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The Hair on the Hill

I wrote this piece for the East Bay Express back in 1995. Though it might be a bit dated in some ways, I think it’s still relevant when thinking of Hillary Clinton past and present, now that she’s running for Prez herself.

link.hillary.clintonLike many women, the real reason I voted for Bill Clinton was Hillary. Unlike most women who did so, however, I did not vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton because she would present to the world an image of a smart, independent American woman; nor did I vote for her because of the feminist influence she’d wield in the White House. I shamelessly confess that the reason I voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton was her hair.

That’s right–that bad hair of hers, trailing haphazardly behind a simple black headband, was a source of comfort and validation to me. Hillary’s uneven strands were refreshingly honest after Nancy Reagan’s inanimate bubble. Oh, sure, we had Barbara Bush’s silver wind-tossed curls for a few years, but let’s face it, I couldn’t relate. As a fortysomething woman, I could better identify with Hillary’s badly colored barely styled mop. I imagined that, like me, Hillary had probably spent years searching in vain for a flattering hairstyle, and had finally abandoned the effort: she’d stopped trying to force her hair (and by extension herself?) into shapes that hair was never meant to assume.

I too had finally relinquished the dream of ever having a real “do.” The last in a long line of coveted hairstyles had been Candace Bergen’s: my elusive goal in mid-life was to look, hair-wise, like Murphy Brown. When I presented this proposal to my hairdresser, who has endured more abuse from me than anyone in this lifetime should have to put up with from anyone, she pointed out that Bergen is continuously shadowed on the set by someone wielding a comb and a can of hairspray.

As a more feasible plan, she suggested a bob. In utter despair and frustration I agreed to let her cut it: for the first time in over a decade I would take the plunge, or rather the reverse, and let my hair end well above the shoulder line. After the deed was done and I looked in the mirror, I let out a blood-curdling shriek that put my completely demoralized hairdresser out of commission for a week.

With a few snips of her deadly shears I’d gained 20 pounds. My chin hung lower, my neck bulged eerily, my eyes had narrowed. Though everyone in my life insisted that I looked “sophisticated,” for the next six months I was inconsolable.

My tresses grew back to their normal state of unmanageability right around the time of the ’92 campaign. My spirits soared when I got a load of Hillary in her black headband: her mess gave me permission to keep mine. Most significantly, she seemed nonchalant about unsophisticated hair. It didn’t prevent her from wearing tailored suits or even drawing attention to the situation by donning a chapeau. Liberated at last, I stopped getting trims. I threw out all my ponytail holders and those plastic combs that I’d never really learned how to use. I bought a plain black headband and let it flow.hillaryclinton

And then my role model betrayed me by getting cut and poufed. My life has not been the same.

It’s easy to guess how this disaster came about: some suave political handler told Hillary that growing up meant shaping it up. He (I’m sure it was a he) probably told her that in these times of fervid debate around health care, the nation’s First Lady ought to have healthy looking hair. But whose standards determine health when it comes to hair? After all, she had to have used a ton of hairspray–decidedly unhealthy– to maintain that bulbous sculpture she sported the night of the big health care speech.

Since then, Hillary’s hair has undergone dozens of permutations. Some of them are really just a variety of the headband bit; others more complex. I concede that she frequently appears more “with it,” now: she looks a lot less like an insouciant hippie undisturbed by extramarital affairs, and more like a public policy maker. But with no more bad hair days, Hill just isn’t someone I could comfortably sit down with to commiserate, not only about our hair, but also about our men, our kids, our jobs. Whereas before she looked like someone I’d go to for advice, now she looks like someone I’d have to pay for it.

So I’m not sure how I’ll vote in ’96. After all, a lot can happen to a woman’s hair during a Presidential campaign. She could decide to get a perm, another solution I periodically consider. She might even let it grow out.

Or she might win my vote by including treatment for the hair impaired if national health reform ever becomes a reality.

Hillary Present

Hillary Present

Moi, Present

Moi, Present

Writing/Editorial Services

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typewriter.signupnowFollowing are the writing and editing services I offer.

Editing From A to Z: There’s editing, and Then There’s Editing.

People are frequently confused by the different kinds of editing done by most editors. Following is a brief explanation.

Line Editing: Literally, going through a manuscript line by line and fixing errors in punctuation, grammar, spelling, and syntax.

Revision Editing: Same as line editing, plus: rewriting sentences and paragraphs, rearranging phrases, clauses, paragraphs, and/or sections, and making additions or deletions as editor deems necessary.

Developmental Editing: Taking revision a step further, this is usually done in consultation with the writer. Developmental editing can include adding, deleting or changing a character, plot, or entire sections of the manuscript. It can mean moving chapters around, or making significant alterations to scenes and/or dialog. It can be quite extensive. Sometimes an editor will make suggestions to the writer, who will then make the changes (or not if in disagreement). If both parties agree, the editor usually goes ahead and makes the changes.

There are even more kinds of editors, such as Acquisition Editors in publishing houses, and Desk Editors at large newspapers, but they’re irrelevant to the work I do as a freelancer.

Writing / Ghostwriting
In order for editing to take place, we obviously need an existing manuscript, no matter what shape it’s in. However, there are some people in this world who simply cannot or will not write one single word. That’s where I come in.

I’ve ghost-written full-length books of non-fiction; blog posts; catalog descriptions; academic articles; and business materials such as brochures, press releases, and e-books. Ghostwriters are usually anonymous, but sometimes given credit as co-writer (“as told to” or “with”). When I ghostwrite a book I sign a confidentiality agreement not to reveal the fact.

The Internet has given rise to a surge in entrepreneurship and motivational speaking, which in turn has led to an increased demand for ghostwriters. Entrepreneurs with specialties in high finance, nutrition, fitness, and dog training — to name just a few — are finding they need a book, or even several, to use as promotional tools. Just as I know little about entrepreneurship, these professionals frequently don’t know how to write, so they hire professionals like me to do the job.

I’ve written books on topics such as online niche dating; ethnic-based cooking and dieting; self-promotion; teaching kids about money; meeting millionaires for business or pleasure (with a co-writing credit on that one), and drama as a form of therapy, to name a few. The entrepreneurs for whom I wrote these books were too busy running their businesses to do the writing themselves.

Autobiographies, Family Histories and Memoirs
Everyone has a story to tell. It can be your family history, your own life story, or a portion of your life that’s dramatic or unusual (you climbed Mt. Everest; your premature baby survived against all odds). These books sometimes become best-sellers, even those about sad or difficult experiences—if handled well they can be inspiring, and everyone wants to be inspired.

Because the Internet enables us to do quick and thorough research, it’s sparked an explosion of interest in family roots and genealogy. More people than ever want to learn their family’s stories while the people who remember them are still around, and tell them to others. Sometimes this is for family only; other times for wider circulation. 
No matter what the purpose, compiling a family history is a complicated project that involves conducting and organizing research; tracking down and identifying old photos; interviewing people; and, of course, writing.

Writing a book requires a set of skills that not everyone has learned or developed. It’s common sense: If you’re a carpenter, you’re a wizard with hammer and nails. If you’re a surgeon, you perform miracles with a scalpel. As a writer, I know how to organize a large amount of material into a coherent, interesting narrative, and in less time than it would take someone who’s doing it for the first time.

Allow me to listen to your story, read your notes, discuss your ideas with you, and then turn it all into the book you’ve been imagining you’ll write someday. Why not make someday now?

Manuscript Evaluation:
A manuscript evaluation is a detailed report of a book’s strengths and weaknesses, with specific recommendations to improve anything that doesn’t seem to be working. This kind of analysis is invaluable; even if a writer is also an experienced editor, an objective eye is essential.

Manuscript evaluation is a tender pursuit. Whereas I’m a hard-core editor when preparing work for publication, when it comes to the process of fiction or creative nonfiction I’m more inclined to be gentle, knowing that harsh, insensitive criticism can damage rather than improve a piece of writing. (See my blog post, Every Writer Deserves an Editor).

Mentorship / Tutoring
While teaching creative writing classes in San Francisco, I developed a system for working with students one-on-one outside the parameters of the classroom. Using email and occasional in-person meetings, I helped those who wanted to write but lacked knowledge of the craft and/or confidence in their abilities. Some students worked on a specific project, such as a novel; others practiced various assigned exercises, using my feedback to hone their skills. Having undergone this same process as a writer, I know how to guide others to overcome the internal barriers that can prevent us from using and developing our creative instincts.

To contact me about any of the above services, email


Line Editing $3.00 per page* (300 pages = $ 900)
Revision Editing $4.00 per page (300 pages = $1200)
Developmental Editing: $5.00 per page (300 pages = $1500)

*Standard page: 12-pt. font double-spaced = 250 wds.
The above are estimates only. I ask for and edit the first ten pages gratis before finalizing my fee with a contract.

Note: For going rates on writing and editing fees, see the Editorial Freelancers Association:

Here’s what some of my clients have to say:

Marcy’s careful attention to both details and the broader picture improved my writing tremendously. She gives honest feedback, which is exactly what I wanted and needed. It’s almost scary to think of how much worse my book might be if it weren’t for her insightful feedback. On top of all that, Marcy is a pleasure to work with.—Christina Brown, author, Laika in Lisan

I’ve worked with Marcy many times over the years, and am always impressed by her editing talents. I can honestly recommend her to do an inspiring job on any writing project.–Susie Bright, writer, speaker

I have dealt with many ghostwriters, and no one comes close to Marcy’s skill, creativity and professionalism. Proficient, intelligent, and talented, she gets the job done on time and absolutely impresses my clients. She is my go-to ghostwriter from here on out. I recommend her 100%! –Alicia Dunams, Book Writing, Publishing and Marketing Coach for Business Owners

Marcy Sheiner has a kick-ass wit and cuts right to the heart of whatever she chooses to write about. I’ve enjoyed and benefitted from having her as a collaborator. Her honest feedback has helped me with my own writing. – Annie Sprinkle, Ph.D Author/Sexologist

Marcy is one of the few editors I’ve known who actually listens to writers. She doesn’t insist that her point of view is necessarily best, but engages the writer in conversation about the work. She’s a pleasure to work with, and to learn from.–Susan St. Aubin, writer

Marcy’s incredibly good editorial ear helps flesh out what the writer wanted to say–even when the writer doesn’t quite say it. I’ve worked with her many times, and her editing has made my stories stronger. –Kate Dominic, writer

“Marcy’s a great writer and an interesting, entertaining person to work with. I recommend her without reservation.”—Tommy Tompkins, writer and colleague

Marcy is a fantastic editor and writer! She’s thorough, conscientious, creative, intelligent, and tough in just the right way. She lets you know when something doesn’t communicate, and she’s often able to give a writer inspiring insight about making words work. She knows how to get to the heart of any story, and can take a project from scraps of notes to finished document or book with amazing ease.— Jamison Green, PhD

From Elance Feedback Comments: Professional, talented and an extremely competent writer.—Dean Homicki/Rating: 4.6 out of 5

On The Bus in Oaktown

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Riding the bus around Oakland as I do is sometimes boring, sometimes maddening—but yesterday it was illuminating. I was sitting under my headphones as usual when two adorable teenage boys got on; one of them was carrying a bottle of unopened vodka—no bag, just the bottle. The kids were certainly underage, maybe 15, so I noticed, but soon went back to my music, tuning out. A few minutes later I heard a hubbub on the bus, and saw that women were shouting and the kids were laughing. Curious, I took off my headphones.

Two or three women were yelling at the kids, asking them how old they were, and why they were boldly carrying a bottle of booze out in the open. They weren’t yelling at them for the alcohol per se, but because, they said, the kids were likely to be stopped by cops, arrested, sent to Juvenile Hall and who knows what else. The kids were being totally good-natured about the whole thing. At some point I said to one of the women, “It Takes a Village,” and she nodded and said “That’s right.”

“You should have it in a bag,” I told the boys. Seated across from me was a nearly toothless man holding a frayed backpack, from which he drew an old plastic bag and handed it to the kids. We all applauded as the boys, still laughing, bagged the offending bottle.

“This is great,” I said, as the conversation continued, mostly about black men and cops. I almost hated to get off at my stop.


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SunIn a recent issue of The Sun is an illuminating article called “The R Word” by Heather Kirin Lanier. For those who don’t know, the “R” stands for retard or retarded, a word ignorantly used to denote stupidity, often in a “humorous” tone. The author talks about the history of words used to describe what we now call developmentally disabled or challenged people, how each new term becomes a slur in time. When my son was born almost 50 years ago with what I now call a chronic medical condition, doctors told me he had a “birth defect.” Charming. I’m recommending everyone read this piece. Here’s the link.

The High Cost of Mothering

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I’ve just read an article in The New Yorker about a rich and famous mommy blogger; it inspired me to post this expanded version of one I wrote a few years ago. What with Mothers Day coming up, it seems appropriate.

cartoon mothers w: kids

CNN recently reported, as the media is prone to do every so often, the latest calculation of what mothers would earn if they were actually paid, in cold hard cash, for their labor. Today the number would be somewhere between $117K and $149K per year, a figure arrived at by estimating the average hourly wage for each of the various tasks involved in daily child care: cooking, nursing, chauffeuring, etcetera. This “news” was delivered by two giggling anchors: they didn’t take it seriously, nor expect their audience to either. Mother’s work is, after all, performed purely for love, and the notion of financial renumeration is simply hilarious.

Never mind that we pay everyone else to do it: nannies, nurses, housekeepers, day care providers, even the teenager next door. And never mind all those studies that have proven, definitively by now, that women who spend their best years mothering lose serious income over the course of their lifetimes. Or that they’re sometimes left to fend for themselves when hubby has his midlife crisis, if not sooner.

During the 1970s the International Wages for Housework Campaign, a network of women in both Third World and industrialized countries, formulated a list of ambitious demands “for the unwaged work that women do to be recognized as work in official government statistics, and for this work to be paid.” More popular in Australia and England than it was in the U.S., Wages for Housework never made much progress, and today it’s all but dead: an Internet search dug up articles that were either a dozen years old, or in fringe publications that promote social anarchy.

In 1990 the International Labor Organization estimated that women do two-thirds of the world’s work and receive five percent of the world’s income. The United Nations Human Development Report of 1995 announced that women’s unpaid and underpaid labor was worth $1.4 trillion in the United States alone, and a total of $11 trillion worldwide. No doubt these figures are even higher today. (More recent U.N. reports were indecipherable, at least to me.)

Even more astounding, in an Alice-in-Wonderland way, is the system by which governments compute national productivity. In If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics, Marilyn Waring explains the complexities of our economic accounting system, which “counts oil spills and wars as contributors to economic growth, while child-rearing and housekeeping are deemed valueless.” I strongly recommend this book, which makes a warped and complicated system somewhat understandable, and without talking down to the reader.41rpfkwgKVL._SL500_SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

But it’s not in monetary terms alone that motherhood is devalued, as I learned years ago when I enrolled in the independent study program of the State University of New York to finally complete the requirements for a Bachelor’s degree, having interruped that process when I had kids. Most independent study programs, including New York’s, give credit for life experience, as long as it’s framed as a course of study, approved by a committee, and submitted as a written narrative. To my dismay – but not surprise – this policy does not extend to motherhood, i.e., one cannot gain credit for the life experience of child-rearing. My mentor, a strong feminist, suggested an end run around the rule: that I apply for credit in the area of disability studies, having raised a child with a chronic medical condition.

Thus, I wrote “Raising a Child With a Disability,” outlining what I’d learned from my experience about the medical and social work systems in our culture. I submitted this along with all my other papers covering a number of fields: public relations, fundraising, political activism, journalism, and creative writing. All these topics sailed through the approval process without a hitch – except, of course, for Raising a Child With a Disability, which caused rancorous debate among committee members. In the end, I received a total of 32 credits for life expeirnece, a fairly high number, or so I was told. Nine of these were for Office Management, based primarily on having run a small art museum and sculpture garden for several years. I was thrilled to earn 16 credits for creative writing. And for raising a child with a disability? Three. I was awarded three puny credits, the lowest number of all my life experience, for what I’d learned in 18 years raising a child with a life-threatening condition. I definitely received a stunning education from SUNY.

I don’t know why people think this way, or why Wages for Housework is seen as laughable. I don’t know why feminists don’t continue to push for it. We seem, as a society, to be terrified of the idea. We seem to think that if mothers were paid for their work, the family as an institution would crumble.

What do I expect, when in 2010 a goodly number of people still object to mothers working outside the home. A few years ago conservative talk show host Michael Medved invited Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, a founder of Moms Rising, onto his show to ask her why an employer shouldn’t have “the choice not to hire a single mother.” Somehow he managed to make this idea sound perfectly reasonable. Finkbeiner responded by challenging the assumption that a single mother is more likely to take time off than other employees.

To my mind, this argument is self-defeating. It’s a lie: the truth is, a single mother is likely to need more time off, and if we’d admit this we could point out why she should get it. Employers – and all citizens – have a vested interest in the kind of adults our children become, and therefore in the quality of the parenting they receive. The rationale behind It Takes a Village isn’t that we’ll all become better people and go to heaven; it’s that we have to live on this planet with other people’s kids. Twenty years from now we don’t want to be mugged by some single mom’s grownup son who was neglected in childhood. It’s almost that simple. A study of the effects of the After School Education and Safety Program Act of 2002 found that every dollar spent on an at-risk youth in an after-school program brings a return of $8.92 to $12.90, a result, primarily, of the amount saved by channeling at-risk youth away from a life of crime.

Employers don’t always take this kind of long view – but even in the short term, being flexible with an employee who’s responsible for children can mean the difference between her keeping the job or not, and if not, a case can be made for discrimination. Will accommodating her needs really ruin the business? The answer in most cases is probably not — but living with the work-family conflict is partly responsible for compromising the quality of the relationships between countless parents and children.

And yet, other countries have enacted policies and programs—paid family leave, flexible work options, subsidized childcare—that help enhance family relationships. In fact, the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t have some form of paid leave for new mothers or both parents, including Cuba.  A quarter of “poverty spells” begin with the birth of a baby. No wonder women sometimes feel, on a subliminal level, as if we’re being punished for having a baby.

Our kids, of course, don’t realize that the conditions under which they live are externally imposed. No child could understand these complex systems; we even shield them from knowing, so as not to burden them. I can’t remember how many times I couldn’t buy something quite reasonable my kids wanted — or even needed. Worse, we lived precariously, driving around in old unreliable cars. I’ll never forget the day the car broke down in the snow on the way to the doctor after one of my son’s seizures. Because the kids don’t know these problems come from our social system, they’re likely to view their mothers as incompetent losers or negligent villains. This can affect the relationships between mothers and children far into the future.

Other effects of raising children stretch beyond the period of active mothering as well. When women take time out of the work force they face huge pay cuts that take a life-long toll: for an average 2.2 years out of the labor force a woman takes an 18 percent cut in lifetime earnings. For those who stay out of the labor force three or more years, the news is even bleaker: a 37 percent loss of earning power.  Mothers living in countries with family-friendly policies don’t take these huge wage hits, and men who become fathers don’t take them at all. But in the U.S. many more elderly women live in poverty than elderly men. Eureka! It isn’t only the kids, by the way, who think a poor woman is an incompetent one; that’s something I’ve got to learn to get over.

All statistics and research data regarding motherhood and work are from


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