“I don’t know why you’re in the middle. You’re the most accident-prone”

So said my lovely mother last night when she and I (and my sister, Nicole) went to a beading class. The groupons we used had been purchased last Christmas. It’s November. So we went to the Lake Erie Artist’s Gallery (www.lakeerieartists.com)

In any case, we headed off to the Eastside. For those of you not from the Cleveland area, there is a definite rivalry amongst people that live on the Westside of Cleveland and the Eastside. I am a Westsider, born and bred. How I explain E v. W to people is this:

The Eastside is where a majority of the old (and SERIOUS) money is. There are a lot of really wealthy areas, a lot of quirky ‘artsy’ neighborhoods and a bit more diversity. Most of the Jewish population of Cleveland lives on the Westside. The museums are on the Eastside, the major hospitals and a lot of the “culture” is located on the Eastside. However, along with a lot of good, there is a downside. Besides having some of the nicest areas in the GCA (greater Cleveland area), it also has its worst. I’m not kidding. East Cleveland is famous for being one of the most dangerous places in the country. Yay, Cleveland!

The Westside’s income disparity is not so drastic. It’s still a mostly blue-collar area of the city, with a few “nicer” suburbs. But you probably won’t become a victim of violent crime in a majority of the the Westside. It’s mostly bars and Catholic churches. You think I’m kidding but take a drive. Bar, church, bar, church. I love the Westside.

So the three of us headed out to the weird little shop in Shaker Square (a seriously cute little area of Cleveland with shops and restaurants). I’m not sure what I expected, but when we got there, we were the only 3 people in the class. The “instructor” was a nice enough lady but we could tell she would have rather been working on her own designs than teaching us anything.

Also, the phrase “teaching” should be used loosely. She essentially handed us a few boxes of beads and said “have fun!” Don’t get me wrong, she had some lovely beads, but I think for what it was, it was INCREDIBLY overpriced. And we got ours 50% off. And it was STILL overpriced.

We had a lot of fun, though. Mostly because I love hanging out with my mom & sister. And it’s always funny to see how differently the three of us create. My mom decided to make a very simple. very tasteful, patterned bracelet in very neutral shades. Nicole made a very tasteful, patterned bracelet in lovely purples and greys. Me? I made a very obnoxious bracelet with about six different colors (including HOT PINK PEARLS! woo! be jealous) that had absolutely no rhyme or reason. If I liked it, it went on the bracelet. Again with the rampant narcissism. I don’t care if other people like it. If I like it, everyone else should like it too.

finished product! (notice the fabulous hot pink pearls)

The finished product. Notice how awesome the hot pink pearls look.

Anyway, as I was trying to finish off the bracelet and tighten the crimping bead (but without a crimper, apparently they are too difficult for us beginners to use) I ended up breaking the crimping bead and my ENTIRE bracelet ended up on the floor. I’m glad I didn’t have a pattern because I would have been even angrier trying to replicate said pattern.

But I did end up on my hands & knees under the table, collecting little beads and cursing under my breath (ok, maybe it wasn’t under my breath). This, after mocking my mom for being really slow & boasting that I was the first one done. Needless to say, I ended up as the LAST one done.

Since it was late & we were starving (Nic couldn’t eat anything they had at the class as it was all full of gluten), we decided to have dinner at Yours Truly. (www.ytr.com) If you live in the Cleveland area & have never been to a Yours Truly, do yourself a favor and head to one. Immediately.

Here’s my mom & Nic outside the restaurant  I need to tell Babs she needs to smile more.

Yours Truly has one of the best (& most varied) menus. And the entire menu is available all day. I’ve been there with my girlfriends and have had meals that include omlettes, milkshakes and fries (either their ‘notso’ fries or the sweet potato). Healthy, probably not, but SO delicious.

The three of us ADORE sweet potato fries. And YT makes some of the best I’ve ever had (only Sweet Melissa’s makes better ones). And they serve them with yummy honey mustard. If I ever come back as a food, I want to come back as sweet potato fries.

Look how delish they look.  Washed down with an icy cold diet coke and you’ve got the beginnings of a perfect meal.

Mostly it was just nice to spend time with Nicole and my mom. Since Nic has lived in Columbus (and works insane retail hours), I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like and I DEFINITELY don’t get to spend as much time with her and my mom together as I’d like. I’m anxiously awaiting her return to the C-L-E.

Here’s the two of us, mugging for the camera. And no, we’re not drunk. We only had a glass of wine each.

 Nicole is trying to take a nice photo. I am trying to make her laugh.

Driving home, we started talking about what we consider the most quintessential “American” band. I picked the Beach Boys. Nicole wanted more perimeters. I told her the Spice Girls didn’t count (as they are British). Do any of you have thoughts on the most quintessential “American” band? Just curious.

She left this morning & I went to mass. I’m embarassed to say how long it’s been since I’ve gone. Also, I can’t really remember (so that gives you an idea of how long it’s been). I’m going to talk more about Catholicism & my thoughts on religion and spirituality at a later time. For now, I’ll just say that I had forgotten how much I love going to mass. I love everything about mass: the prayers, the music, the homily and (of course), the Eucharist. We have a new priest at my parish who is young (only a few years older than I) and I’m really excited about the direction of the church under Fr. Joe!

My (mis)adventure in writing a novel continues. I’m closing in on 9k words (seriously! it’s insane) & I love writing the story and I am so grateful to NaNoWriMo for introducing me to a fantastic community of other young, female writers that inspire me & make me laugh. Chick Lit Cheerleaders are the best.

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(mis)adventures in trying to become a novelist

I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. Since I could put words into sentences and sentences into stories, I knew THAT’S what I wanted to do. No kidding. You should check out the first of my oeuvre entitled Missy the cat wins a trip to Florida. In it, the protagonist (Missy the Cat), does, in fact win a trip to Florida. Second prize was a Mr. Cool-Whip sticker. I don’t know why I remember that, nor do I remember why I was obsessed with Mr. Cool-Whip stickers.

Point being? Besides that I was a really weird kid, I’ve been thinking about writing forever. I’ve started a few manuscripts, but I haven’t actually finished one. So this NaNoWriMo, I’m determined to finish a first draft.

The story is pretty simple: girl has a mental freakout after her best friend announces she’s pregnant (the last of her ‘single friends’) and she gets fired from her job. She realizes her 10 year high school reunion is in 3 months, so she frantically tries to use the three months to “become interesting” to face her old high school classmates.

The story is a work in progress, but I’m STOKED to be writing again.

If the story sounds familiar, surprise, it’s because I (like most other writers) have to find inspiration in reality. I took a creative writing class when I was maybe 17 and the piece of advice I took away from it was this: write what you know. It has to be authentic.

I can’t write from the perspective of a middle aged black man. Number one, it wouldn’t be authentic…and number two, my imagination isn’t that good. I can write about twenty-something single girls going through an identity crisis, mostly because I AM a twenty-something single girl going through an identity crisis. I understand the character & how the character would behave. I suppose when my writing chops get stronger, I’ll be able to exercise my imagination muscle a bit, but for now, I’ll stick to what I know: the struggle of the single girl.

I like to find out what other people listen to and watch while they write. I always get a lot of the same answers: Wilco, Radiohead, the Arcade Fire, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker. They watch The Sopranos, Mad Men, Californication, Six Feet Under, Twin Peaks: a lot of ‘thinky-thinky’ shows with interesting writing and complicated plot lines.

This is what Stacey listens to while she writes

the Christmas album is my favorite—all.year.long.

and I can’t forget what I watch:

everywhere you look, I see Stacey typing furiously

Yup. I like to watch/listen to metaphoric junk food when I write. I don’t care if it rots my teeth (brain), it makes me happy. And lets be honest, I’m not exactly writing the sequel to War & Peace. I write about fun, fluffy things, so it makes sense that my favorite things are fun and fluffy.

Besides. Why watch Twin Peaks when you can watch this

Seriously. Uncle Jesse is a badass. And has great hair. And pink bunnies on his wall.

In other news, my sister (one of my favoritest favorite people EVER) is coming to CLE for the weekend. She, my mom, and I are taking a beading class tomorrow night. This should be interesting. Both my mother and Nicole are famously crafty. I am not. They also can have fun with creating. I stress myself out, trying to make it perfect. Basically, they are fun & laid-back and I am a batshit crazy perfectionist.

Let the (crafting) games begin.

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.