She Did It (So Why Can’t I?): Emily Giffin (the Lawyer/Chick Lit Novelist)

Hola!! So, I know I’ve been blogging about other people a lot lately rather than my own endeavors.  It’s not that I don’t have some experiences that I want to reflect upon, I do.  But the summer is apparently book-tour season, especially for anything that might be read on the beach and the reality is if Emily Giffin (a lawyer who wrote 6 beach reads) is in town, I can’t not write about her you know?

So yeah, Emily Giffin was in DC and Bethesda on Monday promoting her new book “Where We Belong.”  Of course her lawyer background makes her particularly intriguing to me, as she graduated from UVA law school and worked at Winston & Strawn in New York before knocking out “Something Borrowed.”  Although Emily had quit her job and moved to London before she wrote that extremely successful novel turned movie, she did actually write a complete manuscript while working at a law firm.  At the firm, she completed a young adult book, which means I can honestly ask the question: she did it (i.e., write a novel while simultaneously being a professional), so why can’t I?    Unfortunately, that particular work was rejected by eight publishers so she gave it up.  However, maybe it’s for the best because then she started writing about adults, producing a story about a lawyer–obviously one of the best consequences of Giffin’s background in the law.  Emily Giffin has actually managed to publish a chick lit (yes, straight up chick lit, not Lady Lit, but I’m not the one who thinks that’s a bad thing, others do!) novel starring a woman who was not a fashion writer, but an actual lawyer!  The protagonist wasn’t Sandra Bullock in Two Weeks Notice trying to save a community center either, she was a lawyer at a firm!  One thing I know for sure is that you don’t see many books with pink covers about law firm lawyers.

Anyway, so I was really excited about the Giffin book signing.  I’ve actually read all five of her previous novels.  (“Something Borrowed”  was my favorite, then “Love the One You’re With” and “Baby Proof,” and you can read about them all here).  My friend and I were already late to the signing, so we decided to get a drink at the café.  The place was packed, but somehow Emily Giffin ended up being, literally, right next to us preparing for her talk (I don’t know how this stuff happens).  She was an inch away, we could hear her whole conversation and everything, and I was just looking at her (without a book because I hadn’t bought yet) thinking, “should I bother her? Is she trying to get in the zone before her speech?” While I was busy doing that, some girl walked up to her and Emily proceeded to sign her book, take a picture with her and give her a hug before marching to the front of the room and giving her presentation.  After that it was a wrap, and I was officially at the end of a 3 hour line, opportunity missed.  The line was so long that (no joke) my friend and I left, got dinner, had a long deep conversation and came back only to find at least an hour-long wait.  I ended up leaving, which is why I have no me + famous author pic to share. 😦

As for the talk itself, it was short but worthwhile.  She discussed the latest novel, of course, about a girl who was adopted and the mother who gave up her child for adoption (two points of view).  (Side note: the premise actually reminded me of a decent movie with Kerry Washington and Naomi Watts called Mother and Child). From what I gather, it speaks a lot about identity issues.  Rather than read from the book, Emily recited letters from two fans who had read the novel and identified with the struggle of figuring out “where they belonged.”  That part was actually very inspiring to me.  It reminded me of the ultimate purpose behind this novel dream, which I think involves having impact on women’s lives.  Like I’ve said, I am drawn by this idea about being young and “lost,” and from those letters, it really sounds like Giffin was able to touch some “lost” people with this latest work.  I think it’s a wonderful accomplishment to have shown some girl out that her crazy confused feelings simply are not unique to her.  That definitely made me smile.  🙂  Til next time, ciao!

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Famous Author Jennifer Weiner Spoke to Me Yesterday and I Have Proof

I met Jennifer Weiner yesterday!  I attended her book signing at Sixth and I, and I was shocked by just how dynamic, engaging and hilarious a speaker she was.  She spent the first 10 minutes telling us stories about her mother coming out  in her 50s as a lesbian to JW and her siblings, and then to her mom (JW’s “nanna”).  Then we heard about her life in Hollywood–JW wrote a series with Raven Simone about a “regular,” non-skinny girl for a while–, which became the impetus for the book she was promoting, The Next Best Thing.

From the outside, one might not expect that I would be such a big JW  fan, because I don’t fit the mold—I’m not Jewish,  I was never plus sized and I’m not from Philadelphia–but I don’t think JW’s goal was necessarily to be a role model or an icon in those communities (although she has become just that).  She just wanted to write stories about women.  Those other characteristics are relevant to her books and success, but ultimately secondary.  That’s why women like me can relate…I think.

But anyway, yes, JW spoke to me, she really did.  Literally. But also figuratively.  Literally, I asked a question about why she thinks the few people who were able to overcome the barriers of the industry were able to do it.  Terry McMillan (Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back) went mainstream—why her and not other black female authors?  Since JW had been talking about Hollywood, she referred to the philosophy of Shonda Rhimes (African American Grey’s Anatomy creator) to just cast the best character and not think about those things.  JW said Shonda takes a post-racial approach.  She writes whatever makes sense to her.  In real life, it’s actually not so crazy for a person to have a good friend of another race, for example.  So I guess if JW feels like writing a Lady Lit book (as opposed to a commentary on race) about a black girl and white girl who are friends, she just will.  At least I think that’s what she was saying.  Well, that’s what I took from it.

Figuratively, JW spoke to me when she discussed what drives her.  She said she just wanted to write a story about life as a woman.  Not necessarily chick lit, but something distinctly female.  If (and this is my interpretation now) she ends up providing commentary on society, that’s cool, but that’s not going to stop her from referencing the Bachelorette (or Bravo?) for example.  In real life, women watch that trash and do other embarassing things.  It’s more authentic to just embrace them and to write about whatever she wants to write about.  The intellectualness comes out in the good writing, in my opinion.  What do others think?

Anyway, when I got my book signed I asked if her she remembered retweeting me and all.  I don’t think she did; however, she might have, if I had more time to remind her, but there was a line of 100 people.  Still she told me to tweet her again, so I will! 🙂 Holllerrr

The Ultimate Novelist: Toni Morrison (not who I’m trying to be).

The untouchable 81-year-old Toni Morrison will be signing copies of her new novel, “Home,” at Politics & Prose tomorrow, May 17, at 4pm.  I would go, except I can’t just leave in the middle of the day.  Well, I could–but not now that I’m blogging about it.

For the record, in my noveling pursuit I’m not trying to be like Toni Morrison.  In fact, she would probably not like whatever I end up producing.  While I appreciate intellectuals and academics, Morrison is so high brow, I’m get a headache just thinking about any attempt to try to emulate her.

What people need to understand about Toni Morrison (and I admit, I learned this from New York magazine), is that Toni Morrison is more like William Faulkner (a Great American Author) than, say Alice Walker (described as a Great African American Author or, alternatively, a Great Female Author, or worse, a Great African American Female Author).  I had heard somewhere that Morrison basically hated Terry McMillan (Waiting to Exhale author–can you find her books in my header photo??) but I didn’t realize until recently that she basically sees herself as above all black writers.  Maybe Morrison just wants to transcend the label—in other words, she just wants to be known as an accomplished writer, rather than an accomplished black writer.  To be honest, that’s my goal with my Lady Lit novel, and if Toni hasn’t been able to get past the label, I wonder if anyone ever will.  In college, I actually wrote my senior thesis about The Human Stain by Philip Roth.  It was about a brilliant, arrogant academic who was so light he could “pass” as a white, Jewish man in the 1940s.  I concluded that the reason he chose to be white and Jewish (during a time where I found evidence of lots of prejudice against Jews) was that it enabled to be viewed as a Brilliant Professor without being qualified by his ethnicity the way he most certainly would have been if people had known he was black.  I actually referred to Morrison’s book “Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination,” in which she explains how all American fiction is influenced by African Americans.  I mean, all American life is influenced by African Americans because African Americans…are American (as Obama is constantly trying to convince everyone).

You see how I had to go all the way back to my senior thesis to even discuss Toni Morrison? High brow.  Anyway, I haven’t read “Home” but below is what I learned about Toni Morrison from New York Magazine:

  • She’s 81 years old
  • She won the Nobel Prize in 1993 for an entire body of work (first black woman Nobelist)
  • She was born Chloe Wofford, and hates that her legacy includes her ex-husband’s last name, Morrison
  • Her son, Slade, died 16 months ago (pancreatic cancer) at age 45
  • She was the one who called Bill Clinton the first black president in the New Yorker (well I didn’t learn that in the article, but it’s still interesting)
  • She has, like, a million homes
  • She’s trying to distance herself from Oprah (who made her novel Beloved into a movie)
  • Home  refers to the protagonist’s Georgia hometown, which lies at the end of a long, tortuous journey. Traumatized by atrocities in Korea and the Deep South of his childhood, Frank races back to save his sister from a sadistic white doctor.

What’s your favorite Toni Morrison novel?  Have you met her or taken a class with her?  Will her legacy be Great American Author or Great African American Author?