Friday, October 23, 2009

A Great Book for Teens

You know how when your 14-year-old daughter asks you what she should wear to school, and you get all excited, and think, “Yay! Finally! She values my taste and sense of fashion and judgment enough to ask for my opinion about something as vitally important as what-to-wear to high school!”

And then you get all giddy and check your I-Phone to see what the weather will be and you check the family calendar to see if there is anything major going on, and then you mentally sort through her closet and come up with just the perfect recommendation for the climate and occasion, “How about your white skinny jeans and that new screen-printed tee that we just bought?”

And then, she smiles slightly, in what you will later recognize as that noncommittal, patronizing, oh-what-was-I-thinking-asking-you? or maybe great-now-I-know-exactly-what-not-to-wear look, and five minutes later she emerges from her room wearing denim shorts and an old sweatshirt?

Um, yeah.

As parents, it is our tragic destiny that our children chose to ignore not only our exquisite fashion sense, but also our accumulated, hard-earned wisdom about much grander things, such as life and success.

Which is why it is so wonderful to have a book like, Be the Star You Are For Teens to quietly slip to our teens in the hopes that they can learn from their peers peddling the kind of wise knowledge that is relevant to them, packaged in a way that they understand.

And, who could be better to write, collect and edit these stories than the vivacious, gorgeous, blond with sparkly star earrings, brimming with energy and enthusiasm and Star Power, than author, Cynthia Brian.

Brian, the best-selling author of “Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul,” compiles amazing stories from leading experts and teenagers encouraging them to discover their unique gifts, live up to their highest potential and be the stars they are meant to be.

My favorite story in the book is “Persistence,” written by Brian. She describes growing up on a farm, the oldest of five children in a family with little money. One day in the second grade she learned about something called “college” and announced to her family that she was going to go.

All agreed it was a great idea! Only one little obstacle—how to pay for it. After many weeks of brainstorming, it was decided that Brian would raise chickens and sell eggs to save money for higher education.

Waking up at 5:00 am to care for the birds, clean chicken poop, and collect eggs, Brian also suffered raids by foxes and mountain lions, and endured the nickname of “Chicken Lady.” Brians’s spirit was not dampened. As the cheerleading captain, she even had one of her chickens masquerade as the team “Falcon” mascot. Heck, Brian probably made it cool to raise chickens.

The result of all that hard work? Brian writes...

“By my senior year, those first twelve chickens increased to over two thousand. By the time I was eighteen, I had earned enough money from selling eggs to finance my entire university experience.”


For more inspiration, go to

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Art of Racing in the Rain

This month something happened to me that has never happened in the eight-plus years I have been doing the show.

Something terrible and devastating and humbling—something that rocked my literary self-esteem to the core.

Perhaps I’m exaggerating just a tad…

This month I fell in love with a book—our bookclub pick—The Art of Racing in The Rain.
My infatuation was immediate and intense and totally unexpected, like showing up for a blind date arranged by your sister and seeing Brad Pitt waiting for you with a single red rose and a Café Mocha.

The book was #4 on the NY Times Bestseller list. I knew people who loved it (including my co-host, Jim Ott and a guest on this show, Melanie Bentley), but I had my doubts. There are just so many books (I would venture to guess about 75%) that I start and just don’t finish.

Not to mention that the Cliff Notes/Entertainment Tonight version would be:

A racecar driver has a dog who is old and will soon be put to sleep. In a series of flashbacks, the dog remembers all the tragedies and triumphs of a very dramatic life with his master, full of wisdom and love that will warm the heart of anyone who has ever loved and lost a dog.

Big Yaaaaawwwwwnnnn. Plus, besides Marley and Me (and for dog’s sake, I cried enough already between the book and the movie), who can really get excited about a book in which you know in advance the dog dies?!

But from the very first page, I fell in love with Enzo, the dog narrating the novel:

Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature. And while I occasionally step over the line and into the melodramatic, it is what I must do in order to communicate clearly and effectively…I have no words I can rely on because, much to my dismay, my tongue was designed long and flat and loose, and therefore, is a horribly ineffective tool for pushing food around my mouth whie chewing, and an even less effective tool for making clever and complicated polysyllabic sounds that can be linked together to form sentences. And that’s why I’m here now waiting for Denny to come home—he should be here soon—lying on the cool tiles of the kitchen floor in a puddle of my own urine.

Is that great literature or what?!

Enzo is wise and wonderful and loving and selfless and human in the best sort of way that one would wish an actual person could be human. Enzo is everything you could possibly want in a dog, friend, companion or narrator. And, of course, it didn’t hurt that I am the human (politically incorrect to say “owner” anymore, as if another being could actually “own” another being!) of a dog

who I can only say, with the utmost underestimation, I consider to be very special.

So, anyway, I fell in madly in love with this book and wanted another guest for the perfect discussion, so I invited one of my extraordinarily well-read, articulate, beautiful friends to read the book. I knew that she was a dog-lover and couldn’t wait to rhapsodize about the wonders of this book with her.

Surprise—a couple of days before the show, I got this message:

Heads up - I just finished reading and I am not a big fan of this book!

Yikes! I had to go back to the book and read all the glowing reviews and see the awards that it had won to reassure myself that actually, I had not been a sucker for some overly done sentimental piece of crap about life and death…(no offense to those of you who liked Tuesdays with Morrie)

No matter. On the show, my friend’s differing opinion of the premise of the book added a lot to the discussion—even though, if I remember correctly, she did refer to me as crazy at least once—a description that I happily embraced, and might have even suggested.

Also on the show—Cynthia Brian, the ball of energy and inspiration who is the author of Be the Star You Are! For Teens. More later…

And, just in time for Spooky October, Irma Slage, author of Phases of Life After Death. She really does See Dead People!