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Monday, August 24, 2009

Theater under the Trees at Woodstock Fringe

A Festival of Theater & Song

Byrdcliffe Theater in Woodstock, NY

You don't know this, but my husband is always getting tickets for concerts of every kind. Most of the time we go, though we don't know the artist or artists. Most of the time the performance is much better than I thought it would be. But this time he bought a pass for a number of unusual sounding performances in Woodstock, called Woodstock Fringe, which is almost two hours away from us. I thought the pass was free, but it turned out to be $75. If I had known it had cost that much when he told us about the shows I might have had a different attitude when we left. He didn't tell me the price until I found it out when we got there.

"I thought it was free," I said as I read $75 on the pass.

"No, what I meant was that you buy one pass and get into all the performances like they were free."

Now "like they were free" and free are worlds apart, but I'm happy to report that in this case it was a bargain! We arrived for the 2PM show about a half hour early. So we picnicked in our car on ready made salads gotten at a local supermarket. The drive up to the theater reminded me of going to camp. It was a long, winding and narrow road designated by a jaunty "Ahoy" banner at the turnoff to the theater. But the anticipation is worth it.

The Byrdcliffe Theater located on Upper Byrdcliffe Road in Woodstock, NY appears at the top of the hill. Made entirely of wood, the theater is as tall as the trees. You feel immediately welcome from the no-frills architecture and the friendly service from the ticket people. All we had to do was show our passes and we received a ticket for each performance. The lobby has a giant mural showing scenes from two operas. In the back there is an exhibit showing the history of Woodstock in pictures. Before and after the performances and during intermissions coffee, soda, and water as well as three kinds of cookies including peanut butter, chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin are available for the low price of a dollar for each for two cookies.

The actual theater has both floor seating with raised stadium type seats of the folding kind, and a balcony with outside stairway. We chose to sit close and believe me you are very close to the stage no matter where you sit on the floor. The stadium type seating allows for an almost unobstructed view, which is rare in any theater setting.:) Also, the acoustics are excellent. I wasn't sure if the performers wore microphones or not. The stage is very close and sets are sparse, but the stagecraft is evident. Most importantly the seats are comfortable.

This is an Actors Equity Theater, which means that they only employ people who are in Actors Equity Association. The productions are polished and not much different from seeing a performance in an off Broadway theater. I was very pleasantly surprised when we saw the first play, "The Night the Cardiff Giant Sang Rossini on the Lawn" by Charles R. Traeger. As soon as I saw Norman Marshall in a top hat and tailcoat step up in front of us and tap his cane on the floor after pointing to an image behind him I knew this wouldn't be an ordinary play. As a matter of fact, it wasn't and my husband and I both enjoyed ourselves very much. The acting is so good you almost believe that you are watching real people in real situations. Yet after the performance the actors are extremely accessible and come out and mingle with the audience. There is a refreshing lack of pretense here as performers and audience mix everywhere.:) It reminded me a lot of the kind of experience we get when we got to folk festivals.

But in the end a theater is only as good as its actors and performances. The Byrdcliffe Theater excels in both categories. The best part about Woodstock Fringe performances is that you can go to as many as you want if you have a pass. So the next performance we saw was "Out of the Box" with Bob Berky. Also it was written and performed by him as well. He is a mime, but his comedy is broad and pure American. He came out playing a kazoo and didn't stop playing it for the whole time he was on stage. He communicated with the kazoo and directed people as well using kazoo toots. He used everything from plungers to ballet skirts in his act.:) At the end of the performance he got two people onstage and directed them to do things with only his hands and kazoo toots.:) It was really kind of amazing to see it. He did juggling and mime too. One thing he did was to mimic one of those strongmen lifting a very heavy weight. His body control was terrific! The audience laughed at everything and the place was pretty much full making for a very enjoyable audience experience too.:)

After the performance he came off the stage, which is not very raised, and walked toward the audience. Bob Berky thanked he audience in a kind of speaking encore and then left with a flourish.

We had an hour to wait for the next thing, which was called, "Evenings of Music, Humor & Wisdom". I got into an interesting discussion of my favorite subject, how testing is ruining teaching, with another teacher and a gentleman I didn't know. He seemed really interested in speaking about the subject too. So I just thought he was an audience member. I was surprised to see him introduced from the audience by the moderator of the show as someone who had invented a very unusual musical instrument.:) Do you see what I mean? You could never know if the person with whom you had struck up a conversation was involved in the group or not.

The last performance which was more of a panel discussion, began with the moderator and creator of the idea, Joe Raiola, who told us a very sad story of how almost all of his appliances began to break and his disappointment with the various places with which he dealt. I kept laughing, because as he mentioned a situation I had been there and done that.:) I began to see that my life is really fodder for comedy. I should just feed everything that happens to me into a comedian's mind and see what happens.:) But seriously, this poor guy had every appliance from washer, dryer, dishwasher, etc. have a problem and had to wait for the repair guy to come. The worst was when his computer, not a Mac, broke and he had to call India to speak with one of the tech guys there. I have also been in that situation. :)

Then the actress/comedian, Denny Dillon, was introduced and she still looks so cute with her short cropped blonde hair and that voice. If you remember she was on "Saturday Night Live" and also on "Dream On" with Brian Ben Ben. She just finished doing "The Prisoner of Second Avenue"at the Berkshire Theater. She still has that sweet baby voice and is just delightful both onstage and off. Denny Dillon was in "United 93", which I didn't see and which she said she didn't see either.:) But she is also an artist and has an opening scheduled for her artwork. She has a gallery in Stone Ridge, NY, where she lives now, called The Drawing Room. If you are anywhere near there try to go just to meet her. I always liked her on TV and she doesn't disappoint in person. I told her I was going to put something about her in my blog so I hope she will read it.:)

Marshall Crenshaw was the next performer and he played his guitar and sang his way onto the stage. I think this is the reason my husband got the passes in the first place.:) It was interesting to see a performer in such a setting, because unlike on TV he sat there and was able to comment on everything that was said after he was interviewed as was Denny Dillon. They both sat on a comfortable sofa and it was more like eavesdropping on a group in someone's home than a stage panel.

The last person to join the panel was Stephen Rechtschaffen, the head of the Omega Institute, which is a huge complex devoted to wellness and meditation. After a fairly relaxed and non-serious beginning the panel discussion veered into health insurance reform and it seemed that everyone in the audience had the same feelings. Everyone wants single payer health insurance and Stephen R. discussed how our country is so far behind in almost every area of health care.
He discussed the beginning of the Omega Institute and then talked about prevention as a major part of health care. To the credit of the moderator, the discussion managed to stay on an even keel and Marshall Crenshaw told us that he has to pay for his health insurance though he gets it from the Musician's Union. Denny Dillon also said that she gets hers from Actor's Equity. The whole panel agreed that there needed to be reform in health care and then Marshall Crenshaw sang another song, the host thanked everyone and the panel was over.

Afterward we were able to meet the performers and that was a real treat. We were both exhausted and hungry when we got back into our car for the drive home. But we certainly got our money's worth. We saw three performances that were very different and held our interest and were there from 2PM to 9PM. Now that's what I call a bargain.:) Next time we will find a place close by to stay so we won't have to drive home in the dark.

The performances are running through September 6th. If you are in the New York City area or you are near Albany, it's easy to get there. This is a rare experience that has been happening in Woodstock for years. It was our first time there, but I know it won't be our last. We are planning to go back for the readings.:) I just hope it stays dry, because the rain was the only problem we had.

Until the next time, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought of this post. Also, thank you to my new readers and of course to the readers who have been following me for awhile.

I will be talking a lot about my upcoming show for Red River Writers on Blog Talk Radio. It is called "Tales from the Pages" and I will be interviewing writers who have published short stories and articles. I will also be interviewing publishers of magazines and ezines. In addition, I will be reading from my own adult stories. When will this be on Blog Talk Radio? Tune in on the 4th Thursday of every month. We will be debuting on Thursday, September 24th. The first show is going to be one hour earlier due to my needing to go see So You Think You Can Dance Live in New Jersey.:) See what I mean about my life? It never rains but pours.:) We got the tickets months ago when the show ended and they went on sale.

Who thought at the beginning of the summer that I would be hosting my own radio show? Please mark your calendars so you can hear my voice.:) First show: 2PM Central, 3PM Eastern. All the rest of the shows will start at 3PM Central, 4PM Eastern. If you want to be on the show, you should have either short stories or articles published somewhere either in print or online. Send me a message on the Blog Talk Radio page. I have a lot of possible guests who want to be on the show and the first show is already set. But please, let me know. You may have to wait awhile. There is a lot of interest by short story writers, who rarely get recognized. That is the whole idea of this show, to give attention to authors who are not book writers. I'm very excited about it!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Prediction for the Health Care Reform Bill and More Julia Child Love!

An Uncanny Resemblance

First of all there is a winner for the free book, Simply Irresistible by Jennifer Banash.

It is: Penny Ehrenkranz!!!!

I want to thank Penny for commenting on almost every interview post and your free book will be sent to you as soon as I let Jennifer know about it. Enjoy!!!

The second thing I want to talk about is a comment my husband made to me and told me to put it on my blog. It's actually a political prediction and concerns the health care reform bill. Seriously, I wasn't even writing my blog post, but something came on the news about the health care reform situation and my daughter and he had a discussion about what would be the ultimate end. So then my husband said that he knew exactly how it was going to turn out and I should write about it here. Let me tell you that this is a definite first for him. He does read my blog, which surprised me, but I'm also thrilled that he does. But this is the first time he has ever given me anything to put on it.

I should give you a little background on my husband, because you might not understand why this is significant for me. He was a history major in college, though he wound up becoming an attorney instead.:) He should have been a history professor, because he spends his day finding information and then teaching it to us.:) His greatest happiness is when he can tell us something new that he just learned. If you ask him a question he has the answer most of the time and he is able to tell you the history of almost every major American and European event. He has always been my go-to guy for trivia too. He knows the most trivial facts about musicians and sports figures. But his major attention has always been politics and government. He can cut between the bullsh-t and get to the truth, and he reads magazines like Mother Jones and The Progressive for fun. He can do the Times crossword puzzle in an hour or so and does all of the puzzles on the page. (Hal, if you're reading this, I hope that you are at least blushing a little:))

So this is his prediction. He bases it on the time when the Knicks needed a boost to win the championship and Willis Reed, who had a serious leg injury, dragged himself onto the floor so he could be there as their center and scored the first four points. It boosted the spirits of the Knicks and they won the championship from his inspiration.

He thinks that the health care reform bill is going to come to a vote and it will need one more vote to pass. Then at the last minute Ted Kennedy like Willis Reed will take himself out of his sick bed, force himself to come to the Senate just to vote and the bill will pass.

Can you imagine that scene? If he walks by himself there will be the handshakes and the back pats of his colleagues. The attention will bring out all of the media for this event and they will crowd the Congressional corridor as he arrives. But if he has to be wheeled in that will cause even more sympathy and of course the media will jump on that too. Either way he wins and the bill passes. This can happen without a single Republican vote!

So, we'll see. If it happens remember where you read about it first. I don't think any of the other blogs have this at all. Remember, my husband could be a pundit on TV. In fact, he probably knows as much as any of them. We keep telling him to start his own show, because it would be so awesome. So store this away and when it happens think Hal predicted this. I read about it on Barbara's Meanderings. Cool!! Let's see if he's right.*(See Note)

Julia Child Love

Talking about history, last weekend we went to see "Julie and Julia", which was such a good film! I had seen the original Julia Child cooking shows, The French Chef, when we lived in Buffalo in the early '70s. Her exuberance made me want to cook and I wound up getting Mastering the Art of French Cooking for a gift. So I started cooking for my friends and gave these elaborate dinner parties. It took me hours to get a dinner prepared and I had my share of disasters. Most of the time, though, my dinner guests loved the food and I was encouraged to continue.

There was one time when I thought my dinner would be ruined when our Newfoundland puppy, Lady Balzac, who was very large, got up on her hind legs and almost reached my main dish which had taken me three hours to cook. I reached it just in time to push it away from her, but my guests had seen the dog's tongue about to lick it. Yuck! Still they ate it, because she had never actually gotten her tongue near it. I might have had to cut it off!!! No seriously, I loved that dog and unfortunately she is not with us anymore. She was so sweet you couldn't be mad at her too long.:) I'll try to put some pictures of her here soon. You might remember my post about my second puppy, Flash on the blog post: The Last Poem A Day for Day 30 - April is Over.

Anyway, back to the cooking. When I had my children I stopped making elaborate dinners and my Julia Child cook book was just another one on my shelf for years. Then she wrote The Way to Cook and at a Book Fair on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan I found her in a booth and though I didn't have the book for her to sign she signed a piece of paper for me. I kept it safe and when I got home I pasted it onto the page of my book. I was so excited to have finally met her and she was so gracious to me. My little brush with culinary greatness!!!

The movie brought back all my excitement about cooking and made me want to try out some new recipes from the books. Since we saw the movie I have cooked at least five dishes from her books. I was so excited when I baked her french bread and it came out perfectly. All the pictures matched.:)

Then my older daughter, who can't resist a book she wants, got the paperback of My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme and she read it in a few days. I picked it up and immediately I was back in that dingy apartment in Buffalo listening to Julia Child instruct me on the proper way to bone a chicken, etc. Her voice is there from the first page. It is a delightful book about her adventures and her foray into cooking. I haven't finished it yet, but I look forward to reading it like I usually do for a novel. :) I can't wait to read more about her life. I mean we walk with her through the markets and shops of Paris in 1949. She describes her experiences as she delves into cooking. But what I like about this is her relationships and her honesty. She wrote this with her nephew and he gives her the leeway to be herself in this book.

Anyway, it's a great book, so if you see it you should pick it up and read it. If you are interested in history this is also a good way to see what was happening in America at that time as well as see what the French were like then too.:)

It even has made my older daughter, who never, ever cooks, think about learning to cook!!! I hope she does want to learn, because I'd love to teach her with Julia's book of course. :)

Time to stop, but please come back for this week's guest author interview, RD Larson, who has written some very interesting books including Evil Angel, her latest.

*Note: Last Thursday when I posted that prediction by my husband I had no idea that Senator Kennedy would pass away. I am deeply saddened by his passing and hope that the Democrats will be able to come together and pass the health care reform bill finally!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Simply Irresistible by Jennifer Banash - Reviewed

I'm posting this book review a little late, because I waited to see more comments for the interview with Jennifer Banash. So far there are only three people who commented. One of those lucky people is going to get a free book. After reading this book review you might be very sorry that you didn't post a comment. :) The drawing for the free book will be done tomorrow night. So anyone who decides to leave a comment you can still be in the drawing!!

Book Review for Simply Irresistible by Jennifer Banash

Opening the cover of Simply Irresistible is like opening a door and finding yourself in the middle of Manhattan’s upper East Side. The first character you meet, Madison MacCallister seems to be your typical spoiled prep school girl who has always been given everything she wanted. She doesn’t like to lose and is used to being the center of attention in every group in which she finds herself. But Madison or Mad as her close friends call her, finds her perfect life turned upside down when her mother suddenly takes up with a much younger guy. To add to the agony, Mad originally thought of him for herself. If you include the addition of Casey McCloy a girl from a small midwestern town who has moved into Madison’s upscale apartment house, The Bram, it is hard not to get sucked into this story.

Not having read the entire series I am not familiar with all of the characters, but reading this book made me want to learn more about each of them. As the story progresses each girl’s story is delineated and it’s hard not to feel sorry for some of them. Though they wear expensive designer clothing and shoes and go to extravagantly expensive parties and restaurants, it’s difficult for any of the characters except maybe Casey, to enjoy this. Their personal lives overshadow everything that they do; yet they seem to hold everything together in public.

Casey’s story is different, since she was forced to move to Manhattan to be with her Nanna, who lives in The Bram. But Casey has attracted the attention of Drew, Madison’s ex-boyfriend, and the secret heartthrob of every girl in her school. All Casey wants to do is fit in. Could she help it that a TV producer wanted to make a show with her and her so-called friends? Will she be able to hide this from her mom? Or will her mom find out and yank her out of Manhattan? What will happen with Drew? Will the girls ever accept her?

All of these questions are answered and more as the story progresses. Told in the point of view of each character, it feels like an expose of life as a teenager on the upper East Side. The story is woven through the lives of the girls and boys as they navigate the rocky terrain of teenage life with parents who are not great role models.

In conclusion, Simply Irresistible is simply irresistible. Once you start reading it you will find it hard to put down. The writing doesn’t disappoint, and that is one thing that makes me urge you to read this book. At last the editing is excellent and the sentences flow easily and smoothly. This is a book that will appeal to both girls and boys, since there is a large chunk in a male’s point of view and to women and men who are still young in heart. It’s fun to wander through the lives of these privileged people and it almost feels like eavesdropping during some of the dialogue. I am looking forward to reading the first two books and hoping that Jennifer Banash will write a fourth book in this series.

More in my next post. Thank you to my new readers and friends. It's always fun to meet new people.:) Catch me on Twitter: @barbehr.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

OMG What a Week! Postcard Friendship Friday Too!

Okay, this is definitely not a postcard, but you can download it yourself from the website and have your own Don Draper staring at you from your desktop like I do now. I'm considering it a postcard, because he's definitely saying hello with his eyes. :) This is one picture I could keep looking at every day.:) The only problem is since it's vintage there is a cigarette in his right hand. But that is a mere period detail. As I remember from my childhood and teenage years everyone smoked including myself. I wonder how anyone could breathe.

Speaking of smoking, there was such a cachet about it. Anyway, the first episode of the third season of Mad Men comes on next Sunday and I am so excited. If you haven't seen any of the first two seasons I would definitely buy the DVD and cram it all in before Sunday. This is such a great show that manages to convey the feelings and environment of the early '60s. It is like an Xray into the lives of the people I always thought had a great life.

I'll never forget when I was looking for a summer job after my freshman year in college I went to some of these ad agencies to get a job. The carpet was plush and the walls were wood paneled. The furniture was comfortable. The waiting room was better looking than any living room I'd ever seen.:) If only I could have lied better I might have gotten the job, but I could never say with a straight face that I wasn't going back to school in the fall. I spent a lot of hot days walking the Manhattan pavement in three inch heels and then I had to go home to Queens on a hot subway train filled with sweaty miserable workers. They didn't have air conditioned trains yet and let me tell you it was like being in a moving gym. Yuck. I gave up and took a job in a camp where there was fresh air and I could be out of the city.:)

Anyway, getting back to Mad Men, the guy in the picture, Don Draper, is my idea of a perfect postcard. So I present that to you.:) Sorry to the guys out there who would rather I had put the female character up there. I think you can find the curvy one, Joan, at the website too.:) Enjoy and don't forget to grab your own screen saver at the Mad Men website. Also while you're there you can make an avatar of yourself as you might look as a Mad Men character. Here is mine. Notice that I have a coffee mug instead of a cocktail glass in my hand. That is because I thought the background was going to be an office. It's hard to see what the background is when you're doing it. But I like that, because it makes me look so innocent and that's just what I was around that time. I was a pretty late bloomer.:)

I never had a dress like that and my hair wasn't blonde, but other than that not a bad look don't you think? I really like the pointy eyeglasses and the neat red handbag too.:)

Wasn't this quite a week? I mean So You Think You Can Dance finally had a winner and I did like Jeanine. I voted for Evan, because he's so adorable and he can't help his short legs and arms. Actually my own father had the same kind of body, but he wasn't a dancer.LOL So I'm very happy with the results and thrilled that we are going to be able to see the live show when it comes to our area. My daughter got us tickets and we were so lucky to get them early. By the time she was finished checking out, the tickets had gone up to twice the price. Who knows what they are now.:) We saw the live show last year and it was amazing, but our seats were far away. We're a little closer this year. We saw the show again tonight, because my other daughter had missed it. When we looked at Kayla dancing we all realized she wasn't dancing with the same crispness and we think that ( and this is purely our opinion so don't go spreading it around, PLEASE!!!!) she might have hurt herself. Just our opinion because she seemed to be having problems with her right leg. As I mentioned before, though, it's our opinion. But if it turns out to be true then you can say you read it here first.:)

The other thing that happened this week is John Hughes, filmmaker, died. I just went back to check on which movie came first and I saw that he did "National Lampoon's Vacation" first, which I saw in the movies and loved. He not only wrote the screenplay, but he did the soundtrack for it too! After this he wrote and directed "Sixteen Candles" and then "Mr. Mom" which he wrote but didn't direct. Then he followed this with probably the quintessential movie of the '80s, "Breakfast Club", another Lampoon movie, "Weird Science", "Pretty in Pink", which he wrote and produced but didn't direct, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" he wrote directed and produced, "Some Kind of Wonderful" he wrote and produced, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" which he wrote, produced, directed and wrote the soundtrack for. I could go on and on with the films John Hughes wrote and produced or wrote and directed or pretty much did the whole film, but he made too many films.:)

I always loved John Hughes films because he made his characters so human. They had such problems and they were usually regular people. Also he used actors who were relatively unknown at the time in many of his films. He used Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Andrew McCarthy, James Spader, Matthew Broderick, Jon Cryer (then a complete unknown) and the list goes on and on. Yet he also used well known actors such as Steve Martin and John Candy and comedians like Chevy Chase. Hughes always treated women with the utmost respect even if they were in uncomfortable situations. He also provided a romantic element in almost every film. Who can forget when Judd Nelson put the diamond earring into his ear. Now that's romance.:) Okay, I could probably watch all of these films over and over and not get tired of them. Oh wait, I have.:)

John Hughes has been a part of our lives and we haven't realized it. Many of the expressions that have crept into our vernacular come from John Hughes films. Even the expectations that kids have today were forged from watching John Hughes films. Who wouldn't want a boyfriend like Molly Ringwald's in "Sixteen Candles"? The kiss across the birthday cake is what everyone woman dreams of having with her significant other. Why aren't all men like John Hughes characters? Hughes celebrated the small town and the teens who seemed to disappear into the woodwork. Probably the most isolated character he ever wrote was Ally Sheedy's character in "The Breakfast Club". Yet he treated her with an elegance and understanding that allowed her true personality to come out. I haven't seen any blog posts on John Hughes yet, but I am calling him an American film genius.

This is also the week I am getting feedback on my latest chapter for my WIP from my critique group. So far I've only gotten one person's comments and I'm hoping by the end of the weekend that everyone will have commented. It took me such a long time to write this chapter so I'm really waiting for the comments. I don't usually feel that anxious about my chapters, but when you've been working on a chapter for over a month and then finally you get it written and you sub it you expect to see your critique. Our group usually gets around to posting our comments, but I wish everyone would be a little faster about it. :) We've discussed this problem and have no solution. We have a reminder for the group and it goes out in the middle of the week and at the end. Sometimes we have to wait for over two weeks to get comments and then it overlaps. But I love my group so I can wait to see all of their reactions. It's just such a let down when you were hoping for their thoughts.

Speaking of writing, how many of you have dropped by the blog post about Jennifer Banash? If you leave a comment or a question you can win a free book. I know some of you come and read and don't comment. This time you can win a great book just by commenting. What are you waiting for? It doesn't have to be long to be in the drawing. Just jot down something and your name will be in the hat when I do the drawing for Jennifer Banash's new book, Simply Irresistible. I will be reviewing it on Monday for anyone who couldn't get a copy. Thank you to the three people so far who are in the drawing because they wrote a comment. You are the lucky ones so far.

New things you should know about me are that I have an interview by RD Larson on her blog. Also, I am now discussing being a host on a Blog Talk Radio show with another author. More about this when we are ready to go on the air.:) I'm excited, because I love to talk as well as write and I'll be talking with authors of all kinds. I'm looking for people who have short stories and poetry published as well as authors who have published books. I am also going to be interviewing writers who are looking to be published. I might be letting people give their three sentence pitch on the air. This is all in the planning stage so stay tuned to see what's happening. This is all due to April Robins and Red River Writers without which I would not have been on the radio twice.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Meet Jennifer Banash - Our Guest Author!

Our guest author, Jennifer Banash, is finally here and I'm thrilled to present her to you.
First of all, she comes from my state and the city where I was born. Secondly, because I have read her book, Simply Irresistible, which is the third in the series and is probably the best YA novel I've read this year.:)

Here is a little bit about her before we start the interview:

Bio for Jennifer Banash

Jennifer Banash attended high school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and currently divides her time between Paris and Southern California—where she lives with her beagle, Sigmund, and her vast designer shoe collection.

She is the author of The Elite novels, published by Berkley Jam, and the novel Hollywoodland: An American Fairy Tale.
She is the author of the Young Adult series THE ELITE, which is published by Berkley Jam. THE ELITE, the first book in the series, was published June 08. The sequel IN TOO DEEP, is in stores now! The third installment, SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE, is now in stores and all online bookstores too. Email her at, and for review copies, please email her publicist Caitlin Brown at

Jennifer, welcome to Barbara's Meanderings and I am so happy that you could take the time out of your very busy schedule to visit with us. We'll begin our interview now.

Barbara: The Elite novels take place on Manhattan’s upper east side. How much of the characters’ lives are like your own life when you grew up there?

Jennifer: I knew some people whose lives were very much in the same ballpark as Mad, Phoebe, Sophie, and Drew. The Upper East Side is a strange place to attend high school, to say the least. Glamorous and exciting, for sure, but strange because your sense of reality is suspended when you're living in an environment like that, where money is no object, and rules are optional.

Barbara: I was only able to read the last book in the series, Simply Irresistible. When you wrote the first book did you have a series in mind or did this evolve as you kept writing the book?

Jennifer: The books were planned as a series from the very beginning, so I had an idea of where I wanted the story to ultimately end up from the first book to the third.

Barbara: Did you base the character of Casey McCloy on someone you knew? Or is she a combination of people and their characteristics?

Jennifer: Actually, she's not really based on anyone I know! She came straight from the quagmire of my brain. Her grandmother, Nanna, is 100% based on my own grandmother, who cracks me up on a daily basis.

Barbara: The character of Madison Macallister is the kind of person who is a typical “mean girl”. Did you ever know anyone like her?

Jennifer: Yes, I do. Madison is actually based on a number of people I've known over the years. She's a mean girl, but hopefully the reader can see why--she has a pretty tough home life.

Barbara: I see you use the present tense. So you are still friends with people like her. I've found in my own experience that everyone mellows over time. :) What I liked about her character was how much compassion I felt for her as the story continued.

Barbara: Most writers have someone who influenced them to either start or continue to write. Who was that person for you?

Jennifer: I'm weird, I guess, because I didn't have that "person." I just started writing on my own, because I had to. I think I would've gone nuts without that outlet in my life.

Barbara: What was the time frame from when you wrote your first novel to when it was published?

Jennifer: I wrote my first novel in 1999, and it was never published. It did help me get an agent though! My second novel, Hollywoodland, was finished in 2004, and published in 2006. The Elite was conceived in 2007, and published in 2008.

Barbara: Would you please share your writing process with our readers?

Jennifer: Ummm . . . basically I mess around on the Internet for about an hour, and then I sit in a chair and type until pages come out :) I have a rule that while I'm actively working on a book, I have to write 5 pages a day--no exceptions.

Barbara: What would a typical day be like for you?

Jennifer: If its summer, wake up, check all the gossip columns online, eat some toast. Write for 3 or 4 hours, then go to the beach. If its during the school year, I work all day teaching English at a private school, and only get my writing done at night, or on the weekends.

Barbara: Will there be a fourth book in the Elite series? Are you currently working on another book? When will it be published?

Jennifer: Not sure. If Simply Irresistible sells well enough, then yes. I'm working on a book loosely based on my days as a club kid in the 1980's in NYC called White Lines. My agent is sending out the proposal in September, so hopefully it will sell shortly after that, but in this economy, who knows?

Barbara: How important do you think it is for an author to have an agent? How did you find your agent?

Jennifer: VERY important. I didn't have an agent when I sold The Elite series, and brokered the deal myself, which is NOT advisable! I just switched agents and signed with Lisa Grubka at Foundry Literary & Media, and she's amazing.

Barbara: How do you feel about eBooks and the Kindle? Where do you think publishing will be in ten years?

Jennifer: Not sure how I feel about them. I love the feel of having an actual book in my hand, and turning pages, but I'm also secretly drawn to Kindle, and entertain the idea of breaking down and buying one every month or so.

Barbara: Who is your favorite character in the Elite series and why?

Jennifer: Probably Madison. She's just so much fun to write! And everyone wants to be the diva-bitch for one day in their lives . . . or longer!

Barbara: With the popularity of shows like “Gossip Girl” and the new “NYCPrep” your book adds more to the story of these privileged kids. Have you had any interest from movies or TV?

Jennifer: Yes, there have been some people interested in buying the rights to the series, but we'll just have to see what happens! Stay tuned for more info . . .

Barbara: Please let our readers know what events are planned for publicizing Simply Irresistible.

Jennifer: I'm doing a TV tour, and will hit Chicago and Saint Louis next. I'm also appearing at a book festival in Bar Harbor Maine with Carrie Jones, on the weekend of Spetember 12th.

Jennifer, thank you so much for spending some time here talking about your books and your writing. I know I have a lot more questions and I hope that if any readers have questions they will add a comment. I would love to give away a free book to the lucky winner. You can be a winner if you leave a comment. Anyone who comments has a chance to win.

By the way, our last winner, the writer of the blog: has not responded yet. If he doesn't respond by this week I will do another drawing. So if you want to win a free book for the last guest author's interview leave a comment or question for Penny Ehrenkranz and do it soon so you can win the free eBook.:) I also wanted everyone to know that the drawing is done very scientifically.:) I write your names on small pieces of paper, fold them up and then put them in a container. After shaking them I let my daughter, who couldn't care less who wins, pick the winner.

I'm hoping to see a lot of comments and questions here, and since Jennifer is such a celebrated author I may be giving away two copies free. You never know.:)

Until the next time, thank you to my new readers and of course to the readers who continue to read my meanderings.:) Next post I will be reviewing Simply Irresistible, by Jennifer Banash. If you can't wait, I believe it is available everywhere. With reviews in Seventeen, this book is going to go far. ( Just a taste of my review.:)) Also please go to Jennifer Banash's website to read more about her and her writing. You can get a preview with her new video about Simply Irresistible.
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