Monday, April 30, 2007

Publishing a book is like...bowling with a snowball!

You know how sometimes you'll hear about somebody new, and then suddenly, they're everywhere? That's how the past three days have been with me and this guy I've never met named John Elder Robinson.

I first learned of John from Kim's blog - John has a memoir coming out in September, a chronicle of living with Aspergers (a form of autism). Intrigued (although it's true, I'd probably read a memoir about finding new ways to cut your toenails over the course of a lifetime if it had a good cover, so perhaps my bar is not so high...) I surfed over to his website, then promptly added his book to my Amazon wish list. Even if he never shares his toenail cutting habits, I'll read his book - this guy can write.

Then today, I find his blog. In a single post, John Elder Robinson (let me pause for a moment to confess that I also have name envy here - JER makes me want to call myself Patricia Nadine Ryan - or at least introduce myself by my childhood alter ego, Trisha Bedine) answered all my questions about how the pile of pages my editor and I are wrestling into submission will become a book. In a nutshell, a book is like a snowball, he explains. As it rolls downhill, more and more people - editors, cover designers, publicity folks - will get stuck to my snowball and roll along with it, adding (God willing) to the momentum. Honestly, this post alone makes me a JER fan for life; I may even have a t-shirt made. If you are any sort of writer or reader, or if you just think your latte tastes better in a bookstore, you're gonna love this post.

(BTW, I was going to call this post "Wanna hop on my snowball?" but I did that thing smart people advise and thought for a moment about how that might sound, how it might be taken altogether differently than I intended, and realized...that it's amazing how ponderous I can be over my blog posts when I'm procrastinating! It's enough to make me wonder if the entirety of the political correctness movement in our country isn't the inadvertent byproduct of a bunch of people who were trying to put off what they were supposed to be doing???)

Anyway, that's enough for now. This is Trisha Bedine, signing off - and returning to my snowball!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Wanna get hitched? Check fasteners

I'm not usually one to make fun of the various books and columns and well-intentioned talk shows promising to teach women the hidden secrets of finding our one true love. I read most of those books, and well - people in glass houses and all...

But yesterday, the talk show we revere as the "my best life" Bible (you know, the one with the magazine and the book club) had the SINGLE WORST COLLECTION OF DATING ADVICE I'VE EVER SEEN. I sat there, horrified for my gender, as the Divine Ms. O fawned over an absolutely slimy looking self-professed bad-boy/gruppie in his swinging-single 40s, who has done women everywhere a favor and written a book to teach us how to grovel more effectively for small shreds of male attention.

Don't despair if you missed the show, because I took notes. If you're looking to find your soul mate, here's what our expert thinks you should do:

First, move to Salt Lake City. According to Men's Health (that long-established champion of women's interests) this is where the single guys are. There, and San Francisco.

Once you've settled in, take a moment to center your inner harmony and remind yourself that you are FINE being LOVE your life, you LOVE are a woman of purpose and integrity. Then pull on your miniskirt and Manolos, and head over to Home Depot. Go to the fasteners department, or perhaps plumbing (NOT paint - there are too many other women in paint) and ask men to help you.

There you have it. That was it. And all the while, our esteemed host nodded and smiled and said to Gayle, "I told you...go to Home Depot..." ARGH. In an odd ommission, no one mentioned what you're supposed to do with all the fasteners and faucets you'll end up with this way - maybe This Old House knows of a place to donate these items? An all-female Habitat For Humanity, perhaps?

I guess this is an okay plan if you're looking for a wing-nut (I'm avoiding the obvious jokes about getting nailed). But I'm not sure something this obviously manipulative is a viable way to get hitched...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Your brilliance big prize :)

I've blogged before about the unfortunate dust-up certain books have caused recently amongst some of my favorite friends, written by grim authors determined to convince us all that no matter what we do to try and become happy, fulfilled women, we're all doomed to end up abandoned, alone, and destitute.

BUT...I am delighted to pass along this little nugget from yesterday's NYTimes, which - in my unhumble opinion - heralds a new day in feminine happiness: Apparently, we women have finally smartened up enough to stop buying these books that tell us all hope is lost. To which I say, Hallelujah! I'm not sure where we got the idea that creating a market for exposes on "how our lives all suck" was ever going to change things, but let me be among the first to say, may that era end now, today. I want to hear from women whose lives work, women who have figured some things out, women who - although they may not be perfect - have reached a place where they can honestly say, "Hey - things are better than I ever thought they'd be." I'll plunk down $24.95 for those books, maybe even buy a copy or two for friends.

In that spirit, how about a little contest? In the comments, pick a problem - something that bugs you - and tell me your solution to solve it. I've read your blogs - I know you guys have mad skills. Most of you are (hysterical, brilliant) writers, so here's a chance to use your gift for the betterment of womanity (for which, my husband assures me, all mankind will thank you...) So pick a problem and tell me how you'll solve it! The prize will be something fabulous, inspiring, and (you know me) probably book-related....

Monday, April 23, 2007

It's outa here!!!

I may be in the weeds, but watching this unfold made me very, very happy this weekend. Along with the warm sunny weather, last night's game reminded me that when you least expect it, miracles still happen...and wow, is it fun to be around when they do :)

Friday, April 20, 2007

In the weeds

Hi All. My apologies for feeble blogging. As of this morning, my book has no title and is still in several different tenses, all of which sound good, except when you try to read them together. I'll be back with pithy observations as soon as the dust settles.

This much I can say, however: whatever dating advice readers glean from my book, it will differ significantly from this.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A funny joke on a(nother) gray day

This just landed in my in-box, courtesy of my brilliant sister. I'm changing the main character to myself to avoid offending anyone (and because well, it sounds like something I might do):

One day, Trish called her husband and said, "Please come home and help me. I have a killer jigsaw puzzle and I can't figure out how to get it started"

Steve asked, "What is it supposed to be when it's finished?"

Trish said, "According to the picture on the box, it's a tiger."

Steve agreed to help with the puzzle. Trish led him to the kitchen, where she had the puzzle spread all over the table.

He studied the pieces for a moment, then looked at the box, then turned to Trish and said, "First of all, no matter what we do, we're not going to be able to assemble these pieces into anything resembling a tiger."

Then he took her hand and added, "Second, I want you to relax Let's have a nice cup of coffee, and then," he sighed..............

"Let's put all these Frosted Flakes back in the box."


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Words for the unspeakable

Nancy French has a great article on her blog about yesterday's tragic events in Virginia, asking if our insatiable quest for information really helps us process events of this magnitude. I am so grateful for her perspective; it makes me realize that I'm not the only one out there who isn't helped by knowing more about a situation that is so unfathomable.

I tend to numb out when I hear news like what happened yesterday. In the face of tragedy, my mind reverts to what is practical, predictable, controlled. I do laundry. I bake. Anything that allows me to take some sort of mess or chaos and turn in into something neat and orderly, anything that keeps me from thinking or wondering about things I can't possibly imagine, that I don't even want to imagine (even though I feel deep down inside like I should want to imagine them, like it's the right thing to do under the circumstances). For most of us, there isn't a right thing to do.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Triumph of the human spirit, as seen from my couch

Thousands of people made of stronger stuff than I (me?) are running the Boston Marathon right now. It was a rainy forty degrees when they started, with wind gusts up to fifty miles per hour. The runners looked like a bunch of TV-dinners, all wrapped up in the tinfoil blankets you usually see after the race. One guy got up at 2am this morning and ran the race backwards, from the finish line in downtown Boston to the starting place in the western suburbs. He stopped briefly to chat with a reporter, then turned around and joined the final pack to run the actual race. Unbelievable.

The sports commentators are remarking about how running still isn't taken as seriously in this country as other sports. I'd argue that making winners wear this on their heads might be part of the problem; that just doesn't look like victory to me. I think one of our local announcers may have had a few too many hot toddies this morning - he's asking provocative questions such as, "Will the runners even need the water stations if it continues to rain this hard?" and calling the race like he's at a strip club: "The arm warmers are coming off folks, things are heating up!!!"

The women are currently at the half-marathon mark; I haven't brushed my teeth yet.

Never mind my slow start, though - I'm off to the gym to capitalize on this surge of inspiration. Three miles, thirty minutes, three-hundred calories - that's my goal. I'll be one with the treadmill, churning toward my personal best. Does itunes have a "cheering crowd" playlist I can download???

Friday, April 13, 2007

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

You know New England weather is nasty when The Boston Globe runs a feature photo section of springtime in other places. Never before have I looked longingly at a scenic view of Pittsburgh and thought, "If only...." My devoted hubby stood longingly outside of Fenway Park last night, hoping against hope that the sleet would subside and he could take his favorite seat in left field and count how many times Manny Ramirez ducks into the Green Monster to use the mens' room. But alas, it was not to be.

Is it spring where you are? If so, don't tell me. I am taking this as a WONDERFUL opportunity to get just a little more use out of my favorite scarf and gloves set. Really, what could be better?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So many books, so much time, what the heck is a meme?

I've been reading again. There tends to be a lot of that around here in March and early April, as Steve uses the Lenten season to extricate himself from the steady diet of This Old House, America's Next Top Chef, and West Wing reruns we gorge on during the long days of winter ("So what if we've seen Norm and Tom install a forced-air heating system in the remodeled craftsman bungalow three times already?" he tells me. "Who knows when we might need to do something like that ourselves???") So for the month of March the TV goes off, and we train our eyes to move from left to right across the page once again.

Right now, I'm reading a book with the most brilliant title/cover concept ever. Cracks me up - the Tiffany blue, the extended finger (although I'm pretty sure you can't actually do that with your third finger).

Last week I finished a book that absolutely baffled me. It didn't resolve. The premise was good - a collapsed relationship between a mother and daughter who never recovered from the mysterious disappearance of their husband/father, a pilot who may or may not have been shot down when flying in dangerous airspace. Great stuff to work with. But the characters were so patently unlikeable - Mom was a defeated, hopeless nag; daughter was an angry, tatooed rebel with no underlying soft side; Dad had clearly been a selfish cad who put his own adventures and pleasure ahead of anyone else in his life - that I wasn't sure that bringing these people back together would be anything short of a train wreck. And the closing chapters lost me, as the author's increasingly vague illusions to who new people might or might not be, and what might or might not be happening left me wondering if pages had been torn out of the book.

I checked out the author's website once I finished, to see if perhaps I'd stumbled into the middle of some larger literary project. This girl has skulls on her website. It didn't take long for me to figure out that readers like me (who own everything Jane Austin ever wrote and freely admit that "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days" is one of my favorite movies) are not her target demographic. Fair enough. I'm not terribly street smart, but I know better than to mess with grown women who decorate with skulls.

For more book reviews, check out my book log.

What have you all (for some reason I can't say "ya'll" until the weather warms up) been reading?

***Late breaking blog confession: So after finishing this post, I was trolling around the blog sphere catching up on all I've missed from my online friends. My favorite Texan commented Monday that I'd missed a lot of great Memes while I was gone. Which forces me to finally confess: I have no idea what "Meme" stands for. Or what I missed. Or what questions I'm supposed to answer? I think it has something to do with one of Stacy's minions inviting Sarakastic to the Ukrainian-American Heritage Ball, but beyond that, I'm lost...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

More things they don't tell you in writing class

Okay, there's no more time to worry about my missing cheese - bigger problems are at hand. Apparently, along with the narrative arc no one told me I should be living out, I also missed the memo about weaving a massively controversial position statement through the chapters of my book to polarize editorialists and bloggers across the world, thus giving me loads of free publicity and making me the poster child for some cause I may or may not really agree with. Sigh.

I realized this error this past weekend. One of my favorite female friends (and by favorite, I mean - most likely to pick me up when I'm down, make me laugh so hard it counts as an aerobic ab workout, and send me back out into my life with a vote of confidence that things will work out okay) called. In uncharacteristically somber terms, she described how she'd been flattened by reading an excerpt from Leslie Bennetts' new book, The Feminine Mistake, which (apparently) spends almost 400 pages telling women that if we stay home with our children in lieu of participating in "income producing work," we're: 1. wimps, 2. a disappointment to all women, everywhere, throughout space and time, and 3. Veeeeerrrry likely to end up destitute after our husbands abandon us. Cheery stuff. Gotta love it when women band together to make the world a better place.

I will say this for Bennetts - her polemics are stirring up attention. She's gotten some media coverage (check out's fabulous article about the whole women-bashing-women genre in nonfiction publishing these days), and she's been attacked by a former beach volleyball player/life coach Penelope Trunk for having the audacity to be fat. (I think it's safe to say you've struck a nerve when otherwise articulate women are reduced to saying, "Yeah?'re fat!!!" as their main retort.)

Anyway...onto my point. I can neither control nor keep track of the many ways we women are allegedly doomed to fail ourselves and all of humanity. But perhaps I can be polarizing - that's a gift I suspect most of us with the audacity to blog on any sort of a regular basis share. So ladies, I need your help. If I'm going to come up with a massively controversial position statement (hereinafter "MCPS") to weave through my book, I need to do it soon. Here are some early suggestions - let me know if you come up with anything better:

Potential MCPS #1:
I could say that, based on the observations of various social scientists, women have NO HOPE of breaking through the upper layers of the corporate glass ceiling unless we understand and capitalize on the power of a good pedicure, fire-engine read toenail polish, and open toed shoes. All other shoes, I would argue, set us back into the times of domestic servitude, lace-up "Little House On the Prairie" shoes, and put us (quite possibly) on a slippery slope toward the ancient Chinese practice of foot binding.

Potential MCPS #2
I could posit that recent (unidentified) studies suggest that no woman should be allowed to parent, babysit, or otherwise get too close to a child unless and until they have kept a plant alive for a period of at least six months. (I would, of course, leave out the fact that when I recently received a plant as a gift, my husband actually prayed for it's survival).

Potential MCPS #3
I could insinuate that fairy tales, Disney movies, and (horror of all horrors) chick lit books are the cause of all feminine failure. (Oh wait, that's been done already). Yep, women supporting other women. So good to see.

How about you? What would your Massively Controversial Position Statement be???

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Who Moved My Cheese?

I've lost my cheese.

Not metaphorically. Don't worry, I didn't spend my forty day blog fast reading self-improvement books and drawing grim realizations about the state of my existence. (I did that for my whole first decade of adulthood; that would hardly be worth blogging about.)

No, I've literally lost my cheese. Steve went grocery shopping Saturday. Among other wonderful items, he brought home a half-pound chunk of mild cheddar. We enjoyed several slices, then I wrapped it up and put it into our (relatively small) refrigerator. Now it's gone.

I was really excited about that cheese. You see, in addition to fasting from blogging, I also fasted from lunch over the 40 Days of Faith. So yesterday the first day in a LONG time where, when the clock struck noon and my tummy grumbled, I could run to the fridge and partake of some lunchtime happiness. And if you know me at all, you understand that cheese is a key component of my lunchtime happiness. But there was no cheese. I checked every shelf, every drawer. I looked on top of the fridge, through all the cupboards, and even around the rest of the house in case I'd wandered off to do something in the middle of taking the cheese from the cutting board to the fridge. Nothing.

My husband came home and, detective that he is, immediately had a theory. Barely able to contain his laughter, he asked if I might have "accidentally" eaten the cheese and then forgotten about it. I stared at him, horrified. Partly because he knows me so well, partly because I was pretty sure that's not what happened. "Even I, at my cheesiest," I told him, trying to sound indignant, "Could not accidentally eat a HALF POUND of cheese and not remember!"

Still, we have no idea what happened. Our only viable theory is that perhaps THAT DOG, in a surge of Easter inspiration, taught her eleven year-old self to open the refrigerator door, then pushed a chair up to the upper drawer where we keep sandwich items, opened said drawer to extract the cheese, then consumed it whole, leaving no evidence of her adventures. I believe in miracles, but that seems a bit unlikely (I guess we'll know if a one gallon zip-lock freezer bag emerges from her on one of our walks this week).

In the meantime, I'm facing another lunch today without my cheese. If you know where my cheese is - if you're holding it ransom, knowing how much it means to me - contact me. Make your demands known! Just please return my cheese!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Hope Floats

Happy Day After Easter!!!

I woke up this morning wondering what I might blog about as I rentered the world of online life documentation. Start out with a pretty picture, I told myself. Something that says 'Spring is here!' On a whim, I googled hot air balloons, which placed me squarely in the middle of my first ethical blogging dilemma in a month and a half. It's only 8:30 in the morning, so I'm not sure my resources are up to the challenge (exhibited by the fact that I just sat here for a full two minutes trying to remember the word for "figuring out the right thing to do in a challenging situation.") So here's what I came up with:

If you're easily offended, skip on down to the next section.

If you're in need of a giggle, click on this link, which I'll simply call He is risen, indeed.
I have no idea why I find this so compelling, but it is truly cracking me up. As seriously as I take Easter (it's my very favorite holiday - the hero rising from the dead to save the day has always captured my attention, no matter what age or cynicism level I found myself at - and you did NOT want to be there the year I wandered into a church that abandoned the Jesus story and instead used Easter to focus on the important take-home message of The Velveteen Rabbit), this was not at all what I was picturing yesterday as we sang our Hallelujahs.

Okay, enough with the ethics for now. The past 40 Days have been intense and fabulous, but I missed you guys. Huge thanks to those of you who commented, emailed, or even (in one case of blog fandom I will forever treasure) called to tell me you were looking forward to my return. It's good to be back :)

In update news, I got my editor's notes back on my manuscript in mid-March. "This is wonderful," she said. "But it has no narrative arc." "Narrative arc?" I replied (having never aspired to write a novel and having only a peripheral idea of what she might be talking about). "Um, it's a memoir...isn't the narrative arc just how things happened???" Apparently not. So for those of you out there who think you might someday want to write a memoir, try and give your life a narrative arc as you go along, as I suspect that is much easier than retrofitting one later on in the process. (No one ever tells you this in writing classes, so there you have it...) The good news is that after fifteen days in my pajamas, laptop glued to the ends of my fingers, a narrative arc emerged. My life story now reads more like an adventure and less like a trip to a badly-organized yard sale. Hallelujah!

How about you? How was your Easter? What have I missed????