- Supportive friends, family & blog readers (and their strawberry treats): I got this tin of choc-covered strawberries (some of which were decked out as little brides and little grooms – how cute!) on the weekend, after someone read about my horrendous week. From cool new gift giving website NakedBerry, they were the most welcome surprise I’d had in a while. Accompanying them was a little card that read: Here’s a box of treats to remind you that life is still sweet when wedding plans turn sour. The sentiment of the card was enough to send a wave of happiness over me, but the treats themselves were amazing. Thank you to the lovely person who went to the trouble of getting these for me, you know who you are xx
- My Mad-Hatters Kitchen Tea: This past weekend I celebrated my kitchen tea, Mad-Hatter style, with all my family & friends. Dressed in a baby blue lace dress from Alannah Hill, white stockings and black mary-jane wedges, and with a tea cup & saucer hat to match, I was Alice to my bridesmaids deck of cards. My backyard was decked out as wonderland, complete with card motifs, mad-hats and tea pots, and pink flamingo cut-outs in the garden, and many of my guests came in their own mad-hats to fare me well as a new bride/housewife. My highlight of the day was my amazing cake (see below), pictures of the event to follow in a post of their own.
- More wedding stuff: Next up, I celebrate my Hen’s Night, starting with a visit to one of my favourite beauty spots: The Benefit Boutique in Paddington and moving on to Ruby Rabbit De Nom for some champers and burlesque. Can’t wait to party with my girlfriends, get prettied up by the benebabes, and wear my lovely 20′s-inspired frock from Review.
- Neenish Tarts: These babies need no introduction. Pastry, Jam, Cream, Icing. BEST!!
- Christmas Gift Guides in my fave mags: So I can shop for everyone in my life. Including myself. And my new apartment, which I move into in about 6 weeks. Last year’s Marie-Claire Christmas gift guide was unparalleled. Let’s see how 2010 fares post GFC.
- Glee: I have only recently discovered this show and I am addicted to its high school dramas, it’s Rachel Berry & Finn Hudson dynamic and of course, it musical melodies. Although I must say, I am not entirely happy with their overt mocking of Christianity in some of the episodes. When did we become so blase about mocking people’s belief systems? Then again, this is hollywood, and life, nowadays.
- Christmas Gift Packs from my favourite brands: Don’t you just love it when gift-time rolls around? You get all these bonus products, and gift bags, and miniatures when buying the stuff you actually need, and it comes packaged in these cute little ways to make taking it home even sweeter. On my hit list right now? The ‘Her name was Glowla’ make-up set (shadows, blusher/bronzer, mascara and gloss) from Benefit Cosmetics ($69), and on the cheaper end of the scale, but just as divine, MOR cosmetics’ Duets set, which is essentially one of their lovely perfume oils (much kinder on your skin than fragrance) with bonus soapette, at only $19.95. Perfect for Christmas Stockings or Kris Kringles, too.
- My new sandals: Flat. Summery. Pink. Ribbons. Pearls. $44. Need I go on?
- Kate Morton’s latest book, The Distant Hours: I absolutely loved ‘The Shifting Fog’ (I recommended it to so many friends) and read The Forgotten Garden very enthusiastically. Now, I am preparing to be engrossed in the best-selling Aussie author’s latest offering, which is once again a period tale set amidst a grand English manor that is swarming with secrets. Stay tuned for the verdict, which, based on my past experiences, ought to be something along the lines of ‘read it, it’s fabulous’.
- Rodial’s Glamoxy Snake Serum: This product is a hit overseas (if Posh Spice and Kate Moss are fans, who am I to question its reputation as the elixir of youth – it’s like the philosopher’s stone of anti-ageing) and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t develop a cult following on our humble Aussie shores. Why? It’s a revolutionary formula that freezes muscles (like botox in a tub!) by mimicking the effects of viper venom. I may be young and crows-feet free for the time being (though give me a few months after marriage and we’ll see how I am going) but this is definitely one for my lovely Mama’s Christmas Present, and that’s why I am excited. But this baby has a waiting list already, so get cracking (err, and saving, it’s $195 for 25 mL). And if you’re on the youngish side, make like me and sample their day cream (with SPF 18) or Night Cream to kick ageing before it kicks you. The bonus is that the day cream can be used under eyes too, so it’s essentially a two-in-one deal.
Wordsmith Laners, I’m truly very sorry about my neglect of this blog and my writing over the past few weeks. I have so many posts in draft format that my brain is failing to perfect, and although I have plenty of content for you, I just can’t seem to get into it while a hundred other things swirl in my brain. I am hoping you’ll forgive me when you read this edited version of my latest Bride to Be column, and I promise I will be back soon! All my love (desiring all of your understanding), Sarah xoxo
Picture this. You’re five and a half weeks out from your wedding and your stress levels are already running rampant, wreaking havoc on your skin and rendering you the type of bride you thought you’d never be. Your fiancé is scared of you, your best friend thinks you’re a diva and your photographer wants to kill you because your 10,000 commitments means you can’t settle on a date for the pre-wedding consultation. Your bank account has $243 in it, your dress feels heavy at one of your final fittings and you swear it’s a lot pooofier than you wanted it to be, and the veil you revolved the whole dress around suddenly doesn’t look right with the lace you chose when you were having one of your indecisive moments. The kinds of indecisive moments you usually have at sumo salad or muffin break, but quadrupled in magnitude. And then your band cancels on you. And people start telling you that the new owners of the reception centre aren’t up to scratch where their meals are concerned, and that there probably won’t be enough food on the big day, which is equivalent to the anti-christ’s coming to earth where Lebanese weddings are concerned. Suddenly, it feels like the whole world is crumbling around you, and you start talking to yourself in the third person (in public, which is something you promised yourself you would never do).
So what do you do? For starters, you don’t pull your hair out, (much as it seems to be the most appropriate action) because you know for certain that your fiance is not going to love you the same if you are bald. You don’t screech any profanities (even in Lebanese, which people are less likely to understand) at passers-by, because that would be entirely un-Christian and you think that Jesus is already mad at you as it is.
So what do you? You stop writing, and you stop making sense. You stop reading your beloved books and magazines, because your brain’s understanding capacities are somewhat diminished, and because you’re not crazy enough as it is, you let your eyebrows grow to horrendously frightening levels. You almost crash your car at the Give Way sign in Revesby. You start reading Contiki and Topdeck Travel brochures instead while you dream of Paris and Santorini and the monastry of the Black Madonna in Poland, which is somewhere you’ve never been, but want to go anyway because the Black Madonna would likely let you whinge and hopefully understand your predicaments with her amazing Mother-of-God powers. And then one day, you wake up, think ‘stuff it’, and decide to stop caring and start delegating.
You tell the wedding planner to discuss the menu options (and quantities) yet again with the reception centre – after all, it’s not like you can change the venue when the RSVP cards are pouring in like the rains of this Sydney spring. You have your mother, who is known for her ability (if necessary) to comandeer a large army by her sheer will, loud voice and determination, back her up, implying once again the enormity of the food situation.
And, because you tell yourself it would be mean to use your journalistic powers to black-list your band, (and because you’re apparently a bridezilla and thus everyone who has failed you thus far) you have your MC find you an alternative BETTER band.
And then of course, you motivate yourself to get out of your rut. You start by taking the afternoon off and treating yourself to the Now to Wow treatment at Benefit cosmetics at Paddington (because good brows fix everything) and a decent shopping spree. You buy shoes for your laylia (pre-wedding party) even though they’re ridiculously overpriced for their style, and a pair of sandals because they’re pink (and encrusted with pearls).
earrings from Forever New ($18), pretty floral tea cups from T2 ($22) and four MOR scented candle ($40) whose amazing fragrance will be wafting through the air long after they bid you farewell for your honeymoon.
And then you go home and gorge on Pistachio ice-cream, because you know, you can’t fix all bad habits, especially the ones that taste really good, and do wonders for the closet you’ll still be loving long after the wedding has taken place and become a distant memory that threatned to envelope you in all its madness.
As you all know, I recently read a fantastic novel that retold the tale of one of history’s most renowned couples. And of course, I just had to get inside her wordsmith head to see what her wordsmith journey has been all about, and what other creative tales she might have on the horizon for my bookshelf. Wordsmith Laners, I give you an interview with Anne Fortier…
In a nutshell, describe your writer’s journey so far, which has culminated in the release of Juliet: I started writing novels at age 11, and submitted my first ms to a publisher when I was 13. Twenty years of trial-and-error later, my first novel was published in Denmark in 2005. I learned from that experience, too, and all those tough lessons taught me how *not* to go about things, and culminated in the publication of JULIET now in 2010 – a loooong dream come true.
You had one novel published before Juliet, tell us a little about that one. It is the story of a group of mad scientists, who secretly work to bring about the end of the world as we know it. They take a young woman, Marie, hostage in their bizarre efforts, and the book tells the story from her perspective. It is a genre-defying gothic comedy, which got a lot of reviewers’ underwear in a knot, but those who *got* it and saw all the philosophical slapstick treally loved it. It is a sort of Plato-meets-Dan Brown-but-enacted-by-a-circus-clown sort of story. One reader told me she had been reading the book on a transatlantic flight, but had to stop, because she was laughing so hard that people trying to sleep gave her the hairy eyeball.
What inspired you to take on history’s greatest lovers and change their story around? It really all started with the city of Siena (Italy). I went there with my mother and completely fell in love with the place. Only after deciding that I was going to set a novel there did I discover – thanks to Mom* – that Siena was, in fact, the setting of the very first version of the Romeo & Juliet-story, from 1476. Once I knew that, I knew I simply *had* to write that story.
How much research did it involve? Did you spend a lot of time in Siena? I have piles and piles of notes in my office, all about Siena history and Shakespeare. My mother is responsible for a lot of them, because she was the one who did the bulk of the research on the ground in Siena, while I was living in the US, working full time. I did get to Siena a few times while writing the book, but Mom was my fact-checker and the one who would go around and truffle out unusual tidbits from archives and museums.
Your reading of original stories of Romeo & Juliet helped you discover that the love birds were in fact originally from Siena and not Verona. Were these stories available in English, and if not, did the language barrier prove to be a struggle at all? The funny thing is that all those short stories are available in English, and still, few people know that Shakespeare did not invent the characters. I was able to find two different compilations in online second-hand bookstores, and so the research was no problem at all. That said, the bulk of the specialized literature about Siena history only exists in Italian, and my mother translated several books for me, since she is perfectly fluent in that language.
I love the way Santa Caterina (Saint Catherine) and the Virgin Mary feature (almost) prominently in your story, as though it is by divine will that the couple are meant for one another. Given our increasingly secular society, what prompted you to include that? Apart from the fact that medieval europe was largely Christian, that is, and given the fact that we’re not so public about religious matters these days. I actually think most people are still quite religious – we just dont subscribe to organized religion the way our grandparents did. We still have the so-called religious instinct; we often believe in a higher being, we are superstitious, we talk about fate, we like to see our lives as part of a grand design. And even though we call her by different names, we still long for the protection of the mother-goddess. This is why I think it is so easy for us to accept the way in which people in the book relate to Saint Catherine and the Virgin Mary.
How long did it take you to write the book? About three years, although much of that time was spent editing.
The novel is going to be published all over the world, with rights sold all over the place. Did you honestly think it would get this big? How do you feel when you read its reviews and hear of its successes? Even though I have a pretty good imagination, I never anticipated that the book would be sold in so many countries. I am of course delighted that things are going so well, because that means there is a chance I can turn to full-time writing from now on – my oldest and most persistent dream.
You have a PhD in the History of Ideas. Tell us a little bit about your academic work. What exactly is a PhD in the history of ideas and what was your thesis on? The history of ideas is a discipline that combines philosophy, history, and literature, and which traces certain ideas and concepts through the ages. My thesis was about the idea of cultural identity in the Roman Empire as expressed in the works of Latin historians over a 400-year stretch, and much of my teaching has been about tracing the ideas and realities of empire from Antiquity to later ages.
Your mum played a major role in the production of this book. How was it working with her on the project? It was fantastic. We would be on the phone all the time, discussing her research, and we had so much fun. It was great to have a project to work on together, rather than merely exchanging news, and I think we got to know each other in a whole new way.
I love the fact that you gave Romeo & Juliet descendants. It was like a second chance at love! Were you saddened by the fact that the originals couldn’t be together? Would you have changed the story to give them the happy ending we all feel that they deserve? Why/Why not? Actually, in the first draft of the novel I did give them a different ending, but it ultimately felt too cheesy. That said, I have left enough loose ends for a sequel, so … you never know what new stories might surface. [Sarah squeels with delight upon reading this].
Can we have a peak at your goals list? Right now my goals list is pretty down-to-earth: As soon as the book-touring is over, I want to get my family back into a good rhythm, so we all sleep calmly at night; I need to get myself into shape, so I dont develop writers ass; and oh yes … I need to finish my next book! In the long term I would like to keep writing high-concept books and hope to please readers all over the world.
Will you be doing any book tours in Australia at all? Nothing has been planned for JULIET, probably because I have a small baby. But in the future I would love to visit Australia and New Zealand, and I actually have a lot of friends from there, who keep urging me to come.
This blog is for aspiring writers (both journalists and fiction/non-fiction writers). Any tips for its readers? If I were to give just one piece of advice, it would probably be this: Start thinking about your query letter as soon as possible. Dont wait until the ms [manuscript] is finished, because you may end up with a story you cant pitch.
What’s next on your writing agenda? I have a lot of interviews and blogs I have to write this fall, but after that I look forward to going full throttle on my next book.
Ten in the Hot Seat:
Describe yourself in one word: indefatigable
Biggest accomplishment to date: landing my wonderful husband
You wish you wrote: faster
Can’t leave home without: lip balm
One thing you are currently writing: tips for aspiring writers for the Readers Digest writers blog
First thing you wrote: a story about a girl who gets kidnapped by desert bandits
Addicted to reading: Jane Austen
Top spot on your goals list: keep my family healthy and happy
If you were a character in a novel, you’d be: Robert Langdon. That guy seems to be wonderfully long-lived.
The best thing about being a wordsmith: I can move mountains without getting out of my pyjamas!
* Here in Oz, we spell mum with a U, not an O (American spelling). I kept Anne’s spelling as is for authenticity! Hope that clears up any concerns about my Aussie grammar!
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Of course, when beauty comes to you, that’s one less dilemma. Now, if only Benefit cosmetics could send a mobile eyebrow tiner/waxer round to my place to tame the wild mess that my brows have become…
It’s a tiring Wednesday for this wordsmith today, and even though I am at work and I should be focusing on the job, I can barely keep my eyes open after a particularly hectic weekend featuring a friend’s wedding on Friday night (Muslims tend to marry on Friday, which has a special religious significance for them); an old-friend catch-up on Saturday morning and a huck’s night on Saturday night (that’s a hen’s and buck’s mash-up for those who are yet to encounter the term); and a Baptism & particularly frenzied work function on Sunday. Monday was your typical bla-bla day, but I took yesterday off to treat my poor back and get my wedding hair trialled (read: disaster), and then after a meeting with the person supplying dessert for my wedding events (stay tuned for a bride to be blog on the fantastic options available, all made out of gelato), I figured I could relax. But alas, it was not meant to be, and here I am whining about my exhaustion yet again.
But the wordsmith show must go on, and despite the fact that I have been noticably absent from my online adventures (my blog, other blogs twitter, facebook) of late, I am still thinking about the blog and coming up with things I have to post about every single day. Unfortunately, things are starting to get particularly hectic on the wedding front, on account of the fact that there are ten weeks to go till the Big Day, and still a lot of hurdles to overcome in order to make it all happen swiftly and with little to no glitches (like a groom with no suit…or wedding ring, and hair that does not look like a bird’s nest or fall apart after an hour).
Still, I’ll take a little break from all my wedding planning commitments (or dump them in the lap of good friend & wedding planner Danielle) to try and bring you a few posts over the next week, which I have been holding on to for some time, including a couple of writer interviews and a wrap-up of some new books hitting my wordsmith shelves. And what better way than starting off with my wrap-up of my quest for style, smarts and savoir-faire over the past week:
- Who knows better style, smarts & savoir-faire than Mademoiselle herself, the late Coco Chanel? Delighted to add my first Chanel bio to my bookshelf this week. Coco Chanel:The Legend and the Life courtesy of author Justine Picardie & Harper Collins ($32.99) is out soon and I feel it’s going to be a must-read for fans of the lavish, lux and lady-like life. The Sunday Telegraph-inserted Sunday Magazine actually had a spread on Coco and her secret life, written by Picardie herself. It had to do for the time being, but I can’t wait till things slow down a little so I can devour the book whole heartedly.
- For all this talk of life slowing down, I wonder about my keen attitude to motherhood despite my humble 24 years. How will I ever cope if I can’t cope now? Lots to learn from those around me, and it seems like Satchel girl Erica Bartle understands, if this lovely post on her fantastic blog is anything to go by.
- Despite all its successes, I’ve never actually seen a Masterchef episode, but even I couldn’t resist heading down to Adriano Zumbo’s Pattisserie in Sydney’s Balmain over the weekend (enroute to Kazbah’s of course) to sample a few of the delicacies that have Sydney-siders lining up at the door from 8:30am. Got myself a bag of macarons and a Houdini, which is a green macaron filled with some sort of cream (forgot the flavour) as well as raspberry and strawberry. DELISH!
- Speaking of all things Chanel, a few weeks ago I was delighted to receive an email from author Harold Carlton, after reviewing his book Heaven, Hell & Mademoiselle. Carlton and I chatted about all things French, Fashion & Coco, and I was delighted to hear that he liked my post on his book, but that he is also polishing off another novel set in the world of fashion. I was particularly chuffed at the compliment considering Carlton had met and worked with Coco herself, so the lesson for you wordsmiths is to keep blogging about what you love because you NEVER know who is reading your work.
- September is practically over, and I am openly and willingly admitting that I failed miserably at my September pitching challenge. For all the ideas that I came up with, I only pitched two or three, two of which were not picked up and the third I stopped having hope in, considering I am yet to receive a reply for it. As for the uni books I was supposed to be reading? Did not happen. Epic fail on my front, but that is just the reality of the game! Thanks for all your kind messages regarding the post about my ideas being shite (in a manner of speaking). Post was not intended to be a whinge or nag or fish for comliments, it was just a random thought that I posted about. If I was not fairly confident, I wouldn’t bother pitching. But your sentiments were nice of course, and very much appreciated.
- Hands up who hearts Kit Cosmetics? Me too!! And I am stoked to check out the latest brand they’ll be stocking as of October 11th, called Soap & Glory. Seeing as I am on the biggest budget imaginable (mortgage, humble-by-Lebanese-standards-wedding -that-is-still-costing-me-$50k, an old car which needs replacing, furniture that needs to be purchased for new home), I can’t be my usual buy-beauty-now-sample-range-later self. But I will be forking out some pennies for the Sexy Mother Pucker Extreme Plump lip gloss to give my fairly thin lips a bit of fattening up.
- And on another beauty note, I am superbly excited by the warming weather, and spent Friday night making sure my tootsies were ready to be bared. the polish to the rescue? OPI’s Charged Up Cherry ($19.95). Love the name, which evokes a feeling of energy and a can-do attitude on my otherwise lazy behalf. And love the colour of course, which conjures up the very mistaken feeling that summer never left me to begin with.
- And before I forget, a big shout out to Sassi Sam. Even though I should be eating well to look impossibly fresh and pretty on my big day, I entered a Cadbury choc comp on her blog a few weeks ago (I wrote a silly little poem about how much I love cadbury, and I do, especially the Rocky Road) and I won. So I will be enjoying some free chocolate soon!
- What’s on everyone’s agenda this week? Mine is continuing to hand out the wedding invitations that are plaguing my life (I bet I know how my sister who made them feels); finding a hairdresser who can come to my house on the day at 6am (eek!) and stop spending money. Somewhere in the middle, I might work on the novel that I have not touched since March. Novel Writing Month anyone?
- Wordsmith love to you all, thanks for supporting my blog in all my hectic dramas and crazy-lady pursuits xx