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Ellen Meister

By Posted on 24 4 m read 10.7K views

There are people who give more than they take, and if anyone has noticed, that’s who I try to feature at LitPark. Ellen Meister is no doubt one of those people.

Me, Ellen

SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA is a story about friendship among suburban housewives whose hidden longings and disappointments are exposed when their children’s school is chosen as the location for the next George Clooney movie. The story is big-hearted and full of brilliant comedic timing.

Today, on Ellen Meister’s birthday, I give you an interview conducted by her eight-year-old daughter.


Have you ever been to a mental institution?

Don’t we live in one?

What’s your favorite color?

Whatever color you’re wearing.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Such a good question! Do you remember that it originally had a different title?

Yeah, but I want everyone else to know. So say what it was.

It was originally called GEORGE CLOONEY IS COMING TO APPLEWOOD, but the lawyers at my publishing company wouldn’t let me use that without getting George Clooney’s permission. I tried hard to get it, but failed. So I came up with a title I thought was kind of funny and ironic, SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA. Do you know what ironic means?

Not really. I’m 8 years old.

Ironic is like sarcastic. It’s when something is different from what you expect. Sometimes it’s used for humorous purposes.

How old are you? Oh, wait, that’s a question you told me never to ask.


What were you like as a child?

I remember crying a lot.

Were you ever happy?

I guess I was kind of like you…I was either very, very happy or very, very sad. I know I giggled a lot when I was with my cousin Cindy.

How would you like to spend the rest of your life as a frog?


What’s your favorite kind of mail?

Fan mail.

Duh. What do you like better, ducks or bunnies?

I like ducks ”¦ with orange sauce.

Don’t tell me you eat bunnies, too!


When can I stop asking you these stupid questions?

Are you tried of this?

Sort of, kind of. I just want to watch [my brother] play video games.

How about just a few more questions?

Okey dokey. Who’s your favorite character in SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA?

Well, I really love all my characters. But I can tell you that the one who surprised me the most was Ruth, the wealthy “princess” type. She was supposed to symbolize the kind of women who troubled me the most in my life, but I wound up finding out that she has this huge, generous heart and so much pain. I didn’t know I could love her so much.

How many TV shows and/or radio stations have you been on?

To talk about my book? One TV show and one radio station so far.

What’s your favorite food?

Sadly, I really like meat. Meat of all kinds.



Did you keep a diary or a dream journal or something when you were a kid?

I kept a diary when I was in junior high. Mostly, I wrote about the boys I liked.

When did you first think about being an author?

When I was a senior in high school, a mean teacher made some kind comments on a fictional scene I had written for his class. When I saw what he wrote, something clicked. It just made sense to me at that point that I was meant to be a writer all along.

What was your old job, before you were a writer?

I wrote advertising copy and produced brochures. I had my own company at one

I know that your next book, THE SMART ONE, is something about three sisters and an industrial drum, but can you tell me more about it?

Sure. The main character is Bev, is a recently divorced woman who decided to go back to school to become a teacher. She’s at this crossroads in her life…just before leaving for a teaching job far away…when she and her sisters discover a dead body in an industrial drum, which had been beneath their next door neighbor’s house for over twenty years. This event throws Bev together with the son of the murderer, and she has to decide whether or not she loves him enough to give up her career plans. She also has to decide whether or not she wants to stay near her sisters, who she think don’t exactly appreciate her. I know it doesn’t sound very funny, but it is. At least I hope it is.

Can I ask more silly questions?


Will you ever write a book about a mermaid?

No, but I think you should.

If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?

A dog, I guess. I think dogs are great.



Sue’s editorial aside: Some say that LitPark regular, Kenny, is every bit as cute as George Clooney.

So when this book goes to paperback, LitPark suggests (and will help secure permission for) the following title: KENNY IS COMING TO APPLEWOOD!

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  • Myfanwy Collins
    November 18, 2006

    LOVE this interview! Ellen and her daughter are the perfect charming duo. Excellent questions and answers and the photos are precious.

    Happy Birthday, Ellen! xoxo

  • Katrina Denza
    November 18, 2006

    Wonderful interview! Love the pictures!! So cute and Ellen’s daughter is brilliant!

  • Lance Reynald
    November 18, 2006

    Happy Birthday Ellen!!!

    great interview!! put a much needed smile on my face. Awesome 8 year old ya have there!

  • Pia
    November 18, 2006

    Acorn. Tree. Love it, Ellen. And Happy Birthday!

  • Robin Pasternack
    November 18, 2006

    Cute interview. Happy Birthday!
    Your 8 year old has the potential to be a great interviewer. Now when will we read an interview given by Max?

    Have a great day!

  • Jordan
    November 18, 2006

    I love that child! I’m one of the lucky ones who has met her in person…AND played Pictionary with her 🙂


  • Cousin Cindy
    November 18, 2006

    Happy Birthday, dear cuz! Where did you find these precious photos. I remember that “mink” stole! xoxo

  • Patricia Parkinson
    November 18, 2006

    I love this!!! and Happy Birthday Ellen..xoxox

  • Robin Slick
    November 18, 2006

    Happy Birthday, Ellen! What an awesome interview and I know this Q&A with your daughter has got to be the greatest gift in the world.

    Yep, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Emma, too, and she even sang a Beatle song to me in her adorable, raspy voice (that kid is going to be a siren…wait…she already is!)…then walked into the kitchen covered in post-it notes which we had to pluck off of her and read. She’s terrific and brilliant…just like her Mom.


  • Robin Slick
    November 18, 2006

    P.S. Do either you or Susan EVER look bad in a photograph? Bah! I hate you both.


  • Terry
    November 18, 2006

    Happy birthday. And nice… very nice… interview.


  • Ellen Meister
    November 19, 2006

    Myf, I guess I should fess up–I had to bribe my daughter to do this interview. She wanted something called a Webkinz. Apparently she was the only child on Long Island who didn’t have one.

    Kat, thanks! I had fun finding pics to scan.

    Lance, can’t argue with you about the awesome 8-year-old. Thanks!

    Pia, yes, she’s a lot like me … only ten times as smart. 🙂

    Robin P., I wonder if I could get Max to do it without a bribe …

    Jordan, you got to see her in action!!!

    Cindy, I was hoping you’d find your way here! I think the stole was chinchilla. Hehe.

    Patricia, thank you, sweetie! So glad you stopped in

    Robin S., I have plenty of bad pictures. I just don’t publish them. And so glad digital photography arrived the same time as my wrinkles …

    Terry, thanks! And what an amazing job you with this blog.

    Sue, what can I say but thanks. You’re the best.

  • Ellen Meister
    November 19, 2006

    And I forgot to say …

    Kenny happens to be the name of the love interest in the novel I’m working on now! So perhaps I’ll use your adorable Kenny as my muse.

  • LaurenBaratz-Logsted
    November 19, 2006

    Happy Birthday, Ellen!

  • Carolyn Burns Bass
    November 19, 2006

    Happy birthday to the beautiful Ellen and snaps to darling Emma.

    I’ve just added another book to my “must read” list. Sounds like a hoot.

    (Several years ago the moms of my kid’s school went atwitter when Tom Cruise and his pals came out to shoot pidgeons at the farm of one of the kids.)

  • Cousin Susan
    November 20, 2006

    Loved this interview and all the family photos! Emma is adorable as usual (even if you did have to bribe her to do the interview) – she’s smart like her mom! Happy Birthday, Ellen!

  • Shelley Marlow
    November 20, 2006

    Very charming interview! Happy Birthday, Ellen.

  • Susan Henderson
    November 20, 2006

    Myfanwy – They have that comedic banter down. I think they’re due for a radio show.

    Katrina – Aren’t they great photos?

    Lance – I think lots would say the same about you …about the smiles.

    Pia – Hi Pia! xo

    Robin P – Welcome to LitPark!

    Jordan – And I’m happy to say I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this wee interviewer have a not-so-wee meltdown, which I take as a sign of trust, and it makes me love her all the more.

    Cousin Cindy – Ellen, I love your cousins! Glad to have you here, Cindy!

    Patricia – Thanks for adding to Ellen’s day!

    Robin – You do not hate us. You’re just mad you can’t edit your comments.

    Terry – I agree with Ellen about you being the superstar of LitPark, keeping everything running and all pretty.

    Ellen – Just don’t put Kenny in an industrial drum. He’d be very traumatized.

    Lauren – I just (finally!!!) got to your email in my endless stack and will answer it in minutes.

    Carolyn – It is definitely a hoot. Mr. Henderson, all proper and British boarding school bred, often teases me for my Virginia-isms, but if I were to write a blurb for this book, it would say, “This book sure is a hoot and a half!”

    Cousin Susan – This is so sweet to see how much Ellen’s cousins love her. Thanks for dropping by, Susan!

    Shelley – I think some folks are trying to get in touch with you regarding a LitPark project about mothers. You might want to check your spam filter.

  • Kenn
    November 20, 2006

    Though I’ve not heard anyone other than our mutual friend raise the comparison of myself to George C (the “looney” left out to reduce the risk of a lawsuit), for the as yet barely recognized Kenn’s everywhere…. I humbly 2nd the motion to include the name Kenny in the title!

  • Ellen Meister
    November 21, 2006

    Lauran, thanks for the birthday wishes!

    Carolyn, thanks … and I hope you like the book.

    Cousin Susan, I do have the best cousins. Glad you dropped in.

    Shelly, thanks so much.

    Kenny, I wonder if the lawyers would make me get your permission in writing.

    Susan H … thank you again. This was a blast!

  • Pamela Erens
    December 6, 2006

    So fun! Bravo, Ellen (and Ellen’s daughter)!

  • […] Contact March 21st, 2007 Novelist Ellen Meister sits down with the Writer Profile Project Ellen Meister’s debut novel, Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, received acclaimed reviews from, among other places, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and numerous writers. Her second novel, “The Smart One,” is forthcoming from HarperCollins in early 2008. Ellen lives in Long Island with her husband and three children. Visit her here.Your first novel, Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, a story about three women PTA members who join together to try and get a George Clooney movie filmed in their town, was published in August of 2006. Tell us about the process of seeing it through to publication. How much time do you have, Kelly?It’s been quite a process, and I honestly have no idea how people who aren’t obsessive, compulsive and utterly neurotic get books published.In a nutshell, I got the idea for the novel in late 2000 and finished writing it about two years later. It was a tough process for me because for the first year I had no writer friends to go for input and no idea what I was doing. Then I found a critique pal on the internet, and shortly after that stumbled onto the Zoetrope online writers’ workshop, where I became fast friends with a number of talented and knowledgeable writers. The learning curve took a sharp turn at that point.Once the manuscript was finished, I spent about nine months querying agents before I landed one. My agent is a brilliant editor, and had some great suggestions for making the novel stronger, so I did a pretty major rewrite before she sent it out.The editor who bought it is Carrie Feron of William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins). It took about two years from the initial offer until the book appeared in stores. So … from the day I got the idea to the day I walked into a Borders store on Long Island and wept at the sight of my book on the New Fiction table, it was almost six years. People outside the publishing business think this is an insanely long period of time. My writer friends think of it as an overnight success story. * How has the publication of Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA changed your life? I bought a red minivan. I used to have a green one.* Lisa Kudrow, whom most people know from her character Phoebe on “Friends,” read the audio version of your novel. It too has been well received, garnering reviews from Publishers Weekly and Entertainment Weekly. Did you work with her on the project? I wish I could take credit for Lisa’s performance, which Entertainment Weekly called “a comic tour de force.” Alas, the writer actually has very little involvement with audiobook production. The publisher sent me a “script” of the abridged version for approval, and that was about it. It’s unusual for a celebrity to read an audiobook—especially one from a debut author– but I hit the lottery in the relatives department by being cousins with Lisa Kudrow. I’m so grateful to her for taking on this massive project. Lord knows she didn’t need the work. And as if that wasn’t enough, she went ahead and mentioned the book on the Tonight Show, even though she was really there to plug The Comeback on DVD. Of course, my heart nearly stopped in my chest as I watched her, because she led into it by saying, “My cousin wrote this really phenomenal book called … oh shoot.” A second later she remembered the title so I didn’t need the defibrillator after all.* So, we all want to know: have you met George Clooney? Only in my dreams, Kelly.* You’re currently hosting a contest titled “I Want A Freaking Character Named After Me.” What’s that all about? Thanks for asking about that! I’m giving readers a chance to enter a drawing to have a character named after them in my next book. For anyone who’s read Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA and remembers the multi-syllable curse Maddie uttered throughout, it’s pretty easy to enter. Instructions are here (and a clue appears below). * Your new book, “The Smart One,” is scheduled for release early next year. What is this novel about, and what inspired you to write it? It was two separate ideas floating around in my head that crashed like weather fronts. The first was an actual news story that happened in my own little corner of suburbia and captured my attention. A neighbor discovered a body in an industrial drum that had been in the crawl space under his house since he moved in. The police determined that the deceased was a young pregnant woman who had been murdered twenty-five years ago, and suspected the home’s original owner. Before they could issue a warrant for his DNA, he shot and killed himself. While I was thinking about this, I kept revisiting the notion that I wanted to write a sister story exploring how we often define ourselves in terms of our position in the family dynamic. So the two ideas collided and in the ensuing storm, I wound up writing a story about three sisters who discover a body under the house next door, and the journey of self-discovery that sets in motion.* After “The Smart One,” what’s next for Ellen Meister? I have this high concept idea for my next book that I haven’t even discussed with my agent yet, so I’d better keep my mouth shut. Suffice to say I plan to keep writing novels as long they’ll let me.* Is it true that once your first book goes to print, you’re under enormous pressure to produce another one within a year? What happens if you don’t deliver?Yes, once you’ve sold a book they’d like you to produce another one every 12-18 months. I don’t know if I consider that enormous pressure, but it looms large. It really comes down to being a career issue. If you want a career as a novelist, your readers are going to need to see books from you with some frequency so they don’t forget you. Also, the best way to keep your agent and publisher happy is to keep making money for them. And it’s hard to do that if you’re not writing new books.*Do you think the pressure does, or could, hurt the final product?I think it could hurt the final product if you were dealing with people who were willing to compromise quality for speed. Fortunately, my publisher would rather push back the pub date for rewrites than print a book they don’t believe in one hundred and ten percent. I’m grateful for that!* You’ve worked in publishing, advertising, and have even been an assistant to a literary agent. How has this helped you understand the business side of writing? What should writers know about the other end? Even with my background, every step of the process has been a learning experience for me. So I guess my best advice is to do your homework, but not worry about looking like a rookie. Ask as many questions as you need to ask. It’s the only way to learn.* You seem so together and down to earth. Are you as neurotic as the rest of us? Ha! Can I read this question to my husband, who witnessed me having a panic attack this morning?Someone once accused me of being a balance and harmony freak, which cracked me up. I mean, I love the thought that we live in a world where even mental stability can be pathologized. But I know what she meant. I wouldn’t work so obsessively hard at creating some Yiddishe version of a Norman Rockwell life if I didn’t need to quiet some internal chaos.* What’s your favorite swear word? Come on! You can say it! Mothershitfuck.* Upcoming Events: Ellen will be at the Rockaway Writers Conference and Literary Arts Festival on Sunday, April 22, in the Gateway National Recreation Area, Rockaway Queens. The event goes from 10 am to 5 pm. She’ll be on the Women’s Panel (time TBA).Contact Ellen Join mailing listOrder Secrets of the Applewood PTA from Powells Read a synopsis of Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTARead a
    n excerpt of Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTARead reviews of Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTARead other interviews with Ellen at: NewsdayInk Pot Novel Journey Lit Park Filed Under: The Writer Profile Project | […]

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  • litpark » Where Are They Now?
    September 3, 2008

    […] when Ellen Meister was interviewed by her eight-year-old […]

Susan Henderson