Welcome to Tuesday! I’m Eleanor and I’ll be your Deb guide through Tuesdays this year. Please do watch your step and don’t feed the camels – they tend to spit.
I’ve had a lot of jobs over my life – teacher, temp, secretary, wedding coordinator – but I’ve always been a writer. I’ve tried my hand at poetry (but I will never subject you to any of it), chick lit, creative non-fiction, romance, and YA, but I’m happiest in what my editor calls “that sweet spot between literary and commercial” fiction. In elementary school I wrote my first novel (well, let’s just call it a short story extended dance mix), about the army-jacket-wearing daughter of a movie star and her faithful golden retriever. As I recall, she spent a lot of time hanging out in diners, and now that I look back on it, she was woefully neglected.
Fortunately, my writing has advanced at least a little bit since then, and my novel The Weird Sisters will be published by Amy Einhorn Books (publishers of The Help and The Postmistress, along with a gajillion other great books) on February 17, 2011. The Weird Sisters is a novel about three adult daughters of a renowned Shakespeare professor who return home to the small college town where they grew up, partly because their mother is ill, but mostly because their lives are falling apart and they don’t know where to go next. You can find out more at my home, home on the web.
Right now I live in a pile of cardboard boxes as my partner, the writer J.C. Hutchins, and I complete what feels like the longest move in history, from Florida to Colorado (though I am fairly certain my pioneer ancestors might argue that point). I’m happiest when I’m in, on, or adjacent to water of some kind, and can usually be found with a book in one hand and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the other.
You should also know:
I’m really tall. When I met my editor, Amy Einhorn, one of the first things out of her mouth was, “You’re so tall! Why didn’t you tell me?”, and I was all like, uh….I didn’t know it mattered? So, yeah. I’m around six feet tall, and yes, I totally will get that box of cereal off the top shelf at the grocery store for you.
I can completely kick your butt in Mario Kart Wii, but I’d rather we play Rock Band. You can be lead guitar. We’ll go on tour. It’ll be awesome.
Most of the conversations I have will contain at least instance of my saying, “Oh! I heard about that on NPR!”, and another of my looking something up on Wikipedia.
Walking into my house when music is on will leave you convinced that you’ve somehow stepped back in time to 1988.
I’m totally thrilled to be here on The Debutante Ball – I’ve been reading since its inception in 2007, and I’m looking forward to celebrating my fellow Debs’ books through the year. Bring your tiaras and your pearls and join the party in the comments below!
Okay, first piece out of the gate for the new 2011 Debs… no pressure… just following five of the most incredibly talented and all-around menschy women on the web, all of whom just signed off with beautifully bittersweet farewells…
I might need a cut man for this one.
Oh, Hi! So I’m Elise, a.k.a. Monday Deb, and my debut Young Adult novel, Populazzi, comes out August 1, 2011 from Harcourt Children’s Books. I also have a co-written novel coming out in October, which I’ll talk more about in later posts.
I live in L.A., and came out here immediately after college to follow my big dreams of becoming a wildly successful… actress.
Just one problem with that. I freak out on camera. Seriously. I get incredibly nervous, sweat in weird places, and words come out of me in cadences that no human being would ever use in real life. People who know me tend not to believe this, but I have proof. In the “Blind Dates” episode of California Dreams, I have a line. Check it out – I appear about 3:13 in. Yup, that’s me, the freak with the big hair saying “Whoa, that guitar player is hot.”
As is my acting.
Of course, the best part of that show for me was the end credits: ”Elise Allen as Herself.” This wasn’t a nod to my deep method acting, but to the fact that I worked in the production office of the show, and only got the part because the writer jokingly named it after me, and the producer thought it would be hysterical to actually let me play the role. Soon after, this same producer tactfully suggested I might have better luck writing, and urged me to try my hand at a spec for one of the many shows he was running at the time. A year or so later, I had my first produced TV script: an episode of Saved By The Bell: The New Class, for which I learned many vital life lessons, including the fact that Mr. Belding must always say, “Hey Hey Hey Hey Hey!” Five “Hey”s. No more, no less. Five.
Since then, I’ve had all kinds of random writing jobs, from the heady (a prime time sitcom where they feed you incessantly and give you high-priced electronics for Christmas presents!) to the hilarious (100 pages of dialogue to be programmed into a Furby… most of it written in Furbish!). Currently, I work mostly in kids’ TV and DVDs, and last year I reached a serious career height when I wrote for… THE MUPPETS!!!! Yup, Kermit the Frog said words I wrote. I had a long, involved conversation with Miss Piggy. The whole thing was kinda too cool for words, and will hopefully be coming soon to a website near you.
While I’ve been writing professionally for many years, the book world is brand spankin’ new to me, and I’d be a daily hyperventilating mess without the great advice and stories from 2009 and 2010 Debs. I can now add the other 2011 Debs to that list of mentors — we’ve only been in touch about a month, but they’re all remarkably smart, funny, and talented, and I’m already learning so much from their experiences.
To me, that’s what being a Deb is about: reaching out to other authors to share our mishegoss and entertain each other as we all fumble our way around. I’m thrilled to be a part of this Deb class, and I’m looking forward to connecting with everyone out there as we go on what’s going to be an amazing ride of a year.
Simply From Scratch (in German, Weiss der Himmel von dir) by graduate Deb Alicia Bessette enjoys its sixth straight week on the bestseller list in Germany. The publisher is Kruger Verlag, and the translator is Andrea Fischer. Danke, Deutschland!
Books N’ Cooks gave Simply From Scratch a very nice review, calling it “witty,” “well-written,” and “incredibly moving.” Thank you, Books N’ Cooks!
The 2011 Debutantes are here! They start their blog reign tomorrow – if you missed reading about them, check in here.
The winner of Jenny Nelson’s book GEORGIA’S KITCHEN is Jane Cook. Congrats, and thanks to everyone who entered!
We’re so pleased to wrap up our time at the ball with debut author, Jenny Nelson here today. Her new book, Georgia’s Kitchen just came out this month. Georgia’s Kitchen tells the story of Georgia Gray, the talented, thirty-three-year-old head chef at a trendy New York restaurant who, suddenly finding herself unemployed and unengaged, travels to Tuscany, where she helps open a trattoria, finds romance with a vineyard owner and embarks on a crash course in self-discovery before returning to New York to salvage her reputation and open her own restaurant in the city she loves.
And guess what? You can win a copy here today. All you have to do is leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win.
Jenny stopped by to answer a few questions. Welcome, Deb Jenny!
A lot of the Debs love to cook. Do you? We know you have kids, so you probably don’t get much time alone, but if you had a night to yourself to cook whatever you liked best, what would it be? I do love to cook and, fortunately, my six-year-old twin daughters are fairly adventurous when it comes to tasting new things (which, sadly, is not the same as liking new things), so I do get to try out some new recipes now and again. If I were home alone with the whole delicious evening to myself, I’d make a super simple grilled wild salmon rubbed with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon zest, sautéed swiss chard with plenty of garlic and good olive oil, and quinoa salad with black beans, corn and tomatoes. I’d wash this all down with a glass of Sancerre, then finish off the meal with a serving or two of Death by Chocolate ice cream (in a mug, not a bowl — it tricks me into believing I’m not eating as much), no explanation necessary.
Even though you’ve undoubtedly been asked this a million times already, we want to know. What’s your connection to Tuscany that led you to send your main character there? I’m a huge Italiaphile who loves all things Italy – food, wine, design, architecture, clothing, people and, above all, the country itself. My husband, Warren, and I have traveled extensively throughout Italy and were married outside of Florence in a villa overlooking the Duomo. Warren’s mother’s side of the family live in Milan and he speaks Italian fairly fluently, so we decided that gave us the perfect excuse to get married there. Once I’d decided that Georgia, my main character, was a chef, sending her to Italy was a no-brainer – what chef wouldn’t want to go to Italy, the land of truffles, San Marzano tomatoes, artisanal pasta, and so many insanely delicious wines you couldn’t possibly name them all? Plus, it allowed me to revisit Tuscany, if only through Georgia’s eyes, which was like seeing it for the first time all over again.
It seems like the day after your book debuts, people start asking about your second book. What are you working on now?I’m working on a novel about a thirtysomething woman who trades in her cosmopolitan city life for life in the country. It explores themes of love, family and self-discovery and, like Georgia’s Kitchen, has a food motif running through it, though in a very different way.
What was the most exciting thing about your debut week? I’d have to say my book launch party. I’m not one for the spotlight, and throwing parties for myself is not something to which I’m accustomed. So I was a little nervous beforehand, worried that the food might not pass muster or the wine wouldn’t be up to snuff or – gasp! – no one would show. But the minute I walked into Kenmare, the restaurant in New York hosting the party, all my cares disappeared (I’m sure the seriously stiff Sicilian Margarita I swilled had something to do with that!). As one friend remarked, the party was the perfect mix of family, old school friends, new friends, industry types and randoms. The common thread was that everyone there knew how hard and how long I’d worked on Georgia’s Kitchen and everyone was there to celebrate that effort. It was a warm and lovely event I’ll never forget.
Anything you wished other debut authors had clued you in to before your big debut this month? It’s such a whirlwind and it brings up so many emotions it can be overwhelming. Elation at being published, anxiety about the book not selling or not being well received, angst about completing book number two, delight upon seeing the book in real live bookstores. I wish someone had told me to savor the moment and not to let my emotions get too far ahead of me. And I really wish someone had warned me to never, ever check my numbers on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. With a simple click of the mouse you can find out how well or poorly your book is selling online. The fluctuations are wild and I honestly have no idea what the numbers even mean. Every day I vow that I’ll never ever check again and then I go back! If I were to pass on any advice to future debut authors, I’d say take some time to reflect on what getting published means for you. As Ann Lamott says in her fantastic book, Bird by Bird, it won’t change your life, or provide fame and fortune overnight, but it’s something you carry with you always. And that’s pretty cool.
Thanks, Jenny for being a Deb for the Day! Congratulations on your release. Don’t forget everyone, a comment gets you entered to win your very own copy of Georgia’s Kitchen. Contest ends today at midnight Pacific time.
P.S. I should also add a note to the new Debs who take over tomorrow…If you ever are in charge of interviewing someone for the site and you totally forget until the morning before, you better hope the person you’re supposed to interview is as nice, quick and accommodating as Jenny Nelson so that you don’t look bad on the very last day you’re a member of The Debutante Ball. I’m just sayin’. Thanks Jenny for saving my (tofu) bacon.
They say a good writing technique is to go full circle in a story. Like ending your book with something similar to the opening – the same setting, the same conversation, or even the same line. Since I began my reign as a Deb with a recipe for butter, I thought I’d leave you with a recipe that you could use that butter in – an original cookie recipe for you. Just to say thanks for hanging out with us all this year, and for being such a great support to us. So, here you go.
Deb Joelle’s Should-be Famous Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
8 TBS butter (homemade or otherwise!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1/4 butterscotch ice cream topping (or caramel)
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups old fashioned oats (the quick ones kinda suck, but you could use them if that’s all you had)
1/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries, chopped
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped (the sour ones are better than the sweet ones)
* You could use any dried fruit you like, but the more sour ones work better than sweet ones like raisins or apples.
Sift (unless you’re too lazy) the dry ingredients together – flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix the butter, egg, sugar, vanilla, and ice cream topping until smooth. If your butter’s not soft, you can melt it, it doesn’t really hurt it, but don’t add hot butter directly to your egg or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. Yum!
Mix wet and dry ingredients together, add the dried fruit, add the oats.
Spoon about a tablespoon for each cookie onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes. They get harder/crispier as they cool, so don’t overcook them. My oven works great at 13 minutes, but I’m at sea level. You might do a test or two before baking them all.
I wish I could make a batch to share with y’all! Take care, and visit me at my own website, http://www.joelleanthony.com and I’m always over on Twitter. My name there is Joellewrites. Take care everyone and thanks so much for a great year!
Bye ya’ll!! It was a blast being part of The Debs! Please visit my website for updates or just to say hello! www.101WaystoTortureYourHusband.com
When we first took over as the “New Debs,” it felt like the year ahead was an eternity. I was in the middle of moving from South Florida to Manhattan, my entire life was in complete upheaval, and I was shocked (and honored) to be welcomed to The Ball —ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
Before I knew it, I arrived in Manhattan just before Halloween, and the crisp Autumn air felt like an Arctic wind compared to the beastly heat of Miami. I was actually happy to be back in Manhattan again (this time we settled into the charming West Side) after residing on the stuffier East Side several years prior. The West Side welcomed us with open arms and I quickly bonded with several school moms who were suprisingly quite friendly. I have to admit though, that I was absolutely OVERWHELMED. I was still trying to unpack my overstuffed suitcases when I had to start a brand new job, doing a morning show at a Long Island radio station. I almost shed actual tears when I discovered I’d have to wake up at 2:30 in the morning to drive an hour to the station, be on the air for 5 hours, then turn around and drive back to Manhattan in treacherous mid-day traffic. It took me about 2 hours(and many migranes later) to get home on most days, and upon my arrival immediately pick up my son at school. After homework, dinner, and bed-time battles, I would be lucky if I got to bed by 9 or even 10pm. I was a zombie, utterly sleep-deprived with barely enough energy to shower every night —-and then there was THE BLOG. Writing it was hard enough (with a barely functioning brain) but the biggest challenge was actually POSTING my weekly offering and learning all the quirks of the website. Of course we’re all experts now, but oh boy was I a disaster! That’s where my fellow Debs absolutely came to the rescue. Sarah, Joelle, Emily, and Alicia were so gracious and patient with me and my air-brained self. There was the time when my entire blog didn’t post because I messed up the military time display (duh), that was followed by the “all caps blog” due to some mysterious technical glitch, and then there was the blog I literally forgot to post because I was busy on a book tour in Miami! I’ve been the cross to bear for my Deb group, and I am just happy they didn’t hold a council vote and kick me off the island! I was also thrilled to be called an “author” and be among these fantastic professional writers, even though I’m just a radio broadcaster who was lucky enough to land a book deal.
As I write these final lines on this final blog, I’d like to sincerely thank the founding Debs for their genuis, applaud my graduating Deb Class for surviving this roller-coaster year, and warmly welcome the new Debs as they begin their blogging journey. Best of luck ladies..and if you have any techical issues, don’t even THINK of calling me! Ok I’m kidding. Well mostly.
Hasta la bye bye!
A year ago, when my first-ever post for the Debutante Ball went live, I was on vacation with my husband’s family in Duck, North Carolina — away from my computer and totally paranoid that something would go wrong. (My words wouldn’t post, or an error-riddled version would appear instead, or …) But thankfully, my inaugural blog published without a glitch, and I was welcomed by my fellow Debs and our warm, wonderful readers who stuck around for the whole year.
Many things have changed since that first week. Most notable of those changes? Our debut novels were published: The Whole World; The Opposite of Me; Simply From Scratch; 101 Ways To Torture Your Husband; and Restoring Harmony. What a thrill.
I may be signing off here at the Debutante Ball, but — thanks to my rewarding Deb Ball experience — I’m signing on at another blog: Quest For Kindness (Q4K). On Tuesdays, Matt and I share news, answer reader questions, and feature other various this and that; and on Thursdays, Q4K offers a short, true tale of kindness. Please do visit me at Q4K in the months to come! I’m also on Facebook and Twitter, and you can sign up for my monthly email newsletter here.
Kudos to the loyal readers and friends of the Ball, and virtual hugs to my fellow 2010 Debs: Emily, Sarah, Maria, and Joelle. I’m honored to have shared this formative year with you all. Thank you so much for making it a fun, meaningful, and interactive success.