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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
MAY
11

On Writing about your Love Life

There are some benefits to writing a book about your love life. Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of any, but don’t let that deter you if you’re considering the same. The good news is that you’re likely not in touch with any of your exes, so they won’t even know you’ve written a book. Again, let me reiterate: THIS IS VERY GOOD NEWS. If, however, you ARE in touch with any of your exes (“in touch” means connected via social media, naturally), they might see you’ve written a book, but they’ll have no idea they’re in it, which means their comments like “You’re the real deal, Tali!” will trigger equal parts mischievous delight at your own stealth and acute horror at how close they’ve come to figuring it out.

Inevitably there’s One Ex to whom you’re still fairly connected. Let’s say, hypothetically, that this One Ex is whom the bulk of the book is about and it ends with him breaking your heart in epic fashion. Hypothetically. If you have such an ex, trust me: he won’t read it. THIS IS ALSO VERY GOOD NEWS.

Then there is the matter of future men you may date. Not that admitting in your book that you go to church and wish alcohol didn’t exist will leave you a particularly large number of interested suitors, but the point is, if they do read your book, they’ll know your game. They’ll know how you approach a relationship. They may know better how to woo you, but they’ll also know when you’re on your way out. They’ll be able to read the signs, because they literally already have. It’s an interesting situation, honestly, and in recent weeks I’ve had a potential suitor who wanted to discuss my first-chapter theory that most of the time you make up your mind about romantic compatibility right away, another who admitted the book made him think about how he would approach dating me if it ever got to that point, and yet another who told me he sides with my One Ex (the #1 way to not get lucky, by the way).

And we can’t forget the family contingent, because if there’s anyone who’s going to lose their mind reading about your romantic exploits, it’s your mother. And father. And possibly everyone else related to you. Not that your family was ever intended as your target audience, but you’ve got to give it to them, this right to be traumatized and to describe the book using charming descriptors like “painful to read.” But it’s OK, because you know they love you. You know they are proud of you. You know mostly they are just glad you’re no longer mixed up with the sumbitch you dated more than a decade ago. MORE VERY GOOD NEWS.

So, see, it’s not all bad. Sure, your family hates it and your exes avoid it and your future dating life is entirely in jeopardy, but it will all be worth it when a woman approaches you on behalf of her daughter who’s just gone through a rough breakup. You’ll sign a book for her, for her daughter too, and for just that moment, the two of you will be connected in a way that has you both clasping your hearts. It will all be worth it when a young man tells you, in tears, that he’s just finished the book and is so impressed by how accurately you’re able to describe “what this feels like.” Because these things will happen to you. They’ll happen to you a lot. And they’ll remind you why you write in the first place; why it’s so important to remind people of the simple truth that we are all the same.

NOV
17

On Christmas Lists

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My sister is a great gift-giver. The best I know. She almost never asks me for ideas, she just spends the year quietly collecting things that make her think of me, things she thinks I'll like, and then I open her Christmas gifts having absolutely no idea what to expect. These kinds of gifts are my favorite to open, and they are usually spot on. Which proves what is possible when you truly know someone.

Cases in point. She bought and restored an old writing desk I adore and have schlepped across the country twice and still use. She tracked down the album of songs that a well-known hospital clown sang at Oakland Children's when I was a patient there in the late 1980s. Songs that I listened to for years afterward on a tape I eventually lost track of. Silly I guess, the songs, but being reunited with them so many years later was one of the biggest and most thoughtful surprises I've ever received. One I didn't ask for but loved.

If I ever had a child and found myself doing the family thing, I'd be tempted to implement a no-list policy. Meaning no one would be allowed to ask for specific things; rather we'd all just shop for each other based on what we knew the others would like. It means more, right? It's better, right? Of course, it's also harder. Not to mention, not everyone can do what my sister does. I think she has a knack. A gifting skill set. Whereas I always seem to say--about my own siblings and parents--"What on this green earth can I *possibly* get them?" Which seems an odd thing, being unsure what to buy for, say, the woman out of whose womb you tumbled forth. Um, maybe a pedicure? Some chocolates? I just DON'T KNOW!

Just yesterday I sent off my Christmas list to my two brothers and my parents, and it reminded me that 1) lists make it SO EASY to shop for people, and 2) on the receiving end, you know you'll be getting things from that list; things you definitely know you like/want/need/have been coveting. It's sort of like the proposal conundrum I talk about in Jeweled. How a girl probably appreciates the Leap of Faith more than the Slam Dunk, but then again, she does want to like the ring she gets. Insert something about tradeoffs here, and I don't have the answer. But I am curious, dear reader, do you prefer giving and working off of lists, or are you won over by the idea of the heartfelt crapshoot? Please answer. These things keep me up at night.

 

 

My sister is a great gift-giver. She almost never asks me for ideas, she just spends the year quietly

collecting things that make her think of me, things she thinks I’ll like, and then I open her Christmas gifts

having absolutely no idea what to expect. These kinds of gifts are my favorite to open, and they are

usually spot on. In terms of how much I like them. Which proves what is possible when you truly know

someone.

Cases in point. She bought and restored an old writing desk I adore and have schlepped across the

country twice and still use. She tracked down the album of songs that a well-known hospital clown sang

at Oakland Children’s when I was a patient there in the late 1980s. Songs that I listened to for years

afterward on a tape I eventually lost track of. Silly I guess, the songs, but being reunited with them so

many years later was one of the biggest and most thoughtful surprises I’ve ever received. One I didn’t

ask for but loved.

 

If I ever had a child and found myself doing the family thing, I’d be tempted to implement a no-list

policy. Meaning no one would be allowed to ask for specific things; rather we’d all just shop for each

other based on what we knew the others would like. It means more, right? It’s better, right? Of course,

it’s also harder. Not to mention, not everyone can do what my sister does. I think she has a knack. A

gifting skill set. Whereas I always seem to say—about my own siblings and parents—what on this green

earth can I possibly get them? Which seems an odd thing, being unsure what to buy for the woman out

of whose womb you tumbled forth. Maybe a pedicure? Some chocolates?

Just yesterday I sent off my Christmas list to my two brothers and my parents, and it reminded me that

1) lists make it SO EASY to shop for people, and 2) on the receiving end, you know you’ll be getting

things from that list; things you definitely know you’ll like/need/want/have been coveting. It’s sort of

like the proposal conundrum I talk about in Jeweled. How a girl probably appreciates the Leap of Faith

more than the Slam Dunk, but then again, she does want to like what she gets. Insert something about

tradeoffs here, and I don’t have the answer. But I am curious, dear reader, do you prefer giving and

working off of lists, or are you won over by the idea of a heartfelt crapshoot? Please answer. These

things keep me up at night.
AUG
27

A Very Disney Day

 

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I've recently learned that if a Disney employee actually wishes you a "very Disney day" that they are, in essence, flipping you off. But that aside, I did want to mention as a follow up to this post (Disneyland Annual Pass: Yay or Nay?) that I did get the pass. And for my inaugural pass-holder visit, I was lucky enough to have my brother in town to be my partner in Disney crime. We opened the park (7:30 AM), we closed the park (midnight), we owned the park.

This brother is almost a decade younger than I am, so I wasn't around for much (read: any) of his growing up. I actually had two brothers who were still kids when I left home, and it's one of the reasons why I was such a blubbery mess the morning I drove away, college-bound. Because I was going to miss so much. Of them. Of their games and concerts. Of their laughs and mischief. Of their bedroom door that I'd always pass while on the way to mine...a door completely covered in stickers that I'm pretty sure my mom has never been able to remove.

This was probably the most time my brother D and I had ever spent together as adults (so naturally we went to Disneyland), and while sometimes it can be jarring to think of my younger siblings as having long passed me up (in size, in major life milestones), the way I most often think of them is as the two little boys I used to read Harry Potter chapters to. Fitting then that the family picture I keep framed on my nightstand is a circa 1998 Splash Mountain photo. My brothers, ages 7 and 9, wear priceless faces. One of blatant disgust and the other of sheer terror. Someday I hope we'll be able to recreate it, but even if we do, I doubt I'll ever like any family picture more. It's partly because of the priceless terror faces, but it's also because they were kids. I guess we all were, in a way. And it was magical (yes, I said it) to be with one of them again at the place where you sort of always feel like a kid. Looking forward to your next visit, D.

AUG
26

Like Father, Like Son. Like Brother.

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There’s a part in Jeweled where I mention my brother’s wedding. How at the time, he being so much younger than me, there was a part of me that was sad about him passing me up in terms of major life milestones. It’s just not something I had ever pictured happening, him getting married first. Of course, now he’s been married for almost 6 years. (Me, still single.) And this past week he became a father. Talk about major life milestones.

It’s not sadness I feel this time at having once again been passed up, but it does make me think. And not just about my dwindling egg count. No, I’ve been thinking a lot about my brother. And every time I’ve heard him say “my son” this week, it’s like I hallucinate back to a much earlier time in our lives. Quite frankly, I don’t know where the time has gone. I don’t know how it is that back then has become so long ago; so far-removed. It’s not that I want it back, not exactly, because I think it’s kind of nice as we’ve all settled into adulthood, become Real People. But for my brother, his new arrival does mean a permanent pivoting. Toward the future and his new family. It’s wonderful and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And yet. I think I’ll miss those over-the-shoulder glances he used to throw my way, toward the homebird nest and our idyllic childhood. Something tells me he won’t be looking back quite as often now.

(And as long as I’m reminiscing about years gone by, let me say, and I can’t stress enough how crucial this is, that I also don’t know how the corners of my eyes have gotten so wrinkly lately. Should I be doing something about this?)

AUG
14

The Jewelry Effect

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It doesn't have a great effect on book sales, I can tell you that. In fact, full disclosure, it's a bit discouraging how much more difficult it is to sell Jeweled than Schooled. Especially when very close to all people who I've heard from who have read both say they actually like Jeweled better. (Even the San Francisco Review liked it better. See this post:The 5-star Book Review ) But out in the world, to the general public, convincing them to read a book that looks every bit like it will be entirely about jewelry is not easy. Even trying to describe Jeweled has me fumbling over my words. You just can't sum it up as concisely (or as universally relatably) as a book about school. Let's try it, shall we?

It's my life in jewelry.

It's life from the eyes of a jewelry lover.

It's a look at the jewelry industry through the eyes of a jewelry lover.

It's a look at life, love, and family through a series of stories and reflections about jewelry and the impact it has on all of us.

It's a series of stories about jewelry and the effect it has on life, love, and family.

The life, love, and family is sort of what gets lost here when I find myself explaining to people what Jeweled is about. Remember, that's what one of my early readers called me up about as soon as he'd finished reading...that the back of the book did nothing to capture the true sentiment of the book, which is actually about life and love.

Still, I like Jeweled better. If for no other reason than it is much more unique to me and my life and passion. I mean, how often do you meet a girl who throws jewelry-themed parties where the guests are forced to play matching games involving diamond cuts? (And how often does said girl become secretly appalled when all of the guests positively *suck* at this game? I mean, what self-respecting adult woman doesn't know that April's birthstone is the diamond? Or that the skinny, football-shaped cut is called a marquise?) Next time, they should read up beforehand. I know just the book.

 

JUL
15

The Contest

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It's that time of year again, folks. And I can't believe it's this far into the summer without me mentioning the annual Nay Family Summer reading contest (see: Summer Side Job).

Of course, for all the stacks of to-read books I always have on hand, I'm a bit embarassed to admit I'm only on my second book of the summer, and we're already over halfway through. Pretty sure my 5-year-old nephew is going to beat me on nothing but Horton Hears a Who.

Maybe I'll rally. Maybe I'll come down with mono and spend the entire month of August in bed. One can only hope.

 

 

JUN
19

I want to talk about me.

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Stay with me.

Tonight I gave some brief remarks at an event geared toward journal and personal history writing. It's a topic I feel strongly about, because the things we don't write down, we forget. And as if you need any additional motivation, think of your kids. If you have a child, he only knows you from the standpoint of your parenting years. He knows nothing that happened before that unless you tell him, or unless you write it down for him to read when he is older. 

If you're like me and have no children, write about your life anyway. Writing is, at its heart, for the writer. There are all kinds of sappy quotes out there—about memories being the June roses in the Decembers of our lives, or, my favorite, how we write to taste life twice—and you can take them or leave them, but I choose to take them. I find so much value in writing about my own life, however insignificant my stories. 

To this day, my maternal grandmother* will occasionally send out excerpts from her journals, and I learn something about her every time she does this. I am moved every time she does this. I feel more connected every time she does this--not just to her, but to her parents and grandparents as well, people I never met but wouldn't exist without. Just think about that the next time you wonder if a certain memory or experience is worth writing down. Trust me, it is.

*I must have been smoking crack cocaine when I let Jeweled go to press with a reference to my maternal grandmother's funeral. My maternal grandmother is alive and well. It's my paternal grandmother whose funeral and wedding ring I meant to reference at the end of Jeweled. My (total and completely embarrassing) bad.


MAY
07

Pre-Mother's Day Pontification

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After Schooled was published, someone commented to me that their favorite characters were my parents. Not at all major players in the book, they apparently still left this reader with a sense of their down-to-earthness. True, my parents are golden (“the two most constant and sparkling fixtures to ever decorate my life”), and whenever Mother’s Day is upon us—closely followed by Father’s Day—I find myself waxing pensive. (When am I not waxing pensive? Good question.)

I don’t classify myself as first and foremost a religious person, though I do have convictions that are very important to me. I believe, for instance, in heaven. That we will exist after we die. It’s always made sense to me then that we probably existed before we were born. So any theology or conjecture around this possible pre-Earth state always piques my interest. For me, honestly, it’s the only way that life makes any sense. I mean, otherwise, what is the point? (Where am I going with this? Another good question.)

If you subscribe to the idea of some sort of pre-Earth state, then I’m particularly curious when it comes to the topic of families. Did we, for instance, pick the families we would be born into? Draw straws? Receive assignments? No one can really know, of course, but I suppose this is a roundabout way of saying that if we did have any say in our future families, I know I would have chosen exactly the family I’m in. If you’re still with me, and I hope you are, I apologize for going all convictionite on you. It won’t happen again. At least not until next Spring.

And don't mind the mini mustache magnet. It's a family thing.

DEC
28

Carols with Sharps and Flats

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You've probably never thought about it before, because your family probably doesn't have a permanent slot on the Christmas program every year at church. Not that I'm complaining. I rather look forward to the Annual Picking Up Of My Violin, an instrument I played rather seriously for more than a dozen years, but now only play at Christmas. And maybe that's the problem with the annual Christmas number...that the majority of us who play ONLY play once a year. Not that Christmas carols are necessarily hard to play, but if you ever flip through the Christmas section of a hymnal, if such a section is even normal in traditional hymnals, you'll notice they vacillate drastically from key to key. And when you play them back to back, it's near impossible to remember if the song you're currently playing is the one with the E and A and B flats or if it was the one you just played. Or if the C sharp applies to an entire song or just one line. Or if this is the song where everything is normal and the next one is the one where everything is not normal. Or if this is the one where you have to use fourth finger instead of an open string for the E on the last line. Or if your bra strap is showing from all this bow-manhandling.

Somehow the annual Christmas number always turns out better than I think it will, and I know this is a strange way for me to illustrate this point, but I like knowing that in a crazy an unpredictable world, I can always count on the annual Christmas number. And I can count on my aunts, mom, and grandma to be standing right there with me. Of course I can also count on forgetting a few sharps and flats and consequently causing at least one person in the audience to wish this silent night had been a little more silent, but the point is, the annual Christmas number is important to me. It's Christmas. It's tradition, it's family, it's rosin and bows and piano and sheet music. It's also baby Jesus (I have not forgotten my previous post on sparkle), but mostly, for those few moments, it's me and my violin.

And those damn flats.

 

SEP
03

Weekend Totals

4,400 words. That was my total written over the long weekend. Not too shabby. Although it definitely cut into my pages read total (this is the final month of the family contest), which was like 20. Of course that didn't stop me from picking up two new titles while at B&N this weekend. (You know, for all this reading I'm doing.) If I can read the book I just started as well as the two I just bought before the month is out, I'll deem September a literary success. And if I win the family contest, I'll deem this the best summer ever.

JUN
30

Advice...on dirty laundry

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Because my books are piddly and my well-knownness even piddlier, it's not often that I am asked for advice on writerly things. So I was pleased when someone got in touch with me recently who is preparing to publish a family history of sorts. Her questions centered around how does a person handle talking about others and still maintain those relationships, especially when some of the experiences published are somewhat negative or revealing.

I'm not an expert on the subject, nor can I say that all my relationships remained perfectly intact after my first book, so answering this woman's questions got me thinking about my approach on honesty and if it's changed at all with this second book. I believe it has, because even though I still believe in honesty (and in sharing even some of the not-so-flattering stories that make up our lives), there are things I have written differently, rephrased, or edited out of this second book completely that I otherwise would have left. Not sure what that means, so I guess make of it what you will. And best of luck to all you family history writers out there.

JUN
03

The Best Kind of History

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I heard some remarks over the weekend from a woman who specializes in family history. When it comes to the benefits we receive from doing and learning about family history, it's not like I really need convincing, but still, days are full and time is precious and there's nothing I'm actively doing right now to learn about the lives of those who came before me.

Someone in the audience made a comment about looking forward to future generations, and this is the part I'm particularly passionate about. It's the reason I started writing about my life in the first place. Because it hit me several years ago that I didn't know much about my own grandparents (let alone the generations before that). At least not about their pre-grandparent life. So when I was lucky enough to get my hands on some essays written by one of my grandmothers, I latched on and read as if they were chapters in a best-selling novel. Because it's simply amazing the things I learned. It's amazing what I hadn't known. It's amazing the stories that come out of a single ordinary life.

Recent studies have found that children who know stories about relatives who came before them show higher levels of emotional well-being, so start telling them stories. Start encouraging them to ask questions when around relatives. And if nothing else, start writing things down. Even if only to those who come after you, your words will matter.

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