Archives for December 2009

My 2009 Review – Part 2

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Duh. . . More Than A Feeling. It’s obviously not a song from 2009, but Boston is my main character’s favorite band, and that song was my happy dance song all year.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?
b) thinner or fatter?
c) richer or poorer?

a) The Intern wrote this amazing post about how you’re pretty much just as happy as you’re ever going to be, and I think to some extent that is very true. But I think if the same fun with contractors experience had happened last year, it probably would have reduced me to a big blubbering mess. Stronger, is probably the word I’d use. And I’m certainly happy about lots and lots of things.

b) Thinner. I probably weigh about the same, but I went down several sizes. I’ve focused a lot on building muscle this year. I’m trying to make it all about health, stamina, and energy. I haven’t weighed myself in about 6 months. I’ve done the whole weight obsession thing in the past and I don’t want to anymore.

c) I think there would be a lot of variables involved in figuring that one out. We’re playing catch up on things (like the bathroom) that have needed fixing for awhile, and absolutely could not be put off for another moment. And, unfortunately, we’ll have to do more of that next year too. Home ownership is a blast, huh?

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Spending time with friends. Hiking & backpacking.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Stress out about things I can’t control.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With J, watching the extended versions of The Lord of The Rings trilogy, playing Othello, and doing our best to relax amidst the drywall dust.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?

I fell years ago, but I’m amazed how love can mature and deepen.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

MI-5 (or Spooks, as it’s called in the UK). Hands down, favorite this year. The new Doctor Who series was a close second. I really like watching shows that are very different from what I write, because it feels like a complete and total break.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Well, hate is a really strong word. . . but see #13

24. What was the best book you read?

Oh, don’t make me answer this! That’s like asking me which dog I like better, or which of my Ladies is prettier. I will say that This Is Where I Leave You made me laugh so hard that J thought I might be having a mental episode.

I don’t normally read sci fi/fantasy much, but I picked up Nicole Peeler’s book, Tempest Rising, because we have the same agent, and could not put it down. I was totally blown away by her humor and the depth of her creativity and imagination. It’s one thing to write a story in the parameters of the world we all live in, it’s something else entirely to make up new parameters. Amazing. And the best news? It’s a series! So there will be more on the horizon.

And, I think everyone should read Hold Love Strong, and not just because Matthew Aaron Goodman and I went to high school together, but because I think it’s a moving and important book. Also, if you get a chance to see Matthew speak, go. He has an amazing and inspiring story about how he came to write this book and how he struggled to get it published.

I could go on and on and on and on. If you’re interested in what I’ve been reading, feel free to friend me on Goodreads. I’d love to know what’s on your bookshelf.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Bob Schneider wasn’t a new discovery for me, but Lovely Creatures came out this year, and was the perfect inspiration music for my next writing project.

26. What did you want and get?
A fence.

27. What did you want and not get?

A bathroom. But I think, maybe, hopefully, don’t want to jinx it too much, it will be done shortly after the new year.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

I just saw Kings of California. I know it didn’t come out this year, but I saw it a few weeks ago. It was a strange film, and not a perfect one, but I can’t get it out of my head. I liked spending time with those characters. Oh! And I really loved Penelope. Again, just a recent viewing, not a recent film, but it was beautiful.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

32, and I don’t remember. I find this amazing, absolute joy in the ins and outs of everyday life, and I’m not super big on celebrating birthdays or holidays, because they mess with the flow.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A finished bathroom. :) Do I sound like a broken record?

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

Um. . .Make sure what’s supposed to be covered is covered. When it’s cold, put a sweater on.

32. What kept you sane?
J, my dogs, my friends, my agent, blogs, gluten-free Rice Chex, coffee.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I wouldn’t say fancy, but I turned into a complete and total dork when I met Jonathan Tropper.

Oh, and have I ever mentioned my odd fascination with Wolfgang Puck?

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Well, there’s that whole environment thing. . .

35. Who did you miss?
Most of the people I love the most don’t live all that close, so I spend a lot of time missing people.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
You. :)

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
I’ve been learning to take risks, dream big, take inventory of my successes and move on from my failures. I’ve also been learning the importance of really and truly taking care of myself.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“There’s a werewolf out on my front lawn and he’s looking pissed off and he’s wet from all the rain. I think I’ll go say hi, and offer him a beer.”

No, that doesn’t sum up my year, but it is awesome.

Happy, Happy New Year! I am so excited to see where 2010 takes all of us. And if you’re a lurker, please leave me a comment – I’d love to check out your blog and get to “meet,” you!

My 2009 Review- Part 1

Du Wax Loolu filled out this questionnaire from Sundry, and I thought it might be a neat thing to do too. I’m going to break it up into a few sections, because I’m a little chatty. And I have the hardest time picking the best or my favorite, so I ended up giving more than one answer for some of the questions.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
I sold a book! And honestly, I still can’t believe it! And Courtney and I started The Greenists and got some amazing bloggers to join us.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I can’t remember if I made any resolutions last year. I don’t really believe in that – I like making long term goals, and I think I’m working toward them.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
This year was light on babies. The past 2-3 years were big baby years, and I think the tagline for next year should be Babies! Babies! And More Babies!, because there are a heck of a lot of beautiful beach ball bellies in my group of friends right now.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thank goodness.

5. What countries did you visit?

I don’t even think we crossed the Canadian border this year.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
A finished bathroom? :)

And I want to work toward creating more order for myself. With STAY coming out in June, I have a feeling next year is going to be a really crazy, amazing roller coaster. I want to work on getting the things I can control under control, so I can just enjoy the things that are totally out of my hands.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I don’t actually remember the date off hand, but I will never forget the moment my agent called me while I was in Target to tell me Dutton wanted STAY.

The conversation went something like this:
“Are you sitting down?”
“I’m in Target.”
“I think you should sit down.”
“I’m fine.”
“Can you go find a shelf or a display or something to sit on?”
“Sure.” I didn’t move.
“Are you sitting?”
“Yes.” I wasn’t.
“Dutton is interested in STAY.”
“Woah! . . . I really need to sit down!” I collapsed on a shelf next to some Rubbermaid bins and burst into tears. The happy kind.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Well, there’s that whole book thing. :) Also, when I realized that a lot of my time was going to be spent sitting in front of the computer (even more than before) I broke down and found a personal trainer. Chris is AMAZING, and I can honestly say that I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m really proud of that, and also the fact that I made a proactive and healthy choice for my mental and physical well-being. I have a really hard time making the time and effort to take care of myself, so this is a very big personal win for me.

9. What was your biggest failure?
This current bathroom situation feels like quite the failure right now, although, I can’t say there’s anything we could have done differently. Given the facts we had when we made the decisions we made, it seemed like the right choice. Obviously, if we knew then what we knew now . . .

I also think I had times of being extremely hard on myself this year. I need to quit that. It didn’t get me anywhere. Although, maybe calling that a failure is just perpetuating the problem?

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Minor stuff, mostly. I need to get the migraine situation under control, but I have a plan for that.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A fence.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Nothing I’ve accomplished could have happened without J. He has been so supportive of me and my writing. Joan and the rest of my writing group ladies. My agent, my editor, my publisher. One of the things that moves me to tears on a regular basis is the fact that I have absolutely amazing, beautiful friends. I could go on and on and on, but there are three pages of acknowledgments in the back of STAY that cover this in great detail. . . :)

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
If you’ve been following my bathroom woe rantings on Facebook, you know the answer to this. I may talk about it more here in the next week or so, but frankly, I’m not sure 1. how much anyone really wants to hear about it, and 2. where the line is on talking about private people publicly, no matter how much they upset me.

14. Where did most of your money go?
I need to sit down and do some year end review stuff, but I would say most of it was probably making our home more comfortable and livable. We bought this house thinking we’d be out by now, but it’s super expensive and disruptive to move, and even though our house isn’t ideal, it’s not like we need a bigger one. We’re making it a priority to make what we have work for us, because it’s a lot cheaper than moving, and after 6 1/2 years of living here, it’s probably time to hang some things on the walls.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
There’s that whole book thing. . .

My husband. In 2010, we’ll have our six year anniversary, and I still feel fluttery when he gets home from work. J is a truly incredible person.

My dogs. Stella has been with us for a little over a year now, and I can’t believe how far she’s come. And Argo. . . well, you can’t not get really, really, really excited about Argo. He exudes the most amazing love and energy and it’s contagious.

Seeing an amazing group of old friends on my trip to NY. Meeting my agent and editor.

Oh, and goodness! STAY selling in Italy, Germany, and Holland, and getting a blurb quote from one of my all time favorite authors. Although, I think those things are so huge to me that they’ve taken on a kind of surreal quality. There’s a part of me that keeps thinking they must be talking about the person sitting behind me. Seriously. You find out that this —

“I cannot wait to read more from Allie Larkin—an effervescent new voice in fiction. Witty, sweet, and strikingly real, Stay is for any woman who has ever experienced heartbreak or loss and needed a friend to lean on. I loved every word!”

Beth Harbison New York Times bestselling author of Shoe Addicts Anonymous and Hope in a Jar

–is going on your book (when you’re still coming to terms with the fact that you actually wrote a book and it’s going to be in real live book form), and it’s kind of a, “wait, um, me? You’re talking about me?” moment. And I still can’t read that quote out loud without bursting into tears. The happy kind.

To be continued. . .

I am a flawed character, and damn proud of it.

Before the holiday, @DuttonBooks tweeted, “Why give a book? Because a scented candle never changed anyone’s life.”

Ever since then I’ve been thinking about the books that have changed my life. Huck Finn was the first real chapter book I ever read. I was so enamored by Of Mice and Men that I read it twice in one sitting. Travels with Charlie. Little Women. Anne of Green Gables. The Basil and Josephine Stories. Invisible Man. Song of the Lark. The Lords of Discipline. The Bean Trees. Where The Heart Is. Bridget Jones. If you’re a reader, you have your own list – the books you read under the covers with a flashlight because you couldn’t stop reading at bedtime, the books that made you cry in the break room at work when you tried to sneak in a few chapters in at lunch, the books you read so many times that the binding turned to pulp, the books that had characters you still think about years later.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius changed my life in the hugest way. I used to spend so much time and energy trying to appear like I had it all together all the time. Since I’m no where close to perfect, it was exhausting, and really hard on the ego to be in a constant state of failure.

But in AHWOSG, Dave Eggers admitted to being human on a very basic level. He admitted to failing. He admitted to being selfish sometimes. And he admitted to being weird. This was back before blogging was the norm, before people shared their daily foibles publicly. Through blogging, I think we have so much more insight into what other people think and feel now than we did even just ten years ago. I think we’re more open. I think we’re more approachable. Blogging has changed our culture and the way we talk about ourselves in amazing ways, but back then, for me at least, this book was revolutionary. I had never seen/heard/read anyone talking about themselves that way before.

I remember reading the scene where Dave is singing Journey in the car and he says he’s the greatest singer in the entire world, and I know it sounds silly, but it was like a lightbulb went on in my head – other people have moments of thinking they are way more awesome than they really are too. And as I kept reading, I had more little light bulb moments. Other people have bizarre elaborate daydreams. Other people concoct ridiculous expectations for situations in their head and are disappointed when they don’t happen even though they knew deep down there’s no way they ever would.

Reading that book gave me a big shove in the direction of celebrating my imagination, instead of doing everything I could to hide it. And I really needed that shove, because when you’re a daydreamy kid who constantly gets scolded during long division lessons for looking out the window and imagining there’s a castle in the school yard, or teased when you completely zone out in gym class, because wondering about the logistics of becoming a mermaid is way more interesting than dodging a smelly red rubber ball, you learn to stop telling people the details of your overactive imagination, and you learn that it’s important to put energy into pretending to be like everyone else (or the way you think everyone else is). And by the time you get to be an adult, you can start to see your creative thoughts as a liability instead of a talent.

Without that book, I’m not sure I’d be a writer now. And I’d probably be working on an ulcer or two from the stress of trying very hard to be the person I thought I was supposed to be instead of the person I am.

Because of that book, I took risks. Because of that book, I decided to take all the energy I put into trying to be perfect into learning to accept myself. I am flawed, and that’s part of what I love about myself. I make mistakes. I work hard. My socks don’t always match, and sometimes I still think about what it would be like to be a mermaid. I am clumsy and geeky and goofy and kind and smart and dreamy and conscientious and flaky and weird. I care too much and don’t always show it enough. I have fallen on my face both literally and figuratively, and I will again many times in the future. I learn from my mistakes, but sometimes I make the same ones again anyway. I will always try my best, and I always approach things with good intentions. I love to celebrate that crazy strange combination of things that makes us all human, and I love to sing Journey songs at the top of my lungs in my car, too (although Boston is better).

So, I very much agree with @DuttonBooks (and not just because they are my publisher). AHWOSG changed my life, but all a scented candle does is smell good. Sometimes.

What books have changed your life?