HA! I’m still not sure it’s for me. The hardest job I’ve ever had in my life was writing this memoir. I started writing my thoughts down years ago when my son’s Alopecia had progressed and I was feeling so angry, vulnerable and out of control. The last time I felt like this was 20 years prior when my attack happened. I started writing in my journal to sort my feelings out because from experience I know people don’t know how to deal with someone else’s sorrow, they tend to ‘at least’ it away. Once I started writing and remembering and understanding what my lessons had been and how my life had been built on those years of heart ache and overcoming them, I thought O.K., I’m ready to share now, in fact, have to share what I have learned …in hopes it inspires others to share their feelings and help others with their grieving.
How would you describe your book?
I think it’s real, and honest and relatable. I believe it’s inspirational. Of course I hope it’s also highly entertaining, as I am an event planner with some wonky stories about my event planning career, but it’s the right combination of funny and thoughtful. Sometimes the light and the dark can go together in a book, and I think this strikes the right balance. It’s fast paced, an easy read and there is something in it for everyone. So, part novel, part self-help, part event planning tips, and a lot of heart bearing truthful life lessons. Can that be a category?
What was the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Editing out my own life. When it’s a novel or a movie I’m very brutal about unnecessary parts that don’t add anything. I think most movies should be 20 minutes shorter in general. But for me to pick parts of my own life that are more or less interesting or more or less crucial for my OWN story was very difficult. I had thousands of really funny stories and anecdotes, but they didn’t make sense for THIS book. Luckily I had a great editor.
What are your favorite genres to read?
I am an equal opportunity reader! I belong to 3 book clubs, one with an English Professor as a moderator, so I read all sorts of genres. But, my favorites are memoirs, (one I read years ago by Dani Shapiro changed my life) I love literature that is a bit dark and edgy, and historical fiction, meaning everything Jane Austen has ever written. But any book that can make me feel, laugh out loud or stay with me for months, I generally re read at some later point. I’m a hard cover book buying reader and they are like my friends, I need to have them around me and visit them.
What do you want readers to take away from your story?
That we have a choice in life. That while we cannot control WHAT happens to us in this life but we can control and decide who we want to be afterwards. This is very simple to say but the hardest paradigm to shift. That letting go, of the anger, the sadness, the resentments or expectations and just deciding to be different is really very simple when I understand that I was standing in my own way. That these are the ‘stories’ we have told ourselves for years, and we repeat every day from habit, but if we step out of that same grove and choose a different path, we can change everything.
What is the one thing that you want readers to know about you as an author?
That I’m terrified right now. That I feel like I am dangling from a fishing wire, naked over Times Square on New Year’s Eve. This is my very personal story that I have withheld from 99% of anybody I have met in 20 years and I never had an intention of sharing it. That I don’t know what to expect, and I really hope it helps people with their own stories. That I want to know if it did, I want to hear my readers stories as we all have our own story. Something has happened to everyone in our own unique way, whether its illness, divorce, losing a loved one, unemployment, or just feeling unworthy in our own bodies, we all carry something around. I set up an email address: email@example.com for that reason. Please- if you’re reading this and want to share your story- I would love to hear from you!
How important do you think social media is for authors these days?
I think it will be the way people communicate in the future, or that for that matter is here already. The access to information and the ability to find support or to find likeminded people is incredible. I can find the ‘sources’ that I trust and that helps me weed through all of the noise. I do it for my company-Save the Date as well as for myself personally. It’s getting a recommendation from a friend instead of going in cold to any subject. On the flip side, I fight it sometimes. I still like a phone call to a client or friend instead of an email or a Facebook message. I think it’s hard to really gage an expression or intention from a brief snapshot, but it is how life is going these days.
I get up at 7 am (I’ve NEVER been a morning person, hence why event planning suits me, I’m a night owl) prepare breakfast for me and my 3 kids. I always drop off someone at school, either my daughter who is in 1st grade, or my sons who are 4 at Pre-School, then head into my office. During my office day there is never a routine, I’m talking to vendors, meeting with clients, planning events, site inspections, managing my staff or writing on websites etc. I try to be home from 5:30 – 7:30, 4 out of 5 week nights to meet my husband then we have dinner with my children, bathe them, read and put them to bed. We try, if possible to make it a phone free,Blackberry free zone. After that 4 out of 5 nights I go back out. Each night is taken up by one of the following: date night dinner with my husband, events (that we plan or ones invited to), benefits or my book clubs etc. Get home by 11, then go back to work on the computer answering emails, troubleshooting, writing, updating social media, until about 1-2 am, then bed. It’s a full day. If I can, I get a work out class in from 8:30 – 9:30 am.
What would be your advice to aspiring writers?
I have so much respect for authors and for books that it was very intimidating to think I could be a writer. But I have a strong voice and something to say, so I thought, well, yes I can. That writing a book takes time, it’s really a full 2 year process. I had to be very focused, and carve out time to write. I locked myself away for at least 4 hours at a time for 2 days a week then sessions over the weekend to be disciplined and just focus. It’s a rough industry right now, and publishing is tough, so keep at it and don’t take things personally if you get feedback that is constructive criticism.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to start their own business? Or any fun/interesting stories that aren’t mentioned in your book?
I do, and in fact I used my very own advice for my book, but nearly too late! My business philosophy is if I need it and you need it and she needs it, there’s a business in it. But every great idea does not make for a great business. So do the prep-work, crunch the numbers, but most of all do your market research. I would never offer a new product or service for my event planning company Save the Date without polling my top 50 clients and making sure they would USE the product or service. If no one wants it, then there’s no business. When I was about to turn in my final draft to Harper Collins, I actually remembered my own business advice, but for this very personal endeavor. I asked the 12 women that have been in my book club for the last 7 years to be my focus group. I gave each of them a manuscript and we held an emergency book club, only this time for my book! They were honest and caring and critical, and they completely changed my book. They made me go deeper. It was the best thing I ever did during this entire process. They loved it too. I mean how many times do readers get to sit down and have their opinions and questions heard before the book is published? The same goes for business. We have gone from an award winning free referral service 20 years ago to a full consulting planning and marketing company with capabilities worldwide because we asked our clients the right questions, and provided the services they needed.
What advice would you give yourself ten years ago? Any words of wisdom?
Oh my goodness. I could fill a whole book with this question. The first thing I would do is go back to my younger self and I would hug her so tightly. I would hug her and look into her eyes and tell her to let it go, to stop spinning, to stop pushing the boulder uphill, to surrender the internal fight within her EVERYDAY. To believe it will all be O.K. and that she would find her power, and her love and her worthiness. That she will have this beautiful full life and that things may go up or down at times but that she already knows how to handle them, and that is her power. I would tell her not to be so scared of marriage and children and love, that her ride was about to start and throw up her hands and scream, to enjoy the ride.
So, what’s next?
Well, I will be the ask the expert on the Bed Bath & Beyond website. They are the largest bridal registry. I’m in a partnership with BBB giving wedding planning advice, fb chats, articles on their website. They are the experts in wedding registry and I have expertise in wedding planning. It’s a good fit. And I will working on a ‘what’s your goodie bag’ conference and day of experts and speakers etc for designed to really help and promote women.
I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag is a memoir that follows the life of successful party-planner, Jennifer Gilbert. Fresh out of college, Jennifer is eager and looking optimistically forward to a bright, successful future … but that all changes one afternoon when she is brutally attacked by a man with a screw-driver. It takes months for the physical scars to heal, but the emotional ones don’t go away quite so quickly. Determined to keep living her life and moving forward, Jennifer bravely launches an event planning business where she focuses on helping others celebrate life’s biggest moments because she isn’t convinced that she will ever be able to celebrate her own. The road isn’t easy, but Jennifer eventually begins to feel life stirring inside of her. She survives each bump and keeps moving forward- and in the end, it turns out to all be worth it.
Honest and vulnerable, I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag is an unforgettable memoir of survival, strength, courage, and self-redemption. To be quite honest, Jennifer is a fabulous writer. Her words flow seamlessly together as she takes you through her life, more often than not onto the next bump in the road … but she does so in such an easy and effortless way that it makes you feel like she were telling you over coffee as a girlfriend.
I laughed, I cried- and even sometimes did them both simultaneously. Overall, this is a wonderful read and I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a great portrait of personal healing, strength, and survival. It’s a tale about sucking it up and learning to let go of the things that are out of our control and forging forward, creating who we want to be instead of letting past events control us.
Chick Lit Plus is so pleased to announce that our Author of the Month for May is Jennifer Gilbert, author of I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag.
I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag is a warm, wise, alternately painful and funny inspiring memoir of survival, renewal, and transformation. It’s a tale about learning to let go and be happy after years of faking it, proving that while we can’t always control what happens to us, we can control who we become. And instead of anticipating our present in a goodie bag at the end of an event, we realize our presence at every event is the real gift.
In celebration of being our Author of the Month for May, we have asked Jennifer a few questions about receiving the coveted spot on Chick Lit Plus. Please read her answers below:
What was your reaction when you learned that you had been selected as the Author of the Month for Chick Lit Plus?
Totally and completely honored. As May is International Chick Lit month and I am the first author to be selected as the Author of the Month, this is an incredible compliment to me as well as the ‘trailblazing’ route I like to take in life. It’s incredible to me…I’m so awed by this honor and so incredibly appreciative that my book has been chosen and it is a vote of confidence that this book has resonated with you and hopefully many others.
How does it feel to have your book so well-received by the public?
I am overwhelmed by gratitude. I have bared my soul in this book and am so nervous about how it will be received, so when I read the positive feedback it literally brings me to tears, I’m so overwhelmed. It reassures me that I NEVER PROMISED YOU A GOODIE BAG is relatable to everyone who has their own story. We ALL have something in our life that has held us back, or propelled us forward. If my story helps people to realize that we have the choice to be better, to change and let go, then I have accomplished so much more than writing a memoir.
Thank you so much Jennifer for allowing us to review your book!
Please be sure to get your hands on I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag – a definite 5 star on Chick Lit Plus. Chick Lit Plus will be giving away two copies of the book, so leave a comment below and we will select a winner at random. Winners can choose between a print copy and eBook, but please note print copies will only be available for US/Canada residents. Thanks!
AND THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. THE TWO WINNERS ARE: SHARON CASTANEDA AND DINA SILVER. PLEASE CONTACT CHICKLITPLUS@GMAIL.COM WITH YOUR MAILING ADDRESS INFO. THANK YOU TO ALL WHO ENTERED.
Every year around this time, everyone is looking for a HOT summer read to take to the beach, lounge by the pool, or to curl up inside with in the air conditioner to avoid the scorching heat outdoors. Either way, summer is a popular time for publisher’s to release their heavy hitters, and this year is no exception. Below is a list of reads that Samantha and I have compiled for the month of May… many of which we currently have in our “To Be Read” piles.
Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues By Trisha Ashley
When Tansy Poole inherits a run-down shoe shop tucked away in the village of Sticklepond, ‘Cinderella’s Slippers’ is born — providing the footwear to make any fairytale wedding come true! Carrying everything a bride would want to walk down the aisle in, Tansy’s shop soon expands to carry shoe-themed wedding favours, bridesmaid gifts and even delicious chocolate shoes. It’s the dream destination for any shoe-lover! If only everything in her personal life could be as heavenly — but with a fiance trying to make her fit into a size 8 wedding dress, not to mention the recent discovery of disturbing family revelations, Tansy takes refuge in the shop’s success. But one man isn’t thrilled by the stream of customers hot-footing it to Cinderella’s Slippers! Actor Ivo Hawksley, resident of the cottage next to the shop, is troubled by a dark secret in his past and has come to Sticklepond to nurse his own broken heart. However, Ivo realises that he and Tansy have a link in their past and soon, they both find out how secrets shared can make a very strong bond indeed! Forget the Jimmy Choos, Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues is the only accessory you need for spring 2012!
One heady summer. Three big secrets. 1989: Newlyweds Danny and Harriet arrive at their honeymoon paradise in the Caribbean. Days later Harriet returns home. Danny is left distraught but finds comfort in the arms of two women. Nine months later, three baby girls are born. In 2010: Megan leaves her childhood sweetheart behind in the UK to go in search of her long-lost father. Miles from home and temptation is at every corner – not least in the arms of the gorgeous Ray. Esmé, a Mexican beauty, married Miguel at fifteen. In unlocking the secrets of her past, can she shed the shackles of her enforced marriage? Claudia has led a life of privilege but she’s never really known what it feels like to be loved. Could David be the answer? Or will he disappoint her, just like her mother always did? Three women set off on an adventure to uncover the secrets surrounding their missing father. It may be the only way to lay their demons to rest but seeking out the truth could tear their lives apart.
Southern Charm By Tinsley Mortimer
SOUTHERN GIRL Minty Davenport has always dreamed of skyscrapers, yellow cabs, and a life like Eloise’s in New York City. So upon graduation from college, she bids adieu to Charleston and makes a beeline for the Big Apple. Almost instantly, she finds herself at an event being photographed for Women’s Wear Daily, and her career as a New York society “It Girl” is launched. As Minty navigates the ironclad customs of New York society, a blossoming love life, and a job working for a ruthless and powerful publicist, she finds that the rules a southern belle lives by—being nice to everyone, accentuating her femininity, and minding her manners—don’t necessarily guarantee success in Manhattan. She may indeed be accumulating new friends and opportunities along with boldfaced mentions and a very eligible bachelor boyfriend, but someone is plotting her very public downfall. When Minty gets to the top of the social ladder, she must decide if the glamorous life she thought she wanted is really everything she hoped it would be. Tinsley Mortimer’s insider observations about New York’s elite are deliciously witty, and the heart of her book is that of an irresistibly lovable young woman who is on the brink of finding her dream.
I Couldn’t Love You More By Jillian Medoff
Which child would you save? A decision no parent can even fathom. Eliot Gordon would do anything for her family. A 38-year-old working mother, she lives an ordinary but fulfilling life in suburban Atlanta with her partner, Grant Delaney, and their three daughters. The two older girls are actually Eliot’s stepdaughters, a distinction she is reluctant to make as she valiantly attempts to maintain a safe, happy household . . .Then Finn Montgomery, Eliot’s long-lost first love, appears, triggering a shocking chain of events that culminates in a split-second decision that will haunt her beloved family forever. How Eliot survives-and what she loses in the process-is a story that will resonate with anyone who has ever loved a child. With hilarious honesty, wrenching depth, and a knockout twist, I COULDN’T LOVE YOU MORE illuminates the unbreakable bonds of family and reveals the lengths we’ll go to save each other, even as we can’t save ourselves.
The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service By Beth Kendrick
Lara Madigan has a gift. She can help you find your soulmate–your canine soulmate, that is. As a dog trainer with a soft spot for strays, she’s found the perfect home for sulky Shih Tzus, broken-down Border Collies, and diabolical Dalmatians. But while she’ll always make room for one more rescue mutt, she’s not sure she’s ready to commit to another human being. Especially after her long-term boyfriend drops the bomb: he’s not a dog person. Horrified and temporarily homeless, Lara and her furry pack move in with her mother, a wealthy fashionista who forbids even a single drop of drool. As word gets around the exclusive gated community, Lara is overwhelmed with demands for her services. A model wants personal training for her overweight “flabrador.” An aging socialite preps her pedigree puppy for dog show domination. If Lara can survive the breakup, the outrageous requests of her high-maintenance clientele, and her dogs systematically destroying her mother’s McMansion, she might finally find the rescue dog who rescues her back– leading her straight to the guy who could be her perfect match.
The Making of Us By Lisa Jewell
In a London hospice, a man named Daniel is slowly fading away. His friend Maggie listens to the stories of his life, and to his secrets. One day he tells her about the children he has never met, conceived with women he has never slept with. There are four of them—two boys, two girls. He talks of them wistfully. His legacy, he calls them. Lydia, Dean, and Robyn don’t know each other. Lydia, wealthy and successful, leads a lonely and disjointed life. Dean is twenty-one and completely overwhelmed by single fatherhood. Robyn has never met her biological father. Neither has her mother. He was just an anonymous donor, and that’s exactly how she wants to think of him—a character in her own personal fairy tale. One day Robyn meets the man of her dreams. He looks like her, he thinks like her, and he even has the same freckle in the same place on his left hand. It could be just a coincidence, but she needs to be sure before she can allow herself to be with him. It’s time for her to open the envelope her parents gave her on her eighteenth birthday…The Making of Us is a wonderful novel that celebrates the meaning of family—in every form that takes. It is an entertaining literary treat about the miracles that happen when we bring life into the world and share our lives with those we love.
I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert
When Jennifer Gilbert was just a year out of college, a twenty-two-year-old fresh-faced young woman looking forward to a bright future, someone tried to cut her life short in the most violent way. But she survived, and not wanting this traumatic event to define her life, she buried it deep within and never spoke of it again. She bravely launched a fabulous career in New York as an event planner, designing lavish parties and fairy-tale weddings. Determined to help others celebrate and enjoy life’s greatest moments, she was convinced she’d never again feel joy herself. Yet it was these weddings, anniversaries, and holiday parties, showered with all her love and attention through those silent, scary years, that slowly brought her back to life. Always the calm in the event-planning storm—she could fix a ripped wedding dress, solve the problem of an undelivered wedding cake in the nick of time, and move a party with two days’ notice when disaster struck—there was no crisis that she couldn’t turn into a professional triumph. Somewhere along the way, she felt a stirring in her heart and began yearning for more than just standing on the sidelines living vicariously through other people’s lives. She fell in love, had her heart broken a few times, and then one day she found true love in a place so surprising that it literally knocked her out of her chair. As Gilbert learned over and over again, no one’s entitled to an easy road, and some people’s roads are bumpier than others. But survive each twist and turn she does—sometimes with tears, sometimes with laughter, and often with both. Warm, wise, alternately painful and funny, I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag is an inspiring memoir of survival, renewal, and transformation. It’s a tale about learning to let go and be happy after years of faking it, proving that while we can’t always control what happens to us, we can control who we become. And instead of anticipating our present in a goodie bag at the end of an event, we realize our presence at every event is the real gift.
So, here is our list of books for May. Which ones are you looking forward to? Comment below and let us know.
In Samantha’s Mailbox:
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
Received: From Kate @ Media Muscle
Synopsis: One School, one gunman, your child. One Breath Away is the story of one harrowing event seen through the eyes of five very different narrators. Nearing retirement, Evelyn Oliver has been teaching for forty three years and believes that she has seen it all until the safety of her classroom is compromised by a man with a grudge. When her school goes into lockdown all thirteen year old Augie Baker can think about is getting to her little brother. Instead she comes face to face with the intruder and quickly understands that she may be the only one who can save her brother, his classmates and his teacher. Holly Baker, Augie’s mother, lies miles away in an Arizona hospital recovering from a terrible accident, and can only wait helplessly while the horrors of the day unfold at her children’s school. Will Thwaite, Augie’s grandfather and pillar of the community, upon hearing of the siege at the school realizes that he may have lost the opportunity to repair his fragile relationships with his daughter and granddaughter. Police Officer Meg Barrett, the only woman on the small Broken Branch police force, has responded to domestic abuse calls, exploding meth labs, hunting and drunk driving accidents. She prides herself in being impervious to the emotion and heartache that often accompany her chosen profession, but nothing prepares her for the potential devastation this one lone man could have on her community and on her own future. As the minutes pass relentlessly, the hidden fears and grudges of the small town are revealed as the people of Broken Branch race to uncover the identity of the stranger who holds their children hostage.
Author: Deborah Michael
Received: From Erin @ Penguin Group
Synopsis: A good marriage lasts forever…until it doesn’t.
From the start, Lynn and Jamie Prosper were one of those couples who seem meant to be—so content with each other that they barely notice the rest of the world nodding approvingly at their wedded bliss. But sometimes, even in the very best of marriages, all it takes is a mischievous outsider to bring the perfect couple toppling off the top of the wedding cake…
True, Jamie has been working so hard and traveling so much as a young lawyer that he hardly has enough energy to show his devotion. Not that Lynn, a junior museum curator, has any reason to question it. But when Lynn’s old college friend turns up at a cocktail party, chinks in their marriage’s previously unassailable armor start to show.
Suddenly, without meaning to, Lynn and Jamie have both acquired divorce lawyers. And those benevolent onlookers—meddling in-laws and competitive friends alike—eagerly bear witness to each new misstep. Is love really enough to make a marriage last?
In Sara’s Mailbox:
Author: Jennifer Gilbert
Received: Angela Marzan
Synopsis: When Jennifer Gilbert was just a year out of college, a twenty-two-year-old fresh-faced young woman looking forward to a bright future, someone tried to cut her life short in the most violent way. But she survived, and not wanting this traumatic event to define her life, she buried it deep within and never spoke of it again.
She bravely launched a fabulous career in New York as an event planner, designing lavish parties and fairy-tale weddings. Determined to help others celebrate and enjoy life’s greatest moments, she was convinced she’d never again feel joy herself. Yet it was these weddings, anniversaries, and holiday parties, showered with all her love and attention through those silent, scary years, that slowly brought her back to life.
Always the calm in the event-planning storm—she could fix a ripped wedding dress, solve the problem of an undelivered wedding cake in the nick of time, and move a party with two days’ notice when disaster struck—there was no crisis that she couldn’t turn into a professional triumph. Somewhere along the way, she felt a stirring in her heart and began yearning for more than just standing on the sidelines living vicariously through other people’s lives. She fell in love, had her heart broken a few times, and then one day she found true love in a place so surprising that it literally knocked her out of her chair.
As Gilbert learned over and over again, no one’s entitled to an easy road, and some people’s roads are bumpier than others. But survive each twist and turn she does—sometimes with tears, sometimes with laughter, and often with both.
Warm, wise, alternately painful and funny, I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag is an inspiring memoir of survival, renewal, and transformation. It’s a tale about learning to let go and be happy after years of faking it, proving that while we can’t always control what happens to us, we can control who we become. And instead of anticipating our present in a goodie bag at the end of an event, we realize our presence at every event is the real gift.
Author: Kajsa Ingemarsson
Received: Sarah @Smith Publicity
Synopsis: Yesterday’s News begins with Agnes, a small-town girl lost in a sea of woe in big city Stockholm. She’s been fired by an abusive boss, dumped by an unfaithful boyfriend and victimized by her own optimism. Agnes is depressed, despondent and ready for a change. But as the nature of change dictates, Agnes has no idea how wild a ride she’s in for – nor how complete her transformation will be.