Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book Review and Interview with Author -- Fun without Dick and Jane: A Guide to Your Delightfully Empty Nest by Christie Mellor

Fun without Dick and Jane: A Guide to Your Delightfully Empty Nest 

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (May 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452105979
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452105970
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 8 inches 

From Christie Mellor, the best-selling author of The Three-Martini Playdate, comes this hilarious (and helpful) guide to recovering from getting those little angels into college and out of the house. Filled with unapologetically funny yet entirely sympathetic advice, Mellor answers important questions (Is $200 an hour too much to spend for exam tutoring? Is moving to an apartment near campus ever an option?) and offers wise counsel on saying good-bye, getting kids to stay in touch (without begging), and coping when they come home to roost (which they will—for holidays, summer break, and possibly for years after graduation). Best of all, she inspires empty nesters to embrace their newfound freedom and enjoy their lives to the full.

My Thoughts:

I was first introduced to Christie Mellor's work a few years back, before I had my daughters.  I was visiting a friend of mine and she had a copy of Christie's books on the coffee table.  I couldn't help but pick them up, as their covers were so cute --
The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy ParentingThree-Martini Family Vacation: A Field Guide to Intrepid Parenting

And, look at the titles?  Don't they make you want to open up the book and begin reading?  I was intrigued, and asked my friend if I could borrow them.    Even though I didn't have children, I found humor in her book, The Three-Martini Playdate:  A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting.  As I sit here now, thinking back to the book, I smile, as I know how stressful a playdate can be, and how many moms, including myself would love to finish off the afternoon with a strong cocktail. :-)  Don't get me started on the book, Three-Martini Family Vacation.  After just getting back from a 4 day vacation -- which felt like forever, I am not planning another any time soon.  It took us over an hour to pack the car, get the girls ready, change diapers right after heading out the door, and then listening to them fuss in the car.  So much for them falling fast asleep as soon as we begin our travels.  Instead, they kick, stream, yell and then do it some more, all the way through the drive, until we arrive at the destination, and then they are tired and cranky.  Our jam packed vacation ended up being 1 attraction, and 3 days of staying local -- all of which left my husband and I exhausted at the end of the day.  I am still reeling from the trip.  I am calling it baby jet lag. :-)

But, during my trip, I was able to get Christie's new book, Fun without Dick and Jane: A Guide to Your Delightfully Empty Nest.  When I was done reading it, I passed it along to my mother, to see what her reaction would be.  She had never read any of Christie's prior releases, so was in for a treat.

Even though my girls are 2 and under, and we have a long way before they fly the coop, my parents are finally empty nesters.  My mother found some of Christie's advice helpful, especially that on getting the children to stay in touch, which she has been struggling with, as my brothers only seem to call when they need something.  Both my mother and I enjoy Christie's writing style, and how she handles topics like parenting and living your life as a empty nester to the fullest in such a fun and light-hearted way.  You will laugh as you read her book, but find guidance in her sympathetic advice.  This book is definitely worth picking up if you will be sending a child off to college in the fall, or are trying to come to grips with the empty nest syndrome and new found freedom and free time. 


Interview with the Author:

I had the opportunity to interview Christie, to learn more about her passions and recent release.  Please enjoy!

Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story,
angle, idea)?

My first two books were with Chronicle Books. A few women over at Chronicle contacted me and said they wanted to do something around the Empty Nest idea, and they thought I’d be the person to write it. And being a “half” empty-nester (my first child left for college, and I have one still in high school) I already had a lot of ideas simmering So, I came up with a little proposal and they liked it. It’s the logical bookend to my first two books with Chronicle, The Three-Martini Playdate and The Three-Martini Family Vacation. The ideas really started simmering when I was at “College Night” with my oldest boy, when he was still in high school. A fellow mother came up to me looking very distraught, saying, “I don’t know what I’m going to do when my last one leaves home!” And I was thinking, um, I have about five hundred ideas, off the top of my head. And the more I heard from other parents, the more I wondered why there was all this talk of “mourning” and “loss” in relation to our children being launched from the nest. I mean, seriously? We’ve done a good job, presumably… our kids are moving on to their next big chapter, and so are we. Plus, we have the house to ourselves! Sounds like fun to me.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre?
I had such a great time writing my first book, and my love of that genre grew. I guess I discovered that all my bossy opinions gave me a voice that translated to writing these kinds of books. I seem to have a lot of advice for everyone, and there’s only so much ranting at dinner parties that one can do.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
My taste runs mostly to 19th century English literature. Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Jane Austen. Favorite books that aren’t from 19th century England: Longitude, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, The Adrian Mole Diaries, Lucky Jim, Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate, Dorothy Parker’s New Yorker theater reviews, Ant Farm by Simon Rich, almost anything by David Sedaris… I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. Stephen King’s book on writing is really great, as is “Bird by Bird” by Anne LaMott. Both wonderful books for writers.

What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write?
I am lucky enough to have my own separate studio in my house, so I typically sit at my desk and write on my trusty Mac book. But because it’s portable, I can set it up in my kitchen if I want to change the scenery. I don’t necessarily sit down from nine to five and write. Sometimes it happens late at night – I used to be much more of a night owl, and did a lot of my writing between 9 pm and 1 or 2 am. Good hours when you have children. These days, if I have a deadline, I will usually get up in the morning, make coffee, and get to work, always telling myself that I really should exercise first. But then, of course, I don’t. I might get a call from my pal down the street asking if I want to go on a walk later in the afternoon, and I’ll usually take her up on it. If I’m really stuck on something, I force myself to go on a walk. I’ve come up with some of my best ideas while walking.
Do you set a daily writing goal?
I usually set a daily goal when I have a book deadline. It keeps the stress at bay and makes writing books very doable. Sometimes a lot of the preparation is done in my head, and the actually writing of the book may not take more than three or four months. Let’s say you wake up one morning and realize you have to turn in 65,000 words on April 1st, and what with the holidays and all, you realize it’s already January. In this situation, I would look at my (paper) wall calendar, and count backwards from my deadline. 2,000 words a day is doable,1,000 good words a day is very doable, and will give me plenty of time to turn in my book when it’s due, even making allowances for the occasional meal, cocktail, and weekend outing. When I have those kinds of deadlines, I generally depend on the kindness of my husband to pick up the slack in the grocery shopping and house-cleaning department. I am fortunate that he is already in charge of laundry and dishes.
As far as a daily writing goal, I guess the answer is no. I tend to work more in spurts and chunks of time. But I enjoy writing. If you’re a lazy writer, as I think I am, you can use emails as a way to practice your writing. I do. I love corresponding with friends. I tend to not “LOL” my way through emails, I write most emails as if they are lovely letters to friends, but without having to go out and get a stamp and put it in a mailbox. Even my phone texts are models of grammar and punctuation.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
I love writing, Hustling for writing jobs, not so much.
What's the best thing about being an author?
I love being in control of my own writing. And authors usually have much more control over their own work, compared to, say, writing screenplays or television shows. Before I wrote my first book, I wrote a screenplay with my husband/writing partner, which got picked up by Columbia pictures. It was a generally interesting and fun experience, but with my first book it was such a heady feeling to realize that there wasn’t a conference room full of people who were going to give me notes that I had to implement. It’s wonderful having a good editor, but generally speaking the author is ultimately in control of what’s on the page. In fact, knowing that I have final say of what’s on the page makes me much more apt to want to collaborate with an editor!
What are you working on now?
I’m working on some new songs for my band Doozy. I sing with a bunch of fantastic musicians, we do Depression-era, late 1920s and ‘30s music. I wrote the lyrics to all but one of the songs on our first CD (called “Heavy Sugar”) and worked on the music with my band-mate Doug Freeman. I love writing romantic songs that sound as if they could have been heard on the radio in 1935. 
Other than that, I have a few ideas simmering for books that would be a real departure from my last five books. So I don’t have plans to pitch any books in the immediate future. The publishing industry is changing so much, self-publishing seems to be working out well for a lot of writers, so you never know. I have an illustrated book that can’t seem to find a home (even after having five books published). It looks like a happy, illustrated children’s book, but it’s really meant for grownups to enjoy. It’s called “Mommy, I Want to be a Child Star!” It’s amusing, but dark. Apparently not easily marketable. I may sell it as an ebook, like that smart person who wrote “Go the F*** To Sleep.” 
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Just go where the writing takes you, I guess. I think aspiring writers already must love to write, so that’s the thing to do. Oh, and editing is a good thing to love. Rewrite and rewrite, read and reread. And try not to use so many adjectives.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an
interview? How would you answer that question?
Q: Would you rather be traveling around the world singing with your band, writing songs, occasionally writing a really fun book that sells millions without you having to do much promotion, while having the time to paint, cook, and have lovely parties with friends and family, full of music, dancing, good food and cocktails, and are you working toward that goal?
A: Yes! 

More About the Author:

Image of Christie Mellor 

While pursuing a happy life that includes an interesting husband, two almost-always pleasant children, and a neurotic duck, Christie became a vociferous cheerleader for the "other kind of parenthood," the anti-perfection, you-deserve-a-life kind. Her first book, "The Three-Martini Playdate," was a harbinger of a new trend for today's beleaguered parents, helping them to withstand the unceasing and overbearing good advice and pressure to raise perfect, highly enriched offspring,. She continued the thread with "The Three-Martini Family Vacation." Christie also likes to draw, and does so repeatedly throughout the pages of "Raised by Wolves: Clues to the Mysteries of Adulthood," out in paperback in the spring of 2010, a book designed for the adult child whose parents did NOT read "The Three Martini Playdate." Christie's rants have been published in Britain in The Guardian, Junior Magazine, and the Sunday Express, and in Australia's Sunday Life Magazine, and she's been heard on Britain's BBC radio and American Public Radio's Marketplace, in addition to being reviewed and interviewed in Newsweek, Playboy, The New York Times, People, and other publications.

"You Look Fine, Really" is due from HarperCollins in the spring of 2010. It's for the ladies. The gals. The women. Specifically women over the age of 40. And yet, it's totally girly! Christie is very excited about this one.

Disclosure:  I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher in order to write up an honest review.  The views above are mine and mine alone.

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