A full year later…

8 Jun

Hi all! Remember me? A year ago this week I was off to live in NYC for a short while. Though I was only there for six weeks, I have not stopped thinking about the wonderfully enriching experience I had while I was there. If you recall, I was embarking on a personal challenge – to get out of my comfort zone by doing something (exploring the city) that I thought I’d be too timid to do. I blogged every other day during my time in the Big Apple. I surprised myself by how much I liked my independence, being lost, being around way too many people and having so many opportunities on every block. And in the process, I got a really good publishing experience out of it and earned a publishing certificate at New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute. Since graduating from the course, I was promoted to the editor position at the Town Times newspaper. Life has been fun and lots of hard work in the last year.

But fastforward to today. I found myself re-reading my very first post on this blog tonight, and how coincidental – it was written a year ago to the day (the dates were always off a little bit on the blog, but I never knew how to fix it). The part of me that believes in signs would not let myself log off this computer for the night until I revisited “The Gray Cat Girl” adventure log, we’ll call it, with a new post one exact year later. Dare I admit, just like that first post where I cheerfully talked about wanting “to be a part of it, NY, NY”, I am listening to Frank Sinatra right now!? Just another whacky coincidence (I do listen to other artists and genres, you can ask me anything about country music). But “My Life” by Sinatra just has something about it that relates to my life right now. My life keeps spinning around, as he sings, and I’ve done so many things in my life and in the last year, and yet there’s so much I want to do. And thank goodness the world is my oyster, as dad always says.

I can never sit still. I want to do everything, even if some things conflict! I want to be in the country and the city,  to live on a farm and the water, to travel the world and be at one with my own little plot of land that I’ll call home someday, to have lots of friends but be happy with my own company… to be worldly, to sail boats for fun, write songs on my guitar, have family over for elaborate meals, speak with a foreigner in his language, know the back roads through Tuscany, Spain, Africa and West Virginia by memory, teach Pilates classes on a beach at sunrise, be a wine connoisseur, a businesswoman, a volunteer. The list goes on.

Can anybody tell me how I can do all of this in one lifetime?

I’m going to try it, and I’m going to blog my adventure. Here goes another go around at my Gray Cat Girl adventure log!

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And now the end is near…

16 Jul

On the first day of writing this blog, I posted partial lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” I was embarking on this six-week journey in the city-eager to take in as much as I could, see more of the world, build more stories to my collection, achieve a personal goal, and make unforgettable memories. It was exciting and scary all at the same time.

And now I sit here typing this, the night before my last official day in NYC, and I’m listening to Sinatra’s “My Way.” I’m practically in tears, especially with his first line “And now, the end is near.” My publishing program has ended. I made many friends, two of which will be lasting friendships, I’m certain. I’ve grown – from public humiliation (breaking a heel while out dancing) to thinking I could wear a dress on the Brooklyn Bridge to being fooled by a scam artist on the street, to navigating the subways and this huge city. The best times were those that I least expected , like the time Sabrina and I missed our stop one morning on the way to class and were stuck on the train as it went all the way into Brooklyn. We shrugged it off as a fun  misadventure and ended up stopping for fruit smoothies since we were out. The time Sabrina, Kelly and I wanted to be “fancy city girls” so we dressed extremely classy and splurged on a taxi to and from the Carlyle Hotel where we sipped wine listening to live jazz music. It was an amazing night. Of course, the night I met up with dad at the same location was one of my best memories as well. I’ll miss looking out my bedroom window at the selection below to decide what I wanted for dinner. I particularly remember vividly all those days I reemerged from the subway below ground to an entirely different area of the city- a whole new world. Those instances I looked up to find the sun to tell me which direction I needed to head in, but the skyscrapers were blocking any chance at my having a sense of direction. It was an overwhelming – in a positive way – experience. It was a fantastic learning experience. Many, many times I caught myself smiling with happiness and pride – little ol’ me walking through the big apple all alone, or with friends, surrounded by a frenzy of people with their own destinations, stories and lives. And I definitely did it “My Way.”

And now I have this experience under my belt that noone can take away. Add it to my list of accomplishments. I’m also pleased with how my NYU program ended. My group, of which I was the publisher, won first place for our romance book imprint. Not too shabby! I have such fantastic knowledge of book and magazine publishing. I often found myself in class saying to myself “I can’t believe how much I’m loving this.” This revelation happened no matter what I was doing here. One of the best parts of all was the real-world experience of meeting others, NETWORKING (it is as important as they say it is) and figuring it all out on my own. From the very first day where I requested that I move myself and all my bags in alone, to tonight, reflecting and thinking “what’s next?” Who knows? I’m still enjoying this bittersweet moment. And for those who know me, you’ll know what I mean when I say: it was so gray cat.

View of NYC from Brooklyn Bridge, my favorite view

And now, the end is near,
And so I face the final curtain.
My friends, I’ll say it clear;
I’ll state my case of which I’m certain.

I’ve lived a life that’s full –
I’ve travelled each and every highway.
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets? I’ve had a few,
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course –
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew,
When I bit off more than I could chew,
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried,
I’ve had my fill – my share of losing.
But now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that,
And may I say, not in a shy way –
Oh no. Oh no, not me.
I did it my way.

For what is a man? What has he got?
If not himself – Then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way.

Yes, it was my way.

This really is…

14 Jul

“the city that never sleeps.” I think of that saying a lot and wonder if it’s a curse. Since being here in Manhattan, I don’t ever feel the need to sleep. Where once my evening routine back in Connecticut consisted of downtime around 9 p.m. and snoozing by 10 p.m., there is now no downtime and my head doesn’t hit the pillow until closer to 2 a.m., if that. In fact, tonight I had to pull myself away from the computer where i’m working on documents, addressing a day’s worth of emails and preparing for tomorrow’s agenda – not to mention our final group presentation on Thursday. I had been going nonstop all day so I decided to hit the gym to clear my head. It didn’t occurr to me until I started my second set of bicep curls that it was already after 10 p.m. This would normally feel bizzare, except that the rest of the New York University student body is awake and pumping iron at that time also. And if you were to look outside, the streets are nearly as busy as they are in mid-day. There’s things to do at all hours of the day!

But i’ve wondered why I just don’t shut down anymore. My energy stays up, my mind keeps moving, and as long as there’s things to do while I’m here, those things i’ll be doing. It’s happened to my roommates too, since day one. Is it that we are running on adrenaline from a long day of learning? Is it that we have so much to do that we lose track of time? Or is it that those who live in this city inevitably and uncontrollably just…never sleep?

I wish I could say i’m signing off now at 11 p.m. on the nose to go to bed, but in fact i’m going to get back to my emails. Sweet dreams from the city that never sleeps!

Home Sweet Home in Manhattan

12 Jul

As we speak, someone is playing  the trumpet outside my window.  It sounds like a honking goose, so it’s not that pleasant. But it doesn’t bother me.

Earlier today on the subway ride to Coney Island, a man stood up in the train and sang along with his guitar. This one was pleasant-sounding. A sweet, chipper, south-of-the-border tune.

Subway entertainment

Anything goes here in New York City! In fact, I’m used to the bizarre things happening all around, and much of it is comfortable to me now. When my roommates and I explored Brooklyn for a few hours this weekend, it was adventurous and our detours and stops were spontaneous. But we ached to get back to our homeland, Manhattan. Sure we’ve only been here for five weeks, but that’s long enough to know it’s home. When we reemerged from the subway in Manhattan after hours in Brooklyn, we all sighed in relief and exclaimed, “home sweet home.”

Entering Brooklyn

That’s how I felt today after hours on Coney Island. Back in Manhattan it’s home sweet home. It makes us laugh, as we know this isn’t really our home. At least not now, not for long, but maybe someday. How long do you have to be living or at least a part of a city/culture/community to feel like it’s home? Because it will feel like home the moment you step foot somewhere outside of it. I’m not sure when the feeling of belong here started for me. It wasn’t a conscious thought, but I can tell you it happens quickly.

View of Coney Island from the pier

Heard this week:

9 Jul

It was a busy, busy, busy week, with so much to learn, but I managed to pick up a few noteworthy quotes from various speakers in the publishing field as well as a handful of interesting tidbits:

“Just get your foot in the door”

“Always be the calmest person in the room”

“Know what you deserve and then never disappoint”

“There’s gonna be some really cool shit” (having to do with books becoming digital and all the fancy, shmancy electronic applications)

“The power of Oprah cannot be underestimated” (This refers to the fact that Oprah picks only three books a year for her book club, and to be one of those books is the most effective way for more books to be sold, i.e. a publisher’s dream come true.

As for tidbits, I learned that the publisher of Little Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, was on a long flight out to California when she read the unpublished Twilight manuscript; you know, that book that became a series and then was made into movies and took off internationally? In other words, this person, who went on to publisher Twilight, is one happy lady.  An acquisition like that – which she had a good feeling would be very successful- is the stuff that makes her counterparts across the industry jealous. It’s a book like this that “changes people’s lives, keeps people in their jobs and changes the industry.” She admits, however, that each publishing house has their golden moment, this was hers. (Afterall, Harry Potter was discovered by a different lucky duck – a division of Penguin Group.) For the amount of times the Twilight series and author Stephenie Meyer have come up in the last week, I can’t believe I haven’t read the series or seen the movies. This is on my to-do list before the year is over.

Other names that have been mentioned an outrageous amount of times are James Patterson, John Grisham and David Baldacci. The latter of which is exciting since I spent the day with the bestseller in May and got an inside look at his life and career. Whenever I hear his name it makes me feel really cool 🙂

Finally, I also met the woman who helped make Fabio famous, though it’s not something she says she’s proud of. She is senior VP of Marketing at Simon & Schuster and she secretly told my publishing group, which is creating a romance imprint, that she helped make him the cover model on a collection of romance novels, and his look became famous, as you know, and he ended up on t.v. “What a small world.”

The woman on the roof

7 Jul

I spotted this scene last week while nibbling on cheese and crackers with my dad on the rooftop lounge of the Marriott Hotel in Midtown Manhattan:

However many stories high we were, there were skyscrapers all around and busy streets with flashes of color below. A relaxed woman lounging on her deck with a good book, surrounded by her greenery, on a nearby building was a pleasant sight. It put a smile on my face and warmed my soul. She seemed completely unaware of the sounds and distractions around her. Her makeshift yard was a great effort of creating a home in New York City.

If I were to live in this city, I’d be doing the exact same thing. I love the idea of being so close to it all – the beating heart of this country – but I’ve wondered on occasion since being here if I would miss complete stillness, quiet and trees all around. I’m used to the sounds of water from the lake lapping against our dock, a lake breeze stirring a neighbor’s windchimes, cars driving by in the distance. But I don’t think it would be unthinkable to get used to new sounds, a new feel. Frank Sinatra wanted to come here badly. Carrie Bradshaw and Co. couldn’t imagine spending their adult lives anywhere else. Who says I couldn’t? When you think U.S.A., you can’t help but think N.Y.C., and there’s something wonderfully patriotic about that, and it’s exciting to be a part of it. Thanks for inspiring me, rooftop-reading, makeshift-yard lady. Happy reading and gardening to you!

One ripped dress and lots of good advice

2 Jul

Remember a few weeks ago when the heel of my high-heeled shoe broke off while I was out dancing, bruising both my foot and my ego? Since then, i’ve recovered 100 percent, and my shoe has been repaired by a professional (I love those heels – they are good for every occassion – so I wasn’t giving up on them that easy). You’d think one wardrobe malfunction in two weeks is enough, but you’d be thinking wrong. Today the back of my dress got caught on the turnstiles in the lobby of my residence hall, obnoxiously tearing right up the back of my dress. It was an Ellen DeGeneres moment where I just pretended that I meant to get it caught and that I wasn’t fazed by it. What it really felt like was being a character right out of a humorous movie or book.

Speaking of books, the sales director at Random House spoke with us today and suggested an unusual assignment: next time i’m in a bookstore, follow the customers around; but the skill is in not looking like a stalker. This, apparently, is good research in learning “visual merchandising.” If the person stops and picks up a book, that means something about it caught their eye. If they put the book back down and walk away, that means something didn’t work for them. Practically every department in book publishing, from editorial to sales, promotion to marketing, spends a good chunk of their day trying to prevent the latter scenario from happening when a customer comes across their book.

We were also asked, “What was the last book you picked up and purchased, and why?” and “What was the last book you picked up but passed on purchasing, and why?” These are the types of things we’re learning in this program…think like a consumer. Unfortunately, with each nugget of information I learn, it becomes increasingly harder to separate myself from the mindset of the business of publishing (the process of getting the book on the bookstore shelf). I can no longer pick up my pleasure reads and turn off this insider knowledge,  but we were warned this would happen…

Another quirky tip I learned this week: books sell better whenever there is a cat involved. We were told this by a panel of editors who provided examples, so I believe them. No one really knows why, but all agreed it’s true. This is exciting for me since, as you may recall from my very first blog post, and the name of my blog, I have a thing for cats – gray cats. The books and magazines I’ve drawn up in my head over the years have all played on my gray cat theme, so if I ever followed through on one, the cat = success thing is super encouraging!