going to see his like again.

December 11, 2013

I first saw him twenty three years ago.

We sat around the television. My parents were transfixed, stunned, beaming.

‘It’s happened,’ breathed my father.

I stared at the old man smiling benignly, while the crowds went wild. We had moved all the way back to South Africa for this tired guy in a suit? I was not impressed.

It began happening around 1988. Mandela was now under cottage arrest and my father started speaking about changes.

‘Big changes.’ He said.

My parents were third generation South African and South Africa for my father was, and would always be, home. The eleven years in Atlanta and becoming US citizens hadn’t swayed him. My father was convinced that changes were going to happen soon. It was clear he was aching to come back.  He had missed South Africa, had never stopped missing it, the skies, the sun, the feeling of space, the life. He wanted to go home.

My mother was far less eager but would acquiesce. My sister was four. Her priorities involved wearing her red wellington boots to school every day and defending and explaining her actions with the word ‘cubby.’

I hated South Africa. We visited every summer, only it was winter there. Winter in Johannesburg, in my grandparent’s huge old brown house, where once, a massive gray ox tongue was served up on a silver platter. Winter, with its icy blue skies and pale yellow grasses and no other kids my age around.  The boredom and the feeling of something wrong, something stifled. Even with the huge gardens, loving family and occasional safaris and trips to the sea, I hated it.

‘I’m so glad we’re back,’ I told my mother as we walked off the plane and into the damp heat of an Atlanta summer.

A few months I was told we would be immigrating.

‘It will be wonderful,’ said my mother. ‘We’ll have our own swimming pool, our own tennis court!’ These did sound wonderful. If only I had remembered that I couldn’t play tennis and could barely swim.

So I took all twenty-two books of the Baby Sitters Club series I had, an album my classmates had made, and several packets of Jolly Ranchers and we moved.

it was even worse than I had feared.

So what of the sunshine, the magnificent spaces, and the exciting political climate when the country lacked the basic necessities such as Heinz ketchup, the M&M’s and Nickelodeon?!

I wore a school uniform. I was in hell.

In a way, it wasn’t surprising we had moved back. I had come from a fairly active politically liberal family. My great great aunt Helen Suzman had been the sole dissenting MP against apartheid in parliament for thirteen years. She had regularly visited Mandela in Robben Island, and was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was a huge source of pride and while it was all very well to be related to an incredible, courageous ‘fighting-for-a-free-and-fair-democracy’ great great aunt it didn’t help much when you haven’t hit puberty, let alone a single field hockey ball belted in your direction, when your clothes were stuffed down the toilet and you were bullied for having an accent, for being weird and wearing the massive baby blue framed glasses your mother had let you choose.

Back in 1990 I stared at the old man on television as he moved with quiet dignity through the crowd. Here was a man who had never given up, who had endured twenty-seven years of captivity and who would unite our country and steer us peacefully through turbulent time away from the threat of civil war into a new promising future.

‘You ruined my life,’ I thought.

The years passed without Halloween, The Fourth of July or McDonald’s. I changed schools, grew taller, made friends who were equally hopeless at sports and developed a passion for granadillas.

In 1994 I stood in line the first free election. I wasn’t old enough to vote yet, but I wanted to be a part of it. The sun shone down on all of us. It was a day of joy, when waiting had never felt so good.  People bought new suits and dresses for the express purpose to cast their vote, a right that many countries took for granted. The lines stretched and stretched around the blocks as people stood for hours but all  I remembered is how everyone smiled that day.

A year passed and then one day I met him.

It was at the funeral of the famous politician and friend Joe Slovo.

‘I met Mandela,’’ I would say to people. ‘I met him and I shook his hand.’

‘Really?’ they asked, ‘what was he like?’

He was like no one I had encountered before. He walked into the room. The energy changed. People fell silent. Everyone rose. They stood up, stopped talking. Then he was before me. He shook my hand, looked into my eyes and moved on. It was brief but there it was. I had shaken the President’s hand.

Now as I read how Netanyahu snubs the memorial claiming expense, or listen to Jon Stuart make fun of the people who freaked out about Obama shaking hands with Castro and taking a selfie, or learn how Rick Santorum is trying to turn this into a further debate about Obamacare, it all seems petty and small.

This is what I think.

He was a great man. He proved to us that sometimes justice and peace can triumph.

We thank you. We’ll miss you. May our words and actions honor your memory.

Viva Madiba Viva.


I met him at my cousin Caleb’s wedding in September 2011 at the tail end of the evening. There was a fire burning and many Mormons clustered around it singing. Mormons because Karen, Caleb’s wife had come from a Mormon family. The Mormons didn’t drink but they sang and played guitar. And people who did drink and weren’t Mormons also sang. There were men standing around, Caleb’s guy friends, passing a flask full of whiskey and laughing. I stood in this circle because I like whiskey and the company of men. This is where I first met Cort, best man, great speech giver, and one of Caleb’s closest friends.

I didn’t know it then but it was the perfect way to meet Cort. It was somehow beautiful and pagan, at the end of a great celebration, near a little fire in a circle of men, drinking whiskey from a flask. I had written a poem for the wedding and Cort demanded to hear it. Then he told me a poem, I can’t remember which one. Then I recited one of my sonnets and we went back and forth bellowing poetry into each other’s faces. It felt right.

It had been a hard summer for me. My boyfriend, whom I had been convinced, was ‘The One’ had just recently announced at a restaurant that he was moving to San Francisco. He wasn’t ready, however, to ask me to move with him and he ‘didn’t know where that left us.’ I was devastated. Added to this breakup was no job and with the first draft of a novel that wasn’t going anywhere.

Now I stood outside underneath the stars somewhere in southern California at a Buddhist retreat called Pema Osel Ling, I was a little mellow and exchanging poetry with a fellow writer. Life, suddenly, was okay.

Cort said he loved my sonnet and that he would get in touch. He then announced he had to bring more wood for the fire and stumbled into the little group of trees that represented a forest, tripped over a branch, fell into a bush and almost split a gut laughing.

I didn’t take him too seriously.

The first email came three days later. He had remembered my name and had gotten in touch through my website.

It would be the first of many emails, the beginning of many phone calls.

It’s hard for me to describe what his first email meant to me other than to put down what I actually wrote to him, word for word, which is at the end of this tribute. Among other things I told him that I felt his email had ‘kind of saved my life.’ It was true. I did feel that and I still do.

An hour or two after I had sent the first email, I sent another, hideous embarrassed, apologizing for how dramatic I had sounded. I didn’t know yet that Cort was the kind of person who would never be embarrassed or made awkward by raw emotion and vulnerability.

Through the next year and a half Cort and I wrote, had long conversations on the phone and even met occasionally as when he came to New York. Cort’s main agenda with me was helping me get my book out into the world. He was the first person, outside of my family, who believed in my novel.

Cort proved to be completely unselfish and warm and supportive, I had never come across someone, who, with no hidden agenda, truly wanted me to succeed and encouraged me when I was down. ‘Get on it,’ he would say, or ‘be quick but don’t hurry.’ He never failed to inspire me, to encourage me or to give me hope. I even saved his voice messages, they became a kind of talisman, and a small fire I could warm my hands on when the night seemed blackest.

Cort was utterly true to his word, even inviting me to a join him in a lunch between him and his agent, an act of generosity that most writers would never consider. At lunch over steak, I described my work to his agent as not the ‘Next Great American Novel’ but as the ‘Next Great Airport Novel’ I said I would be content if people would buy it at the airport.  This line, in the past, had always gotten me a laugh. Cort smiled but when the agent had left he was furious.

Never fucking let me hear you say that again!’ He barked ‘Bullshit! Your work is so much more than that!’

I didn’t say it again.

It was Cort who got my first chapter published in his joint produced ebook Noir Nation and Cort who gave me an incredible recommendation when I was applying to my writing space Paragraph. That’s the kind of person he was.

Cort asked me if I would look over his manuscript CAGEFIGHTER and give him some edits. I did. I loved it. It was funny and bloody, and meaty and bright and filled with promise. It was the kind of book that was screaming to be a movie. I couldn’t wait to see how it ended.

In the last few months my correspondence with Cort started to fade. I didn’t know why. I was deep into my third and final draft. I was planning to get in touch as soon as it was finished. Cort had had some harsh things to say about my second draft, and now looking back, I agreed with him about a lot of it. I had rewritten a massive amount and I couldn’t wait to show him the final result. My book was ready to be sent out into the world. I couldn’t wait for him to read it.

‘Hey Cort,’ I would write, ‘what’s up, where the hell have you been? It’s finally done!!!! ’

I never got the chance.

I heard the news on Monday April 23rd through one of my best friend’s, who I had also met at the wedding. She asked me if I had heard the news ‘about that guy, Cort.’

I was shell-shocked. I didn’t know how to process what I was hearing. It made no sense. I didn’t understand why. I still don’t. No one seems to know. I looked through our correspondence in search of clues. I searched for red flags, for signs I had missed. I listened to his voice messages I had saved.

I wanted to write a fitting tribute for Cort, who in many ways, much to my infinite sorrow, I didn’t know at all. That is to say that I didn’t know Cort the way that most people did. I didn’t grow up with him, meet him at school, work with him or take one of his workshops. I knew him as someone who had been a stranger but became a friend, a mentor, one of the most generous, amazing human beings I had ever met. I called him my boxing coach, he was the person who supported me and encouraged me with my work because he believed in me and wanted to help get my work out there. No ulterior motives. He was a lover of books, of words, a writer, a mentor, a guide, a friend.

I decided the best way to honor Cort was to share some of our emails, his part, in our all too brief correspondence.

I haven’t altered Cort’s emails in any way, not his spelling or the content, only removing one or two names for privacy. When reading them you have a sense of his passion and his impatience for everything, all at once.

Edna St Vicent Millay a passion poet, writer and scholar who took all life had to offer and partied equally hard, wrote in her poem God’s World

‘Oh world, I cannot hold thee close enough!’

Maybe Cort tried to hold the world too close and it turned on him. Maybe he felt that he would never be able to hold the world close enough. His loss is the world’s loss.

I think these emails say a great deal about Cort, they speak of his wit, his enthusiasm, his exuberance, his love of his friends, his passion for writing, for literature, his dedication to supporting writers he believed in. He had nothing to gain by befriending me, and taking up my book as yet another project, when he was already overwhelmed with his own work, but he believed in me and wanted to help me out. It was that simple. It was that rare.

Cort, I will miss you.

We were lucky to have had you as long as we did. It wasn’t nearly, nearly, nearly long enough.

My thoughts, love and prayers to your family,



Your Name: cort
Your Email: ______
Subject: Bhuddist Woes
Message: Sophie-

It’s Cort. I enjoyed chatting with you at the wedding. I’m just writing to let you know that I did not forget my words that i would help you find a publisher for your book…looks to me like you have a very accomplished career so far, which does not surprise me.

How can I help? With the novel the best thing to do is send me the first 60 pages, if you’d like. I’ll read them and pass them along to my agent, ____ at_____. As much as I know I railed on about Melville etc, my agent is actually a very commercially oriented guy, though he does have some literary sense. If that doesn’t pan out I know a lot of folks in publishing from Romance to literary, as I myself used to publish a literary magazine, etc…

anyways, even in my cups I know when im in the presence of a real writer…which I might add is not necessarily a good thing..as my UNcle who’s a writer told me upon reading my first short story “God help you” he said–“you’re a writer!”.
Again, it was a pleasure meeting you.




are u kidding me? most of my emails are longer and more rambling than Finnegans Wake…so please No worries at all…

im actualluy glad you sent an email that mapped out the complete vision of the thematically connected short stories. it helps me see what you’re trying accomplish. whats more I think that having a cadre of inter connected tales stand a much greater chance of getting published than great stand alone pieces…think Denis Johnson JESUS SON and Susan Minot’s MONKEY’s both of which you should take a look at if you havent…John Haskell’s collection I AM NOT JACKSON POLLOCK is probably even closer to the mark though not as well written (still its very good) becuase its about “quasi famous” people/animals or people who knew/brushes up with famous people..

therefore, its good that you let yourself “go on”..

Ok..I read “Big Bird” and its very good and there’s an honesty there and the prose has soem great lines and theres a strange suggestion of coming darkness (bad economic times) which when combined with the pathos of the last paragraph feels good and earned bleakness/ still theres some cleaning up to do in a few parts but no worries..i’ll help you with that…i will send you my edits this weekend and give me the weekend to read NIGHT SONGS…i read the first ten pages and breathed a big sigh of relief that your prose is as good as your poetry…so i def think i can help with that too…but let me read the whole 60 first then we’ll pow wow early next week.

something you should know about this task youre undertaking…NIGHTSONGS will probably be an easier sale…i could see that whipped up with some cool black and white illustrations and be a big seller…BUT im very excited about the stories…its a great concept..relevent and powerful and if all the stories resonate with the same wise/sadness that Big Bird has then it will be a very powerful accomplishment…now for the Truth: Short Story collections are a very tough sale to literary agents…novels are the easy money..i know this b/c like you i tried doing it the hard way..i published like 5 short stories over a period of 7 years in well regarded mags even won an award…well, it wasnt until i wrote a novel about being a gambling addicted commodities trader (my novel SHORT) that the publishing industry saw fit to let me loose on the public…i was 39 years old and id been writing since 21…

for short stories what has to happen is you have to get “discovered”..being in New York is a great place for that to happen…and it’ll only happen through these five venues: The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Harpers, Playboy, The Atlantic and maybe ZOetrope…but if you do what an enemy of mine did who is a successful writer,___. In his “novel” ____” he sort of does in a slicker more SEX in the CITY way than DOs PAssos in MANHATTAN TRANSFER..he sort of fudges a novel..interconnecting stories by having the book about everyone in the same apartment building..if you can find a way to somehow link the narratives of your TV tales..then selling this book/project will be way easier…i’ll probably respect you more if u suffer in obscurity like i did…but i guess i feel like ‘well i got my ass kicked, someone should benefit’ kind of wisdom…

anyways, ive probably gone on too long..but we’ll pow wow on say tuesday..ill send you an email or we can chat/ whatever…in the meanitme i wud def like to see that story “predator”…if you have it completed…

anyways, good on you, sophie. you have talent..now you have to fight/work like hell to get it into print..and as i say, im happy to help.





Ok just wanted to shoot this by you. NIGHT SONGS is actually quite amazing. I know you think its “commercial” but its great storytelling, inventive, well written, harrowing in parts, haunting in others and completely original…i think this will probably make you.

Now look there is no pressure on this at all but i have some good news for you to consider…i am an editor at a new publication called NOIR NATION. http://www.noirnation.com…also check out the book on amazon.com..type in “noir nation” cortright mcmeel… We published some award winning and best selling authors in issue one, especially my favorite noir fiction writer, Scott Wolven, who was named top noir writer of the decade by James Ellroy…his book of stories published by Scribners called CONTROLLED BURN is excellent. Issue two will feature National Book Award winner Madison Smartt Bell, New Yorker writer Nick Arvin, and bestselling author of THE DOPE THIEF, Dennis Tafoya….

ok, the reason i go on is that I think you’ll be in very good literary cred company if you’ll let me publish an “excerpt” of NIGHT SONGS–“Puppy” in issue #2 of NOIR NATION..we pay $100 and we’d be honored to publish you.

I hope my edits of BIG BIRD were ok…i dont think i did your beginning justice…but i do feel if worked on a bit..the beginnign cud be punched up to be v.good and match the terrific ending & middle sections…

anyways, im off to bed now..got to wake up at 4am to hit the trading pits. talk tomorrow.





Just want to go over the gameplan cuz we covered a lot….and i want you to go into your October cocoon of editing with a positive mindset that something will happen here…

Oct1-31..sophie rewrites NIGHT SONGS (feel free to email about any roadblocks or chapters causing probs: just remember im kinda jammed in oct.)

Nov1-5..cort reads whole novel. suggests edits/discuss strength/weaknesses etc.

Nov 5-31…sophie rewrites and then NIGHT SONGS goes out to agent ___ at ___.

Backup plan if __ passes: My good friend Sarah Shun-lien Bynum who was nominated for National Book Award wrote a novel called MADELINE(sp?) IS SLEEPING…it has a similar feel and subject matter (18th century fairy tale set in France) as parts of NIGHT SONGS…she’s smart, cool and connected and she’ll be into your book…if __ passes i will send to her and she will be able to recommend an agent (maybe her own)…

also im thinking Sophie that at some point before we send the novel to__ you two should just have lunch or i’ll find some pretext for you to meet him…it will give you that extra edge when he’s reading the novel as long as you dont vomit on him or overturn a table while yelling about MOBY DICK or something like that…im confident youll do fine, and i cant profess that confidence for certain other writers i know (ahem!)..

i’ll send on my stuff whenever you’re well along and almost done with NIGHT SONGS..you need to concentrate on that..i myseld wud kill for a month in a dusty garret with no one around.

also, SEVEN GOTHIC TALES /Isak Dinesen and as a poet Denis Johnson stories JESUS SON..both must reads after youre done…

good luck. work hard. pray to that muse.





I spoke with Eddie, he’s the publisher/editor in chief of NOIR NATION…there’s nothing to sign..thats only with novels..the policy with Hollywood rights is if a TV/Movie producer is interested in rights to a story, full payment reverts to the author…which is standard for Lit mags/journals, author friendly. You get the check for $100 from NOIR NATION upon publication and Eddie or I will work with you on any editing required.

Otherwise, just let me know and I’ll tell Eddie you’re in..like I said if this excerpt was soemthing NEW YORKER/PARSI REVIEW friendly i’d say give it a try but as it’s edgy as Hell with a crime basis I think NN is your best bet..and liek i said you’ll be alongside some very resepcted names and a publicaiton is crucial to have on the resume when you send the novel to agent,__ included…

i’ll be in touch..adios for now.



I too was sitting in a bar tonight…not sipping whiskey..but guzzling..a great victory…

a friend of mine..a stolid courageous writer of big heart, old in novleist years 42+ slaved away at a book for a long time and he sent it out and now a publisher has asked for the whole novel …after he sent out the first 50 pages,,,which they “very much liked”

now i helped him with this book and its a good book…and just the feeling of drinking heavily in a bar with someone who is probably about to be published because i edited his novel and helped him is a tremendous thing for me…

..so take this for what it is..you should never give up….

anyways. rmeber..half this shit is about the effort..the war force of trying..the other half is when you launch ..do you have wings of greatness???

i knwo this all. somehow ive lived it a thousand times…stories..from my drunken irish machinegunner gramps to old Homer who ive studied in the greek..its my religion Sophie..so always feel free to write me day or night about it..because ill always have something to say…and it will always amount to the same advice:

never give it up because when u do, you’re like everyone else…

bed for me now.

u shud plan to meet __ early november.





I’ll try give you a ring friday…im crushed with work until then..bizness shit goin crazy…unfortunately that pays the bills…also i got my ebook company launching mid Nov ..it was supposed to be Oct 27th but everything pushed back so im jammed until Nov 15th anyways…

after nov 15 i will take a look at whatever you have and give you my honest read on it…as for meeting ___..you dont want to meet him until you have a mean clean manuscript in hand that you are proud to call done…

i sort of felt him out about a “social” meeting …and like everyone else these days coming up on Xmas season he’s super busy…so on his guidance the best way to do it is get NIGHT SONGS to a finished form….meet him….do lunch/drinks…exchange pleasantries so he knows your face…and then hand him THE COMPLETE MANUSCRIPT///

does this make sense??? I know you’re feeling the heat of uncertainty..but this is normal for 1st novel…the big mistake is rushing in and handing something off prematurely…you only get one crack per agent..so lets hit it out of park on 1st one..and patience in this scenario is a virtue…

talk soon.



My writing space asks Cort for a recommendation of me, before I can warn him that they might be in touch



i kinda laid it on thick, but usually the directors of these things are pretty tightass and what they wanna know is that youre not some crazy alcoholic…hope this works.



Dear Sara,

First of, I’d like to say Sophie would be a perfect fit with Paragraph. I’ve known Sophie for some time. I do not know a more serious student of literature. As a published novelist, I know the respect and hard work one has to have with regard to the craft to make it in these tough times for “fiction.” Sophie is such a student, serious and diligent. She is also an intelligent, mature person who would benefit from such an arrangement. Furthermore, I can assure you she would be an assett to any writer’s space and organization, bringing her talent for wordsmithing, her vast knowledge of literary fiction as well as a pleasant and winning demeanor.


Cortright McMeel (author of SHORT/St. Martin’s Press/Dec 2010)



Good chat on NIGHT SONGS…i think you’re rolling. So keep going with the magic…finish it!

Sorry about the Tardiness on this…read at your liesure..love your thougths/criticism on whatever feels “off”, need works, or seems ordinary and cud be punched up thru language or strorytelling…

also, i have your pages edits. let me know where to send ’em if you want them.





Hey there..look i got kind of a nasty message from my agent whos very pissed because he’s got a bunch of publishing folk revved up to read CAGEFIGHTER and he’d promsed it to them weeks ago..so im on his shitlist…basically every waking hour where im not working or taking my kids to ice hockey, im writing to finish this bad boy…

it would be a tremendous help if you could email your comments we went over the other day…that would be really excellent so i could just go down the list and bash them out..dont spare me any truths..everything you said seemed right on to me….

ok, so once you do that i can go back and do a fire revision over the begining…here is my time line:

next 3 weeks blaze like hellhound to finish the book and do revision..i have like 5 chapters left so it might be doable…the problem is im not gonna have any time to help you with Night SOngs until after…3 weeks puts us right around March 15 when i roll into NYC..so you have to figure out if you want to hand __ pages when you meet him at the NAC..or if you wanna wait until after youve met him and i get time to read your whole MS and let you know my thoughts..OR if youre feeling ballsy & you think its ready and you dont need me to read before you send we can so that too…

its up to you. i say you work hard..read over and then go with your gut…

anyways, im bashign out chapters today in the lodge while wife and kids ski…no one ever said the writing life was fun..and if they did id like to set them straight…adios for now, and thanks for your comments ahead of time…





First off, it was great seeing you..NYC is always a big blast…and thanks for showing up to the NAC..you didnt have to have but it was cool to have old and new friends there…

I think it was really important that you came to 21..this kind of personal hand off means A LOT more than an emailed one…so lets just operate under the premise that __ loves the pages and wants to the whole thing…(which if he’s smart he will)…

Send me whatever you want as soon as possible and we’ll work like hellfire to hammer out anything that needs hammering…part of me though would like now to see the WHOLE manuscript when you have it because i want to be able to read it as part of one big narrative arc…this si the whole beast that ___will want and we should have the whole thing in  shape, the sooner the better…because although 21 was a tactical victory..it was a gutsy one becuase should ___move somewhat quickly (4-6 weeks in agentworld) we now have to deliver..an entire book..

no fears…your stuff is chock full of talent and imagination and i have no worries..just send it downt he pike to me when you can and we will ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK!!

as for St. PADDYS i was asleep in bed on sat night after a long day with the kids at the MET/FAO SCHWARTZ/st.pday parade etcetc…my worst st. paddys showing ever,,,but there is always next year…




Ahoy Sophie & Cabes—-

One of my authors LES EDGERTON was nominated for prestigious SPINETINGLER AWARD for his novel THE BITCH (in the 9+ novels “Legends” category)  and NOIR NATION was nominated for SPINETINGLER BEST ZINE…if we win it’ll be big kudos since this paltry sounding award is the crime worlds version of the Pulitzer Prize or NAtional Book Award..and itll be dough…

There is a big tall pint of Guinness or cheap whiskey shot waiting for anyone who votes on the below site…its means alot to me guys and id be hugely thankful….you are hardcore friends who read books…if i can count on your votes then that is a start.


Kublai Kort

I tell Cort about my accident



Jesus Christ!! Are you okay? That sounds horrible…im just glad no head injury..concussions are bad and have long lasting effects that get worse as i well know/…but obviously youre downplaying it if youre using a cane..hey, make sure they do a Catscan…ok??? i dont want  see a talented writier hindered with MIgraines in 3 yrs because of CT scar tissue hangover,.,,.

and whats this nonsense about being terrified to send me the book..if it sucks i kick your ass and you make it good/because you are a godd writer you can do this…simple..just like you kicked my ass on CAGEFIGHTER…just need that trusted set of extra eyes…

And  yeah you shud be very proud…

my situation is CAGEFIGHTER is nearing completion by Nov. and I have two TV things going on , one with BBC and the other with an Indy…so its good stuff but im swampoed..ill of course make time to read your novel…im more than looking forward to it and ill send you my thoughts when im done…hopefully mid sep//sound good???

chat soon and take care and get a Cat Scan if you didnt already…



A back and forth and I send him NIGHTSONGSophie–

Ok..Im sitting down reading NIGHTSONG and just finished up to p. 65. “The Plot Thickens”…

“Sickle Man” your now Chapter 1 still rocks out..hard! Its the stuff of a great novel opening…you write this and you know you have IT…

Ok now for the tough stuff//

The story has changed…its now more of a conventional “psychopath”/serial killer story…gone are the time shifts from Medieval Times..the great color and texture and imagination & Sadism of that world–which sort of fed into the grey cynical nihilsm of your New York was a perfect counterpoint…gone is the great demon on the bus scene of modern times when we were starting to know who the Sickle Man was & and wonder at the Epic extent of his evil…so from a plot line perspectivde i got to be honest and say I miss the ambition and invention of the time shifts that you had before…it was risk taking and made the reading of the novel both a unique and mercurial experience…

Another problem that Im finding in this new draft is while the writing is sharp and jamming in Chap 1, the prose of the following chapters  dont strive like that one. the are garrulous but not lyrical..the scenes tend to blend, and the language doesnt pop..the landscape of New York seems somehow flat…even the ABC party, the tension when Katherine meets the Sickle Man seems forced and dramatic…it gets good again when we’re back in the shadowy bar with the man coughing..then it once again retains a great sinister even epic feel and i once again get hooked..

id say you need to distill this…and work to PUSH PUSH PUSH the scenes between the two i just mentioned…there is way to much extraneous information about irrelevent characters (room mate, gay friend, mean stroke victim) and details about produce and eating habits that dont feed the narrative drive of this story—or at least its not apparent how they do and instead these details slow the narrative…by taking out the great Sadistic Medieval storyline we’re in a more one dimesional tale that moves too slowly and needs to be way tightened…

I know what kind of writer you are…and what kind of original risk taking vision this novel had…so im a little confused..why did you scrap that storyline???

You and I made a lil pact to be honest with each other. i dont think this is your A game. Novels are hard…alchemy of language has to rub against architecture of plot and find that perfect blend..I KNOW you can do this…my initial feel is someone or something took you off the initial vision of the book and your now striving…and i can feel when i read it that it feels like work to you.

am i right or am i full of shit?

looking fwd to argue or talk this out.





 Im almost done with the novel and am really loving it…much awesomeness throughout…you should be proud.

 I got my parents in town for past ten days so have a lot of family stuff going on…i’ll get your line edits on first part to you by next tuesday. then we’ll chat about those and the novel as a whole…sound good?

My first email to Cort



 I don’t know how to say this without sounding hideously dramatic and maybe therefore I shouldn’t but I felt like your email saved my life today.  

 Maybe if I put in the words ‘kind of’ it would better. 

 Cort, I feel like your email kind of saved my life. 

 Americans would tend to call that statement intense and I know it’s not cool and not the way to play it, but nevertheless. 

 I had just been on the phone screeching and screaming with my kind, anxious father calling from South Africa (since he’s South African) about the misery of everything and how hard, lonely, frightening etc when it came through. 

 First and foremost. Yes please, to everything.

 Here are my first 70 pages of the novel (so you can finish the chapter if you desire but no pressure) I just deleted a huge paragraph of disclaimer about the book and its aims and genre etc etc. All I’ll say is that I’m in the process of editing, reworking and tightening the second half. 

I am also going to take a chance and send you something else. I’m doing it because the one phrase ‘green and gold’ that you chose to speak of in my sonnet happens to be my favorite too. I’m also doing this because you spoke of being brave, of writing something honest, the book you have to write, because you have to write it. 

Even if it doesn’t work out or nothing happens (although of course I pray and pray and pray that it does) I will always feel that your email ‘kind of’ saved my life and I always be thankful.  

Frankly it was a dark day today and then someone asked how can I help?  Someone who didn’t need to, actually gave a shit. 

 That means the world to me. 

 Let me know if it all went through and your thoughts



Cort and his wife Sharon.

alone this Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2013

Honestly though, I couldn’t believe that he wanted to meet today. A lot of guys get a really squeamish about a first date, let alone on Valentine’s Day! They’ll say it’s because we won’t find a good place or that they don’t buy into what Hallmark is selling or some equally lame crap, but not only did he suggest it, he said he had planned a surprise.

I know, pinch me, right?

That’s what he told me the blindfold was for. He said that tying my hands behind my back was a part of it too. A little kinky, but I like a guy who can use his imagination…

Okay, maybe gag was unnecessary, but I didn’t want to make a big deal about it.

I mean how many men do you find in New York who will go to this kind of trouble?

He’s caring too, I can tell by the way he led me down all the stairs. It’s a little damp down here but I appreciate how fast we got in, not even a wait and you know what these speakeasy bars are like. I guess he made a reservation.

A reservation! A guy who plans ahead?! That’s what I call a keeper.

When he took the blindfold and the gag off, I couldn’t believe my eyes…once they adjusted to the darkness. Intimate space, all the candles, the blankets, the big old bathtub in the middle of the room?

Holy shit, can we say ROMANTIC?!!

I even saw some plastic bags filled with stuff, but he said that’s for ‘later.’

I bet it’s a picnic. I can’t wait.

He even remembered I like Regina Spektor. Funny how her new release sounds just like a desperate broken woman sobbing faintly in some corner somewhere nearby.

And to think, last Valentine’s Day I was wondering if I was ever going to find anyone, and now look at me.

So hang in there, single ladies!  If it can happen for me, it can happen for you.

I’ll ask if he has some friends.

I’m not going to wax lyrical about the civic pride of standing in line, smiling at others, filling in my ballot, getting it scanned and that moment when the screen says


Pride? Meh.


I will also not be talking about how we should be mindful of what a privilege it is to vote. How people fought and died and were tortured for the right to be heard. I won’t show you pictures of the sufferagettes like this 




or like this



Blah, Blah, tortured, blah, blah, blah.

I won’t describe how it felt to stand in line in Johannesburg, South Africa on April 27, 1994 surrounded by a people who had never been allowed to vote before, nor their parents, grand parents or great parents. How they wept, how they stood for the whole day, how they bought new clothes just for the privilege and honor and right as equal citizens of the country to vote and be heard.


because lines are the worst aren’t they…


freedom, shreedom



Politicians. Ugh. 

No, we’ve all heard enough about this. Enough!

Finally I’m not going to breathe a word about how proud I am of my sister Liz Jaff who has acted as deputy director for GOTV of Columbus, Ohio. Why she worked night and day, tirelessly and with passion and grace and dedication and fire I’ll never know. I mean it doesn’t really matter anyway right? 


could be this


or this.


 Let’s talk about men instead. 

 I like mine dark, tall, handsome, driven, ambitious, smart, world leaderish…

know where I could find one for about say, another four years? 

Much better than politics right? 

Thought so. 


Exactly a month ago Alex Okrent posted a reply to my blog ‘I’m not rocking the #$*& out of this neck brace’

‘Yeesh’ he asked, are you okay?’  

I had met Alex through my sister. He was dating one of her best friend’s/roommate at the time. We had all gone to the inauguration togehter.

After that I sometimes saw Alex when I visited my sister in DC or after when he moved to New York and my sister came up for a weekend sometimes but it was rare.

Alex and I were the kind of friends who check each other’s facebook to see what they’ve been up to, or occasionally IM each other, to share a joke or a sarcastic observation. It was the kind of friendship that most of us have these days. A tech based one. 

I took to Alex the first time I met him. He was really smart and incredibly funny. We  ended up sitting slightly apart from the group and spent the rest of the evening happily and harmlessly commenting and making fun of everybody else.  We both delighted in being somewhat bitchy and we shared the same joy of being generally ‘good people’ while indulging in a little bit of evil occasionally.

However Alex differed from me in that he was an actively good person, a seriously rare character trait in these times of short attention spans and apathy. He was the kind of person who actually put his money where his mouth was, but it wasn’t money, it was his time, his formidable intelligence, his passion, and 110% of his energy towards in causes he believed in.

What Alex believed in most was Obama and his campaign, which he had been with since 2004. Alex also differed from most people in this regard, for although many of his fellow campaigners had become disillusioned and burnt out, Alex hadn’t become cynical or apathetic. Now he had left his secure job and beautiful, brilliant girlfriend to dedicate himself to the cause once again.

Alex believed in being able to make a difference, to change the world and now he was back, to give it all he had. 

On Friday Alex collapsed in the Obama’s Chicago Campaign Quarters. He was taken to the Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead. 

Alex Okrent was 29 years old. 

Now I wasn’t as close to Alex as many, many, many people were. He had a huge network of friends and family who loved and adored him. I have no claim on having known him from school or a family connection or even the campaign. You could say that I know him second hand.

But for all of that he was my friend and I am going to really miss him. 

I went to look at his facebook page. I read the messages, the love, the epithets, the thoughts and sympathies to Alex’s parents and sister and family and friends and all who knew him and were luckily enough to have him in their lives.

And while these may bring comfort and help and support the living, Alex can’t read them. 

Here are the facts.

A steller golden champion of a human being such as Alex Okrent can be taken from us without warning. If we can learn something from this incomprehensible tragedy, let it be this. 

Accidents happen, tragedies happen, cars can hit you as you cross the street (trust me on this one) BUT as accidents happen so do wonderful things. 

Here are two wonderful things we can do right now, this very minute. 

1. Tell the people in your life that you love them.

That you care about them. That you’re grateful for their friendship. That they make you laugh. That you’re glad you know them and that they fill your heart, brighten your days and cheer up your nights.  It doesn’t have to be birthdays, bat-mitzvahs, anniverseries, Christmas, holidays, and weddings. It can even be on a random Tuesday afternoon.

things like? 

like for example-

‘hey I was thinking about you/you’re in my thoughts today for some reason/ how’s it going?/ what’s new?/we haven’t hung out in a while/just checking in/  I just wanted to tell you that you’re an awesome friend/sister/cousin/parent/ I love you/I miss you/thank you for being a part of my life,/when can we hang out again?/when would be good to talk?/I’m proud of you/you make me laugh/ Mom, your soup was, is and will always be the best soup I have ever eaten. 

 Do this a lot. Do it with abandonment. Be that crazy person who expresses love. You wlll never lose from this. Let me repeat this in capslock YOU WILL NEVER LOSE FROM DOING THIS You will only gain and grow. 

2. Live your own life.

Live it as close to how you dreamed of your life could be. Stop putting shit off. Stop saying ‘fine, tomorrow, whatever, I’m tired/exhausted/stressed/ furious/grumpy’

Scarlett O’Hara’s ‘tomorrow is  another day” can kiss my ass. 

TOMORROW is in fact, TOMORROW and let me be clear,

There is no guarantee of tomorrow. 

Not for you, not for me, and not for Alex Okrent who started the day as we all tend to start it; with hopes and annoyances and a thousand thoughts and a million plans and half way completed dreams and goals and ambitions and all and everything and maybe or maybe not time for breakfast and a cup of coffee and getting to work on time and-

There are no guarantees.

So we must live our lives filled to the brim, as Alex Okrent lived. 

Alex, I wish I had known you better but I’m thankful that I knew you and that we were friends. 

Love and long life to your family, friends and all who knew and mourn your passing.

Your friend,



that’s because I have serious competition.


look at dat face, look at dat face, look at dat face!

Okay, okay you’ve looked at it, now back to me.

When I rock the s**t out of my neck brace, I want to be unique, not lame like this look.


She’s clearly not committing.

This is commitment,


at least according to the men of new york. Those delightful little scamps.

I’m more a fan of the classic look such as the game changing and sexually ground breaking movies Sixteen Candles which featured the inspiring Joan Cusuak. Joan totally stole the show from Molly Ringwald with her unforgettable and astounding water fountain moment.

Incredible. Even now, I’m slightly aroused.

Sadly there are those who don’t know when to stop.


Poser much?

But why a neck brace you ask?

I’m sorry you just did that, that you asked.

If you have to ask you clearly don’t get it.

Darling you wear neck braces because they are the THING. You wear them because they’re the bomb. You wear them because they’re the shnizzle, they’re fierce, they kick ass, they’re sick, they’re ill. You wear them because  they’re reDUCNculicious. You wear them because you have a sense of style, class, finesse and as the french say ‘a certain something but I do not know what it is, and if I did I wouldn’t tell you so there’

You wear them because you are in the know.


or because you got hit by a car, but whatever.



Okay so I’m a bit of an insomniac and I’m still up at 1:41. I’m listening, as I often do to an audible book by the master of creepy brilliance himself and my hero, Stephen King, I realize that this probably doesn’t help.

Also I should probably admit that I’m sitting in my florescent lit kitchen looking like the 1950’s blonde Hitchcock would have been proud of. I’m eating artichoke hearts with my fingers, guiltily and with great pleasure, as artichoke hearts from the can should be eaten.

Suddenly the phone rings.

I look down in surprise. My first thought is, is that it’s my friend I was supposed to text her when I got home okay.

‘Oh damn’

I think

‘I totally forgot. She was worried about me’

but the caller ID says


Now I probably shouldn’t have answered it.

I shouldn’t have answered it, but I figured by the fact it said


it was a campaigner and I wanted to give them a piece of my sleepless, tired mind.

‘How dare they call me when I should be asleep!’

Really, I realize that my answering the phone was equivalent to a blonde who’s alone in a mansion she’s house sitting and here’s a strange noise and calls out



Then goes towards the noise, often without even the benefit of a knife.


‘I guess I’ll go investigate down in the basement then, in this little pink slip’



I know, I know I shouldn’t have answered my phone. But I did.


I asked more statement than question, ready to give the crazy campaigner hell. I mean I’m a die-hard democrat but really enough is enough.



I asked again more tentatively,

Then a man’s voice answered me.


it said, almost mocking me.


I asked again and then

‘Who is this?’

There was a long silence and then the voice answered.  I really, really wish it hadn’t.

It’s me.

And on the word me, the voice dropped (I’m not kidding) twenty octaves. The ‘me’ was inhumanly low, and gravely, hissing and literally sounded like my worst nightmare. Like not a human being.

I hung up.

I will be the first to admit that a vivid imagination can be a wonderful thing.
My vivid imagination gotten me through some pretty hideous dates. However, my vivid imagination can be a truly hideous thing.

Please also know that I’m writing a horror novel featuring a demonic serial killer and there are a series of unknown phone calls that the heroine receives.


To date I’ve checked my cupboard and under my bed, though if I actually found someone there I’m not sure how I would handle it. It would be awkward to say the least.

I keep returning to the way the voice said ‘me.’

I have NEVER, NEVER, NEVER in my life, heard a voice like that.

 I really wish you had been a campaigner

My secret thought is that it was my novel’s character calling me.

So, how’s the book going, Sophie? Oh come on, it’s me. 

I don’t know if I’ll be sleeping tonight.
Maybe, with the light on.

Unless this thing wants to play ball.

though I really, really want to.

All the signs are right. My hair is long and blonde and I’ve had about three glasses of red wine. 

I’m out to ‘party’. And by ‘party’ I mean ‘make out’ and by ‘make out’ I mean ‘smooch’ and by ‘smooch’ I mean this


maybe less ‘stash though, I mean I’m not in Brooklyn right?

Only thing is there is no one to party with. 

I don’t require much, I’ll have you know. The most I ask is; a PHD, an ability to code, a height of of 6’1 or above, multi lingual (that’s not a euphemism you perverts) a decent smelling nape of the neck, ability to operate heavy machinery while under the influence, and then the divine thrill of knowing they’ll never HAVE to operate heavy machinery under the influence due to their snooty non physical jobs, not too hairy, incredibly successful at their chosen career, large enough to make me feel petite, a passionate lover with an adequate to large to massive penis.And generally kind, loving, funny, warm, sweet, confident and phenomenal. 

Is that so much to ask for?????

I mean Jesus! 



Oh Sorry Jesus. Go back to sleep.

(okay so while Jesus is sleeping let me just say that while he’s a great kisser and a nice Jewish boy the man can’t code for s**t.)


Unfortunately My Child I Cannot Help You There, Go And Ask An Apple “Genius” Or A Tekserve Guy. In Fact Stick With Tekserve Those Apple Guys Are Dicks.)

So instead of making out I came home and tried to sublimate and ate olives, and some pieces of prosciutto and some marinaded mushrooms. 

I’m eating Italian


Nice boys, but no physicists. I feel for them. I really do.

Now I’m going to bed. 



It’s selfish people, selfish, not to present yourselves for potentially making out with me. Like it’s selfish for you not to have studied the art of masseuse when my shoulders often ache with tension.


I am not this smiling woman and neither do the hands massaging her belong to any of my friends


Makes me think I’ll have to finish my book or something. 





or about the men who ask you out for a drink, and two hours later when you’ve eaten bread and spent over sixty dollars on a shared meal, advise you about dating other men “have you tried J-date?” and then inform you that they have a girlfriend.

No sir, not me. I’m not going to talk about that.

I’m not going to talk about how all the shops put ridiculous little hearts in the window just to rub it IN YOUR FACE that Valentine’s Day has arrived.

That’s right, even the butcheries. Pink little hearts dangling next to huge raw,bloody skinned sheep.

Just another thing I won’t rant  about today.
(Actually I secretly think it makes the sheep look cute.)

I’m not going to talk about how single men and women have  to make plans ages in advance in a grim way just so they’re doing something on the day taken over by Hellmark and not look like the sad, lonely desperate unhappy emotionally crippled people their coupled friends secretly hope they will be.

I’m not going to talk about the insane rush for restuarants, even mediocre ones, or the upsurge in condom purchase, or what eating purile chocolate can do to your liver.

Nah. Not me.

I’m especially not going to talk about how the women in New York, the smart, gorgeous, hard working, kick ass beauties are forced to meet (read date) and mate (read eight minutes) the men of flabby faces,  of sagging guts and slow wits and the little wizened souls of raisins just becuause God Forbid the smart, gorgeous, hard working, kick ass beauties of New York might want children one day and THEN WHERE WILL THEY BE? I’LL TELL YOU!   THEY’LL BE CHILDLESS AND ALONE AND BROKEN AND UNATTRACTIVE AND WHERE WILL THEIR FANCY SHMANCY DREAMS OF A CAREER AND SUCCESS HAVE GOTTEN THEM THEN? HUH? NO WHERE, THAT’S WHERE

Huh, oh sorry…my mind….it drifts….

So instead of a rant here are some fun and non bitchy facts about the sadists, I mean the sentimentalists favorite holiday, known as Valentine’s Day!


1. a  Teachers receive more valentine cards than anyone else, even children.

1.b  Today a starting attorney earns $160,000 while a starting teacher earns around $45,000

1.c  Sixty-Two (62)  percent of Teachers have to take on secondary jobs to supplement their income.



2. More than 650 million valentine cards are exchanged by children from ages 6-10 each year. Most of these cards are bought in the last 6 days leading up to Valentine’s day.

2.b A nice card (based off of the popular tv show Modern Family) saying “Free Hugs” can be bought for as low as 5.99!

2.c According to the non profit Feed My Starving Children it costs the overwhelming price of 24 c That’s (Twenty Four Cents)  to provide a meal for a starving child AND if you actually had the audacious sum of $36 you could feed five children for a month.

But imagine how many Modern Family Free Hugs card you could get!!!! 


3. Each year the city of Verona Italy receives more than 1000 valentine’s addressed to Shakespeare’s Juliet.

It really is amazing how much affection a dead fictional character can attract.

3.b As of Nov 30th 2011 U.S. Troop Casualties – 4,486 US troops; 98% male. 91% non-officers; 82% active duty, 11% National Guard; 74% Caucasian, 9% African-American, 11% Latino. 19% killed by non-hostile causes. 54% of US casualties were under 25 years old. 72% were from the US Army

It is really is amazing how little affection real dead solider can attract……


4.a It was once believed that if a woman saw a flying robin on Valentine’s day she would end up getting married to a sailor. If a sparrow was the bird she saw she would end up marrying a man that was poor and live a happy life, if she saw a goldfinch then she was to marry a man that was a millionaire. One can only wonder who she would marry if she saw a crow.
(By this stage she was so desperate she married the first rat she saw. Sometimes Wall Street isn’t so bad. hahaha.)

4 b Screw the birds, lady,  have you read this interesting book called The Rules?

4c In 2001 the followup book The Rules for Marriage: Time-Tested Secrets for Making Your Marriage Work was released in the midst of Fein’s (the head writer’s) legal separation from her husband to whom she had been married for sixteen years.Fein married for the second time in 2008; she had followed The Rules to attract her second husband.

4.d Or maybe just stick to the birds. Warning-the goldfinch is a bit of a playah though


5. a More than 9 million pet owners buy gifts for their pets for Valentine’s day. Now that is what can be called real puppy love.

5.b Four million cats and dogs—about one every eight seconds—are put down in U.S. shelters each year.

I’m not going to make a pun or a joke here here because some vegetarian buddhist would come and beat the shit out of me.


6.a It is estimated that 15% of the women in the United States who receive flowers for Valentine’s day send them to themselves. There are no figures that tell how many of these women are married, single or in a relationship.

6. b This means that close  110 MILLION roses will be purchased and delivered around the US today. That’s a lot of dead flowers so us dumb bitches can feel better about ourselves and the fact that we don’t have a maaaaan. (Lesbians can’t be  this pathetic, I refuse to accept it.)

6. c According to an article in The New York Observer  that quoted Richard Florida, In New York’s metropolitan area, single women outnumbered single men by more than 210,000,

It explains a fair amount concerning the men that my friends and I sometimes date.

So no ranting or bitching or misery. Really, go and enjoy yourselves. No seriously, on this day of romance and love all I ask is this one thing. As you take your beloved’s hand and  reach over to look into his or her eyes to kiss him or her and tell her he or she’s the only one for you take a moment of silence and remember that


hope you have a sweet and  happy fluffy love filled day. 

Bye Bye.

the birthday girl anymore

February 7, 2012

so rub it in my face, why don’t you?

You think it’s okay not to wish me ‘Happy Birthday’, or give me presents, or touch base and say something funny, sweet, and/or touching just because it’s February 7th instead of February 6th?

Just because I actually wasn’t ‘born’ today you think it’s okay to get away with that kind of pathetic, half- assed, pathetic behavior?

You thought wrong.

Oh I admit it. Facebook was crazy yesterday. Crazy with well wishers, and good greetings and salutations. Everyone wanted a piece of me. A piece of the ‘birthday girl’ Everyone was hopping up on that ‘ol birthday wagon, getting their two cute and adorable and caring greetings in. Everyone was all ‘liking’ my birthday pics and everything. Thumbs up, oh yeah.

Twenty-four(24) measly, fleeting, brief and ephemeral hours. That’s how long it lasted

The fact is if  you were the so called ‘friends’, ‘loved ones’ and, ‘family’ you claim to be (DNA or not), you’d be wishing me Happy Birthday EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR.

But oooooh noooooo. It was all love and kindness and incredible gifts and drinks and more drinks and hugs and kisses and ‘I’ll take you to lunch’ ‘let me buy you dinner’ and ‘that’s on me’ and smily faces and awesome, thoughtful messages and even cards in the mail and  then….what?! What?  Silence. Not a single MENTION of my birthday. It’s like

‘Oh, wasn’t that yesterday?’

And to think you kiss your mother with that mouth.

Aren’t you happy that I’m alive?
Then act like it.

Go on, I dare you.

I dare you to dream.
I dare you to be different.
I dare not to be a sheep for one day of your boring-pedantic-cookie cutter-follow-the-rules-everyman-conventional life.
I dare you to take the time and trouble and wish me a ‘Happy Birthday’ tomorrow, when it ISN’T my birthday.

Go ahead and make my non-birthday day!

%d bloggers like this: