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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
NOV
22

And....Done.

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"Call it crazy. It certainly would have been apropos."

This is the line that officially completed my third manuscript, a manuscript I wrote the last 3000 words of this weekend. To be clear, these are not the last 3000 words of the book...just as the line above is not how the book ends...it's simply the conclusion of the last chapter I had left to write up. The one, I hate to say it, I've been avoiding because remembering it sort of sucked.

There's actually a lot in this book that sucks, which means that I have more work to do on this manuscript than on any other. (Not to mention, it's 150% longer than my previous two.) Editing, re-writing, deleting, and--ultimately--making sure this is still a book that I feel good about putting out there. But for now I'm happy. Thrilled, even. I forgot how good it feels just to get the first draft all written out. It feels AMAZING. It propels me forward into the next phase, a phase that revolves around organization and detail and chronology. It's a phase I like so very much. It's a phase that gets me one step closer to holding the finished product in my hands.

Watch out, world. Here come all the love stories.

AUG
12

Unfinished Business

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I just finished reading a book whose author passed away prior to its completion. Since her wishes had been to have it published--even partially--the book, a much-anticipated sequel, went to press as it had been at the time of her death--only halfway finished. It was tough to read, partly because the original book had been so phenomenal. Any sequel--even a completed one--would have struggled to hold a candle to such a fine work. And then there was the matter of the sequel's incompleteness, its lack of editing, etc. Fulfilling the author's wishes is the important thing, so nothing else really matters, but the whole thing did make me a little bit sad. Sad that the author wasn't able to make it the book she intended for it to be. As a sentimental, somewhat morose, and occasionally morbid writer myself, naturally this has caused me think about what I would wish upon my own partially-completed manuscript.

In short, what I would wish is this: That no one see it. Ever. (Except the sumbitch who broke my heart, who should be forced to read my account of said heartbreak over and over again.)

All kidding aside, I do think about the whole death/manuscript relationship fairly frequently. The thought horrifies me. Not the death part. The unfinished manuscript part. The great thing about getting your memoirs published, see, is that you have the chance to pick the stories you want and then polish them until they sparkle. No one has to know that the way you originally wrote it in your journal was something along the lines of, "He said this and I said that and then we did this stuff and afterward went to this place where that neat thing happened." As of now, my manuscript unfinished and unedited, there are several things that my post-death computer discoverer will have to wade through. Like entire sections I already know are going to be cut. They aren't very strong and the manuscript's too long anyway. So should the worst happen, my apologies in advance. Both to whoever it is that discovers my partial manuscript, and to my faithful readers, who unfortunately won't be given a partially completed book to wean themselves off of me. I'm afraid you'll have to go cold turkey.

Although you could always hunt down my ex for the heartbreak chapter.

 

MAR
24

Time Travel

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I recently read Amy Poehler's memoir, and while I was pretty disappointed by it, one thing she said that has stuck with me is the idea of time travel. Amy says she believes in it, as there are people, places, and things throughout our lives that can instantly transport us to another time. It's just the sort of ethereal, sentimental notion that I tend to gravitate toward, and as if to prove her point, this weekend at the MET it happened to me. I was transported.

There's a painting that hung in the living room of my childhood home for years. A mother at the piano with her two daughters, one holding a violin and the other looking on. My own mother played the piano, me and my older sister both played the violin (although she for much longer than I because she enjoyed it far more), and so the painting always seemed to fit perfectly in our home. I was never really sure what happened to the painting (when I asked Mom this weekend what had ever happened to it, she said it was ruined by one of my brothers, which figures), and in fact hadn't even thought about the painting in many, many years, but as I turned a corner and saw it hanging in the center of an alcove at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I was hit with a pang of what can only be described as deja vu. (I'd seen this before.) Mixed with surprise. (Who knew this painting was actually, like, famous?) And extreme happiness. (I almost teared up, because it still reminded me of us, and of my very happy, musical childhood.)

I mean, yeah, it's embarrassing that I had never been to the MET, even after all my vacations to NYC and now having lived here for almost six months. And sure, I feel pretty sheepish about never having known of the painting's popularity or the identity of its artist (it's a Renoir). Nor did I have any concept of where to even find the art I was looking for while at the museum. "Do you have any Van Gogh?" I finally asked the lady at the information desk, anxious to see something I might recognize amidst the sea of sculpture and canvas. She directed me to where I found Rodin, Monet, Picasso, and several others that I recognized, although the highlight was, of course, the Renoir. Such an instant connection (by an object) to a time and place now so far removed from my current life and location has me a believer in Poehler's concept of time travel. There's not much else in her book I believe in, so I was grateful to come away with at least one nugget of wisdom.

DEC
07

Writer's Block

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I don't have it. Not really. True that I've written shamefully little since moving here (I have a day job, I have a new city to explore, I'm still working on my gemology certification, etc.), but the main reason for my low post-NYC-move word count, and I'm embarrassed to admit this, is that I'm stalling. Is that a thing? Writer's Stall?

The chapter I'm in the middle of writing right now is such a downer, see. And it's not even the one where the protagonist is abandoned by her love and left alone and devastatingly heartbroken. It's the one where the protagonist is making really stupid choices. And since you all know who the protagonist in all my books is, I find it much harder to relive things you brought upon yourself verses things that happened to you that were outside of your control. If he was going to leave, he was going to leave.

This book is also proving a bit slippery in terms of overall point and purpose. Crucial, I know. I just need some sort of Aha Moment about how these chapters and themes should be arranged and tied together. In the meantime though, I suppose I will press on. Continue writing. Ever grateful for the distance I--er, the protagonist--now has from some of these chapters.

SEP
05

Stranger than Fiction...and Funnier, too

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, one who I grew up with back in Oregon, and she was telling me about the book she's writing. It's about her life, and as she was telling me about some of the events that will be included in the book, I was shocked. Truth is stranger than fiction, everybody knows that--or at least everyone should--and I actually found myself at one point asking her, "He really did that??" when she told me about one of the scenes from the book. I honestly couldn't believe it, to which she quipped that it would not be possible to make this stuff up.

That's why I love real life. It's why I love reading about real life. And I know I say it all the time, but I just love memoirs for that reason. It's so satisfying knowing that what you're reading about really happened. And I think the potential for grand emotions is heightened. Real life has the potential to be more heartbreaking, more inspiring, more joyful, more hilarious, and certainly more unexpected than anything we can make up. That's probably why I'm sixty pages into a new novel right now (I know! I know! What am I doing reading fiction?) and can't seem to get into it but was in stitches when my friend read me the opening pages of her hilarious memoir. Life is just funnier. Now, back to this novel. Groan. (Watch, it will turn around any second and become the best thing I've ever read and I'll be eating crow for days. Which, incidentally, would also be pretty funny.)

MAY
17

Heads in Beds

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Here's why this memoir works. Well, it's fabulous. But more than that, it's an ideal kind of memoir to read. It's not so removed or unrelatable as many memoirs today are (I lived in the slums of some third world country for a year, I was in jail, I climbed mount Everest, blah blah blah.) True that those memoirs can be fascinating, but they have nothing to do with us and our lives. Heads in Beds offers both fascination (more like genuine shock and intrigue) AND accessibility. Relatability. The hotel industry affects all of us. Business trips, vacations, get-a-ways. We all stay there, and we all know nothing about what it's like behind the scenes. It's a dynamite combination.

If I were on Goodreads (I know, I've already admitted that I should be on Goodreads), I'd give it 4 out of 5, only because I did find the swearing excessive to the point of being distracting, but honestly, if you like memoirs and can tolerate some irreverence and more honesty than you might be comfortable with about what actually goes on inside our homes away from home, this book will be a treat. And if you don't believe me, here's a baby brick. Which should help you see it my way.

JAN
25

What I Learn from Awards Season

That I really should get a pixie cut, incorporate tons of sex into whatever I write or create, that an organized speech is always better than winging it (especially when alcohol is involved), dresses that fit are preferable to ones you spill out of, and that you can't ever beat Daniel Day-Lewis--even if you deserve to.

Despite all the ridiculousness celebrities inspire, what I learn in pretty much every awards season is that I'll never cease to be fascinated by them. Not really because I want to shoot movies or be followed by paparazzi, but because being beautiful and rich is something I could totally get on board with. I guess it's hard not to be jealous of a life where money is never an issue, where 8 to 5 at the office is a thing of the past, and where I have people to do things like my calendar scheduling. And my hair. So, yes, I'll never quite get over my fascination with all things Oscar or the pang of longing that surfaces when I flip through the People magazine and see shots of all the people who get to hang out (or live) in New York City...which is apparently everyone.

That said, since I've started writing--more specifically, since I've started writing about my life--I find that I'm much more content with my own circumstances. My own brouhahas and misadventures. Because they are mine, and because they are reality. As I've said before, I gravitate toward books written about real life, by real (read: not famous) people. Because to me, the authors I most enjoy reading are the ones who are good storytellers, regardless of the "grandness" of their content; the ones who can turn an everyday experience into one that is as entertaining as it is insightful. If I can ever get to this point in my own writing, I will consider myself a success. With or without a pixie cut.

NOV
25

Thanks

I've been traveling this week, and it's the first time in probably years that I didn't bring a computer with me. I knew I wasn't going to have time for writing, plus I wanted my focus to be on my family, as they were the entire reason for the trip anyway. I'd be lying if I said I didn't at times feel crazy for being completely disconnected from the land of www, but spending so much quality time with  my family had me really reflecting on how grateful I truly am for the blessings in my life.

Last week a pretty harsh review of Schooled popped up that complained about the lack of opposition, trials, or legitimate "memoir" subject matter in the book. I won't go into how this person sort of missed the universality boat like I did in my popularity spiel inspired by another review (although I certainly could), because my reaction to this latest review has actually been one of gratitude. Not for the review itself, because reading it really sucked, but for the chance it has given me to be grateful for such a trial-free upbringing.

Let's be clear, this is not to say that there have not been trials. But compared to so many in this world, I've been fortunate. My parents are still married, and they treated us and each other with love and respect. We never had a lot, but we always had more than enough for what we needed. I was raised in a religion that gave (and continues to give) me hope and comfort in an increasingly corrupt world. I can see and hear and walk, and I've been able to receive a quality education that has prepared me well for the workforce. I could go on and on. I suppose if I had battled a drug addiction or escaped an abusive situation or been homeless or imprisoned  for a time that I might be selling more books. But personally, I'd rather be me, here, now, in my abundantly blessed yet somewhat less than noteworthy life.

AUG
23

My Brazilian Waxer

As a lover of memoirs, there are a few in particular that I would love to see done. I'd love a lunch lady memoir, a veterinarian memoir for the new generation that perhaps isn't familiar with James Herriot (I should really talk to my parents about this), any teacher memoir is dynamite, and I'm always a sucker for the memoirs of writers themselves (think Eudora Welty, Annie Dillard, Michael Greenberg, Larry McMurtry). While I confess that a 'tales from a brazilian waxer' memoir hadn't ever surfaced on my would-love-to-someday-read list, when I heard that someone had written one, I immediately bought a copy. Because what a fantastic idea for a book! Not only is it bizarre that we Americans want to be hairless, but it's also bizarre that we're willing to walk into a salon and drop our pants for a complete stranger. Think of all the stories, the clients, the custom requests. When it comes to topics, this one would surely be as juicy as it would be entertaining.

While at a recent waxing appointment of my own, I mentioned to my waxer, N, that this book, The Vagina Buffet, was out. Imagine my surprise when N's reaction went something like this: "Noooooooooooo!" Turns out N herself has written a manuscript about life as a brazilian waxer, and now someone has beaten her to the punch. Fortunately for N (but unfortunately for readers), The Vagina Buffet misses the mark. Completely. Instead of focusing on the stories and the clients, the author focuses on vaginas themselves. Period stories, childbirth stories, what's normal and what isn't, etc. There's actually very little focus on her life as a waxer, and the book could not hold my interest. N agreed, and at last week's appointment, we discussed her renewed determination to get her own book out there...which DOES focus on the waxing stories and clients. I gave her the contact info for the wonderful team who helped me with my own book, and I'm happy to report that my fabulous editor will begin on N's manuscript in a matter of days.

Why am I telling you all this? Beats me. I guess I just feel like the whole thing is so fortunate. I mean, what are the odds of me even knowing someone else who has also written a manuscript? And a true testament to the salesperson in me, my greatest satisfaction in life comes from helping connect people to things that they want or need; to things that make their lives easier. And so I loved being able to get N in touch with my book contacts. But perhaps best of all, the world is now one step closer to getting the brazilian waxer memoir that it really wants. The one that will make us drop our jaws in disbelief and howl with laughter at the naughtiness of it all. I just hope I'm not in it! Which, incidentally, is probably how all my friends and family feel about my own manuscripts. At any rate, good luck, N!

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JUN
02

June 2, 1997

Today is the 15th anniversary of the day I wrecked my parents' new car. It's all in the book, so skip to about page 60 if you haven't gotten there yet, and sometimes I wonder why I even put it in there. It remains the most traumatic thing I've ever been through. Not because of the event itself, I mean, people wreck cars every day, but because of my status in life at that point in time. I was fifteen, was just finishing my first year of high school, and (as always) I was very aware of anything that could affect the way my peers perceived me. So showing up at school with a disgustingly bashed-in face and armed merely with the explanation that I had driven my car into a ditch didn't exactly help improve my image among the in-crowd.

But the good thing about growing up and becoming an adult is that perspective kicks in and things that used to mean everything to you eventually come to mean almost nothing. In short, you get over it. You get over the failures and humiliations and horribly misguided outfits. You get over the friends you never had, the opportunities you never got, and the boys that never liked you. You don't forget, mind you, but you get over it. You get so over it that you may even turn all these experiences into a book and let the whole world in on just how unglamorous your early years were. So, yeah, you get over it. It just might take 15 years.

MAY
20

Memoirs I Love

It occurred to me recently that 9 of the last 10 books I've read have been memoirs. Figures. While I can certainly appreciate a well-written novel (I'm just as into things like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter as everyone else), my favorite things to read are memoirs. I just love real life, because if the book is good, there's an extra sense of satisfaction in knowing that it really happened. The author really did accomplish this great thing, conquer this pesky demon, learn this poignant lesson, make it through this unimaginable trial, etc. And if the memoir is more entertaining than serious, that's even better. Because that means the author really did make this big a fool of themselves, say this ballsy thing to that other person, get themselves into this hilarious shenanigan, etc.

One of the first memoirs I ever read was 'Tis. This is of course book 2 in the Angela's Ashes series, but I didn't know that at the time. I simply became engrossed in the story of a penniless Irish boy making his way in America. Some time later I read Teacher Man, book 3 in the series, and loved it too. As a sidenote, the teacher memoir is a dynamite idea. Think of all those lessons learned from students. Such a wealth of experiences to draw from there. To any of you teachers out there, please write memoirs so I can read them! Even though Angela's Ashes is actually the first book in the series, I read it last, and actually enjoyed it the least.

Still one of my all-time favorites in the world of memoirs is The Secret Life of Cowboys. Partly because I've always wanted to be a cowboy, or at least marry one, but mostly because it was about boy studying English who decided to scrap it all and become a cowboy. Not because he knew anything about it, but because he wanted to. And if that isn't the most ballsy move to make in life, then I don't know what is. The truth is, I'm jealous. And reading about horses and cattle and land as he learned about life on a ranch (and eventually bought one himself), was as informative as it was wistful.

And even though I only read this one recently, A Girl Named Zippy is one of the most delightfully hilarious memoirs I've read in a long time. Just a collection of stories from her life growing up in a small town, this is the kind of memoir that has you not only laughing out loud at the situations she got herself into, but also secretly wishing your own younger self had been as clever, stubborn, and interesting. A little reminiscent of Ramona Quimby, I could have kept reading several hundred pages more. And isn't that the point? For an author, I think yes. Yes, it is.

MAY
06

Feeding Back

Amusing things that I've heard so far:

"I have four sisters, and I feel after reading your book like I know you better."

"I feel like I've been inside your head for the last 25 years."

"I feel like I'm reading your diary. I'm impressed that you are THAT gutsy. Gutsy enough to publish your diary."

"It feels almost voyeuristic. Like I'm witnessing all these intimate moments. OK, voyeuristic is probably not the right word."

"I can't wait to see who plays me in the movie."

"Are you the next James Joyce or does all that lowercase mean that Amazon screwed up?"

"You bitch. I can't believe you said that about me."

I'm just kidding about that last one, although some of you might be thinking it. I will say that it has been rather eye-opening to put a book out there that talks about real people, many of whom I love and care about. Because while it was important to me to say exactly what I was thinking and feeling and witnessing at the time, it has literally crushed me to learn of a few people's feelings who were hurt by the book. Discussing this topic--the seemingly dark side of being totally honest--with a former college English professor of mine, he reminded me of a passage from Betsy Lerner's A Forest for the Trees:

"Let’s face it, if in your writing you lift the veil on your family, your community, or even just yourself, someone will take offense. . . . If you write what is most pressing, you are revealing thoughts, secrets, wishes, and fantasies that you (and we as readers) would never otherwise confess to. Most writers, like most children, need to tell. The problem is that much of what they need to tell will provoke the ire of parent-critics, who are determined to tell writer-children what they can and cannot say. Unless you have sufficient ego and feel entitled to tell your story, you will be stymied in your effort to create. You think you can’t write, but the truth is you can’t tell. Writing is nothing if not breaking the silence. The problem is, no one likes a snitch."

As a sidenote, if anyone is looking for a great book about writing, this one is my favorite. I marked this passage (along with many others) the first time I read through it, which was ten years ago. But as to the passage itself, to me it so perfectly captures the dilemma in which I now find myself, and will probably continue to find myself as I write more memoirs. "Maybe you should stick to fiction," someone told me while discussing this very topic. Which would perhaps be the safer thing to do, and I totally would if my brain could think up a story half as entertaining as real life. Until then, I can only stick to what I know. Hey, it's either this or poetry. So consider yourselves lucky.

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APR
14

Let the Wild Rumpus Start

I'm happy to report that Schooled is officially buy-able! I've included the links just below the cover picture on the right, but you can find the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CreateSpace. I'm still working on getting it up on iTunes, so stay tuned on that one.

As the first few readers have gotten back to me with feedback, it feels sort of like an out of body experience. Or maybe that's not the right way to put it. It just feels like this shouldn't really be happening. The concept of having readers was always so abstract, and now it's almost like, "Wait, what? You're reading my book?" People have told me the book makes them laugh, makes them cry, and makes them remember back to their own memories in school. Which was exactly what I was hoping it would do. One reader told me this week that he stayed up until 2:00 AM reading because he didn't want to put the book down. As an author, that's probably the best thing I could possibly hear. Except maybe, "We'd like to pay you a million dollars to publish your book."

Remember, take this book for what it is...ie. not the Great American Novel. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, and that's fine. But if you do like the book, the best thing I could ask you to do would be to please tell your friends and families about it. Remember, this is grassroots. Or maybe the best thing I could ask would be for you to put a review up on Amazon. Or maybe it's to contact me offline if you'd be interested in giving away any of my darling marketing postcards. However you choose to proceed after reading the book, I do hope you choose to tell someone else about it. And I hope it inspires you to get out your yearbooks, look up that old crush, and send a note to your favorite elementary school teacher. Unless he/she's dead, in which case you sort of missed your chance. Hey, you could always write a book.

MAR
26

Background on the First Book

I was barely 21 when I graduated from college, and one of my first tasks after graduation (other than finding a job) was to update my personal history (aka journals) with everything I hadn't had time to pen down during those years. Which was pretty much everything. When I finished, I was struck by two things. First, I realized that the majority of my life up to that point had taken place in a classroom. And second, after looking at everything I'd recorded over the course of my life, I was surprised by how little my school musings actually had to do with education. What I remembered and recorded were the teachers (both good and bad), the classmates (both friend and foe), and the emotions associated with growing up (both triumph and failure).

I realized right then and there that much of what I had written could be turned into a book, a collection of vignette-style lessons that we can probably all relate to. Although as a student I was more concerned than most with the concept of popularity, something that never ceased to elude me. In fact, it still does. No matter. The point of all this was simply to introduce the topic of the first book, which from kindergarten through graduate school will tell of the lessons I learned in school that had nothing to do with textbooks.

Of course the interesting thing about memoirs is that you spend a fair amount of time talking about people. And mine will be no exception. While my books are not even slightly vindictive, it's true that not everyone is painted in the best light. It's not that I have it out for anyone, it's that I'm trying to be as honest as I can about how I felt at the time. But seeing as how I'm a nice person, I do sometimes panic at the thought of hurting a few people's feelings. Case in point: I was in New York City this past weekend and had dinner with a guy I went to business school with. Back then he and I got into a tiff one day, and it so affected me at the time that it made it into this book. Over dinner I assured him that the anger reflected in the book was how I felt then, not now. I'm not sure he believes me, but I suppose this is the risk you run when you start publishing your life. What an interesting spring it will be.

MAR
17

Dear Diary

March 14, 2012: The day the proof copy arrived from the printer. It's a pretty amazing feeling to finally see your book in print. But on the other hand, it's tough to not be critical (read: a perfectionist) when it comes to something you've put so much work into. So while it was indeed a triumphant moment to open the package and behold my little book, a part of me went, "That's it? That's it?"

In actuality, the book looks great. A bit larger than your typical paperback, I was able to pick out everything from cover options to fonts to page numbers to spacing. Underlines or no underlines, caps or no caps, acknowledgements in the front or back, the decisions were endless, and my dining room table (almost never used for food) has been covered with pages from various layout options. To give you a frame of reference, it took me over 2 months of back and forth with my book designer to even finalize the layout of chapter 1.

About the only thing that I find noticeably distracting in my printed book is my author picture. I'll be the first to admit that the quality of the photo is not great. But once you see it, you'll understand what I mean when I say that it's a picture that was low quality from the start, and not exactly one that could be re-shot to get better lighting. In any case, if you find yourself doubting whether it's really me, you're just going to have to take my word for it. Or maybe my kindergarten teacher's. She could probably vouch for me too.

MAR
10

You? A Memoir?

It's like this. I'm about to publish my first book. If you're picturing me having been picked up by a big publishing house and being paid a handsome advance for a first run of 20,000 books, let me bring you back down to reality. For starters, this is a memoir. And I'm an ordinary girl with a textbook normal life who's writing about a rather universal topic. The big publishers won't touch this stuff. So the 'getting published project,' a task I've been at for the past 14 months, has largely been me (along with the little team of very talented people I was lucky enough to get put in contact with) just figuring how to get my book out there.

Translation: This is a grassroots effort, and not an easy one, so please understand up front that any shameless promoting of my books on this website isn't because I'm trying to pass myself off as cooler than I am (ie. backed by a big house), but rather because publishing even a small-scale book is a significant accomplishment. And I'm not just talking about the personal satisfaction of having written a book in the first place. I'm talking about the satisfaction of reaching the end of what has been months and months of wading through various decisions and processes and steps, none of which I knew anything about. So when I say this is a significant accomplishment, I hope you know I mean it.

The typical memoir plays on a unique set of circumstances in a person's life. We've all read them. We've all been fascinated by them. People who have been imprisoned, abused, addicted, or held hostage. People who survived the horror of war, the despair of disease, or the injustice of corruption-riddled countries. We're fascinated by these stories because we can’t possibly imagine what such an experience would be like. Then there is the celebrity memoir. We’re fascinated by these stories too, because what we really want to know is what their lives are like outside of the spotlight; what they were really thinking or feeling during a pivotal moment that the whole world saw on TV.

So what could a person like me possibly have to write a memoir about? The answer, of course, is nothing. Not in the conventional sense of the word, anyway. Because I’m not famous, nor have I lived a particularly fascinating life. Yet life is exactly what I found myself scribbling about in my notebook when I actually sat down to write something substantial. Traditional? No. Refreshing? Absolutely. Because the more I thought about it, the more I came to believe that there is room in the market for a book like this. A series like this. A series of memoirs that celebrate the universal aspects of life we can all relate to.

And that is my hope for you, reader. That you will read my books and remember the times in your life when you were in similarly humiliating, hilarious, or heart-wrenching moments. That you will be reminded of simpler times, perhaps even better times, and come to more fully appreciate the everyday experiences that make up our lives.

Stay tuned for news on the release of the first book!!


Comments from Blogger

Kat said...I love, love, love this! (March 10, 2012 at 3:08 PM)
Cynthia said...Congratulations - I can only imagine the work involved. Are you going to post an excerpt of your book? (March 12, 2012 at 8:54 AM)

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