Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What To Get the Graduate Who Has Everything: Tuesday's Good Read Recommendation: A Short Guide to a Happy Life

Spoiler alert: If you're graduating from college this year and you sent me an announcement, you will receive this book from me. It's a quick read. It takes me about one evening to read it, which is about every six months. This book is literally ON my shelf as a display because I love the cover, the title, the author, and of course, the content. So here is my pitch for the book, an excerpt straight from the dust jacket:

Life is made of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came of us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won't happen. We have to teach ourselves how to live, really live...to love the journey, not the destination.

So, here is the most prominent book on my personal bookshelf. And there you have your Tuesday Good Read Recommendation.

And by the way, Happy Graduation to our intern Nicole Pride. She's been a huge help to us this semester, and I hope we've been the same for her. No surprises on the gift though.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Moody Weather: Monday Morning Writing Prompt, April 25

It's been raining for two days here in Tulsa, and the week I was in New York City it rained four of the six days we were there. I don't mind rain, but I'm missing the sunshine. There are other ways to get Vitamin D, but that's my favorite.

Here is your writing prompt for today:

Write about a time when you were caught in a storm - either figuratively, or literally.

If you've missed some writing prompts, you can access all the back writing prompt posts on the right column under Blog Feature.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Write It Short and Sweet: Storytelling Tip #2

Thursday seems like a good day for Storytelling Tips. I posted the first one two weeks ago, so here is Tip #2.

Confession: I read blogs every morning. It's a kind of happy wake-up routine for me (and coffee, of course). When I read this from Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project blog, I let out a deep breath of relief:

"The idea of keeping a proper journal was far too daunting, so I decided instead to keep a “one-sentence journal.”

Release! I am also a hit-and-miss-stop-and-start-love-it-and-hate-it kind of journaler. If I sit down at night, in the morning, or during the day to journal, I feel a need to write more than one or two sentences. After all, will I really want to go back and read a collection of one-sentence entries? Actually, when you are forced to hone your writing down to one sentence (or two, or three since cheating IS allowed), your writing can often become more focused, clear, and yes, creative. Facebook status posts are an interesting study in one-sentence journaling. The best "posters" are those who can say it quickly, but they say something that is worth remembering: funny, provocative, enlightening, but it doesn't keep me reading for TOO long. The rambling posts drive me mad. So in a one-sentence journal, I am able to hone my storytelling skills by force. I better think carefully about that sentence, because it's my story for the day. I have just begun my own one-sentence journal. I didn't go out and buy a fancy Moleskin notebook, however. That's too much pressure. I have a free app on my IPad called My Writing Spot where I dash off my one (or two, or three) sentences after dinner or right before bed. Of course, a notebook journal works fine too; just don't make an investment that doesn't seem worthy of only one sentence per page! If you need more inspiration for this, check out Gretchen's post about her journal.

If you want to slash that sentence even more, Smith Magazine is the home of the six-word memoir. Now there's a challenge! This website is also a bit addictive, and I've been known to spend way too long reading the six-word stories of other memoir writers. So lose the intimidation and try writing your story short and sweet!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The "miserable Irish Catholic childhood" is the subject of Tuesday's Good Read Recommendation: Angela's Ashes

Today's book recommendation is one of my favorite books and one that is worthy of reading over and over again (three times for me). From the dustjacket:

"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood." So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland, Frank's mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank's father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy - exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling - does nurture Frank in the one thing he can provide: a story.

This is an oldie, but a great memoir worth reading if you haven't already.

Tuesday's Good Read Recommendation!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Morning Writing Prompt, April 18

April is a bittersweet month for me. I love spring and the warmth and new life that it brings. But there is also a cold reality to the month: my mother died in April and the anniversary of her death is a hard day to wade through. I've learned that it's easier to just go with it than to fight it, so I allow myself to cry and talk to her and remember all the things about her that I miss. It's a cleansing day and I don't dread it as much as I used to, but it brings a little cloudiness to the middle of this beautiful month. We all have people that we miss, so here is your writing prompt for this Monday in April:

Write about someone that you miss.

Use this writing prompt as a cleansing exercise and an opportunity to relive some good memories. If this writing prompt seems like a downer, here is a happy place to visit after you finish your writing: SouleMama. Fair warning: Addictive!

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Power of a Few Queens: Want a Good Read? It's Tuesday and it's on our Bookshelf!

Today, we're recommending The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town that Raised Them. I read this book in two days. It gets our highest recommendation from the Mia bookshelf!

From Publisher's Weekly review:

"I didn't become an advice columnist on purpose..." writes Dickinson (author of the syndicated column Ask Amy) in her chapter titled "Failing Up." In the summer of 2002, after spending months living off of her credit cards between freelance writing jobs, Dickinson sent in an audition column to the Chicago Tribune and became the paper's replacement for the late Ann Landers. Here, Dickinson traces her own personal history, as well as the history of her mother's family whose members make up the Mighty Queens of Freeville, N.Y., the small town where Dickinson was raised, and where she raised her own daughter between stints in London; New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago. Dickinson writes with an honesty that is at once folksy and intelligent, and brings to life all of the struggles of raising a child (Dickinson was a single mother) and the challenges and rewards of having a supportive extended family. "I'm surrounded by people who are not impressed with me", Dickinson humorously laments. "They don't care that my syndicated column has twenty-two million readers." Dickinsons irresistible memoir reads like a letter from an upbeat best friend.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Morning Writing Prompt, April 11

It's Monday morning and I'm in New York City. It's a world away from my quiet, sleepy hometown in the middle of the U.S., but I've always loved being out of my element. I'm a gawker and even worse than that, I'm a gawker with a camera. Seeing the city through the lens of a camera is wonderful, but even better is seeing it through the eyes of my 10 year-old daughter. She was fascinated by the "bubble guy" and I was encouraged to know that you can set up shop in Central Park with two rods and a rope, some soapy water, and a basket for loose change. The basket was full of dollar bills, so he's doing well for himself. I love entrepreneurs. And I love NYC! So here is your writing prompt for today:

Write about a city that has ignited your imagination. When? How? Why?

Send your responses to us at lisa@miamagazine.net, or you can comment here. We love to read your writing, however it comes to us!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Putting On Big Girl Pants

My mother used this line quite a bit: "Put your big girl pants on and get back out there." I hated that phrase. But, of course, I say it quite a bit now that I am a big girl. This movie is all about "getting over it", moving on with life and embracing our passions despite the difficulties and challenges. Easy to say, not so easy to do. That's why when we see someone doing it, we write about it, make movies about it, sing about it. Those who have the courage to put their big girl pants on (and get back on the surfboard) are our favorite storytelling subjects. This girl is definitely one of them and the story has been told beautifully in this movie. No weekend plans? Now you have one!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Want to Tell a Great Story Using Home Decor? Here's a Tip!

I love these frames from Pottery Barn. They come in sections and each holds three 8x10 photos, which can be hung horizontally or vertically. You can switch out the photos from the front, which makes it a breeze to change them around as often as you like. (I have my photos developed at Sam's, and 12 photos are under $20.) I bought four sections and hung them flush against one another. I must confess that I stole this idea from my cousin, but I have lived long enough to know that all great ideas are only variations of someone else's great idea. This one is not even a variation. I saw it on her wall and ordered them for my wall. There you go. A truly "hot" idea.

I have photos of my daughter's trip to India in the frames and when people come over she can tell the stories (notice the Hindu temple, the baby, the girl with the goat...all great stories!) Since our family travels regularly, most of what is displayed in our frames are travel photos, but you could put anything in the frames that helps tell your story: old family photos (wedding pictures during your anniversary month, baby photos during birthday month), special family gatherings, the big soccer game, the ballet recital, holiday photos, or just random shots from a ho-hum week. Stories are everywhere! Old photos can be scanned and enlarged. If they're grainy, it just adds to the "yesteryear feel."

These frames aren't cheap. I waited for nine months until they went on sale. If you want a cheaper version, you could always go pick up inexpensive 8x10 frames and arrange them however you like. The tricky part is changing out the photos, so you'll want to hang them in a way that makes it easy to take them off the wall when it's time to switch out photos. I've also seen frames displayed on long ledges, which makes it easier to change out the photos without taking the frames off the wall. However you do it, I think photo storytelling is a great way to add interesting decor to your house AND start the storytelling conversation.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hairstyling in Afghanistan: Want a Good Read? It's Tuesday and It's On Our Bookshelf!

Tuesdays are nondescript, without the distinction of "first day of the week" or "hump day" or "TGIF". Even Thursday is distinct because it's the day before Friday! But Tuesday? Sigh. So we want to give you something to look forward to. We're beginning a new Tuesday post. Every week, we'll recommend a good book. If we read a good book, it's tends to stay on our bookshelves. So we're going to share those much-loved books with you. You can write on Monday and find a good book on Tuesday. That should get your week off to a good start, right?

Today, we're recommending Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil.

From the dustjacket:
Soon after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid to this war-torn nation. Surrounded by men and women whose skills - as doctors, nurses, and therapists - seemed eminently more practical than her own, Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother of two from Michigan, despaired of being of any real use. Yet she soon found she had a gift for befriending Afghans, and once her profession became known she was eagerly sought out by Westerners desperate for a good haircut and by Afgahn women, who have a long and proud tradition of running their own beauty salons. Thus an idea was born.

There you go. It's your Good Read Tuesday recommendation. It's on our Bookshelf, read and loved.
Let us know what's on YOUR bookshelf!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Morning Writing Prompt, April 4

When I think back on all the places I've lived, one stands out: our Phoenix, Ariz. rental house with 11 grapefruit trees in the backyard. It was a former fruit orchard and the yard always smelled like rotting fruit. Good memories! I don't think I've touched a grapefruit since we lived in that house.

So, here's your writing prompt for today:

What is the most unusual dwelling you've lived in? Write about it.

You can post your writing here in the comments, or email me at lisa@miamagazine.net

Happy Monday!