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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
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.

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!

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.

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
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
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.

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.

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.

SEP
08

Newbie in New York

My new book launch is next month, and after all the years of work that go into writing a book, it's hard to believe it's so close now. It's also hard to believe, and sometimes a bit frustrating, that this thing that took multiple years of effort can be read in a matter of hours. It's sort of like why I hate cooking. All that time and effort for something that is eaten in a matter of minutes. But that's the way of it. The goal, in fact. To provide a few hours of entertainment, escape, retability for my readers. 

This picture was taken in Central Park, where I got a chance to do a final read-through of the proof copy of Newbie. It was wonderful to be in New York City while reading it, because the book is about my time living in New York, and so many of the places I love and remember featured into the trip. I'd pause and smile when passing the International Gem Tower where I studied gemology, or think back while at a particular restaurant or park to the last time I had been there. It's a phase of life I'm so glad I got to have, and it's a book about doing something I'd always wanted to do in a place where I'd always wanted to live, and I can't wait to share it with you.

JUN
23

If It Looks Like a Book

I considered taking the printed versions of interior layout options for my new book elsewhere before spreading them out and making desicions. My cat always makes a mess of it, assuming the freshly stacked piles of paper have been put there for her to run around on, which she does, making it impossible for me to make any progress. The same thing happens when I make the bed, by the way. But the thought occurred to me that it's tradition, really, the book's christening by cat footprints, and so I couldn't quite bring myself to do it without her.

The cover for this new book was finalized earlier this month, always an exciting day, but there's something even more special about moving on to the book's interior layout, in that you're actually seeing how the book will look and feel to readers. Doing this in such a small-scale, grass roots way means I have a lot of say in these decisions, and that's incredibly satisfying. What would be even more satisfying is selling books, which I don't do much of, so there are definite cons to not being backed by a large publishing house.

But it is what it is. I write books that I think are fun to read, and this one's getting closer and closer to completion. You can bet my cat will be on hand to celebrate every step of the process. Especially those that involve things that can be stepped on.

MAR
22

Changes

It’s a strange thing, getting your manuscript back from the editor. On one hand, she’s paid to help you make it better. On the other hand, she gone done marked up this precious thing you’ve spent years working on. And you’d really rather she just find it perfect as is. I realize this latter scenario isn’t realistic. And if she’d told me it was perfect, she probably wouldn’t be a very good editor. But this does mean that I’ll be spending the weekend sifting through a sea of red marks, trying to sort out how to now make the book better based on her edits, feedback, and suggestions.

The editing process in general requires a lot of restraint on the part of a writer. You have to actively stop yourself from being too attached to any one part of the book, from getting a bit defensive at the constructive criticism aimed at this thing you’ve put so much heart and soul into. Because this is the way you want it. This is the way you like it. This is the way you wrote it. It hits me fresh with each new book, the manuscript returned to me peppered with suggested changes. It initially feels quite icky. Oh, hell no am I cutting that part. Or turning that complex sentence into three short and simple ones. Psssshhhh. But it helps to remember that readers won’t necessarily interpret things the way I believe I’m putting them across. They won’t necessarily know what I’m referencing by mentioning, say, a John Cusack movie while inside of Serendipity (doesn’t that one seem obvious, though?), or, perhaps, a poem about what happens to a dream deferred (Langston Hughes, anyone?).

The important thing about this manuscript--and all other manuscripts my editor has handed back to me over the near decade I’ve been working with her—is that there were no major problems that needed fixing. From timing to organization to structure, this one was given a pass. Which is really what I’m looking for with a manuscript, hoping I’ve gotten it to a point where any changes that need to be made are of a small, grammatical variety. Sentences shortened, typos removed, awkward wording replaced. Having achieved this once again is what I’ll be striving to focus on as I go through the marked-up pages this weekend. Cake, right? Let’s hope.

MAR
03

Tiny Beautiful Things

I probably mentioned back in the summer of 2017 that I was reading a book called Tiny Beautiful Things when my suitcase was stolen off of a plane. The book had me spellbound, such that I had to finish the final few pages before getting up. I was at the back of the plane and likely had some time before it was my turn anyway. Had I looked up, I would have seen someone taking my suitcase from the overhead bin and walking off with it. But I didn't look up. I couldn't.

And having now seen the play adapted from the book, I confess a similar sensation came over me, in that I couldn't look away. The neatest thing to me about the book is the letters that comprise it are real letters. Written by real people. So instead of just imagine Cheryl Strayed writing to these very real people who have written about very real, very personal, and in some cases very complex issues and questions, we now get to watch as someone portraying Strayed takes painstaking care to address each person who has written to her as the cherished, searching, and desperate souls they truly are. It's pretty powerful stuff, both the depths of character these letter-writers pull from as well as the boundless empathy that such a unique and textured life allows Strayed to pull from as well.

If the play comes to a theater anywhere near you, go see it. If it doesn't (or even if it does), read the book. You will be inspired. You will be bettered. You will need to keep an eye on your suitcase.

FEB
18

The Hand-Off

This picture is really just because my cat feels like she doesn't get mentioned enough on this blog. Also because I was out of town and we are happy to be reunited. But mostly because the activity in this picture (reading) is significant. Having turned in manuscript #4 to my editor, it means I once again have time for books and the reading of them. 

My editor is the only one who reads my books before they're typeset. This is probably stupid. But it's what I'm most comfortable with. I figure people have different opinions, and the more hands I have in the pot (in the form of people who have read the manuscript), the more feedback I'll get--most likely differing feedback--and at the end of the day, it should come down to my own opinions of how I want this book to be. Not anyone else's.

Needless to say, what my editor thinks of the books is incredibly important to me. Not just because she catches typos and things that could probably be worded better, but also because she's my only test reader. The only one I can ask if a certain thing is offensive or if the timeline is confusing. And so I wait in what I would describe equal parts excitement and anxiety for her to send her edits and overall feedback, hoping beyond hope that she thinks it works, and that she enjoys reading it. 

That's what I hope for all readers, of course. That they settle in for a few hours of escape, feeling upon the book's end that they've truly been somewhere, even if that somewhere is simply somewhere other than where they usually are. 

DEC
02

Manuscript #4: Done

Every weekend I put "write" on my to-do list, which is why this weekend is significant. It's the first time in a couple of years that "write" has been replaced with "edit." Because my fourth manuscript is officially done. There's a lot of work still to do, but I cannot emphasize what a big deal it is to get the writing all down. To finish the last few paragraphs and know that you've come to the natural stopping place. That it all feels done. 

Of course, for me, when I say the manuscript is done, this doesn't mean that it's ready to hand over. I have months of editing to do, not to mention organization and chronology, since I'm the odd memoir writer who does not write in anything resembling chronological order. I just pick a piece or scene or topic and write it up, then pick another one the next time I get a chance to write. So right now it's not in the order I want it to be for you readers. 

Like I said, there's more work to do, but my goal was to have the first draft, to have all the book's innards, written by the end of the year. It feels like a Christmas present to myself that I was able to follow through. Bring on the editing. And also that beach walk.

JUL
08

Because I Also Write Books

It's easy to forget that, especially because there are so many other things to talk about on this blog. Like LeBron. And gemstones. And the fact that I've fallen in love which is totally cutting into my writing time. (Worth it, by the way.) But I do write books. 

I'm currently 60% done with my next manuscript. This will be my fourth book, and 60% feels significant. It feels like we're getting somewhere. And I probably say this with every book (someone should really look into this), but I'm pretty sure this one is my favorite. While the other three each follow a certain theme throughout my entire life thus far, this book is about a single, brief period of my life. It's about a thing I always wanted to do. It's about me doing it, loving/hating it, and ultimately leaving it behind. It's just focused differently...in a way my first three books are not. And I'm also exploring the idea of experimenting with chronology on this one, so you have that to dread look forward to when the time comes.

All good stuff. I like writing so much. I'm grateful it's one of the many aspects of my life. Even if it almost never gets top billing. On this blog or anywhere else. Some things we do simply because we must. Because we are called. Because they are there. Because if we don't, who will ever know that these things happened to us? That we had these feelings? That we dreamed dreams and took risks and failed a lot?

Which is all to say, I'm looking forward to the next 40%.  

MAY
20

A Thousand Splendid Suns

There's always a bit of shame for a bookish, English-degree-holding writer in books she probably should have read but hasn't. For me, most of this gets wrapped up in the classics...books I should have read in high school or college but didn't. Not out of neglect, just out of necessity really. If a teacher assigned The Scarlet Letter over The Grapes of Wrath, then the former is what got read. If a professor preferred As I Lay Dying to Lord of the Flies, then that's what I stayed up all night reading.

Bottom line: there are some definite holes in my literary repertoire. 

Books in more recent history don't make me feel as much guilt over having never read, and while I read The Kite Runner when it was new and on everyone's radar, it didn't bowl me over such that I felt a burning need to read A Thousand Splendid Suns when it followed a few years later. I don't even remember hearing a thing about it. And why was this? Why did no one tell me I had to read it? It's no one's responsibility, yet somehow I feel slighted. Unprepared. Ill-fitted for the world.

I know a play based on a book is totally cheating. I know I have still never read this book. And I know now that it was a mistake not to. Because the Old Globe's theatrical adaption of this book was riveting. It bowled me over--with feeling, with intensity, with injustice, and ultimately with the depiction of the bonds that are possible between women. To know there are such books in the world that remain unread fills me with a panic I can't quite describe. If you know of any, tell me. Tell the world. And then go find more.

MAY
21

Eat Drink Read

When I showed up at the Eat Drink Read fundraiser for the San Diego Council on Literacy, it didn't end up being quite what I expected. A pretty literary person, when I'd heard that chefs would be creating food and drink based on their favorite books, I guess I'd been picturing book books. The classics. You know, Frankenstein or something. But right away I could tell the approach from pretty much all the chefs was something much lighter.

They'd picked children's books, see. And the night was much more delightful for it. Eclairs for Pinocchio's nose. Scattered bean sprout topping for the hungry caterpillar. Mountains of chocolate frosting for Wonka's factory. By the time I finally got to a chef who had tried be somewhat adult in his presentation (The Little Prince had been his book of choice), the chef's thickly-accented description of his ravioli covered in a sauce made from a special kind of cheese I had never heard of was so boring that it was all I could do not to literally RUN over to the Alice in Wonderland table as fast as possible where they had bubbles of hibiscus tea that popped when you oyster-style poured them in your mouth and liquid-nitrogen-soaked cheese cubes that were still smoking as you swallowed. Now that's what I'm talking about. Ravioli? Psssshhh.

The event was a fundraiser, so I was happy to pay the overpriced ticket. Because literacy is such a crucial need, and I think about that not just as a writer and a businesswoman, but as a person with a curious and functioning mind. Learning to read is such a given for so many of us. But that's not the case for everyone. And even when I think about learning to read myself, it's something that's always been easy for me. I read well and I read fast. Again, this is not the case for everyone. And the overall prioritization of literacy, of resources, and of reading-rich communities is something near and dear to my heart.

So read on, San Diego. And I'll be there again next year, front and center, looking for the Frankenstein table as usual.

MAR
05

Warwick's Book Signing

Last weekend may have been my best book signing ever. And it wasn't just because of the turnout...which was amazingly good. It's also because it's the one that felt the most party like, the most celebratory, the one with the most smiles, the most hugs. I just felt so damn supported. Surrounded by people who were genuinely happy for my achievement...and also anxious to read the new book.

I was remarking to someone afterward about the relative letdown of an event like this being over. Because that's all I get. Those two hours of being the focus of a party held in the city where I live is all an author like me gets. An encouraging boost in both confidence and royalties, the first month after a book is released is pretty much the best. "It's all downhill from here," I remarked to someone a couple of days ago. Which when it comes to book sales, barring some fortuitous intervention of luck, it is. Besides, there can only be one launch party. And once it's over, you won't be able to rally a crowd in the same way until your next book comes out.

And so that probably explains why I savored every moment at Warwick's last weekend. Because the day was mine. Completely. And surrounded by a helpful staff, customers as loyal to Warwick's as any bookstore I've ever seen, family, and friends, it's more than enough to keep me going.

One thing to note about this signing in particular was that it got a lot of the "strangers" involved. Meaning customers who just happened to be at the bookstore that day and were not there specifically to see me. Because the party was such a force (champagne! a candy bar! tons of people! a photographer!), people wanted in. Or, at the very least, they wanted to see what the hell was going on. And in many cases, these customers participated in the festivities. They bought books and had me sign them. They told me stories about gems they loved, or about hearts that had been broken. There's a picture in the smattering you'll see below that shows me wearing a pained expression, hands over my heart. It's because one of these customers, a complete stranger to me, had just told me about her daughter's recent heartbreak. And who can't relate to that? Which is why I love this book so much. "Can you give her some words of advice?" the mother asked as she handed me a newly-purchased copy to sign. "Here's to love," I wrote. And just underneath, I added, "Because, eventually. Right?"

One can only hope.

FEB
14

Happy Launch Day!!!

I know it won't eclipse Valentine's Day for anyone else but me, but Happy Launch Day for my new book!! Welcome to the world, Fooled. May it be as loved and inspiring as it's been to me over the past couple of years. And may my exes not hate me for writing about them.

Here's to love.

You, dear readers, certainly have mine.

Today and always.

DEC
15

Early Christmas Present

And there she is, folks. The first copy.

Isn't it pretty??

Still two months before release, but, boy oh boy, it's an amazing thing to see this project you've spent years of your life working on in the form of an actual book.

I'll definitely curl up over my Christmas vacation, read a few chapters, and pretend I don't know how it ends.