365 Books to Bliss: Book 10 — “Souled” By, Jamie Flannigan (so it’s a website, not a book…)

This blog makes my teeth sweat. I can barely breathe, barely sip my maca smoothie until I get a glimpse of what this sassy realtor from L.A. has on her mind each day. And here I am — reading a book a day (or what seems like more) in search of some BLISS through words. Souled: A Realtor with Heart by, Jamie Flannigan takes my cake, floats my boat and dances with me while I write blogs, make shakes and attempt to distract ants with incense.

I’m not a realtor.  I’m not a fashionista. I’ m definitely not a porn star. But,  I’m hooked on Jamie’s swoons of all these things. It was the Doctor Vs. Porn Star post  “The Happiest of Hours” that pushed me over the EDGE. This is the best thing I’ve read all year. Yeah yeah, so it’s only 12 days into the year. But, I’ve read 11 rather large adult books, a slew of kids books, too many websites to count and some  rather interesting  tweets.

In case you don’t know, I love words. I love playing with them and making them do things that amaze me.  And you. I spent too long in college so I could linger with books and writers and the smell of ink. Nobody has made me want to keep reading and keep asking for more like the writers and teachers I met at Columbia College in Chicago. The books I’ve read recently pale in comparison to the talent I was exposed to there. Until, I met this writer/realtor with tons of frickin soul.

God, you must think I’m her agent or something. I swear I’ m not. But, I will say that while writing the blogs for the first 9 books on my journey to Booky Bliss, I did NOT have this same tingle in my fingers.

Jamie is a word girl. She writes better than most peeps I know and it doesn’t matter what her story is, I want to read it. You, on the other hand may want to know that she blogs about the grit and the glam of girlfriends, lovers, and the lust for all things pretty.  She has regular columns like “If I was Your Realtor” and one I hope she continues, called “If You were My Boyfriend.” And, her blog is gorgeous. Go there for a taste of Bliss and eye candy, and if your day isn’t better because of it — you haven’t stayed long enough.

“Souled” is Sex and the City to the Blissed degree.

Thank You, Jamie for brightening the internet world with your love. Can’t wait to hear more from you. I will go now, before I nominate you for Priestess of Blogtopia or something.

xoxo

Gigi

Image Credit: Jamie flannigan

365 Books to Bliss: Book 6 — “The Red Tent” By, Anita Diamant

Cover of "The Red Tent: A Novel"
Cover of The Red Tent: A Novel

3 sentences into this book and I shouted to my hubby in the next room– “okay, I’m  not disappointed.”    My son looked at the cover and said —  “Look Mom –it’s you!”  I thought the woman featured on the cover kinda looked like a guy. But, Dougie assured me that she was me. It’s no wonder that after 180 pages, I fell asleep  with my ear crunched into the book  and dreamt of a time when my son was my nephew — and I struggled to get him to remember me as his mother.

“The Red Tent” is the story of Dinah — sister of Joseph (as in Joseph and the Amazing technicolor Dreamcoat, Joseph). It’s biblical fiction in all its flowery language and detail.

Before reading it, I had my own preconceived notions of men with multiple wives, arranged marriages, dowrys, and oppression of the female. Fiction or not — being able to see a female perspective of old testament days was pretty fascinating.

She’s a slow writer, like I am a slow eater — making sure every word is just perfect before spilling  the beans.  Every word is so beautiful, but there’s not a lot of action happening. I got a little bored but only a little. It’s hard for me to read fiction  because I want so much from it. I want crazy words to pop out of the air. I want risks and twists and magic. I want stuff to happen in fiction that you wouldn’t so much want to happen or believe could happen in real life.

I thought about how difficult  it is to edit my own chapters when I love the words, but they simply don’t move the story forward.   Still this book feels like a giant glossy love letter, and if you are a romantic — you will love it.  If it were to be edited  to satisfy my tastes,   it would completely disrupt the flow that fits so perfectly with the era she is writing about.

Perhaps now, I will value the whole “slowing down” thing in my own work, and see where that takes me.

I can’t spoil endings or too much detail, but I will tell you that the red tent is where the women hang. They go there to rest on moon days, to take care of the sick and nurse babies. This is where the women tell secrets and share their stories. Amongst 4 wives, 1 husband and 12 sons– there was only 1 daughter, and she is Dinah — and so Dinah carries the memories of her mother (Leah) and her “mother aunties” (her mother’s sisters and the other wives of Jacob, who was also their cousin).

There is some excitement. You do get to hear Dinah’s version of what happened to her brother Joseph.  And more. But, I won’t spoil it.

Ciao,

G

I’m reading 365 books this year, and that’s a lot.

Hey There Vanilla

#76 - The Harvest Writer
Image by JohnONolan via Flickr

By, Gina LaVerde

Not too long ago, a client (in a distinctly unsatisfied tone) dubbed my writing, “VANILLA.”

And, I, on the other side of the  phone line, closed my eyes – feeling for the gift in her remark.

See, I’m at this place in life where I’ve finally recognized that each moment truly brings a gift. If I manifested the vanilla comment, then I can only stand to gain from it.

I’m passed being offended by criticism. As a professional writer, like most of us – I’ve grown a pretty thick skin for vanilla-ish commentary. I figure that clients are people too, and, sometimes they just can’t find better words to express what they need. Heck, that’s why they hire writers. For Words.

An editor once told me that my work was “more suited for advertising” – as if that were a bad thing. I’ve been told that my restaurant reviews left the reader “too breathless” – as if that were a bad thing. I’ve been told that I am “more of a story-teller than an article writer” – as if that were a bad thing.

I’ve been asked to speed up, cut to the chase, slow down, get into or out of a character’s head, switch perspectives and possibly my total fave critique came from a fiction editor who told me it was “impossible” to write from the perspective of an unborn child. Gotta love it. The thought that even in fiction, things could be “impossible.”

And now, “vanilla.” And, I like vanilla. I mean, it’s no chocolate, but some vanilla in my morning tea or smoothie really brings out the other flavors.

Was my client trying to say that my words provided her with a deliciously subtle yet strong foundation from which she could build the spiciest pizazziest work?  Mmmmmm, I took a short pause on the phone, and began to miss those vanilla lattes I used to drink. But, then I snapped back.

Oh yeah, she didn’t mean the least good thing about this truly exotic spice. Or the work being judged, for that matter.

Truth is, as a writer, of course I want to please my clients. I chose the job. If I can keep my clients happy, I can get paid and move on to the next gig. They can expand their businesses and skip off to vacationland. Everyone wins. So, I stopped to REALLY listen to her AGAIN.

What had I missed? I’d recorded all the conversations we had, and there were many of them. I had a lot of material to work from and was using her own words in the drafts I sent her.

So, how was I gonna please vanilla lady? If my work was vanilla to her, how could I make it chocolate for just one moment? Or, should I recommend her to someone else –because name-calling’s just not nice?

Well, I decided that it wasn’t a good idea to pawn her off on any of my writerly friends, because none of them deserved the potential heckling.

And, the process that followed the decision to stay has been quite eye opening. And, yes a gift.

I stayed. And I wrote. Vanilla-laced-cinnamon piece after fruity, salty, bland doo doo piece after another. Never chocolate. Never. But, I didn’t know that as I wrote. Even pieces that came from deep within my soul didn’t hit the mark for my client. And, later I realized that they didn’t hit the mark for me either.

Her vanilla comment lead her to (in not so many words) refer to me as a liar, lazy person, bad communicator, and yes, even stupid. For a few weeks I actually found myself going out of my way in search of my gifts that were quite obviously sewn between the seams of her words. I let her believe that I lied. I figured there might be a lesson in that too. I even enlisted my spiritual advisors.

I kept sending gratitude for the challenge. I knew there was no way I was in this situation for no reason; I knew I would hit a major breakthrough. And I did.

In the end, there was no pleasing my client. The experience brought me back to a recurring one I had with a family member who used her words to praise my friends and put me down.

When I decided I’d had enough, I sent the client the best work I had, didn’t charge her more, and left her with love and more gratitude than she can ever know.

Her words to me were my manifestation. A mirror of how I was feeling about my writing. Truth hurts, baby cakes. Thank the goddesses that she didn’t call my work “shit.” I’d have a harder time coming up with sweet sounding words about why shit ain’t so bad.   But, I decided that I’m no vanilla. At least not when vanilla means boring. And, I’m not going to attract that kind of crap anymore.

And, so you wanna know why I felt vanilla and she was just strong enough to call me out on it? Because for years, I’ve been writing for other people, while this spicy voice inside me died a little each time.  And, that frightened little writer girl inside me went out searching for another soul who could hold her down. Not inspire her breaking loose. You know – the comfort zone.

I chose pleasing others and making money above publishing my own work. Writing for this client was grueling. Each time I sat down, I got headaches and nausea. Each word was a complete struggle.

Finally, that writer inside is stronger than my fear of failure or being broke on my butt. I’m no longer trying to find people who keep me down. Because, if you look — they are there. Always willing to make you feel inferior.

Here comes MY work.

I can’t fit into anyone’s box anymore. Even if it is a tempting box of chocolates.

Keep it spicy loves!

G