Lit IT Girl: Debut Author Gretchen Berg

Our guest today: Gretchen Berg Why we love her: We fell in love from the first word of the first chapter of her debut memoir.  Seriously.  This is the kind of girl that we'd love to do happy hour with!

Her debut: I Have Iraq In My Shoe

The scoop on it: It's the timeless, classic tale: girl-meets-recession, recession-forces-girl-to-go-to-Iraq. I Have Iraq in My Shoe follows the author out of her comfort zone and into the Middle East. Taking the wit of Jen Lancaster and the fun of Sophie Kinsella and moving it to the desert, this is the story of a single, fashion-obsessed American female who finds herself metaphorically strapping on a Kevlar caftan to work in Iraq for a year. Irreverent and hilarious, saucy and smart, it's a tale of lessons both taught and learned, and all in the midst of a war zone: from teaching Iraqi women in headscarves while wearing designer pumps to enduring the shame and frustration of astronomical luggage fees.

Our thoughts: Liz's favorite book of the year so far.  It's like Sex and the City 2, but awesome and hilarious instead of boring and predictable. Gretchen's narrative is addicting.  LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it!

Giveaway: FIVE copies!  Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win!  We'll choose the winners on Monday, July 23rd after 6pm PST.

Fun fact: If you love her book, check out her blog!  It's super fun too!

Where to read more about Gretchen: her website or Twitter.


1. How many agents did you query before you found "the one"? Nine (which, incidentally, is my lucky number)

2. What's a line from your "favorite" rejection letter? Each rejection was surprisingly kind and helpful. One really great agent had emailed me and said while there were things she loved about my writing, and things she loved about the story, she was really hoping it would be more like “Eat, Pray, Love”. I huffed to myself, “Yes, wouldn’t it be great if we could ALL have lives like ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. I mean, who wouldn’t want to flit off to Italy and spend all that time eating delicious pasta and gelato, and then end up in Bali meeting her soulmate? Who?!” So. Very. Bitter.

And then I went home for summer break, and the movie had just come out. It was everywhere. “EAT, PRAY, LOVE!” JULIA ROBERTS! Everyone was reading it, everyone was going to see the movie, everyone was talking about it. I could not get away from it. It mocked me from television interviews and book covers and movie posters and silently taunted “Your story isn’t like thiiiiiiiiis one!”

After summer break I went back to the ms and resumed my search for an agent. I revisited the few rejections I had received to really absorb their comments and see how I could use that information to make the ms better. I re-read that one agent’s email again, which upon closer inspection actually said:

“…There is so much I like about your voice and your energy, but ultimately I wanted more of an organizing principle (like EAT, PRAY, LOVE)…”

Oh. That is different from what I had thought it said. Hunh. She’s right about that organizing principle thing. She hadn’t wanted the book to be like “Eat, Pray, Love”, she just wanted the mess of my manuscript to have more of a shape to it (at the time it was very blobbish.) So, now I read my emails a little more carefully and a little more slowly, but still laugh whenever I see “Eat, Pray, Love”.

3. What was the hardest part about writing your debut novel? Writing without knowing whether or not it would be published. “All this work when I could be creating outfits on Polyvore!” I can do blog post after blog post (after blog post), but writing an entire book takes serious discipline, and I’m not so much about the discipline.

4. What is the best/worst advice you received while you were trying to break into the book biz? I faithfully read Nathan Bransford and Chuck Sambuchino’s blogs for any/all information about getting published, and all their advice is “best”.

Worst advice would be from my dad, when I was talking about querying agents he rolled his eyes and made disparaging remarks, doubting the integrity of literary agents everywhere.

5. How did you celebrate your book deal? I know I should be whipped soundly for admitting this but I really haven’t properly celebrated it yet. I think I’ve been baby-stepping through the entire process, afraid to get too excited about any one part of it, because after that there’s still more. I’ll celebrate properly when I get my first royalty check, and the celebration will totally depend on the size of the check (crosses fingers for beach house).

6. Who is your writer crush? Tina Fey. And since crushes do not have to be monogamous, also Helen Fielding.

7. If you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book, what would it be? “Bridget Jones’s Diary”. Being in Iraq was kind of like being on a desert island, and that was the one book I brought with me.

8. What's on your iPod right now? Miranda Lambert’s “Baggage Claim”, Sia’s “Clap Your Hands”, and I’m almost sick of “Call Me Maybe”. Almost. My obsession can be entirely attributed to the Harvard Baseball Team’s YouTube video. I’m not proud.

9. What's your #1 stress reliever? Exercise. Or wine. Sometimes I’ll have a few glasses of wine and then think “I should totally get on the treadmill. I’m so motivated right now!”

Not advised, no matter how confident you are the railings will assist your balance.

10. Who/what would you place in the center of the Entertainment Weekly bullseye? Anderson Cooper and Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes. For totally unrelated reasons, of course.

Thanks Gretchen!  xoxo, L&L


Stacy Morrison's 5 Do's and a Do-over

One of our favorite books that we read devoured last year is now out in paperback! Falling Apart In One Piece: One Optimist's Journey Through the Hell of Divorce by Stacy Morrison is an honest and emotionally charged memoir that will make you think twice before you complain about your own life. It's an amazing story of learning how to let go of what you thought your life was going to be when it takes an unexpected turn that threatens to throw you into a permanent fetal position.
Here's a synopsis: Just when Stacy Morrison thought everything in her life had come together, her husband of ten years announced that he wanted a divorce. She was left alone with a new house that needed a lot of work, a new baby who needed a lot of attention, and a new job in the high-pressure world of New York magazine publishing.


Morrison had never been one to believe in fairy tales. As far as she was concerned, happy endings were the product of the kind of ambition and hard work that had propelled her to the top of her profession. But she had always considered her relationship with her husband a safe place in her often stressful life. All of her assumptions about how life works crumbled, though, when she discovered that no amount of will and determination was going to save her marriage. For Stacy, the only solution was to keep on living, and to listen -- as deeply and openly as possible -- to what this experience was teaching her. Told with humor and heart, her honest and intimate account of the stress of being a working mother while trying to make sense of her unraveling marriage offers unexpected lessons of love, forgiveness, and dignity that will resonate with women everywhere.

And if you leave a comment here, you'll be entered to win one of five copies of Falling Apart in One Piece- out in paperback March 15th! We'll randomly select the winners after 6pm PST on Thursday, March 10th. 


Just like her memoir, Stacy Morrison's answers to the 5 Do's and a Do-over are honest, humorous and include life lessons that we'll definitely take to heart. (And Lisa couldn't agree more with #4 on Stacy's list. Remember when she drove cross country for love?)


DO 1) Move to a new city at least once, preferably on a whim I've been in New York City for -- egad! -- twenty-one years now. Since I had wanted to be a magazine editor since I was very young, I always knew this is the city where I would end up. But I had a moment in the last dot com era (circa 2000) where a fantastic dream job opened up in San Francisco. Two weeks after my first conversation with the company, I accepted the position and then moved to San Francisco by myself two weeks later (my then-husband followed a few months after that). I was a bit terrified and had absolutely no idea what I was doing -- no place to live, had to buy a car, didn't know the neighborhoods -- but I was completely energized, awake and alive in my life in a startling and wonderful new way. I still remember driving my rental car around the city, sun sparkling down on the hood, singing at the top of my lungs because I was so excited to be discovering a whole new world, a whole new me. Absolutely everything was new, except my clothes (though I did have to buy some sensible shoes for walking around all those hills), and every day was packed with discovery and excitement. In the end, the job and the city didn't take (thank you, stock market!), but the experience of having pulled up my roots and boogied out of town showed me that whatever new idea I dream up for my life, I can do it.

2) Embrace heartbreak One of my greatest pieces of luck is that I'm wired to run toward life experiences that scare me. And I don't mean hang-gliding -- though I did do that once in Brazil, strapped to a man who didn't even speak English, and wow! It was amazing! But I found that in my 20 years as a magazine editor, I learned more from failure than from success. (Half of the magazines I helped launch aren't being published anymore.) Same is true for me for matters of the heart. When my husband of ten years ended our marriage -- when our son was 10 months old, and right as I was taking over Redbook magazine -- I went into a total tailspin. Until I remembered to pay attention to what I was learning, the same way I always had in all the terrifying work situations that come up when you're launching a magazine. What I experienced in my divorce changed me so deeply, in a good way, that I now say my divorce is the best thing that ever happened to me: At last I know that what comes my way in life is no statement about who I am or what I deserve; it's just what came next.

3) Go ahead and spend money on your hair I am vain about my hair. I did the math once on how much I was spending on my hair a year -- what with highlights to keep the blonde going and regular trims -- and I almost had a heart attack. Modesty (or is it shame?) prevents me from telling you the amount, but let's just say it was about a Starbucks a day. But then I thought about the jolt of a cup of caffeine compared to the simply fantastic sensation of feeling even mildly attractive on my worst day because my hair looks good: Well, let me tell you, I started brewing at home and never looked back. Some people spend money on a fancy handbag to get the same confidence boost, but I say if you can't hold your investment up against your face and have it make you look better in a photo for time immemorial -- forever! --  then you're not getting your money's worth.

4) Drive across America I've driven cross-country three different times -- once in seven weeks, another time in three days -- but each experience just blew me away: Dusty roadside diners, amazing natural monuments, an improbable variety of vegetation and climate, local sodas and sandwiches, cities sparkling in the distance in the night, and miles and miles and miles of vast emptiness dotted with worn-for-the-wear towns filled with friendly people. And everywhere you go, there's the company of tractor-trailers and gas-station dogs sleeping in the sun. Each drive was its own anthem and made me love this country in a much more intimate way.

5) Swim naked All we women trundle around in our lives with a never-ending lists of to-dos and shoulds and "I gottas." We may try yoga, wine or Twitter to help us shake the constant pressure of this inner conversation, but back it comes -- usually waking us up from a perfectly good sleep in the middle of the night. I can't say I have a cure for this, but I do know this: When I am deep in the embrace of nature, I hear nothing but the wind in the trees and my heart beating in my chest, and all I feel is that everything in life is just as it should be. Where does the swimming naked come in? Like this: Drive to the mountains, rent a canoe, paddle four or five lakes away from the outfitter's cabin where you rented the canoe, find a small island campground in the middle of a shimmering body of water surrounded by tall trees and strip down to nothing and dive in. Swim out toward the middle of the lake. Tread water, kicking and turning slowly around and around and around, trying to take in all the ageless glory and grandeur. There's something about the being naked -- with nothing to separate me from everything else -- that makes me feel like I really belong here, whether my to-dos are to-done or not. Humble majesty.

Do-Over: As a general rule, I regret nothing (see #2 above). I mean, yes, I've embarrassed myself in front of the President of the United States (George W; it's in the book), got busted for stealing M&Ms off a birthday cake in first grade (and was thus stripped of my Class President title), missed my ballet recital when I was 8 (that still hurts), cried like a baby in front of my two-year-old son when my marriage was ending, wasted a lot of money in my failed move to San Francisco (see #1 above), bombed at a celebrity interview (can't tell you who; she'll hunt me down) and desperately wished I could help my parents die easier deaths in the last year. But I truly believe there's no point in a do-over; we have to take the bad with the good -- and we should want to. As my favorite poet Rainer Marie Rilke says, "The point is to live everything." Live it all and take it in, and realize that the wincing moments and "mistakes" and the tragedies of our lives are like rogue waves: they overwhelm us for a moment or longer, and turn us upside-down, but when they retreat they leave the sparkling gifts of compassion and wisdom and grace on the beach for us to discover, life's little treasures. (Plus, you always need a good "Can you believe I did this?" story at a cocktail party, you know? Helps break the ice.)

To find out more about the lovely and incredibly talented Stacy Morrison, visit her website and follow her on Facebook.

Thanks, Stacy!


Liz & Lisa

What's on Julie Klam's Bucket List?

If the cover alone isn't enough to make you want to read this book, let us tell you more. You Had Me At Woof by Julie Klam is touching, funny, emotional (Lisa might have shed more than a few tears) and downright charming. And beware, this memoir is so engaging that by the end, you're going to want a Boston terrier all your own (even though Lisa's almost eight months prego, she is seriously considering rescuing one!). AND, they just announced that You Had Me at Woof made the NYT bestseller list! Woo hoo! Julie was thirty, single and wondering if she'd ever meet the man she could spend the rest of her life with. And then she met him...although he didn't look at all like what she'd expected. For starters, he had four legs... His name was Otto and he turned out to be one dog in a line of many that taught Julie the secrets of love, health and happiness. (Oh and in case you were wondering, Julie end up finding that husband too!)

And five of you will win a copy of You Had Me At Woof! Just leave a comment and we'll randomly select a winner Friday night!

Now we'll let you read Julie's bucket list. (We love it- especially the Jennifer Aniston part!)


1. Meet Jennifer Aniston-not in a stalky creepy way, more like a she wants to be my friend way and so we go have lunch and walk around Barney’s and everyone says, “Oh wow, is that Jennifer Aniston and her personal manicurist?”

2. Get an iPhone- I know it’s not such a big stretch but I feel like I’ve been waiting a long time for Verizon to get the iPhone. Should I say get an iPhone in Egypt? Is that better?

3. Go to Tahiti- I think the plane trip is really long but I would love to be in Tahiti and drink something out of a coconut. I don’t want a long flight though so it would have to be after the Star Trek transporters are put into use.

4. Get hair extensions – my hair is long but not LOOONG and I would like it to be LOOONG. I’ve had it pretty long but it was really scraggly so I think extensions would be neater. Also in  the hair category one of those Brazilian hair things that makes your hair not be frizzy (though I don’t want the one the New York Times says has poison in it, I don’t want to die for unfrizzy hair)

5. Live in an apartment with an outdoor space – I wish I had a way to let my dogs out without walking them down to the street. I don’t quite know how this would work – a terrace with Astroturf? Hmm, yes.  And maybe a little putting green.

To find out more about the incredibly talented Julie Klam and her memoir, check out her website, follow her on Twitter and Facebook and definitely watch the book trailer!


Liz & Lisa

8 Things Liz & Lisa didn't know about...Julie Metz

We love memoirs over here at Chick Lit is not Dead,  especially the ones that read like good fiction.  You know, when you have to keep stopping and reminding yourself that these things ACTUALLY HAPPENED to the author! When Liz picked up Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz in Target a few weeks ago, she was immediately drawn to Julie's amazing story. Because let's face it ladies-there's a part of us that loves to read about other people's dirty laundry!

Julie's life changed forever when her husband collapsed in her kitchen and died in her arms, leaving her a single mother in a small town.  But that was only the beginning-she soon began to find out that he had hidden another life from her.  Her narrative is honest and insightful, her storytelling pitch perfect.  And as we did many times, you'll wonder what the hell you'd do if it had happened to you. You'll cheer for Julie as she begins to pick up the pieces of her broken life and rebuild.

But don't just take out word for it-Perfection quickly became a NYT bestseller upon it's release. AND Oprah thought Julie's story was so compelling that she invited her to be a guest!  In fact, Julie's episode is re-airing this Friday, July 30th.  Make sure to set your Tivo! Or you can find it here.

And we're so lucky that she's sharing not five, but EIGHT things we didn't know about her.  And we were excited to discover that, like us, she has more books than she knows what to do with.  And wait until you find out at what age she got her drivers license!

We also have three SIGNED copies to give away to our fabulouso readers. You know what to do-just leave a comment and we'll select the winners randomly this Friday evening.


1. I move houses more than I'd like...and every time I now...I wish I didn't own quite so many books. But once they are unpacked it's like seeing old friends again.

2. I never really had a granny, but my old kitty Sweetie Pie kind of takes her place. She's a bit dottery but absolutely lovable, and still likes to show up for meals, ours most of all and always has something to say.

3. A lot of readers ask me when someone will make Perfection into a movie...the answer is, soon. I just sold the film option, so stay tuned!

4. I like telling my daughter a story about college, how we stole tea trays from the dorm kitchen one winter evening, and went sledding. Some apricot brandy was involved.

5. As a young woman I loved traveling alone and was surprisingly fearless. I still remember so many of the people I met on European trains and the chocolate covered cookies we shared—cheap and filling.

6. I finally quit smoking at took at least ten tries.

7. I learned to drive late, at 27. I have been to a hypnotist on two occasions hoping to overcome my fear of city driving.

8. I have a bit of a green thumb that always surprises me. I think it's because I talk to the plants. My mom always said it worked, so I have continued the tradition.

Thanks Julie! xoxo, Liz & Lisa

To read more about Julie, head on over to her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

Five Things Liz & Lisa didn't know about...Jen Lancaster

So let's be honest.  No one comes up with better titles than NYT bestselling author Jen Lancaster. When we first came across Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-centered Smart-Ass, Or why you should never carry your Prada bag to the unemployment office a few years ago, the title stopped us in our tracks. Any book with that funny of a title just HAD to be good.  And it didn't disappoint!

Now on her fifth memoir, Lancaster just keeps getting better and better!  In her latest, My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict's Attempt to Discover if not Being a Dumb Ass is the New Black, or a Culture-Up Manifesto, Jen attempts to achieve cultural enlightenment and gives us a front row seat to the hilarious missteps and genuine moments of inspiration she encounters along the way.

And we're as giddy as schoolgirls that she reached deep down for five things we didn't know about her.  Liz is a huge fan, even going so far as to stand in line for over an hour at a Pretty in Plaid book signing and then shamelessly forced her to take the copy of I'll Have Who She's Having that she had brought for her. (Sorry about that Jen!) But it was worth it to meet her-she was just as fabulous in person as she is in her books.

We just gave away a copy of the fabulous My Fair Lazy last week as part of our Flip for Liz & Lisa giveaway. And guess what?  We have two more copies for some lucky readers!  Just leave a comment to be entered!

5 Things Liz & Lisa didn't know about...Jen Lancaster!

You guys want five things no one knows about me?  Considering I make my living by writing about myself in books, on my website, though my syndicated column, and via Twitter, that’s a little harder than it sounds, but I’ll do my best.

Okay, first… I am Always Prepared. I’m prepared to the point of needing to capitalize the first letters of the words Always Prepared for I’m that prepared.  I perpetually hurt my back and strain my shoulder because of the amount of preparations I’m always carting around in my handbag.  Of course, I have the requisite chick-stuff in my bag… lipstick, compact, wallet, keys, sunglasses, pens, notepaper, business cards, dental floss, sunglasses, mints, gum, Kleenex, Kindle, iPhone, iTouch, hand sanitizer, dog treats, combination lock, four kinds of tampons, earplugs, a spare string of pearls in case I forget to wear them, and three different tubes of mascara depending on if I’m going for fullness, length, or curl.  Yet it’s those extra items that make all the difference in terms of preparedness.  For example, right now I’m not only carting around a gossamer-thin-matches-everything cashmere Burberry wrap but also a folding Benchmade combat knife.  I mean, how many times have you found yourself chilly or in need of a sharp knife for stabbing?  Well, not me, for I am Always Prepared.

Second, apparently my friends find my preparedness an endless source of amusement. I’m often tasked with emptying the contents of my purse at parties.  And yet I’m the only one of them who can pack for seven days on the road with a single carry-on bag.  I’m pretty sure that means I win.

Third, I missed the entire summer after my sophomore year of high school due to a particularly virulent case of mono. For two months, I did nothing but watch James Bond movies and read Danielle Steel books, thus beginning a lifelong love affair with smart-mouthed British dudes, well-timed explosions, and epic, cheesy romances.  Should Hugh Grant ever make a movie where something blew up, I’m pretty sure my heart would fly out of my chest.

Fourth, despite having my last three books debut on the New York Times best seller list, I can’t quite shake the feeling that the success is fleeting. Ergo, I still have every outfit I used to wear while working as a temp.  Should I suddenly need to take a letter, make a copy, or fetch some coffee, I’m all over it.

Last, I recently pre-ordered the entire set of Mad Men Barbies. (Seriously, how does any fan of the show not want these?  I mean Don and Betty Draper AND Joan Holloway?  Come on!)  However, in order to be allowed to purchase the Roger Sterling doll – and everyone wants a lecherous old white-haired Barbie, yes? - I had to join the Barbie Fan Club.  My official collector packet came via UPS.  I had to sign for the big pink envelope and I’m fairly sure my UPS guy is still laughing at me.  Mattel even sent me an official fan club membership card.  I carry it in my purse for I am Always Prepared.

You can read more about the lovely Jen Lancaster at her website or follow her on Twitter so you don't miss her sassy tweets!

xoxo, Liz & Lisa