Friday, November 12, 2010

Outside the Box is Where I Live

This line, midway through season one, was the reason I had to stop watching Battlestar Galactica. I know that mortally offends some people -- my apologies. But it's not a well written line.

Never mind. I've been thinking today about alternatives, other ways of doing things, things outside of boxes. For instance, I did a reading at Pacific Lutheran University's bookstore Thursday night. Their bookstore rocks so much harder than a) most campus bookstores and b) even most bookstores period. Their bookstore lives outside the campus bookstore box. How so?

1) It isn't located in the student union or even on campus. It's located two blocks from main campus on a busy street and also in a strip mall so that other people, people who are not students, might go. It even has its own name: Garfield Book Company.

2) It has, front and center when you walk in, a climber with sliding board plus some little tables with toys. Before I had a child, I imagined that you'd bring your kids to the bookstore and plop them in the children's section where they'd read quietly to themselves and then you'd let them pick one book to take home and all would be right with the world. Then I had a kid and realized that a children's section in a bookstore is no place for a child who will run around pulling all the books off the shelves and flipping them over the shoulder like Bret Boone. Having a sliding board, someplace to climb, and toys to play with? Well, that's much more promising. Kids who like to go to bookstores and bookstores with indoor (and thus dry) play structures make for parents who patronize bookstores.

3) They also have a fireplace, a lovely, full-size coffee shop (with gelato and, soon evidently, wine), and a whole floor dedicated to being a real bookstore while the upstairs is reserved for being a college bookstore (i.e. sweatpants, water bottles, and everything else on which you might write "PLU" plus books for courses).

4) The bathrooms are clean and nice and have those toilets where you press one button for half flush and another for full. Do decent bathrooms make that much of a difference? You bet.

5) They have a designated space for readings and community gatherings with the aforementioned fireplace, sofas and comfy chairs (with swivel writing desks for note taking), and a full kitchen for their brilliant book club Food for Thought which reads books about food BUT ALSO brings in a chef to cook stuff from the books. Book clubs through bookstores? Middling attendance. Book clubs with food? Much bigger draw. Plus, they've got the double draw going -- community and college campus, students, faculty, staff, and friends.

In a word: smart. We need more community, independent bookstores. Like everything and everyone these days, they're on the brink of not making it. So I'm saying, maybe outside the box is where they should live.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


So far, I've been using this blog mostly to post events. This is lame. I should be using this blog to post interesting, insightful, inspiring, gorgeously worded observations about love, life, and literature (the three Ls) which are so interesting, insightful, inspiring, and gorgeous that they 1) cause people who stumble upon the blog to buy my book, 2) cause people who stumble upon the blog to forward the link to other people who themselves then 3) buy my book. Instead, I just post events.

Here, however, are the reasons:
1) The events need publicizing.
2) Full-time job with one hundred billion papers to grade.
3) Two-year-old to raise.
4) Book-the-second to write.
5) Now that it's November, it gets dark at like 4:15 which means by the time #3 up there's in bed, I'm too tired to do anything useful at all.
6) It's a lot of work. One must update one's website and blog and a couple facebook accounts and Goodreads and Amazon. The social network, such that it is, is wondrous but also boundless. And boundless, my friends, is big.

That said, soon, for better and for worse, I'm going to have less book news for a bit I think, and then I will be able to dedicate myself to blogging the old-fashioned way. Something to look forward to.

Meantime, here are some November events:

November 2011
Paperback release of The Atlas of Love.
Something else to look forward to.

Thursday, Nov. 11 at 7pm
Tacoma, WA
Garfield Book Co. at PLU
Spotlight Literary Series

Saturday, Nov. 20, 3-6pm
Seattle, WA
Seattle7Writers Holiday Book Signing
Phinney Neighborhood Center
This one should be fun. Come meet 20 local writers, mingle, chat, eat cookies, feel holiday cheer, buy some books for a good cause (Writers in the Schools), and then have them signed thus making them perfect holiday presents. Awesome, no?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Maryland My Maryland

I am doing two readings "at home" this week. Very special. And I am hoping to see lots of old friends there. Also very special.

Here are the particulars:

Wed. Oct. 13, 7pm

Howard County Public Library
Central Branch
Local Author Showcase
This one will be a quickie as I'm sharing stage time with four other authors, so I'll only read and take questions for about 15 minutes though I will be delighted to discuss, reminisce, sign books, chat, answer questions one-on-one, and otherwise hang out afterwards.

Sat. Oct. 16, 2pm
Barnes and Noble, Power Plant
Downtown Baltimore
Reading and Author Chat and Book Signing
This one will be a bit longer as it's all me all the time. Also hoping for much time to hang out and chat after.

Pass it on please! I'm looking so forward to seeing everyone there!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Debut Lit

Have just been advised (reminded) by a new friend today that being a debut author is something special. It only happens once (in fact, I suppose the curse is remaining a debut author forever). It's new and exciting. You have an excuse to know absolutely nothing at all. I also get to work with this amazing organization: Debut Lit. I am reading with them in San Francisco on Oct. 9. And I have guest blogged for them this week about my twelve first chapters. Not my first twelve chapters. My twelve first chapters. So. Many. Check out my guest blog post. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Readings this Week

I have two readings this week. These have been nerve-wracking but fun. Speaking in front of people makes me very, very nervous. Certainly, that puts me in the majority, but it seems weird given that I speak in front of people every day for my job. Question: how is teaching different than speaking in front of people? Why is talking about books to my students different than talking about books at a reading? I don't know. But it is. Very.

The 'me' part of these readings has been challenging for me but great. The Q&A has been awesome. That is a lot more like teaching. It's been just amazing to meet people who are reading and enjoying the book. The kindness of strangers -- nothin' better.

So if you're nearby, do please come say hello.

Tacoma, WA
Thurs. Sept. 23, 5:30pm
University of Puget Sound
Trimble Forum
All are very welcome. There will be snacks!

Portland, OR
Fri. Sept. 24, 7pm
Powell's Cedar Hills

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bellingham, Sunday

In case you're nearby (or want a very nice road trip), I'm reading at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington this Sunday, September 12 at 4pm. Village Books is an awesome, old-school, independent bookstore with a very, very good cafe in an especially lovely part of the especially lovely Bellingham. So if you can, please come say hello. I'd love love love to see you.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Dog Love

Dog love is naked love. So this is appropriate on so many levels. I am interviewed and/or posted on a couple of Marshal Zeringue's other blogs today. Check it out. The pictures are lovely; the dog is miraculous; and I am much better at talking about Calli than talking about me.

Coffee With a Canine
Campaign for the American Reader

Friday, August 27, 2010


The Campaign for the American Reader is "an independent initiative to encourage more readers to read more books" run by Marshal Zeringue who is thereby doing no less than making the world a better place for writers, readers, and humans. Also dogs. So a big, enthusiastic, heartfelt thank you to Marshal.

One of Marshal's blogs is The Page 69 Test which posits that page 69 of any book will be somehow representative of the whole and will give you, as you stand in a bookstore or library trying to decide what to read, a good sense of whether or not you'll like the book. Cute, no? No. Mind-blowing. This test worked so well for The Atlas of Love it seems like I made it up. As you see though, I did not. In case some time has passed and it's not on the main page anymore, here's the permalink to The Atlas of Love's Page 69 Test.

I'll also post it below, but you should click through. Marshal Zeringue runs some pretty cool blogs.

The Atlas of Love Page 69 Test

This is seriously amazing (and a little weird)! If you asked me to point to the one section of the book that most fully encapsulates its theme and central question, I’d point you to a passage on page...wait for it...69! Pretty unbelievable. Check it out:

People are always really gushy about nothing being more important than family and about real friends being like family. She’s like a sister to me, we say of close friends, like family’s not about blood or laws anymore but only love. Real family is much less sentimental than that though. Family is who you’re stuck with.

It goes on, on page 70 (and throughout the rest of the book), to clarify the point. Yes, good friends are family. Yes, there are many, many ways to be a family. Yes, those ways often have little to do with blood or legalities. Yes, alternative families are also beautiful and wonderful. But also, just because your family is the non-traditional kind doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and roses. All families, even the ones who aren’t technically related, are complicated, challenging, and often fraught. That’s the other thing that family means besides love. Love but also complication. Friends you can get rid of when they become annoying. Friends who are family? Well, them you’re stuck with, for better and for worse. That’s what The Atlas of Love is about.

Page 69 also includes this passage:

The card read, “For my baby (and her puppy) -- Sorry we forgot about you in all the excitement. You’re still my favorite baby of all. Love you. Guess who?” My grandmother signed everything, “Guess who?” which made it pretty easy to guess.

and this theme and Janey’s grandma’s “Guess who?” run throughout and come back centrally and movingly towards the end of the book.

So the page 69 test proves very successful for The Atlas of Love! This was fun (and revelatory).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Where Else Am I?

Well for starters:

I'm interviewed here this week:
Number One Novels Blog

(You can find it here if it's not this week anymore.)

Enter a comment there for a chance to win a free copy of The Atlas of Love!

I am also hosting a Q&A at Goodreads, a lovely social networking site devoted exclusively to reading, which is the kind of social networking site I can get behind. I'll be answering questions and chatting with readers there until the end of September. So if you have thoughts on the book, on writing, on reading, on modern family, on adoption, on anything related, I'd love to hear 'em: Goodreads Q&A with Laurie Frankel

Another place I am these days is bookstores where I've been signing copies of The Atlas of Love and meeting so many really kind, warm, wonderful people who sell books. One told me today how much she loves the cover and the baby on the cover which warms my heart. Someday, I really need to find out who that baby is!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Today's the Day

Pub day! A long time coming.

1) I did not sleep last night.
2) I do feel different today.

My nephews are precocious readers.

My great friend Alicia and my great husband Paul at the great Elliott Bay Book Co.

Alicia at B&N.

Daniel Meta-Cover: Infinite Loop

Monday, August 16, 2010

Guest Blogging

Today I was a guest blogger for the Seattle Public Library and the Seattle PI (R.I.P). Thought I'd post it here as well (or you could click through -- they're really cool blogs). They asked me to chat about what's on my nightstand now -- that is, what I just finished reading, what I'm reading now, what I'm reading next -- a pretty cool conceit. Many thanks to Linda Johns at the SPL for the opportunity!

Nightstand Reading

Currently Reading:

by Amy Bloom
Awesome -- beautiful writing, great characters, epic and sprawling and with a surprise (at least to me) section set right in Pioneer Square

Flash Fiction: Very Short Stories
Edited by James Thomas, Denise Thomas, and Tom Hazuka
If you’ve never sampled flash fiction, I highly recommend it, especially for bus riders with motion sickness, parents of toddlers, cookers of dishes which need attention but also to simmer, and others who require bite-sized, quickly read, easily digested, super short narratives. These stories are mostly two pages tops. In that space though, they manage to tell a whole story, one I often find myself thinking about for far longer than it took me to read it, all the more impressive for being so succinct.

Just Finished:

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
by David Mitchell
I am a huge, huge David Mitchell fan. The reviews of this one all comment on how different it is than his others -- how much more linear and straightforward. I’m not sure I agree. It’s less of an exercise than Cloud Atlas certainly, but it’s still chock full of frames, puzzles and solutions and resolutions, multiple points-of-view, surprise poems, and the endless challenges of human communication. It’s a book about language and its difficulties and barriers and intricacies. Mitchell pulls off this miracle -- his characters are regularly speaking at least four different languages, and he recreates them all, in English of course, and in his own stunning, revelatory, consistently gorgeous prose. The book is slow and long and very detailed; it takes its time. It’s so thoroughly researched you wonder how Mitchell had any energy left to write the thing. Its first chapter is pretty mind-blowing. It’s got pictures! But mostly, as always with Mitchell, the writing is breathtaking, the metaphors are brilliant, the insights are extraordinary. It’s not an easy book, and I have a few complaints about the ending, but it is a great book. It tells the story of this old and totally unfamiliar world so thoroughly that I was depressed and a little stunned to have to leave it when I finished the book.

Next Up:

At my agent’s recommendation, both of Meg Mullins’s novels, The Rug Merchant and Dear Strangers (great title!). My agent is the most well-read person I know (and I know a lot of well-read people), so her recommendation means a lot.

Friday, August 6, 2010


The Atlas of Love received a starred review this week from the Library Journal. It was the only book to get one. It also got some very kind words. Hooray! Check it out here.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Save the Date

The book tour begins! I will be reading/chatting/book signing/question answering/otherwise standing awkwardly up in front of people/hanging out in bookstores and libraries (always a great pleasure) on the following dates in the following places. I'll post more as they come up and reminders (pleas) as well. Please please please please come and bring anyone you can. It will be really really awkward if I'm there all by myself. More to come.

Elliott Bay Bookstore, Seattle
Sat. Aug 21
4 pm

Village Books, Bellingham, WA
Sun. Sept. 12
4 pm

Powell's Books, Portland, OR
Fri. Sept 24
Time TBD

Howard County Public Library, Central Branch
(The library of my childhood -- oh how many social studies reports I completed here) (Note to young readers: we used to have to go to libraries to do research. In books. And, ugh, on microfilm. Man was it a pain in the butt.)
Columbia, MD
Wed. Oct. 13
7 pm

Monday, July 19, 2010

Top Five Things I'm Doing While I Wait

This is a weird time. The book is out of my hands but not yet in anyone else's. In my wildest dreams, every man, woman, and child (and their dogs) in America buys a copy of The Atlas of Love. In my wildest nightmares, no one does but my mom. Probably, reality will fall somewhere in the middle as it always always always does. The path to getting one's novel into a bookstore is looooooong. So here's what I'm doing while I wait through this last (I think?!) bit:

1) Well, blogging. And otherwise trying to make connections with people who might read my book.

2) Marketing/Publicity. And otherwise trying to meet and connect with people who review books and help people find books they might want to read. This is noble work. Aren't you always so, so grateful to people who recommend to you books you read and love? If you know anyone who reviews books or are someone who reviews books, please please let me know.

3) Starting book the second. I had forgotten how daunting it is starting a novel. This one should be different than the first in that now I know that I am capable of writing a novel, a thing I was in no way sure about before I did so. More on that in a future post. For the moment, suffice it to say beginning again remains daunting and scary -- and interesting and fun -- and daunting and scary.

4) Running around after my two-year-old. Many of the people in my life really care that I have a book coming out in a month. My two-year-old isn't one of them. His life -- and my life with him -- is unmoved by such things. We continue to do what we do -- park, beach, playground, nap, food, bath, running around and around and around.

5) Panicking. What if people don't like it? What if people don't buy it? What if people do buy it, and then they don't like it? Et cetera. More on this in a future post too.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Top Five Reasons Why This Blog Makes Me Kinda Nervous

1) Is there anybody out there? I have no idea. If so, please do let me know. I'd love to meet you, however electronically.

2) It's so very public. I mean I realize that's the point here of course. But still. I am used to editing my written thoughts for a year and a half or so before they go out there into the world.

3) The world of book publishing turns out to be a crazy, complex one, and I long not to offend anyone.

4) Blogs whose main goal is not to offend anyone are probably pretty boring.

5) Eh, I worry generally. About everything. So my nervousness here probably shouldn't shock or concern anyone.

All that said, welcome!, whoever you are. I am thrilled you're here, grateful for your interest and support, and eager to blog many offensive and non-worrisome things any minute now.