Thursday, July 27, 2006


OK, so this isn't THE book that you guys have been bugging me to post, but this is a fictionalized account of what happened after I wrote the book. This is basically the nascent form of my second "novel," which upon opening again for the first time today I realized is 400 pages long. So I think I'm going to edit it and then post it as I go along. I'm not even going to try to publish this time, so I figured what the hell...Also, this is kind of a no-holds-barred look at the publishing/agenting process, so it may even be helpful in showing people what pratfalls to avoid.

This is a work of fiction, but nearly everything in it is true. This is a work of fiction because the truth is too painful, too revealing, too dangerous and too personal. This is a work of fiction, because the truth is stranger than. This is the very real yet heavily edited story of my life and how I managed to survive the most trying year of it.

Chapter 1
My life has always crumbled around my birthday and my 30th was shaping up to be no exception. In the week leading up to the big 3-0, I’d had my heart shattered by the first man I’d met in more than five years who’d given me butterflies; I’d been dumped by my supposedly stellar literary agent; and pushed out of the only steady editorial job I’d managed to hang onto since my entrĂ©e into the Manhattan media. What a wonderful world. But then I was off to Bermuda for a week with my family, in an attempt to forget my utterly disappointing life in New York. For seven days, sitting on a beach, perhaps I’d be able to push to the back of my mind the fact that I was single, unemployed, broke, notorious, a failed author with no hope and even fewer prospects. But hey, at least I was looking better than I ever had—a small but important consolation for a single 30-year-old woman. Hard to fathom, but last year at the same exact moment, the outlook had been bleaker still.
One year prior, on the eve of my 29th birthday—an easy one in retrospect to turning 30—my brother and best friend practically had to drag me from my apartment to “celebrate.” Because, in the week leading up to that birthday, my career, hopes and emotions had been on one hell of a roller coaster ride. In that one week, I’d gone from three possible book deals to being rejected by every single house my roman a clef had been submitted to. My name had been skewered in The New York Post, Gawker and Women’s Wear Daily. I’d had six-figure dollar signs dancing in my head and then seen them vaporize. I’d been up, I’d been down, I’d been elated, then suicidal. In short, I was a huge fucking mess, as was my life and my career. See, I’d written the first draft of this little chick lit book that ended up causing a huge scandal, which resulted in me being sued by America’s largest tabloid publisher. It was a novel, but I’d named names, pointed fingers, exposed dirty little secrets, aired soiled laundry and attacked an industry that I found to be morally bankrupt and deceitful. It was a breezy, cheery, fast-paced, romantic comedy type of novel, but it was not without depth and was as much of a social critique as a beach read. It was not the great American novel; it was not the book I’d always dreamed of writing; it was not, by any standard in fact, the best book I had the ability to write. It was a novel that I had thought would be an easy sell, would make a splash, give me a name and enable me to follow it up with something much more substantial. Of course, in my life, nothing ever turns out as I intend.
The novel was called Dishalicious, and in the words of my second agent, it was summarized thusly:

"Dishalicious is the story of Serena Gold, who reluctantly works at Celeb: the most notorious magazine/tabloid (depending on who you’re talking to) in the business, for the most notorious editor in the business, Penny Sapp. When Serena gets a hot tip about the breakup of Hollywood’s most gorgeous and revered golden couple, she needs to decide: does she use the story to get her coveted byline or does she bury the tip and rise above the muck that is Celeb magazine? And will she ever manage to bring down Penny and get her dream job at Vogue—inquiring minds want to know….
Along the way, Serena finds love, helps found a fabulous doggy rescue charity, and goes shopping, shopping, shopping. Dishalicious is “chic” lit in the tradition of Nanny Diaries and Bergdorf Blondes, chockfull of references to the very most glamorous side of life—from Chanel to Choo to Cavalli."

I didn’t take the job at Celeb with the intention of writing a tell-all, which is what most people seemed to think. The unadorned truth is that I’d really wanted the job; was, in fact, desperate for an editorial job, any old job. It was shortly after 9-11, and most everyone’s creative career prospects were dismal. I thought it would be a sort of grown-up adventure. A lark even. Me work sixty or seventy hours a week? Sure, fine, bring it on. I’d be one of those productive mopes with a right to complain about how much I worked. So I took this job as a research editor for this Godawful tabloid that routinely wrote ridiculous stories based on information gleaned from drug-addled tipsters, celebrities’ trash bins, so-called friends of stars and spies sent out to stalk the superstars. I hated every single drawn-out second of working at Celeb. It was the type of job where, if you wanted to get through the day, you had to check your morals at the door and accept the fact that you were contributing to the downfall of Western civilization.
So I sucked up my pride, my highfalutin morality for eight interminable months and then I simply had enough. I’d gone to work there at the time that a very famous, yet hated editor had taken over, so things were insane from the day I was hired. I’m the type of person who’s always kept a diary and written down nearly everything of interest in my life. In May, I went on what the media later dubbed a “three-week writing binge.” Actually, it was more of a month-long purge. I purged my mind and body of all the words that had accumulated over time and come to make up my being. I poured them out into a story that I always wanted to tell—a story that encompassed my family’s history, my philosophy and my social critiques of the media and New York society in general. And, much to my own surprise, I ended up with a cohesive manuscript. Surely the writing was the hardest part, no?

Chapter 2
So then, I was trapped in a hurricane-induced blackout, rejected by nine New York publishers and sued by a multimillion dollar corporation within the same week. Happy fucking birthday! The week had sprouted tinged with optimism, but had concluded with me completely gutted and utterly despondent. Not to mention shocked, overwhelmed and anxious. I was a 29-year-old, unemployed, Jewess, completely dependent upon my generous parents, how could I possibly handle a serious legal and fiduciary matter that had the potential to derail not only my novel that the lawsuit was centered around, but my entire professional persona? Yes, I’d wanted the press. The stories in the Post, Women’s Wear Daily and Page Six were nice mementos. WWD was especially meaningful, as fashion has always played a significant role in the lives of the women in my family. I courted the controversy at first. I knew I would have to in order to generate buzz around my dime-a-dozen chick-lit tome. I knew how the press worked and I manipulated it to the best of my ability, and then, natch, it backfired. And now I found myself with a manuscript and a life in limbo, my fate in the hands of the Hon. Joan A. Madden of the New York State Supreme Court.