Welcome to the world, MWF Seeking BFF! Not only are you pretty, but you’re smart and have a great personality. IOW, all the best book-ish attributes. You are going to rock bookshelves all over the world!
(Er, sorry for blatantly anthropomorphizing, but books have always been my best friends, and it seemed especially appropriate in this case.)
Reading MWF Seeking BFF made me wish I lived close enough to give Rachel a call to arrange an impromptu meet-up for drinks. In fact, the whole time I was reading I felt like I was hearing the dish directly from Rachel’s lips, while sipping chilled white wine and giggling over her experiences. In other words, pure fun!
(Yeah, right, so I was sipping white wine while I read. And maybe nibbling on chocolate. Good books invite the right atmosphere. It’s part of the total reading experience.)
I worried at first that I might have a little difficulty relating to the book, because I’m *cough* a tiny bit older than Rachel. (Okay, she’s closer to my daughter’s age than mine. There, I said it.) But a few pages in I realized the age thing wasn’t going to matter at all. The experiences Rachel describes are supremely entertaining – and educational – no matter how old you are.
Apparently, the quest for friendship is transgenerational.
The thing I kept thinking about while I read was Rachel’s marriage. Her husband. I loved how she stressed the importance of not demanding your spouse provide you with every last thing you need in the way emotional support from other people. Expecting one other person to be your all is…well, not really fair, is it? I know I like to think I’m doing my husband a favor when I let off a little “crazy writer steam” with my friends instead of dumping it all on him, and I’m pretty sure he appreciates it.
(Ha. He’s probably thinking he gets enough of the “crazy writer” BS even after I’ve already let off steam with my gal pals. What can I say? It’s all about the balance. *grin*)
So, my question for Rachel: In the book you touched a bit on how your husband felt about the whole process, and noted how supportive he was during your year of friend dating. Was there anything about his take on your year of dating you didn’t cover in the book? Did he ever want you to chuck the whole thing, for instance?
Rachel’s Brilliant Answer: No! He NEVER wanted me to chuck the whole thing. Even when I was exhausted and all I wanted was for him to say “chuck the whole thing.” Seriously. There were times where I was like “Too much dating!” and he was all “gotta make friends! Get to it!” Honestly one reason he was so supportive–almost TOO supportive during those times when I just wanted to hide in bed–was that the search was directly benefiting him. We didn’t fight much before, but after I found gal pals to do the whole gossip and girl-talk thing with, we fought even less. Probably because I wasn’t trying to force him to do the girl-talking. I used to try to get from him what I needed from a BFF. Once I found women for that, it improved our relationship. Also, for two and a half years he’d listened to me complain about not having BFFs nearby or having no one to go to brunch with. Suddenly I found some, and the complaining stopped. He got a much happier wife.
He did used to tease me about how busy I was. I’d tell him my plans for the night and he’d say “ok, well see you in 2011.” He didn’t want me to stop the search, but I think there might have been times where he wondered why he hadn’t seen his wife in a week!
Fantastic answer, Rachel. I know MWF Seeking BFF is going to take off and soar. Enjoy the ride!
How about you guys? Do you ever go out on “friend dates”? Have you ever had to “break up” with a friend, or (horrors!) been dumped by one?
Before my book launch, I’d been warned that the actual publication day might feel anti-climactic. First of all, my book was originally planned for January 2012, so when it got moved up, the press and events were still planned for a month later. And then there was the fact that MWF Seeking BFF was coming out right around the holidays, when people are out of town and distracted. And, finally, was the simple fact that after you see your book on the shelves, it’s like “Ok. There it is. Now what?”
Or so I was told.
But I tell you, for me, it was totally climactic! I swear, besides my wedding, Tuesday might have been the best day of my life. I woke up to emails and text messages from friends (old and new). I went first thing with my mom and brother to the bookstore, where we took this photo (among others). Then I got a manicure, and headed to lunch with one of my new friends, where I indulged in a mid-day champagne margarita. (Who knew such a thing existed?) Next, back to the computer for some email catch up. Then, a trip back to the bookstore with my husband. (We’d had a champagne toast, just the two of us, the night before.) Then dinner with my whole family to celebrate the book launch and the first night of Hanukkah.
I mean, really, is there anything better? It’s not like a birthday, which you have every year. Tuesday will forever be the day my first book was published, and it was more memorable than even I thought it would be.
Do prolific writers still get goosebumps on book release day? I can’t imagine there ever being a day where I see my name on a book on a bookshelf in a bookstore and am all “There’s my latest book. NBD.” Nope. Won’t happen. I honestly think I’ll always be this giddy.
Since Deb Rachel’s book is all about her year of friend dates, I thought I’d share the story of MY first friend date with her! (Jealous? You will be once you read her book!)
Deb Date #1: Rachel
In October, Rachel emails me about getting together. We’ve been emailing ever since the announcement of the 2012 Class of Debs, but we’ve never met in person. She lives in a neighborhood a few miles south of mine, but offers to come up and meet me. I tell her I’d love to meet, and suggest she join me at The Book Cellar, my favorite local bookstore, for “Witty Women Writers” night. Some friends of mine are reading, and I offer to introduce Rachel around, assuming that — even though her year of friend dates is officially over — she’s probably still interested in expanding her network of fellow writers. (Plus, my friends are awesome — who wouldn’t want to meet them?)
Rachel emails back and says the Witty Women Writers night sounds great. We agree to get a drink after the reading, and I promise to help Rachel “awkwardly network” (her words!).
Ten minutes later, she emails me again to tell me she CAN’T come to the reading, because she has to work that night and totally spaced. “Can we do lunch on Friday after all?”
An hour after THAT, I get another email from her, says she’s gotten excused from her shift, so she can join me after all. “I swear I’m not usually this scattered,” she says.
Oh boy. I’m starting to get worried — who is this girl? What have I gotten myself into? Is she going to be super high-maintenance and spazzy? Do I need to make an exit plan in case things are really awkward?
I promise to save Rachel a seat, but even though I arrive at the bookstore almost an hour early, it’s already standing-room only. I feel bad, but claim a spot in the way back, so at least we can lean against the counters. This also gives me the added benefit of being near the door, so I can flag her down when she arrives. I start worrying about whether or not I’ll recognize her — a few months ago I took an online test to judge face-blindness, and I didn’t score very well. Even though I’ve seen her adorable picture on the blog a million times, I wonder if I’ll know her in person. (Side note: last year I met 2011 Deb Eleanor in person and had to pick her out of a crowd with only her author photo to guide me. It was a stressful endeavor and basically ended with me shouting “ARE YOU ELEANOR?” at random women in the room, which turned out to be an effective, if rather embarrassing, strategy. FYI, Eleanor in person is very pretty and very tall!)
Luckily, I recognize Rachel the second she walks through the door, even though she tries to trick me by wearing giant glasses. We do the semi-awkward “We’ve never met but I feel like I kind of know you” hug, and I start introducing her around. “This is Rachel! She has a book coming out! It’s about friends!”
After the reading, Rachel and I go out for a beer, and end up talking non-stop for the next three or four hours. Success! Virtual friendship CAN translate into real friendship! When I (finally) get home around midnight, I can’t stop gushing about how cute Rachel is, and mention something about how I was worried that she would be super spazzy and awkward. My wife interrupts me: “Wait, YOU were worried SHE would be spazzy and awkward? HAVE YOU EVER MET YOURSELF?”
My question for the lovely and not-really-as-awkward-as-she-claims Deb Rachel: As a fiction writer, I find the ending to be the easiest part of a story — by the end, you know how your character’s changed and the ending feels somewhat inevitable. I imagine this is somewhat trickier in non-fiction, when you’re bound by the constraints of what actually happened. Particularly in the case of your book, when you were writing the book as you went through your year of friend-making — when did you start thinking about the ending? Did you worry that maybe nothing would change? Did you have a plan in case you didn’t end up with a satisfying ending?
Rachel: When proposing this book, I knew that one of the trickiest things about selling editors and publishers on the story was that there was no guaranteed ending. Professionals in the industry would have reservations about putting money into a book when they had no idea what the final story would be. And an ending that landed with a thud–”and then the year was over and that was it”–wouldn’t cut it.
Going into 2010, I was confident that no matter what happened at the end of the year, something would happen. You can’t meet that many new people and have nothing change. So when I proposed MWF Seeking BFF, I presented to publishers what I thought could happen. I could have a new BFF. I could have 52 acquaintances and realize the BFFs we make as kids just don’t exist in adulthood. I could realize that with a husband, a job, and a family I see often, friends aren’t as important anymore. I could decide it’s totally fine to have best friends come in the form of family. Or decide that long-distance pals are just as good as local ones.
So, to answer your question, I considered the end from the very beginning. But, pretty early on, I could tell the experience was going to change my life here in Chicago. I knew that there would at least be a personal evolution from beginning to end–whether or not I found The One.
My good friend in college and I loved Carly Simon—we STILL do—and whenever we’d hear a Carly song on the radio, any one of her many spot-on tributes to the emotional landslides that invariably befall us all, my friend and I would turn to one another and say with unabashed reverence: “Carly knows.”
Well, after reading MWF SEEKING BFF, I can now say the same for Deb Rachel in the matter of trying to make friends in our adult years.
The woman knows.
It’s not easy to find that special someone—not even close! And making matters worse, this is not your mother’s tupperware party. Just ask Rachel if you don’t believe me. Better yet, pick up a copy of MWF SEEKING BFF for yourself and follow Rachel’s often-hilarious, often-poignant and always compulsively-readable adventure as she tries to find a best friend in the age of coffee shops, book clubs and social media.
And while there’s so much to savor about MWF SEEKING BFF, I think what I loved most was the wonderful way Rachel paralleled her search for a BFF with the search for one’s lovemate (ie, personal ads, and dilemmas like: When’s too soon to call? or How much to share how soon?)
Everyone who knows me knows I am usually comparing some life experience to dating. So I knew even before I cracked open the book, that Rachel and I were kindred spirits. And now, on the very day that MWF SEEKING BFF goes out into the world, I get to ask Deb Rachel the question that was on the tip of my tongue with every irresistible page:
In your opinion, which was harder: Dating or searching for your BFF?
Rachel: For me, searching for a BFF. Definitely. But I should qualify that statement: I never really dated, romantically. I met my husband when we were freshman in college, and save for one blind date when I lived in San Francisco for a couple of months and a three-month breakup after college graduation, we were together ever since. I did get into a debate over this question with some ladies recently. There was a group of us and, perhaps not surprisingly, those of us who were married said searching for a BFF is way harder. The single girls who are searching for their romantic mate said dating is harder. So it seems like a grass is always greener situation.
With friend-dating, there are still fewer “rules.” There’s not protocol the way there is with dating. And I think it’s harder to say “I am looking for friends” than it is to say “I am looking for love.”
I will say that the one way in which friend-dating IS easier, is that you can “go out” with tons of friends at a time. There’s no expectation of exclusivity. So if one friend is just not that into you, there are other friends to ease the fall. With romance, there’s a bit more of an “all your eggs in one basket” situation.
And, of course, no one is trying to get in anyone’s bed!
(Touche, dear. Touche!)
Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Rachel. And I speak for all the Debs when I say we are so excited for readers to make a date with your memoir!
It’s LAUNCH WEEK for Deb Rachel’s MWF SEEKING BFF!
I finished MWF SEEKING BFF the other day, but it’s still with me, the many layers of the book sticking with me long after I closed the cover and put it down with a happy sigh. I’ll get to the Q&A in a minute, but first I wanted to talk about the two really compelling reasons why I liked the book:
1. Uh, I’m a voyeur. I think most writers are, because we need to observe people in their natural (or sometimes unnatural, because that’s fun, too) habitat and use that as our basis for character-building. We need to know how people interact so that when we go to write characters, we get it right. Have you ever read or watched on TV when a character does something you’d never believe they would actually do? How frustrating is that? (Sidebar: I NEVER bought on WILL AND GRACE that Grace’s husband (Harry Connick Jr.) would ever cheat on her and that storyline bothered me for the entire remainder of the show. Rachel – I know you’re a fan of that show, so I’m interested in what you think, but maybe that’s a discussion for another day). Anyway, MWF gave me an opportunity to watch one person, Rachel, get outside her comfort zone (and mine too, because let’s be honest, I am no social butterfly) and consciously meet strangers-52 of them-in an attempt to make friends and maybe even a BFF.
2. This book forced me to examine my own friendships in a very conscious and critical way. What do I look for in a friend? What do I need from my friends? What am I willing to do for my friends and, in the end, am I a good friend? I’m not going to get into my stuff here, but I do want to thank Rachel for providing a catalyst for this, because honestly, I haven’t given my relationships a lot of thought recently, and like anything worth having, good relationships take work and conscious effort.
So, not only did I get a bit of a voyeuristic dessert out of reading Rachel’s book, but it had a very meaty entree component: making me think and act with respect to my friendships, and for that, I have to thank her. AND I applaud her for having the sheer guts to write this book and put it out there for anyone to see. You are a much braver woman than I, Rachel Bertsche, and I commend you heartily!
Now, on to the Q&A portion of this post (finally, I know!). I wanted to know about the story behind the idea for the book, so my first query was:
I’m interested in how the idea to write the book came about as it relates to your project of going on 52 Friend Dates.
Rachel’s answer: The idea to write the book and the notion of 52 dates sort of came to me together. The concept of how hard it is to make new friends had been on my mind since moving to Chicago two and a half years earlier. I’d heard all my life how tough it is to find a romantic partner or land a fulfilling job. No one ever told me it might be hard to make new friends. I didn’t understand why this totally awkward, but probably universal, problem wasn’t being talked about. I’d even written an essay about it for a national magazine. The story got killed, but I couldn’t shake the idea. When 2010 rolled around, and I’d been without local BFFs since mid-2007, I knew it was time to do something about it. I also knew that I probably wouldn’t take action unless I gave myself a real, defined project. That’s just my style — I like rules. It’s easier for me to stick to the extreme 52-dates-in-a-year than it is for me to just say “I’ll try to go on some girl dates over the next couple of months.” At the same time, I had started toying with the idea of trying to write a book. I’d always loved “year in the life” books–AJ Jacobs and Gretchen Rubin are two faves–so I thought friendship might be something worth writing about.
So it’s almost like the discipline of forcing yourself to do the girl dates for the book kept you on track. I like that. I am also a fan of rules and little goals to keep me motivated.
And my follow up question: Is this the book that you thought you’d debut with?
Rachel’s answer: This is such an interesting question for me, because I really never had a specific book I thought I would debut with. I’ve wanted to be in publishing my whole life. I worked in magazine editorial before moving to Chicago, and started freelance writing once I settled in the Midwest. But the idea that I could actually write a real book seemed impossible for so long. Books were for Capital W Writers, and I was just little old me. It wasn’t until I had this idea that I really truly believed in and felt hadn’t been given its fair due, that I thought maybe I could write a book.
Now I feel like it is absolutely the only book I could have EVER debuted with, because it’s a topic I’ve come to be so passionate about.
Thanks so much, Rachel! And I’d just like to put out there that I would be delighted to go out on a friend-date with you any day! We’d have wine and sushi and compare mandelbrot* recipes – there would be no awkward pauses and we would surely stay out much later than either of us planned. We’d be like this:
*for any of our readers who haven’t yet read Rachel’s book or are not Jewish, mandelbrot is like the Jewish version of biscotti and it’s wonderful. Mom – do you have a recipe? Or better yet, will you make me some?
More new covers! Deb Tawna‘s cover for BELIEVE IT OR NOT which is slated for release from Sourcebooks in March 2012! (Deb Tawna has some exciting book deal news to share too!)
A sample of Deb Eleanor‘s THE WEIRD SISTERS is included in Penguin’s Holiday eSampler, alongside John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac and Judy Blume! What a great gift idea!
Deb Kim‘s ALL I CAN HANDLE is is on sale for just $1.99 Amazon Kindle version. And the paperback (with a new chapter, recipes and a book club guide added) is also available now!
Friends of the Debs
Deb Guest Paul Elwork revealed the paperback cover for his novel THE GIRL WHO WOULD SPEAK FOR THE DEAD which releases on March 6th!
Deb Guest Kelly O’Connor McNees announced that her next novel, IN NEED OF A GOOD WIFE, has sold to Berkley–congratulations, Kelly!
Deb Dish — What smell do you most associate with the holidays?
Deb Joanne – Easy: oil. Due to this being the ‘everything should be fried in oil’ holiday, I can’t escape that deep fryer smell. I’m drooling right now just thinking about the latkes. Only a few days to go!
Deb Erika is not embarrassed to admit (okay, maybe a little but oh well) that she has kept a single incense cone of a (now discontinued) holiday scent from Crabtree & Evelyn from–no joke–20 years ago. Every Christmas I unpack it (still in its box, like it’s some sort of collectible doll, for Goodness’ sake) and periodically take whiffs throughout the holiday. So far it has worn its age proudly. Who knew unused incense held up so well?
Deb Molly’s mother used to stick cloves in oranges (which apparently is called a pomander, thanks internet!) and hang them in the windows. Apparently it’s very easy and there’s no reason I shouldn’t do the same in my own house, except I’m too busy dressing the greyhound up like Santa and taking funny pictures.
Deb Linda That’s easy — the Glögg (Scandinavian mulled wine) heating on the stove for our Christmas Eve party. It warms you through and through, body and soul. Yum!
Deb Rachel What’s weird is that mine is the classic Christmas tree smell… even though I’m Jewish. There’s a Christmas tree lot that I pass every morning on my way to get my Diet Coke, and I just love it. I have a Fir & Blue Sage scented candle that gets it just right.
* * * * The Debs need your help! We have an opening on our dance card in January and we’d love to know what theme YOU would like us to feature. Just put your vote in a comment and let us know what subject you want us to take for a spin around the dance floor!
A 2010-2011 Deb, Sarah Jio is the author of The Violets of March (Penguin/Plume), which was called “engrossing” by Redbook and “absorbing” by Woman’s Day and was a Library Journal Best Books of 2011 honoree. Her second novel, The Bungalow, will be published on December 27. Sarah recently sold her third, Blackberry Winter, and fourth, The Last Camellia, to Plume. She is the health and fitness blogger for Glamour and lives in Seattle with her husband and three young boys.
About The Bungalow (out on December 27):
Praised by Kristin Hannah and Karen White, The Bungalow is a novel that mixes history, romance and mystery. From the book jacket: “A sweeping World War II saga of thwarted love, murder, and a long-lost painting. …In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war. A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne’s determination to discover the truth about the twin losses-of life, and of love-that have haunted her for seventy years.”
Sarah will be giving away a copy The Bungalow to a lucky Deb Ball reader! (Sorry, but she’s only able to mail within the US.) Just leave a comment below to enter.
Sarah takes the Deb Interview:
Talk about one thing that’s making you happy right now.
Books! I started my career in magazines, and while magazines will always hold a special place in my heart, it’s exciting to see my career in fiction take root and sprout. Just this year, I will have published my first two novels, written and sold my third, and sold my fourth (still have to write that one!). My debut novel has now been sold in five foreign countries, and I’ve just started working with a film agent in Hollywood (sometimes I let myself daydream about what I’d wear on the red carpet—just daydream, that’s all!!). This year has been so incredibly exciting, I frequently have to step back and take it all in, and remind myself of how hard I worked to get here and how incredibly lucky and blessed I am to do what I love. I adore telling stories and I will continue to write them as long as readers would like to read them.
Where do you love to be?
Home! There, now you know: I have no life! I’m such a chronic homebody. I used to dream about traveling the world, but in the last five years, after having three children, a funny thing has happened: I just want to stay home! It’s so cheesy to say this, but it’s true. I love my home in Seattle: My cozy bed with the nightstand stacked high with books and my notebook filled with dozens of new novel ideas, my Nespresso machine, our goofy golden retriever who’s always up to something naughty, my three boys and their menagerie of stuffed animals, my messy office with a window that looks out to a gorgeous sky. I love it all, and I’m so grateful for it.
Which talent do you wish you had?
I wish I could sing! Well! (Me and 4 million other people, right?) I have a horrible singing voice (even though I can beat my husband by leaps and bounds on our little Xbox Karaoke game (ha!). I would like to have Norah Jones’ singing voice, or maybe Rosemary Clooney. I would also like to knit and sew well. I attempted to make a dress once, and my husband announced, “It kind of looks like a sock.” It did. A great big dress-like sock. Which is why I do not sew anymore.
What time of day do you love best?
I love the late afternoons when I go on my jogs. I love the quiet, just me and my thoughts. It’s a nice break from the chaos at home (three boys under the age of five). I’ve come to love jogging in these past years for fitness reasons, but also for writing reasons: It’s where I get my very best novel ideas, character fixes and whole new concepts for plots. I always bring my Blackberry (in a black, Lululemon fanny pack, if you must know!) so I can email myself ideas as they come to me. Sometimes I stop a dozen times to send myself ideas. I realize that this is a bit ridiculous, but it works for me!
Share something that’s always guaranteed to make you laugh.
It’s all about SNL’s “Nuni” sketch. I watch this when I need to laugh, and it never fails me!
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