Sign up with your email address to be the first to know about new products, VIP offers, blog features & more.

Monthly Wrap: You Know I’m Busy When I Can’t Even Come up with a Title

By Posted on 29 4 m read 1.9K views

Just wanted to stop in to say thank you to Steve and Anthony for a fascinating discussion on Zeroville and film. If you read and commented on the interview, thank you. And if you haven’t found the time yet, I hope you do!

Many asked how my book edits are going, and I’m pretty certain I’ll be done before the end of April. It’s been a long time coming, and finally, I can see that it’s been worth the effort. It’s turning out to be a bigger and better book than I envisioned at the start. Besides being holed up, writing, I’ve been reading like a maniac. This past month, I read Cormac McCarthy, Donna Tartt, Harper Lee, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kenneth Grahame, and Joan Didion. I’m reminded that good writing matters.

My mom recently sent me a great NY Times article that talks about how many of us judge our compatibility with each other based on the books we love. It’s a fun read if you have time to check it out. Sometime, I’m going to run a question about comparing our book collections with our partners’ book collections – remind me!

Mom holding a slightly demonic-looking nurse.

For kicks, here are a couple of recent videos of my kids horsing around at open mic. The first one is Green-Hand doing Clapton. The second one is Green-Hand and Bach-Boy doing Queen. Our pal, Kenny, is playing tambourine on both.


Quickly, I want to mention a story you’ve probably heard in several other places by now. British memoirist, Sebastian Horsley, was on his way to New York to promote his book when he was detained at Newark airport. For several hours, he was questioned about drug use, prostitution, and many of the things chronicled in Dandy in the Underworld, a book the Sunday Times called, “One of the funniest, strangest, and most revolting memoirs ever written.”

Ultimately, he was denied entry to the U.S. for the reason of “moral turpitude.” Check out the definition and the article over at the NY Times.

I’m curious to hear what you think about this. For a taste of the book, I like this piece over at NPR’s All Things Considered.


Finally, I want to tell you about a new book by my gloriously nutty pal, Hillary Carlip. And part of the reason I’m posting this here is because this is like a master’s class on how to advertise a book. This is how to tell someone what your book is about in a way that’s quick and makes it impossible to stop thinking about it….

A la Cart: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers.


For years Hillary Carlip has been obsessed with collecting found shopping lists. You know, you spot them in an empty cart in the produce aisle, on the street in front of an ethnic market, carelessly left on the ground in a supermarket parking lot.

Every time she discovers an abandoned shopping list Hillary feels as if she’s getting a glimpse into a stranger’s life. From the items they’re buying, the handwriting, the type of paper and pen/pencil/computer used, and even misspellings (Aunt Spray?!), she can’t help but imagine who these people are.

So that’s exactly what she’s done. Not only has she imagined the people whose lists she found, but she was then photographed PORTRAYING them all, in various grocery stores. The book consists of 26 REAL FOUND LISTS, photos of Hillary as each person she thinks the list belonged to, and then short narrative pieces that she’s written about each of them.

This is what the cover looks like:

(Yes, those are all Hillary.)

The quote on the front is from the brilliant, best-selling author (amongst so many other things) Amy Sedaris! Her full blurb is:

“I wish I had thought of this idea — I’m so jealous. I don’t know which is better — seeing the actual shopping lists, or seeing Hillary in disguise. This book is a real find. Add it your shopping list. It’s on mine, right under Glue Wands and Greens for Dusty.”

And here’s a special sneak peek tease of a couple more shoppers, and their found lists. This one is Hillary as LLOYD:

And here she is as Pammy:

There’s even a short film about the book here:

I think it’s brilliant advertising we can all learn from. Plus, I am psyched to get my copy of the book!


Okay, I have to get back to work. Thanks so much to my guests this week, Steve Erickson and Anthony Miller. Thanks to all of you who played here, and to everyone who linked: Where’s Travis McGee?, Just Thinking, Lawyer Mama Review, Silliman’s Blog, Diane, A Shaded View on Fashion, Terry Bain, – In-depth illustration tutorials, tips, and video demos, The Education of Oronte Churm, The Book Muncher, and A Dancing Star! I appreciate those links!

See you on the other side of these edits!

Share this article

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • SusanHenderson
    April 4, 2008

    Just want to remind everyone – until I’m done with my book, I won’t be commenting or responding to mail (I know, I’m MONTHS behind). Please be patient with me. I’ve put my blog and my friends ahead of my writing for years, and right now, I need to flip my priorities. Thanks for understanding! xo

  • Oronte_Churm
    April 4, 2008

    When will they come, for violations of moral turpitude, for those of us who already live here?

  • Nathalie
    April 4, 2008

    It certainly looks like your friend had tons of fun making that book!

  • Juliet
    April 4, 2008

    Thrilled that the edits are going well, Susan! You are a tremendously fabulous writer and human, and my thoughts are with you often.

    Hillary’s book is a fabulous idea. I have long been a fan of the found-list shopping—too lazy to make a list, too disorganized to figure out what we need, so I find left behind lists, and that’s what I buy.
    Can’t wait to pick up the book.

  • Mike Doncaster
    April 5, 2008

    About Sebastian Horsley, it was my impression that he was stopped at the border and denied entry due to his self-confessed former drug addiction, conviction of possessing amphetamine sulphate a number of years ago and frequent use of prostitutes.

    Any of these would disallow a traveller to use the Visa Waiver Program available to 23 countries’ very western citizens.

    Mr. Horsley is still allowed to apply for a visa to the U.S.A. together with anyone else from the remaining 170 or so countries of the world. He hasn’t been barred from travelling to America, only required to follow the same procedures as citizens of Mexico, Iran, Vietnam, Japan, etc, whether they are writers, journalists, welders, or students.

    With a chequered past, how could anyone expect to be able to travel on a privileged programme?

    This is not about Mr Horsley’s memoir or his fashion sense. It’s about the Department of Homeland Security having a specific set of rules for a travellers’ programme, and following them regardless of who the person is. See the example of Amy Winehouse, similarly denied entry due to her drug problems.

    Of course, who knows if this wasn’t a setup by his publishers? There was certainly some highly valuable press coverage of this incident all over the world.

  • maryanne Stahl
    April 5, 2008

    wow. hillary’s book is genius. definitely going on my list.

  • Carolyn_Burns_Bass
    April 5, 2008

    Will the real Hillary Carlip please stand up? This is BRILLIANT! I love how you love life, Hillary. Be blissed. (You, too, Sue.)

  • Nathalie
    April 7, 2008

    Crumbs. I sort of hoped you’d find other people to play the game this week again.
    Oh well.
    Have fun with the edits.

  • jessicaK
    April 7, 2008

    Hillary, what a fascinating idea! You’ve tapped into a collective daydream. It’s true: what we buy at the grocery store is an intimate, private act yet we do this in such a public setting. Very curious.

    Susan—your mom is gorgeous! Ageless! Once again, I’m thrilled to hear you are getting so very close to the finish.

    Jessica Keener


  • Hillary Carlip
    April 7, 2008

    Thanks everyone for the comments re: my new book A la Cart! SO APPRECIATED!!!

    And thanks, Susan, for the shout-out! CAN’T WAIT to read your book! Happy editing!!

    XO Hillary

  • Erin
    April 7, 2008

    Weird! I actually bought A la Cart last week and made all my sisters read it with me. I had no idea you were here at the Park! I’m star struck. 🙂 What are the odds? Loved the book – so clever and entertaining. I went back and bought a copy for my friend who I feel has a very unique grocery list. The list is like a secret map of the grocery store. “Bananas”, for example, is written in the upper left hand corner of the page while “beef jerkey” is dead center of the page – her list is chunked out like this depending on where the item can be found in the store…like a little map. I wrote her a card to go along with the book, “I’d love to see Hillary’s version of you…”
    Anyway, I’m a fan! Thanks for the laughs.

  • Tish Cohen
    April 9, 2008

    Hillary, this is the most brilliant book idea ever. I adore that you became each list leaver. For your next book, could you write about the mysterious Valerie Calliente – I’ve been getting collection calls for her since I was in college. She must have some wild tale to tell and you might just be the gal to dress up and tell it.

    Can’t wait to pick this book up! Does anyone else think Hillary is the Sara Silverman of the book world?

  • Kimberly
    April 10, 2008

    Do you know that since I heard about this book, I suddenly see left grocery lists EVERYWHERE? I had never noticed them before! I’m so bummed I missed Hillary’s reading at KGB. 🙁

    – – – – –

    And in a teensy bit of shameless self-promotion (since Sue told me to – dang, she’s bossy!) our little film is starting to pick up steam… screenings are coming to Indianapolis, Portland (Hi Lance!) and Delray Beach (Boca Raton), FL.

    Oh, and we won “Best Short Documentary” this past weekend in Phoenix. 🙂

  • SusanHenderson
    April 13, 2008

    No, I’m not dead.

    Thought I’d pop in quickly to say happy birthday to two of my very talented soccer buddies, Ritchie and Mike.

    Tomorrow, I’ll be catching Robin Slick’s reading at 7:00 p.m. at the Boxcar Lounge. Hope to see some of you there.

    Okay, back to my book edits…

    Oh, wait, quick addition: Here’s an article in the L.A. Times by my friend, Bruce Bauman. Okay, now I really am back to work, except for soccer. I’ll see everyone at 3.

  • SusanHenderson
    April 13, 2008

    I’ve been trying so hard to stay out of politics here, though the truth is, I read ten or more newspapers a day, turning (okay, clicking) straight to the politics page. And I also have a huge crush on Chuck Todd, the political director at MSNBC, who I catch on my computer whenever I can. Anyway, of the tons of information I soak in daily, this is probably the most interesting article I’ve come across. It’s by Carl Bernstein, via Anderson Cooper’s blog:

  • Frank Daniels
    April 24, 2008

    I LOVE Sebastian Horsley. He is an incredibly gifted writer. I could mark every page of his book with sentences filled with profound insight. And Hillary Carlip is a master (mistress?) of disguise. She changes everything up. Great job getting all these incredible writers together, Susan. But then again, I expect nothing less from you.

    Its good to be back.I’ve been gone too long.

  • SusanHenderson
    April 26, 2008

    Thanks for stopping by, Frank! You should put the new book cover in as your photo so everyone can see.

  • SusanHenderson
    April 26, 2008

    Tom Jackson, are you around? I want to hear your thoughts on the Steelers picking up a RB instead of a G to fill Faneca’s spot. Also, just open to geeky draft talk in general.

  • tom jackson
    April 26, 2008

    Hey, there, kiddo! Well, interesting pick at 23 (22?) by the Stillers — they took the RB, Illinois’ Rashard Mendenhall, that everyone thought my Bears would pick at 14. I’m sort of relieved the Bears took an OT (and potential left tackle — the glamour position on the O-line!) instead. The Bear’s QB protection is aging, and Rex needs all the help he can get. Meanwhile, regarding Rashard: He had a great season, leading the surprise Illini to the Rose Bowl, where they got their blue and orange asses handed to them by USC, but the talk is that Mendenhall is soft — can’t take the hits or much physical play in general, has only had one good NCAA season, has some serious speed but that’s about it. (Frankly, speed’s a darn nice thing to have — look at what Devin Hester has done for the Bears, and the only thing HE has is speed… he makes the mere catching of a kickoff or punt an adventure, since you’re never sure if he’ll find a handle.)

    In any case, I’ll dig a bit more, see if I can find out more on Mendenhall. I believe he simply may have been the best player on the board at the time of the pick, and you always do better drafting that way rather than to fill spots.

  • Nathalie
    April 27, 2008

    I usally keep my grocely lists stuffs at the bottom of shopping bags or my pockets. That’s a fun idea you’ve had. Just proves that even the most mundane of things can turn to something original. Well done, Hillary.
    Do you have a MySpace account? I have a message in my in tray that was meant for you but was sent to me as a case of mistaken identity…

  • tom jackson
    April 27, 2008

    OK, a little more info: the “complaints” on Mendenhall that I posted before are your typical Chicago-area talk-radio pissing and moaning for the guy everyone thought the Bears would pick out of fear that he’d turn into another Rashan Salaam or Cedric Bensen. Now that the Bears picked an O-lineman — a great pick, in my opinion — I’ll probably hear pissing and moaning about how we SHOULD’VE picked Mendenhall.

    Oh, well….

    Steelers picks so far: Mendenhall IS a great pick. Best football player on the board at that point, has “low mileage” and is much tougher an inside runner than Chicago talking heads would admit when they thought the Bears would take him.

    Second Steeler pick: Limas Sweed, WR of Texas. Another great pick — a big, physical hands receiver who can get banged around on inside routes and still catch and hold onto the ball. Arguably the second or third best receiver in the draft picked up at a bargain spot. Ben’ll be happy with him.

    Pick three: Bruce Davis, OLB, UCLA. Not gonna be a ballhawk for the Steelers, more of a situational pass-rusher, because he’s quick and can shed blockers well. Not a bad pick for third round.

    Fourth round: OT Tony Hills of Texas. My understanding is he’s a pass-protector, not a great run-blocker. May be tough keeping him healthy — he’s had knee surgery and a broken leg, probably why he’s better as pass protection than as a run-blocker.

    More to come….

  • SusanHenderson
    April 27, 2008

    WOW, how great is this. I’m rushing off to soccer but this is exactly the conversation I was hoping to have, and I’ll jump in tonight.


  • tom jackson
    April 27, 2008

    And more:

    Round 5: Dennis Dixon, QB from Oregon. Gotta have potential to beat out USC’s embarrassment of offensive riches for Pac 10 player of the year. Strong arm, fleet of foot, good pocket passer, patient, BUT… not particularly accurate and has a weird deliverly. A project, but one the Steelers can afford with such a young stud at QB as Ben.

    Round 6 (first pick): Mike Humpal, OLB, Iowa — so we know he looks good in black and yellow. Perhaps the ideal complement to third pick Davis — Humpal is more the ballhawk, but he’s not as physically gifted (hey, whaddya expect — he’s a sixth rounder) nor as fast, but he gets a lot out of his limited gifts.

    Still more to come…. : )

  • tom jackson
    April 27, 2008

    Other sixth rounder: Ryan Mundy, safety, West Virginia – not a lot of info on this guy, perhaps expected to sign as a free agent, but he had like a half-dozen sacks in WV’s 3-3-5 basic set (weird setup, sorta like in my geeky football board game from when I was a kid, but it worked nicely for West Virginia and Mundy). Anyhoo… a pass-rushing safety, not a bad gamble this low in the draft.

  • SusanHenderson
    April 27, 2008

    What about Mendenhall’s arms. Man! Are they beautiful, or what?!

    Interesting how Tomlin and Colbert were so clear that they were not looking to fill positions or weak spots but just wanted to take the best available players. The biggest message they sent, if unintentionally, was a shift to offense – more weapons, more protection for Ben. Given the contract extension and $ he got, it looks like Tomlin’s going for it, you know? Really committing to him.

    Thought the injured QB was a weird pick. If he’d been 7th round, maybe not so weird, but not convinced what kind of a player he is even if he’s healthy.

    Really curious how James Harrison’s role will or won’t shift with the addition of Davis.

    Are you happy with the Bears’ picks?

  • tom jackson
    April 28, 2008

    Yeah, that’s one thing I meant to mention about Mendenhall but forgot: Man, has he got the body. He’ll come into the NFL very strong — it’s not like he’s carried the ball a thousand times in his career already. (But an Adonis-like bod doesn’t always translate into great play — remember the Bears’ Alonzo Spellman?) No, but I think it’s good to have such fresh legs to back up Willie Parker, especially if Parker has trouble coming back from the broken leg. Good, strong first pick!

    The Steelers picks truly show how random the best available talent on the board can be. But don’t forget: For as heralded as the Steelers defense is, the franchise player (and by that, I don’t mean the officially designated one for contract purposes but the TRUE franchise player) is Big Ben, and the more you can do to keep him healthy and productive the better. So perhaps there’s the tiniest bit of marketing in mind when they made those picks.

    I believe the way to build a team in the NFL is to draft the best players available then trade to fill holes. You want to fill holes with established, proven players; drafting to fill holes is a crapshoot. I think the Steelers had a damn good draft, picking up some potential role players on the defense, allowing those kids a chance to play to their strengths and still take time to develop into more well-rounded players.

    And the QB Dixon: He’s got a strong enough arm, has the pocket skills to be an solid pro, even though he missed the last few games with a knee injury. If he can adapt some better mechanics, he’ll still be worth it. I’m more worried about the O-tackle Tony Hills, since the Steelers need some shoring up at the line, and he’s coming off a broken leg.

    The pass-rushing OLB Bruce Davis from UCLA is also being considered a reach by some draft experts, but like I said before, he’ll be given a chance to work to his strengths part-time while developing into a better-rounded player. He didn’t have a particularly great senior year statistically, though. So to answer your question about Harrison’s role: James’ position is safe for a few years.

    Bears picks: I suppose they made some nice picks. I like the new tackle, Chris Williams from one of your alma mater’s, Vandy. He may even take over left tackle, pushing the present starter, John Tait, to the right side. It was a good early draft for tackles this year, and the Bears got one of the best.

    Getting the Tulane RB Matt Forte should be an improvement over Benson. Forte’s a strong inside runner but not the type to get creative on carries — he won’t be making something out of nothing. So he’s not a real answer. The Bears took another Vandy product at WR, which is something we really needed, since Muhammad and Berrien are gone. Earl Bennett’s a beefy if not particularly tall receiver — he’s a sure-handed, fearless in the middle kind of guy.

    Michigan State TE Kellen Davis was a nice pick in the fifth (how could a tight end named “Kellen” NOT be good?), but the rest of the picks were disappointing… mostly because there were no QUARTERBACKS among them. Oh, well… gonna be another long season between Devin Hester kick returns.

  • SusanHenderson
    May 1, 2008

    Maybe we’ll trade you our new gimpy QB.

    Wow, very busy last few days, and all in-between energy has been on the election, sorry to take so long getting back here. My question about Harrison wasn’t that his job was in danger; I think he’s in top form. My thought was just about how weak the Steelers’ Special Teams have been, and it seems like the addition of Davis might change that somehow. I don’t know Tomlin’s coaching style well enough to guess, but it seems like they might use Davis there if he’s got the speed and is quick turning corners, and that would save some wear and tear on Harrison.

    Supposedly Chris Kemoeatu is going to take LG.

  • Tom Jackson
    May 4, 2008

    Sorry for the delay in MY response here, too.

    The guys on defense the Steelers have drafted should serve very well in those special teams/specialty situation roles. Never hurts to take a little of the heat off the longtime starters, keep their legs fresh for late in the games when their experience and playmaking abilities are most needed.

    As for Kemoeatu, I’ve heard that he has only 2 starts at RG, both in ’06, and has been a backup there and has played on special teams. But he’s just signed a contract for 1.4 million.

    Further, he just got half a million more a year than Trai Essex, who HAS played on the left side – at tackle, no less – and Essex was drafted a round earlier than Kemoeatu. So the Steelers obviously think a lot of CK. I could see him becoming LG. Again, since Ben’s the franchise, gotta pay the guys who protect his blind side well.

  • SusanHenderson
    May 5, 2008

    Of course, Mendenhall has a hamstring injury now. Oy. Thank you for all your good football knowledge. I love hearing your take on all of this.

Susan Henderson