The Story of my First Autographed Books

I’ve tried writing this sentence six different ways, but I’m just going to come right out and say it and hope it doesn’t sound too selfish, I get a lot of books signed by authors. It’s one of the many perks that I adore about my career, but it wasn’t always that way. As a kid, I’d see my Mom at signings and she’d come home with all these signed books… I specifically remember her having signed books by Lorrie Moore, Jackie Chan and Anne Perry. I remember being so jealous that she got to have shelves filled with books that said her name, with a personal message and a fun, encouraging sign off.

The other day, I got a new book signed by an author and I brought it home to add it to my collection and there I saw two books that I’ve yet to read, but that I’ve owned for twenty-nine years. These two books were never hand-me-down books, they have always been my books and I’ve moved them to every dorm room and every apartment I’ve ever lived in over the years. I will continue to carry them with me over the years, because they have some serious sentimental value. These two books were the first two books I ever had addressed to me and signed by an author,

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Both of these books are written by Welwyn Wilton Katz, an author my Aunt met in London, Ontario and kindly had sign copies for my one-year-old self. The first book, Witchery Hill, was written in 1984 and reads,

For A Young Reeder,

Whom I hope to meet in person, and talk to, when you are old enough to enjoy this book-

Best wishes, Welwyn Wilton Katz

The second book, Sun God, Moon Witch, written in 1986 reads,

To A Charming Reeder,

Welwyn Wilton Katz

And in all these years, I’ve yet to read either book, which might just be the saddest thing in the whole wide world. When I decided to write this post, I thought long and hard as to why I hadn’t read either book after all these years. I could use an excuse that the cover of Witchery Hill legitimately scared me, truth be told, it still does. But I don’t think that’s a good enough excuse. Maybe it’s because they’ve always been a part of my bookshelf and by the time I started to read chapter books, I’d grab for the latest Babysitter’s Club and/or a Sweet Valley University, rather than books that had been sitting on my shelf for years.

I did some research on the author and she was still writing young adult fiction up until 1999. She’s even on Twitter! So I’ve decided that I’m going to do two things:

1. Actually read my first two autographed books… Finally!
2. Hopefully, meet with the author and chat about her books and share the experience with you on my blog.

Lucky for me, I’m heading to London this Easter weekend to spend the long weekend with my family, so I’ll get the chance to chat with my Aunt and see if she remembers when and how she got these books signed for me all those years ago.

In the meantime, I would love it if you shared with me in the comments how you got your first autographed book!

*I also want to encourage you to check out my Aunt’s website, http://www.workstory.net. A great site filled with people’s stories about how they got their start in their careers and what they do each day in their job. You never know, you might see yours truly.  

The Official Gone Girl Trailer is Released

The Gone Girl has been on the internet for 11 hours now and I think I’ve watched it at least four times. The movie is of course, based on Gillian Flynn’s New York Times #1 Bestseller Gone Girl. The movie stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne and Rosamund Pike as Amy and was directed by David Fincher.

It’ll be in theaters on October 3rd!

 Oh and thanks to BuzzFeed for pointing out that if you’re up for a challenge,

Call the tip line displayed in the trailer (855-4-Amy-Tips) for a nifty treat that will delight book fans, and new fans, alike.

Talking with Dinaw Mengestu about his new book, All Our Names

All Our NamesI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the amazing opportunities that I get to experience each day thanks to my career continuously amazes me. Honestly if you’d have told me that one day I’d get to interview an author that was named one of the New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 (Fiction Issue), I wouldn’t have believed you. Last Thursday, I got the opportunity to interview bestselling author Dinaw Mengestu, author of the new book All Our Names. This book left me amazed at what an outstanding story teller Dinaw is, but also his ability to tap into the human connection and why it’s so important. Here’s a description of the book for those of you that have yet to read the book,

All Our Names is the story of a young man who comes of age during an African revolution, drawn from the hushed halls of his university into the intensifying clamour of the streets outside. But as the line between idealism and violence becomes increasingly blurred, and the path of revolution leads to almost certain destruction, he leaves behind his country and friends for America. There, pretending to be an exchange student, he falls in love with a social worker and settles into the routines of small-town life. Yet this idyll is inescapably darkened by the secrets of his past: the acts he committed and the work he left unfinished. Most of all, he is haunted by the charismatic leader who first guided him to revolution and then sacrificed everything to ensure his freedom.

Subtle, intelligent, and quietly devastating, All Our Names is a novel about identity, about the names we are given and the names we earn. The emotional power of Mengestu’s work is indelible.

… and now onto the interview portion of this post:

L.Reeder (LR) One of the ideas that you explore in All Our Names is the immigrant experience. To quote Mark Twain, you should “write what you know”. doe your past and immigrant experience influence your writing?

Dinaw Mengestu (DM) Yes, of course, but at the same time, no. Because I came to the US when I was two, so yes, I’m an immigrant technically, but also I have no memories of the country that I left. I didn’t go back to Ethiopia for twenty-five years, so in some ways I grew up feeling very American. It was really my parents who had that typical “immigrant experience”. I do think though, that I inherited their nostalgia and that’s the thing that I’ve taken into my work. I’m often times telling the story that they weren’t able to tell. So my first novel was really writing their lives, much more than my own and the second novel was closer to my own experiences definitely. And this one is a mix between those two, some of the things I’ve witnessed as a journalist (which doesn’t necessarily fall into the immigrant category) but it’s very conscious of the way people are when they come into a new country, so watching Isaac arrive in the US and realizing that he becomes a migrate for very different reasons. He doesn’t plan on ever going to America, that really was never his dream, but he goes there, because he has to.

LR “Isaac” struggles with identity long before he leaves Africa (with a total of thirteen different names), but it continues to haunt him as the novel progresses. Why did you decide to tackle the idea of identity so closely?

DM Well I tend to believe that we have multiple identities, all of us do, you don’t have to leave home to take on a new name in order to see that, that we’re really complex people. I was with a group of students once and a student asked me how I answer the question, “where are you from”, probably because I’m not really from one particular place. But it’s hard to know what people mean by that question sometimes, so you can say I’m from the mid-west, or you could say I’m from New York, or Paris, because I lived there for many years. So when people ask me that question, I don’t know if they’re asking me about Africa, the United States or what city I live in, so then you realize that all of our identities have a series of layers to them. Even if you’ve lived in one city your whole life, you evolve, you become a Mother, you become a Father, you become all these different roles. You even take on a different identity when you lose a parent. So Isaac, identity and the changes that he goes through may seem more dramatic than most people’s experiences, but I do think it’s a story that we all experience in one way or another.

dinawLR Being known and heard was so important for Isaac and Helen, both in loud and subtle ways. How did you decide to explore the idea of rebellion in the book – not only in Uganda (Isaac’s world), but in Helen’s world too (diner scene)?

DM Well you know it was interesting, because one of the things that happened when writing this novel with Isaac’s voice and incorporating Helen’s story and they really quickly they began to echo one another. In the scenes in Kupala, the two friends go to a cafe and they’re discriminated against because the fact that they’re poor and they don’t have the means to be where all the rich kids are and then you come to the United States, you see Isaac and Helen being discriminated against because of their interracial relationship. You realize that there are these forms of protest that are happening across multiple places when you stop thinking of them as, those are the experiences of those people or the experiences of these people. When you sort of let them sit, side by side, then you begin to see how closely they are to one another.

LR While reading, I felt a range of emotion; hope, fear, love. Is that something you set out to do when you started writing? Or did that start to come together as you got to “know” these characters?

DM You always hope to get out all of those feelings out of your characters. They are the ones that have to dictate that, so the premise of the book came from wanting to write from a sense of hope and optimism, but as soon as you begin to do that, you can’t tell a whole story about hope and optimism, something has to happen. So knowing that the novel began in a moment in history that was followed by something much darker, much more violent, hope seemed like a good place to begin. But I knew I’d have to work my way towards tragedy eventually. But then the question is, whether or not you want to stay there. For me, it was figuring out how to rescue my characters from that tragedy through all these forms of love that they got to experience. Then that hopefully brings the reader out of that dark space and maybe back to hope again.

LR Helen and Isaac share a different, yet similar story, which made it a complex and beautiful novel. Can you share why you found it important to explore the idea of love, war and identity in two different voices?

DM To some degree, they both have different approaches. Helen’s voice was a much needed add on, so you can see the young men going through war and violence, but Helen comes at those topics through a different point of view. She has an anxiety of knowing that story, of how Isaac came to be Isaac and how he came to America. For me, it was a way to say that we’re all familiar of the stories of a person traveling to a different country, but having Helen’s voice gave it a chance flip that conversation and see who’s on the other side of Isaac’s story. And watching to see how she accepts that person into her home, and ultimately, into her heart, as she does.

*And there you have it friends, my interview with the fabulous Dinaw Mengestu. If you’re looking for a book will not only make you think, but will ignite feelings of love, passion and endurance, I suggest picking All Our Names

My thanks to Scott Seller’s for allowing me the opportunity to conduct this interview.

[Book Review] I Don’t Know What You Know Me From by Judy Greer

Remember Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30? That ‘Thriller’ scene was epic.

Oh and Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses? I’m humming Bennie and the Jets right now.

And what about Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner? I always think of this movie when I eat brown M&M’s

Judy GreerNow… do you know what all these movies have in common? Besides the fact that they’re all romantic comedies. They all feature Judy Greer as the loveable, yet quirky BFF role! Judy Greer has honed her skills at playing the role of the co-star and she knows it. It only made sense that she’ write a memoir and call it, I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions from a Co-Star

Now here’s what you might not know about me… I own a lot of, what some would call “girly movies”, the only action and suspense movie I own is Speed and that’s pushing it. I’ll be honest and say I bought it because of Keanu Reeves voice. It’s safe to say that I’ve seen Judy Greer pop up in a lot of rom-com’s that star a lead actress that meets the man of her dreams, falls in love, oh no… dilemma, Judy Greer enters with some hilarious, yet wise insight and all is right in the end. So even though some might not recognize her right away or may not recognize her name, this chick flick enthusiast knew exactly who she was. For those in the hipper crowd, you might recognize her as Kitty Sanchez from Arrested Development. Please note: I only say the hipper people will get it, because I never got the whole Arrested Development phenomenon and I’m not cool enough to pretend I did.

When I heard last year that Random House would be publishing her memoir, I was so excited to get my hands on it. I feed on pop culture and I sometimes like to refer to myself as a human IMDB, so I couldn’t wait to hear what Judy Greer’s life was like and what it was like to play the best friend role in so many blockbusters. In I Don’t Know What You Know Me From, I got all that and more.

Judy takes us back to her early days of bad hair and really bad hair (no judgement… I could haul out some pictures that would have you laughing out loud), to a time when she had aspirations to make it in Hollywood. With her parents support and a license plate that literally read “star 2 be”, she notes that in reality, it should have read “co-star 2 be”, she packed her bags and headed to the big city. The memoir is a collection of essays filled with stories, insight and advice that makes you feel like you’re hearing stories and getting tips from a best friend. And as noted above, she plays that best friend role oh so well.

Filled with hilarious antidotes of making it, sharing random texts she found on her phone,

I’ve decided I really want a tee-pee.

to an essay titled, “Ashton Kutcher Gave My Dad a Harley”, I laughed out loud the entire time. Oh and wait until you read about her experience going to the Oscars… all I can say is that poor, poor woman. She has a way of making the glamour of the Hollywood life seem honest, some might even say normal. My Best Friends don’t live in close proximity, but I can honestly say that for approximately two and a half hours of reading, Judy Greer was a great stand in!

Now for the really cool part:

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Yesterday, I got the opportunity to meet Judy Greer! Not only was she incredibly nice and might I add, impeccably dressed, but she was really excited to be in Toronto and happy to hear that people were enjoying her book. If you’re someone who’s a movie or TV buff, chances are, Judy Greer has had a role in one of your favourite movies or television shows and you’re sure to thoroughly enjoy I Don’t Know What You Know Me From

If you’re chatting about the book online, be sure to tag Judy Greer at @missjudygreer and use the hashtag #IDontKnowWhatYouKnowMeFrom

 

[Book Review] Listen to the Squawking Chicken by Elaine Lui

Squawking ChickenElaine Lui, or as many of us know her, Lainey, has been gabbing about celebrities for quite some time on her popular blog Lainey Gossip. Rather than just sharing a couple of pictures about celebs with a small blurb, Lainey’s become known for sharing her opinions about gossip in thought provoking and often hilarious written essays. With all the success she’s had in her career, we Lainey fans were thrilled to hear that she was writing a memoir.  Well… kind of. You see, she’s written a  memoir about her Mother, whom she refers to as the squawking chicken, which is why her memoir is titled, Listen to the Squawking ChickenWhen Mother Knows Best, What’s a Daughter To Do? A Memoir (Sort Of).

I’ll start my review with a  quote from Lainey,

Most people think I’m exaggerating at first when I talk about the Chinese Squawking Chicken. But once they actually spend some time with her, they understand. They get it. Right away. She’s Chinese, she squawks like a chicken, she is totally nuts, and I am totally dependent on her.

I couldn’t wait to dip into Listen to the Squawking Chicken and after only a few pages, I knew that I wasn’t going to put it down until I finished the entire thing. We’re given the back story of the ‘Squawking Chicken’ and I’ll be honest and say that it wasn’t an easy story to read. Her childhood wasn’t ideal but it definitely helped her create a “wailing siren” of a voice. She became strong, independent and was hell-bent on instilling the same values in her only daughter. Their Chinese culture also played a big role in Lainey’s upbringing, it still does. If you’re like me, you’ll thoroughly enjoy learning about the different traditions that their family practices to honour their culture. One example that I found really interesting was that the Squawking Chicken doesn’t call Lainey on her birthday… Lainey’s expected to call her Mother to thank her for giving her life and guidance. If you think about it, it actually makes way more sense than one would think.

Lainey has an intricate way of painting her Mother with a brush that describes her as firm, yet endearing. She shares the blunt advice her Mother provides, but always makes sure to point out that her Mother is always right. Whether it be what fruit she should consume each morning or how to feng shui her home, she does a beautiful job at ensuring the reader that her Mother really does know best.

With the Squawking Chicken’s guidance and lessons of fearfulness, Lainey was raised to speak up. To be heard. And as many of her fans know, she’s done exactly that with her career. This sort-of memoir is a tribute to the women that taught her what it means to be loud. Listen to the Squawking Chicken is a touching Mother-Daughter memoir that will have you picking up a copy for yourself, your Mom and your Best Friend.

Follow Lainey on Twitter @LaineyGossip