Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Three Things

First, can you believe I actually included this photo in a grant proposal last year?

These are college students playing a rousing game of Edward Forty-hands. I included this picture to demonstrate the need to address the dangerously high levels of binge drinking in my community. Also, because I laughed every time I looked at these boobs. Seriously. Who came up with this game? “Hey, I have a great idea! Let’s duct-tape forty ounce bottles of malt liquor to our hands and….uh….drink them!” The challenge, of course, is that you must finish your beverages before your bladder is in on the gag. As it’s difficult to successfully complete your bathroom mission with two giant glass bottles taped to the palm of each hand. GET IT? (I have no idea who gets credit for this photo, but I assume he or she had a good time.) If you have any such pictures of yourself, feel free to send them my way. I am currently writing a grant proposal requesting funds to reduce alcohol abuse in another community. In fact, I am working on it tonight. While sipping a New Glarus Fat Squirrel. Maybe. Or maybe not. But if I am, it's definitely not taped to my hand.

Second, do you find this picture as amusing as I do?

Never date an Oompa Loompa. Especially if he’s from New Jersey.

And last but not least, today is the paperback release of a terrific first novel, The Liar’s Diary, by a remarkable author named Patry Francis. Patry is currently focusing her energy on healing from an aggressive form of cancer, and has had to take a step back from promotion and marketing activities. So it is a very, very cool thing that a community of more than 300 authors and bloggers have joined together to help spread the word about her novel, which Publisher’s Weekly calls, “A quirky, well-written and well-constructed mystery with an edge.” For more backstory, click over to Susan Henderson’s LitPark. For more on Patry (or to wish her well), visit her website or blog. You can buy the book online at amazon, barnes & noble, powells, or you can also buy directly from Penguin to save 15% (enter the word PATRY in the coupon code field; click ‘update cart’ to activate the discount). Many thanks! (Ah, can’t you feel that good karma?)

Monday, January 21, 2008

On Giving Up (Or Not)

This is a post for anyone who has ever felt like giving up. You’re a teacher, you’re training for a marathon, you’re playing bass in a band on the brink, you’re writing novel after novel yet hitting wall after wall. No matter your passion, you will likely reach a day where you feel like giving up on the very thing that feeds your soul—perhaps the thing you have come to feel defines you, in certain limited terms at least. But one day your muse has evaporated, you’re too tired to take another step, you take a long look in the mirror and think, “Why am I doing this, really? This is too hard. To hell with it. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Whenever you feel that way…maybe you’ve run into some tangles at work and you can’t unravel them; maybe you’re covered in Cheerios and spit-up and poop for the 265th day and you feel like little more than a toddler punching bag; maybe you just moved to Georgia and you feel just a bit lost and lonely—a stranger in a strange land.

Whenever you feel that way:

Download this song immediately and listen to it on a loop: “Art” by Louque, from the So Long album.

Keep running. Your time’s coming.

How many days like those have I had? Too many to count. Specific to writing, in my case, because writing is the thing I must do, and when that little train isn’t chugging along on the track I want, it’s a painful thing indeed. But after I simmer down and tune out the needling voices saying discouraging things in my ear, I return to the center and start again. I have to. It is my first love—the one thing that makes me still feel like me whenever I start to lose my mental or emotional footing.

So. I’m glad I didn’t give up writing when I sure felt like it a few years ago, because then I’d never have been able to photograph a story I wrote in actual book form sitting on a stack of old rejection letters:

And I'd never have received this amazing message from the awesomely talented Marian Keyes:

"Dear Jess, I LOVED it!!!!!!!!! I've just finished it and so sorry for the delay. I'm humbled that you say you like my books because I think your writing is genius. This is a gorgeous novel, it's so so so funny and sparky, yet very touching. I found it HUGELY entertaining and I loved Leigh and all the characters, you handled her illness with such sensitivity because it would have been easy to tip over into maudlin sentimentality and you didn't. Really, I thought it was great, your voice, I love its irreverence. Congratulations on writing such an enjoyable, uplifting book and I wish you every success and happiness with it

Marian xxxxxxxxxxxxxx"

I think I broke a lightbulb screaming when I read her note. I know every day won't be rainbows and shiny teddy bear farts, but damn does it feel good to look back and think, Thank God I didn't quit.

I'd like to close this post with some gratuitous nephew footage. Because really, what's more hopeful than a giggling baby:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Dog is Totally Snoring Right Now

Wow. Guess what came in the mail today? No, not the exploding gum I ordered from the back of that old Pope John Paul II comic book…my galleys! Or as the cover calls them, “Advance Uncorrected Proofs.”

I did the correcting over the holidays, and today there were still about ten last-minute questions in my inbox from my copyeditor extraordinaire. Here are two of my favorites:

Me, being a smartass in the book: “...a level of irrationality even ‘Crack is whack’ Whitney Houston would frown at.”

Proofreader: Should that be “...even Whitney ‘Crack Is Whack’ Houston...”?

Me, still being a smartass in another place in the book: “Whatever happened to Scott Baio?”

Proofreader: Baio has recently been featured on a reality show so you may want to choose another has-been.

So I’m going with Danny Pintauro. Please don’t tell me he was just nominated for a Tony or some such shit.

Also, I have been given the opportunity to write my own author bio for the inside back flap of the book. So far, I’m thinking “Jess Riley…not an asshole most of the time” has a nice ring to it.

Do you see how I’m swearing more in this post? Guess why! No, really. Guess. If you said it’s because I had another workplace interaction with Ms. Crawled from a Pore on Satan’s Butt, you’re right! Give yourself fifty points and kiss a mirror.

Today, she cautioned me against using some of her trade secrets in my work on other possibly competing projects. Which, um, I have my own trade secrets and work processes that over the years, have proven quite successful. Thus, I’m not going to poach your little trade secrets, Miss Pore Thingie. So after I was warned as such, she said to me, “Now repeat back what I just told you.”

Right. Like this is kindergarten and I’m the booger eater in the back row. Later, I heard rustling noises as she spoke, and this was because she was putting on her Crazy Hat to completely contradict something she’d said earlier.

Okay, now I feel bad. “Jess Riley…sometimes an asshole when deeply affected by a work-related incident.”

“The author feels bad about this—as bad as she feels for inadvertently poaching that batch of sea monkeys on a hot July windowsill way back when.”

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

There's just too much to choose from

Alright, it’s Tuesday, and here I am with all kinds of things to tell you. What would you like to hear first:

  • that I finished proofing my galleys and will be receiving BOUND galleys in a few days, the very concept of which struck me five years ago as attainable a goal as becoming a time-traveling rock star;
  • that I have learned a new life lesson—it is highly difficult to convey to your hairstylist the kind of cut you want after first establishing a wine buzz at another location;
  • that today I went to the vaj doctor, who came complete with Skipper the Student Intern Pal;
  • that the movie Juno MORE than makes up for the eye vomit I watched the week before; OR
  • that I just found a new stash of unused blog fodder?

I bet you want to know more about number five! Okay, let’s do it.

1) I recently saw a house with a yard sign that read: “Jesus Saves!” A car parked in front of the same house had “Go Devils!” written in soap across the back window. It was one of the few moments in my life that I nearly wept for not having a camera on my person. True story from last summer.

2) The following is a post I started about a butternut squash risotto I made last fall. I was going to call it: “That’s Not Elbow Grease.” What follows was supposed to come after the recipe, but I never made it that far:

And then stir, stir, stir. Trust me, it’ll be worth it, even when your wrist bursts into flame and your hand goes numb. Especially when people admire your brawny forearm and say, “Wow, have you been … flogging? … something? … a lot lately?” No! It’s okay. Don’t run away! Don’t be scared. Just tell them you were stirring risotto!

And then knock their socks off with a sample. I’m not kidding, their eyes will roll back in their heads and they will temporarily lose the power to write in cursive. The secret is the truffle oil. Yes, it’s expensive. But the kids don’t need milk this month! Dairy is so overrated anyway.

But truffle oil? The nectar of the gods, my friends. Smoky, rich gods who wear thick gold chains and suck on Cuban cigars with the girth of Redwood trunks.

Truffle oil + marinated sun-dried tomatoes + butternut squash + risotto = your mouth doing a Rockettes line kick across the room to thank you. Your mouth might even propose to you with a blimp banner.

So, let me know if you want the recipe.

3) “Hi, how’s your dink?”

This was the subject line from some SPAM I recently received. Not surprisingly to those who know me, it made it onto the list.

4) Nostalgic items that make me happy: Those long, skinny microphones that looked like drumsticks or magic wands. Used on numerous 1970s-era variety shows

I have no idea where I was going with this one.

I'm at The Debs this Friday, with a REAL post about the day I sold my novel. Happy trails!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Turns out the Proof is NOT in the Pudding

Happy New Year, World Wide Interwebs. Can you believe it’s 2008? I really can’t. So if the Mayans were right, this means we’ve only got four years left in which to finally organize our closets and run that half-marathon we’ve been talking about since 1997. Better get cracking.

Oh, how did we celebrate our New Year’s Eve? Well, I still have a headache, if that’s any indication. From three small gin and tonics consumed over a five-hour period. When did my internal organs become 82 year-old men in compression socks? I’m amused because I actually thought I was pacing myself quite well, because I wanted to be RESPONSIBLE and NOT HUNGOVER because I still have 140 pages of manuscript to proof one last time. By tomorrow.

I like to live on the edge.

Before going out last night, I discovered only the best new show on TV. It’s called The Whitest Kids U’ Know. Uncensored sketch comedy on IFC. I laughed so hard watching this clip that I injured one of the 82 year-old men near my ribcage.

This only partially makes up for my Saturday viewing of one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a very long time. P.S. I Love You? No, Hollywood: P.S., Please stop making movies that insult the intelligence of the average movie-goer. During one gag-inducing early scene featuring an ‘oh-so-realistic’ private little bedroom striptease performed by the lead character’s devoted, hunky, quirky husband of nine years, I couldn’t help but lean in and whisper to my friend, “Well, the good news is I think he’s going to die soon.”

And he did, but it didn’t really help the movie much.

Also, anyone at all responsible for the trend of female protagonists working through their grief/indecision/guilt by opening: a) an artsy shoe boutique; b) an artsy lamp boutique; c) a cutesy bakery/chocolate shop; d) a dog-walking business; or, e) a whimsical floral studio…the ultra-easy establishment of which leads to the neat and tidy “Happily Ever After,” please stop. I realize that these are dreams shared by many of us with more estrogen than testosterone pumping through our bodies, but you’re making it that much more difficult for us to return to our cubicles on Monday mornings.

I’d much prefer watching a female lead open a series of brutal underground fight clubs than a cozy little bistro any day. But that’s probably just me.