Thursday, July 26, 2012

Moving on up…to

It's been years in the making, but the new iteration of is live. It's the hub for all things me: my latest books and aritcles, upcoming events, and press. And I'll be moving my "word" blogging there in an attempt to wrangle my writing in a centralized location.

But not to worry: I'll still snark it up at Things I Want to Punch in the Face and let you know about all our publishing consulting offerings at The Business of Books.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blogversation: What is the one thing in life that you still most want to do?

Throughout this year, several bloggers will engage in a conversation at Newvine Growing and on their blogs—asking questions of each other and responding. Others are absolutely welcome to join the conversation as well. Learn more about the ladies of Blogversation 2012.

This week was my turn to pose a question. So I asked: What is the one thing in life that you still most want to do?

In other words, what’s the number-one thing on your bucket list? I’m not a fan of the term “bucket list,” but I recently recorded a podcast with Matt Paxton, the breakout clutter cleaner on Hoarders. We got to talking about a random assortment of topics, the way the best late-night chats tend to, and touched on bucket lists.
Now, I’ve posted about bucket lists on my blog, Things I Want to Punch in the Face, so you can probably imagine I’m not the biggest fan of them. However, it did get me thinking about the thing or things I’d regret not doing if I were to croak tomorrow.
My immediate answer was travel. I’m in my forties but I haven’t gotten out of North America much. I’ve been to England and France, but those trips to Greece, Italy, Thailand, Egypt, Mauritius remain on my “to do” list and never seem to materialize. My excuses are run of the mill: I can’t afford it or I can’t afford to take the time.
But beyond eating, praying, and loving my way around the globe, what I’d really regret is not finishing my memoir. It seems as if I’ve been working on and off on this for years and in fact, I recently found some writing from my early twenties that touched on this. So we’re talking 20 years I’ve been skirting and sniffing around this project without diving in and finishing it. Oh, I’ve worked on it. But again, money and time seem to rear their ugly heads. It’s hard to create a schedule that gives this room to breathe and develop and take shape. And I do need time for it. It’s much more emotionally demanding that anything I’ve ever done, writing or otherwise. It takes me to a dark place that’s hard to stay in when there are bills to be paid and life to be lived. So I’m moving back into a place where I can and will write something—anything—for the book each day. I may not be traveling soon but I am moving forward.
What's number one on your bucket list?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blogversation: What do you want from your hometown?

Throughout this year, several bloggers will engage in a conversation at Newvine Growing and on their blogs—asking questions of each other and responding. Others are absolutely welcome to join the conversation, as well. Learn more about the ladies of Blogversation 2012.

So I the short answer for this week's question, What do you want from your homeown?, is simple: Sunshine.

I live in Seattle, see? For the past couple of years, rain has been a reality, not just a myth. For the most part, I don't notice it. I work at home a lot of the time and don't have to deal with messy commutes and frizzy hair. But it can wear on a person. I have some friends who relocated here and have had a hard time with it. They are built for serious summer heat and can't wrap their minds around the fact that summer doesn't kick into gear until well after the Fourth of July.

They also can't stand the passive-aggressiveness. I get that. But I choose to ignore it. I come from the Midwest and see friendly wherever I go. I moved to Seattle seven years ago and have built an enormous social circle here. So like the rain, I just pay the wussy and the lame no heed. 

Well, most of the time. I was soaking in a tub at a naked Korean bathhouse with a friend when a woman paddled over to us and asked, "Do you know how to whisper?"

I was quickly filled with rage. "Are you ASKING us to whisper?" Seriously, just ask us to pipe down. 

So I don't ask much of my city, because it already gives so much to me in sheer beauty and pine-scented air. But, for the love of God, people, please just give it to me straight. I can handle it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Blogversation 2012: How do you prefer to communicate?

Throughout this year, several bloggers will engage in a conversation at Newvine Growing and on their blogs — asking questions of each other and responding. Others are absolutely welcome to join the conversation, as well. Learn more about the ladies of Blogversation 2012.

This week, the question, posed by Colleen Newvine Tebeau herself, concerns modern communication. I just thought yesterday that I needed to blog about a podcast I was on, two words that weren't part of my vernacular ten years ago. And then I started thinking about e-mail, texts, and mobile phones and how many young people today will never know the joy of finally getting access to the home phone and then getting your best friend or a crush on the other end. There was commitment involved with communication. 

Today we get "Call me maybe." 

So how do I use technology? In every way, shape, and form. As I write this, I just wrapped a hands-free cell phone call with mom as I drove home (which I dialed via Siri), I have a man Skyping me, a friend IM-ing me on Facebook, and random texts showing up on my smart phone.

You'd think I'd want to claw my face off.

However, the truth is, like a frog introduced to a pot of water, I've warmed up to technology as it's infiltrated my personal and professional life. I have many friends in different time zones and it's such a pleasure to instant message with a friend volunteering at an African baboon shelter (and a relief to know she's okay!) or bond on Facebook over Downton Abbey with a brother who I've been previously out of touch with. 

Sure, I used to think it weird that some friends only liked to communicate via text or e-mail. I'd leave a voicemail and without fail, they'd get in touch two days later…via e-mail. Now, I'm sometimes one of those cuckaloos. It may be inconvenient to talk or frankly, I know it will just take up more time than I have to spare. So I welcome technology because it allows me to communicate in new ways and it allows me to pair the technology to the occasion. Quick work question? E-mail with high importance tag. Interview with someone across the country? Skype video call with a headset. Chat with a friend? Facebook IM while I'm watching aforementioned Downton Abbey.


5 Decisions Away with Matt Paxton Podcast

Let's be honest: I stalked Matt Paxton.

It wasn't hard, actually. I quickly zeroed in on him during the first season of Hoarders. His humor, empathy and take-no-shit-while-actually-shoveling-shit attitude quickly won me and a lot of other viewers over.

I wanted to write a book with him, so I e-mailed him. We were on the phone two days later. He already was working with a coauthor on what would become The Secret Lives of Hoarders, but we kept in touch. Not only is he frank and funny, he's been generous in advising me in various business opportunities and ventures and in commiserating with me over what it means to live the dream.

So when he came to Seattle last week to film an episode of Hoarders for Season 5, I jumped at the chance to meet him and be a guest on his killer podcast, 5 Decisions Away.

It did not disappoint.

We sat in his suite at the Residence Inn, bellies full of beer and fish and chips (when in Seattle, go to the Lockspot for salmon and chips—trust me on this one). And we talked…and talked…you get the idea. 

I don't think two hours went by that fast since I saw Deathly Hallows 2. And it was just as exhilarating as seeing Voldemort finally take that pesky Elder Wand up the arse (metaphorically speaking, natch). I don't know about you but great conversation jazzes me. In the podcast, Matt and I cover everything from being present to getting published to yes, all the various things I want to punch in the face. Matt is not one of them.

5 Decisions Away is available on iTunes. I'm in episode #35: Word. I encourage you to check out his other episodes as well. He really is a hilarious dude, with great anecdotes and a big heart. His mantra of never give up, coupled with his personal trials and tribulations and triumphs, will win you over in short order. He uses hoarding as a launching pad into a much bigger discussion about life, love, and the pursuit of a good raunchy belly laugh.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blogversation: New Year’s Resolutions

I pretty much turn a blind eye to New Year’s Eve (see my post over at TIWTPITF as to why) but I do like to use the New Year to assess where I am in life, even if I don’t make official resolutions.

This year, I was invited to a party where we would create vision boards. Now, I usually poo poo the woo woo, but I’ve been working hard to change some of my behavior and thinking. I have worked with a leadership coach for six years so I’m constantly thinking about change and vision. But I often keep things to myself, afraid to say out loud what I want for my life, for fear of appearing weak or incomplete or silly. Clearly, I haven’t been working “The Secret.”

So I'm outing myself. This year, I’m resolving to work on relationships. Romantic relationships, that is. I’m 43, single, never been married. I want to change that. I want to create space so I can let in an amazing man and build an even more abundant, joyful life together. So instead of making a resolution to lose five pounds or work out more or spend less or do this or not do that, I’m working to be open and vulnerable. I’m resolving to let love in, to love myself, to let myself be loved. I think that resolution sort of covers it all.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why do I blog?

I’m excited to have been asked to join the Blogversation, an online conversation with insightful, talented writers, initiated and moderated by Colleen Newvine Tebeau, a force of nature, writer, and fellow Michigander. I secretly aspire to be like her when I grow up.

So here’s the deal. Each week, Colleen or another blogger will pose a question to the group and we’ll all jump into the conversational mix. This week, Colleen kicks things off by asking, “How and why did you become a blogger?”

I wish I had some great story that involved inspiration or an epiphany or some sort of movie moment. The truth is that I started blogging as a business strategy.

I may have started blogging out of a need to market myself, but I’ve continued to do it for more personal, complicated, varied reasons. I initially called my blog Prairie Tales, to complement my book, The Prairie Girl’s Guide to Life. I wanted to discuss the inspiration behind my books, my struggles of being a farm girl turned city slicker, and whatever blew my skirt up.

And let’s face it. I wanted to show off. My writing and my wit, to be exact. But something wonderful happened along the way. I may have already had a voice, but blogging honed it. I discovered things about myself. I was able to showcase not only myself, but the amazing things that my friends and family were up to. And best of all, I tapped into a community, created a whole new circle in the Venn diagram of my life. I am educated, entertained, and inspired by a whole passel of like-minded folks. I started another blog, a snarky piece of work called Things I Want to Punch in the Face, for things that chap my hide on a daily basis, and found more of my peeps. I am tickled beyond belief by the comments from my punchy readers, and the immediacy of the feedback is something I could never get from my books or magazine articles. I earn no money from these blogs, but they feed me in other ways.

I started to blog for my business, but I continue to blog because it feeds my spirit.

How and why did YOU become a blogger?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Apple: A Love Story

My first glimpse of a Macintosh was in my theology teacher’s classroom. 

“You can type up your graduation speech on this,” Mr. Reyes said, as I eyeballed the strange box. “That way, you can make corrections or changes to it.”

In 1986, this seemed like magic.

And the Mac Plus sitting on my hippy-dippy teacher’s desk looked crazy cute. I mean, it even had a handle! I couldn’t resist. I’m sure there were some glitches as I learned how to cut and paste, drag the cursor over text, and use a mouse. I don’t remember any of that.

I just remember I was hooked, what you would call an "early adopter" in today's tech terminology. And when I moved onto a Big 10 university, I was giddy to discover that all the newly created computer labs sprinkled around campus were tricked out with rows and rows of Mac Pluses and Mac SEs. If my eyesight was bad, it went to shit staring at those tiny screens at 2am. But I didn’t care. In fact, I loved it.

By my senior year, I had become editor of the college yearbook and decided to fire our yearbook publisher and take our $100,000 account to Jostens because they promised that we could produce the pages using Pagemaker, a few Macs, and a bunch of 3 ½-inch disks. I still can't bear to crack open the finished product because of all the mistakes up in there, but I am proud that I jumped into the world of desktop publishing feet first.

I didn’t stop there. While Steve Jobs was off working at NeXT, I entered the workforce, getting a job at a small design and production company in Fairfax, Virginia. One of our biggest clients was the National Association of Postmasters of the U.S. (or NAPUS). Every year my boss would handle all its convention planning, including creating a daily newsletter on site. I persuaded Ray to take me with him to the NAPUS national convention in Niagara Falls that year, promising I could edit and lay out the newsletter every day on an SE. It must have worked out okay, because I attended two more conventions before moving on, armed with crack editing and typesetting skills.

In every place I’ve worked since, the computer platform has been Mac, which was normally a dream. Whenever I’ve visited my parents, however, I’ve had to hobble my way through the Windows PC up in spare bedroom-turned-computer room. Right click, what?

And now I’m doing a part-time gig with Microsoft. They supplied me with a laptop—a PC—and I’ve had to learn the logic behind Windows OS, as well as the shortcuts that seem like second nature to my coworkers. But I’ve taught them a few things too, because using a Mac has made me nimble. Some say Apple computers are easier to use, that you can see everything and click on whatever you want or need. That’s true. But there are the secret handshakes, the hidden staircases, the key commands, and typesetting shortcuts that have been in place from the beginning that make me feel as if I’m part of the cool-kids club. Maybe knowing how to make an em-dash or smart quote doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things, but it—as surely as using a Mac for 20-plus years—has shaped how I approach my work and how I regard myself. My professional and personal identity has been colored with the crisp white world of Apple.

And for that, Steve Jobs, I thank you.

(photo: The Michiganensian's sports editor with one of the Mac SEs we were using for editing and design.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 cool books for hot days

This week I tackle books that will help you chill out even if the mercury is climbing. What cold-climate book do you love?

10 cool books for hot days

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

10 books you really should have read in high school

10 books you really should have read in high school

Check out my latest piece on, where I detail the 10 books I devoured in school that I think merit a reread. What book do you recommend revisiting as an adult?

A sampling of my books