Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Exclusive summer reading list from Mojo Mom and Rachel Pastan

I love books, I adore books, I am crazy about books, and now that Mojo Mom is finished, it's more relaxing to read for fun again, not just on deadline as part of my work. Some of the new summer reading lists have failed to light my fire--my tastes run more literary and less "beachy" than the chick-lit lists that even the New York Times has produced (though I am going to check out a couple of those titles).

So I wanted to recommend a few of my favorite reads from the past couple of years, and share an exclusive list from novelist Rachel Pastan, author of Lady of the Snakes, which is one of my favorite novels of the past two years. I called up Rachel and asked, now that I've finished your book and loved it, what would you recommend next?

By the way, my picks are not necessarily "summery" in their content--there may be snowy landscapes or steaming radiators in these books, but no matter what time of year, I am on the lookout for literary page-turners with strong character development.

Mojo Mom's summer reading picks:

Lady of the Snakes
by Rachel Pastan (read Mojo Mom's Amazon review)

Intuition by Allegra Goodman (Mojo Mom's Amazon review)

The Myth of You and Me
by Leah Stewart (Mojo Mom's Amazon review)

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything
by Janelle Brown (Mojo Mom's Amazon review)

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (Mojo Mom's Amazon review--definitely my favorite review of all I've ever written. This book will make your head spin, in a good way!)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
and The Girl Who Played with Fire (new release on July 28) by Steig Larsson (Mojo Mom's Amazon reviews, Dragon Tattoo, Girl Who Played With Fire)

On my to-read list: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, Perfection by Julie Metz, and Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad.

And thanks to Rachel Pastan for her exclusive summer reading recommendations for Mojo Mom blog readers:

by Jean Hanff Korelitz
A completely compulsive and very smart novel about a Princeton admissions officer. There’s lots about college admissions, but mostly it’s this particular woman’s life story—her secret past, her uncertain future. It’s a great combination: a grown-up, thoughtful novel with an obsessive quality.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
by Truman Capote
I had never read this classic till this year. Lively, original, breezily written, this portrait of a young woman determined to use her beauty and charm to get what she wants in lower Manhattan in the 1950s is a compulsively readable delight. Better than the movie.

The Brambles by Eliza Minot.
One of the best depictions of being the mother of young children I’ve read. The manic, moment-to-moment, dazed life of the protagonist is amazingly well-rendered with energetic, syncopated prose. The story is about how three grown children deal with the final illness of their father, but the narrative is the least of what’s delightful here.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Hardly a classic beach book, but if you’re anything like me you won’t put it down. It’s hard to explain why a novel about a small town in Maine and the difficult, large, retired math teacher who lives there is so amazing. Marriage and motherhood are portrayed in all its complexity. Beautiful narrative prose is contrasted with colloquial Maine dialogue. You love Olive, even though (or because) she’s so prickly—you never want to be done with her. For once the Pulitzer committee agreed with me.

Rachel Pastan’s latest novel, Lady of the Snakes, just came out in paperback from Mariner. A literary mystery story about a young Russian literature professor with a small child and her struggle between her passion for her work and her love for her family, Lady of the Snakes was selected by Maureen Corrigan (of NPR’s Fresh Air) as her top summer reading pick.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

A job-share success story

I am so proud of Mojo Advisory Circle members Meghan Gosk and Anna Millar. They shared the story of their successful job-share position on The Story With Dick Gordon yesterday, which is broadcast nationally on about 100 stations.

Anna and Meghan worked hard from scratch to write the business plan to convince UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School to allow them to share the position of Associate Director of the MBA Program. As far as we know, they are the first job-share partners in the UNC system. They've shown how valuable a job share team can be to the university: it's key to think of it as a job share, not a job split. They are both empowered to make decisions, and UNC gets two smart people thinking about every challenge that comes their way. They generally split the time in the office, but can both come in together during busy seasons, such as orientation or special training and conferences.

Meghan and Anna embody the best of what Katty Kay and Claire Shipman write about in their new book Womenomics. It can be done by real people! I look forward to the day when job share, with proportional benefits, and ongoing opportunity for promotion, becomes a standard option for employers to consider as a smart way to utilize a smart talent pool.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Follow mojo_mom on Twitter

Blogging, Facebook, Twitter....they are all valuable platforms. I am not sure whether they'll ultimately all converge into one outlet, but in the meantime I am digging the "short form" outlets these days, posting links to Twitter and the Mojo Mom page on Facebook.

I am working to get a Twitter feed in my blog sidebar, but I hope you'll also follow mojo_mom on Twitter.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Taking care of business

My peeps, the Mojo Mom Advisory Circle!

For the last week I've been taking care of family business, and now I ready to dive back in to Mojo Mom business. This summer needs to be a combination of a break (as in vacation, woo-hoo!) and an exploration of what's next. I don't want to make any promises up front---I really need to give myself the freedom of having a couple of months "off" before making new commitments. I can tell you that I am thinking about how I can continue to bring the best information I possibly can to my Mojo Mom audience.

Today I am meeting with the Mojo Mom Advisory Circle, which is a great place to start. We always stir up a lot of energy. Right now I want to revel in a sea of possibilities, really giving that some time, and then channeling that mojo into a new direction.

This time off is also giving me a chance to spend time with my favorite people, to pay attention and take care of family details that were pushed by the wayside under book deadlines. The pendulum has swung and for the summer, I am feeling like a stay-at-home Mom again, which to be honest is both fun and a little uncomfortable. My exact words to my husband were, "Don't get used to it." I am enjoying my family time (a big swim team commitment has turned out to be really fun, for example) and I am also overwhelmed by the fact that family management tasks can literally fill up the whole day if I let it. I have to be careful to deliberately carve out time for writing; not just for blogging (which I also hope to resume on a more regular basis!) but for the kind of writing that will help me chart a direction for my next project.

Housework & bill paying could fill up a whole day, and so could surfing the web in the process of blogging. So can the tasks associated with any paid career, of course. We have to become fierce protectors of not only our personal lives, but time for our creative pursuits, if we hope to have any! I have recently read the book How to Write a Lot which is a slim little volume that gave me a kick in the pants to get on a writing schedule. It made me remember the days when I started writing seriously. My daughter was in toddler preschool Monday, Wedensday and Friday mornings from 9 to 11:30 am. I was hungry for the opportunity to write, and I protected that time. I'd like to get back to that place and mindset this summer. I am comforted by the knowledge that even six hours of focused, unplugged (from the internet) writing a week can take me anywhere I need to go.

So stay tuned...good things to come. Thanks for your encouragement along the way!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Last day of school....

It's the last day of school and I am trying to be in the moment this summer.

But right now "trying" feels more like a wrestling match. All I can think about is how will I get any work done? I will have to focus my writing energy into fewer hours. Maybe that's a good thing because the effort will have to be more concentrated.

My daughter is old enough to entertain herself, but I am afraid that if I retreat into my office long enough to really write, she'll end up watching a ton of TV.

So I may be signing off until Monday, when day camp starts up and I can more easily carve out my writing time again.

I the meantime, check out my Mojo Mom page on Facebook for links and quick updates, or follow me on Twitter!

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

The doofus with the Blackberry

This morning I got a close-up look at one of the worst examples of multitasking I've seen in a long time. I was volunteering as a timer at my first kids' swim meet, and in the lane next to me another timer was talking on his Blackberry during a race! He didn't have anyone in his lane at that moment, right at the beginning of the meet, but I wanted to say Seriously? You are talking on your freaking Blackberry [with earpiece and everything] in the middle of a swim race when you are a timer????

I would have said something if he had kept it up. Luckily he didn't. I guess he had just one really important call to get out of the way at 9 am on a Saturday morning.

Yikes. If you ever see me doing that, please smack me upside the head.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Mojo Mom Podcast with Ms. Mindbody

It's a time of transition at The Mojo Mom Podcast. My co-host Sheryl Grant has decided it's time for her to move on, but The Mojo Mom Podcast will continue with a new co-host. Stay tuned for details...we may take a break over the summer but we'll be back.

Our co-host segment is a little longer than usual this week, as Sheryl and I wrapped up our time together. I hope you will listen in to this week's show with guest Kate Hanley, aka "Ms. Mindbody".

Listen to the podcast now:

Amy and Sheryl talk about radical self-care and the times it rises to the level of self-preservation. Sheryl has decided to take a break from almost all of her responsibilities outside of her family and her job. That means this week is Sheryl's final episode of The Mojo Mom Podcast. Amy sends out her appreciation for four seasons together, more than 60 shows.

Then Mojo Mom talks to Ms. Mindbody, Kate Hanley. Kate is a yoga instructor and author of "The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide: 77 Simple Strategies for Serenity." She shares stress reduction strategies on her website, MsMindBody.com, and talks about her own experience learning to care for herself in a new way, as a new Mom.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Los Angeles area, June 23, Mojo Mom & Momma Zen's Summer Reading Salon

Mojo Mom and Momma Zen, together for the first time!
Hi Los Angeles-area fans, I hope you can join me for a Moms' Night Out on Tuesday June 23. I am teaming up with my friend Karen Maezen Miller, author of Momma Zen, for a Mother's Reading Salon at Sierra Madre Books, from 7 to 9 pm in Sierra Madre.

Karen and I have become great friends through our writing but we've never met in person! I told Karen I'd come all the way out to California if we could create an event together. We feel that putting together good books, Moms, and a summer night out is a can't miss combination. I imagine we'll have a dialogue among the group about motherhood, writing, creativity, and finding Zen in the midst of family life. And I have tons of book recommendations to share, after all the research I did while writing Mojo Mom.

It would be great if you could join us, invite friends, and help us spread the word. Here's the invitation as a Facebook event.

About ten years ago I attended a Japanese tea ceremony and was told that "each time is the only time." The leader pointed out that each ceremony is truly unique, because it would be the only time that this exact group of people ever gathered in this way. That's how I feel about this event, especially since it is the first event that Karen and I will ever do together!

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