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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
OCT
03

Vintage October

Somehow I managed to go the entire month of September without blogging, so I'll just catch you up by saying it included a resort getaway in 120 degree weather, an attempt at golfing, an expansion of my super amazing herb garden (pesto on the menu this week!), an almost full return to my pre-injury running distance, and, of course, about a million read-throughs of the new manuscript. And by a million I mean like 4. But still. It does become rather easy to become so fatigued with your own writing that you're pretty convinced that it's terrible.

Editing really is an interesting process. I find as I get older and write more books that it does get easier to cut things out if they don't need to be there or if they make the story worse. Certain stories I've fought for in the past, sure they were good enough to include, or maybe it's just I really wanted to tell them, whether or not they fit. Certain stories it took my editor recommending I scrap them for me to realize that them fitting is more important than how attached to them I am. Sort of like the time I moved to New York and had to get rid of almost all of my possessions, in that once you make up your mind that only the best most favorite things can be kept, it becomes relatively easy to part with everything else. If I've learned anything about life, it's how little you actually need.

And now it's October, and for the first time (thanks to my sister), I put up Halloween decorations! I've got a great costume in the works and some pumpkin spice muffins ready to roll as soon as this California heat dies down a bit and I can use my sorry excuse for an oven without fraculating the entire house. Fall does make me pine for New York, and for Cleveland before it. Fall is just the best, and sometimes it seems like it would even be worth putting up with snow again for. (I know, I sound crazy.) But really, there's nothing like fall in Ohio, if you can just get past all the Ohio State crap in people's yards. I hope that however you're celebrating fall and Halloween this month, that you take a moment to reflect on simpler times and years. This picture was a nice reminder of such a time for me. There have been and will be better times for all of us, and at the very least, there will be another of my books to read in 2021! 

AUG
30

Re-arranging

Sometimes it's hard to know whether you like something so much because you get used to it the way it is or because it's actually good. It's a quandary I find myself in after finishing a manuscript, because there's usually an initial order in which I write and organize my stories. And I do get used to them being in this order, to the point that it can be hard for me to tell if they would be better if I changed some of them up, switch their orders, etc. Or more specifically, it's hard for me to actually move them, even if I do think they would be better in a different chapter.

Most of my books I don't write in order. I simply pick a story that sounds good to me in that moment and write it. Then I pick another one. I don't really think about order or sequence until all the stories are written. This is, I believe, the first time I've ever written a book in the actual chronological order in which it will appear in the book. As such, when I laid out all the stories (with this super sophisticated process of writing their key words on pieces of cut up printer paper), I didn't find as many things to move around, because they were pretty much where I wanted them to be. I only moved two stories after laying this all out, and, if I'm being honest, I've already moved both of them back to where they were. Again, it's like, is this just because I'm used to it that way or because it really is better? 

There are two additional stories that I feel *could* potentially be moved somewhere else, but I can't find anywhere that I feel their placement would be better than where it is now. So I'm inclined to leave them where they are. Which would make this the first time that I really did just write a book from start to finish in exactly the order in which everything will read in the final version. Something about that feels...cool? Neat? Interesting? Just me? OK.

I've probably mentioned that this is a book about work, and it's also the first time that I've finished a book and then had to write an epilogue because events happened that sort of affected the ending. Then more events happened and I had to edit the epilogue. Seriously, it's been just about the weirdest couple of weeks at work that I've ever had. Talk about re-arranging! Who knows what the ending will be by the time this thing actually comes out?? Stick around and see...hopefully summer/fall of 2021.

AUG
04

When you want a Mint Julep

It wasn't just that, though. It's not that I even wanted a mint julep. I wanted a Disneyland mint julep--the super sweet, non-alcoholic beverage purchased in New Orleans Square and accompanied by a bag of warm beignets. One could argue that the mint julep really had nothing to do with it, that really I just wanted to go to Disneyland. Or, more to the point, I want a world in which we can go to Disneyland, and anytime we want. It's an escape that I count on regularly, and I know it's a first world problem, but I miss it.

I've actually attempted multiple copycat Disneyland treat recipes while in quarantine, and what they all have in common, including the mint juleps, is that they taste nothing like the real thing. This could, of course, just be a product of my kitchen skills (when the BF recently told me a meal I had cooked was in his top 5 of things that I make and I asked him what else is on the list, he couldn't think of anything), it's probably because nothing short of being there is going to taste at all like the real thing. And there are so many real things, beyond just Disneyland, that I miss terribly. 

I do feel the need to point out that all the mint used to make my mint juleps was grown from my very own herb garden, something I doubt I would have attempted outside of quarantine. And I feared my gardening skills were akin to my kitchen skills when my first attempt yielded nothing but a single tiny sprig of cilantro--a sprig that was eaten by a bird just when it had begun to look promising. My second attempt has flourished, and I'm taking a rather unusual amount of pride in harvesting my own basil to make homemade pesto (which, yes, is actually something I have now done) and snipping cilantro to put in my soups. 

I also used quarantine to start running for the first time in my life. As in I have never been a runner. Ever. It looks awful to me and always has, yet I'm such a sucker for the idea of working toward and finishing a race. As surely the only person on earth who cried at the end of Brittany Runs a Marathon, I figured it was worth a shot. (Running, that is.) And although every run confirms to me that it doesn't just look awful, it IS awful, there is satisfaction in doing something that is hard, something that is new, and something that can be improved upon over time. I was surprised in the progress I made in just 6 weeks, and even more surprised still that 6 weeks is all it took to develop a debilitating case of pes anserine tendonitis. So it may take another 6 weeks before I can so much as take a walk, but what, really, could I have done? Besides maybe learn that I am incredibly over-pronated and gotten the appropriate amount of stability before beginning a running regimen. But that's neither here nor there.

In short, I'm finding small joys in new areas, and on most days, that feels like a win. I've also been savoring the experience of finishing my new manuscript. When last I wrote, I claimed I was really going to slow down, so as to more effectively savor the writing process. Right. I totally finished it. More on that later. For now, it's time to water the herbs and ice my knee. Just another day in quarantine.

 

 

 

JUL
13

Scene Stealer...and a Book Update

This is, of course, a shot of my cat stealing the show during my reading for the San Diego Public Library website. She did it almost the whole time, turning around, stretching out, turning back around, and while I probably should have just re-shot the video, I went with it. Because this is real life people. We are at home, quarantined with our pets. I do think it was a fun idea the library had, to do these story time videos with authors reading from their own books, and if you are at all inclined to look through them, definitely do it. They are pretty easy to find once you get to the website.

In other quarantine news, I continue to write my new book at record pace. I'm 80% done if this one turns out to be the length that 3 of my first 4 books have been. I suspect it will finish a bit longer, which I guess technically means I'm less than 80% done, but the point is, most of the book is written, which is crazy. I feel like Newbie just came out. It's also a little bit sad, because the writing is my favorite part. Once that's over and I switch into editing mode, I lose the biggest part of the creative process. And then I miss it. So I think I might stretch out this last 20% of the manuscript writing and really savor every word. These days, anything that can be savored seems like just the ticket.

JUN
21

On The Road Again

It's been over twenty years since, as a high schooler, I set foot on the campus where I would eventually attend college. I was attending a summer honors program that accepted 25 high-schoolers across the country and gave them the chance to get some early college credits. I still think of this small farming town fondly, and last week I got the chance to visit. The college has since expanded into a full-fledged university, and the way this little town has grown and flourished was exciting to see. Of course, the sentimental side of me always pines for the way things used to be, and sometimes change in any form, even positive change, can seem, well, kind of sad. The dorm I lived in, for example, has been torn down and replaced by a parking lot. The pie shop where I celebrated my 19th birthday has closed. The green hillsides are covered with new apartments and condos, distracting from the purity of the view.

This visit was part of a 5-state road trip that seemed appealing after so many months of staying at home. With my co-pilot handling navigation, music, and snacks, we set out to see some different slices of earth as a way to remind ourselves of just how much there is outside of our own small corner of the world. The ultimate prize was a brief 24 hours spent in the company of some of my family, but the majority of the trip was driving, and in some ways, it's simply amazing how varied the terrain gets within just a few hours of the places where we live. Mountains, desert, and ridiculously hot weather. Each night spent somewhere new, each morning a different granola bar or piece of fruit handed over from a front-desk hotel worker. There's something peaceful about being on the road, being temporarily attached to nowhere, and despite the exhaustion of several days of driving, the less than stellar hotel beds and pillows, and the digestive distress that comes from eating foods you wouldn't normally be eating (just me?), arriving back home has felt, for lack of a better term, somewhat boring. I suppose that's the power of the open road, of not knowing what exactly you'll find just beyond that next mountain.

JUN
07

Reading Your Work

I recently did an interesting thing. I read through all my books. Since I've only recently become a Kindle user, I'd never before read them on Kindle. So I decided it might be interesting thing to see what they all look like, what the experience is like reading them electronically. There are small annoyances, like having to either click forward to see footnotes and then click back, or waiting until the end of the chapter to see them, at which point you forget what they were supposed to apply to in the first place. But, as I've previously mentioned, reading books on Kindle is, well, kinda nice. 

The oddest thing about reading your own books is that there are parts you don't remember putting in there. There are events and experiences you may have forgotten, or at least forgotten how exactly it is that they went down. And for my first book especially, granted I wrote it over ten years ago, the writing struck me as...not great. Or at the very least, it made me wish I could re-write it now. Of course, that book more than any other deals with childhood and adolescence, and the more simple writing style was to some extent what I was going for.

This is all to say that the most striking thing about reading all my books, in order and back to back, is how much better the writing gets. My editor mentioned this to me after reading the Newbie manuscript, but until reading them all myself this past week, I hadn't really understood what she meant. Part of me is a tad embarassed over this, when it comes to the older books not being as polished as perhaps they could be, but it also makes me proud to see the progress I've made as a writer. Besides, everyone has to start somewhere, right? I can only hope that I continue to improve over time. Now 60% done with manuscript #5, I'm certainly getting lots of practice!

MAY
15

Reopening: Beaches Edition

It's an interesting thing living at the beach when all the beaches are closed. Though for the best, it's part eerie and part sad to look out over the coastline and see not a single person on the beach or in the water. Of course, the headline here in California has been that the beaches have begun to reopen. Well, they opened, then closed after opening day saw crowds blatantly ignoring social distancing precautions, and now have reopened again. 

In my own corner of the coast, I confess it's nice to see people back on the beach, and so far the crowds have been light. You can't sit or gather or "hang out," you've pretty much got to keep it moving (ie. surfing, walking, and running), which I'm sure is contributing to the low turnouts thus far. We'll see how things change as summer arrives, but it's nice to have the beach back as a possibility, if only as an alternate route for my daily walk.

Other ways I pass the time include attempting copy-cat recipes for Disneyland treats (the withdrawal struggle is real, folks) and plugging away on my new manuscript, which is now more than 40% done. It's certainly not ALL bad, staying at home, but I'm definitely looking forward to more things reopening. Particularly my waxing salon (that struggle is especially real). I'd love to look out over a crowded beach and instead of worry over the potential spread of a virus simply think to myself that it's just summer. 

APR
25

The Argument for Kindle

Honestly, I never wanted one. I've never had any interest in giving up the reading of actual books. Holding them in my hands and turning the pages and hefting them with me on planes and keeping them stacked on my bedside table. I also never wanted to give up the library, and having reason to go there and select my next book. I've really never even considered getting a Kindle.

Had I not been gifted one for my recent birthday, I would have continued to stick to my guns on this, but the fact that the libraries are closed has put me in a bit of a reading pickle. In that my only option really is to use the Kindle. So I'm now in this, if a bit begrudgingly, and felt the need to just sum up how a non-Kindle user (a real book preferer) feels after having begun using a Kindle.

In short, I don't hate it. And I sort of hate that I don't hate it.

Benefits include: having immediate access to pretty much any book, how small and light and easy to transport it is, that you don't have to shine a light on it at night in order to see what you're reading.

Things I find annoying include: being limited to only seeing a couple of paragraphs at a time, having to pay money to read books as opposed to getting them for free at the library.

I still feel like my preferred method of reading is to have an actual book in my hand, and maybe I'll always feel that way. But that said, I am surprised by how much I do enjoy using the Kindle, and once libraries open back up, I can see myself still sometimes forgoing the books on my nightstand and instead choosing to swipe open the Kindle. But only sometimes.

APR
14

Quarantine Cats

This post communicates so much. That I've devolved into a near constant wearing of sweats and padding around the house in my socks. That my cat continues to live her best life. That I'm reading much more than usual. That I am indeed a gem. And that my single 10-pound weight means that I am obviously very strong.

What it doesn't so much communicate but what is absolutely true is that I am now more than 20% done with my new manuscript. My new book!! It continues to be a fun project to work on...since there are literally no other options. I may finish this one in record time. 

MAR
30

Quarantine Silver Linings

In a world where working from home has become the new norm, headlines are grim, and fear and anxiety reign supreme, it can be difficult to stay positive. And when we do manage to shift our mindset, feeling positive can feel, well, a bit inappropriate knowing there are so many out there who are suffering. But striving to stay positive has to be a part of our daily routine, and I for one have started to really focus on the small, happy things that are coming from this otherwise awful situation.

The writer in me is grateful for the extra writing time I'm getting. I've started working on my next book, my FIFTH (yikes!!), and I'm really enjoying the process. I know I'm totally biased, but I really think writing is one of the best creative outlets, and given how much extra time everyone is getting at home, if you're a person at all inclined to write, to wax prolific on any number of topics or plots, then open those blank Word documents and start typing!

The employee in me is grateful to still be working, and that, at least for now, my job is one that I can do from home. I know many are not so fortunate, and even though it's a tad boring and my house is super tiny, having the ability to work here is a huge blessing and I feel that every day.

The reader in me is grateful that Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is the book I got stuck with before all the libraries closed. I had been waiting for my turn for months, and it is one of the best books I've read in years.

The partner in me is grateful to have a significant other who is so technologically savvy, and who has set me up with a functioning work station and is so quick to help with anything I can't figure out. He's even gifted me a Kindle as an early birthday present so I can continue to have reading material. (More on the Kindle in another post. I have thoughts.)

The pet parent in me is grateful that my cat is so damn happy to have me home.

The daughter/aunt/sister in me is grateful that my family has been so much more connected. We've been using FaceTime and Google Duo, and even though we're ALWAYS apart, we've really not been leveraging these options until now. On Friday night alone, we talked with each of my siblings, and over the weekend I got to participate in some virtual game time with my nephews and watch my new baby niece shake her little fists. It delights me to see all the family time everyone is getting.

The consumer in me is grateful for Amazon workers who still deliver packages, to store clerks restocking the shelves, restaurateurs still cooking food for takeout, and producers still releasing binge-worthy content.

Most of all, the human in me is grateful for the doctors and nurses who are working tirelessly to help and treat those who are battling this virus. I'm not sure I'll be able to say at the end of this that neither me nor anyone I love got sick, and that's a terrifying thought, for all of us, but let's do what we can to foster positivity and be grateful for every little thing.

MAR
07

The Purest Kind of Diamond

What you see here is a picture of my diamond going through a deep UV test in a diamond grading laboratory. In this kind of heavy UV, all diamonds will fluoresce blue, and I just think the whole thing is so beautiful. Remember that I'm not just an author, I'm a gemologist. (See my second book, Jeweled, for lots of stories about jewelry, and my fourth book, Newbie, for stories about studying gems in New York City.)

There's a relatively new device my company sells that is designed to detect natural diamonds. With the increase of laboratory-grown diamonds in the marketplace, it's become almost a necessity for these kinds of devices that can identify stones that may be lab-grown, or even something different from a diamond altogether. And it's always bothered me that my diamond doesn't pass on our device. Of course, we sell the device with the caveat that there is a very rare type of diamond that will not pass, so I knew this was a possibilty. But given the rarity of such diamonds, I figured the odds of my diamond being one of these were pretty small. So it bothered me. Like, why wouldn't my diamond pass? Was it laboratory-grown?

I get asked a lot about my opinion on laboratory-grown diamonds. It's not an entirely specific question. I mean, are they real? Absolutely. Chemically identical to natural diamonds? Yes. Should consumers have the option? Certainly. Would I ever want one? No. Because the whole reason why I became a gemologist, why all things gem are so fascinating to me, is because it takes a whole host of certain conditions and elements in order for gems to form. They each need different things, and when those conditions are right and those elements are present, they will form, imperfectly, over a long period of time. It's such a romantic notion, certainly much more so than enormous warehouses that create these conditions and essentially stack the deck. What kind of story is that? I don't even buy that it's more friendly to the earth, especially given how much energy these warehouses use to produce the diamonds. But, again, this is my own opinion, and the reason why it bothered me so much that my diamond didn't pass on our device.

The great thing about being a part of this industry is that instead of wonder about it, I could get the facts. I had my diamond's lab report looked up, and based on all the additional tests that labs run on diamonds which don't show up on the actual reports, I learned that my diamond IS in fact one of the rare 1% of D-Z colorless diamonds that contain no traces of nitrogen or boron and so will not pass on our diamond tester. It's not so much my diamond's rarity that delights me. I consider them all to be rare and beautiful and precious. I think it's more that these things can be determined in the first place. That we can figure them out. There's so much we can learn about gems, the way they form, and the places they form, and doesn't it fill you will just a little bit of relief that there are people out there who find delight in such an unusual, specific thing? It doesn't? I guess just me then. I can live with that.

FEB
15

Back in the Saddle

I always give myself a nice long writing break after a book comes out. It's relaxing. So much so that when I start thinking about starting the next book, it makes me feel a bit stressed. Like, am I ready for that? Do I want to do that? Do I really want to do that? And so I stall. Until I can talk myself into putting my big girl writer pants back on and getting on with it.

Which is my way of saying that I have officially gotten on with it and begun a new book. I'm only a few thousand words in, but it's been a delicious reminder of how much I really do love writing. It's not a chore (aside from actually finding the time to do it), and each topic gives me the chance to delve into a different chapter of life and remember what it was like. This one I am particularly enjoying, but for a completely different reason than why I enjoyed writing Newbie so much. 

This book is not without risk, which is something I'll have to evaluate as I get further into it, but for now, I think there's a way I can write it and keep myself out of trouble. One can only hope.

JAN
26

How a Writer Measures Time

I have this thing I do, where if I buy something in bulk, I try and calculate the amount of time it will take before I need to buy it again. Then I picture what life might be like at that time; what might have happened in my life by then. And please understand that when I say I picture it, I really do. I spend moments of time waxing pensive over all the different possibilities, the different versions of life that may have played out.

For illustration's sake, let's take q-tips. I buy them in bulk at Costco, 3 packs each containing 625 q-tips. This is 1875 q-tips, which at my normal rate of using 2 q-tips per day, means that they will last 937 days. For those keeping track at home, that is two-and-a-half years. And what will my life be like then? What things will have happened (or not)? Will I be in this relationship? Will I be in another? Will I be at this company, in this house, in this city, this state? Will I be healthy? Will my cat? I'm finishing one of these bulk packs right now, getting ready for the new one, which means nearly two-and-a-half years ago I had this same internal conversation, wondering what my life would be like at this point. It's not exactly that I make goals and measure myself against them. I don't even remember what I had even thought back then, if I had particular hopes for this moment. I can say that my life is certainly different in a few ways, and in many more it is the same. I suppose it's the unknown of it all that has me once again envisioning what another two-and-a-half years might look like.

It reminds me of a recent This American Life podcast where Ira Glass and team were exploring the idea of alternate universes. It's a topic that will probably get any writer waxing pensive, because this whole idea of all the other ways life could have turned out based on different decisions made is almost paralyzing fascinating. It's the Sliding Doors principle (that Gwyneth Paltrow movie where two different versions of her life are played out based only on whether she makes a particular train one night or if she doesn't), where something so simple can change the course of a life. I went to graduate school with a girl who, after graduation, treated herself to a trip to Europe where she met a man after getting on the wrong train. The wrong train! They married and have four children, but what if she hadn't gotten on that wrong train? What if she'd found the correct train? 

Some physicists believe that for every decision we make, there is an alternate universe that exists in which we make the opposite decision. I'd give anything to take a peek into those realities and see how things would have shaken out, how happy I appear to be compared to the reality of this universe that I have chosen. Of course, that's not possible. We have only this one universe, this single pack of q-tips by which to measure our progress. So I guess I'll see you in another two-and-a-half years.

JAN
12

All for Free at Your Library

There's something about having your book(s) in the library that makes an author feel legitimate. I confess that due to my status an unknown to the majority of the literary world, most libraries probably do not carry my books. Which makes it extra special when they do. Call numbers. Shelf space. Holds. Simply having your name in the library catalog as a searchable author is delight enough.

That said, it's a bit of an evolution of thought, the implications of having a book in the library. Because every reader who checks it out is one less reader who will buy it. For instance, if we rewind back to when I was announcing the release of this book and sending out invitations to the launch party, I was surprised by how many people responded to the news and the invitation by asking if the book was available in the library. As an author announcing that a book years in the making is finally out in the world and available, it's hard not to be a bit offended when people jump right to the "Can I read it without having to buy a copy?" stage. Because I'm going to tell you right now, if a friend or someone you know well has written a book, you should probably just buy it. I'm serious. Yet selling books in today's world remains incredibly difficult, even to the people in your own circle.

So, yes, as an author it can frustrate me, but as a reader, I understand. Almost all of the books I read are those that I've checked out from my local library, a habit I picked up as an unemployed student living in a 350-square-foot apartment in Manhattan. So I get it. I read first and buy later, and only those books that leave me feeling a particular combination of influenced and inspired. As I've always explained to people who ask about book selling, a book isn't like a piece of jewelry or art, something that you can see right away and know that you love. Buying books is such a crapshoot, so I get why readers hesitate, why they opt to rent books as opposed to buy them. Which is why I will always hope to be included in library catalogs. Because bottom line: I want my books to be read. So come and get it, San Diego!

DEC
28

Gifts for a Cat Lady

This is really a public service announcement for all cat owners, because this cat cave was the official hit of Christmas. But this is also just because it's worth mentioning that when you have a cat, the gifts you receive tend to take on a common theme. It's not a problem, exactly. There's no reason why my house shouldn't be full of cat-covered or cat-related items...and yet, should it? 

I actually find most cat items adorable, just as I find most cats. Like the picture I just saw online of the cat up for adoption that looks like baby Yoda. Yet it's surprising how much simply having a cat makes these items appeal to the gift-givers in your life. I have countless pairs of cat socks, multiple cat blankets, stationery, bag clips, pillows. This Christmas alone I received, in addition to the cat cave pictured above, a cat-shaped ornament with space for a picture of your own cat, funny knitted paw covers for the kitchen chairs, a cat-themed tote bag, a 1000-piece cat puzzle, and a cat ring holder. 

I guess it's endearing, really. And I'm happy to be associated with cats if that's what it brings me, if that's what people think of when they think of how much I love my cat. It's been almost an entire decade with my petite tabby, and it occurred to me this week that this was the first Christmas I've spent with her. (As opposed to traveling.) There was something special about her interest in the wrapping paper and boxes, the cinnamon rolls coming out of the oven, and the new cat cave she promptly curled up in. So, yeah, bring on the cat gifts. I'm really the perfect audience. 

DEC
15

Launch Aftermath

Aftermath is probably the wrong word, but it's always interesting as an author to go through the first couple of months after a book launch. Of course, my circle of readers and fans is quite small, so take anything I say with a grain of reality salt, but it's nice to hear tidbits of feedback as they come in from readers. I heard from a friend on the east coast that she'd just finished Newbie and loved it. A coworker bought a copy and asked me to sign it. My sweet mother bought a bunch of copies to give as Christmas gifts. I donated a book basket at a Christmas party auction last weekend and the lady who won contacted me through my website and told me how excited she is. And this picture was taken from a recent work trip where one of our client attendees brought in her copy for me to sign.

I mention these, and revel in them so much, because my aforementioned small readership means I don't get too many of them. So I feel ridiculously tickled every time it happens, knowing each happy reader is something extraordinarily special to me. Should you ever find yourself with a copy of one of my books and enjoy it, of course I hope you'll tell someone else about it, but I also hope you'll drop me a line and tell me what parts make you smile. I guarantee it will make my day.

DEC
01

Gratitudey

I'm grateful for this pie, which I made, which almost never happens. And I'm grateful for all the delicious food I consumed this week, for my little house, my cat, my health, my job, my friends, the people who buy my books. In thinking about all of this, about how grateful I am for circumstances that, while not perfect, are certainly fortunate, my thoughts always gravitate toward my family.

You could say it's because holidays are usually full of them, family, or because most (dare I say almost all) of my Thanksgivings have happened in the company of some amount of them, either where I live, where they live, where none of us live. This Thanksgiving was unique, in that I was away from my family. From all of them. On my own and cooking just for two (everything turned out smashingly except the rolls, which I can't even talk about), I confess it felt strange to consider what a family-less Thanksgiving would be like, but I needn't have worried. Because the thing about a family like mine is that you feel connected to them in these times of love and gathering and gratitude even when you're apart. We texted, we FaceTimed, we talked on the phone. I knew what they were doing and laughed with their kids and awed over their freshly-assembled Christmas trees. I didn't feel like I was missing out. I felt like I was there. 

What I'm most grateful for then is that I have this kind of family in the first place. The kind that sees each other as often as we can, the kind that maintains traditions, the kind that keeps in touch, the kind that asks for last minute recipe advice, the kind that enjoys being together. What I probably don't ackowledge enough is how lucky I am that this is what I have, what I've always had. There are those in my life for whom this seemingly constant stream of togetherness, kindness, and familial love can trigger an almost sadness, an acute awareness of not having had anything like it. Ever. And how does one respond to that? What can a person do to make it better for those who did and do not have what I have? Short of sharing my family with the world, which I wish I could do, I'm going to double my gratitude efforts. I don't want to forget, even for one moment, how lucky I am, this season and always. I also don't want to make rolls from scratch again. Like, ever.

NOV
09

An Afternoon at King's English Bookshop

Last weekend's book signing at King's English Bookshop was significant for a few reasons. First, Utah is cold, so the weekend was memorable in and of itself and left me (and my coat) wondering how we ever used to handle cold weather on the regular. Second, unlike signings in my own backyard, coming back to Salt Lake City after not living there for almost a dozen years meant that so many of the people who came out to the bookstore were people I hadn't seen in a very long time. Some close to 20 years. And isn't that just a little crazy? So are worlds colliding, which is what happens when you have a very crowded bookstore full of family, friends, former roommates, former classmates, people from your hometown, and former church colleagues. It's a melting pot of your own life history. 

The third reason that last weekend's signing was significant is that it marked the first time I've ever done a reading. I've always shied away from them in the past, I suppose in part because I get nervous reading my own books, but mostly because a reading seems a little silly when you're someone who's not actually famous. I mean, I'm not exactly JK Rowling. I'm not even known much beyond my own friends and family. So what would really compel people to hear my own measly thoughts about my own measly book, the details of how it came to be, snippets of my favorite passages? Yet there I was, reading and talking to a group of people in a slightly overheated room of children's books and totally loving it. Did I turn bright red and wish that sort of thing didn't happen to me when on the spot? Yes. Did several show up late or miss the reading entirely? Yes. Do I wish I didn't talk so fast? Of course. But I loved having the chance to tell readers a bit about the book, what it means to me, and what I hope they'll like about it. I loved reading a few passages and seeing when people laughed and when they didn't. I loved feeling like an author.

Here's to Salt Lake. Here's to King's English Bookshop. And here's to (hopefully) more readings in the future.

OCT
26

Afternoon at Warwick's

I suppose the only negative thing about having a book signing at Warwick's is that you don't get to spend the time you're there perusing the store. And believe me, once you've been to Warwick's, you'll for sure want to peruse the store. Every corner of it. Yet I was otherwise engaged on Sunday afternoon, signing copies of my new book, and for that I couldn't have been happier. 

The first signing of a book is usually a bit telling. You learn things. About the book. About yourself. This signing marked the most books I've ever sold to strangers in any given setting. And to an author, while selling books to the friends and family who have come to a signing to support you is immensely satisfying, there's an additional satisfaction (and sense of confidence about the book) that comes when people who don't even know you buy your book. When "regular customers" in a bookstore on a random Sunday afternoon ask what your book is about and smile when they hear the answer and then take a copy with them to the counter to purchase. 

Last weekend's signing made clear to me that there is something about dreams, about going after them, that resonates with people. There's something about forging new paths, about trying new things, about recalling that time you did that thing you always wanted to do that makes people remember times in their lives when they did the same. That's why I write books, and it's all I can hope for as an author.

Thank you, San Diego, for such a wonderful day. Salt Lake City, I'm coming for you next.

SEP
29

And....it's Out!!!

At long last, my new book is officially out! I've said this before, that it's strange to think that this thing that has taken years of effort and preparation can be read in a matter of a few hours. But I suppose that's the point, and I hope for anyone who reads it that those few hours provide opportunity for you to look back on your own life adventures, be it moving to a big city, changing career paths, or going after that long-held dream.

Dreams are why I like this book so much, because it reminds me that I did it. I went "all in" for a dream. Not because it was a guarantee or because I had any idea if it would work. In fact, having given up so much to try and make it happen, I spent a fair amount of my New York City time worrying over whether I'd made a terrible and irreversible mistake. But that's what dreams require of us. And how often can we say that we've done it? We've gone after them? We've made sacrifices for them, taken risks for them, worried over them, bettered ourselves for the chance of them?

I used to live in Cleveland, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is one of my favorite things in that city. It's so full of dreams, the evidence of dreams achieved, as well as those gone wrong or cut short. Amidst all the things inside, my favorite was a wall with a picture of Billy Joel at the piano. Below the picture was a quote from Billy that has never let me go: "If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time." I wrestled somewhat with the quote, because, come on Billy, we can't all be rockstars. But on the other hand, I can honestly say that this quote is one of the things that most inspired me to quit my job and pursue gemology. Because maybe we can be rockstars. Maybe we can each get at least a little closer to actually paying the bills with those things we are most passionate about. That is why I like this book so much. And I hope you will too.