I was growing up in Denver,
I dreamed of becoming an artist or a writer. However,
I’d never actually met anyone who made a
living doing either job. So, I opted to become
a lawyer instead. Somehow, it made sense at the
time. My legal career lasted until my firm sent
me to the SEC to represent a guy whose financial
futures fund was under attack. I didn’t
know what a financial futures fund was. I still
don’t. But I represented him anyway, falling
asleep during the proceedings. The room was hot
and the discussion soooo boring. I’m only
telling you this because the statute of limitations
for malpractice has run. I took this experience
as a sign that I should find a different path.
My next pursuit – advertising for American
Express – lasted fifteen years. I worked
my way up to Vice President. Then one day, my
world came crashing in. My boss called me into
his office and said the two words dreaded by corporate
drones everywhere: “You’re downsized.”
Having no idea what to do with my life, I went
to a psychic. The psychic told me to relax. In
a few years, something huge would happen. It would
change my life forever and I would finally have
the career of my dreams. In the meantime, with
two kids to support, she suggested that I find
something meaningful to do that paid the rent.
in New York City, the most painful
experience a parent endures is getting her kids
into school. The top public schools are so competitive.
And private schools put children and parents through
admissions hell. If you aren’t connected,
famous, or super wealthy, you’re screwed.
So, I partnered with a friend who had tons of
experience (and a Masters Degree) in counseling
families on education matters and started a company
helping Manhattanites get their kids into the
best schools. Did I personally know about this
business? Not really. But hey, I represented a
financial futures fund without knowing what one
was. How much harder could this be?
As it turned out, harder than I thought. After
researching the ins and outs of Manhattan school
admissions, I learned enough to convince others
(and myself) that I knew what I was doing. Happily,
our families fared well. More importantly, I had
a ringside seat at the crazy Manhattan admissions
circus. Don’t get me wrong. 99% of our families
were fabulous. And the children we worked with
were wonderful, as children naturally are. But
there were always a handful of difficult parents
who would lose it. There were screaming matches,
threats and outrageous behavior – all in
the name of getting children into the most desired
school. We were written about in Forbes and The
New York Times. I appeared on 20/20. It was a
heady time, but there was one problem. The business
could support one person, but not two. I decided
to quit so that at least my partner could make
a decent living. Yes, I am a good person.
needed a new direction so I went to see another
psychic. Like the first one, she told me a change
was in the offing. It was huge. “Can you
give me a hint?” I asked. “I don’t
want to miss it.” “Don’t worry,”
she said, “it’ll be like hitting a
brick wall at 100 mph.”
husband and children held an intervention imploring
me to get a real job with a regular paycheck and
paid vacation. I had a better idea. Why not write
a novel inspired by my experiences helping kids
get into schools? “How long will that take?
My husband asked. “Three months,”
I assured him. Did I know anything about writing
a novel? No. But everyone said that my annual
Christmas letter was really funny. How much harder
could this be?
it was harder. Working day and
night, I finished the first draft in three months.
A friend arranged for me to show it to a well-known
editor. When I took it to her mailroom, the magnitude
of the odds I faced became clear. That room was
filled with dozens of huge containers holding
thousands of rejected manuscripts sent by others
who, like me, fantasized about living the writer’s
life. Still, I dropped my script off and waited
anxiously. A few weeks later, the editor called.
She said she liked the first 100 pages, but then
lost interest. “Good luck,” she said.
“Be sure to show it to me if you rewrite
three weeks, I was too discouraged to write. When
my son told me to get a job like a normal mom,
I went back to the computer with new resolve.
For the next two months I edited and polished,
working fourteen hours a day. Then it hit me.
Maybe this was the big thing those psychics had
predicted. I finished the book with new confidence.
If two independent psychics predicted it, how
wrong could they be? With my second draft complete,
I needed an agent. Agents can be as tough to get
as publishers. But the stars aligned in my favor.
I mentioned to our babysitter that I had written
a book. “Oh, I know an agent. Do you want
me to call her for you?” “Absolutely,”
I said. Even though our babysitter had not talked
to this woman in ten years, she got her number
from directory assistance and dialed her immediately.
The agent told me she wasn’t taking new
clients, but she’d read the book and give
me advice. A week later, she called to say she
loved it. Could she represent me?
my husband mentioned that the couple we were traveling
with to the World Track and Field Championships
both worked in publishing, but he had no clue
what they did. He offered to call them for me.
The next day, he asked, “have you heard
of a book called ‘The Devil Wears Prada?”
“Sure,” I told him. It turned out
that Stacy, our traveling companion, was the editor
of that book. As a favor, she agreed to read my
manuscript. At the track meet, I asked her if
she liked it. She apologized, saying she hadn’t
had time to read it. I figured she must have hated
it but didn’t want to tell me and ruin our
came back to New York on a Friday. The next Monday
morning, I received an e-mail from Stacy. “Karen,
I read the book over the weekend. Love it and
want to publish it!” My screams of joy could
be heard all the way in Harlem (and I live downtown).
I called my agent to tell her the good news. She
alerted the other editors to whom she had already
submitted the book that an offer was coming. By
evening, we had three other offers. An auction
was held that went on for three days. The book
was sold to Viking. My picture appeared in Publisher’s
Weekly! Let me tell you, this was way more exciting
than hawking credit cards and defending financial
futures funds (whatever those are).
The Ivy Chronicles was sold, I went out
and bought every book on "how to write a
book" that was ever written. I decided that
if I was going to do this for a living, I should
learn more about the craft. I've now completed
my second novel, Wife in the Fast Lane,
and I’m hard at work on a third, India
Fudge and the Time Travel Tunnel. This one
is for young adults and I’m not sure I’ll
keep that title, but I’ve loved working
on it. Simon and Schuster contracted for two more
titles in the genre of Ivy and Wife, so that’s
next on the agenda. I live in New York City with
my husband, Mark, our two children, Schuyler and
Sam, and our cats, Smokey and Cookie. I still
paint and my home is filled with my own artwork.
We’ve been in New York City almost twenty
years now and we wouldn’t live anywhere
else. Please contact me through my website as
I’d love to hear what you think of The
Ivy Chronicles, Wife in the Fast Lane,
or answer any questions you have."