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?