Revealing Questions About a Work in Progress
1. When did you realize that you had an overly inquisitive nature?
Like my storytelling, this acquired skill set began in a New York City elementary school. Summarizing current events was a weekly homework assignment: at the beginning of the week – international articles, by mid-week – national articles and by Friday articles of local interest. I not only learned how newspapers were constructed (news in the opening pages, sports and obituaries at the rear) but also developed the keen eye of a researcher by reading the fine print.
I’m not referring to the insanely complex contract clauses, but rather the small diversions, the fillers inserted at the bottom of a column. Yet, that didn’t satisfy my maturing curiosity. I delved deeper into a paper’s folds (usually the New York Times), reading the theatre and food reviews, scanning the sports section for reportage on my favorite team, the Yankees and never bypassed the detailed and graphic weather reports. Although the news might have been eye-opening, the weather was never raunchy. However, many times it was ribald. How could you not be turned on by national, regional and local weather maps: the barometric pressure, temperature, even the phases of the moon? Then there was the fun of the symbology:
Did you catch those mysterious glyphs (icons) on the chart? Don’t worry, after reading my blog and writings the weather will always be sunny.
Reading the obits opened my eyes to how people lived. Today, the NYT is not my go-to paper. The American version of the London Financial Times is. Not only for the beauty of the language but also the global, sophisticated, and complex thinking expressed by the writers.
2. Do you write every day?
I write something every day. Whether it is a series of elongated expostulatory emails, travel blogs, political action letters, or annual holiday season family and friends’ letters. Ever since the concept of pen pals was introduced to American students during the fifties, I have been a prolific letter writer. I continually gather my thoughts into the written word. Writing, like all art is a craft. However, writing a full-length nonfiction book entails not only the ability to tell a gripping story but also requires wordsmithery to accurately complete a puzzle.
3. What time of day do you write best?
By mid-morning, I am usually at my desk. By mid-afternoon, sunlight dominates my writing space. Over the past several years, I’ve been fortunate to escape to Key West, my writer’s haven.
Like most writers, I may be awakened mid-dream by a word, a line, a phrase, or a theory. Many thoughts have been captured and recorded in my bedside writing book, bought for me years ago by my friend Ilisa, when I began this journey. Today, I tap notes into my new iPhone (yes, I have come of age, giving up my trusty flip-top three years ago). Yet, all too many moments of clarity are often lost to ethereal dreamscapes.
4. How complex is the process of writing a book?
It has taken several years to perfect an understandable and logical shorthand which serves as a guide to various sections of the book. However, even with a well defined and regimented system I find myself leaping about in the jungle of words, pages, and chapters when conducting a search.
The tendency to employ cliched similes and metaphors is temptingly facile. I consciously steer clear of those traps, abbreviating the writing, to add strength and specificity to my words. My writing style mirrors strategies mastered playing Mah-Jongg, a controlled chaos composition driven by the perpetual interchangeability of words, sentences, and paragraphs.
5. Who are authors you admire and read and why?
I read daily for several hours. Beginning with my morning coffee I peruse the new postings of friends on Facebook, and leave my mark by making a comment or ‘like.’ After which I return to whatever nonfiction book I am reading at the time. Following the most recent neuroscientific research, morning hours are always best for intensified learning, especially for a senior brain. My interests span from Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time to the offbeat A Sideways Look at Time by Jay Griffiths or the even quirkier pair of books, Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s The Wave Watcher’s Companion and The Cloudspotters Guide, from The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart to the historical fiction of Dr. Leah Kaminsky in The Hollow Bones, et. al.
Like the obsessive Collyer brothers, I have an inexhaustible collection of backlogged magazines. By lunchtime, I attempt to slog through the hundred or so amassed copies of Time, Wired, Wine Enthusiast, Women’s Health and National Geographic.
My days are never boringly tiresome, as are some people. I usually approach bedtime ripe to view a good thriller on my oversized iPhone 8+’s blue screen. Not the most highly recommended activity to do when one is trying to succumb to sleep. Eventually, I tackle the handful of fiction authors who almost always offer a deliciously titillating read. Most recently I traipsed through the Burmese jungles and rivers to learn of an Erard piano that needed the lithe touch of a piano tuner. The Piano Tuner by Dr. Daniel Mason is a literary masterpiece. And for light fun romps, I recommend any one of the Key West writers or distinctive books listed on my website.
6. Have you suffered from the typical writer’s diseases: writer’s block, carpal tunnel syndrome, the sitting disease musculoskeletal disorders?
No. I have not resorted to the bottle, nor fallen into a self-imposed depression merely to play the role of a writer. However, I do enforce a self-imposed isolation (before the advent of the coronavirus’s appearance on our landscape) to assume that mantel. For a yenta (newsmonger), the silence can be a very cruel mistress.
Even though I attempt to maintain a rigid work, exercise and pleasure schedule, when I am in my adopted town of Key West, the summer of 2019 proved to be my undoing. I suffered first from what the orthopedist and I assumed was a trochanteric bursa. After months of false leads, the source of my physical disability was diagnosed. It was a mechanical defect in the ten-year-old replaced hip. I had encountered the “sitting-too-long-disease,” and needed a very complicated and painful revision surgery. The surgery although simplistic in description is not as easy as replacing a car tire.
The bane of every writer is not having the ability, the time and the energy to write. However, the infamous blank page cannot hold a candle to life’s little interruptions, and so once again, the writing process has been somewhat derailed.
7. Once FOAL is published what will be your next project?
I am concurrently working on what started life as a two-hander play. It has morphed into an expanded version, with an enriched historical background, allowing for the introduction and development of additional characters. Scriptwriting is not an unknown art to me. I have written and produced two musicals based on two classic children’s story books. In my writer’s morgue lay notes for several nonfiction essays, novels, short stories and children’s books.
8. Do you think the upcoming movie release will negatively impact the book’s publication?
No. The excitement generated by the movie’s debut has stimulated a positive spillover. The email and phone responses I have received from many of my followers has been non-stop:
“I really am looking forward to reading FOAL and believe that your passion and dedication to sharing an accurate depiction of the scandal will be evident in the book.”
“When’s the book going to be finished! Your loyal followers are clamoring for it!!!”
“Hi Judi, if the film is not a documentary then it’s just entertainment. So, I wouldn’t expect it to be close to the accurate accounts that we will be able to read in your book. There are so many details about what went on, that a film would have to be a week-long series. It is a great story that is unbelievable that it happened under so many noses. I can’t wait to see it in print. Keep doing what you do”
“Can I get an autographed copy?”
Rife with the salacious, as well as the mundane, the story begs a true telling.
The film, green lighted in the summer of 2018, quickly entered production after contracting with three outstanding character actors. In September 2019, it was picked up for distribution by HBO. The movie, a loosely satirical retelling of the events surrounding the largest theft in American Educational history, is “based on a true story.”
It is hyperbolic exaggeration which drives this Hollywoodized spoof. The movie will be up for an Oscar, February 28th, 2021. Hopefully, the notoriety of the movie will preserve your interest and lead you to read Fish on A Leash upon its publication sometime in the not too distant future. FOAL is not merely “based upon a true story,” it renders the facts empirically as they happened chronologically.
My response to the trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVffM3OZkH8
In the opening segment of the recently released trailer (late March 2020), Allison Janney who plays Pamela Gluckin (the former Assistant Superintendent of Business who was caught stealing) submits to the attribution of being a sociopath. A not so subtle and poor excuse for being a masterful con artist.
It resonates and imitates a musical number “Gee Officer Krupke!” from one of my all-time favorite movies, West Side Story. Presented below is a parody of the tune:
Dear kindly Superintendent
You gotta understand
It’s just my bringin’ up-ke
That got me outta hand.
Gee, President Costigan, I’m very upset;
I ain’t no delinquent
I’m just misunderstood
Deep down inside me there is good!
There is good! There is good, there is good!
[Administrators and Board]
Superintendent Frankie, you’re really a square;
This girl don’t need a judge, she needs an analyst’s care!
It’s just her neurosis that oughta be curbed
She’s psychologically disturbed!
I’m disturbed! I’m disturbed,
I’m the most disturbed
Like I’m psychologically disturbed.
I’m depraved on account I’m deprived.
Goodness gracious, that’s why I’m a mess!
[Administrators and Board]
Society’s played her a terrible trick
And sociologically she’s sick!
I am sick! I am sick, I am sick
I am sociologically sick!
I got a social disease!
I’m no good! I’m no good, I’m no good!
Gee, Board of Trustees
I’m down on my knees
‘Cause no one wants this gal, the Assistant Superintendent of Business, with a social disease.
And so, with a musical vibrancy reverberating, Pamela Gluckin got off virtually scot-free in the fall of 2002.
Coming Soon Part II The Mysteries of Writing Fish on a Leash
How I was cajoled and wangled into writing this bildungsroman about a Dickensian scholar, the Superintendent, and how he, like Gluckin, became morally and psychologically transformed. Depraved and deprived, they had a communal social disease!