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A sell-out crowd at Vroman's!

What they're saying about our new book:

"The elderly have quite a bit of wisdom, and often you'll get it whether you want it or not. "Feeding Mrs. Moskowitz & The Caregiver" is a pair of two novellas focusing on the topic of the elderly and their interactions with the people around them. 'Feeding Mrs. Moskowitz' is the story of the titular elderly lady and her encounters with a girl rapidly approaching middle age. 'The Caregiver' tells the tale of a caregiver and her job at an assisted living facility. "Feeding Mrs. Moskowitz & The Caregiver" is an enticing read that shouldn't be missed."
-- Midwest Review of Books

"The novellas are authentic, filled with believable characters and situations that resonate with our own life experiences. The stories are funny and poignant at the same time, teaching those who have not thought much about the aging process in the best way possible by fascinating and amazing us."
-- Anne M. Wyatt-Brown

"As someone who was the caregiver for two aging parents, both of whom lived into their nineties, I found Feeding Mrs. Moskowitz and The Caregiver: Two Stories by Barbara Pokras and Fran Yariv a delightful experience. It is a candid and humorous look at aging. .....It is well work reading whether one is a caregiver or not. This is a slice of life worth visiting."
-- Alan Caruba, Bookviews

"Caring for aging parents is one of the most common experiences sisters share, but few can transform their responsibility into bittersweet words of wisdom the way the Pokras sisters, Fran and Barbara, have done. This book, with its tender, funny, and revealing insights into the world of the elderly, is a must-read for every caretaker." -- Carol Saline, author of The New York Times bestseller, "Sisters"

"The novellas are beautiful little parables that are just not meant for caregivers or for the children of the elderly, bur for everyone -- as most of us will, eventually, take similar journeys to those taken by the residents of Sunset Hills, in one form or another." -- John McDonald, New York Journal of Books, award-winning novelist, screenwriter, playwright and graphic novel adaptor of the works of William Shakespeare.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Golden Moments with The Golden Notebook

Woodstock is my home, and Barry Samuels, co-owner of The Golden Notebook, a bookstore in the heart of this amazing community, arranged a reading and signing for Fran and myself. The event itself was truly an honor, for this long established institution's days are numbered.  One of the bookstore's owners has been ill, and a sale is imminent.

The upstairs room at Joshua's Cafe just down the street from The Golden Notebook,  proved the perfect venue.  What we thought would be a half-hour event spiraled into a two-hour "party,"  not unusual in a town packed with remarkable people.  Woodstock has more than its share of artists of every description; writers, painters, musicians -- you name it!   Fran's daughter, landscape architect Gabriela Yariv, had an opportunity to meet new friends and experience the unique flavor of Woodstock.  The love and support of my husband, Bob Malkin, and our many friends made this event memorable and very exciting.  Thank you once again, Golden Notebook!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Playing To An Empty House

We got off to such a fabulous start at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena that we were somewhat spoiled.  The audience for our out-of-town signings were predictably smaller, but still drew some interested people.  Albany was an abrupt reminder that we are not celebrities on the New York Times best-seller list....at least not yet!  The signing was at Barnes and Noble in Albany where neither of us knew anyone.

We left Woodstock in plenty of time for an early dinner, figuring if the event was scheduled for 7:00  we would not be done before 8:15 or so and it would be too late for dinner.

The store manager was off, the store itself nearly deserted, but they had set up a desk for us, facing chairs for the audience.  The seats were unoccupied.  We sat down behind the desk, smiling hopefully at the few customers who passed by.  Barbara invited one or two to join us, but they passed.  We decided to wait until 7:20 or so and if no one showed up, we would leave.  7:20 came and went.  We looked at the empty seats and decided to give it another 10 minutes.  At 7:30 we closed up shop.

We asked the girl behind the counter if it ever happened before that no one showed up at a reading.  "Yes," she replied.  "Depends on the date, the weather.  You never know."  We thanked her, bought a couple of books (including one of our own) and hit the road.

We turned our thoughts to our next event --Fairfield, Conn.--where we knew at least some of our old high school friends and our cousins would show up.  Onward!



Barnes and Noble in Poughkeepsie was scheduled for the next day.  We left Margie's home in the morning and arrived in Woodstock by one (with a stop at an optomotrist to repair Fran's bi-foculs which  had  fallen apart).  We figured we had time for a rest, even a walk, before leaving at 5:15 for our 7:00 signing.  It was nearly 3:00 when Barbara checked our blog and panicked.  "The signing is at six, not seven!" she shouted. "We have to leave in five minutes!"  Somehow we managed to dress, grab our poster and reading copies, and race out the door.

We arrived at the store just in time and took our seats at the table set up for us.  A couple of people arrived and we waited for more.  A woman came up to us and said she saw the name Pokras on the flyer posted at the entrance.  "I went to college with a woman named Pokras and wondered if you were related," she said.  Turned out that the Pokras woman she knew was Noreen, married to our first cousin, Dave.  She happily joined us.

Our table happened to be positioned next to the Romance Novel section, and the women who approached turned out to be more interested in the Harlequins than in us.  Then we spotted an older man carrying a copy of The Economist magazine.  We invited him to join us.  "I'm not really a fiction reader," he said,  "but I'd like to sit for awhile."

We began our readings and Edward (we found out later that was his name) put down his magazine and listened intently.  When we were done, he began the discussion which turned into a fascinating give and take about the pros and cons of nursing homes.  He and Fran later engaged in a lively conversation about the Brooklyn Dodgers and how they never forgave Walter O'Malley for moving them to L.A.  But that's another story.

And so the event in Poughkeepsie, while small, was stimulating and fun.  We hope that Edward enjoys FEEDING MRS. MOSKOWITZ AND THE CAREGIVER.  Who knows?  Maybe he will discover the joys of fiction.


All Things Literary

Our first east coast event was a distinct departure from the usual bookstore signings.  All Things Literary is a book club  in Levittown, Long Island, consisting of twelve lively, articulate, book-loving ladies.  We were flattered when they chose FEEDING MRS.MOSKOWITZ AND THE CAREGIVER as one of their selections and invited us to speak.

The trip from Woodstock proved more difficult than anticipated (so what else is new?) what with horrendous traffic and rain, combined with Barbara's determination to make a detour to Joe's Dairy in Manhattan for some handmade mozzarella.  But we made it to Margie Juszczak's home just as dinner was about to be served to the group.

The fact that the ladies had all read the book and had questions prepared made for an extremely interesting discussion.  Topics included problems facing the elderly when they encounter difficulty living on their own, and, believe me, everyone had an opinion!  The group wanted to know how we came to write the two novellas, and as a couple of the women were writers, the usual subject of how to get an agent and publisher came up.

After everyone left, we re-hashed the evening with Margie (who graciously put us up for the night) and dropped into bed, exhausted.


The End Was In Sight

The end was in sight.  The California end, that is.  Anyone who knows Santa Barbara knows Chaucer's Books, started 35 years ago by an enterprising woman named Mahri Kerley.  A fabulous meal at Maestro with good friend, pastry chef Katy Renner, put us in the mood for our reading and signing at Chaucer's.  Eric Love, aptly named, took charge of the reading and was enthused about our book and presentation.  A thought-provoking discussion followed.

Though late, the drive back to Los Angeles followed the shimmering ocean path, lit by the glow of a huge, full cantaloup moon.

Barbara was particularly looking forward to Book Soup in West Hollywood, as she had lived in that area and had many friends from her years in the film industry.  The turnout was impressive:  friends and family were augmented by passers-by and bookstore browsers.  A glorious end to the California travels of the Pokras sisters.

Barbara flew back to New York and was joined a week later by Fran, and her daughter Gabriela.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Do you like coffee?

We should have known something was wrong when the cab driver who was taking us from Oakland to San Francisco admitted that he didn't know where the Marina was.  We were lulled by the fact that he seemed to know how to get to Davis and Jackson, where our friends would meet us at Starbucks.

"There it is," shouted Fran, spying a Starbucks across the street. 
"Make a u-turn," I added.
Noori, our driver obliged.  Did we mention it was pouring rain?  Why else take a cab from Oakland airport?  Who knew that little luxury would end up costing more than our plane ticket?
We waited patiently at Starbucks.  Time passed.  Fran called our friends, who supposedly lived right around the corner.
"We're at Starbucks," we announced.
"So are we," was the reply.
Duh, wrong Starbucks!
Finally united with our friends, we headed off to dinner, first stopping by Book's Inc. to introduce ourselves.  We were pleased to see an announcement of our reading posted by the door, along with a display of copies of the book.  Bob, in charge of the evening's event, welcomed us warmly.  We knew we were in good hands.

Book's Inc, the West's oldest independent bookseller, has been around since 1851.  The Marina store, located on Chestnut Street is spacious, well lit, and well organized.  It was impossible not to browse, and each of us bought books -- not our own.

Dinner at A16, just down the street, was fabulous.  After a shared dessert, we left the bookstore.  To skip ahead a bit, lunch the next day was something out of a Steve Martin comedy.  The restaurant, a new addition to the Embarcadero, was a study in casual elegance.  No fault could be found with the food.  Fran, however, made the mistake of ordering a cup of coffee.  Our overeager waiter snapped his fingers, and two more servers quickly appeared at his side. 
"Coffee?" said our man.  "We have a blend of beans from three African countries, and then there's Blue Bottle, a local favorite.  We have drip, Americano, French Press, automatic, full strength, half strength, decaffeinated...."
"French Press, Ugandan, Espresso, drip...."echoed the chorus.
"Which of those is like regular coffee?" Fran naively queried.
"I would recommend the French Press."
"Fine," said Fran.
"Which French Press would you like?"
"How many do you have?"
"We have three."
Fran's eyes were glazing over.  Thankfully, our friend intervened.

Our presentation at Book's Inc. was well received, and we stayed to answer questions, mostly about assisted living and the challenge of aging.  We also spoke about how we hoped the writing of the book would prepare of for our own golden years.  As we left, thankfully out of earshot of others, our brutally honest friend reminded us that, in his word, "You two are no spring chickens!"

The little gift of a Book's Inc. book bag and moleskin journal given to us by Bob, helped blunt the pain!  Next stop, Santa Barbara!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sipping and Signing in Sonoma!

What better place to have a book signing than Sonoma, in the heart of the Wine Country?  First, though, we needed to get there, stopping for lunch along the way with friends in Tiburon.  We expected blue skies and were surprised and unprepared for the downpour on the day of our trip.  We assumed buying an umbrella would be a snap.  Shops sell umbrellas, right?  Wrong!  Not in Tiburon in May!  Thanks to the kindness of strangers, shop owners who took pity on us, we were able to borrow one and arrive at the restaurant only semi-soaked.  We were pleased to hear that the shop owner knew about our book and had already ordered a copy.  The reunion with our friends was wonderful.  Both of us had had working relationships with them, Barbara as a film editor and Fran as a writer.  When it comes to friendship, time seems to disappear and we pick up just where we left off.

And off we went to Sonoma, with Gladys, our GPS, giving us flawless directions to Reader's Books.  Located just a few doors from the historic Sonoma Plaza, where the Bear Flag Revolt took place in 1846, Reader's Books is a book lovers' paradise, superbly organized and boasting thousands of hard-to-find titles.  Owners Andy and Lilla Weinberger have been nurturing the literary appetites of the community for almost twenty years and clearly pride themselves on their personalized and knowledgeable service.

We arrived the day before our reading and had arranged to stay with friends on a lovely, idyllic farm boasting several charming cottages.  Our friends, sensational cooks, had planned a wonderful dinner complete with magnificent wines.  We slept well that night.

The lure of the grape was irresistible, and the next day we visited several wineries and tasted some glorious wines.  Sonoma is home to some of the best restaurants anywhere, one of which is just steps away from Reader's Books.  How could we resist?  After an incredible dinner, it was time for our reading.  The discussion that followed was the liveliest to date with penetrating questions and revealing insights into a whole range of issues -- everything from aging to the meaning of fiction, to the influence of spiritual practice on creativity and much, much more.

Fran went back to Los Angeles the next day, but Barbara decided to stay a few days longer and enjoy this incomparable setting.  After all, as Golde Moskowitz might say, "What's not to like?"


My Blog List

Some of our favorites to share:

  • Barbara's favorite movies: "Precious" "Inglorius Bastards" "The Orange Thief" (never released theatrically), anything by Frederick Wiseman, and "Stop Making Sense" (I worked on this!)
  • Fran likes "ALL ABOUT EVE" with Bette Davis
  • Another of Fran's favorites -- FIELDWORK by Mischa Berlinski