pick up the flippin bananas

Do you know anyone like this?

Mutts by Patrick McDonnell

Well this week is the opposite of greedy, so get your altruism on. Yay for Random Acts of Kindness Week, February 12-18! I am a huge Random Acts of Kindness Foundation fangirl and look forward to this week all year. The RAK Foundation has given you some kindness ideas for inspo. They would love for you to share any acts of kindness on your socials with #RAKWeek2017.

If you’re reading my City Love trilogy, you know that Sadie is all about the random acts of kindness and warm fuzzies and making the world a better place. I have so much love for her. As someone who was bullied and abused in my teens, kindness is close to my heart. That’s why I am a RAKtivist with the RAK Foundation. As a RAKtivist, I practice daily kindness, help when I see someone in need, share knowledge, and lead by example. You can become a RAKtivist too!

Sometimes it surprises me when I meet people who have not seen many acts of kindness in action. Like the other day at Trader Joe’s. I usually start my TJ’s shopping by getting a few bananas because they’re right near the door. If you don’t have a plan of attack for those TJ’s aisles, you risk drowning in a flood of aimless wanderers. Even on a Wednesday afternoon. So I was getting some bananas from the big bin when a lady next to me dropped the bunch of bananas she was inspecting. I reached down to the floor to pick them up for her.

“Those are MINE!” she yelled at me.

“I know,” I said, handing them back to her. “I saw you drop them.”

“You picked them up for me?”

“Of course.”

She couldn’t believe it. Like, she straight-up could not believe a total stranger would pick something up for her that she dropped. But then I couldn’t believe that she couldn’t believe it. She was so unaccustomed to people helping her or seeing people help other people that she seriously thought I was stealing her bananas. Off the floor. When I was standing in front of a huge bin with hundreds of bananas.

That was not okay.

For Random Acts of Kindness Week (and, um, every day), let’s commit to helping those around us. Hold the door open for the person behind you. Let someone go ahead of you in line if they look desperate. Give careful directions when someone asks. And pick up the flippin bananas. Because if more people had done acts of kindness for that lady in TJ’s, she wouldn’t have been surprised by mine at all.

And that’s exactly how it should be.

big talk

Small talk has never been my thing. Before I forced myself to get better at it so I wouldn’t die of boredom at cocktail parties where I didn’t know anyone, I totally dreaded any situation that would require the meaningless fluff and filler of small talk.

I swore that if one more person asked me the top two small talk questions:

“What do you do?”
“Where are you from?”

I would retaliate with questions that were meaningful and actually interesting to explore, thus encouraging some kind of genuine connection between us, like one of these:

“What’s your biggest dream?”
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how has your week been and why?”

These deeper questions aren’t serious enough to make people run screaming from me at parties, but are authentic enough to actually inspire a real conversation that isn’t a complete waste of time.

I didn’t want to make small talk anymore. I wanted to make big talk. But I didn’t know what to call it until Kalina Silverman gave a super impressive TED Talk. Kalina wanted to go out of her way to meet new people and skip the small talk, to have deeper conversations, and make more meaningful connections with them. So she created Big Talk, an initiative that inspires people to focus on what matters in this world. For her Big Talk video, Kalina asked strangers these big talk questions:

“What do you want to do before you die?”
“What would you do today if you knew you were going to die tomorrow?”

The results were magnificent.

Spread the big talk love, friendly neighbors ❤

the female of the species

You know when you read a really good book, maybe one of the best books you’ve ever read in your life, and then the next book you read blows you away too? And, if you are very lucky, the ones after that? So you’re reading a bunch of books in a row that are consuming your soul and every day you look forward to getting back to your current book because you are having so much fun reading it’s like this whole euphoric state with endorphins firing and epiphanies sparking that transports you to another plane of existence because reading is the best drug ever?

Welcome to my world.

I have been on a natural reading high for months now. Why? Because dude. Look around. Have you seen the phenomenal teen novels out there? Specifically what is shining in the contemporary, realistic genre, which is where I live? I mean…wow.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis is what I am talking about.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

First of all, just look at this cover. Have you ever seen a cover like this? No. No, you have not. Because rock star cover designer Erin Fitzsimmons, who also designed my covers for the City Love trilogy, is a freaking genius. There is no way you could look at this cover and not be intrigued.

Then you open the book and Mindy McGinnis sucks you into her vortex of brilliance so stellar you wonder which solar system you are spinning in.

The Female of the Species is extraordinary. There is just no other book quite like it. It is a striking, captivating story that will break your heart and empower you all at once. This book is an outstanding example of YA fiction at its best. I am so grateful that Mindy McGinnis wrote this story. I know it is speaking to a lot of readers and will resonate with many more. I know it is making teens feel less alone.

Shout-out to our publisher, Katherine Tegen, for sending me this book when I fangirled all over Twitter in anticipation. Some books are so good you just know you will fall in love with them even before you’ve read the first word. Basically? MM dropped the mic.

Happy winter reading, friendly neighbors! xoxo

2017

Yay yay freaking YAY 2017!!!

I am psyched out of my head that 2017 is finally here. 2016 was one bummer after another…and now things are looking WAY up.

This is your year

I am really looking forward to embracing change, having courage in the face of fear, and taking things up a bunch of notches this year. And that includes sharing shiny new creative developments with you! The author life is a wild ride. 2017 is bringing lots of exciting things. Can’t wait to do more dream chasing and work harder than ever to make more big dreams reality. I hope you are with me, friendly neighbors!

This is our year. Make it shine. xoxo

20th new yorkiversary

I’m just going to say it.

2016 sucked every which way a year could possibly suck. Seriously with that ish? What even was that? You know it’s not a good year when you set your alarm clock to NPR every morning at the start of a major news hour so that the second you wake up you can find out where a shooting was and/or who died. I mean…I cannot EVEN.

Focusing on good things helps. One good thing about 2016 (that automatically included lots of other good things) is that January 6 was my 20th New Yorkiversary. I moved to New York City for grad school on January 6, 1996 in a blizzard with no money, no friends, and no job, just big dreams I was determined to make reality. So all this year I have been celebrating 20 years in my dream city, the city that makes me feel alive every day. Even when I woke up day after day to horrifying news, I was grateful to live in the city where I belong. And right now I am relieved that, as of December 22, daylight time is increasing a little every day. That is a very good thing.

Winter solstice

Some good things that happened in 2016? I got engaged. A scene from City Love manifested with Claire Danes on the street. The second book of my City Love trilogy, Lost in Love, came out and Epic Reads did an author fun facts video to celebrate. I got to be Maddy from Nicola Yoon’s spectacular Everything, Everything. I went to YALLWEST and chilled with author rock stars and fangirled all over the place. I made some dorktastic YouTube videos. I shared one of my favorite hidden West Village areas with you. And every day, no matter what sad things were happening in the world, I was feeling the city love. The past 20 years have been filled with magical New York City moments that have shaped the person I am today. I am forever in love with my home and the infinite possibilities it brings.

Something tells me you are looking forward to 2017 as much as I am, if not more. I am here to tell you this: You can turn your big dreams into reality in 2017. How do I know? Because dude. I went from having 73 cents in my bank account in college to becoming a homeowner in downtown Manhattan. With enough kitchen counter space to bake my annual 200+ Christmas cookies.

Christmas cookies by Susane Colasanti

That journey was not an easy one. Anything worth achieving requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and the passion to keep going when it feels like everything is falling apart. And I have to say, time is a wild thing. You are just living your life one day at a time. The next thing you know, 20 years have suddenly gone by. 20 years.

Where do you want to be in 20 years? 10 years? 5 years? 2017?

One technique I have used since I moved here is creative visualization. I picture my goals with clarity, then take steps every day towards achieving them. Try writing down your biggest goals for whatever timeframe you choose. Then write down one thing you can realistically do every day to take steps closer to achieving each of them. This process, the passionate dedication of working hard to achieve your goals, is how big dreams become reality. It worked for me. And if I could do it, you definitely can.

Happy New Year, friendly neighbors! Much love to you from New York City. xoxo

Empire State Building at Christmas

serendipity day

Happy Serendipity Day! Every year on December 20, I repost my annual Serendipity Day reflections to celebrate the power of this auspicious day with you. Here’s to positive energy, following your heart, and the magic of soul mates. Much love xoxo

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Today is Serendipity Day, aka Serendipity Do Da, aka Do Da Day.

You would probably like an explanation.

If you didn’t see the movie Serendipity, then not to be bossy? But you really need to go ahead and do that. It’s all about fate and destiny and positive energy and has some amazing New York City scenes. Films like Serendipity take city love to a whole other level. But even if you did see it, you probably didn’t pick up on the fact that Jonathan and Sara meet on December 20. Being obsessive about those kinds of details, I totally did. Then I immediately made an executive decision that December 20 will always and forever be known as Serendipity Day.

When they meet, Jonathan and Sara are in Bloomingdale’s trying to grab the same pair of gloves. You know how sometimes you meet someone and there’s this instant intense connection? That’s what happens to them. So of course they can’t just go their separate ways. They have to go to Serendipity 3 (which is only a few blocks away – love the accuracy) for frozen hot chocolates. And then they go ice skating in Central Park. It’s one of those magical New York nights, filled with excitement and possibility.

Sara Thomas and Jonathan Trager at Serendipity

But then.

When Jonathan writes down his number for Sara, the wind blows it away. She thinks it’s a sign that they’re not meant to be together. Or at least, not right now. She’s all about fate and destiny. So she makes him write his name and number on the back of a five-dollar bill, which she immediately uses to buy mints. Sara’s idea is that if the five-dollar bill makes its way back to her, then they’re meant to be together.

Good, right?

If you’ve read Something Like Fate, you can understand why I love this movie. I love it so much that my friend Joe and I used to celebrate Serendipity Day by reenacting the original Serendipity Day’s events. First, we put our names in at Serendipity. There’s usually a three-hour wait for a table around the holidays. I am not exaggerating. Serendipity is a gorgeous winter wonderland right now, all sparkly lights and trees and tinsel. Everyone wants in. But it was perfect because we needed those three hours to reenact scenes from the movie. We would head over to Bloomingdale’s, where we both grabbed a pair of gloves at the same glove counter. That counter doesn’t have gloves anymore so we had to bring the gloves over from the gloves section, but it still counted. Then it was off to Wollman Rink in Central Park. It was always the Coldest Night Ever when we did this. I don’t know how to ice skate, so we would kind of just stand there shivering and watching the glittery skyline and sending positive energy out into the Universe.

Sara Thomas and Jonathan Trager at Wollman Rink in Central Park

 

Then our table was ready at Serendipity 3 and it was frozen hot chocolate time! In the movie, Jonathan and Sara get red and blue straws in theirs. But we always got regular straws. So I asked about the red and blue ones. I was monumentally disappointed to discover that they don’t have those red and blue straws anymore. But then I got over myself because their frozen hot chocolate is the best in the world, regardless of straw color.

If Joe and I were at a point in our lives where we were single, we would each take out a five-dollar bill and write our name and number on the back (in red pen for accuracy). Then we’d give the bills to the waiter as part of his tip. Not that anyone ever called us. But that’s not the point. The point is that we put positive energy out there. We made a choice to create more possibility for finding true love. Anything is possible here in New York. This city makes magical things happen when you take action to work towards your goals.

Sara Thomas and Jonathan Trager, reunited

How can you celebrate Serendipity Day if you’re not here in New York? Well, if you are already with your soul mate you can make frozen hot chocolates and call it a day. But if you are still searching, send positive energy out into the Universe today. Take some time to write down your goals. Visualize what you want your love life to be like. Then make a plan to take steps every day towards finding your person. All of these actions will help you get closer to turning your big dream into reality.

Oh, and PS? Serendipity 3 is also home of the $1,000 Golden Opulence Sundae, served in a Baccarat crystal goblet (which you get to take home), made with the world’s most expensive chocolate, and covered in 23-carat edible gold leaf. Just in case you weren’t sure what to order.

Golden Opulence Sundae at Serendipity

Happy Serendipity Day, friendly neighbors! Go make magic happen.