Friday, December 24, 2010

Blogosphere 2

I haven’t posted a new blog entry in a while because I’ve been participating in online interviews. This is one of my favorites. It ran without the pictures, so I’m including them here.

On When Life Throws You Lemons...Make Cranberry Juice!
Q: Can you tell us why you wrote your book?
At some point during my nine-month hospital stay, I decided to write a book about my experience.

In the hospital, with nothing but my mind for company, I thought about how I would write a book. The rehabilitation center I was at specialized in brain injuries, and it was suggested to me that I write stories about the twelve patients staying there with me. My speech and physical writing skills were coming along very slowly at the time, so I wasn't up for conducting interviews.

I came home at the end of March 2007. I wasn't walking, driving, or working. Going to outpatient therapy kept me busy during the day. My kids kept me busy at night.

Writing the book started with long emails that I wrote to friends in the middle of the night. I had always been able to express my feelings better through writing than through talking--and express them I did!

By January 2009, I had read the entire Harry Potter series twice and I was ready to go back to work. I started going to an Adaptive Physical Education class at my college, helping in labs, and giving guest lectures. The busier I got, the more I did! I realized my experiences may be valuable enough to share. Those emails I wrote to friends in the middle of the night were a start. I divided my thoughts into "chapters" and got started. Once I had enough, I looked for a publisher. Publish America called me to tell me they accepted my story for publication at the beginning of 2009. Once I had a publisher (and a deadline), I set daily writing goals for myself. I went through my medical records (a two-foot high stack) and legal records for dates and names of medical procedures. I also interviewed friends to get parts of my story that I wasn't "there" for.

I finished the book in June of 2009, and it was published in October 2009.

Q: Which part of the book was the hardest to write?
The hardest parts to write were the parts of my story that happened without me there. You might have expected me to say that re-hashing the emotional parts was the hardest, but that was truly therapeutic for me. Getting my friends and family to share their emotions was tougher. They always seemed so happy when they visited me in the hospital--it didn’t occur to me that they were acting!

Q: Does your book have an underlying message that readers should know about?
Absolutely! Work hard, and don’t accept failure as an ending.

On Writing
Q: Do you remember when the writing bug hit?
I had toyed with the idea of writing a novel a few years earlier: a murder mystery set at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. It was going to incorporate a lot of scientific evidence, presented in a way that was fun, and even a bit chilling.

Q: What’s the most frustrating thing about becoming a published author and what’s the most rewarding?
The frustrating part is that I don’t promote it enough. The most rewarding part is yet to come!

Q: Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share?
Nobody likes to look at a blank screen. If you don’t know where to star--start in the middle! Start with a free-flow of ideas, and work it into sentences later.

On Family and Home:
Q:  Would you like to tell us about your home life?  Where you live?  Family?  Pets?
I live near San Francisco with my two kids and my two dogs. The photo at left shows what happens at my house when we’re painting the bathroom! We were never very conventional: I once brought my kids and one of their friends to a beach to harvest whale bones (with permission). After climbing down the mountain to the beach, I realized it was a nude beach. Lesson #: never turn your back on the…ocean!

Q: Where’s your favorite place to write at home? 
I have a computer downstairs at the dining room table and another in my bedroom. I love writing on my Ipod touch though. I can write my blog entries anywhere.

Q: What do you do to get away from it all?
I go to karate class 2-3 nights per week. In fact, I just got my blackbelt! Again--not conventional!

On Childhood:
Q: Were you the kind of child who always had a book in her/his hand?
I’ve wanted to be a marine biologist since I was seven years old. What every nice Jewish girl from Milwaukee strives for! I did not grow up wanting to be a writer, but I certainly enjoy writing now.

Q: Can you remember your favorite book?
I never really had a favorite book. Now, I read self-help/family issue books, or trashy novels!

On Book Promotion:
Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promoting your book?
I made a Facebook page, started writing a weekly blog, and held a book-signing. Ok, that’s three “first things.”

Q: Are you familiar with the social networks and do you actively participate?
I have nearly 1400 Facebook fans, so, yes, I actively participate. I also have a Twitter, which is updated automatically from Facebook.

Q: How do you think book promotion has changed over the years?
I’ve been told that books are “dead.” Everyone wants digital ebooks. I think people still want to see things in print...autographed books are still hot, although book promotion has changed to be mostly digital.

On Other Fun Stuff:
Q: If you had one wish, what would that be?
Only one? Isn’t it customary to have three wishes? My biggest dream for my book is to be on Ellen. Another is to meet Steve Young again. My kids don’t get it, because he’s “old” (sorry, Steve), but he’ll always be my favorite celebrity!

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world other than where you are right now, where would that place be?
Alaska, watching whales.

Q: Your book has just been awarded a Pulitzer.  Who would you thank?
Really? Cool! Thank you Lily Gordon, a Pacifica High School student who edited the book for me. Thank you Abby and Andy for being wonderful children who made it possible for me to get my life back enough to write this book. Thank you, Mom. Your encouragement to follow my dreams (including chasing whales and Steve Young) is embedded in my heart.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Happy Chanukah!
For this week’s blog, I’m sharing the prologue from my book, When Life Throws You Lemons...Make Cranberry Juice!
“That’s a big tumor, Shari,” echoed through my head as I packed for my short stay in the hospital.  The doctors told me that, even though it was large, the removal of this benign brain tumor (an acoustic neuroma) was something they did all the time, and that I had an excellent prognosis.  They said I should spend five to ten days in the hospital, recover at home for another three to four weeks, and I should not have major lasting effects.  I ended up spending nine months in the hospital and my body and face will never look or feel like it did before the surgery.

I went into this experience with the hope of a happy, healthy future, and I truly believed that I was embarking on an adventure. I knew it wouldn’t be fun, but everyone I talked to reiterated what I had heard from the doctors. This was a benign, operable brain tumor, I was in excellent hands, and I was going to be fine. I am not fine. I am and will forever be a work in progress.

Whenever someone is going through a tough time, people grasp for the “right” words. Some tell you to put your faith in God; others tell you to see the glass as half-full.
 “Think positive!”
“It could be worse!”
“What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”
“God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.”
And of course: “When life throws you lemons, make lemonade”.

Sure, I could put a positive spin on this.  The left side of my face doesn’t move—I’ll never need botox. Plus, since my face doesn’t show expression, I’m a really good liar. I would be great at poker!

If playing poker for a living fit into my goals at all, then there’s my lemonade. Since it doesn’t, I’m stuck with trying to make lemonade out of lemons. How do I make lemonade from lemons? If I squeezed lemons into a glass, I’d have lemon juice. Who wants to drink straight lemon juice? At the very least, I need to add sugar. So, I need to take life’s lemons and add life’s sugar to it.

My favorite drink is cranberry juice mixed with lemonade. When life throws you lemons, make cranberry juice! Take life’s lemons, and add some sugar and cranberries. But where can you find life’s cranberries? While my lemons had always been large, sour, and smacking me in the face, my cranberries had always been small and elusive. I really had to pay attention to find my cranberries, and I had to be willing to recognize them. My cranberries ranged from a rub on my shoulder to a friend installing my dishwasher.

Clich├ęs give words to the wordless; these words try to minimize pain and suffering. No matter how big or small, everyone is entitled to be upset when bad things happen in their life. Putting a positive spin on life’s disasters doesn’t always work. This book is not about making lemonade out of lemons, but looking for and finding sugar and sweet cranberries to add to the lemons. Finding, and accepting, life’s cranberries makes the journey much more palatable.

If you'd like to purchase an autographed copy, please visit my web site at