped reading, but then I noticed how he set his jokes up. The early ones had three parts and as he got better the jokes became much more complex. Funnier. If Jerry was a bottle of wine, he’d age well.

The other thing I noticed was his page breaks. I am writing this post in block format. It’s what people are used to seeing when they read anything on the internet. Before the internet we had indentation, not a space between paragraphs. But Jerry chose neither of these forms. His jokes were, I finally noticed, printed like poems.

Most people, I assume, know what poems look like. The lines break in the middle of a sentence. Or anywhere. It can seem random if you are not a reader of contemporary poetry and/or do not have an MFA in English. But I finally recognized the poem pattern and it dawned on me. Jerry was writing in joke lines. The early ones from the 70s were the simplest. The first sentence or phrase would be the set up. The second bit was an elaboration. And the third was the punchline.

This was the lesson for writers. Genius, right? He was showing instead of telling. I tried using Jerry’s method in the first few paragraphs of this post and then threw in a few more. Trying to be funny is exhausting.

“Show don’t tell” is another thing writing teachers say to new writers. It’s not always true, because sometimes you need to tell. Everyone knows how to tell. Showing is harder, and I tried to do that, too. But I’m no Jerry Seinfeld.

The first book in my new mystery series, Jane in St. Pete, is available now.  As a thank you for stopping by, I’m offering a free short story prequel


Photo by Thiago Matos on

I read the new book written by Melania Trump’s former best friend this weekend. I have not read any of the books about DT; a new one seems to come out every week. I read enough of his tweets and listen to him speak and have got the measure of the man. He’s thin-skinned and can be quite cruel. He knows no boundaries and nothing about his job.

But Melania…she’s mysterious. And those cheekbones! You can look at her forever. Unless you are her former best friend. I decided to read it after seeing the author on Rachel Maddow’s show Friday. She was really upset and flustered, crying and so on and I couldn’t make out exactly why she was behaving that way on a book tour. So out of curiosity, I bought the book and read it.

Was a definite slog through the first half to three-quarters. This friend was in charge of the inaugural ball right down to pulling a top designer for Melania’s dress and then she stayed on to help Melania transition. She decorated the offices in the East Wing, wrote Melania’s speeches, and all this without pay. At first she had a title and a paycheck, but the West Wing left her department so little money, she gave her paycheck to another person she brought on to help with Melania’s “Be Best” initiative.

I’d wondered about “Be Best” and sure enough author/friend tried to get Melania to use “the” but no, Melania doesn’t let anyone to tell her what to do, so Be Best stands. Up to this point that’s about all I know about Melania except she likes emojis and is a devoted mom. I almost stopped reading several times as all the minutia of the inaugural and assistant to First Lady duties didn’t interest me.

I’ll be honest. I was looking for dirt on Melania. I just can’t dislike her despite that gold digger title she’s been tagged with. It’s extremely difficult to support yourself as a woman alone unless you’ve had a whole lot of support (like a stable home and an excellent college) from your family. Even beautiful women without a man will not be safe. Along the way, most single women will experience some form of workplace harassment. Just because they’re single. So to me Melania was only doing what women have done though the ages. She paired up with a strong man who could protect her.

It shouldn’t be this way but it is. So I had never disliked Melania because she married DT. She’s so private, though. Ask any writer. They want to know more. What makes Melania tick? According to her former best friend, Melania is a taker, not a giver. She gave plenty of examples but I was not convinced. It seemed to me this author has a grudge against the dysfunctional administration, and rightly so, as they tried to pin the massive inaugural budget on her. But she didn’t know where the money went. She was paid close to half a million, but they were saying she took many more millions.

Her gripe seems to be Melania didn’t stand up for her. The court cases are still pending so it’s all a bit murky. I came away from the book knowing Melania a little bit more, but through the eyes of a friend who felt betrayed. So you have to take that for what it is. The book humanized Melania. Showed what a good friend she could be, and showed that she had a mind of her own and didn’t really care what people thought of her. Which is good because so many people (including Ivanka) seem to hate her.

I wrote a short version of parts of this when I rated the book on Amazon (gave it 4 stars). I sometimes do review books on Amazon. I’ve never had a review turned down but this one got the thumbs down almost immediately. Yes, Amazon rejected my review! Even though I was a “verified purchaser.” I’m not upset. This kind of rejection, I can handle. I still can’t figure out, however, how you can write an objective book about politics without mentioning your own politics.

Not So Social Media

Last week, almost on a whim, I deactivated my Facebook account. I was just going to quit the one, but then they make it difficult to quit a personal page without also quitting the business page. I did a few things that are supposed to help you keep the business and toss the personal but nothing worked so I thought about it for two seconds and deleted both accounts.

The reasons for letting Facebook go are different for each of my pages. On the personal one, I left a goodbye note up for 24 hours and then when I saw people asking why I said “Trying to simplify my life.” Which is true. But also as much as I tried to block people who said plain crazy things, or horrible racist or homophobic things, it finally came down to people I care about very much saying these things. Not that I don’t think they have the right. Free speech, I get it. But every time someone I cared about wrote crap that was just so wrong it felt like a punch in the gut.

Getting punched in the gut on a daily basis is not fun. It’s only going to get worse as we ratchet up to 2020. I have plenty of friends who I agree to disagree with over politics and religion. We’ve had the conversations. It’s the more personal stuff, the plain hateful stuff, I can’t stomach. Also, some people are just a pain. Slightly annoying. So simplifying was a way to just get out of that town. It felt (and feels) great. But what about the business page?

I have had a lot of advice and help in my writing career that has served me well. One thing almost all the gurus say is You Must Have Social Media. You Must Have An Online Presence. Well, okay, but it doesn’t have to be Facebook. I still have Instagram. I had it BEFORE Facebook bought them. I still have Twitter and Pinterest and I have this blog. So I am still here, just not in that one crowded corner. On Twitter, I don’t hear from the haters. It’s like a little universe so it’s easy to stay in your own lane. Pinterest? I’m crap at that but maybe I’ll get better now. Bottom line: I don’t think my Facebook business page sold many books.

I’m not even on social media to sell books. I’m here because I am a writer who works alone all day and this is where I meet others who do the same strange thing I do. I meet lots of those people on Twitter and some of them from the Word Press thingy where you see a little capsule of every blog WP posts. I want to read more blogs. I miss my blog roll, where every morning I’d read blogs like they were my newspaper. Somehow reading other writer’s blogs got crowded out by all the other stuff. After I quit Facebook I realized I could go back to reading blogs. Just that simple!

Help for Falling Faces

coffee.meOne of the benefits of being pleasingly plump is having far fewer wrinkles than skinny girls our age. The saddest drawback to the fun of losing inches and gaining confidence is finding out that, wow, toes get wrinkled! I loved my plump little feet. Now I notice there are actual wrinkles at the tops of my toes. Really?? The indignity of it all!

Lisa and I talked about this. She said for her the arms were the worst. Oh, yeah, arms. I don’t go out in public without them covered. I looked over my wardrobe recently and thought “just donate every top without at least an elbow length arm to charity.” Well, that’s impossible as the people who design and sell clothes have not gotten the memo that we boomer women really would like a little variety here. Sure, tank tops and sleeveless dresses are perfect for summer, but not if you have to wear a sweater over everything just so your arms don’t show. On the plus side, Lisa says that the extra sag in the skin from fat loss does recede with time. Want all the Lisa Plan posts to date? Go here.

By far the most obvious of all the sags and bags and wrinkles is the falling face. I’ve seen this in so many friends, you lose weight, you  look ten years older. And yes, I’ve seen it and freaked about it in the self I formerly believed without vanity. Ha! I’ve always had wrinkles around my eyes. I smile way too much. They’ve gotten really deep. I’m talking trenches here. But I’m okay with them. They’ve always been my friends, those wrinkles. My forehead, ah, there’s always bangs. And those things on the sides of your face that make you look a little bit like a puppet, the ones from the nose to the mouth and then the second set from the mouth to chin, on either side of your face, those’ll be sagging  more too. Sad to say. Also, you know  how smokers, as they age, get the wrinkles around the mouth? Yeah, I haven’t smoked in 25 years but I can see those starting up too. Or I could until I stopped looking in the magnifying mirror.

Now here’s the good news. All kinds of help is available. I have not had Botox nor filler, neither facelift nor eye-lift. I have not had a lifestyle lift. Not that I think any of that is bad, but I don’t like the way fillers make movie stars look. You can always tell and they remind me a little bit of bunny rabbits when those folds plump out so obviously. I don’t want to inject myself with poison and I don’t want someone to cut my facial skin off, trim a few inches, and then sew it back on. It scares me. Even the lifestyle lift, which several friends have had done, sounds gruesome. I heard they take these big hooks and thread them through your skin and hook them over your ears! I don’t know if this is true or not, but rumors like that make me go “NO!!”

Serums are huge right now, but most of them contain Retin-A, which Lisa swears by, and I cannot use as my skin is too sensitive and it gives me a nasty rash. But Tera, my stylist, sells a natural product called Renique made of papaya and other enzymes that plumps the skin naturally. Because I’m sorry Oil of Olay but you just were not cutting it alone anymore. (I still use this cream on my neck and face for sunblock safety and who knows, maybe it helps the falling face a little bit too). Tera is awesome. She fixes my hair really cute too. Having a good cut and color does wonders for your face. If I had the nerve, I’d post before and after Tera pix. Oh hell, I’ll do it.

Before Tera


After Tera

And that after Tera was before I started using Renique. Let’s see if I can get a close up of what the old face looks like right now.

After Renique

I know. I feel bad about my neck, too. But I see a real difference around my eyes and those whatever they are lines around the cheeks like some kind of strange parenthesis. Whatcha gonna do? Well, there’s not much I’m willing to do. But I’ll do a few little things, just to make this fun and so people won’t ask me if I’m sick. That has happened to more than one friend of mine as they lose weight. I may not look so young anymore, but I still look healthy, and that’s really what weight loss is all about. Want to see what Tera’s place is all about? She owns Absolute Salon and Day Spa and they’ve got a website!

Love After Love

tim.moon Super moon shook up some worlds this weekend, and I have yet to catch up with all the changes in my own little universe. This is, for example, my first post from my new boyfriend, Mac. I thought I could hold on to Dell a little bit longer as a back up, but he refuses to play second best and just sort of died on me. Also, no mouse!  

So here I am without Dell, without a printer, without a map or a mouse. Just the shards of a super moon blow up in my online world. Yeah, high class problems, not that I have much …except for that one I’m teaching tomorrow. We read a poem the first day that resonated with a lot of students. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Derek Wolcott celebrates something every person who has ever been on a diet needs to learn: self love.

Love After Love

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each smile at the other’s welcome

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self,

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you have ignored for another,

who knows you by heart…

Sit. Feast on your life.