The Gypsy is Still Smiling!

Published January 15, 2018 by Maryanne

The Gypsy Smiled -- THE COVER!!

My name is Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta and I’ve been writing professionally (meaning, being paid to do so) since 1995. That was the year I stood on St. Mark’s Place, in New York City, and was thrilled to see the magazine on display at a newsstand that contained one of my articles. It was one of my life’s happiest moments.

As a writer, the thrills never stop. Your first rejection list (which means people are reading), your first article in print, your first check, your first award, the first time you get to edit someone else’s work, the first time someone asks for your writing advice, and of course your first published book.

My first two books were self-published. Then my third was picked up by a traditional publisher. I was shocked. When the publisher first contacted me, I thought it was yet another self-publishing company hawking business. But, no, it was a real publisher — and wow, just wow!

Within the year, my fictional story, “The Gypsy Smiled” was published.

“The Gypsy Smiled” is music fiction chick lit, inspired by a legendary song by the legendary Lou Christie, “The Gypsy Cried.” I loved the song — and Lou Christie — so much that my book is a tribute to him. The characters who are 1980s goths have a secret passion for the 1960s; so much so that they transform Lou’s music and make it their own.

The lead character, Lucretia, is trying to make it as a musician, but something is holding her back. Then she meets an exotic, positive woman named Gypsy who guides her.

Innocent enough, with no malicious intent.

However, sadly during my time of working out the kinks, a clueless beta who read my work was fixated on the word “gypsy” which she thought was a dig on the Romanian community. (Meanwhile, I have a few friends of Romanian descent who had NO PROBLEM AT ALL with me using the word). I fought to keep the book as is.

After the book was published, I thought my woes with the publishing company were behind me until I was passed on to a publicist who — after the book was published!!! — wanted me to change the entire book because she found it “offensive.”

Do people not get out much? Hallmark Movie Channel had a feature about a “gypsy fortuneteller” not to long ago. And there’s also a TV show called “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.”

When “politically correct” turns to “nit picky incorrect” — it’s not only dumb, but disgustingly “holier than thou”!

I took a private poll on Facebook and people I haven’t heard from in ages came to my defense. The word was used in a classic song, the book is a tribute to that song, and “gypsy” was NOT used as a slur, but in a most glorifying way. (Thus other kick ass gypsy songs like “Gypsy” by Stevie Nicks; and “King of the Gypsies” by Johnny Thunders).

Life can be so ugly when you’re falsely accused for doing wrong, when you work so hard, night and day, to make the world a better place. When I worked at Montclair Times, I made the paper the first in New Jersey to write about gay marriages, followed by the transgender community; I’ve also spent many a day in violent areas in New Jersey to report on a story about the good teens and policemen are doing for the community.

That said, the suggestion by a publicist to change the title of my book “The Gypsy Smiled” was the most asinine thing I ever heard in my life; as the word was by no means meant to be harmful!

I’m no longer going to exhaust myself being defensive to ignorant, judgmental people. Life goes on; and my life certainly isn’t one lived in vain, that’s for sure! I look in the mirror in the morning and say to myself, “I like me” as I await what the day brings. And when someone has to put others down without knowing even five percent of their personality and good doings, they must not like themselves very much.

And not wanting to work with that negative energy, I declined any help from the publicist.

As for the future of “The Gypsy Smiled” without a publicist, the book may just be cult status at best. At least I never compromised myself or my values. I kept my art true.

I refuse to be a sell-out because of someone’s minuscule opinion that is so wrong. In my heart, I feel I created a piece of art that pays homage to someone I highly admire. And that is certainly something to feel proud about.

Like my character Gypsy, I am smiling!

To purchase “The Gypsy Smiled” in Kindle or paperback, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Gypsy-Smiled-Maryanne-Christiano-Mistretta-ebook/dp/B074VC7MT9

Dream of 2018, Finding My Forever Salon!

Published January 13, 2018 by Maryanne

IZOD 2013 (2)

My hair will look this good again — someday soon! 

Part of getting what you want in life is creative visualization, and putting it out there, which is why I’m writing the following blog, which is part creative visualization and part much needed venting/purging. Because it seems you gotta get haircuts from a lot of frogs before you meet the beautiful princess stylist!

As amazing as 2017 was, having good hair was a struggle. Early in the year I got a bad haircut from my former salon goddess. She had a head trauma, didn’t tell me, and fucked up my hair. We remained friends, and I would like to go back to her someday, but need a break because the trust was broken.

So, I was able to get my hair fixed — and it looked gorgeous. However, would not return to Salon #1 of 2017 because it was too gossipy; parking was a big issue and the salon didn’t have quarters for the meter; and the shampoo girl had attitude problems.

Then I found another Salon #2 of 2017 that did a fab job, but they were over a half hour ride for me, which is inconvenient for a busy person. And another reason … see #3 below under “Reasons Not to Go Back Besides a Bad Cut.”

Finally, I thought I found my “forever” salon. I got three great cuts in a row from Salon #3 of 2017. By the time of my fourth, my intuition told me not to go back. I should have listened to my gut because I got a horrible chop job.

The sad thing is, during the year when I wrote bad reviews on Yelp about Salon #1 and Salon #3, the salon owners took it incredibly personal, instead of dealing with the constructive criticism. Both salon owners taunted me on Yelp, ripping me a new asshole; and Salon #3 even went as far as having one of their friends harass me privately in an email. I actually called the salon and told them, nicely, that I didn’t appreciate the private harassing. The owner played dumb, of course.

Frustrated, I deleted my Yelp account. If I can’t be honest and warn residents in my area about bad hair salon experiences, what’s the point?

And this isn’t the first time that happened. Years ago, a stylist, who did a great job, was on the phone fighting with her husband, now ex-husband, while she was coloring my hair. It took three hours to do a foil job that normally took 45 minutes. When I wrote a bad review, the owner of the shop tracked me down and harassed me by calling my house! Scared about what she would do next, I immediately took the review down.

Before I deleted my Yelp account yesterday, I saw other people writing in the complaint area that they, too, have been stalked by places they gave bad reviews too. One wrote that she was afraid a business owner was going to follow her with an ax! I wouldn’t put it past these narcissists who live in La-La Land thinking they could do no wrong. They’ll go to any extent to get you to remove your bad review. They claim you are ruining their business with not one ounce of compassion regarding how they ruined your hair — and your time!

When I watch episodes of “Tabatha Takes Over” I want to yell at the screen, “Tabatha please come to these terrible New Jersey salons and bitch slap them all for me!” (And I say “New Jersey” because that’s where I live, but yes, I’ve had bad haircuts in NYC too!)

The good news is that over the years, I’ve gotten some of the BEST haircuts from stylists when they had to fix someone else’s mistake. (And even in my 50s, I have the face to pull off short or long hair!)

Though I’d like to point out, there are other reasons why I stop going to certain salons that don’t even involve bad hair. Read the following. Perhaps you can relate?

Reasons Not to Go Back Besides a Bad Cut:

  1. Gossip. I had this guy do amazing highlights on my hair. I never went back because he bad mouthed everyone from the salon owner (I didn’t like her either, but that’s beside the point), all his clients, and even the girl he took to the high school prom.
  2. Boredom. I had this woman who cut hair beautifully. However, she bored me to death with terrible conversation. Example: Her, “So what’s new?” Me, “I had my first book published.” Her, “So what else is new? Are you going anywhere for vacation this summer.” URGH! If someone asks me “what’s new?” and can’t be excited about something as thrilling as publishing a book, I just can’t … Which brings me to Salon #3, mentioned above, the bad cut was definitely a blessing in disguise because I needed an excuse to get away. I was so exhausted hearing about engagements and weddings — yawn! I’m a gal who eloped; so not a “Here Comes the Bride” person. Talk to me about spirituality, music, anything creative — but not a wedding. I’m kinda like a guy that way! Stylists should learn to KNOW their audiences! But then again, many of them are so self-involved, it’s beyond them.
  3. Not “getting” the client. Two stylists did amazing work, but I hesitated going back because I feared getting the same cut every time. The cut in the photo above was from a young woman who considered the cut “rock ‘n’ roll.” It was an a good cut, a great cut in fact, a cut I wouldn’t mind having again, but it was not exactly “rock ‘n’ roll.” To me, messy, edgy hair says “music lover.” I want a stylist who will give me bold colors, fringe bangs, and something that can work with my waves. I do not want to look like a school teacher. Another stylist mistakenly called me “conservative” because I didn’t have a million tattoos on my arms like their other clients. Honey, I’m anything BUT conservative. I even went there bra-less! Her comment reminded me of my teenage punk rocker days. I wore a leather jacket with a ton of buttons on it, heavy eye make-up, and magenta earrings, but that wasn’t “punk” enough for hardcore punk rock chicks and I was called a “poser.” All people, not just stylists, need to look beyond their inner circle.

I wish I could name ’em and shame ’em all, but because hairstylists are such babies who can’t take criticism; and the fact that I don’t want some crazy bitch coming after me with a knife, I won’t. Though it does feel good to get it all out there and purge. And let this also be a lesson to future salon goers everywhere — don’t trust Yelp. Stylists pay for good reviews and harass people who leave bad ones.

Finding a forever salon is a full time job. It’s like dating. Before I started dating my husband, I took all the right steps not to make the same mistakes again. Doing the same thing over and over again is the definition of insanity. I now realize 5-star Yelp reviews mean NOTHING. Also note, I am limited because I only go to salons that use products that don’t test on animals, such as Paul Mitchel and Aveda.

But prior to making my appointment, I meditated on it. What I came up with was a NEW APPROACH. Rather than going by five star Yelp reviews, I’d go by how the owner handles a bad review.

The salon I chose had one bad review. The owner reached out to the client and said she’d talk to her about it privately and resolve the issue. To me, that said CLASS. Wow, someone who actually owned up to a salon mistake!

I called the salon immediately and made an appointment with a master stylist — and requested one who is not too chatty. I had a nice conversation with the receptionist. She seemed to get a kick out of my high demands. We even had a laugh over it. My master stylist didn’t have immediate bookings, which was a good sign!

My appointment is Wednesday. Will it be my forever salon, or just a one-cut stand? Only the universe knows. But the fact that a bad review was handled with such finesse, shows me I’m on the right track, and that’s a win/win!

SHARE YOUR HAIR STORIES IN THE COMMENTS SECTION! What was your best cut? How do you choose a stylist? What makes one hairstylist better than another? I want to hear from YOU! 

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is a public speaker, editor/writer of 21 newspapers in New Jersey, and three-time author. For more information and links to her books, visit the “About” section of this blog. To book one of her lectures, or to have her help you ghost write/edit your book, visit: https://peartreeenterprises.wordpress.com/

 

Charlie Fusari Recreates the Magic of Michael Jackson

Published January 10, 2018 by Maryanne

DSCF1238Charlie Fusari

Charlie Fusari is a college student and a huge Michael Jackson fan. He expresses his admiration for Jackson through song; and truly recreates Jackson’s magic!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018, Charlie was a guest of Pear Tree Enterprises, and sang Jackson’s songs for the presentation, “The Life and Music of Michael Jackson” at the Elmwood Park Public Library, Elmwood Park, New Jersey.

Prior to the performance, Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta, presented a bio on Michael Jackson, giving the audience the opportunity to share their Michael Jackson memories and ask questions. During the lecture, Charlie wowed the audience doing Michael Jackson’s signature dance move, “The Moonwalk.”

Jackson songs performed by Charlie included: “I’ll Be There,” “Human Nature,” and “She’s Out of My Life.” Charlie ended the show belting out a heartfelt version of “Ben.”

When the show ended, the audience wanted an encore, so Charlie Fusari performed his original, “Trying to Find My Lane.”

During the performance, Charlie was assisted on keyboards by his uncle, Rob Fusari, who is a three-time Grammy Award winning producer.

DSCF1243.JPGCharlie Fusari and Rob Fusari

To hear Charlie Fusari’s music, both originals and covers, visit SoundCloud: https://m.soundcloud.com/charlie-fusari

And you can hear his single on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/trying-to-find-my-lane-single/1316307936

For more information on Pear Tree’s Learn & Listen series, visit: https://peartreeenterprises.wordpress.com/

 

 

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — Happy New Year!

Published December 28, 2017 by Maryanne

DSCF1213 - fun

Unlike prior years, I’m almost afraid to say “good-bye” to 2017. It was certainly a memorable year; and a true blessing that for the first time in a long time no one very close to me passed away. (And I beg the universe to keep it that way for at the very least the next three days. If we can have an equal 2018, I’ll be forever grateful!)

In addition to many book signings, radio shows, library lectures, a great big elevation in my career, my private time with my beautiful husband, cherished moments with great friends (you know who you are!) and more concerts and lunch/dinner dates than I could keep track of, there were five outstanding moments that 2017 offered. Here they are, in date order:

  • February 2017, I got the word that my third book “The Gypsy Smiled” was to be traditionally published! By September, it was available on Amazon! https://www.amazon.in/Gypsy-Smiled-Maryanne-Christiano-Mistretta-ebook/dp/B074VC7MT9
  • September 2017, during my “Learn & Listen: The Life and Music of David Bowie” series, a special guest showed up to perform the encore song. Three-time Grammy winner, Rob Fusari wowed the audience with his version of “Young Americans.” And I am now in the process of filming a documentary about the “Learn & Listen” series, with Rich Timberlake and Jayne DiGregorio working hard behind the scenes.
  • October 2017, I was chosen by the NJ Poet’s Society to read my poem “All About Eve” for the All About Eve Art Festival. It was an incredible honor and a night I’ll never forget!
  • October 2017. From June through November I worked as editorial assistant, then associate editor for a magazine. In October I was honored to go on a business trip to Atlanta, Georgia for a few days. Always mixing business with pleasure, I took it upon myself to check at Peter Noone (for the 5th or 6th time) at the City Winery. Atlanta was a beautiful place to visit, especially in late October while their daylight still goes strong until around 8 p.m.
  • November 2017 was the icing on the cake! Renna Media hired me as editor and writer for their 21 publications. Now over a month into this gig and I can honestly say I am ecstatic! With plenty of time to work and play, I can still handle my Pear Tree Enterprises (https://peartreeenterprises.wordpress.com/) business on a part-time basis. After working for a magazine for five months, it feels like I got my life back again. I get to work at home in my pajamas, but also go out and about to meetings, to cover hyper local news, and was extremely honored to write the tribute about Pat DiNizio when he passed, which made the cover of his hometown newspaper.

While no one close to us passed, I was very sad to see the following go (in no particular order): Pat DiNizio, David Cassidy, Adam West, Glen Campbell, Gregg Allman, Tom Petty, Chuck Berry, author William Peter Blatty, Jerry Lewis, Mary Tyler Moore, Erin Moran, Jim Neighbors, and Charles Bradley. (Yes, there were many more, but these are the ones that were most dear to my heart; may they rest in peace.)

On a happier note, I’ve always believed that how you start the year is the prediction of how the year will be. With an old fashioned tradition of “dinner and a movie” my husband and I ended 2016 by going to see “Why Him?” Setting the tone of the new year with LAUGHTER was the way to go, followed by fine dining, and that extra special kiss at midnight made 2017 unbelievable. We create our own magic — and this is what it’s all about!

 

 

Author Versus Journalist

Published December 27, 2017 by Maryanne

sam_3971 - book signing2014, at my very first book signing

If you are reading this, chances are you do not know me as a writer. I’m not a famous writer and probably will never be. Nor will I ever win a Pulitzer Prize. I know my limitations. But I can say, for most of my adult life, writing has been my “day job” and I make a comfortable living as a writer and editor. Yeah, I beat the odds. I get to work in my pajamas.

As I wrote in my first book, “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” it took a long time to earn my bragging rights. Coming from a single parent family, I never had the opportunity to go to college. But I know many people with degrees that don’t follow their dreams as I did! I always wrote here and there — and finally got published. It was sweet extra income while I worked in offices for publishing companies or music businesses. I never took a job I didn’t have extreme passion for.

When I first started writing full time as a journalist, it was because I made my way into the door. I was first hired as a typist at a NYC publication. While there, I told a few editors that I like to write. Then bam! Eventually I was writing about everything — food, theatre, advertorials, features, business, and even sports. I was officially a journalist — in New York City!

I’ll never forget how long it would take me when I first began writing articles. I’d be up until 4 a.m. Then, the more I learned, the faster I got. I take pride in the fact that I could write a 500+ word article, that needs minimal or no editing, in less that an hour.

Back then, seeing an article I wrote hanging up in a restaurant in Chelsea, NYC, was a thrill. Having actresses and rock stars write me letters thanking me for my articles was euphoric. I ate at restaurants for free; got guest-listed more times than I can remember; and received hundreds of gifts and freebies just for acknowledging someone in an article. And this went on for years — now decades.

Writing an article is instant satisfaction. You write. You get published. You get praise. Writing an article is fresh and current. But when you’ve been a journalist for as long as I have, it’s natural to go the next step. No, not author — editor.

As an editor, I started my own home based business and helped dozens of people pen their memoirs and fiction books prior to publication. During this period it dawned on me that I should write a book. I gathered my thoughts together and in three years wrote three books — two self-published and the final was picked up by a traditional publisher.

What came with published books was equally as satisfying as journalism. Anyone who has had a successful book signing knows what it’s like to feel like a star. Anyone who has received a substantial royalty check has that feeling of arrival. Anyone who has had someone they admired endorse their books knows what it’s like to have butterflies in their stomach. And it’s the most surreal thing in the world to wake up in the morning and say to yourself, “I’m an author” and you know your life will never be the same from that moment onward.

But the thing is, writing a book is harder than writing an article. That’s why I didn’t want to write a book to begin with. Work shouldn’t feel like work. There’s a saying, “If you do what you love, you never worked a day in your life.” Writing articles isn’t work for me. It’s a need; a desire. I must write articles, like I must have food and sex and music and love and all the good things life has to offer. Writing a book is like having a slice of pizza. I enjoy it, but it’s not necessary to my being. I’d much rather edit someone else’s book.

Currently I am in the process of writing two more books and will use any excuse not to work on them. Last they’ve been touched was over the summer. And the only time I feel a bit of guilt is when a fan of my books approaches me at a signing and asks when my next book is coming out. It breaks my heart to tell someone, “Probably 2019,” but that is the truth. If that! It could be 2020. Or never.

While I’m writing a book, and really getting into it, I can’t stop talking about it. When you’re in a groove, you’re in a groove. I’ve completed books quickly during afternoons of drinking a few glasses of organic wine. Then comes the hard part. Shopping it around to publishers. Or negotiating with self-publishing companies who prefer you use their packages rather than hire your own copy editors and book designers.

Honestly, the best part is the rejection letters. They do not accept your material, but are encouraging that they are sure you will find the publisher who is a perfect fit.

Then once you find that publisher, who is supposed to be a perfect fit, it’s anything but. Whether you self-publish or are published traditionally, beware of several months of headaches before, during and after the process. Be prepared to be persecuted by clueless betas, to re-do work that editors have fucked up, all the cover “do overs,” marketers who fall short, and those dreaded bad reviews.

Let me pause here for a second to say that a bad review for a journalist is a good thing. It means people are reading your work, which is good for advertising. It’s also humorous when you can share with your co-writers a letter to the editor bitching about you. My biggest laugh was when I wrote an article about tattoo parlors and an irritated reader pondered if I had a tattoo myself. (I have three). Or the times when I wrote about a band and you’d get a member who felt he didn’t get as much coverage as the others and go on an egomaniac rant via email — or even a phone call. (This has happened more than once).

As an author, it’s more personal. It’s your work, not the property of a magazine or a newspaper. You are no longer the reporter. It’s your baby. Like poetry. While a bad review is expected, doesn’t make it easy on you. You have to be able to take it.

I once gave a refund to a client who wanted me to help her write a book. She said, “I don’t want people to judge me.”

I told her, “Then you’re not ready to write a book. Because people will judge you.”

Not only will they judge you on the content of your work — but on the fact that you are an author. Other authors are competitive. Non authors will say things to downplay you. I’ve had an ignorant person ask me, “Do you actually make money off of those books?”

Uh, yes, I do. Especially at book signings or literary clubs. I make a killing.

I also make a killing by touching people’s lives with my books. One of the best compliments I ever received was from a woman who read “On the Guest List.” She liked that when I spoke about being part of the stage show for The Nuns that I had to work and diet to get my body in shape. She wrote me, “You didn’t make it sound like it was easy because it isn’t.”

Sometimes I’ll Google myself and see a glowing review for one of my books and it brings a smile to my face. I just want to hug the stranger who got me!

However, with all the pluses and satisfaction a book brings to my life, I’ll forever be a journalist in my heart. And here’s why:

  • I get to meet more people, especially children. (Nothing is cuter than a little kid jumping up and down screaming, “I’m going to be in the newspaper!” after you interview him/her.
  • The quickness of the truth. It takes about six months to write a book. You are focused on researching, reading it over and over to make sure you’re accurate. In writing an article, the truth is right there for you. You simply write the facts — who, what, where, why, and how.
  • The instant glory. You write, you get published, people are reading!
  • Getting out of the house. While it’s everyone’s dream to work at home in their pajamas — and writing a book will give you that luxury — life is short and it feels good to get out and meet people. As I wrote earlier, there’s free concerts and free meals; but there’s also tree lightings, winter walks, fashion shows … around every corner there is something to write about. And that’s a beautiful thing!
  • Sometimes people do your work for you. No, that doesn’t mean someone is ghost writing my stuff. It means if you get a kick ass interview with someone, the story practically writes itself.

But then again, a book is forever; and years down the road I’ll still be collecting royalty checks and doing book signings for a book that was written years ago. And someone on Amazon or Ebay will be selling my book for much more. Well, that’s book business.

Asparagus Christmas Tree

Published December 26, 2017 by Maryanne

DSCF1199Asparagus Christmas Tree

At our yearly Christmas party we always have “naughty” and “nice” food tables. But just because something is healthy, doesn’t mean it’s not delicious! Guests loved my asparagus Christmas tree, which was easy and incredibly tasty. I got the idea from a woman’s magazine, but their version was a bit bland, so I truly made it rock — my way!

Here’s how:

Stir fry, in olive oil, a bunch of asparagus, along with diced red peppers, shallots, and lemon pepper to taste. Cook to your liking. (I did it about 5.5 minutes, so it’s still crunchy).

Add white balsamic vinegar and chill.

One hour later, arrange asparagus and peppers to resemble tree.

ENJOY!

(Suitable for most diets/lifestyles).

Maryanne Christiano Mistretta is an award winning journalist and has written for several health publications and had her own health column “Here’s to Your Health.” She’s available for Healthy Foodie Library Lectures. Contact at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com

Merry Christmas 2017!

Published December 22, 2017 by Maryanne

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Merry Christmas to all my fellow bloggers and followers.

Thanks being a part of an incredible 2017 when a couple of dreams came true!

Reflecting back on the year, three years after self-publishing my first book, a traditional publisher picked up my third! (“The Gypsy Smiled” available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Gypsy-Smiled-Maryanne-Christiano-Mistretta-ebook/dp/B074VC7MT9)

My “Learn & Listen” library series skyrocketed and is now being made into a documentary! You can read about it on my Pear Tree website: https://peartreeenterprises.wordpress.com/

And I became editor for Renna Media! (http://rennamedia.com/)

But best of all, I made some incredible friends! I used to say I could count the friends I have on one hand, but after this year I’m up to two hands. That’s a lot of people you can count on; what a blessing!