Sunday, September 30, 2007

"Bust" excerpts "Prairie Girl" in current issue

Check out page 25 of the October/November issue of Bust to learn how to make your very own rag rug, one of the 50 skills featured in The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Mystery of Massacre Bay

I just got back from Orcas Island with three of my closest friends. We had a marvelous time, tide pooling, spotting otters and blue jays, obsessing over the vivid purple and orange starfish we spied everywhere, hot-tubbing, and willingly falling into carb comas. Jared and I rowed across Massacre Bay to a deserted island we dubbed Skull Island. We roamed all over it, and I channeled my inner Nancy Drew when I found a bit of cloth rolled up in a tree with the cryptic message, "Go to the hobo shack." Let me tell you, Jared and I investigated that island and there was no hobo shack. We were duped!

I didn't mind. As soon as Jared rowed me back to our happily situated rental cottage, Sacha and I drove into town for the farmers' market, where I bought a natural headache remedy, a t-shirt, and some strange but delicious-looking vegetables (lemon cucumbers?). We snacked on fried oysters.

I was in heaven. When we got back to Blackberry Cottage, Alison and I jumped in the hot tub, which overlooked the bay. Later, after dinner and a viewing of Heathers, Jared and I stargazed from the dock, our bellies full of grilled salmon.


I love to be a Backcountry Betty and a Prairie Girl every chance I get and this week allowed me to be a bit of both. I eschewed the makeup, embraced fleece and a bare face, built a fire, talked with locals, looked for wildlife, and learned to love the silence. And I completely forgot about Rock of Love, Britney's meltdown, and things that don't matter.

When I got back to the mainland, I was reminded of it all. But I have the memories of peace, laughter, food, and otters to counteract the white noise. Never underestimate the power of an otter.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

There's no such thing as bad publicity

At least, that's what my former colleague and publicity director Justin Loeber used to tell me when one of our company's books got a less-than-stellar review. The word is getting out there, that's the important thing.

I am trying to keep that in mind after a disappointing profile was published today in Seattle Weekly. The good news is that it's a lengthy article, complete with professional portrait. The bad news is that the reporter just didn't get me, or at least get the whole me.

He didn't say anything technically wrong or untrue. But I don't think he hit the mark that is, uh, me. First of all, let me just say that I love reading. I love fiction, I admire writers of all genres, be it J.D. Salinger, David Sedaris, Malcolm Gladwell, Ian McEwan, or Amy Bloom (who's latest book, Away, is terrific, by the way).

I also love what I do and I am constantly challenging myself as a writer. I think there's absolutely a place for well-written how-to books. The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life and Backcountry Betty are both substantial books, chock-full of skills, crafts, cooking, and information. War and Peace they are not. But they aren't supposed to be. Tolstoy created a fictional masterpiece, but did he give instructions on how to knit, quilt, cure meat, or deal with dangerous animals in the wilderness? I didn't think so.

My next project is a memoir and it's proving as gut-wrenching as I imagine any fiction writing may be. I may have published a lot of books but believe me, none of them have come easy. The schedules for Prairie and Betty overlapped and had distinctly different voices. Prairie ended up around 45,00o words, Betty at 35,000—80,000 words in total written in a six-month period. I can't compare it to other writers' output (I suspect Stephen King would leave me in the dust) but this was a Herculean task for me, one I'm incredibly proud of.

One more note: I adore Richard Simmons. I admire his ability to connect with his audience and to have done it successfully for decades. He is a proven brand and there's a lot to learn from him. My reference to J.D. Salinger during the interview was in regards to his reclusiveness. I think it's extremely difficult to be a successful writer and a hermit. There's too much emphasis on sales and the marketplace. I didn't create the world I do business in, but I'm learning to navigate through it. Publicity and public speaking do not come naturally to me. I feel nauseous every time I step in front of a mic, but I do it to support the books that mean so much to me and took so much care and effort to conceive and write.

That's part of my job. And being an author is a job, one that I find incredibly satisfying and challenging.

Read the original article (photo by Steven Dewall for Seattle Weekly)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Do the Puyallup

I headed down to the Puyallup Fair last night and had a blast. Was there any doubt? I sampled the fair's specialties: hamburgers with grilled onions (the stand I went to goes through 7 1/2 tons of beef and 10 tons of grilled onions during the fair) and scones with raspberry jam. I hit the livestock and craft barns, checking out handmade Kleenex boxes and intricate produce arrangements. I talked with a beekeeper and learned all about the benefits of raw honey. I was so busy having fun (and buying locally spun yarn) that I didn't even miss the nausea-inducing Zipper and Matterhorn rides.

But the most interesting thing was talking with people. From the beekeeper to a mom knitting a hat next to her daughter's sheep entry (a bit ironic, I think) to a belly dancer who knits, everyone was happy to chat. Everyone was nice. And when I left with my baker's dozen of scones, I wondered if I could somehow make it back before the Puyallup ends this weekend.

It's because of events like the Puyallup and the people who love it that I wrote The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life. You can have a small-town experience in the biggest of cities. You just need to slow your pace a bit.

"You can do it at a run, you can do it at a gallop, you can do it real slow, so your heart doesn't pal-pi-TATE, just don't be late, do the Puyallup."

The Puyallup Fair runs until September 23rd. Check out more of my fair photos.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sugar & Swank

Through my involvement with Ladies Who Launch, I've met some wonderful and motivated women. I have a girl crush on Jen Muscatel, who does a little bit of all things glam and girly through her business, Sugar & Swank. She custom blends mineral makeup, she cleans out your closet and shops for you (even on a budget), creates invitations and gift bags, and she throws sassy parties to boot!

On that note, Jen is hosting an evening for the two of us on October 3rd. If you're a gal and in the Seattle area, we'd love to see you. Here are the details:

Sugar & Swank is excited to invite you to spend the evening of October 3rd with Jennifer Worick, New York Times Bestselling Author and Contributing Editor for

Jennifer writes books that make us more well-rounded women and has been reporting on the latest and greatest in the beauty industry for years.

Take advantage of this special opportunity to meet Jennifer and get the inside scoop—straight from the source—on the most secret of all beauty tips.

Preview Sugar & Swank’s brand-new line of fall make-up colors as well, while munching and sipping on delicious goodies.

Expect an interactive evening where you’ll be able to explore new tricks of the trade and even share your own insider beauty secrets.

Wednesday, October 3rd, 7 pm
3418 77th Place SE, Mercer Island, WA
All are welcome, so please invite friends!
RSVP by September 28th at or 206-351-3213

Learn more about Sugar & Swank.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Affairs of the Art

As an author, I don't usually get to pick the illustrator for my book projects. In the case of Backcountry Betty, that didn't matter. The publisher hired Kate Quinby to create the cover art and spot illustrations for the interior and she was, well, spot on. I was tickled to see her illustrations of owls, raccoons, and Betty herself, tricking herself out for the trail, bathing in a lake, or creating a mud mask out of dirt. And her cover art looks like Nancy Drew getting ready to hunt down some nefarious hikers on the Pacific Coast Trail. If you know me, you'll know just how obsessed I am with this illustration. I can't say enough about how lovely both Kate and her art are. She just headed to RISD for her master's but she's still freelancing and designing a line of illustrated onesies, perfect for the sassy baby. Check out more of her work here.

Monday, September 10, 2007


I saw a woman in a lavender gingham dress, replete with a stiff crinoline beneath her skirt, at a doughnut shop today. I do not exaggerate. Prairie chic is hitting the streets!

Photo finish

I had my portrait taken a couple of days ago for an upcoming story in the local weekly (more on that when the issue hits the stands). I was nervous about the shoot and all sorts of insecurities about my appearance surfaced. How could I appear thin, attractive, and professional all at once, when I usually only feel one out of three of these qualities at any given time?

So I asked my friends and colleagues for tips. Stacya said, "Don't let him photograph you from the ground up. That's not a good angle for anyone." Kerry advised, "Neck up, chin down, face turned slightly away from the camera." I think Mariah Carey lives by that one.

Then there's Tyra. An ANTM junkie, I live for panel when she gives an impromptu lesson in the art of modeling. "There's a way to look like a corpse and still have fire in your eyes. It's the difference between this (she stares off blankly) and THIS (she narrows her eyes and they spring to life). Do you see the difference?"

I was determined not to be a lifeless corpse (which, in the world of Tyra Banks, is not redundant).

The photographer told me to wear black, white, or grey clothing, so I reached for my black go-to sweater, the one that makes my decolletage rock in the most tasteful yet spicy of ways. When I've done television interviews before, I've always been told to wear bright, solid colors so I invariably find myself in the Point of View department at Nordstrom looking for some Classiques separate that will find itself at the bottom of the sweater pile in short order.

On the day of the shoot, I artfully made up my face, pulling out the shadows and liners and concealers that I normally forego. I painstakingly blew out my hair so it was smooth and shiny.

When I got to the studio, I made sure to take a few minutes to powder my nose and comb my hair, checking for visible bra straps and lint. I was armed with a lint brush, makeup kit, hairbrush, hairspray, and even some nail polish for touch ups. I learned my lesson after my disastrous high school senior picture. I was a hick with aspirations of grandeur. I didn't know that there would be a dressing room/bathroom where I could plug in my curling iron and check out or change up my makeup. I didn't know I could take my time. I just brought a sweater to change into. Consequently, my hair looked like ass, my face was shiny, and I didn't know how to pose. You can imagine the results.

So when the photographer popped in a Morphine CD to get me in the mood and I stepped in front of the lights and camera, I channeled my best ANTM pose, straightened my back, lowered my chin, and saucily looked at the lens out of the corner of my eye. I was fierce, y'all.

I haven't seen the results but I suspect I'll make it to the next round.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Living your brand

During my travels today, I found myself on the Skytrain at DFW. At one of the C stops, a man climbed aboard who looked like the spitting image of Santa Claus (without the red suit, as it was 90 degrees in Dallas). I marveled at his snowy beard and waxed curlicued mustache. And then I heard him talking on his cell phone, telling a colleague about an art show he had just participated in. He had received a commission to create an African-American Santa sculpture.

At this point, I realized the guy was brilliant.

He was living his brand, his business. On a smaller scale, he's sort of like Gwen Stefani, who I was had just been reading about in InStyle. She simultaneously came out with an album and clothing line with the name LAMB (Love Angel Music Baby). This fall, she's launching L, a perfume. Like my Skytrain Santa, she understands branding, and this is what I'm struggling with.

With so many interests and varied book ideas, I've been having a hard time coming up with the concept or phrase that defines me and my work. I'm thrilled about my books coming out this fall but I don't know if I can really bring myself to wear petticoats and gingham dresses every day to promote The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life. It just isn't always practical.

But after seeing Skytrain Santa, I'm considering it.

If you've got any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Best. Baked. Beans. Ever.

With Labor Day looming, I reach for my mom's tried-and-true baked beans recipe when bringing a dish to a cookout. With a pound of brown sugar, they are a guaranteed crowd pleaser. I like to think of them as savory candy and with a scoop of these baked beans on your plate, your dessert is taken care of as well (unless of course, someone brought pie).

Preheat oven to 300°F.

  • 1 One-pound box of dark brown sugar
  • 6–8 strips of bacon, fried and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Approximately 4 pounds of Bush's Baked Beans (I use the Original or Homestyle variety and drain most of the liquid out of the cans before adding to the mix)

Mix the above ingredients together in a glass cooking dish or metal pan (a cake pan works well). Bake at 300°F for 3 hours, or until the liquid cooks down and sort of caramelizes the beans. A low, slow oven is the secret to perfect baked beans.

I just hope there is some Polish sausage at today's barbeque to go with the beans. That's my idea of a perfect meal.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Smells like football...

It's a gorgeous breezy day here in Seattle and it just feels like football weather. I can sense the change in the season and I always love the shift into fall. I think of changing leaves, homecoming, the smell of a wood fire and sharpened pencils, and roadtrips into the country.

I don't think about Appalachian State beating my Michigan Wolverines.

Goodbye #5 ranking, hello b-list bowl game. I think I'll go back to reading the Fall fashion preview issue of Vogue and watching the America's Next Top Model marathon on MTV. There are other delights to be had in the autumn months.

A sampling of my books