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MAY
13

Mom

One of the first pieces of feedback I got on this book came from a friend who said something that surprised me. "My favorite character in the book was your Mom," he said. This baffled me. Not because my mom isn't the most angelic person on the planet, but because she's not exactly a main player in the book. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I seemed to remember that she was only even mentioned a handful of times. "Really?" I pushed back. "Yeah, she just comes across as so honest and real," he assured me. And he's not the only person who has commented to me about how well my mom comes out in the book. I guess it's impossible to conceal just how wonderful my mom is.

And on this Mother's Day, I find myself feeling weepy. Not only because my own mother is such a great example to me of goodness, but also because they keep playing that Johnson's Baby commercial ("You're doing okay, Mom") which if you have two X chromosomes is physically impossible to stay dry-eyed through. So in order to get an emotional hold on myself this evening, I'm leaving you with this rather entertaining gem. Not a Mother's Day poem by any means, but one of my BC favorites. Dedicated to my Mom...along with countless lanyards.

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
29

The Party Dress

"There is one day even the most cynical New York woman dreams of all her life," Carrie Bradshaw narrates in a classic SATC episode. "It's her book-release party." Of course, unlike Carrie, I'm not a New Yorker, neither do I have a big publishing house to throw me the bash of the century, but I admit I'd been looking forward to my little party for quite some time. It's always nice to be honored at a party, but usually the reasons for the soirees in my life have been things that I accomplished (like turning 1 year older) without really doing anything special. But this party marked the end of something I've been working on for years, something truly worth celebrating, and I couldn't help but think all throughout the party that I was so glad to be on the other side.

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I'm not into designers and labels the way Carrie is, but that said, I did put some thought into my party dress. While in New York last month, I purchased a rather expensive dress on Fifth Avenue, thinking I could wear it to the party. But shortly after I returned home, I received in the mail what I wait anxiously all year for: my birthday coupon from Anthropologie. My style is much more Anthro than Lord & Taylor, so I decided to buy a second dress option and choose between the two. They were both good options, which is why I can't really explain how I ended up going with neither dress and instead found myself digging out the vintage-esque red number that I bought second-hand. I bought this dress ages ago while visiting my sister. I think she was surprised to see it in my hands, not that I could blame her. Because it's the kind of crapshoot purchase you know is either the cutest thing you've ever worn or the ugliest. And last time this happened (the purchase was a pair of capri overalls), I guessed wrong. They were hideous. But I had a feeling about this red dress. All it needed was a hem job (I'll never understand the mid-calf length) and voila:

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Did I look like a Grandma? Possibly. But did I feel totally at ease and comfortable and completely like myself? Absolutely. And for a party that's all about you, it's important to feel good in your own skin. The only thing I really should have worked out beforehand was my signature. I didn't think it would be that hard to come up with lovely little personalized messages on the spot, but let me just tell you, the mind goes blank people. About the best I could come up with was, "Happy Reading!" Seriously? Happy Reading?? I've got to come up with something better than that. I'm a writer, for crying out loud.

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APR
19

Potty Mouth

It's a little entertaining to me that the topic that has many of my early readers all abuzz is the swearing contained in the book. In truth, I don't really swear much (read: at all) in real life. But as a writer I find some sentences just beg for those words. Inserting them effectively into pivotal moments then is either a gift, or it's simply justification at its finest.

My favorite college English professor is reading the book this week, and he sent me a note saying that he--get this--admires the way I use swear words in my writing. "How did you learn to swear so well?" he asked. Since I grew up never actually using these words, I guess you could say it came to me naturally. Like chess to Josh Waitzkin. He further told me that I have great comic timing, use [swear words] intelligently, and that they don't seem gratuitous. Let's just say that compliments on my ability to swear are not among those I ever thought I would be getting.

Another amusing story came from a girl who grew up with me in a neighboring Oregon town. She loved the book, even read bits of the b-school chapters to her husband as he was packing for--get this--the final trip of his MBA degree. She told me she recommended the book to her siblings, but did warn them about the swearing in case that swayed them one way or the other. Not to be deterred, one of her sisters responded, "I want to read Tali Nay's swearing book!" Which is about the most hilarious thing I've ever heard.

True that the book does contain some adult-ish content, so just be prepared. Or maybe read it first if you're the parent of teenagers who want to read it. But I can promise you this: they hear a lot worse in the halls at school. See what I mean? Justification at its finest.

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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