Feb 25, 2011

Floating the Workshop Balloon

The past few weeks have seen a spontaneous flurry of emails asking when my next writing workshop will be held. So I thought I'd send out a feeler about doing one this spring and see if anyone is interested in a three-day Intro to Memoir workshop in Santa Monica, California, from May 13-15.

I use an eight-step program I developed to help bring writers from an idea to the first draft of a five-page piece in two and a half days. It's a good format for women who want to write about their mothers, though in the past students have come from all over the country to write about every personal topic imaginable. Writers of all levels of experience are welcome, including beginners.

We meet Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 6. Cost is typically $450, with breakfasts and Sunday dinner included. The venue is right across the street from the beach, and May is a beautiful month in SoCal. Also included in the price: handouts, unlimited coffee, and an hour with a guest speaker so you don't have to listen to just me for two and a half days straight.

Also in the zone of possible: the same workshop in Iowa City in early June.

If you're interested in either of the above, please email me at hopeedelman@gmail.com.

(This photo is from the Iowa City workshop in May of 2010, taken in my dining room. The giraffe in the far back corner is named Newman.)

Feb 21, 2011

Congratulations and thanks to Rosie O'Donnell. And wow!

Rosie O'Donnell, who lost her mother to cancer just before her 11th birthday and has been a longtime advocate for motherless daughters, will be getting her own talk show on Oprah's OWN network. In an interview reprinted in the Chicago Sun-Times she talks about learning about her mother's history for an episode of the NBC show "Who Do You Think You Are?"; starting a new talk show; and being a motherless daughter. She also gives a big and very generous shout-out for Motherless Daughters, and tells the story of how I tried to contact her more than 15 years ago when I was first writing the book.

I was a guest on Rosie's Sirius radio show about a year and a half ago, and she's incredibly warm and smart and plugged in to social issues. I think she's going to do a sensational job with her new TV show.

I'll reprint an excerpt from her interview below...although I'm always uncomfortable being self-promotional like this, I'm hoping it'll help some readers. And that's always the goal. You can read the whole interview with Rosie here.

You can also watch the episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" right here. She finds another motherless daughter in her family's history--and lots else.

From "Genealogy show helps Rosie O'Donnell face mother's death" Chicago Sun-Times, February 17, 2011

O’Donnell was only 10 when she lost her beloved mom to cancer.
“Nobody mentioned my mother after she died in 1973. It was like Lord Voldemort. You couldn’t say the name,” she says. “Nobody said ‘mom’ in that house or ‘mommy’ or ‘mother’ from 1973 on. I always wanted to know who she was and what she felt like, and to have her and see her through a woman’s eyes as opposed to a child looking up to their mom.”
O’Donnell says fans approach her all the time to talk about losing mothers to cancer.
“I think no matter what age, when you lose your mom it’s your mommy,” she says. “I remember my friend Jeannie lost a mom who was in her 70s and a grandmother in her 90s and when her grandmother died, she kept calling out, ‘Mommy, mommy.’
“The bottom line is that everybody has that kind of natural, base, primal wound connection, and if it’s severed it becomes a permanent wound,” she says. “My wound is the mother-child connection. But I did find out that when you do search for your lost parent’s past that it does help heal it a little bit.”
O’Donnell has other advice.
“I’ve found that the most helpful thing I could tell anyone to do who has lost their mother is to get the Hope Edelman book Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss,” she says. “When she wrote the book in ’95, she had written me and asked if I could do an interview. I remembered thinking it was going to be cue violin background music. You know, poor celebrities whose mothers have died when they were young. If I had known what that book was really going to be, I would have participated and I would have begun my healing so much earlier.”
The comedian says that as she ages, she also laments.
“It’s weird for me to be 49 years old, a decade more than she lived. I’m getting to things that she never did, like raising teenagers.
“In some ways, she’s lucky,” she jokes.
She sobers and adds, “I’m getting to experience it all, but I don’t have a mother to call and talk to about it.”

Feb 18, 2011

Love Song for Snow

So this afternoon I brought the eighth-grader home from school, and an hour later turned around to bring her to a friend's house for the night. Except during that hour between getting home and needing to leave, the storm at the top of the hill had morphed from steady-but-manageable-rain to crazy-downpour-from-the-apocalypse-complete-with-perfectly-sideways-blowing-wind.

Still, what can you do? The kid's got to get down the hill.

I opened the front door and braced myself against the wind. "Ready to make a run for it?" I asked.

If eye-rolling could make a sound, there would have been a deafening one at our front door right then.

I sprinted full speed toward the car. Maya walked.

"What you think is bad I think is just rain," she said as she got into the car. "And you're from New York! And you lived in Iowa!"

Damned individuation process. If an obvious example of a mother's stupidity doesn't immediately present itself, you can always count on a thirteen-year-old daughter to create one.

"This is cold rain," I said. "New York and Iowa didn't have cold rain. You got warm rain or you got snow. At least with snow you had something good to show for it in the end. Here, we just get leaking windows."

Right. I know. I romanticize. And all of you on the East Coast and in the Midwest are probably thinking, "Yeah, yeah, Calfornia girl. Show me one good thing about snow this winter." But what can I say? I like snow. Even when I had to live with it all winter I liked it. I grew up in New York, went to college in Chicago, and did graduate school in Iowa. When you've grown up in those states, winter isn't winter without snow. Some of my best memories from childhood involve waking up in the morning to find a thick blanket of snow covering the neighborhood, and running to the crackly transistor radio in the kitchen to learn that we were having a snow day. And some of my best adolescent memories involve Ski Club nights where my hands and feet and nose were so cold as the ski lift raised us into the black sky, with the mountain gleaming spotlight-white beneath us, and the bone-cracking cold went so deep it skewed all perspective, so that by the time you got to the top you'd be wondering if it would be possible to ever feel sufficiently warm again.

This is the first winter in ... actually, I think the first winter ever where I won't see snow. Unless you count whatever was still left on the ground in Washington, DC, earlier this month when I was there for a conference and saw glimpses of it speeding by through the window of a cab to and from Dulles. Normally this is the weekend, over President's Day, when we might take the girls to see snow or even, in a particularly good financial year, go skiing for two days. But I'm working triple time this winter, and we just returned in mid-January from the three-week Monster Trip of the Decade to Israel and Rome, so we won't be going anywhere for a good, long time.

So, snow. I miss you hugely. I miss the way you used to turn brownstone steps into shapeless mounds in New York. I miss the way you required us to crank up the forced steam heat in old Chicago apartment buildings and how the radiators used to hiss and clank all day.

Ice, I even miss you, and the way you encase tree branches in Iowa like elongated crystal fingers. I loved the way you made me stay inside for a whole day (or three) emerging only to gingerly pick my way down the center of the street to get a carton of milk at the corner market because the roads weren't safe to drive.

Of course, back then I was single and rarely had any place I absolutely had to go. And certainly nobody who was depending on me for transportation. Now I have a floor of 43 degrees in February, rain that nonetheless feels too cold, and a mad dash to the car while a thirteen-year-old rolls her eyes.

She's right. It's just rain. Not snow. Just rain. And 43 isn't cold, unless you're naked. Or coffee.

California: you're making a wimp out of me.

Feb 16, 2011

The Making of Motherless Daughters

There's a really nice, very short clip over at Vimeo from the documentary-in-progress The Club about motherless women--the filmmakers did this interview with me about a year ago, talking about how I found the very first women I interviewed for the book. (Back in the pre-internet era.) They came to my house in LA and we had a beautiful afternoon together. Their hearts are 100 percent in the right place. Filmmakers contact me all the time about making a documentary about motherless daughters, but Carlye and Katie have gotten further along than any of them. Here's hoping they make it all the way to distribution!

I can't for the life of me figure out how to save this video to my hard drive and embed it, so I'll provide the link right here.

If you're interested in the documentary The Club, you can read more about it and see a trailer featuring Rosie O'Donnell here or join The Club's Facebook group.

Congratulations Katie and Carlye! You're doing beautiful work.

A Day at Disneyland

When you take five kids to Disneyland for your nine-year-old’s birthday and almost pass out when you see what admission costs for six people; when you watch families from all over the U.S. walking around with those thick-ribbon necklaces covered with character pins they purchased one by one, knowing this might be the only vacation they can take all year; when you see the trash bins (ironically labeled “Waste Please”) overflowing with paper goods and plastic bottles by 3 p.m.; and try to talk the nine-year-olds out of every sugar-laden treat on display that of course they all immediately want; and stand on line with 200 people for a ride that will last four minutes; and then walk to the next line and do it all over again--it’s frighteningly easy to start believing that you’re the only one here who notices or cares about all this excess, who realizes that the money being spent here in one day could probably solve a small nation’s hunger for a week, and it’s all too simple to start feeling smugly superior to everyone around you. And then you see a middle-aged mother and father dressed like Hell’s Angels, pushing a wheelchair with a severely disabled child in it who’s dressed in a Cinderella gown, and you realize, very humbly, that you don’t know anything about anything at all.

Feb 15, 2011

Along the Way

Lately a lot of people have been asking what I’m up to, and why they haven’t heard from me for a while, and why I haven’t blogged in a long time, and what I’m working on next. Excellent questions, friends. There's one answer to all four questions. My next project is one I'm very excited about. It’s helping Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez write their father-son memoir about family, fatherhood, and faith, set against the backdrops of Hollywood and northern Spain. At the moment it's titled Along the Way. You can read a brief article about the book here.

Most of you probably know Martin Sheen from Apocalypse Now and The West Wing (among other films) and Emilio Estevez from The Breakfast Club and The Mighty Ducks trilogy(among other films, including Bobby, which he wrote and directed). They’ve recently made a new film together called The Way which was filmed along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain.

As soon as you have a chance to see this movie, run—do not walk!—to the theater. It’s the story of a father who scatters his estranged son’s ashes along the Camino after his son dies on his first day trekking. If that sounds like a downer it’s really not, because it’s also about the odd assortment of people he befriends how he walks and how they change his life. The story is absolutely inspiring and the cinematography is absolutely stunning. You’ll want to book a ticket to northern Spain and hit the path by the time it’s done.

And that’s all I’m saying until the book comes out.

Father’s Day 2012. Or sooner. I’m planning to write like the wind.

Happy February to all,