12/30/10

Love...Free Wifi!

I had to take last week off from blogging, as I was in Winnipeg for a family Christmas with my fabulous sister in law and nephews who live in the U.K. and for the 70th birthday celebration that we planned for my equally fabulous mother-in-law. With no wifi there is one computer amongst all of us, and very little time on the internet. Alas, I did learn to play hearts and yahtzee, both badly, and thanks to mild weather, that hovered around minus 15, get outside for some gorgeous frosty walks.

Now, we are on our way back to Los Angeles, and thanks to an unexplained Air Canada delay, that caused us to miss our connection, have to wait for 6 hours in the airport. Thankfully Calgary has wifi, and a big comfy chair for me, and a place to charge my blackberry, and I can not get over how great it feels to once again be 'connected' to all my friends and family around the world, on line.

It was a really great trip and I am so excited to be going home to work, friends, my furbabies and more writing. It's nice to know that as much fun as I have when I 'take a break' , I never really enjoy a break from writing. Lucky for me, with 2 projects wrapping up and a new one starting in a few days, I'll have plenty of writing to keep me busy!

12/21/10

Slowing down...


As you may be able to tell my the gaps in my posts lately I am slowing down. Unfortunately, I still have lots to do but not energy to really get it all done! I have a few more revisions on my novel to make and a second draft of my script to produce for the end of January, and another script to start in January too! It's all great and I am thankful to have projects to return to and to kick off the New Year, but I do notice that my body and mind are definitely kicking into holiday mode.

The only good thing about this, is that everyone else I talk to, is going through it too. The darker days, the endless rain, all make one want to curl up with a good book and just relax.

Thankfully my copy of Pictures of You just arrived!! I have one and Jeff has an electronic one, and so now we don't have to share! And we can join the small army of cheerleaders, including O, Vanity Fair, and People magazine who are raving about this book!

12/16/10

Larchmont Florists!

I love Larchmont Village Florists! They are the ones responsible for all the gorgeous flower arrangements that you have seen here on my blog. They are located on Larchmont (hence the name) and are a family run business, and their flowers are gorgeous! Lucky for me, my mom orders from here for all the holidays and special events that we share long distance...they know her as "Your mom from Canada! She's so nice!" Well, they are nice too. They plan my arrangements around what room of my home it will be going in, they remember my favorite flowers and whenever I return a bunch of empty vases and containers at once, they give something in return.

For the holidays and to say thanks...they gifted me with this beautiful wreath. I tried to pay, but they insisted, thanking me, or rather my mom, for being such a loyal customer. Well I wanted to thank them too, and continue to support them, and so in lieu of a tree as we are traveling this year, I bought this for our dining room table. Stunning.

If you are looking for flowers for yourself or someone else, this is the place to do it!
Larchmont Village Florists, 323-464-8146 at 234 N. Larchmont Blvd.

12/15/10

Amazing Author: Caroline Turgeon


Apologies for being late with this Amazing Author interview from Amazing Author Caroline Leavitt. And speaking of amazing, Caroline's wonderful book, Pictures Of You, coming out soon from Algonquin Press, is not only available on Amazon.com but is getting rave reviews! It was an Oprah Magazine pick!! Order yours today!

Carolyn Turgeon talks about Mermaids




“A gothic love triangle with two equally matched heroines. This isn’t kid’s stuff.”—Kirkus Reviews. Now, how could you ask for a better review than that? Mermaid is indeed nothing like what you would expect, and either is author Carolyn Turgeon. I'm thrilled she agreed to talk to me about her twisty new tale.

What do you think our fascination with mermaids is really about?

Well, mermaids are very very strange. They’re unbelievably beautiful, yet grotesque and monstrous. They’re incredibly sexual with their long hair, bared breasts, and hourglass shapes, not to mention those gorgeous, magical voices that can lure sailors to their deaths, yet they’re FISH from the waist down and have no genitals… which makes them seductive and unattainable in an unusually literal manner. They hang out on rocks looking pretty and staring into mirrors and they also swim in the deepest ocean, in these weird dark parts of the world no human has ever entered. So they’re linked with mystery and death and birth and everything we don’t know but long for and fear. They’re accessible monsters and totally inaccessible ladies, at the same time. They’re death and sex and the ultimate feminine. And they’re everywhere! Once you start looking, it’s sort of astounding how ubiquitous they are, in film and art and pop culture generally, and all over the world, and for hundreds of years. I think it’s pretty clear that even a super whitewashed mermaid like Ariel taps into some kind of dark unconscious longing in us.

You've written other books which twist on popular tales. What generated this? Did you grow up on these stories? Have the meanings of stories like Cinderella changed for you throughout the years?

I definitely grew up on these stories, though more through Disney movies and Little Golden Books than the Grimm Brothers or Hans Christian Andersen. But even the more sanitized fairytales retain some of the darkness of the originals, which can get unbelievably weird and twisted, and I always liked that combination of beauty and magic with those darker elements. I’m sure that over the years I’ve become more critical of the Disney films, which were just pure delight for me when I was a kid. You know, the idea that the abused, damaged Cinderella could be whisked away by a prince and magically healed, or that this little mermaid could give up her voice and tail—her entire world, in fact—for a hot stranger, and that that could possibly end happily. So of course those things don’t happen in my books, but I’ve been even more interested in exploring the female relationships in these stories, like between Cinderella and her fairy godmother and between the little mermaid and her human counterpart, the princess who ends up, in the original story, marrying the prince.

In this novel, you really combine the magic qualities with the real ones. Was it hard to meld the two?

It wasn’t hard, actually. I knew that if I was going to write about mermaids and an underwater kingdom and a sea witch and all that, I would have to make them as real as possible—to transport the reader into a world as vivid and multi-dimensional as possible—and that I would also have to make the real, human world as gritty as possible, for contrast. I really love that contrast. I think the more grounded you are in a real world and setting, the more magical it is for the reader to suddenly enter a totally fantastic one. Both Godmother and Mermaid start out in real worlds and then move into fantastic ones, and alternate back and forth, so for both books it was crucial to have that contrast be as vivid as possible.

Plus I think that the fantastic is always better as a surprise. In the first chapter of Godmother, we follow an old woman in New York through her day, as she works in a West Village bookstore, as she walks home through Chelsea and to the Garment District and up the stairs to her old, worn apartment… and then as she draws a bath, relaxes into it, and spreads these beautiful white-feathered wings. That’s the kind of magic I like, that sneaks up on you.

I love that you say the novel "will change your life." Tell us how, please?

Well, I might possibly enjoy the use of slight exaggeration and hyperbole on occasion, but I do think that books change lives, even if in subtle, sneaky ways. Like when you take a narrative that you know, from childhood, that’s part of you, and go in and root around in it and then offer it up from an entirely new point of view, illuminating parts that were hidden and/or revealing new possibilities. I think that changes something. And you know, when a butterfly flaps its wings in one place….

Plus: I suspect my book will change lives out of its sheer awesomeness. People will reach for it at the same time and fall madly in love. They will buy my book and then win the lottery that night. They will see shooting stars and rainbows, get raises and promotions, take fabulous journeys, have breakthroughs in therapy, wake up 10 pounds thinner. They may not make the connection directly between my book and their newfound joys, but that’s how chaos theory works and I can accept that.

What's obsessing you now?

Well, a few things are obsessing me, but mainly, right now, it’s mermaids. Not because of the book, really, but because of this idea I had and may regret having to start a mermaid blog. You see, I was staying in Berlin this past fall and doing some travelling, and I visited Denmark to pay homage to Mr. Hans Christian Andersen and took all kinds of video and photos and learned all kinds of weird things about him. Then I went to Warsaw to see Leonard Cohen and discovered, totally by accident, that the symbol of Warsaw is the mermaid and has been since the middle ages, and so I took more photos and videos and learned all this weird stuff. I have a friend in Berlin who performs as a singing mermaid, so I filmed her and interviewed her.

It occurred to me that I should DO something with all this stuff and eventually I decided to start a mermaid blog, iamamermaid.com, and THEN I started asking people if I could interview them about mermaids, all kinds of people, people who’ve done anything at all relating to mermaids, and suddenly I’m seeing how many people, and people of all stripes, have done something related to mermaids, and I was surprised at how many people said yes and actually wanted to talk about mermaids—like I almost fell over when my one true love Tim Gunn said yes—and I’m finding out all kinds of weird things about mermaids myself. Suddenly I have tons and tons of material and keep finding more.

I found a professor who teaches a course on mermaids at Wellesley and visited him last week. I’ve been talking to tons of former Weeki Wachee mermaids, including two who performed for Elvis in 1960. I’m talking to the spokesperson of a town in Israel that made world news last year when mermaid sightings were reported and the mayor offered $1 million to whomever could photograph a mermaid. And on and on and on. For a few weeks I just became madly obsessed. Now I’m trying to keep it in check a bit so I can get some other work done, too!!

I’m starting the blog January 1 and posting something awesome every day for a year, so I suspect I will be obsessed for a while. And I’m quite sure that at the end of the year, I will never want to talk about mermaids again.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

Well. You really should have asked me about my lovely children’s book, tentatively titled The Next Full Moon, coming out next summer. I know it hasn’t been officially announced yet since we are signing contracts next week, but still. How rude. It’s about a 12-year-old girl who, amidst the embarrassment of suddenly growing feathers, discovers that her mama was a swan maiden. And it will change your life

12/10/10

Soup and scones!

I am a bit of a whirling dervish this week, and for some reason I have energy to spare! I woke up early this morning and rather than going back to bed, a decision that I am starting to feel now, I decided to cook.

I poured myself a cup of coffee and made this delicious pureed-tomato-vegetable-chickpea soup and some blueberry scones! Then I walked the dogs, then worked out and finally got to my desk. After all my socializing last week and this, and all the holidaying that is already in full swing, I needed to have some healthy staples at hand and these two do it for me! Greek yogurt and a scone with fruit for breakfast and soup for lunch...simple and delicious...and easy to eat while working on these script revisions!

What are your staples?

Have a great weekend!

12/9/10

What a week!!

Fall down tired, but great.

This week has been a whirlwind, I can not believe that I haven't posted yet! I thought for sure I had, which just goes to show you how nutty things have been.

For starters, I booked a gig on a tv show and will shoot on Monday, so there was a fitting, and I finished my romantic comedy script and had a great meeting about it and got notes on it, and I have a jewelry order to complete so I have been beading away and I had a great freelance naming job that was due this week as well! In the middle of this wonderful craziness, my car the dirt mobile, has been dying, and yesterday in the middle of an intersection in Beverly Hills, and Wilshire, it died. I managed to hurl my body in the car to lurch it out of the intersection and over to a curb. Unfortunately it was in a red zone, but a police officer came by on his bicycle and pushed me into a better spot. The folks at AAA were awesome and came in a rush, and I got to my meeting 45 min late, but safe and sound. Whew.

Alas, now Jeff and I will be sharing one car, until I am able to make a deal on the car I want. I have been looking for a few weeks, and I am sure that my car knew and punished me! This time I am going to lease a new car. My old car was really old, 16 years old, and it got the nickname dirt mobile because it always had a layer of dust on it and even when it was clean looked dusty because the paint had lost all it's sheen. It also apparently smelled old, and a friend of mine once burst out laughing and said..."This is your car?". Sigh. But she was good to me, until she wasn't, and then she was really expensive to keep fixing.

Two more days until my friends gorgeous wedding this weekend, which will be a wonderful end to a wonderful and hectic week! Gotta get up and keep going until then! Have a great day!

12/3/10

Deadlines...


I got the first draft of my script in today and celebrated by giving myself a home spa treatment! Salt scrub, manicure, pedicure, face mask, blow dry! I like to think of all the money I'm saving, money which I will justify spending on something else!

After my glorious two hour break, I am back at the desk, eating a very late lunch of steamed kale, snow peas, squash, quinoa, baked tofu, and a little soyaki, on a bed of arugula with ginger carrot dressing. Delicious! I have a freelance gig due on Monday, and a fun social weekend ahead, so I better get back to it.

Have a great weekend!

12/2/10

Happy Hannukah!!

This year the holidays are all spread out and as my family is originally both Catholic and Jewish, but not particularly religious, although we love all sorts of traditions and beliefs and spirituality, we still try and mark the ones we were raised in. Usually this means an informal gathering of friends and family and lots of food!

Now that I also celebrate American Thanksgiving, and just cooked for 18 people last week, the thought of another big feast kind of tuckered me out. Instead I am going to have a nice dinner with Jeff and light my own homemade menorah. My free form Menorah is really a collection of tea lights, that I am going to add to each day, until I have all 9.

I actually bought a Menorah last year from Target that I loved, but the candles kept leaning into each other and starting a small fire, and as I am already paranoid of unattended candles, I thought my new free form tea light menorah was a much safer bet.


Next year, I might splurge and get this gorgeous menorah from Jonathon Adler, there was a waiting list for it, and having just gotten Christmas presents for all my family (we really do celebrate all of them!), I decided to hold off.


The holidays are definitely here! No matter what you celebrate, may you celebrate it with the ones you love.

11/29/10

I can see clearly now...


Glasses. Yup! I got them. Well, I had a pair once before, but I didn't actually use them and then I got this really great fancy new Mac monitor, and I just magnified everything by 150%...clever huh?

But then one day, I was printing up my manuscript and several hundred pages later, I started cursing..."Oh no! I printed in the wrong font! I used 9point instead of 12! Stupid, stupid, stupid, what a waste of paper and ink!!" Hearing the commotion, Jeff came into my office and squinted at my manuscript and said, "Nope. That actually is what 12 point looks like." I too squinted closer and realized that he was right. Oops, time for glasses, for both of us.

Thanks to the folks over at Gagosha in Silverlake (recommended by the ever cool J.Lopez) I am now the proud owner of some seriously nerdy-librarian-fabulous frames! Gagosha is brilliant; great styles, excellent advice, patient and knowledgeable employees and frames that are worth the investment.

I have already received some compliments on mine! But best of all, I can read what I am writing...and that is a good thing...even if sometimes the writing... is not.

11/25/10

Thankful


Happy Thanksgiving!! This is my second year co-hosting Thanksgiving with my dear friends and neighbors, and I LOVE it! For the first few years that we were in America, Thanksgiving was a bit of a lonely time. Our American friends were often traveling to see their families who lived elsewhere, and although we'd get invited to some friend-of-a-friend's-friend's home for a group gathering, the idea of more people we didn't know although incredibly kind, wasn't all that comforting.

Thankfully our dear friend Frank would visit for his birthday and we would have a day of sightseeing, football (for the guys) and eating take-out from real food daily!

But last year, after having moved into this fabulous building, we decided with our neighbor-friends, that as all of us had family living elsewhere, we would have our own special dinner! It would start with cocktails in one apartment, dinner in another, and dessert in our place. An actual Moveable Feast! Hemingway would be proud.

Now I look forward to Thanksgiving, and there are always new faces at the table! As we don't have any friends visiting this year, Kim came early, and a lot of our friends are traveling, there will be a lot of new faces who are the guests of our co-hosts!

But one thing will remain the same, the spirit of creating a new tradition in a new place and sharing with others who are doing the same.

I have so much to be thankful for! And so much cooking to do...better get on it...May your thanksgiving also be full of love and friendship!

11/22/10

Shed some light on this script!



After a wonderful visit from my dear friend Kim, I am back at the desk, trying to meet my deadlines. Even though Kim made me write when she was here, (she threatened to never return if I didn't!), the writing has been slow and arduous. I am more than 2/3 into my romantic comedy script and I just need to finish the darn thing. I am supposed to deliver my first draft at the end of the month, and will need to get out 5-6 pages a day to do so. Ugh.

Middles. I am once more stuck in the rut of the middle of my writing. It happens in my novel writing and now I know that it happens in my screenwriting too. Middles are the worst. And the middles of the middles are the absolute worst. And as someone who has always had issues with my own physical middle, a little squishy no matter what I do, the irony is not lost on me.

What to do? Shop on line for a new light and rearrange the office...again. Now that it is darker earlier, I need more light for my office, and my gorgeous Le Klint office light that I got for a steal on Craigslist, isn't doing it. After hours spent scouring the web, I think I have found a few contenders. Good thing. Because this script isn't writing itself!

11/16/10

At last! Pictures of You!!


Beloved friend and brilliant author Caroline Leavitt has her latest book Pictures Of You, available for order!! Now you can pre-order it on Amazon, or on Indie Bound.

No matter how you get it, I am sure that you will not be able to put it down, and agree with many of the rave reviews from authors, like Jodi Picoult and Robert Owen Butler, that this book is not to be missed!!

Support an author! Buy a book!

http://www.amazon.com/Pictures-You-Caroline-Leavitt/dp/1565126319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1289864531&sr=8-1

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781565126312

11/15/10

What's your book about?

I have been out of the loop and offline for a few days. A dear friend of mine got married and I had some celebrating to do!

At the wedding reception I met a lot of new people, and each new person who learned that I was a writer, wound up asking me the same thing...What's your book about? It's a very good question, and they are genuinely interested, but it is also one that makes me shudder and declare...I'm terrible at pitching!

Pitching is one of those things that is just contrary to my novel writing brain that loves the complexity of story and characters and doesn't believe that something is ever really about just one thing. But pitching is necessary, because if I can't sum up my book in a few well written sentences, then how can I expect to grab the attention of a reader, who picks up a book and checks out the back of it for 5 seconds before deciding to buy it or not.

Thankfully I rewrote my pitch last week, and this weekend I got a lot of practice. I also tested out my new working title and people really seemed to respond to both. So fingers crossed.

What about you? Do you tell people what you are working on?

11/9/10

Amazing Author Caroline Leavitt




The fabulous Caroline Leavitt who brings us all those Amazing Author interviews, has a book trailer for her very own amazing book, PICTURES OF YOU, coming out soon.

Check it out!!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxBE_ed5CyQ&feature=share

11/5/10

Paper Plates! Lunch at the desk....


Today's desk lunch is an attempted recreation of one of my favorite meals at one of my favorite restaurants; the Brown Rice Salad at Mocha Mocha, in Toronto.

Mocha Mocha is a family run restaurant that provides counter service of amazingly delicious salads and sandwiches, pasta and chicken specials, vegetarian burritos, and such weekly treats as Tuna Potato Veg cakes and vegetarian lasagna. The owners are incredible and really make you feel like you are a part of the family, they were a part of mine that's for sure, my whole family eats there or orders from them weekly, if not more!

When Jeff and I used to live in Toronto we were almost always in walking distance from Mocha Mocha, and I would be lying if I didn't say it was one of my secret requirements for where we settled down. Even now when I go home, it is the first and the last place I eat. If you go to Toronto...go to Mocha Mocha.

This brown rice veg dish is based on theirs, and my version (which is not as delicious, although pretty fabulous) is easy to make. Simply make some short grain brown rice and set it aside. In a sauce pan or wok put a little grape seed oil, (to cook on high) or olive oil, (to cook on medium) and add some thinly sliced shallots, some salt and pepper, some chopped fresh flat leaf parsley and a healthy sprinkle of Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute. Throw in a bag of sliced cremini mushrooms, coat, and cook until almost softened. Then add a can of white kidney beans, tossing the whole thing together. Taste. It might need more acid, and I recommend a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, or half a lemon, pepper to taste. A splash of soy is yummy too!

Add this mixture to the brown rice, so that it is a good ratio of mushrooms and beans to rice, let it come to roomish temperature, and add to a bowl of mixed lettuce; Bibb or Arugula work well. I put the carrot ginger dressing on mine because I had some, but white balsamic vinegar works well too!

It makes working through lunch that much easier. Enjoy!

11/4/10

ART...

I love Art. LOVE it. I love all kinds of art; painting, glass work, photography, sculpture, design, textiles. I have been known to collect invitations and postcards from galleries all over the world, compiling an if-I-win-the-lottery wish list of paintings that I would splurge on.

But the really great thing about art, is that you don't HAVE to splurge. It is everywhere, including this fabulous site that allow you to purchase work for as little as $20.00. So now you can surround yourself with inspiration, or make your own, like Mabel did.

11/1/10

Monday...again...


It's the first of November, although my brain and body are quite convinced that it is December 31st, and are ready to call it a year and take a long nap. Problem is that there are still two more months before that happens...a good thing I know, but with 2 screenplays to tackle, one only half finished, another one still to be outlined, a novel to lock down, another one to begin and a third that begs taking a closer look at, I am tired before I have begun.

This is when I want to hide under the covers with my beloved pups and wave the white flag!! But alas, there will be no white flag waving. Instead I am going to Pomodoro it! Pomodoro is a trademarked technique that essentially breaks down into 25 minute chunks of uninterrupted studying or writing. My friend Robert recommended it and I must say it works. There are lots of other components of the technique, which I kind of do already, but this committed writing time, without ANY distractions, has been so good and inspiring, that it is the only thing that is keeping me from crumbling before the mountain of work in front of me. I am not worrying about page counts, or word counts, I am just clocking in 25 minutes, breaking for 5 going back for another 25, and I am getting it done! And often, I will go over and my 25 minutes will become 45minutes, and I won't even realize it!

It's like exercise, once you get started and really in the groove, you can go longer than you thought. Writing is like a muscle, it needs to be worked out daily whether you feel like it or not. Now if only writing could give me good abs, that would be perfect.

10/29/10

Carrot ginger dressing...on everything!


I was in NYC recently and wandering around NYU looking for a place to lunch. It was the end of my trip and I needed something healthy, something green, something that didn't have alcohol, butter, or cheese. I was saturated and in need of some clean food, and the cheaper the better as I was starting to already dread getting my credit card statement. And that's when I remembered Dojo, a campus favorite that a friend of mine had taken me to almost twenty years earlier.

It was just where I remembered it, and my favorite item, the carrot ginger dressing, was still on the menu and I ordered it and poured it all over my brown rice and black bean burrito. I could eat that carrot dressing with a spoon, it is so delicious! And as I am a cooking dynamo these days, undaunted by new challenges and equipped with a fine food processor, I began looking for the recipe before we even got on the plane.

I found the recipe on the Parsley Thief, through a google search right when we landed at LAX. There are many variations, but this one looks the closest to what I was looking for. The next morning after laundry and cleaning the apartment, I headed out to buy the ingredients. I was a woman on a mission and my mission was successful! This dressing is spectacular. It is just like the dressing I had at Dojo, and it really is great on veggies, rice, quinoa...everything! This is what I am having at my desk today as I prepare to re-read my whole novel and check out my revisions.

Click on the word recipe for...the recipe!

What will you be eating at your desk today?

10/28/10

Temper Trap


I love the Temper Trap! This band is on heavy rotation right now as I finish up my revisions. It has been a tough week, as I have been fighting major allergies and fatigue. All I want to do is sleep and eat chocolate simultaneously, which I don't recommend at all, as it will mess your sheets. But seriously no amount of caffeine or chocolate can get me out of this allergy fog, and yes, I have tried copious amounts of both in the name of research. Ugh. The only thing lifting my spirits is a good song! Damn they look happy in that picture.

What about you...band favorites right now? Writing tunes that get your blood pumping? Please do share.

10/25/10

Sitting on it...

I have some wise friends. These friends listened to me hoot and holler about my revisions being done and then told me to sit on them for a few more weeks. I didn't want to sit on them. I was done revising, I was ready to send my manuscript out into the world, I was good to go. I sent my husband my new draft and asked him to read it and he said, uh, yeah, sure, soon. He hasn't read it yet, and I am still waiting. And so is he. He thinks that if he waits some more, there will be more revisions, things that come to me, things that I might suddenly see differently. Two days after sending him my revised version, I sent him another one, with new changes. And today I could send him yet a different version. It seems he is right, there may be more changes coming. My dear friend and mentor, also told me to sit on it, and visit it now and then, and to just take a deep breath and to get serious about my next book as it will take my mind off of things. I love how crazy that once sounded to my writer brain..."Another book will be easier than the waiting?!" But it is. Doing is always better. Working on one thing and waiting on the other. And when that doesn't work...cook.

Today's desk lunch: Pureed Sweet potato soup with steamed kale. Delicious.

10/22/10

Paper Plates! A new category!


Alright so, I have added a new category to this blog called Paper Plates, which is all about food and especially what we eat at our desks!

For me writing and cooking are intertwined. Cooking helps me think, the chopping is meditative and methodical, providing me with an order and a rhythm, that my thoughts sometimes lack. I find it calming to make a big pot of soup, to stir it on the stove, just as ideas, and characters stir in my mind, trying to come together in some sort of cohesive form. My time in my kitchen, just down the hall from my office, allows me a break without going to far, or getting too engrossed in something that I won't be able to break myself away from, and return to my writing. And best of all, I can take the fruits of my labor back to my desk and continue working. Writing and cooking, and working and eating...they're the perfect pairings!

I'd love to feature what you eat at your desk! Send me a pic if you can, and tell me about what you eat at your desk, when you're working. Do you have a favorite combo, say sweet foods as a reward for boring book keeping? A go to desk meal? A must have snack or beverage? I know that everyone has to eat and work sometimes, so tell me about it!

Click the hello button to send me an email!

10/21/10

Love...one year later


A year ago, Jeff and I contacted Bichon's and Buddies animal rescue, and made an appointment to go to the Culver City animal hospital to see if we could find a hypo-allergenic buddy for Mabel. It was a rainy day, much like today and the one day off that Jeff had from a film that he was doing. The new dog was something that we had talked about, but I was the one who pulled the trigger, calling the organization, making an appointment and surprising Jeff. Surprise one, I had planned his day off, surprise two, Bichons and Buddies, isn't a foster organization, you take 'em, their yours.

At the shelter there were about 6 dogs that we were told to look at, sweet, sad, needy, some crazy from their days at the puppy mill, others with nerves frayed from the barking and smells of the other dogs that they shared space with at the hospital. I ventured back to where the cages are kept and saw Lily. It was hard not to notice her, she jumped as high as my chest and barked loudly for me to notice her. I checked my list of available dogs and she wasn't on it, and so I apologized to her and took the first candidate out to meet Mabel. Mabel had to like the other dog. After about an hour it was clear that Mabel wasn't interested, and also that these dogs for a variety of reasons weren't right for us. It was heartbreaking. And then the woman who was helping out said, "Oh there's one more, but you wouldn't be interested, she's not pure bichon."

I didn't care if she was pure Bichon, it was about my allergies, and so I asked what she was, "a poodle bichon mix," she answered, "her name is Lily, interested?"

Lily...the little jumper that I had seen, came running out of the back and up onto my lap. She placed her front paws on my shoulder and looked me in the eyes. She wasn't going anywhere. Eventually she nestled into the side of my body, sharing my lap with Mabel, who made room for her! We took her for a walk, and wanted to cry as we watched her twist on her leash, and scramble along the sidewalk afraid of the cars and the noises. Turns out she had been found wandering the streets. Turns out she was the dog that we had been interested in months before that got adopted before we could get her, only to be returned 2 days later by someone who found it too hard to have a pet and kids.

We went back inside and waited for the woman who runs Bichons and Buddies to come and meet us. The moment she walked in the door, on her lunch break from her real job, she exclaimed, "Congratulations Lily! Looks like you have found a home!"...and she had. And we adore her, and a year later, she and Mabel have learned that the other is here to stay, that there is love enough for both of them, and that there is even love between them. They have become buddies.

10/19/10

Susan Henderson


Another Amazing Author Interview from Amazing Author Caroline Leavitt! Look for Caroline's new book, Pictures of You (Algonquin Press) this January!
Susan Henderson talks about Up From The Blue





Just about every writer I know adores Susan Henderson. Let's talk about her shining resume: a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the founder of the literary blog LitPark: Where Writers Come to Play (www.litpark.com). Her work has appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story, the Pittsburgh Quarterly,North Atlantic Review, Opium, and many other publications. But let's also talk about how Susan is also so generous to other writers, so warm and full of spark, that I nominate her as the patron saint of all writers. I know that she's mine.

Up From the Blue is a knockout debut, about love, vanishing and memory. "Rapturous prose," raved Library Journal and in a starred review Publishers Weekly called it "beautify, funny, sad and complicated." I'm thrilled that Susan is here--and that I finally get to do something for her! Thank you, thank you, Susan.


So, after all your short stories (and you are a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee), what was it like writing a novel? What changed from writing stories? What was the whole writing process like?

Well, first of all, I love the short story format. I'm crazy for Jean Toomer, Flannery O'Conner, Eudora Welty, Richard Wright, Denis Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, Amy Hempel, Annie Proulx, Jimmy Baldwin, Ellen Gilchrist, Aimee Bender, Carson McCullers, Langston Hughes, D. H. Lawrence, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And I wish more publishers would take on short story collections and actively promote them.

Writing short stories definitely taught me how to be concise, how to cut out the clutter, and sharpen a scene, how to get to the meat of the story. But I started finding recurring characters and themes in my shorter work, and that was my first hint that I had a longer story to tell.

I had no idea what to expect because I never tried it before, but I sort of fell in love with the form. Writing a novel is so freeing. There's room to slow down, to go deeper, and to take some side journeys. I could make the setting one of my characters. I could give minor characters their own arcs. And I liked that I could just stick a detail here or there that seemed incidental— a coin collection, an apple, an abandoned swimming pool—and later you'd find it had taken on more importance. Best of all, I could really get to the gloriously complicated nature of these characters, and I found that so satisfying.

Imagination plays a huge part in Up From the Blue. Tillie’s creating story out of her life both saves her and keeps her from the truth. Can you talk about the way story both makes sense of our lives and blurs reality?


I loved playing with this concept in the novel because I think every family, every marriage, every friendship has seen this happen, where two people experience the same event and have wildly different interpretations of it. Because there's what's physically happening, and then there's your filter—how your fears and desires change what you see, or what you'll let yourself believe. And there's also what each individual will create out of the gaps in information.

Tillie is someone who believed in certain truths and believed in certain people, and those beliefs, though she had many of them wrong, gave her hope. I think it's a self-preserving instinct, and some of the biggest fights in the book are when other characters wants to take those life-saving beliefs and overpower them with their own way of seeing things. That's a very painful process when you tamper with someone's reality.

The novel is structured so that it moves from the present to the past and back again, from the child Tillie to the adult about to have a child of her own. How did you decide on this structure and what do you think it says about what we choose to remember?

This was my editor's biggest influence, and I think it's just brilliant—I never would have thought of it on my own. When HarperCollins bought the book, the entire story was narrated by eight-year-old Tillie. And my editor said to me, I think there are questions the reader has that Tillie is too young to understand or communicate. And so she wondered if I could have someone narrate a frame story and show what's become of Tillie some years down the road.

That's all the direction she gave me. That, and the fact that this frame story had to have its own separate plot. I went to bed with no ideas at all but thrilled with the leeway I'd been given and thrilled because, rather than simply tightening up the book, I could really say much more about memory, about love, about the impact of a tragedy, about how a person carves out a sense of security and hope.

And it gave me a lovely opportunity to give the book two endings—one that a little girl holds to, and one that takes in the full weight of the truth.

I was very curious why, given her childhood, Tillie was going to have a child of her own. Where did that bravery come from?

I think I was the one who wanted her to have a child of her own. Sometimes kids grow up feeling damaged and don't believe in their capacity to create their own future. I think I believed in her more than she did, and wanted her to step over that fear that she would be inadequate. But honestly, I wasn't sure, as I was writing the ending, if she'd be up to the task. We were discovering that together—how much fear or others doubting her would get in the way. Together we saw whether the instinct to attach was there.

What’s obsessing you now in your writing work?

I'm obsessed with this social pressure to stay young and beautiful. I think there were seeds of this obsession in UP FROM THE BLUE—the mother who wouldn't let herself be photographed in sunlight, and the boy who got his tooth fixed and found it sort of emphasized all of the other things he didn't like about his face. But now this meshing of vanity and self-hatred is at the core of my work, and it's really fun to have a brand new set of characters and begin to get to know them.

What question should I be mortified that I didn’t ask you?


Nothing about your questions felt mortifying. I was thinking, in fact, how brilliant and thrilling they are, and how nice it is to talk with someone who's such a close reader.

10/18/10

When to be clear...

I am revising my novel, making changes here and there that relate to the theme and it is an incredible challenge. I want to pull the theme out a little bit more, but I don't want it to be too obvious. I don't like clear cut answers, or characters, I like things in the gray area, characters whom you love, though don't always like, characters whom you detest, but are forced to understand and empathize with. I like people to have a feeling about the writing, an understanding about the world the characters live in and to see the connections to their own lives. I like my readers to imagine those worlds, and the people who inhabit them, even if the pictures that they paint are different than the ones I see in my head. But of course, I want to clear. I don't want anyone reading and being confused and I need to make sure that all the seeds I lay are tended to. It is a challenging task, and an important one.

I have been revising all week, subtly changing lines here and there, choosing my words carefully, crafting images that will illuminate and not spell out the story. I am making progress, but there is more to do.

Tell me, do you like ambiguity or do you want things crystal clear?

10/14/10

NYC!!!


I'm back from NYC, exhausted, elated, and inspired!

The week away was a whirlwind! We flew in Wednesday night on the red-eye, tired and happy from a 12 hour shoot the day before. We checked into The Franklin, which is a gorgeous boutique hotel on The Upper East side, and the amazing concierge got us a room...5 hours early. Lucky. I loved the Franklin, with it's deco feel, teeny tiny freight/passenger elevator, and only 50 rooms. The wedding that we were in town to attend had arranged a group rate, so we could afford to go for 5 nights! So decadent and wonderful.


As soon as we had showered and caffeinated we met my parents who made the trip from Toronto to see us and celebrate their 45th Wedding anniversary! They stayed at the W hotel, which treated the lovebirds to an upgrade, champagne, and a fruit and cheese plate! Lucky. After more coffee for all of us, we began our NYC marathon. Our days were insanely packed. I can't even believe that we did half of the things that we did! Our itinerary looked like this...


Thursday: Stroll through Central Park, lunch at The All American Health Food Bar, window shopping uptown, drooling at the gems at Bergdorf's (and doing research, as it is a location in my new screenplay), mozying on over to Moma, checking out the Matisse, exhibit, loving the tunes of the DJ, hanging in the sculpture garden and finally dinner at a hip, inexpensive Asian restaurant called Obao, that we just stumbled, okay staggered into. Late night drinks with the bride and friends in Gramercy.

Friday:
Slept in, thank goodness. Took the train out to Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, had lunch at an Italian cafe, walked over to Prospect Park, hung out, walked over to Library, trained back into the city, strolled down Broadway towards Soho, shopped at Uniqlo, scored Cashmere sweaters at great prices, made our way to our delicious Italian anniversary dinner destination at Max's at 4th and Ave B. Got back to the hotel around 11:00pm, collapsed.

Saturday:
Brunch at the Standard downtown, walking the highline, Chelsea Market, Chelsea Neighborhood, Soho, Lunch at the Cupping Room, Noho, The East Village, Greenwich Village, dinner in Gramercy Park at Friend of a Farmer, in bed at midnight.

Sunday...Starbucks breakfast and hugs and kisses goodbye to my parents! Next up, the Wedding. What a glorious and beautiful wedding!! So much love and joy! After the wedding, we all gathered at Elaine's, and crawling home, grabbed a slice of Ray's Pizza and feel into a coma at 2:00am.



Monday and Tuesday were filled with meetings and greetings with friends old and new, and much more wandering in the city!! It felt great to walk so much, to be on vacation, to see new things, and old things in a new way and to feel good about returning to Los Angeles. I love our home here, and although I still adore NYC, my desire to live there, is for now, a desire, to visit more often. But until then, a ton of work awaits me!

10/11/10

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

It's Canadian Thanksgiving and I am celebrating it in a rainstorm in NYC with a bowl of moules et frites! It has been a remarkable weekend of celebrating; the wedding of dear friends, the 45th wedding anniversary of my beloved parents who came to NYC to visit with us, new work and opportunities on the horizon...and so much love.

I have a lot to be thankful for, friends and family that are both things to me and the joy of loving what I do and getting to do it daily.

One more day in this fabulous city and then I will return to L.A., to work, to home, to my sweet pups whom I miss so much.

Pictures and tales of the city coming soon!

10/6/10

Commercial Love...

Sorry I am behind on the posting, but it has been a crazy start to the week!

Monday was a marathon of a day, with fittings, a rehearsal, a class, and finally a late dinner with two of my favorite shows, Mad Men and Rubicon. And yesterday I was up at 5:45 and home late, after spending the day shooting a commercial. The shoot was fantastic, the people on it were all fabulous, the twins playing my kids were so delicious, the entire experience was such a great one, that I really enjoyed every minute of it. Such a treat! And I can not wait to see it.

I always tease my husband that novel writing is a really expensive business...it takes so long, and I actually haven't been paid yet, (I need to be published first!) that any and all work helps, and commercial work is especially great.

As always, it is nice to work with people who are all at the top of their game, professional, personable and working their butt off. When that happens, I find everyone brings their best, and it is a joy to be around. A joy and a privilege and I am grateful to have been chosen for the job. I hope that the commercial is a huge success and plays forever! I have a lot of books to write!

Off to NYC tonight, so posting may be sporadic, but I will take lots of pics!

10/1/10

Surprises...

A friend recently said to me, "You've always known." She was referring to my surprise that I am living the kind of life that I want, writing all day long and still working as an actor when I can. In many ways she was right, I have known what I wanted to be doing, but seeing it clearly and making it happen, are another matter entirely. While part of me, has known/wished/desired to evolve into what I am doing now, pretty much a full time writer, another part of me never believed it. We talked a bit about the fact that sometimes my goals for myself, my aspirations wouldn't come true until years later, but they would and could come true.

It was an interesting exchange to me because although intended to be praise, it had a ring of "see it all worked out", a phrase eerily reminiscent of one that I grew up with "don't worry it will all work out." I never found this comforting. I understand that it is intended to be so, but I find much more comfort in action. I'd like to change the phrase to, "don't worry, as long as you work your ass off and do your absolute best, and approach your goals as a marathon and not a sprint, it will probably all work out, in some pleasing fashion or another." I know, you can't fit that on a bumper sticker but still.

Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of positive thinking, and visualization, and I believe in Feng Shui, but most importantly I believe in my responsibility to meet the Universe halfway. I gotta do my part. There are so many things beyond our control, and in order for that not to make me crazy I do my best to control the one thing I can...my effort. And when things do work out, I write the book that 5 years ago was just a sentence in my head, I meet like minded colleagues who are generous and supportive, I find representation that supports me as a writer-actor hyphenate...I am so pleasantly, joyfully surprised. When all those hours, days, weeks, months, years, of angsting and working my butt off turn into rewards, I am bowled over. And grateful. And yes, surprised.

And just when I think I've got it all figured out, another surprise comes my way. Next week, I'll be more actor than writer, shooting a commercial...and no doubt being surprised at how good it feels to be back on set again.

9/28/10

Amazing Author: Emma Donoghue



It's Tuesday and I am bringing you another amazing author interview by Amazing Author Caroline Leavitt!

Look for Caroline's new book Pictures of You, (Algonquin Press) at a bookstore near you, this November.


I first picked up Room when I was at BEA. I've read and loved Emma Donoghue's work before, (Slammerkin, The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits, The Sealed Letter, Landing, and more) but this particular book was life-changing. Long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Room is narrated by five-year-old Jack, who lives in a single room with his Ma and has never been outside, and like the best novels, it makes you see and experience the world differently. To say I loved this book with a passion is putting it mildly, but I refuse to loan it out because I feel the need for it to be right where it is--in my writing office where I can reread it.



What’s so unsettling about ROOM is its unique and surprising perspective. While there has been coverage of people held as sexual captives, I don’t think we’ve ever been let inside this situation from the viewpoint of a child born into that captivity—and a happy, seemingly well-adjusted boy, at that. What sparked your desire to tell the story from his point of view?

I would never have told this story any other way. Ma telling her own tale of kidnap, endless rape, and unassisted birth would have been too obviously poignant (and hideous) a proposition. What I glimpsed when the idea for ROOM first came to me is that Jack could tell us a whole other story that would have elements of comedy, parent-child love story, science fiction and fairy tale.


What was the research like for you? How much is true and how much is imagined?


None of it is true in the sense of being closely based on any one kidnap case; although the headlines about the Fritzls were what gave me the idea in the first place, I was careful to steer my scenario away from theirs and any others I read about. (And Jaycee Dugard wasn't discovered, as it happens, until my novel was finished.) But all of it is true in the sense of being as plausible as I could make it: I read extensively not just on kidnapping but on children raised in peculiar or neglectful settings, adults in solitary confinement, healthy family dynamics, the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder...


Reading Room was intense and riveting and unsettling. Were there any points in writing the novel where you were unsure if you could complete the book?


No, This one was easy. I've never had such certainty about every aspect of a book, from point of view, to the opening and closing scenes, to how much time to cover.


I’m obsessed by process, so could you talk a bit about how you wrote this book and what were the particular challenges?


I did a couple months of research first, almost entirely on the Internet, which is a first for me. That was often skin-crawling and occasionally made me burst into tears. Then I had to work out Jack's voice: for this I analysed my five-year-old son's speech like a linguist, then came up with a form of English which is actually halfway between adult and child, so readers would believe in his youth without being enraged by his rambling. The drafting itself I did in six months while my daughter was in part-time daycare, and all I sweated over were subtle details, such as whether their captor would allow them to have a pair of scissors, and the balance between the grim and the happy at each point.


The voice of Jack is one of the real pleasures of the book—he’ a captive, but he doesn’t know or understand it, and instead is a happy, loving, loved child that we, the reader, also come to adore. His curiosity makes us look at the world of the room differently. Without giving away the ending, do you think it’s possible for Jack, and/or children like Jack, to ever be able to be fully okay in the world?


He'll be grand: there seems to be almost no limit to what a five-year-old can adapt to, especially if they've been parented well. Ma is another story, because adults hold onto their pain.


What is obsessing you now?


The peculiar effects of publicity. I've always considered it 'no bother', as we say in Ireland, but these days I'm doing so much more of it (ten phone interviews in a row, the other day!) that I feel intellectually vacuous!


What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

Ah, Here's where I'm particularly vacuous at the moment: can't think of any.

9/24/10

Hungry Writer....

A moment to talk about the relationship between food and writing; my relationships with both are very healthy, not to worry. As I have stated here many times, I love to chop and cook and bake when I am writing. Cooking helps me think and sitting at a desk for so many hours in a row requires me to be very healthy about what I snack on. I always eat healthy, but simply not moving, at all, for hours, means that I am not turning all that food into fuel the same way I would be if I was out and about. But I have noticed that I do eat more when I am stuck, or anxious or finding something really hard to do, like my new screenplay. I find myself thinking, salty, sweet, savory? Which will it be now? Or I drink too much coffee. Although, I don't actually feel like I can drink enough these days. Although most interestingly, is that whenever I say, okay, no more...fill in the blank. It is all I want. The same thing happens when I demand that I write xx number of pages a day! In other words being rigid with myself means that I get the least done and am less than my happiest self.

The moment that I get more flexible with my goals, say, 3 pages today, but 5 tomorrow, or no pages yesterday, 10 over the weekend, I meet my goals. And the same is true of eating and drinking for me, if I tell myself, less coffee and wine, more water, or less salty snacks, than I guarantee that I will eat and drink way less than if I say none at all.

What this all means to me, and it is a realization that has been years in the making and every now and then I am forced to remember, is that I am not a robot. I am a creative person sitting in front of a desk pulling cotton from my brain and turning it into prose and if that means that I need to stay in my pj's, eat cereal for lunch, have a second cup of coffee, that is alright. As long as it is healthy, whatever it is that allows me to stay for hours at a time at my desk and create, then so be it.

So I won't be an elite athlete, or a supermodel, or even a professional chef! But that's okay, I'm a writer, a writer with a soft spot, literally, for soups and stews, and vegan scones. So be it!

Have a great weekend everyone! I will be eating and writing all weekend long!

9/22/10

Staying motivated...


So I have two projects, one I am waiting for feedback on, and the other I am working on and yet all I want to do is eat! It is getting colder out, which I love, and I am working on tricky stuff which makes me cook...it is a great way to clear my head, but with all that good cooking, comes good cravings! Alas, at least I am a healthy cook! These raspberry scones are Vegan and sweetened with Stevia.

Being self employed, means constantly motivating oneself, and for me, finding new ways to reward and bribe myself to turn out those pages!

Today's goal...3 new script pages, and 2 new novel pages...total pages so far...ZERO. Scones eaten, 1. Time to get back at it!

How do you motivate/bribe yourself to work?

9/20/10

Timelines...

Talking to a friend of mine today who reminded me that "nobody ever moves as fast as you want them to." This is true. It is also why I have a fridge full of soups and stews and scones! It is good to remember and it is something that I have known for a long time about myself, that I am not good at waiting, and can get restless, and sometimes impatient, and that if I don't keep it in check the impatience can turn into worrying. But what's most important is that I know this about myself and I develop ways of dealing with it. Cooking is definitely one way I deal with it, and having many projects on the go is another. Walking helps too, but I can only walk for so long!

I have another friend who is even more restless than I am and she makes sure that she always has at least 3 projects on the go at all times! I used to think that was nuts, but now I know why. I don't want people to think I am nagging them, and I do know that people are very busy, and I also want to be kind to myself, as this sense of urgency and desire to do, do, do, and get moving on things applies to myself way more than anyone else. It wasn't that long ago that I was beating myself up to my husband about how long I was taking on revising my novel, only to realize that I had only received my notes 9 days before! I wrote my entire novel in two years, and a friend joked that I would write the next one in a year and a half, because I'd want the challenge!

Another friend asked me on facebook if I have ever heard of "taking a break", and I answered that I am better, healthier, and happier, the busier I am. But I think maybe I need to find a way of not letting my restlessness, spill over onto others. I am way better than I used to be, if you can believe it, and I don't want to change my work ethic, it has gotten me where I am, and where I need to be, but maybe I need another creative outlet, that responds to the down times and the waiting times; it's how I originally got into making jewelry, a hobby that 6 years ago turned into a business. But maybe something without my hands, chopping, fussing, beading, typing away at the keyboard. And something outside.

All suggestions are welcome...

In the meantime, I got the go ahead to move from outline to script, and wrote the opening lines for a new novel. Hallelujah!

9/17/10

Friday already?

It has been a whirlwind of a week! I finished my revisions on my novel and sent them out for feedback. I really hope that they were successful, and are received well. I liked my revisions, but after a month of staring at the same pages and areas that needed improving, and then writing reams of material that I decided to scrap at the 11th hour because it felt redundant and too obvious, in favor of many little changes and subtle reveals of information, I welcome an outside set of eyes. I also re-ordered the entire opening of the book, wrote new material for secondary characters, and changed scenes that were in a third person p.o.v. to a first person p.o.v. It was a lot of work, and countless hours, but in the end the changes felt subtle and seamless and a natural part of the novel. I will wait and see what my feedback is, and if more changes are needed...I will make them!

Also this week, I hammered out my script outline and it too is being read and critiqued, and if all goes well, it will go to script this weekend. This whole process of outlining has been fascinating to me, it is completely opposite to my approach of novel writing. If this were a novel I would've started with one of the images, or themes that is driving the film and just gone for it, and sure, I would've gotten stuck at some point and had to start outlining, but not like this. And I have to say, I kind of love spending so much time, months, on an outline, as now I know what I am going to be writing! No more days ahead mired in the quagmire of sticky middles, or loose threads, just write what I have outlined! Brilliant!

And as always happens, when I am this busy, I cook! This week, there were stews, homemade veggie burgers and scones. The burgers, are the best veggie burgers I have ever tasted anywhere, and are from my one of my all time favorite restaurants in Toronto, Fresh, and available in this cookbook. And the scones, are vegan, low fat and delicious, and are from the Post Punk Kitchen's first cookbook, Vegan With A Vengeance. Check them out! And Happy Friday!!

9/14/10

Amazing Author: Laurie Hertzel!

Sorry I am late with this, but it is still technically Tuesday...on both Coasts!

I have been busy with my own authoring...and finished m
y revisions on my novel today! Woohoo...well for now, more revisions may be needed, I am awaiting feedback.

But without further ado...here is another amazing author interview from Amazing Author Caroline Leavitt! Look for her new book "Pictures of You" coming out from Algonquin Press this November!



















Laurie Hertzel fell into journalism after taking a job as a clerk at the Duluth News-Tribune and is now is the books editor at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. She's been a fellow at Duke University, a writer-in-residence at the James Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio, and a faculty member and speaker at the Nieman Conferences on Narrative Writing and Editing at Harvard. Oh, and let's not forget that she has spectacularly great hair, a hilariously dry and warm wit, and she's written an absolutely wonderful book about finding success in the newspaper world despite herself. I'm tickled and honored to have her here. Thanks, thanks, thanks, Laurie.


You write that everything you did happened by accident, but wouldn’t you also say that your passion and drive opened doors?


You call it passion and drive, I call it single-mindedness. I have always had very limited skills—I am no good at math, I can’t carry a tune, I’m not handy or crafty, all I can do is write. So instead of trying to learn how to do those other things, I put all my focus into trying to improve as a writer.

When opportunities came along—the Duke fellowship, the Russia trip, and there were others—I focused on getting them with a sort of laser-like intensity because I knew it was do those things, or do nothing. And I have never been very good at doing nothing.

I also think that not finishing college was, in some ways, good for me—it made me feel, constantly, like everybody else knew things I didn’t. And so I tried very hard to learn, and I sought out opportunities like fellowships and conferences, trying to get up to speed.

I love the story of how you called your first interview with a quavering voice because you were so shy, yet despite this timidity, you still got out in the world, and subsequently wrote a terrifically intimate book. How does a shy person balance that need to be in the thick of things to get the story with the desire to hide in a room?


That notebook was a great shield. It gave me permission to go places I would never have gone otherwise, to talk to people I would never have met and to ask questions that I wouldn’t dream of asking otherwise. It gave me permission to be bold.

You might be surprised to learn that a lot of newspaper reporters are actually fairly shy people. In my experience, there are two kinds of reporters—the brash, gregarious, hard-charging kind, who get a certain kind of story, and the quieter, more observant kind, who get an entirely different kind of story.

Your love for Duluth is palpable. Do you ever get back? Do you miss it? Do you think geography defines us?


Well, that’s an interesting question, about geography. Do I love smallish towns and rugged seasons and nature at my doorstep because that’s the kind of place I grew up in? Or was I just lucky to be born in a place that fit me? Certainly there were plenty of people—some of my siblings among them—who couldn’t wait to get out of that town and move on to bigger cities or more temperate climates, but clearly I wasn’t one of them.

When I moved to the Twin Cities, I knew that I could not settle permanently on an urban street surrounded by houses and pavement. And so we were lucky, after a year or so, to buy a house right on a park. That park is a crucial part of my life; I walk the dogs through it every morning, ride my bike along its paths, stare out the window at the trees and the lake. It has hawks and eagles and groundhogs and otters and, sometimes, an occasional fox. I need that constant reminder that we are all part of nature, that all that is urban once was wild.

I do get to Duluth once or twice a year—Doug and I pass through on our way up the North Shore a couple of times a year, and we go to Duluth now and again to visit friends. I miss the city because it was so familiar to me, and I knew it so well, but I’m not sure that I still know it. It has changed a lot since I left. And I don’t know if I could live there again.

What fascinated me was that while you were a journalist, you felt driven to write fiction, and did so successfully, winning fellowships, and yet you gave it up to be back in the thick of a newsroom. Do you ever miss it or feel the pull of it calling you back?


I don’t think I have enough of an imagination to write good fiction. I am pretty grounded in fact and reality, and I am literal-minded to a fault.

It’s true that I wrote a couple of short stories, but they were all based at least somewhat on things that had happened to me, and they were all of a type: first-person, focusing on small events that held larger significance.

I think one reason I was drawn to fiction was that it allowed me to write in a more intimate way than traditional daily journalism allowed. With fiction writing, I paid attention to certain mechanics—pacing, symbolism, openings, closings, dialogue, scene, summary—and then tried to translate what I had learned to reportage.

Do I miss writing fiction? For all that I think I’m no good at it, I do miss it, sometimes. I miss seeing the world the way I did when I wrote short stories.

I found the stories of how the old newsroom changed (women infiltrating all men offices, clattering typewriters changing to computers) hopeful in the light of the metamorphosis they are going through today. Are you optimistic about the future of newspapers and where do you think they’re headed?

I have to be optimistic. I am optimistic. My newsroom and newspaper seem to have stabilized. My husband’s newspaper (he works for our competition) has shrunk considerably over the last ten years, but it, too, seems stable now, in its new reduced size. And I do not think a democracy can thrive without a free and inexpensive and widely distributed press.

I am no good at predicting the future. But I think print journalism will stick around for a long time because a lot of people still like paper. And Web journalism, without a doubt, will continue to grow.

I miss those old days, though. They were fun.


Reading your book, I got the feeling that you’re going to do something surprising next—that you’re always somehow evolving. If newspapers were to end today, what would that be for you?

I love this question and it is the one that has kept me from dashing off these answers quickly and getting them back to you immediately. I am stuck on this one. Sometimes I think I could do anything—go back to school and study earth science! Work for a nonprofit! Go into retail! But in truth I have no idea. You can be sure of this, though: whatever happens will absolutely be by accident.

I LOVED finding in our book that you say at an interview you should always ask what question you should have asked but didn’t—I’ve been asking that for all my blog interviews since I started them. So…what question should I be mortified that I didn’t ask you?


Oh, goodness. You could ask about the nature of memoir. You could ask about how peculiar and awkward it is to be the books editor at a newspaper, trying to promote my own book without compromising my job. You could ask about what it was like to grow up in such a gigantic and, um, passionate family.

But I think you asked great, and enough, questions on your own.
 
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