nonBlog: January 2008

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Choose to Talk About Some Other Thing Entirely—Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It is hard to explain the degree to which my every minute is consumed by Office Mate. Which interviews are Helaine and I doing today? (This sentence used to mean which people are we calling up to interview today? Now it means, which journalists are calling to interview us today? I swear I will never get used to that switcheroo.) How can we turn all this publicity into, you know, cash? Let’s write a speaker’s bureau pitch. Can we give speeches to corporations about how to instruct their employees to conduct their office romances properly or instruct their executives about how to manage employees who may or may not conduct their office romances properly? Now let’s work on the book proposal for our next book. Oh, and where is the Valentine’s Day press release? Blah blah blah.
But today I got a tiny break from the constant drumbeat of cubicle couples. The radical right group Choose Life won a huge ruling in—how can this be?—San Francisco’s own Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for their challenge of Arizona’s ban of their icky “Choose Life” license plate. They based the ruling on Arizona’s violation of free speech. How is rejecting a specialty license plate a restriction of free speech? If Arizona had a license plate that said “Choose Choice” or some such hokum and then they said no dice to the Choose Life-ers, I could see their point. But hasn’t anyone heard of bumper stickers?
The Appeals Court held that while there is some possibility that people will misunderstand the state to be endorsing the “Choose Life” license plate, this sort of speech is essentially private in nature. Huh? I don’t know about you, but when I see all those Save the Whales and Yosemite National Park plates in California, I figure these are organizations California sanctions. Silly me. I wrote a commentary on The Huffington Post. Some people said meanish things in response; others were supportive. The words “office” and “romance” were nowhere in the piece. I felt like the old me again.


Take My Dad, Please —Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I am in serious need of a light blog topic today. It should be a good day, or a good week. The issue of Marie Claire that Helaine and I are in came out, and I was the guest on the hour-long Sirius Radio show “The Business Shrink” today. We’ve booked at least half a dozen interviews for new stories about Office Mate in the last couple of days. But a close friend’s dear mother has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and doesn’t have long to live, whereas my not-so-dear father is living so long in his bedridden, non compos mentis state that it looks like we have to move him to a less expensive nursing home for the long, if hospice-qualified, haul. One of my sisters has a theory that our withholding father will live until every penny of his money and ours is gone, and then die. And yet my friend doesn’t get to keep her warm, loving, attentive mother.
So I think we need some fairly frivolous frivolity here. Olivia’s a good starting point. All children are equally quotable, but to borrow from George Orwell, Liv is more quotable than others. She is the originator of the exclamation “I’m all out of puff!” after she ran too far and couldn’t catch her breath when she was about five. This has become such a frequent family phrase that sometimes I can’t remember what the real saying is anymore. So you’re in for a treat when you read the following candidates for Best Olivia Quote of 2007.  

  • While being told to stop yelling: “I’m not yelling. God loves my voice, so he amplifies it.”

  • While expressing teenage ennui at the dinner table: “Dad, my life has gone down the wrong tube.”
Nope. Not frivolous enough. How about this photo from the Opera Guild’s Tis the Season gala? Scroll down the page to find me. It just doesn’t get any lighter than that, getting photographed for do-gooding at a sparkly party in the Neiman Marcus Rotunda.
No, that didn’t work either. I can’t stop thinking about my friend’s mother. In my next life there will be a dying parent swap center. The Force will allow a person to trade their dying, not-so-nice dad for somebody else’s dying sainted mother. And given the fact that my dad doesn’t actually want to be here anymore, I don’t think he would even object.


Time to Be Written About—Sunday, January 20, 2008

I have really weird ideas about how to achieve international renown. Normal people who want to score a high Q rating do things that would tend to lead to it, like baring their breasts in a movie or singing hit songs and then shaving their heads in full view of the paparazzi. Not me. My theory is to dodge every opportunity at world dominance until the last possible moment, and then poke my head up and squeak really softly to see if anyone is still listening. I was too phobic about public speaking to remain a correspondent on NY1 News or TechTV, and too exhausted by motherhood to keep working full-time at Fortune, and too stricken by insecurity to write a follow-up book after You’ve Only Got Three Seconds was published. But here I am post-40, writing about taboo topics and taping segments on Inside Edition and Fox Business News trying to make something of myself, finally unafraid. Oh, and getting quoted in the new book Time to Write: More Than 100 Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing into Your Busy Life. That should do it.
What, you have not taken note of my incisive comments in the book? What a shame. How can I achieve glory if you are unaware of my words of wisdom? I will have to enlighten you. On page 9 in a section titled “The Need to Write Begins Early,” it says:

Many writers feel that the act of writing completes them; it is as necessary to their lives as breathing. They believe that writing makes them whole, that it rounds out their day in a satisfactory way.

“It’s one thing to say, ‘I want to write,’ it’s another to say, ‘I have to write,’” says Stephanie Losee, a freelance writer and co-author of Office Mate: The Employee Handbook for Finding—and Managing—Romance on the Job. That statement sums up the concept of the Burning Desire to Write.

But that’s not all. There’s more on page 87. In a section called “Reward Yourself for Writing,” it says:
Deciding that you’re going to do what you have to do to become a writer is a critical element for balancing writing and sacrifice, says freelancer Stephanie Losee. “First, you have to decide that you have something to say and that you have to say it,” she says. “The second part is you have to say that what one man can do, another can do. Somewhere out there is somebody who is doing twice as much as you are and who has three books to their credit. The third is just decide that you will not be denied, that you want to be a writer. Finally, in the end, decide that you’re willing to do things that other people are not willing to do.”
Unfortunately, although the book ID’s me correctly in the text, there are a couple of itty problems with my bio. Like, it’s from about five years ago. It mentions that I am a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, and My last story for the Post was more than two years ago and my most recent piece for the Times came out in 2002. was swallowed by in 2001. I don’t know how the errant bio happened, since Time to Write was released by my publisher (who theoretically knows what I’m up to). Oh well. My quest for fame will have to continue, one quote at a time. Maybe if I make more noise about the evils of religion, Christopher Hitchens will put me in his next book.


One. Or Two—Saturday, January 12, 2008

My old book group threw me a book party last night. It is a singular sensation to be the visiting author at a meeting of a book group you used to attend. It’s sort of like returning to your old Stitch and Bitch circle and making them all knit your boatneck sweater design in Vogue Knitting magazine. And they don’t wear boatneck sweaters.
I felt so guilty at the very thought of all my married friends being forced to read a book about why and how to find love on the job. Plus there was that lost month that they could have spent reading something terrifically enriching by, say, J. M. Coetzee. But then Kathleen, who is the one who started the group and whom we all knew first, suggested we make it more of a signing. Everybody could buy the book. Maybe they would read it, maybe not. They would bring their copies to the party and I would sign them. And we could party. And then we could sit down and I’d tell them all my book tour stories. And personal stylist stories, and agent stories, and publicist stories.
Which is exactly what I did. We had the longest, most outrageous book group evening ever. I stopped feeling guilty. The last of us left Kathryn Ann’s house at midnight. And as it turned out, at least one of them had actually read the book. She quoted me to me. Which is about as singular a sensation as a writer is ever going to get.


Put in My Place. Again—Wednesday, January 9, 2008

On the occasion of the Cup of Comfort for Writers reading to be held tonight at 7:00 pm at Book Passage in Corte Madera, I thought I would explain what happened after the publication of my essay in the book, which is titled “We Are Mortified By You.” Since so many of you have asked. Okay, one of you asked. But you’re still wondering.
In the story I confess what took place in 2004 after I published my first-ever personal essay, which is about the night before my first alpine climb and the asinine decision I made to find the climber’s bar and flirt with buff young mountaineers (I was having a tiny personal crisis at the time). Since it was my first personal essay, I didn’t think I needed to fact-check it like a normal article. The result was that I got, and it still pains me to say this, the name of the town wrong. I thought the name of the town at the base of Mount Shasta is Shasta City, and it turns out the name of the town at the base of Mount Shasta is Mount Shasta. So the publication of my first personal essay ended in ignominy as I was taken apart by the readers of a magazine to which I was passionately devoted. It goes without saying that I have never written for the Mountain Gazette again.
In September, when the Cup of Comfort book was published, I sent a copy to the Mountain Gazette’s editor, M. John Fayhee. I enclosed a note that said, among other things, “I hope you get a kick out of it, and most of all that I didn’t get a single detail wrong. But if I did, for God’s sake don’t tell me.” Given the fact that Fayhee has a great sense of humor, I thought he would (a) write me back, (b) tell me all is forgiven and that I am free to submit again, or (c) mention the Mountain Gazette’s inclusion in the anthology in an Editor’s Note in the magazine. Actually, I thought he would do all three.
Instead, he has not acknowledged the book, the essay, or my letter in any way. It’s remotely possible he didn’t receive it, but I have no reason to think so. I am disappointed, of course. The thing about having the privilege of being a professional writer is that it offers you avenues to make things right that most people don’t have, and when you avail yourself of them you expect something good to come of it. Or something at all to come of it. But I guess the thing about being an editor is that when writers publish stories about their ignominious experiences in working with you is that you have the privilege of utterly ignoring them.


New, or Practically New

  • Fame and Fortune: Currently working on, and shocked to find I’m making headway with, the latter. Partly because of a bit of movement on the former. Perhaps endurance is the key to everything after all.