1weird_thesecretMany people struggle to be creative. We see creative people and their work around us and compare ourselves. We don’t know how to be creative, or worse, we did once, and now we’re feeling blocked, bored or unsure. Tired of this happening to you?

Hi. I’m Adam J. Kurtz, and my new journal, 1 Page at a Time, can help. A daily creative companion, this book will assist in the journey back to your creative self. Through exercises and challenges “proven” to help, you too can harness your mind. You too can feel the guiding light of creativity as it pushes you to accomplish incredible feats of “ART” in the workplace, and in your personal life. You’ll write! You’ll cry!

For a limited time, all this is available for only — say it with me: 1! PAGE! AT A TIME!

The Endless Journey

The Endless Journey

If only it were that easy. A single book that could change everything, a quick fix, a ten-step program that could make the difference. The bad news is that creativity, like most things, is a journey. The good news? You’ve already started. As a living, breathing human being you are already creative. Congratulations! Simply processing the world around you is a creative feat. Getting dressed. Choosing lunch. Everything is creativity, everything is art, and you have everything you need. Your way of looking at things, the way you consume and digest all play a role.

When we think of creative accomplishments, we tend to think of the end result. The completed manuscript, mastered files, or framed piece. We get so caught up in that tangible end goal that we might not even see the creativity itself: the emotions, thinking, sketches and planning that led to that final output.

Creative Switch

Creative Switch

There’s no quick fix because there can’t be. There’s no switch to flip because your creativity is constantly flowing, you just might be letting it slip by. So instead of rushing forward, slow down. Take a deep breath. What are you thinking right now? What is the root of that emotion? Let’s talk about something else. Where have you traveled before? What would you write in a letter to a seven-year-old? Get up and walk away. Staring a problem in the face isn’t going to solve anything. Staring yourself in the face might. Write everything down and look at it. Make a couple of lists. Have some water, swish it around your mouth until it’s lukewarm, then swallow it. Okay, where were we, and where do we stand now?

Harness a small bit of yourself every day. A tiny piece. Something that feels irrelevant or useless. Put it to paper, then come back tomorrow. Our goals can be so daunting that we forget all the good advice we already know. “Rome wasn’t built in a day!” “Slow and steady wins the race!” Take small steps to accomplish your larger tasks. Follow your gut or your heart or whichever parts make your decisions. Remember that nothing really matters, no matter how important it might seem right now. Life moves on. The universe does what it wants. Have a little faith or take the whole leap. Your only job is to keep moving on. That’s creativity. It’s not a painting, it’s continuing to process, progress, and enjoy your life as you make it through.

Build Slowly

Build Slowly

But what do I know? I’m just some guy on the internet.

1 Page at a Time is a lot of things. It’s a diary. It’s a sketchbook. It’s a rulebook, a guidebook, a playbook and a yearbook. It’s whatever you want, with a healthy dose of optimism. And cynicism. It’s human. And it’s going to push you along your creative journey in the same way it helped me on mine.

Photo Credit: Ryan Pfluger

 

Adam J. Kurtz is a graphic designer, artist, and serious person. He is primarily concerned with creating honest, accessible work, including a range of small products and the self-published “unsolicited advice” calendar series. He is the author of no other books.

He currently lives in New York City. Visit AdamJK.com, @AdamJK, & jkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjk.com (or don’t!).


playingbig

Tara Mohr’s new book, Playing Big, is a guide for women to find their calling and make practical steps to dream bigger and achieve their goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. What do you think has been missing from the women & work conversation?

A lot! There’s been an oversimplification in the discussion of “internal” vs. “external” barriers to women’s advancement. The usual conversation treats them as totally independent from one another, and also confuses acknowledging the internal barriers (self-doubt for example) with “blaming women” – as if any internal barriers are women’s fault and therefore women’s responsibility. We miss the context: Women grapple with those internal barriers because of cultural and historical factors. Centuries of women’s marginalization and exclusion from professional, public and political life left a societal legacy, but it also left a legacy in us, impacting how we see ourselves. Looking inward to address the internal barriers to our own empowerment is – in my view – a wise response to that legacy. It’s part of the work women in our time need to do to claim our power, and our new freedoms, fully.

2.What compelled you to write Playing Big?

All around me, I saw brilliant women playing small. I was seeing it in my coaching clients, my colleagues, my friends and in myself. We were turning away from sharing our ideas, from truly going for our career dreams. We weren’t playing as big as our ideas, our talents, and our capacity for leadership merited.

3.You say that all contemporary women “have been hired for the transition team” – what do you mean by that?

The past was a world defined, designed and led largely by men. The future – we hope – will be a world defined, designed and led by women and men. The present is the transition. By dint of our birth into this historical moment, we’ve been “hired for the transition team.”

When women can start to see themselves as a part of a global, revolutionary transition team, we can more compassionately and wisely understand what’s not working in our institutions and culture right now. And can be buoyed by the understanding that whatever we do in our communities, companies and families to bring forward women’s voices – including our own voices – is connected to something much larger and much greater, something we are a part of.

4.What are the major blocks women have get in the way of their playing big?

That delusional inner critic voice, and not having the tools to deal with it. Also, paradoxically, often our good student habit and good girl behaviors get in our way. These habits are very helpful up to a certain point in our careers – they help us be good worker bees, solid contributors –but they then get in the way of our leading and shaking up the status quo. Some faulty beliefs also tend to get in our way – that we aren’t expert enough, that we need one more training or degree or a few more years experience. And of course, there are also many external barriers – unconscious and conscious bias, the double-bind, the dearth of female leader role models and mentors.

5. Part of this book is about callings – how can a woman figure out what her calling is?

Yes, I find most women don’t truly feel they are playing big until they play big not just in their careers, but in whatever pursuits they feel most called to. Those pursuits might happen through their jobs, but they might also happen through volunteer work, activism, family life or a creative passion. There are eight common patterns I see in how callings tend to show up in our lives – and usually we can recognize a calling because it meets at least a few of these criteria –

How do you recognize a calling? Look for one or more of these clues:

  1. You feel an unusually vivid pain or frustration around the status quo of a particular issue or topic. You strongly feel or clearly see what’s lacking.
  2. You see a powerful vision–vague or clear–about what could be. That vision keeps filling your mind or tugging at your heart.
  3. You feel inspired or even compelled to act. You have a mysterious, felt sense of “This work is mine to do.” You feel as if you’ve received an assignment, rather than that you chose the particular task or cause.
  4. You find that actually doing the calling is a magical, strengthening process. While your inner critic might show up now and then, and while it’s hard work, you receive energy and a sense of meaning, and rightness, from doing it. You feel a kind of flow while working on it.
  5. Satisfaction comes not when the end goal is achieved, but much earlier – when you give yourself full permission to work on the calling. And… (these are the most important — and most surprising qualities of a calling)
  6. You feel huge resistance. A part of you wants to run the other direction. You feel like the task is huge, and you just couldn’t possibly be up to it. It feels like this upends your plans, and doesn’t quite fit with what is convenient in your life. Keep this in mind: in the archetypal hero’s journey, step 1 is “hearing the call”. Step 2? “Resisting the call.” It’s normal. It’s part of the process. The key is eventually surrendering that resistance and stepping into the calling.
  7. You don’t — yet—have everything you need to have to complete it. It’s not just irrational fear talking. It’s the truth. You don’t have everything you need. There is work to do, resources you will need to gather, and things you will need to make happen. That is a part of the beautiful stretch of the calling.
  8. You aren’t — yet — the person you need to be to complete the calling. It’s true. It’s not just your inner critic. You aren’t quite up to the task. You don’t have all the qualities and strength you’ll need. And you’ll get them by doing the calling. Callings always grow us in some meaningful way. You will have to evolve, develop new capacities, and show up to life in new ways.

I see no evidence that we each get a single calling. Most women experience many over a lifetime, and even many at once. The question isn’t “what’s my calling?” It is “what callings am I receiving right now?” The goal isn’t to find the one final perfect calling and devote the rest of one’s days to it. Rather, the goal is to become a woman more able to recognize her callings and respect them. Often this is where we get stuck – respecting and taking seriously our callings.

6. You talk a lot about the inner critic and the inner mentor – what are those inner voices and why are they so important?

The quality of our lives and the quality of our leadership depends on whether we listen to the wisest part of ourselves or the most fearful part of ourselves.

All of us – women and men – have a vicious and strong inner critic voice, a voice that talks to us about how and why we don’t measure up. When women listen to the inner critic, or think it’s voice is just “who they are,” they get stuck playing small. And yet, one thing that women often get wrong is that they think they have become “confident” – that they have to get rid of self-doubt. We don’t! Our self-doubt isn’t going away. We do, however, need a new way of relating to it. We need to learn how to recognize the inner critic voice, hear it, acknowledge it, but not take direction from it.

One of the most powerful things a woman can do is discover what I call “the inner mentor.” When I was being trained as a coach, I was taught a simple, guided meditation I could use with my clients to help them envision and older, future version of themselves – themselves twenty to thirty years out into the future. What I found was that when people did this guided meditation and truly accessed that vision, it wasn’t just an “older” version of themselves they encountered, but rather a wiser, calmer, more fully expressed version of themselves. I came to call this the “inner mentor” because it functioned like a mentor women could call upon for guidance when they were facing a challenge or dilemma. Its answers were always surprising, profound, and unfailingly wise. Playing bigger from the inside out, is, in larger part, about becoming more and more like that wiser self – growing into her, so to speak.

There’s so much advice today for women to find mentors.  Mentors can be great for support, tactical information, and help navigating a particular company or field, and yet, there are so many instances in which a woman’s best answers will come from within herself – and when only she can know what the right course for herself is.

7.You are skeptical about all the positive hype about girls’ success is school – why?

Of course, it’s not a bad thing that girls are succeeding in school, but I do think we need to look more critically at what they are succeeding at when they do so. Often, the core skills that school teachers are 1) how to adapt to what an authority figure (the teacher) wants 2) how to learn information from the outside (a book, a lecture, etc.) and then memorize or apply it 3) how to prepare well – how to study for a test, or prepare for the next day’s discussion in class. These skills help us in certain ways in our careers, but to lead, to innovate, to be changemakers, and to do work that we find personally meaning in, we need a different skill set:

  • challenging authority and standing in our own authority – not just adapting to authority
  • trusting what we already know – not just learning information from the outside
  • improvising as well as preparing

I think we are kidding ourselves if we think that girls’ success in school is adequately preparing them to be the leaders and change agents we need them to be!

Read more about Playing Big here.

Visit Tara Mohr’s website here


TheLostWifeWhen writing novels, one never knows where inspiration will strike.   A few years ago, I was well into my research for a book on the ways that Jewish artists managed to create art during the Holocaust, when I overheard a story at the local hair salon about a couple who were separated at the beginning of the war with each of them being told that the other had perished. Sixty years later, they miraculously were reunited at the wedding of their respective grandchildren.  When I overheard that story, I felt like I had been struck by lightning.  My mind was filled with so many questions: why had this couple each believed the other had died? What was their initial love story? What were their second love stories that produced the children who were now the parents of the grandchildren getting married?  And most importantly, how did they each survive World War II?

This story would end up being the bookends for my novel The Lost Wife, into which I invented the lovers’ histories both before and after their separation.

I wanted to draw in my readers by evoking the same questions that I had after initially hearing that story.  I wanted those questions to propel them into the same journey I too would undertake while crafting the body of the novel.

TheGardenofLettersThe inspiration for my new novel The Garden of Letters, also began after hearing a story that ignited my curiosity.  While at a dinner party, a friend shared with me the details about how her father had escaped from Hungry through Italy during WWII with forged papers that their family had spent their entire life savings on.  When my friend’s father arrived in Portofino, German guards were scrutinizing everyone’s papers so carefully that he was sure he was going to be arrested.

Suddenly, out from the crowd, a big barrel-chested Italian man cried: “Cousin, cousin, I’ve been waiting for you all week.  Thank heaven’s you’ve come!”

He was able to whisk my friend’s father away and take him back to his home on the cliffs of Portofino.

When my friend’s father asked this man why he had saved him, for clearly he wasn’t his cousin, the man replied:  “I try to come to the port every month.  I try to save the person who looks the most afraid.”

When I heard that story I immediately thought it would make an amazing beginning to a novel.  I imagined the two people whose lives intersect at this occupied Italian port.    One fleeing and in need of shelter.  The other a person who sees that fear and sets upon helping him.   “The Garden of Letters” opens with my young heroine being saved from the Germans at the Portofino port by a doctor.

As in all my novels, I wanted my main character to possess a creative gift.  With The Lost Wife, I explored how art could be used as a form of Resistance against the Nazis.  In The Garden of Letters, I explore how music could be used.

My main character Elodie, is a young cellist who sends coded messages for the Italian Resistance through her performances And the book explores the many creative ways essential information was transmitted during the war.

When I traveled to Italy to meet with partisans and female messengers who were involved in the Resistance, I was introduced to a person who shared with me another unusual way information was sent during the war.  Giovanni Pellizzato, whose grandfather was both a bookseller and an active member of the Italian Resistance, described how codes were cleverly hidden throughout the pages of a book, and how within the back shelves of his father’s bookstore many of the books had their paper carved out to create a space where pistols were stored inside.  This information was so intriguing to me, it inspired the character of the bookseller, Luca, in The Garden of Letters.

As storytellers, we’re responsible for crafting narratives that bring our readers into a world that transport and hopefully inform.  As writers, however, we must also be open to all the stories that surround us, for everyone has a unique history to share.


Credit: Gabriel Lehner

Lyndsay Faye

At BEA I sat down with Lyndsay Faye, author Seven for a Secret, newly released in paperback. Voted one of The Wall Street Journal’s Ten Best Mysteries of the Year!

 

How do you get in the writing mood? Do you have a certain place that you go, do you have music that you like to listen to?

That’s a cool question, never been asked that question before. How do I get into the writing mood? I get into the writing mood by reading authors I admire. You know maybe I’m going to be reading it for ten minutes, maybe I’m going to be reading it for twenty minutes, and I am going to be sort of just absorbing awesome styles and brilliant techniques and ridiculously cool characterizations as I read them. And then if I’m lucky I’ll manage to make myself stop and actually sit down and write something. So you know, I’ll pick up – it’s easiest to make yourself stop and do it a little bit more piecemeal with poetry. So you know I’ll read Richard Siken poetry, I’ll read T.S. Elliot for a minute, because I like to use very strong metaphors and I like to use vivid language, and so often reading a couple poems for a few minutes before I start writing is nice, because I can read a phrase that I think has great imagery and I can just sort of get into the feeling that way. So that’s what I often do to get in the writing mood.

 

Would you say poetry is your genre of choice then?

I think any artist who uses poetic language and I mean any medium literally. So for instance like one day I might be listening to The National, uh you know, some song off High Violet, like I’ll listen to Lemon World three times and that is beautiful poetry. You know if you write the lyric ‘lay me on a table, put flowers in my mouth, and we can say that we invented a summer love and torture party’ that is poetry at the same time that I would also like to sit down and read ‘let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table’ from T.S. Elliot. Or I might you know pick up Raymond Chandler and read a few passages from The Big Sleep or something along those lines. So yeah, any medium, any genre, just as long as the language is really rich. I like a big slab of chocolate cake in language form right before I start writing.

 

That is a great image! (laughs) Oh I’m going to steal that one. Don’t worry I’ll always credit you.

No you can take it, you can take it. I always do eat that slice of chocolate cake and you know it could be lyrics it could be poetry it could be prose but, you know just as long as it’s really rich language I always read that first. And sometimes I have it open in tabs on the internet, like I’ll have a poem open in a tab and if I get to a place where I just want to bang my face against the keyboard until my nose goes flat (laughs) then I’ll read the poem for a second and it feels better.

 

What is your most unexpected or strangest hobby or talent?

Wow, um, I am the only person I know who can put vibrato in a kazoo. I am a really amazing kazoo player. I have a pretty strong vibrato anyway and I was trained in musical theater, but I can take a kazoo and I can, you know, actually put that vocal spin in it. And um, if you’d ever like to hear me play Amazing Grace on the kazoo, I can do that for you. I’d be willing to do that but I don’t have my kazoo with me. It’s in my other pants right now. The other thing I could do for you, that’s a strange talent of mine I can demonstrate right now. (Puts tongue all the way in her nose) So if you can get your tongue all the way into your nose that is like, not something everyone can do. I can pick my nose with my tongue and I can put vibrato in a kazoo. Two things, two things that I can do that are not perhaps expected.

 

That was excellent! Thank you for sharing that one. So going back to writing… How did you get started as a writer?

I got started as a writer because I had been an actor for a really long time, and I’d been obsessed with the Sherlock Holmes Mysteries since I was ten. And I was working in a restaurant, as you do when you’re a writer. And I picked up a book that was one of many, many, many incarnations of Sherlock Holmes trying to solve the Jack the Ripper murders, there’s countless versions of this. But I picked it up at the Barnes and Noble across the street from the restaurant I was working at, just you know on my lunch break. And I was reading it and I am so obsessed with Sherlock Holmes that every little thing that was wrong with it stood out to me. And you know, it’s actually really well written and I’m not faulting the author at all, the author had clearly done a lot of research etcetera but I’m reading it and I’m like ‘this is just not how I would do it’. There’s a tendency when writing fiction involving Sherlock Holmes particularly, that you’re going to throw in – well and also Jack the Ripper – There’s this tendency to throw in, they’re like ‘And then were going to do also vampires and Satanists, and they live in an interconnected series of underground caves in Transylvania and uh space aliens actually are the ones who infected their minds’ so like they throw everything but the kitchen sink at it. So my problem with that was that what I wanted to be reading was Sherlock Holmes solving the Jack the Ripper murders written by Caleb Carr, essentially. With forensic evidence that was true to the actual events with, you know, a certain amount of historical verisimilitude when it comes to the absolute abject poverty these women were living in in Whitechapel. And I thought it was a little bit of a disservice to the Sherlock Holmes character and to the women who actually were subjected to these horrific crimes that everything but the kitchen sink was being thrown at the narrative. I thought ‘why shouldn’t it be frightening enough that a serial killer is stalking the streets of London and no one knows who this is and at any moment you could be brutally murder and then eviscerated’? I figured that was scary enough, and so I wanted to do one without all the bells and whistles and supernatural etcetera. In an act of enormous hubris I sat down and I actually started writing it which was crazy, I’ve never taken a creative writing class before, I was an English major but it was all analytical type stuff. And then after getting a little ways into it I kind of put it down for a minute because you know you don’t realize that you can actually write a book until you finish writing an entire book, it’s an enormous enterprise. And then the restaurant I was working at was knocked down with bulldozers because they sold it to create an apple store. So then I was on six months of unemployment, and I said ‘you know what you’re probably going to get one shot at finishing this, so just tell yourself six months of unemployment is enough time to write a novel’. And since I’d already done all the research, I’d finished my research into the ripper killings, it was enough time. And I finished it, while I was, you know, out of work. And after that everything got crazy because I didn’t ever think it was ever going anywhere, I thought maybe a Sherlockian small press would maybe, I don’t know, do an e-book of it or something along those lines. I was blown away when I got an agent, and I was even more blown away when I sold it to Simon and Schuster. So that was how I got into and it was all very gratuitous but it was crazy. And I often think to myself ‘why are people letting me do this for a living’ like ‘this is not a regular job’ but that’s how it works.

 

So that was for your first book, and how did you then make the transition to your second?

Yeah that was a can of worms. I have a few lost novels between Dust and Shadow and The Gods of Gotham. And I still work on them and I still love the concepts, but I didn’t know what I was doing, is the problem. Because if you’re writing a Sherlock Holmes pastiche you have a lot of template laid out for you. You already have the characters and they’re already beloved characters so there’s a certain shorthand you can enter into. You’re not introducing a new character and trying to involve the reader in their lives and make the reader feel affection for this person, they already feel affections for Sherlock Holmes or they wouldn’t have the damn book in the first place. So additionally with the Ripper murders, what you have is a series of extremely specific crimes that I wanted to represent as accurately as possible. So I essentially had a historical outline written for me. And that was great too, but that doesn’t actually teach you how to write a book. So I wrote a few more books, wrong. And then I decided to become a long-haul truck driver, and my husband said ‘no, you should probably not be a long-haul truck driver’. And I was like ‘what about ice fishing?’ And he was like ‘no, that’s probably not a good idea either’. I just didn’t want to go back – acting had burned me out a little bit and I didn’t want to go back to the restaurant work. And then I sat down and I said OK here’s one more try, one more try, I want to write – and here’s the difference between those books that didn’t work and the one that did – I was trying to write – this is going to sound ridiculous – I was trying to write a literary book. I was trying to write a book that had literary value and artistic merit and had all these sorts of exciting moments and historical significance etcetera. And I wanted to do all of those things, but what I wasn’t sitting down and writing – I wasn’t putting my guts on the page. I was trying to be artistic about it, I was trying to say like you know ‘this is an artful sentence, there you go’. Writing artful sentences is bullshit. What I needed to do was take all of my feelings of you know, like, social injustice and failure, what I myself was doing, and dissatisfaction with the world of politics in general, and all of the things I was actually feeling. And I needed to put my own guts on the page and thats was what I was not doing. Because I was being timid and I thought that professionalism was, you know, being intellectually rigorous, but I was in fact just being cowardly about taking my own feelings and just, you know, like finger painting with them in words. So in The Gods of Gotham I said ‘fuck it’, Timothy Wild has just lost everything. He is a dude who walks around with his heart absolutely on his sleeve. And I know all sorts of men who are very sensitive kittens so that was not a problem to write. And he’s in love with a girl who doesn’t love him back, and he has a terrible relationship with his only sibling. And I just piled things on and on and on because I was very frustrated at the time. And Tim is a ridiculous little angst kitten, but he is way more a reflection of my actual, you know, like, style and self etcetera, and I figured at a certain point I am just going to actually be risky and put myself out there, and see if anybody wants to read that. And bizarrely it turns out they do (laughs). So um, me being artistic is not as effective as me being honest, and I didn’t know that, because no one had ever taught me how to write a book before. So I had to practice.

If you were to, in one sentence, describe why you think reading is important, what would you say?

I think that you should read so – If we don’t read how can we possibly understand each other. And, you know, if that’s the one sentence, great, if we don’t read how could we possibly understand each other. But I would add to that how could we possibly understand ourselves if we’re not reading, because reading is such a touchstone for people. It enlightens us not only in the sense of ‘Oh that’s how that life felt’ that someone else has written. But the perfect metaphor that captures exactly how you were feeling and you didn’t really know, and it was this sort of just amorphous miasma of ‘ughh, I feel like this this, but I don’t know how to say it’. Naming things is very powerful, and I think that putting concrete words onto emotions, onto experiences, onto settings onto times of day, you know, like, nailing those down and saying that – there’s this beautiful sentence at the beginning of The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler right, that still boggles my mind. The phrase he inserts into the sentence is ‘with the sun not shining’ and this is in Los Angeles, ‘with the sun not shining’ doesn’t mean the same thing as that it was cloudy, it’s like this haze right, and so you know from reading that, OK it was this sort of day, and I can picture it. And I think you can do the same thing with people’s feelings, people’s, you know, struggles and their inner turmoil if you put the words together in a row the right way and I think that everyone should read because otherwise we’re just going to keep blindly bumping into walls.

And then just to finish up with one fun question, what is your guilty pleasure at the moment? Whether it be movies or books or food.

I don’t have guilty pleasures. I mean I don’t think people should have guilty pleasures, like – that is a fun question – But I think that people should have pleasures, you know, we’re such puritans (laughs) like we’re such puritans, screw that I mean go eat a pickle straight out of the pickle jar, like go read some fan fiction, go, you know, watch Godzilla. Do what you do man (laughs). Go for it, die your hair blue, whatever. I mean the older I get the more I feel like guilty pleasures are standing in the way of forward progress (laughs). If I were to come up with one, I guess, I am obsessed with Star Trek the Next Generation. But it’s not guilty. I just got into that. I watch star trek when I’m sad, and when I’m happy, and when I’m bored, and all the time in between. I don’t know whenever I try to think of something that’s a guilty pleasure, it’s like ‘well yeah I mean yes I really love cheesy 80’s pop music’ but I think everybody does, you know, it’s like guilty pleasures are the same as pleasure pleasures they just mean that you aren’t owning it.

LyndsayFaye_SevenforaSecret

From Edgar-nominated author Lyndsay Faye comes the next book in what Gillian Flynn calls “a brilliant new mystery series.”

 

Start Reading an Excerpt of Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye!


photo[1]

At BEA I sat down with Liane Moriarty, author of the newly released Big Little Lies. Liane is also the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers, The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot. She lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two small, noisy children.

 

 

How did you get started as an author?
About ten years ago, I got a phone call that would change my life. It was my sister calling to tell me that her YA novel, Feeling Sorry For Celia, had been accepted for publication. My sister and I had always wanted to be authors. When we were children, our Dad would commission us to write novels for him. At the time of my sister’s phone call, I was working as a freelance advertising copywriter, writing everything from websites to TV commercials. Although I occasionally wrote short stories and first chapters of novels that didn’t go any further, I’d let my childhood dream slide. My sister’s news was the inspiration I needed to get me back to the keyboard.  In a fever of sibling rivalry I wrote a children’s book which was enthusiastically rejected by every publisher in Australia. I calmed down, and two years later, my first novel, Three Wishes was published around the world.

Do you have a sibling rivalry continuing on, now that you’re successful as well?
No, now we’re both published writers (as is my younger sister) we’re all just happy for each other. Although we do become quite competitive about material. For example, when one sister uses an old family story.

All writing materials aside, what material items in life could you not live without?
Well I couldn’t live without one cup of coffee a day, and without books – does that go without saying (laughs). And chocolate and champagne. Is that enough? And if I had all those things together then I wouldn’t need anything else.

How do you get into the writing mood? Do you have a particular place you like to write, do you listen to special music?
I have two small children so I only have a very limited time to write, so I don’t really have the luxury anymore of ‘getting into the writing mood.’ I just have to sit down and write.

Would you say that would be your top writing advice for aspiring writers, just sit down and write?
Yes, you can spend too much time asking questions about writing and wondering about writing and thinking about writing. In the end you just have to write.

If you were going to pick any country in the world or any city to live in which one would it be? (If you couldn’t live in Sydney.)
I’d live in a mountaintop castle near my family and the beach, where I could ski from my castle door and have a swim before breakfast at the beach. It’s a fantasy question so I’m allowed a fantasy answer!

What skills or talents do you admire most in other people?
I admire all those skills and talents I lack – the  ability to sing, to act, to sew, to speak other languages fluently, to cook gourmet meal without making a mess etcetera, etcetera!

Your books focus a lot around personal relationships and family dynamics. Do you find a lot of your personal life transitioning and spilling over into your writing, or do you like to keep the two separate?
Little bits and pieces of my personal life certainly seep into my writing. And that’s why I find that my characters are getting older as I get older, they’re aging along with me. So I’m sure one day I’ll be writing a book set in a retirement village.

If you were to describe why you think reading is important in one sentence, what would you say?
Reading is important because its one of life’s greatest pleasures. However, I also think that if its not a pleasure for you, that’s OK. For some people life’s greatest pleasure is music or art or scuba diving. I just think its important to find time for what makes you happy.

What are your other hobbies or pleasures?
I love snow skiing and bushwalking, and spending time with my children.

What is your favorite place in the U.S. that you’ve visited? Have you done much travel in the US?
I had a skiing holiday in Aspen once, many years ago, and loved it.

BigLittleLies_LianeMoriarty

 

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal.

A murder…a tragic accident…or just parents behaving badly

What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.

But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads. This is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.


photoAt BEA I sat down with Azar Nafisi, author of The Republic of Imagination to discuss her book, her writing style, and more. Azar Nafisi is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and Things I’ve Been Silent About. She is a passionate advocate of books and reading, and currently lives in Washington, D.C.

 

Can you tell me a little bit about how you get in the writing mood? Do you have a certain place that you like to write? Do you listen to certain music?

First of all I get very excited about it, you know and the idea doesn’t leave me. So my first attempts at writing come through writing on these notes that I carry everywhere I go. Like I’m sitting on the metro, I’m going to—even sometimes in the middle of grocery shopping, I put my cart to one side and start writing, so that is how it all starts. Then when the quote unquote–I think this is very serious–but when serious writing starts, I work in my office which is at home. Because if I go to my office at work I won’t be able to. I don’t like to have people whom I know around me. A lot of times I go to the museum’s coffee shops, like Phillips Museum is one of my favorite coffee shops or National Gallery in Washington. I go and write, and then I go watch my favorite pictures and then come back to writing. I like to be writing in a public place where nobody knows me, so that I have life around me, but you know, so that is how I write. It’s fun! You know I really wish that we had more wonderful coffee shops. But there is one coffee shop, one Starbucks on the waterfront that I like, and I like the people there, we all get to know one another. So it is really enjoyable and painful (laughs).

 

Do you have any specific writer inspirations, any passages from other authors or from literature that really stick with you?

Oh yes, I mean right now because I’m writing this book for example, certain quotations or words by some authors become so intimate, that sometimes I say it as if they’re mine. You know I cannot–this happened when I was writing this book I had been giving talks and writing about Saul Bellow. And I kept saying ‘as Saul Bellow says, those who survive the ordeal of the holocaust, will they survive the ordeal of freedom’. And then the copywriter says we can’t find this quote (laughs). And I realized that I have just made it my own, I had taken the ordeal from him and the sufferings–I mean you know I had taken the concept and you know created my own. But other writers, their words become like your flesh and blood. And that is why language is so important, you know it is the way they connect you. There is that inspiration, sometimes one quotation gets you to investigate, and that is what happened with Baldwin. I first started with all these amazing quotations Baldwin had about literature’s meaning as freedom, and taking risk with writing or reading stories. And by and by, I wrote on Baldwin.

 

I know that your current book was inspired by a comment someone made. Can you tell me a little bit how that turned into a full-on book?

You know it didn’t start so much with a comment; it started with an idea that kept obsessing me. And it started with when I was in Iran. My students in Iran, because we lived in such a limited world at that time, their idea of the Western America was really–‘we want to go there,’ you know ‘we want to be there’. And I felt they’re not getting everything, they’re not getting the complications and the paradoxes. The ordeals of freedom, you know? So over there I taught them Saul Bellow’s Dean’s December, which was about the ordeals of living in a tyranny and the ordeals of living in the west. And that idea was in my mind, and I came here and I wrote Reading Lolita and the idea came back because I thought–so many people told me ‘oh you were living in this condition and that is why you loved to read. In a democracy, you know, books are not that central’. And that bothered me, that comment bothered me. Does a democracy not need imagination? And that started it. I started responding to that question—can a democracy live without a democratic imagination? That’s how it started.

 

Can you tell me in terms of your friends, the people who you like to spend time with, what is the most important value in a friend for you?

I mean especially since I went back to Iran and then I came here. There is good people whom you feel very close to, it’s like with books. There is that initial instinct that you connect and you don’t know why. I mean I can tell you what I value most in a friend, but it doesn’t happen that way. You know and a lot of times your friends are the ones that–actually my friends are the ones whom I am most comfortable revealing myself to. I am not scared of them seeing all the warts (laughs). And there is a deep empathy where you accept critically because the love is strong enough to carry it. And since I have been living between two cultures, I realized that my best friends become the ones who have something of both cultures in them. And necessarily your friends don’t have to be like you. Because they have to complement you, not to affirm you. I don’t like someone who doesn’t question me, and that is why, for the chapter on Huck Finn, this woman I talk about she was my best childhood friend. And we were not alike; you know she was very pragmatic, very serious. And I was very flighty and you know very—but you know we loved the sparring. So that is the kind of friend.

 

Do you have a guilty pleasure or a favorite movie or book?

Well you know, the only guilty pleasure I have, which I constantly talk about, is of course eating ice cream. But—coffee ice cream—but the point with books are that—I am very promiscuous with works of art. I don’t feel elitist at all about it because I am in love with mystery tales and I am in love with quote unquote very serious ones. So from Flaubert and Dante and Shakespeare, to Chandler and Ian Rankin or Sara Paretsky, I read the ones that are good and I enjoy it. I don’t know if that counts as a guilty pleasure? But unfortunately it is an open guilty pleasure. And I make a point of saying it because I don’t like formulas for art. You know, American movies, the best were Marks Brothers—In  Iran we got to watching old movies. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep. Those were fantastic, as are the very intellectual films, I love Woody Allen and I love Jean Godard or Renoir.

 

If you were to describe why you think reading is important, in one sentence, what would you say?

Reading is breathing.

AzarNafisi_TheRepublicofImagination

 

In The Republic of Imagination, taking her cue from a challenge thrown to her in Seattle, where a skeptical reader told her that Americans don’t care about books the way they did back in Iran, Azar Nafisi energetically responds to those who say fiction has nothing to teach us. Blending memoir and polemic with close readings of her favorite American novels—The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt, and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, among others—she invites us to join her as citizens of her “Republic of Imagination,” a country where the villains are conformity and orthodoxy and the only passport to entry is a free mind and a willingness to dream.


Golazo!

Every 4 years, the world is treated to the ultimate sporting event. No, we’re not talking about the Olympics; we’re talking about The World Cup! The beautiful game has been long celebrated in literature, from Nick Hornby’s ode to his beloved Arsenal in Fever Pitch, to Bill Buford’s examination of hooligan culture in Among the Thugs. The history, pageantry, competition (and occasionally incredible soccer hair) all lend themselves to fine writing, so it’s no wonder we took this opportunity to ask a few of our authors these pressing questions in Penguin’s Seven on Soccer.

Author of Golazo!, Andreas Campomar, weighs in.

Have a favorite book about soccer? Let us know about it in the comments below.

 

1. Who are you supporting in the World Cup? Uruguay

    Part B. Predict the winner. Argentina

2. Tell us your club team: Peñarol

3. Why soccer? Why not? It is, after all, the most sublime of games.

4. Who is your favorite all time player? No Pele’s allowed. You can do better. Enzo Francescoli

5. What is your favorite book or piece of writing on the beautiful game? Dios es redondo (God is Round) by the Mexican novelist, Juan Villoro

6. Put 4 books into a group of death and tell us who finishes on top. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez), The Labyrinth of Solitude (Octavio Paz), Ficciones (Jorge Luis Borges), Pedro Páramo (Juan Rulfo). Top = Ficciones (Fictions) by Jorge Luis Borges.

To see Part 1 by Rosie Schaap, author of DRINKING WITH MEN, click here.

To see Par 2 by Chris Anderson, author of THE NUMBERS GAME, click here.


1. Bath Time is Awesome. 

1

From the early days of washing them in the sink (or bucket or whatever other vessel is at hand) to experiencing their joyous splashing in the tub, nothing is more fun than bath time, and nothing in the world smells more heavenly than a freshly clean baby.  Even the parts after bath are awesome—wrapping them up in a cuddly towel like a big burrito, smelling their hair as you comb through it, and getting those adorably cute pajamas on for bedtime are all sensory gold.  In fact, the only time bath time is not awesome is when it’s been 2 hours and the kid still doesn’t want to get out of the tub.

 

2.  The only thing routine about bedtime routine is that it’s never routine. 2

Bedtime is an emotional roller coaster.  The first 15-20 minutes, when you’re tucking in, cuddling, reading stories, singing silly songs, are everything that is good about being a parent.  But beware—these calm moments will lull you into a false sense of security, multiplying your pain a thousand fold for the next one to three hours while your demon spawn is suddenly “NOT TIRED!” and demanding treats, water, 75 more stories—basically anything to keep them from getting the sleep you know they so desperately need.

 

3. Privacy is a thing of the past. 3

Curiosity and a complete lack of any sort of sense of boundaries means that you are going to be seeing a LOT more of your toddler (and vice versa) than you probably ever anticipated.

 

4.  The house will get trashed and your favorite things will be destroyed. 4

And this is ok.  Material possessions become less important when compared to the sheer joy of watching your child develop, and a great anecdote is always more valuable than a new coat of paint.

 

5. Tea parties can actually be fun. 5

As can Legos, fire trucks, dollhouses, digging for worms, and eating imaginary food for the millionth time. Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that your opponent is ALWAYS going to cheat at Chutes n Ladders or that the tea party you’re currently attending is going to keep you from checking your email for the next 3 hours, it’s fun to just let go and enjoy these moments that will all too soon be nothing more than fond memories.

confessions

 

Dave Engledow is the author of Confessions of the World’s Best Father, a hilarious pictorial parody of a clueless father and his adorable daughter.

Happy Fathers Day!


soccer

Every 4 years, the world is treated to the ultimate sporting event. No, we’re not talking about the Olympics; we’re talking about The World Cup! The beautiful game has been long celebrated in literature, from Nick Hornby’s ode to his beloved Arsenal in Fever Pitch, to Bill Buford’s examination of hooligan culture in Among the Thugs.  The history, pageantry, competition (and occasionally incredible soccer hair) all lend themselves to fine writing, so it’s no wonder we took this opportunity to ask a few of our authors these pressing questions in Penguin’s Seven on Soccer. First up, The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong author Chris Anderson.

Have a favorite book about soccer? Let us know about it in the comments below.

 

1. Who are you supporting in the World Cup?

USA, Germany, England (I am American and German and I live in England)

Part B. Predict the winner.

Completely unscientifically, I’d say Germany.

2. Tell us your club team:

Don’t have one.

3. Why soccer?

It’s the most democratic and most global of all sports. Anyone can play, anywhere, any time with minimum equipment.

4. Who is your favorite all time player? No Pele’s allowed. You can do better.

Lev Yashin.

5. What is your favorite book or piece of writing on the beautiful game?

Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics (Jonathan Wilson)

6. In the battle of the Manchesters—are you City or United?

Neither. If you’re not from Manchester, you really shouldn’t be either.

Part B. Take it to Spain–Barcelona or Real Madrid?

See above.

7. Best hair–entire Italian national team or Rooney’s implants?

Italy, hands down.

8. Give Jose Mourinho a new nickname:

Machiavelli.

9. Predict the star of the 2014 World Cup–Ronaldo, Messi, Ozil or Suarez? Other candidates allowed.

Eden Hazard & Romelu Lukaku

10. If you had the power to relegate one team, club or international, who goes?

The 1998 France team.

11. Issue a red card to one player for all of eternity.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

 

To see Part 1 by Rosie Schaap, author of DRINKING WITH MEN, click here.

Look out for Part 3, tomorrow 6/11.


drinking with men

Every 4 years, the world is treated to the ultimate sporting event. No, we’re not talking about the Olympics; we’re talking about The World Cup! The beautiful game has been long celebrated in literature, from Nick Hornby’s ode to his beloved Arsenal in Fever Pitch, to Bill Buford’s examination of hooligan culture in Among the Thugs.  The history, pageantry, competition (and occasionally incredible soccer hair) all lend themselves to fine writing, so it’s no wonder we took this opportunity to ask a few of our authors these pressing questions in Penguin’s Seven on Soccer. First up, Drinking With Men author Rosie Schaap.

Have a favorite book about soccer? Let us know about it in the comments below.

 

1. Who are you supporting in the World Cup?

 The Netherlands (Schaap is Dutch for “sheep,” don’t you know?)

Part B. Predict the winner.

 Not the Netherlands.

 2. Tell us your club team: Tottenham Hotspur.

3. Why soccer?

I love the directness of its drama, and its relative simplicity—at least where rules and gear are concerned—compared to other team sports. I admire its capacity for beauty and grace when played well. And I love how it can bring people together. Almost anywhere in the world, if I’m at an airport bar and there’s a match on TV, it’s an instant portal to a conversation with just about anyone sitting next to me. Aside from all that, it’s just obviously the best sport in the world.

4. Who is your favorite all time player? No Pele’s allowed. You can do better.

Historically: Johann Cruyff
Whom I have the pleasure of watching now: Lionel Messi

5. What is your favorite book or piece of writing on the beautiful game?

 Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football, by David Winner

6. In the battle of the Manchesters—are you City or United? If I really must: United.

 Part B. Take it to Spain–Barcelona or Real Madrid?

Unquestionably Barcelona.

7. Best hair–entire Italian national team or Rooney’s implants?

Neither! (The best hair belongs to Cameroon’s Benoit Assou-Ekotto).

 

Here are some soccer reads to choose from before the world cup begins: Thursday, 6/12

Pray

Fan Mail

Why Soccer Matters

Golazo

The Ball is Round

The Numbers Game

Kick The Balls

Those Feet

 

Keep an eye out for our next article in this World Cup series, slated to publish this Tuesday, 6/10

And while you’re at it, check out John Green’s World Cup Fundraiser aimed to raise funds to fight Sarcoma.