Month: September 2011 Page 1 of 2

Two quick things before I go walk my dog

1. Don’t forget to comment on my September giveaway post for your chance to win ON BEAUTY by Zadie Smith or BROETRY by Brian McGackin! Right now only one person has entered… (Torie Michelle, you may end up winning both!)

2. Today I’m over at Writer Unboxed talking about bad/blah books and why I’ve learned to put them down. Some people come to this realization more quickly than I did, especially with bad books. But I want to stress here that I’m including BLAH books now too — the ones that are oh-kaay, and you kind of want to know what happens, but you’re just not enjoying reading them. For me, those are much harder to put down than flat-out bad books, but just as important to abandon (if not more so). Read the post to find out why.


Please note: My “Reading Reflections” are not reviews. They are simply my thoughts in response to certain passages.

To whomever found my website by searching “i’m addicted to novels again” — congratulations! That makes me so happy.

(But ironically, today I am posting about non-fiction.)


BOSSYPANTS is really more of a collection of humorous personal essays than it is a true memoir. That said, it does cover Tina Fey’s life from childhood to present day, and it offers insight to her personal life as well as her career. I can’t say that every story was a hit, but I did laugh out loud on more than one occasion.

(Also, I found the background story on the Sarah Palin SNL skits to be particularly interesting. Now I kind of wish Seth Meyers would write a book too.)

This is what I tell young women who ask me for career advice. People are going to try to trick you. To make you feel that you are in competition with one another. “You’re up for a promotion. If they go with a woman, it’ll be between you and Barbara.” Don’t be fooled. You’re not in competition with other women. You’re in competition with everyone. (88)

Underneath Tina’s humor and humility is a noticeable streak of feminism. The normal, non-obnoxious kind. The kind that comes from loving women and believing they deserve equal opportunities. The kind I also subscribe to.

We women have a reputation for being catty, but honestly? In my life, most of my greatest champions have been female. My mother, my lifelong friends, one of my writing professors, certain coworkers, and now my writing group. From what I hear, this is not always the case for women, and that’s a shame. We shouldn’t just be not competing with one another; we should be building each other up, encouraging each other, offering support.

(Well, I suppose all of humanity should be doing that for one another, really. Feminism is in many ways a subset of humanitarianism.)

If you retain nothing else, always remember the most important Rule of Beauty. “Who cares?” (114)

This line — and her whole section on beauty, really — not only made me laugh, but also made me feel better about myself. She’s a smart, funny, successful, and beautiful woman, and she still struggles with all the same issues I do. If she can shrug it off, then maybe so can I.

“The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30.”

This is something Lorne has said often about Saturday Night Live, but I think it’s a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. (123)

Note to self: success does not come from perfection.

You have to let people see what you wrote. It will never be perfect, but perfect is overrated. Perfect is boring… (123)

Second note to self: what she said.

One of the worst parts of all this was that I learned what it felt like to be a lightning rod. I got some hate mail, and there are definitely people who will dislike me for the rest of my life … On an intellectual level, this doesn’t bother me at all. On a human level, I would prefer to be liked. (234)

I think this relates to my previous post about watching what you say on the internet. Because while you do want to take care with your words, you don’t wan’t to be stifled by fear. Be smart, not silent. Otherwise you’ve lost without ever trying.

Do your thing and don’t care if they like it. (145)

Easier said than done, but for creatives, it’s good advice nonetheless.

The immortality of words on the internet

It’s been a strange week for me. My dad and my aunt both underwent significant surgeries, and my boyfriend had a terrifying experience with Clear Air Turbulence on his business trip to South America. Meanwhile I’ve been home alone, wrestling with my thoughts and emotions about it all. Many times I’ve wanted to blog about what’s going on, but each time I sat down to do it, I found myself… hesitant, unable.

(For the record, both surgeries went well, and Andy has already flown twice since the CAT incident.)

The thing about the internet is, it’s forever. And also, it’s full of strangers. And though I may think I’m saying something harmless, I don’t really know who’s reading or how they might interpret my words.

In general, I’m not one of those people who fears that what they say will get twisted and shoved back in their face. I believe in the goodness and rationality of mankind. I figure that if someone misunderstands me — or even if I really do mess up and say something stupid — I can clarify and be forgiven. Life will go on.

Furthermore, who’s really listening, right? I’m not John Green or Heather Armstrong or Ashton Kutcher. I have my little circle of friends (you guys ROCK, btw) so what’s there to worry about?

Well, that’s where the “forever” part comes in. In real life, when we have late night conversations with our friends, where we ramble for so long that we start to forget what we’re saying even as it comes out of our mouths, it’s no big deal. We’re expressing a single thought in a single moment. Then the moment passes. Like a footprint in the sand, the thought has made it’s impression, and then it gets washed away. Harmless.

On the internet, moments don’t pass. They can be stumbled upon or searched for, days or weeks or years later. Even deleting your words doesn’t guarantee that they can’t be found. (Thanks, Google cache.) Maybe I’m not famous now. Maybe I don’t have enemies or “haters” yet. But maybe someday I will.

Look, I don’t believe in living my life in fear. But I also don’t believe in living in ignorance. So all I’m trying to say is, sometimes I don’t know how much to say.

(I realize that for something like health scares and traumatic plane rides, I’m probably safe. Short of crazies or trolls, no one’s going to attack me about that stuff. But this issue of “what you say online” has been on my mind for a while. And not just for my own blog, but also for comments, and discussions boards, and Twitter, and everything.)

It’s funny, because this is part of why we all blog, right? We want someone to read our words, to connect, to respond. It’s not about agreeing all the time (because wow, that’d be boring). It’s about sharing experiences, ideas, and opinions. It’s about learning and growing and feeling. It’s about adding our thread of life to this vast digital web.

So I’m not going to stop blogging, and I’m not going to stop getting personal. But I guess I just wanted to say that it’s not always easy. That there are valid concerns, and I don’t always know what to do about them. So I have to proceed as I would with anything else: the best I can, and with good intentions. Hopefully that’s enough.

September giveaway

Oops! I totally missed August. My bad, y’all. I’m also getting better about borrowing library books, which means that my bookshelves aren’t as strained as they used to be. Giveaways probably won’t be every month anymore.

Same rules as usual: Please leave a comment below and let me know which of these 2 books you’re interested in. If you’re interested in both, that’s fine. You have until the end of this month to enter, and then I’ll draw names at random and announce the winners on Mon, Oct 3rd. Must have US mailing address — sorry, international friends!

Images and descriptions courtesy of GoodReads.

On BeautyOn Beauty
By Zadie Smith

Howard Belsey is an Englishman abroad, an academic teaching in Wellington, a college town in New England. Married young, thirty years later he is struggling to revive his love for his African American wife Kiki. Meanwhile, his three teenage children — Jerome, Zora and Levi — are each seeking the passions, ideals and commitments that will guide them through their own lives.

After Howard has a disastrous affair with a colleague, his sensitive older son, Jerome, escapes to England for the holidays. In London he defies everything the Belseys represent when he goes to work for Trinidadian right-wing academic and pundit, Monty Kipps. Taken in by the Kipps family for the summer, Jerome falls for Monty’s beautiful, capricious daughter, Victoria.” But this short-lived romance has long-lasting consequences, drawing these very different families into each other’s lives. As Kiki develops a friendship with Mrs. Kipps, and Howard and Monty do battle on different sides of the culture war, hot-headed Zora brings a handsome young man from the Boston streets into their midst whom she is determined to draw into the fold of the black middle class — but at what price?

By Brian McGackin

As contemporary poets deliver entire volumes on subjects like incest, menstruation, and pine cones, regular guys are left scratching their heads. Who will speak for Everyman? Who will articulate his love for Xbox 360, for Mama Celeste’s Frozen Pizza, for any movie starring Bruce Willis?

Enter Broetry. “Broet Laureate” Brian McGackin goes where no poet has gone before — to Star Wars conventions, to frat parties, to video game tournaments, and beyond. With poems like “Ode to That Girl I Dated for, Like, Two Months Sophomore Year” and “My Friends Who Don’t Have Student Loans,” we follow the Bro from his high school graduation and college experience through a “quarter-life crisis” and beyond. Packaged in a small gifty hardcover and illustrated with tasteful black and white illustrations, Broetry is a funny and sly look at modern masculinity.

A funny thought

When I was a kid, my parents used to call me Chatterbox. Because I could talk. A LOT.

(Still can, still do. Just ask Andy.)

Sometimes my rambling was so bad that my dad would say, “If you can’t tell a story in two minutes or less, then I don’t want to hear it.”

And yet I still grew up to be a novelist.

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