my trip to Seattle Part Two

Welcome to part two of my trip to Seattle. In part one, I blogged about the professional aspect of my trip—attending the AWP Writers Conference and Bookfair, and meeting other members of my publishing family. Today, I am blogging about the pleasure portion of my trip. Two of my favorite people reside in Seattle and all time not spent at the conference was spent with one of them.

Megan is a graduate of culinary school and she and her boyfriend moved to Seattle last year with plans to advance their careers and eventually open their own restaurant. Megan has recently been promoted to Sous Chef at Altstadt, a restaurant in Pioneer Square. (Congrats, Chef Meg!) Although I didn’t make it to her restaurant, Megan and her boyfriend were responsible for some serious fine dining on my part this weekend. On Friday, I met the two of them for lunch. I thought we would go someplace casual for a sandwich or something but, considering the company I was keeping, I should have known better since eating is never casual with them. We wound up at Lola —a Tom Douglas restaurant. For those of you who are not familiar, Tom Douglas is one of the top chefs in the Northwest and owns numerous restaurants in the Seattle area. I had brunch with Jason at Lola while we were dating, but this was the first time I was there for lunch. I had no idea it was even a Mediterranean restaurant since the brunch menu has all the basics. One of the best parts about dining with Megan and her boyfriend Julio is that they are both chefs and take their eating experiences very seriously. They like to try a lot of different things and so we usually share . I also tend to go out of my comfort zone and try things I probably wouldn’t have ordered with my other friends. For lunch, we shared three different kebabs – lamb, squid, and haloumi cheese. I never would have chosen the squid and it wound up being my favorite. Well, in a three-way tie for first place 🙂 Unfortunately, I didn’t think at the time to take pictures, but trust me, it was delish.

photo 4 (2)On Friday night, I had dinner with Jason and of course I got to choose where we went since I am the visitor to his city. I fully intended to pick the place that has always been my favorite, The Crab Pot. For one, it is by the waterfront which I love, and secondly, patrons are expected to wear bibs. Since I should probably don a bib whenever I eat, I love going there. It’s incredibly laidback, messy, and, of course, tasty. But, at Jason’s suggestion, we ended up going a bit more up-scale to Sitka & Spruce, a New American restaurant in Capitol Hill. The ambiance was really cool—wide open with high ceilings and mostly communal tables with only a few individual tables and bar-like seating lining the periphery. We sat at an individual table and after looking at the menu decided to share a bunch of small plates. Appealing to both of us immediately was a bread dish described as being accompanied with “soft butter.” I’m definitely a fan of bread, especially loaded with easily spread creamy butter. Among the other platters we shared were fried chickpea fitters, some sort of grilled leek dish a potato dish and clams with a bacon sauce.

photo 1 (3)photo 2 (1)Paired with red wine, it was a great dining experience.

 

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Saturday night, Megan and I went to the restaurant where Julio works, Spur. Spur is a gastropub in Belltown. Julio was working that night and informed them that his girlfriend would be there. This was not the first time I joined Megan at one of Julio’s restaurant and I have never left disappointed or hungry. A great thing about eating at one of Julio’s restaurants is that I don’t need to order a single thing because random dishes are continuously sent from the kitchen to our table. The food was outstanding! From the first dish, a salmon crostini, to the last, a dessert plate consisting of pear sorbet, sponge cake and meringue, it was a culinary experience I will never forget.

Salmon crostini - yum!

Salmon crostini – yum!

Duck Pate - so rich and so good!

Duck Pate – so rich and so good!

AMAZING.

AMAZING.

The only dish that did not thrill me was sweet breads and I think the psychological aspect of eating pancreas was to blame rather than the food itself. I highly recommend this restaurant in terms of food, service, and ambiance.

For my final meal in Seattle, Jason took me to Chinatown. We ate dim sum at The Purple Dot. Although I’ve eaten dim sum before, I’ve never been to a dim sum restaurant and always wanted to. A waitress circles the restaurant with a cart filled with various dishes and you choose what you’d like to eat. It was fun! We ordered four different things. I enjoyed the dishes with varying degrees —some a lot and some not-so-much but I would definitely do that again.

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Finally, I can’t leave the Emerald City without my farewell Vanilla Latte. Yum!

nobody does vanilla latte like Seattle does Vanilla latte.

nobody does vanilla latte like Seattle does Vanilla latte.

As you can see, my healthy appetite and palate for good food was not disappointed by my long weekend in Seattle. Now it’s time to put on those running shoes and burn off those extra calories!

My trip to Seattle Part One

Happy March! The feet-numbing cold has made it clear that I’ve left Seattle and returned to my hometown of New York City. My weekend in Seattle might be over, but the memories remain. I had a fabulous time!

I almost didn’t get there as I was flying standby with a buddy pass thanks to the flight attendant friend of my pal, Megan. Megan (who moved to Seattle with her boyfriend last fall) sent me a text on Wednesday evening letting me know the Thursday evening flight I hoped to take was overbooked and it was unlikely I would get on. I have never flown standby and am not the adventurous type when it comes to traveling. I like to have my seats confirmed and I typically arrive at the airport seriously early in case of long security lines. That’s the kind of person I am—which clashes with flying standby, but I was trying to save money. I freaked out—anxiety-related tears streaming down my face—especially after seeing that the cost of a regular flight with so little notice was way more expensive than I could afford. I even contemplated cancelling my trip. And then my hero swooped in—my friend (and ex-boyfriend) Jason used miles to purchase me a one-way ticket on Jet Blue. I even got an “even  more room” seat. I decided to wing the return trip standby (which thankfully worked out). Crisis averted! Thank you, Jason. And thank you to Megan for getting me the standby tickets in the first place. You both saved me a lot of money!

Combining my attendance at the 2014 Annual AWP Writers Conference and Bookfair held at the Washington State Convention Center with plans with the aforementioned Jason and Megan allowed me to enjoy business mixed with pleasure to the perfect percentage.   

The conference was massive – in addition to several gigantic rooms filled with booths and tables hosted by various publishers of all types of literary works, educational programs, and other writing-related companies, participants could attend hundreds of available lectures on all sorts of writing-related topics, like the relationship between editor and author, how social media has changed the way authors engage with readers, and how to write a good book review.

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My main incentive of attending was to meet other members of my Booktrope family. I was most excited to meet my book manager, Beth Bacon. With Beth on my team, I am able to devote my time to the aspects of writing and marketing that I enjoy the most (the actual writing and engaging with readers) and she helps me with all of the behind-the-scenes aspects of promotion and branding. It was a thrill to meet her face-to-face after so many telephone calls, emails and Google Hangouts. And I was also pleasantly surprised by the appearance of Loretta Matson, the talent behind all four of my book covers and even my website. Since I didn’t know Loretta would be there, I was beyond thrilled when she walked over to the Booktrope table right before my scheduled book signing. Both Beth and Loretta are integral members of my publishing team and I am so grateful for both of them. I also had the pleasure of meeting the two founders of Booktrope and several other book managers and authors.

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Everyone at Booktrope is so supportive and as I walked through the exhibit hall and spoke to other publishers, it felt so great to be exactly where I want to be. Of course, I’d like to sell about a million more books and have my books optioned for television or the big screen but I feel very blessed and content with the status of my writing career this very moment.

My scheduled book signing was very exciting as it was the first time I ever did a signing by myself, however I went into it with very low expectations. The conference really was not the right venue for selling books as almost all of the attendees were writers or aspiring writers and most were more focused on nurturing their own careers. Most of the authors who did signings before me sold very few, if any books. I had one person very interested in buying Blogger Girl, but we didn’t take credit cards and she had no cash. She promised to buy it on Kindle instead. While I only sold one paperback, I had a pretty good turnout at my table and several people took my bookmarks and said they would download copies on Amazon. Despite leaving with almost as many books as I had when I arrived, it was thrilling to interact with those who stopped by the table and proudly announce that I was the author of the three pretty pink, yellow and blue books on display.

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The entire business portion of the weekend was incredibly special and I had to pinch myself to be sure this was my life. I’m still at the beginning of my career and have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but I get to write —something I love more than anything else in the world—and I actually make money doing it. Not enough to quit my day job but that’s the goal I’m working towards. In the meantime, my wonderful colleagues at my day job (especially my boss/best friend Alan) make the wait a mostly pleasant one.

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Stay tuned for part two of this series where I will tell you all about how much food I ate during the “pleasure” portion of my trip. If you are from the Seattle area, I have recommendations for some great restaurants you need to try. And pictures too.

writing, colds, and Seattle Oh My

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted a more personal blog, so today is your lucky day! I’m writing this from a writer’s group I connected with through Meetup. I’m in a few of them. It’s nice to interact with other writers and it’s also a great motivator to get out there and put in a few hours of writing time. This is the first time I’ve been able to participate in this particular group because it usually meets during the week and I have that pesky day job. (That pesky day job that pays most of my bills and provides me with health insurance and a generous 401K so I’m not complaining. That much…)

I’m not feeling so hot. I was fine at about 2:30 on Tuesday afternoon and by 2:45, my throat was sore and I was coughing. By the time I went to bed that night, I felt like I swallowed a shard of glass. I tossed and turned for hours and decided to call out sick on Wednesday. I slept almost the entire day. Although I still wasn’t feeling great on Thursday, I didn’t feel comfortable taking more days off from work since I have several vacation days in the near future. I’m still not at optimum health but it didn’t stop me from running outside all weekend. I just couldn’t resist this fabulous weather. I am loaded up on drugs and hope to get this cold out of my system soon! In fact, I am heading off to Seattle on Thursday and will be really upset if I’m still alternating between coughing up a lung and blowing snot out of my nose. (TMI?) Especially since flying already wreaks havoc on my sinuses.

over-medicated much?

over-medicated much?

Why I am traveling to Seattle you ask? My publisher, the fabulous Booktrope, is based out of Seattle and they are hosting a table at the Association of Writers & Writer’s Programs 2014 Conference & Bookfair. They asked if any of their authors were interested in participating—many of them also reside in Washington State. Although New York City is a long way from Seattle, I decided to attend the conference so that I could meet my publisher and some fellow Booktrope authors, as well as reunite with some close friends who live there. I’m also scheduled to do a book signing on Saturday morning and so I had 30 books shipped to my friend Megan’s apartment in downtown Seattle (10 copies of Blogger Girl, 10 copies of A State of Jane and 10 copies of Just Friends with Benefits). In hindsight, I probably should have shipped far fewer books since my signing is only from 11:00-12:00 on Saturday and, seriously, how will I possibly sell 30 books in one hour unless I change my name to Nora Roberts, Emily Giffin or Jennifer Weiner? I hope to sell one to be frank…

I have been a writing machine this past month and my fourth novel is already 58,000 words. My novels are typically 75,000-85,000 words so I’m really making progress. I am so excited about this book and so I fly out of work almost every evening and head to various coffee shops in the city to put in some writing time. If I have any chance of publishing it in 2014, I can’t really afford to go straight home from work and watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune and so, unless I have social plans after work, I can usually be found at either Argo Tea in Union Square, or The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Murray Hill. They know me now at the latter and before I open my mouth to order, the guy at the register (who I learned is named Brian) says, “Chai Latte?” Sometimes I feel bad when I switch things up and order a Vanilla Latte instead, but I’ve got to keep them on their toes. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

Argo Tea

Argo Tea

Before I sign off, I wanted to thank everyone who purchased my Real Chick Lit for Real Chicks collection. When the boxed set went on sale for .99, I broke the Amazon top 100 bestseller list for the first time ever!  Pretty exciting stuff.

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Ok, signing off now to continue working on my novel.

Cheers!

Seattle observations

I just returned from a four day vacation in Seattle. Since it’s about time for me to post my weekly blog, I figured I’d let you all know what I learned about the “Emerald city” during my four days:

1. Seattle is sometimes referred to as the Emerald City. Not sure why, but will look it up before I post this blog.

2. It didn’t rain nearly as often as I feared. In fact, of the four days, two were completely void of rain – Thursday and Saturday. The sky was bright and sunny both of those days, although pretty cold on Thursday. Since shopkeepers everywhere I went commented, “so nice for the sun to come out!”, it was clear that the sunny weather was not expected.  Perhaps the sun came out in my honor!

3. Even when it did rain, it was much more comfortable then when it rains in New York. A) The rain came down much lighter than the downpours we get here and B), the air quality was better – not muggy or humid.

4. The coffee in Seattle tastes amazing and the presentation is pretty too. I had coffee in several different establishments and, with the exception of 7-Eleven, was sad to hit the bottom of my cup.

5. The coffee at 7-Eleven is just as bad in Seattle as it is in New York.

6. If you spend all day at the Pike Marketplace, you can probably snack on enough food samples to avoid paying for any meals all day.  The vendors are very generous with the samples, especially the fruit, jam, nuts and dried fruit.

7. The fruit is huge! I couldn’t even finish a whole apple and I’m usually a plate cleaner. 

8. The apples are amazing! I bought a bunch to take home.  Although the Honey Crisp were really good, I chose Jazz since you currently can’t buy them in New York. 

9. There appear to be more St. Louis Cardinals fans than Texas Ranger fans in Seattle, at least at the Crab Pot where we ate during exciting game 6 of the World Series.  I was rooting for Texas since they’d never won before. And yes, I am still a Yankees fan and no, I don’t think it’s hypocritical that I usually root for a team that has won more World Series championships than any other team!

10. No one jaywalks in Seattle. Even when no cars are coming, folks wait until the light changes and the sign says “walk.”

11. People in Seattle walk slow!

12. The security line at SEA-TAC moves SO slow and no one cares. (Aside from that impatient chick from NYC who was tapping her foot and glaring at the people in front of her.)

13. The cost of food, clothes and souvenirs is pretty comparable to NYC, read: expensive.

14. Seattle has bad drivers. Ok, this was Jason’s observation but he’s my new man and my chauffer while in town and so I’ll take his word for it since public transportation is limited.

15. Public transportation is limited in Seattle.  The monorail has two stops – the Space Needle and a mall.  According to Wikipedia, however, there is also a commuter rail.  And I saw a few buses.

16. Food is generally good but I still favor the food in NYC.

17. People actually get into soccer in Seattle. The bar we went to on Saturday night was filled with Seattle Sounders fans.

18.  People who reside in Seattle (well, the three people I know who reside in Seattle) tend to live for the summers when the weather is supposedly perfect. 

19.  Some residents of Seattle make fun of Tacoma, Washington the same way New Yorkers make fun of New Jersey.

21.  I did not see any rats in the underground city, very unlike the multitude of rats I see in the New York City subway tracks!

22.  People are very “green” in Seattle and recycling is pretty big.

23.  People are not very overweight in Seattle.  Maybe it’s all the “gluten free”, “vegan” and “organic options”.  It’s definitely NOT because people speed-walk…

24.  Seattle was built on greed and corruption and a lot of sex! 

25.  Seattle is called the Emerald City due to the lush evergreen trees in the surrounding area.  The nickname was officially adopted in 1982 as a result of a contest.  (See?  I told you I’d look it up before I posted the blog.  I’m a woman of her word!)

26.  I dig Alaska Airlines.  They rent out little computer devices so each passenger can watch movies or television, play games or listen to music.  I forgot to get a receipt and so I have no idea how much they charged me, but after playing about 50 rounds of Solitaire, I still didn’t win!  Oh, and I forgot how much I used to enjoy the television show, ER.  Even without George Clooney.

27.  The last observation was not about Seattle itself, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

I thought I’d stop at 27.  The number of World Series championships won by my precious New York Yankees.

What about you?  Anyone been to or from the Emerald City?  Any observations you’d care to share?