Thursday, August 30, 2007

Patti says I'm nice!

This has me laughing so hard that my morning coffee practically came out of my nose. The very awesome Patti-O awarded me the "Nice Matters" Award (there's an icon, but I can't figure out how to post it, what with the lost coffee and all), celebrating the way I and several others spread niceness through the blogsphere.

I'd be flattered and touched by this declaration of my niceness, if it hadn't come right on the heels of a longish series of discussions with my agent, editor, and publicist about whether or not I should leave the F-word sprinkled through my manuscript. In the end, we decided that those F-bombs weren't worth going to the mat for, and substituted something more, well...nice.

I never dreamed I'd win an award for our decision! Thank you Patti-O!

(Now I'll step back from the keyboard and await the long stream of comments protesting this award and demanding that Patti reconsider :) )

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Trans Fats: A hidden beauty secret?

Up until about a year ago, my grocery list read like this:

1. Cheez-Its - 1 box original, 1 white cheddar
2. Oscar Meyer baloney
3. American "cheese" individually wrapped slices
4. Velveeta Mac & Cheese
5. 2 loaves of bread (wheat, if I was on a health-kick)
6. Assorted pasta: spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine
7. Butter
8. Taster's Choice Instant Coffee (Don't judge. It's good!)

This diet served me well for my entire adulthood. I felt good, I looked fine, my jeans fit. My food life was simple, yummy, and overall quite satisfying.

But last year, after working a desk job for a bit longer than I'd anticipated, I had to admit that I'd put on a few pounds. And that's when it happened...All the warning words of dread and fear well-intentioned people have chanted at me over the years started swirling around in a threatening storm in my head: "You won't be able to eat like that forever, you know..." "Someday, you'll wish you'd made smarter choices..." "Eventually, all that salt and fat is going to catch up to you..." (And let's not forget the lady in the yoga pants who looked at my shopping cart at the grocery store and gasped, almost involuntarily, "But baloney has no life force!" )

Last year at about this time, I collapsed under the pressure, terrified that these folks--not to mention every magazine article I've read in the past decade-- might all be right. So I repented of my ways, and walked away from foods that spell cheese with a "z." I started choking down lots of chicken (the whole idea of eating bird just creeps me out, but if it's what you have to do to be healthy...). I snack on smallish handfuls of almonds. I "splurge" once a week with a small bowl of pasta & olive oil. I've been doing this for a year now. It's fine--I don't really mind it. But it's made absolutely no difference in how I look or feel.

So about a month ago, I faced the awkward truth that I must not be doing this right. All that chicken eating just isn't enough. I could hear Oprah whispering in my ear, "You need to work out more--a couple of times a week ain't gonna cut it!" So for the past month, I've been doing hard time at the gym. I run three miles (approximately two-and-a-half miles longer than I've ever run before) 3-4 times a week. I life weights. I do ab work.

And I've lost...are you ready??? One-and-one-half-pounds!!!!

Now, I like the exercise--running is great for a writer. But I'm seriously wondering if we've been sold down the river on this whole nutrition thing? What if it's all a lie? What if my body is dependent on the "z" in cheez to keep me up and going? What if I need trans fats? What if baloney is the anti-aging miracle we've all been searching for???

I think it's time to stand up to the Organic Farmers of America and say, "Bring on the baloney!"

Anybody with me?

(A note to the promotional folks at Cheez-It: if you'd like me to do a commercial, write an essay, or go on a nationwide tour to promote your product, you can reach me here).

Monday, August 27, 2007

New Kid On The Block

Hey everyone--Check this out: The Accidental Admin. Stephanie is a new friend of mine (she's at my old job, at my old desk, probably wondering why the file cabinet has four boxes of yellow highlighters, but no files...) She's had me laughing all day as we've swapped emails...I'm glad to see her taking her material to a wider audience! Stop by and welcome her to the blogsphere...


On the road again...I can't wait to get on the road again

I've caught the travel bug. Heidi is coming to Boston next week, Stacy makes Michigan sound like more fun than Disney World, and my hubby and I watched a ridiculous movie last night (don't let the funny trailer fool you--this movie is pretty dumb) redeemed only by the gorgeous scenery that made me long to see the Pacific again. Plus, it's almost Fall. And everybody knows that Fall is when big, new, fun adventures happen (which, of course, requires shopping for new outfits, because one shouldn't look shlumpy on a big, new, fun adventure...)

Last week, I got my Fall 2007 adventure assignment: This September, I get to travel to two of the most creative places on the eastern half of the country: Nashville and New York City!

I am beyond excited. I've never been to Nashville. All I know is that some of my favorite music was recorded there, and some of my favorite singer/songwriter types (you know--the ones I'm not allowed to quote in my book) live within the city limits. It will take every last bit of restraint I have not to grab a phone book and taxi-cab around to introduce myself to all my favorite artists. (I realize, however, that this would probably be a great way to get a tour of Nashville's local jail facilities, so I'll try to keep myself in check. ) Still though--how exciting for a writer to go to a city where so many amazing lyrics have been written? (Lorrie Morgan's classic country hit, "What Part of No Don't You Understand?" is the only song that has ever made me laugh so hard I had to pull over to the side of the road in my car so I didn't cause an accident...)

And then there's the Big Apple. Creative ideas just hang in the air there, like fruit waiting to be picked. New York brings it's own behavioral challenges will be awfully tempting to pack my collection of Red Sox t-shirts :)

I love to travel, especially in the Fall. And, oddly enough, my favorite trips are usually within the United States. I've had great opportunities to visit other countries, and yet there is something awe-inspiring about landing in a place that is still America, but feels a bit like a different planet. I'm not one of those people who longs to spend hours in a museum or admiring the local architecture to understand a city. I'd rather hang out on a beach or in a bar or at a little table outside the local coffee shop, and talk to the people who live in this new place. That's my idea of happiness.

What is something unique about where you live? The people? The places? What is the best thing you've seen in our great country?

What's your big adventure for Fall?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Some things are just fun to say

We were hanging out with friends last night and couldn't help noticing that our friend Dan walked in with a bit of a gimp. Concerned, we asked if he was okay. "I'm fine," he assured us with a sheepish grin. "I've been playing a little too much Wii..."

Have you guys heard of Wii? I had, but only in the vaguest sort of way (sort of like how I've heard that that raising llamas is now a popular and lucrative pastime, and that our cars may soon run on corn).

Dan glowed as he told us about his new toy. "I played tennis for an hour yesterday" he said. "I made it to the pro level!" He was rubbing his arm as he told us; apparently he was nursing a Wii injury. "Tennis pros get tennis elbow," we acknowledged. "But not usually in their living rooms..."

This Wii thing had me laughing all night. First of all, it's just fun to say. And second, it makes me wonder why on earth I've been toiling away with the plasticine girls on The Firm video (watching them smile at me with those bizarre life is fitness faces as they heft dumbells to the sound of low-grade porn music) when I could be using that same time and space to become a tennis pro? What if my true athletic talent is household bowling?

I'm quite relieved to know that it's not to late for me to become a professional athlete...there just might be a Nike endorsement deal in my future :)

What sport would you play, if Wii was in your living room?

Monday, August 20, 2007

My Personal Trainer: Paula Deen

I'm quite certain I belong to the only gym in America that thinks it's a good idea to broadcast the Food Network in the cardio area. Today, as I slogged through my three miles, trying to convince myself that adding an incline to my workout would be fun, fun, fun, Paula Deen was looking out at me with that coy Southern smile, as if to say, "You silly girl. Get off that treadmill and get yourself some vittles!"

What was Paula making, you ask? Was she perhaps doing a segment on "Healthy Home Cooking" or "Low Cal-Carbs: A Girl's Best Friend"? Um, no. While I ran and ran and ran my way to nowhere, Paula made a big pan of baked macaroni and cheese. Then she cut the mac & cheese into squares, and wrapped the squares in bacon. Then she covered the bacon-wrapped mac & cheese squares in breadcrumbs and--I'm not making this up--FRIED the suckers in a vat of boiling oil. 375 degrees, according to the temperature gauge on the fry-o-later.

I'm guessing they don't invite Paula into the gym on the set of The Biggest Loser...

One odd, one end

Of all the things I've contemplated while imagining the world-wide publicity extravaganza for my forthcoming book, I never once thought of faking an appearance on Oprah. This guy, however, did.

Incomprehensible. I mean, sure, he was trying to generate buzz...but if you don't actually go on the show, you don't get the signature Oprah coffee mug! Why else would anyone write at book, except to get the mug??? (One of my professors was a guest on the O show. She got the mug. There's a chance I coveted it each and every time I was in her office. Just a chance.)

In happier news, we saw Music and Lyrics this weekend. Honestly, if you haven't laughed in awhile, the opening scene alone will change the direction of your life. The storyline did some damage to my dreams of writing my own music and lyrics so I can quote myself in future books, though. I mean, if the ability to keep plants alive is an integral part of being a good lyricist, I may well be out of a job...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Happy Birthday Blog!

My blog is one today!

In honor of this milestone, here is a repost of my first-ever blog entry. I'm pretty sure only my sister saw this tribute to my dentist the first time it appeared (and I'm believing there won't ever be another post involving me and the dental profession), so I hope you enjoy!

The First-Ever "Golden Saucer" Award: Dr. Baine

I am maniacally afraid of the people who poke at our gums for a living. Years of torture at the hands of two sadistic orthodontists and a vicious tool called “the bopper” left me unwilling to submit myself to the semi-annual cleaning and “you really should floss” lectures recommended by the ADA. I did enough time in that chair between the ages of five and twelve to last a lifetime.

But recently, I felt a sharp pain in one of my upper molars. Sort of like the pain I felt five years ago, the one that meant I had a big fat cavity crying out for a shot of Novocain and a long half-hour of quality time with a drill. Fraidy-cat that I am, I know that when you ignore a cavity you end up with an appointment for a root canal instead, so I called my husband’s dentist like a brave girl and told them I’d be in in a month.

Yesterday was the day. All morning I chatted with God, asking him to make this event go well – for the dentist to be in a good mood, for pleasant background music to distract me from the grinding. Right before I left I added, “You know God, if you want to just make it so I don’t have a cavity at all, that would be great too.”

I slid reluctantly into the chair and opened my mouth a half a centimeter, and the very nice Dr. Baine started to poke around. He told me to let him know when it hurt, so I grabbed the arms of the chair and prepared myself for a blinding pain to shoot through my skull. It never came. After five minutes or so, Dr. Baine rolled his chair back and asked, “This pain – is it up by your gum line?” I nodded.

He handed me a tube of Sensodyne and sent me on my way.

So my now-beloved Dr. Baine gets the very first “Trish's Dishes Highlight of My Week” award - I think I'll call it THE GOLDEN SAUCER - in the unexpected/never to be repeated category of Dental Treatment. And Yay God for the answered prayer :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

She writes the songs that make the whole world sing...

...but you still can't quote her in your book.

This is what I've learned this week. (Last week was the em-dash, this week it's dashed hopes.)

I listen to a lot of music, and I've read Elizabeth Wurtzel's PROZAC NATION more times than I can count. This is, it turns out, a dangerous combination for a new memoirist. You see, Wurtzel used lots of song lyrics. Dozens, possibly even hundreds of little snippets from this or that song litter her chapters, capturing whatever mood(s) she might have swung through at the moment she was writing.

I liked this idea. So as I wrote, and my moods swung, I took note of what was getting heavy rotation on my playlist, and which lyrics encapsulated the precise question or dilemma or fear I was trying to describe from some section of my life. I found some gems. Cindy Morgan singing about the years she spent trying to find herself: "I put a call out to Buddha, but he never called back..." The Indigo Girls admitting, "Ran as hard as I could, still ended up here...." Nicole Nordeman asking God, "Help me believe, cause I don't want to miss any miracles..."

I love these songs.

Now I understood, when I sprinkled these lyrics across my manuscript, that I'd need permission to use them. And when the time came, I emailed the "permissions" people at each artist's label, confident that they'd be excited for the extra exposure. Unfortunately, though, I misunderstood how the system works. So here, because I know that some of you are writers too, I'll pass along what I've learned:

Quoting songs costs money. Sometimes a lot of money. This isn't the artist's decision; it's governed by the licensing division of the record company. And while everyone I spoke to at the various labels was extremely nice and helpful, that didn't change the fact that the way things work in that industry doesn't lend itself to authors quoting lyrics freely as we write, thinking, "Won't so-and-so be happy to see her song raved about in my book!"

So the songs are gone from my manuscript, crossed out by my freshly-sharpened purple pencil. They're still getting heavy rotation on my playlist, though, which makes me think that perhaps I could put together an official iTunes soundtrack for the book?

If the last year of YOUR life had a soundtrack, what songs would be included?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

September 9th, 9th Baby...

I'm still knee-deep in copy edits, but I had to log on real quick and share some sources of inspiration that have made me smile:

First, if you're wondering if anything really fabulous could ever (ever) happen to make your artistic dreams come true, check out this story about singer/songwriter Lori McKenna. She's a Boston girl, so I love her automatically. But she's also a mother of five kids who has been doing the local music scene for years. Then...she gets discovered by Faith Hill. Yep, THAT Faith Hill. I'll let you read the rest, but trust me, it will pick you up if you've hit that place where you're certain your life is far too mundane to ever be fabulous and exciting.

Then, if you need a giggle, check out this YouTube video, starring three of my favorite kids. Part of what makes me laugh is that this was filmed while the boys' parents were on vacation. My friends returned home and couldn't figure out why their young sons kept talking about "Rolling in my 5.0" Hysterical. This is all part of a video contest promoting our Fall Kickoff, so if you think the little Vanilla Ices are entertaining, be sure to leave them a comment, as the video with the most comments $500 (or 5G's as the boys would say).

Okay, back to my purple pencil!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Happy Weekend!

I just finished Alison Pace's latest book, THROUGH THICK AND THIN, and I have to say...she had me with the dog on the cover. I've never been one of those people who will buy any book about any subject if the publisher simply includes a photo of a Great Dane or a Cocker Spaniel on the front. But the pointy-nose creature on the front of TT&T looks, ever so slightly, like THAT DOG when she was a puppy. (You know, before her front legs grew longer than her back legs and we spent eighteen months or so wondering about her genetic heritage. And her stability while running.) Anyway, all that to say, I might have grabbed TT&T off of that front table at Borders even if I hadn't read Alison's two other great books. But I'm okay with that...

Because this is, in my humble opinion, her best yet. I loved this story--I loved the way she developed the characters slowly, so it was like meeting real people; I loved her descriptions of Meredith's disappointing dates (it's like a primer on the concept of "show, don't tell"); and I loved the descriptive one-liners she tosses in at the end of scenes that sort of sum the whole thing up--not just what the characters are thinking, but what I've thought, when I've been in those kinds of situations myself. (I'd offer an example of this, but I failed to fold down the corners to mark all the lines I loved. Why don't I fold corners? I own the book--I'm allowed to fold the corners!) Suffice to say that my copy of TT&T will look a bit like origami after I read it again.

This also, furthers my theory that dog ownership is an incredible helpful facet of successful writing, right up there with having a sharpener for your colored pencils! Do they teach these important things in writing programs???

Thursday, August 09, 2007

If the shoe fits...that still doesn't mean you can run in it

A few of you may remember that about this time last year, in the early days of this blog, I ventured out to City Sports to get new running shoes. I posted about how surprised I was by the whole "do you/don't you pronate?" conversation, and how I was then told that the only shoes that would make it possible for me to even walk down the street were so ugly that I felt compelled to sprint every time I left the house. It was an interesting strategy, as far as fitness goes.

Well, the good news is, I ran in those ugly shoes. Not very far, and not very fast. But I ran. You might even say that I'm in training. You see, I have a dream... My dream is to do Swishy's 5K challenge (provided I can do it on a treadmill, or in a place like Kansas where it is very flat...) Not just because she's promising awesome prizes (okay, maybe a little) but because I've never run this far in my whole entire life. Pitiful, huh? The truth is, I've always been a sprinter, not a distance girl. My events were the ones with the word "dash" in the title. And as I look back on that, it occurs to me that as much as my dashing ability was celebrated in my school days, it might have been nice if some grownup, at some point in time, had taken me aside and said:

"Sweetie, here's the hard truth about running: No matter how much you love it now, eventually, you'll need to branch out beyond the dash. Dashing will be of almost no help when you're older and need to fit into tight jeans. To fit into the jeans, you've gotta go the distance. Not only that, but for the majority of your twenties and thirties, you will be surrounded by well-intentioned people who will tell you, as a means of encouragement, 'Remember--life is not a sprint, it's a marathon...' They will think this is helpful. They will have no idea that essentially, they are telling you that your particular skill set is unsuitable for adult life and that you should just give up..."

That's okay though, because I'm finally catching on. Life is not a's a 5K! I even went back to City Sports to get new sneakers. (There was a new guy there...he assured me, in direct contradiction to his colleague from last year, that I am indeed a pronator, and I need all the support I can get. To which I can only say, AMEN!)

Swishygirl, get my prize ready!!!


Monday, August 06, 2007

Smarter than when I woke up this morning...

The manuscript of my book arrived this morning, with copy-edits for me to review. Yikes. Let's just say that I owe the production staff at Hachette Book Group a round of drinks the next time I'm in NYC....

It wouldn't be so embarrassing, actually, except for the blasted em-dash.

What's an em-dash, you ask? It's a stylistic little piece of punctuation which I used--incorrectly--on almost every page of my manuscript. ALMOST EVERY PAGE. I'm surprised the copy-editor didn't put a hit out on me.

There is, apparently, a bit of debate between proponents of the em-dash and fans of its lesser-loved cousin, the spaced EN-dash. But I can't even claim to be a victim of this cross-fire. No. My chosen way of setting off my random thoughts - the open-space-en-dash - (which I just demonstrated, for what I promise will be the very last time) is used only in Germany, and certain parts of France, neither of which I visited while working on this book.

I am duly humbled.

To cheer myself up, I went to Staples to buy colored pencils for my editorial notes. I found a lovely box of twelve different colors, and rushed home to my manuscript, ready to get to work. I pulled the plastic off the box, debating if I should make my marks in purple or orange (green and blue were already taken by the aforementioned production editors for whom I'll soon be buying drinks), when my momentum came to a horrible standstill...

The pencils were not sharpened. None of them. Unlike the picture on the front of the box, which featured several SHARPLY POINTED, READY TO USE PENCILS, all of my new pencils were flat-bottomed and artistically inert. Sigh.

Steve and I do not, so far as I know, own a pencil sharpener. And while THAT DOG has eaten a pencil or two in her day, she's not exactly noted for her precision. I might have an eyeliner sharpener from a Clinique promotional lying around somewhere; if not, I probably won't have time to post tomorrow. You know, because I'll be whittling.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

From Massachusetts to Maine, by way of Chicago

Did I mention that before I went to Maine, a friend and I went here?

I'd identify said friend but she was too embarrassed to admit that we were going to see Oprah's digs...She asked the doorman at our hotel, "How do we get to 1735 Washington Street?" (or whatever the address is - I don't remember). He looked at us like we were from mars until I fessed up that we were headed for HARPO.

Anyway, we found O-land, snapped some quick pics to remind us how one really should shower and nap before going out into the world after a long flight, and then we even got kicked out. But that's another story...


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Great Expectations

(WARNING: Philosophical Musings ahead...)

When we drove up to Maine for vacation last week, I brought along some pretty big expectations. Not of me or Steve or my sister or her family - I knew we'd have fun just hanging out and making each other laugh (Meg, by the way, gets the credit for the comment in Monday's post about how that turkey vulture must have sensed our hopes dying - she's easily the funniest person I know). Instead, the "Great Expectations" I had were of God. I needed to hear from him on a few specific matters, and I fully believed that if I was going to drive five hours into the mountains to meet with him, the least he could do was show up with some answers.

Yep, that's me - all reverence and piety.

On our first morning on lake Mooselookmeguntic, I walked down to the water with coffee balanced precariously in one hand, Bible and notebook in the other, and sat down on one of those folding chairs, waiting to HEAR FROM THE LORD. I prayed something to the effect of, "Okay God. I'm ready for my epiphany!" then waited for a flurry of activity to hit my spiritual in-box as God downloaded his directions and plans for my future.

At first, I heard nothing. I stared up at the fog-covered mountains, waiting for wisdom to come. Then the wind picked up and waves lapped noisily against the shore, and some bird started chirping - incessantly - from the birch tree over my head. A chipmunk ran by. I wondered if one of these was a sign - you know, if symbolically "the tide was coming in in my life," or "wisdom would be chirped forth from above." But I gave up on this silly idea before I got to the chipmunk; it seemed like one more example of the many ways I try to shove things that aren't what I wanted into a shape that doesn't suit them at all.

A day or so later, God finally checked in. His profound message? "Live." He told me to put down my pen and paper and go play Jenga with my nephew. He told me to challenge my sister to ping-pong ("In this game, we're all losers!" we exclaimed with glee as our flailing shots bounced off the ceiling, the walls, and the dog). He told me to engage in some marital relations with my handsome hubby, float in the lake until my fingers pruned, and then read a book that wasn't something I could write off on my tax return as "research."

Now I'd love to report that all this living ultimately gave me the answers I was looking for that first morning on the dock; that I returned home with a new confidence about which direction to head off in as I wrestle with whether there will be a Book #2, or how many dinner plates will be set around the Ryan family table in the future. But nope. That's not what happened. And yet in some strange way, all this living bolstered my great expectations of God, trusting that he has answers to these questions, and I'll know when I know that I know.

Until then, I've got a bunch of laundry to do, all caked with sand and mud from a lake in the middle of nowhere.

It's time to live.

What are your great expectations?