Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I've waited exactly one hundred and sixty three days to tell you this...

Just before my birthday in October (2008) I received in the mail an advance reader's copy of Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. I was immediately struck by its cover, so rich and stunning. It literally made me gasp.

Wintergirls is the newest YA novel by the incomparable Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak (among other novels). The cover for Wintergirls was designed by an immensely talented photographer named Alexandre Denomay. What a wonderful and unforgettable image for a book that can only be described as the same.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson has, for years, sat on or around my desk as a symbolic reminder of the enchantment that can occur during a reading experience, the achingly beautiful thrill of reading and being touched by an author's authentic characters and fluid prose.

As an author, I've never wanted to forget that feeling as a reader.

Laurie Halse Anderson's works have unfailingly served as testaments of such beatiful occurrences in literature. What an awesome thing it is when a writer forgoes the pressure to be "plotty" and allows instead their characters to live and breathe and ultimately touch lives naturally.

Sometimes--as a character-driven writer--it can, however, be a downright disheartening challenge to stay dedicated to character amid the constant popularity of contrived plots. I'm not anti such books at all, but, as a reader, I've always loved more the experience of an extraordinary character than the opposite (ordinary characters doing extraordinary things).

I so often remember the impression of characters--Holden Caufield, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, Astrid Magnussen and Winter Santiaga to name a few--more than I remember, incident by incident, what happened to them.

And now Lia.

Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my literary heros once again. Thank you, Laurie Halse Anderson, for giving us Lia.

And, to anyone reading this blog, I have waited one hundred and sixty three day to tell you this...


Go out, today, and purchase (or get from the library) a copy of Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (Penguin/Viking (ISBN 978-0-670-01110-0).

It is yet another of Anderson's incredible contributions to literature. And if you happen to have a teenaged daughter in your life, trust me, this is a book they should experience. Check out the trailer here:

Back in October, I read Wintergirls in one weekend. This week, I just re-read it again.

Wow. There really are no other words...

But, if you don't trust my enthrallment, here are a few samples of what the critics are saying:
"As difficult as reading this novel can be, it is more difficult to put down." --Publishers Weekly

"Due to the author's and the subject's popularity, this should be a much-discussed book, which rises far above the standard problem novel. --Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Readers will be absorbed by this gripping tale..." ---BCCB, starred review

You will not regret reading Wintergirls, a gripping experience in literature.


P.S. I promise to tell you later, eventually, how it is that I received an advanced copy of this book in the first place. Promise. xoxo :)

Rhymes with Ice (but she's getting hot)...

Her jewelry has been worn by many of our beloved pop culture icons, such wonderful divas and fashionistas as: Rashida Jones, Beyonce (seen below in her jewelry), Cameron Diaz, Miley Cyrus, Kelly Ripa, Drew Barrymore, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Academy Award Winning actress Kate Winslet.

Katharine Sise (rhymes with ice) and/or her fabulous jewelry have been prominently featured in such magazines as Glamour, Marie Clair, W. Bazaar, Lucky (who launched her career by anointing her a “designer to watch) and Elle.

Many of us aspire to own a career using our God given talents and Katharine, too, strived for nothing less in her own life.

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she came to New York City equipped with big dreams and a degree in film, television and theater. She originally hoped to thrive as an actress.

And what do most of us hopeless thespians end up doing to make a living starting off, even with a college degree? You guessed it. But when Katy nearly spilled an expensive bottle of champagne on Robert Deniro while waitressing one evening, she knew it wasn’t the job for her. There had to be a better way. Turned out there was.

She put her instinctive talent to work and started designing and selling jewelry and her innovative creations were soon in demand.

Katharine Sise and/or her jewelry have appeared on “Good Morning America,” The Oxygen Network”, “The View”, “Live With Regis and Kelly”, “Good Day New York” and one of my personal favorites… “Gossip Girl”. We are so honored and delighted to have her here with us in “The Love Spot” today.

Read on for a Q&A with Katharine Sise. You’ll learn more about why we have so much love for her and her jewelry and also discover some exciting news about what’s coming up in her life...

PMB: Katy, You have designed jewelry for so many celebrities, is there someone that you have yet to design for that you would like to? And what can do you envision designing for that person?

KS: Michelle Obama! And I'd design one of my multi-layers with a strand of pearls. A twist on a conservative necklace.

PMB: I have no doubt that that day is to come. Mrs. Obama came to my mind as well. She is certainly someone that I’d love to see rocking your jewelry. Give us a day in the life of a fabulous jewelry designer. Take us through your creative process...

KS: Every day is different depending on what I'm working on. Some days, I may have a specific trend story to make pieces for. If a magazine requests a specific trend, I'll make about 12 to 20 pieces that week for that particular story. Other weeks are spent making orders for boutiques and individual clients.

PMB: You mentioned trends, but tell us how a woman/young lady should go about deciding what style of jewelry works specifically for them?

KS: I say, whatever jewelry pieces make you feel good the moment you put it on is what you should go with. Vintage jewelry is a great way to achieve a timeless look and works with almost any style. If you have a conservative style, find pieces that you can go to again and again, like a classic stud earring. If you're more experimental by nature, try a bold cuff and a cocktail ring to spice up your look.

PMB: I love it! And I think it is that mentality that makes certain celebrities more iconic and stand the test of time for popularity. Who comes to mind when you think of style icons? And why?

KS: To me, a style icon is a woman that knows what works for her. She isn't guided by the trends, though she may incorporate elements of them into her signature style.
PMB: Agreed! Now, as you know the three women dearest to me—my mother, my sister and my niece “Jada” all received jewelry that you specially designed for us this past Christmas (unforgettable by the way) but I am curious about your Mr. Sise line, particularly because father’s day is coming up and dad was a little left out ;) Mr. Sise is your developing men's line and I love it. Some men aren’t so keen on jewelry though and might need to be convinced. What do you say to men who don't think jewelry is for them? And what type of man should consider jewelry as a part of his personal style?

KS: This is tricky. Many of my male friends (my husband included) only wear their wedding rings. But, if a man is comfortable wearing jewelry, it can be such a great look. I love tough jewelry pieces for men for a laid back or rocker look!

PMB: Me too. And just to add to what you’ve said, I love it when a man has a statement piece—a bold ring or a stern necklace—because it can really accentuate their masculinity. Besides the men’s line, are there any other things in development that you'd like to share?

KS: This month my jewelry is featured on a few pages of Lucky magazine and in July Target will launch one of my jewelry pieces on their website. Very exciting!

PMB: Oh congratulations, Katy! You already know how excited I am about your developing career. Finally, as is tradition in our newly re-launched “The Love Spot”, please tell us… how you define love?

KS: Love is really all there is. If you're filled with love, there isn't room for anything else.
PMB: And what are three things that you, Katharine Sise, love? Tell us why if you would....

KS: Family. (That is my mom, dad, sister, brother and my husband.) Dogs. No one does unconditional love like a dog! And books! I feel an instant comfort as soon as I open one.

PMB: Awww! And ditto! Thank you Katy!
Visit to order her jewelry and follow her career and also be sure to check her out on HSN (The Home Shopping Network) where she co-hosts her own show!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Congrats Melissa! Way to keep it "reel" :) ...

Along with being a fabulous photographer and budding journalist (not to mention a refreshingly nice person in a world laced with mean girls), Melissa (Stern) Spector has the scoop on digital retouching.

Check out this Joel Fendelman produced reel "Beauty is Pixel Deep" to learn exactly what someone like Melissa, a "digital retoucher" does. She tells us very matter-of-factly, which I love, sans moral objectives. Still, I thought this offered a very unique and realistic perspective of the images we see.

It is very interesting stuff...



Givin' em something to blog about...

Hi, so, you know how the story goes...

I go under. I don't blog for awhile. You email me. I tell you I will blog again soon.


And finally, eventually, don't I always? ;)

In addition to working on various upcoming projects, I've been featured on a couple of blogs since the last time we spoke. Please check out my interviews by clicking on these links...

The Brown Bookshelf


More updates soon!

xoxo and lovvvveeee!!!!


Saturday, December 6, 2008

All love for hats (and a man who makes them). An interview with Albertus Q. Swanepoel...


Recently, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and Vogue announced the recipients of their fifth annual awards from the CFDA/VOGUE Fashion Fund. Congratulations are in order for the winner—Alexander Wang— and also for the runners up Lisa Mayock, Sophie Buhai, and Albertus Q. Swanepoel.

The CFDA/VOGUE Fashion Fund (CVFF) was established in 2003 to help emerging talent find continued success in the business of fashion. The winner and runners-up are given the opportunity to meet regularly with a team of business mentors and also receive $200,000 ( the runners-up each get $50,000).

In the CFDA’s official press release, VOGUE Editor in Chief Anna Wintour was quoted as saying, "In only the fifth year of the Fashion Fund competition, we know that to win a first or runner-up prize is to receive a very substantial professional boost. The proof lies in the remarkable success of the Fund's previous winners." It was Anna Wintour who also gave the foreword to Vera Wang’s gorgeous pictorial Vera Wang On Weddings (Collins Living), in which Swanepoel crafted all of the hats.

Albertus Q. Swanepoel (elegantly pronounced Swan+pool) is a milliner, the only hat-maker ever to be nominated for this most prestigious award, and is primed to evolve from crafter of hats to celebrated fashion icon, not unlike CoCo Chanel—whose first American job was also as a milliner.

Originally from Pretoria, South Africa, where he was an award-winning fashion designer, Swanepoel is currently one of NYC’s most noted. Featured in a two-page spread in November’s issue of Vogue, he was—earlier this year—asked to design a hat for President Elect Barack Obama’s “Runway to Change” fundraising drive (along with A-listers like Juicy Couture, Isaac Mizrahi and Beyonce).

Recently, Albertus welcomed me into his studio for an interview. Here is an excerpt of some of some of our most memorable discussion:

pmb: In the ongoing discussion—fashion as art—do you consider yourself an artist? Do you consider fashion art?

AQS: I don’t consider fashion art in the traditional sense of the word, no. If anything, fashion is sartorial art—art related to clothing. It’s more of a craft for me. A dress is not going to be in fashion 20 years from now whereas art is timeless. We won’t look at a hat five years from now and still be inspired by it, as we would a Picasso. What we do in fashion is influential, but it’s not art. People are not going to take a Picasso and repaint it. We are constantly re-creating fashion.

After discussing his work, much of it adorned with South African motifs and flowers, including this design below that Jennifer Anistan wore on an episode of 30 Rock...

I said to Albertus, “Yet so much of your work appears so innovative, so artistic…”

AQS: Well, that may be because I love the idea of taking something incredibly expensive and putting it with something that is not; like a hat I crafted with a pom-pom made of a plastic garbage bag. I just think it’s such a whimsical idea. I just personally love to use something when it’s not so fancy and expensive looking; and for something to look almost damaged in a way.

pmb: A lot of women that I know, including myself, love to wear hats, however I realize that there are equal, if not more women who simply won’t. Many women think they just don’t look good in hats...

AQS: There is a weird misconception, so many women who think that hats don’t fit them, that they don’t have a hat face or that it will mess up their hair. The trick with hats is to make them a matter of contrast. Hats should contrast with your outfit yet compliment it. The same with your face. If you have an upturned nose, for example, try a downward brim. Round face? Try a square hat. I feel anybody in the world can get the right hat to wear. I don’t buy the excuses.

pmb: What about women and/or the fashion enthused who think hats are not in style?

AQS: Hats get a bad rap. It’s the first thing that is picked on with celebrities. It’s just not that highly regarded anymore. That’s why I personally try to make hats that are very wearable. A hat should be put on and become very personal. Hats are for people who love and appreciate the craft of fashion. There are always more hats in European shows than New York shows because of their tendency to be more adventurous. We’re definitely seeing a resurgence.

A milliner known to take a traditionally male fedora and feminize it, Albertus adds this advice for the hat reluctant:

AQS: Just have one fantastic hat at least. Try an old vintage fedora with a fairly modern outfit or try a winter fedora in the summer.

On his nod from the CFDA, Albertus, ever assuming, simply says, “It’s just truly… really amazing.”

The same could be said for Albertus Swanepoel and his incredible talent.

In the tradition of “The It’s All Love” blog, re-born now as “The Love Spot”, I asked Albertus our magic question…

pmb: What is love?

AQS: Love is a very powerful, intense feeling closest to one's heart: strong yet very fragile.

Having said that, I asked him who or what does he love?

He says his BF, Eddie Marquez, his cat, “Cuculoo Pooker” and opera music, which—much to the chagrin of his assistant—he plays 90% of the time in the studio.

AQS: My parents took me to the opera when I was a kid. It’s the ultimate art form. When all of those aspects come together—the stage, the costumes, the singing, the orchestra—it’s such an extraordinary experience. It’s an amazing art. And now there are more and more really young singers. It’s not so much just the fat lady singing anymore.

Albertus Swanepoel also digs 80s disco and Frank Sinastra and he loves books, evidence abounds on all the shelves in his studio. He also collects magazines from the 1950s.

And so, here’s why The Love Spot loves Albertus:

Albertus Q. Swanpoel, milliner extraordinaire is an unassuming man, not at all pretentious despite his success; yet he is quietly self-assured. He’s got an unusual name and, well we love unique names, no? :) In a world, a city in particular, where people are coming and going and on to the next thing to do, Albertus is present in the moment. He takes time to ponder before he answers. He listens when you speak to him. And his eyes are sincere. His is a handshake firm and confident yet warm and so genuine. To know Albertus is to adore him and to know his work is to respect it… and to want to wear a hat, right? Here’s hoping.

xoxo and love!


P.S. The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund event was made possible In partrnership with the GAP, and underwritten by American Express, Appleman Foundation, Barneys New York, Coach, Evgeny Lebedev, Hudson Bay Trading Company, Juicy Couture, Kellwood Company, Liz Claiborne Inc., L’OrĂ©al Paris, Nordstrom, Theory, and VOGUE

Like Netflix for magazines... kinda...

I absolutely LOVE Netflix and until now there hasn't been anything else comparable worth raving about. Like. I. Said. Until... now.


Do you, like me, love magazines? Well ever since my sister started me off when I was very young and, for a gift, she gave me my very own subscription to YM magazine, I've loved the feeling of having my favorite magazines delivered right to my door. Now I even give magazine subscriptions for gifts, including my God children.

And now comes Maghound! Oh I love it.

For one monthly fee you can get multiple magazine subscriptions! You've just got to check it out...

Love it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Have you read RED?

Red: Teenage Girls in America Write on What Fires Up Their Lives Today (Plume ISBN 978-0-452-28983-3) is a wonderful collection of essays edited by the enormously talented Amy Goldwasser--as in Elle, Seventeen, The New Yorker, Vogue, Runner's World, The New York Times, New York... etc. (Okay, I also think she is exceptionally jazzy for having also hailed from the Midwest, smile, but I digress...)

After recently meeting Amy, I read, in one weekend, my autographed copy of RED, now out in paperback. In regard to how the eclectic list of teen essayists was compiled, Amy says in her introduction, "It was really important to me that Red not be based on the stories of a privileged few in large cities on the coast. This book is a true representation of girls across the country, writing across the spectrum of geographic, socioeconomic, political, racial, and religious upbringings."

DON'T. YOU. JUST. LOVE. THAT?!?!? I sure do.

Teen Vogue calls Red, "A must-have." And I agree.

I attended a panel discussion this evening with Amy as moderator. Three of the essayists were present--Kelly Otterness, Olive Panter, Zoe Mendelson and Maya-Catherine Popa--and I thought it remarkable that, while on one hand I wanted to encourage them and applaud these young talented women, clearly they don't need such validation. These women know who they are. Hopefully, after reading this book you will, too! Out now in paperback, I highly recommend it for gift-giving...
(Sorry, the season is approaching and why not start making suggestions now? smile...)

I love Red and particularly admire Amy's colorblind inclusiveness of its authors. I hope she's igniting not a trend but a new truth in literature.


I'm a bit inspired tonight. (Those closest to me would say... Philana when are you NOT inpired? LOL) But seriously, our country is evolving into an America where so many previously unheard voices are carving out ways to co-exist and tonight I'm particularly thankful for that.

I don't think it necessary, in our progress, to eradicate any voices in order for others to be heard, yet balance in literature is in desperate need. Entertainment is a force of influence on young girls and it is warming to have some of the void of diversity filled via this book. There is so much room for everyone at the table. And it is okay to have a selection of books from which to choose, no?

Red is a new classic, a quiet storm collection of voices--not shouting--but just speaking... and being heard.
You've gotta dig that.

Dr. Maya Angelou put it best last week, when she simply concluded, "I'm an American, baby!" Thank God for a country where everyone has a right--and is getting more opportunities--to be heard. Amy Goldwasser has made a way for 58 teenaged girls to do just that.

Get this book! Read it. And, as always.... love!


UPDATE: For any New Yorkers reading, this just in via email from Amy Goldwasser: 
Please join two sensational lineups of local and visiting RED authors, reading from new work:
THURS, DEC 11, 6:30p
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum
108 Orchard Street (two doors south of Delancey)

TUES, DEC 16, 7:00p
Community Bookstore
143 Seventh Avenue (in Park Slope, between Carroll and Garfield Sts.)

Hope you can make it out and support! pmb