Clearly, I have not been blogging, so pray tell, you may wonder, what have I been doing with my time.  Well, many wise people have oft-repeated the cliché to me that once you have children “the days are long but the years are short.”  And holy crap, that is true.  I cannot account for the last three months since we moved to New York—by the way, have I mentioned that?  We moved to New York City?  We did!  For reals.  So other than buying annoying things like garbage bags and toilet paper and winter clothes (I stupidly left most of mine in London—don’t ask), and trying to get us all settled in a new and not-new-at-all country, and yes, working on Book Number Three, time has been moving so fast that it feels like just yesterday, I had my passport stamped while wearing shorts.  Now all of sudden Salvation Army bells are ringing, the Thankgiving turkey has long been digested, and Elili is turning two next week.  TWO.  I am mother to a talking, walking, fully functioning little human person, who makes jokes that are actually funny and knows exactly what she wants when she wants it.  Amazing.

I shouldn’t just slip working on Book Number Three in there, like it was nothing, because in fact, I’ve been working my tush off on a new draft.  Now the three people who actually read this blog may be left wondering—all Carrie from Sex and the City style—wasn’t the book called The Modern Girl’s Handbook? Well stickers for you three–sorry, stickers are a big part of our lives over here and I wouldn’t be surprised if I have one stuck to that hard working tush right this second, as that happens to me a lot—because yes you are right.  Now titles are weird things, sort of like naming babies, and of course, depending on your perspective, you either think I’m brilliant at that or just plain bat shit crazy. With The Opposite of Love, the title came to me very early on in the writing process and stuck the whole way through. With After You, it was a different story.  For a while it was called The Invisible Line Between You and Me, which everyone hated as much as I loved it.  I don’t remember every variation, but even After You was almost changed at the very last second—when the book was on the way to the printers—and the only reason we kept it was because magazines had already gone to print with reviews with After You attached to it.  (Review coverage is so hard to come by these days, it seemed silly to throw that away and confuse potential readers with a title change.)  Which is all a long way of saying, I’m not going to share the new working title, because I have no idea if it will stick, so for now, since I’ve decided The Modern Girl’s Handbook sounds like non-fiction, I’m going to just call it Book Three, or The Book That Tortured Me For Two Years But I Now Kinda of Love.

Speaking of awesome titles, have you guys read The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai?  If not, you should. A kidnapped/kidnapper children’s librarian, a rewriting of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, not to mention Good Night Moon (and a whole host of other children’s classics) and an entire chapter written in Choose Your Own Adventure style makes it a must read in my world.  Oh and how’s this for a perfect first sentence: “I might be the villain of this story.”

I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Rebecca Makkai yet, but I definitely want to now, since I think we could spend a few lovely hours together being children’s book nerds.  In the meantime, her kindly answering the Five Questions will have to suffice.  Without further ado… Rebecca Makkai:

1. Where were you the first time you saw your book in a bookstore and who did you call first?

I’d actually been avoiding my wonderful local indie the way a criminal initially avoids the scene of the crime. When I finally went in, I had the wonderful experience of standing in line behind a teenager who was reading the sign for my author event out loud to her mother and saying she’d heard about the book. And the store owner, thank god, didn’t out me, but just gave me this lovely grin. It was kind of perfect.

2. I’m convinced all writers are a little bit crazy. Do you agree, and if so, what kind of crazy are you?

I’m basically a pathological liar who learned to shunt all that energy into storytelling.

3. If you were going to have another author write your biography, who would you choose to write it and why? Any title ideas?

Someone like Nicole Krauss or, who’s good on the entwining of family history with modern fate. Better yet, a sort of mad-tea-party play by Tom Stoppard where I’m a minor character, a la James Joyce in Stoppard’s Travesties.

4. When did you start to take yourself seriously as a writer?

I think I was about five. But I would argue that my craft improved measurably when, as an adult, I learned to take myself a lot less seriously as a writer.

5. If your house was burning down, and you had time to rescue only three books from your library, what would you choose and why?

I take these questions far too literally. The following three are not actually my favorite books. Because in this scenario the libraries and bookstores of the world are still standing, right? And I’d have enough insurance money to replace the important stuff. Okay, so that said: Ken Kesey drew a flying squirrel inside my paperback of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and I’d probably grab that first. My grandmother was a novelist, and although I haven’t read much of her work because it’s in Hungarian, I do have about thirty volumes of hers, so I’d take one of those at random. This is when my grandmother would roll over in her grave and say, “Oh God, you had to pick that one?” And my husband and I received a blank book for our wedding that we had no idea what to do with, so we started recording every book each of us read. That’s now my ten-year reading log, and the only form of diary I have. If I didn’t save that, I’d feel my personal history had been lost.

So originally this post was going to be about what I did with my summer vacation, and a lengthy explanation about why I haven’t blogged in quite a while, but then I remembered–aha!–I have an author interview with the amazing, lovely, and fabulous Allie Larkin about her amazing, lovely, and fabulous book STAY that I still needed to post.  Which means I can procrastinate even further my discussion of my summer of procrastination and how naughty I have been on the (not) writing front, and instead introduce you to a writer that you should absolutely already know about.

I often get asked to blurb books, and I often say no, not because I don’t want to help a new up and coming writer–in fact, there is nothing I enjoy more than helping a new up and coming writer and paying forward all of the generous help I’ve received (and still receive) along the way–but because the truth is I’m terrible at managing my time, and these days, there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.  (Case in point–that last sentence should be edited down to a more manageable length, but am I going to?  No, I’m not.  See, that’s me being ruthless with my priorities, which is what a life coach would tell me to do to feel more on top of things, if I had the time to hire a life coach.  Which I don’t.  A life coach would also tell me to stop all my freaking digressions and focus.  SCREW YOU life coach. I’m going to digress all I want, because I haven’t even hired you yet.  Are you worried about me now?  Don’t be.  Blame the cold medicine mixer I’m downing like Kool Aid these days.)

Back to my original point: blurbing.  About two years ago, I made an exception when STAY arrived at my door.  I was about eight million months pregnant at the time, and so distracted and bloated, I couldn’t do much other than lie down on my couch and cry while watching babies being born on TLC.  And all of a sudden a book with a cute dog on its cover arrived unannounced on my doorstep, and before I knew it, somehow, during a time in which I couldn’t focus long enough to read a recipe, I was reading an actual book.  Even crazier, I could not put it down.  Not even for a What Not To Wear marathon.  Here’s my blurb that ultimately landed on the cover: “Charming, witty, and surprisingly touching, Larkin deftly examines what it means to be family. A pleasure from start to finish, but buyer be warned: after closing the final pages of this compulsively readable novel, you might just find yourself ordering a one hundred pound German shepherd from the internet.”

I’m so glad I picked up STAY and I’m even happier that I’ve gotten to know Allie Larkin over the last two years. And before I finally getting around to posting, huge apologies to Allie who got me this interview weeks–make that months–ago, and for only putting it up now.  This time, I can’t even blame pregnancy or TLC, so, instead I’m going to blame that life coach I haven’t hired yet.  See, he told me to focus on my book, and so the blog fell by the wayside…Wait?  What’s that you say?  I haven’t been working on my book?  Oh, I mean he told me to spend the summer away from work and the internet, and instead spend all of my time with my beautiful daughter.  Which I did.  And it was awesome.

See what I just did there?  I multi-tasked!  Now you know what I did with my summer vacation AND I introduced Allie Larkin. I’m amazing!  If this writing thing doesn’t work out, I’m totally becoming a life coach…

1.  Where were you the first time you saw your book in a bookstore and who did you call first?

I’m a regular at the Greece Barnes & Noble (Greece, NY, not Greece the country). They called me when STAY hit shelves, and I ran over to see it for myself.  I bought a copy and had the bookseller who sold it to me sign my copy.  It was a really weird and wonderful moment. I’m not sure who I called first.  My husband was with me, so probably my sister-in-law.

2.  I’m convinced all writers are a little bit crazy. Do you agree, and if so, what kind of crazy are you?

There’s probably something not normal about playing with imaginary friends as a grownup.  And I can’t deny the fact that I’m on the quirky side of things.  I am dreamy and neurotic and require insane amounts of alone time (even though I love being around people), I talk about my characters like they’re real (I swear, I know they aren’t), and I have a constant (and irrational) fear that I’ve left the oven on.

3.  If you were going to have another author write your biography, who would you choose to write it and why? Any title ideas?

Oh, that’s a terrifying thought – having someone else write my story.  If I had a choice in the matter, I’d have my friend, Neil Gordon, write it.  He’s a ghostwriter, among other things, and has the most amazing talent for finding the story in any information you pass his way. Plus, I’m assuming that would give us plenty of excuses to chat without feeling like we both need to be getting back to work.  I’d let Neil title it.  He’s better at those things than I am.

4.  When did you start to take yourself seriously as a writer?

I always took my writing seriously, but that’s a different thing from taking myself seriously as a writer.  My dedication to my writing was really just about my characters for a long time.  I loved them and wanted to write the best story I could for them. I was in it for the long haul, and I was very serious and business-minded about navigating the process of finding an agent, but there’s something about calling yourself a writer that’s a little daunting. It’s an admission.  It’s not just telling people what you do, it’s telling them who you are and what you hope for.  Once I had an agent, I finally got to the point where I could tell people I was a writer without too much hesitation, but it’s certainly something I had to grow into.

5.  If your house was burning down, and you had time to rescue only three books from your library, what would you choose and why?

My dogs are safe, right?  Because that’s the first concern (and probably what’s up with the whole oven thing).  But if they’re safe, then I think my three books would be:

1.     The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy – My copy is so worn out that the cover has almost disintegrated, but it has notes and underlined passages from my high school self.

2.     The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye– It was my favorite book as a child. I lost that copy, which was a paperback, but my publication present to myself was to splurge and track down a hardcover copy.

3.     The copy of Stay that my bookseller friend signed.

This blog is just turning into one big love letter to my favorite writer crushes.  Oh well.  Let my inner fan girl shine, because today, I’m featuring Laura Dave who is one of my favorite people on the planet. Not only is she an amazing person and friend (she is one of my go-to people when I need publishing advice) but an absolutely brilliant writer.  Every time I finish one of her books, I have the exact same thought:  ”Damn, I wish I had written that.”  She is just so good and so smart and I going to use that fake word that blurbists always use and I hate but I can’t think of a better one: her books are all unputtdownable.

Her latest novel, THE FIRST HUSBAND, I read in one day, on the day it came out.  No matter that Elili kept pulling on my dress and begging for attention. That’s what television is for, right?  Ok, kidding about the television, but I did find a way to sneak in all that reading, because THE BOOK ROCKED. Don’t believe me?  Here’s what the reviewers had to say (and look, the reviewers aren’t Laura’s aunt Edna, but PEOPLE MAGAZINE. PEOPLE, people.)

“A fresh, funny take on the search for a soulmate.” —People Magazine

“Playful, unpredictable and emotionally resonant.” —USA Today

And here is Laura herself. Did I mention I love her?  And that you will too? (Oh and one more thing–Her previous books THE DIVORCE PARTY and LONDON IS THE BEST CITY IN AMERICA are both also awesome, so add those to your to be read list too.  Man, I’m getting mighty bossy in my old age…)

1.  Where were you the first time you saw your book in a bookstore and who did you call first?

I was in New York City at a Barnes and Noble.  I called my best friend and started screaming.  But it was New York City so I don’t think anyone noticed.

2.  I’m convinced all writers are a little bit crazy. Do you agree, and if so, what kind of crazy are you?

Totally agree.  I like to think I’m lovable crazy.  Which is really a way of saying, if I start getting too specific, the crazy will show itself in ways I’m not sure you’re ready for!

3.  If you were going to have another author write your biography, who would you choose to write it and why? Any title ideas?

I would like several writer friends to each take a chapter, essay style: Jonathan Tropper, Allison Winn Scotch, Emily Giffin, you… so then it could be as much about you guys as about me.  And as far as I’m concerned, Julie has Writer’s Blog is a pretty great title.  I will leave the titling up to you, if you can take it.

4.  When did you start to take yourself seriously as a writer?

After I finished graduate school, I moved back to New York City and spilled water on my computer—and lost my first book! All that work simply washed away from one glass of water.  It was a bad afternoon.  But shortly thereafter, I started over. I just sat down and put pen to paper and began writing the book again.  It didn’t really occur to me to do something else.  That’s when I figured out: I was in this for the long haul.

5.  If your house was burning down, and you had time to rescue only three books from your library, what would you choose and why?

I love this question and it is entirely too hard, so I will answer it how I would actually do it—which is to say pick the first three I see in front of me, and think: YES!  Must take.

The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter

This novel, which pays homage to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is ethereal and romantic and lovely in every way.  Each narrator is incredibly compelling and I adore the different ways their stories move together to say something new and interesting about love.

The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper

I love everything about the way Tropper writes.  In this novel, he invites us into the world of a famous novelist who finds himself returning to the hometown he wrote about less than lovingly.  This is the best kind of book—one you want to give to friends to read so you can discuss together how much you love it.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Take me to East Egg anytime.  And I’m happy.

So anyone who knows me or perhaps even occasionally reads this blog knows that I’m pretty much always in flux. It’s no coincidence that one of Elili’s favorite words is “suitcase.”  My husband and I are big movers, and we have a tendency to shake stuff up.  (Did you notice how I said “stuff” instead of “shit”?  You see that?  That’s the result of being a mom of a kid who now repeats every word I say.  I think that may also mean I am officially a grown-up.)  Anyhow, the point is I’ve been a little MIA lately, and probably will be for the next month or so, as this last phase of major flux begins to wind down a bit and we start settling down again.  But before I go away, I’m going to be posting some summer must-reads over the next couple of days, alongside the 5 questions.  First up is Diana Spechler and her fabulous new novel SKINNY. Now, if you are one of those lucky people who feels good about the way they look and has never had a moment’s doubt about the circumference of their thighs, then don’t read this book. Instead, please go eat and enjoy a milkshake, on me, so then I can live vicariously through you.  If you are, however, like everyone else I know, and have struggled with body issues, this is a fascinating look at the intersection of food and love and loss and the various ways we seek to fill ourselves up.  This book is honest and painful and frighteningly real.

Thank you Diana for so graciously agreeing to answer the Five Questions:

1.  Where were you the first time you saw your book in a bookstore and who did you call first?

In 2008, to celebrate the release of my debut novel, WHO BY FIRE, I gave a reading in Dallas, where my family lives. The day before the reading, my mother and I drove to a nearby bookstore because I’d heard through the publishing grapevine that authors should “sign stock” to get their autographed copies on display at the front of the store.

I asked the first employee I saw, “May I sign my stock?”

“Oh,” she said, pressing her fingertips to her chest. She cocked her head, smiling as if I’d used broken English and she didn’t want to offend me by asking me to repeat myself.

“I’m an author,” I said quietly. I still felt uncomfortable with that identification; I’d been an author for approximately fourteen hours. “I can sign my book.”

She asked me for the title and then scampered off to find it. Waiting in the front of the store, I heard a throat clear over the loud speaker. And then: “Shoppers!”

I looked around. The “shoppers” in my line of vision didn’t flinch. They continued drinking their coffee, running their index fingers along rows of book spines.

“We have an author in the store!” the voice continued. Then she tried to pronounce my name: “Di-an-a Spe-speshler.”

I crossed my arms over my chest and looked around again at the shoppers. When no one reacted, I wondered if I was dreaming.

“Go on up to the front of the store and say hello. She wrote a book,” she said, somehow making wrote a book sound like finally went pee-pee in the potty. “And she’s here to visit with us.”

A minute later, the employee emerged with two copies of my book and a black marker. Smiling, she said, “Just stand right here. I’m sure everyone will want to meet you.”

No one wanted to meet me. Why would anyone want to meet me?

I stood around for five minutes, smiling at no one like a pageant contestant, and then I ran back outside to my mother’s car.

2.  I’m convinced all writers are a little bit crazy. Do you agree, and if so, what kind of crazy are you?

Of course I agree, although not necessarily with the “a little bit” part. I’ll give you a couple of personal examples:

I have a writing dress, a giant black sleeveless tent from the Gap. I wore it every single day last summer. I began to think that if I didn’t wear it, I would get writer’s block or someone’s favorite baseball team would suffer a losing streak.

I’m also prone to the kind of crying jags that transcend jags and teeter on seizures. If I read a book I love; if something reminds me of the house I grew up in; if I see an old man, alone, eating a muffin and dropping crumbs on his shirt, I’ll cry so hard, I’ll suffocate. If I decide to call someone (because who wants to cry alone?), I respond to “What’s wrong?” with something made up because I’m crying too hard to justify the true catalyst.

I’m that kind of crazy.

3.  If you were going to have another author write your biography, who would you choose to write it and why? Any title ideas?

Some months ago, I asked my four- and six-year-old nieces if they wanted to write books. For each of them, I folded a few pieces of computer paper in half and stapled along the crease. Then they talked and I transcribed. The four-year-old wrote a semi-incoherent story called I Married The Fire. Then, laughing maniacally, she crayoned furious orange scribbles all over the cover. I held the finished product up to study it and decided that her book wasn’t in fact incoherent, but a satire of modern marriage. I decided that she was a genius.

She can write my biography, title it, and do the cover art.

4.  When did you start to take yourself seriously as a writer?

High school. I wrote poems about death, even though I’d never met anyone who died, except my dog. Once, I stapled all of the death poems together and gave the “book” to my best friend. I think she still has it.

5.  If your house was burning down, and you had time to rescue only three books from your library, what would you choose and why?

I live in a small studio apartment, so I try to get rid of my books as quickly as I read them. I just don’t have space for a library. Besides, if I read a great book, I want to give it away. It’s like love. Wait…is it? No, I’m more possessive in that department. It’s like music. When I hear a great song, I want everyone to hear it. Anyway, I don’t have many books, but maybe that’s not the point of this question. If you’re just asking for a few of my favorite book titles, then I’m making my answer needlessly complicated.

I love so many books, it’s impossible to choose, but three I loved within the past year were The Adults by Alison Espach, A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, and Room by Emma Donoghue.

Two posts! One day!  Look at me go!  Okay, this one is sort of cheating, because, you know, it’s an interview, which by definition requires no labor on my part.  But that doesn’t make it any less awesome.  Please welcome Jillian Cantor, the author of the newly released, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS.  I haven’t read TTTOT, but I’ve heard great buzz.  Apparently, it’s about a woman who when dreams she hears her family members and friends deepest thoughts.  Interesting, no?  I tend to love any book that examines the loose grip we all seem to have on reality.  Did I say we?  Was that projecting?  Sorry.

Anyhow, here’s the first line: “When I first heard the news about Will, I was at the Pierce Avenue Salon, getting my hair washed.”  And check out that beautiful cover.  I think that’s reason enough to buy it.

And finally here’s Jillian, who kindly took the time to brave our inane Five Questions. Thanks, Jillian!:

  1. Where were you the first time you saw your book in a bookstore and who did you call first? I was in Barnes & Noble with my kids, and I, of course, called my husband. Actually, I think I sent him a picture on my phone! The more interesting thing about this, though, was that my son (who was four at the time) noticed the book on the shelf before me because he recognized the cover from seeing it at home. Then he wanted to know where his friend Lindsay’s mom’s book was, and he didn’t quite believe me when I told him that all moms aren’t writers! He’s actually still a bit skeptical on this point.
  2. 2.  I’m convinced all writers are a little bit crazy. Do you agree, and if so, what kind of crazy are you? Yes, I do agree! I think we all have to be some level of crazy to become so invested in fictional people and fictional worlds. Crazy and creative seem to go hand in hand in a way.

I guess I would have to say that I’m the obsessive-compulsive kind of crazy, the kind of person who worries over all the little details and obsesses over things no one else would think to. This does come in handy for writing characters and delving into the psyches, but sometimes, in real life, I think I drive my poor husband a little nuts.

3. If you were going to have another author write your biography, who would you choose to write it and why? Any title ideas?

Actually, I would choose my best and oldest friend (from kindergarten) to write my biography. She’s not an author exactly, but she is an actress who wrote and stars in her own one-woman show, so I’m going to say that’s close enough. Anyway, she would be perfect for the job because she remembers every single little detail of my life from since we were five years old. And I mean every detail. She loves to remind me of crazy things I did, said, or wrote, in say, first grade, things that I have no memory of (or perhaps have blocked out).

Titles are always tough for me, but this one immediately came to mind: So What if Her House Is a Mess? It’s pretty self-explanatory – hopefully the book would be able to detail my life as writer, good mom, good friend, and good wife, despite (or maybe because of?) the endless loads of laundry and stacks of papers piling up (and subsequently ignored) in my house.

4. When did you start to take yourself seriously as a writer?

When I was a sophomore in college, I took my first creative writing class and wrote my first piece of fiction. This was probably when I first realized I wanted to be a writer. When I started to actually take myself seriously was when I got accepted into an MFA program, and it occurred to me that other people were starting to take me seriously as a writer. But even that’s not totally true, because for a while after I finished my MFA I stopped writing and didn’t take my writing seriously at all. I think the point where I really, really started to take myself seriously was after I signed with my agent, and in our first phone call, she started talking to me about my “career.” That’s when I stepped back, and thought, okay, yeah, I really am a writer, aren’t I? This is my career.

5. If your house was burning down, and you had time to rescue only three books from your library, what would you choose and why? This is tough. In the real world, I wouldn’t save any books, to tell you truth. I’d have two kids and four cats to rescue. And though I love books, I don’t know that I have any that are irreplaceable. I can think of only one book that I own that couldn’t be re-purchased on Amazon: I have a book of Hemingway Stories that was my  husband’s grandmother’s and that she gave me when we went to visit her just before she died. She was a huge reader and always very, very excited to know what I was working on, so this book has sentimental value to me, and thus would be worthy of saving!

Dear Blog,

Do you, like most things in my life—the laundry, the dishes, my husband—feel neglected these days?  Like I am not giving you the attention you so obviously deserve?  Yes?  Well, in the last couple of months I learned that all clichés exist for a reason.  Actually, I saw Martin Amis give a talk last week and he said he considers it a “moral lapse” to use a cliché.  And while I love Amis, and in most contexts I’d agree, in this one, I’m going to just go ahead and embrace the full-on cliché that has become my life. In fact, I’m tempted to get CLICHÉ printed in big letters on a t-shirt.  Because I feel like that quintessential, harried, and yes, clichéd working mom—you know the one who complains that she has a million jobs to do and she never feels likes she is doing any of them well?  Yeah?  So that’s totally me.

Hi, my name is Julie Buxbaum, and I’m a cliché.

Phew, I feel better already.  (Actually, I should say this cliché does not only apply to women, since a male friend was just saying the other day that he feels exactly the same way.)  So yes, like Gumby, I currently feel pulled in a million different directions, and yet, I can’t seem to focus well enough to get anything done. (No, that Gumby reference probably doesn’t rise to the level of cliché.  I think we can just all agree that’s simply bad writing.)

This is all a long way of saying, I’ll admit it: I’ve been phoning it in.  But I going to make it up to you right now in two magnificent ways.  1) I’m going to hand this over to the amazing Joanne Rendell for the 5 Questions.  And 2) We are doing a giveaway of a signed copy of Joanne’s latest novel, which is hot off the press.  (Okay, yes, admittedly, another terrible cliché.  Damn you, Amis!)

So, Joanne’s latest book OUT OF THE SHADOWS  tells the story of a woman who thinks she’s related to Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. On her journey to learn the truth, the woman uncovers startling secrets about the past, her present, and our genetic future. Booklist described Out of the Shadows as “a clever novel that smartly intertwines literary fiction with modern science.”  Joanne rocks (as do her first two novels) and if you are lucky enough to live in NYC, I highly, highly recommend you go to her reading TOMORROW (Tuesday Sept. 28) at the NYU Bookstore at 7pm.  Be there, or be square.  (Crap. Cliché three.)

Without further ado (number four), take it away Joanne:

1. Where were you the first time you saw your book in a bookstore and who did you call first?

When I spotted my latest book, Out of the Shadows, on the tables last week I have to say I was pretty dignified (although I did grin my away around the bookstore for the next 20 minutes). Upon spotting The Professors’ Wives’ Club, my first book, it wasn’t such a stately scene. I was with my son and mother-in-law and it was the day before my official launch so I wasn’t expecting to see my book. In fact, I was in the middle of giving my mother-in-law a big lecture about the politics of who and what books appear on the front tables when…boom…voila…there was a stack of my books. All three of us whooped and shrieked and jumped around like frolicking chimps. Then we cornered a poor unsuspecting stranger and gabbled on to her about how it was my first book and how we were all very excited, as if it wasn’t obvious. She looked bemused – and backed away from us slowly, very slowly.

2. I’m convinced all writers are a little bit crazy. Do you agree, and if so, what kind of crazy are you?

Oh I’m crazy in innumerable ways. Let’s see: I gave birth at home watching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator movies; I got in for unschooling my son during his kindergarten year (in fact I got in so much trouble The New York Times ran a feature on me and my family; I live in a student dorm in downtown Manhattan; I like to wear men’s shorts in the summer; I adore Cadbury’s Chocolate Buttons (a British chocolate candy) with a passion that is almost pathological; and I jumped around like a chimp when I spotted my first book, scaring away innocent bookbuyers!

3. If you were going to have another author write your biography, who would you choose to write it and why? Any title ideas?

Mary Shelley. I know, I know, there is a slight problem here. The biggest being that she’s long gone. Also, she wasn’t really known as a biographer and even if she was, I imagine there would have been other people she might like to write about before me (her friend Lord Bryon, her husband Percy Shelley, her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, to name but of the “all star cast” that made up her family and friends). But in fantasy space, I’d love the chance to hang out with her for a while. Out of the Shadows is all about a woman who thinks she’s related to Mary Shelley and for the book I had to do a lot of research. The more I read, the more biographies I devoured, the more I fell in love! Shelley was so fiery and smart, outspoken and thoughtful, a non-conformist and a caring mother. In her very first novel Frankenstein she dared to ask “what if?” She looked around at the emerging technologies of her time and she considered their darker sides and how they could turn monstrous (and even make monsters!). I still find it amazing that she wrote such a daring and thoughtful, poignant and provocative novel when she was just nineteen. Not only that, she was living in early nineteenth century Europe when young girls weren’t supposed to think about monsters and science, let alone write about them.

Oh and a title for my biography?  “Out of the Box” (refer to question 2)

4. When did you start to take yourself seriously as a writer?

I completed a PhD in Literature before I started writing fiction so I was used to taking writing seriously; but it was other people’s writing I was taking seriously. It was only when I started getting thoughtful and fascinating letters from readers that I finally had the revelation, “Oh yes, I’m now a writer. People out there are reading my work and engaging with my writing. How amazing.”

5. If your house was burning down, and you had time to rescue only three books from your library, what would you choose and why?

I’d take the wonderful kid’s picture book The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. Written in 1936, this is a poignant, insightful, and inspiring story – and it’s all told in just a few words and even fewer pen and ink drawings. A bull who doesn’t want to fight in the bullring and who wants to smell flowers instead, what could be better for kids? For everyone? I also would make a grab for Jerry Spinelli’s young adult novel, Star Girl. I read this book very recently and it catapulted itself to the top of my favorite fiction list. Star Girl is a story about the beauty, trials, delicacy, and profound potential of non-conformity. It’s a modern fable that celebrates difference and being out of the box (and being a little crazy too!). And finally, I would grab Thich Nhat Hanh’s Touching Peace. I imagine that after watching my house burn down I’ll need to read this Buddhist monk’s quiet yet powerful words about finding deep joy in the present moment and not hanging desperately onto the past.

THE GIVEAWAY:  Here are the rules.  Comment on this post between now and next Monday, October 4, and you are automatically entered to win.  What should you comment about?  Feel free to just say hello, but if you are so inclined, I say go ahead and share your favorite cliché. Come on, everyone’s doing it.

If you are in the publishing world, then I’m sure you’ve heard of the twitter hashtag #franzenfreude.  I’m not going to rehash the debate here (if you are interested, you can find what I thought were the most interesting discussions here and here), but for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about—Franzenwha?—here is the two cent version: the extensive coverage of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel FREEDOM led a few women novelists to bravely point out the disparity in coverage for women and male novelists in the New York Times Book Review section. I think Slate’s numbers pretty clearly speak for themselves, but instead of taking the time to make the same argument that has been made elsewhere by people with bigger platforms and who are more articulate than I, I thought now was an ideal time to instead bring attention to a brilliant woman literary novelist.  Julia Glass—who believe me has better things to do than be subjected to the inanity of the Julie Has Writer’s Blog Five Questions—kindly agreed nonetheless, and let’s all take a moment to let the legitimacy she brings to this here blog sink in.  I’m a little giddy about the whole thing to be honest.

If you are unfamiliar with Julia Glass, let me start by saying she is a NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER. Yup, I put that in caps, because holy crap, that’s big.  Julia Glass did my five questions! Happy dance. (And by the way, since her five questions made me fall even more in love with her and when that happens I take to the internet in a stalking binge, I dug up Julia’s NBA acceptance speech. You can read it here. It’s truly inspiring, and made me a bit teary.)

Julia’s fourth book, THE WIDOWER’S TALE came out last week, and for a glowing review, by yes, none other than the New York Times, check the link here. I’m so excited to read it that I’m having my Dad bring a hardcover copy over to London when he comes to visit next month.  I already know it’s the kind of book that I don’t want to get absorbed into the digital no-man’s land of my Kindle.  This one is going proudly on display in the bookcase.

If you are still not sold, here’s the first sentence:

“Why, thank you. I’m getting in shape to die.”

Brilliant, no?  Come on, admit it.  You are a little in love too.

So without further ado, and with a huge burst of gratitude and excitement, here’s Julia Glass…

1. Where were you the first time you saw your book in a bookstore and who did you call first?

Actually, weeks before the on-sale date of my first novel, my children’s babysitter told me that she’d seen my book for sale on a street huckster’s table a few blocks from our apartment in Greenwich Village. I’m not sure how those advance reader copies “fall off a truck,” but when I walked down the avenue, there was a single ARC of Three Junes, for sale in its not-for-sale, not-yet-proofread edition. I felt a strange mixture of pride and aggravation. But the first time I saw it legitimately for sale was in the window of my lovely neighborhood bookstore, Three Lives—along with the large poster of the jacket supplied by my publisher. I nearly cried. I was with my six-year-old son, who recognized the book and asked, “Are you famous, Mommy?” I laughed and said, “No, honey.” But when this seemed to disappoint him, I amended that to “Well, maybe I’m a teensy bit famous. Sure.” The truth is, at that moment I felt more famous, in the very best sense, than I ever have since.

2. I’m convinced all writers are a little bit crazy. Do you agree, and if so, what kind of crazy are you?

I don’t know if I agree with you—though I do believe all writers are nerds, no matter how hard they try to hide it. There certainly are times when I wish I could say I was certifiably crazy—it would make a good excuse for so many shortcomings—but I’m just plain-vanilla neurotic: insecure, indecisive, temperamental, and periodically convinced that someone will out me, in fact, as too sane to be a writer of any consequence. Does that make sense?

3. If you were going to have another author write your biography, who would you choose to write it and why? Any title ideas?

I would be crushed if the author, the CO-authors, were anyone other than Margot Livesey and Joan Wickersham, two extraordinarily insightful, witty, and eloquent writers whom I am proud to claim as friends. They’ve known me at my best, worst, and (see above) most neurotic as a writer, parent, woman, and citizen at large. They would do me justice, I’m sure, if there’s any justice to be had. And they’d think up better titles than I could—though an obvious choice might be Better Late Than Never . . . or, if you ask Joan, maybe Ella FitzGeronimo Glass: The Daughter She Never Had.

4. When did you start to take yourself seriously as a writer?

I don’t think I’ve ever taken myself more seriously as a writer than I did when I was six or seven years old, the precocious composer of illustrated poems and stories on blue-lined composition paper. Recently, as my parents were cleaning out some drawers, they came upon a cache of my writing from that time. There was an absolutely hilarious poem I wrote that began with the confrontational line “Infinity had better stand still.” Wow, how ballsy is that! When I tried to take the poem home with me, my dad said, “Oh no you don’t. That’s mine. I’m selling it on e-Bay.” But seriously, I strive never to take myself too seriously as a writer—because that’s when you stop being hungry. Every good review (though I treasure each and every one) is an ego snack on the road to a potentially dangerous sense of overfed accomplishment.

5. If your house was burning down, and you had time to rescue only three books from your library, what would you choose and why?

Funny you should ask that. We had a dramatic chimney fire last Christmas. The firefighters arrived in a heroic blink, and, along with the kids and the dog, I fled to a neighbor’s house. (Their dad stayed, like a captain with his ship.) The neighbor, a friend as well as a fan of my fiction, said, “Did you grab your laptop? Don’t lose your new book!” I ran back down the street and convinced the fire chief to let me go in and get my laptop from the kitchen (by then the fire was under control). I was so touched by my friend’s gesture—even though my agent had an electronic copy of the novel. But what three books, not my own, and not counting photo albums of my sons, would I rescue if I had the presence of mind? My childhood copy of Roar and More, by Karla Kuskin (the first book I chose to own); ditto of The Diamond in the Window, by Jane Langton (my personal first author inscription); and definitely the binder of unpublished poems written by my older son when he was in fifth grade. (Now I wish he would take himself seriously as a writer!)

Yesterday, I got to Skype with a book club in DC, who turned out to be a bunch of super smart, super articulate, super cute group of 20-something women, some of who happened to be living in Julia Child’s house.  They had one of the coolest bookcases I’ve seen in a while (and I’ve seen my share of amazing bookshelves since Allie Larkin introduced me to bookshelfporn.com), and they were hanging out and eating scones and drinking tea in honor of the whole London element of the book.  Have I mentioned that I kind of love them?  I do.  Anyhow, I learned two interesting things about myself during the discussion:

Firstly,  I really need to read AFTER YOU, which is a funny thing to say, since during the editing process, I must have read the book at least six trillion times.  And, yeah, I wrote it.  But, I kept saying to the girls, “You know in that scene where Lucy says to Ellie, blah, blah,” and they’d be like, “Nope, not in the book, Julie,” and then I’d remember that I cut whatever I was blabbing about–because as I mentioned in my post last week, I tend to edit myself pretty mercilessly–and then I’d be embarrassed, and nervous to mention some other scene for fear I deleted it.  The truth is I spend a lot of time debating whether something earns its place in the final book, and oftentimes, my words just don’t–maybe because they just aren’t up to snuff, maybe because they are a little too contrived, maybe because it just doesn’t fit.  (My prime example of this is the murder scene in AFTER YOU, because I wrote a scene that shows exactly what happened to Lucy told from the third person, and yet, in the end, no matter that I thought it one of the strongest pieces of the book, it needed to be cut.  It chopped up and slowed down the rest of the narrative.)  So, yeah, to save myself further embarrassment, maybe a re-reading of AFTER YOU is in order.

The second thing I learned about myself is infinitely more important.  So it seems I have CRAZY eyebrows.  As I mentioned we were Skyping, and so on my screen I saw in the big box eleven adorable women, and in the small box, I couldn’t help but watch myself as I spoke, and be mesmerized by the sheer flexibility of my brows.  Those babies jump.  I had them waxed recently, and it turned out to be a hilarious twenty minutes because when the waxist was done, and I asked, “So, how do they look?” she responded, “Well, your right one is perfect!”  Yeah, not what you want to hear.  But she didn’t stop there.  She then went on to say, and I swear I am not making this up, “You have my FAVORITE eyebrows ever!  They just have so much…character.”  Which we all know is the word we use when we are describing something ugly but lovable–as in, you should totally take out my friend X on a date, yes, her nose makes Jay Leno’s chin look small, but she has a lot of character.  I could go on and on about how this lady is right–my brows are totally unique because of some hairs who choose to grow in the wrong direction, not to mention the ones that are blonde and therefore make it look like I have gaps, and the really fine ones that are a product of some overzealous tweezing in my twenties.  Come to think of it, I deserve weird brows now–excuse me, brows with character–because I did have a dangerous plucking habit for a while, that led to a few years in which I walked around looking perpetually puzzled.  And you know what, some of my friends have some explaining to do, because they never once during that time said: “Julie, step away from the tweezer.”  But this blog is not about my eyebrows, it’s about writing and books.  So, with absolutely no transition whatsover, I’d like to welcome Kristina Riggle to the blog this morning.

Kristina has beautiful eyebrows and is the author of THE LIFE YOU’VE IMAGINED.  I haven’t read the book yet, but it’s on the top of my to-read pile when I’m allowed to start reading women’s fiction again.  Instead, since I’m writing these days, and worried about being influenced, I’ve been reading some post-apocolyptic vampire stuff, and so if the undead sneak into TMGH we now know why.  Anyhow, Kristina’s book is about three friends and a mother connected by a dying family business learning to cope with life as it is, not as they planned.  And her first sentence rocks:  “The taxicab exhaust curls up around me like a fist.”

So without further nonsensical ado, here’s Kristina:

1.  Where were you the first time you saw your book in a bookstore and who did you call first?

I stalked Real Life & Liars, my debut, on the actual release date. So I watched the Barnes & Noble people physically shelving it first thing that morning. I was too embarassed by my own behavior to out myself as the author that day. I just snuck a couple of digital pictures and scurried off. At my local indie, Schuler Books & Music, the book wasn’t displayed yet, but I was chatting with the manager and she set up the big display right up front by the door as I was standing there, then she indulged me by taking my picture with the books. Then I bought myself a funky piece of costume jewelry as a treat. It was a ring made out of old buttons. Sadly, the ring broke, or I’d wear it again for the release of The Life You’ve Imagined.

2.  I’m convinced all writers are a little bit crazy. Do you agree, and if so, what kind of crazy are you?

I’m cracking up laughing at this question given my answer to number one! But I’m a cheerful kind of crazy, I think. Usually. Except when I’m not.

3.  If you were going to have another author write your biography, who would you choose to write it and why? Any title ideas?

I hope no one ever writes my biography, because then they’d find out about the time I failed driver’s ed … oh, wait…damn.

4.  When did you start to take yourself seriously as a writer?

March of 2003. I can pinpoint it so exactly because that’s when I quit my day job as a full-time newspaper reporter for all kind of complicated personal and professional reasons. I continued to freelance, and I knew I’d also try writing fiction for publication. I bought Writer’s Market soon after quitting, and by the end of that year was working on my first novel manuscript (Real Life & Liars turned out to be my fifth completed manuscript, so I had some work ahead of me…)

5.  If your house was burning down, and you had time to rescue only three books from your library, what would you choose and why?

First, my hardcover copy of CATCH-22, because it was a gift from my husband (then boyfriend). It is my favorite novel of all time so he tracked down a hardcover copy for me, and this was before online used books made it so easy. I love that he put effort into this, and how this considerate gift showed how well he understood me. After that… the King James Bible that my mother had as a girl and she gave to me. I love how the leather cover zips closed. I love the smell of it, and I love her handwriting in the front cover, reminding her which passage has the Ten Commandments. And then I’d cheat and grab my own two published books so far. They are next to each other, after all. I’d still make it out the door.

I’ve been having a sort of non-summer this year.  Haven’t been to the beach, nor have I managed to get a tan, or go swimming, or do one of the million things that make summer, you know, summer.  I’m not sure why we’ve been delinquent with our summer fun–maybe we are still settling into parenthood, maybe it’s partly the fault of the London weather, which invariably tends to be rainy come weekend-time, or maybe it’s this new laziness that’s set in now that I’m in the hangover/recovery period post-baby.  I feel like I need about three months of doing nothing but sleeping twelve hours a night and eating salad to start to feel like Julie again.  Regardless, the point is that instead of doing actual summer activities, I’ve been doing lots of pretending.  I sit on my leather couch, and put my feet up, and picture a blazing sun, sand between my toes, and I do my beach reading.  So, though I can’t recommend the newest Hamptons hotspot, I can help direct you to some great escapist fiction.

Today, I’m featuring Jenny Nelson’s debut GEORGIA’S KITCHEN.  Here’s where I normally give you the blurbs from other writers, but it turns out I blurbed Jenny’s book, so let’s just go with my puntastic review:

“All the right ingredients— an insider’s look at the restaurant industry, a heart–warming heroine, and a romp through Tuscany—make for a delightful and delicious book. Buyer be warned: GEORGIA’S KITCHEN will leave you hungry for more from Jenny Nelson.”–Julie Buxbaum, the author of THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE and AFTER YOU

You get it?  The book is about the restaurant industry, and I mention “ingredients.”  And say it’s “delicious.”  Did I stop there?  Nope, I also mentioned that it will “leave you hungry for more.”  One blurb, three puns.  A personal record.  Anyhow, buy it.  You’ll love it it;  it is, after all,  full of sugar and spice.

Now the five questions….

1.  Where were you the first time you saw your book in a bookstore and who did you call first?

Here’s the funny thing: I didn’t see Georgia’s Kitchen in a bookstore until a day after the release. This was by no means my original plan. For weeks, I’d assumed that come release day, I’d awake at my home in upstate New York, drop my daughters at camp and hightail it to the city for my book party, which would take place later that evening. This would allow plenty of time for bookstore stalking – I even brought my camera, although I’m not sure what I thought I’d be snapping – and I planned to hit a couple Barnes & Nobles, one Borders and the indie bookstore near my apartment. Alas, stalking was not in the cards. I arrived in the city much later than intended with fingers and toes to paint (can’t sign books at a book party with ragged nails!), family to welcome, hair to tame, guest blog posts to write and, finally, a book party to host! The next day, I walked into my local bookstore, Merritt Books in Millbrook, NY, and was greeted by a lovely Georgia’s Kitchen display, complete with stacks of books and a poster of the cover on an easel. The store was empty, so I took a few moments to let it all soak in. When I left, I called my husband. “It’s there!” I said. “What is?” “My book – it’s in the store!” I spent the next few minutes laughing and crying (see below), but the good kind.

2.  I’m convinced all writers are a little bit crazy. Do you agree, and if so, what kind of crazy are you?

Hmmm, I suppose I’d have to agree. I am the emotional, slightly manic kind of crazy. Super happy and then, well, not. I also tend to obsess about things I’m convinced no one else cares about in the slightest. Do you think I need to go back to my shrink?

3.  If you were going to have another author write your biography, who would you choose to write it and why? Any title ideas?

Someone funny and sharp who gets nuance, isn’t afraid to tackle emotion, knows her way around a sentence, wouldn’t gloss over the less flattering parts (but wouldn’t rip me to shreds either) or get bogged down in the boring bits and who, above all, gets me, or at least makes a genuine attempt to get me. If we’re talking dream, I’d have to go Jhumpa Lahiri; closer to home I’d choose my sister, Steffie Nelson, a journalist.

Title? Oy. Not my strong suit. Need a hed for a magazine article, web page, or blog post – I’m your gal. Thinking of book titles, especially for my own stuff, keeps me up at night (or maybe that’s my obsessing).

4.  When did you start to take yourself seriously as a writer?

When I found my agent. It was affirmation that someone else – someone who knew – thought my book was good enough to sign me, which meant she thought there was a decent change she’d sell it. When people asked, “what’s up with the book?” instead of admitting somewhat sheepishly, “Oh, I’m still revising it” (because, truth be told, I could have revised that ms forever) I could say “I just signed with an agent.” Having an agent meant I was on my way.

5. If your house was burning down, and you had time to rescue only three books from your library, what would you choose and why?

The Great Gatsby because I re-read it once a year, Three Junes by Julia Glass because of the way it deals with family and relationships and its strong sense of place and Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri because it blows me away.

Okay, so I know we’ve being doing lots of 5 Questions lately, and you might be thinking, “huh, yarr, has Julie abandoned this here blog?”  Because, in my head, all of you talk like pirates.  (Apparently, I’m into pirate speak lately, because I’m pretty sure I made a pirate reference a few weeks ago, matey.  Which is just plain weird.  But alas, as usual I digress…)  To answer your question, I have not abandoned this here blog, but it just so happens a lot of fantastic books came out the last two weeks and I wanted you to know about them.  So, you see this all about you, and not about me trying to get other people to do my homework.  Though if I were to get other people to do my homework, Mark Haskell Smith and Therese Walsh would be at the top of my list, because they are awesome, and come to think of it, maybe I should just hand over the blog to them, because their 5 Questions were witty, and were completely free of any reference to pirates.  I’m pretty sure Mark talked about bondage, but I think I’d take bondage over pirate-speak any day, especially if we had established a safe word. Am I digressing again?  Crap.

Okay, how about I just introduce Therese Walsh, the debut author of THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY, who may just have the most beautiful covers in all of the women’s fiction world.  I own the hardcover of THE LAST WILL, but I think I may just have to buy the paperback too, because it’s just so pretty.  In addition to being a kick-ass novelist, Therese also co-founded the website Writer Unboxed, and if you are a writer or an aspiring writer, and have not yet checked it out, add it to your blog reader.  Seriously, it’s filled with honest and truly helpful advice.  Even cooler, Therese has put together one of those mega-contests I’ve been telling you about where 49 authors have gotten together and donated two copies of their books (AFTER YOU is of course in the mix) for a “My Sister and Me” contest, the idea being that if you’re one of the winners, you’ll have a copy of one of these books to keep and another copy to share–with a sister or a friend. Click over here for the rules and to enter.

One of these days, I’m going to blog about first sentences, but in the meantime let me give you an example of a doozy.  How does THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY start?: “I lost my twin to a harsh November nine years ago.”  How can you stop reading after that one?  You can’t.  Which is reason #3564 why you should buy Therese’s book.

And now, finally, on to the Five Questions…

1. Where were you the first time you saw your book in a bookstore and who did you call first?

It was the day the hard cover of The Last Will of Moira Leahy was released. I was online with a blog tour that day and didn’t have a chance to run around town to gawk at my book. That night, though, I had my first signing at my local Barnes and Noble. I stepped inside to find a table stacked with my book and over 100 people there (including a local TV crew) to hear my book chat. Trial by fire? Definitely. And we sold out of books.

2. I’m convinced all writers are a little bit crazy. Do you agree, and if so, what kind of crazy are you?

Oh, yeah. I’m neurotic-crazy. If I were a puppy, I’d chase my tail.

3. If you were going to have another author write your biography, who would you choose to write it and why? Any title ideas?

My fellow blog Mama at Writer Unboxed, Kathleen Bolton. She would be honest, witty, and use a flattering title: Writer Unhinged.

4. When did you start to take yourself seriously as a writer?

Hahahahaha. Next question?

5. If your house was burning down, and you had time to rescue only three books from your library, what would you choose and why?

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon; and The Last Will of Moira Leahy—because my copy is marked up with lots of notes, and as I’ve mentioned

(Admin Note!:  Congrats to Megan for winning last week’s DIAMOND RUBY giveaway.  Random Number Generator went with lucky number 7.)