Dressing John Stamos for Awards Season

31 Jan

Grandfathered

It’s awards season in Hollywood, and Greek-American actor John Stamos just won Favorite Actor in a New Series for Grandfathered at the 42nd People’s Choice Awards! At the January 6, 2016, event, he hammed it up for the crowd, stopping to take selfies with adorable young fans. He looked quite suave in a black velvet suit accented with a red pocket square.

He seems to be a fan of the red pocket square.

He wore the red pocket square again recently, still with an all black suit, though this time it wasn’t velvet and there was a tie involved. (William Shatner was also involved.)

He wore it better with a tux a few weeks prior to the People’s Choice Awards when he attended The 67th Emmys Governors Ball. He told People:

“All dolled up and sporting Frank Sinatra’s pocket square. Given to me by his manager, the great Tony O.”

Okay, if I had a pocket square that once belonged to Frank Sinatra, I might wear it out as often as possible too!

But the pocket square might be getting a bit too ubiquitous. I mean, it’s kind of like how fellow Greek-American Jeffrey Eugenides became so known for his vest that someone started a Twitter account for Eugenides’ vest. Is someone going to start @StamosPocketSquare?

Even The Washington Post commented on it, though that time he wasn’t wearing Sinatra’s red pocket square but a different one.

I think it’s time for John Stamos to find a new accessory! If you follow him on Instagram, you know the man looks good in a pair of glasses. I’d like to see Stamos rock a pair of glasses at his next awards show. I’d recommend these Greek Handmade Frames:

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It would be great to see more Greek-American stars using their influence to help Greek and Greek-American companies, particularly during the Greek economic crisis.

John Stamos strikes me as a man who can pull off a piece of jewelry. I say, ditch the red pocket square and wear a piece of striking jewelry. After seeing Konstantino’s exquisite jewelry at the welcome reception for the GABBY Awards, I would pick a piece from his Byzantium collection for Stamos to wear:

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And you know how his Full House (and now Fuller House!) character Uncle Jesse was obsessed with his hair? I would obviously have Christo, the Greek-American hairstylist behind Curlisto, do Stamos’ hair. Curlisto did hair for the runways for the Greek American Fashion Week, and he has an entire line of men’s haircare products:

Curlisto

On to the fashion! For clothing, John Varvatos is a Greek-American clothing designer who creates stylish looks. For an awards show, Stamos could wear a grey John Varvatos Cotton Shirt.

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Over the shirt, I would add some sophistication with this black Cotton Vest with Piping Detail:

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And over that, I’d layer Varvatos’ black Cotton Jacquard Jacket:

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For pants, a simple black pair of pants like Varvatos’ Wool Blend Pant would do nicely:

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When Tommy John approached me about dressing a Greek star for the red carpet this awards season, I thought to myself:

Really? But can’t I just leave him … undressed?

I mean, he did just recently share a picture of himself on Instagram in his undies!

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And then there was that time in 2014 when the Oikos spokesman showed off his underwear with the Greek yogurt logo on it.

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Why not just leave him in Tommy John’s underwear Second Skin Square Cut:

Red Carpet 2 TJ

And Tommy John’s Second Skin Crew Neck Undershirt:

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Have mercy!

My Literary Highlights of 2015

31 Jan

Even more than art, literature is fundamental to my life. Reading was so important to my development as a child and continues to expand my horizons to this day. I earn my living as a writer and an editor, but even my social calendar revolves around literary events. Literature is very much a part of my identity, and I make a priority for it in my life.

 

BurroughsAnne Waldman, Penny Arcade, Jan Herman, Steve Dalachinsky, and Aimee Herman read at Burroughs 101, hosted by Three Rooms Press, at Cornelia Street Cafe. (Anne Waldman pictured)

HettiePam Belluck, Hettie Jones, Margot Olavarria, Marci Blackman, and Beth Lisick read at Women on Top, hosted by Three Rooms Press, at Cornelia Street Cafe. (Hettie Jones pictured)

BigSur

Big Sur (an adaptation of Kerouac’s novel) on Netflix

brunchEpic four-hour brunch at The District with two writer friends, talking about “ethnic” literature, faith, and relationships.

SunsetAfter Sunset: Poetry Walk on the High Line.

Budapest1My friends surprising me by taking me to a book-themed restaurant on my first night in Budapest.

BookCafeBrunch with friends at the most exquisite bookstore, Book Cafe & Alexandra Bookstore, in Budapest.

ElenaReading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, a recommendation from my friend Jane.

BEABook Expo America.

AmramDavid Amram telling stories about Jack Kerouac and other literary figures and amazing us with his music at Cornelia Street Cafe.

MisakoBrunch with my friend Misako Oba, whose new book of photography and memoir, which I helped edit, was published.

DurdenDrinks with one of my favorite people at Durden, a bar based on author Chuck Palahniuk’s novel-turned-movie Fight Club.

PoetryNew York City Poetry Festival with my writing group partner.

OdysseyWatched Homer’s The Odyssey performed, put on by the Public Theater, in Central Park.

Reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” (coauthored with Paul Maher Jr.) at WORD Bookstore in Jersey City.

HobartTeaching a writing class at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.

WritersThe Redeemed Writer: The Call and the Practice, a conference I co-led in organizing through the Center for Faith & Work. (Pastor David Sung pictured)

BrooklynBrooklyn Book Festival.

ReggioBrunch at Caffe Reggio, where Jack Kerouac and friends used to hang out.

BindersFullOfWomenSpeaking on the panel Lessons Learned: Published Authors Share Hard-Earned Insights with Nana Brew-Hammond, Kerika Fields, Melissa Walker, Ruiyan Xu, and Jakki Kerubo at BinderCon.

LibraryMeeting regularly with one of my best friends to read and write together at the New York Public Library.

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Checking out the Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars exhibit at the Morgan Library & Museum with a friend who is a huge Hemingway fan.

OTRSpotting a first edition copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin.

Light

Reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.

Like literature?

Burning Furiously Beautiful on sale at Barnes & Noble.

Burning Furiously Beautiful on sale at Amazon.

My Pinterest posts called Lit Life.

I’m on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

My Art Highlights of 2015

30 Jan
My life is so much richer because of art. I try to surround myself with it as much as possible. Although I recently read that having one large piece of work hanging in your home is the new gallery wall, I’m proud of the gallery wall I’ve curated. It’s filled with works that have meaning to me, and this year I had the opportunity to add a few new pieces to it that have great sentimental value. It’s one way at least that I feel better about not getting to visit as many galleries and museums as I’d like. For many years now, I’ve resolved to visit museums and galleries on more frequent basis. I suppose in comparison to many people, I am accomplished in this. But for someone who loves art, a monthly visit or so is never quite enough. There is just so much art out there in this vast beautiful world. And I want to experience it all. The Classical. The Abstract Expressionist. The photography. The unearthed treasures. It’s a way to experience cultures and travel though time. I may not have seen a lot this year, but I am proud of the range of work I saw. Here are a few highlights from my art going in 2015.
Shwab
An Archeologist’s Eye: Drawing the Parthenon Sculptures, showing Dr. Katherine A. Schwab’s drawings (she’s a Scripps College graduate!), presented by the Association of Greek American Professional Women (A.G.A.P.W.) at the Consulate General of Greece.

McDurrah

Fred W. McDarrah: The Artist’s World at Steven Kasher Gallery. McDarrah took photographs of the Beat and Abstract Expressionist scene in New York City.

Acropolis
The Acropolis Museum. (Incidentally Kathy Schwab’s work, mentioned above, is there!)
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Jeppe Hein’s Please Touch the Art in Brooklyn Bridge Art.
Beach
The Beach exhibit at the National Building Museum.
Mural
Alice
Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland at The Morgan Library & Museum.
face
Ice
Ice sculpting in the Christmas windows at Barney’s.
Crusader
The Crusader Bible: A Gothic Masterpiece at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin.

Hobart Festival of Women Writers in Photographs

16 Dec
I had the loveliest time at the 2015 Hobart Festival of Women Writers. Cheryl Clarke and Breena Clarke organized an inspired long weekend of readings, writing workshops, writing instruction, and networking. The long list of women writers was impressive in its diversity and achievements. It was an honor to be a returning festival participant, and I had the best time teaching a writing workshop inspired by the highly individualistic writers categorized by their friendship, the Beat Generation. The writers in my class impressed me with their passion and literary acumen. I also had the opportunity to attend several workshops taught by other festival participants, and I’m so glad I did! There is always so much to learn from others about finding your voice, developing dialogue, pitching to journals, and creating work that matters. The instructors had years of experience writing and publishing, and I was so grateful to hear their journeys as writers.
If you missed it, you can read Breena’s interview with me here.
You can see video of my reading to support the Festival of Women Writers at WORD Bookstore in Jersey City here.
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Experience Hellas Every Day of 2016

14 Dec

HellasCalendar2016

I took this photograph in May of this year while standing on the beach across from my parents’ house in Greece. The name of the beach is Lagouvardos, which is part of the Peloponnese. I’d stolen one last look at the beach before I traveled back up to Athens to catch a plane.

Like the tides, I have a come-and-go relationship with Greece. It seems like I no sooner arrive, and it’s time for me to leave again. Perhaps like so many children of immigrants, I struggle with the concept of home. I call New York my home. I love the skyscrapers and window-shops, the fast-paced energy. It’s difficult in the beginning for me to settle into the quieter lifestyle of Greece, and yet soon it feels as if I’ve been there all along. Indeed, I’ve known my family’s house in Greece many years longer than the apartment I now live in in New York. More than that, it’s family that makes a home. It’s heartbreaking every time I have to leave.

I created Hellas: A 2016 Calendar to capture the natural beauty of Lagouvardos and Filiatra. The photographs show the blue, blue waters my father grew up swimming in; wildflowers that signify Greek resilience; our blue-and-white flag flying victoriously; and mountains rising toward heaven.

Experience the beauty of Greece every day of the year with Hellas, a 2016 calendar. The natural landscape of the Mediterranean comes to life in rich, colorful photography of Greek beaches, wildflowers, and lush palm trees. As you record your daily appointments in the calendar, the stresses of life will recede like the tide of the ocean in these stunning photographs.

Purchase your own copy of Hellas here.

Learning to Say “No,” Without Needing an Excuse

28 Oct
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The other evening, I was having dinner with my upstairs neighbor, E., a dear friend whom I don’t get to see as often as I’d like despite our close proximity. We were catching up on our lives, and I told her about a quasi-recent turn of events in which I’d told someone I wasn’t able to make the commitment they wanted from me and how I’d tried to explain to them why.
 
She stopped me mid-sentence.
 
“You don’t need to explain,” she said. At first, I thought she meant I didn’t need to explain to her. I know she often has a full calendar and as well understands how particular stages of life mean commitments are more difficult to make and keep. I knew she could relate to my experience. Then, I realized she meant that I didn’t need to explain myself to the other person. I didn’t need an excuse for my no. As she suggested, I didn’t have to justify my no.
 
I think this is true in many ways. It’s difficult to say no to others. And so often I say yes to the detriment of my own goals and dreams and time. I put other people’s wants and needs ahead of my own. I do believe there is value in this. I do think there are many times when we are called to go the extra mile for someone. There are times when it’s important to give back, to encourage, to help, to mentor, to volunteer our time and our talents. To set down our own desires in service of someone who really needs it. Still, there is a difference between someone’s real need and someone’s fleeting want. A difference between committing in a way that serves a greater good and getting locked into somethng that is so far removed from one’s own important needs that both parties end up suffering because of it. And there are times when saying no should come not with a justification but with thought and compassion. I know my friend would agree with me. She avidly devotes her free time to volunteer work, to spending time with those in need, to helping the disenfranchised. 
 
Perhaps the difference and the balance comes in not saying an automatic yes to things that hurt one’s own self in the long run.
 
Often because I am a writer and an editor, people come to me with essays, full-length manuscripts, resumes, and book proposals, asking for my advice, my edits, my time. I love helping people. I love hearing their stories. But I do this work for a living. It’s how I earn my income. There are people who pay me to do this. It’s how I pay for my electricity and how I pay for my subway fare and how I pay for my dinner. And unless it is a real need, say someone who has been out of work for a year and needs their resume reviewed so they can get a job to feed their hungry baby, it is unfair of me to not charge them when I would normally charge others. It’s unfair for my other clients. And it’s unfair for me, as, in a way, I am my own client. I am working on a new book. I spend hours sitting at the computer, typing, deleting, revising. I do this on top of my full-time career. I do this on top of my freelance opportunites. I do this on top of the free readings I give to support the biography I coauthored. I do this on top of smaller creative projects. I do this on top of the volunteer position I have leading a writing group. I do this when others are watching tv. When others are getting together with friends. I don’t get paid to write my book. Not yet. And so when someone asks me to look over something they’re working on, I instinctually want to say yes, I want to help them. But it takes time away from my own writing. It would mean saying no to paying freelance opportunities. Or, perhaps it would mean saying no to spending time with friends I haven’t seen in a long. I am honored that someone would want me to review their work, but I shouldn’t have to justify why I can’t help everyone for free.
 
I stubled upon Austin Kleon’s tumblr the day after meeting with E. He’s the author of Steal Like An Artist, and he posted about authors and editors saying no. I think I may steal E. B. White’s line:
 
“I must decline, for secret reasons.”
 

Mary Karr Reveals Her Favorite Memoirs

28 Oct

KarrMary Karr Credit Illustration by Jillian Tamaki via The New York Times

Mary Karr, memoirist extraordinaire, has a new book out. It’s not a memoir but a book about writing memoir: The Art of Memoir. I’m adding it to my ever-growing must-read list.

I’ve had the opportunity to hear Mary Karr speak at the Brooklyn Book Festival and at the Festival of Faith & Writing, and of course she is the author of The Liar’s Club, Lit, and Cherry.

I love Q&As and was thrilled to read her answers to The New York Times’ Sunday Book Review “By the Book” column. I got some great reading inspiration (Annie LiontasLet Me Explain You, about a Greek-American family), I loved her answers to whom she’d invite to a literary party (can I get an invite?!), and I was happy to discover her favorite memoir is St. Augustine’s Confessions, since I had recently discussed the book in my class “Writing Under the Influence of the Beat Generation” at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.

I was especially intrigued by her question “Do Flannery O’Connor’s letters count?” to the question “Who are the best memoirists ever?” I used Kerouac’s letters for much of my research for Burning Furiously Beautiful. I think in some way, letters are a form of memoir. In another way, though, they don’t necessarily adhere to the intentional literary craft I discussed in my response to “In the Age of Memoir, What’s the Legacy of the Confessional Mode?” Though a great letter writer is better than a mediocre memoirist!

You can read the full interview with Mary Karr here.

Apple Cheddar Grilled Cheese: The Perfect Autumn Lunch

27 Oct

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You know the other day how I went apple picking? Well, the truth is … I don’t like apples. I don’t hate them, but they’re just so generic. They’re the cheap fruit leftover in every gift basket. I know they’re supposed to be really good for you. I’ve even edited entire books devoted to the benefits of apples. But on their own they’re just not my thing.

In a grilled-cheese sandwich, though, that’s a different story altogether!

Growing up eating at Jersey diners, I’ve had my fair share of grilled cheese with tomato. I love it. But for fall, grilled cheese with apple is the way to go. It’s so easy, inexpensive, and delicious. Perfect for the starving artist who want to up their grilled cheese game.

I chose a hearty bread — Bread Alone’s Whole Grain Health. I first discovered Bread Alone through the Union Square Greenmarket when I worked in a publishing house in that area. Bread Alone makes their organic bread by hand. The Catskills-originated bakery is committed to remaining local — and fortunately Manhattan is included in local. The Whole Grain Health bread has sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and flax (a great source of omega-3, which as a vegetarian I am always looking out for!), and a healthy dose of honey.

The apple was from my apple-picking adventures at Dubois Farms. I believe it was a Gala apple, but truthfully all the apples kinda looked alike once they got in my bag. I think it was Gala and not Fuji though because it was sweet, which is what I was going for.

Usually I go with American cheese, but I wanted cheddar to go with the apple. I selected a two-year-aged cheddar made from raw milk from Grafton Village. I try not to be too picky with my vegetarianism when it comes to cheese because I love love love cheese, so bonus points for this cheese using a vegetarian rennet. The two-year-old Grafton Village cheddar was super creamy, though it didn’t melt well … though that’s probably because my slices were too thick!

I put a little margarine on the backs of the bread, assembled the cheese, then the apple slices, and then a little more cheese, and then heated them up in the frying pan. It only took a few minutes before each side was golden and warm and gooey.

I paired it with some split pea soup.

So delicious! Apple cheddar grilled cheese is the perfect light meal for a crisp autumn day.

Consulate General of Greece in New York Proves That Current Greek Art Matters

26 Oct
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The new art exhibion Colors of Greece at the Consulate General of Greece in New York is a phenomenal display of artistic diversity. I was thoroughly impressed by the variety of subject matter and aesthetic style of Greece’s contemporary artists.
 
Contemporary Greek art—be it visual art, as it was in this case, or the literary arts—matters to me a lot. Now, more than ever.
 
As a Greek, I am proud of my country’s rich Classical history. Our ancient art and architecture is revered the world over, and for good reason. To this day, I still stand in awe every time I look up at the Parthenon. How could anyone not? And yet, as well-meaning individuals speak to me about Olympia and Homer and all the beautiful work of Greece’s centuries’ old history, a part of me feels frustrated that only the Greece of the past is recognized. It is as if the Greece of today is nonexistent in their eyes. I think most Americans would be hard-pressed to name any Greek artists living today.
 
This saddens me because Greeks and Greek Americans have done much to enliven the postmodern art world. As a scholar of the Beat Generation, I have often turned to the art of the 1940s and ’50s. Specifically, I have researched the abstract expressionists who hung out at the Cedar Tavern and mingled with the Beats. Several of the most famous abstract-expressionist artists were Greek American: Wiliam Baziotes, Theodore Stamos, and Peter Voukos. Another famous artist of that time period was neon-sculpturist Stephen Antonakos. Today, there are artists like Maria Fragoudakis, who continues the collage and pop-art work of that era. These artists have done exceptional work that does not hinge on their being Greek.
Colors of Greece, likewise, demonstrates the vast scope of Greek art in 38 works. The artists cast their eye far and wide, landing on people swimming in blue, blue bodies of water; dramatic flora; city streets; the human face. Their style is photorealistic, figurative and full of emotion, abstractions. In a small exhibit hall it may perhaps seem jarring to view dissimilar works, and yet that is what makes this exhibit so special. It only captures a small sliver of the variety of work Greek artists today are doing. 
 
At a time when contemporary Greece is looked at through a negative political and economic lense, drawing attention to contemporary Greek artists’ work is a political statement. The Consuate General of Greece in New York shows that there is more to Greece than what you see on the evening news and read in history textbooks. There is a Greece that is vibrant, full of life, energetic, and colorful. There is a Greece that sees beauty among the ruins. It is the artists who perhaps will raise Greece up, who will innovate, who will create a new Greek generation.
 
Colors of Greece runs until October 30, 2015. Free of charge, the exhibit is open to the public from 9:00am to 2:30pm at the Consulate General of Greece in New York, located at 69 East 79th Street.
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Also, I’m pleased to announce Hellas, a 2016 wall calendar that I created using photographs I took while in Greece this past summer. You can purchase it here.

Should We Judge the Quality of a Memoir by Its Confessions?

21 Oct

jamison-bookends-master315Leslie Jamison Credit Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson via The New York Times

At the Hobart Festival of Women Writers, part of my class, “Writing Under the Influence of the Beat Generation,” was about confessional writing. As a class, we took a look back at the first examples of confessional writing in literary history before plunging into the poetry of Diane Di Prima, who is associated with the Beat Generation.

The New York Times’ Sunday Book Review posed the question “In the Age of Memoir, What’s the Legacy of the Confessional Mode?”

Leslie Jamison wrote:

These days, American literary culture features both a glut of so-called “confessional” work and an increasingly familiar knee-jerk backlash against it: This writing is called solipsistic or narcissistic; it gets accused of lacking discretion or craft. Its heritage is often traced to women writers, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, and its critiques are insidiously — and subcutaneously — gendered. So many of the attacks against the confessional mode come back to the language of the body: An author is spilling her guts or bleeding on the page. Her writing whores itself out, exposing private trauma for public fame. (Or a four-figure advance and an adjunct job.)

Ouch! But, unfortunately, so true. Jamison says:

Because people have grown so obsessed with the drama of Plath’s life, they read the poems solely as reflections of its traumas….

In other words, readers get so caught up in the content that they forget the style. This is a huge tragedy. Commercial memoirs today are all about celebrity or about hard-won, momentous moments in life. There is certainly room for works that celebrate and motivate, but is that the whole or only point of the memoir?

I’ve often heard people sarcastically remark that memoir writing is egotistical. Or else, they denigrate their own lives by arguing there’s nothing in their life worth writing about. I disagree. Whole-heartedly. First of all, the process of writing a memoir is at its core about seeking a balanced truth that is far from self-promoting. At times, the memoirist may even feel self-loathing. But again, every life matters. Everyone has something to say. Everyone is complex and interesting.

Memoir is not just about a flat telling of one’s life. It’s storytelling. It’s choosing words that capture a moment so precisely that the reader can step into the author’s world even if their lives are vastly different. Memoir, in the end, is about craft. It’s an art form.