When Mom Was My Age (#8)

“When Mom Was My Age” is an interview series between daughters and mothers. New interviews appear every Monday. If you would like to participate, contact Jane. The following interview is with Sharon, interviewed by her daughter Rebecca Huehls (age 33). Where did you live? I turned 33 in November 1979, and we moved into the house […]

I Heart Social Media

The Pure Heart and Pure Superficiality of Social Media

One of the classes I’m teaching at CCM requires me to study up on the history and practice of public relations. I’m not exactly a stranger to the profession. I worked for a major media company that has always employed publicists. I’ve written press releases. I count publicists and PR folks among my friends, right? […]

Janet Koops (age 40) | Janet Koops (2010)

When Mom Was My Age (#7)

“When Mom Was My Age” is an interview series between daughters and mothers. New interviews appear every Monday. If you would like to participate, contact Jane. The following interview is with Irene Sears, interviewed by her daughter Janet Koops (age 40). Tell me about where we lived. We lived in a bungalow in Scarborough (a suburb […]

Bobbi Cohen (age 40) | Bobbi Cohen (2010)

When Mom Was My Age (#6)

“When Mom Was My Age” is an interview series between daughters and mothers. New interviews appear every Monday. If you would like to participate, contact Jane. The following interview is Bobbi Cohen, interviewed by daughter Sage Cohen (age 40). Introduction by daughter Sage Cohen (age 40) In the conversation with my mother Barbara (Bobbi) Cohen below, […]

Martha Hill and Melissa Wuske

When Mom Was My Age (#5)

“When Mom Was My Age” is an interview series between daughters and mothers. New interviews appear every Monday. If you would like to participate, contact Jane. The following interview is with Martha Hill, interviewed by daughter Melissa Wuske (age 26). Where did you live? I lived where I live now, in Loveland, Ohio, in a brick […]

Elizabeth Klungle

When Mom Was My Age (#4)

“When Mom Was My Age” is an interview series between daughters and mothers. New interviews appear every Monday. If you would like to participate, contact Jane. The following interview is with Elizabeth Klungle, interviewed by daughter Nicole Klungle (age 40). Where did you live (in 1984)? I lived then where I live now—in a ranch […]

Sandi Ranchoff

When Mom Was My Age (#3)

“When Mom Was My Age” is an interview series between daughters and mothers. New interviews appear every Monday. If you would like to participate, contact Jane. The following interview is with Sandi Ranchoff, interviewed by daughter Christine Polomsky (age 40). Where did you live? I lived in Rocky River, Ohio, which was the area of […]

Kathleen Wieland

When Mom Was My Age (#2)

“When Mom Was My Age” is an interview series between daughters and mothers. New interviews appear every Monday. If you would like to participate, contact Jane. The following interview is with Kathleen Wieland, interviewed by daughter Vanessa Wieland (age 35). – Where did you live? I lived up on Grandview [Newport, KY], “the house up […]

Reading Notebook #22: Love, Grief, & Letting Go

From “A Cruel Country” [excerpts from Roland Barthes’ journals after his mother’s death] in The New Yorker (September 13, 2010): [Intro] Those who love Barthes are reminded, by his writing, of what true intimacy entails: supreme attunement alternating with bewildered estrangement. Instability—the instability of meaning, in particular—is his constant theme.  … In these excerpts, grief […]

Laura Friedman (1968, 2010)

When Mom Was My Age (#1)

The following post kicks off an interview series in which women interview their mothers, and ask what life was like when they were their age. Full credit for this idea goes to Bud Caddell. The very first post? An interview with my mother, who talks about her life at the age of 33. Where did […]

The Way of Zen

Reading Notebook #21: I Am Fleeting and Intangible

From The Way of Zen by Alan Watts (which I find myself re-reading and re-reading for fuller comprehension): We learn, very thoroughly though far less explicitly, to identify ourselves with an equally conventional view of “myself.” For the conventional “self” or “person” is composed mainly of a history consisting of selected memories, and beginning from the […]

My Most Valuable & Destructive Physical Possession

I’ve been keeping a journal off and on ever since I was about 12 years old. The earliest journals, written in hand, survive. During high school, for a brief period, I switched to disk, and promptly lost every disk by the time I graduated. So I got smarter, and started a habit of only journaling […]

The Way of Zen

Reading Notebook #20: Humanness Is Superior to Righteousness

From The Way of Zen by Alan Watts: It was a basic Confucian principle that “it is man who makes truth great, not truth which makes man great.” For this reason, “humanness” or “human-heartedness” was always felt to be superior to “righteousness,” since man himself is greater than any idea which he may invent. There are […]

Reading Notebook #19: Death As Liberation

From “Letting Go” by Atul Gawande in The New Yorker (August 2, 2010): Almost all these patients had known, for some time, that they had a terminal condition. Yet they—along with their doctors—were unprepared for the final stage. … Surveys of patients with terminal illness find that their top priorities include, in addition to avoiding […]

Svejk at 515 N Madison

I Distrust Too-Happy People

I may get myself into trouble with this one. But I’ve always been suspicious of happy people. I do NOT mean these people: People who are generally cheerful and fun to be around People who look for the opportunity or advantage in situations that don’t go their way People who love and accept who they […]

Cocktail Recipe: The Maestro Bellini

1 oz vodka 1 oz Cointreau 2 oz peach puree 6 oz Champagne 1 cherry Shake together first three ingredients and strain into a long, tall glass (with a cherry in the bottom). Add Champagne. Enjoy immensely. Recipe courtesy of  The Conductor

Reading Notebook #18: There’s More Bad Writing Than Ever

From an interview with Clay Shirky over at the Barnes and Noble Review: I’ve always adopted the Bill Burroughs mantra, which is, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” Which is to say that if there is any intrinsic value in writing or expressing yourself or taking a photo, it’s worth doing […]

Reading Notebook #16: Life Interferes With Work & Vice Versa

From Bill Murray interview in Entertainment Weekly (via “I just really want to work when I want to work. Life interferes, you know. When you’re young and all you have is your career, some of your life can be in second place. And then you want your life to take first place, and other […]

Do Pain and Struggle Constitute a Fundamental Part of Love?

Artwork by Tonia Davenport—from her wonderful series “B&W and Red All Over” A while back, I read this relationship break-up anecdote at Galleycat, from a poetry-devoted reader: The book was a collection of love poems by William Carlos Williams. The poem was “Asphodel, that Greeny Flower.” And the specific line of the poem over which we […]

Reading Notebook #15: Americans Don’t Like to Listen

From a phenomenal personal essay: “Go West” by Peter Hessler in The New Yorker (April 19, 2010). Note: All of Hessler’s pieces for The New Yorker are incredible. The American appetite for loneliness impressed me, and there was something about this solitude that freed conversation. One night at a bar, I met a man, and […]

Kindle vs iPad

Reading Notebook #14: Best Coverage of Publishing’s Current Dilemma

Snippets from “Publish or Perish” by Ken Auletta (New Yorker, April 26, 2010). You MUST go read the full article. Excellent stats from article Independent booksellers have declined from 3,250 to 1,400 since 1999 Big Six publishers account for 60% of all books sold in the U.S. Breakdown of book sales in U.S. 30% – […]

Have the Courage to Follow Your Heart & Intuition

A wonderful commencement address from Steve Jobs. I love that he mentions life can only be lived forward, and understood backward (yeah! see my bio), and that, ultimately, we have nothing to lose. It sounds deceptively simple; most people don’t live by the advice he’s giving here.

Six Feet Under

Reading Notebook #13: What Makes You Happy Comes From the Inside

This is taken from a Salon interview with Alan Ball, creator of Six Feet Under—my most favorite TV series, with the most hard-hitting ending of all time. [Nate] just has the wrong idea of what’s going to make him happy. He feels that happiness comes from someone or something outside of himself. So he changes […]

Wonder Woman at Work

Can Excellent Advice Make You Unhappy?

There are a few people I read religiously for insight and perspective on work/business life. Probably on the top of the list: Seth Godin Mark Hurst (Good Experience) Jason Fried (37 Signals), read this Inc. article I’ve just had a sudden epiphany about this reading I do. Maybe you can tell me if it’s really […]

Brussels Sprouts

How to Fall in Love With Brussels Sprouts (Prepare Them Correctly!)

Over Easter, The Conductor and I visited a high-end restaurant to treat ourselves to an extravagant Easter brunch buffet. Now, you might say our first mistake was going to a buffet. And that our second mistake was going to an Easter buffet. But it was a high-end restaurant—and a newly opened one at that. Wouldn’t […]

Reading Notebook #12: Existential Angst at Work

From Kenny Moore’s blog post, “Losing Your Job? Psychological, Spiritual & Practical Advice.” This is the most meaningful discussion I have ever read about what causes angst/anxiety at work. Must-read. (All of Kenny Moore’s posts are valuable and thought-provoking; he’s a former monk who now counsels corporates.) In corporate life, if you’re good at solving […]

Reading Notebook #11: The Source of (My) Anxiety

Transcribed from Examined Life (Zeitgeist Films), the words of Avital Ronnell. If we’re not anxious, if we’re okay with things, we’re not trying to explore or figure anything out. So anxiety is the mood of ethicity. Now I’m not proscribing anxiety disorder for anyone. … This is something Derrida has taught. If you feel that […]


Reading Notebook #10: How to Destroy a Relationship

From the marvelous Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Committed: There is nothing wrong with a married person launching a friendship outside of matrimony—so long as the “walls and windows” of the relationship remain in the correct places. It was Glass’s theory that every healthy marriage is composed of walls and windows. The windows are the […]

The Story of Your Life IS Your Life

On my Facebook profile, I state my religious beliefs as “The story of your life becomes your life.” After my happiness post, I realized I didn’t comment on one of the key linchpins in happiness: storytelling. Daniel Kahneman, in his excellent TED talk above, speaks to two different kinds of selves: The experiencing self, or […]

Jane - 1997 in Cambridge - maudlin and idealistic youth

You Are Bad at Making Yourself Happy

My job as Writer’s Digest publisher often leads people to remark what a great life I have. So young, so accomplished, so happy! Well, you know the old cliche about people who appear to be living the perfect, enviable life? Right—well, I am thankful and lucky for what I have. I won’t go into the […]

Reading Notebook #9: The Loss of Dreams

From “Slow Fade” by Arthur Krystal, about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood (The New Yorker, November 26, 2009) Fitzgerald’s scripts were hobbled by the same quality that lifted his fiction above the superficial: the complicated nature of his mind. Although he came to believe that “life is essentially a cheat … and that redeeming things […]

Life Is a Lot of Little Lonely Drives

The curse of overactive minds I know—and so (or yet) I’m a devotee of sleep. It’s the only way to escape and regenerate. So on weekends when I’m home, I amble into Coffee Emporium well into the afternoon. During a recent visit, a musician began setting up his equipment not long after I arrived. I […]

Mourning Doves

The Comfort of Mourning Doves

Since returning from San Francisco last week, I’ve been enjoying the presence of two mourning doves outside my apartment. There are few trees where I live in Over the Rhine (downtown Cincinnati), so I’m surprised that any birds are nesting nearby. But this cute monogamous pair seems like they’ve settled in for the season since […]

Cathaoir Synge

The Dirty Secret Behind Writing Advice

I’ll start by saying that I have always advised writers in good faith. I would never suggest a writer undertake something harmful, obstructive, or a waste of time. But lately I’ve started idly imagining how my favorite author, Alain de Botton, would react if he read advice on my professional blog. (Go follow Alain de […]

Reading Notebook #8: Another Secret to Success Is Confidence

From “Beyond the Elevator Speech” by Michael Carroll, Shambhala Sun (March 2010) My survey indicates that most of us think we want to be happy, successful, and stress-free at work, but we also know that such aspirations are wishful thinking. We all know that work offers both success and failure; happiness and angst. We know that work, […]

Reading Notebook #7: The Secret of Successful People (at Work)

From “We Can Measure the Power of Charisma”, Q&A with Alex Pentland, Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb 2010); read full article at HBR site. The more successful people are more energetic. They talk more, but they also listen more. They spend more face-to-face time with others. They pick up cues from others, draw people out, and get […]

Reading Notebook #6: Why the World Needs More Women Directors (Like Ephron & Taymor)

From “Man of Extremes”, a profile of James Cameron by Dana Goodyear, in The New Yorker (October 26, 2009) Cameron behaves as if he were the embattled protagonist of one of his own films—an ordinary Joe beaten on the anvil of extraordinary trials. “The words ‘No’ and ‘That’s impossible’ and phrases like ‘That can’t be […]

Jane Friedman (1994)

The Art of Losing Things Isn’t Hard to Master

I am very careless with my belongings. This past week, when I flew to NYC for Digital Book World, I left my purse and coat in the plane overhead bin. I walked right out of JFK after claiming my bags, climbed in a cab with a colleague, and it never occurred to me I didn’t […]

Downtown Cincinnati Demolition

Why People Stay at (or Leave) Their Jobs

No talented person stays at a company for a paycheck or a sense of security. Talented people stay because they feel happy, challenged, and—most importantly—valued by their superiors. The #1 important factor for any employee is a belief that senior management is interested in his/her well-being. The basic human need to feel part of something […]

Reading Notebook #5: Life Patterns & Something Out There

From “The Secret Cycle” by Nick Paumgarten, in The New Yorker (October 12, 2009) And yet patterns exist, and we slowly discover them. Seasons, migrations, moons: the template is there. Consciously or unconsciously, most people accept certain components of cycle theory. We seek and see patterns in things. It is the way our minds work, […]

Jane at AWP 2009

What Does a Brand Manager (or Community Leader) Do?

I’m often asked what my job at Writer’s Digest encompasses, or what my typical day is like. My official title is Publisher & Editorial Director of the Writing Community. Internally, I’m referred to as a Community Leader, or CL for short. Sometimes I call myself a brand manager, like on LinkedIn. But none of these […]

Bog Myrtle Beer & Irish Coffee Recipes

Upon arrival at the Irish farm in Kilgarvan, a bottle of homemade bog myrtle beer was waiting in the kitchen, as a welcoming gift. Apparently, bog myrtle leaves were used to flavor beer before hops became popular in Britain, and they are still used as a flavoring agent in Swedish spirits. (Bog myrtle leaves pictured […]

12 Actions and 12 Diversions

12 Self-Creating Actions and 12 Preoccupational Diversions

[Click here for full-size image.] On the last page of my 2009 Museum of Lost Wonder calendar, I found the following. Find out more about Museum of Lost Wonder by Jeff Hoke. 12 Self-Creating Actions Not seeing: or not-knowing, leads to Wonder and curiosity. This starts the whole big wheel rolling. The lost blind man is […]

Amelia Earhart

Reading Notebook #4: Not to Endure Even an Attractive Cage

From the New Yorker article on Amelia Earhart by Judith Thurman (September 14, 2009) [From Earhart’s letter to her husband on her wedding day] You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which mean so much to me. … In our life together I shall not […]

Inis Meain

Ireland 2009: All Experience Is an Arch

I returned home Monday night from a 3-week holiday in Ireland. (Read previous entries on this trip here and here.) A quick index of the trip: Canceled flights: 2 Delayed flights: 3 Re-routed itineraries: 1 Airport shutdowns: 1 Hotel shutdowns: 1 Road shutdowns: 1 Occurrences of lost luggage: 4 Unexpected nights spent in Dublin: 4 […]

Michel de Montaigne

Reading Notebook #3: I Distrust My Thoughts

Snippets from “The Life and Essays of Michel de Montaigne” by Jane Kramer, in the September 7, 2009, issue of The New Yorker. Montaigne … often warned his readers that nothing he wrote about himself was likely to apply for much longer than it took the ink he used, writing it, to dry. … “Yes. […]

Art of Possibility

Reading Notebook #2: Invent a Story That Enhances Your Life

Snippets from The Art of Possibility by Benjamin & Rosamund Zander.(See a really cool TED talk by Benjamin Zander.) It’s all invented anyway, so we might as well invent a story or a framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us. … Virtually everybody wakes up in […]

Top 10 Moments on Inis Meain

1. Arrive at cottage late at night. The only heat source is the small stove in the living room. Unable to light a fire (run out of matches), so bundle up in coat, scarf, hat, and climb in bed under 3 layers of blankets. 2. Awake to pleasantly warm cottage (after taking off layers while […]

Reading Notebook #1: You Can Write Well & Behave Badly

From “Slang-Whanger” by Arthur Krystal in New Yorker (May 18, 2009) We don’t for a moment believe that Hazlitt is inept, or unattractive, or capable of behaving like a lunatic. You can’t write well and behave badly. But, of course, you can, and Hazlitt did. He cheated on his wife, alienated friends, and when Napoleon […]