I haven’t yet had the courage to listen to the audiobooks of my novels. (I also haven’t yet had the courage to look inside the published hardcovers, so it’s not about the performances. I’m just very shy of seeing or hearing my words in a state where I can’t change them anymore. It’s as bad as watching myself on videotape! *cringe*)

What I have done is google all the actors involved. Here they are, in order of appearance:

Connor Kelly-Eiding (Polly in The Whole World)

Connor is a mystery. The only public photo I was able to find of her is as a clown called Peking Duck. So, here it is! Connor Kelly-Eiding as Peking Duck in the Hollywood Fringe Festival, 2012:

From left to right Connor Kelly-Eiding as PEKING DUCK, Dave Honigman as TOM and Lis Roche Vizcarra as LORETTA.

Philip Battley (Nick in The Whole World)

From his website, I see that Philip was recently in a Lifetime movie called “Layover.” (Don’t you think that title calls for an exclamation mark? Layover! ) As a Lifetime movie addict suffering withdrawal out here in the UK (the free movies on Lifetime’s website only play in the States), I am delighted to see that it will soon be out on DVD (under the much-less-fun title “Abducted,” which would also benefit from an exclamation mark). Philip has also performed Shakespeare at The Globe, so his life seems to be pretty awesome. Jealous!

John Mawson (Morris in The Whole World)

His website tells me that John “has a reputation on stage and on screen as an authoritative, intelligent performer with a fine dry wit” and also that he has acted in several “Funny or Die” sketches. This past year he wrote and starred in the short film “6 years, 4 months & 23 Days.” He has played Sherlock Holmes on stage to adoring reviews, so I count myself lucky that I get him to read the role of my detective.

Jane Carr (Gretchen in The Whole World)

Jane Carr Picture

IMDB describes her as “she with the close-set eyes, lilting voice, trowel jaw and bubbly disposition.” Highlights from her resume include: a teenage role in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie with Vanessa Redgrave on stage and with Maggie Smith on film, numerous productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Olivier nominations, and, interestingly, “body double and voice actress of “Tabitha Lenox” on the daytime soap drama “Passions” when actress Juliet Mills took a brief hiatus.” An intimidating width and breadth of work that fits well for the intimidating personality of Gretchen!

Robin Gwynne (Liv in The Whole World)

“Rubber-voiced Robin Gwynne, comedic actress and one-time bikini model, blends funny and sexy in a quirky twist on the tried and true Hollywood formula.” She’s guest-starred on lots of TV shows, like Grey’s Anatomy, Samantha Who?, and Pushing Daisies. “Quirky” sounds ideal for the role of Liv, and “one time bikini model” sounds like Liv’s unfulfilled fantasy, so, perfect!

Sile Bermingham (Mathilde, Chloe and Grace in The Start of Everything)

Sile Bermingham Picture

Her lovely Gaelic name is pronounced “Sheila,” which she is probably very tired of having to explain. Her recent films include a moody, Canadian-set serial killer movie “A Kiss and a Promise” and the heist film “2:22.” So, lots of experience with crime stories.

Stephen Hoye (Morris and George in The Start of Everything)

Stephen did a lot of stage and TV in the seventies and eighties, switched over to non-profit fundraising, then got his start as an award-winning narrator of audio books from a chance meeting with a producer in an elevator. So, he must be charming as well as talented! He says in an Audiofile interview that he learned to love audio books when he “became a commuter.” Ha! Amen.

I’m extremely lucky that these talented people have read my words aloud. Thanks to each one of them!

You can hear their work by buying the books here:

The Whole World

The Start of Everything

Books tend to launch on Tuesdays. Tomorrow, January 8th, is my Tuesday!

Launches are *exciting* and *nerve-wracking*. Three confidence-boosting things happened this weekend, preparing me:

1) One of the actresses who voiced the audio book of my debut novel wrote to tell me how much she liked it. I know from experience how intimate an actor becomes with a role, so a compliment from someone who knows the character (Liv) that well is a real treat. It absolutely made my day. Thanks, Robin Gwynne!

Yes, I said “one of” the actresses, because Audible cast five different voices for the five narrators of The Whole World! I’m delighted. For The Start of Everything, which also has five narrators, they cast two voices (a man and a woman). It’s an understandable difference, because the narrators of The Whole World have more variation in nationality and age.

Interestingly, there is one character (Morris) who narrates in both books, but two different actors were cast.

(Also, I would just like to say that Philip Battley, who was cast as Nick in The Whole World, has a smiling headshot that captures Nick perfectly. I know it’s irrelevant whether audio narrators look the part, but, yes, he looks the part! I can absolutely imagine Liv and Polly falling for him.)

The audio books are available here:
The Whole World
The Start of Everything

2) Art Taylor wrote a fantastic review of The Start of Everything for The Washington Post. I don’t mean that the review says that the book is fantastic; I mean that the review is amazingly written. It’s more an analysis than a review, and I’m thrilled to see the book talked about with such intellect and intensity. For example:

While Cambridge and that manor house may hark back to traditional British mysteries — a murder or two, clues and red herrings, the killer smoothly unmasked — it’s important to note that the manor house here has been “chopped into flats,” traditions have been broken, modern life is intruding. If Winslow overworks some of the connections here, she’s brilliant at portraying the ragged fragments of these lives. What emerges isn’t a single killer with motive and means, but a tangle of stories crossing and colliding, stray intersections of incidents and accidents, misunderstandings and misreadings, all thanks to the myopia of individual perspectives and the self-centeredness of individual desires.

What a privilege it is to have my work examined with such care.

3) I carry cards with info about the books, in case people ask. Yesterday, walking home from church, we stopped to chat with a family who lives on our route home. The mother looked over the information, and read aloud one my favorite reviews of The Whole World, from the Palm Beach Post:

“A first novel about growing up, having sex and going seriously off the rails at Cambridge University.”

She smiled, gazed wistfully into middle distance, said “Story of my life!” then laughed. Ha!

I don’t like shopping. These signs from a hotel in Germany think I must, but never mind: I don’t like it.

What I really don’t like is getting dressed. I would exercise a lot more often if that didn’t require a change of clothes. I get dressed in the morning out of necessity and I just don’t want to think about it again once I do. Shopping for clothes is one big Groundhog-Day-like repeat of getting dressed over and over again, in a tiny room more claustrophobic than an elevator, into clothes that I don’t yet know will fit or look good. I do it once every couple of years, buy piles of clothes then live off the spoils for many months, like hunting a mammoth to feed a village for a whole winter.

That time has come again. And it…wasn’t so bad! THANK YOU, MARKS AND SPENCER. Why do I love M&S so much?

1) Their clothes go up to my size and beyond. No plus-sized ghetto. I can shop at all the racks.

2) Their clothes are consistently sized. I had my kids with me, so I decided to try things on at home and later return what didn’t fit. Guess what? Literally ALL OF IT fit perfectly. At Marks & Spencer, my size is my size is my size. If that number is on their label, it fits my body. I sent the boys on a “treasure hunt” to find all the black trousers in my size. They found four; it took ten minutes; I bought them all; I’m wearing a pair right now. They look great.

3) Their shoes tend to be wide. That’s a nice change from EVERYWHERE ELSE ON THE PLANET.

The impetus behind this splurge is that a photographer is coming next week, which is something that stresses me out even more than shopping does. I have to make the house look presentable. I have to make ME look presentable. While half the family goes to see Skyfall after church, I will go home and scrub the white stone entryway. (Who approved white stone and white grout at the front door anyway?? Oops, me…)

Wish me luck! Cross fingers that the photog will be forgiving and flattering.

(Photo credit to S.W. Stark, now old enough to be off in foreign countries having adventures without me…)

Well, so far I do love it. Standing for too long, however, ends up hurting my feet (we’re in bare feet around the house, so it’s not a shoe thing).

Attempted solution: I keep a butt-height piece of furniture behind me, to alternate leaning and true standing. This gives just enough periodic relief to my feet to keep me going. The key is that I don’t properly sit with my legs bent or dangling; I just lean, with legs still straight, still holding me up, just with some of the pressure off. This makes it easy, and natural, to return to true standing after a bit of relief. This back-and-forth is just part of the natural fidgeting and weight-shifting that makes standing to work more active.

What do I recommend as a butt-height piece of furniture, you may ask? Well, if I were buying, I’d look for a bar stool type thing. What I actually used, however, is a piece of exercise equipment I don’t know the name of. I got it after giving birth, to help my abs and back get back into shape. It was right there, so I grabbed it. It’s great. I think the edge of a desk or table could work, too. Whatever you use, it has to have a really steady base.

True confession: I’m writing this from my old glider-and-footstool combination, because I’ve just taken a migraine pill and feel AWFUL. Still recovering from jet lag? Still recovering from being sick on the plane and for a week after? Whatever it is, I hope to be back on my feet soon.

I’ve been sitting far, far too much. Recent studies show that sitting for long periods (LIKE WHEN WRITING) is unhealthy. Sure has been for me.

I’ve chickened out of getting a hardcore “treadmill desk.” I think the walking would be too distracting.

But here I am, with this lovely version of a standing desk. It’s more of a laptop stand than a proper desk, but that’s really all I need.

The theory is that I’ll now work standing up. In fact, I’m standing up right now 😉

Already I’m doing that rocking, weight-shifting thing that is supposed to be so much healthier than being still.

I chose this over a properly desk-like standing desk for a few reasons. Number one is that I have a laptop so that I’m not tied down to any one room. I can easily move a stand with me in a way that I wouldn’t be able to move a piece of furniture. Number two, most of those desks don’t have a tilt option. With this, I can angle the laptop towards me, which is more comfortable for typing. Third, it has a wide range of adjustable heights. Because I was ordering this online and wouldn’t have a chance to try it out, I wanted to have options. If I find I need papers beside me, I can just grab a music stand (we have a couple in use around the house).

As far as other laptop stands go, many of the others I found were on wheels. Yes, those wheels are lockable, but it still made me nervous. Also, many of them are primarily for projectors, as opposed to this one, purpose-built for laptops. Lastly, it had great reviews, was only £100, arrived two days after I ordered it, and was assembled in less than fifteen minutes.

I’ve only just unpacked it, but so far I’m very pleased.

I’ll report back in a few weeks if I’m able to do all my work this way, or only part, or if it drives me crazy.

Chair will still be there for me when I need him.

This may seem really obvious to people who do it naturally, but to me it was a revelation.

I naturally read all email the same day it arrives. My previous method was to assess “urgent” vs. “not urgent.” This meant that the urgent got taken care of, but all of the “not urgent” was a mess. Finding the things that had become urgent over time but were still undifferentiated in my inbox was daunting.

Now I assess “action required, ever” vs. “no action required, ever.” If there is an action required, any action, even if that action is NOT a reply (for example, if it is “write this date in the calendar” or “I’ll need to refer back to these instructions someday”) I click “reply” then “save.”

Now, instead of having to search back through my too-full inbox for things I might need to do, I just go to my drafts folder, which has become a manageable electronic to-do list.

Ta-da!

I spent 45 minutes in a clinic waiting room yesterday. (Nothing worrying; we were there for travel vaccines.)

Waiting rooms are usually, by definition, boring. But I found three things that made me glad of the wait:

1) A brochure for local foot reflexology and Indian head massage. Ooh, my two favorite bits of massage, available without having to completely disrobe! I don’t have anything against being naked, but I find the steps of getting undressed and dressed again to be added efforts, while skipping them would make the whole experience more relaxing. Just come as you are, sit down, enjoy!

2) A “Missing Person Abroad” brochure that is very, very specific about what to do, and what the UK government can do, should someone go missing while travelling. The plot gears in my mind are turning already…

3) This sad, inspriring newspaper story about a sick child’s short life made happy, framed on the wall.

Much more stimulating than a stack of magazines.

What do you miss most about America, Emily?

1) Autumn leaves.

I’m from the east coast of the US, and the leaves here in the UK just don’t compare.

2) US bathroom etiquette.

When I see a closed bathroom door, I knock on it. Only if there is no claim of occupancy do I try the handle.

Here, I’m considered horribly rude to expect interaction with someone on the toilet. No one ever answers. Worse, no one ever knocks on my toilet stall door. They just grab the handle and start rattling. In their minds, they’re being polite, checking the status of the door rather than engaging with me while I’m involved in personal matters. But it makes me feel cornered. The rattling, turning handle is far more creepy and imposing than a knock. I feel like a heroine in a horror movie, cringing on the toilet, hoping the door will hold.

3) Baggers in supermarkets.

My kids were in awe of baggers last summer in Rhode Island. You mean, people actually *help* you?? Also, the checker gave them free day-old bakery cookies. My older son plans to move back to the US when he’s an adult, partly based on this one shopping trip.

There is a saying among writers: Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.

Sitting is great for writing, terrible for health. I think I gain 20 pounds with each book. This is Not Good. (Good thing I am only on my third book!)

I’m also trying to become more tidy as I go, rather than saving up lots of piles to dismantle in massive efforts every six months or so. I have a theory that becoming more physically active with daily upkeep may help with both tidiness and health.

Will report later…

Three links that have made me smile this week:

How to respond to negative reviews” by Beth Revis:

“If there are people in the world who hate puppies, Harry Potter, chocolate, and/or bacon, then there are people in the world who hate your book. Put in that perspective, things aren’t so bad, huh?”

Evil Editor on vagueness in queries:

“It’s like opening a menu and reading:

Entree 1: Ingredients are combined lovingly and cooked to perfection, then spooned onto a plate and served.

Entree 2: A medley of items from our kitchen prepared stovetop by our chef and brought to your table.

Entree 3: Stuff, cooked.

Some specifics about these powerful people: who they are, what they want, what happens if they get it, how the superheroes plan to stop them, would be helpful.”

The scent of books, bottled:

Demeter “Paperback

Steidl “Paper Passion”

Enjoy!