Advice to your younger self

Have you ever thought about that? If you could tell your younger self something, send some wisdom back through time, what would you say?

I really like what Jenni Britton Bauer had to say on Food&Wine:

I could say: “Don’t worry so much, you’ll be fine,” but the truth is I do worry, and that’s probably why we are fine. 

I could say: “Keep going and always get up when you fall,” but that’s what I have done—not that it’s been easy.

I could say: “Don’t second-guess yourself,” but then sometimes that has worked out very favorably for us. 

I could say: “Make time for workouts,” but I wouldn’t have followed that advice. 

I could say: “Follow your heart,” but I never did that. I worked my ass off instead. 

Your life is yours, and it’s going to suck sometimes and be great sometimes. It’s going to hurt so bad that you want to turn around and crawl into a hole. It’s going to be so high and wonderful that you will wonder how to keep it there (and you’ll fail at that). You’ll make mistakes, but you won’t ever give up—not because someone gave you that advice, but because it’s way more fun that way. And you’re good at it.

(Found here)

Good, right? Basically, just live the life you're living. You'll get where you want to be, mistakes and all.

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Genius tip

Happy (belated) Earth Day! In the spirit of trying to be "greener" and stepping more lightly on this planet, I'm sharing something a bit random but in it's own small way, truly brilliant. I picked up this little genius tip from

Dry shampoo lets you stretch out time between showers without gross, greasy hair. But it's mostly made from corn starch. The thought of sprinkling corn starch in my hair just didn't excite me. Then, on Zero Waste Home, Bea suggested using unsweetened cocoa powder. I tried it and I'm hooked! Not only does it smell fantastic, it did an amazing job on my hair. I just put a tiny bit in my hands and ran it through my roots. That chocolate smell was a real pick-me-up and my hair was instantly not greasy. Cheap, easy, fantastic!

Bea also uses unsweetened cocoa as eye shadow, bronzer and blush. I have to admit I don't have the right complexion to pull that off, but let me know if it works for you.

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Bombs away

Today on my way to checkout at Costco, I was stopped by a security officer. Actually, we were all stopped, everyone in the store.

"There's been a bomb threat," she said, an odd little smile playing on her face. "Please leave the store."

I must have blinked or looked at her funny because she said, "Yes, please exit. Immediately."

So I left the cart with the food and I made my way through the cavernous warehouse that is Costco. Everyone around me was both calm yet unnerved. I'm pretty sure we were all thinking the same two things.

1. If it was called in, it probably ISN'T a real bomb. Those tend to explode with no warning.

2. Dying in a bomb blast at Costco is really NOT how I imagined going. So if there's even the slightest chance that this is how it's going down, I really don't want to be here.

I started walking faster, annoyed by the acres of products I had to pass. There was a young mother with toddler and she told her, "Run!" It makes me so sad to think of a little girl running from a bomb threat.

I feel bad for Coscto because of those hundreds of abandoned carts full of products that will have to be re-shelved, for the peak hours of lost revenue, and because I really have the foulest luck with that store. First my wallet stolen last year and now a bomb threat.

I am really proud of everyone who was there. It was crowded and stressed, but no one pushed, yelled, or honked their horn in the parking lot gridlock as everyone tried to leave at once. I hate that these things happen, but I think we all endured it with calm and grace.

I guess that's the best one can hope for.

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Do you make new year resolutions?

I'm pretty inconsistent. Some years yes, some no. I haven't really seen a big difference in achievement or self-improvement between the years with resolutions and the ones without. I guess it's because most of my resolutions are more like wishes, you know? In earlier years it was: I wish I was published. In later years: I wish I was more organized. (You'd think that one was a bit more under my control, but really, I can stay neat for a couple of days before all systems go haywire and my office is a mess.)

So this year, no resolutions. Just wishes.

I wish to enjoy moments. I wish not to fret about the future. I wish to spend more time with family and friends (see my first wish.) I wish you guys stay healthy. I wish us all a lot of happiness and success.

Happy 2015!

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Project Night Night

In my preachy blog about buying experiences and not things, I left out something important. Some kids don't have too many things. Some kids have nothing to call their own. Each year, 1.5 million American children experience homelessness. Project Night Night provides children who arrive at emergency homeless shelters with a brand new blanket, stuffed animal and book to call their own.

If you would like to sponsor a Night Night bag for a homeless child, please check out this amazing charity, named one of the top charities of 2013.

Project Night Night

Let's all take care of each other.

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A Different Kind of Gift Guide

Happy holiday season, y'all!

I know that stores started blasting carols not long after Halloween, and that those magical little twinkly lights have been strung between branches weeks ago. But. It's not really the holidays season until AFTER Thanksgiving, which brings us here today.

As I mentioned in the last post, this year my family is going for a reduced foot print of wasted junk. We are giving each other experiences instead of gadgets, though, I will admit we left an exception to the rule: it's okay to give books. I mean, you can almost argue that giving someone a book IS giving them an experience. An explosion of creativity and thought that lasts for hours on end through a magical portal held in their hands. AKA: A great book.

For those of you who are intrigued, here are some ideas to spark your own experience-gift revolution. And remember, it's even better if you can do the experience with the person you're giving it to. A two-for. A tip if you do that: give the gift with several dates to choose from and then book it. It won't ever get used if you don't set a day to do it.

A few ideas:

Indoor climbing gym

High Tea at the Ritz (or other fancy local hotel)

Horseback riding

Paint your own pottery

Trapeze school

Laser tag

Museum tickets

Baseball/football/basketball tickets

Snow tubing

Ice skating

Signed books! (If you choose one of mine, let me know and I will mail you a personalized signed book plate to stick inside. Just shoot me an email.)

What do you think? Could you see yourself giving experiences? What do you think would make a great gift?

Here's to a wonderful holiday season!

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Oh yes I did

We are trying to reduce our consumption of things. I don't need another shirt. Or fancy cheese plate. Or more shoes.  It's hard sometimes, because we're surrounded by the new and shiny (the better and improved.) But then after the wrapping is off and the sparkle fades, the present becomes yet another thing to put away (and find space for.) A burden, instead of a gift. This year, for holidays and birthdays we're trying to go for expirences instead of things. So this is what I got for my birthday.

Flying trapeze school! 

It was such a thrill, I was so scared! I'm still talking about days later, still proud of my mad flying skills. And other than a few photos, there's no new clutter at my house. A perfect present.

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Florida, hello again

I was so fortunate to be invited to the Tampa Bay Times Reading Festival last weekend.

You can't see it, but a dolphin popped up just before I snapped the photo. The weather was glorious (though to be fair, as the guy at the hotel said, "we earned this weather.") There was a light breeze off the water, the skies were blue, and the temps hovered around 80.

I got to hang out with dear old friends and make a few new ones. I chatted about writing and books and got to listen to other authors share their experiences.


Love you, Florida.

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Falling into fall

As readers of this blog know, I lived in Florida for six years before moving to Virginia. Florida has a lot going for it: the beaches, the wildlife, the kookie stories that forever pop up and always take place in Florida. But Virginia has charms of her own and one of them is autumn.

The trees are practically exploding with color. Some of them look like they're on fire.

And as the days get colder and the skies are grey, the colors seem like they pulsate with warmth. I love it.

And finally, thanks to the Richmond Library and all the lovely authors who took part in Teen14 VaLit. The teen group that meets at the library made book lamps for all the authors. Isn't it amazing? My camera didn't quite do it justice, my Spoils light was luminance and lovely.

Hope to see some of you this Saturay in St. Pete at the Tampa Bay Reading Festival. Because, as awesome as autumn is, it's still nicer to hang out at the beach!

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Blood moon

It sounds like the title of a good vampire novel, right? But it happened this morning at 6am. The last lunar eclipse of the year, a nice dramatic one, where the moon slowly disappeared in Earth's shadow only to start glowing, well, if not blood-red, at least mahogany burgundy.

There are some amazing photos of it online (such as the one above,) but the thing is, taking pictures of astral events takes a fancy-pants camera, which I don't have. I tried snapping a shot with my phone, but it came out pathetic. A smudgy, tiny dot, grainy and insignificant. I looked from my screen to the eerie, imposing sight in the sky. Lightening bugs and lightening.

There was meaning there, in that failed attempt to photograph the blood moon. Sometimes we can't capture amazing sights, we have to accept that they come, that they will pass, and to treasure that ephemeral moment. New studies have shown that we remember less when we snap a picture. It is as if the act of creating a lasting image erases our brain's need and desire to hold on to the image on its own.

So there's no photo in my photo collection of the lunar eclipse. But the memory of that pregnant moon, hanging low on the horizon, slowly turning to rust, will stay with me for a long time.

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(Photo by Ross D. Franklin, AP photos)

It's a boy!

I found a fat little monarch caterpillar on my walk last week. I brought him inside, fed him well and the next day he turned himself into a bright green chrysalis with flecks of gold that made a crown at the top. Ten days later he hatched, completely transformed. It's a miracle that never ceases to amaze me.

I recently learned how to sex a monarch (yes, I AM giggling as I write this, it sounds so filthy and perverted). The male of the species have a black dot on their lower wings. See them?

After the monarch hatched, it unfolded its wings. They were still damp from the transition and for a while, he couldn't fly. He wandered up and down my arm, gently opening and closing his wings to let them dry. And then, with a fast flutter he took off. A little wobbly. Veering wildly to the left, to the right, swooping down so low, I gasped, certain he would crash. But at the last minute he pulled up. He rested on a bush for a moment, then, girding his loins, took off again. After a couple more tries, he got the hang of it. He fluttered, looking like a paper flower caught in the wind. Higher and higher he went until I lost sight of him in the bright blue sky. And he was gone.

L'shanah tova my little monarch, and happy Jewish new year to all. May this year find us drying our wings and getting the hang of this wild, miraculous thing called life. Let us be off.

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The writing life, unvarnished

When I tell people I'm an author, their eyes usually widen with delight. "Wow," they might say, "that's so exciting!" That's really flattering, but the truth is, while writing books is a lot of things, sadly "exciting" doesn't tend to be one of them.

Which is why I cracked up laughing by this opening paragraph of Liza Mundy's review of Gail Sheehy's new memoir Daring, in the Washington Post.

"For a professional writer, there are few truly good reasons to write a memoir. Most writers lead boring lives, spending swaths of time sitting at their desks or in coffee shops, rifling through notes, gazing about, looking with despair at the sentence or two they have eked out, wondering if it's lunchtime yet, and finding other ways to procrastinate."

O-ho! I have never read a more succinct summary of my day! Bravo, Ms. Mundy, bravo.

You can read the rest of the review here.

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On Manners

I've always felt that my book IQ out ranked my social IQ. I'm not proud of that. Being able to relate to people, to know how to set them at ease, to get them talk, it's a gift.

Which is why I love this article on how to be polite.

Paul Ford writes: Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me. I will share it with you because I like and respect you, and it is clear to me that you’ll know how to apply it wisely: When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, be the master of it. I have come to revel in that agonizing first pause, because I know that I can push a conversation through. Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: “Wow. That sounds hard.”

Cool, right? I'm totally going to try that at the next awkward cocktail party.

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Blast from the past

I loved this piece when it came out in 2005. I was a freshly minted novelist. My alma mater's magazine ran a great profile about me and my first novel. I had yet to suffer through the slings and arrows of a novelist's life. So while I loved the piece, I didn't have the perspective to truly appreciate what a gift it is to have a well-written, accurately quoted article written about you.

It tickled me to get an email from the profile's author, Ellen Barber, who wanted to let me know about her new company, Condensed Light, and that that old profile from NINE years ago is on it as one of her writing samples. That profile was so good, that even so many years after the fact, a client recently read it and promptly went out to buy a copy of Light Years. That's what I call damn fine writing.

So, thanks Ellen for that wonderful piece and best of luck with your company!

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City life

I know I sometimes complain about the weird, disturbing people that populate cities. You know, the lady who ran away from me when I asked her what brought her and her husband to DC. The person who stole my wallet and spent $2000 in 15 minutes. There are awesome people too. The 007 type I had dinner with the other night. The State Department couple who have lived all over the world. It takes all kinds.

Yesterday, I was standing in line at the store and the man standing in the line next to me turns to me and says, "HI!" A big hi, like a "it's great to see you again" hi. Except that he was a total stranger. A large-boned, tall, middle-aged man. I did that big city, don't-make-eye-contact, who-the-hell-are-you, I-don't-want-to-be-rude, so reluctantly, "hi."

And then he says "May the Lord guard and keep you and protect you along the way."

For a moment, I was stunned. And then I said, "thank you."

He gave me the most beautiful, angelic smile in return. Like I had done him the biggest favor a person can do.

And then we each paid for our groceries and went on our way.

It was kind of amazing, really. I keep thinking about his smile. People are weird, but surprisingly wonderful too.

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