Laurie is the author of Crazy Aunt Purl's Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Hair and the recently released Crazy Aunt Purl's Home Is Where the Wine Is. (Click here to read my review) I was thrilled when Laurie agreed to "chat" with me about the book, and I want to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my rambling questions.
You talk a lot about traveling in both of your books and on your blog. I haven't done a lot of traveling, but if I'm lucky enough to hit the lottery one day or discover I've inherited the fortune of an uncle I never knew, I'd like to see some of the world. What was your favorite vacation, and what one place is a must-see?
Paris is the first must-see. It's beautiful and romantic and old and modern at the same time. I love that city.
Traveling is one of those things that seems so out of reach until you start doing it, or at least it did to me. I came from a very small town and I didn't know anyone growing up who'd ever traveled outside of North America (or even out of the South, for that matter). I was lucky because I happened to marry a guy who had traveled a lot in his life and he opened my eyes to how easy it can be to see the world on a budget. When we got divorced, I was worried I'd forever lost my travel partner and would never get to vacation again and by then I had become completely addicted to traveling. Deciding to travel alone was one of the best decisions I ever made. It's now my preference! I love the independence and the freedom of going alone.
I've made some lifestyle choices that are different because I put travel at the top of my priority list. So I still drive a 1995 Wrangler, I don't own a house, I budget for everything. But it's so worth it for me. I love
everything about traveling -- packing a bag, sitting at the airport, the plane, finding a hotel, walking around in a new place, eating food I can't pronounce, all of it. I joke with my dad about it because all those things I just listed are his idea of hell on earth. He and I are both very reclusive people in our own ways, but I think I rely on travel to keep me from being a total hermit.
There's one problem with my plan to see the world. I'm terrified of flying. I've flown only twice in my life, and I can't do the 1-hour flight from Baltimore to Providence to visit family without gripping my husband or daughter so tightly I nearly break their arms. How do you handle those long overseas flights?
I hear you. I lost a friend in 9/11, he was on one of the planes, and after that I developed a serious fear of flying. It was hard because I love to fly, and all the sudden I had this awful panic and there was nothing I thought I could do to control it. But fear really is something you can work on and diminish. I found a few ways of controlling mine: First, I went to see my doctor and he prescribed me an anti-anxiety medication to use when I fly. I have no compunction about using medication when necessary and sometimes it's NECESSARY. Next, I found ways to distract myself during take-off, landing and any in-flight turbulence. For example, I bring a pile of trashy gossip magazines with me to flip through as we take off or land, I have my ipod with favorite music and a few movies for in-flight distraction, or I bring a great book and get wrapped up in it. The biggest thing was working on my thinking. I had to ask myself, "If you found out you only had a few months to live, would you want to go on this trip and have this experience?" And the answer was always yes. So I kept getting on the plane until it got easier.
Everyone is different. I can fly now without the Xanax, but I still bring it with me just in case. I cannot, however, fly without my trashy celebrity magazines!
Do you ever go through crafting slumps? I picked up the knitting needles only once last year, and I'm wondering whether the dust bunnies on my yarn could be spun and knit up. (Okay, it's not THAT bad.) Any motivational tips? A new yarn that is so unbelievably awesome that I must shell out eighty bazillion dollars per skein just so I can pet it?
Oh yeah, I definitely have times when I am just not interested in crafting. Or I go through phases where I'll be on fire with knitting and then a few weeks later I'm on to something else and the knitting just gets pushed aside. That's when I start getting emails from people asking me why I'm not writing about knitting and I secretly feel like I have abandoned a child.
The yarn I'm in love with right now is Noro "Furisode" in wild colors. It's a mixture of silk, cotton and wool and it's crazy yarn, I love it. I have found the best way to get back into knitting is to find a really funky, inspiring project. Sometimes for me it's something simple like handwarmers or a chunky cabled hat. Right now I'm into entrelac and I can't put it down. I think I may put my entrelac knitting skill on my resume, I am that proud of it.
You talk about gardening a lot in Home Is Where the Wine Is. How's the ginormous squash? I can't even keep a spider plant alive, but I'd like to remedy that. Any advice for a hopeless case like me?
Well, I moved a few months ago and now I don't have a yard. I do have a big rooftop patio, though, so I'm going to try growing my squash in a container. I think it will freak out the neighbors.
But indoors I have the same problem that you have! I can't keep anything alive unless it's growing in water. So the only plants I have inside my house are bamboo and ivy and I keep them both in vases with water. I found a beautiful orchid a few months ago and killed it in record time, so I am sticking with my water plants for now.
How did you go from blogging to writing two books? How hard was it for you to get published? Any advice for aspiring writers?
I started my online diary when I was in the middle of my messy and expensive divorce and I just needed something to do during the night when I couldn't sleep. I didn't have a plan or anything, I just loved to write. I used to be a reporter and I've always written, sometimes for money and sometimes just for myself. And I knew one day I would write books, but I assumed it would be later when I was in my 50s and I sure didn't think I would be the subject matter! I was pretty set on writing some steamy romance about fictional Katie and Armando getting it on in a movie theater.
The Universe had different plans I guess. I was writing my little online diary and Allison Janse found it. She's my editor now at HCI. I guess she saw something there, even when I couldn't find anything at all in myself. I started the first book a couple of weeks after she contacted me and I think I wrote the whole thing in just a few days. This second book was much harder to write because I knew more about the whole process and the expectations and it's not the emotional bender of the first book.
What I learned from the first book was how the industry works and how the book goes from your idea on paper to an object on a shelf in a store and everything in between. What I learned from the second book is that you have to just do the work even when you hit a wall. You have to sit down and write and be consistent even when you're anxious about the outcome, even when you're afraid it sucks, even if all you can focus on is the one bad review. People ask me all the time how to get published and it's still a mystery to me in some ways, too, but the key seems to be that you just have to write. Write all the time. Write what you love. The goal isn't to be the very best and then die, the end. The goal is to write honestly about something you enjoy and do the best you can. Your best really is good enough. (And then you get an editor!)
Thanks so much for "chatting" with me, Laurie! I wish you much success, and I'm looking forward to the next book. (I hope there will be a next book!)
If you're interested in reading Home Is Where the Wine Is, you're in luck! HCI Books is offering 5 copies to my readers. Just leave a comment telling me why you want to read the book, along with your e-mail address.
Because the publisher is shipping the books, this giveaway is open to readers in the U.S. and Canada only. Entries will be accepted through Sunday, Feb. 14 at 11:59 pm EST.