Tag Archives: writing

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.

BUT

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?

Life List #71

If you check out my life list, you’ll see it’s a work (life) in-progress. #71, Return to the Santa Ynez to walk in the fields and write, was one of those Lift List goals that snuck up on me and that’s part of what made it so enjoyable.

Last month, I traveled to California for an extended period of time to see friends, meet babies, and work from a different location (as lovely as my apartment/workspace is, sometimes I need a change of scenery). During that trip, I visited a friend in Santa Barbara — a place I had only been once before, where I fell in love with and vowed to return to the Santa Ynez mountains.

Since I had a few work days to kill before my friend and I went on an adventure to Hearst Castle, I decided to spend those days writing up in the mountains. At 9am every morning, I made the 30(ish) minute trek up through the gorgeous mountains and settled on the deck of  Corner House Coffee, in Los Olivos. While I typed away on my laptop, I watched the citizens of this small town come in for their morning coffee, stop in for a muffin or a lunch time sandwich or meet up with a spouse after their work day. I heard their local gossip, learned about new construction underway, and pet a few adorable dogs.

During my lunch breaks, I shut my laptop, got into my rental car, and drove around aimlessly through the mountains, marveling as their peaks changed from purple to green and taupe. There were times where I’d comment out loud to myself how it didn’t look real. When you daily commute consists of pavements and subway tunnels, winding roads and expansive views that look as if they were painted with watercolors makes it harder for an urban brain to absorb. It almost makes you feel giddy. Since I was already in a state of euphoria (or maybe it was the altitude), I would follow whatever small sign struck my fancy. One day it was “Lavender Farm, keep right.” Another day “Miniature Donkeys for Sale + Petting Zoo.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I turned down long driveways and was greeted with the smell of fresh lavender or manure. I bought linen spray and almost walked away with a miniature donkey. I walked through an olive grove, picked a few olives off a tree, and absently put them in my pocket — where I rediscovered them a few weeks ago, shriveled and hard as rocks, but they made me smile. I’ll keep them in that jacket to remind me that I took a risk, went off the beaten path, turned off the GPS, didn’t follow Mapquested directions or my hour-by-hour itinerary and just drove — only turning when I encountered small hand-painted signs to destinations that sounded interesting. This freedom from schedule, even from knowing where I was, was exhilarating.

After my lunch break adventures, I went back to the coffee-house and moved indoors, where it was warmer and I could plug-in my laptop. From there, I’d lose myself in World War I and lost romance while the milk steamer hissed and the baristas chatted with each other during their downtime. When the local school children started pouring in and ordering frappes, I emailed my collaborator my rewrites, turned off my computer, and prepared for the trek back down to Santa Barbara. I wrote (and rewrote) two scenes during those days in the Santa Ynez and, not surprisingly, they are my favorite moments in our musical. I’d like to think I first recognized a magic in those mountains that provoked me to add #71 to my Life List — something that lead me to include  the words “and write.” An instinct of sorts. Maybe even a connection to nature. Whatever it was, I’m so happy I listened to it, took advantage of my days there, and had the opportunity to be inspired by such a breathtakingly beautiful region.

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.