Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stop deprioritizing...Indeed! (part 2)

A few days ago I wrote about how I'm working on re-prioritizing my wordsmithy (you can read that post by cutting and pasting this link in your browser: http://notthenewyorktimesbookreview.blogspot.com/2012/01/stop-deprioritizingindeed-part-1.html).

Part of re-prioritizing my wordsmithy is making the writing process itself a priority. Another part of re-prioritizing my wordsmithy is valuing the finished product.

When I was married, my writing took a definite backseat to almost everything else. Admittedly, part of this was because I often put it there. However, part of it was that I didn't feel as though my writing was valued by my spouse.

Years ago, after getting through a long and very difficult situation, I wrote some poems. Writing them was cathartic for me, as well as being a brief foray into writing poetry.

The year that I wrote them, I printed the poems on nice paper, bound them with ribbon, and gave them to friends and family for Christmas, including my husband. One friend said it was the nicest gift she received that year. As soon as my parents took off the wrapping paper, my dad took the poems into the back room to read by himself. My husband? He didn't read them at first. When I asked him about them, he told me he couldn't read them, so he put them away in a box. After a while I stopped asking. As far as I know, he never read them.

His not reading them made me feel as though my writing was insignificant to him, my feelings were insignificant, and that I was insignificant.

I know that I have deprioritized my own wordsmithy. And so have others. While that is painful when it happens, it is part of the writing life. I have to value my wordsmithy first. I cannot control whether others will value it, even if I tie it up with a ribbon.

It is hard and scary for me to put my writing out into the world, out there into other people's hands. Yet this is an important challenge for me to work on, another aspect of re-prioritizing my wordsmithy.

I wrote a book about seven years ago, 7 STEPS TO FINDING YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFEicon. My husband at the time (yes, the same one who didn't read the poems) and I developed the ideas for the 7 areas of spiritual life over about 3 years. I developed the workbook concept and wrote the book.


One great thing happened early on with 7 STEPS TO FINDING YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFEicon. The agency that trains drug and alcohol counselors in Oregon selected it as part of their curriculum for training drug and alcohol counselors in the state of Oregon. I am on their training panel, working with drug and alcohol counselors on how to use the book most effectively with their clients.

The book's exploration of 7 areas of one's spiritual life seems to work well with people in recovery from addiction. I didn't write it specifically to be used with people in recovery, though I am glad it is helpful for that population.

Other than that, I have not promoted the book much (there's that deprioritizing again).

For those of you new to the blog, I work at a bookstore where we've been given a challenge. We are to select a book that we think we can sell to customers, and our goal is to sell 100 copies of that title. There is no time limit, just the exhortation to do what we can (feature it with a blurb, talk to customers about it, let our co-workers know about it so they can talk to customers about it as well) to let customers who might be interested know about it.

I just finished selling 100 copies of the first book I chose. SCENT OF THE MISSINGicon is a wonderful book by Susannah Charleson about her decision to get a puppy and train her to be a Search and Rescue dog.


This was a great choice. Puzzle's gorgeous face on the cover was an invitation to customers, people would stroke her picture and comment on her. I'd start talking to people about the book and people either became more interested in the book or they bought it. Right now we've sold over 100 copies! I was pleased that Search and Rescue was getting a wider audience, AND that I beat the 100 handsell challenge! SCENT OF THE MISSINGicon was an easy book to sell.

My book doesn't have a cute dog on the cover (maybe I should have thought of that!), and may take a little more explaining to sell it. But if I can't sell it, who can?

Here's what I wrote for the blurb at work...
"Used by drug and alcohol counselors across Oregon to help those in recovery rediscover their spiritual lives, this book provides concrete examples and exercises for anyone exploring their spirituality. I should know. I wrote it."

Already since I've had the blurb and the book featured (less than 2 weeks), two copies have sold. (It took 3 weeks for one copy of SCENT OF THE MISSING to sell when I first started featuring it.) I'm glad to be on my way...re-prioritizing my wordsmithy!

Thank you for reading the blog! Clicking on the underlined book title takes you to the Barnes and Noble page about the book. Clicking on the book cover itself takes you to Amazon's page about the book. Purchasing through these links helps support the blog. Thank you!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stop Deprioritizing...Indeed! (Part 1)

This is a list of Things Writers Should Stop Doing (and again, I'm sorry that you have to cut and paste the link to get there):


Number 8 on their list "Stop Deprioritizing Your Wordsmithy", would have to be #1 on my list.

I have deprioritized my wordsithy in countless ways. I've put my writing aside when schedules have been hectic (holidays in retail) or events have been intense (parents dying). When I was married and had kids at home, I spent much of my time clearing the decks for my family - cleaning, cooking, laundry - so that the husband and kids would be able to focus on things they needed or wanted to do, while I, more often than not, neglected my writing. I often made my writing so unobtrusive as to be virtually undetectable.

I love to write. I loved writing assignments in school. At least one time in college, I confess, I wrote two different papers for the same assignment. Only after both papers were both completely finished did I choose the one I liked the best to turn in to the professor. Necessary? No. Fun? Oh yeah.

I haven't been in school for years. My kids are grown and gone and I am out of a marriage where I didn't always feel that my writing was valued.

Now I am in a relationship where my partner believes that I am a good writer. She thinks that if I need to write then I should write. It's a given. This is huge for me.

I have to admit that there are still times I allow my writing to take a back seat to whatever else is going on, falling into my own old patterns, feeling that other things are more important than writing and need my attention.

My whole life I've been in relationships where significant people in my life have had important jobs or careers. My father was a doctor, an obstetrician. Babies came whenever they came, and when I was growing up, our whole family revolved around dad's schedule. When I was married, my husband was a pastor. When a parishoner died on Christmas morning, our first Christmas far away from family and friends, he had to go be with that family. The church came first. Therapist works in a call center, dealing with life and death callers and situations every day.

So often I have felt that what I do, maybe even who I am, is so much less important than what others have done. This, I am sure, has contributed to me undervaluing my writing. (And I've never said this, even to myself in so many words. I cried when I wrote this paragraph.)

Sometimes when I've taken the time (and isn't that a telling phrase, "taking the time", as if the time isn't available to me) to write, I've felt as though I've been inconsiderate, or not seeing what's really important. Shouldn't I be taking care of something/someone else?

I do realize that this is often a feminine concern. Being a woman has often meant taking care of everyone else first, then, if there's time left over (and there hardly ever is), taking time for oneself.

And yet when I do this over and over I get frustrated.

Writing (and reading too) centers me. It makes me feel alive, it makes me happy.

Starting the blog has given me a practice and a routine for writing. Having a framework in which to write works well for me. I set deadlines for myself and put a lot of thought into what will be in my blog posts.

I have goals for my writing, both with the blog, as well as beyond the blog. One of my goals about my writing is to be more open with others about being a writer, which include taking the time to write (there's that phrase again), and also sharing the finished product (more abut this in an upcoming blog post).

In the last few weeks, I've been more open about my writing. I've told a few important people in my life about my blog and my goals.

This is a little bit scary to me. At the same time, it is who I am, what I want and need to be doing.

Thank you for reading the blog! You can subscribe to the blog here on this page, you can "like" us on our facebook page, NOT the New York Times Book Review, and you can send email to us: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Olive Oil - Who Knew?

icon by Tom Mueller


I heard just the first few minutes of NPR's Fresh Air interview with Tom Mueller about this book and was intrigued. His topic? Olive oil. The whole industry, business, and history of producing olive oil is fascinating. It's not a long book, but he, as my dad would have said, has done his homework. Living in Italy, Mueller visited families and orchards and olive presses (new technologies are replacing some traditional olive presses) to taste olive oil, learn about olive oil itself as well as the business of producing and distributing olive oil.

I learned a lot - how olive oils taste different depending on which variety ("cultivar") of olive tree the olives came from, the different grades of olive oil, from lampante (the lowest, used as lamp fuel, not usually for human consumption), to extra virgin.

What was shocking for me to learn was that a lot of the olive oil sold and consumed around the world has been adulterated or refined and is not, even if the label says it is, extra virgin olive oil, or is not solely extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil producers around the world try to maximize their profits by cutting olive oil with other seed oils. In addition, sometimes in transporting olive oil it can come contaminated and still be sold as pure extra virgin olive oil. There are few hard and fast standards anywhere in the world to assure that olive oil labeled as extra virgin olive oil is in fact extra virgin, or even all olive oil. Fraud is rampant in the industry.

Much more care is taken when I look at olive oil in the store since reading the book. I keep an eye out for some of the olive oil brands he described, producers who take care in making sure that their olive oil is pure and is genuinely extra virgin. I also now know to look at expiration dates, which should be in months, not years. Oil from olives is actually juice from a fruit and is perishable. Gone are the bottles of (old and likely impure) olive oil from my cabinet!

There is a lot to be gleaned from this book...enjoy!

Clicking on the underlined book title takes you to the Barnes and Noble page for this book. Clicking on the book cover takes you to Amazon's page for this book. Purchasing through these links helps support the blog. Thanks!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Two Books

Therapist gave me two books for Christmas. I love when she does this, as she usually goes to Powell's City of Books, which often features lesser known titles. Or at least, they are lesser known to me. What fun!


The first one is AFTERTASTEicon, A Novel in Five Courses, which is a delicious premise. The main character, Mira, is a chef who owns and runs a New York restaurant with her husband, Jake. Her world implodes when she discovers her husband with the new sexy maitress in flagrante in the office at the restaurant. A bit predictable, and I didn't always feel as though the whole 'novel in five courses' thing was tied as closely to the story as I would have liked. That said, I liked it more and more as it went on. It was an enjoyable read.

icon by Hilary Thayer Hamann. Wow.


I love Hamann's writing. On almost every page, I was struck by how she put insights/phrases/sentences/ideas together. The writing is stunning. As Therapist would say, the way she puts things "stops me in my tracks". This is writing to savor.

This is a book book, not a Nook book. I love the cover and the feel of this book. Yet, I almost wish I read it on the Nook. Remember when I wrote that one of the features I love about the Nook is the ability to highlight passages? On almost every page of this book I had passages or sentences or phrases that I've wanted to highlight. I took notes and marked pages. Here are just a few bits of this wonderful writing (chosen so as not to be spoilers to the story!). Warning: you may have to read them slowly and more than once:

"I decided to lie in bed and wait for people to come home and switch on appliances. I wanted all the machines to be on. I did not like the way the appliances were sitting there, arrogant and fat and proving through muteness that everyone was elsewhere, involved with other things, things separate from me."

"Part of my brain, the thinking part, appreciated everyone's excellent intentions. But the remainder, the loose piles of random brain shavings and brain bits, feared the lazy swag of streamers and the humiliated balloons and the smell of spilled beer on the buckling barn floor."

"The dessert carousel stood sentry at the door. It was like a phosphorescent obelisk, twirling sleepily. The pastries marched around in a demented parade - towering meringues, tilting cakes, mammoth pies and puddings, balloon-like jelly rolls, surreal mousses."

"I would become cognizant of a staffer's acne or excessive weight or hair oil or hand-me-downs when I happened to be talking to them in the hallway and the 'popular' kids would pass and stare. This put me in a difficult predicament, because I was fourteen at the time. When you're fourteen, pretty much everything puts you in a difficult predicament."

ANTHROPOLOGY OF AN AMERICAN GIRLicon is a gorgeous story about a girl growing up (Eveline, in the 70's, on the East Coast), growing away from her family, into her life, her body and her sexuality. And the way it is written is incredible.

This book was almost hard to read because the writing was so good. I usually read pretty quickly, but with this book I found I read and reread passages many times, and often had to stop and refocus to find my place back in the story.

I didn't necessarily love one of the messages I got from the book (which I can't share in this non-spoiler blog post! If you've read it, email me and we can compare notes!), but I did love the writing.

What book have you read that had writing that stopped you in your tracks?

Clicking on the underlined title of the book will take you to Barnes and Noble's page for that book. Clicking on the cover of the book will take you to Amazon's page for that book. Purchasing through those links helps support the blog. So does "liking" us on our facebook page, NOT the New York Times Book Review. You can send email to: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Could we get a little more information, please?

Sorry for the cut and paste thing with the link, but this it does lead to a pretty funny video about customer service in a bookstore. (Go ahead, you can go watch it. I'll wait here.)

Unfortunately, apart from the offer to hit the customer with a hardcover book, scenes like this are quite common in a day in the life at the bookstore.


In fact, I had one just yesterday...

A man came up to the register, bearded, about 45-50, wearing a hat.

"Where are the new hardcover nonfiction books?", he asked.

"Well, we don't have one section for nonfiction," I said. "Nonfiction is spread out into subjects, so the new history nonfiction is in the history section and the new biographies are in the biography section and so on. We do have a table for hardcover new arrivals, but most often if it's specific to a section, it'll be in the section."

"That's very frustrating. I saw a book at Powell's and I came here to buy it because I'm a member. The book I want is nonfiction and hardcover."

"Do you know the title?"




"Any of the words in the title?"


"Do you know what it's about?"

"No. I just saw it at Powell's and it looked interesting to me and I thought I'd be able to find it here. Your store is either not organized very well or it's organized too well; I can't find anything in here."

"Without a title or author or subject, it is hard for us to find books in here as well."

(And I'm thinking, it looked so interesting to you that you couldn't bother to remember - or write down the title, an author's name or even what it's about??)

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Friday, January 13, 2012

2011 Reads

It is satisfying to me to look at the books I read last year...

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
Incendiary by Chris Cleave
The Absent Traveler by Randall DeVallance
Bloodroot by Amy Greene
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury (yes, THAT Cadbury!)
Annabel by Kathleen Winter
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Delirious by Daniel Palmer
Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward
P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern
Shadow Tag by Louise Erddrich
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simpson
Among the Missing by Dan Chaon
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum
Needful Things by Stephen King
Bossypants by Tina Fey
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
Contented Dementia by Oliver James
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Alone Together by Sherry Turkle
Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Moonlight on Linoleum by Terry Helwig
Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres
Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
The Prank by Adam Black
Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
In the Woods by Tana French
Toast by Nigel Slater
Laura Rider's Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Aftertaste by Meredith Mileti

...and to remember ones I really enjoyed....

icon by Tana French


It took me several tries to get into this book, but once I did, it was worth it. A mystery, set in Ireland, where the main character - and narrator - is a detective...and a victim.


icon by Adam Black


I loved this. Written as a breaking news story online through facebook "likes" and posts, blogs, news releases, interviews, etc. This book has much to say about how we ingest and interpret the information we glean online. brilliant.


icon by Erin Morgenstern


Morgenstern has created a magical world which may just sweep you away.


icon by Heather Gudenkauf


Callie, a young girl comes running from the forest after being missing. She doesn't speak. Why doesn't she speak? What happened in the forest? This book stayed with me long after I finished reading it.


THE HUNGER GAMES trilogyicon by Suzanne Collins


Even though this is categorized as a "teen" selection, this is a great story, set in a future world with characters to root for...this is excellent.


icon by S.J. Watson


A taut psychological thriller...the main character had and accident that caused a mental condition where she doesn't remember who she is or what her life is when she wakes up in the morning. Every morning she wakes up next to a man who is a stranger to her. She has to rediscover her life every day. really well done.


icon by Helen Simpson


Set in an English village, Major Pettigrew, a proper, retired, widowed military man, discovers love, which others in the village find improper. delightful!


icon by Sarah Winman


Starting as a little girl, Elly tells her story of her family, including her brother Joe and her best friend Jenny Penny. This is endearing, quirky, poignant and very engaging. A very good read!


icon by Kathleen WINTER


This novel enveloped me from the beginning. Though compared to Jeffrey Eugenides's MIDDLESEX because they both deal with hermaphrodites, ANNABEL is more intimate in scope. I loved this.


icon by David Levithan


Such a brilliant idea - a love story told through dictionary entries. REALLY well done. This would be a wonderful Valentine's Day, engagement, anniversary or wedding gift.

Clicking on the picture of the book cover will take you to Amazon.com. Clicking on the underlined book title will take you to Barnes and Noble's website. You can read more about each book and purchase it there. Doing so helps support the blog. Thanks for reading!