Monthly Archives: September 2013

Meet Ann Quasarano – Founder of The Fairfieldista Blog

By Holly Hurd

Freelancing often inspires you to start your own venture.  Ann Quasarano was writing two columns for a news website that covered happenings in her local community.  Before that, Ann worked for Warner Bros. before her son was born, organizing premier parties and planning the press for big events.

“I did a lot of red carpet movie premiers including some of the Harry Potter movies,” said Ann. “It was really fun but high stress and lots of pressure.  Celebrity wrangling and the after parties were my responsibility as well.”   After her son was born, she decided to step away from the spotlight to stay home with her new baby.

“I did some PR for local businesses and as my son got older, I found I had more time to build my client base,” she said.  Ann also got a job writing for a local news website.  She covered people and businesses from her hometown each week and was paid for her writing.

But when the blog could no longer pay freelancers, Ann decided to go out on her own.

Working with a designer, someone she knew from her past career in Manhattan, she created her blog and named it Fairfieldista, combining the name of her county with a play on the slang word fashionista.   “It took me a while to get things organized, but I launched in March of this year.”

In the “about” section of her blog, Ann asks, Who has time to drive up and down I-95 and the Post Road looking for the perfect outfit for the school fundraiser, locate that great (undiscovered) caterer, and scour every local newspaper/website/magazine/Twitter & Facebook feed to find all the cool stuff that’s happening in Fairfield County?” 

Ann bills her blog as the place to find everything you need to know about what’s happening in her area. Her blog page allows the reader to search by their own town and under the categories of fashion, food, family or fun.

Ann found that through her interviews and coverage of local businesses there were lots of perks.

“I meet the most interesting people I would never meet otherwise,” she said. “And I’ve been invited to press dinners, asked to host parties for emerging designers and even been invited to cover New York Fashion Week as a blogger.”

She also finds that having her own blog, gives her the flexibility she wants in her life while her son is young but says, “I don’t want to wait to build my resume until after he goes to college.  Doing my blog is helping me get started early.”  This way she’ll have real experience when she goes out to get a job with another company in a few years.

“I love the challenge of finding new and relevant stories to write about for my blog,” she said, adding that her husband and son think it’s pretty cool too.

Contact:  http://www.fairfieldista.com

Email: [email protected]

Ellen Harnett’s Top 5 Fatigue Fighters

Those “lazy hazy crazy” days of summer  are over.

It’s officially Fall.  Some of you have dropped your kids off at college for the first time, others are gearing up for hectic schedules as school begins for the kids still at home.  Perhaps you have a job that slows down considerably or even stops for the summer.  Whatever your lifestyle, it is probably ramping up as you are reading this.

Does the thought of that make you want to lie down and take a nap?

We know you’re not alone and we also know that nap is not going to happen.  The truth is you’ll be needing a lot of energy to fuel your day with all the different hats you wear and jobs you perform.
Supermarket shelves are filled with purported energy drinks, bars and snack packs. There’s a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner. We have a plethora of fake solutions on the market.

How’s that working for you?

I confess that I love my coffee, but it has never been the fuel that keeps my motor humming all day long. The only ingestible remedy for sustained energy are good clean whole foods that your body recognizes and knows exactly how to use.

Read on for a  list of energy-boosters.  No magic potions, pricey supplements or foods you’ve never seen before.  I guarantee you have at least one item from each category (and then some) in your kitchen right now.

These are the top 5 fatigue fighting foods (that’s a mouthful!)  I’m even going to provide simple ways to build a better breakfast lunch or dinner with them.

Dark Leafy Greens – Top the List!

These lovely phytonutrient dense foods (which translate into a multitude of health benefits) are sadly lacking in most American diets. Popeye was absolutely right – there’s power in a pot of spinach (or kale, collards, chard, etc.).

Digestion is a bodily function that uses a tremendous amount of energy.  When we give our bodies foods that are easy on the GI tract, we save a lot of steam and have extra fuel for driving those car pools, meeting deadlines at work, getting to the gym, preparing meals… you know the drill.

You can eat them at every meal and in between.

Breakfast – Add a handful of greens to your morning shake or mix them in your scrambled eggs.

Lunch – Add them to boxed or canned soups when you are heating them up for lunch.  Make sure to use kale, spinach, arugala, mesculin mixes for your salads and leave the iceberg lettuce in the produce aisle.

Dinner – Quickly sauté any greens in 1 tbs. olive oil, with one clove garlic.  Add a little veggie or chicken broth and a squeeze of lemon. Yummy side dish for any meal.

Good Quality Protein – long lasting fuel.

Amino acids are the building blocks for our cells and protein is made of amino acids. Quality sources of protein will keep your energy levels at high speeds for hours at a time.  Eggs (from humanely raised poultry), wild caught fish, grass fed beef, lamb and pork, quality poultry, beans, nuts, seeds.  By the way, there isn’t a food in that group that doesn’t blend well with dark leafy greens.

Breakfast – Add a good plant based protein powder to your greens with some non-dairy milk and nut butter.

Lunch – Make sure pair sliced chicken and hard boiled eggs with salad greens.

Dinner – Top your sautéed greens (above) with chopped nuts or toasted seeds.  Works with any animal or plant protein.

Whole Grains (the real stuff pure and simple)

Quality whole grains (the non-gluten variety) like quinoa, millet, brown rice, teff, buckwheat, gluten free oats are good sources of Vitamins B1 and B2. B1is essential for helping the body convert carbohydrates into energy. B2 and Niacin (found in whole grains as well) help us use the energy obtained from our food more effectively.

Of course, those dark leafy greens are a great mix with whole grains.

Breakfast – Mix cooked quinoa with a little chopped spinach, diced yams and cinnamon for a power breakfast.

Lunch – Add brown rice, buckwheat or millet to your soups or salad for lunch.

Dinner – Add brown rice + your favorite herbs and seasoning to beans (your choice) and serve over sautéed or wilted greens for a fabulous dinner.

Fresh Fruit – Nature’s candy to satisfy that sweet tooth naturally!

Who needs superfoods from foreign lands when we have blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, peaches, plums (and on and on) growing like mad right here in the greater New York area.

You’ll see a lot of products with Acai in your market – just one of the new superfoods on the block. True – it’s loaded with antioxidants but it comes from the rain forests of the Amazon and is rather pricey to buy frozen.  Blueberries and other richly colored fruits are also loaded with anti-oxidants to fight inflammation and give us the nutrients our bodies need for peak performance without the price tag.

Breakfast – Load up your oatmeal with blueberries, toasted pumpkin seeds, cinnamon and a drop of honey for a sweeter healthy breakfast.

Lunch – Add apple slices to your leafy green salads at lunchtime

Dinner – How about a snazzy fruit salsa to adorn a grilled salmon, sautéed swiss chard and quinoa dinner?

Water – The only pure energy drink on supermarket shelves!

It is impossible to blog about energy foods without talking about H20.  It is the best energy drink on the planet.  Move over Gatorade, 5 hour Energy and all the rest of those “quick fix” products we think we need.  Not a one of those will give your body what it needs to be at its best.  As a matter of fact, they will seriously interfere with it.

Nothing will zap your energy faster than being dehydrated and nothing will perk you up faster than replenishing with a big glass of pure water.

How much?  Experts say that you should divide your body weight in half and that in the number of ounces of water you need per day.  However, if you drink 8 glasses (8 ounces each) a day, you will be doing very well.

One more note on water – skip the “designer” flavored waters that are touted to replace your electrolytes and keep you in ultimate performance condition.  Water is naturally gluten free, vegan, kosher, sugar free, carb free – etc.  Drink a big glass and then use my tips to build meals and snacks to power you through the day.

Of course, if you’re looking for step by step recipes that guaranteed to boost your pep and make you smile, click here www.backtobasicwellness.com and choose your favorites!

Former Groupon Exec Devoted to Non-Profit Cause

By Jane Applegate

Jayna Cooke lived and worked in the fast lane doing business development and sales for two high-tech start-ups, including Groupon. Now, she spends most days in her spare bedroom, sorting and pricing donated, high-end clothing and accessories.

Rather than moving to another fast-paced company, Jayna, who is in her early 30’s, told me she decided to take a break and set up her own charity.

Cooke, the former vice president of business development at Groupon, launched Closet Angels, http://www.closetangels.org/, a non-profit organization that sells donated designer clothes and accessories online and turns over 100 percent of the proceeds to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Chicago.

“Groupon was my second start up,” she said. “I was really focused on business development and how to scale a company as fast as possible. But, it was my second rodeo and it had reached the point where I had contributed as much as I could.”

Once she decided to leave her job, she started transitioning out of the company in June and left in October, 2012.

“I had an idea in the beginning of last year to do something in the non-profit arena,” she explained. When she refined the Closet Angeles concept, she applied for 501(c3) non-profit organization status with the IRS and set up a limited liability company (LLC) to handle the money. So far, she’s spent about $20,000 of her own money on start-up costs.

Unlike Goodwill or the Salvation Army, which accept any kind of clothing, Closet Angels limits its collection to luxury and designer brands. “It’s a niche but the market is enormous,” said Cooke.

Plus, people who donate expensive items to Closet Angels often benefit from a bigger tax write off versus “a designer handbag valued at $3 by the Salvation Army.”

Currently, all donations shipped to Closet Angels end up the extra bedroom of her apartment in the River North area of Chicago. There, she and an assistant examine, sort and price the items before photographing them and posting them online to sell via sites including eBay.

Response has been so strong, she’s already looking for office space nearby.

“Shoes and accessories do the best for us,” she said. “It’s a lot easier for people to bid on shoes versus clothes. Plus, handbags, shoes and jewelry sell for the highest prices.”

A long-time fashionista, Cooke once worked as a buyer for Nieman-Marcus. “I know how to detect fakes and frauds, but luckily, I haven’t had any issues with that, yet.” She does ask that every item donated be in ‘like new’ condition and have a resale value of $50 or more.

If you want to donate: Email [email protected]  to let them know the address of where to send a box and shipping label.  Please provide brief description of the items you will be donating (that way they’ll know how big the box needs to be that we are sending to you).

Every sale she makes benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“They were always on my radar,” said Cooke. “It’s an amazing organization that devotes about 80 cents of every dollar to research (and treatment). Thanks to them, childhood cancer survival rates have improved significantly.”

Danielle Kinzer, regional event specialist for the hospital, said she was “very intrigued by the concept and finding out the story behind why (Jayna) chose St. Jude as the recipient of the monies raised.”

Kinzler said, “it was wonderful to learn that her family had supported St. Jude when she was growing up and she had a close family friend that had been impacted by cancer.”

She said St. Jude is “fortunate to have wonderful partners like Closet Angels who think outside the box when it comes to fundraising money for St. Jude.”

“It certainly was the first time I had ever been introduced or worked with a partner on this type of concept before,” she said. She said the daily operating cost for St. Jude is $1.8 million, which is mostly covered by public contributions. During the past five years, 81 cents of every dollar received has supported research and treatment at the hospital.

Although neither Cooke or Kinzer could project how much money Closet Angels might raise for the hospital, they are optimistic it will be substantial.

“The minute I met Jayna almost 6 months ago, I could tell immediately that she was a very ambitious woman that had a passion for the kids of St. Jude and giving back to those in need,” said Kinzer. (The hospital is also planning a major fundraising fashion show on November 24 with 1,500 attendees).

Meanwhile, Cooke said she is busy setting up the infrastructure to bring in and sell more clothes.

I asked if she missed anything about her former life in a high-profile corporate environment, especially since she was one of the first employees at Groupon, joining the founders in 2008 when it was called The Point. She had worked for the same investors at another company, proud to be recognized as their number one sales rep and business development person.

“I enjoyed a team environment where everyone is pushing really hard,” she said. “It’s. almost like a sport. I do miss the resources and access to things.”

Now, when she’s working at home, she has to do everything herself.

“My goal is to get this to almost run itself and eventually hire someone to run the day to day operations,” said Cooke.

Then, she may be open to taking a job back in the corporate world.

Meet another cool woman: Check out this video profile of Pat Lipsky, a respected modern artist, produced by my friend Camilla Webster, founder of New York Natives.

http://newyorknatives.com/native-icon-pat-lipsky/#.UjnXzsasim5

Five Ways to Help Deal with Separation Anxiety

www.TheGoToMom.TV

If you haven’t had that tinge of separation anxiety yet, you’ll have    your turn!  Whether it’s you or your baby who’s suffering – we’re all bound to feel it at some point.

Babies can show signs of separation anxiety as early as six months, but young children can experience it at almost any age. In my book The Go-To Mom’s Parents Guide to Emotion Coaching Young Children, I address all the challenging behaviors that our little ones present – And one of the hardest scenarios for parents to deal with is dropping their clingy and crying toddler off at daycare. It can tug at your heartstrings and make you doubt yourself and your decisions. But the good news is that separation anxiety will pass- and there are some simple solutions to help you get to that point.

Toddlers, she says, understand about people leaving before they learn about people returning- and they can tell from your actions that you’re about to leave. So for most children (and their parents) anxiety begins to build even before you’ve stepped out the door.

Separation anxiety can show up in many forms. Your child may cry when you leave the room or refuse to be put down if she knows you’ll be leaving. Some children will even go so far as to follow their parents into every room all day long. It can be both frustrating and sad for parents when they feel as though they are causing their children sadness. But the good news is that there are some tricks to help you both feel better about times of separation.

My five tips to help saying bye-bye a little bit easier:

 Bring out the ‘blankie’. Transitional objects, such as a favorite blanket or stuffed toy can be reassuring to small children. In fact, to your child, these items are a symbol of you. They represent comfort, safety, and joy. Encouraging your child to attach to a transitional object early in infancy will allow them to be better at self-soothing later on. When you have to separate from your child, be sure that those special objects are close at hand to provide comfort while you are away.

 Babies love satin and rubbing the satin takes them back to the safety and security of the womb. Offering a blanket, stuffed toy, or other soft object to your little one during your absence will give them something familiar that will help to comfort them. It will make the transition easier for the both of you.

Practice makes perfect. It may seem silly for you to practice being apart from your child, but it can really make a big difference in the long run. If you know you’re going to be away for a longer than normal period, help your child work up to that separation by taking a series of short breaks, such as running next door for a minute or going out on a brief errand.

Easing your child into separation is a great way to prepare them for being away from you — And you don’t even have to leave the house to get started. Tell your baby or toddler that you’ll be going to another room and you’ll be back soon. This will help them to begin to make the connection that although you are gone now, you will come back.

Ask your sitter to come early. Whether you’re leaving your baby for a dinner date with your spouse, or you have hired an in-home sitter to watch your little one while you are work, leaving your most precious cargo in the hands of someone else can be stressful for both you and your baby. And even though you may not realize it, your child picks up on the anxiety you are feeling and it will effect their reaction as well. To give you both peace of mind, be sure to spend some time with the sitter and your child together.

If you are relaxed and happy about the situation, your child is much more likely to be as well.

Leave on an upbeat and cheery note.  Every parent has done the sneaky slip out the door in hopes of making a tearless getaway. This actually doing more harm you’re your baby than good. Just because they don’t see you leave doesn’t mean they won’t eventually notice your absence. And in order to alleviate separation anxiety, you want to make sure you child is associating happy thoughts with your coming and going. Let him see you leave, even if it triggers the waterworks- and make sure there is a fun activity in place for him to take part in immediately following your departure.

Ditch the guilt. There aren’t many things that pull at your heart strings more than having to leave a crying child who is reaching out for you. Situations of separation anxiety can create a sense of overwhelming guilt for parents. You want to be there for your child but there are times when you just can’t. And it’s not healthy for either of you if you constantly feel trapped to the situation. Remind yourself that this is a stage and you both will get through it. You aren’t a bad parent for leaving your child in tears. In fact, your efforts are working to raise a healthy, independent adult!

Another important thing for parents to remember is that their anxiety can be contagious. The more anxious you are about leaving or about others caring for your little one, the more anxious they will be. Be calm, confident, and reassuring. And when you do return- take time to enjoy the warm welcome and extra hugs. Being apart makes reuniting that much sweeter.

###

About the Author:

Kimberley Clayton Blaine, MA, MFT, is the executive producer of the online parenting show www.TheGoToMom.TV and author of The Go-To Mom’s Parents’ Guide to Emotion Coaching Young Children and The Internet Mommy.

About the Book:

The Go-To Mom’s Parents’ Guide to Emotion Coaching Young Children (Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-470-58497-2, $16.95, www.TheGoToMom.com) is available at bookstores nationwide and from major online booksellers.

Are You Unconsciously Sabotaging Your Success?

By The Digestive Divas

Are you are getting up every morning and doing the same things day after day and wondering why you aren’t getting anywhere?

What I have to say may surprise you.

What is it you admire most about truly successful people?

They have a presence that is so vibrant; you can spot them from a mile away. They are well groomed, well dressed and comfortable in any situation. They have an energy that fills the room and the power to get things done. When they speak, people listen. You only need to be in their presence a short time to know why they are respected and admired.

Just the kind of person you would love to be someday, right?

 The only difference between you and them is that they did not wait for someday.

So many people tell me they would like to take better care of themselves, but now is not a very good time. They always have some outside thing that has to happen first before they could even think about taking care of their personal needs.

Sound familiar?

You know you are pushing yourself beyond your limits, but you’ve been told that’s the price you have to pay if you want to make it to the top. You tell yourself the only reason successful people can exercise, eat well and always be at their best is because they have money, power and lots of help. You promise yourself when you make it to the top, you will do all those things too.

In the mean time, you need to skip meals or grab some greasy spoon, work until you can’t think, and survive on little to no sleep. The result is not a pretty picture.

 You have permanent dark circles under your eyes. You’re tired, cranky and short tempered so you often don’t handle situations the way you wish you could. The junk food is doing a number on your waistline and your clothes are not fitting very well. You don’t want to buy anything new until you lose a few pounds so you just keep stuffing yourself into the same old clothes. You’re covering up your roots until you can make it to your hairdresser. When you look in the mirror, you don’t like what you see.

 It is not the picture of success.

 I will tell you a secret all highly successful people already know.

 You are the most valuable asset you have.

You need to protect that asset in every way you can. Read the stories of the people you admire most and you will learn that they made themselves a priority long before they had the money, the power and the help. That is why they reached the top. They set themselves apart from the pack. You just had to look at them to know they were a force to be reckoned with.

Interestingly enough, It’s not as hard as you think. We get frightened of change because we believe it means we need to radically alter everything in our life all at once. I can tell you from experience that never works.

 Taking small steps that you know you can do and building on those successes will create the change you long for.

Want to know a great place to start?

Begin everyday with a healthy protein breakfast. Skip the bagels, cereals and sugary stuff that sap your energy and make it difficult to concentrate. Give your brain the fuel it needs to work smarter instead of harder. You will be amazed how much more productive you will be.

We are going to prove this by making it simple for you to try. Chef Ellen from Back to Basic Wellness has put together some Big, Bold Power Breakfasts you can make in 10 minutes time. You can CLICK HERE  here to receive your free recipe book..

Start tomorrow. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier, eat your power breakfast and start taking the steps that will take you right to the top!

For more information and tips visit: www.backtobasicwellness.com.

Bento Box Lunches: Cute, Colorful and Easy to Make (Really!)

MommyonaShoestring.com

Say “sayonara” to boring old school lunches! This year, add a little color and style to your kids’ mid-day meal with simple bento box meals that are as easy to make, as they are cute.

Embrace the Fun

Wendy Copley is a “Bento Box Sensei.” The mother of two and founder of www.wendolonia.com discovered her lunch-making calling a few years ago, after receiving a bento box as a Christmas gift. She became hooked on the concept, which allowed her to make visually appealing meals that were fun, healthful and delicious.

“I’ve always been creative, but once I had kids, I found it hard to make time for hobbies,” said Copley. “But with bento lunches, I can be as whimsical and creative as I like, while giving my family something they always need, a good meal!”

 Have a Few Tools Handy

When it comes to packing a bento lunch, anything goes. According to Copley there are a number of different companies that make Bento-inspired boxes, however buying a fancy box is not necessary. For a child’s lunch, Copley recommends using a plastic container that is roughly 4 x 6 inches wide and about 1 ½ inches deep. Although it seems small, it’s actually a great size, as you’ll be able to pack the box tightly, which will help prevent food from moving around while in transit.

Copley also suggests using smaller containers such as mini plastic bowls or silicon baking cups, which are great for corralling small items such as peas, corn or grapes. To add interest and variety, use a sharp knife and / or cookie cutters to create intricate designs, shapes and details. Remember, the only thing standing in the way of you and a light saber made of cheese is a knife.

Get Inspired

When it comes to making lunch, the biggest challenge is always choosing what to make. Creating bento lunches is slightly easier than their less-inspired counterpart because portions are small, which gives you more opportunity to experiment with flavors and textures. You can also get inspiration from various bento box websites such as hers where you can view the multitude of lunches Copley has packed for her family. Of course, Pinterest.com is another great place to go for inspiration, but be forewarned, it can be quite addicting. (http://pinterest.com/search/?q=bento+box+lunches)

Stock up on Fillers

Although anything goes when it comes to making a bento box lunch, Copley recommends stocking up on some standard fillers. Here’s a list of some of her favorites.

Shopping List

Bread / Carbs

Whole grain bread

Naan

Tortillas

Biscuits

Crescent rolls

Pretzel sticks

Mini-muffins

Goldfish crackers, cheddar bunnies or other snack crackers

Leftover pasta  (Toss with some chopped veggies, vinaigrette, salt and Parmesan cheese.)

Fruits

Apples slices (dip in pineapple juice to prevent browning)

Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)

Cherries

Grapes

Bananas

Mandarin Oranges

Veggies

Carrot sticks

Sugar snap peas

Red bell pepper strips

Frozen peas (run them quickly under warm water to start them thawing)

Proteins

Leftover meat from dinner (cut into chunks)

Chicken or turkey sausage with bbq sauce or catsup for dipping

Deli meats

Garbanzo Beans

Baked tofu

Dairy

Yogurt

Cheese (slices, cubes and sticks)

Cottage cheese

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Meet Kerry Sparks: Co-Author of Baby Name Book, My Name is Pabst

Kerry Sparks is a co-author of  MY NAME IS PABST: Baby Names for Nonconformist, Indie, Geeky, DIY, Hipster, and Alterna-Parents of Every Kind and a literary agent at  Levine Greenberg Literary Agency.

Kerry grew up in rural Oregon and moved to Los Angeles soon after graduating high school. I first met Kerry in 2002 at a clothing store we both worked at on La Brea Boulevard. Even then, she was a self proclaimed baby name enthusiast. So, all these years later, it is no surprise to me that her first published book is all about baby names.

She currently lives in New York City with her husband and will soon be welcoming their first child into the world.

Here is my recent interview with Kerry:

Monica Johnson: So since I know you, I’m privy to the fact that you have been fascinated with baby names for a long time. When do you first remember being interested in baby names?

Kerry Sparks: I can remember spending hours combing through the baby name books in the back corner of the mall bookstore as teenager, but I think I really turned into a baby name junkie in 7th grade when I met my friend Katie and we bonded over our joint love of baby names and irrational fear of sharks. Her obsession with baby names matched mine and we’ve been exchanging name lists for almost twenty years now.

MJ: Did you ever think you’re interest in baby names would turn profitable?

KS: No, it never occurred to me that I would write a baby name book. Much less that a publisher would want to pay me to publish it! But when the opportunity presented itself, it suddenly made perfect sense and those years of unofficial research really paid off.

MJ: You wrote this book with another person, Miek Bruno, who lives in Berlin. Can you describe the process of how the two of you co-wrote this book?

KS: Lots and lots of emailing and Skyping! We would email ideas back and forth and each take a stab at writing certain chapters first and then the other one would spruce it up and add some names. Once the book sold to Random House, Miek came to New York for a few months so we did get to do some in-person writing, but primarily we would just send ideas back and forth and once the format was established, we would just plug in the text.

MJ: How did you get the idea for the book?

KS: Miek and I work at the same company so one day our boss (who is the world’s proudest grandpa in the world) emailed everyone at the agency to announce that his grandson got five new fish over the weekend and enjoyed naming them. The kid had picked a few normal names and few wacky ones and soon Miek and I broke off the email chain and started talking about what we had named our pets as kids. It became clear from there that we both had a interest in names and we started thinking that someone should write a baby name book focused on truly unique names.

Since we both work in publishing, our initial question when we think something is cool is always, “Yes, but is this a book?” And in this case, we decided that it was. We thought about pitching it to one of our humor authors to write and went back and forth with some ideas but it became clear that with my baby name obsession and Miek’s total knowledge on all things cool, we might be able to write the book ourselves. And so we got to work on a proposal.

MJ: What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?

KS: I think the biggest challenge was striking the right balance of humor and practicality. The book is very tongue and cheek. On the one hand, we are poking fun at all the crazy names out there and clearly there are some joke names in the book that won’t likely ever be used on a human; but on the other hand, we are pointing out that if you start thinking about names in a different way you might find something totally unique that still feels like a “real” name. We wanted it to be something that people could laugh at but also something they could actually use to name their baby.

MJ: What did you learn about yourself from the process of writing this book? 

KS: I learned that it’s really tough to put yourself out there creatively even when it is for a half-joking baby name book. We got plenty of good reviews when the book hit shelves but also go our fair share of critics and I was surprised at how tough it was to read that first bad review. Working in book publishing as an agent, I’m someone who deals with rejection on a daily basis, but it’s definitely harder when it’s in regards to your personal work versus that of a client. And I also really learned what it feels like to be on the other side of the table as an author rather than an agent. It can be nerve-wracking for sure! I think being an author definitely helped me become a better agent, which was a great learning experience.

MJ: Anything you would do differently?

KS: We did write the book very quickly (about three months for a first draft) so of course you always feel like if you had more time, you could do more with it, but I’m not sure that is ever actually the case. So, no big regrets or things I’d change and I’m pretty happy how it turned out.

MJ: You’re about to have a baby girl. I know you have some names picked out. Would you say the names would be considered hipster baby names?

KS: Well the funny thing about the word “hipster” is that no one wants to claim it. We all want to be able to make fun of or be annoyed at hipsters while still enjoying our craft beer, artisanal cheese, and free indie rock concert in the park. In fact, it was a big question when we were working on the subtitle of the book if we should even include the word hipster as it has such a negative and possibly dated connotation to it.

So, of course my instinct is to say the name I have picked out is not hipster at all but instead totally classy and unique and perfectly captures the inevitable one-of-a-kindness of my offspring…but of course that right there would prove it’s a hipster name! Perhaps the very most hipster thing about the name is that I’m super secretive about sharing it before the little lady is born and that I have an irrational fear that the world will “steal” my name (this in fact is a very, very common fear among the I’m-not-a-hipster-but-I-sort-of-am-parent).

MJ: Working in the book publishing world, what advice would you offer to someone who is hoping to get their book published?

KS: Publishing is a tough racket and definitely requires a very thick skin, but at its core it is an industry built by people who love words, who love books, and who want to bring books they love to readers everywhere. I would say the first step is to write a really good book (sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people gloss over this step) and to stick with it. It can be a really slow process to query agents and then if you have an agent, for your agent to sell the book to a publisher, but I have found my clients primarily through our online unsolicited submissions stack, so it’s very possible for this to happen. And the other advice I’d offer is to read everything you can get your hands on. Anytime I meet someone who says they don’t read but they want to be a writer, I immediately know they aren’t the real deal.

You can learn more about Kerry at www.mynameispabst.com or www.levinegreenberg.com, and can follow her on Twitter at @kerry_sparks and @mynameispabst.

 Monica Johnson
Monica leads educational classes for children and tours for adults at the rooftop farm. She loves sharing what she knows about urban agriculture, while she continues to learn herself. She writes about all things food. Current writing projects include a series on urban agriculture in NYC, a guide book for NYC, and a historical account of her family’s farm in Missouri. To connect with Monica visit her website: www.monicamarvels.com.