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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
AUG
26

Like Father, Like Son. Like Brother.

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

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

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

AUG
22

Ambidextrous

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I am a left-handed person. Not one of my primary identifiers, surely, and really not something that comes up often in conversation. The only time I feel particularly reminded of my handedness is when I'm using one of those desks with the little built-in tables, which were all made for right-handed people. Or cutting something with scissors, which were also all apparently made for right-handed people. Or when I'm, say, in a gem identification class and the instructor asks the lefties to identify themselves so she can switch our microscopes to the other side of our work stations.

Admittedly, this made me nervous. See, the way it works in gemology is you're supposed to hold the tweezers (which hold the stone) in your non-dominant hand as you examine the stone under the microscope so that your dominant hand can be taking notes on the stone as you observe it. Except how many of you would feel comfortable, steady, and not-at-all concerned about holding things like diamonds in somewhat percarious positions with your non-dominant hand? I'm no fool.

But after a week of doing just that, I'm kind of--gasp--used to it. I realized last night over dinner, reading Truman Capote's iconic novella over a plate of enchiladas, that my fork was in my right hand. I finished my meal the way a person who has just learned to walk might savor the wonderment of an appendage once seemingly useless now having been transformed into something not only useful, but strong.

Which is a fitting metaphor for how I feel leaving the gemology classroom today. I've learned more than I thought possible in a week's time. I've gone from being intimidated to being what feels awfully close to confident in my ability to one day master the art (science?) of identifying gemstones. Many more stones to go, but I'm looking forward to it. My left hand is already jealous.

 

AUG
14

The Jewelry Effect

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

It's my life in jewelry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

AUG
06

The 5-star Book Review

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I confess I was really hoping the San Francisco Review would give me 5 stars for Jeweled. Of course, you never think it's going to happen. Just like you never think people--any people--are really going to like your book as much as you do. But hearing from the SF review this week, seeing those 5 little stars, reading the review prior to it being put into their publication, it's been a huge pick-me-up. Not that I needed one or am feeling down these days, it's just nice to be reminded that maybe you really did write a good book. And maybe peope other than your friends and family think so, too. Let me just leave you with this little gem:

..."Although Jeweled is the sincere and outspoken retelling of Nay's jeweled experiences, her stories invoke the humanness in all of us. Truly a fun and totally engaging read from cover to cover."

Now if that doesn't just warm an author's heart, I don't know what will. Besides, like, selling a ton of books. That would warm my heart, too.

 

JUL
07

Definition: Fortuitous

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Not sure there's any other word to describe being at an author fair selling your new book about jewelry and having the author to your right be--get this--a jeweler. I'll say that again. He was a freaking jeweler! Like metals and gems and his own studio and stuff. It made the already beautiful day that much more delightful, and I kept looking around at all the other people I could have been seated next to (we did not pick our own arrangement) knowing none would have made for as enjoyable an afternoon as the one I had.

Not that Loganberry Books could have known (or are they just that good?), but I thank them. Not just for my seat placement, but also for putting on such a wonderful event on Saturday. From the cucumber sandwiches to the sunscreen, surely no group of authors could have felt more cared for. (Unless they'd given us all diamonds.)

JUL
01

Strange Seizures Beset Us

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A side effect of writing a book about your lifelong love of jewelry is that people will begin associating you with jewelry. Any jewelry experience they have, they will tell you about. Any purchase they make, they will show you. And more to the point, any trip to Tiffany's they take, they will snap a picture outside the store and send it to you.

For the record, I love all of this.

I love that a co-worker recently sent me a note about the Tiffany gift she purchased for her daughter's 21st birthday ("Her first blue box!"), and that another co-worker mentioned that he thought of me when passing the flagship Tiffany store while on a recent trip to NYC. I love that in the past month I've received pics of people outside various Tiffany stores, pics of new pieces of jewelry that people have bought or received, even a copy of the description of a $225K ring from the insurance agent preparing its policy because she knew I would appreciate it. I love hearing a woman tell me Jeweled has inspired her to get her wedding ring fixed finally, or sized finally, or how the book has inspired her to stop in at Carlton Jewelers. All of these things have happened, and I hope they continue to happen. 

It's weird that jewelry is my thing, but I always end up back at Annie Dillard's quote, the one about our responsibility to write about the things that fascinate us, the strange seizures that beset us. "There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin." Sage advice, no matter how you look at it.

(PS - If you have a jewelry story you'd like to share, submit it on the "Share Your Story" or "Contact" links of this website. If I use your story on the homepage, you'll get a free copy of Jeweled!)

JUN
21

The Longest Year

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A year ago today I did my first full read-through of the newly-completed Jeweled. I remember this because of a sad event that occurred in my life immediately after I finished this read-through. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

There’s a tree in my front yard, the kind of tree that blossoms every spring. The weeks when the tree is in bloom are my favorite of the whole year, and I’ll often stop and stare out the front window at the sea of fluffy pink. The tree is so tall that the blossoms also fill the windows of my bedroom upstairs. I look forward to this every spring, but with such a long and heinous winter this year, it didn’t surprise me that April came and went with no blossoms. May, too. Mother Nature was just a bit behind schedule. Polar Vortexes can do that. Coming up on July now though, it’s finally occurred to me that the beating all living things took this winter may in fact have killed my tree.

It’s a sad thing to realize the highlight of such a beautiful season won’t ever come back. That there will be no more blossoms. That some precious, beautiful ability has been unable to withstand the impact of a traumatic event. An event I had no control over that has now forever altered every future spring; left them to seemingly always be worse than they once were. It is maddening, it is unfair, and it is certainly tragic, but at the end of the day, there is still a tree in my front yard. And it has managed to grow some leaves. Vibrant, green leaves. Not as appealing as fluffy pink blossoms, but they are proof enough of life. Not just that it goes on, but that it never left. It’s just different. And maybe even—someday—better. Leaves, after all, do mean potential, and who’s to say what future springs will bring?

This is what I am telling myself one year later. I miss the blossoms, spring was definitely different without them, and should they ever reappear it would quite possibly *make* my life, but I can’t continue mourning their loss. Besides, the season has changed, and I’m putting my money on summer.

JUN
19

I want to talk about me.

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Stay with me.

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

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

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

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


JUN
15

For Dad

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My dad is a man of relatively few words, and being raised in a home with multiple siblings, it wasn't always easy (or common) to get time with just him. I never felt slighted, no person with my childhood could, but the memories I have of Me & Dad time are special. As is any connection that just he and I shared, for that matter. Like the story in Jeweled about the jewelry gifts he gave me...it was something he did on his own, just for me.

I'm writing my third book right now, and last week I was writing about a big decision I faced more than a decade ago. Teetering on making what I thought was the right choice but for all the wrong reasons, my dad offered (in a manner of two succinct sentences) some counsel that not only changed my decision but also my outlook on all future decisions on the same topic. It was pretty profound to ponder this week on how different my life would be right now had he not spoken up. In fact, when I think back on, say, the top 5 most important things anyone has ever said to me, I'm pretty sure they all come from my dad. For being a man of few words, he sure has a knack for making them count.

On this day and always, I am a lucky daughter.

 

JUN
03

On Love

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The feedback from early readers is that most of them like Jeweled better than Schooled. I confess this is very surprising to me, as I figured the universality of school would ultimately leave readers more satisfied than a book about jewelry…which, admittedly, is something most people don’t know about, care about, or wish to read about.

I heard from someone over the weekend who told me he liked the new book ten times better than Schooled (praise, indeed!), but his one complaint was the back cover copy, which he felt didn’t really capture the spirit of the book. (Let me just say right now that deciding on the back cover copy is much harder than actually writing the book.) What this reader was saying is that while the back cover copy focuses on the gems and the jewelry, the book is really held together by the stories I tell about love and marriage and family.

A bit of an A-ha moment, as I hadn’t really thought about this book as being held together by love (although I do say in the book that the connection to love is one of my favorite things about jewelry). As I’ve thought about this over the days since my conversation with this reader, I suppose this might be why people are more pulled to this book than I predicted they would be. Here I thought I wrote a book about jewelry, when the overarching theme ended up being one that’s exponentially more universal.

MAY
26

Full Circle

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The first story in my new book centers around the Museum of Natural History in New York City. For reasons that seem silly now, it was important that I get myself to the museum during what was my first trip to the city. Even though I realized while at the museum that it wasn't where I wanted to be (and my reason for going would soon enough no longer even apply), in the moment I viewed my being there as nothing short of crucial.

I confess I've avoided returning to the museum on subsequent trips to the city--mostly because it reminds me of a time in life that I'd rather forget--but while in New York last month, I bit the bullet and found myself staring once again at the giant blue whale that opens my second book. It felt a tad eerie, I don't know why, but I was surprised that it also felt a little bit like relief. And, inexplicably, redemption. It had been ten years since I'd last stood there. Think about that. An entire decade of life. And while one school of thought is that my singleton self is still no closer to love or to my dreams than I was then, another school of thought--the one to which I subscribe--is that I am now ten years closer.

See, my fascination with coming full circle has less to do with the deja vu-esque sensation of having been there before, but rather with the much more arresting analysis of all the things that have transpired since being in that scenario or place. When face to face with the whale last month, it became a rather liberating trifecta--part relief for being so far removed from a life path that would have never allowed me to reach any kind of potential, part gratitude over all the experiences I've had over the past decade, and part hope for the dreams yet to be realized as I step out into the world much closer to them than I was back then. So my only advice on this day of remembrance and honor is that if there's a place you've been avoiding because of the memories it generates, bring it on. You will surprise yourself, not just by your ability to handle it, but by the realization that you are a stronger and better person one year, ten years, or fifty down the road. Here's to you. Here's to getting there. And here's to getting there again.

 

MAY
20

It's My Party, and I'll Wear Two Carats if I Want To

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Surely, this was the real song title they were searching for in 1963.

Well, the book is out (Kindle to follow shortly). And given the subject matter, a jewelry store was a perfect place to have the release party; a party that ended up being such a wonderful combination of people all gathered to support me. Which is exactly how I felt...supported. It's hard not to feel silly at a party thrown entirely for yourself, but on the other hand, it does feel nice to take a moment and acknowledge accomplishment, regardless of how insignificant (and unprofitable) it will end up being.

And of course, now that the first wave of readers are reading the new book, it's been exciting to hear the initial feedback. This book really is so different than the first. And so, so sparkly.

MAY
17

Book Party Day

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Today is book party day. (If Clementine is any indication, we are clearly having a hard time containing our excitement. Actually, she has come to love the boxes of books sitting on my breakfast table so much that I haven't yet broken the news to her that they are going away.) Right on cue, the weather has taken a turn for the crappy, but that happened last time, too. Doesn't matter. It's going to be a wonderfully satisfying day irrespective of sunshine.

Amidst all the excitement, there is of course a fair amount of worry that creeps in once you realize people will actually be reading your book. And what if they don't like it? It's completely possible. Much more possible with this second book, as the subject matter is not nearly so universal. More than that, it's one that some might consider me materialistic and snobby for even being interested in. But I took comfort this week in the words of Annie Dillard:

"People love pretty much the same things best. A writer looking for subjects inquires not after what he loves best, but after what he alone loves at all. Strange seizures beset us. 'Each student of ferns,' I read, 'will have his own list of plants that for some reason or another stir his emotions.' Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you avert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands? Because it is up to you. There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you never read it on any page; there you begin. You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment."

And so as the first group of readers leave the party today with their crisp, new copies, I can only hope that they--and you, dear readers, whenever it is that you get your own copy and settle down to read it--come away with a mind open to learning about someone else's fascination. This strange, sparkly seizure that indeed besets me.

MAY
02

New Book, First Copy

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When the first proof copy of Schooled arrived, I remember being flooded with a "This is it??" kind of feeling. All that work, years, and this is all I get? Not that I hadn't known that the finished product would be one measly 250-page book, but for some reason I thought that initial first copy would seem more grand.

This time around, I was filled with no such feeling, and I can honestly say that the thought that overcame me when I opened the box containing the first proof copy of Jeweled last week was, "This book looks amazing." I'm not sure what the difference is, other than that I've now been through it before. Jeweled is also a book that allowed us to be more creative visually, and so there are so many things about the visual theme of this second book that I find delightful. The trim size of Jeweled is also different, which I find to be a further improvement. Bottom line: Things are getting exciting up in here.

Lest I get carried away, let me point out that I was reading Annie Dillard on a late-night flight last night, a book I will finish tonight when I go back to the airport, and I was struck by the following passage, especially on the verge of releasing a new book. "Putting a book together is interesting and exhilarating. It is sufficiently difficult and complex that it engages all your intelligence. It is life at its most free. The obverse of this freedom, of course, is that your work is so meaningless, so fully for yourself alone, and so worthless to the world, that no one except you cares whether you do it well, or ever."

How true this is. And how excited, in spite of this, I still am.

APR
23

What I've Been Doing

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Well I can tell you this: I certainly haven't been writing. Expression of regret. Especially since my third book is so juicy...at least I like to think it is...so sometimes it does make me sad that there's still so much left to write and that I've been so busy lately. In any case, it struck me the other day how seldom I actually talk about writing on this blog. Especially when my second book is about to be released. For shame.

I've been pretty mum about it, my second book, and I'm not sure why that is. I guess it's this whole idea of a "big reveal," like some sort of delivery room surprise. "It's out! It's a girl! Cut the cord!" I doubt many fans are waiting with such anticipation to find out the subject matter or see the cover design of my new book, but still, I'm excited.

The most important book-release activity is, of course, the book party, so if you really want to know what I've been doing, I've been stamping and addressing hundreds of envelopes. And floating above the Seinfeld-themed paranoia that I might keel over and die from licking so much inexpensive glue is pre-celebration glee so strong, you'd think I was a pre-teen. You'd also think that because I do, in fact, look like I'm a pre-teen. A pre-teen with access to a lot of stamps.

MAR
09

Writing Hazards

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Picture this. I'm in the middle of printing out the full layout of my next book (which I had just gotten back from the book designer), and my computer flashes that it's about to shut down due to lack of battery. No problem, just plug it in, right? I would have, and gladly, except my circa 1938 home only has one 3-hole electrical socket on the entire second floor. And it's in the bathroom. Moving the computer into the bathroom meant also moving the printer (remember, I was mid-print), only its cord wouldn't reach that far. So there I was, pulling the printer cord as far as it would go on one side, and pulling the computer power cord as far as it would go on the other side, the computer ultimately sitting in the middle of the hallway. That something had to give was inevitable, and I ended up dropping the printer on the floor....and also running it out of ink.

But at the end of this brouhaha there was the guts of a fully laid-out book, printed and stacked and then read carefully over a number of what were very happy hours for me. So, ultimately, not a bad weekend. Although I may need a new printer.

 

JAN
28

Marketing Campaigns I'm Certain to Fall For

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Real diamond dust? Really, Bath and Body Works? Pssshhh. Of course I still bought a bottle. Which only shows what a helpless ninny I become when the word diamond is involved.

JAN
20

Typesetting with Cats

b2ap3_thumbnail_clem-jeweled.jpgThis is one of my favorite parts about writing books. When it's time to actually make the decisions about what the book will look like. I had several typesetting options to look over this past weekend, and as you can see, I need a bigger dining room table. I'm always so grateful in times like these to work with people who make my life easier, people who have the know-how that I don't (like how to go about getting the rights for a picture I like from an old Tiffany & Co. catalog).

And as long as I'm giving thanks, who wouldn't be grateful for such a diligent feline companion? Clearly she knows what title page she likes. If only I could be as decisive.

DEC
20

Sparkle

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I was asked to be the speaker last night at a Christmas-themed event, and I confess it was nice to get down to the heart of the matter. You know, Christ. Bethlehem. The manger. I would never want to seem insensitve or to offend those who don't share my beliefs, but it does feel weird to constantly hold back the Merry Christamases I always want to shout out at this time of year. So it was nice to be able to get it off my chest last night in front of a gathering of people who had asked me to do just that.

The Christmas season sparkles, there's no other way to say it. And I'm a person who loves sparkle. In studying diamonds, I've learned a lot about what actually creates sparkle, and between the angles and proportions needed to maximize sparkle in a diamond, I find it fascinating. When evaluating sparkle in a diamond, one of the main things you look for is fire. Actual flashes of color. In a truly excellent diamond, you'll see all the spectral colors when you rock and roll the diamond. The more color, the more fire. And hence, the more sparkle. As a lover of all things sparkly, sometimes I get caught up in the sparkly aspects of Christmas--the lights and decorations and food and parties--but I'm grateful for reflection, conviction, and, ultimately, the reason behind this holiday in the first place. It is, after all, the best gift I'll ever receive, and I'd take that over sparkles any day.

Well, most days.

Merry Christmas.

 

DEC
14

Art is In

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I've always wanted to be an artist. I know, I know, writers are perhaps considered a kind of artist, but that's not the same thing. I've always wished I could draw. Or that I had the ability to create something with my hands. Anything. I have so many friends and family members who sew, who draw, who have an eye for crafts and creating things that are darling and unique and that make me feel horribly untalented. To each his own, so I guess my point is that I'm grateful for people who are talented in these areas and who use those talents to brighten the lives of others.

This random art tagent is brought to you by the fact that I got the artwork back this week for my second book. Something about seeing it and getting a sense for how it will influence the overall look of the book is exciting...because this is happening. And soon. Yay for artists. In the truest sense of the word.