Monthly Archives: April 2018

Paul Revere and the Raiders, Fire Me, and Me

To demonstrate what a crazy dreamer I am, this story:

When I was a preteen/teen, I had the usual crushes on bands. Music wasn’t my main attraction. It was their look. So what’s not to like about a band whose members dress up in 18th century costumes? Yes, I was a Paul Revere and the Raiders fan. Don’t hate me.

During that time, I cherished this daydream: The Raiders would be on tour. They’d stop in Baltimore for a performance. They’d decide to take in the sights while there. They’d drive out to my suburb and get lost. On my street. And their car would break down. In front of my house.

That never happened — God loves me — but it does show what a cockeyed optimist I could be, how outlandish my hopes could be, how far my overactive imagination would take me.

As I grew older, I could see quite clearly that no band would likely land on my street while touring the Baltimore area. I lived in a suburb where the most interesting sight might be the new drugstore (open on Sundays!) at the top of a hill.

If I became more practical, I still couldn’t shake some of that wild optimism, which often manifested itself in a simple question, whispering in my mind: Why not?

Why not give that idea of mine a try? Why not become a writer? Why not try to get my novels published? Why not try to grab attention for one of them that I thought would be great movie material?

Even crazy optimists have to overcome inner fears, so it took a while before I did end up becoming a writer, getting novels published, and…landing a film deal for my humorous women’s fiction book Fire Me. And the road to that deal is probably as circuitous as the one that would have deposited band members on my doorstep oh so many years ago.

Fire Me was the “options clause” book in a contract I had with Harlequin. Their Red Dress Ink imprint published my first adult novel, Loves Me, Loves Me Not, and, like most book contracts, my deal with them specified they had the exclusive option to buy the next similar novel I would pen.

That novel was the story of Anne Wyatt, who goes into work one day intending to hand in her resignation but changes course when she learns her boss will lay off someone by the end of the day. So she tries instead to earn a Worst Employee of the Year award in order to snag the generous severance package that goes with a layoff.

My terrific Harlequin editor looked over my proposal and suggested changes, which I made. I submitted it again. And it was rejected. Unbeknownst to me, the Red Dress Ink imprint was shutting down. (I’m grateful for her suggestions, though, which enhanced the story.)

By now, I was moving on to other writing projects, but I couldn’t give up on the idea of this book, which I believed held great appeal. Between agents, I posted its rights were available on an industry subscription website, Publishers Marketplace.

Within a short time, I had a call. From a Hollywood agent. She asked if the property was still available. Why, yes, it was.

Fire_Me!And the rest is history. Well, ten years of history. That woman believed in this  project as fiercely as I did, so when she left the agency, she kept in touch with me. She shopped Fire Me around, and found a home for it at a respected production company. After that company’s option ran out, interest sprang up from another, and the book ultimately ended up at Twentieth Century Fox.

Options give companies the exclusive right to consider a project for film. They don’t guarantee a film. Last year, however, Fox bought the film rights outright, one step closer to actual production (not there yet!).

As to the book itself, Sourcebooks bought its rights and published it in 2009. Book rights reverted to me, though, this year. So I’m releasing it again, after an update and revision, this spring, excited to have it on the book market once more.

Paul Revere and the Raiders never came to my door, but I feel blessed, nonetheless, for preserving the crazy dreaminess of that preteen girl who could envision such a wild idea happening. Now I’m using that same sense of optimism to guide me through this new release of Fire Me, hoping it finds new readers who are amused and moved by Anne’s tale, which is ultimately a story of a woman finding her own dream and asking: Why not?

 Fire Me by Libby Malin will be released on Kindle this spring, in paperback this summer.




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Easter Music

For the church music director, the two big holidays of the liturgical year — Christmas and Easter — are fraught with peril. Expectations are high, and there’s often a dizzying array of pieces to choose from. Finding just the right selections for a choir’s capabilities, though, can be a challenge.

During the few years I served as a church music director a long time ago in a galaxy far away, I well remember how happy I was to have found a sweet set of Renaissance pieces with little percussion instrument parts that I knew my volunteer choir could handle for Christmas. And I also remember my disappointment when they thought the pieces odd and not at all what they associated Christmas sounds with! Today when I look back at that Christmas, I smile broadly. I sing in a volunteer church choir now, and I know our own director puts up with similar grumblings from us about this or that piece.

unnamed-2Although the Easter preparation includes all the Holy Week music, I always found Christmas music preparation the most anxious and the heaviest work load. Choir would prepare about twenty minutes of music to be sung before the service, then have an anthem ready for the service itself. It all had to happen on that one  night.

Holy Week, at least, is broken up into more, oh, digestible pieces. There’s Maundy Thursday (with a rehearsal ahead of the service), Good Friday (with a rehearsal ahead of the service), and Easter (with a rehearsal ahead of the service). So, while you’re preparing a full slate of musical selections, you don’t have to do them all at once on one night. You have the chance to refresh your musical memory, to go over problem spots, before each service.

When I sang in a professional choir at a church in Baltimore, Holy Week services varied little from year to year, but the music was transcendent. We sang Maurice Durufle’s sublime rendition of “Ubi Caritas” each Maundy Thursday, and Antonio Lotti’s eight-part “Crucifixus” each Good Friday. Several years in a row we sang William Byrd’s lovely and difficult (rhythmically) “Haec dies” on Easter itself. (Links are below.)

On Maundy Thursday, the organist would switch off the organ at a certain point, and it wouldn’t be heard again until a powerful,  improvised introduction to the Gloria at the Saturday Easter vigil. Until then, we sang everything a capella — hymns, chants, anthems. One of the basses was tasked with giving us pitches softly, using a pitch pipe.

All of that unaccompanied singing created a solemn and somber mood, making the exuberant sounds of the majestic organ all the more wonderful at the Easter vigil — it was as if you were hearing the organ for the first time, bringing you, in a small way, into communion with those who, on that first Easter, found brightness after silence and darkness.

That same kind of exuberant joy shines through the reintroduction of “alleluias” after the forty days of Lent, during which they go missing. At my current church, the rector occasionally, during his Easter sermons, would proclaim the Easter “Alleluia! The Lord is risen,” look at the choir and know, without doubt, we’d enthusiastically reply, “The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!” with no  prompting.

This year, our choir’s Easter anthem was “You Are the New Day,” a piece with a pleasant undulating melody and warm harmony, and words that sometimes…seem as odd to me as those Renaissance pieces I chose years ago must have sounded to that choir. The composer of “New Day” apparently wrote the piece after experiencing personal difficulties and acutely fearing nuclear war. So some of its lines have a whiff of apocalyptic warning.

Was there grumbling in the choir stalls? I won’t tell. 🙂 But I will say that we sang with all the joy in our hearts and discovered this piece has special warm meaning for our rector and his wife. Since this is his last Easter with us before retirement, it was a musical gift I’m sure everyone in the choir was happy to offer them and the rest of the church.

Ubi caritas by Maurice Durufle

Crucifixus by Antonio Lotti

Haec dies by William Byrd

Libby Sternberg is a novelist. Her latest novel, Fall from Grace, has been called a “novel for our times” by Midwest Book Review.


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