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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.


Do people out there really have headshots? That's a silly question, I know they do. I see them on websites and blogs and twitter. It seems most people in the book world have---whether professionally done or not---some sort of picture that's pretty much just their head. I haven't had a lot of times yet where I've needed one, but the times I've been asked for one (book signings, guest posts, etc), I have nothing to give.

So I had some done this weekend. I won't say that I at times during the shoot didn't feel silly for doing it. I won't say that I know I'll even use these much. I won't say I'm convinced I really needed them, but I figure they'll come in handy at some point. And if nothing else, they will give me something to put in the About the Author section of my next book. The picture I used in Schooled was not exactly current....although, to be fair, I was trying to be clever.

If they turn out halfway decent, maybe I'll share some here when I get them back. Or maybe you'll just have to buy my next book. Once it's done. Or check out my website. Once I actually have one. Or read future guest posts. Once I find time to write any. I'm sensing a pattern here.


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.


Disasters at the Pump


I was twenty the first time I pumped a tank of gas. This is not unusual for a kid who grew up in Oregon, because in that blessed state you don't pump your own gas. Pretty sure you aren't allowed to. You simply stay in your car and say "Fill it with regular" out the window to the attendant and that's all there is to it. I've met a lot of haters in my life that go on and on about how horrible and lame it would be to stay in your car on a cold day and let someone else deal with the pumping, and I never understand what's not to love about the Oregon way.

The only disadvantage, I suppose, was the day my 20-year-old self ended up alone and on the other side of the Oregon/Idaho border. Not that it's hard to pump gas. But just because you know what to do or even how to do it, that doesn't mean you'll do it well. Or even correctly. (I related this to my first kiss in Schooled.) That day at the pump I managed to do everything correctly, or so I thought, but still no gas came out. Surely after watching me try over and over for quite some time, a voice came over the intercom for all to hear. "YOU HAVE TO PUSH THE START BUTTON!" Which they could have, I don't know, mentioned somewhere.

Last night I had to fill up my tank after leaving the office, and I know I shouldn't sit in the car while I'm waiting for the tank to fill, but it's winter. And I live in Cleveland. About the time I realized it was taking longer than normal to fill was the time I made the connection that the gushing sound I heard was my tank overflowing. How does this even happen? The clicky thing is supposed to click off when the tank is full. I jumped out of the car, rushed over, and figured removing the nozzle would force it to unclick. Au contraire. It was like a fire hose, gas shooting everywhere (over my car, over me), and the only thing I could think to do was scream. Surely something somewhere in the vicinity would spark and my car and person would blow up immediately. "SOMEONE, HELP!!" I shouted, and even though the man who rushed over to help thought I didn't know that the clicky thing stays clicked until released (and consequently thought it was my own cluelessness that had caused the problem), at least he rushed over to help. The clicky thing did eventually unclick, but not before I'd paid a small fortune for the gas now flowing toward the gutter.

And this, ladies and gentleman, is why I write books. Because these things happen to me. It's also why I miss Oregon. One of the many, many reasons. Stay tuned next time for rants on sales tax and snow.


This week only...eating trumps writing.


Restaurant Week is a genius idea. For those who aren't familiar, it's a stretch of 10 days or so where most of the nice restaurants in downtown Cleveland offer special deals and menus. It's the fleetingness of it that inspires me to look forward to it every year, and of course the deals themselves. Three courses for $30. And just to put it in perspective, let's take Lola, for instance, which is arguably one of Cleveland's most well-known restaurants. Thanks to a one Mr. Michael Symon. The last time I ate at Lola, my bill alone (for just me) was $62. So Restaurant Week is a more affordable way to get into some of these upscale places.

This year I made a record number of reservations, and while this wreaked havoc on both my waistline and my bedtime, I'm sad that it's over. It's just so fun to be downtown and see more people there than usual, to look at each feature menu and pick the three-course combination of your choice, to know you're getting a deal. Especially since if you really think about it, three courses is more than you typically eat at dinner, and $30 is still way more than you typically spend. So despite its glamour, all Restaurant Week is really doing is causing you to overeat and overspend. But that doesn't bother me in the least. I'll see you downtown next year.


This is just to say...

I talk to my parents regularly, but rarely do I get a call and see that it's coming from my Dad's cell phone. There's usually a slight sense of panic, like something might be wrong, especially because he's not the most chatty guy. So when I saw "Dad" as the incoming call the other day, I confess I was a bit alarmed. "Do you have a minute?" he asked when I answered. This sounded serious. But it turns out he had only wanted to let me know that a couple of my biggest fans had just been at his clinic. I don't know these people, but they went on and on telling him how much they love my book, how many copies they've bought, how many people in the community are reading the book and loving it. And my dad just thought I might want to know that I have quite the growing fan base back home. And even though home is small and said fan base is even smaller, it warmed my heart. So thanks, Dad. For making my day.


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.


Does anyone in Hollywood wear sleeves?


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.




I've been out of town for a week, and I really have nothing literary to say other than that I read a book on the plane. 'She Got up off the Couch,' which is the sequel to 'A Girl Named Zippy.' I didn't find this one quite as delightful as Zippy, which oddly enough is one of my favorite memoirs of all time, but Couch certainly kept me entertained, and I was sad when it was over. Three cheers for small town America.

As for the trip itself, it's hard to believe I'm still standing. What started as a few days of a 102+ degree fever before I left (and what I thought would get better quickly) turned into a horrible cold, an unbearably painful sore throat (which I still have, by the way), a few days with no voice (on days when I was supposed to be interviewing potential recruits), and to top it all off, my first ever case of pink eye. It's the most miserable week I can recall, healthwise, in many, many years. And being on the road made it that much worse. I had to resort to a walk-in clinic, for crying out loud. Whatever, we all get sick. This one has just really sucked a lot out of me, and I haven't gotten a good night's sleep in a week and a half. TGIF.

And F to the YI, pink eye is horrific.


A Bookstore Lives On

Was so happy to read this today. Congrats to Kate! I know I previously mentioned her desire to take over The Learned Owl Book Shop, and am delighted for her and this wonderful dream fulfilled.


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.


Eternal Sunshine


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.


Out With the Old

b2ap3_thumbnail_monopoly.jpgWell, it's over. Monopoly has officially booted the Iron game piece in favor of--inexplicably--a cat. Actually, I find the entire line of choices for the proposed new game piece a bit baffling, not to mention the entire concept of consumer voting in these types of decisions. Or maybe what I'm getting at is I don't see the need for these types of decisions in the first place. What was wrong with the old pieces? Or the original M&M colors for that matter? Other than the marketing element meant to generate renewed interest in a classic product, why change at all?

I'm not averse to change, although I do think I struggle with it more than most, and a good portion of that (as I learned from this book) is probably my introversion. Another part of it is that I'm sentimental. I get attached to situations and people I like. When I quit my job to go to business school, I cried like a baby, and it wasn't because I was averse to the changes that business school would bring into my life. It's because I was sad to be leaving a job I loved and the co-workers who had become such good friends to me over the years I had worked there. And on a much smaller scale, I hate when my beloved Cleveland Cavaliers trade players in the name of some sort of overall franchise strategy. Strategy shmategy. Winning record or not, I would prefer to keep the same guys around. Because I get attached to them, dammit, and I wish it could be about playing for a city instead of playing for a championship. (You listening, LBJ?)

The interesting thing about change is that sometimes it is good. But not always. The trick for me and my stubborn, overly-sentimental self is to identify which changes are truly bad ideas (or at least unnecessary) and which ones are good ideas that I would eagerly welcome if I only knew what I was missing. Take technology. I never wanted an iPod, but once someone gave me one, I didn't know how I'd lived without it. I don't have a Smart phone, nor do I have any desire to own one, but maybe it would change my life. For the better. Or at least keep me from grocery store conundrums like buying a cinema gift card for my parents at a theater they would actually have to leave the state in order to use.

My confession to you today is that while I am old-fashioned to the core and hope to always be, there are some things that despite kicking and screaming about how uninteresting, useless, and stupid they are, customers will in actuality snap up like hotcakes once they hit the market. Translation: Sometimes you have to tell customers what they want. It's not always easy, and it doesn't always work (never forget that some changes really are bad), but even just acknowledging that changes we dread or don't want or fight are sometimes exactly what we (and the world) need is a big step. Not that this means I'm OK with the Iron getting booted. But I'll tell you who is. Clementine (pictured below) is delighted with the new game piece. I think she voted more than I did.



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!


Advice from Billy Joel


One of my favorite things in Cleveland is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It appeals to the writer in me, feeds my celebrity obsession, and reminds me of the music my dad listened to when I was growing up. The first time I went, I was struck by a quote on the wall. Written in larger than life font and attributed to none other than the incomparable Billy Joel (who I dub the best male voice of all time, by the way), the quote reads as follows: "If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time."

It's a powerfully inspiring quote. And I've been thinking about it in light of a few friends of mine who have recently decided to go out on a limb in the name of what they love. A co-worker recently quit in order to start his own business. A former college roommate has an opportunity to turn her transient lifestyle and love of all things foreign into a paying gig that she's perfect for. And a good friend with a budding theater career recently bought a one-way ticket to NYC with no job lined up and pennies in her pocket.

These people have a few things in common. They all took risks, they get by on little to no (or at least less) money, and they are all probably much happier than I am. Which brings me back to Billy. Because while his quote fills me with moxie and empowerment to go after what I really want, it's also not very realistic. I mean, come on, Billy. We can't all be rock stars.

It seems unfair to say that I'm jealous of these people, because I could certainly choose to take a similar path if I was unhappy in my job or willing to do without things like, say, so many trips home to see my family, but I'm not. Most people aren't. So if you're like me and are not necessarily doing what you would choose to do out of anything in the world, don't beat yourself up about it, because there are many paths in life and many reasons we choose the ones we take. But if at any point in your life you are lucky enough to be in club Billy, realize that you  have achieved something most of us never even come close to. You give the rest of us hope, inspiration, and belief in the power of effort in a world where too many people lack the courage and gumption to even try. With pennies in your pocket, you are richer than us all.


Epic Fail: Peasant Dinner

I read an article recently about how we tend to flip flop our meals when it comes to the digestive ideal. Most people grab a quick, scant breakfast (or skip it altogether) and end up overindulging come dinner time. The article says we've got it all wrong. That we should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a peasant. This seemed do-able, so today is day 5 of Operation Meal Quantity Flip-flop. True that it's been tough to carve out extra time in the mornings to actually cook breakfast (because this basically means getting up earlier....groan), but my big, delicious breakfast is now a highlight of the day. My lunches haven't really changed, as they were probably already prince-like (not too big, not too small), but where I'm totally failing is the peasant dinner. Because when I get home from work, I'm hungry. Really, really hungry. So I eat my peasant dinner and promptly follow it up with a real dinner. Which is, of course, exactly what this style of eating is supposed to help me avoid. But I ask you, what's so wrong with eating breakfast AND dinner like a king? Besides, I'm pretty sure this article came from the People magazine (since it's the only one I read), so I really should take all health advice with a grain of salt. Or an entire pinch....sprinkled over my morning hashbrowns.


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.)


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.


Books I Can't Wait to Read

One of my resolutions this year involves reading more books, so I made a rather large book purchase over the weekend and am now happy to report that I will be reading all of these books in the near future. Man, sometimes I forget how much I love reading. Particularly non-fiction. Especially memoirs. Not that this should shock anyone by this point. Of course it's just now occurring to me that reading all these books is going to seriously cut into my writing time. Le sigh. At any rate, I'll be sure to report back on what I think of the below books.











So, remember when I said this? Well I take it back. Except the part about how I wouldn't be surprised to see him move up one day. And the part about Ohio State fans being kind of obnoxious.



Yesterday I received an anonymous note in my mailbox at work. The intrigue! It came in an interoffice envelope and was simply a print-out of this blog post from late December. If you go back and read it, it's true that I may or may not have slightly bashed corporate America and expressed frustration over the worship of all things extrovertish, but I never guessed that anyone from my office was actually paying attention. On the printed-out blog post in my mailbox was the following handwritten note: "Poor Tali. And we thought you actually liked working with us." And to the sender of this note, whoever you are, you must know that this struck me as so funny and clever that I had to chuckle to myself in sheer delight. So, thank you. Unless you are from HR and are trying to get me canned. In which case, is it too late to apologize for sounding like I hate working here? And while I'm at it, don't take it personally that I vehemently shamed our decision to send e-cards to customers last month in this post or read too much into my admission in this gem of a post that I wrote it while sitting at my desk. None of that is important. What's important is this: We are now pen pals.