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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
JUN
08

Countdown to Author Alley

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Summer festivals that involve book events are just about my favorite thing as an author. It gets you out in the community, you get to spend time with other local authors, and the festival environment means there's lots of traffic. And I give a lot of kudos to bookstores who have made such events into annual staples. Loganberry Books is one of these stores. Their annual Author Alley is still a few weeks away (As part of the Larchmere Festival on July 5th), but I'm so looking forward to it. And I'm so going to remind you all about it again.

PS, Loganberry has a cat. Bonus.

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
22

Stupid Grass. Stupid Mower. Stupid Spring.

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I'm taking a break from new-book-just-out activities to bring you this important seasonal message: I hate cutting the grass. I know. It's so silly. Especially if you were to see the size of my yard. But cutting the grass is by far the worst part about spring. Especially since this is the first spring in 3 years that my boyfriend (now my ex) isn't around to do it for me. Not that my favorite thing about him was that he did all my yard work. It's just that my favorite thing about him was that he did all my yard work.

So picture this. A couple of weeks ago I realize I can't put it off anymore and go get the mower out of the garage. I manage to get the thing started, but it sounds pretty bad. I'm shielding my eyes as best I can with one hand in case the whole thing blows up and pushing it as far ahead of my body as possible. Halfway through the yard, it dies. I solicited help from the man who was cutting the neighbor's grass, and all I gathered from his diagnosis was there was a bunch of grass clogging the innards of the mower. Nevermind that this is sort of, um, I don't know, what a mower is designed for.

I watched a video explaining how to fix what it seems likely that the problem is, and although I did locate the appropriate bolts and levers, I was unable to fix it. Or, let's be honest, even get anything to budge at all. And this week, my grass out of control once more, I can't even get the thing to start. It instead makes a horrible, cry-of-the-banshee noise every time I attempt it.

Bottom line, I'm not sure what single girls are supposed to do...except for get some cats, buy a Snuggie, and let the grass get so long that the city sends threatening letters using words like "unsightly" and "final warning." Come to think of it, a Snuggie sounds pretty good right now.

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
11

The Lanyard

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This poem has special meaning to me. Not just because of all the lanyards I tied in my childhood, but also because it of course makes me think of my mom. Oh, and it's also hilarious. So Happy Mother's Day to all the women out there. (Shot above brought to you circa 1985.)

MAY
07

Pre-Mother's Day Pontification

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After Schooled was published, someone commented to me that their favorite characters were my parents. Not at all major players in the book, they apparently still left this reader with a sense of their down-to-earthness. True, my parents are golden (“the two most constant and sparkling fixtures to ever decorate my life”), and whenever Mother’s Day is upon us—closely followed by Father’s Day—I find myself waxing pensive. (When am I not waxing pensive? Good question.)

I don’t classify myself as first and foremost a religious person, though I do have convictions that are very important to me. I believe, for instance, in heaven. That we will exist after we die. It’s always made sense to me then that we probably existed before we were born. So any theology or conjecture around this possible pre-Earth state always piques my interest. For me, honestly, it’s the only way that life makes any sense. I mean, otherwise, what is the point? (Where am I going with this? Another good question.)

If you subscribe to the idea of some sort of pre-Earth state, then I’m particularly curious when it comes to the topic of families. Did we, for instance, pick the families we would be born into? Draw straws? Receive assignments? No one can really know, of course, but I suppose this is a roundabout way of saying that if we did have any say in our future families, I know I would have chosen exactly the family I’m in. If you’re still with me, and I hope you are, I apologize for going all convictionite on you. It won’t happen again. At least not until next Spring.

And don't mind the mini mustache magnet. It's a family thing.

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.

APR
15

Big Sky State

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The first (and only) time I had been to Montana was just prior to starting business school. Meant to be a team building, get-to-know-you type of event just before we began the school year, my classmates and I were shipped off in 15-passenger vans across the west, Montana-bound. We were to spend the week white water rafting, but we pulled up to camp in the middle of a downpour. The rain didn't stop all day, such that most of us ended up huddled back in the vans to keep dry. The thought of having to set up a tent--let alone sleep in it--while battling such weather was horrifying to me, such that I found myself wondering aloud: "They can't make us stay here, can they?" My classmates teased me and my lack of endurance for the next 2 years over that comment, but whatever. I had a point. I knew they were all thinking the same thing.

I returned to Montana this past weekend for only the second time in my life. I'm probably even less outdoorsy now than I was the first time around, but I feel like at least this time, I was able to experience and appreciate Montana in a truer sense. Farms, chickens, horses, rabbits, deer heads mounted on the walls of the grocery store, parents who name their children names like Remington, a Main Street composed of only second-hand stores. I confess I found Montana beautiful. And, for lack of a better word, restful. That doesn't mean I could live there. Or endure sitting out in the rain for days just because the mountains are nice to look at. But, especially coming directly after my weekend in NYC, I couldn't help but appreciate this slice of country life. (I said appreciate...not prefer.)

APR
10

Wishing

One of my favorite things to do in NYC is to go to the Times Square museum. (Hopes and Dreams.) There one can write her wishes for the year on little confetti squares; confetti squares that are shot into the air in Times Square on New Years Eve at the stroke of midnight; the very same confetti squares you see on your TV screen, slowly sailing through the air while everyone kisses and sings. It is, quite franky, irresistable to me. This making of wishes. This method of confetti deployment. I won't show you my own wish--it's far too sentimental, although albeit a step more respectable than last year's wish--but here are a sampling of others. From the practical to the off-hand to the just plain funny, I love the wall of wishes. And I can't wait to see their flight come NYE.

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APR
07

If/Then

 

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Today is my birthday. I'd say that my age is starting to approach a point where birthdays bring up more dread than excitement, but that isn't really how I feel. Because these thirty-something years are worth celebrating. They are everything. They are me. And I like myself much more now than I ever did when I was younger. It's like I once heard a woman say when discussing the appearance of wrinkles on her face...she said they represented the life she had lived, so why would she be bothered by them?

This particular birthday does find me more pensive than usual, if for no other reason than since my last birthday, I've had my first experience with true heartbreak. And holidays in general make it very easy to compare our lives to previous years. Last year, my boyfriend gave me the sweetest and most perfect birthday gift. Last year, I was pretty convinced we would get married. Last year, I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. This year, I am alone. This year, I miss him. This year, what the f**k?

I'm in NYC today, which by now you should know how much I love this city. I went to see Idina Menzel's new show yesterday, and the whole thing centers around decisions and the impacts those decisions--even small ones--have on our lives. What if I'd never moved to Cleveland? What it I hadn't taken that job? What if I'd left that party ten minutes earlier and never met that man or answered that phone call or sent that text. Or whatever. As the show ultimately says, we only get one life, so we have to let the rest of the "other me's" go, but the theme that most resonated with me as I sat listening yesterday was the idea that when disaster strikes our decisions, does that mean we would have chosen differently? In other words, if you knew something would fall apart and leave you irreversibly devastated, would you have made a different decision? I'm in Camp No, as I believe anyone who's smart should be, though admittedly it's hard to stick to your guns on that when heartbreak has you constantly aware of everything you've lost.

Ultimately the show encourages us to love while we can. Whenever, wherever, however, and I do believe that's a solid message. Especially in a world where when it comes to love, we tend to give up way too soon. We tend to shy away from things that seem hard or complicated. It's not just that it seems easier to walk away, it's that it is easier to walk away. And if easy and less complicated trump the satisfaction and contentment of being with someone who truly makes you better, then by all means, walk away. But first, go see this show. It might change your mind.

 

 

 

MAR
31

California vs. Florida

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Just wanted to say that I spent last week in Florida, and believe it or not (frankly I don't think it's all that unusual although people seem to be aghast when they find out), it was the first time in my life I had ever been to Florida.

I'm an adult. Who lives in the east(ish). Is this normal? Don't answer that.

Bottom line? I can explain. I'm from the west coast, see, so whenever I think warm and sunny and Disney, I think California. I go to California. I dream about California. And why wouldn't I? I was born there and it has my heart in a way no other place does. This western loyalty runs so deep that even though it's much closer, the very idea of swapping Florida in for a California trip seems simply sinful. I've spent my whole life turning my nose up at Florida. It's interesting, isn't it? The things we hold onto. The things we resist.

I'm fully prepared to admit that I found Florida quite lovely. More than that, I wished I were there for play instead of work. And most of all, I decided I'd like to go back sometime and have a real vacation.

Whether or not in the moment of booking I'll be able to actually select Florida over California remains to be seen, but I got on the plane with a strong feeling that I'd be back again...on my terms. (My terms being a bikini and a good book...although, to be fair, if I were choosing terms I would also choose a tan and a more sizable bust. But you can't have everything.)

MAR
22

Jury Duty

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The only association I had with jury duty as a youngster was that drag of a Monopoly card that made you lose a turn or something. Clearly, whatever jury duty was, it sucked. But as an adult, I've become increasingly more interested in serving on a jury. Partly because I'm curious about the inner workings of a trial, and partly because of all the hilarious TV portrayals out there of people trying to get on or off a jury. It's such a thing, jury duty. Liz Lemon and her Princess Leia routine as an example of someone trying to get out of it, the hilarious 3rd Rock From the Sun scene where John Lithgow's alien tries so hard to be picked.

While in jury selection this week, I found myself in the John Lithgow camp. I wanted to be picked so badly. I wanted to see what the process was like, plus it seemed so utterly depressing to be sent away. Lawyers can of course "challenge" your presence on a jury and dismiss you without one word of explanation, so passing whatever criteria they had set seemed like an accomplishment. I wanted to get on the jury. I needed to get on the jury. When the judge had me introduce myself and like an idiot I went on and on about how excited I would be to serve, I was sure one of the lawyers would pitch me for being too eager. But I got to stay, and having just wrapped the 3-day trial yesterday, I have to say, I absolutely loved the experience.

Listening intently to all the witnesses and forming my own opinion, seeing the law at work, having everyone stand each time I entered or exited the courtroom, deliberating with a roomful of other Ohioans from various walks of life, the whole experience just felt so very American. I felt proud, lucky even. And someday when I'm inevitably framed for drug possession while on an exotic vacation (I've seen Brokedown Palace), I'll hope there are folks as invested in helping as I am to sit on my jury.

My only wish is that I could have justified giving more money to the plaintiff. I believe the company he was suing is indeed taking advantage of its employees, only there was not enough evidence to confirm that. As it was, even I walked away from the trial having made more money from my three days of jury service than he was awarded in damages, and it really did make me feel sad. But that's justice, I guess. And I truly do hope I get to serve again someday. I don't understand why so many people try to get out of it...unless they are holograms. (That was for you, LL.)

MAR
15

The Product that has Taken Years off my Life

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I was thinking today about what I would give up for lent...if I celebrated lent. Actually, it was more that I was thinking about all the crappy food I used to eat before I either 1) realized it was crappy or 2) learned enough to know that I shouldn't be eating crappy things.

I attended a delightful brunch this morning where we were asked to bring one of our favorite things. If we hadn't been told we'd be sending this favorite thing home with someone else, I'd have brought diamond earrings, but instead I brought a can of these babies. As a kid, they were my favorite thing to eat, and I try not to think about how many cans I consumed in my youth. Even when my very wise grandfather shook his head and said to me, "Nails in your coffin," (I was arm-deep into a can of Sour Cream and Onion), it didn't occur to me that all those Pringles might be bad news. I mean, they were chips. What's not to love?

I felt similarly about Totino's pizza. Granted, I can count on one hand the number of times I ate it growing up, because my mom stayed at home and was rarely not around to cook dinner, but when I left for college and began buying my own groceries, I remembered these Totino's encouters fondly and began stocking my freezer with them. It wasn't until a roommate pointed out that each little pizza had like 50 grams of fat did I realize that 1) each little pizza had like 50 grams of fat, and 2) I probably shouldn't regularly be eating dinners with 50 grams of fat.

I get it, I'm just saying it was nicer back when I didn't know and didn't care. And it's funny that during this time when I could have chosen to give up some such treat, this was the first can of Pringles I've bought in years. Giving it away sucked, so yes, I bought another one for me. For old times' sake.

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.

 

MAR
05

Oh, That I Were a Short Sleeper

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I heard this feature on a morning news show last week about short sleepers. People who don't seem to need as much sleep as everyone else. Now, this always sounded like a bunch of crock to me. Because don't we all at some point or another (some of us do still) try and convince ourselves that we fall into this very category? Surely WE can get by on less. Surely WE will not be affected. Well apparently some of us actually aren't affected. For the record, I am not one of those people, as both me and my case of ZZZ-quil can tell you, but apparently this is a legit thing, and one that can be passed down the genetic line.

As the show introduced us to a few of these short sleepers, I was impressed. Impressed that there are people in this world who can actually function on one hour of sleep per night. Did you hear what I said??? One hour. To prove they were still in tip-top shape, the show ran them through a series of reflex tests, which they passed with flying colors. Something none of the "regular" people could do when asked to try short sleeping temporarily.

Watching these seemingly super humans, I was also kind of jealous. "I feel like I'm actually living my life," one of them said. And while I don't feel like sleep keeps me from living my life, the added life and accomplishment of short sleepers is not lost on me. I mean, think of how much more you would get done. It pains me to even think about it, and I've been forced to blame the above completely out of hand stack of to-read books on the fact that I'm not a short sleeper. It's the only way I would ever get through them, I'm convinced.

MAR
01

How to Embarrass Yourself at a Work Dinner

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I spent a few days in Chicago this week, and it was bitterly cold. Not that Cleveland hasn't been this winter, but still, something about CHI town this week just felt especially bone-chilling. And there was so much static electricity on the sheets when I pulled down the covers of the hotel bed that I didn't want to get in. Like, at all. An absolute death trap. Then in the morning when I did my hair, it would not settle. The static was practically luminescent.

So, like an idiot, over a work dinner that evening I asked aloud whether there was any science to this whole notion of bitter cold yielding such ungodly static levels. Apparently there totally is. And it's probably something I should have learned about in the second grade. But, you know, whatever. Glad I could present myself as such a competent professional. Hopefully next time I return to the windy city it will be summer.

FEB
23

How to read someone else's manuscript

b2ap3_thumbnail_detective.jpgThe answer is that I have no idea, but I had the chance this month to be a beta reader of someone else's manuscript. I'd never done this before, and it's kind of exciting. Hot off the press. Not even out yet. Being one of the first few pairs of eyes to ever read something. On the other hand, it's a little bit daunting, too. Because manuscripts (and this was a particularly long one) are like kids to their creators. So to end up with several pages of notes and suggestions for someone else's manuscript can make a beta reader feel like she's being kind of bitchy. Oh well. Feedback is a gift, right?

It's a wonder then that I don't ask for more of it with my own manuscripts. This author has a whole group of beta readers, whereas my books go to press with me and my editor as the only ones who have ever read them. For me it gets too complicated to get a bunch of hands in the pot, even if they are the hands of my most trusted friends and family members. I start feeling torn and indecisive if said friends and family members disagree on certain elements, so the best I can do to stay sane is to just move forward with the book the way I like it best. Of couse, when you write non-fiction, it's probably easier to get away with this. I don't have complicated plot twists and character development to worry about, as did the author of the manuscript I just beta-read.

At any rate, I was flattered to have been asked, and am always impressed by people with the discipline and talent to create entire books. They make the world--and my life--much more entertaining.