Saturday, August 30, 2008
Also one last reminder that the tour contest ends on Monday, so please go enter!!!
Today one of my favorite writers is visiting for her Girlfriends Cyber Circuit tour: Melissa Walker! The latest book in her "Violet" series about an unlikely teen fashion model just came out and here is what it's all about:
Is there life off the runway?
VIOLET IN PRIVATE is the third novel in the series by former magazine editor Melissa Walker about Violet— the wallflower who blooms into an international modeling star—until she realizes there may be more to life than the runway…
Everyone knows her as Violet Greenfield, the supposedly cultured and worldly nineteen-year-old with sky-high confidence because she’s done fashion weeks internationally. But the truth is, modeling has done little for Violet’s self-esteem. And now that she’s finally headed to college, she’s terrified that she’ll turn back into that girl who blended into the walls all throughout high school…
Violet’s friends in fashion are only a two-hour train ride away in New York City, and they all think she’s crazy to stop modeling. But her best friend Roger hopes she’ll go back to being the girl next door. Of course, things have been weird between them ever since they kissed—and now he’s got a girlfriend. So the question is: if she’s not “Violet on the Runway” anymore, who exactly is she?
Melissa Walker has created a character that teens as well as adults can embrace and relate to. Readers have followed Violet through her highest highs and lowest lows in the modeling industry, and are eager to see how she fares as a regular teenager in college. This wonderful series is a fresh take on the real voice of one girl in the designer spotlight.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
As a former editor at ELLEgirl and Seventeen magazines, Melissa Walker knows first-hand the ins and outs of the fashion world. She hails from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her at melissacwalker.com, or at myspace.com/melissacwalker.
Now for my usual GCC interview with Melissa!
Q: Please list five songs that would be on the soundtrack to your book and explain how they relate to your story or characters.
Melissa: I'm going to pick five that might be on the series soundtrack--hope that's ok. I like it to span all three books since I think of it as one long story.
a. Ziggy Stardust-David Bowie. This song is bizarre and gorgeous, like the fashion world, I think.
b. Our Song-Taylor Swift. At heart, Violet is a country girl from Carolina, and sometimes her best friends have to remind her of what home means to her. This song celebrates simple pleasures in a really fun way.
c. You're So Vain-Carly Simon. Violet uses this song as the ringtone for her agent, and it's certainly representative of a few of the more intense fashion world types.
d. Please Let Me Get What I Want-The Smiths. Violet is prone to a wallow every now and then, and this song is the king of melancholy as far as I'm concerned (in a good way!).
e. Bizarre Love Triangle-New Order. With her true love dating another girl in Violet in Private, our heroine is certainly caught in one of these.
Q: Name some of your main character's favorite musicians or bands.
Melissa: She loves Rihanna, Pinback, Charlotte Sometimes, Tim McGraw, The Broken West, Kanye West, The Bravery, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Shins, plus all the artists named in songs above.
Q: Who are some of your favorite musicians or bands?
Melissa: Uh, see above. Write what you know, right?
Q: Even though music plays in so heavily into my storytelling, I rarely can actually listen to it while I'm writing. Can you? How does music fit into your writing process?
Melissa: I actually use it when I want to get into a more emotional scene. Music really can affect my mood a LOT, so if I am preparing to write a happy or sad or angsty or tough scene, I'll listen to a song that I know will set the mood. Sometimes I let it play while I'm writing, but if I find myself getting distracted, I shut it off. I can listen to a song like 20 times on repeat. I kind of love doing that, but other people don't appreciate it, so I try to keep that habit for alone times.
Q: While music is my muse, I know other writers find their muse in theater, sports, art, the great outdoors, etc. What is your main muse?
Melissa: I'm a huge fan of passionate people. Whenever I meet someone who really loves something--be it fashion, music, running or physics--I'm completely inspired by their enthusiasm. So I go out a lot, and concentrate on meeting people and finding out about what they love most.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
So before we meet this week's WWR, I must announce the winner of last week's WWR, Mandi Perkins' awesome CD Alice in No Man's Land. That lucky person chosen by the random number generator is Lauren from Shooting Stars Magazine! Lauren, send me a message with your address!
This week I'm really excited to introduce you to Rebecca Woolf, author of Rockabye: From Wild to Child. Talk about a WWR, I met Rebecca at Rock 'n' Read! I was so impressed by her reading, her amazing fashion sense, and just how freakin' cool she is that I had to invite her to be on WWR Weds. She's an awesome writer and a generally sweet person and I really wish I lived in L.A. so I could hang out with her once a week if she'd let me. Also, to prove how awesome her book is, I had a bag of books in the "green room" at Rock 'n' Read and hers was the one that someone decided to steal. So without further adieu, let's hear about Rebecca and her must- read book, which you won't have to steal because you can enter to win it today!
Q: I've just started reading your memoir, Rockabye: From Wild to Child, and I've gotta say it's one of the best memoirs I've read in a long time, I was totally engaged from the first chapter, but rather than try to explain the story myself, can you please tell WWRW readers what the book is all about?
Q: You maintain a blog, Girl's Gone Child, which I'm totally addicted to despite not being a mom myself. Your book was born from your blog (no pun intended, okay, well sorta cause I like puns) can you tell us a little bit about how that happened? Also there seems to be a whole blogging/online community of rock 'n' roll mamas, can you speak to what you enjoy about being a part of that community, how it benefits moms, and list a few of your favorite blogs (mom-oriented or not)?
Q: Tell us a little bit about your rock 'n' roll lifestyle before becoming a mom and what it is like now. Are you still keeping up with the music you love and how have you maintained your musical identity so to speak? My friend's baby has a Misfits t-shirt and I see a lot more baby stuff geared toward rock 'n' roll moms, have any thoughts on that?
Q: What are some of your favorite bands? How about Archer, is he into music yet?
Q: Besides the baby girl due out this fall, what can we expect next from Rebecca Woolf? Will there be a follow-up to Rockabye or do you have another project you are working on.
Q: Now for the two standard questions I always ask my WWRs. You are an incredibly cool rock 'n' roll girl, one of the chicks I'd see at a concert and wish I had the balls to go up and befriend, but have you always been this cool or do you have any musical skeletons in your closet. Be honest, what was the first album you owned and the first concert you went to see (mine was the incredibly punk rock Janet Jackson)?
Q: And we know you partied like a rock star pre-Archer and now you are a total rock star of a mom, but what was the moment in your life so far where you felt most like a rock star? Could be something you've accomplished as a writer or a mom. Could be a concert you attended. Could be meeting someone famous and having that "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World moment? Could just be a time you felt you got the real rock star treatment.
Now that you know how amazingly awesome Rebecca is, I am sure you want to read her book. Rebecca has agreed to give away one signed copy of Rockabye: From Wild to Child to a lucky winner who will be chosen at random next Wednesday from all the comments. So go ahead and leave a comment about anything, maybe talk about what you learned about music from your mom or if you are a mom, what you are teaching your kid about rock 'n' roll. Then be sure to come back next week, see if you won, and check out the interview with up-and-coming fashion designer, Alyse Frank of DeCatoure Clothing!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Also I'm not very good at sitting still and resting. I did that last night, but I went to bed telling my body to get better so I could garden in the morning. I wanted to garden so badly, I dreamed about gardening. But I woke up still feeling like shit. This is not okay. There is too much to do this week and this was my one day where I wasn't working or waking up late because I worked late the night before. I wanted to be really productive. I took some medicine and when Scott got up he asked how I was feeling. "Still crappy," I told, "But I think I might garden a little anyway."
"It might be good for you to get some fresh air," he agreed. Exactly what I hoped he'd say. When I'm uncertain about stuff I generally run them past the voices of reason, a.k.a Scott or my mom. I'm not so sure my nurse mother would have agreed with this, she might have voted rest over fresh air, but fortunately she worked last night, so she wouldn't be awake for me to call and run it past her. I put on some raggedy clothes and sunscreen dragged my gardening tools, a stool, water and the obligatory box of Kleenex outside.
My garden shows the outside world exactly how chaotic my life has been this summer. It's completely over run by weeds, the vegetables are doing horribly this year, some of the flowers have died. My mom thinks the vegetable issue is because we didn't use this mushroom compost stuff this year and there seem to be some bug issues as we lost one tomato plant to pests. But truth be told, I forget to water it half the time and I've basically neglected it since June. My mom weeded it for me while I was traveling, but other than that.... It's a sad state of affairs.
I know it's doubtful that I'll actually get any peppers this year or more than a few tomatoes or more than that one cucumber I didn't even get a chance to eat, but I want to garden to spend its last few weeks in dignity, so I feel that I absolutely must weed it this week.
I start with my herb garden. It's the garden I've had the longest and it has always been the most cooperative. It's overrun to this year, but not so much by weeds. The mint is always out of control if you don't pay close attention to it and this year for some reason the chives have gone wild. I tug out all of the extra chive plants that have sprouted and the mint tendrils that have stretched their way all the way over to the basil. Somehow the rosemary and the oregano survived beneath all that. That's good I guess. My poppy died. My poppies always die. It's highly frustrating. My zinnias are in a sad state too. And these perennial flowers whose name I always forget needed to be deadheaded so they continue to flower and I didn't do that. I did it now, but I'm not sure they'll bloom again before winter. We planted these random flower seeds near the front and really should have planted them in the back because they are the tallest thing in the garden. I'm irritated by this because it's throwing off my sense of balance. If my mom were here, she'd remind me it was a science experiment. It's always a science experiment. Last year the experiment went well. This year, not so much. I guess we've proven that neglecting your garden is bad.
Even though my nose is running like crazy I'm feeling pretty good after doing the herb garden, so I decide to do the side garden. The side garden is part vegetable garden and part wild prairie plants. As I mentioned the vegetables, not doing too great. The sunflowers in the prairie garden are late to bloom to and not nearly as tall. They may be a different kind of seed, but more likely we threw down too many seeds and they haven't had enough space. Weeding out the thinner, weaker stalks is going to be a main part of my mission in this garden. But before that there is a science project gone terribly awry to deal with.
A lot of times we can't tell if something is a weed or a flower. My mom uses the science experiment logic and says leave it, see if it does anything. There was this one plant I was absolutely convinced was going to be this marigold I planted last year. I know marigolds don't usually come back, but this was a big ass marigold. I thought it might be a super plant. My dad's wife told me at the beginning of the summer that it was a weed, but I did not want to believe her. I gave it until this week to do something. It didn't. It was most definitely a weed and now it had firmly put its roots down and its stem was as thick the trunk of a small tree. I tugged and tugged to no avail, so I settled in and started digging. I started coughing. I knew I was exerting my sick body too much, but had to get that freakin' thing out. I swear that stupid weed was a metaphor for every bad relationship I've ever been in. I know they aren't going to grow into something beautiful, but I try to give them the benefit of the doubt anyway. Then I definitely know they won't be something beautiful, but I let them stick around a while longer because I don't want to deal with extricating them from my life. Once that metaphor got into my head, I destroyed that freakin' weed. I wasn't satisfied when the stem finally broke, I needed the roots out because suddenly it was every ex-friend and ex-boyfriend that I hadn't dealt with properly. Then I accidentally uprooted an actual marigold, so I stopped.
I replanted the legitimate marigold and went to deal with the sunflowers. Coughing and sneezing were in full effect. I know my body wanted me to stop. This was no longer good fresh air, I was pushing too hard, but dammit, I wanted the two side gardens perfect so that later this week, I just have to deal with the weed nightmare that is my front garden (that garden is always a mess no matter how meticulous I am in the summer). I knew I was starting to get too perfectionist and that I'd regret when I had to go to work tomorrow still feeling like shit, but that didn't stop me. What finally did? Well, I was almost finished thinning the sunflowers and I was trying to coax a few of them to stand up straight when what did I see between two stems just inches from my face. SPIDER!!!! I squealed like a little girl, dropped the flowers and rushed out of the garden. "Okay, I get it, I'm going inside!"
So that was my gardening adventure. I think the fresh air did do me good and the spider stopped me from overexerting, but we'll see how I feel tomorrow. One thing, I know for sure. I will never ever neglect my garden like this again. I will find a way to balance my life better this summer. I want my garden to look like this again:
I'm still too ashamed to show you what it looks like now. But I'm off to water it so it doesn't get worse. If you haven't already, you should enter the Women Who Rock Wednesday contest for Manid Perkins' CD because it's your last chance!!!
Monday, August 25, 2008
So last night marked the beginning of my "new" job, which of course isn't really new because I worked there before.... It was a looooooooong shift. Sunday's won't normally be quite that long. Despite feeling under the weather, it was still a pretty good time because my best friend and her husband came out and so did my boyfriend and his best friend. However Sunday is a slow night, it's gonna suck when people don't come out to visit me. (HINT: come out to visit me!) And of course I was immediately reminded of the things I like and don't like about the job. First off, no one trained me on how to make the new food, so that was a little bit annoying. But thanks to some helpful customers, I did manage to start the grill without blowing up the place (should you ever be in the position where you have to light a grill without training, the key is to light the match before you turn on the gas. That prevents accidental explosions apparently) and I was able to successfully warm up a quesadilla on it. I am not looking forward to making burgers and shit though. So don't come in and order those from me. I mean, really do you want a vegan making you a burger? Go with the chicken sandwich instead. I just stick that in the fryer. Or better yet, the pizza. I'm a seasoned pro at that. I did pretty good with the quesadilla, too.
I was excited to see some of my old regulars again and meet the new regulars and I don't know if those people that helped me in the kitchen were regulars, but they were so awesome, so I hope they come back. However, admittedly, there are customers, regulars even that are... trying or a little weird. I'm usually cool with weird, but sometimes weird crosses the boundary into creepy territory and I'm not so much a fan of that. Exhibit A: Napkin Note Guy.
Napkin Note Guy is a regular who I didn't see too much of because I worked more night shifts than day shifts, and he's a night-time drinker, but now I'm working more night shifts and he was in the bar last night. The first time I met him was on a Saturday afternoon shift. He struck me as a weird arty guy and there weren't any other customers in the bar, so at first I was grateful to have someone to talk to, especially a fellow creative type. I realized pretty quick that he was just kind of out there, like spacey-weird-art-teacher-who-took-too-much-acid-in-the-60's out there. This made the conversation a little exhausting, but still all was well until he asked to take my picture. Um, yeah, maybe I'm paranoid because I've gotten hit on too many times by older men who think because I dress "punk" and have tattoos and stuff that I'm interested in doing kinky things with them, but it generally makes me uncomfortable when men who are much closer to my parents' age than mine ask to take my picture. Now Napkin Note Guy is a photographer type, but still. I just did not feel comfortable with it and I can't remember how I got out of it.
After that, he came in rather regularly and once he brought me some of his photographs. It was a little weird. Then the napkin notes started. Now he is Napkin Note Guy because he writes napkins notes to other girls, too. Jme, another female bartender got them, as did Liz, a customer. So I guess that makes it slightly less creepy, but still. Also ever since the book came out Napkin Note Guy is extra insistent on wanting to take my picture. I bartended a few Saturdays ago and every time I brought him a beer, he pleaded for a picture. He even asked my boyfriend ("my old man" as he kept calling him, which also seemed weird 'cause uh, among other things, Scott is younger than me) to ask me if he could take a picture. I was completely slammed that night so I repeatedly answered, "No, I'm busy."
Last night, Napkin Note Guy came in and while I was telling Katie about him and she was telling me that my excuse should be acting more important than I actually am and saying, "My publicist has advised me not to let anyone take pictures of me," he started just taking candid shots of me and her talking! Argh! Now I didn't say anything because I am way too nice and he is a regular, but dude, really... I also didn't talk to him much and he paid up his tab pretty fast, but sure enough right before he left, I got the Universal Sign of the Napkin Note. He pulled a stack of cocktail napkins out of their holder and asked, "Steph, do you have a pen?"
He then proceeded to write me a 3 napkin note! 3 whole napkins! When I saw him being so prolific, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and thought maybe he is taking notes on something. But no. When I walked passed him, he folded up the napkins and pressed them into my palm telling me it was "a three page short story." Umm dude, it is not a short story when it starts, "Dear Steph." Now, the napkin notes are harmless, as Scott puts it, "They read like something your wacky art teacher would write in your yearbook." But still, it's just awkward.
I'll spare you all three napkins worth of the ramblings and cut straight the point so you see what Scott's saying. Here is the last napkin's worth and please note that the hyphen's instead of actual punctuation are all him: "If for nothing I- wanted to tell you this- and more than anything- to tell you from me to keep going- always- even in silence-never stop- hold on- listen always- even in silence- you'll be ok-"
Um, what? Am I dying? Am I on the verge of giving up on myself? Yeah, so that is Napkin Note Guy. Harmless, but still creepy. The photo thing is going to get on my last nerve and as for the notes... Scott says I should save them and I think I will. If anything I guess this illustrates my point that even the crazy, obnoxious shit that happens at the bar is fodder for story or at least a good blog. Nothing at the office was ever worth blogging about like this.
ETA: I just want to clarify that this guy is totally harmless. I'm not saying he's a sicko or anything like that. It's just weird and it creeps me out at times, just because when you insistently ask someone to take their photo and they always decline, just stop asking. Maybe my reasons for being uncomfortable about having my photo taken are off-base, but that fact is he doesn't know me and what I've been through in life and why this might make me uncomfortable. But for the most part, I just view him as more than one person has commented, as one of those bizarre experiences that you collect to keep life (and storytelling) interesting. So, don't get the wrong idea. I was just trying to illustrate how I was immediately reminded of why bartending is a much more interesting (albeit tedious at times when you are trying to work and people keep bugging you for something) profession than office work. Perhaps I am not coming across clearly due to snotty head.
Okay, I'm off to drink tea and OJ and read or watch TV or do something sick people should do in hopes that my body will get better by tomorrow so I can do the things I want to do. But before I go there were a few last interviews with me from the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit that I wanted to share! Carrie Jones gets me talking about love, duct tape, and inner critics (I chose a really interesting one, check it out!) Amanda Ashby asks me about my biggest inspirations and I reveal the coolest thing that has happened to me since becoming a published writer. Laurie Stolarz asks me in survey format (and I love surveys but have had no time for them lately) about my guilty pleasures. So enjoy and send me healthy vibes.
Friday, August 22, 2008
So today is my last day at the office, WOO HOO!!!!! This week has been pretty busy, trying to organize everything at work and I’m really looking forward to next week when I can hopefully catch up with all my personal correspondence and organize everything at home. Is it totally sick that all week at work, I’ve been fantasizing about cleaning my house from top to bottom? I have a cleaning schedule for the important things (bathroom, kitchen, living room), but nothing else gets cleaned very regularly due to the whole working full-time and writing full-time thing. The last time the house had a serious scrub down was in May 2005 when my ex-boyfriend moved out and while he was packing, I channeled all my pain, anger, and sadness into throwing out junk and making sure the whole place was spotless. I really hate cleaning, but that was a really good release and made me feel like I’d also wiped away all the bad energy. I feel like it is important for me to scrub away all the exhaustion and frustration of the past two years of trying to juggle this job with everything else, too. Plus I just like to start fresh and organized. It seems so appropriate to take this leap at the beginning of the school year. I was one of those dorks who secretly liked going back to school and getting all organized to start a new year of learning. That’s kinda what I feel like I’m doing right now.
Anyway, as usual last night, I couldn’t get myself to bed until midnight and couldn’t fall asleep until one or so. Then I woke up before my alarm, but I was thrilled to realize that this is the last time I’ll be waking up so early except on special occasions. The earliest I’ll ever have to get up is 8 am on the rare days when I need to borrow the car from my mom and she needs to get it to me on her way home from the night shift. But going to bed at 1 and waking up at 9 like my body wants, here I come!
This morning I got dressed in professional-ish clothes for the last time. Not that I’ve been doing that too much this week. I wore my cloth mary janes with skull & crossbones on Wednesday and jeans and a tank top yesterday, but today I have to do a presentation thing. I’m still wearing leopard shoes. And I didn’t bother to wear makeup. I rarely do at work ever since I lost my motivation for the job because I was completely screwed over by this evil woman and told I wasn’t qualified for the job I’d already been doing for a year without the title/pay/recognition and then she proceeded to hire someone with less education and experience than me. (I’ve been trying to refrain from ranting about this and didn’t put it in my blog about quitting because I try to take the high ground and be more professional than the people that wrong me, but it slips out sometimes.)
The CTA decided to remind me why I hate my commute, the train sitting at the
Okay, back to the CTA and my last commute. So on the crowded train, I get stuck next to this chick who at first really closely reads my paper over my shoulder, and yes, I read over the shoulder sometimes, but I don’t invade personal space, but it gets work. Then she proceeds to fall asleep, half slumping onto me. Oh CTA, I will not miss having to take you 10+ times a week. I will miss the friendliest CTA employee ever (or perhaps the *only* friendly CTA employee?) at the
Work is work. Nothing interesting enough to tell you about. I’ve packed up most of my things over this week, but am waiting for the end of the day to take my pictures down. My gym has been closed the past two days (hence me writing this quick on lunch break), which sucks cause I will miss it, but my elliptical was delivered on Tuesday and it is awesome! A stream of people have been coming to my cubical to ask me to sign their copy of IWBYJR, which is cool and I’ve had some sad goodbyes and sweet going away presents. I said goodbye to my boss on Wednesday because she is out of town now. I know with Kathy and Sharon it won’t really be goodbye because we’ll hang out. Kathy and I have cocktails planned immediately after work. So yeah, that is pretty much that. I’m sure I’ll have more reflections on all of this next week when I begin my new routine.
I’ve got my Beacon schedule set. I’ll be bartending there (101 Circle Ave in
Tomorrow is my last work-free Saturday night. Oh well, you have to make some sacrifices. My friend Chris will be in town so I know we’ll have a good time that night. Anybody else have exciting weekend plans? If you have some time to kill this weekend or as your work day ends, there are a bunch of links for you to check out:
I blogged at MTV Books yesterday about the other new development in my life… getting glasses. And I’ve been visiting more girlfriends. Learn all about my best and worst Spring Breaks at Jennifer Echols’ blog. I talk to Megan Kelley Hall about my writing friends, my best high school memories (yes, I do have some!), and who I wish would be in my writing clique. Stacy DeKeyser gets me talking about fantasy jobs and chocolate. Eileen Cook gets me talking about my favorite movie so far this summer and what people thought about me in high school. I discuss my writing process and my favorite music movements with Shanna Swendson and there is more writing process stuff and tips for new writers from me on YA Fresh with Kelly Parra.
Phew, that is a lot of reading for ya! If you are not up for all of it, I totally understand, but maybe you want to enter contests this weekend? If so, don’t forget the tour contest, the latest Women Who Rock Wednesday contest, and the cover flat contest on Melissa Walker’s blog. Okay, have a good weekend, I’ll talk to you next week when my new life begins… Scary! And exciting, of course!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Before I launch into the Women Who Rock Wednesday interview, I just wanted to give you some links of where you can find me being interviewed by my rocking Girlfriend Cyber Circuit pals. I’m at Linda Gerber’s blog talking about the songs that would make up my life’s playlist among other things. At April’s Henry’s blog, I talk about scary things, mysteries and wax nostalgic for my goth days and at Sara Hantz’s blog, I’m talking writing process. So check these out of you are interested, but now on to the main event: Women Who Rock Wednesday!!!
Welcome to the second installment of Women Who Rock Wednesday featuring Mandi Perkins!!! Of course, first things first, I need to announce the winner of last week’s contest. *Drum roll* tetewa from blogger you are the winner of Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna’s Cherry Bomb! Please send me an email at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot come with your address and I’ll send it on to Carrie so you get your signed copy!
Now if you weren’t here last week, you may be wondering what WWR Weds is all about. Basically it’s my way of supporting my fellow female artist, getting the word out about women who I think rock, and sharing the fabulous things they do with you. I also highly encourage suggestions for future WWRs to feature because I love discovering new talent.
Mandi Perkins has her major label debut
Q: Hi Mandi, I'm thrilled to have you on Women Who Rock Wednesday, a blog dedicated to getting the word out about female musicians, authors, artists, filmmakers, clothing designers—basically any amazing women—who truly rock and the world should know about. Your music is new to me and probably to a lot of my readers, so can you start out by telling us a little about your musical background? When did you start singing and playing music and who were some of your mentors? For example, did you come from a musically inclined family, learn from friends or a teacher or are you self-taught? Who are some of the musicians out there that you have long admired? We'd especially like to hear about some of the women who you think rock and who inspire you to do what you do.
Mandi: I began singing and writing songs when I was super young. I can still remember the first piece of music I wrote when I was 4 called, “Come Along With Me.” It only had 4 lines, but the tune was damn catchy (!) and I have been writing ever since then. Music has been such an integral part of my life that I usually experience childhood memories as images paired with songs.
My first collection of music was given to me by older brother and it consisted of a lot of rock from bands like The Police, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and The Who. His music blended in an interesting way with my mom’s collection of golden oldies. When I was about 7, Gene Pitney and Led Zeppelin would get all jumbled in my head. Even though I’m sure I must have been a bit confused, it opened my ears to a wide variety of styles and to this day I still have eclectic tastes.
When I started choosing my own music, I got into Stevie Nicks, (Fleetwood Mac), Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Indigo Girls and Tori Amos. Basically I started to love singer /songwriters who sang from the soul and wrote what was real to them.
Q: Your major label debut,
Mandi: I love my album. I am truly very proud of it. My favorites to sing live are “Everybody Knows,” “Why Pretend,” and the title track, “
Q: I grew up listening to bands like Hole, L7, and Bikini Kill, who were outspoken about the sexism they encountered in the industry from executives who didn't take them seriously because they were female to guys in the crowd yelling "show us your tits!" Have you encountered any road blocks or felt mistreated because you're a woman out there rocking? How do you handle this stuff?
Mandi: It is definitely hard to be a female in the rock genre. I would go into meetings with music execs and they would look at me and tell me where I fit in and where I could go. I heard a lot of Avril and Jewel comparisons, which was complimentary, but not accurate. It’s hard when you get judged or put into a box because some people can’t open their minds. I don’t write music where I guy bash and I don’t write about cherries and sparkle. I write what I see around me. I write the truth, I write what is real and since reality isn’t always pretty, performing with too much sheen isn’t my style. I never wanted to dull the raw part. I truly feel that juxtaposition is genius. Meaning… I might look a certain way, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see ugly things or have ugly thoughts. I don’t want to write or sing in a specific style because that is what is expected of me. Beyond the industry, its also club bookers and promoters that sometimes don’t get female fronted rock bands. They put you on with other acts that are completely different (like acoustic folk artists) just because all the singers are female. It makes no sense and it’s the biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome.
Q: A large part of my audience is teen girls, and many of them are aspiring musicians. Can you offer them any advice on how to become a Woman Who Rocks or maybe just how to survive high school when you're a creative person?
Mandi: Stay in school. Best advice ever! No matter what you want to do in the future, an education is a vital asset and it can never be taken away. Even if you study something seemingly unconnected to your future goals, it will still enhance your life. Besides that, always speaking your mind is key, regardless of how unpopular your opinion might be at the time. Don’t let anyone shut you down or tell you that you can’t do something. One of my favorite parts on, “Alice,” is from the title track in the bridge where I sing, “Don’t let them change you, or rearrange you/a pool of tears will rain down on you/when they find you/they’ll remind you/of everything you’ll never be to them.” The point is, you shouldn’t care what they expect of you, you should be yourself. If you work really hard and believe in yourself and what you are doing, then you can achieve something great.
Q: The following two questions are the ones I always ask my Women Who Rock. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest even if you're embarrassed (in fact we like those stories best because it reminds us that we all have our uncool moments).
Mandi: The first music I ever bought was Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” album and the first concert I ever saw was a Madonna concert in
Q: So far (because I'm sure there will be many more to come), what was the moment where you felt most like a rock star? Could be a concert you played or one you attended. Could be meeting someone famous and having that "I'm Not Worthy!"
Mandi: The first time I felt like a rock star was at a show I did in
Thanks so much for joining us on Women Who Rock Wednesday, Mandi! It was a lot of fun to learn more about you and your music. Now I’m sure everyone is pumped to get a copy of Alice in No Man’s Land and you can enter to win it here just by leaving a comment. Reflect on what Mandi said, suggest more women who rock, or say anything you want! I will draw a winner next Wednesday when I’ll be featuring one of my new favorite writers, Rebecca Woolf, author of the rock ‘n’ roll mama memoir Rockabye: From Wild to Child and the fabulous Girls Gone Child blog!
Monday, August 18, 2008
I just want to thank everyone who left me comments on my last blog about taking the big leap and quitting the office job. Your support and encouragement means the world to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! And I’ll keep you updated on how the transition goes.
You have all seen how I’ve hosted visitors from the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, well this week it’s my turn to visit the Girlfriends on their blogs! I spent the last few days answering all of their questions (so I’m behind on correspondence again and if you haven’t heard from me, I apologize!). They asked some very cool questions, so I’ll be posting links to those blogs throughout the week as I get them. Visit if you can because you’ll learn some fun and exciting things about me and IWBYJR and you’ll be introduced to some other cool author blogs!
One GCC blog you guys will want to visit for sure is Melissa Walker’s. Melissa asked me all about the cover of IWBYJR and I shared the images that I saw in my head when envisioning a cover (the cover they came up with is way cooler) and also the rejected IWBYJR covers that I’d never seen until a couple weeks ago. I’ve been bursting to share these with you guys, but decided I should give Melissa the scoop. So head over to her blog or myspace to see those rejected IWBYJR covers. Leave a comment about which you like best and you’ll be eligible to win a signed IWBYJR cover flat!
Other GCC interviews posted today include the one on Wendy Toliver’s myspace where she makes me decide between Twizzlers and Red Vines among other things. On Karin Gillespie’s blog, I’m discussing my influences, aspirations, and those tough bad reviews. On Alyson Noel’s blog, we discuss my workspace and the places and people I’d like to go back in time to see.
I’d some non-GCC interviews this week and last that you should also check out if you get a chance. I visited Rock ‘n’ Roll Mama and we talked about well, the rock ‘n’ roll mama angle of IWBYJR, which I haven’t really explored in other interviews so that was very cool. And today I visited Mode a la Pie and try (not very successfully) in envision a She Laughs video.
Can you envision a She Laughs video? If so please describe it. Or maybe a She Laughs album cover or t-shirt. This might be part of my next contest, hmmm… But right now the Tour Contest is still going on!!! Please, please, please enter it! And the Women Who Rock Wednesday Contest is still going on, too. If you go back two blog entries, you can read about Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna and her fabulous book Cherry Bomb and enter to win it!
Last, but not least, I want to remind my
Friday, August 15, 2008
My big announcement that I’ve been dying to tell you for a couple weeks now is that I’m quitting my day job! Now this doesn’t mean that IWBYJR is selling insanely well (I have no idea how it is selling, I don’t think you get regular updates on these things unless you are best seller) or that I have a big, cushy multi-book deal lined up or anything. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that I’ll be making my living entirely off writing; I’m not anywhere close to being able to do that. Nope, I’m quitting the full-time office job to go back to bartending part-time at the Beacon Pub. So yeah, I guess the subject header is a little misleading as I’ll still have a part-time day job. But it’s a step. A big step. It’s giant leap of faith that someday I will be able to make my living off writing, so retirement funds and paid vacations and great health benefits be damned, I’m going to structure my life so that writing can be my primary focus. It’s liberating, it’s exciting, it’s freakin’ terrifying.
I’ll share all the stuff that has been floating around my brain for the past couple weeks in a moment here, but hopefully I made the right decision because it’s done. I put in my notice a couple weeks ago (was waiting to announce until I got my Beacon schedule so I could share it with you, but that’s still a bit up in the air. However it looks like Sunday and Thursday nights are a sure thing), we’re having my goodbye party today, and my last day is next Friday August 22nd. I’ll probably start up at the Beacon again on Sunday the 24th. If you wish, you can come to one of my upcoming readings and celebrate this with me! I’ll be at the Tamale Hut in North Riverside (8300
Now let’s analyze!
- More writing time!!! This is the main reason why I’m doing this. I’ve been struggling for two years now—since I took my full-time office job—to find time to write. I go home from work every day, take about an hour break to eat and zone, then write until I go to bed. I also write during every spare moment on the weekend and I took vacation time to write. This wasn’t ideal because I’m a binge writer and if I have 8 hours to write I’ll use them and use them well, but if I have two or three, I’ll waste most of them on the internet, but it worked for awhile because I forced myself to be really disciplined. Then everything fell apart in late May when I had to start devoting so much of my time to promoting IWBYJR. With the exception of my once-a-week writers group, I haven’t actually been writing. And I’m a writing junkie. When I am not writing, it makes me irritable and depressed.
So I had choices to make. I could either write less and put out books more slowly; I could do a lot less promotion and be far less attentive to my fans and readers, or I could stop working full-time. If I seriously wanted a writing career, I knew I couldn’t choose either of the first two options. Luckily, the Beacon opened their beer garden a month ago and Scott, the owner, was more persistent than ever about asking me to come back. I realized that if I worked four shifts a week, mostly nights, I would have four full days a week to devote to writing and writing related-business. Right now I don’t even have one day because of all the errands and chores that pile up on the weekends. So yeah, it’s a big improvement.
- More time for my loved ones. As you can imagine from the grueling schedule above, I don’t have much time to see my friends and family. I see my writer friends once a week, but I’m lucky if I see my best friend once every three weeks. Even my boyfriend who I live with hasn’t had all that much time with me as of late. Fortunately, he’s understanding. Everyone pretty much gets that I am doing the equivalent of working two full-time jobs right now. But that doesn’t make me happy. When I was growing up, my father was a workaholic and it seriously damaged our relationship. I swore I would never be like that.
This hit me particularly hard when Marcel passed away. I’d just been in
- Sleep and sanity. As I’ve mentioned quite a bit (and will now have time to blog about one of these days), I’ve had serious struggles with insomnia since I was 13 years old. This year I used acupuncture to break free of my dependence on sleeping pills, but I’m still only averaging 6 hours of sleep a night when my body wants 8. Why? Because my circadian rhythms do not align with the 9 to 5 (or in my case 8:30 to 5) world. I don’t want to go to bed at 11 and get up at 7. I want to go to bed at 1 or 2 and get up at 9 or 10. Forcing myself to do otherwise is not working. And it’s unhealthy. And it’s driving me insane.
Emotionally I have been running on empty since the end of June. I don’t get enough sleep. I didn’t have enough time to grieve the way I needed to grieve. I’m up til at least midnight every night trying to finish things on a never-ending to-do list and then I can’t shut my brain off to sleep. I can’t keep going like this without a complete nervous breakdown and I had a nervous breakdown in my teen years and it was not pretty. I won’t keep steering myself toward that.
- I hate looking professional. Maybe this sounds superficial, but as a creative person it really upsets me. I have this closet full of clothes that I fucking hate. I spent money on said clothes instead of clothes I actually like and that drives me nuts. I kept my hair “normal” for two years. When I put that streak of pink it to celebrate the book release, it felt so good. It made me feel like me again. No one at work has said anything about it, but I think that’s because I’m leaving or because it’s summer. When I started running meetings again in the fall, I’m not so sure it would fly. And I’m sick of having to limit my tattoos to places I can cover. My boss doesn’t really care, but others would take me less seriously and that’s lame. I suck at doing boring professional makeup, so I stopped wearing makeup at work. When I paint my nails, I like to let it chip off, partially because I’m lazy and partially because I’m weird and I like how that looks. I just can’t pull off the office thing. Except when I worked at
where they didn’t care if I wore a t-shirt and jeans. I miss my t-shirt collection. I’m thrilled that I get to start wearing it again while I bartend where my only clothing issue is finding comfy shoes. Columbia
- Office work is not very inspiring. I didn’t want a writing-heavy job because I like to conserve my writing energy for the writing I enjoy, so I took an office job because I figured I could do it, get good benefits, and go home at the end of the day and write. But it’s draining in its own way along with being a time suck. Bartending was physically tiring, it drove me batshit crazy sometimes, but even on the bad days I came home with interesting stories and ideas.
- Time to read. I have like zero time to read right now. It takes me ages to finish a book. This adds to my feelings of general unease with the world as I’m used to at least an hour a day to read. I’m really looking forward to reclaiming that.
- My commute. To a large degree, I hate my commute. Most days the CTA is the bane of my existence. They suck so much at keeping to a schedule, they’ve given up on even having one. Trains are supposed to come every 6 to 10 minutes during rush hour. Mostly they don’t. Especially when it’s freezing out. But I like the friendly CTA guy at the
stop. I like the people watching on the train and my walk from the train to work, though people-watching at the bar is just as good.. I like the peaceful walk past the cemetery between my house and the train. I like the time to just think while I listen to my iPod and I do come up with a lot of stories that way. My commute to the Beacon should be much easier in theory because it is about two miles from my house and a five minute drive. Um, but I don’t have a car. And I don’t want a car. So I’m going to be relying on getting rides or borrowing cars or taking taxis. I’m happy to walk or roller-blade in the summer, but winter….So this might be mildly inconvenient. Medical Center
- My gym. My favorite thing about my job (besides my friends at work) is the gym. It is literally like 50 feet away from my office. I go there every day at lunch. It’s super cheap and convenient and I love love love the free classes they have. I’m in the best shape of my life right now and I don’t want to lose that. There are no gyms convenient to my house. Not without a car and none would be as cheap as my current gym. So two days ago we went and bought an elliptical. It’ll be down in the basement, right in front of the TV, the ideal set-up for me. I can workout and watch whatever I want on TV and be able to use my own shower when I’m done (major plus, public showering really grosses me out. I do it, but I don’t like it.) But I am still going to miss my classes. I think DVDs are going to be my substitute. I have a great kickboxing DVD, but I need more for variety. I really need a good one for abs. Recommendations please!!!!!
- Kathy. I’ve come to really like some of my colleagues, especially Kathy. She’s one of my closest friends now, so it sucks to leave her. I know we’ll still hang out, but I’m gonna miss seeing her as often as I do now. This is always the hardest part about a job. I still have my goodbye card from
on my desk because it was so hard to leave those folks. But I’m still close with all of them, so I know my friendships from UIC will survive too. Columbia
- Money. I’m salaried right now. I know exactly how much money I’ll make each month and I like this guarantee. Given I’m not paid that well because I do work for the state and part of what has irked me about my job is that I definitely should be earning more, but I’m used to what I make and I’ve budgeted around it. Bartending is hit or miss. I have a minimum that I need to make each week. The owner is confident I can make it. I’m fairly confident and I do have savings to fall back on, but I’m almost thirty. I’m getting sick of living paycheck to paycheck. I’d like to afford to travel more and visit my out of state friends. I’d like to pay off some debts. Plus Scott (my boy) is finishing school so he’s not in the best financial situation. So this is scary.
- Benefits. I’ve got great ones right now. I found insurance for a reasonable price, but it is not nearly as good. I really hope I don’t get seriously sick or injured. And I’m going to miss dental insurance. And I probably should be thinking about retirement more than I do (again, nearly 30, have about 3K for retirement… not good). And paid vacations are nice, though having a boss that understands that I need to take off when I need to take off for writing almost balances that out.
- What if I fail? I don’t want to be a bartender forever. I want to write full-time. It’s the only thing that makes me happy. Everything else I seem to lose my patience with after a couple years. But what if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t sell enough books? What if no publishers want to buy my future projects? What the hell do I do? It sends me into total emotional upheaval just thinking about it. I mean, I have a plan B, library science school, but…
Ok, so those are pretty much my main thoughts. Feel free to share yours. Unless you think I’m totally stupid to do this, that might be a little bit upsetting to hear. Encouraging words are appreciated, especially from people who have taken a leap like this. Advice on budgeting both time (so I do get the max out of my writing time) and money is excellent. Workout DVD recommendations rock. Promises to visit me at the Beacon and tip well are good, too. And if you were holding off on buying my book, now would be a great time to go ahead and buy it, lol!
Happy weekend! It’s one of my last seeing as weekends will be workdays for me soon!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
My first WWR (Woman Who Rocks, of course. WWR is the new BFF, people. Start using it as often as possible so even the tabloids pick it up and start labeling women as WWRs instead of calling them out for being fat or having cellulite!) is the fabulous Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna, easily one of the most rockin’ women out there:
I met Carrie through Rock ‘n’ Read, which happened just a few weeks too soon for her to promote her amazing new book, Cherry Bomb: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Better Flirt, a Tougher Chick, and a Hotter Girlfriend--and to Living Life Like a Rock Star, but Carrie is supportive of her fellow rockin’ women, so she came to Rock ‘n’ Read and to my Book Soup event with Alexa Young. I thought she was beyond cool, totally the kind of big sister I always wished I had, and Cherry Bomb allows her to be that sister to all of us! COSMOgirl! says “Think of it as a cool girl’s guide to life,” and L.A. Weekly raves “Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna has taken the fluffy and tired genre known as "grrrl guides" (the girl-powery nonfiction sister to chick lit) and given it claws — black, of course."
Today, we celebrate Carrie, her cool-ass book, and learn more about both of them. And at the end of the interview, you guessed it, you’ll have a chance to win a signed copy of Cherry Bomb!
Q: Cherry Bomb is the ultimate guide to being a kick-ass, tough, rock 'n' roll girl and you've got some great ladies giving advice. Tell us about some of the highlights, who's giving the best advice about what?
Carrie: The contributors in the book really outdid themselves. We’ve got Lisa Loeb sharing her domestic diva side in the chapter on how to be a rockin’ hostess. (Her challah bread grilled cheese recipe is great for hangovers!) And, then we’ve got Dita Von Teese waxing poetic on how to do a classy striptease for your man (or woman) in the bedroom. You know what they say -- men want a whore in the bedroom and Betty Crocker in the kitchen. Cherry Bomb shows you how to be both! And to sooth your rock-weathered soul, Tori Amos offers us some zen life advice on how you need recharge to move forward. Cherie Currie of the Runaways talks about what the song, and book’s namesake, “Cherry Bomb” is all about, Terri Nunn of Berlin gets down and dirty with some sex advice, Kat Von D makes you think hard before deciding what the next tattoo will be. They all really rocked it out!
Q:This is a great concept for a book, fun and empowering, tell us a little bit about how you got the inspiration for it and the process of rounding up rockin' women to participate?
Carrie: I needed a book like this for myself years back and always joked with friends that someone needed to write a “rock chick guide to life.” There are tons of girl guides out there, but none that spoke to the edgier, more alternative, rock and roll-minded girl. I’ve written advice columns before and tend to be the older rock wife of the bunch that the younger rock chicks always come to for advice and it was just time to put it all my useless knowledge in a book and share it with others. The bulk of the advice in the book is from my own experience as a music/entertainment journalist since age 17 (but rock chick since kindergarten) and rock wife of almost eight years now. For the topics I’m not fully an expert on, I called in the pros. I basically just had a huge wish list of my favorite females who rock at whatever it is they do and then I wrote them all very long, lovely letters telling them why they had to be in my book. I got lucky that so many said yes!
Q: Were you always such a cool rock chick or do you have some not-so-rock-n-roll skeletons in your closet. Like for example, my first concert was Janet Jackson and the first tape I owned was Kool and the Gang (I was 7, okay? I liked that Celebration song!)…
Carrie: Hey, who says Janet and Kool and the Gang aren’t cool?! I loved both! I started out with very questionable, but age-appropriate, musical taste at age 5 when I professed my love for Donny Osmond and John Travolta (Grease!). But by age 7, dad turned me onto classic rock like the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, and Led Zep and that led into the start of my ‘metal years’ when I was all about AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Ozzy from ages 10-14. I was ‘cool’ then, but hormones kicked in and I went into a deep hair band period – Poison, Cinderella, Bon Jovi. My hair was big. My hormones were raging. My musical tastes were dictated by how cute the band was. I missed out on a lot of great music during that era, like Depeche Mode and the Cure, but luckily I found them a few years down the road and made up for lost time.
Q: What was your first concert and album?
Carrie: I snuck out of the house to see Twisted Sister and Ronnie James Dio when I was 14 and got grounded for a month for it. It was at the New Haven Coliseum and I remember thinking it felt like one huge rock and roll cult and I was hooked. First album, hard to say. I begged for Donny Osmond singles when I was in Kindergarten and wore out the grooves on my Grease soundtrack my parents bought me. The first piece of music I bought on my own was the Motley Crue single for “Looks That Kill” and – at the risk of sounding like a great grandmother here, I really did have to walk a mile to the record store to buy it. I was 13.
Q: Were there lessons in Cherry Bomb that you could have used in your teens and early twenties? Were there any tips that you didn't know about and incorporated into your life as you were gathering them for the book?
Carrie: I could’ve used the lessons on Bitchy Broads and Frienemies earlier on. I don’t know why, but most women are not very nice to other women. I’ve never been one of those women and I truly, honestly, try to rise above all of that female cattiness but it’s not always easy. I wish someone sat me down earlier and explained to me why women do this and how you should handle it when a bitchy broad is on the attack.
Q: Now all my regular readers know that my favorite band is Nirvana and I'm totally a nerd when it comes to them. So I have both your Nirvana books and especially love the Illustrated Day-By-Day Chronicles, so I've gotta ask how did you get involved with and approach that project?
Carrie: This is where being a good person, a hard worker, and always leaving a job on good terms paid off. When
Q: Any cool Nirvana-related stories to share?
Carrie: I’m not too cool to admit this, but I didn’t fall in love with Nirvana until about midway through the “Nevermind” album cycle. I was in love with Guns N’ Roses at the time Nirvana was breaking and when I first saw the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” I turned the TV off and scoffed, “Ugh, THAT’S? Nirvana?!” Sad, but true. Other than that, I never met Kurt. But I met Courtney and she told me to “Get the fuck out of my face” when I asked her a question about Kurt helping her write songs. Fair enough. It was a rude question but I was just trying to do my job as a journalist. In hindsight, I could’ve phrased the question a bit better.
Q: And what is next up for you? Can we expect more music-fueled books in the future?
Carrie: Everything I do is fueled by music somehow and if not, I will make it music-oriented. I’ve been asked by porn star Tera Patrick and her rock star husband Evan Seinfeld to write their joint autobiography for them and we are just in the book proposal stage now. Their story is amazing and I’m thrilled to be able to share it with everyone! I want to write one book a year. I’d love to do another advice book. I’d love to do another music book. I’d love to put all of my sorted stories as rock journalist and rock wife into a collection of short stories. I would love to write for younger girls and do a Y.A. novel. I want to do a comic strip based on “Cherry Bomb” with my book’s illustrator Liz Adams. I want to write a book on writing books or how to break into magazines. I love sharing tips and advice that works.
Q: Last, I have the question that I ask all my women who rock. What was your biggest rock star moment? Anything from a concert you enjoyed to a person you met and had that
Carrie: I get that way with painters more than I do with rock stars. It’s probably because I started writing when I was 17 and have met a lot of people. But when I first met painters Joe Sorren and Mark Ryden, I was completely tongue-tied. The closest I came to that in music would’ve been when I was 19 or 20 and I was in a tour bus with my boyfriend at the time with Jack Bruce of Cream fame going over the
Thanks for sharing your great stories with us, Carrie and I would LOVE to read a book a year by you! I’m sure everybody is really excited about Cherry Bomb now and Carrie has been sweet enough to agree to send a signed copy of the book to one lucky winner! How do you enter? It’s easy. Leave a comment on this blog (maybe share your favorite rockin’ tip or just express your enthusiasm about Carrie or other rockin’ ladies) sometime before next Wednesday and I’ll pick a winner at random and announce them on the 8/20 Women Who Rock Wednesday! Our guest next week will be Mandi Perkins, a songstress with a gorgeous voice from our neighbor to the North (
BTW, if you want more Carrie, you can visit her on MySpace or meet her in person this Saturday the 16th between 3 and 7 at Billy Shire Fine Arts in