books

5 Minutes with Taye Diggs

September 5, 2013 at 8:54 am , by

We love Taye Diggs for his acting whether it’s on TV (Private Practice), the big screen (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) or the Broadway stage (Rent, anyone?), but we especially love him for his commitment to children’s education. The issue especially resonates with Diggs since he’s the proud dad of his four-year-old son, Walker, with wife and actress Idina Menzel. We chatted with the actor (and children’s book author!) about being a parent, his new movies and the hilarious six-second Vine videos he posts on Twitter.

Why is education important to you?

Once I found out that around two-thirds of kids in poverty didn’t have books at home, I partnered with Kellogg’s and Scholastic to help change that. I was a very avid reader and I have no idea where I’d be today were it not for books. And now I’m a children’s author; in 2011 I wrote a children’s book called Chocolate Me. So this is something that’s close to my heart. (Click here to learn more about how you can help give hundreds of thousands of books to kids.)

Where did you get the inspiration to write Chocolate Me?

I wrote it to help kids who are dealing with the same situation that I dealt with as a child. My mother did an amazing job, but it would’ve been even easier for her if she could’ve just whipped out a book about that specific moment when kids were making fun of me because of my skin color and how I should love myself and find my self-esteem from within. I’m working on a second book called Mixed Up Mike that will address my son’s point of view, being the product of an interracial marriage.

What’s been the most challenging part of parenthood?

Realizing how much more vulnerable I am. I have no control over how much love I feel or how much fear I have when he leaves the house everyday. But I relish the moments when he hugs us and tells us how much he loves us. The other day he even said he wished he could go back in time so that we could be friends in school.

That’s so adorable. And you’re a working dad—you’ve got a couple of films coming up.

Yes, I worked with Paula Patton on a movie called Baggage Claim and the role was a bit of a departure for me. My character is this overly ambitious, self-involved politician who’s obsessed with his little dog. So that left room for lots of comedy and improvising. I’m also starring in Best Man Holiday, which is a sequel to The Best Man. It’s the same character, but he’s older and has more experience under his belt and you get to see how the relationships have changed.

You also recently posted a Vine video on Twitter (@TayeDiggs) of you and Idina singing together while out in New York for a date night. It looked like you both were having a blast.

We hadn’t had a night like that in Manhattan in a while so we just took advantage. It was so much fun. I love those Vine videos. I could do eight a day.


Win Alison Sweeney’s New Book!

May 3, 2013 at 8:00 am , by

Alison Sweeney is one hardworking woman. Not only does she star on Days of Our Lives and host The Biggest Loser, she’s also mom to son Ben, age 8, and daughter Megan, age 4. In our July/August issue she answers your questions about how she lost weight and gained self-esteem, but even with everything else she has going on this busy mom still found the time to fulfill another dream: becoming a novelist. This month she releases her new book, The Star Attraction, which is about a Hollywood publicist who scores a dreamy big-name client, but she lets her love life become intertwined with her work. Sounds juicy, right? We agree—that’s why we’re giving five away copies signed by Alison herself! Just leave a comment on this blog post and you’re automatically entered to win.

Only one entry per person, per email address. Official Rules


Win A Signed Copy of Lauren Graham’s New Book!

March 29, 2013 at 8:00 am , by

Parenthood star Lauren Graham has come a long way since she began pursuing acting—she once played a dog mascot at the World Cup!—but she never gave up on her dreams. (Read our full interview with her in the May 2013 issue.) In fact, she turned those difficult moments into inspiration for her first novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe, about a struggling young actress in New York City. The book hits shelves on April 30th, but three lucky winners will get a free copy of the book signed by Lauren herself! All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post and you’re entered to win. Good luck!

Only one entry per person, per email address. Official Rules


Win a Signed Copy of Hoda Kotb’s New Book!

January 15, 2013 at 8:00 am , by

Hoda Kotb is mostly known for her Today show antics with co-host Kathie Lee Gifford (check out their February cover story here!), her award-winning broadcast journalism, and her battle with breast cancer, all of which she wrote about in her memoir Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee. Today she’s releasing her next book, Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives, and this time she gets back to her news journalism roots by telling the amazing and inspiring stories of six others. Interested yet? Because we’re giving away three copies signed by Hoda and all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post to enter. Good luck! Only one entry per person, per email address.

Official Rules


Summer Reading: Mutiny Gallery by Poet BK Fischer

June 28, 2012 at 12:08 pm , by

It’s summer time and the livin’ is officially easy … doesn’t a glass of lemonade (or chardonnay) outside on the porch with a great new book sound idyllic right about now? I can hear your sighs of relief already. We’re sure you’ve got the drinks covered, but we’d like to recommend the read that accompanies you during your next moment of peace this season. BK Fischer is a poet from Sleepy Hollow, New York, and her novel-in-verse Mutiny Gallery is just the engrossing book you need. New to poetry? Fischer’s thoughtfully crafted poems bring everyday life into a new, intriguing light—the perfect introduction to the genre.

We caught up with Fischer about the inspiration for the book, her life as a writer, and what to do if you feel like you want to be a poet … and you didn’t know it. (Couldn’t resist!)

Tell us a little bit about Mutiny Gallery. What was your inspiration?

Mutiny Gallery tells the story of a woman who leaves her suburban home and takes her 10-year-old son on a cross-country road trip, stopping at offbeat museums along the way. Two things inspired me to write the book. In 2007, I wrote a short play about a woman named Claire and her toddler son, Max, which was performed at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art in Peekskill, New York. When that production wrapped up, I was looking for a new project, and I wondered what would happen to those characters ten years later. At the same time, I picked up a book a friend had given me called Little Museums: Over 1000 Small (and Not-So-Small) American Showplaces, and I started to imagine Max and Claire visiting these strange places. Their visits to these museums began to tell the story of their experiences.

Readers new to poetry might be surprised to learn that your collection is actually a ‘novel-in-verse,’ a full story told through poetry. What makes poetry the best medium for this story?

I liked that telling the story through a series of poems allowed room for gaps—leaps in time, place, and emotion. Our lives are not usually one continuous story, but rather a series of memories, episodes, events, and intense moments (with long dull stretches in between). Lyric poetry is especially suited to conveying moments of extremity, fear, quest, and revelation, and for capturing the intensity of a stopping place in the mind.

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Guest Blog: The Author of The First Husband On The Search for a Place Called Home (Plus: Win a Copy of Her Book!)

April 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm , by

Laura Dave, whose wonderful piece about her chronic sleeplessness appears in the current issue of LHJ, is a California-based writer whose third novel, the critically and popularly acclaimed The First Husband, arrives in bookstores in paperback tomorrow (April 24). Here, Dave tells us how she came to write what USA Today called a “playful, unpredictable and emotionally resonant” story about Annie Adams, a conflicted young career woman who finds herself torn between two wildly different men and two equally different lifestyles.

Bonus: Be one of 20 lucky readers who will win a hot-off-the-presses copy of The First Husband! Leave a comment on this post to enter.

 

I began writing The First Husband almost by accident. I was knee-deep in a different novel that took place in Big Sur, California. That novel was about fathers and daughters. Or, I should say, it started out as a novel about fathers and daughters. But the book had turned out to be about many disparate things including the American west, identity theft, and broken hearts. All of which is to say that the deeper I got into the writing of that book, the further away I seemed to be moving from why I’d wanted to write it.

So, almost surreptitiously, I opened a new document. I didn’t tell myself I was starting a new book—how could I? I told myself I was just writing one scene, which kept coming to me: a woman sitting on her couch in her house, right before her longtime boyfriend walks in and changes everything in her life.

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Guest Blog: Humor is the Best Therapy and Other Writing Lessons from THE Sweet Potato Queen

April 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm , by

Jill Conner Browne (aka THE Sweet Potato Queen) is the multiple #1 New York Times bestselling, laugh-out-loud funny leader of the Sweet Potato Queens—a movement that boasts some 6,200 chapters in more than 37 countries. Known for her bawdy, tongue-in-cheek humor, and for spreading what she refers to as “sparkle,” Browne started her reign when she and a few friends decided to enter the Jackson, Mississippi, St. Patrick’s Parade in 1982. The Sweet Potato Queens focus on sisterhood, self-esteem (you’re never too old or too anything to be a Queen) and positive thinking. Their annual Zippity Doo Dah Parade benefits the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children, which just dedicated an examination room named for the group in its new ER.

The book that launched Browne was The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love, a kind of manifesto for the movement, which came out in 1999. Here, Browne writes about the events that gave rise to the ninth book in the series, Fat Is the New 30: The Sweet Potato Queens’ Guide to Coping with (the crappy parts of) Life, out this month.

* * *

Since 1999, I have cranked out a funny book about my life as THE Sweet Potato Queen every year or so and had more than my share of success. Out of eight books, all attained “bestseller” status with two actually reaching that much-coveted spot on the Only List That Really Matters: #1 on the New York Times list.

In 2009, I’d have to say my status as a writer felt pretty safe and secure—as did my whole life, truth be told. Married to a wonderful man (The Cutest Boy in the World), my only child doing well in college, a houseful of dogs and cats—happy as a pig in the sunshine would not be overstating my condition.

Life was perfect—until one day, it wasn’t anymore. “Mama fell.” How many friends have told me sad stories that began with those two words? Every minute of every hour of every day for six months, my husband and I were my mother’s total caregivers. Her hospital bed was literally in our bedroom with us until she died.

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