I want to be best friends with @mindykaling

Mindy Kaling could be my twin separated by birth (except for that whole age and race difference. but whatever, It could still totally be plausible). Or maybe just the super awesome older & more successful sister I never had. In any case, I ADORE her & want to be BFFs with her (probably the highest compliment I could ever give you).

I stumbled upon her old blog Things I bought that I love a few years ago without knowing it was Kelly Kapoor from “The Office” (a longtime S-Dizzle favorite). I thought it was so funny and witty—when she stopped writing it, I was heartbroken.

Then, a few months ago, her new blog The Concerns of Mindy Kaling launched. I am in LOVE with it (seriously—go read it. But only after you’re finished here.) It’s basically her old format—she blogs about things that she loves (clothes, shows, makeup, people, etc.), but she has a way with words that makes you want to read more (even if it’s about faux ice cubes used to keep whiskey cold!). We write about a lot of the same topics (shoes, pop culture, dumb things that happen) and I’d like to think that our writing styles are similar (but that’s just wishful thinking on my part!).

When I found out she had written a book of essays (similar to the lovely Tina Fey’s Bossypants and the books of my other hero Jen Lancaster), I saved the date & made sure to get my copy on the first day.

Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me is the book I wish I had written.

It’s funny and charming and completely relatable. At one point Mindy writes about things that make her cry (umm, hello, the WORLD makes me cry) lists Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album as one of those things. She says that listening to that specific album reminds her of her parents & being a kid and taking family vacations together. She tries to explain that listening to “Graceland” reminds her of a time lost—things will never be that way again. And it makes her sad.

Substitute “Graceland” for Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever and that’s basically my life.

Sure, this album has the mega hit “Free Fallin”, but that’s not the reason I love it (or why it makes me cry). I love it because it makes me think of my dad (and my mom & siblings too). If you know me (and my family) you’d know that my dad is way more likely to listen to talk radio than music (of any kind). He’s a finance guy & would rather listen to the stock market than anything on FM radio. But he loved (loves) this album. Because it’s sort of rare for him to REALLY love an album, the fact he loves this one so much makes it special.

Every time I hear “Runnin’ Down a Dream” or “I Won’t Back Down”, I’m instantly six years old, hanging out with my mom & dad on a Saturday morning. “Zombie Zoo”? I’m eight, at a backyard BBQ and dancing with my sister and watching our parents socialize with friends. “Alright for Now”? Driving in the car with the whole fam to whatever vacation destination we decided on, singing loudly and laughing at my brother for falling asleep 20 minutes into the drive.

The point is that I have intense, personal memories attached to that particular album and I totally understand Mindy when she says Paul Simon makes her cry. Tom Petty makes ME cry, girlfriend! I get it!

Aside from listing things that make her cry, Mindy talks about growing up nerdy, her awesome relationship with her parents, choosing to go to a college where she could be a big fish in a small pond, and being able to relate to children via NSYNC (and having very serious conversations about which one she would marry). If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you’d note that I ALSO have experience with all of those things. As I’ve experienced every.single.one. (and for the record, the choice of marriage to an NSYNC member would obvs be JC. Or maybe Lance, if you don’t mind having a gay husband).

Reading her book is what I assume hanging out with Mindy Kaling would be: charming, witty, a little snarky and a WHOLE lot of fun.

It goes without saying that I’d urge you to read this book. Just do it. You’ll thank me later.

I’ll leave you with Lee the D’s favorite song (since I talked about it earlier).

Since Christmas is in a week, aforementioned Lee the D and I are braving the mall today. Wish us luck!

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fierce fabulous…and female?

I haven’t written anything super positive or happy in a few days, so I wanted to remedy that. Since I railed on Bella and co. for a few hundred words on Sunday, I figured I’d make up for that today. I’m dedicating today to my top 10 favorite awesome, bad ass, butt-kicking, all-around awesome and inspirational girls from television, books, and movies. I deliberately chose to use fictional characters as a sort of foil for Bella Swan, mostly because my last post about her was sort of catty and mean. I don’t like cutting down other women, real or fictional. I just wanted to put it out there that there are other REALLY amazing female characters (some old, some newer) that, for me, personify what women should be about: not being afraid to speak your mind (even if your voice shakes), not rely on anyone to “rescue” you, not being afraid to be smart or funny or brave or “too masculine.” I am by NO means a prototypical feminist (I own too many pairs of shoes and bottles of nail polish that would probably bar my entry), but that doesn’t mean that I don’t  admire and love my own gender. I think there are smart, beautiful and AMAZING women out there (in the real and fictional worlds) that are better role models for the next generation than a whiny teenager that sits around waiting to be saved.

This is by NO means an exhaustive list, but my personal opinions. I’m sure there are tons of other great female characters out there (leave them in the comments if you so choose!), but these are the S-Dizzle approved “fierce fabulous females”

10.  Sammy Joyce, Sammy’s Hill by Kristin Gore (there’s no movie or tv show, so the book cover will have to do)

I love Sammy Joyce. She’s an Ohio girl, working in DC for a US Senator. Aside from the fact that she’s a Democrat and I’m a Republican, she could be my fictional twin (sort of). Sammy’s smart, loads of fun, doesn’t take herself too seriously (especially considering she at one point gets peed on by a baby in her “only stylish item of clothing”—a suede skirt) and is really good at her job. And she TRIES to be good at her job and doesn’t let anyone try to tear her down (office bitches) or a stupid boyfriend who demeans her boss (spoiler: she lets him have it). And when said stupid boyfriend cheats on her? Instead of crying into a bowl of ice cream, she comes up with a hilarious “gotcha” plot.  If you haven’t read Sammy’s Hill yet, you really should.

9.  Stephanie Plum, One for the Money (and the rest of the Janet Evanovich series)

Bounty Hunter Stephanie Plum. LITERALLY an ass-kicking chick (sometimes without meaning to be so). After accidentally falling into the family bailbonds business, Stephanie became a bounty hunter for people skipping out on their bond (called “skips”). Along with her weird crew of associates (a former ‘ho named Lula, an almost-alway high stoner named Mooner, a cross dresser rocker named Sally Sweet, her fellow kick-ass grandma Mazur, and her two ‘almost loves’—cop Joe Morelli and former army ranger, Ranger) Stephanie manages to solve mysteries in her New Jersey suburb without getting herself in too much trouble. She’s fiercely independent and has no problem being alone, doing things for herself and takes it so far as to actively tell people that she’s NOT a damsel in distress and that she can fend for herself. Add to that a predilection for blowing up cars (accidentally!), she’s an awesome girl that I would totally be friends with (but probably wouldn’t let her drive my car).

8.  Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer 

I just had to do it. Sorry folks. Buffy is absolutely 100% Bella Swan’s opposite. Instead of hanging out with vampires and letting them throw her birthday parties, Buffy was more concerned with stabbing them with wooden stakes. She sort of brought in a new wave of butt-kicking chicks (with really great hair!). What I like most about her (other than her witty retorts) is that, like the other girls on the list, she never waited for someone to save her. In fact, SHE did most of the saving. And she never let a guy get in the way of what she was born to do (even if the love of her life happened to be, in fact, a vampire). Also? She’s a REALLY good friend (another BIG +1 on my scale. Being a good girlfriend to your friends is key)

7.    Olivia Benson, Law & Order: SVU

Another +1 for the ass-kicking chicks. Olivia was the first female detective in the Law&Order franchise (and for sure its best). Besides being drop dead gorgeous, Olivia isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty by going undercover, chasing down a perp in a sketchy alley, or stare down a creep in interrogation. She can be the tough bad-cop when she needs to be, but also has true compassion for victims (especially children) and has no problem embracing her maternal side. She’s the best example of using femininity in the right way (not overtly sexual or ‘poor me, come rescue me’). And she gets to carry a gun and a badge. I’d rather have her as my back up than Fin.

6.  Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables (and the rest of the series by L.M. Montgomery)

I loved Anne growing up. She was plucky and fiery and had red hair that she hated (I hated my own mousy-brown hair too). Anne’s story is totally inspirational: the girl was an orphan & was accidentally sent to Green Gables. But instead of being forced to be sent back, Anne stayed with Marilla & Matthew and became a seriously awesome lady. She was really smart and instead of playing dumb to get boys to like her, she pushed herself further to be top in her class (ok, and maybe smashing a slate on Gilbert Blythe’s head too). She had a crazy awesome imagination, did things that no other girls would dare (walking along a roof because someone dared her? no problem) and (like Buffy) was a really really good friend. Her friendship with Diana Barry is the stuff that all female friendship magic is made of. She chased her dreams, didn’t settle for “good enough”…and still managed to have a job, a husband and a bunch of cute kids.

5.  Veronica Mars, Veronica Mars 

I came across some Veronica Mars DVDs back in 2006 (the show was already airing) and fell in love with Neptune and all of its crazy residents. Especially Veronica. She was a sort of modern day Nancy Drew, working as a PI (and later on getting her license and scoring a 95 on the exam!) and helping solve “mysteries” in and around Neptune. She had a huge pitbull named Backup (adorable) and more surveillance equipment than any 17 year old girl should have access too. In short: she was awesome. Add to it a sassy, spunky personality and you’ve got a character that everyone (guys and girls) fell in love with. What I love most about Veronica is that, like most of the other ladies on the list, she isn’t some damsel in distress. If she gets herself in a sticky situation, she finds a way to get out. She’s not about fitting in or doing what’s “cool”, but doing what she thinks is right.

4.  Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind  by Margaret Mitchell

What list of fierce and fabulous women would be complete without Scarlett? None. In her own twisted way, Scarlett manages to be a pretty independent lady (in between all of her marriages, of course). She’s the one who manages to save Tara and saves her husband, Frank Kennedy’s, lumber business (which she ended up running). Sure, she was horribly selfish most of the time. And she tried to be a delicate little waif that needed to be saved…but she ended up doing the saving more often than not. She was a survivor…and did most of it on her own (ok, maybe with a little help from Rhett)

3.  Elle Woods, Legally Blonde

A blonde sorority girl turned law student picks Elle Woods. Surprise surprise. But hear me out. Elle on the outside looks like just another dumb sorority girl—concerned more with the latest sale at Bendel’s and getting a ring from her boyfriend than with anything else. But, we find out, she’s actually much more than that. She’s smart (duh, she did get into HARVARD), but more than that, she’s a good person. She never commits the cardinal sin of turning on another girl, doesn’t get catty (even when other women are HORRIBLE to her) and does everything in her power to do what’s right. She makes no apologies for liking manicures or having a small dog. Instead, she made all us female law students (and ladies in general) see that you can still succeed in a typically male dominated profession (law, banking, medicine, etc.) without hiding that fact that you are, in fact, a lady (and maybe one that likes pink and manicures and shopping). So what if she’s a fictional character. She’s the best.

2.  Liz Lemon, 30 Rock 

Since I couldn’t put Tina Fey on my list (stupid self-made limitations), I had to include her fictional alter-ego, Liz Lemon. When 30 Rock premiered back in 2006, I instantly felt a comradery with its main character, head writer Liz Lemon. She’s hilarious (sometimes without meaning to be), a little awkward (ok, a lot awkward) and yells things like “nerds” and “blerg” a lot (and, my personal favorite saying of all time “I want to go to there”), but, all joking aside, she’s the head writer of a television show. Not too shabby. She bought her apartment (and the one above hers) by herself, no husband to help her. She’s a pretty kick ass lady. I could go on and on about my love for Liz, but instead, I’ll just let you decide for yourselves

1.  Jo March, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The first fictional character that I really identified with. I was probably 7 when I read Little Women for the first time and I love love loved Jo. She, unlike her sisters, didn’t care too much about dresses or parties. She was more interested in writing stories and going on adventures. My favorite favorite favorite line from any book is one that she utters. When someone tells her she should have been a lawyer, she responds with a smile and “I should have been a great many things,”. She slays me. I love her so much. Alcott created a character so completely ahead of her time. When she is proposed to by her BFF, instead of jumping and saying yes (knowing she’d be taken care of for the rest of her life), she turns him down because she knows she wouldn’t be happy and she wants something more. She set out on her own (and, in the late 1800s, this was SO not the norm). She was ambitious and creative and smart…she’s everything that, as both a young girl reading it at age 7 and a young(ish) woman reading it again at 27, I aspire to be.

So there you have it. My own person fierce fabulous (fictional) females. Any I missed?

drinking the haterade

Contrary to popular belief, I really DO try to live my life without too much hate. I’d rather focus on things that I love (my family & friends, my dog, politics, writing, nail polish, funny & sassy books written by amazing women, tv shows that make me laugh, etc.) than on things that I hate.

But once in awhile, something comes along that I have such a physical & visceral reaction to that I can’t help but write (i.e. complain) about it.

Today’s rant is brought to you by this

If you know me, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of one of my hate-fueled Twilight (the book and the movie) rants. I make no bones about my feelings for Bella, Edward and company: I can’t stand them.

I read the books—well, two and a half. I was halfway through Eclipse and realized that I was actively rooting against EVERY CHARACTER in the book (with the exception of Jacob, sassy Jessica, and Bella’s dad, Charlie. To quote my girl, Jen Lancaster I’m Team Bella’s Dad!) so I had to stop the insanity. I never finished it and never picked up Breaking Dawn. I never considered my life incomplete.

Today, however, with the incessant buzz about the new movie (even my beloved Entertainment Weekly had those bozos on the cover!), I wondered if maybe I was missing something. Maybe I had been too stubborn in my hatred and really just needed to give it another chance. I was “breaking down” (see! see what I did! I made a really awful pun of an awful book!). Armed with only my pride (and a very large diet coke), I sat down with a copy of Breaking Dawn. I was determined to give it a fair shake.

I made it thirty WHOLE pages before I physically couldn’t take anymore and had to stop or my eyes would become permanently attached to the back of my head (and they hurt from the constant rolling). Thirty pages in and I remembered why I hated all of the characters (minus Charlie Swan! Team Bella’s Dad!) and wanted to get Bella into a very serious deprogramming rehabilitation program (she drank the vampire kool aid BIG TIME, folks). I couldn’t help but pull out my phone to check the definition of “stockholm syndrome” and realized that Bella was (is?) a textbook case.

Some people (including family members that I love dearly!) cannot understand why I drink the Twilight haterade. My answer? Have you READ the books? Or seen the movie? There is so much to dislike and hate on!

My first beef was with the book itself. I’m alllll about people reading. I love to read and probably have read a book or two a week since I was a kid (I’m really not kidding). Obviously not all of them were gems. I’ve read some really awful and terrible books. Some waaaay worse than anything Stephanie Meyer had written. But none of those terrible books have the cult-like devotion that fans of Twilight have.

I’m all about liking a book,even if it’s terrible (I do own almost every Babysitters Club book ever written). But I have to draw the line at obsessive behavior over a creepy antihero (but more on that later). Mostly, I have a problem with people thinking Twilight is some great fantastic piece of literature or an eternal love story. Let’s call a spade a spade: it’s a Harlequin Romance Novel (minus all the sexy bits) for adolescent girls and emotionally starved women. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

I’ll hand it to Stephanie Meyer for tapping into a market that had been drying up for some time. When I was a teenager, we had Sweet Valley High and boy bands. As stated before, I spent much of my pre-teen and early teen years convinced I was going to be Mrs. Nick Carter. I don’t fault girls for having a crush…but this OBSESSION with Edward Cullen goes beyond my schoolgirl crush. It delves into Charles Manson Family territory. Scary stuff.

But my appreciation for Meyer ends there. I think she’s a terrible terrible TERRIBLE writer. She has no sense of how to develop a likable main character (I’m convinced she accidentally made Jacob likable. There’s no other explanation) and has no concept of how to move or even start a plot. Her characters are flat and one-dimensional. I have no reason to like (or even relate) to Bella. Bella is a “perfect” character if you think about it. She has no real faults, other than she’s clumsy. Seriously. That’s it (and that in itself is a MAJOR cop out). She whines her way through four books (five movies) waiting for someone to save her. She never even considers saving herself. She meets Edward maybe twice and then in hopelessly and eternally “in love” with him. Yeah. At age 16 she is “hopelessly and irrevocably in love with him.” How about you graduate from high school first, Bells. Maybe go to college, date a guy who doesn’t think your scent is like a “drug to him,” get a job, maybe move out of your dad’s house? Just a thought.

Anyway, besides Bella being incredibly stupid, I also have a problem with Edward “Ike Turner” Cullen. I know, I know, he’s not physically abusive like Ike Turner, but I couldn’t come up with anyone else. Edward is supposedly based on the triumvirate of old school male love interests (and many a girl, including this one’s, literary crushes) Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride & Prejudice, Edward Rochester (whom E. Cullen actually shares a name) from Jane Eyre and (my personal favorite) Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables (and the rest of the Anne books).

Seriously, who can forget this scene from Anne of Green Gables?

 Anne and Gil meet for the first time. And Anne does NOT fall hopelessly and eternally in love with him (that doesn’t happen until, like, the end of the THIRD book). He teases her by calling her “Carrots” and she breaks a slate on his head. Sassy, feisty and independent, that one. I was totally smitten with Gilbert (in the books AND the movies)—and why wouldn’t I be? He was nice to Anne (without being creepy or stalky), was her FRIEND first (for a looooong time), encouraged her to go out and follow her dreams and was a-ok with letting her go (hoping that after she’d been around the world, or at least Canada, she’d come back. Guess what. She did.) Lucy Maud Montgomery created a lovely romance between two people that made sense and that you rooted for. But I digress. My love for Anne & Gil is a post for another day.

This is about why I think Edward is terrible. Besides being annoying (seriously? the brooding? didn’t like it with Mr. Darcy, certainly don’t like it with you), he’s also way possessive and stalker-y (breaking into her house and watching her sleep for months? That’s not sweet. That’s a FELONY). You would think that in a hundred or so years he would have picked up on the what-not-to-do’s when courting (Oh, God. Did I just say “courting” apparently I’m channeling 1898 Stacey. I apologize) a lady. Hell, he’d be better off asking Leon Phelps for advice than to go with his gut instinct (which, of course, is to be creepy and weird).

The books are terrible, no doubt, but the movies almost make the books look like Pulitzer Prize winners. The awful acting, coupled with atrocious dialogue makes for cringe-inducing filmmaking.

I guess what I don’t understand is WHY? Why are women (and girls) obsessed with this stuff? I understand the need for a good romance novel or a sappy chick flick (Hell, I’m WRITING a chick lit novel!), but I don’t understand the undying and unwavering love for these unlikable characters! I don’t understand people that say “man, I SO ‘get’ Bella”. I don’t…what’s to get? There’s nothing there! She’s a flat character! My DOG is more complex than Bella! (and likely a better actress than Kristen Stewart). And Edward? Oh girls, if I could wrap up Gilbert Blythe, Atticus Finch, Rhett Butler, Nick Carraway, George Knightley, and Theodore “Laurie” Laurence and send them to you, I would.

Anyway, this is getting waaaaaay too long. If you disagree, feel free to comment! I won’t take offense 😉

it was a dark and stormy night…

No, I’m not talking about tonight (it’s still sort of light and it’s not so much stormy as cold). I’m talking about one of my FAVORITE books as a kid A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. After this morning’s somber entry, I wanted to write something else that wasn’t so sad.

Enter this week’s “Book of the Week.”  (I didn’t do one last week. Sorry.)

This afternoon, after wiping off the shock of the morning’s horrible news, I decided I needed to do something (other than actual studying) to make me smile. And, other than a 80% off Kate Spade sale (have you seen this? I die), nothing makes me happier quicker than a trip to the bookstore (RIP, Borders. I’m still mourning your loss).

After browsing amongst the “grown up” books, I decided to take a gander through the juvenile (not THAT Juvenile!) section, I came across this

Next to Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, this was my favorite book as a kid (and, ok, The Babysitters Club too). And I was a kid that didn’t like science fiction or fantasy (the closest I got was loving fairytales. But most little girls love fairytales, so that doesn’t count). But this was the book that made me want to be a writer.

I had wanted to be a writer since first grade, when ALL of my stories were about a little girl getting a kitten (I think I was trying to subtly get my parents to buy me a cat. It didn’t work. I’m 2[redacted] years old and I’m still cat-less). I always liked to read (Ann M. Martin was basically a crack pusher to me. If she released a book, I HAD to have it.), but I don’t think I quite grasped what being a writer ACTUALLY was. But in fifth grade, thanks to my teacher (the incredible and incomparable Mrs. Carol Watson), I began to really GET what being a writer was (mostly because she herself was a writer).

And then I read A Wrinkle in Time. It was the first book I read that made me THINK about what I was reading. The Babysitters Club was mindless fluff, and Little Women and Anne of Green Gables were pretty straightforward novels about young women (Jo and Anne, respectively) that were feisty and smart and didn’t apologize for it (sort of baby “chick lit” if you will. I was bitten by THAT bug early). But A Wrinkle in Time was different. It tried to get at something more…something deeper. And, at age 10, I couldn’t possibly understand what L’Engle was REALLY trying to get at (mostly Biblically symbolism and the battle of good v. evil, the idea of a group-think society where individual thought is not allowed), but I knew that it was more than what was actually going on on the page. I think that’s when I TRULY fell in love with the written word.

That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be the person who made people fall in love with books.

I knew I had a copy of the book…somewhere. Most likely in the basement of my parents’ house amidst the Sweet Valley High and aforementioned (argh. lawyer-talk. I hate myself.) Babysitters Club. I did manage to unearth it and dove right into the world of Meg and Charles Wallace, Calvin O’Keefe, Mrs Which, Mrs Whatsit and Mrs Who, Aunt Beast and, of course, IT. If you didn’t read the book as a kid (or have kids that haven’t read it), I can only implore you: do so. It’s a quick read (it IS, after all, a children’s/YA book), but very much worth it. For kids, it’s a fantastic adventure into fantastical world (think Narnia or Perelandra/Malacandra from the Space Trilogy) and for adults, it’s a brilliant symbolic story about the battle of good v. evil.

It’s basically the story of Meg and Charles Wallace Murry who are taken to a faraway land (along with their friend, Calvin) to rescue their father, a scientist, who has been missing for a long time. Meg is a pre-teen girl’s idol: she’s awkward and doesn’t have many (any) friends, she doesn’t fit in at school (or at home) and the one person that she feels close to (her father) is missing.  But she ends up being a kick-ass chick that doesn’t play backseat to a male character—she does a lot of the saving on her own.

In short: just read it (Or re-read it if you read it as a kid. Try it. You’ll like it.)

In other pop culture news, I am not-so-patiently awaiting this

I’m so excited, I can hardly stand it. Favorite. Show. Of. All. Time(s) (thanks, Kanye!)

I can’t wait to see what the Bluth gang is up to (hopefully finally getting rid of that stair car. or maybe FINALLY getting the cornballer approved by the US government).

Next summer is SO far away.

 

when I grow up I want to be like HER

Today (since I’m suffering from severe writer’s block & could use some inspiration), I want to talk about my writing inspirations.

Not my PERSONAL inspirations or my style inspirations, because those are completely and totally different people. This is what inspires me as a writer. Women (and, yes, they’re all women. Sorry dudes. I love you and all, but I’ve been the most “inspired” by my fellow ladies).

As I’ve stated before, these are women I look up to. I’ve read their books. I read their blogs. I anxiously await to read what they are doing next. Some of them are political, some aren’t, and one is political in a round-about way (but more on that later). Basically, these are the women I look to when I need a little “pick-me-up” and a reminder of why I love the written word.

#1. Jen Lancaster

Her first memoir (“Bitter is the New Black”) came out in 2006, just as I was graduating from college and going into the “Real World”. I took a position with a political group that required me to move to New England for a few months. Aside from my former college roommate, I knew absolutely NO ONE in the area. I was already stressed about my job and was horribly lonely. I picked Jen’s book up at a Border’s (RIP) and tore through it in about a day. It was the tale of Jen’s unemployment after September 11, 2001. Most unemployment memoirs (is there such a thing) aren’t funny. But Jen’s was. She was (is) a snarky, narcissistic, former sorority girl with a loud mouth, obsession with shoes and an insane need to always be right (plus, she’s a Republican!). We could be twins separated at birth (by fifteen or so years). I had never really given any thought to writing “creative non-fiction”, but after reading Jen, I thought “hey, maybe there IS a market for this! I’ve gobbled up every book she’s written since, given copies to my girlfriends for holidays, and took a trip out to Chicago for my birthday last year to meet her (and Jen Weiner). She was incredibly lovely and funny in person (just as she appears in her books) and was so excited to hear that we had come all the way from Ohio. Her latest foray into fiction (“If You Were Here”, pictured above) is EXACTLY the type of book that I hope to write. She’s the first person I think of when someone asks me “What kind of books do you want to write?”  She’s the perfect example of how funny and well-written women’s fiction is not dead.

#2 Jennifer Weiner

Easily my very favorite living writer. The first book I ever read that she wrote was “In Her Shoes” (you may have seen the Cameron Diaz-Toni Collette film, but the book was a million times better). Technically classified as “chick lit” (which seems to have some people wrinkle their noses), but I consider it really well-written women’s fiction. Though not as laugh-out-loud funny as Jen Lancaster, Jen Weiner is hands-down the best writer in her genre (and probably one of the best, if not THE best, in ANY genre). Her characters are flawed & complete, her plots well thought out and detailed and her clip and pacing is something to be admired. She’s the type of writer that other writers read and go “Damn, I wish I had written that!” Her stories are typically more emotional than other “chick lit” writers and often handle more serious topics (adultery, rape, adoption, etc.), but she handles them so well that you forget that you’re reading about some really heady and heavy things. I don’t think I can even name my favorite of her books, but it’s probably a tie between “Goodnight Nobody” (which, IMO, was her funniest and quirkiest novel) and “Best Friends Forever” (a story about, yes, best friends). When I’m feeling a little fancy (as in, not writing about my latest incident with the Homeowner’s Association), I try to channel Jen Weiner. I’ve started a new thing “WWJWD” (what would Jennifer Weiner Do) to help me along when I’m feeling stuck. Also, she’s so incredibly nice & bubbly. When I met her & she found out it was my birthday, she gave me a HUGE hug and told me she loved my dress. Adorable that one (and she’s as obsessed with the Bachelor/ette as I am!)

#3 Mary Matalin

Sort of a cop out because she’s not exactly known for being a “writer-writer”, but as a political op, best known for her role as Political Director of Bush-Quayle ’92 (and for marrying the Ragin’ Cajun, Democratic Strategist, James Carville!). But it was Mary that made me see that there was (is) a place for women in Republican politics. I became entrenched in the political world during the 2000 election and the first time I saw her was on Crossfire with her husband, James Carville. She was so sassy and smart and completely broke the mold on what I thought Republican strategists and pundits should be (white, male and unfunny). I heard she wrote a book about her experiences on the campaign trail with her husband called “All’s Fair in Love, War and Running for President”. My mom bought it for me for Christmas, I read it in about three days and I was hooked. I wanted to be Mary. A Republican, for sure, she’s not afraid to speak her mind (or differ from the GOP talking points). “All’s Fair” was the first book I read that completely changed my life. It made me see that a career in politics was not just a dream, but completely possible. I got to meet Mary last year and, just like my other two heroes, she was nothing but lovely and wonderful when I told her how much I had looked up to her. Ten (almost twelve, yikes!) years later, I still turn to “All’s Fair” when I need some political inspiration.

#4 Emily Giffin

Author of one of my very favorite stories, “Something Borrowed” and a former lawyer. It’s easy to see why I identify with Emily—she’s a blonde (though WAY blonder than me) lawyer-turned-author. I’m a blonde (though no so much anymore) law student-turned-attempted-writer. She’s the perfect example of going in one direction for many years and then deciding that it’s not for you and doing something else that you love. She may not be the best technical writer (like Jennifer Weiner) and she’s definitely not as funny as Jen Lancaster (but who is? except maybe me…), but her writing has something else in it: you can tell she’s lived another life and really uses her real-world experiences in her stories. Her novels have gotten a little darker, which is ok, but I much prefer the lighter “Something Borrowed’ and “Something Blue.” What she (and both Jens) do really well is take a genre (“chick lit”) that is typically alllll about romance and instead turn out stories that are more about self-realization and friendship than getting the guy. Even at its core, “Something Borrowed’ is a friendship story first, a love story second. I dig that.

#5  S.E. Cupp

S.E. Cupp is the girl I want to be best friends with. She’s written a few books (“Why You’re Wrong About the Right” and “Losing Our Religion”) and has been a columnist for several different media outlets. Like, Mary Matalin, she doesn’t write fiction. But unlike Mary, she IS known for being a writer (and a pretty good one). What I love most about S.E. is that she’s an unapologetic conservative who writes about conservative issues and conservative viewpoints without coming across as preachy or weird (like many in the media and on the left want young conservative women to appear). She tries things just for the sake of trying them (hunting, getting involved in NASCAR, learning about religion) and to make herself a more interesting and educated person. Plus, she’s really funny and REALLy nice. The first time I heard about her, I automatically threw her in the Ann Coulter/Laura Ingraham/Michelle Malkin camp (don’t get me wrong, I like all of those women and regularly read what they have to say. But notice none of them got a place on my inspiration list. You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. Just sayin’), but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw she wasn’t yelling at other guests on news shows and that her writing had a more funny, conversational tone than some of the other more legal/factual/abrasive others. She’s the female conservative voice that I want to be “when I grow up”

that brings up to the bonus. And it will probably shock most of you.

#Bonus Kristin Gore

Yup, as in daughter of Al and Tipper. Most of you are probably scratching your heads going “But isn’t she a Democrat, Stacey? Like a big one?” Sure, she probably (definitely) is. But I don’t admire her for her political views. I admire her for her two novels, “Sammy’s Hill” and “Sammy’s House”. “Sammy’s Hill” is no joke, probably one of my top 3 favorite “chick lit” novels and probably on my top 15 list of “All-Time Reads”. Kristin managed to take my two favorite things: women’s fiction (“chick lit” sounds so degrading) and politics. She created by far my FAVORITE book heroine of ALL TIME, Sammy Joyce. Sammy’s a junior staffer to a Senator from Ohio (O-H-I-O!) and lives in DC. She’s incredibly quirky (some would say “weird”) that finds herself in odd situations that she needs to talk her way out of (a congressional hearing in 20 minutes and her star testifier is an older man that’s high as a kite on weed? walking into the office with two COMPLETELY different shoes on? knocking over a Washington Post reporter and stabbing him with a pen—accidentally of course?). I loved loved loved Kristin’s stories and found myself not wanting to move to DC to join the politics ranks, but to observe my pals in politics and then write a book about them 🙂

So that’s it. My list of ladies who inspire me to keep writing and keep keepin’ on.

Do any of you have people that inspire you in your chosen career path?

Caitlin Kelly, I have a bone to pick with you

I have a bone to pick with writer Caitlin Kelly, author of the atrocious Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail. What is billed as a “writer forced to work retail after being let go from her writer job”, is really more “writer decides she needs some extra income to play around with and decides to work ONE DAY A WEEK at an upscale North Face store.”

Clearly this book was not marketed properly. When I purchased the book, I thought I’d be getting a funny, snappy look at what retail life is like, especially for someone that had another career & was forced back into retail.

I was WRONG. This was essentially someone taking a job in retail with the idea of “writing about it.” She didn’t have to live off of a retail salary. She makes it abundantly clear that she’s different (read: better) than the rest of the staff and most of her complaints are of the silly variety: “I hate being on my feet,” “They expect me to tell them when I use the bathroom,” etc. Because she only worked one (!) day a week, I don’t think she really “got” what being a retail worker was. She got the “light version.” She spent more time talking about how educated she is, how many languages she speaks, how many amazing people she knows, and generally how awesome she is.

She worked five hours a week for a year. That definitely does not count as a “career”…it barely qualifies as a JOB. And “unintentional”? To me it seems that she took the job as something to write about. That’s it. Five hours a week averages to about fifty-ish(maybe forty) dollars a week. That’s it. Clearly she didn’t need a retail job to survive (especially in New York City). I found her to be whiny, annoying and completely unlikeable. When I read a memoir, I HAVE to like the writer (unless that person is in their own right famous, then all bets are off). There was no spark to her writing and instead of trying to get the reader to understand her/sympathize with her, she comes off as holier than thou and obnoxious.

Skip it if you’re looking to be entertained. Read it if you want to roll your eyes a lot.

This brings me to book #2, Retail Hell: How I Sold My Soul to the Store & Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate by Freeman Hall.

THIS is the book Caitlin Kelly wishes she wrote. Funny, snappy and hilarious observations from someone who actually WORKED (& not a measly five hours a week) for fifteen years at the Nordstrom handbag department. Freeman has been there and recounts it all: bosses, customers from hell, morning ‘pep rally’ meetings (if you’ve worked in retail, you know how awful these can truly be) and, of course, the dreaded holiday shopping season.

I came out of the book wanting Freeman Hall to be my best friend. That, to me, is a sign of a clever and well-written memoir.

I wanted to punch Caitlin Kelly in the face.

Draw your own conclusions. (but seriously, buy Freeman’s book. Just do it)

Which brings me to my BIG announcement (or little announcement, depending how you look at it). November is not only National Blog month, but is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And I’ve decided to do it.

That’s right, folks. I’m writing a novel.

To be fair, I’ve written pieces of two novels already. But I’ve never finished one. So this NaNoWriMo is giving me the kick in the pants that I need to actually WRITE.

And it feels good.

Because I myself am a HUGE fan of chick lit (and have read more than my fair share of book), I know that this is the genre I’m not just the most comfortable with, but the genre that I myself read. It grinds my gears when I hear people complain that chick lit isn’t “real” fiction. That its glorified Harlequin romance-territory. Sure, some of it is. But some “high brow” fiction is formulaic crap that people spout out that doesn’t make sense & is essentially regurgitated Kerouac or McCarthy.

Good writing is good writing. It doesn’t matter if you write chick lit, sci fi, fantasy, non-fiction, etc. There are plenty of terrific writers that tackle all those genres. Jennifer Weiner (who is probably one of the best writers living and I’m not being facetious) writes chick lit. She’s a much better writer than plenty of people that tackle the harder-nosed stuff.

And, yes, chick lit is filled with Stephanie Meyer-type crap. But there are also Jennifer Weiners, Emily Giffins and Allison Winn Scotches. Don’t discount an entire genre because you think it’s silly & frivolous.

I’ll talk more about the premise of the book later, but it’s essentially a young woman who realizes that her 10 year high school reunion is in two months and takes it upon herself to “become interesting.” We’ll see how it goes.

(mis)adventures in reading

I did say that I would routinely write about what I’m reading (or what I’ve read or want to read). Today, as I watch my beloved Browns play in what I can only describe as an unmitigated disaster, I figured I’d start a new bit I’d like to call:

(mis)ADVENTURES IN READING! (cue singing and unicorns and glitterbombs)

Today’s book (or books, rather) is this:

Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy.

I LOVED these books. Like, a lot. A lot, a lot. Even though they were written for a young adult (read, not a woman in her late(ish) twenties), I fell in love with the story, the characters and the country of Panem. I don’t normally read science fiction or fantasy (with the exception of C.S. Lewis’s The Space Trilogy, which will definitely be written about later) and I definitely don’t enjoy many novels of the “Young Adult” persuasion (my hatred of Twilight and Bella and Edward Cullen knows no bounds), but at the urging of my dear friend, Jessica (who I mentioned before) the Librarian, I felt I had to give them a try.

The story centers around Katniss (who will be played by the lovely & talented Jennifer Lawrence in the upcoming film), a 16 year old girl from what I can only imagine is “the wrong side of the tracks”, a la Andie Walsh from “Pretty in Pink”. But instead of a coked out James Spader, Dad Harry Dean Stanton and a sweet boss at a record store (not to mention a bitchin’ wardrobe), Katniss has a useless mother, a little sister to care for and definitely no sweet prom dress to make. She does, however, have a super hot BFF (boy best friend) named Gale that could give Ducky a run for his money. But, instead of prom, she’ll be attending the 24th annual HUNGER GAMES!

Without giving away too much of the story (because, really, y’all should read it), the Hunger Games is a sadistic competition the government of Panem forces its citizens to put on every year. The games requires two “tributes” (aka, game pieces) to be chosen from each of the 12 districts in the country. When all 24 are chosen, they are taken to an “undisclosed location” (no, Dick Cheney was not there with them), trained, fed and then set loose in the wild to kill each other. Last man (or woman) standing wins. It’s sort of like “Lord of the Flies” meets “The Most Dangerous Game” meets “Gossip Girl” (except waaaaaaaaay better). The Capitol claims that the Games are to be a reminder to the entire country that they are the ones in charge and no one can mess with the Capitol (sort of like the Jesus in “The Big Lebowski”).

Katniss becomes a tribute along with her classmate/sort-of-friend, Peeta (who will be played by the uber adorable Josh Hutcherson in the movie). They’re to be trained by Haymitch Abernathy, the last (and only) tribute from District 12 to win the Games. Haymitch is a rude, hilarious drunk and totally my favorite character. And not just because Woody Harrelson will be playing him. Haymitch is forced to train Katniss and Peeta in hopes of keeping them alive as long as possible.

Suzanne Collins is a terrific writer, plain and simple. She was able to move the plot along quickly and still give the reader enough background and history to give us a clear picture of Panem (and Katniss and Co.) AND to make us care about what happens to them. She managed to create a teenage female character that I didn’t want to throttle (I’m looking at you, Bella Swan), but rather, wanted to be my best friend.

  seriously, Katniss. Let’s be BFFs. We can do eachother’s nails and talk about how freaking cute Peta and Gale both are and how it’s totally unfair to have to choose!

 Again, seriously? Boys definitely did not look like that when I was 16.

But back to the book(s).

The entire concept is an interesting way of looking at statism and government rule from the perspective of a teenage girl. The Capitol (well, the people making up the Capitol) are an angry bunch of SOBs that are so afraid of uprising that they kill any hint of independent thought or voice. Scary stuff. I think it was (is) an excellent way to drive home the point that government control and power can corrupt when given (or rather, TAKEN) absolutely and that personal independence and freedom is the greatest gift a society can receive.

Well, that or two super cute boys fighting over you.