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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.


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.


The Impossibility of Time Management

I went to time management workshop a few years ago as part of a weekend conference, and I remember it changing my life. Because of how horribly depressed it made me. After asking the audience to list the roles and responsibilities that require chunks of time (in other words, what we do with ourselves all day), it became painfully obvious that only a small fraction of the listed items could actually be accomplished. Not that I didn't already know there was not enough time in the day, but now, through a rather clever illustration on the board and a speaker who seemed an authority on the topic, getting done the things that you want to had been proven officially hopeless. The speaker did go on to suggest some techniques for getting more done, and I remember these changing my life too, but still, I'll never forget the sense of hopelessness that overcame me in that workshop.

As a person with a full-time job, I find it particularly hard to find time for the things I want and need to do that don't involve work. Because for at least 10 hours of every day, I am committed to my job and can do nothing else. Not that that's stopping me from writing this. From my desk. At my office. But anyway, with the time that's left in the evenings, I can pick only a handful of things to accomplish. And I've been thinking about this in conjunction with my New Year's resolutions. Because like everyone else, there are certain things I'm resolving to spend more time doing. Like reading and writing. Aside from the fact that one of my other resolutions (to do more to serve and help others) would seem to conflict with these resolutions to increase the time I spend doing things for myself (reading and writing), there's the bigger issue that increasing time doing ANY of these things means finding more time period. It means cutting time away from other activities, only I'm not sure there's anything to be cut.

I know, I know, it's the story of our lives. It's just been on my mind this month. And the excitement over goals and projects and new beginnings is once again being overshadowed by the slight depression of realizing I simply can't accomplish everything. Or anything even remotely close to a small fraction of everything. I'd attend another workshop, but who has the time??


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.


The Chip Kelly Weekend

Being from Oregon, I'm a huge Ducks fan. One of my first major trials of living in Ohio was, in fact, when Ohio State played Oregon in the Rose Bowl a few years ago. It felt like me verses the entire state of Ohio. Probably because it was. Oregon lost, which was a huge blow, but even worse was enduring the taunts from Ohio State fans who really do think their team is invincible. Fans who the following year when Oregon made it to the national championship game felt---having been the last team to beat Oregon---that Ohio State was still the better team. (What kind of logic is this?) Fans who are sure Ohio State would be winning the championship this year had they been bowl game eligible.

I've lived in Cleveland for almost five years, and while the Ducks are close to my heart, I've never developed much (read: any) affection for the Browns. And hearing rumors of Chip Kelly taking the head coaching job here had me stressed out the majority of the weekend. Surely Chip has created a winning culture in Oregon that could be preserved on some level, but he himself has been a big part of why they continually win, and I, selfishly, would prefer that Oregon keep on winning. Most people in Cleveland were pretty excited about the prospect of Kelly with the Browns, and the mood this morning is a bit dreary, and I've heard more than one person comment on being baffled as to why he wouldn't want to make the jump to the NFL.

I can't speak for Chip, nor am I about to, but this whole idea of lingering in a place or position where you are happy and successful gets more flack than it deserves. I see this a lot in the corporate world as well, where it's sort of assumed that you should want to take that next promotion, move onto bigger and better things, ascend the ladder as quickly as possible. But it takes all kinds, people. Not everyone aspires to hurry to the next step, not everyone aspires to a next step at all. And while I wouldn't be surprised to see Chip move to the NFL someday, I'm also not surprised to see him stay where he is known, loved, clearly at the top of his game, and where there is no sales tax or snow to worry about. Atta boy, Chip. Looking forward to next season.

(And just so you don't think I've given up on writing altogether, I wrote 1000 words this weekend. Not a lot, but it's 1000 words more than I usually get written in a busy weekend.)


On Thank-you Notes

I suppose this is in some way related to my Christmas card post from last month, but once Christmas is over, you're usually left with a decent amount of people who need thanking. In our house growing up, my mom catalogued everyone's gifts as they opened them, such that by the end of the morning, she had constructed a matrix-style chart we could reference that showed a summary of everything we received along with who gave it to us. She'd then task us with writing thank you notes, and I'd be lying if I said my teenage self actually enjoyed doing this. To be fair, I sort of hated it. But it was what we did, and I have to say all these years later that I'm very grateful to have had a mother who raised us on thank you notes. I remember sitting through a business school lecture on this very topic (the professor and her remarkable class about the little things that can set you apart in the professional world are mentioned in Schooled) and thinking fondly of my mother. So ahead of her time.

So as I'm preparing to mail out a bunch of thank you notes this week, I guess it's reminding me just how strongly I now feel about them, and how surprised I often am that more people don't send them. It's not that a giver regrets giving if he is not thanked, but it's a gesture that shows not only that the receiver cared enough about the gift to send a note, but also that she's the sort of person who takes the time to do such things; the sort of person who makes that effort. It's a gesture of caring and gratitude, and I see the value both personally and professionally. Or maybe I'm just old school. It's entirely possible. Regardless, if you haven't yet (or haven't ever) mailed thank you notes, I'd encourage you to add it to your repertoire. It will make someone's day. Probably yours.




I knew this would be a phenomenal book just by reading the description, and not just because I'm an introvert. But especially because I'm an introvert. An introvert who went through business school getting lackluster grades because I didn't speak up enough in class and because, despite knowing the answers, my mind went blank every time I was cold called or unexpectedly put on the spot. An introvert who now works in corporate America where I'm sick of the emphasis on group work and constant collaboration, where I see introverts routinely passed over (or let go) because they "don't fit" the leadership style (think extrovert) the company seeks, and where I frequently lie on the personality tests the company sends out for fear they wouldn't want to keep me if they knew how truly introverted I was.

Susan Cain makes the case that introverts get far less credit than they deserve, and it's not just her opinion. Au contraire. For the entire book is filled to the brim with study after study, example after example, of how the premium society places on being an uber-social go-getter (and the pressure introverts feel to fake it in order to make it) is ridiculously unwarranted. It's an opinion I've had for quite some time, as personally I've always found that my strengths as an introvert have lent themselves well to my line of work. I am, after all, in the business of building relationships. And aren't we all?

Rarely do I read a book that makes me gush, and I'll stop before I get carried away, but as far as I'm concerned, this is a must read. My only frustration is that in order for things to change in the corporate world, every CEO, hiring manager, team leader, and business school director would have to read this book. It seems an uphill battle, but this book is an excellent step in the right direction.


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.


Here's to you, Longfellow

I've just spent the weekend with a large portion of my extended family. My grandparents have lived in the same house for 43 years, and small-town Oregon still serves as the meeting place for our holiday gatherings. I love everything about the town. From the lights on the small main street to the impressively renovated library (that stocks a couple copies of Schooled, I'm pleased to report), to the gravel that replaces the pavement once you get far enough away from city limits, being there with the fam is the closest I can come to being completely happy.

On these holiday weekends when we're all together, we have a Christmas tradition of caroling several houses in the area. Yes, I said caroling. As in a big group of people singing Christmas carols. In someone's front yard. Until they open the door. As we caroled the other night, I was struck by one house in particular. The woman who lived there was so touched, she put a hand to her mouth as tears welled up in her eyes. As some of us hugged her, she began to openly weep, and while it was probably just a happy, holiday spirit kind of cry, it made me think of all the people this holiday season who are sad, depressed, and lonely. In some ways, I think we all are. It's hard to live in this world and not be affected by the sea of crap that we as a society seem to be perpetually swimming in.

And so I've been thinking about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem about the Christmas bells. You may have heard it, but what you might not realize is that he wrote it out of sheer despair. His wife had died in a tragic accident, and his son had been severely wounded in battle. The most heart-breaking stanza:

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then he ends with the most powerful and inspiring stanza of all, and one that to me is a very literal reminder of the biggest source of hope we have.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

On this Christmas Eve, I hope we can each find the peace and comfort we seek, and that those of us with the resources to be of service to others will feel inclined to do so. Even if it's just a Christmas carol on a rainy night.


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.


Saving the Store

I was alarmed when I saw a "help save an indie bookstore!" message regarding a darling bookstore in Northeast Ohio. Alarmed because I love all indie bookstores, but my heart goes out to Cleveland-area bookstores in particular. Because I know them. And I can't bear to see them in trouble. So I clicked on the link.

In actuality, the "save the bookstore" effort at The Learned Owl Book Shop isn't really about saving the store. It's about helping one of the employees raise enough money for the loan required to buy the place. The owner is selling the business, see, and this would-be buyer, Kate, is seeking donations through a Kickstarter-like program. Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed that the cause wasn't really one of saving the store. Because I have a harder time stomaching the pushing of a personal fund-raising cause amongst my friends and contacts. But let me say this: I've met Kate. She's just about the most delightful person I've worked with at any of the Cleveland-area bookstores, and the signing I did at the Learned Owl a few months ago was so enjoyable, and largely due to Kate and her hospitality. So if preserving the store exactly as it is today means helping Kate reach her goal, then maybe it's about saving the store after all. Plus, I'm a sucker for dreams. And going after them. Wishing the best to Kate.


Thoughts on 'Platform'

My dad was the one who recommended this book to me. I was expressing my sadness over having published a great book but being a virtual nobody, and he said he'd heard of a book that was all about increasing your following. And despite the (ad nauseam) amount of lists contained in the book, I have to say that overall I'm pleased I read it, and here's why:

1. Michael Hyatt is clearly an expert when it comes to the subject matter. And it makes it easier to both take him seriously and to believe that his methods really do work. Or to put it another way, he's legit, yo.

2. Because I have my own book organized in this fashion, I'm a huge fan of the small bite-sized sections into which Platform is organized. They make reading it easier. Because let's face it, he's throwing a lot at you, and it's nice to be able to take it in one concept at a time.

3. There are so many suggestions and ideas (with a wide range of money, time, and effort involved) that virtually any artist can begin implementing them right away. Maybe not all of them, or maybe not all at once, but many of Hyatt's ideas are so simple that you can make them right away and immediately feel like you are being pro-active.

4. I have seen improvements in my own efforts. Now, keep in mind I was starting at ground zero, so any amount of improvement in traffic or readership will seem more significant to me than it actually is, but it's still been a wonderful exercise to try out several of his suggestions and see results, however small-scale they may be.

Not that this means I'm well on my way to becoming the famous, best-selling author that I would like to be. Au contraire. I'm still embarrassingly unknown. And I confess to being overwhelmed by a fair amount of Hyatt's book. He mentions many different kinds of software and programs that he uses for his own marketing and communicating efforts, and being the one of the least tech-savvy people on earth, my cluelessness intimidates me when it comes to actually implementing many of his ideas. And let's also consider the time involved when it comes to creating a following. If I learned anything from Platform, it's that I'm never going to get anywhere by putting in a few minutes here and there throughout the week. But, you say, I'm busy. You and me both. I work full time, I serve in the community, I'm pursuing my fourth degree, and I'm also falling in love, which (happily) takes more of my spare time than anything else these days. So while you (like me) might feign busyness as a reason to not be working on creating your "tribe" as Hyatt calls it, just realize that you will only get out what you put in. (PS - Michael, this post was in list form just for you : )


This Is Not My Book


I knew before I went into this whole thing that my choice of title was not exactly original. Ooodles of Schooled books exist, but it never really deterred me, as I knew from the get go that as a title, it perfectly encapsulated what I wanted to say. So honestly, title duplicity has never given me the slightest amount of heartburn. Until a Cleveland-area teacher decided to publish a scandalously raunchy book by the same title, that is. It's been the talk of Cleveland for the past couple of days, and I can't count the number of people who have come up to me (partly horrified, partly sympathetic, and always in soft, whispered, what-if-she-doesn't-know-yet tones) to ask whether I've heard, how I'm doing, and if I wouldn't rather "not be associated with that title anymore." As if I should what? Re-publish under a new title?

In truth, I suppose I'm sort of annoyed. What business does anyone have writing this crap, especially a teacher? (The book is supposedly about a teacher having sex with her students. It is also supposedly fiction.) I could further ask what business does anyone have reading this crap, but that's another story, and besides, I've already made the decision that while sex-filled books sell like hotcakes, I'd like to think I have more integrity than that. Both as a writer and as a reader. So back to me being annoyed, because now there's scandal associated with a Cleveland-area writer whose book is called Schooled. Oh well. Look on the bright side, Tali. Maybe I'll see a spike in sales from people thinking mine is the trashy one.


Lessons from Tristan Prettyman


It's hard to call her a newcomer when she's got a few albums out there already, yet I doubt most people have heard of her until now. I only heard about her (earlier this year) because someone introduced me to her music. And now I've seen her twice in concert and find that I like her sound better than most other performers I'm hearing these days. And this is something I think about a lot; this whole idea of an artist pounding the pavement for years and eventually gaining enough momentum to have a following. It's something few I'd-really-like-to-be-a-rock-star dreamers achieve, so when I see it happening, I can't help but applaud. I've enjoyed watching the same thing happen to Neon Trees. I attended the same university (at the same time) as their drummer, and seeing her and her band mates play show after show in that university town, I always admired their persistence when the odds of industry success were pretty slim. And look at them now.

After her performance last night, Tristan greeted each and every person who wanted to meet her. The line snaked through the lobby, and she took the time to sign every autograph, take each picture, and have a host of conversations with chatty fans. Not every artist does this. Heck, not ANY artists do this. Granted, she's not exactly an A-lister, so it's actually feasible for her to do this and not be signing autographs for days straight. But especially when you are toward the starting end of building your following, think about how important it is to put in this effort. Now each one of those people who she met last night will fill their Twitter and Facebook pages with their "me and Tristan" pics and tell everyone about how gracious and friendly she was. They are super-fans in the making.

Of course while standing in line I was fantasizing about someday having a line of people waiting to meet me, even though right now I can usually count on one hand the number of people (who I don't already know) who come to my book signings specifically to see me. It's pretty sad. And I'll probably never have the following that Tristan has, although in my defense, authors are far less glamorous than performers, and let's not forget that I don't do this full time. As much as I would like to. At any rate, last night was a great show, and it makes me happy to see others realizing life-long dreams. Not that doing a show in Cleveland is the dream, but doing a show anywhere and knowing there will be people lined up to meet you, to buy your stuff, and to write sappy blog posts about it the next day. That, my friends, is the dream.


To Hell and Back

My street has been under construction for the past six months. I'm not just talking flaggers and orange cones. I'm talking mountains of gravel, the entire road gutted, cranes and other various machines (and a port-a-potty) lining the street 24-7. I'm not exaggerating when I say it was a form of hell. Every morning became a race to get ready and out the door before the workers started up the cranes, tore up the road, and blocked me in. While the arrangement was for them to start at 7 AM (which is still much earlier than I would like to leave my house every morning), on many mornings they would begin closer to 6:30, and the thought of having to leave my house at that hour left me in tears of frustration more than once. One morning after getting out of the shower, I peeked out the window and saw that the machines were about to tare up the road directly in front of my driveway. Still dripping, I ran outside in my bathrobe and yelled at them to give me a few minutes to just get out of the house. Which is how I ended up blow drying my hair in the restroom at the Dunkin' Donuts down the street. Not my best morning. I tell you all this to illustrate just how monumental it was to arrive home last night to see that the construction has officially been completed. The machines are gone, the road is paved, the grave-shaped hole in my front yard has been filled. And best of all, I was late to work today! After six months of being ridiculously early simply because I had no other choice, I arrived at the office after 8:00.

In instances such as this (where you've been through a prolonged period of hellishness and are finally, blessedly on the other side), there are two different attitudes a person can adopt. The first is to think that in spite of the improved better state of things, the end result was not worth everything you had to go through to make it happen. I don't mention this lightly, because this can be a very big deal. It can involve words like regret, waste, fail, and mistake. And also the word dammit. I love my newly paved road, but honestly, it wasn't worth six months of less sleep, more stress, on and off driveway access, and all the street-lining trees being cut down. Sure, the road used to be uneven and a bit pot-holey, but I could have lived with that. And we could've kept the trees.

The other attitude is one of knowing that the hell you've been through was totally worth it; of feeling nothing but gratitude for having weathered the storm. Something I wholeheartedly put in this category is publishing my book. Because it was hard. And I didn't know what I was doing or even where to start. I was frequently overwhelmed by the number of decisions to be made, and while some were very minor, I worried more than I probably should have about what affect they each might have on the book. But I didn't know any better. I was in over my head and felt frustrated more times than I can count. Sort of surprising that the actual writing of the book would be the easiest part. But it's done now. It's been done for quite a while. And in this particular case, being on the other side feels totally worth it. I wrote a book! That people can buy! Whenever they want! It's a good feeling, that's all I'm saying. And it didn't involve cutting down any trees. ( know what I mean.)


Forgetting Katniss

I'm in the process of studying for a final. (No, there isn't an education-related addendum being written to Schooled. Although I can confirm that these hobby-esque classes will be tied into the subject of currently half-done book two.) And particularly when studying for a class that requires the memorization of a gazillion facts and figures, I am reminded often of both how much the human brain can retain, as well as how much it does not. As I've gone back over all the quizzes I've taken for this course over the past six months, it's embarrassing how much I've managed to forget. But as I dedicated myself to preparing for this final, it's amazing how much I've been able to re-learn, and in not very much time. The brain is just so...spongey.

I suppose it's one thing to forget facts and figures, but what about other things? What about things we learn for fun? What about reading books? Having studied English in college, sometimes I feel like all I can remember is a single story that manages to blend together everything I've ever read; that every literary character becomes a composite of every other character. For example, Silas Marner came up in conversation recently. While some strands of familiarity surfaced, I was stumped. My mind took inventory of male literary characters and produced some combination of Bartleby the Scrivener and J. Alfred Prufrock, and I realized I had no idea if I'd ever read Silas Marner. If so, I could not in that instant pluck out a plot line. Still can't. Or for a more contemporary example, I was discussing The Hunger Games trilogy with family members over Thanksgiving, and my sister-in-law brought up the "vote" at the end of book three. Um, vote? What on earth? How is this possible? I mean, I positively inhaled those books, yet here's how the Thanksgiving discussion went down:

Me: "Uh, vote?"
SIL: "Yeah, when they're all sitting around the table. And she's the deciding vote."

I do not remember this.

Me: "Who is?"
SIL: "Katniss."

I do not remember this at all.

Me: "What are they voting on?"
SIL: "On whether or not to make The Capitol's children do a hunger games."

Oh. My. Gosh. How intense! Go for it Katniss! Make them pay! But wait, shouldn't you of all people want to end the games once and for all?

Me: "Does she vote for it?"
SIL: "Yeah."

Who knew? Except me. Two years ago.

Of course, it's impossible to retain everything we put into our brains, and that's OK. I'm not beating myself up over my lack of ability to recall every detail about the world of Panem. Or scrivenry. The good news is we have the ability to learn period. And the ability to re-learn even when we forget. So if Silas Marner is worth re-reading, someone please tell me.


Reasons Why I Do Not Have a Kindle

All this Kindle talk has made me think about Kindles. And how I don't have one. It seems like a must-have for any reader, but here are the reasons why I have not yet jumped on the bandwagon:

1. I don't have much time for reading. I feel shallow and ignorant for admitting this, but reading always gets pushed to the bottom of the list, and I usually only do it when I can't do anything else. Like when I'm on a plane. Or in the bathroom.

2. I like real books. No matter what you say about being convenient or saving space, I have no issues with slipping a book in my computer bag before a flight. In fact, I always plan on devoting a small pocket of space just for this purpose. And I enjoy physically holding a book in my hands, admiring the cover, smelling the pages, using a book mark, etc.

3. I want to be in control. Maybe I have the wrong idea about what using a Kindle is actually like, but I'd prefer to see the whole page at a time instead of scroll a screen up gradually to see the next couple of paragraphs. I'd rather use my hand to flip to chapter 10 than clickity click my way through some sort of table of contents. I sneak glances at fellow passengers as they read on their Kindles, and it just doesn't look like a reading experience that I would enjoy. At all.

4. I fear the end of the brick and mortar bookstore. It's already happening and there's probably nothing we can do, but my heart aches a little when I think about what it would mean if everyone had a Kindle and exclusively read with it.

I'm sure all you Kindle fiends could argue that I would love a Kindle once I tried it, and you might be right. Back when ipods were new Back when I realized that ipods existed, I couldn't think of any reason why I would ever want one. Then I got one. And now I can't imagine life without it. Still, I'm planning on holding out on the Kindle. The only compelling reason I've come up with for Kindlizing is that I don't necessarily want to buy (as in add to my own book collection) every single book that I want to read. So a Kindle would be a nice way for me keep my bookshelves less crowded. That said, for now I still choose to buy a physical copy of books I hear about that I want to read.

You know, as long as we're talking about it, what I really want is a way to borrow or rent books without having to add them to my personal collection. If you're thinking this sounds a lot like a library, you'd be right. But time is money, my friends, and I don't want to have to drive anywhere. Or search alphabetical listings. Or wait on a list for my turn to check out my library's single copy of something. What I want is a Netflix for books. Could someone please get that going? #ipromiseiamnotaslazyasisound


Download 'Schooled' for free!

Well, it's that time of year again: The time of year when Starbucks brings out their festive red cups. I'm not a coffee drinker myself, but I love those red cups (I suggest a Hazelnut Steamer if you don't care for coffee). I love everything about Starbucks, from its Pacific Northwest origins to the way they have the whole world happily overpaying for warm bevs. I mentioned this to someone recently, my respect for the stronghold that Starbucks' marketing has on our wallets, and they had a hard time understanding where I was coming from. "Wait, you LIKE the fact that they make us all overpay for coffee?" The answer is yes. Yes I do.

It's not that I like overpaying, but the genius of Starbucks is they have created an experience that we all want. That we all need. Because of this, it's not like we stand there in line stewing over how much we hate being ripped off. We WANT to pay it. We CAN'T WAIT to pay it. We consider our lives better and ourselves more trendy for overpaying being Starbucks customers. That's why we keep coming back. And the ability to create that kind of devotion (at a premium, no less) is impressive. More than that, it's the ultimate success when you've got something to sell.

Marketing and selling books is a completely different matter. (Hello, Captain Obvious. Welcome.) There's nothing luxurious per se about a book, and unlike a drink you can sip and instantly confirm that you like (or a piece of art or jewelry that you can form an opinion on immediately), books require reading before the buyer really knows whether they are worth his investment. So more often than not, he doesn't invest. It's even more difficult when the author is a nobody. Like me. All you can hope for is word of mouth. Which is a problem when no one knows about you. So on Wednesday and Thursday of this week (Nov. 28 and 29), Schooled will be available as a free Kindle download. Download it, tell your friends, tell them to tell their friends, and remember that my holiday promotion still applies for those who like it enough to post a review. It's the perfect thing to read while sipping something hot from a festive red cup.



I've been traveling this week, and it's the first time in probably years that I didn't bring a computer with me. I knew I wasn't going to have time for writing, plus I wanted my focus to be on my family, as they were the entire reason for the trip anyway. I'd be lying if I said I didn't at times feel crazy for being completely disconnected from the land of www, but spending so much quality time with  my family had me really reflecting on how grateful I truly am for the blessings in my life.

Last week a pretty harsh review of Schooled popped up that complained about the lack of opposition, trials, or legitimate "memoir" subject matter in the book. I won't go into how this person sort of missed the universality boat like I did in my popularity spiel inspired by another review (although I certainly could), because my reaction to this latest review has actually been one of gratitude. Not for the review itself, because reading it really sucked, but for the chance it has given me to be grateful for such a trial-free upbringing.

Let's be clear, this is not to say that there have not been trials. But compared to so many in this world, I've been fortunate. My parents are still married, and they treated us and each other with love and respect. We never had a lot, but we always had more than enough for what we needed. I was raised in a religion that gave (and continues to give) me hope and comfort in an increasingly corrupt world. I can see and hear and walk, and I've been able to receive a quality education that has prepared me well for the workforce. I could go on and on. I suppose if I had battled a drug addiction or escaped an abusive situation or been homeless or imprisoned  for a time that I might be selling more books. But personally, I'd rather be me, here, now, in my abundantly blessed yet somewhat less than noteworthy life.


Holiday Book Giveaways

I began my Christmas shopping this weekend. So far I'm spending way too much per gift (as well as spending way too much time in each store), but that's neither here nor there. Since most of you are probably also thinking about holiday gifts, I thought it might be nice to give some books away. So here's how it works:

Option #1: Anyone who posts a review of Schooled on Amazon or Goodreads will be entered to win one of a few signed copies I'll be giving away in time for Christmas. If you post a review on both of those sites, you'll be entered twice. Just contact me so that I'll know where the review is and make the connection that the reviewer is you. Use the email in the About Me sidebar on this blog if you don't have my personal contact info.

Option #2: There's a free book in it for anyone out there who gets their local indie bookstore (or library) to stock the book. Again, contact me so I know which store now has it and where to send your book.

Option #3: For shoppers out there looking to purchase at least 5 copies, contact me and I can send you a discount code to be used when you place the order.

**One last thing. Anyone receiving a free copy of Schooled will have the option of choosing a copy of my second book instead. Just bear in mind that it's only halfway done. So you might be waiting a long time. To the tune of a couple of years possibly. But still, it's an option. Email me with questions, and certainly to let me know if you're interested in participating in any of these giveaways. And whatever you do this shopping season, stay away from Anthropologie. Especially if they're having a dress sale.


Reminiscing on the Hood

I was in Pittsburgh this past weekend, a city I visit fairly often. I love the donut shop in the strip district, I love that Pittsburgh houses both the closest IKEA to me and also the closest Tiffany & Co., and I love that it has the same industrial blue collar feel as Cleveland but is infinitely more lovely with all those rivers and bridges. I might live there if they had an NBA team. Yet, I digress.

While on the trip I got to meet up with a woman who is as dear to me as family. For those who have read Schooled, this woman---my former neighbor---is the one whose daughter I used to trade sandwiches with on the school bus, the one who calmed me down when my over-the-top prom hairstyle had me borderline weepy, and the one who introduced me to such luxuries as bologna, white bread, the country music video channel, and hide-a-beds, which, to be clear, were ALL things that I considered luxuries. Surely there is no one else (besides my own family) who was such an integral part of my growing up years in Oregon, and as we chatted over dessert on Saturday night, she said, "It really was a great neighborhood." And it was. But more than that, she really was a great neighbor. And I miss her terribly.

But it's funny how life shuffles things around, people too, because even though I'm three time zones away from my beloved Oregon, this sweet former neighbor lives only a couple hours away from me. I think about that sometimes; the fact that somewhere in the city of Pittsburgh is the woman who is the closest reminder I have of my childhood. I think about this a lot, actually. How most people I see (in stores, on crowded streets, in airports, etc.) mean nothing to me, but to someone, these people mean the world. And that makes me want to be nicer. To everyone. Because I hope the people who surround my loved ones in their various corners of the world are doing the same. So smile at the person in the elevator next to you. Ask how they are. Ask what they do. And if they've written a book, buy it.