Archive | August, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Abstract Shapes on the Met Rooftop

31 Aug

 

More scenes from the Met rooftop.  These are sculptures by Sir Anthony Caro.

For a writing exercise, try describing these abstract shapes.

Writing Wednesday: MediaBistro Book Club’s August ’11 Reading

31 Aug

I’m becoming a regular at MediaBistro Book Club.  It’s one of my favorite reading series, essentially because it’s targeted toward people specifically in book publishing, so I get an opportunity to hear some great literature and chat with fellow book publishing professionals.

Usually when I attend publishing networking events it’s just other editors there, and when I attend readings it’s just bibliophiles and aspiring writers there.   MediaBistro Book Club is one of the rare readings that’s actually geared towards those who work in the publishing industry.

This time around the MediaBistro Book Club was held at the Union Square Lounge, which provided an intimate set-up and good drink specials.  I attended with one of my co-leaders from the Redeemer Writers Group and Burnside Writers Collective’s new fiction editor Mihaela Georgescu, and met some other creative writers, editors, designers, and production editors while mingling.  Here’s a photo of me at the event.

Everyone always talks about how small the industry is, and the more I attend readings and connect with people through social media the more I see this to be the case.  I spied David Goodwillie, whom I heard read at the reading The Shrinks Are Away, chatting it up with MediaBistro Book Club reader Andrew Foster Altschul.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all that they’re friends, given their cultural critiques.

Altschul’s Deus Ex Machina is a scathing look at reality tv.  He’s also the author of Lady Lazarus.

 

 

Nelson Aspen is the Ryan Seacrest of Down Under.  He dished on being an exercise trainer to Princess Diana and meeting the official voice of Fred Flinstone (he even sang the Flinstones theme song!), as he told us about his celebrity cookbook Dinner at Nelson’s.

 

 

Margaret Floyd took the food talk in a more nutritional direction when she talked about her discovery of just how much food influences health and well-being.  She tells all in Eat Naked Now.

 

 

Ben H. Winters claims he never had bedbugs even though he says 1 out of 3 New Yorkers have had them—even though no one will admit to it.  He wrote a whole fright-fest called Bedbugs.

 


After the readings there was a spirited Q&A, where Aspen said he believes self-publishing is the way to go and Winters said he hatched Bedbugs with his publisher, one of my favorite book publishers Quirk Books, and therefore never even had to submit a book proposal.  Interestingly, the fiction writers, Altschul and Winters, knew they wanted to be writers (instead of lawyers, which their parents’ wanted them to be), while the nonfiction writers, Aspen and Floyd, said that getting published was something that happened organically because of their other passions.  I think the lesson for nonfiction writers is that in addition to a desire to write you should have a passion for another subject.

See you at the next reading on November 17?

Clip: Church Hopping LIVE @ The Church of St. Anselm

30 Aug

 

Dario and Paco saved the Church Hopping tour at St. Anselm’s in the Bronx.  Burnside published the story here.

Ironic Beach Read

29 Aug

 

Remember when it snowed a lot this past winter?  It’s been such a hot and humid summer that I almost forgot about how much snow was on the ground just a few short months ago.

My dad grew up by the beach in Greece and remembers the wonderment of seeing snow for the first time one winter there.  Although I spent four years out in So Cal, where people put Christmas lights on palm trees, I was born on the East Coast, and it’s hard to imagine growing up without snow.

My summer reading has included Barbara Sjoholm’s The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland.  (Thanks for sending it to me, Merrill!)  I thought it would be ironic to read a book about the Arctic Circle while suntanning* at the beach.  Also, sometimes I like to remind myself that I’m Swedish-Sami.  (*I’m Swedish, I don’t actually tan.)

These hot summer days I’ve been dreaming of moving to Sweden.

Gripster: Storm Stylin’

26 Aug

 

Hey all you hurricane hipsters, hopefully Hurricane Irene will blow out to the ocean and this whole state-of-emergency situation will have just been the government’s effort to revitalize the economy through the mass purchase of flashlights (you know us Greeks love our conspiracy theories) but just in case here are some tips for staying storm styling during Hurricane Irene:::

If you’re like me and totally unprepared for any sort of emergency and don’t own a flashlight, shame on you!  By now, all the flashlights are gone.  Even finding candles in the drugstores is getting hard.  Get creative.  Barnes & Noble* is a tranquil oasis right now, and they just so happen to sell a wide variety of battery-operated reading lights.  Just because it’s for reading, doesn’t mean you can’t use it to find your can opener if the lights go out.

While you’re there, pick up the Barnes & Noble* ereader the nook if you don’t already have one.  Charge it up pronto and download some books.  If the power is out for a long time, you’ll have plenty of reading material.

It’s still a good idea to have some candles on hand.  If you can’t find any at the drugstore or grocery store, that’s okay.  Class it up with some scented candles from Bath & Body Works.  I picked up the Cranberry Woods one during the winter holiday sale and am loving it; right now their summer scents are on sale.  (PS: I’m obsessed with the Black Currant Vanilla aromatherapy line, if you ever want to buy me a you’re-my-favorite-blogger gift.  But that could be weird if I don’t know you.  Hm, never mind.)

Speaking of scents, if we don’t have access to water that means you won’t be able to shower.  I suggest some perfume or body splash to keep you smelling fresh.  I’ve got Bath & Body Works‘ Plumeria body splash (which always makes me think of my Hawaiian friend from undergrad) and Zara‘s Creme (which my sister gave me).  And remember, just because you can’t shower doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reapply your deoderant.

Now you may not be able to wash your hair but you can use an oil-absorbing dry shampoo.  I’ve used the TRESemme dry shampoo with mixed results.  That said, I do favor their regular shampoo and condition.  And, they don’t test on animals.

Another great animal- and eco-friendly company is The Body Shop, where I’ve been shopping since middle school.  I love the Tea Tree Oil line, and today stocked up on their cleansing wipes in case I won’t have access to water to wash my face.  Bonus: there’s a buy 2 get 1 free sale on select lines right now at The Body Shop.

While at The Body Shop, I also picked up anti-bacterial hand sanitzers in my most favorite scents satsuma and pink grapefruit.  I normally advise against these sorts of anti-bacterial hand sanitizers because I fear using it will lead to the creation of a resistant super-bug, but hey, you’ve got to have clean hands somehow if there isn’t good old-fashioned soap and water.  Plus these ones smell amazing, unlike some brands that smell like rubbing alcohol.

If you wear contacts, keep your stylish glasses in an easy to locate place.  In fact, make a to-go bag of all your critical necessities (medication, keys, cash, etc.).

Now in terms of food, non-perishables does not have to mean SPAM!  The Village Voice published a great piece called “How to Stock Up for Irene: A Gourmet Guide to Hoarding.”  And all you Gripsters (Greek hipsters) will be happy to know they call stuffed grape leaves (ahem, dolmathes) ” the queen of canned vegetable matter.”  A shout out to my Swedish side, they also suggest Swedish hardtack.

I’m getting word via social media that the Trader Joe‘s line is crazy insane right now (which, really, is nothing new), but another great Greek food to have on hand is the Trader Joe’s Kalamata olive spread.  If you get it fresh in Astoria like you normally would it will need to be refrigerated, which isn’t good if the power goes out.  But the Trader Joe’s version doesn’t need to be refrigerated til after it’s opened.

Nutella!

Have some nuts on hand for protein.  Unsalted is best so you don’t drink all your water.

Instead of potato chips, why not veggie chips?  I got mine from Gourmet Garage.

I couldn’t find a single jug of water.  But you know what I could find?  Perrier.  Now I can feel fancy during the storm.  And to ghetto it up, before the storm hits, fill up your Brita water filter, travel mugs, coffee pots, flower vases, sauce pots, you name it, with tap water just in case.

I’ve seen a lot of people buying alcohol.  Not to sound like your yiayia but I’d caution against drinking alcohol during Hurricane Irene.  Not only will it dehydrate you, causing you to drink more of whatever precious water you have, but should you need to evacuate you need to be as clear-headed as possible.

You should indulge in something though.  I recommend chocolate!  My friend Sally gave me a milk-chocolate bark and a dark-chocolate bark from Jacques Torres Chocolate.  Let’s not forget about the Greek American chocolate brand Chocolate Moderne I mentioned in my recap of the Gabby Awards after party.  Gourmet chocolate won’t prevent the hurricane but if you’re stuck inside your apartment during torrential rains you might as well eat something sinfully delicious.

How are you staying storm stylin’?

 

*I work for a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble.

Greek Bachelors and Greek Bachelorettes

26 Aug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah, one of the women in my nonfiction writing workshop, got me hooked on The Bachelorette.  ‘Cause you know, those of us in the number-one-ranked nonfiction MFA program in New York like to watch some quality television when we’re not writing our memoirs.  Maybe reality tv is the new biography and vlogging is the new memoir?

Anyway, I just heard that the runner up, Ben Flajnik, who’s been spotted with Jennifer Love Hewitt, will be the next Bachelor.

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed about The Bachelor and The Bachelorette series is that there have been quite a few Greek Americans:::

  • DeAnna Pappas, a real-estate agent from Marietta, Georgia (The Bachelor, season 11; The Bachelorette, season 4)
  • Eric Papachristos, a senior analyst from Greece (The Bachelorette, season 4)
  • Spero Stamboulis, an actor from Ellington, Connecticut (The Bachelorette, season 4)
  • Jessie Sulidis, a cosmetic sales manager from Oakville, Ontario (The Bachelor, season 14)
  • Constantine Tzortzis, a restaurant owner from Atlanta (The Bachelorette, season 7)

Am I missing anyone?

Writing Wednesday: Writing While Sailboats Float By

24 Aug

 

 

There are days when I’m in the mood to write, to let the words flow freely onto the paper, only to end up feeling all angsty sitting up in my room, all alone in front of the computer.  Writing can feel so isolating sometimes.  In the summer, when the weather’s warm, I want to sit outside in the grass or at the beach, instead of in my room or in a café.  To remedy my desire to both write and enjoy some sunshine I’ve been taking my work outdoors.

The other day I packed up an essay I’d been working on and went to Central Park.  If you enter in the East Seventies, there’s a man-made pond, where you can rent toy sailboats.  There are a ton of benches and lots of sunshine even in the evening hours, so it makes for a great writing spot.

Being outside writing made me feel so productive!  I felt like I was not only getting my writing done but that I was still taking advantage of the last month of summer and the beauty of living by Central Park.

Tasting Tuesday: Greek Grilled Cheese

23 Aug

I’m a big fan of grilled cheese.  It’s easy to make, inexpensive, and usually a safe bet when you’re at a restaurant.  It’s also yummy—the perfect comfort food.  Sometimes, though, I like to mix it up a little and try out various alternative grilled cheese recipes.

Epicurious has a recipe called “Grilled Cheese and Tomato Stacks,” which is pretty much a grilled cheese gone Greek.  They replace the bread with pita and use a Greek cheese.  I can’t wait to try it!

Also, my sister’s been promising to take me to The Queens Kickshaw, the fancy grilled-cheese restaurant that opened up in Astoria, the traditionally Greek neighborhood in Queens.  They serve so many delicious-sounding alternative grilled cheese sandwiches, like one with feta cheese, which was inspired by the Greeks in Astoria.  They also serve specialty coffee and sodas (sasparilla?!) and craft beer.

What’s the most alternative grilled cheese you’ve ever eaten?

Writing Wednesday: “The Help” Was Rejected 60 Times!

17 Aug

 

I’ve been in publishing mode.  I had a bunch of essays that aren’t necessarily part of my in-progress memoir that I’ve been sitting on so I’ve been sending them out to various publications.  I have to admit, submissions/querying is a scary process.  You work so hard on the writing, only to end up wondering if it will ever see the light of day….

I was super encouraged to read that Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel, The Help, was rejected SIXTY times!  It’s not so much schadenfreude as it is encouragement and motivation to not give up.  Stockett shares her experience in this article on Shine.

While the premise of the article is to not give up on your dream and to keep sending out your writing, I think it’s important to note that Stockett kept revising and improving her novel whenever she got feedback from an agent or editor on why it was rejected.  Perseverance is all good and well, but perseverance without a good product is pointless.  Stockett worked like mad—even to the point a nurse had to tell her to put the book down because she was going into labor—to make her manuscript the best it could possibly be.

The moral: Find out why your writing got rejected and use the criticism to improve your work.

PS:  This works in all areas of your life.

Tasty Tuesday: What Your Favorite Writers Snack On

16 Aug

 

The New York Times had an article back in July about what writers snack on while they work.  In illustrator Wendy Macnaughton’s “Snacks of the Scribblers,” we discover Lord Byron drank vinegar to keep his weight down and Joyce Maynard eats lime popsicles, among other eccentric eating habits of writers.

Personally, I like to write early on Saturday mornings in the Barnes & Noble Café, where I’ll order a Starbucks caramel latte and whatever sweet strikes my fancy.  Sometimes it gives me sugar-caffeine overload, though, so it’s better if I have a healthy breakfast before going there.

At home, I don’t usually eat when I write.  Dark chocolate usually is a good motivator, though, so sometimes I start and end on a piece of Theo’s Fig, Fennel & Almond bar.

Dear writers, what do you snack on?