Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

As we say goodbye to 2011, I think it's good to reflect on the year's journey. I started the year in New Hampshire and I'm ending it in Colorado- with all my belongings in storage, waiting on a "short" sale house in Tucson. So things are a bit up in the air right now, but hopefully it will all be settled soon.

Each year is full of ups and downs, and this year was no different. The worst thing that happened this year was that I got my heart broken. That's obviously never fun, but at the end of the day, I really wouldn't change anything about it.

The best thing that happened this year is that I found a publisher for my books. My advance was actually wired to my account just a few hours ago, making it feel even more real. I'm in the midst of the editing process and I'm geekily excited about it.

This year has been filled with all my favorite people and lots of travel. And I'm on the cusp of a really big 2012!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Donation

This year I'm splitting my donations between the US and the rest of the world.

I'm giving to Farm Aid, which helps family farmers defend themselves against the corporate giants dominating the market and advocates for truth in labeling with the FDA, among many other things. Their website is very  informative and if you were transformed by the documentary Food, Inc., as I was, this charity is for you.

According to CharityNavigator, it has three out of four stars, 75.4% of donations go directly to program expenses, and it pays it's CEO just a bit over $40,000 a year.

The other charity is, which helps create sustainable solutions to bring clean drinking water to communities around the world. For $25, you can provide one person with clean drinking water for life.

CharityNavigator gives it all four stars. 80.1% of donations go directly to program expenses and it's CEO is paid a bit over $97,000.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

In Lieu of Christmas Cards

I'm not sending out cards this year. My address book is in storage along with the rest of my stuff while I stay with my parents in Colorado.

I just got back from another trip to Tucson. I'm trying really hard to buy a house there, but no one seems all that eager to take my money. This "short sale" is dragging into the third month. It was so beautiful in Tucson; it was in the sixties. I considered becoming a squatter. Colorado got dumped with snow just in time for a slushy, brown Christmas.

In better news, my books found a publisher! I'm just starting the editing process. The first book will be out by the summer and the next two will follow quickly after.

So I miss my friends back east and I miss my friends in Tucson, but I'm catching up with family here. Tomorrow, I'm having Christmas dinner with aunts, uncles and cousins.

All in all, not a bad year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Canvas: My Publishing Imprint

I'm super excited to see my name on the list of authors represented by Constable & Robinson's new imprint, Canvas. Looking at this list is my new version of pinching myself. It was not all a dream; I really am getting published!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review: An Object of Beauty

It is with a heavy heart that I give Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty a thumbs down. I have thoroughly enjoyed his other books - Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company. Martin has a gift for creating quirky, tender characters who steal your heart. He has not done that here.

AOOB purports to tell the story of a fascinating young woman who captivates everyone she meets as she climbs the social ladder of the 1990’s art scene. On page 136, a man she’s “dating” asks her if she realizes that she’s never said one thing to him that isn’t banter.

And that pretty much sums up the problem with main character Lacey Yeager. I don’t care about her because she doesn’t care about anything. (By the way, she does not respond to this man by having any sort of revelation and letting her guard down to show us that she is actually a real person. She simply responds with more banter.) She takes nothing seriously; she wants nothing of importance; she has not one relationship that appears to mean anything to her. She’s vacant.

The narrator seems to be her closest friend, and yet it’s unclear if she even cares about him or if she just enjoys having him as an audience and partner in crime. He alludes to some borderline illegal activity they’re involved in, and the mystery hangs over the story for the next hundred pages or so. But in the end, it doesn’t matter because I don’t care about her. I don’t care what she did or why she did it or whether she gets caught. There’s nothing at stake here.

This book is full of dull, paragraph long descriptions of paintings, sometimes accompanied by prints of the paintings themselves. Anecdotes that don’t involve any central characters. Art history tangents and long-winded explanations of the business of art. If I hadn’t paid full price for this book, I wouldn’t finish it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Holiday Shopping: American-made Kids' Clothes

It's impossible. Well, nearly. I've spent hours on internet searches. I had hoped to find many great sites to share, but I didn't.

Turns out, there are no cute, American-made clothing sites for those of us who don't believe in spending more than fifty bucks on an outfit for a two-year-old. I found two websites whose clearance/sale sections might be worth a look:

Basic Brilliance - Leggings and tops in assorted solid colors. Good basics, but not very aesthetically interesting on their own.

CDWKids - Not all their stuff is made in America, so be careful. You can select that section.

I didn't find what I wanted at either of these stores, so I went back to This time I got some fantastic dresses at DoodleBugDressShop. Since they're handmade, I was able to request a longer sleeve for one. With shipping, I'm spending less than fifty bucks on two little girls. As a gift, for something cute and unique, that's awesome and I'm happy to do it.

However, what has become very clear to me is that it would be impossible to clothe your children entirely in American-made clothing. Unless you're wealthy. Or you sew them yourself.

But what really matters is that I met my goal! I bought American for Christmas and I spent more than the $64 that Diane Sawyer claims will help create 200,000 jobs.

So I did my part. What have you done?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Shopping: Made in America

"If each one of us spent $64 a year on something actually made in America, we would together create 200,000 jobs." -Diane Sawyer, ABC News.

I'm working on it. There are a lot of great websites in that link, but I haven't yet found what I'm looking for. It's especially frustrating that when I do an internet search for "made in America, girl clothes", I come up with pages of links related to American Girl Dolls, which are made in China.

As I continue my search, these are the best sites I've found, the ones I'll circle back to when I'm no longer shopping for children:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Shopping: Dress-ups

Well, I struck out on made-in-America website searches for dress-up clothes so I did a search for dress-up clothes and emailed the websites to find out where they were made. Of those that replied, the answer was generally the same: China.

So before I give up and search for a different gift a four-year-old girl will love, I thought I'd send my wish out into the universe. Does anyone have any recommendations?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad

It's rare for me that a book lives up to its hype.

I was concerned after the first few chapters which seemed more like short stories just barely connected by peripheral characters. They were very well-written and compelling on their own, but I was disappointed by the lack of a single story. However, as I read on, I realized the way each story added to the one before it, creating a broader picture.

The format of the book makes me think of a prism: each story is a facet of the prism. An inconsequential character from the first chapter is the central character a few chapters later, proving that no one is inconsequential; everyone has their own story to tell. Also, a character who seems utterly lost in an early chapter will have figured things out in a later chapter. And, on the flip side, a character who has a simple, happy childhood will end up committing suicide.  As the stories weave back and forth in time and geography, we see the full spectrum of human experience. (Though, perhaps, a uniquely American one.)

On a writerly note: for those interested in this sort of thing, AVFTGS is a great study in point of view. Chapters are written in third person, first person, omniscient, and even the rarely seen second person. If you're trying to figure out the differences and how to successfully pull off each one, I'd recommend this book.

But, then, I recommend this book anyway.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holiday Giving

In a previous post, I mentioned my family's Christmas tradition of donating to charity instead of buying gifts. An email is making the rounds this season that makes false claims about the proportion of donations going to services vs CEO pay for charities like Unicef. It suggests that you donate money instead to various charities that serve veterans.

Now, I think donating to veterans' charities is a great idea- especially at a time when the veteran suicide rate outstrips the number of combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. But bashing other charities, lying about them, is not very consistent with the Christmas spirit.

So if you get this email, ignore it. Better yet, reply to the person who sent the email and let them know that it's bunk. And before choosing a charity to donate to this year, check out its reputation here: