Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Reading at BookPeople

Dao Strom and Amanda Eyre Ward will join me this Saturday in Austin, Texas at BookPeople at 7p.m. Read a review of The May Queen on Austinist and in the Austin Chronicle. I promise a full report when I return.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Skinny on TMQ

Thanks to the mahvelous Jennifer Elks, The May Queen received a rave review in the summer issue of The Skinny.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Try This On For Size

Word on the street is that fantastic writer and MQ contributor Lily Burana's new novel Try is a page-turner. Ms. Thang can certainly spin a good yarn so I eagerly await my copy!

Advance Praise for Try
From fellow May Queen Meghan Daum
"Lily Burana has written a feisty, funny, sexy novel about romantic love, family love, the love of rodeo, and, above all, the marvelous oddities of the western landscape that brings these loves together. Darryl Heatherly is a captivating, endearing narrator and her leading man, J.W. Jarrett, will charm the chaps off of the most urbane reader. TRY is a delight and Burana deserves a gold buckle for taking us along for this ride."

From Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the wonderful EAT, PRAY, LOVE
"My God, it's refreshing to read a novel as good and rank and honest and sexy as TRY. Lily Burana is wonderful storyteller, able to walk through all sorts of time-worn territory (cowboys, romance, rodeo) without stepping on a single cliche. If you don't care about the people in this book, then you should get your heart examined."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

August and Everything After

Lucky Kim and I got to stay with Sara Woster and Rob Fischer at their cozy apartment in Williamsburg for our last two nights in NY. It was so terrific to see Sara after ten years! She hasn't changed a bit aside from her growing belly and copper hair. I was a tad emabarassed by my appearance as Kim and I let the makeover czars at Barney's turn us into pseudo drag queens. An explanation: I like to relax and in lieu of sitting in a coffee shop this seemed like an okay idea at the time. Esther, the Israeli grandma, who lined my eyes with purple and taupe shadows, whispered into my ear that she had a story for me. She averted her eyes from her manager's as she told me that her daughter had been born "slow," became pregnant as a teenager, and when she tried to arrange an abortion for her, she had her grandson five weeks later. As she told me about "the light of her life," she rummaged through her purse for her cell phone to show me a snapshot of her gorgeous 15-year-old grandson. Esther explained that she named him the Hebrew word for "moon shining at night," but he still shines during the day. I'm continually bewildered by the kind yet random people who feel obliged to tell me their life stories.

When we arrived at BookCourt around 8, Ayun Halliday strolled in fresh as a daisy after her afternoon swim. She told me Henry Zook, the owner of BookCourt, lives above the shop. Seeing Louise Jarvis Flynn again for the first time since high school was surreal. Looking into her eyes, I had a flashback to midnight at her house eating Pepperidge Farm crab soup and watching Angel Heart. The thought of that film still gives me the creeps. The young bookstore clerk then informed me the woman meant to introduce us would be thirty minutes late and would we like to wait? No, we would not. So I had to wing it. I introduced the book and then Jennifer Baumgardner, Louise Jarvis Flynn, Kimberley Askew, Sara Woster, Heather Chaplin, Ayun Halliday, Ivy Meeropol, and Heather Juergensen read their essays. Just as Ivy took the counter/podium, I had a little coughing fit brought on by my lingering cold. The resourceful Jen B. came to my rescue with a cough drop and thankfully I recovered my composure. I felt so unmoored by hearing and seeing sweet Ivy read. In all the time I edited her piece, I thought I had understood the gravity and magnitude of her family's legacy and then I heard her say, "my grandparents," and I lost it. I am not an overly emotional person given to creating scenes, but while she was reading, I was reminded of Ivy's description in her essay of her father, Michael, nervously shuffling through his papers when he was called on to speak during a hearing on the Venona documents. I thought of how flustered and emotional he must have felt in those moments and now here was Ivy standing before everyone sharing how she felt about her grandparents' legacy. I suddenly felt how heartbreaking and horrifying her experience and her father's experiences must have been.

And then the quiet Q&A. Heather Chaplin was asked how her "people" (most notably her parents) had felt about her piece? She joked that "no one knew about it and it stays in this room with all of us. " When one man asked what we thought our next wild ride would be, Heather Juergensen mentioned Winkie Rose and how we expected our lives to get better with every decade. We had a great crowd at the event: Deirdre Dolan, my agent Jennifer Carlson, my editor Sara Carder, Meg Leder, our token male spouses: Heather's honey Aaron Ruby, Sara's love Rob Fischer, Louise's hubby Sean Flynn, Amy Piper a woman from my high school(!), and various friends.

At Brooklyn Social, we made more new friends: Jami Attenberg and her Riverhead editor. We ate pressed sandwiches with Sara's funny friends in the corner. Heather J. and Heather C. were entertaining as always. It was incredible seeing Sara again after all these years. She's six months pregnant and so in love with her husband. He's been her best friend for years and now he's building a studio in the Minnesota woods where they plan to return this summer to have their baby. Rob has tentatively named their daughter August which we all declared an exceptional name. Their home is lovingly filled with books, Sara's paintings (the one above is of Rob who I think resembles a mustachioed Tom Ford), family photos (I particuarly liked a black and white of a rancher herding cattle), paintbrushes, blueprints, plants hanging in pots in the windows (ivy, begonias, a ficus) and lilacs in a vase. (This description reminds me of a medicine cabinet in a Salinger novel). I know they'll make a very loving family for August.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

City of Sisterly Love

On our first official day of sunshine (April 25), Kim and I hopped on an Amtrak train from Penn Station to 30th Street Station in Philly and then checked into our hotel (Club Quarters). We strolled down Chestnut Street in downtown Philadelphia to soak in the sunny afternoon (after three days of rain) and admired the cobblestone side streets and Georgian homes. Then off to the train station once more to high-tail it to Ardmore for a quick pre-reading dinner with Marisa de los Santos, her hubby David Teague, and Jennifer Weiner at Plate. In our haste, we boarded an R5 express train to Bryn Mawr by mistake. Whoops. Our Italian ticketmaster who slightly resembled Robert Benigni scolded us for being on the wrong train. "Did you not hear them say Express? Where are you going? No, you're not!" I hid my hands to prevent our Gestapo guard from holepunching them. When we arrived in Bryn Mawr, he suddenly became chivalrous and escorted us off the train.

Our cabbie to Ardmore proved even more entertaining. A lively, longtime Philly resident and uncle to Beyonce's choreographer(!). "You know her booty shake, she does?" Uh huh. "Well, my nephew taught her that! All her moves she owes to my nephew." When we alighted from his cab, Riley informed us we were in one of the wealthiest communities in America. "I hope you got money cause you're gonna need lots of money here." Luckily, we were only able to stay one night.

We shared our first springtime margarita with Marisa and David at the bar and then Jennifer joined us later for dinner. The crab-stuffed bites of rainbow trout wrapped in proscuitto reminded me of miniature versions of the square watermelons grown in Japan. I congratulated and praised Marisa on her new book Love Walked In. I can't wait to see Sarah Jessica Parker as Cornelia on the big screen. Our conversation was mostly of books. I had just finished Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. An enthusiastic Allegra Goodman fan, Jen had just bought her latest, Intuition. Kim finished England, England by Julian Barnes on the plane. Marisa had just started fellow May Queen contributor (and incidentally the person who had introduced me to both Jen and Marisa) Julianna Baggott's book Which Brings Me To You. (I noticed the other night that David is thanked in the acknowledgements by Julianna.) We also discussed Philly schools and how Jen's agent Joanna Pulcini was handling putting out the fire caused by the Harvard sophomore plagiarist who had cribbed pages from Joanna's client Megan McCafferty's work. Jen very kindly picked up the tab. Thanks Jen!

After our delightful dinner, we were whisked off to nearby Wynnewood for our reading at Borders. Valerie Cucinotta, the events coordinator there and a consummate pro, greeted us at the door. Jen scurried off to find a copy of The Thrall's Tale -a book Marisa had recommended to her. When we were finally seated before the audience, the front row shouted to Jen, "We're your groupies!" I have never seen such a sense of ownership and protectiveness as I have in Jen Weiner's fans. They love her as they would a treasured best friend who left them behind in middle school and went on to become a rock star. Their love and admiration for her is that intense. After the contributors read, we took questions from the audience which not suprisingly were mostly for Jen and Marisa who were more than happy to offer their humorous stories. The crowd was interested in the process of bringing their novels, Love Walked In and In Her Shoes, to the silver screen. Marisa confessed she thought George Clooney is the only movie star with enough old Hollywood glamour like Cary Grant to play Martin in the film version. Jen was also there to promote the pre-release of her paperback version of Goodnight Nobody, but she had to field a fair amount of questions about her grandmother's role in the film In Her Shoes.

I was delighted to meet my friend Wendy's parents at the reading. Wendy's mother told me that when her daughter was a teenager they had hatched an idea for a mysteries series with a character named Gwendolyn Mumsley. Love it! I was sad to bid farewell to this city of surprising beauty, generous friends, and cheesesteaks. Yum! Thanks to Valerie for the photo at Borders (L to R: Nicki, Kim, Marisa, and Jen)!

Thoroughly Modern Motherhood

MQ contributor Louise Jarvis Flynn was a guest on Frank Stasio's show The State of Things this afternoon. The show included an interesting mix of women from all stages of motherhood: a retired activist with a 33 year old son, an attorney mom of teens, Louise (a freelance writer and mother to her one-year-old son) and a young, stay-at-home mother of four. Producer Susan Davis did a great job of lining up a truly eclectic group of women from all age groups. The mothers spoke of society's expectations of motherhood, choices women have to make regarding what kind of mother they want to be, and the idea of the "good mom" vs. the "bad mom."

When Frank asked, "How do young women learn who they are because there are so many messages and pressures coming from so many different places and the media about what a woman should be? How hard is it to find out who you are and be that sturdy?"

Louise replied, "I think that's one of the big questions of your twenties. In this collection, The May Queen, it's really about that and it's about how these women coming into their thirties figured out by making a whole lot of really bad choices and mistakes, but also good choices (bad luck and good luck) just kind of stumbling along end up at a point in their thirties with family and a career and kind of pulling it all together."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Erin Ergenbright's 3+ Things

I had the pleasure of May Queen contributor Erin Ergenbright's company on our road trip to Santa Cruz in late April. She's a lovely and amazing writer with a heart of gold as evidenced by her three plus things to accomplish in her thirties. Here's Erin's list:
1. Run a marathon.
2. Fall madly in love.
3. Own a horse.
4. Hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
5. Publish my book of short stories.
6. Fight for the animal welfare act to be extended to farm animals. 7. Visit Italy and Greece.
8. Relearn French.
9. Find the perfect black cardigan sweater.
10. Learn how the stock market works. Actually, I don't care how the stock market works. I should, but I don't. I imagine these things will change as I near forty, but today, those are my goals.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

An Angel in the House No More

Pick up a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle today. I'm very briefly quoted in Heidi Benson's piece, although I recall having also told her that women's anthologies are coming out as a sort of backlash to the chick lit phenomenon. To label women's stories as chick lit undermines the value of childbirth, raising children, and the pull of having a career vs. a family, and the blossoming of one's creative drive and wisdom. It's an insipid way of labeling women's stories and significant aspects of their lives as uninteresting or not worth reading. I also said I didn't know what the stats are exactly, but the majority of book buyers are women. So it stands to reason that they're craving an opportunity to read about other women's experiences. Consequently, more of their stories are coming out in films, novels, and other media. I was stunned by the number of women who wanted to reveal very intimate details about their lives in TMQ. I was a little disappointed I wasn't attributed more in her article, but live and learn.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Au Hasard Balthazar

On Monday, April 24, Kim and I were joined for dinner at Balthazar by our two NYC friends who both happen to be named Lauren and work in publicity. I'm afraid that's where their similarities end. Lauren C. is the most charming, well-read, well-connected sweetheart ever. She immediately puts one at ease with her wit, sly sarcasm, and ability to pepper her phrases with small profanities in the most endearing manner. My old acquaintance Lauren S. is a marathon name-dropper, foodie, groupie VP. She has tickets to see Madonna and dates older men for sport. Lauren S. amuses me. She makes me laugh with her intensity and perversion. I ordered steak au poivre (glutton!) followed by a trio of desserts. Our conversation started so lovingly about poetry (an impassioned speech from Lauren C. on how kids are taught to hate poetry from such a young age yet poets such as Billy Collins still emerge from the fray. I read his Nostalgia at my sister's wedding.) then turned heated about the Oscars. Lauren C. astutely observed foreign films nominated for an Oscar are almost always depressing because the Academy doesn't want anyone to realize how much better foreign films actually are. Ha!

As the witching hour approached, I was ready to hop on our yellow cab carriage back to midtown before I turned into a charentais. The drunken couple celebrating their second wedding anniversary sprayed crab juice on Kim from their gigantic two-tiered behemoth of seafood. They were almost unbearably cute. On Spring Street, Lauren C. mentioned her bloody fascination with the SoHo spots where women have been attacked and murdered and then pointed longingly toward her Tribeca home. From her gorgeous Egyptian necklace (a gift from Mom) to her tendency to point out what should be an obvious promotional op for me by now ( lovely drunken girl from LA needs a friend. Give her your card!). Love this girl! Conversation could have been more pleasant. Only if... C'est dommage!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

White Hot Summer Reads

I'm reading and loving MQ contributor Julianna Baggott's latest book with coauthor Steve Almond. Which Brings Me to You feels like a guilty pleasure-- I eagerly anticipate dipping into this book every night at bedtime. Julianna is full of good ideas and this one may be her most intriguing yet.
In other contributor news... Dao Strom has just published The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys. I can't wait to get my greedy little paws on a copy. Read an excerpt here. I just discovered a great review of The May Queen from Melanie Haupt at the Austin Chronicle. I'm really looking forward to seeing my friends Claire Canavan and Colin Graham at their Austin wedding hoedown on May 28. Git along little doggies! You can see Dao Strom and Amanda Eyre Ward read their pieces from the anthology at BookPeople with me on Saturday, May 27 at 7pm.

Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day

I would be remiss in my duties as a true friend if I didn't take a moment to acknowledge that May Queen contributor Flor Morales and her family demonstrated today in honor of May Day. This morning, I saw hundreds of local Latinos marching in white shirts toward Civic Center in San Rafael. Flor's husband was one of the men marching in their number. This is a struggle for dignity and a place in society by some of the most vulnerable people in the U.S. -the millions of workers consigned to fear and isolation by a system that demands their labor, but isn’t willing to grant equal rights. You can read Flor's moving story of fleeing El Salvador ten years ago in THE MAY QUEEN.
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