Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Frog is Born!

I couldn't sleep last night. Too excited...too awed...too worried about whether or not it's okay to wear jeans to one's book launch party (they're pretty jeans, and I'll wear them with elegant, peep-toed shoes--does that make a difference?)

And now morning is finally here and I can say the words I've been longing to write since I drafted my first essay back in high school: My book comes out today! I know that this not news to most of you, my awesome blog friends who have been hanging out with me through this whole process--getting a contract, writing/re-writing/re-re-writing/trying to keep the whole story in the same tense, discovering that my cover would have a giant bullfrog and glossy red lips on the's been a crazy two years filled with all sorts of unexpected fun, and I'm so grateful for you guys who have shared this trip with me--thank you!

Here are three ways you can take part in today's celebration, if you're in a partying kind of mood:

1. Get the book! As I understand it, first week sales are super-important, so a huge thank you in advance to all of you who invest (or have invested) your hard-earned money in my story!

2. Win the book! Head over to Manic Mom's blog and leave a comment about your first (or worst) kiss...we'll be sending a signed hardcover copy to the best smoochie tale!

3. Name the book! Last night when I wasn't sleeping, I realized that THAT FROG needs a name! So I thought we'd make today NAME THAT FROG day!

What does he look like to you? (Wilbur comes to mind...or perhaps Percival???)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Quality Time

My sister is coming to visit today! There will be shopping! There will be chocolate martinis! There will be embarrassing scenes at Target when we both hear a favorite Bee Gees tune blast over the sounds system and break into moves from Saturday Night Fever!

And after it's all over, we'll both leave the state for awhile to let things cool down :)

I'm off to the train the meantime, if you've seen the subtitle of my book (specifically where it mentions "faith" in between "finding" and "happily ever after") and wondered if that might be more than you want to sign up for, check out Nilsa's thoughtful review here.

Tomorrow, remind me to tell you about my first big speaking experience, and how what I said is now a podcast....and how listening to it made me realize that there's no such word as "determinator," no matter how much I might wish it so...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Big Weekend, Tired Monday :)

Hi All! I'm happy to report that THAT DOG is doing much better. She had a seizure, which has happened before, but now she's okay. Have you noticed that everything is more scary when it happens at 4am? Anyway, she's back to full wiggly happiness now, so thank so much for your encouragement and prayers.

It was a crazy weekend, here in the Frog Tour zone! On Saturday, I was at the amazing Grub Street Writers Conference, The Muse and The Marketplace. What an elegant, fun gathering of folks who love writing. Per usual, I made a bit of a spectacle of myself: I walked into the room they had set aside for presenters to prepare our talks, and sat down at a table with another woman. "Hi, I'm Trish Ryan," I said, extending a hand. "Hi Trish," the woman responded, "I'm Anita Shreve."

I gawked. I stared. It was one of those moments you dearly hope you'll handle with grace and composure, and I blew it completely, blathering like a star-struck groupie at Rolling Stones concert. Still though, she was gracious and lovely and gave me great tips about going on a book tour. ("Zicam," she said. "You'll want to get some Zicam.")

After I pestered her to sign a book (I am SO set for Mother's Day) and she went off to greet her adoring fans, I gathered my thoughts for my own presentation. The official title was, "Memoir: Behind the Scenes," but what we really talked about was "How not to get sued when you're writing about your ex boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse."

After that, it was off to the airport to catch a flight to Ithaca, NY. My newest travel tip? Don't ever schedule a flight where the word "Dash" is the name of the aircraft. Imagine being air born in a Prius, only without the good feeling of knowing you're helping the environment (and with the terrible feeling that you might soon be PART of the environment in whole new way...)

Still though, it was worth it. I got to give the talk at the Vineyard Church of Ithaca, which was great, especially since when I walked in, the first thing I heard was two guys talking about the Red Sox and the Celtics...really, what could make a New Englander feel more at home in New York??? And what an amazing place to see spring finally I understand those t-shirts that say "Ithaca: It's Gorges."

And finally, I came home to this amazing blog post by Larramie. It's like that old show, THIS IS YOUR LIFE! for my Frog Book.

I'm tired, my throat is achey and sore from so many fun conversations, and THAT DOG wants to go for a run in the rain...still, it's a great day here in Trishville :)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Diagnosing THAT DOG?

THAT DOG had a weird, scary night last night. She woke up around 4:00am and I could hear her wandering around the bedroom. When I got up to check on her, she was just standing there, staring off into space, unable to move. She snapped out of it enough to get up on the bed, but has been spacey, just sort of lying there, ever since.

I'm off to call the vet...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Philadelphia Freedom

Okay, it's happened... I got an email the other day from a friend I knew when I lived in Philadelphia...She'd mentioned to someone we both know (a guy she didn't realize I'd once dated) that I'd written a book about my spiritual attempts to sort out my love life. Apparently, he was a bit concerned that he'd see himself in my pages...that he might be THAT FROG.

"No worries," I wrote back quickly, "he's not in there." Still though--awkward!

Philadelphia was a train wreck for me, romantically dating history could be a exhibit in the amphibian house at the Philly zoo. But now that that's behind me, I'm excited to go back and see the city with new eyes. It's been calling to me: Lisa Tucker's fabulous new novel THE CURE FOR THE MODERN LIFE is set in Center City, and Kelly Corrigan's memoir takes place in the same suburb I lived in in law school (there's something wild about reading a memoir and thinking, "I've shopped in that drug store!")

But what really drew me back to those days was Jen A. Miller's amazing travel guide THE JERSEY SHORE. Now I'll confess, when I first moved to Philadelphia, the whole "down the shore" thing baffled me--I thought, Pennsylvania doesn't have a shore...does it?!? But then a friend drove me down to Margate for the day, and suddenly I understood. Jen's book brought back such great memories--the summer my girlfriends and I rented a house in Avalon and spent every weekend soaking up rays by day and dancing at the Princeton at night, the smell of the ocean as you drive over the bridge. It was a much-needed break from the intensity of my newly minted legal career, and Jen captures all that and more.

My favorite part of the book are Jen's essays about her own time down the shore--her family memories, more recent tales of going back and exploring. If you're looking for a way into summer this year, this is a great read! You can win a copy on Jen's blog --just send her a picture of her book in your part of the world.

And I'll be in Philadelphia--creating brand new, happy memories (and hopefully meeting Jen in person)--on Wednesday, May 7th. If you're in the tri-state area, come on by :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Further thoughts from the FF&W

My favorite quote from the entire conference came from Carlos Eire, author of WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA. He was on a panel with another memoirist (who shall remain nameless because her comments were so bizarre that there's simply no nice way to write about it) who had just insinuated that no one but her--and perhaps Carlos, given that he'd won the National Book Award and all--should even attempt to write a memoir, because we're essentially just delusional hacks looking to pad our own egos.

I was mortified. I'd just met a bunch of new writing friends at the conference, and shared how excited/awed/amazed/grateful I was to have a memoir coming out in just a few days. Her comments made me want to crawl under my chair in shame. What if she's right? I thought, panic welling up inside me. Who am I to think that my story matters to anyone but me?

But then Carlos saved the day! "As a historian," he said, "I wish everyone would write a memoir. Imagine what a treasure that would leave for future generations?" He went on to suggest new legislation that would require everyone to have jotted down a few notes about their lives in order to receive social security, which I thought was both hysterical and brilliant.

Yay Carlos!

And I've heard from several (awesome, kind, wonderful) people that HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT is on bookstore shelves and landing on doorsteps from Amazon, eight days ahead of schedule. If you're one of the (awesome, kind, wonderful) folks who buys a copy, I hope you enjoy :)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Festival of Faith & Writing = Good :)

The conference was AMAZING. I can't describe it all now, but I'll share more later. Just a quick fun story and then I've got to get some sleep:

I'm walking through the concourse at the Detroit airport (a mere 67 gates or so) when I see Allison Winn Scotch's book in the bookstore. Allison blogged recently about why her publisher changed the cover for the paperback edition, and it was fun to see the new one in person. Without thinking, I whipped out my camera and snapped a picture, which drew several puzzled stares from other customers. "It's my friend's book," I explained (leaving out the fact that Allison and I only know each other online, which might sound a bit stalkerish...) "Is it good?" one lady asked. "It is!" I said. "I bought it in hardcover and just loved it." The lady picked it up, read the back, and proceeded to the checkout counter. She was followed by another woman who had overheard our conversation. Both of these fine ladies, by the way, fit the new target demographic Allison's publishers are hoping to reach with the new front picture, so three cheers for the wise people who make book cover decisions! I love the way our online author community supports each other, and if felt great to be part of that, drawing new readers her way. Especially because, as she points out, early sales make a big difference in the shelf life of a book. Go ponytail girl!

And that was just the beginning...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

She of few words

THAT DOG doesn't like it when I travel. When the suitcases come out, her little brow furrows right up and she paces around after me like an anxious grandmother. Last night she made her displeasure known in a whole new way: THAT DOG, who has been housebroken for 11 1/2 years, peed...a gallon...ON my travel itinerary...which was lying in the middle of our bed...

24 hours later, Steve is still doing laundry.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

On the road again...

I'm packing!

I absolutely love packing for a trip--wondering what I'll be doing, what the weather will be like, who I'll meet and end up becoming friends with. On my last trip (to snowy Chicago) I met Rachael, the featured soloist chosen by Patti LaBelle in Clash of the Choirs. So now I'm only one degree of separation from being a able to carry a tune! I mean, friendship works that way, right? Your talents just sort of rub off on each other? Maybe on my next trip I'll meet someone carrying a clean white purse...

Tomorrow, me and my gigantic suitcase (there's a chance I'm a bit of an overpacker) are heading to Grand Rapids for the Festival of Faith and Writing-- a gathering of thousands, where we'll spend three days talking about two of my favorite subjects. If only the authors of HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU were coming...then we could add relationships to the mix, the weekend would be perfect!

Hopefully I'll get to blog from GR, and share the excitement of my first-ever writing conference with you all. In the meantime:

If you were designing the perfect conference, what would the topics be? (Presume for the sake of this question that the conference will be rated PG :) )

Monday, April 14, 2008

Black (or brown or navy) is the new white

THAT DOG and I spent this morning picking the winners for the Frog Blog Bus Tour (with a very scientific system that might have included me spreading names out on the floor and seeing which ones she stepped on...) But I couldn't find email addresses for some of you. So I'm putting a call out to the following lovely blog me your addresses!

I Sass
Colleen Snell

In other news...Steve and I went bargain hunting on Saturday at the Wrentham Outlet Mall. Oh, the happiness! I found a cute spring top (I'm going on faith that warm weather is coming) and some pants that were sized in terms of whether you're "straight" or "curvy" (which may be the grown up equivalent to those "Husky" jeans they make for chunky pre-adolescents, but whatever...) But the highlight of the trip was this conversation:

Me: "Honey--come see this purse. It's gorgeous, and it's like half-price, then another $50 off, then marked down 30% off of that!!!"

Steve: "But it's white."

Me: "So? It's almost summer. A white bag is perfect for summer!"

Steve: "But honey, you spill things."

Me: "What do you mean?"

Steve: "You know: coffee, tea, ink from pens. It would only be white for about fifteen minutes, and then you'd be sad."

Me: (Nothing. I mean, what could I say? He was right)

On the way out of the store, I tripped. On nothing.

Steve: "What happened? Are you okay?"

Me: (embarrassed, trying not to laugh) "I fell off my shoe."

Steve: "Imagine if you'd had a white purse..."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On The Bus!

How funny is this picture? It's amazing what Google Images can dig up! This is my new inspiration for the countdown to my book release: Team Frog Tour. It reminds me of some wise words author David Kuo told me about the true nature of book publicity: He said that getting the word out about a book is like driving a wagon (or, in this case, a bus)... you go around and tell people, "Hey! I've got a bus! We're going somewhere!" and ask them if they'd like to come, too. Ideally, you have a big bus, and there's much demand to get on it and all the seats are filled.

So...Welcome to the Team Frog Tour Bus! As you look at this picture, that's me in the upper left corner, with THAT DOG waving from the next window. (I'm not sure who let the cat on, but here's hoping THAT DOG doesn't see it...she doesn't really understand cats; things could get awkward.) Steve is up front driving, which is good--he has a better sense of direction, which increases our likelihood of getting beyond the Cambridge city limits.

As my way of inviting you all aboard (and HUGE thanks to those of you who have been--figuratively at least--standing at a Team Frog Tour Bus stop since way back when I began this blog!) I thought I'd do a pre-publication test drive and see if a Team Frog BLOG Tour might be possible?

Here are the specifics: If you'd be interested in posting a Q&A or review of HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT on your blog in the month of May, leave a comment below. On Monday, I'll do some sort of random selection process (I wish THAT DOG had thumbs...she loves to be included...) and send out as many advance copies as I have on my dining room table. Of course, anyone who would like to post about my book without an advance copy is more than welcome, and will receive a heartfelt note of appreciation in my illegible handwritten scrawl. (You won't know what I wrote, but the love will shine through...)

Welcome to the Team Frog Tour Bus! It should be a fun ride :)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Squirrel has a Girl

You do NOT want to know what was going on in the tree outside my window this morning when I woke up. You just don't. Let's just say that our audacious, hard-partying, rodent neighbor has no trouble in the pursuit department. No passive squirrel is he.

I'm off to the craft store later to get some poster board & markers. I'm thinking a giant "TRUE LOVE WAITS" sign might be just the thing to slow his roll.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Are you in touch? Am I?

I had an interesting conversation with my friend Dave last week. Someone we both care about had just received some bad news. I asked Dave how this friend and his wife were doing, and he said, "They're doing well, actually. They're both really in touch with their emotions, and I think that helps them process everything coming at them right now and stay present in a way that's helpful."

I was baffled by this response. You see, Dave is not a guy who throws around phrases like "staying present" easily, nor is he one to enthuse at great length about the importance of validating every feeling that wanders by during the course of the day. So the fact that he singled this out as a determinative factor for our friends' well being during this challenging time was provocative.

It made me wonder: Am I in touch with my emotions? Do I want to be? How do you even know? My emotions aren't located in some nicely designated spot where I can reach for them when I find myself with twenty free minutes and a box of Kleenex. I'm simply not that organized. They wander by, and I sort of acknowledge them or push them away--much like the email ads I get from various stores offering 20% off something I may or may not need--to be dealt with later or (more often) ignored and deleted. Now, I'm not completely shut down. If I hear the song "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands," I can decide pretty quickly whether or not I should clap. But when I've gone through tough times, I've found that my feelings would lead me quickly down a pretty grim path if I followed them, so I mostly chose not to. I guess it's a survival instinct of some sort.

A singer I like wrote a blog post once, about not letting her emotions grab her by the tale and swing her around anymore, and that's kind of how I feel. I clap when I'm happy, and cry when I'm sad (and I've learned to hop on the treadmill when I'm angry or frustrated, as it's best to be away from all means of communication when that happens :) ) But I don't have an inner gauge recording my emotional temperature at any given moment; I just sort of live.

How about you? Are you in touch with your emotions? How does that work for you?

Monday, April 07, 2008


I haven't worn pants that aren't made of denim in over a year. I own pants not made of denim from the last time I worked in an office. But if you were to ask me today how my life has changed since getting a book contract, my answer would be, "I wear jeans (or flannel) every day." I have swank dress jeans, slightly hip tapered jeans, and beat up jeans for walking the dog. In my mind, denim is suitable for every occasion.

This wouldn't be a problem, except that I have several events coming up where jeans are not welcome, where I'm expected to wear normal pants of some sort, and I'm absolutely at a loss as to how to do this. What shoes do I wear with normal pants? What belts? What do I do if I spill coffee? (I mean, denim hides everything...) So this week is officially No Jeans Week in the Ryanhood, so I can spend seven days practicing...if you see me out and about with some absurd looking outfit, please be kind and know that I'm re-learning the basics of dressing myself.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

All those years I waited, and now...

I just received the strangest email. It's from Joe in Africa, and has all the trappings of the usual, "send me your checking account information, as you've won the Nigerian lottery..." But Joe doesn't want my bank statement. Instead, he wants me to move to Africa, marry him, and take care of his two children. He gave me his phone number, as he'd like me to call.

The sad thing is, there was a day when I might have considered this...

Which leads me to the next thought (or thoughts) that occurred to me last night:
Thought #1: There are actual dates on my book tour! This is real! It's going to happen!
Thought #2 (Prompted by an email exchange with Manic Mom): Omigosh, I've kissed a frog in every single city I'm scheduled to visit! ACK!

Even more embarrassing was the realization that I can share these stories without giving away a single thing you'd read in my book...I kissed so many frogs that dozens were edited out of the manuscript, just to keep the thing to 300 pages. (I wonder if I could score some publicity in some Amphibian News Magazine with this angle???)

Anyway...Here are the dates we've firmed up so far. And in anticipation of this tour, I'll be featuring frog kissing stories from each of these fine cities on my blog. This should make sure I'm still humble when I get the call from Oprah :)

BOSTON Saturday April 26, 2008
The Muse and the Marketplace Writer’s Conference
Workshop on Memoir: Behind the Scenes
Omni Parker House Hotel
60 School Street, Boston

ITHACA, NY Sunday April 27, 2008
Ithaca Vineyard Church
335 North Plain Street
9:45 & 11:30am

CAMBRIDGE, MA Friday May 2, 2008

The Coop at Harvard Square
1400 Mass. Ave

SOUTH PORTLAND, MAINE Saturday May 3, 2008
430 Gorham Road

Borders-Bailey’s Crossroads
5871 Crossroads Center Way

PHILADELPHIA, PA Wednesday May 7, 2008
Location TBD

NEW YORK CITY Wednesday May 21, 2008
Joint reading with AJ Jacobs, author of The Know It All and The Year of Living Biblically
Location TBD

NEW YORK CITY Thursday May 22, 2008
Redeemer Presbyterian Women’s Book Club

CHICAGO Saturday/Sunday June 7-8, 2008
Chicago Tribune Printers Row Book Fair

NEW YORK CITY Thursday August 7, 2008
Backspace Writers Conference
Memoir Panel with Gail Konop Baker, Jenny Gardiner, and agent Elisabeth Weed

My hidden theme for this tour will be a celebration that I'm no longer tempted to respond to internet proposals!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Three things

I was driving around the other day with two of my friends, GPS In Her Head Girl and One Degree of Separation from Anyone You'd Ever Want to Know Girl. (We were in a rented, bright red Chrysler convertible in the middle of the blizzard, but that's another story...) We ended up in one of those conversations about what you'd grab if your apartment was on fire. Presuming all people and pets were accounted for, what material possessions would you want to make sure made it out? One Degree of Separation Girl mentioned her photo albums. GPS In Her Head Girl wondered if she could carry her Kitchen Aid Mixer down all those stairs. Not being a foodie or much of a photographer (indeed, I brought my new camera on this trip and never took a single picture) I was at a bit of a loss.

This morning, though, I know. If Steve and THAT DOG were safely downstairs, I'd grab:

1. My overpriced, totally worth it slippers. These were my birthday present this year, and they bring me more happiness than any pair of shoes I own. Before I got them, I saw two girls in the front row at a Celtics game sporting their slippers and thought, "How can they do that?" Now I understand. I'm convinced they make me a better writer, a better friend...a better person all around. I guess warm feet will do that.

2. The Cure for the Modern Life by Lisa Tucker. I'm 2/3 of the way through this amazing book and can't imagine not being able to find out what happens. The story has just sucked me in in the best possible way, and the primary female character keeps reminding me of how strident and blind we (okay, I) can get sometimes when we cling to our principles over everything else, refusing to see things as they really are. I've never met Lisa Tucker, but her bio says she lives in you think she'd let me buy her lunch when I'm there next month for my book? (Probably not, weird blogger girl you're all thinking. But still, I can dream!)

3. My to-do list. Not very romantic, but if my scribbles every disappeared, I'd have no idea how to recreate them, or what to do next.

The one time my house WAS on fire, for what it's worth, I grabbed THAT DOG, my laptop, and my photo ID with the imaginary last name I was using to hide from an ex. I stood outside while the firemen rushed in, dreaming of the new secret life I'd start after my old one had gone up in flames. I guess you can officially say life isn't going all that well when house fire comes as good news, huh? I'm happy report that things are better now :)

What would you grab?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Time to Stretch

The lovely Nilsa posed a great question in response to my post yesterday about the inspiring stories I heard at the Chicago conference: "So," she asked, "what's the first thing you're doing (or continuing to do) with your life?"

I thought about that all day. Her question stumped me. I'm an idea person, so I can happily go along for months pondering fun new thoughts and ideas, never stopping to plan out my actual application. (It's sort of like if I bought one of those fancy Kitchen-Aid mixers: I'd be totally excited about owning it, imagining all the great things it could help me create, but six months could go by, I'd never have pulled out the manual to learn how to use the thing.) So I was grateful for her question.

Here's what I've come up with for an answer: One of the speakers--her name was Julia-- talked about how we're created to have our feet on the ground and our head in the clouds. She elaborated, explaining that while we have to deal with the practical stuff of real life--irritating bosses, dirty bathrooms, our neighbor's dog who poops on our lawn--we can do so with with an understanding that God does stuff, that there is real heavenly power available to us to help, and God can intercept and rearrange our circumstances in ways that exceed our expectations. Sometimes, I forget this.

The truth is, I tend to be either/or, vacillating between practical and spiritual, with no link between the two. For example, when I arrived in Chicago, I was mired in real life; my entire body was on the ground, in the mud & muck of stuff I had to get done in order for life to work. The week before, I'd floated around on a puffy pink cloud of optimism, certain the world was my oyster, but forgetting to thaw food for dinner, return my library books, or do the laundry that contained every last pair of my underwear. So I totally related when Julia said, "LADIES! Some of you need to STRETCH!"

So that's my take away from the conference: I'm going to STRETCH. When I'm overwhelmed by worry and stress and fear and doubt, I'll stop and ask God for help. And when I'm dreaming of heavenly possibilities, I'll throw in a load of laundry. This is my new alter-ego. We'll see if my 5'4" can reach heaven and earth simultaneously :)