Bring on the Chicky-ness

A link to my defense of Chick Lit, originally appearing in USA Today:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/happyeverafter/2013/05/08/l-alison-heller-the-love-wars-chick-lit/2142483/

 

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Healthy Obsessions: Windsurfing and a Comedian

As you were warned in my Welcome post, my finger is on the pulse of . . .nothing. Still, when I fall for something, I fall hard, regardless of whether it’s three weeks or three years after that initial buzz. Here’s a list of the culture and miscellany that’s commanding my recent thoughts. (Those of you early adopters can use this as a walk down memory lane.)

  1. John Mulaney

I assume most people already know about him, but for those who don’t (me, oh-so-recently), you should! My obsession started when I read an article in the New York Times a few weeks ago announcing that NBC had bought Mulaney’s TV pilot, comparing him to Seinfeld and mentioning that he co-writes the Stefan character on Saturday Night Live. That was enough for me to watch some of his clips on Youtube. Hilarious. And then I had to listen to his albums (both of them). And then I watched his Comedy Central special. I didn’t mind the duplicated material because once you find something that makes you laugh out loud, you remember how medicinal it is to do so. The Salt and Pepper Diner piece had me on the floor.

2.   Windsurfing

No, not actually doing it, the armchair warrior said, stretching out her legs on the ottoman: researching it. For a book. Apparently, wind-surfing is now the unhip grandfather of beach/board/wind sports, edged out by . . .kite surfing. (The interweb says this, so I know to believe.) It’s what one of my characters wants to do, though. He’s apparently unhip, as well as moody and a mite scary too (raise your hand if you’ve been waiting for someone to write a book about a moody windsurfer!) and I’ve spent a fair amount of time watching videos of fusty ol’ windsurfing so I can allow him to do what he wants. Anyway, it’s beautiful: the jumps that skip a beat past gravity; the cresting waves; the sunny coastline. I myself would not make it past dragging the board down the beach, but I sure do appreciate others’ athletic artistry.

3.     Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I read a ton, but the more I write, the more I read as a technician, which can dampen my ability to get caught up in a story. (More on that in a different post.) Reading JoJo Moye’s latest, I laughed, I cried, I fell firmly in love with the two characters at the center of the story. I didn’t want to come up for air (or dinner, or TV, etc.). I am not alone in my admiration for this book, but let me add my praise to the chorus.

What are some things you’ve been obsessed with recently?

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I Just Read the Most Incredible Novel

You know how sometimes you read a book and it’s so affecting that when you finish, you feel like walking around in a sandwich board proclaiming its virtues? And then when you realize the sandwich board idea is somewhat impractical (apparently those things don’t look as heavy as they actually are) it occurs to you that you have a new blog? Well . . .

TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME by Carol Rifka Brunt is an incredible read: beautiful and moving and uplifting. I finished it last night and am still thinking about it this afternoon.

The narrator (15 year old June) is a heart-seizing blend of vulnerable and wise as she mourns the loss of her beloved uncle to AIDS and unwraps (to borrow Brunt’s descriptive) some rich family history. The prose is simple, clear and beautiful. The story is absorbing (the family mysteries keep the pages turning) and Brunt uses it to explore the constant of dialogues unspoken and “negative space”—the stuff that lurks, remains unsaid and yet motivates intimate interactions: jealousy, hurt, pride, love, and suspicion.

It’s goose-bump good, I promise.

 

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IRL: Interrupting an Amorous Law Firm Partner

THE LOVE WARS’ Molly Grant was not a summer associate at Bacon Payne. She spent the summer after her second year clerking at the law school clinic where she met Karen Block, the woman who would haunt her for years to come.

You know who was a summer associate? Me!

I moved up to Manhattan from North Carolina to work for the summer at a big law firm. Here is a crib sheet for the summer associate experience 15 years ago. (I’m not sure if this still applies post-2008): good pay, unlimited office supplies; crazy, unrelenting social events centered around Broadway shows, five star restaurants, late night clubs. As a summer associate, I thought I was working hard and playing hard, but in retrospect, I was just playing. Playing, and having some real “one to grow on” moments, for example:

One night, I was invited to an intimate dinner hosted by Very Important Partner “Z”. Z was young and hip and smart and totally on the rise. No surprise then, that he selected a restaurant that was young and hip and totally impossible to get into and somehow, he’d scored a private room.

The dinner started off great: Z regaled us with entertaining stories. He had several of the restaurant’s signature cocktails and his cheeks got a little flushed and the stories got a little more in-your-face, but we summer associates hung on his every word.

As the evening progressed, the party broke off into small groups, but I noticed that Z seemed to prefer one-on-one conversations. Especially with one summer associate in particular: B. B was great—one of my favorites in the class—smart, nice, funny and pretty. Very pretty. But that was inconsequential, I was sure, because Z was married and this was a work dinner.

I wandered over to their corner of the room. “Hi,” I said.

B might have acknowledged me—I don’t remember. But I do remember their conversation.

“All great people,” Z was saying, “feel deep down at heart like they’re frauds. Like they’re not good enough.”

B was nodding. “I feel like that,” she said. “I do.”

“It’s a hallmark of your greatness,” Z put his hand on her shoulder.

“I feel,” B said, “that whenever I do something, I’m just faking it and everyone is going to find out that I don’t really know what I’m doing.”

Z shook his head. “Classic symptom of being superior,” he said. “I have it too. It’s the secret motivation that pushes us.”

They hadn’t really acknowledged my presence, but I was intrigued by the topic. When I started law school, I had tapped into a seemingly unending source of anxiety. I worried about whether I had the intellectual horsepower to understand arcane legal principles. I worried about my stamina. I worried about measuring up to my classmates who were disciplined and focused in a way I wasn’t. How appealing to think of that worry as the sign of some hidden greatness!

So I joined the confessional. “I kind of feel like that sometimes too.”

Z turned toward me slowly, his lids heavy over his glazed eyes. “But of course,” he said. “some of the people who worry are justified; not everybody can be good enough.”

I don’t think Z’s attempts at seduction worked that summer, but stories of extramarital affairs trailed his ascension in the firm. By the time I heard them, I was a little more jaded; that dinner was the first of several tips of the hand that the professional world did not operate as I had hoped.

It took awhile before I saw the humor of our exchange, which I eventually did. There’s something very funny about being declared not good enough by a wasted guy who’s never spoken to you before. You have to laugh, and—even when he’s your boss— realize: it’s okay leaving greatness on the table if you don’t respect who’s defining it.

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Welcome!

Hello and welcome to my blog!

If for some reason you missed the news, THE LOVE WARS, my debut novel from Penguin (NAL) comes out on May 7th. While I want to make it as easy as possible for you to learn about the book and pre-order a copy and plan your book club event, I also enjoy a bit of chit chat about other things. Hence, this blog.

I spend a lot of time on the Internet. You don’t want to know exactly how much because if you did, you’d be annoyed even if you hadn’t come to this site expecting anything from me. Come on, Alison, you’d say. I see from your bio that you have a young family and a job and writing deadlines. You should not be frittering away X amount of hours on the Internet! (And you’d be right, but as my goal is not to disgust you, the exact amount will remain unshared.)

One thing I have learned from all my unspecified amount of time on the Internet is that the best blogs—the ones I click on again and again—have a “voice” and a “tone” and “theme/categories.” So I test drove some voices, (for example, my “stern mommy” voice, which I accessed with frightening ease. But my test post got too convoluted—there were promises of sticker charts unrealized and then pleading and then, finally, a bit of shouting NO DESSERT FOR ANYONE, followed by residual guilt that I’d been too harsh.)

Writing in test voices was exhausting and as discussed, I need to be fresh for all those hours on the Internet. So—the blog voice is pretty much as it appears in my head (apologies for that), but . . . I do have categories! I thought of some great ones for you guys and I’m pretty proud of them.

How many?

Okay, so, I have two. So far. A lot more exciting themes and categories are on the way. A lot more to supplement:

1.            In Real Life: walk down memory lane with me as I recollect actual law firm experiences that might have either a) inspired some of Molly’s experiences at the fictional Bacon Payne or b) turned me into the cynical blogger who wastes time online.

2.            Healthy Obsessions: in which I’ll sound the alarms about my, you got it, obsessions (cultural or otherwise), which I can promise are almost never on the cutting edge of anything.

So, in sum: I spend a lot of time on the Internet. You can keep your dessert. Some of my posts might concern things you’ve heard before.

You ready?

(And in all seriousness, thanks for stopping by. I’m very, very glad you’re here.)

xo, Alison

 

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