books

Free Giveaway: Are You My Boyfriend?


C.B. Bryza is not only the author of the endearing and hilarious new book, Are You My Boyfriend?, she’s also a member of my writing group! This book is a modern parody of the classic children’s book Are You My Mother? It’s a must-read for anyone who has sought out a genuine connection in the world. It has been a tremendous boost to the spirit of our writer’s group’s to have a published author in our midst, and I hope her journey can inspire you too!

How long did you have the idea for Are You My Boyfriend?

I thought of the idea for #AYMBF in 2006, and I wrote the book in 2012, so, I had the idea for about six years.

 What made you finally put it down on paper?

I mentioned the idea to some friends at a children’s book–themed baby shower in the spring of 2012 and got really positive feedback, so that’s when I decided to write it, but I didn’t actually put it down on paper until June, after a particularly inspiring writing group meeting.

Go writer’s group! The main character is an adorable blonde with tons of pep, quite like yourself. How biographical is the main character?

CB with AYMBF

Author with book. Photo credit: Lydia Bittner-Baird

Aw, thanks! I wasn’t thinking of myself as the main character when I wrote the book, but I definitely relate to her a lot, and we have definitely dated a lot of the same guys. And the more I get to know the character, the more I see myself in her. She’s actually something of a role model!

What have you learned from the publishing process? 

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that even though writing is a solitary process, publishing is a team effort. And one of the most important players a writer wants on her team is an agent, aka a reliable advocate and guide.

Did you have any pleasant surprises during the process?

I didn’t expect that I would get to contribute ideas for the artwork, but I actually got to be very involved, which was exciting. Simon (the illustrator) also added some great details that took my vision to another level. He really nailed it!

And the artwork is absolutely adorable! What advice would you give an aspiring author?

Write every day. Share your work. Ask for feedback, and be willing to incorporate it. (Writing classes, in person or online, can be very helpful for all that.) Above all else, don’t give up on something you believe in.

And, lastly, do you believe in soul mates?

I do. I don’t necessarily think there is one “perfect match” per lifetime, but I absolutely believe that people come together for a purpose, and that compatibility at the soul level is a big part of that.

If you would like to win a free copy of this book, answer the question below in the comment section. I’ll be picking the winner on February 6. Of course, you can also buy your own copy by clicking on this link!

Do you think it’s necessary to seek out a partner, or do you believe he/she will come to you when it’s the right time?

A Christmas Gift for One Lucky Reader

I’m done with all my Christmas shopping but I realized I forgot someone very special: you! In honor of New Year’s approaching, I would like to send one reader a small Christmas gift that will help with his or her New Year’s resolution.


I keep hearing great things about Danielle LaPorte’s book, The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul. I haven’t read it yet, but the basic premise it that the way we set goals is all wrong; rather than making a list of what we want to receive and achieve, we should think about how we want to feel. This book helps you come up with an action plan for your best intentions.

Here’s how to win the kindle version of this book: In the comment section, let me know a goal you’ve always wanted to achieve, what you’ve done to go after it, and what has kept you from achieving it. Post this by Dec. 30 5pm EST. I’ll be choosing one comment at random. Sorry, no family members allowed (you already got your gifts 😛 )

Happy Holidays!

P.S. Let me know if you like the book so I can get my own copy.

Ooh La La! An Interview with Jamie Cat Callan

I’m so excited to read Jamie Cat Callan’s new book, Ooh La La!: French Women’s Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day. I loved the lighthearted advice of her book, Bonjour, Happiness!, and the interesting cultural comparisons of  French Women Don’t Sleep Alone: Pleasurable Secrets to Finding Love. I also recommend The Writer’s Toolbox to any writer, or person who aspires to be more creative.

Jamie took some time out of her busy book tour to answer a few questions for us! Jouir de:

When did your love and admiration of all things French begin?

I grew up spending my summers with my French-American grandmother.  She lived simply, without a lot of material goods, but she knew how to enjoy life.  She was elegant, beautiful, and possessed a whole lot of joie de vivre.

What is the biggest difference you notice between American and French women?

The second wave feminist movement played out much differently in France than in America. As a result, Americans inherited a kind of divisiveness between men and women.  We interpreted equality as sameness.  France believes in the power of the difference between men and women. 

Also, France’s economy is dependent on the culture of women—beauty, fashion, and perfume supports so many people in France.  It can’t be taken lightly.  Women’s interest in fashion and beauty is serious business, because it supports hundreds of thousands of people.  In America, our industry is about finances, Wall Street and heavy industry.  So you see, we’re not as financially connected to beauty—but I wish we were!  

Jamie, in the middle, interviewing some French women.

In this day in age, when people are worried about the economy and international affairs, why should women concern themselves with their beauty and affect?

Okay, this may sound naive, but I believe that attention to beauty and elegance can actually save our economy and prevent wars.  First, if we understand where true beauty comes from—our hearts—there’s no need to spend a lot of money.  I can attest to this because my French grandmother lived through the Great Depression, sewing her own clothes, gardening and cutting back on luxuries.  She lived well with very little.  This is the French way. 

In terms of the threat of war—well, there will always be the threat of war.  That said, what is the point of protecting our countries, our lives, our way of living if not so that we can appreciate the tenderness of simple everyday pleasures, and yes beauty. 

I believe that beauty can actually prevent wars.  If we recognize the importance of beauty in our lives, then we will not want to destroy other beautiful things.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Always.  I wrote stories, poems and songs for my family when I was a little girl.  I loved to hear stories.  So, I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer!

What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Write.  Write.  And write some more.  Write on a regular basis and try to create a space that is special to you and your writing practice.  I believe the muse likes to visit you when you show up regularly and honor the space with your words, your thoughts, and  your dreams.  And then aside from writing, I suggest, daydreaming.  Your inner life and your powers of observations are important tools of the trade.

Finally, believe in yourself.  Keep the faith.  No matter what you’re doing—from washing dishes to working at Kinko’s, don’t forget you’re a writer and all this is your material, your paint box, your brushes and your canvas.

Describe your perfect day in France.

Ah, is there such a thing as a less-than-perfect day in France?  Okay, well, if we’re talking about just one perfect day–I would spend much of it  sitting in a café in Paris, watching the world go by.  I would walk through the Tuileries, all the way from Concord to the Louvre.  I would walk along the Seine and cross the Pont des Arts, to see all the bicycle locks that the lovers have left.  Perhaps I’d even have a little picnic on the bridge.  Oh, but I’d want to walk along the Seine and up to Notre Dame.  And then I’d walk around the Left Bank and visit the places  Hemingway and Fitzgerald frequented—Café Deux Magots and Harry’s Bar on the Right Bank. 

 

Speaking of the Right Bank, I would stop by Chanel and pay homage to the Grand Dame of modern fashion.  From there, I would walk a few blocks to Ladurée and perhaps indulge in a macaron or two.  Later, I would go to the market in Belleville and buy some fresh flowers and do a bit of people-watching.  Finally, I would have dinner at Café de l’Homme, where I’d get a table on the terrace, so I could watch the Eiffel Tower lit up against the Paris sky and I would drink champagne! 

Sounds like a perfect day to me. Merci beaucoup! I can’t wait to read your new book, and start infusing my life with more beauty and joie de vivre.

My dinner party with 5 famous people: #1 Oprah Winfrey

For the next 5 posts, I’ve decided to take a cue from the classic college application question: If you could have dinner with five famous people (alive or dead) who would they be and why? It’s a good question because it shows what you value in a person, and what you hope to gain from the interaction. So without further ado, the first person who came to mind was Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah and me on a picnic

Oprah and me on a picnic

What I love most about Oprah is that she treats life like one big classroom. She’s constantly learning, always asking questions, always looking at something in a new way. She could have taken the easy route and continued with her show for decades, but she needed something new and challenging so she started an entire television network. I don’t have cable so I don’t get to watch it :(.  People seem to want to bash the network and celebrate in its fledgling ratings, but I see it as an amazing act of bravery. How many people will risk their public brand like that? As the great lady herself said, “challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.”

Oprah introduced me to author’s I love (Jonathan Franzen, Isabel Allende, and Barbara Kingsolver to name a few), causes I care deeply about (The Fistula Foundation, Puppies behind bars, and The Grameen Bank to name a few), and questions of spirituality that I still grapple with. She asked questions and we all got to listen to the answers.

I would want Oprah to relax at the dinner party. No toasts, no stories, no pressure. She’s worked hard her whole life entertaining and challenging us that all I would really want is for her to sit, drink some wine, and receive a big fat hug from me at the end of dinner.

I’ll leave you with my favorite quote of hers: “I believe that every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear.”

2 Days to get this hilarious book!

My blog friend, The Hook, has just published his first book! He’s shining a light on all the terrible, ridiculous things tourists say, and do when they think no one is watching. He is a bellman for a popular hotel near Niagara Falls and he’s seen it all. For months now, I have been enjoying his hilarious accounts of self-absorbed, maniac clients, and now you can too! Follow this link and download a free digital copy of his book (Only free today and tomorrow).

The moral of the story: treat everyone with respect or else you be the subject of his next book.

P.S. I almost didn’t download this because I don’t have a Kindle, but then I learned that you can download a free kindle app for you computer. It’s right below the purchase button.

The virtues of a group

Four years ago some of my friends and I started a writer’s group. We met every week and shared samples of our writing. We’d offer feedback and encouragement. It was one of the highlights of my week.

There’s something that happens when you share something as personal as your rough drafts. You’re basically saying, “this is the best I can do for the moment. Please be gentle. Please don’t hate it (me).” And in this process of sharing we became really close.

Writing can be lonely and isolating. One of the reasons I like blogging is that I get instant feedback, and connection (even if it’s just a cyber connection). But my personal writing is, well, personal, and I don’t want to share with the world just yet. That’s why it’s so great to have a writer’s group that you trust and respect that will help you coax your writing out of the laptop.

The four of us have been through 2 weddings (soon to be 3). A birth, a break up, firings, hirings, 6 new apartments, and all the other ups and downs of life. We set up our own writer’s retreat. We send each other articles when we think it’s applicable to our writing. We notify each other of grants and great opportunities. We recommend and share books.

Having a common passion for literature brought us together and made us better friends. I’m so glad Sojourner, Stacey, and Kelley are in my life. Although we haven’t met for a few months (we got side tracked by a wedding and a new baby), I know that I have a community of women who will give me the support and encouragement I need -whether it’s for my writing or for my life.

I hope you all have, or will create, a similar group. It doesn’t have to be writing. I’ve always wanted to join a quilting circle, for instance. At least in New York, it seems like friends always get together to eat or drink. It’s nice to have a different reason to get together- one that nurtures your interests.

Universal Coffee


A few years ago The Law of Attraction was a big buzz word. The Secret was selling like crazy and all of a sudden people were obsessed with positive and negative energy. I didn’t want to read the book because, well, um,  geez, I don’t know why. I was in art school and I guess I felt the need to reject all things pop culture.

One day, while I was stuck in a train station in Boston, I perused the selection at a bookstore and picked up a copy of The Secret. I flipped to a random page and read something like this, “If you don’t believe the universe delivers, ask for something simple like a cup of coffee.” I rolled my eyes and asked, “hey universe, can I have a cup of joe?” I did not end up purchasing the book.

I moved to the lounge and waited to get the track number for my train. The lounge was busy and I needed to share a table with a stranger. As soon as I sat down the overhead speaker announced that all trains would be delayed for a half hour. The man next to me sighed, looked over at me, and asked if I would like a cup of coffee. Chills went down my back. I politely said no, trying not to scare the poor stranger with my revelation.

Looking back, I feel bad for not accepting that cup of coffee. I am currently reading The Artist’s Way, and she believes in the power of synchronicity – as soon as you know what to look for you’ll find it. She argues that most people don’t know what they want, and if they do  they aren’t afraid of not getting what they want, they’re actually afraid of getting it.

That day in Boston I was testing the universe. If I was never offered coffee I would have been fine with it. In fact it would have affirmed my skepticism in all things metaphysical. The simple offer of coffee forced me to question my beliefs. Could the universe actually care about what little old me wants? It also makes me wonder how many real opportunities I’ve turned down because it was scary. Have you ever turned down something you want because it scared you?

The Will for BeddyBye

I finally got over my depressing cold. You know those colds that leave you in bed for a week moaning, “what’s the point? I should just give up.” But as soon as you can breath through your nose again, and stand up without feeling woozy your will to live gets surprisingly stronger.

Another will that has gotten surprisingly stronger is my will to make BeddyBye succeed. My cat, Reilly, slept next to me (in the BeddyBye) for many of my Nyquil induced naps. Nothing made my heart swirl as much as seeing my little baby curled up in my invention. And then I thought the only thing that would make my heart swirl even more would be if my actual future baby could curl up in an actual BeddyBye. And then I thought, “Damn it I have to do this.”

And last night I came up with the final missing piece of my design. The piece that will make the BeddyBye completely safe (which can not be undervalued when you’re talking about products for babies). The overall design has changed a lot, and I’m not sure how to make the prototype, but as Rhett Butler said so eloquently, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Or perhaps Scarlett said something more apropos, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Ahh shocks I love that book so much. If you’ve never read Gone with the Wind you have to. It’s so much better than the movie.