Deb Danielle’s Falling Under received a great endorsement this week: “What happens when our heroine wants mindless sex and the new guy wants – gulp – to get to know her? Mara’s journey is a wild ride, back toward the harrowing story of her first love and forward toward the possibility of new love. Danielle Younge-Ullman writes about human connections with thrilling energy, honesty, and fury. And her sex scenes are as raw and gutsy as any I’ve ever read.” Ellen Sussman, Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave (WW Norton) and On A Night Like This (Warner Books)
Guest Author Series:
This week we are thrilled to have Karen Karbo, journalist and author of numerous fiction and non-fiction books. Karen’s latest, Minerva Clark Gives Up The Ghost, has just been released and also hot on the shelves in 2007 is Karen’s How to Hepburn: Lessons in Living from Kate the Great.
Deb Founder and Deb Friends:
Tish Cohen, Bev Katz Rosenbaum and Adrienne Kress will all be doing reading/signings at Toronto’s Word on the Street festival today. If you’re in Toronto, check out this fab literary festival!
We are thrilled for Lynne Griffin, whose debut novel Life Without Summer has sold in a pre-empt to St. Martin’s Press.
Tasha Alexander (from one of our favourite grogs http://www.good-girls-kill.com/) has had a big week with a two-book deal from Minotaur for her historical novel Tears of Pearl, and the release of of her novel, Elizabeth, The Golden Age. We hope you’re enjoying every second, Tasha!
Greg Logsted sold his YA, Alibi Junior High to Simon MIX. Congrats Greg!
A good friend told me today that she’s never met anyone quite so obsessed with jeans as me. My answer was that if anyone else had had the wild and wooly denim ride I’ve had over the past two years, they’d be every bit as manic.
It began with what was supposed to be a one-time denim splurge–a pair of gorgeous, faded black, boot-leg Sevens that cost more than all the pajama bottoms and sweatpants I’ve ever owned. But, I reasoned with myself, the cost was justified as I planned to wear them constantly. The cost per wearing would be so low, I figured I couldn’t afford NOT to buy them. I picked them up just after Town House sold (and I went into my own personal agoraphobic hell, which left me five pounds lighter) and they served me well until spring, making me feel fairly normal and chic the few times I got out of the house and mixed with actual people. Their ultimate fate? My husband accidentally threw them into a hot dryer, I gained a few post-recluse pounds. There’ll be no squeezing into them ever again. Cost per wearing = about $18.
Naturally, once I got through the five stages of shrinkage grief, I dove back into the expensive jean pool, snapping up a faded-beyond-belief-with-requisite-rock-star-shreds-and-holes pair of flares. Also Sevens. The week after I bought them, the fashion world declared flares to be over and I had them taken in. Big mistake. My rock star jeans looked like something you’d see on a pasty teenage boy, only he’d have made them more stylish by sewing marijuana and ACDC patches on the ass and never, ever washing them. Ultimate fate? Other than my own bastardization of their once glorious cut, my husband threw them in a hot dryer, rendering them both ugly AND too small. CPW = $200. Worn once, they didn’t even take me into summer 2006.
Being a girl who learns from her mistakes, I thought I’d give chichi jeans one more go. This time, NO dryer and no more buying jeans that actually fit. Nooo way. I wasn’t going to be sucked into that scheme again. This time I bought overpriced blue Seven jeans one size too big. That the rear end sagged like my toddler nephew’s onesie didn’t bother me in the slightest. These jeans took me to New York and back. Through interviews and editor lunches. To LA, and Boston. They were with me waiting by my gate at JFK while terrorists were arrested for attempting to bomb the gasline. They were with me when David Spade held the door for my kids and I at Norm’s in West Hollywood. They’d be with me still if not for one unfortunate event: my husband threw them into a hot dryer. CPW= about $2. They served me well. RIP, my darlings.
This all-too-brief Golden Age in my denim history was followed by what I now refer to as my Fleece and Flannel Period. I’d been spoiled by blue Sevens and dared not attempt jeans again. It was nothing but sweatpants and lumberjack pajama bottoms for longer than I care to admit. Oh, I gambled on a few pairs of American Eagle jeans, but they were centimeters too short and, as a result of slipshod and callous bodily calculations, sliced me in half dangerously close to the bladder.
Which brings us to publication day. I didn’t need a publicist to tell me I couldn’t show up at book events in my flannels. Back to the expensive jeans store, the very source of my angst. This time, I choose a straightforward, mid-rise, dark blue pair of straight-leg jeans. Nothing spectacular, nothing rock star-ish. A sensible choice, I thought. My denim senses were maturing. I managed to squeak two wears out of them–one with Rex Pickett and Anna David, the other in a New York heat wave with far-too-wintry boots and always-summery Patry Francis. Then I went home and it happened. My husband threw them into a hot dryer. CPW = $120.
Two years later and it’s finally sunken in. I’m a denim fool. Having nothing to wear for my Word on the Street reading this Sunday in Toronto, I marched straight past the pricey store and straight into Gap. I bought two pairs of sale jeans, both darkish Long and Lean cut, and skipped out of there for less than a quarter of the cost of any of the others. And the truth is, my ass looks just as lousy in these as they did in the fancy jeans. And the best part? Based on my crappy average CPW of $85 over the past two years, I can’t lose. Even if my husband throws them into a hot dryer while they’re still inside the bag, tags attached, my numbers have to improve. They only cost $69.
I’m a smart person. I’ve got not one, but two, university degrees. I watch Nova on public TV and we even have a subscription to Discover magazine (which I read despite the fact they never offer decent fashion advice or recipes). However, the list of normal everyday things I’ve never mastered is long. It includes, but is not limited to:
- Cartwheels: This knowledge gap showed up young. I would run forward, throw my arms up and then hurl myself onto the ground and then my legs (for reasons unclear) would slump over and hang there limply like a before picture in a Viagra ad. This tragic inability to engage in the careless childhood antics of cartwheels meant I was doomed to never be a cheerleader.
- Parallel Parking: Unless there is a space 3-4 car lengths long that I can coast into I am unable to parallel park. I either run the risk of driving up onto the sidewalk (which makes pedestrians really touchy) or I am so far from the curb I practically need to take a cab to get there.
- Finger whistle: I always thought it looked sassy when people would place their fingers in their mouth and give an ear splitting whistle. When I do this all I do is blow spit all over my fingers. Finger spit is not sassy.
- Sheet folding: How is it possible to get the fitted sheet folded into a tidy square? Did everyone else take some kind of linen origami class? My linen closet never looks like the one in advertisements or on home decorating shows. I can fold the top one fine, but the bottom one always looks lumpy like I’m hiding a body in there. For the record I would never hide a body in my linen closet- the garage makes way more sense.
- Map Reading: In order to navigate I must have the map facing the same direction I am driving. Even with this support it is quite possible I will still manage to get lost and if I have to finger whistle for help I’m doomed.
For scientific reasons I decided it was time to attempt another cartwheel. Using the powers of The Secret I visualized myself cartwheeling across the backyard, the wind in my hair, the world turning upside down and the right again. I took a deep breath and began running. Arms up I threw myself into the moment and landed up flat in my back in the yard. The dogs came over and gave me a cautious sniff. Some things are just not meant to be.
What is something simple you can’t do?
I have this vision. I am humming and cutting fresh herbs from the window box (where they grow all year round) and throwing them into a salad or some kind of fancy marinade. I have shopped for my cheese at a local farmer’s market and everything is free range and organic and gourmet. I grow the zucchini myself in a garden out back and also the tomato. I sip at a glass of white wine—something decent but not decadent–as I cook, and listen to some opera or maybe a bit of jazz. My hair sits stylishly on top of my head and my slim-fitting ensemble of jeans and silk (or perhaps cashmere?) t-shirt are partially covered with a Parisian-looking apron. My husband stands nearby, washing the dishes in advance and our daughter sits peacefully reading Homer, Dickens or perhaps Naomi Klein. Dinner is timed perfectly and we all sit down together, savor the food, discuss cultural issues and enjoy each other’s company.
And then there’s reality. There is no window box because we cannot keep plants alive in this house and even if by some miracle there were herbs, I would probably cut myself with the scissors, burn the sauce, yell at my poor husband, stick my child in front of a (brain-cell-killing) DVD, spill the burnt sauce down the front of my pants and drink the entire bottle of wine. If there were dessert anywhere, I’d polish that off too. If I’d actually managed to shop at a farmer’s market it would have been two weeks ago and everything would already have gone bad, except perhaps the cheese, which I would also eat. And I would not be looking all casually elegant or any kind of European, much less Parisian, either. My hair would be sticking out all over the place and there would be pasta in it, there would be no apron, I’d have a greasy handprint somewhere on my chest and I would stand hissing and swearing and possibly crying in the middle of the kitchen. Dinner would be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or take-out. And that’s just one meal.
This might be on the extreme end, as examples go, but cooking stresses me out. First, I never have all the groceries I need when I need them. Second, I dislike chopping things. Third, I hate having a mess and there seems to be no way to cook without making one and if you try to “clean as you go” something inevitably burns or melts or goes putrid while you’re doing it. Fourth, I hate having to follow a recipe, but that’s the only way things ever turn out. Fifth, no matter how many times I follow a recipe, I can never seem to commit it to memory so cooking makes me feel stupid. Sixth, cooking takes FOREVER and I never think to cook until I’m already starving. Seventh, you put in all that effort and then, instead of winning all kinds of awards for you major achievement, people just eat the food and you’re back to where you started with the addition of a big mess to clean up. And that’s if whatever you’ve cooked actually turns out, which is a big “if” in my case.
But clearly, a woman cannot live on frozen dinners, grilled cheese and take-out and expect to thrive. Not to mention that I have a husband (who would cook except for his crazy work hours) and a child who (at nineteen months) is too young for Dickens (much less chef school where we could get her trained up to feed us) and needs to be provided with good nutrition and decent-tasting meals.
So I want to learn how to cook. Well, that’s not quite true. I want to want to learn how to cook. At the very least, I want there to be cooking. Somehow. I’m taking advice from all corners and no solution is beneath consideration at this point. Any ideas?
I want to learn words without the letter H.
“Why?” you might ask.
“Well,” I’d tell you, “my H key is stuck on my keyboard, and I have to mash it to get the H to work.”
Or, I could just type with an Irish accent: I ‘ave a ‘eadache.
I never realized just how much I needed the H until I tried to write a column and a blog post without one. I am a writing professional: I know all of the letters are important, however, it seems like you could probably get by for a few days without a Q or a Z. But an H — well, there’s just no getting around that one. It’s the “the” “there” and “that” that screw you up.
Now, if my Q, or the little +/=, or the “fn” key were stuck, it would be no problem. I could probably survive for weeks, maybe years with a little creativity. I’ve worked on a mac since college and I’m not even sure what the “fn” key is for.
But a dysfunctional H — it’s almost tragic.
I could search the dictionary for suitable alternatives, but I just can’t live without Hairy, or Hell on Wheels, or Hangnail or Hallelujah.
And I can’t work without the, this and thee.
Maybe I should just learn the directions to the Apple store, and get the bleeping thing fixed.
It’s fitting that our theme this week is I Want to Learn, as I had the good fortune of meeting today’s guest author, John Grisham, while in pursuit of something I had long wanted to learn, Italian. John has wisely parlayed his Italian experience into books set in Italia: first, his bestselling novel, The Broker, and now–in a departure from the legal thrillers with which we’ve come to associate the iconic author–Playing for Pizza: A Novel. Pizza is about hack third-string NFL quarterback Rick Dockery, who becomes a national laughingstock after singlehandedly losing the AFC playoff game his team was on the brink of winning by a landslide. Booted from his team and shunned by the NFL, his agent amazingly lands him a starting quarterback position…in Parma, Italy. Thus Dockery sets off on an adventure, discovering all he did not know about himself, about Italy, and about football Americano, Italian-style.
John–or should we say Gianni–was kind enough to agree to be a guest on the Debutante Ball, despite his busy travel schedule, a pending book deadline, his sponsoring a fundraiser this week for Hillary Clinton and the release of his latest novel (check out People Magazine’s terrific review). So without further ado, a Deb Moment with esteemed author John Grisham:
Q: You have shown with previously published works that you don’t want to rest on your laurels, but rather choose to continue to stretch creatively and branch out into other subjects and genres with your books. Your last book (The Innocent Man), in fact, was non-fiction–about a man wrongfully convicted of murder, sentenced to death, and ultimately his spirit crushed despite the eventual overturning of the conviction. And now, a light-hearted story about American football in Parma, Italy. What gives?
JG: After 15 legal thrillers, I began to wonder what else I might be able to write. This is only natural for a writer to want to explore and stretch the imagination.
Q: Your audience at the Debutante Ball will be a lot of aspiring authors who are interested in the mechanics of your writing career. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing habits?
JG: When I am writing, with a serious deadline not far away, I start early in the morning, around 7 or 7:30, and work hard for about 4 or 5 hours. That’s enough. After 5 hours the brain is pretty well shot and the creative impulses have disappeared.
When I’m not writing under a deadline, which is about 7 months out of the year, I am usually collecting notes and research for future books and thinking about what to write next.
Q: Ever get anxiety over what to write at this point in your career?
JG: At this point I have more stories than I can ever write. Words and ideas are flowing freely, and I still enjoy the process.
Q: Do you have any sage words of advice for writers who might be reading this?
JG: I don’t give much advice. Each writer works differently and has a different background. The one truth, however, is that until you are writing at least one page each day, nothing will happen.
Q: What’s next for you, writing-wise?
JG: I am writing the next legal thriller, which is due in New York this fall, to be published early next year. As of today, I do not have a title, and that’s always a bad sign.
And as some at the Debutante Ball have already learned, the publisher will be happy to change your title for you anyhow, so no worries there!
After John and I spoke I tried to follow up with a burning question I’d forgotten–plotter or pantser? But John was buried deep in his work, so we’ll have to wait for that answer for another day. Look for John on the Colbert Report on Comedy Central at 11:30 EST tonight–it promises to be an amusing interview!
Thanks again, John, for taking time from your hectic schedule to spend a few minutes with us!
And for those of you thinking about pursuing a new interest, go for it! You never know what–or who–you’ll encounter along the way!
Deb Jenny (who next wants to learn violin, but fears a family revolt due to noise pollution if she attempts it!)
When I was in high school I chased a boy who chased a girl out to Colorado. He was tall and firm and thickly built with shoulder length wavy hair and he always carried around a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions and he smoked pot and he played football and he graduated and moved out to Colorado to be a cowboy. We’d “gone out” a few times and even though I knew there were “other girls,” I thought I was special. I could make him laugh and I would remind him of that as soon as I got out to Colorado. Until I found myself on a ski hill for the first time in my life with Hot Cowboy and Ski Girl who was all Scandinavian come hither; sun-burnished skin and glossy blond hair and electrifying blue eyes and pouty lips and long slim colt-like legs. These were not humans. These were Super Humans and they had their super human limbs wrapped around one another and before I could think of something funny to say to win him back, she gracefully swooshed away and he swooshed after her down the powdery slope with utter abandon. I tumbled and slid and cried all the way to the bottom and swore I’d never ski or love again.
Fast forward many years later after I’d way gotten over Colorado Boy (I mean what a player, and I’d heard he’d gotten pudgy and was selling insurance or something like that), and my smart, funny, handsome, athletic husband-to-be and I had recently moved to New Hampshire. One night he said something like: “You ski, don’t you?” And I guess because I thought “don’t you” implied I do, I said: “Of course. I skied Colorado.” And then I prayed that skiing would cease to exist the world over. Or least in New Hampshire.
Which isn’t exactly what happened. What happened was, that winter, my husband-to-be invited two of his best friend’s from his high school ski team up to New Hampshire for a ski weekend.
We rode the ski lift up past the bunny hill, past the blue squares, past the first set of black diamonds, all the way up to the double black diamond slope called TREACHEROUS. And I fell face first off the lift and then barely inched my way over to the top of the run and glanced over the death-defying cliff and turned to my husband-to-be and said, “I can’t do this.” And he said, “Oh come on just do it,” And then he and his Olympic Ski Pals swooshed away. And I stood there sick out of my mind, wondering who invented this ski thing. Why anyone would willingly strap long slippery things on the bottom of their feet and throw themselves down the side of an icy mountain. I tried to will the entire concept away. And when that didn’t work, I took a leap of faith and swooshed after them and tripped over my skis and fell and rolled and slid and fell some more and rolled and rolled and eventually ended up in a patch of woods. I lifted my head in time to see my skis skiing themselves down the hill without me. I stood up and brushed myself off and walked the rest of the way down the mountain, sideways.
At the bottom of the slope, I reached into my pocket for the keys to the car, thinking I would go get the packed lunch we left in the car and meet everyone in the lodge and my zipper was down and my pocket was empty.
By then my husband-to-be was right up next to me. “What took you so long? Are you okay?”
“I fell and I lost my skis but I’m okay.”
“We can rent you another pair,” he said.
“No. I’m done skiing for the day. But I need to tell you that I lost the keys to the car.”
“You what? Are you kidding? How could you do that?
“I don’t know… how could you have brought me here and left me at the top of that trail when I can’t ski?”
“You told me you could ski.”
“And you believed me? Couldn’t you tell I was petrified?”
“Why would you lie to me?”
“Because… because I thought you wanted me… to be someone who could ski…”
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” he said and stormed away.
Somehow we made it home that day and down the aisle six months later and I didn’t ski again until our second child was three and she begged me to take her for the free ski lessons at the slope nearby and I reluctantly took lessons alongside her. And now I can ski. Only the blue squares and never without fear and never with abandon.
I always thought this story was about my husband pressuring me to lie to him because he knew how ski and I didn’t and abandoning me on a double black diamond and then not being empathetic when I lost the keys and making me fearful of skiing. So that even after learning how to ski, I never really learned. That’s how it played out in my mind and in our marriage all these years.
But as I write this I realize that my pretending to know how to ski wasn’t about my husband at all. It was something old and shallow I’d dragged into our marriage. It was about me wanting to be a girl I wasn’t and trying to impress a boy who never was or ever would be mine.