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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
MAR
07

The Upside of Sick

I've never been a very athletic person (my only attempt to be a member of an official team is chronicled in Schooled), but I'm a big proponent of exercise. On my own. Stuff that doesn't require skills of any kind. Being as sick as I've been lately, I took a bit of a hiatus from working out most of last month and have only this week begun to reincorporate it into my life, but not without a sigh of annoyance and a sense of dread. Working out is such a time sucker. Which you really don't think about (or maybe you do) until you stop doing it long enough to have filled that time with something else.

In my case, I've been filling my workout time with writing, and it's been so nice to be able to write on a daily basis. I'm down to my last 10K words for the manuscript I've been working on, but now that I'm healthy enough to exercise, who knows when those 10K words will actually get written. I could always join the throngs of people who simply don't exercise period, and I always seem to get confused comments from people when I work out anyway...comments like, "Why do YOU need to work out?," as if skinny people have nothing to gain from a gym. Not sure why it doesn't occur to these people that working out might by why I'm skinny in the first place, or that there are other motives for staying healthy besides weight (in my case, a family history of heart disease), but the point here is that getting back in the workout saddle is perhaps harder this time than it's ever been before. Because I got awfully attached to my writing time. I'm determined to bring it back. There's got to be something else I can cut out of my life. Cleaning, maybe. Or doing chores. I think I'm onto something.

FEB
27

Remembering The Misfit

I was thinking yesterday about a quote I heard years ago about how good writing should make you feel like your head has been cut off. I think I heard it while in college, and at the time it resonated with the part of me that enjoys being moved, even uncomfortably so, by the written word. I was reading Flannery O'Connor back then and can remember feeling this very way when reading "A Good Man is Hard To Find." The moment I realized what was about to happen was eye-popping. I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped. Oh. My. Gosh. Filled with a desperate panic, much like the Grandmother herself, I felt like I'd been through something once I finished reading. I was affected. And I couldn't shake it.

This wasn't the first time I'd felt that way, and I can remember several other works before and since that have been, shall we say, literary game-changers. Maybe not in the classic sense of the word, but at least in terms of the way I felt while reading them. It's Jonas learning to see the color red, it's Katniss in the games, and all the other things in stories that you can't believe are happening. Because no one has ever written a situation quite like it. I suppose that's the reason I can't wrap my mind around writing fiction. I'm not sure what I could add to the party that would create this new, awe-inspiring sense of having been figuratively beheaded. Not that this means I won't ever come up with one, but for now, I'll stick to what I know. And let you keep your heads.

FEB
25

Does anyone in Hollywood wear sleeves?

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I'm happy for Anne, surprised about Jennifer (and that trip on the stairs!), thought Jessica Chastain looked stunning, laughed at Seth's jokes (although, annoyingly, he did too), and went to bed way too late. Damn this eastern time zone. Really though, I always look forward to the Oscars. To the fanciness of it. Yes, the glamour. The hype. The status associated with winning a little gold statue. And it's got to be the writer in me, but the categories I secretly look forward to most are the screenplay categories, both original and adapted. When adapted, they are usually based on an existing book. And when original, well, that's a whole lot of creative ability, and I have so much respect for the people actually writing these scripts. Writers never get top billing, but when it comes to Oscar night, I'm always thinking about them.

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FEB
13

Where I Was When I Fell in Love with Writing

I was on the toilet, if you must know. It was the early nineties, I was probably ten or eleven years old, and the magazine keeping me company at that moment was a Redbook with Meg Ryan on the cover. Where these magazines came from, I really had no idea, as my mother would never subscribe to Redbook. I'd never known her to subscribe to anything except things like Better Homes and Gardens and Country Woman. And who wants to read that in the bathroom?

The cover article was all about Meg's new baby, and I remember being intrigued by her saying that it's "just a science project until suddenly there's a person," although I had no idea what she meant. But even such details as a new celebrity mom (complete with pictures of her leaving the hospital via wheelchair) couldn't hold my interest the way the featured short story in the back of the magazine did. A story called "Second Thoughts," it told of a pregnant woman who's man had left her, and her heartbreak had led her to take up a new hobby. The story had me from the first line. "After Zane left, I started to bake." The woman's pregnancy leaves her unable to consume very much sugar, but she bakes anyway, keeping her uneaten creations out on the back porch once she runs out of room in the fridge.

I had read books before, so I'm not sure what it was about this story that struck me in particular, but I was amazed at how perfectly I could picture the whole thing. The woman, her porch covered with cakes and eclairs, her fridge boasting pictures of some of her favorite creations of all time. And all this from a story only a few pages long. It hadn't really occurred to me that writing even a relatively simple story could accomplish all this.

The woman spends the whole story wishing Zane would come back, of course, but what blew my ten-year-old mind was that at the end of the story when he finally does, she makes a game-time decision that she doesn't want him. She's gained enough confidence and perspective on her own to realize that she's better off without him. And as a woman, a romantic, a person who has at one point wished more than anything that the loser boy I'd been dating would come crawling back to me, let me tell you that there is nothing more empowering and freeing in this world than what the woman in this story did. An alarmingly powerful lesson for a child to take away from a short piece of Redbook fiction, wouldn't you say?

I had always enjoyed words, but reading that story was when I realized both the ability stories have to immediately create imagery in our heads and the level of depth and meaning that can be conveyed through words, no matter how lowly or unofficial the source. Even with this piece of magazine fiction, I can assure you that the closing lines--where the woman sends Zane packing in his pickup truck and then finally indulges in one of the cupcakes sitting on her porch--had me cheering. From my bathroom.

FEB
11

Eternal Sunshine

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I exchange Christmas cards with my third grade teacher, and in this most recent card, Mrs. Pace mentioned how much she enjoyed reading 'Schooled.' It always fills me with relief to hear praise from people who are actually mentioned in the book, and I was struck by one comment she made in particular. She said she was impressed by how well I was able to recall not only events from my childhood, but also the feelings those events inspired. It's not that I don't believe everyone has that same ability, but I have definitely come to believe that my temperament and disposition as an introvert, a writer, and a relatively sentimental person helps me in this regard. It's easy for me to look back and pinpoint the events, however minor, that shaped me and my perceptions, just as I can tell you right away when an event or circumstance in my life today is one I will eventually write about and put in a book.

It's a knack that in many ways I consider a gift, although I suppose the downside is that I am perhaps more sensitive than I would like to be. Meaning that sometimes I wish events or memories wouldn't impact me as much as they do, or that I could at least view them with less care and concern--particularly when the event involves how others (or how I assume others) perceive me. That I care too much is probably a weakness that many writers battle, but it ultimately helps the craft. Besides, I'd rather be plagued by a sea of memories and feelings, however unpleasant some of them might be, than to have forgotten the majority of my early experiences. It reminds me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a great film by the way, where the main character (after choosing to have all memories of his ex erased) must fight to stop the process once he realizes that ridding his mind of the bad memories of their relationship is not worth also eliminating the good ones. It's a movie that makes me think about love and loss, risk and reward (or not), but ultimately one that resonates with the part of me that draws strength and insight (and dynamite book chapters) from even the most unfortunate of experiences. So here's to remembering, feeling, and writing. And also to keeping in touch with your third grade teacher.

FEB
05

The Homestretch

I still have a little ways to go, but I am almost giddy with excitement already over finishing my next book. Now that I know what to expect once the writing is over and won't be so clueless during the process, I'm very much looking forward to it. Phase 1 will be the organization of the book. The majority of the work here will involve me reading the manuscript one million times, my editor reading it, as well as the more difficult task of deciding the order of things. (Like I've mentioned before, this book isn't chronological like my first one was.) Phase 2 will be the design of the book, and the designer I was fortunate enough to work with last time is so wonderful to work with. I find myself wondering what ideas she'll have this time, and I know I'll be dying to see what she comes up with for the cover. Clearly I'm getting ahead of myself, but I can't help it. It's all just so much fun!

JAN
28

Writing vs. Selling

While in the hallway this morning at work, a woman who knows about my book (is she my anonymous pen pal??) asked me how sales were. And the answer, in a word, is slow. Which I can hardly expect them not to be. She reminded me that all it takes is one reader, one endorsement, one opportunity in order for sales to take off. This of course is true, and nothing I haven't thought of before, but bringing us back down to reality, I have to work and market as if it's all up to me. Because it is.

The annoying thing about it being all up to me is that I don't know much about book marketing, nor do I have much of any free time in which to do it. And like most writers, when I finally do have free time, I'd rather be writing. Of course, as someone recently asked me when I sounded discouraged, "Is selling tons of copies the reason why you write?" Which, of course, it isn't. I write because I love it, and because I can't not write. That said, I would certainly rather be selling tons of copies than not selling them.

Not sure what my point here is, other than that selling books is just much harder than I thought it would be, and that I am much less adept at it than I should be. And even though I know I probably should have spent my free morning yesterday trolling for twitter followers, I spent it doing some writing for my next book. And I know most of you won't agree with me, but I believe my time was better spent in doing so. (Said the author who had no readers.)

JAN
25

What I Learn from Awards Season

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

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

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

JAN
09

The Nonfiction Writer's Wish

I'm just about 2/3 done with my second book. Which feels like progress. And it is. But I'm finding this last 1/3 to be much harder to write than the first 1/3. And while my first book was chronological, this one is not, so it's more challenging to make sure I'm pulling in everything. Finalizing order is a whole different topic, but I won't worry about that until all the content is written. Or maybe that's my problem. That I don't at this point even know the order of things. Either way, the thing I keep saying to myself is this: I wish I could write fiction. Fiction is the ticket. Fiction is so the ticket. But try as I might, my brain doesn't think that way. Dammit.

DEC
27

Daily Word Count

One of the best things about being on vacation (other than not having to go to work) is that I actually have time for writing. It's time I cherish because I get it so rarely, and I confess it's hard not to be ridiculously jealous of people who get to write full time. Sort of like when I sneak away from the office in the middle of the day to run a quick errand at the mall and see the throngs of people who apparently don't have to be at work. Who are these people?

While it's easy to say I would prize above all else a life where my full-time job is writing, I've never actually had any experience with having to write on demand, so to speak. Writing for me has always been a hobby. Something I fill my spare time with as I am able. A treat to myself after a long, hard week. I suppose it would be a different experience entirely if I had deadlines hanging over my head, or if my very livelihood depended on cranking out quality text on a regular (or even constant) basis.

It may be that I don't actually want the life that comes attached to a full-time writing job, but if that's the case, why do I pine for such a life so often? I guess because writing is what I love best. That, and corporate america can really wear you down. Despite the perks. Like paid vacations. Speaking of which, I think I'll head over to the mall.

DEC
21

The Office Christmas Cards

This is the first year since working at my company that I've been in the sales department. It's been an immensely satisfying year, as I've loved building relationships with my customers. And I've been looking forward to the holiday season in particular, as I knew it would involve the company springing for some holiday goodies I could send my customers' way. Imagine my horror when our Marketing Communications department sent out an email with instructions on how we could send holiday e-cards to all our customers.

I'm sorry. I think I just hallucinated.

E-cards? We're a Fortune 500 company touting our stellar customer service and we can't be bothered to send our customers real, handwritten cards of appreciation for their business? I'll have you know that I deleted the MarComm email and proceeded to write out real cards to send with each box of goodies. I thanked them each for their business, told them how much I'm looking forward to working with them next year, and included a funny little aside based on our interactions this year that I hoped would give them a laugh.

And it worked like a charm. Even one of my more difficult customers who I've never been able to get anywhere with was in hysterics over how funny my little aside was. And that is the power of words. The power of writing. The power of tailoring your remarks rather than sending out a mass message. In a society where these kinds of gestures (and writing by hand in general) are less and less common, I hope people will come around, get back to basics, and realize that not everything is better in web form. E-cards, ppppsssshhh. Try again next year, MarComm.

AUG
04

Divvying the Writing Time

It's a question of time. Because I don't have any. I suppose this is the plight of any writer who doesn't write full-time; who can, in fact, only fit in writing when she has the time. I'm lucky if I get a couple of hours a week. So the question then becomes, how do I spend the time I actually get to devote to writing? Um, you should write, stupid. Except it's not that simple. Because in addition to working on book two (I'm about 1/3 of the way done with it), I also have to use my "writing" time to market book one. Marketing a book is a full time job in itself, so I'm really falling short in that area. But I can only do what I can do.

Because Schooled is still in its first few months and there's a lot I'd still like to do to get the word out, I spend the bulk of my "writing" time on marketing. What this means though is that I hardly ever get to actually write anymore. This is sad for me, because it's my favorite part about this whole book business...the writing. And I miss it. My options as I see them are to 1) forget about marketing and just write, 2) un-busy my life so that I have more time, or 3) marry an independently wealthy man so I can quit my job and do nothing but write. Here's hoping for option 3.