Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reading/Book tour: "Life From Scratch" by Melissa Ford

Melissa Ford is known to most of us in the blogging world for her wonderful blog, Stirrup Queens, which is not only her personal blog but serves as a hub for the adoption/loss/infertility community. Already the author of Navigating the Land of If, a chatty, down to earth "girlfriend's guide" to infertility, Melissa recently turned her hand to writing fiction.

The result is Life From Scratch, the story of newly divorced New Yorker Rachel Goldman, & how she found her voice/got her groove back by learning to cook, & blogging about it. The cast of characters includes Rachel's ex, Adam; assorted members of her extended family; Gael, a sexy Spanish photographer (I keep picturing Javier Bardem in the movie version, lol); and, in the role of loyal sidekick/confidante/best friend, single mother by choice Arianna.

In some ways, I was reminded of the movie "Julie & Julia" (haven't read the book it was based on, but if you've seen the movie, you know that it also combines blogging & cooking themes). I suppose you could call it "chick lit," but (while I wouldn't call it a serious novel, like Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky) it's more substantial & less frivolous in tone than the Shopaholic novels & the like.

I don't want to give too much away -- but I do want to say that was a fun read, and I'm looking forward to the promised sequel!

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As is customary for a virtual book club, our tour coordinator, the wonderful Lori of Write Mind Open Heart has sent each of us a list of questions, and we must answer (at least) three of them here. Here goes!

In your life outlook, are you a Rachel or an Arianna?

Definitely a Rachel. I loved this passage on page 91 that perfectly illustrates the difference between the two, where Rachel says of Arianna:

"No husband in the picture? You use donor sperm. Fertility problems found? You use IVF. No money for daycare? You just change your job around so you can work from home. Every solution looks simple, but I've learned from past experience with Arianna that while she may have the resolve to put plans into action, the rest of us are usually left with a huge, tangled mess when we dip our foot into solutions."

If you had a year to do what you wanted, what would you do? Would you learn to cook or something different?

Oh, I have often thought about this! One of my girlfriends used to work for one of the Canadian provincial governments, & took part in a program, whereby she'd defer some of her salary with each paycheque, & then every so many years, she could take a paid sabbatical. If I remember correctly, she was able to extend her maternity leave that way, and several years ago, she used part of her sabbatical time to spend the summer driving across the country & back again with her two daughters. They stayed with us for a few days while seeing the local sights then. Talk about the trip of a lifetime!!

So yes -- I would love to have a year off. (I know maternity leave is not exactly a sabbatical or a vacation, but it is a break away from the office routine, & I've always thought that, since I'm never going to get to take one, why shouldn't I be able to use that time & those funds for a sabbatical of sorts??)(In Canada, women now get up to a year off, funded through Employment Insurance, which most of us pay into.) I would use that time to travel, maybe to go back to school or take some classes in a subject that interested me -- yes, maybe cooking. ; )

Rachel's blog Life from Scratch is itself a character in the story. Do you think non-bloggers will understand the details of blogging (blog awards, stats and stat counters, other true life blogs mentioned) and how does writing her blog tie into her story making it appeal to the mainstream?

I wondered about this too. I guess you would have to ask a non-blogger for a truly honest take on this question. As a longtime reader of Melissa's blog, I recognized her distinctive "voice" in the pages of this book and, as a fan, I was probably predisposed to like it. I imagine -- I hope -- that readers who don't know anything or much about blogging will learn a lot from this book. Perhaps it will prompt them to check out some blogs later, or maybe even start one themselves. : )

How would you react if your blog hit the big time -- if you had hundreds of thousands or even millions of readers hanging on your every word, if you won awards, if mainstream media wanted to interview and feature you? Are there aspects of blogging fame that you'd refuse? How would the content of your blog change?

To be honest, I'm not sure I'd want that. Although I don't think there's much danger of that happening. ; ) Childlessness not by choice is not exactly a topic that people are clamouring to read about; au contraire -- even (& maybe even especially) within the ALI community. When you're still in the hopeful throes of infertility treatment, the idea that you could go through all this pain, all this heartache, all these drugs, all that MONEY (!) & still not come out of the whole process with a baby is just not something you really want to think about.

But it does happen to some of us -- & when it does, it's so heartening to know there are other women who have been through this, survived, & maybe even thrived.

I started blogging for myself, first & foremost, & it's still my main blogging raison d'etre. I know I do have a small regular audience out there, & I am grateful for that. But small is just fine with me. : ) There are very few people "in real life" who know that I blog, & I would kind of like to keep it that way. I don' t mind sharing details about my loss & infertility and my feelings about childless/free living with online friends, but I'm a little squeamish thinking about family & friends reading about some of the gory details. (Especially when some of them involve them, lol.)
In the very unlikely event that I did hit the big time, I think I'd have to try to be even more circumspect than I already am about writing about personal things and people I know, maybe become a little more generalized vs personalized. Some past posts would probably have to come down, or at least get some of the details edited out.

To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at Write Mind Open Heart.


  1. As an infertile blogger who is trying to decide which 'road to travel' I do find it helpful to read what a possible future could be like (12 years down that road). Both to realise it is possible and to confirm it is not 'easy'. And therefore worth it to confront my fears now.
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. I have been looking forward to reading your book tour blog entry ever since I signed up and saw that you were participating Loribeth and you did not dissapointment! :-)

    I LOVE your description of Life from Scratch and find it amusing that both you and Lori have already cast Gael for the movie version (though you each picked different actors)! ;)

    I like that you chose to answer 4 questions (going above and beyond), but did so in a clear and concise manner. As you know, this is not my strongsuit.

    I see aspects of myself in both Rachel and Arianna. I appreciate the quote you shared that for you defines why you relate more to Rachel.

    I never thought about the unfairness of maternity leave policies for those who never get to take one. I think it would be wonderful if you could take a year off/sabbatical someday and how you might spend it sounds lovely.

    I have a friend who works for McDonald's Headquarters here in the States and they get a paid 3 month sabbatical after they have worked there for 10 years. He is newly married and plans to take a belated extended honeymoon traveling around the world with his wife sometime soon.

    As for the question about how non-bloggers or blog readers perceive that aspect of the book... Even though I have been blogging for almost 4 years now, I even learned some new things from this story about blogging, especially all that behind the sceanes trying to find out who has been to your blog stuff... ;)

    I most enjoyed reading your heartfelt answer to the last question you chose to explore. It was bittersweet for me to read what you said about living childlessness by choice.

    "Childlessness not by choice is not exactly a topic that people are clamouring to read about; au contraire -- even (& maybe even especially) within the ALI community. When you're still in the hopeful throes of infertility treatment, the idea that you could go through all this pain, all this heartache, all these drugs, all that MONEY (!) & still not come out of the whole process with a baby is just not something you really want to think about."

    I am sure that is true for a lot of people. I for one though really like your writing style and anytime I make my way here to your blog (which I intend to do more often going forward), I so enjoy whatever it is you have to say about whatever topic is on your mind.

    In case I have never thanked you or not done it often enough, which is possible, it means so much to me that you have stuck with me over the years on my journey thorugh secondary infertility and loss, especially in light your choice to live childless, after all you have been through. I am always excited when I see that you have left me a comment on my blog and I thank you again for your care, concern and support over the years.

    Maybe someday I will learn how to be more clear and concise in my comments too?! ;)

    Thanks again for sharing and participating in the book tour!

  3. Yay, someone answered one of my questions, the one about the blog being a character itself. I had a similar feeling but then realized my mom would love the book but not understand one bit about the whole blog part, which is why I asked the question.

    And Gael, totally Javier Bardem. Just sayin'.

  4. Oooh, Javier Bardem. I saw the French guy from Brothers & Sisters. Can't go wrong with either!

    I really like the way you describe a happy medium between ShopLit and Dostoyevsky.

    The idea of substituting a sabbatical for maternity leave is a really good one!

    "But it does happen to some of us -- & when it does, it's so heartening to know there are other women who have been through this, survived, & maybe even thrived."

    Your voice is so important, Loribeth. I'm so glad you're here :-)

  5. Here from the book tour, and I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about "Life From Scratch". I think it's funny how a couple of people have casted Gael, but no one has casted Adam. :) I see Adam as Mark Feuerstein...and Gael as Javier Bardem. YUM!!

    I love your blog and voice. I consider you to definitely be one of the bigger bloggers out there, so it's interesting to get your take on the "big blog" question.

  6. That sabbatical system is brilliant. Not that I have much of a salary, but if I could have that forced saving in effect and know that I'm going to get to plan ahead and have that time off from work (with the job held), I'd take it in a heart beat. And travel. I'd love to just spend a year traveling.

    Thank you so much for doing this.

  7. Ha, in my mind's movie I'd cast Gael Garcia Bernal, partly because of sharing the name and partly because he is muy sexy (though a little young for the book's Gael maybe).

    That sabbatical program you described is yet another way in which Canada (as compared to the US) treats its workers like humans, rather than robots.