Archive | September, 2011

Clip: Church Hopping LIVE: Church of the Intercession

29 Sep

Did you know Audubon (yes, the bird guy) was one of the founders of a church up in Washington Heights?  If you weren’t able to make it to the live Church Hopping event, you can read about it here, on Burnside Writers Collective.

Writing Wednesday: Brooklyn Book Festival 2011

28 Sep

New York’s largest free literary event took place on Sunday, September 18.  That’s right — the Brooklyn Book Festival!

My writer cohort and I had such a blast zig-zagging through the tents, ducking into readings, creeping close to authors, poring over books, and running into people we knew.  She introduced me to John Woo of the Magnetic Fields.  We ran into another friend from Little, Brown and Company, who instead of going the MFA route is doing his Masters in Publishing at NYU.  I saw Alisa Harris, whom I used to work with at Patrol, and who now has her own book out.

On the speaker side of things, I got to hear my writing mentors Phillip Lopate and Darcey Steinke.  I also got to hear Mary Karr, whom I had also heard speak at FFW.  Plus so many other great speakers.



I spied my writing colleague Susan E. Isaac‘s memoir on the Greenlight Bookstore table at Brooklyn Book Fest.


…as well as Greek American Tina Fey‘s memoir.


Tasty Tuesday: Epicurious’ 80 Dishes Blog – Greek Recipe

27 Sep

Travel the world in your very own kitchen!  Epicurious has been featuring national dishes from around the globe in its Emmy-Award-winning cooking video series.  Chef Michael Skibicky makes Lamb and Eggplant Moussaka in the Greek recipe post.

I used to have a pet lamb in Greece, and I don’t eat lamb, so here’s a vegetarian moussaka recipe from Bon Appetit.

Where would you like to travel to savor world cuisines?

The Lying Game’s Christian Alexander Born in Greece

26 Sep


So I’m kinda obsessed with The Lying Game.  Such a guilty pleasure!  As it turns out, the actor who plays Thayer, Christian Alexander, was born to Bulgarian parents in Athens, Greece.  (Hm, I seem to be onto a trend here about actors born in Greece to non-ethnically Greek parents….)

The show is based on the eponymous novel (HarperTeen) by Sara Shepard, the Brooklyn College MFA grad who also wrote the novels behind Pretty Little Liars.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Writing Wednesday: Story-Babies, or What I Learned about Balancing Work/Writing/Life from a Parenting Blog Post

21 Sep

Somehow, in the midst of a heat wave over the summer, I got a cold.  When I emailed my sister to complain, she lovingly sent me some kind words, saying:

Be gentle with yourself.

She related she’d read the phrase on Cup of Jo, a blog written by Joanna Goddard that my sister and I both enjoy reading.  I decided some blog reading might be a good distraction so I decided to peruse Cup of Jo, while sucking down a Coldbuster from Jamba Juice.  What I discovered was that it was Joanna Goddard’s mom, who told her, “Take gentle care of yourself.”  The advice was part of a series on juggling work/baby/life.

I don’t have a baby—at least not in the obvious sense.  Jack Kerouac once said:

“I’m going to marry my novels and have little short stories for children.”

I rather like that.  Although I don’t have flesh-and-bone babies, I am constantly giving birth to little stories.  I have my work-work (the 9-to-5 job that pays the bills) but I also have my “babies” (my creative writing projects).  Oh sure, if I don’t “feed” my book, I won’t be taken away by Child Protective Services, but I feel guilty when I don’t spend quality time with my story.  Like a parent, I feel like my life (sleep, socializing, etc.) often suffers as a consequence of my story-baby.

I turned to the Cup of Jo series on work/baby/life balance fully admitting that a book and a baby aren’t the same thing, but hoping to glean some useful tips.  Some of it gave me hope … and some of it made me bitter.

What I took away from the work-life balance series:::

  • Take care of emails in batches.  Ie, first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  That gives you more time than constantly checking your inbox.
  • Some things will inevitably slide.  Mothers who work full-time and don’t have nannies around 24/7, don’t look as put together as Katie Holmes and Angelina Jolie.  Writers who work full-time and go to grad school full-time and freelance may have bad hair days.
  • Some mothers can get nannies or hubbies to help out.  Writers are the only ones who can write their books.
  • Maybe instead of paying babysitters for a little free time, writers pay delivery men and cleaners for a little free time.
  • I’m not the only one holed up in my room.  Writers, freelancers, and moms work from home.  Maybe a trip to the playground is in order at lunchtime.
  • Compartmentalize.  Work hard and stay focused on the task at hand, instead of giving into distractions that lead to one job eating into the next.
  • Pamper yourself.  Moms almost never get time to themselves, and when they do they spoil themselves with pedicures.  Mental health days are okay to take.  Doing nice things for yourself is okay.  Writers, take note.
  • Create a schedule, tweak as necessary.  It helps mommies and writers to have a game plan for each day.
  • Make time for your husband, or in the writer’s case, a good book.  We write because we first loved books.  We need to always cherish the art of literature and never neglect it, lest we begin to lose our passion and vision.

I wonder if other writers feel like their books are all-consuming babies sometimes.

First Sips of Alcohol

15 Sep


I’ve been working on a chapter in my memoir that involves a story about a family member’s first encounter with alcohol.  While researching drinking ages in various countries and drinking statistics in the U.S., I read that 1 out of 3 eighth graders drinks alcohol.

I don’t doubt that many middle-schoolers have tasted alcohol but 1 out of 3 sounds like a lot!  What do you think?  How old were you when you first started drinking?  How do you prevent your kids from drinking at a young age?

Gripster: Greek American Hank Azaria

14 Sep

The Mindset List recently came out, and it’s making me feel old!  It’s not on the list, but one thing that I was thinking about is the fact that The Simpsons has been part of the Class of 2015’s entire life.  I remember when The Simpsons was just a sketch on The Tracey Ullman Show.  When the cartoon got its own primetime show, it was huge!  In school, some of the teachers even used to give extra credit for Simpsons trivia.  In the summer, when my family went to Greece, we brought Bart Simpson t-shirts for relatives.

Eat my shorts!

Did you know that Hank Azaria, the voice of Simpsons characters Moe, Apu, and Chief Wiggum, is Greek American?  His parents are Sephardic Jews from Thessaloniki, Greece.  Hank Azaria was born and raised in Forest Hills, Queens, though.

Remember when Hank Azaria played Nat the dog walker on Mad About You?  And Phoebe’s scientist boyfriend on Friends?  Well, Hank Azaria is on a new NBC sitcom called Free Agents, based on a British show by the same name.  Can you hear the hipsters?  I only watch the British version of Free Agents.  Well, Greek hipsters, decide for yourself.  It’s premiering tonight, September 14.

You Know You’re Greek When… Your Name Is Too Long for Twitter

9 Sep

Image via Tweetpi


You know you’re Greek when your name is too long for Twitter.

I’m several years late to the game, but I finally signed up for Twitter.  I’ve been Tweeting for other companies for a while, so I figured it was about time I bit the bullet and created my own personal account, as in “These Tweets are my own opinions and do not represent anyone but myself.”   I mean, I was already on Google+ for crying out loud.  Why not join Twitter too?

Okay, but here’s the rub: my multisyllabic Greek last name is too long for Twitter!  And I don’t just mean too long for the Twitter handle; I mean too long for my profile name.

That means, you can now follow me as @StephanieNiko on Twitter.

It’s probably better in the long run.  I bet you can’t spell my last name correctly anyway.

Gripster: New Yorker Festival 2011

8 Sep


The New Yorker Festival line up has been released, and we’ve got a few Greek Americans on the panel!



What Greek American authors were you hoping to see on the New Yorker Festival panel?


Writing Wednesday: Twice a Week

7 Sep


One of the hardest things about writing isn’t the actual writing—it’s finding time to write.  Laura Vanderkam asks, “Can You Try Twice Per Week?” on her 168 Hours blog.

Vanderkam cautions against all-or-nothing thinking.  As in, I must write every single day or else I’ll give up.  I’ve heard time and time again, writers preach on the importance of writing every single day.  I always end up feeling defeated.  How can I work full-time, accomplish errands, and still find time to write every day?  Oh, and I rather like having some sort of social life, so how can I do all that and still have a life?  Vanderkam’s approach is refreshing.  She advises on making priorities out of the things we want to do but actually being reasonable about it.  She suggests that, given the 168 hours we have during the week, we can probably find two days during the work week to devote to that priority.

One way to find extra time, she says, is to wake up early.  Ugh.  Not what I wanted to hear.  I’m not a morning person.  But the truth is, by the time I’ve run from work to class to dinner, the last thing I want to do is write at the end of the night.  I haven’t tried waking up early to write, but I may give it a shot.

I first heard Vanderkam speak at MediaBistro’s book club and then went on to read her book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think.  I’d highly recommend it to … well, everyone.  I hear so many people say they don’t have time for writing or for spending time with their family or for whatever it is they want to do, and this book shows that we actually do have time for a lot of what we want to do – we just have to respect the time we’re given and get the most out of it.

Can you wake up early twice a week to work on your writing?