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March 2009 Archives

March 1, 2009

A Really Fantastic Book Club Wanted Me

Seriously. (I know you think I'm kidding, since we've already been through the "I can't believe she has fans" thing. Well, now I have... more than one. Deal with it.)

Anyway, I got an email with the subject line: "A Really Fantastic Book Club Wants You." After making sure it wasn't some particularly cruel, author-specific form of Nigerian spam, I learned that this Manhattan group meets monthly, the women "totally rock" and most are in the kids entertainment industry. (Several work for Nickelodian, and I'm sure I spied some Sesame Street email addresses! Hmmm. "Queen" would make an excellent "Q" word, no?)

Turns out, my friend, Joshua Henkin, author of the fabulous, New York Times notable book, MATRIMONY, recommended me to the club.

And, aren't Jordana, Severine, Christine, Carol and Robin a stylish bunch? (Truly, what did you expect from a Manhattan book club?):


The nice people at Sesame Workshop provided the conference room, and we chatted via speakerphone. Jordana, the organizer (in the fabulous, sparkly Nanette Lepore dress), mentioned that she had three greyhounds and didn't think they would at all enjoy a prolonged bus trip, which surprised me, for surely they have busing in their blood? She also had a list of very interesting questions, the most difficult of which was "What question do book clubs ask that you dislike answering the most?" Difficult, as I truly couldn't think of any. I'm still trying to think of one. Although (as you know), I'm sick of the book clubs commenting on how "wonderful" Tim is, that's not really a question (and rolling my eyes, not really an answer). So, I'm still mulling.

One of the women commented that I'd made my hometown of Boulder sound so lovely, she wanted to move here. That's fine - we don't mind New Yorkers immigrating to the People's Republic (I am a former Princess from the Island of Long, after all) - it's the Californians we try to dissuade.

The ladies also discussed what they might want to try if they could do anything for a year: Travel the world, do a trip like we did, live in Italy and grow grapes were a few of the answers. (I'd do the Italy thing, but without the gardening aspect. I much prefer my nature through a window. Wonder how Tim would fare as a vintner?)

What would your dream year look like?

March 5, 2009

My Dream Job

I finally found it.

Always wanted to be a backup dancer, but thought it was just too, too much work. Then, I saw David Byrne on Colbert this week performing his new, Life is Long:

He's coming to Denver this summer. Tim was thinking we should go. Then, we saw this and I started railing at the TV. Nothing too clever (Colbert's on waaaay too late for clever), not even an "Oy, it's the song that's long." Mainly just groans. This prompted Tim to exclaim, "And that's exactly why we're not going!"

"Because it sucks?" I asked.

"No, because of your reaction," he replied. "I like it." He would.

Anyway, notice the backup dancers. They SIT. The ENTIRE TIME! I mean, really. I could do that!

I could.

You know I could. And, frighteningly well. I've been auditioning for it my entire life.

March 11, 2009

Mind Readers

Last month, I called in to a book group in Houston that calls itself the M.I.N.D. Readers, ie Moms In Need of D. They bring their own "D" - dessert, drinks, downtime, whatever. Obviously, I was going to love this group. Even more so, when Cherisse, who arranged for the call-in, announced since the book club was meeting in February, I was now a "Miss February," too. (For any of you who haven't read the book - and really, why is that? - since our bus was a centerfold for Bus Conversions magazine, I'm fond of saying that my proudest accomplishment is fulfilling my life-long ambition of becoming a Miss September.)

As if all that wasn't enough to love this group, Cherisse further informed me they would be enjoying some of the chapter titles from QUEEN OF THE ROAD (again, for those of you in the dark - and aren't you tired of being so? - these refer to martini receipes), in chilled glasses "while soaking up the few hours that our husbands have our children." (They're all moms of young kids.) Clearly, after meeting for four years, this group has it down.

Don't they look happy? Was the it book? Or, the martini recipes? Perhaps both? You be the judge:


From far left: Lisa, Cherisse (the short one - her description), above her is most of Mistye, next to her is Kristi, below her is Briggitte, above her is Cynthia, behind her is Angela, in front of her is Deanna (a fellow, er... lady RV'er and her first night in the book club - hope I wasn't responsible if it turned out to be her last), next to her is Lisa (also new and just moved back to the States after 2 years in Italy) and finally, Jill.

Absent: Kelly wasn't able to come as she was home with a brand new baby (congrats Kelly!) and Brenna just moved to an obscure island in Russia, where she is currently braving some unimaginable snowstorms. Gee, Brenna. You didn't have to go to such lengths to avoid reading my book. A simple, "Not my cup of borscht," would have sufficed.

Note the lone star over the fireplace. Cherisse purposely included it in the shot, because in the book, I make fun of Texans putting their Lone Stars all over the place. Glad Texans have a sense of humor. Even more so, as if I could have come in person, Cherisse assured me she had a "huge yard with a big gate." I certainly hope she was referring to our bus. And, in that case, Cherisse: Be careful what you wish for!

March 14, 2009

Island Life

When Jules emailed that her book club on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands, WA, wanted me to call in to its discussion, I warned her I might have more questions for them than they for me. Turned out to be about right.

This is a group of neighbors who live on Whiskey Hill (don'tcha just love it?) and call themselves the Fisherman Bay Book Club. Lopez, aka The Friendly Isle, is 15 miles long, 8 miles wide and has 2,200 year-round residents. The gals in the club originally hail from such far-flung and varied places as Key West and not-so-varied - except foreign language-wise, Scotland. (If you've been there, you know what I'm talkin' about.) Well, at least her husband hails from Scotland. That's why this particular group member moved to Lopez - it reminded hubby of home. (You don't suppose Tim lived on a bus in a previous life? That would explain a lot.)

Lopez is about a 40 minute ferry ride to the mainland, but this Whiskey Hill Gang (sorry, but I really love that name - can you tell?) say they try not to go in the summer, when the ferries are crowded with tourists. Of course, that's the time of year you wouldn't want to be gone, anyway, I would think.

Tim and I had been to the San Juans years ago, taking the ferry to Orcas Island from Anacortes one summer. All I really remember is how gorgeous it was. The gals confirmed it's cold and wet in the winter (notice how they're bundled up), but, still beautiful. (Trust them on this. Or don't and check out the Island's webcam.) Although, in talking to them, they didn't seem to mind the weather all that much. Perhaps it's because these Islanders are quite savvy about how to make it through the long winter - Martini Monday at the local restaurant just down the hill - yep, that'd be Whiskey Hill. (Now, if they had a hill named, "Martini Hill," I might just move there, myself.)


I, for one, had a fabulous time with this most unusually-situated club, my most Northwestern, yet. (Come on Canadians. You're falling behind! And, Alaska? For shame.) I assume the feeling was mutual, as I'm "doing" a member's sister's book club in CA next week. (Although I suppose it's possible she hates her sister and only recommended QUEEN OF THE ROAD to torment her. With a mind like mine, it's a good thing I'm an only child.)

March 16, 2009

A Wonderful Vintner and an Even More Wonderful Guy

I was recently contacted by relatives of one of the most memorable people we met on our year-long trip, David Menaker from Haines, Alaska. They wanted to let me know that David passed away last spring. As his daughter, Natasha, said, "He was such a wonderful man. I am glad you had a chance to know him."

Here's an excerpt from QUEEN OF THE ROAD about David when we met him in July 2004:

David Menaker at his Great Land Wines, Haines, AK

On July 5, almost three weeks after we’d boarded our first ferry in Prince Rupert, Canada, we arrived at our final stop on the Marine Highway, Haines. There we spent a delightful few hours gabbing and tasting wine at Great Land Wines, Ltd. The vintner, Dave Menaker, has lived in Haines for fifty years, and greets guests in a heavy pullover work shirt, jeans, and work boots. He also operates a sawmill out back, hopefully not running both businesses at the same time.

Dave’s establishment proved a stark contrast to the wine tastings we did in Napa only a couple of months before, which were complete with waitstaff in formal attire attending to the hordes of tourists. Here, we were the only ones in the joint and the generous samples flowed free and wild – onion, potato, blueberry, raisin, rose petal, and dandelion wines were just a few of the selections, with Triscuits proffered for palate cleansing.

David's ex-sister-in-law, Phyllis (David's mother was also Phyllis' first grade teacher. As she says, "Haines is a small place"), told me, "He was the same up to the end. Wonderful person, and we are all better people for knowing David," ending with, "Take care and don’t forget to enjoy life."

Amen to that.

March 18, 2009

A Wild and Crazy Group!

Who knew there was so much fun to be had in Livermore?

Trust me. This was the wildest group I've called in to, yet. Maybe it's because it was a Friday night. Maybe because Ann, who arranged my "visit" is from Scotland. I'll let her explain: "We too like a wee drink - that's what we do as a hobby." Although I guess comparitively, it wasn't too bad, as Ann emailed afterward, "My neighbors didn't call the police."

She is also responsible for the first and only time this Royal has become a bribe: Apparently, Ann recommended QUEEN OF THE ROAD to her son's teacher. Again, I'll let her explain: "She too has a book group and I'm trying to keep her in good books as my son keeps getting in trouble for talking in class, what can I say, it's in the blood!" Works for me, Ann. (Although what will happen to your son if she hates it? Oh, the pressure of having a wee life's future in my hands.)

I'm guessing this picture of this group's meeting was taken around the time they marveled the neighbors hadn't called the police:


Ladies, I'm serious: Next time I'm in Livermore....

March 22, 2009

Joisey Goyles

When Cheryl, from a book club in New Jersey, emailed to invite me to call in to their discussion, I was particularly pleased: I'm often homesick for the sounds of my youth. Somewhere in college (in Upstate New York), I lost my very heavy Long Island accent. Now, when I listen to recordings we made as kids, I don't even recognize my own voice. So sue me if I get nostalgic sometimes.

What was also particularly lovely, is that one of the members of the group heard about QUEEN OF THE ROAD from another book club that I called in to in Florida. Word-of-mouth has been why this book is in 6th printing, and I love hearing first-hand examples. Thank you. Really.

OK. Enough with the sentimentality. Wait - one more thing. Cheryl mentioned that another member, Donna, is a fabulous cook and baker, and actually offered to send me some goodies. I mean, they read my book, invited me to call in AND offered to feed me. Who said we East Coasters aren't nice? Well, OK. I'm not a great example, but still...


Linda, Donna, Audrey, Marcy, front row- Cheryl E., Cheryl M.(the Cheryl who arranged the meeting), and Karyn.

Thank you so much for inviting me, ladies! I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion.

March 23, 2009

Virginia is for Book Lovers

When I was invited to the VA Festival of the Book to do a couple of panels and be a guest presenter at a workshop, I wish they had told me those Virginians know how to party! I would have gotten in shape, first. Yes, I also attended some lectures, but the receptions and dinners were a definite highlight. (Just as well I don't have pictures of any of those - what happens in VA should stay in VA.)

I also got the chance to attend "The Art of Historical Fiction," a lecture/reading/Q+A with Maria Doria Russell and Alan Cheuse, moderated by local NPR host, Sarah McConnell (for broadcast later, if anyone's interested).

I'm a huge fan of Maria Doria Russell's THE SPARROW and CHILDREN OF GOD. And, so were many in the audience. She's a wonderful writer, but it was only hearing her speak that I became aware of her wicked sense of humor - since she's published in several genres, she calls herself a "genre whore." She also had a great tidbit for all you fictionistas: Go through a novel's draft once from the point of view of each character - no matter how minor a character he or she is. That's a lot of drafts, but Ms. Russell says it greatly enriches the entire manuscript. I actually do the same when I write screenplays, although never did that for either of my memoirs. I'll have to think about it, but my feeling is an awful lot of memoirs seem to have been... ahem... "enriched" in that way to their detriment (not to mention returning of advance money). Thoughts?


(That's Ms. Russell on the left.)

One minor complaint (look, you know I couldn't do an entire post without complaining): There were only paperbacks available for sale. Yes, most people prefer paperbacks - especially in this economy (which is why QUEEN OF THE ROAD was published in original PB), but I wanted to give signed hardcover copies of Ms. Russell's books as gifts. (And, wanted a few for myself.) I have several friends who are also fans, so bought the PBs and had her personalize them, but did think twice about it. What would you prefer to give/receive as a gift? Would it matter? I kind of feel like, when I give these to my friends, I have to apologize and explain, "They only had PB for sale." Is that totally idiotic? Really, you can tell me.

The ultra-fabulous Bella Stander invited me to "chime in" (I give good chime) at her Book Promotion 101 Workshop at Writer House. I always learn a lot from Bella, so was only too happy to oblige. It was also wonderful to meet three lovely women writers, two with imminent books: Maggie Stiefvater , author of Young Adult novels (LAMENT and the upcoming BALLAD, both Faerie tales, which I have to admit, I'd never read, but after hearing about her books, I am SO buying them), and Jennifer Burns, a UVA Professor whose GODDESS OF THE MARKET: AYN RAND AND THE AMERICAN RIGHT (can you say, "hot topic"?) is coming out this Fall from Oxford University Press. Another talented author, Jocelyn Johnson, has an agent shopping her Young Adult/Adult novel. (All you literary writing lovers should check out her blog. Can you say, "like buttah?")

The first panel I presented at, "Travel: Come Along for the Ride," was with Scott Huler and Michael Pearson. Scott, who you may have heard on NPR, talked about his book, NO-MAN'S LANDS: ONE MAN'S ODYSSEY THROUGH THE ODYSSEY. He started his presentation by asking the SRO crowd at New Dominion Bookshop, "How many of you have read Ulysses?" When several hands shot up, he shot them down, informing them, "You're all lying. No one reads Ulysses." He then gave a very entertaining talk and also read from his book. After we'd all finished, I mentioned to him that Tim had, in fact, read Ulysses during our bus year. He managed it by reading a chapter, listening to Teaching Company tapes about that chapter, then rereading it to understand what he'd just read. Scott commented, "That's the only way to read Ulysses." Since one thing Tim doesn't read is this blog (don't worry - he doesn't read any blogs), I'll let you know (if you promise not to text, tweet or post on his FB wall - oh, wait! He doesn't do any of that, either) that I got Scott to sign his book - in hardcover - for an upcoming anniversary present. (I hope Tim isn't all Ulysses'ed out. A few years should be enough to recover, no?)

I also picked up a copy of Michael's book, INNOCENTS ABROAD TOO. Michael teaches creative writing at Old Dominion University and the book is about his semesters at sea. While the book sounds fascinating, I have to admit I also want to read it to discover how to get a gig like that. The panel was a lot of fun - even though I was the only landlubber. Thanks so much to the lovely Grace Zisk for moderating.


My other panel, Nice Jewish Girls Gone Wild, was... wild. Martha Frankel (HATS & EYEGLASSES: A MEMOIR), Deborah Wiener (SLOB PROOF! REAL LIFE DECORATING SOLUTIONS) and I, with Bella Stander moderating, talked about, well, you get the idea. Debbie even brought rugelach for the crowd. What could be bad? (Never had rugelach? Shoulda been there.) I also scored signed copies of these ladies' books. And yeah, yeah. I really, really, REALLY need to read Debbie's. I'll let you know if it makes a dent, but she's such a force of nature (and hysterical) that I can't help but believe it will.


As for Martha, I read HATS & EYEGLASSES on the (propeller) plane ride home. It was so good, it actually took my mind off my mind-numbing terror. Really. I could not believe when we landed (in more ways than one). It's a warm, funny, page-turning memoir of her New York childhood in a gambling family, and her later struggle with her own gambling addiction. Simply a terrific read.

Finally, I dearly wanted to go to John Grisham's panel the last night of the Fest, but great food, wine and company beaconed. (Surely, you know me well enough by now to have predicted this - even if didn't predict it, myself.) In addition to Bella and her fabulous "DH", I especially had fun hangin' with Ron Hogan (of Beatrice.com and GallyCat fame) and agents extraordinaire, Deborah Grosvenor of Kneermin & Williams and Ellen Pepus of Signature Literay Agency.

Yeah, I'm name-dropping. What do you want from me?

March 27, 2009

They Were Really Into It

I'm not the most energetic person in the world. We all know this. But, these Book Club Queens of Great Falls, VA would put anyone to shame.


Top left to right: Michele Verity, Karin Brown, Tammy Irving, Bari Zimbrick, Fran Scofield, Susan Grow, Lauren Mullen. Bottom left to right: Linda Matz, Karen Doody, Mary Wiltse, Patti Hulett, Bina Clark, Laura Lopez.

Linda, who was hosting that day, has good friends, Jane and Ken Tholan, from Louisa, VA, who travel the country in their super-duper RV, so persuaded them to come on over, park in her driveway, and allow the book club to meet in the rig for their lunch:


But, wait! There's more! The ladies were all required to wear their favorite couture shoes:


How many can you name? Which is your fav? (They should be glad I wasn't there in person, 'cause if any of these beauties were size 8, the wearers would be going home barefoot. You know I mean it.)

They also made two of the martini recipes in QUEEN OF THE ROAD, although assured me they waited until noon to imbibe. As Michele (who helped arrange the whole thing) put it, "The ladies were 'extra happy' at carpool." I bet. They also boasted (or lamented, I couldn't be sure), that amongst all the neighbors in the group, they didn't have to go to the store to buy any of the ingredients.


Headwater High and Prevost Princess.

And, as if that wasn't enough, they were all provided with shoe box lunches:


That's Michele on the left and Linda on the right.


As Michele emailed me afterward, "Since we alternate hosts, there's now a lot of pressure! " I would certainly say so. Just seeing these pictures made me think I should at least get out of my PJs today. Fortunately, the thought passed.

Don't know if it was the booze, rig, box lunch, shoes, or even the book, but Michele also said that this was the most they've ever discussed a selection. Nice for me to hear, but maybe not so nice for any other book clubs out there, as with everything else going on for this group's meeting: you should consider yourselves served.

March 30, 2009

A Superior Book Club

No, I'm not being a snob (for once). They meet in Superior, CO. Geez.


The gals were lovely, the food was amazing and the martinis looked soooo good. Wish I could have imbibed, but I can barely drive, so drinking and... no. As it was, the navigating left a little to be desired. Laura (in front, in gold), whose lovely home we met at, gave me excellent directions (better than Map Breath's), but when will I learn I need these things spelled out coming and going? I'm really not good with keeping the whole right-left thing straight.

So, Tim was rather surprised when, upon my return, I phoned him rather accusingly and demanded, "Did you know McCaslin Boulevard dead-ends?" I mean, he could have warned me. (Although, in truth, he didn't know. I don't think many Coloradans do, as I must have been almost to Kansas.)

Before I left Laura's, this Superior group actually gave me some gifts. I was rather amazed. I mean, they read my book, fed me and gave me stuff?

And, yeah, yeah, we discussed QUEEN OF THE ROAD, of course. But, when one of the gals mentioned that a local Macy's was going under and selling everything, well, my ears (and some other parts of me) perked up. I haven't really done much shopping since the "bus thing," but as many of you know, Tim and I are putting the house on the market as soon as we (well, OK - he), finishes fixing it up, so we can live in our rig full time. Some chatchkies for staging would be lovely. So, Tim and I headed to that Macy's the next weekend, but by then, the chatchkies (and most other stuff, including the fixtures) were long gone. But, I did pick up this fabulo robe:


Why in the world had it been overlooked by everyone else? Couldn't be related to the fact that Tim calls me "Champ" whenever I wear it, could it?

Now, notice I'm reading a book of martini recipes, drinking from a martini glass and wearing anti-slippy, slippy socks (which perfectly match that robe), all gifts curtesy of this truly Superior book club.

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About March 2009

This page contains all entries posted to What Do You Want From Me? by Doreen Orion in March 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2009 is the previous archive.

April 2009 is the next archive.

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