Tag Archives: books

The Moment

Stolen from the Facebook profile of fellow "Moment" contributor Deborah Copaken Kogan (clicking on pic takes you to her website)

The second item on my Life List is: Publish a book. When I look back at it now, I realize I should have been more specific because I’ve sort of done that already. I have run the gamut of publishing jobs ranging from book publicist to book researcher, coordinating sub rights, and e-book producing (where I produced a NYT Bestseller, baby!) If I was to take #2 at face value, however, I’d have to classify it as a book on which I appear as the author complete with name on the cover and author photo on the back flap. So those publishing gigs are subsets of #2.


This book you see above puts me a step closer. In “The Moment,” you’ll find 125 beautiful moments that changed the lives of writers and artists both famous and obscure. My essay, “Fearless Flyer,” appears in here. It’s my first contribution to a publication that is bound and made of pulp, not pixels. Even more exciting, some of my favorite writers, storytellers, and friends also appear between these covers. I fell in love with Deborah Copaken Kogan’s words in college; I sometimes wonder if Rebecca Woolf (whose insanely gorgeous essay ends the book) and I weren’t separated at birth; Gregory Maguire always enchants me with his stories. Ever since Baratunde Thurston and Sara Barron did the Six-Word reading series I co-produced, I’ve been stuck on their every word. Jennifer Egan and Elizabeth Gilbert (two literary rock stars), also contributed pieces. When I heard Liz Gilbert was contributing a piece, I put Larry Smith, the book’s editor, in touch with my friend/Liz’s sister, the awesome YA writer Catherine Gilbert Murdock, who turned around an essay in no time flat. She’s that good.

“The Moment” also contains pieces from people who aren’t writers by trade, but who are incredible storytellers. Some of my favorite pieces in this book are written by people who are: unemployed, zoologists, still in school, a camp director, and a former trend-forecaster. Everyone has a Moment that changed their lives. What’s yours?

Night At The Library

One of my favorite books of all-time is E.L. Konigsburg’s “From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” I was riveted by the story of a sister and brother who run away from home and life in the Metropolitan Museum of Art AND solve a famous art mystery. I gift this book to little aspiring word/art nerds all the time. I recommend it to adults. I still occasionally dream I’m living in the book.

A month or so ago, I came across a tweet about  spending the night at the New York Public Library, writing a book about 100 items in their permanent collection. I realized if I was ever going to make my childhood dream of living in the “Mixed-Up Files” book happen, it was going to be with this. I watched the video. I applied. They were only taking 500 people, so I promptly forgot about it. Three weeks later, I received an email letting me know I was one of the “chosen ones.”

I showed up at the library last Friday at the appointed time with a backpack full of pens, notepads of all sizes, a sweater, a bottle of water, some snacks, an iPhone charger, and various other items. Even after consulting the private Facebook group for the event, it was clear no one knew what to expect…

We were 500 word nerds locked overnight in one of the most famous libraries in the U.S., running around locating rare objects, touring the infamous library stacks, and causing a sweet ruckus in the main reading room. I realized the only way to describe this event properly was by creating a photo diary of the images I took that night. If you read the lengthy captions, I promise it will feel just like a blog post.

Now that I’m on the other side of it, I can say nothing about that night was ordinary.  We came. We saw. We wrote the book. It is now in the permanent collection of the New York Public Library and all of our names are listed as authors in the library’s catalog. The night was a reminder of how awesome and awe-inspiring working with a group of strangers can be. It was also bittersweet, in that we all recognized how special a library truly is; what it has given and continues to give us as a public institution. It was very likely each one of us in that room had been touched and inspired by books in our local libraries. They were our dealer to the gateway drug of words. It’s only right that we all take a moment and a dollar (or more) to give back, so that other little nerds have a home to feel the same way about books as all of us did and do.

If you’re in New York, you can still play a version of the game we played  in the library (which acted as a prompt to write the book),  by clicking here.

P.S. If this had existed as a “thing” before the 500 of us inaugurated it, you can guarantee it would have been on my life list. 

Apartment Tour – The Living Room

The first room you enter in my apartment is the living room. There’s a little foyer area first, but the double archway makes you feel as if you enter right into the living space. Here’s the view as you walk in the front door*:

*Same as last time, links take you to close-up of images or to item in the store

I do love my living room. Despite some faults (sloping floor, only window is in the corner), it’s a good-sized space.

A look to the right:

A few friends have commented that my living room looks like it was art directed. That’s what 10 years of HGTV, movie sets, and an addiction to Domino Magazine (RIP) does to a girl.

Audrey Hepburn canvas print was a gift from my grandmother (Ikea, $50 No more Audrey, but they have Garbo!). Light over picture is also from Ikea ($4). Couch is Pottery Barn ($1100 with a discount). Yes, pricey, but after two Ikea couches that arrived with smashed wood frames, it was time to upgrade. The PB Comfort line lives up to its name and beyond. Fun fact: Pottery Barn couches are manufactured by the same company as the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sofa. Essentially, you’re getting the same quality couch for about half the price. Mirror is a hand-me-down from my sister (Ikea, $99). Throw pillows on my couch were pilfered from my parent’s basement, but solid blue velveteen pillow covers from Pottery Barn (sale, $10 ea). Patterned blue silk pillows Tracy Porter (I stalked them for a year till they went on sale from $150 ea to $35 ea). Rug is also Pottery Barn ($250, but got it on sale for $195). I had this rug in blue first, but it shed unbelievably. This one is a chenille and jute mix, so it’s flat enough for the wheels on my ottoman, but comfortable enough for floor seating and does not shed.

Opposite the couch is my TV area/cookbook shelves and my Christmas tree(!):

Vizio TV is from Costco ($200!!), as is Sony DVD/VHS player left over from my days at the Rachael Ray Show (free with work reimbursement). Roku (little black box) is most genius invention ever ($50). Black storage shelving thing is actually an Ikea bookcase turned on its side ($70). Here are a few close up shots of the items on the shelves. Pottery on shelves is from Jonathan Adler’s Utopia collection, all gifted from friends and family. I love J.A.

Reverse view:

Chair is from Ikea ($349) but I scored it at a set sale for $100 and bought the white slipcover for it (Ikea, $29). Pillow on chair is from Home Goods ($12). Photos on wall are from my travels. Frames are Ikea. Here’s a close up of the pictures. I’m slightly obsessed with my ottoman/coffee table. I spent four years searching for the perfect one. In New York, you never know if your next apartment will be bigger or smaller, so all the furniture I own was bought with the thought it might one day need to perform double duty as something else, or it was snagged from my parent’s basement where it could easily be returned. The ottoman doubles as a coffee table, additional seating and storage. Apart from the couch, it’s the most expensive purchase in my apartment. It’s a custom piece from Ballard Designs ($420, with coupon). It took me a year to work up the courage to spend that much money on something design-related, but it was worth every penny. Watch how beautifully it closes! I told you, obsessed! The chandelier is also from Pottery Barn ($275, with friends & family discount). Another purchase that took me a year. It also took me three hours to screw all of those crystals in each arm. In the end, I think the chandelier makes the room.

This is my primary workspace. My parents brought home this desk from an estate sale when I was 11 years old. They bought it for my sister’s room, but I had my eye on it from day one and was determined to make it mine. When they were striping and painting it, they came across a folded piece of paper, it was a limerick about the desk from “Herman the Poet.” We, of course, saved the poem.

The only thing I did to this desk was swap out the drawer pulls on the three drawers (not pictured) with glass ones from Anthropologie ($12, ea). I don’t recommend the ones I purchased if you have drawers that stick, as they break easily. I scored the mirror from the “It’s Complicated” set sale ($40, incredibly heavy to haul back from Brooklyn). Candles from Aedes De Venustas (stupidly expensive habit; $60 ea — but cheaper & less harmful than cocaine!); “Writing” postcard is from John Derian ($1.50); wooden hand (Lee’s Art Shop, $5) The hand holds one of my favorite quotes, from the film director Sally Potter: “Every long journey starts with a practical step.” So true, Sally, so true. Oh, and the Stephen Sondheim autograph = free (but PRICELESS!) as is the framed index card from Lynda Barry. Not pictured here: Ergonomic chair from situpstraightforcheap.com or something ($120).

As you see from my desk and under TV shelf area, I like to create little tableaux whenever possible. It’s hard to do in a small space, but wherever I can group things together in a nice or surprising way, I do. One example is on the other side of my couch at the base of the full-length mirror:

I originally intended for the birdcage (Etsy, $40) to be turned upside down and used to cover an ugly light fixture in my bathroom, but it might hang a little low in there, so I placed it here for now. The soft jute basket (West Elm, $39) holds my collect of Domino magazines and some plays. I placed the framed vintage program (free, from the Maysles!) from the Paris Theatre premiere of Grey Gardens back in 1976. It felt fitting to pair with the birdcage. By the way, it took two years to find the exact soft jute basket I wanted. Two years. I am aware of my craziness. Blue throw blanket on sofa is from Pottery Barn (discontinued; was on sale, softest blanket ever, $25).

Lastly, I’ll take you back to the corner where the couch and chair meet and cuddle up to my end table. Another find in my parent’s basement (free!). It was originally red, but I painted over it with a flat black. I don’t recommend flat black paint. It attracts every speck of dust in the room. The lamp base is from Target (on clearance for $11!) and I scored the Restoration Hardware silk lampshade from the “Lipstick Jungle” set sale for $15. The wooden frame (free) is the companion piece to my “It’s Complicated” mirror, also from the set sale. Message in the frame is priceless & hilarious. Close up pic here. And yes, it’s from that Meryl.

This room was put together over the course of six years. The only item I paid full price for was my Ikea shelving. Oh, and a filing cabinet from Target, which isn’t pictured (on sale for $110). If you’re in need of decor guidance, here are some tips to making your place look “art directed”:

  • If you’re low on cash but want to pull a room together, start with your parent’s basement and some paint
  • Stick with neutral colors (I chose white & black) then pull in a rug, pillow covers, and a throw in a color. These items can be easily swapped out, so there isn’t too much of a color commitment
  • With neutral colors, it’s important to remember to layer textures for added dimension
  • Candles are cheap (just not mine) and help set a cozy mood and add a nice glow
  • Books make a room feel homey and lived-in. Color code them for added dimension and design humor
  • Dimmers for lights are super cheap (I got mine for $10) and they completely change the look of room or can tone down a bad paint job/color
  • Frames are also inexpensive. Take your own photographs, if you don’t think you’re good, grab something you like off of Flickr and blow it up for about $4/print. In my hallway I have a framed cover from French Vogue that I’ve hung in every place I’ve lived since Junior year of college. Ironically, I recently read an interview with photographer Bruce Weber, who, when asked if he could own any photograph in the world what would he own, described that same image, but couldn’t recall where he had seen it (the answer hangs on my wall!)
  • Rip pictures out of magazines; frame and hang them artfully on your walls. For added interest, swap them out with when the seasons change
  • Create little tableaux
  • get basics from Ikea
  • Re-cover hand-me-downs
  • If you have a lot of stuff, keep it neat. Throw extra cords and office supplies in color-coded or front-labeled boxes
  • DON’T: display layers of pictures or tack things directly to the wall. It’s, uh, tacky
  • Lastly, WAIT. If you can’t find it right away or can’t afford it right away, wait until you find the right thing or the price drops. Patience is everything.

P.S. If you have a challenge in the room, like I do with my corner window, find the positive in it and work with that. I needed light. My window (sort of) provides me with some light, but I look almost directly into my neighbor’s living room and a corner window is just so awful. I bought the paper shade at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $30. It diffuses the light and is thick enough that I can’t see my neighbors. I also hung two thin, white panel curtains I first saw in Domino Magazine used to remedy a similar problem (from Ikea, $16 for set of 2) to finish the look & draw your eye up to the height of the room. I left the curtain bottoms un-hemmed, they hide my computer cord, power strip, and modem behind the billowing bottoms.

The apartment tour will conclude on Tuesday with the bathroom and bedroom. Stay tuned!