Posts tagged " pieces "

On When Shit Happens

June 1st, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa 1 comment

About a month ago, I received a priceless gift. My book won a prize, and this prize seemed to actually mean something, as its worth was validated by a ceremony, a gala, an event where I’d actually receive a medal. Only problem, it was in New York City, a place I had already visited a month earlier. I have a four-year-old, a husband who works enough to not be able to be a stay-at-home dad whenever I feel wanderlust is taking over my life, which happens quite often. A beloved babysitter who despite being a Greek grandma to my son, works hard for her living, and is no place to make his care-taking a personal pastime.

Yet here I am, on a patio in Midtown Manhattan, a loud generator truck parked below me, the noise enhanced by the cliché echoes of sirens and honking yellow taxis, busy New Yorkers racing by on the street below me, and hints of a more-than-welcome warm, humid spring day approaching, as a sliver of a moon appears behind the skyrise above my head.

I arrive here, six days ago, nursing the cold I picked up at the worst time from nursery school. I begin popping American flu drugs, stoned I power through the streets, trying to verify my existence in the city. Sweaty and tired, I return to my rented bed, and watch senseless shows on Netflix, determined to head out again.

A friend flies in from across the country, more determined, I find new medicine, refusing to waste a moment of my time in the place that makes me feel alive, invincible, creative, real. Award night comes along, I chug close to two bottles of Pedialyte, miraculously feeling strong and human, for enough time to make it there.

Another 200-odd writers have won awards, many of them are there, just like I am, to hang a heavy medal around their neck, as if we all didn’t know we are good enough after being singled out from over five thousand entrants. The organizers have hired, what in Greece, we would call “flower pots,” two young and hot people, a boy and a girl, in their 20s, they slide the medals over our heads, they pose with us for a photo, the girl with the male winners, the boy with the female. “Sexist!” my friend and I whisper loudly to eachother , Women’s March, nasty women, and all. Yet, when it’s my turn to go up there, I gladly pose with the flower pot, I even put my arm around his bony torso, because for that single moment, for those two shots, I am nothing but a winner and I can do whatever I want.

We flee the minute my moment is over, not because we’re bored, not because I need to leave, but because I feel the chapter slamming shut, the magic potion mixed with wine and the medal weighing down my clutch makes me hungry and fearless. We jump on stools at a bar next door, a man is singing songs that we know, the sound is bad, his voice is great, we yell along to the lyrics, someone is celebrating their 18th birthday.

Today, alone, roaming the insane streets of post-Memorial Day New York, spastic cough and sinus nightmare galore, I realize that I may be the luckiest person in the world.

Shit happens, and I embrace it. Always with a little help from all those that embrace me. I wrote a book. It won an award. Nursery viruses, come, show me what else you’ve got, my next book is out there, and if I have it my way, I will find myself in this city over and over again, until book after book, post after post, fight after fight, I will need no drugs or magic potions to consider myself alive, and real.

On Calling it Quits

May 10th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa 1 comment

At least once a year, considerably more during this past one, I want to quit writing. To destroy my books, to delete my hard drive, my back up, my notes, rewire my brain. This profession is exhausting, if you can call it a profession at all. There are too many of us in an industry that’s dying. Those of us that choose the road of indie publishing do it at a great price, rarely, if ever making any of our investment back, let alone a profit. It’s too much of a risk.

It’s too much of a fake high. The last period I typed at the end of my novel. The first time I held the printed book in my hand. The first words of praise I read in a review. The applause of the crowd I finally manage to gather at my third attempt at a reading. The last time I read, the strength of my voice, the power of my story. It takes days, months, for me to come down from this, and every time I do, I know I can’t do this anymore.

One more try, I say, ploughing through daily Facebook posts, boosts, ads. PR agencies that promise me reality in words I recognize, yet choose to inflate. I join groups, I talk to other authors, one sad story upon the next, and then, one of success. I snatch it, it helps me hold on to my dream. I turn to my bookshelf, packed with literary greatness, secretly shelve my book tightly in their midst; it helps to know that I have something to place there.

Last night, in bed, past midnight, I picked up my phone and typed myself a reminder: quit writing.

Today, I’m here alone. On a stool at my kitchen counter. Surrounded by toys, dirty dishes, and a world of ideas I could explore that have the promise of steering me down a more successful path. My computer stays open to a blank page for most of the day. I know that I’m good. But it’s nowhere near enough. I need to quit. Yet, here I am again.

On Cultivating Your Own Garden

October 17th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I spent most of my 30s buying designer shoes, paying off credit card bills, leafing through Vogue and Elle, and running across town (and oceans) to parties, surrounded by dozens of people I called my friends but barely knew. I dreamed of writing a book, but was too scared to do it, and spent close to a decade wrestling with whether my degree made me a writer or not, whether it mattered that I had little proof of it otherwise, constantly swayed by the opinions of others. Friends started families, I envied them, yet soaked in the sunshine of careless freedom.

Fast-forward to my forty-third birthday just a week ago. I eventually wrote that book. Not because someone told me I had to, but because it got to the point where there was nothing else I wanted to do. My designer shoes rest in cotton bags in the depths of my closet, and I don’t own a credit card. And on my birthday, I held my son close while he vomited all over his bed from a nasty stomach bug, washed sheets, and tried to convince my friends that no, I am not hiding a celebration from them, I am simply not celebrating, because I din’t feel the need to.

We spend so much of our lives following rules, expectations, meeting milestone deadlines, spending ridiculous money on on things we think will get us “there,” that we forget to let go, to take a seat and have a quiet talk with ourselves, as if there is noone else in this world, and give our inner voice time to reply.

I stole the title of this post originally from Voltaire, but also from a piece in the New York Times Magazine about Michelle Obama, and the incredible things she has accomplished as First Lady. She was under the scrutiny of the public eye from a long time before day one, more than any other First Lady in history, for reasons obvious to all, yet she managed to spend eight years in the house that she will soon leave, impeccably unscathed, simply because she chose to not follow the leads of those before her, to cultivate her own garden.

None of us will ever be Michelle, and few of us will accomplish what she has. But shrink it to a smaller scale, to your town, your neighborhood, your social circle, your family. Cultivate your own garden, and the worst thing that can happen, is that you will have goods to share with others.

Friendly Privilege

June 10th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

“Pieces” is hanging on a faraway beach in Abu Dhabi today. There’s a special kind of privilege that goes with spending your childhood at a small international school. Friends and classmates come and go, the energy is forever shifting, post-graduation most leave for universities and work abroad, but the tight-knit community is always held together by an invisible string. We always come back, even if for a fleeting moment, to the place we grew up in, together. Even if we don’t, someone who does, knows what someone else is doing, tells someone else, and you get the picture. And as much as we may all dislike Facebook, it’s only made that string stronger. It’s definitely worked wonders for my novel. Thank you for reading and sending proof, Christophe Corsi.

Today marks a year since “Pieces” was born

May 6th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

Today marks a year since “Pieces” was born, a year since I sat in an empty courtyard in the back of a bookstore somewhere in Brooklyn, surrounded by a handful of friends, frightened and excited about what the next months would bring.

The last year has been a journey on all levels, the miles I traveled, physically, emotionally, and mentally. I have aged, I have grown, I have cried, laughed, and screamed, and learnt a bunch of damn good lessons.

When you publish a book for the first time, you can choose two roads. One is the traditional one, where an agent sells your book to a big publishing house and you feel like you’ve given up a child for adoption. The second is the hybrid/indie way, where after of what feels like years of being in labor, you finally give birth to this baby that ends up needing more care and attention in its first year than quadruplets.

The other day, a woman at the playground asked me how to get her book published, she was thinking of writing her life story. My instinct was to shout “don’t do it!”, but instead I explained to her the what the journey held.

No journey is really a journey if it’s simply full of success, glamour, and profit. You must lose something along the way, then find something grander as you travel, you must be alert, hopeful, smart, and open, and you must learn, learn, and learn.

 

I thank all of you who have walked up this road by my side, all of you who have bought the novel, reviewed the novel, emailed me, posted for me, shared your thoughts with your friends and family, hollered and raved. Here’s to my baby’s second year!

 

On the Kindness of Strangers

April 26th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I know a princess, a real one. After the first time we met, she bought my book and read it. The second time our paths crossed was because she came to my reading. And now, working for the same cause, though obviously on a much grander scale than me, she’s kindly decided to help me with spreading the word about the publication of “When Clouds Embrace.”

I would have never known she is royalty if somebody hadn’t told me. Though she is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever sat next to. Graceful and well-spoken, as all princesses are to be, she is also extremely human, tangible, and real, so far from the images that gossip magazines at the hairdresser’s would have you believe.

So thank you, Tatiana, you have nothing to gain from me, and I a lot from you. All I can give you is my gratitude for making me believe in the kindness of (near) strangers in a world that can be cynical and dark, full of people with ulterior motives, distrust, and sadness. I know you’ll never see this, but I know you can hear me say, keep shining your light wherever you go.

On Writing

March 19th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I was once a girl who wrote in her diary every night before bed. Not about my feelings, fears and aspirations, but a daily story of what had happened that day. I never talked about a boy I liked, who my best friend was, I just told stories about these people, as if an objective onlooker. All things considered, these notebooks that I still have, are a psychologist’s funpark; over a decade of entries that got longer as I got older.

I never showed anyone, it never even crossed my mind that I could write. I wanted to be a microbiologist, wear a lab coat, stare into microscopes.

Years later, when math and chemistry and I failed eachother miserably, I was still writing, still not showing anyone. (Save my journalism work.) I wrote a chapter of what could be a book, years later showed someone at a summer writing workshop.

Then I wrote the book. And only showed my friends, the ones that I was sure would only praise me.

Many more years later, tired of staring at a pile of printed pages on my desk, I took a very deep breath, and contacted a publisher.

I’m still petrified of people reading my work. But it’s become the norm, this being slightly afraid on a daily basis. I’ve returned to the diary habit, only these days it’s not in a lined, spiral notebook, it’s in public, right here on this page for you all to see. It too is scary, but without the fear I no longer feel alive.

 

I watched my son dumping dirt in his truck at the playground today, he’s only seven years younger than the age I started writing, I thought, remembering those diaries. His box of chalk lay next to me. I took the pink one, drew a heart, then slowly wrote out the title of my book, then New York City, the place where it all started, then Athens, the place where I gave it life.

Rain and wind will wash away my words, they’re merely scribbled in dust, but before they do, maybe someone will come by and see them, maybe a child will wonder why someone wrote “Pieces” on the playground’s floor.

 

Pieces: a novel

“Pieces” is the winner of the silver medal at the 2017 Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY), and a finalist at the USA Best Book Awards and International Book Awards.

When Clouds Embrace: a children's book

All proceeds from the sales of "When Clouds Embrace" will go to Giving for Greece, a foundation that works to help the hundreds of unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece.