Monday, December 28, 2009

A Gift to My Imagination

OK, I said I wasn't posting until 2010, but I totally lied. Turns out blogging is a wonderous procrastination tool, and I'm working on a new

Anyhow, I have a kind and generous family, and their gift-giving habits at Christmastime always remind me of this; however, of all the lovely things I received this year, the best, by far, came from Aunt Kate. Here it is:

Yes, it is a cookbook written by that Vincent Price, the one ha-ha-ha-ing at the end of Thriller. The one in Edward Scissorhands. The one from all those cheeseball Roger Corman films. Turns out he was a real Renaissance man--art collector, gourmet cook, historian, world traveller. As he and his wife Mary ate their way through major cities around the world, they collected menus and recipes and photos, all found in this stunning volume from 1962. It's so chock-full of great stories and recipes I'm reading it like a novel, my imagination taking off in all kinds of directions, always a good thing for a writer. So thanks, Auntie Kate, for searching high and low at the Winnetka Book Fair for this treasure.

Get anything really cool for Christmas/Hanukkah? Post in the comments box!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Freaky Friday: Ghost of Christmas Past Edition

Hey, all! This is my last post until--gulp--2010, so I thought I'd make it fun. In honor of Ralphie and his Red Rider BB Gun, I'm listing the stuff I really, really wanted Santa to bring me when I was a kid. Here goes:

1. Charlie's Angels dolls. I wanted all three, but Sabrina was my fave, probably because I always had to be her when we played in the `hood. Well, at least I didn't have to be Bosley.

2. My neighbors owned this game and I would go over to their house just to spend time with it. Obsessed is not strong enough a word.

3. A macrame potholder kit. My mom still has the potholders. That's how awesome they were.

4. A pogo stick. I became the reigning champion of my block, three years in a row (mostly because I was unchallenged). My pervy husband has way too much fun with this factoid.

5. A ouija board. Loads of fun at sleepovers. Also, leading cause of nightmares at aforementioned sleepovers.

So, what did you guys want soooo badly you whined and whined until your parents ran for the spiked egg nog?

Monday, December 14, 2009

What the Kids Are Reading

I just got notice that my old high school recently renovated its library, adding a college resource center and top of the line computers. The librarian was interviewed for the alumni magazine, and I thought it made for interesting reading. Her focus wasn't on the updated technology or even the library's newly created blog, but "enticing students to pick up a book and read for fun...ultimately we strive to match a girl with a book." How cool is that?

A sidebar to the article included a list of the most popular books in the library. Eight hundred girls (Oh, excuse me, young ladies, as the nuns used to insist) attend this school--quite the sample group. I'm fairly certain the titles are in no particular order:

Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
A Child Called "It": One Child's Courage to Survive by David Pelzer

What's most interesting to me about this list is the absence of paranormal/urban fantasy (with the exception of Twilight). I'm sure the girls read it, but it seems contemporary novels with relationships at the core, romantic and otherwise, are checked out the most. Hmmm...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Freaky Friday: The Stampfel-Volpe Version

In honor of Unofficially Official Agent Day I give you a special Friday list. Here are five reasons I love my fab agent, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe:

1. She can think like a writer, an editor, a marketing guru, a reader, a critic, a friend, a psychologist, a teacher, and a publishing biz insider ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Obama's lucky Jo didn't run for prez last year--he would have had serious competition.

2. She treats everyone with the utmost respect. Agents in training should scroll through the Nancy Coffey post on Absolute Write for lessons on how to treat prospective clients. Seriously.

3. She knows how to deal with writerly neuroses. I sent her an email telling her how nervous I was to send her my WIP. Her response? "Don't worry...we're a team now!" And you know what? I stopped worrying!

4. The girl eats, sleeps, and breathes books. Jo reads for work, for pleasure, for any reason--she just...reads. All the time. She must have a spare set if eyeballs or superhero glasses or something.

5. The little things...She likes the Fab Four as much as I do. She's a foodie who can talk gourmet with the best of them. She has a super adorable New York born-and-bred accent. She throws Mad Men parties and sends me the pics. And seeing her name in my email inbox makes me feel like I've won the lottery, every time.

So, thanks Joanna! And Happy Christmas to you!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Rec: Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Some Girls Are is not a feel good book. It isn't a whimsical teen romance. It contains no vampires or werewolves or fairies. It doesn't take place in a dystopian future, as Courtney Summers realizes the present provides chaos enough. This book is firmly planted in reality, a reality parents everywhere fervently hope isn't true of their kids at their local schools. But it is. And that's what makes Some Girls Are an important book.

Regina Afton is someone I would have hated in high school. As part of the mean girl clique, the Fearsome Fivesome, she ruled the school with her crowd of malicious little dictators, casually destroying people who weren't worthy of breathing the rarefied air of the truly popular. But, when something horrible occurs at a party, the high school rumor mill churns Regina up and spits her out, and she finds herself friendless, humiliated, and a target. Her ex-friends engage in a vicious revenge campaign, pushing Regina to the limits, both psychologically and physically.

As the bullying intensifies, Regina forms a tenuous friendship with Michael, a boy who was once a target of the Fivesome. Through this relationship she begins to come to terms with her past, and slowly tries to make amends for her prior awful behavior.

But Some Girls Are is not a trite after school special. It's hard for Regina to change. And she can't undo the damage already done. She's hurt people, so wouldn't it make sense to cheer on her destruction? It would, but we want Regina to succeed, even if we don't always trust her ability to do so. Regina is a struggling, morally complex character. She's someone trying to take responsibility for her actions in a world where life would be whole lot easier if she didn't. That study of actions and consequences, cause and effect, is a rarity in YA lit, and adult lit, for that matter. It makes for a fascinating, emotionally compelling book. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Feed the World

I love Christmas songs. Like, LOVE them. I bop around to The Lite on my way to work, and sing along with everything, even Dominic, the Italian Christmas Donkey. The Little Drummer Boy makes me cry every time; listening to White Christmas makes me long for one even though in Chicago that pristine snowfall turns gray and ugly pretty darn quickly. There is one song, though, that I love above all others--one Christmas song I have to hear every year. If you read my title you might have guessed, but I'll give you the pleasure anyway. It has to be, um, watched as well as heard.

My best girlfriend (Jean--still is!) got this Christmas 1984, called me over, and we played it again and again on her turntable (yep), and, because of the beautiful size of albums, poured over the photos on the cover. When MTV started airing the video (yes, MTV once played music--imagine that!) we sat glued to the television, and I fervently wished we could pause the video just as it framed Sting, Bono, and Simon Le Bon, a triumvirate greater than the three wise men, in my book.

So, some observations all these many years later? Other than the utter ridiculousness of asking if a group of people know it's Christmas when they most likely aren't even Christian? And of a line, like, There won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime? Well, there's a sweetness to this, a let's get the gang together and put on a show kind of attitude, something glaringly missing from the US version, We Are the World. This is for charity, and the Brits know it. Could you imagine today's rock stars doing this without an army of stylists? I mean, look at Bono's jeans! I love my Irish boys, but he looks like a Sears ad for Wrangler's. John Taylor and Paul Young apparently rolled out of bed, threw on sweats and ran out to the studio. And check out Bananarama! Even I looked better than that in the 80s. Boy George managed to slap some makeup on, but his outfit is nowhere near worthy of him. But, who cares, right? Fashion isn't the point. Charity is. And FEED THE WORLD is a great message. It's just too bad it's still relevant 25 years later, you know?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Freaky Friday (Eco-Lux Edition)

Now that Oprah isn't doing her annual "Favorite Things" nod to consumerism, I thought I'd pick up the slack for the first Freaky Friday of the official shop--er--holiday season. This is the lux edition, meaning, this stuff can be a little pricey*. The more practical list will post next Friday. Here goes...

1. Want to avoid the walk of eco-shame at the grocery store? Pick up some Reisenthel Bags, particularly this one. I keep it and bunch of others in the trunk of my car, as I've got a touch of the absent minded prof in me.

2. You can buy organic cotton t-shirts at Target now, for Heaven's sake, but you can outfit yourself in the stuff head to toe by shopping Gaia Conceptions handmade organic apparel. Quite plainly, Andrea Crouse's designs rock. I have five or six pieces, and every item has been washed a gazillion times, never needs a tumble dry, and still looks like new. Each style comes in a wide range of colors, with natural, plant-derived dyes available as well. She'll even cut to your exact measurements (I always have her cut my shirts two inches longer--boob ride up--I know! TMI). Crouse's new merino wool line will cost you some bucks, and I can't vouch for it as I only own cotton, but I've got to say, price tag or not, it's pretty tempting...

3. At my kids' school, children are allowed to keep water bottles in their desks, as long as they are disposable. You can guess how I feel about this. While I decide whether or not I want to be that mom, my kids tote SIGG bottles everywhere else. OK, they cost a freaking fortune, but I'd argue that it's money well spent. This is a good product and a trustworthy company. How often can you say that with confidence? My guys like having a personal water bottle, and love refilling them at water fountains (maybe that's what the school is afraid of!).

4. I have a super crappy bicycle, especially for someone who rides as often as I do. I'm asking Santa for this. It has just enough of that 1950s Flying Nun appeal, without sacrificing the necessary butt-cushioning updates.

5. This product line should offend me to no end, but I find myself...obsessed! The Rich Hippie line of perfumes is 100% natural, organic, chemical-free perfume created using methods not seen since before WWII. All that foraging and natural harvesting takes time and time is money which means, yep, this is a really expensive way to smell good. Like $425 for half an ounce good. Uh-huh. I've had the opportunity to take a whiff of the eponymously titled Rich Hippie (mmm, so good), but needless to say I don't actually own any of these. I do like scrolling through the perfumes listed on the web site, delighted by scents named "Purple Haze," "Shambala," and my personal fave, "Foxy Lady." Maybe someday. Sigh.

*So, um, I'm not telling you to buy anything and I don't get any kickbacks from companies like SIGG, though I really wish I did. Just so we're clear.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cheesiest Post Ever

The holiday spirit hasn't permeated the blogosphere yet; this week I've seen a huge rise in bitchery, whining, and all-around pettiness while trolling the net. As an antidote, I give you 15 minutes in the brain of a six-year-old, courtesy of my son, Jack:

--He sang Deck-the-Halls while combing his hair, including the "gay apparel" part. My 10-year-old giggled, but said nothing.

--He asked me what would happen if his shoes turned into meatballs and his laces into spaghetti.

--He asked how cold it would have to get before his puke would freeze before it hit the ground.

--He asked why there isn't a 25 on the Advent Calendar.

--He said "Whoo-Hoo," "Cool," and "Totally Cool" multiple times on the five minute walk to school.

So to paraphrase from that one movie with Denzel Washington, "Tell it to me like YOU'RE a six-year-old."

Let's find some joy!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Rec: When You Reach Me

I picked up When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead with no expectations whatsoever. I'd heard from someone who'd heard from someone that it was, "uh, pretty good", which made the pleasure of being bowled over by its wonderfulness all the sweeter.

Miranda lives in late 70s Manhattan with her single mother, a para-legal and future game-show contestant on the The $20,000 Pyramid. Amidst helping her mom practice for the show, 12-year-old Miranda is dealing with a lot of firsts: first job, first crush, first confusing breakup with a best friend. Stead handles the swirling emotions of junior high so well, and the novel speaks so truly to these experiences, that when Miranda starts receiving mysterious notes from someone who seems to know the future, the reader doesn't feel jarred by the injection of fantasy. The sci-fi elements are gentle and unfold organically; the clues given to the reader make the ending seem fair and satisfying.

When You Reach Me offers a little bit of everything. It's a realistic depiction of the tentative nature of junior high relationships, a sci-fi, middle-grade Time Traveler's Wife, a bit of historical fiction (12-year-olds in 1979 Manhattan lived a much different life than NYC tweens today!). Highly recommended, for all age groups!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Here's my thankful Freaky Friday a little early:

1. I'm thankful for my family and friends. Couldn't ask for better.
2. I'm thankful that each year I realize, to a greater and greater degree, how much I don't know. It keeps me curious and active.
3. I'm thankful for the caring, nurturing nature of online writing communities. Without the support of my writerly friends, I'd probably be sitting in the crazy house playing checkers with Hurley from Lost.
4. I'm thankful Joanna Stampfel-Volpe said yes.
5. I'm thankful the genetic lottery graced me with perseverance instead of a cute little Heidi Klum nose. OK, maybe not that last one.

Have a great holiday!

Monday, November 23, 2009


So very excited. Tomorrow I'm heading down to the Newberry Library (employer of Henry in The Time Traveler's Wife!) to do some heavy-duty research. I'm still editing my current WIP, but I have an opportunity to look at some really cool stuff for the next book I'm planning, a young adult mystery set in 1881 Chicago.

You can't check anything out of the Newberry. When you arrive, you must apply for a one-day library card, tell them what you need, then they bring it to you. I might even have to wear white gloves to peruse my documents (notes typed in 1938). How cool is that? Or, rather, how much of a geek am I?

I loooove research. Once upon a time I worked a part-time job as a research librarian. Best job in the world for a Nosy Nellie like me. Have a question? I WILL find the answer.

Tomorrow is actually a research two-fer. After the Newberry, I'm going to a Tarot reader to get my cards read, and to ask her some detailed questions to flesh out a few parts of my WIP. I taught myself to read cards while preparing to write my story, but I learned from a book, which isn't the traditional way. I also scream like a little girl whenever the Death card comes up then shove it back in the deck--not exactly kosher in the world of Tarot readers. So I need a professional. OK, that sounds like I'm hiring a hooker--it's not that kind of book. Really!

So, I know a bunch of you are plugging away at WIPs. Did you do any research beforehand? What is your preferred method of finding stuff out? Google? Personal interviews? Like I said, total Nosy Nellie. Do tell!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Freaky Twiday

I got home at 3am from the first New Moon showing at my local theater. I'm tired, cranky, and, though I hate to admit it, a little hungover. So instead of a full review (which I probably shouldn't do anyway as I'm the spoiler queen), I'm going to list the five things I loved about the movie.

1. Jacob's abs. You knew this would be first, didn't you? OK, the cougar vibe in the theater was a little creepy, but I doubt you'll be disappointed to learn that Taylor Lautner's costume for nearly the entire movie consists of a pair of running shorts. Uh-huh. That's it.

2. Higher budget/better CGI. The werewolves did not look odd (for werewolves) or Disney-fied. I nearly jumped out of my seat during one transformation. The fight scenes (trying not to spoil!) were particularly well done, and seriously scary, not funny-scary.

3. They let Jasper keep his funky hair/make-up look. Jazz is the muppet vampire. And poor Dr. Cullen still looks like he ran into a vat of baby powder. Love it.

4. The humor. There is a lot of humor in this film--some modestly poking fun at the ridiculousness of, well, everything, and some super sarcastic, biting (ha) lines. There was still a lot of cheese (Edward gazing into Bella's eyes with a look of total constipation, a fantasy scene that resembled a 70s feminine products commercial), but you didn't mind it so much because the humor provided a nice, consistent contrast.

5. Best last line ever. Not telling what it was, but Twilight fans can guess, I'm sure. Let's just say everyone answered the screen, then burst into applause!

I liked this movie. I thought it did well by the book and enriched and enhanced the first Twilight film. Two thumbs up!

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Comin' Through the Rye

OK, I just can't help myself. Have you seen LiLa's blog today? Their post about the F-bomb in teen lit sparked an amazing discussion about everything from parental rights to censorship. This is a touchy subject, but if I don't take it on I'm going to bite a hole in my tongue.

Let me get this out of the way first: I am a parent. I believe authors using the F-bomb just to shock are basically lazy, irresponsible writers. I teach literature for a living, sometimes to teens.

(Caveat goes...)

On LiLa's post, I saw a lot of commentary mentioning parental rights, as in, it is my right to not buy books that contain the F-word for my teenager. Of course this is your right. But should it be the determining factor?

What is the motivation here? To shield a 13 year old from this word? Guess what? Unless she's been raised in an arctic commune in Greenland, she's already heard it, knows what it means, knows the variations of grammatical usage, and has probably, if not spoken it aloud, thought it when she dropped her cell phone on cement or missed a major homework assignment.

I can understand the powerlessness parents feel as their families are chronically assaulted by reality television, violent video games and predatory marketing. Because of this I can almost understand parents taking advantage of opportunities to protect their children from vulgarity and unpleasantness until they are old enough to take it on. Almost. My fear is this leaves the child wholly unprepared for that "real world" we're always telling her about. Art helps us learn about ourselves and the world around us. It helps us understand what it is to be human, and celebrate the qualities we share and the ones that make us unique. Denying exposure to great art because of one bathroom stall word is short-sighted at best. It denies opportunity. To me, that is a worse parental crime.

While reading the comments following the post, someone mentioned The Catcher in Rye as an example of profanity used within literature deemed classic. The first thing that came to mind was, there was swearing in Catcher in the Rye? I was fifteen when I picked up Salinger's book. I remember identifying with Holden's loneliness, anger, and almost rigid morality. I remember feeling a rush of relief, grateful I no longer felt like the only weirdo in the world. I remember thinking about the book for days, weeks, years.

What I don't remember, is any swearing.

Running with the Wolfpack

I'm going to prop my eyes open until 12:05am, when I'll be lost in Kristin Stewart's Elvis sneer, Robert Pattinson's hair, and, oh-boy, Taylor Lautner's abs. Fun!

Full review tomorrow if I can formulate complete sentences...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Totally Random

OK, this might be the weirdest post ever, but today Amazon announced the full roll out of its "frustration-free" packaging. That's right--no more "impenetrable" plastic clamshells, no more twisty ties to get caught under your nails, no more strange bolty things that don't fit any standard screwdriver. Only easy-peasy packaging.

I am so freaking excited about this. Our Christmas morning will be all the more fun, and my kids won't learn any new curse words from their daddy. Yes!

(This is a well thought-out genius move by Jeff Bezos. There is a packaging feedback form for customers and a "frustration-free certification" process for vendors. Mattel, Fisher-Price, and Garmin are some of the companies already participating. Larry David is jumping for joy!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Freaky Friday

Friday came up quickly this week! Here goes:

1. Books for Christmas! It's fun choosing books to suit the various personalities on my list And, I strongly believe in supporting the industry I hope will someday pay my bills. I plan on buying loads of books as presents AND visiting actual brick & mortar stores to make my purchases. Let's get those publishing numbers up, up, up!

2. Sweet potato pie. OMG. I ate TWO slices for breakfast. Uh-huh. Let me know if you want the recipe.

3. Planting a winter garden. I've never done it, but this year I think I'm going to try. Parsley stays through January around here. Chard. Spinach, maybe, but I might be too late. What else? Any ideas?

4. The midnight showing of New Moon approaches. The cougar lady deep inside is getting very excited. The suburban mom part of me is worried I'll fall asleep and miss it!

5. For my writerly friends: Suzy Townsend posted a great essay on characterization. And LiLa touched on a similar topic AND included a photo of the sexy Sayid. Check them out!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Too Funny

Courtesy of my sister-in-law, the lovely Lori, it's Christopher Walken speaking the words to Lady Gaga's Poker Face. Don't know if this has already made its way through the Twittersphere, but it's too funny not to post. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book Rec for Mad Men Fans

Colm Toibin's Brooklyn is a beautifully rendered story of 1950s life in the colorful New York borough.

Eilis Lacey of Enniscorthy, Ireland doesn't think of herself as the adventurous sort, but when a string of circumstances sets her off on a boat for America, she finds a new life waiting for her, one of both extreme loneliness and absolute wonder. Toibin takes us through the immigrant experience (getting used to new customs, consumerism, finding a job, finding someone to love) with such careful attention to emotional detail, his simple, almost pedestrian vocabulary builds into poetry.

This is a book to curl up with, mug of tea in hand, snowstorm building outside. Enjoy!

Monday, November 9, 2009


Lisa and Laura Roecker, the fab sisterly writing team, are giving away a kindle to one lucky follower of their hilariously funny blog. Check out their site to enter, and check out their book, The Haunting of Pemberly Brown when it hits the shelves in Spring `11!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Nuns Were Wrong

I went to a Catholic all-girls high school. Um...yeah.

So I heard a lot about God smiting me if I so much as let a boy's hand travel up my back while dancing. I heard about girls getting pregnant from toilet seats. I heard about the shame which would fall upon my family if I rolled my skirt at the waist so my knees would show.

At first, this constant barrage of nunsense meant sex and guilt seemed a natural combination. It didn't take long, though, for me to realize having sex did not necessarily have to result in a scenario worthy of a hand-wringing after school special. (Actually all it took was one really hot boy.) I was around seventeen when I figured this out. And I think kids today, if they even have the heaviness of this particular guilt stuck to their shoulders, figure it out much, much earlier.

So why do so many books directed at this age group still equate sex with punishment? Believe me, I'm not saying sex isn't a big deal--at any age--but I think contemporary teen fiction should reflect the realities of teen life. Cory Doctorow has a great, common sense take on this topic. Check it out here.

And, now, back to the WIP...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Freaky Friday

With so many people heavily involved in NaNoWriMo, I decided to do a writing-oriented Freaky Friday.

I don't listen to music much when writing my first draft, but while editing--oh, boy--I rely on it. The right song can set my imagination off, inspire the right tone, and (almost paradoxically as it has the opposite effect as I'm first-drafting) keep me focused. Here are five songs I'm obsessing about while editing my WIP, Queen of Cups:

1. Enjoy the Silence (Depeche Mode)
2. She (Green Day)
3. Paddy's Lament (Flogging Molly)
4. Season of the Witch (Donovan)
5. Caravan (Van Morrison)

My story runs through these songs and if you listen closely you'll have an idea of what it is...

I'm interested to hear what you guys think about the relationship between what you listen to and what shows up on paper. NaNo folks especially, what are you listening to as you pound out that draft?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Wrestler

Nathan Bransford posted a link to this John Irving interview on Twitter. I know you guys probably don't have time for the whole thing, but it is full of interesting commentary on writing--the process, the lifestyle, the discipline. I've linked to a segment about the writer's need for "alone time." Irving explains it well. Have a listen if you can.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

LiLa La-La-La-La!

Hey, everyone! Frequent commenters Lisa and Laura Roecker just sold their super-fun debut novel--A Kate Lowry Mystery: The Haunting of Pemberly Brown--to Sourcebooks. It'll be at your local bookstore in Spring `11! Check out their fab web site and pop into their blog to say hello!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

YA at the Movies

I'm a sucker for coming of age stories. That time of life is so incredibly interesting to me--it's all I write about and it's evident in the stories I choose for my students, and it's what I prefer to watch if I'm actually going to sit down in front of a movie.

This weekend I caught two. The Wackness stars Josh Peck, the sweet-faced goof usually found mugging on Nickelodeon's Drake and Josh. It was a little disconcerting to watch Josh smoke dope and have sex, but I quickly got over myself because the kid is a good actor. The script? Not so much. With YA, in books, films, and TV shows, it's so important that the emotions ring true to both teens (who are immersed in that reality) and adults (who tend to vividly remember that time in their lives). This movie just doesn't hit the right marks. All the teen characters seem off because the lines are polished to adult perfection. Ugh.

The other film I watched was a total classic: The Outsiders. It gets everything right. If you haven't watched it in awhile, check your listings--it's all over cable. The absolute beauty of The Outsiders got me thinking about successful YA movies, the ones who offer those moments of complete recognition, the ones so true to what it felt like to be fourteen or sixteen or eighteen, the ones you remember because your appreciation of them deepens with time. Here are a few of my favorites:

* Dogfight
* Lucas
* Friends (Not the TV show, the French movie from 1971--yeah, I know, but it's good.)
* Dazed and Confused
* The Sure Thing
* Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Feel free to add your faves in the comment box. I'm always on the lookout for Netflix picks!

Monday, November 2, 2009


Suzy's having a writing contest! If you aren't obsessing about word count for NaNoWriMo, give this a shot! You could win a $20 gift card!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Freaky Friday

1. There are certain things I just do. Every fall I go to Woody Allen's latest. Every winter I buy one really nice cashmere sweater in a classic style I can hold onto forever. And every time John Irving comes out with a novel I break the bank to buy it in hardcover. Right now I have my hot little hands on Last Night in Twisted River. I can't even review it because when it comes to Irving, I'm completely biased, a squeely fangirl of epic proportions. I'll just embarrass myself. If I haven't already.

2. Plant your garlic. Now is the time.

3. My oldest boy is dressing up as a hobo this Halloween, so, after a lot of dithering, I decided to go as a gypsy (Get it, Mad Men fans?). I bought a long black wig and a crystal ball. The party should be a blast--thanks for all your recipes! My friends will be well-fed!

4. Book clubs are popping up everywhere. What could be better than sitting around someone's living room, sipping wine and talking about books? I mean, seriously. EVERYONE I know has joined a book club. Our local library reserves five very large shelves just for clubs in our neighborhood. I LOVE this. It's good for people, communities AND the publishing industry. I walked into Borders the other day and saw an awesome endcap displaying Penguin's meatier titles for YA, along with book club discussion guides for each title. Nicely done, Penguin!

5. I finished The Hunger Games last night. Now I understand why everyone would freak out when I said I hadn't read it. For anyone aspiring to write YA, this book is like a graduate level seminar. Characterization, pacing, symbolism, thematic exploration--it's all done brilliantly in one very un-put-downable package.

Anyhew, have the happiest of Halloweens! I hope you get loads of candy...and no rocks!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


OK, so we decided to have a post-trick or treating Halloween get-together in our backyard. A friend is going to set up an outdoor theater for scary movies; we'll have a fire for smores, and a fully stocked bar for the adults (a must after walking house-to-house for three hours).

What started as a casual gathering, though, is now a blow-out blast I haven't seen the likes of since college. I expect close to 100 people will show up. I am freaking out.

I can do dinner parties fairly well, thank you very much. But crowds? Oh, boy.

I need ideas for appetizers beyond the guac and chips/veggie tray standard fare. Got any recipes for large groups? Post in the comments box and I will be oh, so grateful.

And, if you're in the Chicago-land area, send me an email and I'll give you directions. Costumes are optional. I may dress up as a Query Letter.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Fear

Years ago I was shopping in the cavernous Gap Outlet store on Milwaukee Avenue, intent on finding the perfect top for this Christmas party-ish thing I had at work. Some rap-reggae music pumped through the sound system, louder than the usual musak, and the kids behind the registers moved to the beat with just enough energy to make me think the manager wasn't around. A perfect urban holiday scene. I sifted through the racks until a found a deep red cardigan with a gray lace tank to go underneath--yes!--and I began weaving my way through the crowd to head towards the register when I heard:

"Jasmine, stop playing! Where are you?"

My 25-year-old bitchy, pseudo-hipster self scoffed at a woman who'd name her daughter after a Disney character. I got in line to pay.

"Jasmine! Jasmine!" The woman began stalking the aisles, calling out the little girl's name.

The music took on a bam-bam-bam heavier beat, a mocking soundtrack to the woman's voice, which was pleading now, choked with the anticipation of tears.

"Jasmine! Please! It's not funny."

I'm ashamed to say I wasn't the first to step forward. It was the woman next to me who did, adding her voice. "Jasmine!," she called out, and left her place in line, heading in the opposite direction of the mother. I did have enough sense about me to push up to the registers and ask the kids to turn the music off.

"No," one said.

"We don't know how," said another.

"Find a way to turn it down," I said. I left my stuff on the counter and called, "Jasmine!", and began walking circles through the store. A minute or two went by. The music cut out. More women shouted the girl's name. The mother, frantic, the tears coming freely now, dashed through the racks. Someone ran out to the street--the busy, bustling, high-traffic street--and then we all knew this moment could get bigger than us. Much bigger. The mother slowed for just a second, as she realized every bit of the store had been scrutinized. "911," she said. "911," women repeated, and there was a mad rush to the register and they scrambled to find the phone. I looked at the mother and my insides shook, unsteadying my legs and hands and the muscles around my mouth. Fear. Naked, desperate, wild, frightening. As frightening as anything I'd ever seen.

And then, in less than five minutes, it was over. A Gap worker handed Jasmine off to the mother, and the little girl--so little--wailed as the mother grabbed her. A flurry of activity and they were gone. The mother hadn't waited around for an explanation; she'd gotten out of the store as quickly as she could. I doubted she'd ever be back.

The women asked the Gap employee for the story. Unlike the mother, who had her daughter to hold onto, we needed the story.

"She was in the storage room," he said. "She closed the door behind her."

"Oh," we all said, and stumbled back in line to pay for our stuff.

I only told my sister about it. And when I did, I cried. Maybe it's true what some people say about the 97% of our brains we don't use, that one of those percentage points is taken up with scenes from our future, and every so often a little bit leaks into our consciousness and we experience deja vu. Maybe this incident struck me so hard because I knew I'd be at a mall with a toddler one day, a little guy who thought it was hilarious to hide behind a display at Old Navy. Or that I'd be running down the street calling my almost ten year old's name, only to find him at a friend's, playing Wii bowling. Maybe that's why I recognized that fear; I knew it was inside me.

After that incident, and especially after I had kids of my own, I couldn't watch a TV show or a movie about a kid getting snatched or read a book about children gone missing. It hurt too much. Those narratives poked at the fear always residing in the pit of my belly.

Until, for some reason, this weekend (You didn't know this would end with a book recommendation, did you?). I picked up Losing You, a thriller by the husband and wife writing team known as Nicci French. It's about a mother's hunt for her teenage girl who disappeared while on her paper route. A pretty by-the-numbers thriller, but it captured that fear with such brutal, encompassing force, I couldn't put it down. Maybe I admired the skill, the technique, and I guess I could separate my fear from the character's, or maybe, it was a case of classic catharsis.

I still won't touch The Lovely Bones, though.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Freaky Friday

Hey, all! Halloween-ie weather here in Chi. Perfect for a little freak-ay Friday...

1. You don't want to know how tempted I was to buy this. My friends and I could take him to the pre-New Moon pub crawl--do you think he'll get carded?

2. This weekend our school district is turning its Science Center into Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. It's my job to bring kids through the TriWizard Tournament maze, dressed as, um, Mad Eye Moody. Uh-huh. Maybe I'll post pics.

3. OK, this book has been out for a while, but I'm going to sing its praises anyway: Pretty Little Mistakes: A Do-Over Novel, by Heather McElhatton. Remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? Well, this is a super inventive adult version. It starts at high school graduation (Do you want to travel or go to college?) and can end in 150+ different ways. Fun, fun, fun.

4. Karmic avalanche. Thanks to LiLa's "spread the love" campaign, good news abounds. Thanks, guys--I'm feeling all full of mushy love for my fellow writers.

5. Na-No-Wri-Mo, or, er, Na-No-Ne-Mo, or Na-No-Na-No--anyway, November is National Make Yourself Crazy Writing a Novel in a Month month. I'm in the final stretch of my WIP, so I'm not participating. I'm also not sure how I feel about this. Pressure is good. Deadlines are good. But, I just don't know...Anyone out there gonna try it?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Instant Karma

OK, I read LiLa's post today about spreading the love, and thought, There's no time for love; I have to work on the WIP! But then I started to feel a little guilty. Then paranoid about my karmic balance sheet. So, I'm going to list a bunch of FANTABULOUS YA books I've read over the last couple of months. No time for reviews, but every one on the list is a winner. Feel free to add titles in the comment box. Here goes:

1. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
2. Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
3. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
4. Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehert
5. Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
6. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers*
7. Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

I think, in the interest of my career, I should change my name to Sara/Sarah. Yes?

*Review forthcoming...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Team Jacob

OK, so I'm officially a Twi-Mom. I have tickets to the midnight showing of New Moon on November 19 (Thanks, Kathleen!). I will be just like the hordes of 12 year olds panting with anticipation, with one notable difference (besides--ahem--age). I get to go out for drinks with my friends beforehand! Yes!

I seriously love the spectacle associated with Twilight. I love young girls crying all over themselves at the sight of Robert Pattinson. I love Stephenie Meyer appearing at the mall dressed kind of like Stevie Nicks and getting a reception worthy of a rock star. I love that there are graduate students formulating theories about the Mormon influence in the series or launching post-structuralist third-wave feminist critiques of Bella Swan. I love it all.


Because it's fun. And the fact that this kind of frenzy stems from reading is all kinds of awesome. Team Jacob all the way!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Falcon and the Snowed

I couldn't look at my news page without seeing Falcon, the six year old boy we thought might have flown away in a homemade hot air balloon, and his father, the one who thought exploiting his children in the name of a reality show was a good idea.

It got me thinking about reality, and our collective definition of the word. We've come to accept reality as being subject to editing, and, though that's super attractive to my writerly soul, it lessens our appreciation of basic human experience. Love, friendship, family, career, food--all of the elements of our day-to-day existence are now subject to documentation and manipulation. This destructive media influence goes beyond peppering fashion mags with models so severely photoshopped their heads are wider than their hips, it confuses the lines of what is natural and contrived until we just can't tell anymore.

Contemporary, realistic YA fiction offers one antidote to this. Stephanie Kuehnert, author of The Ballads of Suburbia, discusses this in a recent blog post. As she says, the characters depicted in these novels may undergo completely different experiences from those of the teens who pick them up at the bookstore, but the dialogue that follows validates the realities of the readers' individual experiences. Yes, we're talking fiction, but teens are classic "reader response" critics--their understanding of literature relies heavily on what they know of the world, and what they're curious about. They make it all about them, and in this case, I think that's a good thing.

I wonder, for these teens, how growing up in the age of created realities will affect how they view themselves and the world, as adults. What do you think?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Freaky Friday

Working hard on the WIP, so posts have been light--sorry! There's always time, though, to get a little freaky...

1. The Chicago Marathon was last weekend. 35,000 runners at the starting line and 33,700 made it to the finish. Absolutely incredible evidence of the driving force of sheer will.

2. Cupcakes. I'm obsessed. Red Velvet. Carrot Cake. Carmel. I spent my high school years working at a bakery and the love of flour and butter and sugar stayed with me. (Too bad my 110-pound frame didn't stick around). If you guys have recipes, please send. I'll try them ALL.

3. Hush, Hush is finally in bookstores! Becca Fitzpatrick's story of a fallen angel kept me at the very edge of my seat, but what really got me was Patch, a character who sent my thirty-something heart rocketing around my chest. He's Paul Newman, Marlon Brando and James Dean rolled into one sexily scarred package. Edward Cullen can go choke on a bottle of True Blood.

4. Don Draper crosses the line. It was the "you people" comment to Sal, followed by the "people like you" come-on to the future hippie schoolteacher. If I was in her place, I would have slapped him. Ok, then I would have kissed him, but definitely after the slap.

5. Girl Crush of the Week: Christina Hendricks. Probably the cutest bridal party I've ever seen. May she have a better marriage than Joan Holloway!

And now, it's off to work I go...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Beatles Break

I want to say something really profound about art or collaboration, or somehow tie this into writing, but I'm just too freaking wowed by it. Check this out.

Basically, it's an excerpt from a BBC special pulling apart some songs from Sgt. Pepper, and a few from other albums. They've separated the tracks, so you can hear each Beatle's individual contribution to a song, and how George Martin tied everything together so beautifully. Really worth a listen.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Freaky Friday

It's been a tough week. So...I'm going to get a little goofy with the Friday list. Today I am shamelessly ripping off Elaine Lui from Laineygossip (best Hollywood gossip site ever), and conducting a Freebie Five fest. For those who don't know, a Freebie Five list contains the names of five celebrities with whom you could be, um, intimate, with no lasting consequences. No disease, pregnancy, divorce, and you won't see yourself on the cover of Star Magazine in the checkout line at the supermarket. Sound fun? It is. Post your list in the comment box. Here's mine:

1. Colin Farrell (He's cleaned up well, hasn't he?)
2. Jon Hamm (I would so be Don Draper's secretary)
3. Russell Crowe (We could throw telephones at people. Fun!)
4. Viggo Mortensen (That scene in Eastern know the one I'm talking about...)
5. Gene Hackman (Weird May-December fixation I have--I know--TMI).

And now, the twist. Add a sixth person who is of your gender. Yep. We're getting a little Friday crazy. Drum roll...

6. Maggie Gyllenhaal

OK? Let's hear yours...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Your #1 Fan

Ran over to the public library to pick up some of your awesome book suggestions only to find it's closed until October 12! I felt like Clark Griswald pulling up to the gates of Wally World. Wha??? Closed?? So I hopped on my bike and pedaled to the next suburb over where the library is perfectly decent, but significantly smaller. They didn't have anything I was looking for, and I was in a hurry, so I picked up something just because the author is from Chicago (feeling a little Chi-town sentimental after the Olympics debacle). The title? The Amateurs by a guy called Marcus Sakey. Crime thriller, not my usual genre, but oh, man, I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. Kept my eyes pried open until the wee hours just to get to the finish line. So exhilarating, no?

After finishing a good book, I usually bask in its glow for a while, thinking about the characters and the story and the art of putting it all together. Then, until this week, I'd return the book to the library or slide it back on my bookshelf, talk to a few friends about it, and that would be that.

But this time, armed with the @ sign and a Twitter account, I contacted Mr. Sakey just to let him know how un-put-downable his book was. I wrote a charming message in under 140 characters, hit enter and...felt like Annie Freaking Wilkes. I wrote a fan letter. I am truly a dork.

Or am I? Do people often do this? Do you? Social sites have definitely made our world smaller, ushering in an era of overfamiliarity. I felt well within my rights to contact Mr. Sakey directly, a far cry, I thought, from sending a letter to Ralph Macchio in care of Teen Beat magazine, complete with rainbow stickers on the envelope and purple ink. But, really, are they not essentially the same thing?

Then again, Ralph never wrote me back. I got a message from @MarcusSakey in less than 24 hours...hmmm...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Better now...

After watching this.

Have a good weekend!

Friday, October 2, 2009


Crap, crap, crap. Chicago is out in the first round. I understand Rio, but MADRID? C'mon, Spain had it in `92! And this is the city of broad shoulders, the city that works, the home of blues...and now we really are singing the blues.

Big flippin' belly flop for Chi-town.

What's Oprah going to do on Monday?

Too bummed for a proper Freaky Friday. Today is Failure Friday. Ugh.

Please, Please, Pretty Please!

Oh, great Olympics Committee, please, please, please pick Chicago!

(Can't focus on Freaky Friday until I find out!)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

In Which I Narrowly Avoid a Rant

OK, I nearly lost it today after reading yet another article about a school district's ban on walking and riding bikes to school. I was going to post about the idiocy of communities building car-accessible-only schools AFTER it's become apparent the oil age is not going to last forever, but I would bore you guys to tears and I don't want to do that on a Thursday. So...instead, I'm going to take a cue from my friend Lisa, who's been a fountain of positivity these past few days, and write about the very easy things you can do to promote physical well-being and earth-loving in your young-uns.

(Caveat--I am not a perfect model of environmental know-how. I don't have solar panels on my house; I bought these cute flats from Nordstrom instead of using the money for that rain barrel I've been meaning to order; I sometimes forget my resusable grocery bags in my trunk, and my garden was all kinds of pathetic this year. So please don't think I'm lording my enviro-goddess status over you--I just picked up some great tips over time and want to share...)

Here goes:

1. Stop treating bicycles like toys and make them the go-to mode of transportation for short trips. If my son asks to go to the library (1 mile away), I say, "Go get your bike." The park? "Go get your bike." The local pizza joint? "Go get your bike." Your kids will start seeing their bicycles as viable forms of transportation, for both kids AND adults. Get a little sidecar if your kids are too young for riding--it's never too early to instill this. Works for walking, too.

2. Stop making separate meals for the kids--the family dinner should be enjoyed by the whole family. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone says, "I can't believe your kids eat X (squash, broccoli, salmon, liver, etc.). Susie/Justin/Harriet will only eat chicken nuggets and cheese pizza." The hub and I made a decision long ago to always serve the kids what we're having. If they don't eat it, well, then they're going to be a little hungry. Believe me, a child who misses dinner will not waste away to nothing overnight. Allowances must be taken for something your child truly doesn't like, but honestly, kids who are expected to eat what they are served like pretty much everything. I have a wealth of anecdotal evidence for this!

3. Make "because it's good for your body" or "because it's good for the earth" a reasonable answer for the incessant "whys?" of toddlerhood. It's amazing how quickly kids accept this answer.

4. Grow something. Anything. Let your kids see the process of how food makes it to the dinner plate.

5. Make friends with nature/don't turn dirt into the enemy. True story: I was at a party held in someone's backyard. One woman would not put her baby down for a minute, because--get this--"grass is so dirty." And she had just fed said child little bits of cut up hot dog. I poured myself a big old glass of wine after that one...

6. Suck up to a farmer. We get a good amount of our produce from a farmer's collective. This is not as expensive as it sounds; if I get my butt in gear and plan what my family is going to eat for the week, it costs less than if I bought everything at the grocery store. And it's yet another opportunity to get the kids a little closer to the food chain.

So maybe I ranted a little. But climbing up on a soapbox every once in a while is one of the joys of blogging!

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Curling Up with a Good Book

Because I'm working through a tough spot in my WIP, I decided to take a little break (ok, it's procrastination city around here) and troll some publishing sites to see what's going on in the world of books.

It seems Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol is selling well, though I'm not sure if it's surpassed industry predictions. Has anyone read it? The reviews haven't been kind. I liked his previous books, didn't love them, so I can wait for paperback on this one.

The hub just finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson, so I think I might surprise him and hit Borders today for The Girl Who Played with Fire. I still need to read TGWTDT. I tried in the summer, but it was a slow starter for me. Maybe I had a hard time getting my head around all the Swedish names.

Three books I've been waiting for come out this fall: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr, and John Irving's Last Night in Twisted River (obsessed, I know). I'm too impatient to put myself on the long waiting list at the library, so it's hardcover for all three of these babies (better collect those Borders coupons or order from Amazon). I'm a little afraid to read Audrey's latest because I liked The Time Traveler's Wife so much. EW's review was not so hot, so I'm worried.

So, what are you guys reading now? I tend to go in spurts, and right now I'm in a voracious reading phase--give me some suggestions, please!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Scattered Brain

I'm all over the place today.

First off, my Mad Men obsession was off the charts after watching last night's episode. I won't give any spoilers away, but Mr. Weiner outdid himself, from the shocker opening to the "Company Man" song playing as the final credits rolled. Everything about this show is well-done, with a depth and richness not usually seen on television. I could have used last night's episode to teach my literature students about symbolism (the Victorian chaise? the Hermes scarf? The eclipse?). At one point, we're clued in on the exact date of this episode, July 23, 1963. The rumblings of the cultural earthquake to come are being felt by everyone, and we have no idea how each will come through in the end. I LOVE that.

OK, on to the next topic. Will someone please explain to me the allure of fingerless gloves? I saw some really cute handmade knit gloves on Etsy, but upon closer inspection I realized they had no fingers! Do I not understand this because I'm from the Midwest? Please, someone explain!

And, finally, the F-word. I've already posted my issues with saying it, but I apparently don't have much of a problem with other people using it on national television. There's a big brou-ha-ha over some chick on Saturday Night Live letting the f-bomb fly during this last week's broadcast. I've seen the clip, and you know what? Who cares? I probably wouldn't have given it a second thought. And, for those who complained about young ears hearing the word: if your children are up at midnight and watching SNL, then you've got bigger issues than dealing with a curse word.

Enough with the random. Happy Monday!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Freaky Friday

Friday came quickly this week, no?

Here's the top five for this fine week in September...

1. Mackenzie Phillips and the big secret. I must say consensual incest is a new phrase for me. Seems like it should be an oxymoron, but I'm guessing Mac is right when she says she's sure they weren't the first, but...ugh. Just, ugh. Denny Doherty is my new favorite Papa. Cass has always been my favorite Mama.

2. Health care. I have insurance but I know what it's like to live without. We need a new system before this one implodes.

3. Girl Crush of the Week: Oprah's friend Gayle. I swallowed my distaste for she that is O, and tuned in for Monday's swinging 60s extravaganza. Jon Hamm showed up, which was awesome, but what really tickled me was Gayle's visit to the Sterling Cooper set. She played a retro cute new secretary for Don Draper, and she rocked it.

4. The bread challenge. Two summers ago, I decided I would bake all the bread my family needs. I figured three months was a sensible test period--I lasted one-and-a-half before I ran screaming for Trader Joe's. I think I'm going to try it again, as soon as I go to Williams-Sonoma to buy these. Anyone have good bread recipes? I don't use a machine, though. I like to KNEAD--total stress relief.

5. Meeting other writers in random places is fun. The place? An old man bar in my neighborhood. Why was I there? A random get-together for local moms. There was one gal I hadn't met, and she turned out to be a former playboy scribe-turned-book-length non-fiction writer. She's about to start the query-go-round, so we had loads to talk about, and bored the living crap out of everyone else. I'm sure some of the other ladies woke up with hangovers because they couldn't get a word in edgewise and downed too many beers waiting for us to shut up!

Anyway, have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

I don't want to stomp my way onto Lisa and Laura's pop culture territory, but I had a great conversation about Rachel Ray while walking this morning with my friend Kathleen. RR's voice is like nails on a chalkboard, her "EVOO" mantra makes me want to hurl, and she kind of looks like a gremlin, BUT, and this is hard for me to admit, her dishes are practical, yummy, and easy to make. I've cooked more of her recipes than any other Food Network guru, and I love them all.

My favorite, Jamie Oliver (Otherwise referred to by the hub as my f*cking Brit boyfriend) cooks beautiful dishes inspired by his bucolic English country home. I would love to own a gorgeous English country home. Or a Tuscan retreat. Or a chateau in Bordeaux. What I do have is a 1/4 acre suburban plot with some pretty sad looking tomatoes and an overgrown patch of mint choking my tarragon, oregano & thyme to death. I'd give anything to step out my door to find fourteen different kinds of sage, but that's not going to happen. Don't get me wrong, Jamie still seems like the kind of guy who likes a pub and a pint, but his expectations of what the regular American cook has on hand are, um, high. Too high for me anyway.

Nigella Lawson is my Food Network girl crush (Funny, the husband doesn't have a problem with her.). For Nigella cooking is akin to a yummy-mummy noontime romp in the sack. She wears tight cashmere sweaters and sticks her fingers in her mouth a lot, and looks like she actually eats what she cooks. I love her. And if Nigella and Jamie hosted a joint cookery show, it would be the Food Network version of Cinemax Afterhours Programming. Total. Food. Porn.

But would I actually cook what they came up with? I don't know. I'd probably end up thumbing through my garish Rachel Ray cookbook, looking for something similar, but didn't require real Tahitian Vanilla or Golden Truffle Oil at $86 an ounce.

How about you guys? How many times have you actually cooked the stuff you've seen on the Food Network? What are your faves?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The World According to John

(I'm back online!!! I'm back online!!! With a super-long post because, let's face it, getting back online is like shaking up the bottle before you pop the cork...can't...stop...typing!)

OK, here goes...

I tried to be a serious writer after college. Really I did. I churned out self-conscious short stories and derivative screenplays, and even made a stab at a novel or two. I had a good imagination, and (pre-marriage/pre-babies) all the time in the world, but I just wasn't ready. Was I lacking in life experience? Maybe. Did I like the idea of being a writer more than the actual grunt work writing for a living entails? Possibly. I don't really know. I do know that I liked to sit in NYC bars like Kettle of Fish, drink cocktail after cocktail and bore pretentious tourists with my really great ideas. Ideas that did indeed sound pretty awesome after a steady stream of vodka and cranberries, but somehow never made it to the page.

When, in my early thirties, I decided to commit myself to writing--again--I pursued it with a vigor I simply didn't have in my twenties. This didn't make sense to me. I was a mommy twice over; I taught night school; I was exhausted. I should not have had time for writing, but somehow I made the time. I took help where I could get it--babysitting, beta-reading, backrubs from the hub. Though I didn't have the time or money to take creative writing classes, I did the next best thing to secure an education--I went to the library.

It was there I found On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, two books worth their authors' weight in gold as far as technique. I also found a great book about writing YA by K.L. Going, and a cheap copy of The Elements of Style, that old classic by Strunk and White, at the library book sale. All of these books taught me invaluable lessons about writing, and reinforced what I instinctively knew. Just thinking about these books can fill me with confidence, because the subtext of each is, you can do this!

But...sometimes...after staring at a blank page for an hour, writerly neurosis throws quick drying cement down the neural pathway devoted to creativity. Happened to me last week. I just...stopped. So, what did I do? I scrolled through my mental bookshelf, skipped over the books on writing and went to an old favorite about writers: The World According to Garp. Luckily I'm scary-obsessed with John Irving, so I found a copy on my actual bookshelf, and got to reading.

The World According to Garp is about many, many things, but what stood out to me on this read was the amount of time Irving spends showing us how a writer's imagination is formed and used in the process of becoming a writer. Real life will filter in, but, as Garp learns, it doesn't substitute for how the imaginary makes a story infinitely better. Irving explores this through Garp's short writerly life and the parallels to my own writing (and yours, I'd bet) are fascinating. I finished the book renewed and excited about my WIP again.

Incidentally, John Irving's new novel, Last Night in Twisted River, comes out in October. You can bet I'll buy it in hardcover!

Friday, September 18, 2009

(Let's Get) Freaky Friday

I've been computerless for a week now, so I'm deep in the withdrawal phase--DTs, nervous breakdowns, facial tics, AND I went totally batshit crazy ballistic on the Best Buy Geek. Those of you who know me in real life know I'm NOT a yeller. At all. This is the sad state I find myself in.

Which is why I'm not going to do a regular Freaky Friday list, but a super-fun sex-ay version to keep my mind off my troubles. I'm going to list five unusual things I find sexy about people in general (no need to get too personal here) and I want you guys to participate as well.

1. Buddy Holly glasses. Have you ever seen photos of Buddy Holly without his glasses? Ooh, la-la! I love that the thick black frames kept his beautiful face a secret. And I always thought Clark Kent was way hotter than Superman.
2. Barely noticeable imperfections in appearance. A hole in a flannel shirt. Crescents of dirt under fingernails. Unevenly cut hair. Pen marks on skin.
3. A man reading a newspaper on the subway. The newspaper has to be crinkled, with sections threatening to spill out over the floor. Ink stains on fingertips are a plus. Don't know how much longer people are going to be reading newspapers anywhere, given ad revenues, so I'll take this one when I can get it. Sorry, Kindles may be cool but they are not sexy.
4. A man waiting in line who is not jabbering away on a cell phone, punching buttons on a blackberry or listening to an iPod. A faraway look in his eye is a must. Daydreaming is sexy.
5. Using money clips instead of wallets. (But not the silver, girlishly monogrammed kind from Tiffany's--yuck!). It speaks of confidence.

(And here is my list of five so-not-sexy things: thong sandals, manicures for guys, Tom Cruise movies, high top sneakers, and those thin, filmy sports jersey/shorts matching sets. Ugh.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sea of Love

No computer yet, and I'm tired of writing my WIP in longhand. I definitely missed my calling--my chicken scratch handwriting is better suited to signing a prescription pad than writing out dialogue. Oh, well. I never would have made it through organic chem anyway...

So...about a couple of hours ago I was tired of writing and tired of cleaning the house. I'd finished grading papers and taken a long walk and eaten a healthy breakfast, and for the first time in about ten years, I found I had little to do. This concept is completely foreign to me. As is the concept of turning on the television while the sun is still shining. I never do it, but today...I did. 500 gazillion channels and nothing even remotely watchable. Finally, just as I was about to break down and suffer through Regis and what's-her-name, I spotted a movie I haven't seen since it came out in--get this--1989. Sea of Love with Ellen Barkin and Al Pacino. The only thing I could remember about it was I liked it once upon a time, so I settled in for the show.

And what a show it was. Murder, lust, loneliness, suffering, dissatisfaction, mid-life crisis--it was all there and more. The interesting thing was, I really felt it, the humanity of the story, even though it was a pretty by the numbers thriller. The acting was great, the script sharp, but what really got to me was something more. These people looked like real people--feathery lines about the eyes and dark circles underneath, frizzy hair and blemishes, a little bit of tummy hanging over a belt, a slightly deflated butt. These were people approaching middle age, and the director let them look it. No botox or sculpted bodies. None of them had the hollow-eyed, alien-like stare that comes after too many facelifts. And, you know what? The worn look is sexy, a messy but confident sexuality that only comes with experience. Ellen Barkin absolutely glowed with it, and you could see every line on her face.

When I think about some A-list actresses today--Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman come to mind--I can honestly say their vanity erases all sexual allure. Messy is good. Aging is interesting. A little wear and tear in the face sparks the imagination, no? Where has this woman been? What has she done? (Hopefully she'll never tell you, as the fun is in the guessing.)

When people inflate their lips and breasts and various other parts, or poke poison into their wrinkles to erase lines earned through living, something is lost. This is so apparent onscreen, particularly during love scenes. It's hard to believe someone who has iron-fisted control over her appearance would let loose in bed. Let me tell you, though, Ellen Barkin and Al Pacino had the windows steaming up in my family room. I'd add it to my netflix list, if I were you!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Forced Techno Break

The geeks failed. Miserably. I finagled a laptop, to be picked up next Tuesday. I'm hanging at the library again because my neighbors aren't around (Or maybe they're avoiding my pathetic, hang-dog Internet-deprived self). Anyhew, no time for a proper Freaky Friday, so here's a So-So Saturday:

1. Tried Beatles Rock Band on a Best Buy demo. I suck, but it was sooooo cool. Definitely sits atop my Christmas list.
2. Girl/Boy Crush of the Week: The hermaphroditic runner. Girl parts/boy parts--what's not to love? Middlesex is one of my favorite books of all time, so I have a soft spot for the herma crowd. If you haven't read it, you must!
3. The City of Bones/City of Ashes/City of Glass Trilogy. I've always turned my nose up at urban fantasy/paranormal books, but shame on me. I plowed through this trilogy like it was HP all over again. Loved it. Have a cougar-ish crush on leonine Jace. Roar!
4. Koombacha (not sure about the spelling) Fermented Drinks. Gives you energy, probiotics & other, um, instestinal support. And it doesn't taste bad. Slightly pricey, but it definitely gives me a lift. FYI--I still have yet to try a Red Bull or Monster or anything like that, and I don't drink coffee, so my reaction may be different from yours.
5. The sheer awesomeness of librarians. Seriously. And not just because they so kindly fueled my Internet fix.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

All You Need Is Love (and, um $250)

(My Internet access is down. The geek cavalry has been alerted, but can't come to my rescue until tomorrow. I'm sitting at the public terminals at the library, typing while a line of very patient people, mostly homeless and/or elderly, wait for a chance to cybersurf. So this will be a short one, possibly with typos!)

OK, Beatles Rock Band was released yesterday (Anyone get it? Do tell!) as was the complete remastered album collection, in mono, a project overseen by Giles Martin, George Martin's son! (I'm sure Beatles fans are hyperventilating--everyone else, please be tolerant! This is a huge deal!) The cover of Entertainment Weekly has a gorgeous photo of John and Paul, with a number of rare photos peppered throughout a list of the top 50 Beatles songs of all time. It's easy to come up with a list of 50, but much harder to come up with the top five. So that is my challenge to you guys today. Here's mine:

1. Let it Be
2. Hey, Jude
3. Norwegian Wood
4. Blackbird
5. You've Got to Hide Your Love Away

What are yours?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hope is a Thing with Feathers

I'd planned a big long post about Beatlemania (Beatles Rock Band comes out tomorrow!), but...


That's all I can handle right now; please forgive the brevity!

(Special thanks to my supremely talented agent, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe! Yay!)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Freaky Friday

My five bits of randomness for this week...

1. OK, I'm a total conspiracy theorist, but this whole Charlie Gibson retiring from ABC has me suspicious. I'd like to think Charlie and Diane are best buds, but do think there was a GMA smackdown at some point? Did Diane stomp a high-heeled foot and give an ultimatum? Hmmmm...

2. Got the September J. Crew catalog in the mail the other day and I just have to say: what is the deal with three-quarter length sleeves on sweaters meant to be worn through the winter? And, there's the $170 price tag. If I plan on dropping that kind of cash for a sweater, I want the whole sleeve, not something that 's going to ride up my pointy elbows.

3. Girl crush of the week: My neighbor, Nancy. She has three kids under the age of three. Think about the amount of diapers, cheerios and sippy cups in her house. Boggles the mind.

4. Etsy. Oh...Etsy. Major time suck for me. And I just love the idea of an alternative economy. I see something I like, pay for it, and the money goes right to the person who made it by hand. Imagine that!

5. I didn't speak my first major curse word until I was a senior in high school. I kid you not. When I was little a nun told me that swearing was for people with limited minds and non-existent vocabularies. I took what she said waaay to heart. My girlfriends were always trying to get me to swear, and it became kind of a challenge so I held off for a really long time. When I finally broke down and said "Sh&t" or something (see, I even have a hard time typing it!) everyone made such a big deal out of it I just didn't let those words seep into my everyday speech patterns. Even now, (I'm not exactly a sailor but I do curse.), it's hard for me to sound natural saying "F*ck." I pause a little before speaking, like I have to gear up to say it. I have a heck of a time adding curse words to my writing as well. In my WIP I have a character who uses the F-word so much it's almost a verbal tic (He's Irish--in Ireland using the F-word is just about as offensive as adding salt to your dinner.) I really have to work to make it flow naturally from his fictional mouth. And, if an editor has a problem with all the cursing, you know what I'm going to say, right? Sh*t, F&ck, Son of a B%tch!

Have a F*cking Great Long Weekend!

Being There

So, um...I'm a pretty liberal democrat. No big surprise, right? I voted for Obama and really want him to do well while in office. Plunged into crisis last January, a crisis not of his doing, President Obama went into battle knowing it was going to be fought charging up a steep, steep hill.

The thing is, I trust he's doing his best, but he hasn't done enough to remind us of why we should trust him. I do not feel the presence of Obama in daily life. I'm reminded of when Bush was in office and I could go months without thinking of the US as actually having a leader. Obama is not spending most of his first term on a ranch in Texas, though (short Martha's Vineyard vaca aside), he's been in the Oval Office. Where he should have been is in our living rooms.

During the Great Depression & WWII, Franklin Delano Roosevelt frequently addressed the country via radio, using his "fireside chats" to gather support for his New Deal programs and, later, for the sacrifices necessary to win WWII. They were enormously popular, and usually resulted in Roosevelt getting what he wanted, legislatively. Now, I recently discovered Obama's weekly address is available on YouTube. I didn't know this. Did you? Part of Obama's appeal is in his eloquence and logical analysis of the issues. As he goes to battle over health care for all, we need to see him, to listen to him, to really feel like he's got our backs. I'm not a marketing guru, but I know the present administration has access to the best. Let's hope they make use of it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Bucket of Fun

When my boys were potty training, the hub and I used a rewards system--on a particularly good poop day, my sons could stick their little hands into the bucket of fun (an empty milk carton full of stickers, action figures and various tchotchkes) and pick whatever prize they wanted. This system worked, more or less. They're older now, and handle potty duty by themselves, thank you very much, but for some reason I've gone and resurrected the old Bucket of Fun. For myself.

I'm trying to shed ten pounds. No biggie, right? My husband could go play a round of golf and lose a dozen. For the ladies, not so easy. So I've taken to power walking (can't believe I just used that phrase) for 45 minutes to an hour, after I drop the boys off at school and before I chain myself to my computer. And this would work IF I could stay away from my personal bucket `o fun (AKA my pantry) after I finish working out. There are no stickers in my bucket, but there are lovely squares of Dove dark chocolate, almond biscotti, fudge brownies and random pop tarts the kids have somehow overlooked. These are my rewards for breaking a sweat. And as a result I've not lost a single pound.

Intrinsic rewards aren't cutting it. The soft, ladylike inner voice telling me it's noble to resist is totally overpowered by the loudmouth shouting "Valrhona is classy chocolate--eat the whole bar!" Self-hypnosis isn't doing the trick either. I could sit the in lotus meditation pose, Ommm-ing until my lips chap and I still want to point the canister of whipped cream directly into my mouth and shoot.

So, do you guys have any tips for me? I really want to lose these pesky ten before the holiday season begins, and the buckets of fun are plentiful. Thanks!

Oh, and since I don't do Teaser Tuesday, I have this gem for your viewing pleasure. Stick around to see my man at the end.

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Freaky Friday

My five bits of randomness for today:

1. Dominick Dunne has passed on to that great courtroom in the sky. I picture him as a bespectacled angel, sitting on OJ's shoulder and poking him in the ear. Years ago I wrote for a very earnest, rather boring trade magazine. We were, however, owned by American Media, which at the time also owned The National Enquirer, Star, and Weekly World News. Not only did I get a copy of each placed on my desk every Friday, I got to work elbow to elbow with the gossip hounds. This was during the OJ trial, and I had the inside scoop on stuff that never made it to the mainstream media. Those people worked hard. And they worshipped Dominick Dunne. I remember all of us walking across the street to a Chinese restaurant on the day the verdict was announced. We ordered Mai-Tais in the middle of a workday and sobbed when OJ was acquited of the heinous crime we knew he committed. "Dominick's going to be pissed," our office manager, Reggie, said. And he was, but Nick Dunne, ever the gentleman reporter, communicated his outrage eloquently with the written word. RIP, Mr. Dunne.

2. Girl Crush of the Week: Emiliana Torrini. Oh, this girl! This voice! Am I the last one to the party? Does everyone know about her already? This Icelandic-Italian songstress will have you humming her tunes in the shower, the car--wherever. My favorites: Big Jumps and Sunny Road. Get thee to itunes and enjoy...

3. Grapefruit seed extract is truly a natural wonder. It's anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, non-toxic, and you can use it internally, externally, and even on your kitchen sink. How `bout them apples? (Just don't ever use it full-strength--it has to be diluted, big-time!)

4. Alexander Sarsgard. Yeah, I know I had him on the list last week, but he deserves another mention. I want to wipe his blood-tears. Oh yes I do.

5. Nursing is hard with a newborn. I'm not currently nursing (DCFS would pay me a visit if I was--my boys are in grammar school!), but my sister-in-law and close friend had babies this month and are on the every 2-4 hours feeding schedule, which puts even the best of us in a semi-zombie, perpetually foggy state after a few weeks. If you can get through the first thirty days, girls, it does get better, I promise!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fight the Power!

From the files of the very, very strange...

I have a scene in my novel where the characters, who are fighting for a community garden, must state their case in front of a suburban zoning board. Where did I find myself last night? In front of a suburban zoning board, fighting to keep our village from paving a patch of land adjacent to my property. Life imitating art, right? When I wrote the zoning board scene, I figured I got the vibe mostly right because I've sat in tons of PTO & Town Hall meetings, and I watched a Village Board meeting on government access. Turns out nothing beats actually putting yourself in your character's shoes. I stood in front of the microphone, stating my reasons in a (surprising to me) calm manner, but a trickle of sweat ran down my back, even though the room was freezing, and I was keenly aware of the camera filming me--it made me self-conscious and put me at a disadvantage with the board, who, because our suburb televises board meetings, are so used to being filmed they hardly noticed. I was surprised at how cleanly some people fit into stereotypes--the glad-handing mayor, the smarmy rich guy who liked to hear himself talk, the no-nonsense son of immigrants capable of cutting through the BS.

In the end, the board voted against us, 3-2. I'm disappointed, but not ready to give up. The Village Manager told me, "It's not over until the shovel hits the dirt." And he's right. I can fight pretty darn hard, and I will.

But I also learned an important lesson about research. Internet research is great, but nothing beats the real deal. Don't you agree?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Calling Mr. Givenchy...

Right now I'm busy with final edits on my novel before it goes on sub to publishers (!!!!). In order to give myself a break every so often (translation: to keep myself from freaking way out) I peruse catalogs, browse online, comb through magazines in search of--Ta-Da!--the perfect fall ensemble.

Summer clothes don't do it for me. And Chicago weather makes spring a wet, muddy disaster. Forget winter as well--we hearty folk cover ourselves in down and wool. But, fall, or rather, autumn, is absolute glory. The clothes attached to this season are perfect as well. Knee-high coffee color leather boots. Herringbone tights. Corduroy jackets with leather patches at the elbows. Cashmere everything--scarves, sweaters, even socks! Ooh, la-la!

There's one problem, however, with my fantasy of waltzing into Prada or Burberry, or even the much-more-likely Target, and choosing my fall outfit: My husband and I are saving to remodel our kitchen, so my clothing budget doesn't really exist.

It's a good thing, then, that my look hasn't really changed all that much over the years. I don't rock a mullet or wear acid-wash, but my style is definitely that of a woman whose girlhood was spent watching way too many old-style Hollywood movies. One example: I wear ballet flats, all the time, and have for years. In fact, years ago, before ballet flats came back big-time, I'd buy real Capezio ballet shoes and have them soled at the shoe repair dude. That's my homage to Audrey Hepburn. My other purchases over the years have been reflective of my obsessions with Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, Ali McGraw in Love Story, Katherine Ross in The Graduate, and Katherine Hepburn in just about anything. Oh, and Cher during her gypsy phase. More recently, the feast for the eyes known as Mad Men has made me want to scour every vintage store in Chi-town for tight cashmere sweaters and pencil skirts.

When borrowing heavily from the past, though, it is important to find balance in your presentation. I've made mistakes with this. Like Paris Hilton, ridiculous in head to toe Juicy Couture, I've gone all-vintage and ended up looking like a museum exhibit. A few key modern pieces must be added to the mix. It's kind of like creating a character based on someone you know in real life (You knew I'd bring this back to writing somehow, didn't you?). If it's a mere recreation on paper, then it's kind of a cheap copy, no? You have to add a little creativity to it, a little bit of you. Then the character really jumps off the page, right?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Freaky Friday

(Sorry for the light posting this week--I've been a busy little bee!)

My five bits of randomness this week:

1. The Sookie and Eric bedroom scene in True Blood. I don't care if he pings my gal Lainey's highly developed gaydar, that man is hetero-hotness on a platter. How tall is Alexsander Sarsgard? OK, I looked it up. Six-freaking-four. And most of it was visible last Sunday on HBO. Oooh, la-la!

2. No exercise plus too many on-the-go meals equals one grumpy Loretta. Unlike most people, I put weight on in the summer and take it off in the fall and winter, when the kids are in school and I actually have time to work out. I miss my endorphins. School needs to start, pronto!

3. If you have allergies and want to stay away from anti-histamines for a while (or just take a break for a year), start eating bee pollen right now, a little bit every day. By spring you won't be sneezing--seriously! It works the same way an allergy shot does, without the ouch! I've been ordering jars of cappings (pollen & propolis) from Really Raw Honey for years. Good stuff, but not for the squeamish. I often have to pick a bee carcass out from the jar before eating!

4. I'm a total Francophile. (Anglophile, too. In fact I would be perfectly happy taking the chunnel back and forth from London-to-Paris, Paris-to-London...). I play French music in my car on the way to work and sing along, top volume, because during that hour I can always manage to convince myself I speak French fluently, when in actuality I only took one disastrous semester in college. I've slipped and done this in front of people, but thankfully to friends who just say, Oh, Loretta, and assume I'm speaking in tongues. One day, though, I know I'll start singing in front of my friend Catherine, a real live French person, who will probably just laugh, but still, mucho embarrassing...I have to keep myself in check.

5. What's up with the recent spate of YA books about preacher's daughters? (OK, just typing that has me singing Son of a Preacher Man using my Dusty Springfield voice--in English, not Francais.) I'm excited about the amazing Sara Zarr's Once Was Lost, but I feel like she's coming in at the end of a trend. Not fair, I know. But I've heard of at least two other titles with similar themes, and more using religious communities as the primary setting. I loved Eileen Cook's What Would Emma Do? but I'm not sure about some of the others. Have any of you guys read Pure by Terra Elan McVoy? Whatja think?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'd Rather He Lived In My Head

I had a rare block of free time this weekend, and I wanted to do two things I never do: go to a makeup counter at Nordstrom's and beg someone do something with my face (inspired by those ubiquitous Mad Men makeovers) and/or go see a movie in an actual movie theater. Well, I got the face done (green eyeshadow--seriously, not so bad if it's the right shade!), but when it was time to choose a movie I was stumped. My first choice, 500 Days of Summer, wasn't playing anywhere near the mall. The next two in line, The Time Traveler's Wife and Julie & Julia, were, um, problematic...

I've read The Time Traveler's Wife three times. I want to live in that book. Henry is like, my Edward--I'm borderline obsessed with the character. I know exactly what he looks like, and it isn't Eric Bana (put a photo of Eric next to one of Corey Feldman--separated at birth, no?). To me, TTW was punk rock, and the movie trailer, well, showed a whole lot of easy listening. Does that make it a bad film? I guess I can't judge yet, but it makes me cringe to think that people who haven't read the book yet will go and assume TTW was written by Nicholas Sparks. So, even though the showtime fit my schedule perfectly, it was a no.

Julie & Julia was my final option (Couldn't do GI Joe. Could not.) Now, I've read both Julie Powell's book and My Life in France, but I didn't have the blood connection to those books as I did to TTW. And, with Nora Ephron directing, how could I go wrong? She's pretty much incapable of making a movie that isn't a crowd pleaser, but...

I couldn't do that film either. I guess because I knew the punchline. Julie Powell's book was very personal, and reading it was like peering into someone's diary, so I kind of felt I'd lived the experience with her already and I wasn't up for a repeat. I also saw, before she stopped talking about it, an interview with Julie during which she discussed problems in her marriage, a relationship portrayed onscreen as perfectly supportive and loving. I couldn't deal with the disconnect. If the movie was a bio pic of Julia Child's rise to fame, I might have done it. Instead, I hung out in the Barnes & Noble cafe' until it was time for me to head home.

I'm a a total loser? Too picky? Overthinking things? Yeah, probably all three. But, don't get me wrong--I really wanted to sit in the same spot for two hours, eat popcorn, and lose myself to another world. I just couldn't handle being disappointed.

Now, so you don't think I'm a Negative Nellie, I'm desperately trying to come up with movies that were as good or better than the books that inspired them. I think I'm the only person on the planet who's actually read The Graduate; the book was a bit perplexing, but the movie is probably my favorite of all time. And I guess the aforementioned Sparks did better onscreen with The Notebook, can't think of anymore. Can you guys?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Good Old-Fashioned Grit

Some writerly friends of mine recently finished a challenging revision on a manuscript. They stuck to it, day after day, setting goals and reaching them, reviewing and editing, over and over, and now this new version of their book really rocks the house. They're proud of it, and rightfully so. But they should also take pride not just in the end result but of their mastery of the revision process.

Ho-hum, you say? Don't all writers work like this? The answer is a resounding, no way.

I've known a lot of writers in my time. I've worked on magazines, newspapers, and currently freelance for a company where the MFAs far outnumber the MBAs. I've spent time as a grad student in the English department of a university well-known for its creative writing program. I was friendly with some of the MFA students, but the line between them and us teacher-track nobodies was drawn pretty thick.

I was jealous of the creative writer folk. They were brave, glamorous, eccentric--and loved for it. I wanted to be in their crowd, but the fear of sharing my work with any of them was so acute, I never signed up for a single workshop. I went to their WIP readings, watched them in our shared offices, rowdy as if they were in a bar at 2am, but I never joined in.

Being an observer (ok, maybe a loser) does have its benefits, though. After a while I noticed how much these people talked about writing. And how much they drank. And flirted. And postured. What I didn't have any idea of, however, was how much they wrote. Or rewrote. After spending two years learning, partying, existing in tandem, I had a pretty good idea: not nearly enough.

I saw this when I was in the working world as well. Talented people. Very, very talented people of all ages and walks of life, with half completed novels and notebooks full of ideas, but somehow the work never got done. Life got in the way, at times, but more often than not it was the lack of something else, something defined quite well in a recent Businessweek article about the power of stick-to-itivness. Intelligence and creativity will open many doors, and keep them open, but a better predictor of success, according to a recent University of Pennsylvania study, is good old-fashioned conscientiousness and perseverance. In other words, grit.

And I was recently given a real-life lesson in this, from my writerly friends. We roll our eyes when starlets tell People magazine, "It's all about the work." But you know? They're exactly right. It's a lesson I've learned the hard way, but it's one I don't think I'll soon forget.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Freaky Friday

The Friday morning list looks to be a staple of most blogs. I'm totally going to be a follower and subject you to my five bits of randomness. Here goes:

1. Feel good fact of the day: The iconic "Woodstock couple" is still together after forty years. Check it out: (In the bottom photo, don't you just love the "Hippies Always Welcome" sign?)

2. While driving to work, I saw a girl on a bicycle, dressed exactly as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's--dress, pearls, hat, oversized sunglasses, black elbow length gloves. I stared so long and hard I almost got into an accident. And this was no drag queen my friends, just a slim-hipped, Audrey-esqe gal. Where was she going? What was she doing on Elston & Belmont (not exactly a hot spot)? I must say the mind reels...

3. Girl crush of the week: Carla Bruni. I love her music. I love that she looks like she'd slap anyone who disagreed with her. I love that it's only a matter of time before she demands the French people give her The Palace of Versailles as her personal party house. I would give anything to see her take on Michelle Obama in a catfight. Barack would be embarrassed, but Sarkozy would LOVE it.

4. Mad Men. Sunday. AMC. Season 3 is here my friends. I love everything about this show--the set, costumes, subtle plotlines, the square-jawed manly-man that is Jon Hamm. But what I dig most is that history is gonna come a'callin' and these folks had better be ready...

5. I make my own deodorant. It's super easy. 1/3 cup of Aloe Vera/1/3 cup of Witch Hazel/2 tablespoons Vegetable Glycerin & a few drops of your fav essential oil (lavender is a good choice for it's anti-fungal properties, but I like patchouli--and, no, I don't smell like I follow Phish around and hang in the parking lot!). You will still perspire (our bodies are supposed to) but you will not reek. I promise.

Anyhew, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


OK, I know the whole social networking discussion (Good or Bad? Effective Marketing Tool or a Great Time-Suck?) has been done to death, but I'm going to drag it out one more time, because I haven't seen this issue addressed: What happens when someone cyber-exhausts you?

This may seem a bit disingenuous coming from someone who's written four blog posts in less than a week, and is active on both Twitter and Facebook, but I'm going to do it anyway...

There is this author I follow on Twitter. Let's call her Miss X. When I first joined Twitter, I saw Miss X on a friend's follower list. Cool, I thought. I loved reading her books, so I knew the girl could really put a sentence together. I was curious to see what she could do with 140 characters.

The first time I logged in after following Miss X I thought my Twitter was stuck on repeat or something. Her face lined the left side of my screen. Post after post after post. Some mildly interesting, some not, some strange, some inside jokes, some randomness, some bordering on insanity.

New to Twitter, I read every post. It felt kind of rude not to. After a while it felt like a chore. After more of a while I found myself skimming, then avoiding, then sighing while clicking rapidly through whatever she felt needed sharing at just that minute. I know what you're thinking, why didn't you just stop following her? Well, I couldn't. It felt rude. Or, I thought, she would know I made the conscious decision to ban her thoughts from my day. Bad karma, see.

But it's painful. And, disappointing, like meeting your favorite actor and realizing he's shorter than you (Not referring to the Depp-ster, here!). Will I buy her next book? Probably. But then, after the trip to Borders, I'll de-follow her. I figure the karma will even itself out.