Thursday, March 29, 2007

In case you missed it...

Last night was great fun, the interview with Deb from Between the Covers was awesome. If you missed listening to it, you can go here and have a listen today. We chatted about all sorts of topics and Deb was a terrific host.

I want to send a big THANK YOU to Deb for having me on the show! I am so grateful for the opportunity to be on it.

And if you are in the Los Angeles area, I will be at Vroman's Bookstore on May 3rd signing books and I think there is a discussion of sorts as well. I hope I don't have to get up and read from the book or else you will get to see me stutter, stumble and break out in hives from a case of nerves. If I appear to be in a great mood and am slurring my speech then you know I've been drinking.



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Wednesday, March 28, 2007


I will be on Between The Covers radio show tonight.

I am very excited. I was on a radio show before and I loved it. I don't have to worry about hair, makeup or the right clothes. For all you know, I'm sitting in my flannel pajamas picking my teeth with a blade of grass as I speak of fascinating topics like myself, my book, my life, my house and my dogs.

You can hear my melodious voice here,

It will be broadcast at 9pm-9:30pm, EST so tune in.

much love and peace,


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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Laura Ruby, I'm Not Julia Roberts

I had a really nice, detailed description of Laura Ruby's novel, I'm Not Julia Roberts in which I talked about how good her writing was and how I enjoyed this book and so on. Then my beloved computer crashed and I lost everything. Every interview I was working on, every novel I wrote (there were 3.5) and sadly, all my ipod tunes. I hold on to the glimmer of hope that my hard drive can be salvaged or else you will find me catatonic with a bottle of vodka in the closet.

I'm Not Julia Roberts is a collection of stories that make one big story, if that makes sense (read the book and it will). Characters are either somehow related or know each other. It's divorce and siblings and exes and friends. Thankfully Laura thoughtfully provided a list of who's who in the front of the book to keep everyone straight. The book is well written and fun and I had more eloquent things to say but I lost it along with Vanilla Ice's brilliant song, Ice, Ice Baby.

By the way, I just love this quote that Laura has on her website, "There are few things, apparently, more helpful to a writer than having once been a weird little kid"- Katherine Patterson. How brilliant and true is that!?

A couple of years ago, I met Gigi Levangie Grazer who wrote Stepmom which you reference in I’m Not Julia Roberts. Have you ever met anyone famous?

I met Julie Andrews once at a publishing party in LA a few years ago. I was chatting with some booksellers when a very hyper, very tan woman came over to us and asked the booksellers if they wanted to meet Julie. They said sure, and invited me to follow, so I did. They were introduced, and then I was, even though many of Julie's "handlers" seemed very peeved that I, a nobody, an unknown, had somehow horned in. There was a lot of sniffing and glaring and tapping of expensive pointy shoes. But Julie herself was lovely. She bumped my shoulder and said, "We writers have to stick together."

Are you a Julia Roberts fan?

I like her best when she plays bitchy girls. My favorite role of hers is Daisy in "Mystic Pizza."
Catchy title!

Thanks! This wasn't the original title. As a matter of fact, I was calling the book "Loopy" for the longest time until a friend pointed out that a story in the middle of the book called "I'm Not Julia Roberts" was the crux of the whole collection. I wasn't sure I could even use the title, or if I should. Would people think I wrote a biography? Would Julia be mad? After much hemming and hawing, I decided to go for it.

Which celebrity do you most resemble and why?

When I was a freshman in college, the guy who lived next door took one look at me and said I looked like Molly Ringwald. He wouldn’t call me anything but Molly, so there were many people who actually thought that was my real name. I was “Molly” for years.

Recently though, a friend asked me if I realized that had "a Debra Messing thing" going on. Both Debra and I have a pile of messy red hair, but I don’t think he meant how she looked as much as how she moves and speaks, how she seems to be a little (okay, a lot) neurotic and self-deprecating. How she's willing to play the straight man to funny people. That sounds like me.

What do you think of Britney Spears downward spiral? How would you help someone like her?

Funny you should mention Britney. I'M NOT JULIA ROBERTS just got a mention in recent edition of US Weekly, in the same issue that featured a half-shorn Britney Spears on the cover. Not something I’ll be framing.

I have NO clue how I would help that girl. Therapy? Drugs? Exorcism? Underwear?

How on earth did you keep all the characters straight in your head as you wrote this book? I had to keep flipping to the cast of characters in the front to understand who was who.

Well, I grew up in a blended family and married a man with two kids from a previous marriage, so I'm very used to keeping a lot of seemingly unconnected people straight. I have to use a lot of apostrophes to talk about the relationships of the people in my life: "My husband's children's mom's sister's husband was over yesterday, and he said..."

I wanted to capture those weird connections between people in I'M NOT JULIA ROBERTS. I wanted to take the broadest view of divorce and remarriage that I could, which meant numerous viewpoints to get across how complex, how difficult -- and how unexpectedly illuminating -- blended family life can be.

My plan was to write a story about a stepmother, move to her husband's ex-wife, then move to that woman's husband's ex, and so on, with most of the characters popping up in each other's stories. One of my characters describes her family as a bunch of balled up receipts at the bottom of a purse. I see the structure of this book much like the structure of blended families themselves: crazy, sprawling, hard to pin down.

You have experience in a few different genres- kids, teen and adult. Which age group do you identify with the most- playful and innocent children, sullen and misunderstood teens or wise adult who has been through it all?

I'm going to give the cop-out answer here: I identify with them all, which I why I write for so many different age groups.

But I have to admit my favorite characters are often the sullen, misunderstood teenagers. They might not be all that thrilling to live with, but they’re huge fun to write!

The dialogue is fabulous, in particular the scene at the mall around Christmas when everyone is tired and cranky. I thought that rang so true. Did that scene come from your observations or real life?

There are lines here and there that I pick up from real life – which, as soon as I hear them, announce loudly that I will be stealing them — but most of it is made up. Dialogue isn’t real speech, it’s only an approximation of real speech. If I transcribed real conversations, what you’d read would be something like:

“Hey. What are you doing?”
“Nothing. What are you doing?”
“Uh huh.”
“I’m kinda hungry. Are you hungry?”
“Want kabobs?”

In other words, booooring.

But dialogue is something else I have a great time writing. I will often write pages and pages of it, and have to cut way back on revision. I love to hear people talking, even imaginary people.

You and I are both from New Jersey! I knew I liked you. What part of Jersey are you from and do you ever miss the Garden State?

All the time. I grew up about 45 minutes out of NYC. My mom had had voice lessons when she was young so we all talked like newscasters – no accent. I always say that I never knew I was actually from anywhere until I left. Don’t get me wrong, Chicago is beautiful, but I miss the ocean. And believe it or not, I miss the diners everywhere. I adore diners. French fries with gravy. Yum.

Do you have any music on your ipod that might be considered embarrassing? My friend Catherine laughed at me when she found out I downloaded Vanilla Ice.

YOU DOWNLOADED VANILLA ICE??? Hahahahahahahaha--

Eh hem. Let’s see…embarrassing…I have Abba. I have KC and the Sunshine Band. The Buggles. George Michael. Okay, I guess I can’t laugh at you anymore.

What is the last book you read? What kinds of books do you like to read?

I read absolutely everything. I just finished The Thirteenth Tale, which I really enjoyed. Also Jacques Pepin’s memoir – he’s the French guy who cooked with Julia Child on PBS – and I’m now in the middle of a kid’s fantasy novel. But my reading staple is mysteries. I eat mysteries like cookies. Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, Jeffrey Deaver, Elizabeth George, and Ruth Rendell are some favorites.

Growing up, how did you think your life would play out and what did you expect to be doing at the age you are now?

When I was about twenty-five, some college friends traveled to see another girl who had moved up to the Syracuse area for grad school. We were all sitting around talking, and one friend asked us to describe what a perfect day in our future would be like. Here’s my “perfect” day: I wake up, put on a pot of coffee, feed my cats, say hello to my husband and kids, and then wander into my office to write.

This same friend reminded me recently of what I’d said that day. She said, “You’re living your perfect day every day!” And I guess I am.

Is there one book that you've read that has impacted your life?

I think you get attached to different books at different times of your life. When I was a kid, I adored Judy Blume, so I would say that her books helped me feel less alone in the world. (As a matter of fact, I have an essay in a new book called Everything I learned about being a girl I learned from Judy Blume.) When I got older, I read horror novels, Stephen King’s especially. I think that I viewed his vampires and ghosts as analogous to the horrors of adolescence, so those books were important in a different way.

When I was a senior in high school, we read Waiting for Godot and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. I adored both of these plays, which tied into my own feelings that life was often absurd and meaningless, but at least it could be funny, too. I fell in love with the poetry of e.e. cummings and discovered that one could feel and express passionate love without being sappy or false.

As an adult, other books have become important to me: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as well as Persuasion. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. The stories of John Cheever and Lorrie Moore, which helped me believe I could be a writer.

So, I guess there’s no one book, but many that have been important to me. Hopefully, they’ll be more in my future.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Michael Thurmond, 12 Day Body Shaping Miracle

I've always exercised. This habit began by accident, walking to and from school every day. When I started going to junior highschool, the walk got a bit longer. I might never forgive my mother for making me walk allllll the way to school in the rain and humidity prompting my arrival into the school with frizzed out hair, soggy clothes and damp skin. Did I mention lugging a heavy backpack filled with books? What seemed like torture at the time has become my favorite form of exercise, walking. Not running or jogging but long walks meandering through the neighborhood with no chosen path. I just go where I want and try to clear my mind, enjoying the view.
When I was on vacation, I twisted my foot in Aruba and heard a CRACK in the bones and ever since I've been unable to walk for exercise. Makes me thankful for what I can do which is the bike and elliptical trainer. And take naps and lay in bed.
Before I left for my trip, I was following Michael Thurmond's 12 Day Body Shaping Miracle book as a guide for a new routine. You need to shake things up a bit now and then, right? Keep it interesting. What I like about this book was that all exercises can be done at home. Smart, simple, easy to follow workouts are included with black and white photos. I promise you, I've built up muscles in my legs and arms, not to mention abs, during the time I was faithful to the exercises. All you need is a resistance band, ankle weights, free weights. In his book, Michael talks about eating right, body types, nutrition among other topics of interest. This is a book that I keep in my workout area, a tiny space in a cluttered garage. I refer to the book to help keep me on track with my routines and plan to continue incorporating the exercises into my daily routines.

You mention my favorite exercise equipment, the elliptical trainer, isn't exactly fabulous for burning the fat. Why not? Your heart rate goes up, you’re working the muscles in the legs.

The elliptical trainer is fine for cardio-vascular fitness. You can get a good workout but the elliptical uses fast twitch fiber. Fast twitch fiber is bulky and utilizes glycogen for its fuel source. Look at the legs of a distance runner. They are long & lean – all slow twitch fiber which uses fat for its fuel source. The elliptical mimics a bicycle. Look at the legs of a cyclist – muscular and thick. Slow twitch fiber is the fiber which burns fat for its fuel source.
Through the Krebs cycle, oxygen and fat are converted to glycogen and give energy. Since we have large deposits of fat, the slow twitch fiber can go for a long, slow distance. When I’m exerting, I’m using fast twitch fiber: sprinting, cycling, weight lifting, climbing stairs, etc. So to lose weight and slim your legs - slow jog at 65-70% of your heart rate maximum and if using a treadmill, use no incline. This will burn fat and slenderize the legs. This is scientific fact!

What music do you listen to in order to get pumped to exercise?

For music to work out to, being an old body builder, I like the Rolling Stones, The Who, etc. This is definitely a generational preference as each generation resonates to a different format.

What's up with cellulite and please, is there any way to reduce it? I've been doing your exercises and have built some nice muscles in my quads but the doughy soft spots are still there. I know I'm not alone in this.

Cellulite is fat. So in order to get rid of fat, you must eat a very clean diet of non-processed foods eliminating dairy, breads, condiments, salad dressings, cheese, etc. Eat small meals four to six times daily. You must also build muscle in the afflicted areas so that it tightens up and no longer has that dimply, soft look or characteristic but a toned, supple look. Make sure you drink 100 ounces of water per day to stop water retention and help eliminate the waste from fat metabolization.

What is a typical day of exercise for you and do you take days off?

One hour of cardio and one hour of weight training along with a healthy dose of stretching. Two days on, one day off, two days on and two days off. Rest is absolutely essential for your body to rebuild and condition.

Yoga and pilates: Hollywood obsession or good ways to stretch and get in shape?

Yoga and Pilates are definitely for flexibility par excellence but not good for changing shape though they may help with lengthening. Joseph Pilates was a dancer and dancers need extreme flexibility. However, don’t be surprised with years of yoga and Pilates that your body hasn’t changed its shape much.

Tell me the best way to stay in top shape for someone who doesn't have a lot of time.

It depends on your goals and genotype. If you’re concerned with body fat, then do one hour of cardio at 65 percent of heart rate maximum and eat a clean diet consisting of five to six small meals per day, eliminating processed foods and condiments. If your goal is strength, do three to four times a week of weight training. If your goal is flexibility, two to four times a week do stretching or yoga. It is best to combine all three but you have to do what your time restrictions allow. So your goal and time constraints should dictate what you do.

I hear the older you get, the harder it is to stay in shape and the pounds start adding up. What can we do to prevent weight gain as we get older?

Yes, it is harder to stay in shape as you get older. Training and correct diet are the easiest habits to break but again, five times a week of cardio, a clean diet, resistance training and stretching will help maintain that which Father Time wants to take away.

When you break down and just have to have some junk food, what do you choose?

Just eat what you want and when it’s done and you’ve placated your cravings, get back in the saddle and keep those good habits up.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Books read on vacation

I'm back to the harsh reality of real life after being on an eleven day Panama Canal cruise. The trip was phenomenal and I loved every minute of it. No cooking or cleaning, no laundry or toilet scrubbing. No alarm clocks or dog hair. It was blissful. While others tanned their skin into jerky under the bright Caribbean sun, I was in my room with a book and a cup of coffee. Luxury to me is uninterrupted reading of good books.
Angela's Ashes was one of my favorite books ever. So I was thrilled when I found an abandoned copy of Frank McCourt's sequel, Teacher Man. The book is tracks his experiences as a highschool teacher. During my school years, I had a small group of teachers who inspired and encouraged me but outstanding teachers are few and far between. How I would have loved to have been in a classroom taught by Mr. McCourt! Have you read it? Please do pick up a copy. Be inspired by his love of the english language and his tales from the world of teaching.
A Life Less Convenient: Letters to My Ex by Jennifer Clare Burke is about the authors struggle with lupus. The book is a raw and gritty account of her experiences via emails sent to various exes. Its not a long book, you can read it in a day. I knew it would be hard to read- after all, she has a disease that's debilitating and harsh. I wish she would take this short collection and spin it into a longer book.
I never knew much about Marie Antoinette other than chanting her name in the mirror at slumber parties, waiting for her to show up, all bloody and headless. My friend loaned me The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson and I whipped through it. From the first page I was hooked. Sometimes its nice to change pace and read something you might not pick up ordinarily. This is a fictional account of her life but based on real life events.
I want to read more about Marie Antoinette who died unfairly in a most cruel way. I was completely transported to another time while reading this.
Kristin Harmel has a new novel out called The Blonde Theory and I will be interviewing her soon. I can tell you that this is a totally fun slice of entertainment with some laughs in it. A good book from beginning to end that moves along quickly.
Last but not least is The Spinster Sisters by Stacey Ballis. I've interviewed Stacey before and she's great and smart and fun. She's an author who goes deep into her characters. Characters are fleshed out, dialogue is real and for those of you who don't like "chick-lit" I urge you to give Stacey's books a whirl. I enjoyed the premise of this book and the conflicts in it, very good job Stacey!
And, thanks so much for your messages and words of encouragement with my...what do I call it? Possible breast cancer, I suppose. Please continue with the breast exams and keeping an eye on your body and urging your friends and mothers to do the same. It's really strange and scary that something can be brewing in your body and you just don't know it's there. What can we do do educate each other and help ourselves stay strong and healthy? I'll be keeping you posted.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Public Service Announcement

This is something I would normally post on my beauty site Hello Dollface, but since that site is down due to Blogger thinking I'm a spam robot, I am posting it here. It's a public service announcement of sorts. It's also more information about myself than you care to know, probably. You come here to read about books and authors but well, aren't you in for a treat?
Last October I found a breast lump, coincidentally October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Everywhere I looked whether it was in a magazine or on TV, there was information about Breast Cancer. It was in my face. I couldn't ignore it. Boobs everywhere. How ironic, the timing. When I felt that pea sized lump, of course I freaked out and immediately diagnosed myself with breast cancer. I was insane with thoughts of my children growing up without a mother and my husband would remarry and in time everyone would forget about me. I haven't even had my chance to make a mark on the world! I have books to write and movies based on those books have yet to be made! I must walk down the Red Carpet in a designer gown just once. Most importantly, there are people in this world I want to help, needy people or downtrodden or depressed or displaced people that I haven't had the chance to help. I have much to do!

I went to the doctor's office and yes, they felt the lump and sent me for a mammogram and an ultra-sound. I sat in a paper smock for about an hour, an hour of which I sat paging through old Woman's Day magazines from 2005, trying to be calm and not plan my funeral. During the whole time I was sitting in a waiting area, I didn't realize you could see my chest through the enormous arm holes of the smock.

Finally I had the mammogram and the ultrasound and the tech said, "This looks fine, doesn't look like cancer." Whew! That was all I needed to hear. I probably called for my official results, maybe I didn't. I can't remember. All I know is that cancerous cysts have certain characteristics and my lump didn't have them.

My mother and husband urged me to follow up and get a biopsy. Breast cancer runs like wildfire through my mom's side of the family. Red flag! Everyone has had it. I had joked before that I felt like a time bomb- it was only a matter of time before I got breast cancer. It was ticking inside me.

The lump never went away but I had stopped touching and obsessing about it. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I went in for my yearly physical- I say yearly but it had been so many years I don't remember my last one- and the doctor said, "You need to get this biopsied ASAP. Don't waste time!" So of course, I blew it off. Call it denial or laziness- take your pick.

The doctor followed up on something else and asked if I had made the appointment. "No, but I will soon." I promised. She was pretty stern and said I should do it NOW. I called the surgeons office, still thinking in the back of my mind that it was a waste of time and a waste of my thirty dollar co-pay, you know? I could be doing so many other more valuable things with my time rather than be poked and prodded by a surgeons cold hands.

The surgeon didn't want to ignore this bump, lump, thing. Oh and he wasn't a McDreamy or a McSteamy. I was scheduled to go in to the hospital for an ultra-sound guided needle biopsy. A week later, there I was, laying on a gurney with a radiologist on one side of me, a guy working the ultrasound machine who looked like he was better suited to construction work, a girl who looked about thirteen years old- candy striper?- ( I think she was writing "I heart The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" in her notebook) and another technician. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon, I tell you. My boob exposed in this room of strangers. When the construction/ultrasound guy asked if I was cold, my reply was, "Can't you tell?" Hello Headlights!

There was a probe that was inserted into where the lump was. I couldn't look. You tell me "probe" and I'm thinking a light saber sized thing. After a while of taking tissue samples, the radiologist proclaimed, "Oh yeah....this part here, this part looks suspicious." Hello! What? No. How could I not think the worst with that? Still, I kept reminding myself that I'm young, healthy, strong. I simply don't have time to have cancer.

Yesterday I went back to the surgeon's office for the results. I braced myself. In the waiting room I looked through old tattered issues of Money magazine and Better Homes and Gardens from Christmas 2006. I tried to be calm. My mother, husband, friends offered to go with me but I thought if I went alone, it would have to be good news and if I brought someone it would be as if I prepared to hear bad news.

The surgeon got right to the point, flipped through my chart and said, "We found some atypical cells in the tissue and we need to go back in and get the rest of it. Then we will know for sure if it's malignant."

There's a chance that my body has betrayed me? There's a chance I'm walking around this minute with cancer? Or not. Here is a moment when I need to reach down and find every ounce of positive energy I have and will myself to be all right.

I thought I would share this with you for a few reasons. One is that I've not been on the ball about updating this site or Hello Dollface. My computer has also been down so I don't have access to my notes and photos. That's been a bummer. Most importantly, you are a woman or you know a woman. So either you have a set of breasts or you know someone who does.

I'm posting this personal stuff is so you can tell the women in your life to do a breast exam and if there is anything found, even a teeny bump, get it checked. The mammogram is not a big deal. I mean, sure your boob is squished between plates of glass until it looks flatter than a tortilla. It's not what I would call fun. But it's better than let's say, finding a mouse in your house. Or having someone throw up on you. It's also better than having a bad headache or having the flu. I put it somewhere between doing laundry or cleaning up a mess in the kitchen. Not fun but not a huge deal. Over quickly. If I did it than you can too. And if this is happening to me, a typical everywoman - a mother, wife, daughter, friend- then it can happen to you too. I mean, I sure hope it doesnt, but it could.

I sure need the time to relax and drink white wine and consume unlimited mojitos. I need to eat a lot, especially cookies. Read books. Take very long, very hot showers. Take photographs of cool sights. Forget that I have to have surgery on my breast and it's not even for something cool or fun like breast implants.

Take care of yourselves and read lots of books. I will be back soon. Read my book while I'm taking time off, why don't you?


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Friday, March 02, 2007

The Friday Night Knitting Club, Kate Jacobs

When I received an email about The Friday Night Knitting Club, my initial reaction was this: Knitting? No thanks. The closet thing I've ever done to knitting was making a latchhook rug picture of a tiger when I was nine. But then I read the synopsis and it sounded like a fantastic story. In fact, I couldn't wait to receive the book and when I got it in the mail, I eagerly dug in.

Often times, you know from page one if the book is going to be good and this was. I think The Friday Night Knitting Club has a broad appeal- no matter what your age is or if you are a knitter or not, you will enjoy the story of Georgia, the owner of a yarn shop and her pre-teen daughter, Dakota. The story centers around the diverse group of women who meet every Friday night for knitting,muffins and much more. Julia Roberts (an avid knitter) is going to produce and star in the movie version so go ahead and imagine her in the role of Georgia, the curly haired yarn store owner. And take a look at the beautiful Walker and Daughter site.

What is it with knitting? Suddenly everywhere I look there are knittinghow-to books, fiction books with knitting, people love to knit! Why is thishobby so popular?

It’s everywhere, isn’t it? People who you don’t think would knit suddenly do. Like movie stars. It’s a good thing, I think, craft coming back intomany of our lives. When I was in my teens, knitting was really something forgrannies, a throwback kind of thing. My own grandmother, Nanny, was trulytalented, and I loved all the sweaters she’d make. They were cool to wear, just not to create. So take the 1980s – when knitting really was going through a cultural slump – and contrast it to now. There’s this amazing convergence of craft and the Internet, folks have made entire careers out ofthe exultation of the domestic (hello Martha!), celebs are taking it up, and, at the same time, the world is such an uncertain place right now.

So there’s a new appreciation for a soothing, comforting skill that can bring people together. It’s some part nostalgia, some part stress relief, some part creative outlet, some part irony – it’s not your granny’s knitting anymore! – and some part of wanting to find community and connection. Not to mention how much we all love natural, homemade things. Made by your own hands? That’s the ultimate.

Julia Roberts is going to be producing and starring in the movie. Amazing.Tell me what happened when you got the call that Julia loved the book? I think she read it before it was even officially out. You must feel like you are dreaming.

It’s cool. Cool but surreal! Honestly, it’s tremendously exciting to hear that Julia Roberts is into the book. But it also feels as though you’re in an optimistic version of The Twilight Zone because it’s so out of the realm of the day-to-day. It’s a delightful extra, a wonderful affirmation.

And,yeah, I’m just as excited as anyone else to sit down with some popcorn and see The Friday Night Knitting Club play out on the screen. So I’m just letting the Hollywood folk do their thing.

The book really tugged at my emotions. I have to tell you that I was crying at the end of it. I don't want to give away the ending but WHY did you do what you did?

That’s a tremendous compliment to say that the novel pulled at your feelings; thank you. And you know, unless a person has been incredibly lucky, life is filled with ups and downs. There are sad moments, frustrating times, situations that feel out of our control. (At least my life has been that way!)

Bad things happen to good people and it’s not about what’s fair. It’s just real. When I write, I listen to my intuition and to the characters. And I feel that the story as written propels some of the people in the novel to make a leap forward. It forces them to confront their hesitations. Sometimes we all need a splash of cold water to shock us into action. At the same time, too, writing can become deeply personal. You’re writing about the characters, but you’re also writing about yourself. And Georgia’s journey was also a way for me to start to work out some very private emotions, even though her story is her own and her specific experience is fictional. I cried, too.

And let me tell you, I DO hear from readers – and I love to get messages at – and there are some people who feel as you do, and others who are glad to see these experiences reflected on the page. I was so pleased to hear from a woman named Martha, who emailed that she “never had anyone else say or even write exactly what I felt - now I don't feel so guilty.”

Another reader, Bobbie, told me that she had had a similar experience but that “life has to go on.” And that’s really how I feel. To me, Georgia is amazing because of how she lives. Her story is beautiful and rich and true and I really love the character.

I adore the character of Dakota and her muffin recipes. Do you bake? If so,what is your favorite thing to bake?

I like to bake, but I go through spurts where I make a lot and then don’t I do it for a while. Plus I have never mastered pie crust – I’m more about dough or batter. When I was a kid, I often made cookies and brownies and cakes. That’s because my mother didn’t make treats – and there’s a running joke in the family about “The Christmas Pie” which gives some idea about how often she made dessert – and she also wouldn’t buy baked goods from the store. So it was up to us to make goodies if we wanted them. And I often did the baking, which is probably because I was the youngest. (i.e. My older siblings tied an apron on me and sent me into the kitchen.)

A chocolate chip cookie recipe remains my specialty, and believe me, I made cookies all the time when I was a kid. And you know what’s funny? Every time I return to my Canadian hometown to visit, one of the first things I do is pull out the butter and the sugar and get down to making cookies. I just don’t feel“home” until I’ve done so.

In January, during the book tour, I was super tired from events but made a batch when I was staying at my brother’s house. My mom phoned and I mentioned that I was just pulling the cookies out of the oven and she replied, “Of course you are. It’s your therapy.” Which, honestly, I’d never really thought about baking in that regard. But I suppose it’s true.

How often do you knit? When did you start? I’m so intimidated by the art of knitting. It looks hard and tough and I’m not sure I have the patience.

Ummm…I’m not the most patient person in the world. I’m also tremendously
clumsy and uncoordinated. Really. So even though my grandmother was a big knitter, my sister is a knitter, my mom is a sewer and she crochets, I'm simply not crafty in the way that they are. Couple that with my teenage suspicions of doing anything domestic -- and my fear that it would impede my goal of writing stories -- and it’s not as though I’m a natural. (And yes, it wasn’t a stretch for me to channel the character of Darwin, who has some issues with the world of knitting.)

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Knitting isn’t just for the master knitters. It’s for the beginners and the “granny-good” types and everyone in between. That’s why I always say I’m a writer who knits, not a knitter who writes! But it was pretty fantastic when I gave my husband a scarf I had actually made myself. And when I surprised my mom with a dishcloth. (Just great "ta-da!" moments; I felt rather pleased with myself.)

Right now I am slowly working on a baby blanket for a friend.(I say slowly because I’ve had so much work that I’ve had little knitting time recently.) So take heart! I taught myself how to knit, as an adult, from books and websites; my friend Christine is my go-to person when I need help.

And I don’t really aspire to be an awesome knitter like Nanny. I just enjoy the process. It’s very soothing. All of this is to say that yes, Cindy, you can do it! And you might discover, as I did, that you really,really like it!!

When you aren't writing or knitting, what do you like to do?

Hang out with my dog, Baxter, walking him around the neighborhood or tossing tennis balls in the back yard. Spend time with my best friend, Jon, who also happens to be my husband. (A two-fer!) I love to read – right now I’m hesitating to start the new Alice Munro. Her stories are beyond amazing and every time a new collection comes out, I hold onto it for months before I begin reading. Because I hate to get to the end. I also spend a lot of time and energy staying connected to my friends.

I believe strongly in the importance of having a support network – which is one reason why The Friday Night Knitting Club is a story about the power of friendship – and I also know that you can’t have those connections without effort. I want the people in my life to know just how much they mean to me and touching base, even for a quick “thinking of you” chitchat, is important. Finally, I do enjoy a good bout of television, I must say. I’m a sucker for a game show –I just love to see people win! They’re so happy! – and I’m also a huge fanof Project Runway and Top Chef.

Will your next novel include knitting?

Maybe! I can tell you that there will be another novel from me and I’m veryexcited to work on it. But what I can’t tell you just yet is what it’ll be about. The fact is that I simply cannot talk a lot about what I’m trying to write before I get it down on the page.

Tell me all about you. Where have you traveled, what is your favorite book,your favorite movie? Color? Food? Music?

All about me? Hmmm.... Well, I’ve seen many parts of Canada because I drove across the country multiple times to get to university in Ottawa. (Now your question is tweaking memories of running out of gas on the outskirts of Winnipeg…)

I’m originally from British Columbia and so of course I love Vancouver. And I’ve been to the Canadian Rockies a few times. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous. I am so not an outdoorsy type – but that kind of natural beauty almost makes you want to sleep outside. (Don’t tell my husband – he’s always suggesting we go camping.)

And I’ve been to various parts of Europe and the UK, including Scotland (which features in The Friday Night Knitting Club), and to Thailand. But my list of places of where I want to go is much, much longer than where I’ve been: It’s long been a goal of mine to go to Macchu Pichu.

And I would very much like to see Australia and New Zealand. Oh, I could go on and on. I’ll stop only because you don’t need me reciting the atlas. I’ve always been a big reader. My very first favorite book was “Barney Beagle” about this dog at a pet store who just wants a home. Don’t we all? Heart wrenching stuff. (Good news, though: Barney does meet the right little boy. Whew. )

What else? “Lives of Girls and Women” by Alice Munro. “When We Were Orphans” by Kazuo Ishiguro. And “So Big” by Edna Ferber. Honestly, I think about that novel fairly often. I read it years ago and it has had a tremendous impact on me, just the themes about pursuing dreams, staying true to your passions, understanding that money doesn’t equal happiness. That’s a wonderful thing, when a story stays with you in that way.

Favorite color is easy: Celadon. Though I do also like Sage, Celery, and Lime. My home office is painted in a shade called “Lazy Caterpillar” which is some combination of the above. I simply like light, yellowy greens. They’re soothing, they go well with my skin tone. But even though I have alot of shirts and sweaters in variations of greens, you’d mainly see a ton of black if you opened my closet. That’s what happens when you live in NewYork for a decade – everything you own is black!

When I moved to SouthernCalifornia, I suddenly noticed that everyone else wears kicky little capris in bright colors and my black outfits made me look as though I was going to a funeral -- or at least considering it. So I compromised. I got black capris. And I’ve settled into the suburbs just fine.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Mason Dixon Knitting by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne, a beautiful non-fiction book featuring gorgeous photos, stories and humor. All knitting, all the time! I especially like the PotHolder Loop Rug. This book is sure to inspire you to grab a ball of yarn and needles and get to it. After reading this book and The Friday Night Knitting Club, I would welcome a knitting lesson from Julia Roberts!

Monica Drake, Clown Girl

I had this big, long, detailed description of Clown Girl written out and then my computer decided to make a sound like this: chuggg chugg eeekkkk, chuggg chugg eeeek and then it just kind of..died. So I had to take over my sons computer and write this out from my memory. Don't you hate it when things like that happen?
I will tell you what Clown Girl is not, it's not happiness, bright sunshine and feel good. It is dark and kind of twisty. It is sad in parts, funny in other parts and well written throughout. All I can think is that author Monica Drake has an amazing mind and crazy imagination.
Clown Girl is the story of Nita, aka Sniffles the Clown, who lives in a run down place called Baloneytown. She is holding tight to the hope that her boyfriend, Rex Galore, is going to come back to town and sweep her off her big clown feet and the two will live happily ever after. Of course it doesn't work out that way. There is a rubber chicken named Plucky, a police officer, a pot dealing ex-boyfriend and fellow clowns Matey and Crack, just to name a few characters from this novel. If you are looking for a different kind of book by a fabulous writer then you need to check this one out.
Where did Baloneytown come from? Why not write about a place like New York City where there are lots of neighborhoods full of destitution and poverty?

I wanted it to be a fictional terrain, so I could use the landscape to my own ends. The main character, Nita, is very much a pedestrian, and I wanted to mapout her walking paths in a way that would line up neighborhoods--Baloneytown, For-Salesville, KingsRow--in a way they don't necessarily naturally fall in any real city.

Also, the style of this novel isn't strictly realism. It’s more cartoon or comic in ways. For that, I needed a cartoonish version of a town, something that could show the grit of a city with the colors and bounce of a clown world. Voila! Baloneytown.

The book is dark, kind of chilly and mysterious. Did you set out to write this kind of a book?

I did. It's the kind of book, or kind of writing, I most enjoy--aiming for a mix of sad and funny, and most of all trying to get at something, trying to express a feeling about the world.
What kinds of books and movies are you drawn to? Do you like things light and happy or murky and warped?

I like to be caught by surprise, and to laugh, in that way that happens when a kind of truth hits you in the funnybone, and it's funny and sad and real all at once. I love the writing of George Saunders. I love movies like Being John Malcovich, things that just keep getting crazier and wilder as the story lines go on. Are Baloneytown and the clowns a metaphor for something? The main character, Nita, uses clowning as a vehicle for self expression. Not all the clowns in the book use it in the same way, or see it in the same way, and that’s part of the conflict she's up against; Nita’s relationship to what she views as her art is fueled by big ambitions and a longing to connect, to make life meaningful.

How would you describe Nita a.k.a Sniffles?

She's an optimist, and a dreamer. She's ambitious and plagued by abandonment issues, but she still believes she can forge the life she wants out of what she's got through sheer creativity and determination. She's little bit Horatio Alger, a little bit Bozo...

Clowns are universally known to be somewhat creepy, is that why you chose clowning as Nita's profession?
I'm not sure clowns are universally known as creepy. People have different responses, and it varies culturally. I've been told that the fear of clowns is more prevalent in the US than in other places. If that’s true, what does it say about us as a country? Is it just that too many people have watched "It", the movie with Pennywise, a terrifying clown, written by Steven King, or does it go beyond that to say something more, maybe speaking to an intolerance of the unknown, the chaotic?

For all I know it's a comment on a loss of innocence, or a fear of innocence. I chose to make Nita a clown because I worked as a clown, briefly, many years ago, and the experience has always stayed with me and resonated against so many other jobs, so many other events...I'm interested in what it means to put oneself out there, into the world as a clown, and what it means to be clown identified. It’s all about taking risks, about exposure, vulnerability and living outside the norm.

Rex was never planning to come back for Nita was he? It was a one sided love affair.

What I was trying to do with this is show Nita's view of Rex as all projection. It's a story she's telling herself. I didn't want Rex to come across as a complete cad; he's not what Nita wants, but who say she has to be? He hasn't made her any promises.
He's low, as an artist, near the end, but I think that helps Nita realize she's been giving away too much, sacrificing too much, and not taking care of herself. She can't keep throwing herself at the world, or at Rex. This is the moment she starts to think about taking better care of herself and her craft, her work. To hold a little something back, keep it in reserve, and reconsider her position in relation to the world.

Tell me about the Sewanee Writers Workshop. Did attending the workshop help you to hone your craft?

The Sewanee Writers Workshop was great. I'm not sure how much it helped me hone my craft--it's a very short workshop--but I met a lot of writers I admire, like Tim O'Brien, Amy Hempel and Arthur Miller. It was inspiring. Events like that help make the world of writing, the career of writing, seem more real and obtainable, and that's important, or it was for me, tube able to keep going.

What are you working on right now and will there be balloon tying, clowns or any other circus performer types in the book?

I've got some pieces that might line up into another novel. No clowns, balloons or circus performers in this one--at least not yet, but who knows? I revise a lot. A dozen revisions later...we'll see!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Blind Submission, Debra Ginsberg

It was a combination of my caffeinated mints and the sheer mystery of this book that kept me up until 2 a.m. this morning. I was reading in bed and unable to put Blind Submission down even for a moment. I loved it.

Book loving Angel Robinson loses her job at a small book store and at her boyfriends suggestion, applies for a job working for super literary agent, Lucy Fiamma. She gets the job and is immediately thrust into a position where she is spending all of her time pouring over manuscripts and answering to Lucy's every need. Angel finds that she has a keen eye for discovering promising manuscripts but the intense workload and Lucy's strange, almost bi-polar personality make it difficult for Angel to enjoy her job. Her boyfriend, an aspiring writer, is pressuring her to give Lucy his manuscript, plus a flirtation with a handsome Italian writer is heating up and her co-worker Anna is acting strange. Suddenly Angel begins receiving pieces of an anonymous book entitled Blind Submission.

Who could be writing this mysterious manuscript and why won't they reveal their identity? Things get creepier and creepier as the chapters bear an almost eery likeness to Angel's real life. The book builds such suspense that you cannot help but read into the wee hours of the night, or morning, to find out who is behind the Blind Submission.
Author Debra Ginsberg crafts a fabulous novel combining humor and detailed descriptions with suspense and folding it into a winning book that I know you will enjoy. Add this to your "must read" list!