Tag Archives: authors

The Fine Line

22 Sep

U.S. President Calvin Coolidge’s exercise horse

This week I have (so far) seen the homes/museums of four U.S. Presidents, four authors and one eccentric art collector. I have learned that the lines between “eccentric” and “crazy” and “collector” and “hoarder” are either “becoming President” or “publishing a bunch of books, at least one of which is a huge success.”

I ponder this idea as I finish eating some leftover mushroom risotto for breakfast because this week I’m storing the delicious restaurant leftovers for three people, two of whom are tourists and don’t wish to eat them (but none of us can let that food stay on our plates). I’m also thinking about where to store the five new books that have entered the house this week. They may be used to finish creating a bedside table for me, as my current next-to-bed pile of books-I’m-definitely-reading-next is getting pretty high.

I hope to publish a book soon. Because I can’t really imagine running for elected office at this point in time.





19 May

A few years ago, I picked up this copy of Bill Buford’s Heat in a used bookstore. I’d heard good things about it and wanted to use it for research to get an idea of what it’s like to work in a restaurant kitchen.

Here’s the thing with used books: You never know what you’re going to get. I was reading away, enjoying the book, when I flipped the page to this:

Wait a sec–the black bar? What’s so bad that I shouldn’t read it?

I flipped the page and held the book up to the light. Oh, I thought. It’s “got cocky. Someone thought I shouldn’t read that.”

That made me chuckle, but as you might imagine from what I’ve heard about the back of house in restaurants, this was just the beginning of the censorship. A few fucks were crossed out, maybe some other words–the censor got really good with their blackout technique.

Then there was this choice:




So…..let’s cross out every time “fucking” was used, but “bastards” can stay in?






But the last straw was this:


This little passage must have gotten the censor really angry, because any word that’s part a sexual suggestion has been blacked out. Like “kissing.” Bad!

I don’t understand–if the book’s so horrid that someone was compelled to censor it, why even bother to make sure it exists anyway? Why not just recycle it back to the pulp from whence it came? I can’t imagine the couple of bucks they got for it really was worth the effort of all of this fine handiwork.

And if it was, this book certainly landed in the wrong hands, because I don’t give a fuck about they think.


Report on National Readathon (and/or Cleanathon) Day

29 Jan

I apologize for the Blizzard of 2015 getting in the way of letting you know whether or not Future Jill’s predictions on National Readathon Day were accurate. You can get off your pins and needles today, though, because here’s the full story:

National Readathon Day was supposed to take place on Saturday. Noon to 4, me and the couch and some reading material. A tortilla chip thwarted those plans.

Saturday morning, I was in the kitchen, and I noticed a tortilla chip on the floor, so I bent over to pick it up and noticed some other floor junk by a corner of the stove. I’d been cooking and baking a fair amount recently, so maybe some other piece of food had fallen and needed to be picked up.

Or maybe it was a dead mouse.

A dead mouse in the kitchen causes a chain of events:

I say, “There’s a mouse!”

The Boy, who’s sitting at the kitchen table, quickly lifts up his feet and cries, “Where?!”

“It’s dead. It’s here by the stove.”

The Boy comes over to the stove to assess the situation, pronounces that the mouse is indeed dead (because it’s certainly not still sleeping on its side during all this commotion, unless it is one mellow mouse) and proceeds to dispose of it. This involves sweeping it into a dustpan, which [GORE ALERT] leaves a tiny trail of mouse guts and blood on our kitchen floor, and throwing it away.

When he comes back into the house, the proclamation is made: We have to clean up this kitchen.


And suddenly National Readathon Day becomes National Cleanathon Day.

We scrubbed everything–cabinets, windows, oven, garbage cans, refrigerator, and our personal nemesis, the floor. Now, we have a very nice white tile floor that’s got a little off-white pattern on it that hides the dirt a little bit. We discovered that this pattern does an amazingly good job because it was hiding a lot of dirt. A lot. Of dirt. We’d been cleaning with Mop & Glo, which apparently puts glow on the floor but doesn’t do a heck of a lot of mopping, because we both spent a couple of hours on our hands and knees scrubbing the floor with sponges and Mr. Clean, marveling at how dirty the water had gotten in our scrub bucket.

One we were done, the floor–and kitchen–looked fantastic, but man, did my shoulder hurt. Plus, I was too zonked to put in another four hours of conscious living, let alone reading. The readathon would be postponed.

On Sunday, it happened. Me, couch, book, a four-hour block of afternoon. I finished reading Can I Get an Amen? by Sarah Healy, which was an entertaining read–not earth shattering, but as someone who went to Christian schools, I could relate to the environment of a church-centered life and all of the characters that went with it.

When I finished the story, I still had about an hour to go in the readathon, so I thought I’d peruse the readers’ guide that went along with the book, then find something else to read. But the first question turned out to be a slap-in-the-face for me, and I stopped the readathon cold.

I don’t know why, but I still have a lot of hang-ups as a writer, and I know that constant practice, constant putting pieces together and constantly submitting those pieces for publication is really the only way to get to where I’d like to be. Why I won’t let myself do that is something I don’t quite understand, but this year I’ve decided I’m through wallowing. It’s not cute anymore, and it’s been going on so long that people shouldn’t still be sympathetic to my imagined plight. It’s time to make something happen, particularly in terms of finishing up creative writing, submitting it and resubmitting the rejected pieces (I’ve gotten some rejections lately, which is a step, but I need to keep searching for a home for those stories). It doesn’t have to be great or earth-shattering; it just has to be done.

So when I read the first question, which is about how the author got into writing, and the response is, “I never expected to be a writer. That I have managed to become one comes as the most pleasant shock,” followed by a lengthy description of someone who figured out what they wanted to do and then slowly and realistically made it happen, I got pretty disappointed in myself, and I wanted to do something about it, rather than continue consuming other people’s work. Not that reading isn’t important or that I shouldn’t make a more conscious effort to sit down for a longer period of time to enjoy doing it, but that I also need to get to work.

Future Jill got it partly right. I finished the book I’d intended to. I’m curious as to what Future Jill has to say about the result of that experience. I might ask her at some point, but I think already know what she’s going to say.

March/April Reading Update

14 May

It seems awfully early in the year to be wondering where time has gone, but such is the case with 2014. It’s seemed tremendously long already but at the same time has gone by far too quickly.

Anyway, I’ve been slacking on the book buying somewhat, which is probably good. I’ve also been slacking on the reading. Combining the last two months:

Books bought: 3 (I believe) (all in New Zealand)

Books read: 6

States/countries covered:  2 states, 3 countries + I repeated New York again

Total geography: 6 states, 5 countries

March’s reading list:

Life Would Be Perfect if I Lived in that House – Meghan Daum

Never Have I Ever – Katie Heaney

I’ll Seize the Day Tomorrow – Jonathan Goldstein

Paris vs. New York – Vahram Muratyan

April’s reading list:

Everybody Has Everything – Katrina Onstad

The Brightest Star in the Sky – Marian Keyes

Good reads? Pretty good reads.

Meghan Daum is a LA Times columnist, and I read her regularly. Her memoir is about belonging to the space you live in and working through her love affair with real estate. I want to be Meghan Daum’s friend — her writing style is smart, personable and relatable, and is a constant reminder that mine should be in a similar vein. While I don’t think friendship — or even paths crossing — is in the offing, I’ll put that out there for the universe to decide. I promise not to be a big slobbery fangirl if we ever meet.

If I were in my mid-twenties I might want to be friends with Katie Heaney. I thought I’d really like her collection of essays about being unlucky in love because my own dating life was pretty pathetic; however, I just wasn’t right there with her, so to speak. A decent read, but not what I wanted it to be.

My third memoir/book of essays for the month of March was from Jonathan Goldstein, and it’s a keeper. I loved his writing style. He made me laugh. He made really insightful observations about people and life, and he did in such a way that I could learn a thing or two about style and structure for my own writing.

I wasn’t quite sure whether or not to count Paris vs. New York because it’s more of an art/graphic book. It’s still a book though, and I’m counting it! [I will also count the Steve Martin tweets book my mother just sent me as a book, even though it doesn’t look like much of one. I need Texas!] I breezed through a copy on a friend’s coffee table and was really enchanted with the design and the concept of noticing little details. That’s one thing I like about traveling abroad — the tiny things that are different from home. This book made me happy…I might have to get my own copy someday.

In April, I read a couple of novels. Everybody Has Everything is about a couple who can’t conceive, yet friends of theirs are in a car accident and leave them guardianship of their son. It’s an interesting book about parenting and wanting to be a parent, and I’ve read it at probably the right time in my own life. I also liked the fact that this was set in Toronto, which is such a wonderful city, and I liked having enough knowledge of the city’s geography that I knew some of the places mentioned.

Lastly, I read a Marian Keyes novel. I like Keyes a lot, but this one was a bit of a slog. It takes place in one Dublin apartment building and follows all the various tenets of the building. I’ve read that when writing fiction, if you divide up the plot like that — tell three sides of the story, for example — you don’t have to write as much about each individual story, and when you’re done, you have a full book. Well, when you write about five or so stories, you have to say even less. It was difficult to get to know all of the characters, and some of their stories got a bit of the short shift. On top of that, there’s a conceit that’s supposed to tie the whole thing together, and it just didn’t work for me (I figured out what the conceit was inferring pretty early on, which also annoyed me — the surprise wasn’t really much of a surprise when it was revealed. I did enjoy some of the characters though and wished I’d gotten more of their stories. Ah, well. They can’t all be winners.

I didn’t read much during the last half of April, and May isn’t starting off so well either. Time to change that and schedule reading time. I’ve so enjoyed watching my spreadsheet fill in — it’s kind of like seeing your Goodreads finished shelf expand. And I’m slacking now. I’ll buckle down and get back to it. Onward and read-ward!


February Reading Update

20 Mar

My monthly reading report is almost three weeks behind because I’m still smarting at how smug I was. I didn’t buy any books in January — oh, wasn’t I incredibly fabulous and restrained? Honest to Pete, as soon as I hit “publish” on that post, the Boy and I went out for dinner, and then we decided to stop in a bookstore. And bought some books. And then the next day? I went to the Friends of the Boston Public Library’s book sale. And bought more books. I’m hanging my head in shame, although I have actually read some of them.

Here’s February’s tally:

Books bought: 5

Books read: 2

States covered: one + I repeated New York

Total geography: four states, two countries

This month’s reading list:

  • I Feed Bad About my Neck and Other Thoughts about Being a Woman – Nora Ephron (New York, again)
  • Glaciers – Alexis M. Smith (Washington)

Part of the reason I didn’t make much of a dent on my own reading list was because I spent a decent amount of time reading the first draft of a friend’s novel. I still owe another friend a look at hers too. Ah, guilt and shame raining down from everywhere!

The Nora Ephron was a quick, disappointing read. Bits of it were humorous, but it was a short book and felt more like a contractual obligation than entertainment. And it made me very depressed about getting older.

Glaciers was also a short read, about a day in the life of a librarian and unrequited love and reflections on the past and growing up in Alaska. This was a really lyrical, enjoying read.

What’s been happening in March? Well, I’m making up for lost time and getting a few more books off of my pile. Thankfully I’ve started traveling again, and if I have to wait for a plane, I usually have my nose in a book. We’ll see how much I can accomplish.


January Reading Update

31 Jan

If I’m going to give myself a reading challenge, it’s only fair that I check in from time to time and give a progress report. In the spirit of Nick Hornby, I’ll also note if I bought any books–after all, one of my goals is to read what I already own and clear out the shelves a little bit, so buying books, while fun, isn’t exactly something I’m trying to do this year, unless, of course, I read everything I own, at which point, I may start thinking about rereading some books or making good use of the library.

That said, here’s January’s update.

Books bought: zero (!) – Right on plan

Books read: five

States covered: three

Countries covered: two

This month’s reading list:

  • Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins (Connecticut)
  • Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls – David Sedaris (New York)
  • Ready Player One – Ernest Cline (Ohio)
  • The Mormon Murders – Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith (Naifeh was born in Tehran, Iran; Smith was born in New York)
  • The Secret Olympian – Anon (United Kingdom – Anonymous author was a member of Team GB in Athens)

It was a really good month for reading. I blew through the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy, only to discover that book two is a “to be continued” tome, rather than a stand-alone piece. I’ll have to get Mockingjay to round out the series, but that’s not an especially high task on my to do list. Still, I’m enjoying the series so far.

Sedaris is good, as always. I’m reading him for structure more these days, and so his books have a permanent spot on my shelf.

Ready Player One is a book I’d remotely heard about as being good, remembered that fact while I was at Powell’s during my August book-buying binge (the Sedaris book was part of that too….and now that I look at the photo again, I’ve read seven of them, which is quite a feat, given my track record). “Good” is an understatement. This book was so much fun to read–if you’re a 1980’s kid, you’ll love all of the references in this futuristic look at the world when virtual reality has taken over. This found a permanent spot on my shelf.

I’ve owned The Mormon Murders for probably a good ten years. I bought it at the Newberry Library Book Fair, probably in 2001 or 2002, a little after my friend Missy and I had taken a road trip to Salt Lake City and encountered full-on Mormonism for the first time. At the time, I did a little more reading about Mormons, and that’s when I bought this book. It’s taken me this long to want to read it. Why? I don’t know — it was a mighty good read. The authors write about this big trial from the 1980s when a guy named Mark Hofmann, who forged a bunch of documents–particularly supposed early Mormon texts–and then when he was caught in this huge spiral of deceit, set off a few pipe bombs, killing a couple of people and injuring himself. It was an amazing story. Also interesting is that on the book jacket, Naifeh is listed as being a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma. That was one of the reasons I picked up this book — I’d be able to check off Oklahoma. But I suppose that if your book comes out in 1988, you probably don’t want to mention you were born in Iran. Interesting how history can change over time.

Since I have Olympic Fever, I wanted to read a book that was in my Olympic pile (that is, a pile of books about the Olympics, not a pile of Olympic proportions…though I have that too).  The Boy got me this one for Christmas, and it’s a decent read–a little bit behind the scenes of being an Olympian, albeit, not a famous one. Interesting look at what it takes to be at the elite levels of sport, although I wasn’t quite sure it really needed to be anonymously written.

So that’s January. I’ve covered a few northern states and a couple of countries. I almost feel like the Iran entry is cheating–Naifeh is the son of a diplomat, and that’s just where he ended up being born. But rules are rules, so that’s that.

What’s up for February? I’m not quite sure yet. I’m currently reading a first draft of a novel a friend wrote, and I owe another writer friend a look at her novel too. Then we’ll see what captures my fancy. What have you been reading, and where’s it from?

My Book du Jour

28 Oct

I recently finished a book from the stack I purchased at Powell’s this past August. This in itself can be a feat–I have books on my bookshelf that have competed with each other for years to get my attention, to no avail. I was interested in them enough to purchase them, but in waiting for the right moment where I’ll break down and actually read them (which is usually “not now,” since I’m catching up on another book), they’ve bided their time, promising not to let their covers get sun damaged before I can crack them open.

I’d say this book was special, but they’re all special, aren’t they? Even the books that are downright awful–they’re special in their own way. However, it was a book that spoke to me ever since I saw it while browsing the shelves at Porter Square Books. I didn’t buy it then, but it was important enough for me to write down the title and promise myself I’d find it later: Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton. I’m glad that Powell’s came through for me and had a used copy for sale (sorry, PSB) so that I could get to it more quickly then never.

Suffice it to say, I fell in love with this book. I wanted to devour it, yet I never wanted it to end. Why? It captured how I feel when I swim. Shapton, who tried out for the Canadian Olympic team twice and is now a writer and illustrator, told of her time in swimming through glimpses at her life. It’s not an inspirational tome, nor is it one to help you improve your swimming; however it floats along and pulls you in, much like the sport itself.

I was an age-group swimmer for several years, so I understand the regimented workouts, the frozen hair in the winter, rinsing out swimsuits and putting them on while still damp, things that Shapton notes. While I never pursued swimming beyond age 12, I still love to swim laps–sometimes even creating my own workout with kick board and pull buoy–or go for a long swim in a pond or lake.

When I swim, I don’t really think of anything. Sometimes I’ll work through a writing piece or project. Sometimes I hear music playing in my head. But mostly it’s nothingness. It’s me and the pool and the stroke, and to be honest, that’s one thing I love about swimming. This book captured that feeling of nothingness and made me want to read page after page, just like I will swim lap after lap, taking it all in and letting the words wash over me.

I’d like to read it again soon. While the odds of that happening are very slim, considering the fight that’s going on to get to the top of my reading list, Swimming Studies instantly got a prime spot on my bookshelf, where I can see it daily and let the memory of Shapton’s words wash over me.

Adding to the Pile

9 Oct

Yesterday, the Boy and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. Which one, you ask? Apparently it was the fancy cocktails and bookstores anniversary (look it up on the ultramodern chart of anniversary gifts). We went to a multicultural restaurant that serves up global dishes–we had Moroccan Chicken and Chicken Kiev–designed for sharing. It also had a pretty decent cocktail menu, and after three, it was time to head home.

Home happened to be past two bookstores. We stopped at both. I now own three more books. If I wasn’t reading anything at the moment, I’d call this a big problem, but it’s a problem nonetheless because I’m bringing in more books than I’m consuming, and I continue to let the pile grow.

However, I couldn’t help but add Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguisewhich indulges a food kick I’ve had lately. Art of McSweeney’s lets me look into the making of one of my favorite literary journals (which I love getting, but unfortunately haven’t read that much of. Making a mental note to fix that). And last but not least, I got The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I haven’t read any of her other books, but this one spoke to me–and by “spoke to me,” I mean a part of my brain said, “YOU MUST OWN THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW!” The next day, I’m still excited by it, so it’s going to the top of the pile. I hope my brain chose well.

If you think it has, let me know.

The Haul

7 Oct


This is how my August trip to Portland turnout out. I ended up getting about $40 in store credit for the books I sold, which parlayed nicely into this stack. Even though I have a tendency to buy books and not read them, I’ve already read three of them: How Georgia Became O’KeeffeMind Gym, and The Girls’ Guide to Love and Supper Clubs. Not bad (especially considering that in that time, I’ve finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and Sleepwalk With Me).

[Incidentally, I was in Portland again at the end of September and sold the latter two back to Powells…and managed to buy only three for myself on that trip.]

Most of these books were unplanned purchases–the O’Keeffe book one was one of these. I don’t normally get into artists, but an idea that’s lurking around in the back of my brain said, “GET SOMETHING ON GEORGIA O’KEEFFE!” I’d fully intended to just get a book of some of her pictures, but this was also on the shelf, and after a quick glance, my subconscious said, “BUY THIS BOOK!” I’m glad I listened because I so enjoyed it. Karen Karbo put so much personality into the story of O’Keeffe and made her so alive and relatable. With this book you wanted to be friends with both O’Keeffe and Karbo. I’d tell Karbo this myself, but it would border on stalkerishness, and well, we’ll save that for when my writing career is a little further along and it might be more acceptable for me to gush over her.  Karbo has a new book out on Julia Child that I would like to read some day (but if you’ve got nothing to read, I suggest you do so now), which means I need to get cracking on the rest of this pile.

I entitled this post “The Haul,” not just to show off the new books (that are actually sitting on the floor of my office because I’m out of shelf space), but also to describe the haul that was my September.

September had five weekends; I traveled for four of them. It’s the WFTDA’s tournament season, and I went to the four Division I playoff tournaments in various capacities. Among roller derby officials, the four September tournaments was traditionally known as the “death march” — you apply for all four feeling excited and you end the last one on your last legs, wondering what you got yourself into.

While it’s insanely fun to go to every tournament, by the end you’re tired, drained, and most likely sick. You don’t know where anything you own is located. You’re insanely behind on non-essential laundry. The folks at the TSA security checkpoint at your home airport start recognizing you.

I’d never done the death march until this year, and now it’s not even the full march anymore. The WFTDA added two Division II tournaments in August. Since I was going to be out of town during the first two weekends in August, I didn’t apply to work these two, nor did my association position in officials’ certification require me to be at either one of them. I saved it all for September.

First up was Ft. Wayne, Indiana, where I was a penalty box manager for the first Division I Playoff. Then I headed to Richmond, Virginia to lead a crew of non-skating officials for the second tournament. Next was Asheville, North Carolina and finally Salem, Oregon. At both of those tournaments I represented NSO Certification to help give feedback and write evaluations on non-skating officials.

I have to admit that in many aspects, the march was fun. I love participating in roller derby, and being able to do it and observe it at the highest levels of gameplay is pretty amazing. I got to hang out with friends from all over the country–and beyond–who I don’t get to see very often, and they like to hang out and get geeked about roller derby officiating, which I don’t often get to do with my husband. There’s also usually a few good restaurants along the way.

In other ways, the march was a slog. I was home for about seven days in September. I missed my husband. I didn’t get to see my other friends. Keeping up with everyone at home was difficult, particularly when you’re dealing with a three-hour time difference and you’ve got bouts from 10AM to 10PM. By the end I was extraordinarily tired, and I needed about a week to recover, unpack, tidy up the house a little bit, catch up on sleep, and start cracking on those evaluations I need to write. By some miracle, I didn’t get sick.

Now I’ve got a few weeks to try to catch up with everyone before I make one last trip for the year to Milwaukee for Championships. The 2013 Haul is almost complete.

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