How to Pick the Right Eating Lifestyle

Posted in Uncategorized by Steph Auteri on January 1, 2008

They say that couples who move in together gain weight together. Yet as I’ve slowly put on pounds, I’ve found that my husband only grows more concave. Christmas didn’t help, of course. In the Christmas cookies alone, there are untold amounts of brown sugar, butter, and condensed milk.

Which is why people are always trying out new diets in their attempt to make good in the new year.

About a year ago, an online bud of mine suggested Dr. Joshi’s Holistic Detox to me. I read through it, horrified by the fact that I would have to cut out pretty much every single thing I enjoyed eating. I wussed out.

Now I’m thinking I should give it a try. It’s not just the extra pounds I’ve packed on. I’ve been feeling exceptionally bloated lately. I’ve been suffering from acid reflux. My energy levels are frustratingly low. Could this be the answer to my problems? But check out these hardcore top ten rules of the detox:

  • no red meat
  • no dairy produce
  • no fruit, except for bananas
  • no wheat, gluten, or yeast
  • no alcohol
  • no biscuits, cakes, or doughnuts
  • no jams or spreads, except for honey
  • no coffee (even decaf) or tea, except for herbal teas
  • no sugar, chocolate, or sweets
  • no artificially produced flavorings, such as ketchup, vinegar, or mustard

Hard core.

I’m finding that lots of people are looking for a stricter kick in the ass at the start of the New Year. My mother wants me to do the Weight Watchers Kick-Start plan with her. My friend Nicole is doing the Great American Detox Diet with her husband. And the entire front of my local Barnes & Noble is filled with diet and exercise tomes (I picked up a copy of Slim for Life out of curiosity).

What are your favorite ways to kick start the new year, and flush out the impurities that the holidays invariably introduce into your system?


How to Achieve Self-Enlightenment

Posted in Uncategorized by Steph Auteri on November 21, 2007


Okay. I know. I know that Eat, Pray, Love isn’t actually a self-help book. But from my earliest days, as a kindergartner, swiping John Saul books from my father’s closet…as a junior high school student, stealing moments of reading time while I was supposed to be doing my homework…as the woman I am now, still the same big old booktard I always was, fiction and creative/narrative nonfiction have always held a type of inherent truth for me that scrapes against the heart and the pit of the stomach in a way academically written how-tos never could.

And so I ask you to indulge me for the moment in the use of the memoir as a source of self-enlightenment.

Elizabeth Gilbert was a woman with all the trappings of success: the husband; the well done-up home; the writerly career. Following a divorce, however, and a depression that left her feeling lost, she began to re-evaluate her life, and to re-evaluate the definition of success itself. In the end, she resolved to leave her conventionally successful life behind, and to pursue something deeper.

What follows from this is quite the impressive journey — written in lovely language, and with plenty of humor — in which Gilbert travels to Italy to indulge herself, to India to find the benefits of pure devotion, and to Bali, to study under a medicine man.

Aside from the fact that Gilbert’s story makes for an incredibly fascinating read, there is more to notice here.

  • Re-evaluate what you’re working toward: As the author of Your Money or Your Life asked, are you working for a living, or working for a dying? Does your work fulfill you, on a more personal level? Are you putting more energy into it than you’re receiving in payback? When I looked at the career I had made for myself in publishing, moving quickly from marketing assistant to marketing coordinator to marketing associate, I had to consider where it was all leading and, as a result, admit to the fact that the outcome wasn’t even desirable to me. It led me to take a career risk, and I’ve been grateful I took it ever since.
  • Find what makes you happy: In Gilbert’s memoir, she literally takes a (very extensive) journey, eventually finding her way to a more balanced and happy life. Not all of us have the ability to do something so drastic but, in keeping within a somewhat practical plan, we can still experiment with the things that interest us, whether through part-time jobs, internships, freelance gigs, continuing education classes, etc.
  • Incorporate what you’ve learned into your life: These life experiments can aid you in finding something you love, or make it very clear to you what you hate. Both are very useful. For example, through my time at three very different jobs, I found that I loathed the corporate environment, but enjoyed working for small presses. And so my search becomes more targeted. I find that working from home full time makes me lonely. So I mix things up a little. Take what you learn from your forays into different worlds and juggle things around until you find yourself living your ideal life.
  • Career isn’t everything: My bullet points seem to focus mainly on career. It’s a problem of mine, as I tend to self-identify by what I do for income, more than anything else. It’s a flaw, I suppose. But endless productivity and the search for self-fulfilling work are the things that drive me and energize me. But I’d like to make it clear that Gilbert’s story is obviously more about the life/work balance, and that it’s important to fill your life with more than just “work.” Become a belly dancing hula hooper, a nightlife photographer, or a creative tutu artist. Plan date nights with your significant other (otherwise, you may never see them). Take time out to read something for pleasure. For the love of god, live.

Out of curiosity, what are some of the things you wish you had the time to try on for size? I seriously do want to take hula hoop dance lessons, and I have the materials together for the purplest tutu ever. I also want to go hang gliding. What do you daydream about when you’re trying to escape from your day-to-day?

How to Write with Vitality

Posted in Uncategorized by Steph Auteri on October 4, 2007
Tags: , , ,

dictionary page.

So my buddy Charlotte, knowing that I’m a total word-nerd, gave me this copy of Arthur Plotnik’s Spunk & Bite that she received through YPG. An obvious play on Strunk & White, the subheading averred that it was “A writer’s guide to bold, contemporary style,” and a flip through the TOC promised chapters on adverbs, thesauri, foreign languages, hyper-hyphenation, semicolons, ohgod I’m getting excited all over again just listing all the stuff in this book.

Now, before I go on, I should mention that the only topic on my bookshelf that beats out the sex stuff (it’s my niche, sort of) is the writing how-to section. Stephen King’s On Writing. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees. The Art of the Interview. The New New Journalism. I could go on and on.

And on.

But I never got into those books on grammar and all the other nitty-gritty technicalities. Spunk & Bite, however, is not your typical tome on usage and composition. Rather, it turns Strunk & White on its ear and urges the burgeoning writer to take chances with his or her prose, experimenting with word combinations, enallage, and the like, basically encouraging one to play god with the english language.

Some of my favorite suggestions, many of which I already use in my own writing:

  • Collect words as you would coins. Or comic books. Or those shot glasses from your college days. Being able to infuse your writing with widely unfamiliar language can give it an extra spark. Some of the gorgeous words that Arthur Plotnik lays out for us are “solipsistic”; “purled”; “coruscating”; and “darkling.” They’re the types of words you want to whisper aloud over and over, wrapping your tongue around them…letting the deliciousness of those round vowels and rough consonants reverberate on the air.
  • Upgrade your colors. Alain de Botton writes of, “…a counter spread with hams as brown as violins.” GaryShteyngart writes of, “T-shirts of…narcolepsy gray…” Metaphors like these help the vision of a color hover before the reader’s very eyes.The word “saffron” makes the color yellow seem that much more beautiful. And I love the word”claret” in place of “red.”
  • Create neologisms — new words or word combinations. I like to think that, as writers, we are given license to invent to new words whenever we damn well please.
  • Even more coveted than my thesaurus is my English-Italian dictionary. As a student of the language for five years (admittedly, I can’t even put together a sentence at this point), what I loved most were the rolling”r”s and skipping “l”s and I would get all nerd-excited whenever my prof asked me to read aloud a passage in class (because, of course, I could pull off the best accent, with the most perfect pronunciation; we’ll overlook the fact that friends laugh at my gusto with the language when ordering in Italian restaurants). La melanzana. Il pomodoro. Parlo un poco d’Italiano. Gosh, it just sounds pretty. Who in heck even cares what it means!?
  • Enallage is pretty popular these days. It’s when you shift the functions of nouns, adjectives, and verbs to to give a word new punch and meaning. A popular example is “I heart New York,” in which the word “heart,” which is typically used as a noun, is being used as a verb.
  • Ooh! Hyper-hyphenation. I used it before when I created the word “nerd-excited.” I use it all the time, actually, and it’s probably a bit overkill, but it can sometimes add a bit of pizzazz to your writing. That and it’s fun.

That’s all I’m gonna give you, but I highly suggest that you pick up your own copy of the book to get some more wordplay ideas. Because I’m keeping mine. As Plotnik writes, “charge like some mad lepidopterist through the meadows of language — every kind of meadow — and net the butterflies, let them loose in your pages.”

p.s. Some books I’ve added to the ol’ wishlist, recommended by Plotnik:

  • Mark McCutcheon’s Descriptionary: A Thematic Dictionary
  • David Grambs’s The Describer’s Dictionary: A Treasury of Terms and Literary Quotations

At the moment, I only own the M-W Garfield dictionary. Perhaps it’s time for an upgrade.

p.p.s. Bonus pic of my hubby showing his dictionary some love! (obviously, I should get a photography how-to as well)

dictionary love.