Column: Halloween requires vampire TV (2006)

The paranormal has certainly blossomed in the mainstream during the last seven years. Spurred by the Twilight series and somehow morphing to Fifty Shades of Grey, there seems a bevy of options for fans of the supernatural. Pop culture always has monsters to offer society, whether you look at the classic fiction of the nineteenth century (Frankenstein and Dracula among them) or the mid-twentieth century soap opera Dark Shadows or Anne Rice’s successful franchising of her vampire chronicles and Mayfair witches.

As a mom and someone rapidly approaching 40, I have reached the out-of-touch generation. I’m still stuck in the era of Buffy and Angel, when YA wasn’t even a genre let alone an attraction for adults. I love some Harry Potter, but Bella and Edward make me cringe. And the best thing about Fifty Shades? Certainly not the writing or the sex scenes, but instead I’m excited that erotica is getting some attention from the mainstream. I never thought I’d see the day where erotica hit the shelves at Target.

I always loved vampires as a youngster. Vampires offer an examination of our individual struggles of good vs. evil in our own souls, a close look at the struggles of addiction, and an exploration of personality and the tendency to dominate or submit. The older I get the more I embrace more monsters: the witches who challenge their own power and their place in the universe, the werewolf who has to keep his animal under control, the psychic who must decide what to tell people and what to keep secret.

These are the themes the intrigue me as a writer and why I write paranormal fiction in my free time. I have three finished paranormal manuscripts and I am currently revising the second book in the series. I hope to revise my synopsis and get pitching to agents and editors again but that’s a topic for another day.

Today’s nugget (that spurred this whole blog entry) is an entertainment column I wrote about family friendly vampire television shows available in 2006.

vampire TV

Parenting/Opinion: New Life for Old Heroes (2006)

In the Lehigh Valley News Group, every editor had to write a weekly column for their paper. Mine covered everyday life. Sometimes this meant deep topics and sometimes this meant home life.

My daughter had a Superman phase when she was two. We even bought her Superman underoos (the boy kind) that she wore as an outfit. She watched the old black and white TV show. She loved “Toupa-Man.”

One day my husband and I sought out his old plastic comic book action heroes and what happened after that… Well, this column brought tears to my eyes.

New life for old heroes

New life for old heroes

Daily: Ashley Development pulls from projects (2007)

I have special stories attached to all of my articles, but I think this one makes me proud because it could be considered a “scoop.” If I remember correctly, I heard something at a West Easton council meeting referencing a bigger project in the county seat, Easton. The news for West Easton was that this developer, Ashley Development, a known name in the Lehigh Valley, would not be moving forward as scheduled with a West Easton project because of the economy.

For some reason, perhaps because of my charm and politeness, but more likely it was because of the news entity I represented, the head of Ashley Development (Lou Pektor) returned my phone call. I confirmed information about the West Easton project but I also got information about the project in Easton and another big redevelopment, “the Dixie cup,” in Wilson borough.

Ashley Development

Ashley Development

This article is also available online via the Morning Call: http://articles.mcall.com/2007-09-29/news/3780119_1_project-majestic-tax-revenue.

Business feature: Why do people love Wegmans? (2006)

This story ran on the front page of The Bethlehem News in 2006 after Wegmans had made the Forbes list of the 100 best places to work. Again. They always end up on this list. As a fan of Wegmans, I thought I’d do a feature. In ran in all of the Lehigh Valley News Group papers. I wrote the story, took the photos and did the artistic lay out. (Really how artistic can you get with so many columns and rules. I tried.)

In recent days, I’ve noticed lists circulating the internet of why Wegmans is basically a Play Place for grown-ups. I’ve noticed that most of my friends do the bulk of their shopping at Wegmans. People meet at Wegmans. They get coffee at Wegmans. They drool at the cheese at Wegmans. So, why?

For me, it’s a combination of customer service and the goods they carry. When my daughter was two, I tripped and fell in the parking lot of the Wegmans pictured in this story. I’m a clutz. It happens. I got my kid and my groceries into the car. Turned on the car. My arm was killing me. I had fallen on my elbow. The air conditioner whooshed on. I started to black out. At that exact moment, my phone rang.

I couldn’t see. I rummaged through my purse with my hand. Found it. Somehow answered it. It was my friend, Gayle. I told her what had happened and that I thought I was passing out. She called Wegmans. I managed to get out of the car. That’s when a Wegmans “Helping Hands” cart attendant found me, and a manager right behind him. They brought me and my daughter and my groceries back into the store. My in-laws came to get us. They asked if I needed anything. I said no.

My daughter asked for ice cream, but no one heard her. If they had, the staff probably would have given some to her.

wegmans wegmans2

Editorial: Bad Behavior of Bethlehem School Board (2007)

When we launched the Lehigh Valley News Group, the Lehigh Valley branch of Berks-Mont newspapers (a Journal Register entity), I served as managing editor for the five new newspapers and the one previous-existing, The Saucon News. In addition to managing editor duties, I served as editor of the largest of the new papers, The Bethlehem News. We headed into a territory that had been abandoned by my previous employer (Chronicle Newspapers, a division of The Morning Call, a Tribune Company newspaper). In addition to those Chronicle weeklies that had just closed, most of our proposed territories were also served by The Press weeklies, an entity that still continues today.

I attended the school board meetings of the Bethlehem Area School District. After more than five years of covering the Phillipsburg School District, the differences between the two boards fascinated me. Bethlehem was a larger school district, had more schools and more students. But let’s just say the people who sat on the two boards were also different. I’m sure everyone had their good intentions, but the interactions on the Bethlehem board were often tense.

I wrote this editorial after one board meeting where the disagreements between board members, and their unwillingness to move forward after a vote, scared not only me but also drained the color from the superintendent.

BASD board behavior

BASD board behavior

Feature: Jordan Sonnenblick’s first book (2004)

In 2004, author Jordan Sonnenblick was still a middle school English teacher in the Phillipsburg School District. At the time I et him, he was anticipating the release of his first book, Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie, from a small publisher, Daybue. I can’t believe that we’re approaching the ten year anniversary of that event. I forget how I heard about Jordan. I don’t know if someone sent me a press release or if I heard about his success at a school board meeting. I followed up because as a writer myself, his story intrigued me.

We met in a coffee shop across the street from my office. We talked about his past, his struggles as a writer and why he rejected an offer from a big New York publisher to go with a small independent publisher instead. I remember my own awe when he said his creative writing teacher in high school was Frank McCourt. Yes, as in Angela’s Ashes. I also enjoyed his sense of humor. Apparently, success found him when he stopped trying to write the next Great American Novel and instead used the voice of a 13-year-old boy.

Shortly after all this, Sonnenblick landed a contract for Drums from Scholastic. The book now has a sequel. I’m not sure how many books he has now. 9? 10? He has one available for pre-order and it could use some hubbub. Jordan is a great guy. I’ve read several of his books and I love them.

Author Jordan Sonnenblick

Author Jordan Sonnenblick

Health: Eating Disorder Support Group (2005)

Sometimes the stories we write as journalists don’t develop with the depth or the complexity that we would like. We face deadlines. We have limits to our sources. Sometimes, we touch on something sensitive that we don’t know exactly how to handle it. One such case I wrote involved a family living with HIV; another was this one, about a group of women who gathered as an eating disorder support group.

This story is not my best written, and I apologize for the cut on the bottom of the scan. I worked hard to provide enough of a voice that various people could connect to these women, but not enough information as to identify them. That is a challenge. Let’s face it. The world stereotypes and judges people and these women had a strength and a willingness to make a difference. They hoped, as I hoped, that their story would help any other women facing similar issues, doubts or feelings of inadequacy.

I don’t know if it helped anyone. I don’t know if it made anyone stop and think. It certainly didn’t change any societal perceptions, but I hope that maybe it touched one person who needed it.

Eating Disorder Support Group

Eating Disorder Support Group

Daily journalism: Brush with celebrity, Mitchel Musso (2007)

 

 

 

 

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The holiday season, 2007. My daughter was a week shy of three-and-a-half years old. I recall having plans this night. Grown-up plans. My editor from the Morning Call telephoned and asked me to do this quick assignment. Famous last words.

I am not a fan of Disney. I like the classic Disney films like Mary Poppins, Pete’s Dragon and maybe a Bambi or Lady and the Tramp. (Okay, maybe not Lady because I get really upset when Lady gets thrown out of the house.) Blame Hunchback of Notre Dame. I went to go see it with the man I later married. I did a “May term” in college where I traveled to Paris for three-plus weeks to study the influence of politics on the art and architecture of various periods and Hunchback/the cathedral Notre Dame de Paris were on the list. When we returned to the States, we read the various literary works in the original French. Except for Hunchback because we had worn our poor professor thin and he asked us to please read it in English over the weekend. His plan was to meet with us Monday and be done with us so he could continue with his summer.

And it would have taken us too long to read the book in French. This is my back story. It frames my anticipation for the Disney film.

I arrive in the theater. I am watching. The cathedral is on fire. Esmerelda crawls into her cot where in the book she dies. I am crying. In the book, everyone dies. Tragedy is a French necessity.

She wakes up and lives happily-ever-after.

I was very angry.

Flash forward about ten years and I’m sitting in the Crayola Factory in downtown Easton with a thousand other people waiting for a star of the Hannah Montana TV series who, like everyone else in the Lehigh Valley, got caught in traffic on our infamous highway Route 22.

And I’m waiting for a much needed date night after I file. I barely met my deadline this night, and instead of date night I treated myself to an album of French Christmas carols I downloaded from iTunes. And, to further frame the way my life often works, the album turned out to be instrumental with some children singing “La la la” where the words should be.

My husband claimed they were French “la’s.”

I have been teased mercilessly about this album.

To return to the story for one last moment, I tried to inflect some humor into it. And Mitchel Musso was a really nice guy. Not that I know/knew who he is. I barely knew the name Hannah Montana.

 

 

Feature: Behind the scenes at the circus (2001)

The Clyde Beatty/Cole Brothers Circus invited me backstage when they performed at the Phillipsburg Mall. I watched the clowns prep for the performance, talked with the lion tamer, interviewed a corps of Russian Aerial Ballet artists and even fed the elephants. I loved those elephants. The man who took care of them handed me a loaf of bread, plain old sliced white bread and directed me to slap it into their mouths.

Literally.

I had three or four slices of bread on the palm of my hand. The elephant would lift his trunk and I would stick my hand in his mouth and press the bread to his tongue. And he ate the whole loaf.

This feature appeared in the (Phillipsburg) Free Press in June 2001. I took the photos. I also photographed the show. I may have to dig those out and scan them another day.

 

circus1

circus, part 2

circus, part 2

Circus, part 3

Circus, part 3