Category Archives: The Metal Girl

The New Jazzhus Montmartre: “Come Happy — Bring Warm Heart”



Something is Hygge in Denmark

The club had been noisy and dimly lit. Heavy wooden chairs and long tables placed end to end beer hall style in long rows, filled the large room. The jazz was good, the wine was good…We were crowded together shoulder to shoulder. One had to turn and stretch one’s neck to see the stage. The music was hardly audible above the hollow din, but the overall atmosphere was cozy…I had been aware of smiling often at my neighbors, and the smiles had been contagious. Laughter permeated the air as thickly as the smoggy cigarette smoke, which hung like a forgotten cloud over our heads…

So begins the introduction to “that jazz club” in my novel, The Metal Girl, which takes place in the late winter of 1974 in Copenhagen. While I did venture to Denmark that winter and spent a delightful time at Jazzhus Montmartre, I didn’t actually write the book until 1992-1993, when I lived in Brooklyn, NY.  What was it about one famous yet intimate jazz club  that enabled me to recall that scene so vividly almost 20 years later in another continent, another city?

Perhaps the narrator offers the best explanation, the night she returns for a second visit:

I went back to that club, Montmartre. I had liked it. I had always liked jazz clubs. This one was friendly and had made me feel at ease.

If there was one outstanding quality of the original Jazzhus Montmartre–besides the obvious attraction  of world-class jazz music–it was that the “overall atmosphere was cozy” and made one feel at ease. The club’s ambience embraced the Danish cultural idea of “hygge” [HOO-geh]–a cozy, warm tranquility that gives you a general good feeling of life.

This and great jazz made Jazzhus Montmartre an international landmark and a special place for Danes and visitors alike. The club was started in the late 1950’s and prospered until 1976, when it finally closed. That is, until now.

In May 2010 the club opened its doors as a nonprofit jazz venue and cafe in the exact same space it occupied originally at Store Regnegade 19A.

“Serial entrepreneur” and jazz lover Rune Bech teamed up with Danish jazz pianist Niels Lan Doky to co-found the new Jazzhus Montmartre.  The launch of the nonprofit Jazzhus Montmartre realizes the vision of reviving the jazz club as a place for all to experience the wonderful legacy of the past as it meets the exciting artists and technological advances of the present.

rune_bech_may2010

Left: Rune  Bech, CEO and Co-Founder of Jazzhus Montmartre

The new club is a unique, inspired and inspiring music organization. Jazzhus Montmartre is a nonprofit jazz club, an organic cafe run by Michelin chefs, and an online record label (with Sony Music) called Montmartre To Go, which offers downloads of live concerts from the club.

But the Jazzhus Montmartre strives to create something more, as laid out in the Montmartre Manifesto and its Eight Guiding Principles. These include not only a commitment to make the Jazzhus an international landmark of great jazz and discover new talent, but also to create “a paradise for life lovers…with a cozy and sincere ambience”, and most notably embody #8 — “A warm and special spirit: Montmartre should be known for its warm, welcoming and homely atmosphere attracting good people that follow their heart in life”.

They had me at “life lovers”.

While wishing to provide the best in jazz music and fine cuisine, the Jazzhus Montmartre’s organization also want this cultural richness to be affordable and available to all. The club’s nonprofit status allows them to keep the prices low and the quality very high.

Besides the generous support of corporate sponsors, an esteemed advisory board of media and jazz music notables, patrons and individual donors, the club depends on a talented and dedicated staff of volunteers, who were instrumental in getting the club off the ground and continue to keep it running.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with co-founder and Jazzhus Montmartre CEO Rune Bech, who told me, “We have 15 volunteers who have been working with us since February without pay. Everyone is working hard to make this a success”.

Also helping towards that end is Jazzhus Montmartre’s new Chairman of the Board Michael Christiansen, who will be directing the organization’s fundraising efforts. Mr. Christiansen is the Chairman of Denmark’s national public radio broadcaster, Danmarks Radio (DR) and was formerly the managing director of The Royal Danish Theatre.

The latest ground-breaking development of the club is the live broadcasting of concerts, which are being audio streamed in stereo from the Jazzhus over the Internet in collaboration with Noonan Media (UK) and LiveRec (DK) and accessed by the club’s Facebook page and website, which has been an overwhelming success.  So, if  traveling to Copenhagen is not on your current agenda, just turn on your computer and be a guest at one of the best jazz clubs anywhere. How great is that!

Fortunately for jazz lovers, in Denmark and everywhere else, Jazzhus Montmartre invites us to experience a new era of world-class jazz music and first class ambience, offering the best of Danish culture then and now.

Hygge to go, please.

For more information see: http://jazzhusmontmartre.dk
Join them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/jazzhusmontmartre
Follow them on Twitter:  @montmartrejazz
Photographs by Massimo Fiorentino (Copyright: Massimo Fiorentino)
Photos courtesy of Jazzhus Montmartre  (Thank you!)

A Writer Friend Finds Me On Facebook And Reviews My Novel


Ah, my love/hate relationship with social networking websites.  But I have to admit, when it comes to my novel The Metal Girl, Facebook and Twitter have become magical, almost mystical forces. 

A writer friend popped up the other week, whom I haven’t seen in over 15 years.  (We knew each other in New York City, and I left 10 years ago).  She found me on the Facebook page of someone I don’t even know, but who wanted to “friend” me and seemed interesting, another writer.   Jeanne is a wonderful writer, and I was delighted to hear from her.  She promptly downloaded the Kindle version of my book and read it.  Here is her lovely and very kind review:

“I met Judy Sandra in the early 1990s at the East Village apartment of writer/translator Ursule Molinaro. There, we sat around a table and read our stories – mostly tales of transgression and youthful exploration – aloud. Our workshop was more intimate than those held at The New School, NYU or the 92nd Street Y. We drank wine, smoked Gauloises, and got personal. The group eventually broke up, as writers groups do, and all we went our separate ways.

Now, almost 20 years later, a name pops up on a distant “friend’s” Facebook page. A name and a title. Memories return. I can barely wait to download Judy Sandra’s The Metal Girl on my Kindle. As I read it, I vaguely remember the night we critiqued one scene or another, or the night Judy hit on the book’s resonant title. Rather, I’m immersed in this story I remember as good, really good. Yet, it’s changed somehow – with time, it’s gotten even better.

The Metal Girl is an intriguing story, simply told, about a young woman’s wandering in a foreign country at an age (and in an era) when every meeting or confrontation was a clue to piecing together the essential self. The book is strikingly different from much of the other memoir/fiction I’ve read in that there’s not a single false note, not a moment of empty showmanship, self-mythologizing, or gratuitous sexuality. I notice after, not during, the writer’s command of language, how skilled she is at drawing me through Copenhagen, seeing it through the narrator’s eyes as I ache for her dilemmas. I think its pleasure lies in this character’s exploration of truths about human nature that are not just personal, but universal. Her internal life blossoms within me as I read it.

For a moving story-within-a-story, go to the writer’s website (https://jsmedia.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/the-reverend-the-house-church-the-novel-the-resurrection/) and read about The Metal Girl’s resurrection in a church basement. I highly recommend this book whose time, I feel, has finally come.”

To read Jeanne Dickey’s wonderful short stories, go to:  http://www.fictionaut.com/users/jeanne-dickey

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Profiles in Publishing #1: Why On Earth Would I Want a Book Contract?


Profiles in Publishing is a continuing investigation into the brave new world of publishing at JS Media Blog by Judy Sandra.  PIP will be a series of articles and interviews about methods and movers, reporting on who is exploring, who is inhabiting and who is succeeding in the new publishing landscape.
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We live in a whole new publishing world. I released my independently published book The Metal Girl (JSM Books) last month. Naturally, I sent an announcement to a personal mailing list. The first sale that I know about is a new acquaintance who excitedly emailed me, “I just bought your book on Kindle!”

Sale #1 = Kindle. I was more stunned that the first sale was on a Kindle, than I was that there was a sale. What to think.

This post began as an email to a writer/publishing industry colleague about an article we both read concerning the current state of the publishing industry and included several observations about self-publishing. From the writer’s point of view, the argument rested on, what seemed to me, the not so accurate conclusion that the ultimate “prize” of self-publishing is to land a book contract by a traditional publishing house. Really?

To be fair, this may be the goal for some. But it’s not mine. Why on earth would I want to sign such a bad contract, based on every outdated business model there is and extremely exploitive and non-remunerative to the owner/holder of the intellectual property? The author.

One wonders how many of those who say they want a book contract have actually read one. I have. I spent 23 years living in New York City, working in and around the publishing/media/arts business and have a number of writer and traditionally published author friends.

Let’s leave celebrities and huge commercial blockbusters out of the mix. Publishers didn’t market or promote the average author much in the past and now they do less than ever. Secondly, I’m a literary author, and major publishers abandoned us go a long time ago.

I published my book myself. I am now going to use my own language, because I find the phrase “self-published” cumbersome at best and mis-directed. I am going to call it “independent publishing”, or, if you like, “indie publishing”. As I’m also an indie musician and have been working with independent filmmakers, this feels about right. I’m an indie.

I created JSM Books as an imprint, so I am the “publisher” and am using  Outskirts Press as my printer/distributor. They are a hybrid company and act like a real sales/distribution company. I have an ISBN number and  barcode, I’m listed in Books in Print, books are available to the trade through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and I’m POD on Amazon.com worldwide and Barnes & Noble.com. Through Outskirts I have the option to be represented in Frankfurt and other book fairs, if I want.

My great advantage, of course, is that I’m also a professional
brand strategist/marketer/promoter and had a client last year, who was the author of a non-fiction book about filmmaking. So I am probably one of the best people to promote my book that I know. I have the savvy of both old school and new media promotion.

About that experience, let me count the ways that my client’s major traditional publisher did not spend any money on marketing. The author had a huge platform to stand on, an enormous mailing list, was well known within her field, yet they would not give us any money to launch the book. Nada. And we asked. Not a penny, not a cupcake. They sent one large poster stuck to poster board. I set up the book signing/launch, begged the indie book store manager to order 50 books instead of the 25 she wanted to order, and we had an almost sellout event–sold 40 books in three hours.

I won’t say anything untoward about the in-house publicist who was assigned to the book, because I think she did a very good job, was great with the client and helpful and generous to me, but she had ten other books to promote and, again, no marketing budget. I got most of the high profile press for the client, and wrote all of her promotional materials. She paid for this out of her own pocket. Because of her established reputation, the good press (it’s an excellent book) and her speaking opportunities, which she created for herself, the book is now a bestseller in the film category on Amazon.com.

Fresh out of this experience, I had a miraculous encounter with my second  novel. You can read the whole account here, but the short version is that the original manuscript was discovered by a wonderful reader, who loved the book and found me on Facebook, which encouraged me to publish it myself. At this point, there are so many reasons why I don’t want a contract that it’s hard to categorize them but let me start with eight big reasons, that have to do with bookstores, readers and buying habits.

1. Bookstores don’t matter.
I hear the chorus of people defending indie bookstores now, and I love them too, but this is not where the bulk of book buying happens. It’s just a fact. People are going to bookstores less and less and buying online more and more. I don’t know why this news item got little play in the U.S. but fact is, Borders went out of business in the UK. Read The Guardian story here:

2. Critics don’t matter. Bloggers and readers do.
Step away from the Manhattan island. Outside of that little crowd of
incestuous literary criticism (come on, you know what I’m talking about), these days people care less and less about critics. In fact, many newspapers and publications have let go of their book review sections and book reviewers. Indeed, there was a comment on a Galleycat post the other day by a Goodreads reader that said, “I don’t read reviews. I only buy and read what my friends post on Goodreads”. Huh. So, I joined Goodreads and wrote to another reader/reviewer. This woman, a librarian in Illinois, is now reading and reviewing my book.

I have connected with a professional, more mainstream and new media kind of person who has also agreed to review my book. I was surfing the blogs and discovered her. I now follow her on Twitter. Bloggers do matter, a lot these days. Like the Goodreads member, readers seem more interested in not just professional bloggers but average book reading bloggers, their peers and such.

The Internet has democratized culture, for better or worse, and sometimes I think for much better. Certainly there are more voices with a global reach. Most people gather their information online, and to them–a website, is a website is a website.

3.  U.S. book publishers are local, and I’m connected to the world.
Ever hear of social networking, say, Facebook? My Facebook page, just from my professional acquaintances, is rather international, from South Africa to Ramallah to Brazil. My novel’s Facebook Fan Page, for some odd reason, has been attracting young people from the Middle East and Eastern Europe. We live in a global culture now, not just an “American” culture. It was very fun to tell my UK Facebookers that the book is available on Amazon.co.uk.

4. Stop cutting down the trees.
POD, electronic formats and selective wholesaling of books is more ecological. The paper industry is a huge polluter. Does anyone NEED a hardback book?

5. Yes, they are reading on their mobiles and e-readers.
In spite of all the controversy, I’ve noticed that people who actually have a Kindle tend to like them. Nook is finally here, and the iPad will be bought. I have to tell you, my next door neighbor (a 40-year-old TV producer) is addicted to his iPhone and loves his Stanza, which lets him download books for free. He was annoyed when I said he would have to buy the e-version of my book. The Stanza has a very handy function of allowing you to enlarge the font size for easier reading. He gave me a demonstration, he went on for ten minutes.

6. The new companies, services and inventions are coming.
Do media people have amnesia? Do they think this or that device is the last one. There will be new companies, new inventions, new ways to do things. That’s life. Twitter didn’t exist 2 years ago, now it does, now I find it useful. The company I used for my book, Outskirts Press, is one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. They are a huge success, and that means more companies like them will pop up and/or others will evolve from them. There is an army of editorial freelancers–editors, copywriters, graphic designers. Popping up everywhere are new media book promoters, marketers, tools and so on. One of the reasons I’m writing this series is to discover what’s next. Life is change. This is a good thing.

7. The terms “vanity publishing” and “self-publishing” are so last century.
See above, even the term “self-publishing” is awkward and meaningless. Give it up already. Call it indie publishing and leave it at that. No one cares who published the book these days. When I tell people recently that “my book is out”. Their eyes light up; they’re so excited for me. “Great!” They say. “Well, I published it myself,” I say honestly enough. “Great, that’s even better!” No questions asked. They don’t care. “What’s it about?” is the only question. Is it good? Do I want to read it?  

8. Indie publishing is now a choice, not to be dismissed with snarky condescension.
I’m an indie musician, and no one snarks about that. I am connected to
Mediabistro in Los Angeles, and lately have been talking to writers about
their book projects. A lot of them are just going for the indie publishing
route. They’re professionals, they have a platform, and they don’t have to
wait for anyone to get their book out. Why should they?
Repeat, #7.

OK, that’s a start. There is more to this, but it begins to cross over
into the whole communications climate at this point. My main argument is that we communicate differently, we consume differently, and we have a different and more active relationship to culture. We live in a global culture and multi-platform artistic/cultural universe. The idea of a “book industry” is, in itself, rather dated.

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WriteOn! Online Q&A with Debra Eckerling


Go here to read the interview with me and WriteOn! Online’s founder/owner Debra Eckerling about the writing and publication of The Metal Girl.

Debra is a professional writer and public speaker who supports writers “of all abilities, genres and specialties” with her live and now online WriteOn! gatherings. Based in Los Angeles, WriteOn! Online networks with writers worldwide.

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The Reverend, The House Church, The Novel, The Resurrection: how my book was revived by divine intervention


My novel, The Metal Girl, will be released in a few weeks. Here’s what happened, resulting in its publication:

This past June, about a week before Father’s Day, I logged into my personal Facebook page. A stranger had written on my wall the following message:  “Hi, Are you the Judy Sandra that wrote The Metal Girl? I found your manuscript in the basement of my church. I’m reading it, and I really like it,” signed Rev. Tom Martinez.

But how could that be? He was talking, of course, about my second novel, which I had written in 1993 when I was still living in Brooklyn, NY. Eight years  after receiving an MA in Creative Writing, I wrote this novel as part of a private fiction writing class at the home of the novelist and translator Ursule Molinaro.  At that time, I had only sent the manuscript out to about six or seven literary agents and a few book editors. Tiring of the usual runaround, I plunged into the next creative projects. I let the book go for the moment and moved on, eventually leaving NYC for good in 2001. Since then I gave it another edit and recently was contemplating adapting it for a screenplay. I marveled that any of the few copies in circulation still existed, sixteen years later, in a church basement, no less.

I wrote back. “Yes, that’s me. I’m glad you like the book. But…how did you get it? Can we talk?” I called Brooklyn, and we spoke for quite a while, as the enigma of the manuscript slowly unraveled. Rev. Tom Martinez is the Minister of a small liberal Unitarian Universalist Church–All Souls Bethlehem Church, congregation 30– that took over a row house in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn. The cover page of my manuscript had my Brooklyn address, and he  was surprised to learn that I’m now in Los Angeles. Here is Tom’s story:

“It all happened during a basement clean-up party a few months ago (before June). One of our parishioners was reaching into an old wooden file cabinet and pulling out old papers that we were aggressively tossing out. It was time for everything to go. Then she held up a manuscript and said aloud, “What’s this?” The cover page read, “The Metal Girl,” listed Judy Sandra as the author and showed a Brooklyn address. We were determined to throw out everything, and I do mean everything. But I knew I’d never forgive myself and would always wonder what it had been. And, besides, how did the manuscript wind up here, at All Souls Bethlehem Church?

So I set the book aside and later brought it up to my apartment above the church. A few days passed with me running here and there. Every now and then the manuscript would catch my eye and I’d feel that sense of curiosity, till one day I sat down and began to read. I read the first paragraph, and then the second, and before long I was enthralled. As I’ve since told Judy, I was struck by the beauty of the language, the candor and power of the narrator’s journey, and the eternal theme of a wandering artist in a foreign land. How the book found its way here to ASBC remains a mystery.”

I am most thankful and grateful for Rev.Tom Martinez, the parishioners of All Souls Bethlehem Church, and some truly divine intervention.  I’m still nonplussed by this miraculous chain of events. In the end, one is left quite speechless.

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