Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I used to love Danielle Steel

Yes, I did.

Say what you will about her, but her older stuff was quite good and impeccably researched.

When I was in high school, my stories in creative writing class were always long, romantic and melodramatic, and our beloved teacher, Mrs. Sapnar, always would say, "I think Diana is going to be the next Danielle!" Oh, nothing made me happier than to hear that. Nothing.
I started reading her novels around the 6th grade, and actually picked up quite a few history lessons along the way.

When we studied the Vietnam War in school, I remembered already learning some things from Danielle's novel Message From 'Nam (the story of a young girl who goes to Vietnam to be a reporter and learn the truth about what is going on over there after her beloved fiancee dies in the war) and when I wrote a paper on the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II, I consulted Danielle's Silent Honor (the story of a young Japanese girl who moves to the United States to live with her American cousins and go to college and then they all end up in an internment camp.)

Her historical novels are quite well-researched and compelling. Not gonna lie, I always truly enjoyed them. (I also wrote her a fan letter when I was 14. She wrote back! And said it meant a lot for her to hear from an aspiring young writer! I actually found that letter the other day and smiled really big when I reread it and remembered how excited I was to get it.)

Most of Danielle's books follow a basic structure...there's a beautiful young girl. Her first love
dies young (there's usually a war going on), the second has something shady about him (he either dies or is corrupt and the young girl notices this and leaves) and the third also has his own demons, and they kiss and go walking off into the sunset together.

She has written some nice stuff.

However, Danielle's recent novels? Kinda laughable. Back when I worked at Barnes and Noble,

I'd often take "stripped books" home. (They rip the covers off and trash the books. HORRIFYING, I know.)

I used to bring home absolutely EVERY strip and never got around to reading a lot of them.

However, I had a flat tire last year and needed to remove 5 years of strips from my trunk to get at my spare.

Finally, I had to read these books. Over one week, I read three newer Danielle novels that I brought home as strips... Answered Prayers, Lone Eagle, and The Kiss.

Oh, where have you gone, Danielle Steel?

Answered Prayers is about a woman in a loveless marriage AND her old childhood pal, the best friend of her dead brother, who is ALSO in a loveless marriage. The woman decides she, at the age of 47, wants to go to law school. Her scummy husband divorces her because of it. Her childhood pal gives her rosaries. They pray a lot. His son almost dies in Africa. They pray a lot. They kiss at the end and go, "Let's go home!"

Long Eagle is about a young girl during World War II who falls in love with an ambitious pilot. It just never works out. She gets married, and ends up in a loveless marriage. (Seriously, why wouldn't she?) He comes back into her life. They eventually end up married...but...sadly, he loves his airplanes more than he loves her. Also, she miscarries three children along the way. Must we make the children die?

The Kiss is about a woman in a loveless marriage, and her male friend, who is also in a loveless marriage. (Shocker!) The woman has a child who is desperately ill and a scummy husband. She begins to fall for her platonic male friend, who is also in a loveless marriage. They are in the back of a limo, and share a passionate kiss. The driver is so taken with their passion and gazes at them in the rearview mirror and he crashes. He dies, they don't. They both end up in comas and have near-death experiences and slowly recover together. Her husband kicks her out of her house when he learns of her affair. Her son dies. (Seriously, why does son ALWAYS have to die?) And with her son's death, she finds the courage to stand on her own without her scummy husband as a tribute to her dead son. She then professes her love to her platonic male friend. They kiss, and say, "Let's go home."

Danielle, I still love 'ya...I dare you to write something that has nothing to do with loveless marriages or children dying or affairs! Let's have some more well-researched fiction! You really don't NEED to pump out a book every two months. Take a break. Go to a spa. Volunteer at an animal shelter.

Take some time off, Danielle Steel, and I KNOW you will come back, better than ever, with
fiction that can measure up to the very best of Message from 'Nam and No Greater Love!

YOU CAN DO IT, DANIELLE STEEL!

Diana Rissetto

A creepy creepy lawyerman

After almost two years of crazed jobhunting, a friend of mine took it upon herself to spend her days at work sending my resume...everywhere...without even reading the job ads. (Which is pretty much what I had been doing before anyway.)

A lawyer called...apparently, "we" had applied for "me" to be his assistant.

He left me a message, telling me that he cracked up at my cover letter and wanted to know why the hell I wanted to work for a law firm. (I honestly couldn't give him an answer to that one. I didn't want to work for a law firm! But I did want a job! So I set up an interview!)

When I got off of the subway, I found that this building had a perfect view of the building that I grew up in. I thought that was a sign. (I find signs in a lot of things, I really need to stop doing that. I've learned that if you look hard enough, you can find signs that will excuse and explain absolutely everything.)

There was a Harry Potter movie poster in the lobby, which I also took as a sign, as I was currently working in Barnes and Noble and had dressed as Harry's pal Hermione for several different occasions.

I sat down with Creepy Lawyer Man and his first question of me was,“So, are you a good liar? This position is not about managing my office; it is about managing my personal life. I live a very… interesting personal life. You will need to learn to be discreet. And not gossip about me to anybody else. You will need to learn to lie well, if you don’t already know how to.”

I glanced at a picture of his cherubic children on his desk and wondered how much I would have to lie to their mother about their father’s affairs.

During our interview...he smoked a cigarette.

He offered me the job on the spot, he said because he liked my cover letter and because I had a lovely speaking voice to answer the phone and that he wasn't impressed with anybody else he had met.

I told him I needed to think about it.

The next day, I emailed him and told him I couldn't work for him because I had bad asthma and couldn't be around smoke.

I don't have asthma...but I guess I wasn't a bad liar after all.

Diana Rissetto

When Maria Shriver speaks...

As a teenager, I was obsessed with Camelot...oddly, for once, I'm not talking about a Broadway musical, but of the Kennedy family. The wall by my desk was decorated with picture of them...mainly Jackie and John, Jr. When his plane went down, only two months after my dad's death, I mourned like I had lost an old friend. The pain from losing my dad was still quite fresh, and I was in quite a "life stinks' period.

There was also another Kennedy relatives I had grown to adore and idolize: Maria Shriver. She was pretty and seemed to have a stable family life with her movie-star husband. (Even though I wouldn't want to marry Arnold...my movie star of choice to marry would be Matt Damon.) I would watch First Person With Maria Shriver and imagine the day when I would be a top television journalist. (That would briefly become a reality when I was an anchor for my campus newsprogram, HawkTV. A big hearty wave to my old Monmouth pals!!!!)

One afternoon, I went on a job interview. (Which really wasn't different from any other afternoon, of coruse.) After it was done, I walked past a familiar store...Barnes and Noble...and saw a sign. Maria Shriver would be there signing her new book, One More Thing Before You Go.

I noticed the date. Why, it was today! I noticed the time. Why, it was right now! I dug out a paystub out of my purse so I could use my employee discount and bought two copies for Maria to sign...one for myself, and one for my good friend , Lori...who had a well-paying job, but was as confused and lost as I was.

When it was my turn, Maria smiled at me and asked me my name. I told her, "Diana. And I don't know what I'm doing, Maria Shriver! I've been out of college for a year and I just don't know what I am doing with my life and I am freaking out!"

Maria finished signing my books and looked up at me and said, "Oh, Diana, don't freak out! What you are feeling is perfectly normal! Everything is going to be okay!" I then complimented her hair. She was wearing it curly that day.

I carried those words with me for a very long time. Maria Shriver told me that everything was going to be okay. Maria Shriver would never lie to me.

Diana Rissetto

A story about puppets...

When I applied to work for a small theatre company, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew it sounded like some place I could be happy in. After working for a year in the sales office of a theatre company, I was ready to work on the more creative side of things. All I knew was that it was a two-person theatre company, downtown, and was a parttime gig. Sounded great! So I applied! (not that that means much, I am usually not too picky about where I apply, says the girl who interviewed to plan events in a nightclub that has a bowling alley in it...or, a bowling alley with a nightclub...depends on how you look at it.)

And then I got an email asking if I could meet for an interview. The small theatre company was interested in me! I had visions of a tiny, cluttered office, where I'd help them write their plays. I would soon be discovered (either as a writer or an actress)...

I did what any girl in my situation would do...I googled the name of the woman who had emailed me.

She was the agent of a puppeteer.

Then I did what any girl in my situation would do...I googled the puppetman.

I learned he was quite successful, and I considered going in for an interview, if only for the experience.

The job description listed "dog walking" as one of the duties. Now, I wonder, was that a dog puppet or a real dog? I envisioned myself walking a puppet dog down the street, or, even yet...an imaginary dog on a leash! I guess I will never know.

However, I also wondered if a friendship with this puppeteer might be a good thing to initiate.

Maybe we could become friends. Best friends!

Maybe he could teach me a thing or two about puppets.

And maybe, just maybe, this could help me eventually get my own children's show. I have always wanted to have my own children's show...(which has always been my ultimate dream). I would do things like teach children the difference between nouns and verbs and, of course, about manners.

I do hope that puppetman did find the perfect assistant he was looking for, and I know that, if it was meant to be, our paths will one day cross again.

Diana Rissetto

The Early Years

I have an extremely traumatic memory of my 4th birthday party. I remember every second of it, and it truly scarred me for life, and I pretty much blame any insecurities or paranoia I have and will ever have in my lifetime on what happened that day.

My mother tells me that that is impossible...that I only believe that I remember so much of it because I have seen the incident on our home movies so many times. (Apparently, tormenting and traumatizing me once wasn't enough for my family...we had to relive it on television over and over and over.)

Oh, but I remember it ever so clearly...I remember the Pound Puppies birthday cake with the giant number "4" on it...and I remember how my family began to sing, and sang "Happy Birthday"...to every single person around that table but me.

"Happy Birthday Dear Aunt Barbara!" "Happy Birthday Dear Grandpa!" I bounced up and down in my chair, going, "Stop it! Everybody stop singing! It's my birthday! It's my birthday!" I pointed to myself with my plastic cake fork, crying, "It's MY birthday! Mine!"

They ignored me and kept singing, surpassing their giggles and relishing in my despair...there were a lot of people there that day to celebrate (what I thought had been) my birthday, and they simply ignored me as they continued to sing. Eventually, they had no choice but to sing "Happy Birthday to Diana", as the candles on the cake were beginning to melt. I will truly never forget that day...and never let my family forget it either.

I would eventually grow-up to become one of the most sensitive people in the world.

Diana Rissetto

An introduction (and an overview)

Over the past couple of years, many (many many) people have told me that I need my own column (or, of course, my own reality show...but since I am a writer far more than I am an actress, I would rather have a column), on what it is like to be a young woman looking for a job, while attempting to stay creative and true to herself, in this very crazy world (and, in specifically, a very crazy city called New York.) It is a great deal easier than it sounds! And not just looking for a job...being an artist...being slightly insane...being single...being real...

I graduated in 2004, with a resume that I thought was pretty darned good. I had been nationally published, graduated with honors, and I had done a few internships, including one of which I had to make 9,000 calls to bakeries to find out who had the best brownies to lure a certain actress to come to a party the firm I was working with was throwing. I then had to deliver the brownies to her doorman and had a glimpse of how the other half lived. That internship treated me like a little slave, and didn't pay me, but I didn't care! I got to have my name published in a real Broadway Playbill as "Press Intern" because of it! That made up for all of the agony. A real Playbill! I later realized that you cannot pay rent and buy food with a Playbill with "Press Intern" listed before your name. However, I handed out copies to all of my friends and relatives and still stare at that page at least once a day.

When I was a teenager, I started a correspondence with Frank Sinatra's daughter, Tina. She used to read my letters to him as he sat up in bed in his striped-blue pajamas. (Him...being HIM! FRANK SINATRA! The Voice! The Chairman of the Board!) This eventually led to me being a lead story on Access Hollywood as "The Teen Who Touched Frank Sinatra's Heart." I somehow managed to include this on my resume as well. If Frank Sinatra can't get you a job...well, who can, really. (I later discovered that even Ol' Blue Eyes isn't that powerful.)

The years I had spent working part-time at my local Barnes and Noble even seemed to be a lovely thing to have on my resume. I had read many books, planned dozens of events, and dressed as Hermione for several Harry Potter parties. (As the only staff member who was a young girl with crazy curly hair, I really had no choice in the matter.) I even cleaned up after Jon Bon Jovi's children!

I graduated full of promise and ambition! I was going to make! "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" played in my head as I bounced down the street going on my first real job interviews in my first grown-up suit, with nothing but my portfolio and my dreams!

However, I didn't get the first job I interviewed for. Or any of the others. In fact, it took me almost two years and 7,436 interviews until I finally landed my first full-time office job.

After a while, I just began applying to things left and right without even reading the job descriptions most of the time. I became depressed and hopeless, wondering when things were going to fall into place. I even confided my troubles to Maria Shriver at a book signing. I told her I had recently graduated college, wasn't sure what I was doing, and was freaking-out.
Maria smiled at me and said, "Oh, don't freak out! What you are feeling is perfectly normal! Everything is going to be okay!"

I believed her. Maria Shriver would never lie to me! (I then told her how much I loved how her hair looked. It was curly that day.)

My own mother tried to convince me that my own curly hair was the bane of my existence. I would never land a job as long as I had curly hair. Only girls with straight, short bobs got jobs, claimed my mother.

I did have some sitcom-worthy experiences at my interviews, though.

Among them:

-one with a very creepy lawyer who asked me, "So, are you a good liar? This isn't about managing my office; it is about managing my personal life. I live a very interesting personal life. You need to learn to lie." I glanced at a picture of his cherubic children on his desk and wondered how much I would have to lie to their mother about their father's affairs. I decided I just couldn't do it. He told me he smoked heavily in the office, so I told him I had asthma (I don't. But I guess I WAS a good liar after all)

-a place where the HR director warned me that my potential boss would make my life miserable. He'd treat me like dirt, but the end of each day, I'd feel a victory that I survived yet another 9 hours with him. I wouldn't be allowed to talk to him in the elevator, and she guaranteed that he would make me cry

-with a place that does award shows for advertising (I know..."huh"?) where they shook my hand and said, "Welcome aboard!" and then I never heard from them. Ever. Again.

When I finally DID find a job (with a powerful theatre company) it was one of the happiest days of my life. I skipped down the street, calling everybody I knew and telling them my good news. I was now officially a member of the Broadway industry!

For the next year, I was the best office assistant (did you know that there was a difference between "office assistant" and "administrative assistant"?) I was on time every day, picked out just the right cakes and cards for my colleagues' birthdays and I gave that job everything I had.

I got free tickets to every show playing, and even got to attend the Tony Awards. Relatives came out of the woodwork to ask me if I could get them Jersey Boys tickets. I wore my title with pride. I deserved this.

Until that day (only a week before my birthday, so after all of that, I didn't even get a cake or a card) when my boss told me, "Everybody loves you. You've done a wonderful job. Now, pack up your desk and never return."

In shock, I cleaned off my desk, ripped off the pictures of Harry Connick, Jr. and my niece off of my bulletin board and went trudging down 42nd Street. Of course, it was raining. Worse yet, I had tickets to see Les Miserables that night, which isn't the best show to see when you are depressed. I sobbed throughout the show and although I was grateful I wasn't dying in the French Revolution, I was frustrated and depressed and wondering what would become of me.

I began applying like crazy once again, trying to block out my experience from three years ago out of my mind.

I've already had some amusing experiences!

-I applied to work for a theatre company. I later learned it was to be the assistant to a puppeteer. One of the tasks was "dog-walking". Now, I wonder, was that for a puppet dog or a real dog?

-One in which I accidentally referred to the HR fellow guy Jeff Meade as Daniel Meade to the hiring manager. Daniel Meade is the boss of Ugly Betty. ("Shoot! His name isn't Daniel! That's Betty's boss!" Then I thought, "You know what...if you can't laugh with this guy, then you don't want to work with him!")Me: You know why I called him Daniel by mistake...because Ugly Betty's boss is named Daniel Meade!Potential Boss: I LOVE THAT SHOW!
We chatted about Ugly Betty for a bit, and on my way out, he said, "See you later!" I wanted to say, "Oh...but will you...will you?"

-right after that one, I went to another interview, at a place the packages horror films.(Cuz...you know...I just love horror movies...yup...I'm glancing at my DVD shelf now...there's Audrey Hepburn movies and Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musicals and TONS of bloody horror movies.) Utter randomness! I really just wanted to get out of there. I was in there for all of 90 seconds, and had to sit in a chair which majorly sunk in so I was pretty much sitting on the floor!The dude begins our interview with, "So, ask me questions." Then tells me, "This office is very slow. Not much happens, and I'm not here most of the time." He asked me if I knew Quicken. I told him no, in hopes that he'd dismiss me. He didn't. I finally get to leave, called out a hearty, "CONGRATULATIONS!" to the very pregnant receptionist and then went skipping down the street, shaking my head in amusement and looking forward to watching my beloved Apolo Anton Ohno dance his little heart out on my television set that night.

Believe me, there is a lot more where that came from.

I send updates to my friends, and they have told me that they believe my lay-off happened for a reason. They believe that this means that I should just take my time to do what they think I do best...write! There are many young women out there in my position who would be amused and uplifted by my experiences.

I will be frequently posting my past, present and future adventures right here. Stay tuned!

Diana Rissetto