Welcome to the world of bodice-rippers

29 Jun

Yesterday I was reading my David Baldacci thriller as I dozed off to sleep. Tonight i’ll be reading Tall, Dark and Texan, the story of a “lone wolf and the woman who is his destiny…” In other words, i’ll be reading one of those bodice-ripping romance novels. Let me explain…

I usually pick up old classics like Hemingway, Baldacci thrillers and any kind of inspirational books, but when my book imprint (i.e. mini publishing house) group decided today that our project would be to make an imprint for modern romance novels, I took one for the team. Call it a field trip, call it homework: our entire group marched to Barnes and Noble after class, straight up to the top floor, to the aisle way in the back where all the romance novels and erotica quietly sit. One girl in our group, Mallory (an avid romance reader), led the way. This particular B&N is huge -mulitple floors- and very crowded. Mallory was like a tour guide reaching her arm up high for us to follow as we snaked through the shelves and crowds. It made me chuckle. This was slightly mischievous, slightly embarassing, especially when all 10 of us halted when we reached the row of shelves with long-haired fabio-like men and barely dressed women on the covers. We made it!

Mallory led the group through the wide selection, pointing out which authors are the best and which books she recommends. But if i’m going to have fun with this, I needed to take a slightly different approach than my groupmates. I judged my book by the cover. And since I have a thing for cowboys, I found a cover with a man wearing cowboy boots, a cowboy hat and a holster- perfect! One thing that’s neat about the romance section is it has a book for no matter what your interests are- Nascar romance to Vampire romance and beyond. I was advised to pick a book that was a best-seller or written by a well-known romance author, but I’m perfectly happy with my cowboy romance, thank you very much.

So i’m about to embark on my first experience with a bodice-ripper. For the record, our group is putting out an imprint that will not be a bodice-ripper. Instead, we aim to publish modern, fun, witty romance stories for a younger audience in today’s culture. A lot of people don’t take this genre seriously, in fact the term bodice-ripper is often considered offensive. But I think i’m going to learn in the next few weeks why there are many people who enjoy a good romance novel. If it’s good writing and a good read, who cares what genre it is? It should be fun and exciting, both the project itself and the book i’m about to start.

In the end, I guess whatever David Baldacci has to say will have to wait. For as long as it takes me to get through this book (i’m told no more than 2-3 days), I’m committed to a Tall, Dark Texan.

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Who says you can’t go home?

28 Jun

Due to a weeklong bug that I just couldn’t get rid of, i decided to go home this past weekend to get some rest and fresh air. But I forgot that I didn’t have my car to get me out of the city.

I must admit that it was an accomplishment to find my way to and around Grand Central Station and successfully get myself home (and back with an additional bag full of groceries and food from home). Though it is minor looking back, just two days ago this task was a challenge in front of me. Everything new is a challenge. I had conquered the subways alone…the train was a new beast. My biggest concern was getting on the wrong train or missing my stop, but I survived to talk about it.

I personally like opportunities like this. They get me out of my comfort zone and make me raise the bar on my own standards, and thus doing myself a favor. It reminded me of the day I moved into my dorm here in NYC just three weeks ago. I came in by town car with four large suitcases and bags, and my parents, who were actually in NYC for the week on business, offered to help me move in. Believe it or not I said no. I was determined to prove to myself that I could find my own way here, carry my multiple items in – as cumbersome as they were – and figure out what the heck to do next now that I was in the big city. I knew it would help me start off on the right foot, and I’m glad I did it that way. It was empowering.

Anyways, when I finally got home Friday night, I was able to sleep for 11 hours (I’ve gotten no more than five to six hours a night in the last three weeks). On Saturday I harvested some of my lettuce, spinach, beans, peas and rhubarb that had shot up since I left them behind in early June. With my gathering, I made my family a delicious, heaping salad (I also had not eaten a vegetable in the last three weeks). It was very satisfying!

In my 48 hours home I did everything “summery” I could think of that I can’t do in the city: swim, waterski, jetski, ride the boat, make homemade rhubarb muffins, work in the gardens, sleep in the porch, make s’mores by the campfire, grill salmon and corn on the cob, etc., etc. I guess I didn’t get much rest.

And at the end of my weekend, i’m able to exhale. I’ve returned to NYC feeling healthier, refreshed and a smidge more confident having mastered traveling by train 🙂

“The most splendid achievement of all is the constant striving to surpass yourself and to be worthy of your own approval.” Denis Waitley

Those good ol’ newsstands

24 Jun
The first newsstand I saw when I came here to NYC stopped me in my tracks. My first reaction was to grab my camera. It wasn’t as magnificent or beautiful as the monuments and places  i’d been taking pictures of (Central Park, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, Ground Zero, Governor’s Island, etc.) But it was iconic of traditional print journalism; And for a publishing student, at least, it begged the  question: what is the future of magazines?
I can talk about this a lot more now than had this question been posed to me three weeks ago. In this intensive publishing course at New York Univeristy, I’ve been completely immersed in the world of digital content, online magazines, magazine applications for iPhones, iPads and much, much more. And I know this is only the tip of the iceberg.
There’s a world out there of readers who want their news and magazine content to be an experience. Gone are the days of going with the flow. Magazines are taking risks, venturing into new territory, pushing the limits and extending their brands further than they thought was possible. Had you seen some of the presentations I have, you’d be blown off your seats with what some brands are doing to take steps forward, some even just to stay alive. If you’re a magazine consumers, ask yourself: are you seeking more than just reading material from your $4.99 purchase at the newsstand?
While i’ve been learning all of this, my publishing group is finally going to launch the magazine  we’ve been tediously developing these last few weeks. It amazes me that we pulled this off in such short time, complete with a web extension, which yours truly was responsible for (I was web editor). With the help of editors-in-chief, print art directors, publishers, VPs, sales coordinators, freelance writers, etc., from magazines such as InStyle, O, Self, Marie Claire, Food Network Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Bust, Spin, Glamour, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, ESPN, etc., we’ve assembled these magazines taking into account all the changes we’ve learned along the way. I can’t wait to hear how the panel of judges – industry professionals- thought we interpreted it.
Next week I start the book publishing section where we’ll learn the same concepts, i’m assuming, all over again but from the book perspective. We’re told the two are VERY different, but still related. I can’t help but think of the movie You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Ryan’s small, privately owned bookstore that was her family’s business was not able to compete when Hanks’ big chain bookstore moved to town.
Where is the direction of books and bookstores going? Everything is downloadable now and coming to readers through many outlets other than bookstores and on materials other than trees. It still makes me wonder…
what about those newsstands?

Newsstand at Union Square Park

Rookie mistake in the city

23 Jun

I’m ashamed to say this: I officially fell for a scam. I walked right into it. And i’m mad.

I can remember having a detailed conversation with my neighbor Karen back home who grew up in the NYC area. “Oh, and when people on the streets of NYC try to sell, hand out or beg you for things, just keep walking and say ‘Talk to the hand,’ she said. ‘Yea, yea, I know that,’ I thought.

So why did I believe it when a terribly rude and intrusive man – a complete stranger – offered me and my two girlfriends a $300 + value spa package for only $40? Even worse, why did we walk to the bank with him standing right outside the door to take out cash to pay this imbusul? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

A few minutes earlier there we were: three girls exploring the city. It was obvious we looked unfamiliar with the area. I was actually taking a photo of a statue when the jerk came up, interrupted with a lame line, and proceeded to explain the details of the offer. Every hesitation on our end was a joke, flirtatious comment or reassuring promise on his. I remembered Karen’s instructions of street people, and I was personally turned off by this guy’s confidence to just invite himself into our little world. Regardless, I was sucked into the trap when he ultimately told my friends, who were gradually enticed, that they would get even cheaper prices if I jumped onboard too. That’s when I crumbled under the pressure. 

Upon walking away, we had actually convinced ourselves that we had gotten a great deal and were excited to get our reduced price manicures, haircuts, facials, massages, etc. I guess that’s what you have to tell yourself when you just fell for a ridiculous offer and you know it. 

The lesson comes here: later that week when my friend tried to set up a haircut through the package, she was told there were numerous additional fees, undocumented restrictions, ridiculous limitations such as when and how she could get her haircut and other  bogus details that infuriated us all. What’s worse, the man had given us a phone number and insisted we call him if there were any problems. We now thought there was, and so we called. That was over a week ago, and he has yet to call back. My friend canceled her appointment  and we won’t be giving them our business. We’re all out $40 and angry, but anger heals over time, and lessons soon sink in. 

Live and learn.

Here’s where you’ll find me…

21 Jun

"Frozen Yogurt. Your Way."

Today marks exactly two weeks that I’ve been living in New York City, and so far there is one place that I’m already a regular at: “16 Handles.

Ice cream lovers, listen up! 16 Handles is a frozen yogurt (okay, so not exactly ice cream) place on 2nd Avenue between 9th and 10th which makes it exactly one block east and four blocks south of me, i.e. too close. It’s actually the only place in the city that i’ve consciously memorized the location for…is that sad? Regardless of what that says about me, 16 handles has 16 flavors of frozen yogurt that customers dispense themselves; I’m sure this is where it gets its name but I’m not positive. When you finally pick your flavor of choice, and the cold, smooth-textured goodness is heaped in your cup, you proceed to a counter where there are magnificent toppings for you to load on to your heart’s desire. And that is where the only problem lies…your creation gets weighed on a scale and priced accordingly. So be careful if your eyes are bigger than your stomach. 

When my friends and I stumbled upon this place one night after leaving dinner, we were just in the middle of saying how stuffed we were until…”oh my God, is this an ice cream place?” I interrupted. My roommate Kelly and I vowed we were going in just to “check it out,” while Sora and Sabrina waited outside. I think I’ve found my soulmate in Kelly. She loves dessert, especially ice cream treats, as much as I do, and those who know me will understand. Ten minutes later we came out with over .8 pounds of frozen heaven. In fact, in the many times I’ve been to 16 Handles, I’ve figured out that I’ve averaged about .85 pounds of frozen yogurt and enjoyed it with only mild guilt. My favorite flavors, Birthday Cake and Peanut Butter, are actually non-fat, so that’s great! Well, my go-to toppings include, cookie dough bits, crushed oreo, heath bar, butterfinger, M&Ms, cherries and carmel sauce – all of that, every time! To put things into perspective, i’ve eaten at 16 Handles more times than I’ve gone to the gym since being in New York City, so this may be a problem. But the way I see it, it’s delicious, it makes me happy, and summers in NYC are hot and sticky, therefore this is the best cure. Thank you, whoever it is, who put this place in walking distance of my dorm. I’ve learned life is too short not to seize the moment, even when that moment is loaded with fat and sugar.

the "16 handles" (flavors)

The assorted toppings

The finished products (mine is on the right, my boyfriend Chris's is on the left). What colorful creations!

The wind beneath my…dress

18 Jun

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is a great thing to do on a beautiful day, but I don’t recommend doing it wearing a sundress.

The Brooklyn Bridge, a national historic landmark and one of the oldest suspension bridges in the U.S., is not far from the Woolworth building where I spend most of my weekdays, so I went alone right after class Wednesday. It wasn’t a particularly windy day, but winds picked up and grew increasingly stronger the higher I got over the East River. Each step I took from safety was a step closer to potential embarassment, but I wasn’t turning back.  When I got to the halfway point, I can only imagine how ridiculous I looked as I did my best to hold my dress down with one hand while my hair blew in multiple directions in front of my face and my remaining free hand attempted to snap photos of the beautiful surroundings. I was so distracted by my situation – and couldn’t see past my hair- that I had no idea how my pictures were turning out. Instead of being a leisurely stroll on the bridge, it was a hurry-up-and-get-this-over-with experience…all while trying to come across calm. Back on land, I was able to release my hand from my dress and pat myself on the back. It was like being sucked into a tornado and then spit back out.

Besides the Brooklyn Bridge I’ve been able to check out Ground Zero, Wall Street and the historic district during the free time I can find. I also went to Little Italy today with my friends on our walk home. The sign that said “slice of pizza and beer/wine for $6” on a café window sounded like a good deal to us. What it didn’t advertise was we’d be getting a front row seat to the drama that unfolded behind the counter: two cashiers yelling at the top of their lungs to each other; one mad at the other for some reason I could not make out in their city accents. For more than five minutes, fellow patrons seemed to feel the same discomfort that we did watching the two women duke it out verbally. But most shocking was that the rest of the restaurant staff only watched from the corner of their eyes, not wanting to get involved. When our plates were empty we left immediately and had fun trying to figure out their story all the way home.

Needless to say, there have been some interesting situations these last few days. Will I go back to the Brooklyn Bridge wearing a dress? No.  Will I go back to the restaurant in Little Italy where the two cashiers are probably still going at it? No. But, “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.”

Who let the dogs out?

16 Jun

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I wasn’t surprised this weekend when a few dozen naked cyclists rode right past me down the middle of the street. I also wasn’t that caught off guard by the woman dancing on a pole while being pulled on a small trailer behind a truck near Union Square Park. New and strange to me, yes, but new and strange to New York City, no. However, I have been surprised by all the dogs I’ve seen. It was one of the first things I noticed since moving in, and now every day I look to see how many four-legged friends call this city home. I’ve found quite a lot, so check out some of my photos!