Backstory in fiction and real life (or, Orange Juice Man)

My mom taught me an advanced form of people watching. We still practice it fairly often in public places⎯the diner, the airport, a street fair. Here’s how it’s done. Let’s say Mom and I are at the grocery store, strolling the aisle. I push the cart and hum along to the music while Mom checks the sodium content on a can of broth. Up ahead, we both notice a man…

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

April Foods Day

Tomorrow is April Fools Day and, coincidentally, a significant day for SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH. You see, SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH involves a baking contest. During copyediting, my wise editor suggested I include an original recipe as an epilogue. So I set about inventing a baked good that was not merely edible, but delicious. Those few poor souls who years ago sampled my ill-fated vegan corn muffins, or my chocolate cake the…

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


My favorite bookstore of all time was Tatnuck Booksellers, which occupied a refurbished warehouse near Tatnuck Square in Worcester, Massachusetts. During college, my high school friends and I had many joyful reunions in the Tatnuck parking lot. Then we’d roam the store for a few minutes, selecting books and magazines, and claim a table at the in-store café. The menu was eclectic; you could get anything from chocolate cake to…

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Poppy The Fool

Recently in southern England, a couple took their friends’ Springer Spaniel, Poppy, on a walk by the sea. Poppy was trotting along, enjoying the fresh air, when she spotted a seagull circling beyond a cliff. Poppy charged full-speed toward the seagull … and leapt from the cliff. She tumbled three-hundred feet, plunged into the ocean, and doggy-paddled back to the beach, where she waited for rescue. Her only known injury…

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I agree with Jennifer Weiner, who proclaims on the cover of Sarah Pekkanen’s THE OPPOSITE OF ME, “Fresh and funny and satisfying.” For the couple days it took me to fly through this book, it was my constant companion. It came with me on the train, into the tub, and to bed. It’s a swift, irresistible read, the kind of book you race to finish. Lindsey is a plucky, winning…

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bitzik! Geeking out over word — and family — origins

Growing up I idolized my older sister. I suppose it’s natural, then, that I acquired Annie’s love of word games. These days, we play Banagrams for hours. And we always have a game of Facebook Scrabble going. Something else I acquired from my sister was her French-English dictionary, the one she got while she was in high school. It went with her to college, too. I still have this dictionary….

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Perfect Battle for You

One of my favorite thinkers, Thich Nhat Hanh, says that to break a bad habit, you should greet it like an old friend. So if you want to stop biting your nails, the trick is to recognize that impulse to stick your fingertips in your mouth. You say to that impulse, “Hello, habit energy!” You smile at it. And then, you continue on your way — hopefully without biting your…

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Next book: A literary agent’s perspective

I sought the perspective of my agent, Laney Katz Becker of Markson Thoma Literary Agency, on this week’s topic, “Next book.” Prior to becoming an agent, Laney was an advertising copywriter and freelance journalist, as well as an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. She grew up in Ohio and is a graduate of Northwestern University. You can read her full bio here. Thank you, Laney, for sharing your point…

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Valentine from me to you

I used to be indifferent to Valentines Day until my yoga teacher, a very wise man named Naresh, changed my mind about it. Naresh loves Valentines Day because, he says, any excuse to celebrate love has to be a good one. I think that’s such a cool, arms-outstretched way of approaching life. So thank you, Naresh. And Happy Valentines Day, everyone! Here are some more takes on love from people…

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Aprons, Paul Newman, and oh yeah, book covers

The SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH cover is being created as I type this. I understand an apron might be featured; appropriate, as my widowed narrator takes to wearing her late husband’s old grilling apron around the house. An apron is a kind of uniform, perhaps as much a symbolic one as one born of necessity. What I mean is, I always get a new sense of mental focus when I pull…

Wednesday, February 3, 2010