Size Matters

 Star Sisters on the shelves at Edgartown Books!

Star Sisters on the shelves at Edgartown Books!

This weekend we went to Martha's Vineyard which, besides being my favorite place in the world, is also home to one of my favorite bookstores - Edgartown Books.  It's an incredible bookstore, with a large front porch where you can sit, rock, and watch the island life pass by.  And to top it all off, Edgartown Books carries Star Sisters.  It's hard for me to explain how exciting it is to see my work in a bookstore that I have loved for years.  A place where I spent many rainy afternoons with young children, dreaming of being one of those authors on the shelves, dreaming of having that kind of creative life.    

I publish independently, which brings many challenges.  But one big challenge is that stores like Barnes & Nobles will probably never carry my books (at least not with the way things currently stand).  When I decided to take the indy route, this worried me.  I was dreaming of big, huge, total Star Sisters world domination.  Then I stopped dreaming and started doing and everything changed for me.  

First, I learned that world wide domination was going to take a heck of a long time.  My books weren't going to land with a splash.  They were going to land with a teeny, tiny drop in a very big ocean.  And they were going to spread from there.  Second, I realized that there is no greater feeling than seeing my books on the shelves of local independent bookstores.  I love going into these stores and talking with the owners.  I love seeing my book spines (or sometimes forward facing covers) on the shelves.  I love the smell of the places, getting to know the people who work there, and bringing my girls along to browse the shelves and get recommendations.  

I've written this before and I'm sure I'll write it again: independent bookstores are the best.  If you're professional and have a good product, they will take the time to get to know you and your books.  They will invite you to special events and recommend your books to customers.  They will cheer for you when you get press and help you brainstorm strategies when you have a slow month.  They will make you feel like you belong in this industry even when you have days where you worry you never will.  Working with places like Edgartown Books, Wellesley Books, Newtonville Books, Winchester Bookends, Brookline Books and many more has been one of the highlights of this experience and one of the reasons why, even though I sell my books on Amazon, I will only buy my books from stores like these.     

And since we're on the topic of Martha's Vineyard and following dreams, I have to share the incredible home of Molly and Eric Glasgow, owners of the Grey Barn Farm.  This home was recently featured in Architectural Digest and it blew me away.  The short (and I'm going to guess very simplified) story is that the Glasgow's were working in high powered jobs in London when they decided to make a drastic change and move their family to Martha's Vineyard to open a dairy farm.  Several years and twenty-five cows later, just look at what they've built.  We drove by the property several times this weekend and I almost pulled my neck out straining to get a view of the place.  I'm pretty sure they open the farm to visitors during the summer and it is at the top of my list for next year.  In the meantime, I will visit these images whenever I need some inspiration to keep pushing on my making my own dreams come true.  (All images via Architectural Digest).  


The Barefoot Contessa and Me

 Contributors Page from Family Circle Magazine Nov 2014

Contributors Page from Family Circle Magazine Nov 2014

For months I have been waiting for the November issue of Family Circle Magazine and on Saturday morning I finally spotted it on the stands.  My hands were shaking as I opened the magazine because this was no ordinary issue, this issue featured my home in a six page spread.  Six pages!  Family Circle!  That's huge!  There I was on the very first page standing in my kitchen kissing my sweet littlest babe.  There were my own paintings and my daughter's drawings on the walls.  There was my home all colorful, sparkly and styled up to the nines.  But you want to know the image that I'm most proud of?  The one I keep flipping back to?  The one I texted right away to one of my closest friends?  It's the contributors page, where my face is represented in cheerful cartooned glory right alongside Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa herself.  

The reason I love this page (beyond the fact that I think my cartoon hair looks much better than my real hair ever has) is because I have always considered Ina Garten a role model.  Most people know her story - she was working as a White House budget analyst when she saw an ad for a specialty food shop that was for sale in the Hamptons.  The very next day she went up to investigate, had a gut feeling that purchasing the store was what she was truly meant to do, and took a leap of faith.  Nine cookbooks and a Food Network show later, Ina Garten is a household name (at least in the households I hang out in where most of my friends have lots of little mouths to feed but still like to try and do some casual grown-up entertaining every once in a while).  How I would love to be able to sit down with Ina and ask for the details.  Did she really have no formal background in cooking?  Did she really just buy the store on a whim?  How the heck did she go from that beginning to where she is now?  Was it really all as sweet as cupcakes and apple pie?

Because what I'm learning as I try and promote my books is that it's very easy to romanticize the pursuit of a creative career.  It's easy to say with an Oprah-esque glow how wonderfully fulfilled you feel by doing work you love and then post your cartoon face in a national magazine on Instagram.  But the real truth (at least for me) is that every small victory comes as a result of so much work.  For example, the Family Circle photo shoot happened because I spend a lot of time reading design blogs and I began to think that my home could compare to some of the ones I saw being featured.  So I snapped some pics and emailed them to Style Me Pretty Living, a design blog that I'd long admired and knew liked to run home tours.  SMP Living loved my house, so my next step was to hire this awesome photographer to come over with a styling assistant and do a full day photo shoot of my house.  SMP Living put those images together and ran them here.  An editor at Family Circle saw the feature and asked if I'd be willing to let the magazine shoot my house for their home section.  Ummmm, yes!  Then came another full day photo shoot with the NYC based Family Circle crew, which included two magazine editors, a photographer and her assistant, and a stylist and his assistant.  Many days of rearranging furniture and stressing about my kids being exposed because of my desire to get publicity for my books later, the magazine hits the stands with a small but clear image of the cover of Star Sisters and the Best Seller running on the last page of the spread.  I consider this a well earned victory and a step in the right direction.  I hope it introduces some new people to Star Sisters.  I hope someday I get a chance to ask Ina if she built her business with these same kind of small steps.  I hope she says yes.

 My book cover in a national magazine!!  Proud moment!

My book cover in a national magazine!!  Proud moment!

I'm going to try and get some high res images from the magazine shoot of my house to share.  But in the meantime, check out Ina Garten's amazing home as featured in House Beautiful.  This is one of the first homes I ever fell in love with and, years later, it's still at the very top of my list of all time favorite homes.  I love how it's simple but warm.  A combo of fabulous materials, a gorgeous setting, and a woman who clearly knows how to make a place feel like home.  What a lady.

 

 

Necklaces Straight from Illustria!

Exciting news: magical star necklaces arrived from the land of Illustria!  These necklaces could not be more perfect.  Unless, of course, the stars actually changed from stone to emerald, but I'm writing this straight off an awesome Soul Cycle class and am choosing to celebrate the present (and reality).  

But really, I'm so thrilled with these necklaces.  The pendants are acrylic so they're light-weight with a cool translucent quality.  The chord is waxed cotton with no annoying clasp so kids can actually put them on themselves and adjust them to the perfect length.  And the gold beads give a pop of something special and make the necklaces look just like Coco and Lucy's.  I hope they inspire lots of kindness spreading adventures at home!

My full shipment is not coming in for about two weeks, but I have two necklaces all ready and I’d love to give them to two wonderful fans.  Here’s the kicker: I would also love more amazon reviews.  I know that if you’re reading this you probably have young kids and your day is full of tons of little things that people ask you to do, things that all mush and spin together and add up to a lot of time and brain space.  My own brain spins with those kind of little things all day long and I get how sometimes adding one more tiny thing to your list makes you want to scream in a way that is completely irrational.  (Trust me, you would not believe how much time I just spent trying to stuff an ice cream cone shaped piñata with candy.)  So as a way of saying thank you, if you write an amazon review I’ll enter your name into a raffle and pick two winners to receive a free star necklace.  I'll pick one winner from the Royal Wedding reviews and one winner from the Big Show reviews.  Just send me an email here and let me know that you’d like to be entered.  And if you’ve already written a review and I know who you are, I’ll enter your name for you.  Winners will be picked next Monday.  

And speaking of to-do lists that make you feel like your head’s going to explode, I’m getting ready to take a big one off your list.  Book bundles are coming soon!  With a click of a button you can get one, two, or three Star Sisters books with a personal inscription and star necklace all beautifully wrapped and delivered to your door.  Say good-bye to birthday party present panic.  Coco and Lucy are getting ready to spread their kindness to hard working mamas everywhere!

As soon as they're ready you'll be able to purchase the necklaces here.  They'll sell for $14.95 but will be discounted when bought as part of a book bundle.  Can't wait to see them on little Cocos and Lucys everywhere!  

Springing

Yep, it's Spring.  The time of year when I alternate between marveling at the gorgeous colors bursting from every tree and cursing the pollen that is wreaking havoc on my daughter's body.  It's also the time of year when my Pinterest account is full floral decor and beautiful gardens.  I LOVE Pinterest.  Probably a little too much.  Whenever I have a few moments to kill in a pick-up line or at Starbucks, my finger automatically goes for that tiny red icon like it needs a hit of some home decor e-drug.  I'm sure there are many problems with this addiction of mine, but one obvious one is that all these beautiful images tend to blur together.  Who knew there were so many stunning white kitchens with subway tile and brass hardware in the world!

But one set of pictures that always stand out and stop me in my tracks every time I see them are the ones from landscape architect Miranda Brooks' Brooklyn town home, originally featured in Vogue last year.   Her whole house is stunning, but it's her daughters' bedroom that I love best.  (And, of course, that garden pictured above.  Can you believe that's the city?)  

brooks girls bedroom 2.jpg

I definitely went a little more traditional/formal with my girls' bedrooms.  So far I have designed five little girl bedrooms (two when we lived in the city and three when we moved to our house in the suburbs).  The first few times I would patiently explain to my husband that I needed to go all out because who knew, it could be the last time I got to decorate a little girl room.  By bedroom number five he just threw his hands up in the air and admitted defeat before we even got to the decorating conversation.  Victory!  

I think what I love most about the little girl room above is the vibe of happiness that it gives off.  Clearly a lot of thought went into the wallpaper and the fuchsia trim on the drapes which is picked up by the red rug and the pop of color on the throw quilt.  But you can also picture Brooks's daughters running inside (after they tire of being in the garden with their fluffy pet bunnies) and plopping on the floor to play with their doll house.  That's what catches my eye on Pinterest these days - the feeling that a room gives off, as opposed to the design of the room.

Want to see the Star Sisters version of Pinterest?  Here's an image from Star Sisters and the Big Show, which I promise is coming out the first week of June!  Sweet Lucy, she's been dreaming of a canopy bed ever since she saw one in a magazine.  And thanks to the power of her magical star necklace, she finally gets to sleep in one.  I feel ya, Lucy.  I definitely dreamed of having a canopy bed when I was little.  If only I had had a magical necklace to make all my dreams come true.  Sigh. 

A Love Letter

Dear Books,

I love you.  I love to read you and I love to write you.  Sometimes I get so emotionally involved with you that I park my enormous white minivan around the corner from my house so I can steal a few minutes alone in the front seat with you instead of going home, where I am needed.  Please don't tell my family.  

The other thing I love to do with you, dear books, is decorate my home.  I think you are the perfect style accessory.  Yes, I often judge by your cover.  And if I like what I see, I will steal you away and bring you home to live with me.  There you will stay for a long, long, long time.  At least until I can convince my husband that we should move so I can decorate another home and fill it with.....you!  Lots and lots of you!  

Love always,

Jen

Some shots of books that I've always loved (via pinterest):

Some shots from my own home:

photo-2.JPG
photo-3.JPG