Gratitude

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. No (or not much) commercialization. No pressure for gifts. Instead, this is the time we say thanks for the gifts we’ve been given.

THANK YOU to everyone who reads my fiction and a huge thank you to all of you who take time to email. I love hearing from you and hope to hear more.

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing, for putting my words on paper and sending them out in the world, and for being such an amazing group of people who care about writers, books, and who genuinely respect the writing process. Thank you for all the care you’ve taken with THE GILLY SALT SISTERS. March is coming up soon!

Thank you to Dan, my agent, for being the guy behind the wings who manages everything.

Thanks to all you booksellers and librarians who get the right books to the right people and provide a respite of sanity in our sometimes insane culture.

And thanks, I guess, to my muse, whoever he/she/it may be. I always don’t know where it all comes from, but I’m glad I “hear the voices.”

Have a happy holiday everyone.

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Fairy Tale Fun for Adults

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Just to cheer you all up on a Friday. I would totally drink at this bar:

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My 9/11

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

My three young children saw images from 9/11 and asked me about them the day before yesterday. I tried to explain as gently as I could what happened without making them feel unsafe, but it was hard for me.

One of these days, I will explain to my older daughter that she is a 9/11 baby of sorts, conceived in the direct aftermath of that horrible time. I was living in London then with my husband and on that day, my parents were with me. They were, in fact, on one of the last flights out of New York to London before it all happened. We went to my health club to work out. “Why is everyone just standing around?” I wondered when we walked in, and then I looked up at the televisions and saw but didn’t understand.

And I still can’t. I remember that my parents and I went to a garden in Chelsea the next day and it was so quiet. People had stayed home. The streets were half empty. International air space had shut down. No planes broke the blue sky. I remember my next door neighbor coming over to offer me tea and some good British backbone. I remember the crowds gathering at St. Paul’s for a memorial and the long silence they held.

In the weeks after the event, I watched a lot of news coverage, unable to process what was happening to my country while I wasn’t in it. Life wasn’t normal for me, anyway. My husband and I were trying to have a baby and couldn’t. I was seeing doctors and we were filling out adoption forms. Everything felt wrong for me inside and out, day after day.

And then, miracle of miracles, I found out that New Year’s Eve that I was pregnant.  All that spring, I sat with my growing belly watching TV coverage of Americans in Iraq. I watched US soldiers pull down the statue of Saddham. I watched protests and UN hearings, and I fretted about the state of the world I was bringing a child into.

My daughter was born collicky and wailing, high-strung to say the least. And she’s still emotional and sensitive today. She has a keen sense of justice, a poet’s eye, and empathy for those who need it. She is matter-of-factly fair about most things, loyal to the ones she loves, and brave without even knowing it. She is, in her heart, very American. She wants to be a cowgirl, likes a good rodeo and Fouth of July parade, even likes to square dance.

I think of her as my off-chance, my last chance, my lucky chance. And in a way, she is, along with all the other children born from that day, children conceived as people literally tried to bring themselves back to life. I ended up having two more children after her, but she is my first one, the one who changed me, the one who reminds me that life is not what is always should  be, or what we think it will be, but that, in spite of everything, it does, indeed, go on and thank god for that. Hug your children today. They need it. We need them more.

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Green to the Gills

April 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Writing is tough business, people. It’s hard emotionally and, believe it or not, it’s hard physically, which is ridiculous because it involves LOTS of sitting around. That’s the problem. Writing, for me, also involves lots of caffeine and (until recently) sugar up the wazoo. Enough is enough is enough.

I am middle aged, but I have three school aged, exuberant children who wake up at six in the morning on weekends, can trash the house in the blink of an eye, and who think nothing of bouncing for hours on a trampoline. Something, I’ve realized, has had to give.

Writing takes endurance of the toughest kind. Novelists, I think, are the ultra-marathoners of the art world and therefore, we should eat like that, too. No garbage. Lots of greens. Only the good stuff for the long haul. Make the chard below and, I promise, you’ll be ready for the road, too.

Creamy Swiss Chard:

1 bunch red chard

two medium very ripe tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

smattering of red pepper flakes

salt

1/4 cup cream

2 thick sour dough bread slices (or any rough country bread)

Cube the bread, wipe a pan with some olive oil, and toast in the pan until the bread is browned and crisp on the outside. Set aside.

Mince the garlic and sautee in 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large pan or pot with a lid. Chop the tomatoes and add, then sautee until soft. Wash the chard and chop roughly, then dump into the pan with the leaves still wet. Mix, cover, and steam until soft, mixing occassionally, about 15 minutes. Uncover, add salt and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes (just a few will do), then add cream and cook, uncovered, for another few minutes to thicken and reduce the sauce. Mix in the bread cubes and try to share. I dare you. You may be tempted to lick the pot.

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10 Girls I’m Sick Of

March 28, 2011 Leave a comment

There’s a new film coming from SF’s own Jennifer Seibel Newsom: Missrepresentation. A documentary about the lack of female leadership and the way women are portrayed in the media. Check it out: www.misspresentation.org.

The site lists ways you can affect change in ten minutes, ten days, ten weeks. It’s very cool. In honor of Missrepresentation, here’s a list of 10 Girls I’m Sick Of:

1. The Stripper. Ladies, stripping does NOT equal female empowerment. Just because you CAN take your clothes off and grind, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you CAN dress like a stripper doesn’t mean appropriating that look gives you clout, class, or connections (at least not the kind you want).

2. The Beauty Tot. We’ve all seen them on TV, the little zombie girls in full makeup, flippers, extensions, and theme-wear. For god’s sake, let them out of their cages, already.

3. The Rich Bitch. Headband, designer handbag, Ivy league school, five-hundred dollar heels, and a coke habit.

4. The Drunken Housewife. Pick a city, any city. Add self-tanner, vats of white wine, unseemly husbands, and orchestrated catfights. Stir and repeat.

5. The Swimsuit Model. Airbrushed perfection. She walks! She talks!  Perfect to drape across the hood of a car, a vodka bottle, or to dress up in lingerie and angel wings. 

6. Brides. Women DO carry on careers and lives after we wed. Yes, it’s a big day. But you don’t need plastic surgery or radical dieting for it. Trust me.

7. The Perky Women in Detergent/Cleaning Supply Ads. Who ARE these women? Are they the zombie adult results of the Beauty Tots? Do we really care if our laundry is less than perfect or our sinks aren’t sparkling? I really don’t. My mop has never spoken aloud to me and if yours is to you, I suggest professional help, STAT. And why aren’t men ever worried about these things on TV?

8. The Female Politician. Don’t get me wrong. I want lots MORE women politicians, but I want them without the media talking about their hair/clothes/breasts/whether or not they need or have had plastic surgery. How is this going to help us with, say, the crisis in the Middle East?

9. The Good Christian Mother. Oh my lord, am I tired of this woman. It’s great that she values the sanctity of life and has twenty-odd children. It’s wonderful that she chooses not to educate her daughters and arranges marriages for them, but I’d really prefer if she could let the separation of church and state stand and stay the hell out of making decisions about MY uterus, thanks.

10.  The Babytalking Reality Star. Or Heiress. Take your pick. They don’t have functional jobs, as far as I can tell, they don’t read, and when they speak, they sound six years old.

Where in the media are the pretty smart girls who are good at math? The sexy grannies? The woman who will be president? Where are the moms who are also heart surgeons, the CEO’s, the female fighter pilots? I know these women exist–I have seen evidence of them!–but you wouldn’t know it from our tv, magazines, and music.

Where, most of all, am I supposed to place my two young, beautiful, smart, and capable daughters who are so much more than all of this nonsense?

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Early Blurbs!

February 22, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve received my first official endorsements for my upcoming novel, The Gilly Salt Sisters, from two writers I really respect. It’s an honor to know that they enjoyed the book! Read on:

”Like a delicious meal, TiffanyBaker offers up a wonderful blend of devastating family secrets, loves lost and found, revenge, forgiveness, and more than a pinch of long-held family magic.”

Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic’s Daughter and The Wolves of Andover

The Gilly Salt Sisters captivates from its opening paragraph–a story of rivalry, love, and unredeemable greed set against a Cape Cod salt marsh that demands hard work and gives luck (good and bad) in return. Baker’s scenes and characters are rich and compelling, touched with a magical realism which, like salt, enhances their flavor. Fans of Alice Hoffman will rejoice at finding Tiffany Baker.”

Erica Bauermeister, author of The School of Essential Ingredients

If you haven’t read any of Erica’s or Kathleen’s books, I can wholeheartedly tell you that they are wonderful, just the ticket for the last of the terrible late winter/early spring weather. Pick one up (or download one), brew yourself a cup of tea, and fall into some magic!

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Is the Artist Her Art?

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

I happened to catch a comment on a blog today where someone wrote that, for them, there really isn’t a difference between the author and his or her work and it got me wondering.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini, but I feel like I have two selves: the one that does the grocery shopping and volunteers at my kids’ school, and has dinner with friends, and reads gossip on the Internet like everyone else and the me that writes my books. The idea of anyone confusing or conflating them is frankly horrifying to me.

Let me put it this way, it’s awkward when you’re out in your sweatpants at the post office and an acquaintance rushes you and starts talking about your book. In those moments, I must bear the same expression my son does when he sees one of his nursery school teachers in a real-life context like the gas station. It’s not right. Worlds are colliding.

What to do? I make nice noises, turn weird colors, and back away if I can, not because I don’t appreciate the attention but because the part of me that writes is a wormy delicate thing, pale and skinless, not meant for broad daylight and sudden movements.

I bet many fiction writers would agree. The myth of the grand artiste is dangerous, I think. It’s pompous, for one thing, and leads to nothing good. A famous writer I know said something in a talk once that stuck with me. He said there are two kinds of writers: the writer at the bar and the writer who sits and home and just gets on with it (I’m paraphrasing, obviously). That seems right to me. I don’t want to be the writer hanging out at the bar, making a spectacle of my own life. For one thing, I’m not that interesting. And for another, great fiction shouldn’t be about yourself. It should start with you, of course, but if it ends there, well, what’s the point? Why not just carry a mirror around?

Next time you see your friendly neighborhood writer, smile, wave, maybe ask about the weather. And leave it at that. Don’t make any sudden movements.

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