July 31, 2015 § 7 Comments
Ladypeople, listen up. Are you carrying the right bag? And furthermore: are you carrying that bag right?
If you’re unsure, don’t fret. I’ve studied the latest fashion ads for instructions, and the great news is that there’s a style to suit every one of us, no matter our needs or personal tastes. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Family doesn’t have to mean frumpy.
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2. Be all your YOUs at once.
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3. Make that bag work for you, ladyboss.
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4. Embrace the symbolism in every choice.
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5. Get whimsical with purse alternatives.
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6. Catch his or her eye with details, details, details.
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7. DON’T: a warning
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8. Another DON’T: also a warning
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9. Take what you please from man-style.
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10. Supersize it.
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11. Survive at all costs.
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12. Remember: One is never enough.
Life’s a grab bag. Reach in with both hands, girl.
June 2, 2015 § 11 Comments
When I wrote Penguins with People Problems, I knew I wanted to write an acknowledgments section at the back of the book, but I felt a little self-conscious about it. Because, come on — this is 112 pages of bird-comics. Wouldn’t it be kind of pretentious to go on and on and ON about how it came into the world? Wouldn’t it sound sort of … “I’d like to thank the Academy?”
So I kept it brief in the book. But here, where I can run on as long as I damn well please, is the longer version. We shall now wallow in gratitude! I would like to say the biggest THANK YOU to:
Everyone at Perigee Books, especially John, who is brilliant and… can I say my publisher is adorable? Because I think he is. Brilliant and adorable. And also Brianna, who is such a powerhouse; and Amanda, whom I’ve applied to adopt — sorry Amanda’s mom, she’s mine now. And Jillian and the Beaks & Geeks badasses and… everyone, really. All the folks at Penguin Random House who work in other imprints and who came up to me last week in New York and hugged me as if I were their own author. And Meg, who found me. MEG!
Kristyn, who is not just my agent but also my very funny friend. (Also, my agent is cuter than everyone else’s agent.)
Oleg, who is a magician.
Rachel F., who is a mythical wizardess made of dynamite and sugar.
Tumblr, which has one helluva new lobby. Now I want to install a cold coffee tap in my kitchen.
KJ Dell’Antonia, who has allowed me so much space in the fabulous Motherlode column of The New York Times over the last year and a half and who dreamed up the “Penguins with Parent Problems” mini-series. She’s a dream herself.
WordPress.com for being so insanely supportive of this site, where my every weird idea starts out.
Every single person at Parnassus Books in Nashville. Especially Sissy who got me there and Niki who fueled my plans with chips and cheese, and Karen and Ann who actually hired me. And Steph and Grace and Nathan and Bill and Miriam and Sarah and Ginger and Cat and Ashton who took care of my house while I was in New York and whom I’m also adopting even though she’s leaving and Tristan who saved my dog and Kathy and Mary Grey and Margy and Pete and Mythili and Lindsay and Yash. Andy’s OK too, I guess. Thank you for letting me work a schedule flexible enough to allow for penguin promotion. Please never fire me.
Heidi, who made my cool graphics for book tour.
The most wonderful assortment of friends who are probably super-tired of hearing about penguins but who listen anyway: LJ; Brittany; my beloved Davidson girls; JD, my brotha from anotha motha; the incomparable Loose Women Book Club (special shout to Emmely for being spontaneously thrown into the role of photographer at the launch party); all my awesome buds back in Atlanta; the fellow writers I hang out with virtually and in real life; and those friends whom I’ve connected with online one way or another, all of whom count as real friends even if we’ve never met.
Every person who hit “like” or “share” or “reblog” when they saw a penguin they thought was funny. And every person who emailed me through my site to say the penguin of the day surely HAD to be them or their sister or their friend and how did I KNOW??
Mom and Dad!
JP and MG and WC — because although the book is dedicated to Matt Damon, my life is dedicated to you.
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May 14, 2015 § 19 Comments
Remember when I wrote about that album by Squeeze? It was for my friend Nancy’s project, Midlife Mixtape, all about the music we love as adults. Well, she’s at it again, and this time she’s requesting mixtapes on a theme of “the songs that made me” — significant music from various stages of life. OK, I’m in.
The only rule was a 10-song maximum, so here goes —
1. I’m on Fire by Bruce Springsteen
Look, I’m as surprised as you are. But really, when I thought about my earliest musical memories, this is where my brain landed. Specifically, this was the first tape case (yeah kids, I said tape) in which I discovered the liner notes. Remember those? The little accordion-folded papers tucked into the plastic cases? Having discovered that the lyrics to all the songs were printed right there for me to read, I pored over them while listening to the songs again and again. I vividly remember sitting on my pink carpet in fourth grade, puzzling over this: “Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife baby edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my soul.” Why would someone do such a thing? Why a dull knife? Why is six inches the right depth for a soul-valley? What the hell, Bruce? I have been obsessed with song lyrics ever since.
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2. Twist and Shout by the Beatles
To this day, this scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off remains one of my favorite scenes in any movie ever. In fact, I wanted to hear this song so badly after seeing the movie that I mustered all the bravado I had in my little 6th grade self and called my radio station to request it. I TALKED TO THE MAN IN THE RADIO, PEOPLE. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but to me, at 11, it was, and I remember that every time I hear it. This is the soundtrack to my getting up the nerve to ask a stranger for what I wanted.
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Then for about a decade, my favorite song was “whatever’s on the radio.” Fast forward to the mid-90s:
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3. This Time of Year by Better Than Ezra
In college, I discovered Aware Records, the label that produced these awesome mix CDs of new artists (we’re up to CDs now, whippersnappers). Many of the bands I saw during my young adulthood were groups I discovered on these things. This song in particular always makes me think starting back to school on campus in August. If I play it on a fall day and close my eyes, I can pretend I’m sitting on a patio drinking cheap beer with the people who are still my best friends many years later. This is a touchstone tune.
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4. Hold My Hand by Hootie and the Blowfish
Speaking of college, here’s a memory for you: It was 1994. A little band from South Carolina called Hootie was playing in the gym. We’d heard they were going to be on David Letterman the very next night. Somewhere up front near the speakers, some crazed fan was waving his Solo cup in the air and hollering, “HOLD MY HAAAAAND” again and again and again. “Who is that fool?” I wondered. Ladies and gentlemen, that fool is now the father of my children.
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5. Colorshow by the Avett Brothers
When Americana started gaining more mainstream popularity a few years back, a friend of mine introduced me to the Avett Brothers, and I drank up those albums like water. They’ve never put on a show that hasn’t been a blast. The Avetts were one of the very first bands I was able to enjoy along with my children, who loved this music even when they were very little. I gave my son a philosophical lecture about elementary school once with these song lyrics: Be loud. Let your colors show.
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6. Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons
True story: I was bowling with a bunch of friends one night several years ago, and in the lane next to us was this group of English dudes who looked vaguely familiar. I went up to the bar and asked, “Do you know who those guys are?” and the bartender said, “They’re in some band that’s playing in a little theater around the corner tomorrow. Mumford and Company?” and I was like, “MUMFORD AND SONS? I’M GOING TO THAT SHOW,” and he was like, “I guess” and I went back to my friends like, “YOU GUYS THAT IS MUMFORD AND SONS,” and they were like, “What?” because this was about a month before any radio stations were playing them here, and somehow I was the only fan in our whole group. I was very dissatisfied that no one shared my excitement. Anyway, I went over to the band, and I said, “um hi hello are you mumford and sons i love your music so much i really just love it and do you like bowling ok great i’m coming to your show tomorrow at that little theater and i really hope you guys get like really successful and famous and stuff ok bye sorry bye” And they did. Probably because of that pep talk. So this one actually changed their lives more than mine. You’re welcome, guys.
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8. You Are My Sunshine by The Civil Wars
Well, the Civil Wars are no more, but they left us some good music. I always liked this version of Sunshine. Also, I sing this to my daughter every night before she goes to sleep; so even though it’s a really dark song (I mean, really dark — listen to it), it makes me happy. (When skies are gray.)
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Here’s a great song about going with your gut. I listened to it a lot when I switched to a new city / new job / etc. last year. Also, it’s just a delightful song. If you don’t like it, I can’t explain what’s wrong with you.
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10. Blow It Out by The Features
I keep thinking I’ll reach a point where I’ve played this too many times and it gets old, but that time has not yet come. We play it a lot in our kitchen these days, and it’s by a great little Nashville band, and it just very much feels like a theme song right now.
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So, there are my 10. Thanks for asking, Nancy. If you want to see the other mixtapes her friends have drummed up on this theme, you can catch them here:
My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog
Good Day, Regular People
The Flying Chalupa
Elleroy Was Here
Up Popped a Fox
When Did I Get Like This?
What are your musical milestones?
Obligatory book plug:
17 more days until Penguins with People Problems comes out! I’d be really glad to see you when the penguins and I hit the road to sign books. You can PRE-ORDER IT right now wherever you normally buy books (Amazon, B&N, etc.), or — if you like to support indies (yeah!) and want an autographed one — from the bookstore where I work.
May 11, 2015 § 22 Comments
Sometimes being a girl is complicated.
If you’re a dude, your outfit choices pretty much come down to “which pants?” and “that shirt.” But for ladies, there’s a wiiiiiide range of options out there, which means there are a LOT of ways to go wrong, especially when you’re talking about what to wear to work, in an interview, or for a big presentation. How to do it right? I flipped through the ads in this spring’s fashion magazines to find out. Here’s what I learned.
1. Follow the 25% Rule
2. Practice Restraint
3. Try Subversive Hair
4. Accessorize with Care
5. Travel Smart
6. Dazzle Every NO into a YES
7. Think Whole, Not Parts
In short: Run a fork through your hair, undo one more button, and get ready for your turn at the top, baby. You’re going places.
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Speaking of going places… do you like to go to parties? I’ll be rocking my best quasi-professional look for the Penguins with People Problems book tour this summer, and I’d love to see you along the way. Dates and places will be updated online as plans are made!
(On a penguin note: Have you seen the New York Times exclusive mini-series? It’s called “Penguins with Parent Problems,” and a total of six episodes will be running at random intervals through the beginning of June!)
(PS: One last thing… If you’re on Facebook, you may have been following the I Miss You When I Blink page and/or my official author page. I’m switching over to using just the author page, because two pages is too damn many pages. That’s good news because it means you won’t see double posts in your newsfeed. So, make sure you’re following that one? Thanks!)