Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mission Accomplished (Sort of...)

I'm off to a hilariously good start in my determined efforts to fail more as a path to life fulfillment. After my last post (a mere 15 days ago), I decided that I was getting back on the blogging horse, and would post faithfully at least three times a week.

You can see how that went.

WHEN will I learn that these sorts of DEFINITE DECISIONS WITH CLEAR GOALS ATTACHED always, always (always...) mean failure for me? And yet the promise--the idea that by setting the goal I am somehow requiring myself to follow through--is so alluring, I get sucked in, again and again.

I'm reading HAMLET'S BLACKBERRY, a book about finding a balance between the extreme connectedness the internet makes possible, and the private mental space required for happiness, creativity, and general well-being. I'm thinking of going offline for the month of November (which almost guarantees you'll see a post from me here on November 3rd, 11th & 22nd...), to see if it will help me pin down some of the writing ideas that have been floating around in my head eluding capture. I'm wondering if less time with my internet connections might give me more mental space to build the relationships that go into writing a book--with ideas, characters, and points that come together only when there's some room to move things around.

(Hey--Maybe someday I'll write a book about how writing is like interior decorating...for your brain!) (And that idea, my friends, is utterly representative of why I'm not posting more frequently...)

Have you ever taken a vacation from online connection? If so, how'd it go?
Did it help you maintain real-life connection with people in person?
Just curious :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Failure, Fun & What's the next step?

It's been a great weekend. Steve and I spent the better part of it talking/thinking/planning/hoping/scheming/praying about new possibilities & adventures. I'm a total sucker for this kind of big-vision stuff, but I've noticed that it's only fun for me if, at the end of the conversation, I have some sense of what the next step is. I might or might not take that step...but to feel like an idea is anything more than a pipe dream, there has to be a tangible next thing that can be done.

For instance, earlier this year, some friends and I were dreaming about building a cultural center here in Boston (like the 92nd St. Y in Manhattan, only with more Red Sox paraphernalia). I even met with some folks involved in various artistic non-profits in our city to get the lay of the land. But after that, the next step was: Raise $5 million dollars so we could afford a space. Um...okay... Now, one high-faith friend put out a request for funding, but after that we sort of lost steam.

HERE'S the cool thing, though, which I discovered last week in a post by the awesome writer/runner/blogger Kristin Armstrong: Research has shown that one of the benchmarks for a motivated and challenged life is when you're failing to meet your goals approximately half the time. In which case, I AM A SUPERHERO!!! :) Seriously...on these terms, I'm living the dream...

It makes sense, right? It means you're taking risks and exploring possibilities, and 50% the time you're arriving somewhere near the place you set out for. Those are pretty great odds, statistically speaking (higher than MLB batting averages, for example). And constant success (aside from being unattainable) would be as dull as unrelenting failure. It's the balance that keeps us motivated and challenged, so we circle back to conversations like the ones Steve and I have been in all weekend.

Okay, that's WAY more than Kristin drew from this little tidbit of encouragement, but I'll take it. Here's to trying stuff! Viva la fail!

And now, as I talk/think/plan/hope/scheme/pray about new things to try, I keep the "What's the next step?" question more toward the front...turns out it's best when "Raise $5 million" isn't first or second on the list :)

How's your failure rate this year?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Updates on Minneapolis, NYC, Cambridge...

Hi All! It's been awhile. I took September off from, well, pretty much everything. I needed some time to regroup after a tough year, and to figure out what's next. And I've learned that when I'm in one of these seasons, the less said the better.

It makes sense, right? We all have times when we need to try on ideas...and then have the freedom to discard them immediately (because no, we really don't want to move to Montana and open up a bowling alley...) In the midst of this, the larger hope is that one of these little ideas will take root, and grow into something viable while under the protection of me not saying very much about it. Not sure if that's happened yet, but I have some seeds I'm keeping my eye on :)

In the meantime, what's been going on? Here's an update:

1. Steve and I spent the weekend in Minneapolis (my first time--very cool city) speaking at a retreat for leaders from the Mercy Vineyard. Ever have those times where things come together and you suddenly have all kinds of exciting vision for what's next in life? The weekend was full of those for us. You can hear me rhapsodizing over the experience (and sharing some thoughts about finding your life purpose) here.

2. I'm hopping a train to NYC next week, which is my idea of creative nirvana. I'll be doing an event on Wednesday night, October 13th. It will be a fun wine & snacks party, and I'll be giving a talk about navigating big changes in life (and my secret hope of becoming a superhero). If you're in the city and want to join us, email me at Trishryanonline AT gmail DOT com and I'll send you my friend's address.

3. And last, but certainly not least, I had lunch with the lovely Stacy yesterday. She was one of my first blog friends and always makes me laugh when we talk about the care & maintenance of minions (and ponder how imaginary Ukrainian minions might be deployed to take over the world). Check out her blog...you'll be glad you did.

More soon, I hope. Until then, be well :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Video!?!

Today's news: A friend emailed me a review of MAZE, and lo and behold, there was the video I filmed at my publisher's office back in the Spring. I was surprised (enough so that I had that drop-jaw "Huh?" face for a full 30 seconds) but in a good way. I'll post it here, if you want to check it out. I like part 2 the best, so I'm putting it first):

And yes, that's the awesome Ryanhood signing Around The Sun in the background.

Here's Part 1...in which the still frame looks like I'm about to sneeze/just won the lottery/ate 14 lemons and am about to throw up with great force and enthusiasm... (I'm adding this to the "I feel pretty" files):

Not a bad way to start the day :)

Monday, August 02, 2010

Moose, blue eyeshadow, and getting to work

I was on vacation last week, our fourth year renting a house deep in the north woods on Lake Mooselookmeguntic, in the Western side of my great home state of Maine (can you tell I'm a little partial?) There's something so powerful about going off the grid for a bit, recalibrating my days so that I can only check email on my phone once every couple of days while sitting in the IGA parking lot (the only place I had reception.)

We saw several moose (and almost hit one with our car--man, those suckers are huge...and fast!)

We celebrated my niece SPARKLE GIRL's 7th birthday. I gave her one of those kits with a makeup in every color, which meant she and I went around for the next four days decked out in blue eye shadow and great gobs of hot pink lip gloss (I think that's how we avoided hitting the moose...he saw my lips coming and swerved...)

And, on a serious note, I spent a lot of time staring out at a windy, wavy, crazy lake (I've never seen waves like this before on a lake...my first thought when I saw it was, "Wow, God is pissed...") wondering what comes next and how to build a life that will feel satisfying, fulfilling, or any other of the words I dream of when I wonder what might make me excited to jump out of bed in the morning.

Strangely, the best answer came not from my faith (on my ride home yesterday I saw that author Anne Rice has left Christianity, and thought, "Oh, I know just how she feels...") but from music, specifically the Indigo Girls. I listened to their songs over and over again, marveling at how they combine deep spiritual wondering with a solid message that says, Get off your ass and DO something...don't just sit around thinking. Wise advice.

So today, it's back to work. Not just in my head, but at the keyboard, and at the Blue Ocean Summit 2010, a conference that starts tonight about exploring new ways to think about God, faith, and life. Who knows? Maybe I'll slick on some lip gloss and blue eyeshadow to help maintain my sparkle power :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Hug from One of My Heroes

I met one of my heroes yesterday! Jennifer Weiner was here in Cambridge on her "Cupcakes Across America" tour, talking about The Bachelorette, her young daughter's refusal to wear undergarments, and her new book, Fly Away Home. She was hilarious, entertaining...and surprised the $@% out of me when she knew who I was.

One of the perks of writing books is that the author community is SO supportive of each other. After my brief career as an attorney (where, let's just say, that was not the case...) it never ceases to amaze me how writers cheer each other on, promote one another's books, and send waves of Tweets/FB posts/emails saying "Get to work! I want to read your next book, so write it!" when one of us is having an "I should have been an accountant..." kind of day. I know Jen has been uber-supportive of fellow novelists, running contests through her blog to get the word out about debut novels, fighting to get better review coverage for women writers in the New York Times. But our paths have never crossed--I simply admired her from afar.

Back when my writing career was just a dream and I was temping in a venture capital firm that was about to be swallowed in a takeover, I had a lot of time on my hands. I spent that time reading Jen's blog. She was one of the earliest writers to really embrace blogging (the archives go back to 2002, when she was finishing her second book, In Her Shoes) and she was this brilliant combination of hilarious, encouraging, and real that I hadn't seen before--it became like my own soap opera, tuning in each day to see what would happen next.

In the years since, I've kept up with her books, and her blog, and admired something else: how adaptable she is. She takes chances in her writing, trying things: murder mystery, short stories, revisiting characters from a previous book to catch up. It takes guts to do that (and--let's be honest--HUGE book sales so that your publisher will let you take those kinds of risks) because it means she's not just churning out the same book over and over again for the same audience. Not everyone loves everything she writes...but she has something in that will entertain almost any reader. Smart strategy.

So last night...I handed her my book after the girl in front of me had explained the complicated spelling of her name. "Mine is easy," I said. "It's Trish."
She looked at me. "Are you Trish Ryan?" she asked.
"Um, yes..." I muttered, like a complete flabbergasted dork.
"It's so nice to meet you!!!" She got up from her table, ignoring the crush of people waiting for her signature, and gave me a giant hug. She asked how my second book was doing, and when I'd be going on tour.
Again, being the brilliant on-the-spot conversationalist that I am, said something about how we'd pushed the tour to September because only Jennifer Weiner can tour in July (which is true, but still...who says that?) She was funny and gracious and said that July is hotter than $#@$ and September would be better anyway.
Then, as I was walking away, she said to the crowd, "You guys: She's an author, too!" She didn't have to do that...it was just an act of huge generosity, sharing her spotlight with someone who occupies an much (much) lower spot on the literary ladder. A reporter from the Boston Globe came over to take my name. It was all surreal, and (I'll admit) wonderful. It gave me a nudge to keep writing, because I want to be part of this amazingly supportive world.

So thanks, Jen...for the untold hours of entertainment and encouragement, and also for knowing how much a moment like that can mean to another writer. Your generosity rocks :)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Behind the Scenes w/ (Emergency Backup) Steve

A new "behind the scenes" video, starring a 2-D approximation of my (video-averse) (spectacularly wonderful/hot/handsome) husband, and his thoughts on having a wife who writes candidly about, well...everything. Ladies & gentlemen, meet Steve!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Be Like Penny!

I'm low on lofty thoughts of deep import these days, just enjoying the mellow decisions of summer...such as whether to wear shorts or a flowy skirt, or how many trips to the beach I can sneak in around life's obligations.

But this post by my friend Amy Julia stopped me in my tracks...and made me smile. It's a snapshot of how her 4 year old daughter Penny is responding to her first tennis lessons. Penny has Down Syndrome, so athletic adventures are a bit of a risk for her. But I love, love, love her perspective. She's not focused on how her peers (all taller & more agile, not to mention more experienced) are doing. She delights in her own accomplishments. "I hit the ball!" she told her Mom. "I was a good listener!" Her overall summary of the lesson? "I did a great job!"

That child is brilliant. She gets it. She showed up, tried something beyond her ability, and did a few things better than ever before. That's what it means to meet the goal. She did a great job!

I can't remember the last thing I attempted and then debriefed from this perspective. Today, that's going to change. A few years back Gatorade ran a commercial with Michael Jordan and the tag line, "Be like Mike." My mission for this summer... Be Like Penny :)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Big Swim

I went swimming yesterday! In the ocean! In big waves! I'm feeling rather proud of myself :)

I was visiting my hometown, about two hours north of Cambridge. As you may know, the water along the Maine Coast is majestic and inspiring...and insanely cold. For most of the summer, it's impossible to swim for more than a minute or two unless you're under the age of 10, over the age of 60...or wearing a wetsuit. (A childhood of swimming in that ocean is how I know you can get ice cream headache with no dairy products in sight.) But There are 3-4 magical days each year where the water is so warm you can stay in all day. Yesterday was the day after one of those magical days.

So yes, the water was cold, and the air was breezy, and each time I went in I came out looking like a freshly plucked chicken with frozen blue lips (It was a sexy sight, let me tell you.) But I decided I didn't care. The waves were perfect, and I can't remember the last time I swam in the ocean with full commitment (arms in the water, feet off the ground). So I pushed away the niggling thoughts about how silly I looked in my gigantic floral bathing suit, how cold the water was, and how I'd have no way to drive home if a wave pulled me under and I lost a contact lens, and I went for it. And it was SO MUCH FUN.

This summer's motto: Do it anyway. You'll be glad you did.

My sister has photographic evidence of my little head bobbing in the waves...I'll post here as soon as she sends it to me.

Here's to a summer of looking ridiculous :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Conversations & Complexity

Last week I recorded a podcast interview with the fabulous Christy Tennant of the International Arts Movement in NYC. Oh how I love her! And as someone with dreams of building a cultural center (like NY's 92nd Street Y) here in Boston, I was so excited to learn about IAM and the things they're doing.

Conversations like this are one of my favorite parts of launching a new book out into the world. We authors joke about how we only want to hear great reviews and cringe at words of criticism, and with my first book, I was right there with them. After all, that book was very much my story, my romantic and spiritual ups and downs in all their vulnerable, pathetic, yet somehow-it-miraculously-all-worked-out glory. (To this day, when I see that book on a bookstore shelf, I feel like a part of me is sitting there, hoping to be taken home and loved. Pitiful!)

The new book is different. It's about my story, but in a larger sense this time. There's more reflection, and I had a bit more room to observe the world around me and say, "Um, I think some things are crazy here..." I have some opinions. I knew, even when writing, that not every reader would agree with me. That was exciting, truth be told. Because as long as we're not attacking each other, or criticizing who we are as people, disagreeing about ideas can lead to amazing things--solutions, possibilities, even (dare we hope?) that elusive collective genius we hope for whenever we gather together to try to solve a problem.

In grad school, my favorite book was a science book called COMPLEXITY. It was the story of a revolutionary gathering of scientists from all different disciplines--biology, chemistry, economics, psychology--looking at complexity theory through the lenses of their different fields to see if their collective knowledge would lead to new understanding. I love the idea of these sorts of gatherings, even with all their messy, ego-filled personality clashes. I like interesting conversations with people who have thought hard about what they think and why.

If you like these sorts of (complex) conversations, I have a couple of cool invitations for you!

First, the Blue Ocean Summit here in Cambridge, MA, August 2-4. This will be the third year for this conference, which is the most provocative, inspiring gathering I know for people who are thinking about questions of faith within a city culture. I'll be speaking, which of course makes it extra exciting, right? ;)

Second, I'm working on a series of workshops (tentatively called "Creativity: Behind the Scenes") to take on the road this Fall and Winter, based on the fun experience sharing a stage with the guys in Ryanhood at my launch party. There's something about "nerding out" with other artists across genres that is surprisingly motivational, and I'd like to create more of that. If this sounds like something you and your friends would be interested in hosting, drop me an email and let's talk.

And for now, tell me: What do you like/not like/hope for/fear from complex conversations?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oh Happy Day!

Last night's party was amazing: 100+ of my favorite people, fun sharing the ups and downs of the writing process, musical accompaniment from the guys of Ryanhood (it's so much less scary to be onstage when you're up there with friends & having a conversation...although I had to put down the mic and sit down while they played so I didn't ruin the moment w/accidental backup vocals :) ), and some of the most amazing food ever. Even the wine tasted extra special. It was a good, good night.

I'll have more details and pictures up soon. But until then, check out the other highlight of my week: my interview with Gretchen Rubin, author of THE HAPPINESS PROJECT, on what makes me happy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Launch Day!

It's book launch day today! I've been up since 4:00am (THAT DOG doesn't want to miss a minute of summer, apparently) so right now I feel almost exactly the way I did the morning of my wedding: thrilled and amazed that this day has finally arrived, excited about the party...and so exhausted I barely know my name. My lone goal for tomorrow's celebration is for my hair to look slightly better than it did on my wedding day (a hungover hairdresser wound my hair into a peculiar little bun that made me look like a lost extra from Little House on the Prairie). It's all about small, achievable goals right now. I'm off to heat up the flatiron...

But first: if you're one of the people who has cheered me up and on during the crazy process of writing/editing/waiting for publication of this book...thank you. I appreciate every comment and word of encouragement. And for those of you who have taken an hour or two out of your busy lives to read my books? A huge, awkward cyber hug for you!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Take Action!

Like the rest of the world, I was captivated by Greg Mortenson's tales of courage and determination in his memoir, Three Cups of Tea. It was one of the best books I read last year (I've been saving the sequel, Stones Into Schools for my vacation next month).

One of the things I admire about Greg is the bold way he admits that we authors need help. In the back of both his books he includes a section entitled, "Take Action." It's a list of things you can do to spread the word about his books, his work, and the causes he cares and writes about. It's both candid and helpful.

Today, I'm re-creating a version of it here. As someone with a new book "officially" launching tomorrow, I'd be SO grateful if you did any of these things to help spread the word. And as a lover of books, I'd be elated if you picked a book you've enjoyed and applied these steps to help that author, too. Here's the list of how you can TAKE ACTION! to put A Maze of Grace on the map:

1. Visit www.Trishryanonline.com for more information. I'll be updating this week with links to the organizations I mention in the book, pictures, and events.

2. Suggest A Maze of Grace to a friend; colleague; book club; women's group; church; civic group; university creative writing class; pre-marital class...or any person or gathering interested in memoir/questions of dating and marriage/spiritual exploration/women's issues/faith and politics.

3. Check if A Maze of Grace is in your local library. If not, either donate a copy or suggest to the library that they add A Maze of Grace to their collection. Ask your friends and family in other states to do this also.

4. Encourage your local independent or chain bookstore to carry this book if they do not have it.

5. Write a book review of A Maze of Grace for Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or a blog. Your candid comments will help bring awareness of this (or any) book.

6. Ask the book editor of your local newspaper or radio station to consider letting you review the book.

7. And finally, a fun, personal step particular to today: click over to The Divining Wand to see a review of A Maze of Grace and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy!

Thanks for reading, and for helping. It really (really) makes a difference in a world where every copy sold counts!

And I'd love to hear: Do you have other suggestions for spreading the word about books you love? Start here, leaving a note in the comment about a great title, so we can read it too!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Beach reads: Three novels I love

I know it's not usually the done thing to blog about other people's books two days before one's own book launches, but I can't help myself. I've read three REALLY great novels in the past couple of weeks, and I want to share them with you, in case you're looking for a summer escape yourself. If it helps motivate you to click over to Amazon or head to your local library, pretend I'm handing them to you in this adorable tote bag, and picture yourself heading off for a day of sunny relaxation!

STAY by Allie Larkin. As you can tell from THAT DOG's frequent appearances on the blog, I'm a dog person. I love every book Alison Pace has ever written and am excited to welcome Allie Larkin into our club of writers who adore dogs. STAY is a poignant story of that feeling we've all had that we've lost it all (told through a character who really had). But the ending is both happy and satisfying, and I loved every minute with this book.

THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS by Randy Susan Meyers. I met Randy at a gathering of Boston authors who Tweet, and the minute she handed me her card I fell in love with her cover. The story inside is just as gorgeous. Two sisters, struggling to make a life for themselves and figure out what "family" means after their father murders their mother. The characters in this book are so real I feel like they might email me with an update.

THE SEASON OF SECOND CHANCES by Diane Meier. I think I loved this book because part of me identified with the main character: when I'm hurt or scared, my core instinct is to retract into myself--to eschew emotion and follow whatever semblance of intellect and logic I can cobble together. But most of us don't really want to be alone, at least not forever. I liked how this story unfolded.

Let me know if you read these...and what books you're loving as summer kicks off. Thanks for humoring me as I took a brief break from trying to lob my own books into your beach tote ;)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I once dated a guy whose biggest joy in life was found in the words, "Buy one, get one free." He was a doctor, so it wasn't about the money. I think it was that sense of getting something extra, of using your resources in some sort of maximal way. I wanted to be appalled (really, he was a little strange about the whole thing)...but I'm the daughter of a man whose FAVORITE CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER was a gift certificate to Goodwill (my sister's genius idea), so the truth is, I understood exactly what he meant when he'd do a little hop of glee upon seeing a BOGOF sign.

(Looking back, the hop of glee probably explains why we didn't make it as a couple...)

All that to say, today is BOGOF day here at Trish's Dishes!

My new book, A MAZE OF GRACE officially launches in one week! Amazon is shipping, and I've had friends send me pictures from all over to celebrate that it's already in bookstores--I'm caught off guard, and feel the need to celebrate this early release. So I thought I'd do a give-away inspired by my friend Ivy:

This past Sunday at church, when I went up to give Ivy a hug, she was near the bookstore holding both my books in her hand. She's the mom of a bunch of little kids, and so had never read book one. "I want to read them in order," she said. (For obvious reasons, I hugged her again.)

It occurred to me later that day that she might not be the only one who would prefer to read the whole story of my romantic & spiritual adventures, rather than jump in mid-stream. And for those of you who want to give MAZE as a gift (have I mentioned that it's PERFECT for bridal showers? Birthdays? Independence Day for the friend who just had the bad breakup and is afraid life will never work out?) the set makes it extra-special.

So here's the plan:
Buy a copy of A MAZE OF GRACE between today and the official launch date (June 22).
Send a copy of your receipt (scanned store receipts count, too) to Trishryanonline AT gmail.com. Include your mailing address (no worries...I won't use for any other purposes) and I'll send you a FREE copy of my first book, HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT.

Buy this one, get this one free :)

A behind-the-scenes admission: Authors do these sorts of giveaways because readers are so valuable. Without you--and your decision to spend $20 and a couple of hours with us--we don't have jobs. So to all of you who are buying my books, asking for them at the library, reading them, telling your friends, writing reviews on blogs or Amazon...THANK YOU. I'm incredibly, indescribably grateful.

And happy to share the BOGOF fun :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Niece Toss

This is a picture of me with my 6 year-old niece, SPARKLE GIRL. We'd just arrived at the beach, it was colder than expected, and despite the fact that I was not even touching the water, she was shrieking in terrified laughter--sort of sure I wouldn't really toss her in...but not entirely.

Remember that feeling? Being half afraid something will happen, and half afraid it won't?

I don't have any deep point I'm driving towards, except perhaps a reminder to myself of things I tend to lose sight of:

Summer is here...Life is good...It's fun to be scared by the sudden arrival of new possibilities, even if they involve a complete loss of control...especially when I'm with people I love.

What are your summer epiphanies? What do you want to remember as you dive (or are tossed) into the next three months?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Celebration & a sneak peak!

It's here!!!!!!!

Okay, not here, exactly...it's at my friends' house :)

Paul & Pascha just sent me an email entitled, "Wahoo! Lookie what came this AM!" with this picture of my new book, fresh out of the box from Amazon... (I haven't even seen a copy yet, so I'm contemplating a hike across the city to gaze in their window in astonishment).

Then I discovered my Q&A featured on the awesome book blog, The Divining Wand. This is so exciting for me, as TDW has introduced me to more great books & authors than the NYTimes Book Review and the front table at B&N combined. I'm honored to be "revealed" there.

In honor of all this fun, I'm doing two things...

First, re-posting links to Giselle's happy dance in Enchanted and Kool & The Gang singing Celebration from my other blog, as that seems like a solid way to set the party mood.

And second, for those of you who (like me) don't yet have a copy of A MAZE OF GRACE in hand, HERE is the first sneak peak of the opening chapters for you to check out!

If you feel inspired to read further, you can have it sent your way immediately! With just a few clicks! From Amazon, IndieBound, Barnes&Noble...or ask for it at your favorite bookstore.

Thanks for celebrating with me :)

Monday, June 07, 2010

Video: The Kylie Chronicles

Inspired by fellow authors Gretchen Rubin and Allison Winn Scotch, I thought I'd try making a video for a little change of pace here at Trish's Dishes. I wasn't sure what to talk about at first--should I answer questions? Share things few people know about me? Offer tips like Gretchen? (I have no tips, so this last one was never really a contender). Then I thought, "What do I want to know when I meet an author? I want to know what goes on behind the scenes, something that didn't make the book..."

And thus, a video was born! As I've shared before, my books require A LOT of editing. So I have plenty of behind the scenes stories to share from the cutting room floor.

For the inaugural video, I picked one of my favorite topics: behind the scenes with THAT DOG (I got her a pet store in North Philly while looking for a fish...) Here she is, at her grumpiest and least photogenic. I was SO excited for her internet debut, and she wanted NOTHING to do with this project. If you need a laugh, here you go. Enjoy!

Isn't she a star??? Okay, maybe not. I realize this. But she's wonderful, nonetheless :)

Next time, I'll talk about some aspect of the writing process. What super secret, behind the scenes things would you like to know???

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Great Escapes

This weekend was filled with lightening and thunderstorms, and I dove into books to help me recalibrate. Don't you love how a good read lets you escape into another world for awhile? I wanted to pass the word along about a few gems I'm extra-grateful for right now:

First came a re-read: Alison Pace's PUG HILL. Oh, how I love a dog story, and even more so when it has all the elements of romantic comedy and interesting tidbits about a cool profession (art restoration) I'd never learn about any other way. I can't believe this book hasn't been made into a movie...yet :)

Second, on the spirituality front, a spectacular new memoir by Joan Ball: FLIRTING WITH FAITH. Our stories have much in common so I related to so much of what she wrote. But what I really appreciated was her entertaining writing style, which kept me happily turning pages long past my bedtime.

And finally, Ann Leary's novel, OUTTAKES FROM A MARRIAGE. A super-fun tale of life in the glamorous, complicated world of celebrity. Exactly what I needed.

Later this week I'll have a sneak peak of the first chapter of my new book (which I hope will also provide a fun escape for readers) just as soon as I figure out to embed the code :)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Better Together

A group of friends and I do this thing we call high/low when we get together, catching each other up on the best news and the hardest challenge from the previous week. Today as I think about that, I can't even imagine where to start.

I think my low and the high are surprisingly intertwined around the complicated emotions of the funeral of our friend Andrew, who died in the prime of life. It was devastating, on the one hand. But as I looked around me at the 700+ people who gathered to celebrate his life on Saturday morning, and then watched a fleet of Massachusetts State Troopers work heroically to get our funeral procession safely through the tangle of intersections, rotaries, and traffic tangles between North Cambridge and Jamaica Plain/Boston (I think that alone restored my faith that miracles are still possible), I was struck by how well Andrew lived to give rise to such a celebration in a mere 38 years. Powerful stuff.

And the theme of this celebration, as friends from different years of his life spoke, wasn't huge professional accomplishments or daring feats of bravado...it was relationships. Andrew changed the world by spending time with & enjoying the people in it.

(I'm going to type it again--in bold--so when I scroll back over this I'll remember:
Andrew changed the world by spending time with & enjoying the people in it.)

The song that opened Andrew's funeral summed it up: Jack Johnson's Better Together.
I sort of knew this was true before, but now I'm convinced.

Speaking of which...

1. Today is the first day of 40 Days of Faith, 2010...so if you're looking for a hope infusion, check it out here!

2. Today also marks the beginning of launch month for my new book, A MAZE OF GRACE: A MEMOIR OF SECOND CHANCES. As I've mentioned before, pre-orders are a huge help to an author's career, so if you're so inclined, here are easy links to help you order from Amazon, and IndieBound. Thank you!!!

Here's to life, better together :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

George has a point

I woke up this morning thinking about this song, needing George Michael to remind me not to settle when it comes to my big dreams in life...

If this feels like you, too--if you could use some time to pick your heart up off the floor (and hope for something more)--come join me at my other blog, for 40 Days of Faith 2010. We'll spend some time getting in touch with our hopes and dreams, and hanging out with God to see what he has to say. Join us! I think you'll be happy you did :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Thanks to all who've sent condolences...I so appreciate them, as does everyone in our church family. And I apologize for the radio silence. I was offline for most of the weekend, as we filmed a class I help teach called Seek at the incredible WGBH studios. My friend and pastor Dave flashed his superhero cred, giving six talks one day, eight the next (all while being filmed by 3 cameras, before an audience of 60-85 people). Then Sunday, those of us who help with Seek filmed behind the scenes commentary, as if we were on a talk show. It was super fun, and not just because for the first time I thought of Dave as Oprah :)

It's weird to have fun in the midst of mourning. It messed with my head a bit. On one of my rare moments online, I found my joy squashed by utter frustration, as a glitch/delay in Facebook's posting of my blog made it look like I commented on Andrew's death...and then immediately segued into my love of 1980s shoulder pads. I was horrified. But then I realized how closely this mirrors real life. It's rarely either/or...it's both/and.

Last night I wrapped up a series of talks on Relationships & Spirituality. Our conversation centered mostly around this tension--how we live each day in the balance between dreams deferred and dreams come true. It's not easy. The big temptation is to focus on our heartbreak, trying to fix it, or allowing ourselves to be pulled under and drowned by disappointment. But the primary antidote we're offered is equally unhelpful, as if a coat of "fake it til you make it" happy dust makes all bad/hard/disappointing things go away. I don't think that's the abundant life God created us for. I think God made us strong enough to live in the tension, and to embrace it all as real.

As I learned from a sitcom in my childhood, You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life...

As odd as it sounds, I feel like this collision of sadness and joy has made life bigger. And I'm not alone (as so many conversations over the past 6 days have confirmed). It makes me want to pray more, and connect with God's big plan. Later this week, I'll be sharing my thoughts on what this might look like, in case you want to join in. In the meantime, thanks for being here. It means a lot.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sad News

Our friend and pastor, Andrew Snekvik, died yesterday morning. He was surrounded by his family, loved, prayed over, and by all accounts died as good a death as one could imagine (as if there is such a thing for a young husband, son, and father?), trusting that there is life beyond this life.

Those of us here--his friends, his family--are stunned, numb, and mostly just quiet, trying to figure out what this means, how to pray, how to move forward. It's a mystery. It has me thinking about how glibly we toss out comments like death is natural, or death is part of life, making it sound like just another rite of passage. But I think there's more to it than that.

To be clear, I don't mean this in terms of eternal things, or questions of heaven and hell. I mean in terms of this life, and the glimpses we get that we live in a big, spiritual world, and that there's more going on around us than what we see.

Jesus talked about how our eyes aren't always the most trustworthy source of information. We're admonished to try a sensory shift: to keep our eyes on Him, looking away from the world around us, and to open our ears. As if somehow this creates the space for God to come through on his promise, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."

Today, I'm calling.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What I learned from Wife Swap

Monday the glamorous...today the mundane! If you've been around the blog for any length of time, you know that while my life has almost no routine at all, one constant is that if I'm at home at lunchtime, I spend a half hour or so watching reality TV. No idea why this works for me--maybe it's getting to dine with entertainingly bizarre friends without being responsible for their drama?--but it does.

So today I whizzed through a DVR of 19 Kids and Counting in about 7 minutes. (As much as I adore the Duggers, it just wasn't all that exciting watching them go to the zoo...although I appreciated Jim Bob Dugger consoling his scared 2-year old by saying, "Don't worry honey...it's just an elephant!") Which left me with 2 choices: Tyra and the wannabe models, or wives trading places.

I went with the wives because I don't quite know what to make of Tyra...

I'm so glad I did! Admittedly, these ladies were a tad on the extreme side. One played the slots from midnight to 4am everyday, while the other had her teenage sons on leashes. One was a slob, the other a clean freak. And this, my friends, was where I learned today's life lesson!

When the time came to swap rules, Mrs. Neat Freak made Mr. Slob help with the cleaning. He remarked repeatedly how much time it took. That's when the light bulb lit up over my head: this stuff takes time!

I have never, ever made time for cleaning--not even once. I can't even imagine it crossing my mind when planning my week (which explains a lot, really...) It gets done, either when the clutter reaches a critical level or we have people coming over (which happens at least once a week, thus saving us from being buried alive). Today I wondered, though: what would it be like to NOT have to scramble all over the house speed cleaning 15 minutes before guests ring the bell? Or to get dressed out of my closet & dresser, rather than out of piles of folded clothes that never quite get put away?

As romantic and exciting as this sounds (and I'm not kidding--it sounds spectacular) here's what I don't understand: how do you get to the point where you believe that cleaning is the best use of your time? How do you make it a priority? All tips welcome. Otherwise, I'll be stuck watching one of those extreme clean shows for tips...or the ones on hoarding for reassurance that our status quo isn't all that bad.

How do you handle stuff around the house?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Good news from Publishers Weekly!

I just saw the Publishers Weekly review for A MAZE OF GRACE. And it's fabulous!!! I'm shaking right now, all teared up & soggy. I hadn't realized how nervous I was about this until I read the review (and then re-read it six or seven times). The relief is unbelievable.

Here's why: MAZE was a tough book to write. It's super-personal, even more so than HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT. It's real and raw and (in a few places) heartbreaking, even for me. But it's also--like me--fun and funny, and a little absurd. Which was a weird balance in the midst of the process. Not to mention that life while I was writing was rather tumultuous, and my editors and I were adding and deleting scenes right up until the very last moment. By the time the book was finalized, I'd sort of lost touch with whether it was "good" or not, in the big-picture sort of way: Was it entertaining and encouraging...and something you'd want to give to all your friends? I hoped (and I certainly prayed) so. I'm tearfully grateful to report that he folks at Publishers Weekly say yes:

A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances
Ryan (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not) returns with another spiritual memoir, bringing back her trademark wit, humor, and honesty. Her first book portrayed her journey toward love after a promise to “take Jesus seriously”; this sequel chronicles her spiritual and romantic life during the first five years of her marriage. Each chapter focuses on a unique struggle or revelation, from the joys and challenges of marriage to body image and politics; as a result, the book reads more like a compilation of short essays or long blog entries rather than one continuous narrative. Most admirably, Ryan, currently part of the pastoral staff of Vineyard Church, is able to present herself as a believing Christian who recognizes that spirituality can be both simple and complex, a universal experience that can be felt in an infinite number of ways. Ryan does not evangelize, instead humbly and humorously offering her own experience for interpretation. Readers of all faiths can enjoy this memoir for its humanity and its honest exploration of relationships and religion, showing how those two things can often intertwine. (June)

If you decide to read it, I hope you'll feel the same.
Thanks for letting me share the good news :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

There's a pony in here somewhere...

Okay, never mind my deep philosophizing about the Real Housewives of NYC. I just watched last night's episode and the reminder, "If you don't have anything nice to say..." has rendered me all but mute. But I'm a determined girl, and finding some nice amongst the crazy seems a challenge worth undertaking. So here's my attempt to dig a bit of gold from the rubble:

1. Bethenny's sense of humor is back. I'd forgotten how funny she is when she's not plugging a product. Her comment about all Hooters girls coming from Michigan (refuting Kelly's claim that her Midwestern roots keep her pure) has had me giggling for the past hour.

2. LuAnn was wearing a very pretty turquoise necklace as she launched her singing career...and taught us all a valuable lesson in how awkward it can be when we believe the people who flatter us. Thank you, Countess!

3. Speaking of valuable lessons, as an author, I noted the "above and beyond" effort by LuAnn's date to promote his book. It never even occurred to me to kiss up to a housewife to get the word out. So, um...good for him!

4. Ramona reminded me of one of Life's Great Truths: a bit of dancing (or "turtle time" as it's now known?!?) makes everything better...and helps you sweat out the Pinot Grigio so you'll look good in a bathing suit in front of the cameras come morning.

5. And finally, in the ultimate triumph: the ladies managed to stage SUCH a scene on the Hooters boat with their bickering that Bravo never had to cut to B-roll of the bimbets. Way to hold focus!

I'm off to watch something calm and soothing to recalibrate the assault on my psyche.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Life Philosophy, a la Real Housewives

Here's what I learned at lunch from the Real Housewives:

There's a qualitative difference between the ladies of New Jersey and their NYC counterparts. Basically, it comes down to aspiration. New York is a city that requires you to define yourself: Where are you going? What are your dreams? So even if you're not quite sure of the answers, it's pretty easy to find yourself making it up as you go along. Which is insanity-provoking...and the genesis of most creative greatness.

New Jersey (at least the corner we see on the show) is a different kind of place. The boundaries are clearer: you're either in or out of various groups, and once that is established, everyone is free to relax, make sauce, and talk about the state of their "chuckies." You can kind of just BE, because your eyes aren't always fixed on the next rung up on the social or artistic ladder. (Unless you're frantically shoving your children in front of talent scouts and pageant judges...that's a different post).

Now I don't mean to romanticize either perspective. But I wonder if I don't secretly long for a bit of both in my life? I'd never be happy just making sauce (okay, I'm not sure I'd ever be happy spending a whole day in the garage sorting & grinding tomatoes. Prego is fine by me...) but I love the idea that we can both strive AND relax--that life is big enough to encompass both.

My other take home from the Real Housewives? BLING IS BACK!!! I totally love the glitzy, over the top sparkly jewelry (and shoes...and tops...and children) they flash around. Oh the outfit possibilities I'd find for a lunch with these girls!

So now I'm dreaming of a day at the bead store with Dina (my fav housewife), Caroline, and Teresa. Let the sparkle and candid girl talk roll :)

Reality Clash

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers for Andrew...you guys are the best.

Part of the tension of ongoing illness--my sister and I have had this conversation so many times as our parents have gone through different health challenges--is how relentlessly life moves on. After dwelling in this "in between" place on so many different occasions, I think that's a good thing. One of the many graces I've found is that right there next to my big questions about life and death is a new episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey on my DVR.

I'm off to watch it now while I eat some lunch. And if this leads me to deep thoughts of enduring significance (or a rant about botox and the unnaturalness of cats with no hair...) I'll be back to share!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Warning: Intense Post Ahead

I was at a retreat this weekend, deep in the New Hampshire woods. It was spectacular, being out there in the middle of the mountains, next to a lake, seeing the world "wake up" into spring after a long winter. Here in New England, spring feels like a miracle, every single year.

And (to be honest) we were people in need of a miracle. The retreat was for leaders of our church here in Cambridge: a time for us to hang out, connect with each other and with God. And as we were gathered in New Hampshire, talking, laughing, eating, and sharing stories, we were also getting phone updates from back home in Boston, about one of our pastor's struggles with what could be the final stages of colon cancer. He's in the hospital now.

His name is Andrew, his wife is Val. They're young parents, with three boys. They came out to Cambridge from California more than a decade ago to help start this church, and are beloved, awesome friends. That this is happening to them is somewhat unbelievable, and yet totally, unavoidably real.

And so as the news came in, bit by bit, we were stunned. It felt like we were free-falling, along with Andrew's health--like everything was moving faster than we'd thought possible. And yet in the middle of this gut-wrenching news, there we were surrounded by the miracle of Spring. It felt like God reminding us, "There's a bigger picture here...I take the long view...let me show you my perspective." And he did, a little bit. But then we'd get another update, and the panic would return. It was (and is) the strangest sort of tension.

Somehow, this juxtaposition has renewed my courage to pray, "God, please heal Andrew..." And yet at the same time to believe that if God's plans are different, he knows better than I do, and I can trust that. It's a complex feeling, one I can't really describe. But I wanted to try.

In the Gospel of John, when Jesus tells his friends he's about to be killed, he gives them some strange marching orders: "Do not let your heart be troubled," he says. Twice. I've been trying to obey this command, asking God for help. And you know what? It's kind of working. I'm still sad, and scared, and praying at odd intervals, "God, PLEASE don't let this happen!!!" But there's a core of calm inside of me--that isn't me--suggesting that even now, in the midst of this, it's safe to pray, "God, may your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

If you want to add your prayers to this bowl for Andrew and Val and their sons, our church family would be so very grateful.

Thanks for reading, you guys. In tough times and in celebratory times, I'm so happy to be part of our blog community!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A Girl After My Own Heart

I love MY FAIR LAZY. You, if you have the slightest sense of humor, will love MY FAIR LAZY too. (And yes, the double links are intentional--buy two copies, as you'll want an extra to give away by the time you reach page 13). I'm a longtime fan of Jen Lancaster, a regular tourist in the land of Jennsylvania...and I'm happy to report that this is her finest work to date.

Now I know some government agency or other now requires that we book loving bloggers disclose when we receive a free volume from a publisher, so herein lies said disclosure. But let me say that the arrival of this particular package on my doorstep was such an unexpectedly delightful gift, I was half convinced someone had forgotten my birthday and pulled some strings to get me an advance copy of MFL to make up for it. (If that's you, reader...well done! Feel free to forget any holiday you want next year ;) )

I won't belabor my effusive enjoyment of this book, except to say that it made me laugh so hard I had to declare a 5' no-beverage zone around myself while reading, lest I spurt coffee/oj/cabernet from my elegant little nose. Even now, weeks after reading the last page, I keep the book face out on my living room bookshelf. The mere sight of those leopard print slippers makes me giggle. I love me some Jen.

Looking for a fun read to chase your cares away? This is the book for you :)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

We have winners!

Thanks all for your participating in my Party/Presents Fandango last week...loved your comments about what is making you happy.

I think it will surprise no one that the winner of the ARC of A MAZE OF GRACE is...KimQuiltz! She interviewed a goatherd! What I love about this (besides the absurdity) is how in addition to making her happy, it brought a smile to every single visitor to my blog after she posted. That's spreading the love :)

The winner of the ROCK THE TOT T-shirt is...KristyWes! She lives in NYC where one must wear black, so I trust this t-shirt will be a well-loved addition to her wardrobe :) I mean, who else in the city will be wearing that t-shirt???

And the mystery present goes to...JanaGC!!! What is this gift, you ask? Let me tell you...
A few weeks back I came home to the most wonderful of sights: a package from Amazon.com on my doorstep. Inside was a memoir I'd won on the splendiferous site of all things bookish & good, The Diving Wand. The memoir is called FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA, by Eve Brown-White. I read it in 18 hours, totally drawn into the story of her adventures in the Peace Corps and with CARE in Uganda. To reach a reader like me (I don't even like camping, let alone multi-year adventures in the bush) this means the author did a great job of writing a compelling story. So I'll be paying it forward, sending a copy of this excellent book to JanaCG so it can inspire her, too.

Congratulations everyone! Kim, Kristy, & Jana: send your address to me at Trishryanonline AT gmail.

Let's continue the party...What's making you happy today?

For me? SUNSHINE. I'll be taking THAT DOG for a walk, so we can get our dose of vitamin D :)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Party! Presents!

I can't find the camera cord. Am quite frustrated. But instead of generating an entire post of whining, I've decided to throw a little party, here at Trish's Dishes.

We're going to celebrate, people! We're going to give stuff away!

What stuff, you say? Good stuff!

First up: an Advance Copy of my new book!
This will be worth gazillions someday. Seriously! It will be known as, "the early draft in which Trish attempts to quote John Steinbeck but quotes John Updike instead." We've corrected the problem for the final edition, so this ARC is rare! If you win it, read carefully....who knows what other authorial disasters lie within??? (I can say this with confidence because they hired a copy editor to remove my disasters AFTER the advance copies went to press. So the ARCs are quite special)

Second: A Rock the Tot T-shirt!
What's Rock the Tot you ask? It's a combination of all things wonderful: A contest...for eating... Tater Tots! I received this T-shirt while in Grand Rapids (clearly the waiter looked at me and thought, This girl has eaten a tater or two in her time...) but sadly was not in town long enough to attend the event. But the t-shirt is spectacular. You can see it here, modeled by our waiter (who had big dreams of tot-consuming glory) on my friend Cary's blog.

Third: A MYSTERY Gift!
What is it? I don't know. But I like things that come in threes, so I feel like there should be three presents at our little party here today. So I'll come up with something spectacular.

Want to win? Leave a comment below. Tell us something that's making you happy this week. Big or small, profound or simple. Let's celebrate :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Placeholder post re: NYC

So this isn't my real post about my trip to NYC last week. This is the placeholder post I'm putting up to reassure you that I haven't dropped off of the planet--I've simply misplaced the cord that lets me move pictures from my camera to my laptop.

But soon you will see pictures:

*Of my friend High Fashion Girl and I in Washington Square!

*Of two of my favorite novelists, Alison Pace (PUG HILL, IF ANDY WARHOL HAD A GIRLFRIEND) & Hyatt Bass (THE EMBERS)...with the genius crafter of thrillers Jason Pinter (the Henry Parker Novels) in the background, slightly obscured by the flash!

*Of my video filming, with the crew who somehow coaxed coherent sentences with me after the high of so much NYC fun!

But first, I must find that cord...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Trish in the City

Last night was one of those nights that had me wondering if I was being followed by a camera crew for the NYC Bureau of Tourism. So. Much. Cool. Stuff.

My friend High Fashion Girl and I went out for dinner in the West Village, at a ridiculously improbable restaurant called SushiSamba It features Japanese cuisine with...Peruvian influences. So wrong...and yet so very right. We had one sushi roll topped with mozzarella and fried onion bits which had me wondering if I'd ever enjoy other food again. Between that & the yummy strawberry martini, I didn't even mind that the bathroom had one of those attendants who turns the water on for you, squirts your soap and then expects a tip. (I gave her a dollar. She has a strange job. Who am I to argue?)

After stuffing ourselves to near oblivion, we walked around the West Village. I'd never been down there, and loved it. It was the perfect place to talk, watch, explore...as we walked up to Washington Square to take the obligatory picture of the Empire State Building through the arch, that's when I started to look around for cameras. Because this was the city at its best.

Right now I'm at my agent's office, typing on her assistant's computer (Hi Stephanie! Thank you!) and waiting to meet a bunch of writers whose books I love at a lunch at the Algonquin. This is what I love about New York: there are so many creative people, all doing their genius thing. It's like I get to breathe in new momentum for my own creativity. Thank you, NY!

Gotta love inspiration. I'm a grateful girl.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What to wear?

I'm heading to NY today to film a video for A MAZE OF GRACE! I might be--just maybe--a wee bit excited. There will be the relaxing train ride (I heart Amtrak) and then a fun night catching up with one of my best friends. And then tomorrow I'll meet with my agent--which is essentially writer therapy: she'll cheer me up, tell me I'm the most brilliant writer to ever walk the planet (I hear there's a whole class in hyperbole in agent school)...and then demand that I get my @#$ in gear and get to work. Because if I don't write something, none of cheerleading matters.

Then there's a Roundtable luncheon at the Algonquin Hotel with fabulous Twitter authors to further inspire (so excited to meet them in person), on to film the video, then a beverage of some sort (depending on how the video goes...) with a friend I haven't seen since college.

It's all so, so wonderful. But here's the rub: All this is happening in NY. They wear clothes in NY, and not just normal clothes. There's no such thing as throwing on a fleece & frump jeans to walk the dog in that city. One could run right in to Christian Siriano, and can you even imagine the expression on his face if he saw me? I'd be swooped off to the set of What Not To Wear in a heartbeat (and they give everyone the exact same haircut, so I'm determined to stay out of their clutches.) In NY, every moment (in my imagination at least) is non-stop glamour: the highest of heels, the tightest of jeans, and not a muffin top in sight. It's just like Cambridge...

Only not.

I refuse to panic. In truth, I don't need new outfits, I need a new attitude. In anticipation of my upcoming post on the wisdom I gleaned last week from the venerable Eugene Peterson, I asked myself: "What would Eugene Peterson say if he were here, watching me cram every outfit I own into my little suitcase?"

The answer? I suspect he'd say: "If you meet cool people and have great conversations, it doesn't much matter what you wear." (Then he'd tell me NOT to wear that one pair of jeans under any circumstances, ever. Pragmatic guy, that Eugene.)

I'll be back on Friday with tales of adventure...hopefully none of which will involve me tripping over the sidewalk, spilling coffee all over myself, or ruining our family name. It's good to have big goals :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why I love Joshilyn Jackson

Here we go: Blog #1 in my retrospective of Things Trish Learned at the Festival of Faith & Writing. Up first: Joshilyn Jackson.

Let me set the scene: I slunk into her session exhausted. From life, from the prospect of a new book coming out in what feels like 45 seconds, from the sense every writer I know has that we're not writing/promoting/blogging/tweeting/getting ourselves featured on NPR nearly enough to escape the threat of total failure. So I slid into the front row and flopped in a chair, not because I wanted to get as close to this celebrated novelist as I could, but because I was too tired to squint from the back.

JJ--as I now call her, because in my mind we're not only BFFs, we're cousins (we're both Irish, so it's disturbingly possible)--broke me right out of my funk. She has a self-deprecating sense of humor that she swings about like a sword--slightly manic, and yet in total control. My favorite quote: "I don't understand why authors say that their books are like their babies...you don't sell your babies!" I had to cross my arms in front of me to keep myself from jumping up to hug her.

She shared about being raised in an ultra-conservative Christian home (musical instruments weren't allowed in her church?!?) and then taking a wild turn in the opposite direction when she was old enough to make her own choices. She tried all the things that make new adulthood interesting: sex, drugs, booze, more sex, random men, friends who don't know your last name but know your beer preference... Eventually she realized that she was in over her head, that she and her friends were careening past fun exploration, into full-on self-destruction.

In one of those "whodda thunk it?" moments, she turned to God. After reaffirming to him that she didn't believe he existed (I was laughing so hard I hiccuped at this point) and said, "Fine! I'll read your stupid book!"

What I loved about her story is that she never said she regretted any of her life experiences. As someone with my own adventurous past, it felt good to hear someone else confirm that the world is not black & white, that each of us are on our own spiritual time line, and that things work out in unexpected ways.

Plus, she gave me a vision of how to write a novel that includes faith, but isn't about faith. She gets that books are, first and foremost, about entertainment.

I'm reading her third novel, THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING now, primarily because the bookstore had sold out of her first two by the time I got there. I will be forever grateful to JJ for re-energizing me...both in terms of the long full day on Friday, and my dream of a long productive (interesting!) life of humor & creativity.

And for giving me the best possible answer for those awkward moments when someone suggests that my books are somehow substitutes for babies :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Festival of My Favorite Things

Just got home from three days in Grand Rapids, Michigan (home of the nicest people on earth) at the Festival of Faith & Writing. FFW is a biannual conference where my two favorite conversations intersect. Perhaps the best part was that they defined "faith" broadly, so every session was filled with new ideas. Some I loved (see: Joshilyn Jackson, below), while others seriously ruffled my feathers (like the author who essentially reduced "miracles" to when something you don't like happens and it improves your attitude....I'm pretty emphatic in believing there's more to it than that). Even (or perhaps especially) because of the feather ruffling, I loved the collision of all these perspectives. And even more than that, I loved the chance to hang out with one of my favorite friends, and meet other writers who take on the challenge of writing about the huge, mysterious subject of spirituality.

Confession: I went with a rather unorthodox agenda for an author with a new book launching in June. On the flight out, I realized that what I was longing for was not networking, but connection. I wanted to get excited about writing again. Not as a job or a calling (I think recent events have left me overly focused--and slightly panicked--about the need to leave a legacy through my writing, thus making it almost impossible to write) but as a way of figuring out the world. You know, fun. Some parts of what you do everyday should be fun, right?

I'll share some of what I discovered through my posts this week. Here's a preview (so tomorrow when life gears up again and I can't remember even going to Grand Rapids, I'll have a frame of reference):

Blog #1: Joshilyn Jackson. So. Damn. Funny.

Blog #2: Eugene Peterson. How to take the larger view of your life and play multiple roles simultaneously (I felt like I was sitting by the fire with Yoda, gaining sage wisdom and learning to trust the force)

Blog #3: Mary Karr. I might have accidentally asked her, in front of several hundred people, how she deals with her inner moron.... That's not at all what I meant. But it might be what I said.

Blog #4: Amy Julia Becker. Connecting with people who get what you're attempting--and are willing to share the secrets they've learned in their own attempts-- is worth more than gold, I've discovered.

Blog #5: Technical frivolity. Why I might maybe be saving my pennies for an iPad.

Blog #6: The really inspiring thing I thought of a minute ago but now can't remember.

(When we get to blog #5, someone please remind me to confess blatant coveting of my my seatmate's MacBook Air on the plane today...)

Okay, time to hit the couch with with Steve & THAT DOG. More tomorrow :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

How did you get there?

I'm preparing a talk for tonight on Relational Honesty. I'll start with the opening scene from He's Just Not That Into You (where women from all over the world are shown concocting soothing lies for each other about why a guy didn't call) and then talk about how hard it's been for me to be honest when my base response to most of life's awkwardness is to flee (or, if I'm backed into a corner, to flip out.)

As I was working, I flipped over to Twitter (have I mentioned my procrastination skills?) and found a link to these wise words from fellow author/speaker/encourager Donald Miller:

"If you’re writing a paper or presenting a talk, sit and consider how it is you came to understand the point you are trying to make. Track it back through conversations, experiences, and list those experiences. Then see if you can tell a series of stories that would guide an audience to the same epiphany. It works pretty well for me."

That got me thinking: how did I come to understand the importance of relational honesty? What convinced me it would be worth the hard work to move beyond my default settings of flip & flee? As best I can remember, it was watching other people love me enough to be honest, to have difficult conversations they could have avoided, and to feel the joy that comes from being valued so much that people won't give up on me even if I'm being less than delightful. That's a rare and amazing thing.

And let me pause to note that if you haven't felt the sweet relief that comes from a friend saying, "Well yes...those jeans DO make you look fat" in a store dressing room before you've whipped out your wallet...you have something to look forward to in life. You wouldn't think so, but not buying things that make you look bad = An unexpectedly beautiful experience.

Are you good at relational honesty? Tell us: how did you get there?

Saturday, April 10, 2010


There's a readathon today! I thought I woke up to late to participate (due to a lovely social gathering last night and a pretty spring drink called The Yellow Parrot) but a quick scan of Twitter revealed that I was only a few minutes behind some folks, so I decided to jump in...like one of those runners in the Boston Marathon who thinks, "No one will mind if I skip the first 20 miles, right?" So even if I'm more a cheerleader than participant for this round, it still sounds fun.

Here are the books on my pile:

DOGTOWN by Elyssa East
WENCH by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Confession: I'll be dividing up my reading time with a visit to the mall. I have two trips in the next two weeks, and I need one of those gigantic purse-on-steroids bags that will hold everything I could possibly need for an entire day in the city: 2 outfits, 3 pairs of shoes, all my makeup, and whatever books I acquire along the way (at which point I'll also need a Sherpa...)

And there will no doubt be a trip by the Apple store, to see if the iPad (or one of its cousins like the Kindle) could lighten my traveling burden. Do you have an e-reader? Which one should I consider? Or do you have a super-purse that makes an e-reader unnecessary? All help appreciated!

Off to read!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

There you have it

The good news: I looked SO CUTE when I went to meet my friend Biology Girl for lunch today!

The bad news: Our lunch is tomorrow.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Trish goes to Harvard (metaphysically, and in real life)

I'm reading Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's novel, 36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. It's brilliant...and intellectually WAY over my head. I'm usually pretty strong swimmer in the vast sea of philosophical/metaphysical/spiritual ideas (my decade of dabbling had its benefits), but RNG's writing has me doing a frantic doggy paddle, trying to stay afloat. I feel like Rory Gilmore in the episode where she goes to Harvard, learns that the library has 15.6 million volumes, and exclaims in despair, "What have I been DOING with my life? I'm so far behind!!"

Still though, I'm loving it.

In related news, I actually went to Harvard over the weekend. My sister and THE NEPHEW were visiting, and we went to the Museum of Natural History. I'm not a museum lover (dead things and exhibits creep me out; reason undetermined) but this was a pretty cool place. Who knew taxidermy could be so intriguing? Add that to a trip to the Skywalk Observatory at the top of the Prudential Center (where THE NEPHEW swore he could see Maine through the mist), and we have now established the standard for 10 year old boy happiness.

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Easter is my favorite holiday. Even before I considered myself part of Jesus' intrepid band of followers, I remember thinking that the whole coming back from the dead thing was worth a bit of celebrating. It's unique in that it promises such tangible things: that now, because of Jesus, we can connect with God in a bigger way than we'd have considered...and that the outer limits of what's possible in our lives far exceeds our imagination.

I like having my imagination exceeded. Happy Easter, everyone :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

4 Books/2 Goals

I am a total sucker for the suggestions Amazon.com makes when I look up a new book. Every once in awhile it leads me to something that makes me laugh so hard that my beverage of the moment comes flying out of my nose. You can't manufacture jolts of happiness like this; you simply appreciate them when the arrive.

Yesterday, Amazon recommended Diana Joseph's I'M SORRY YOU FEEL THAT WAY: THE ASTONISHING BUT TRUE STORY OF A DAUGHTER, SISTER, SLUT, WIFE, MOTHER AND FRIEND TO MAN & DOG. I love the title. But what I love even more is Diana Joseph's blog, particularly the post where she highlights some of the responses to her book--good, bad, and uniformly hysterical.

It makes me a bit jealous, to be honest. I mean, I write specifically about spiritual-type things...do you think even ONE evangelical pastor has written to tell me about the behavior proclivities of his or her pet? No! At least now I have a goal...

In other book news, the weekend's New York Times Book Review was perhaps the best ever in terms of expanding my reading horizons. Titles I'm excited to check out:

THE HOLE WE'RE IN a novel about a family in a credit crunch by Gabrielle Zevin

THE SABBATH WORLD, a memoir about the Forth Commandment by Judith Shulevitz (which appeals to me partly because I'm desperate for a vacation.) It's "deckle edged" which is the publisher's way of saying, This is an IMPORTANT book!

***Trish's Goal #2 (after the evangelical pet review): Write an IMPORTANT book worthy of Deckle Edge!

TO LIVE OR PERISH FOREVER, a memoir of two years in Pakistan. (The author can thank Greg Mortenson for my new interest in Central Asia.)

And to show that I'm not nearly as bookish as this post might indicate, the thing I'm most excited about right now? The Real Housewives of New Jersey will be back May 3rd!!!