Category Archives: Writing

Ideas – The Making of an Idealist

Photo by maxime-le-conte-des-floris

Rina Baraz Nehdar was born in a bad idea. Actually, the idea was probably a good idea when it transformed from thought to words but because of a lot of human blunderings, in the way of greed and discrimination, it was already a bad idea by the time she arrived. Her parents realized what a mess it was and decided to spare Rina the pain of having to live through the headaches and inconveniences bad ideas often produce, so they pulled roots and moved to a better idea.

Photo by Rina Baraz Nehdar

It’s hard living in a good idea, not even a perfect one, just a good one. The neighbors can get jealous and want to steal the idea (which is okay because there’s no end to the supply of love in good ideas) but what happens more often is that the neighbors want to destroy the good idea to make their own ideas, which may actually be bad, look better. Sometimes, people are even willing to kill and die for their ideas. This got a little worrisome for Rina’s parents as reports often surfaced of kids Rina’s age being blown up by bombs disguised as teddy bears. So, they up and moved again to an idea that was being heralded worldwide as a very strong and workable idea.

Statue of Liberty stands murky
Photo by Tom Coe

As Rina grew up, she realized that a lot of the fairy tales she had grown up hearing weren’t actually applicable to real life. This was true even living in a good, strong idea. After taking many self-destructive detours to combat the pain of awareness, she resolved to use her position of strength, supported by the resources the good idea offered, to help people whose voices were weakened or even strangled by the multitude of conflicting interests battling to be heard.

Summer Book Giveaway!

You know how when your friend tells you they’re in a rock band and they’re performing in the bar across town and would you come and support them and you sigh internally because you’ve done this before but you go anyway and you smile and pretend to be wowed by the pedantic, slightly off-key music because you love your friend and want them to be happy? Well. This isn’t anything like that at all.

My uber talented friend Julie Gardner wrote a book called Letters For Scarlet.

Book signing at Barnes and Noble! Photo by Charlene Ross

And it rocks. Literally. This is the payoff from sitting in all those dingy bars while your friend belts old Ozzy Osborne hits while swaying on stage. This is your moment in the summer sunshine, a slice of time to yourself, to get lost in a drama that encompasses friendship, marriage, betrayal and of course love because everything returns back to love.

Since I’m the type of person who closes her eyes during movie previews when they’re showing something I already want to watch, I won’t spoil it for you here. I will say this though – as it won’t give anything away – a horrible thing happens to Scarlet and her two friends at the time of their life that should be a beautiful beginning. Then she is betrayed by her two friends. Oh, did I mention everyone is beautiful in this book? I love reading about beautiful, flawed people because it makes me feel like we’re all connected after all – and not just in our yoga classes.

I have a free signed copy of Letters For Scarlet. You can win it by commenting below. It can be anything: why you love summer, what friendships mean to you, your irritation at having to think of something to say in order to win a book. Anything. At the end of the week (Friday night) I will randomly select a winner based on the comments submitted. Easy peasy. And then you will not be irritated that I twisted your arm to use the annoying comment submission form so you could enter the contest because you will have your glossy, autographed book to enjoy at the beach, or the pool, with your margarita or kambucha.


Frosted Cowboy Giveaway: the book! (not the drink)

I’m so excited to be doing my first ever GIVEAWAY! Read to the bottom to learn how you can get your very own FREE copy of Frosted Cowboy! ALSO, if you are local, you are invited as my guest to a book signing party on Thursday, April 7th at Bellini in Westlake Village at 5:30pm!

frosted cowboy

Before I moved to Agoura Hills, I didn’t know anyone except my husband.

I met Charlene Ross because she is my neighbor and our boys went to school together. I just thought she was another mom until she passed by my house one day, walking toward the park with a notebook and a laptop pressed to her chest. “Oh,” I asked, part curious, part friendly, “where are you going?”

“I’m going to write in the park,” Charlene replied. “You write?!” Surprise and excitement burst through the surface of my suburban mom calm. And here I thought she was just another mom. “Yeah,” she gave me a humble little smile, cute dimples lighting up her blue eyes. “That’s so cool!,” I said, “Who do you write for?” She told me she had a blog and wrote for Skirt! and the Agoura Hills Patch. “Right on!” I replied and added her to the file in my head called “future writing group members”.

I was starting almost from scratch, but I was busy building a life in my head. In that life, I would be surrounded by amazing and talented women who liked to write. Eventually, that happened and the success we’ve all experienced as a result of encouraging and supporting each other is immeasurable. Charlene Ross and Julie Gardener published their first books. Lexi Rohner and Kim Tracy Prince are featured in anthologies. Laurel Janssen Byrne built her own social media company and I write regularly for LA Parent.

But we’re here to talk about Charlene.

Charlene’s book is called Frosted Cowboy and it’s a chick-lit book about Laney Delaney and her  journey of self discovery and all the mistakes she makes – that we all made -along the way, except hers are way more funny and her boyfriends are way more hot. Laney, like most of us growing into ourselves, has no idea how cool she really is – she’s a wedding dress designer for crying out loud! (Did I just use that terrible cliche? Now we all know why Charlene is a published author and I am not).

I mostly read articles, science fiction or literary fiction. So, I haven’t read any chick-lit since Bridget Jones’s Diary in college. Also since becoming a mom, my reading time is  limited. It’s usually right before bed, when it’s finally quiet, that I indulge in reading time. Often, it takes me a while to finish a book. However, I flew right through Frosted Cowboy, to the point of where I was carrying it around with me, making flimsy excuses to my family that I had to hurry up and read it so I could tell Charlene what I thought of it. Yeah, right. I just wanted to see what would happen to Laney after she walked in on her fiancé filing a “brief” in his secretary’s “desk” on top of the kitchen counter in the apartment Laney shared with him.

I highly recommend this book and I am so happy to say that I really enjoyed it because otherwise, it would be kinda awkward at next month’s writer’s group meeting.

There is also a prequel available for a free download to your ebook reader! Love on the Rocks was a great way to extend my relationship with Laney.

In honor of my friend’s amazing accomplishment, I am giving away a free, signed copy of her book to someone who comments below. Just tell me why you need a break from your life and I might make that happen for you. I’ll pick the winner on 4/18/16 so if you don’t hear from me, then at least you know where to find a great read for your summer vacation!

All dimples and pen


Write On!…..(Why I Write)

I helped start a writing group.

This was our first official picture (almost a year ago!)….we’ve since acquired new members
I say “helped start” instead of just “started” because I had had the idea in my head for some time. But I needed to meet the right writers to make it happen. Had they not agreed to be part of the adventure, there would have been no adventure. 

I guess over time most writers turn blonde.
(this is a more recent pic of some of us on a road trip to support Kim Prince in her stage debut)
There are two main reasons why I wanted to have a group like this in my life. One, I needed the support and accountability that comes from being part of a fellowship. I have had this experience before in my life and found it worked quite well. Second, I thought if I surrounded myself with writers maybe I could convince myself I too am a writer. I still have my doubts. But they tell me I am and that is great to hear.

One of the original members above, red haired Charlene Ross, participated in an online writing train where writers talk about their Writing Process (#mywritingprocess)At the end of her post, she picked three writers to ride on that train. She picked me as one of the writers.

Again, I am grateful that she considers me a writer and also that she picked me from the many writers that she knows and (wait for it), I will do that too. You know, to keep the train going. So if I pick you, please join us on this lovely ride into the workings of our inner selves. And if I didn’t pick you it means 1) I didn’t know you wrote a blog bc I really had to wrack my brain to find the three I did or 2) you’re not a writer but are a reader, so please kick back and join us on this journey.

Why do I write what I do?

write mainly three things (not counting Facebook status updates). I write short fiction stories, non fiction stories and blog posts.  My heart is in the fictional worlds I create like this one. It’s also an opportunity for me to work out my fears and feelings about things happening to me or to our world. It’s a little like an exorcism. A way to get out the demons and the jesters that live in my head. There are observations I’ve made of people and the world in which we all live. I am always looking and taking mental notes. I’ve written much more in my head than I’ve ever written on paper. Sometimes, I’ll even grab a piece of paper, if there’s one handy, because I know if I don’t capture the thought, it’ll drown in the thousand of others that follow it, never to be seen again. Stories are like that too. I’ve procrastinated on stories I thought were so original then watched a movie, that was my story, being told by someone who didn’t wait around to tell it.

My non-fiction started when I decided to major in Broadcast Journalism in college. That in itself was a victory and I kept expecting people to laugh when I told them what I was doing. It was only my father who commented how unpractical this was because it is such a competitive field. (This was a recurring theme in his parenting me) But I had a plan. I was going to become a well known reporter and then write a book, thereby already securing a built in audience. Well, I didn’t wait long enough to become a well known reporter (my instincts for success conflicted with the seemingly accelerated pace of my biological clock) but I did start writing for print newspapers and magazines while I was pregnant with Kaleb. That was the last bit of free time I regularly had to myself. It’s only now that the kids are in school that I can start focusing on that again.

My blog is almost like a free sample for prospective readers. Since I never became that famous reporter, I need to give out bits of myself for readers to know whether I taste good or not. I figure, if you like the various styles I offer on my blog, then maybe you’d be interested in a longer format piece, like the books I will someday find the time to write. Plus, I don’t have to get anyone’s approval to publish the things I want to write. All I have to do is hit the publish button. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think if we’re talking strictly blogging, my work tends to be sporadic and disorganized compared to the official blogging sect. But it’s also original because it’s my work being presented by me. I strive to be really honest and I try to present things in an interesting way. I suspect that if I found more time to actually write, I would get much better at this.

How does your writing process work?

If I show up to write in front of my computer, the words will come. No matter how many excuses I make beforehand or activities I find to distract myself, once I arrive to write, I write. Then I edit. And edit.

Since joining the writing group, it’s become a lot easier to convince myself to just get in front of the screen and start typing. I know some people prefer paper but I think my brain is trained to work with keyboards and formats where it is much less messy to edit.

What am I working on?

I am lucky to have been offered some stories to write for LA Parent magazine. They are amazing to work with. Very warm and supportive – obviously a theme I seek out in my writing life. From this platform, I intend to submit to more national magazines, probably parenting ones since that is the place in my life where I happen to live.

I also have a few sci-fi shorts I have written and am editing and will be submitting after just having my first one actually published.

I also had a huge gift fall into my lap. A friend introduced me to someone whose life story needs to be immortalized. It is interesting on levels that scrape beneath the skin. I have spoken to this person many times now and we are evolving his story into one that will become the first book I will have the honor of writing.

Ok that’s it from me.


Let’s invite some new conductors onto this train of self discovery.

Julie Gardner is the newest member of the Writing Safety Tree – our writing group. She used to be an English teacher and her notes on works in progress are sweet and priceless, just like her.

Laurel Jansen Byrne is a friend from a group that helped ease me into motherhood, the Westlake Village MOMS Club. And she turned out to be a writer and was the cherry I needed to help me make this sweet concoction of a writing group. She’s also probably the only one of us that has a actual education in creative writing.

And Jessica Craven, whose simple and precise words make my heart bleed regularly when I read them. I haven’t seen her offline in ages but she came to mind when faced with the assignment of finding three talented bloggers to choose for this fun exploration into self.


Lostmnesia…..a process with some victories

I don’t want anyone to think that just because I’ve had a short story and a feature magazine article published this month that I think I’m a rock star or some kind of super hero. But what really does deserves a pat on the back is that I overcame the limitations I placed on myself long enough to finally make something happen with that writing.

First off, Lostmnesia was rejected by twenty four literary magazines. Twenty-four. Twenty four times, I had to read why someone thought my story was good but needed just a little of this or a lot of that or just wasn’t right for them at this time.  That’s a little like: it’s not you, it’s me, so let’s just be friends.

And then there are all the literary magazines that just plain ignored me. I didn’t even get the closure that at least comes with a rejection.

If it wasn’t for my supportive friends in my writing group – Writing Safety Tree – and my amazing husband, my writing wouldn’t have happened.

Some of us couldn’t come because of mommy duties but from top
left to right we have Laurel Janssen Byrne, Julie Gardner,
Charlene Ross, me, Kim Tracy Prince and Lexi Rohner

Writers (or me) are very sensitive people. So everything can hurt. But you have to be sensitive to pick up on the little things and then process them well enough to articulate what happened to complete strangers. Or friends. Or family.

It all starts with sorting through the feelings in your own head though. And that can be a sticky uncomfortable mess. You don’t know what’s in there or where it’s been or who’s touched it. Ick. I think maybe that’s why many people stay away from it.

But then there are the masochists brave ones who insist on not only touching it but sorting through it and putting it together in an orderly fashion so that the next person might better be able to sort through their own sticky mess. I think that’s what writers try to do. Or, I guess, what I try to do. Organize then inspire.

But then there are the mean voices. You may or may not have them in your head but the ones in mine do two things when I finally decide I’m going in. First they say, hey, look at all the stuff you have to do, like dishes and ordering prints for that summer album, before you can sit down and waste your time with your trivial writing pursuits. Then they say, you have nothing to say anyway and even if you did, you don’t know how to say it in the right way.


I didn’t used to have the strength to show up and write anyway. Well, maybe only in my journal but then I’d worry that someone would find it and I’d be exposed. But if the planets did align and I did actually find myself in front of my computer (avoiding Facebook) and actually getting some thoughts down – finding that kernel of truth inside that chaotic spin – the result inside my body after was almost orgasmic. Yes, it’s that kind of high. Overcoming fear, deciphering the noise and putting together a tangible sentence leaves me walking on a euphoric cloud.

So, why can’t I gather, to the forefront of my consciousness, all these fantastic memories of feeling just that and know that all I have to do is show up and sit down? Because the mean voices are louder than any others I can muster on my own. And it wasn’t until I met my husband, who tries to drown out those mean voices with praise, that I started to suspect their lies. And it wasn’t until I joined my writing group  that I no longer felt destined to share a lifelong prison cell, inside my head, with those mean voices.   I found out those voices live within every writer in our group. So, together, we lock hands and refuse to let them scare us anymore.

And, that’s the real victory. It’s not that I’ve had two things published this month. No, the victory is despite the roadblocks my own head has put up to deter myself from doing the only thing in my life (besides motherhood) that I’ve desired with my full heart, I’ve managed to break through with the help of my friends and the love of my husband.

So I guess that’s the point. We are stronger together than we are alone.

It’s still a challenge sometimes (um, especially now that there are kids in the picture who consider me their on call servant 24/7) but it’s less so today than yesterday.

So, if you love something, go find someone that also loves that something and do it together. It’s the miracle of communal creation. No one achieves anything alone.

And if you want to read my new short story, you can find it here. And if you want to leave a comment on their website to tell them what you thought of the story, you will have my eternal gratitude (well, only if you actually liked it, ha ha).


Sometimes I think if I could skip eating and going to the bathroom – I’d have more time to do other stuff. Stuff that’s gotten neglected because Kaleb’s average nap time these days is about half an hour……

I thought, I hoped and secretly prayed the day we introduced solid foods to him at 6 months, THINGS would be different: I would get more than 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep – I would have a chance to finally finish my thank you cards from my baby shower – I could maintain order in the house – I could call some friends – I could squeeze a yoga workout in – I could WRITE and submit stuff to be published like I was doing while I was pregnant – I could wash my hair…..oh the dreams kept piling and my expectations of the moment solids first hit the lining of his bottomless pit kept growing…until the moment came and…..


…nothing happened….

Well, not immediately anyway. You may have noticed that I am indeed writing right now (dishes undone and, uhm, some other stuff). I’ve even gotten the chance to make some pressing phone calls and still he sleeps. It’s been over an hour. I have to pinch myself.

Every once in a while I do get the gift of time. It didn’t happen right away but sometimes now I get an hour or (gulp) two! to spend any way i wish.

(definitely when I’m not teething that is: LOOK-my first two teeth!)

Don’t get me wrong, please, I love being Kaleb’s mother. LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. I always dreamed that no matter how high-powered my career would be (which ended up more on the caring side instead of the high-powered one), I would spend the earliest, most formative years of my kids’ lives molding their silly-putty little brains into the musical, mathematical, analytical, eloquent and charming geniuses they would become. The world needs some heroes and I was determined to produce them.

Now, though – I’m thinking – maybe….that’s a little too much pressure to put on a 7-month old child. Maybe we could just just start by going to our developmental playgroup and making some art.

We could do experiments in crazy outfits.

We could wear beads and philosophize about life.

We could even make beautiful music together.

Maybe it’ll be enough that my son is a good, happy person that cares about others. Maybe that’ll be enough to make him a hero to somebody and it doesn’t have to be to everybody. I mean – if a person like Obama can’t be a hero to everybody – an open-minded, intellectual risen from the depths of food stamps and a racist society – it just shows there are too many everybodys to satisfy them all.

And speaking of Obama – during the Democratic Convention they aired a documentary that talked about Obama’s mama – an outside the home worker – and how she used to get up at 4 in the morning with him to go over his studies.

4 in the morning.

I guess she wasn’t breastfeeding every two hours but still! I had to dig myself out from under this particular inferiority complex by realizing that I’m doing the best I can – Kaleb and I go to school three days a week. He has his little backpack with all his “learning tools” – maracas, bells, streamers, spiders on a stick – you know, the usual.

Sometimes, we’ll even do homework.

We read, we sing songs, we do tummy time but now it looks more like table time since he is preparing to crawl.

I do more stuff for him than anyone else in my life and I was gratified to hear, from actually my mother – who loves him like crazy and has plenty of baby experience – that he wasn’t an easy baby. Really? How could I know? I don’t have anyone to compare him to.

I was going to throw in another slideshow of “firsts” but I don’t want to overwhelm anyone with cuteness so be on the lookout for another blog soon (nap willing, that is!)