Martha Kimes, Ivy Briefs
Who knows what I would have become had my guidance counselor not told me that I wasn’t college material (despite honor roll grades, thank you) ? I know one thing for sure - I would not have made a good lawyer. Scientist, perhaps. Fashion designer, screenwriter or actress…sure. But memorizing pages of law text and debating in front of a class of hundreds? No way. And after reading Martha Kimes book, Ivy Briefs- True Tales of a Neurotic Law Student, based on her experiences at Columbia University law school, I know I couldn’t hack it for a day. Not even an hour! I'd be reduced to tears by the professors and end up with a headache from all the studying.
Martha writes with humor about her adventures at Columbia, being a young newlywed succeeding at the ultra competitive law school in New York City. She also has an addictive blog called The Random Muse and used to write for one of my favorite sites called Snarkywood.
Martha, you list Little Miss Sunshine as one of your favorite movies on your Myspace page. What did you love about it?
I loved that it wasn't about the plot, so much as the characters. And the characters were so original, believable, and memorable. Whether I liked them or not, I had this inexplicable desire to embrace every one of them in a giant bear hug. (And I'm NOT a hugger.) Each character was a different raw, exposed kind of real. I wish I could write characters like that.
Who would play you in the Lifetime movie version of Ivy Briefs? I pick Rachel McAdams to play me in my biographical movie masterpiece.
Sienna Miller. Not because I like her, really, but because in real life she slept with Jude Law. And, if she played me in a movie, that would kind of mean that I, too, had slept with Jude Law, right? (Not that that seems to be such a unique claim, but still...)
You now live in Phoenix. What brought you from New York City to Phoenix, AZ? Quite a change in climate among other things!
In March of 2001, I had a baby. Raising babies and working at big law firms, even "family friendly" big law firms, are two activities that don't often mix very well. Throw in some existential angst after 9/11, and you have a recipe for moving out of New York. My dream job as Assistant General Counsel to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America kind of fell in my lap, so my family relocated to Phoenix.
And yes, quite a change in climate. But even sweltering in my overheated Honda minivan in the 111 degree Phoenix heat (like we had today) can't begin to rival the misery of standing on an unventilated subway platform in NYC when it's 96 degrees outside with ridiculous humidity, while you're wearing a suit and panty hose and wishing that God would just grant you the mercy of a quick, painless death as a means of deliverance from your profuse sweating.
You were a philosophy major so maybe you can come up with a good explanation for ghosts. My kids are obsessed with them. What happens after a person dies?
Whoa, deep question!
Answer Number One (the serious one): I'm not a personal believer in heaven and hell -- mostly, I think that after a person dies, they live on in the memories of those that loved them and by the lasting contributions they made while alive. So, go on -- make a difference, already. The clock is ticking!
Answer Number Two (the not-so-serious one): They go on to become characters in Scooby Doo cartoons. The producers of Scooby are always looking to cast new ghosts.
What is your recipe for success? You were a successful lawyer at a prestigious firm and now you can add successful writer to your resume. What's the secret?
I think it's a winning combination of stubbornness and dumb luck. Also, I know what I'm bad at, and I try to steer clear. If I decided that I wanted to add "successful singer" to my list of credentials? It wouldn't happen. (Not even my KIDS like to hear me sing. The other night, I tried singing a goodnight song to my youngest son, and he instantly started screaming, "No, I want DADDY to do it!" And that's saying something, because my husband is no Luther Vandross, let me tell you.)
What is the last book you read, what types of books do you like?
I read a lot of nonfiction (although I'm certainly not above the occasional chick lit novel). Right now, I'm in the middle of reading "The Sex Lives of Cannibals" by J. Maarten Troost, and I could barely put it down to come do this interview. It's a memoir about a young guy and his girlfriend who move from D.C. to the tiny island of Tarawa in the South Pacific, and it doesn't exactly turn out to be the island paradise that one might imagine. When I hurriedly grabbed it off the B&N "beach reads" table last week, I thought it was a novel -- the fact that it's a true story makes it all that much better!
I also recently read "I Am Not Myself These Days" by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, and absolutely loved it. I don't know how to begin to describe the book, so I'll use Josh's words: "It's your typical boy-dressed-as-girl-meets-crackhead-male-s/m-escort story." It's a memoir about the author's first year in New York City when he worked during the day in an ad agency and at night as a 7'2" drag queen named "AquaDisiac." I know, that sounds kind of ... unrelatable, maybe? But it's not -- not at all. It's kind of a sweet, confused, messed-up love story, and I think that it quite possibly has the very best last page of any book I've ever read. And I've read a lot of books.
You have two young sons so you know how tough parenting can be. One minute, you think you have the most angelic kids in the world and the next you want to crawl into the closet with a flask of vodka because they are so out of control- or maybe that's just me. Is parenting more of a challenge than law school?
Yes, parenting is definitely more difficult . I thought law school was competitive, but that's nothing compared to The Mommy Wars. It's vicious! Plus, with parenting, there are no summers off.
But at least I'm not being graded. And, unlike my law professors, the kids don't have enough experience to know when I'm doing a bad job.
How did you juggle writing the book with law and being a wife and mother? Do you have superior time management skills?
My time management skills are sub-par at best. Which was undoubtedly one of the many reasons I didn't enjoy being a big-firm lawyer, where I had to bill my time out in six-minute intervals.
I sold my book, IVY BRIEFS, based on a book proposal that I wrote over about three months' time, on nights and weekends. After the book sold, I had eight months to finish writing it. I kept up the working full-time and writing in my spare time gig for about four months, then realized that there was absolutely no way I was going to finish my manuscript on time at that pace. I ended up leaving my lawyering job to write my memoir about law school.
What happened to Snarkywood? I loved that site!
I loved it too, but its time had come. Simply put, life interfered with The Snark. We all got busy, then busier, then busier still, and entries once every two months just weren't cutting it. We decided to go on hiatus until we could commit to putting forth more than a half-assed effort. But don't write us off forever -- hopefully, we'll make a triumphant return.
What do you do when you have free time?
Sleep. Google ex-boyfriends. Fantasize about moving back to New York City. (And drink flasks of vodka in the closet while hiding from my children.)