Friday, August 24, 2007


Blogger Laural Dawn offered to include me in her Questions, questions, game and sent me these questions. If you wanna get in on the game, here are the super official rules, copied from Laural Dawn's page.

Interview rules:
1. Leave me a comment saying “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with a post containing your the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Now, on to Laural's lovely questions!

1) It seems like you read a ton of books - how do you decide what books to read and what is your favourite book of all time.

I never feel like I can read books fast enough! I'm always envious of others who read books so quickly, where as I tend to plod over every sentence. Why can't I do the same with ice cream? I must've gotten those two genes mixed up at birth. This year my goal is to FINISH reading books that I pick up, which really just means that I'm choosing the books I start reading more carefully and saying no when someone lends me a book I think looks just terrible (I mean, just NOT for me). I'm also trying to read more non-fiction and books I wouldn't normally pick up, which I think is counterproductive of my goal to FINISH books. But we'll see.

Finding a new book to read is one of my favourite pastimes, so I tend to spend a lot of time in bookstores. I always judge a book by its cover, read the first page and a random page from the middle before considering buying the book. I also ask friends (who tend to like the same books as I do) for recommendations and read other bloggers' book recommendations. The latest book I read was Lost & Found, which I discovered by reading a blog post by Jennifer Weiner. My favourite book of all time is Good Grief by Lolly Winston. It took her five years to write it, which seems about as impossible to me as eating ice cream slowly, but it was so worth it, because the story is so good.

2) Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or be in the field of writing/editing, etc or did you have another career plan when you were younger?

I always new I wanted to be a writer. It's my favourite pastime. I'd rather write than do anything else - go to the movies, watch TV, shop. When people told me being an author wasn't a real job, I decided that being a magazine writer was the next best thing. Thankfully I figured out I didn't care what those naysayers thought and now I'm both, which makes me very happy on a daily basis.

3) You write a lot about your cat - do you think you'll get more cats or stick with just one?

Is that a hint? But I don't have babies, so it's okay, right? Anyway, I always think my cat needs a friend to play with, but I'd hate for him to think he wasn't good enough. Cats have feelings, too. Besides, I doubt any other cat could be as cool as Mr. Baz. (And now, I have a complex about writing about my cat so much.)

4) If you could pick anywhere to vacation and money was no object where would you go - and who would you bring with you?

My ideal vacation is one that mixes culture with relaxation. The Hubs is my favourite travel partner because he likes the same thing, so he's never trying to drag me to a campsite or to watch some sort of sporting event (but I might drag him to watch synchronized swimming if we found a mysterious competition on our travels!). If money were no object, I'd stop having a day job and spend a year travelling around the world. No itinerary, just figuring out the next place as I went. I'd mix warm and cold climates, big cities and beaches, adventure with relaxation.

5) What is your favourite food and/or restaurant?

My favourite food is pizza - I'm so classy! While I love more decadent items such as escargot, I choose pizza as the one item I could eat all the time without getting sick of it. So many toppings! Types of crust! Warm! Cold! My favourite restaurant for pizza and panzerotto is Olympic 76 in Toronto, which is this retro-style pizza restaurant that feels like you're in your Italian grandparents '70s-style basement. For the escargot and a slightly higher-class meal, I love Bistro 990, also in Toronto.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Duff, Britney, butts and the Speidi song.

There really is just so much to discuss. First of all, in my post labelled "The Hills, Booster Juice and Duff Stuff", I completely forgot to talk about Duff Stuff. Apparently three topics was just one too many for one post. So here's the story. I got a text message on my cellphone the other day, and was quite confused seeing as how I have gotten about five text messages in my life, which is about as many as I've sent. I like to think that it's a 30something black hole, that when we started using cellphones text messaging didn't exist so we just never got in the habit of it the way 20somethings and teens did, but then how do I explain the fact that my 40something brother-in-law TMs (is that even the lingo for text messaging?) or that my 50something aunt does, too? Maybe all my friends actually TM, just not me, because they know they won't get a reply?

Anyway, clearly getting a text message is a rare occurrence, so I happily picked up the message, only to find that it was from Rogers. Ho hum. Except, they were telling me I'd won a FREE ringtone! All I had to do was log onto the site to choose whichever ringtone from the list I wanted and they wouldn't charge me one cent. (I'm fairly certain I'll still be charged for the five minutes I was logged onto the site actually waiting to see the list of ringtones). So I fall for it. Log on and find the list. You know what was on it? One song.

With Love by Hilary Duff.

Come. On.

Duffy and I actually go way back. A few years ago, I did an interview with Duffy. It was right before that movie in which Heather Locklear plays her mom. Oh right, The Perfect Man. Here's a little window into how the interview went (questions have been modified because I can't recall the actual questions):

Me: You're a singer, actor and clothing designer. Which is closest to your heart?
Duffy (slightly muffled): I'm a singer, actor and clothing designer - which is closest to my heart.
Publicist (even more muffled): You like them all equally. You love to try new things.
Duffy (with enthusiasm): I like them all equally. I love trying new things.

Me: What do you look for in a role?
Duffy: What do I look for in a role?
Publicist: An interesting story and characters...
Duffy: An interesting story and characters...

Me: Can you put your publicist on so that I can finish this interview?
Duffy: Can I put...

Kidding. But you get the idea. I'm not saying she doesn't have her own thoughts. Maybe she does. She's just not allowed to voice them without getting them peer-reviewed first. Who am I to judge? After all, she's a huge success now and doesn't have two kids or any ex-husbands. Or a shaved head. Let's consider for a moment the un-peer-reviewed alternative.

If you haven't read the story in this month's Allure with Miss Brit (or rather, the interview in which the writer waits four days for her to show up and she never does) you need to. Now. It'll be the best-spent 10 minutes of your day. Promise.

Did you hear about the butt cam for those times when you're trying on jeans? As if jean shopping wasn't traumatic enough.

And finally, tell me that you didn't RUN to your computer to listen to Heidi's song "Body Language" last night...

Now why wasn't that a ringtone option?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Books #14, 15, 16 & 17

Do you ever have that feeling when you watch a movie that's no longer on the New Releases shelf and after you finish watching it, wonder: Why did I wait SO long to see this movie? I could have been feeling so in love with this movie five months ago! Two years ago! When I was 12! You get the idea. Off the top of my head, I remember having that feeling when I saw Memento and Palmetto. You're probably thinking, Palmetto? I know, I don't even remember what the movie was about, now, but I still remember when I finished watching it, thinking, Why in the name of Elisabeth Shue have I not seen this movie until now? I mean, Elisabeth Shue is in it! And the intro to Adventures in Babysitting is one of my all-time favourite movie openings...

Anyway, I recently read My Sister's Keeper...

...and had that same feeling, only not just at the end of the novel, but nearly every single page of the way through it. It's that good. The story is about a family who has a daughter born with leukemia, so the parents have another baby, whose umbilical cord they can use to help save the first daughter's life, and what happens after that. I remember someone recommending Jodi Picoult to me at least a year ago, and I even borrowed My Sister's Keeper from the library and flipped through the first few pages before getting distracted by another book I wanted to read, and by the time I finished the other book, My Sister's Keeper was due back at the library. Anyway, a few weeks ago I bought the book and could barely put it down. So far, it's my favourite book of the ones I've read this year.

Another book I read recently was for the new bookclub I just joined, which after just one meeting, I'm totally loving. The girls are so smart, so funny, and the best part? You bring a dish for dinner relating to the novel. And drink lots of wine. Does it get any better than that? Initially, though, I wasn't very excited that the first book I had to read was A Thousand Splendid Suns, only because I was hoping my first book would be some obscure title that I'd never heard of, not #1 on the every newspaper's hardcover bestseller list. That said, I'm so glad I read it. It's not a book I would normally read, so in that sense, the bookclub did exactly what I was hoping it would do - get me to read books that I wouldn't typically pick up. (Not to mention that the meal was so fantastic). This is Khaled Hosseini's second book (his first was The Kite Runner), and is set in Afghanistan again, but told from two female perspectives. Hosseini has a talent for weaving the history of the country into a novel to make it interesting without sounding like a history lesson, and while the background, politics and culture affects the people, he somehow manages to make the characters so relatable that you believe the story could've happened anywhere in the world.

A few months ago I read Baby Proof (see post here) and after falling in love with Emily Giffin's writing, I went out and bought Something Borrowed and Something Blue.

I was totally surprised by Something Borrowed. It's a first novel, so I wasn't expecting it to be as good as Baby Proof (Giffin's third). Plus, I really did just think it was going to be about getting married, though after the surprise of Baby Proof (it's not about a woman having a baby), I should've known that Something Borrowed wouldn't be so straight forward either. There are the typical first novel similarities between the heroine and the author, but hello, my book has that same downfall! And the story is fresh, the writing is really smart, thoughtful and funny, and I never knew what was going to happen next - and I love that about a book.

Something Blue is the followup, written from the best friend's perspective, but the problem I found was that I hated the best friend so much after the first book (and I started Something Blue five minutes after finishing Something Borrowed), that I just couldn't get myself to care about her because I disliked her so much. Still, it was a great read and perfect for a Friday afternoon, soaking up the last rays of summer.

And now, because I'm totally thinking about Adventures in Babysitting....

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Hills, Booster Juice and Duff Stuff.

Did you watch it? Seriously, I haven't been this excited for a season premiere since Entourage. Or 90210. Is this pathetic? I'm not sure, but it's true.

I mean, come on, the Hollywood tag on Speidi's wall? Too, too much.

Not to mention The Hills debut of Heidi's new nose and new boobs ...

and engagement ring (even though she's been wearing it for months)...

Also, in case you haven't already Googled it, Heidi's ring apparently cost $2,800 at Ice, but doesn't this look like the same ring to you?... for $265? Hmmm...

Anyway, apparently the engagement is a total publicity stunt and that three weeks into the fakegagement they'd already raked in $30,000 in photo ops. So maybe that's why Spenny didn't want to dish out the cash for a real ring. Or maybe he spent the rest on his frosted tips. Or Playmates. Who knows. But I LOVE it all. LOVE. It. All.

In other exciting news, there's a new shop opening in my neighbourhood. I should preface this by saying that I live pretty much right downtown, which means that there tends to be a lot of shops, but not a lot of variety in shops, due to a trend that goes like this:

One shwarma place opens. Then another. Then a third. Then someone else wants to open a restaurant in the area and they wonder, "What type?" and they look around and say, "Ahh, there are three shwarma shops. People must like shwarma. I'll open one too just three doors down!" Then this pattern repeats until there are 7 shwarma shops, 6 Indian restaurants, 3 revolving sushi bars, 8 thai takeouts and 14 dollar stores in a one-subway stop square radius.

Now I'm not opposed to any of these types of shops, but it makes making a decision as to which one of 13 wrap shops to visit all the more difficult for an indecisive person like me. It also leaves little room for new, DIFFERENT types of shops. Which is why, when the fake-Lush-soap-type shop closed up on my street a few days ago, I was hopeful something good would go in. But I never dreamt it would be this.

BOOSTER JUICE?!?!?!?!?!?

I LOVE Booster Juice! Until now, there was never one near my work or home, so whenever I'd see one when I was in my travels I'd get so excited that I'd forgo any planned meal for a smoothie. I mean, is there any better guilt-free indulgence than something that tastes so good it must be bad for you but is actually good for you?

And now there's going to be one like 15 steps from my front door. FIFTEEN STEPS!

It really doesn't get much better than this.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Q&A with Vanessa Craft, author of Out of Character

I have to start by saying that I'm super envious of Vanessa's last name. I mean, Craft? And her website is Too cute.

Anyway... I read her debut novel, Out of Character a few months ago. If you haven't read it, it's well worth the read. But who cares what I think! Here's what Vanessa had to say about the book.

Q. How did you come up with the title for Out of Character?

VC: The title came from a brainstorming session with my agent. Acting "out of character" is something that definitely happens to the heroine Emma; Emma is obsessed with the characters in every book she reads; the book explores the true nature, or character of people, and how it is defined. It's a triple threat title.

Q. What inspired the "dancer" aspect to the story?

VC: I knew a ballet dancer who began working the London clubs to make ends meet. I went to visit her at work one night and was blown away by the atmosphere I've always been fascinated by themes of identity and how they play themselves out in different settings. There is constant media attention on pole dancing these days, but most of it fails to explore the true nature of how identity is affected by power, money and sex, in particular in those environments. Also, I loved the idea of a woman becoming "addicted" to a character she has created. I'm fascinated - absolutely fascinated- by identity and the role it plays within our lives, especially when under the influence of family, or when it is corrupted by power or sex.

Q. You went undercover as a dancer yourself in a strip club. At what point in the writing process did you decide to do so, and what made you decide to do so?

VC: I had gone in to several clubs as an observer, but that was all that I was - an observer. To write a story like I wanted to write, it had to be truly authentic for it to work, and I wasn't getting a behind the scenes view of the dressing room, of the inner workings of the club, of the power games. I spoke to many girls, but no one was sharing their secrets with me. My friend suggested I come in to audition one night and even though the situation was beyond scary, my imagination and journalistic curiosity took over. I was really intrigued.

Q. How long did you work?

VC: On and off for about 3-4 months.

Q. What surprised you most?

VC. I was surprised by how many celebrities and high powered businessmen go to these places - it's like window shopping for them and they have no intention of 'buying' anything. Clubs like Platinum are very tame (women in full length dresses, no touching, no full nudity etc), and many of the men are just there to trump each other - who can spend the most, who can have the most expensive bottle of champagne, the best looking dancers at their table - that sort of thing. I was also quite surprised when I was asked to do a dance for a very famous British supermodel who has been in the press alot lately ;)I would say that like most women, I had a very real fear of strip club environments, and a hefty amount of judgement towards the women that work there. It was very freeing for me to embrace something I was so afraid of, and to discover the truths about the role sex plays in our psyche.I loved the idea of "disappearing" into a secret world, and got a real kick out of having this secret - meeting people at dinner parties or at social events and them having no idea about my pole skills! Another plus was learning how to carry myself with all the dancer secrets of body positioning, how to mask your physical flaws, and how to never take no for an answer. Very handy skills to have! At the same time, this was also the worst part about the experience - the secrecy, the judgement from others... I was ultimately in there as a tourist, so it's easy for me to pop in, look around and move on because I have other options. I think that world makes it very hard to have a 'normal' relationship with a man, and it is so hard to shake that lifestyle once you're in it.

Q. What made you decide to write a novel?

VC: I've been writing since i was a child and come from a family of writers. A novel was always on the cards as soon as I could get organised and focussed enough to do it!

Q. Why did you go undercover as a dancer rather than just imagining it for the story?

VC: I feel that certain emotions are transferable to all of us - we all know what it is like to love, to be betrayed, to hope for something - I didn't need to go outside of my own head for those things. But to have such a unique setting to play those emotions and themes out, when I had no idea about pole dancers would have been impossible. I guess I've always been a person who jumps into things with two feet and never looks back. I moved to London when I was a teenager, on my own with no family or friends, for example - it's my nature to be so nosy and curious about places and things I've never seen that I get myself into trouble!

Q. Emma has a unique relationship with her father, Jack. Is this based on any relationships you have?

VC: Jack is an amalgamation of the many Investment Bankers I met whilst selling my soul in office jobs as a starving artist. I found those men fascinating - they would literally give up 10+ years of their life to guarantee wealth and power. I always was curious as to what made them tick - didn't they have dreams once other than that? So, I wanted to write a character who defined himself through his earning power and match him up with the most challenging relationship he could have, with a daughter who didn't value those choices.


Q. Did you ever -- like Emma -- consider giving up writing the book and just working as a dancer instead?

VC: I was in my late twenties when I was in the club, and that is definitely a young woman's game! Not to mention, I was very focussed on my writing and I never truly was able to disconnect the 'real' me from the situation - plus I think Emma was in a precarious position to begin with - abandoned by her mother and father, uninspired, an outcast - she was ripe for an experience that would make her feel like she belonged, no matter how inappropriate that experience was. I do think many of us fantasize about "escaping" our lives sometimes, though, but few do. This was the opportunity that presented itself for Emma, and she was "desperate for a life worth writing about."

Since it's Freebie Friday, I've got one copy of Vanessa Craft's first novel, Out of Character, to give away! If you want to win it (with a personalized autograph from Vanessa), email me at chantel (at) chantelsimmons (dot) com and tell me a story about a time you pretended to be someone (or some age) you weren't. It could be the time when you were 10 and lied to the cute 15-year-old paperboy about your age so that he'd like you back. Or the time you pretended you actually had waitressing experience to get a job at Denny's when really, your only experience was clearing the meatloaf off the Sunday night dinner table at home. Or maybe you're super honest and have never pretended to be anything but yourself. In that case, just make something up to win the book!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Let it rain...

I went to the Canadian Open a few weeks ago, and at the sun protection booth, they were giving away Neutrogena SPF 55 sunscreen (nothing's getting through that!) and you could enter a contest. I have no idea what the prizes were, because as soon as the woman said "Would you like to enter--" I ripped the paper from her hand and filled out the form. I LOVE contests, and winning ANYTHING.

And I won!

A golf umbrella.

Now here's the thing. I golf, and I like umbrellas. In fact, I have quite a few umbrellas (because I'm constantly leaving them on the subway or losing them in a drawer at work or cupboard or closet at home). But golf and umbrellas don't really go together for me, because when it starts to rain and I'm on the golf course, it's time for a cocktail.

But I don't have a golf umbrella, and maybe if I did (and a cute caddy to hold it) and a million dollars at stake, I, like Tiger, would want to continue golfing in the rain.

Anyway, the point is that the golf umbrella is sitting and waiting for me to pick it up in Unionville. Between 8:30 and 4:30 Monday to Friday. Which is pretty much impossible for me to do since I work those same hours in downtown Toronto.

The woman who called to tell me I won was so sad when I said that I didn't think I could get there. "But it's so pretty!" she told me. "Don't you have anyone who can pick up the umbrella for you? Your mom? Your dad?"

I'm fairly certain that my dad is not going to drive to Unionville to pick up the umbrella for me. But that means that I'm giving to the umbrella away!

If you would like a golf umbrella, and can get to Unionville on a weekday to pick it up, email me at chantel (at) and let me know and the umbrella is yours!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Born in the USA!

Mara is officially "Stuck in Downward Dog" in the US now! You can now buy the book at Target or Amazon.

If you've already bought the book, thank you so much! If you liked it, feel free to spread the word or leave a review here or here. Thanks to all the readers who have sent me emails or mail, like the yoga instructor in Winnipeg, who left me the sweetest voice mail last week telling me she loved the book. I was so flattered.

Thanks also to Laura Bowers, author of the super fun YA book Beauty Shop for Rent, who invited me into the beauty shop for a Shop Talk Tuesday session. PS Laura invites a different author every Tuesday, so you should check it out.

In other news, congratulations to Stella Lestiardi, winner of the bottle of the John Frieda Color Glaze from last week's Freebie Friday. I liked Stella's story:

Yesterday I was babysitting my neice (who's 4) and I asked her how old she was to see if she knew. She said "Four." Then she said to me "How old are you?" and I said "How old do you think I am?" (I'm 24) and she said "52?" I was like, "WHAAAAAAAAT?" And she said "You have grey hair. More than my mom." My sister's 35, but she also dyes her hair and I don't! But of course my neice couldn't understand that. Please, help me. If she thinks I'm 52, maybe that's why I can't get a boyfriend!

I also loved this email from Rory Brickells:

When I was just 15, I found my first grey hair. I was mortified, and plucked it out. But the hairs kept coming Fast and Furious (ps Paul Walker is totally my celebrity boyfriend). Then this guy in my class asked me to go to see a movie with him, I can't even remember what but I totally didn't want to see it but I really (I thought) liked him. Then after the movie he was playing with my hair and he saw a grey hair and he was totally disgusted and that was that. He told everyone I had grey hair and he never talked to me again. Now, I think that's so lame, and I don't really care about the grey hair that I have (I have a lot more now). I thought about colouring it, but I don't really mind them. Still, it would be cool to try a new product.

But I could only award one bottle. If I had more, I'd give one to everyone who wrote to me. Grey hair beauties unite!
Finally, this Friday, I'll be featuring a Q&A with Vanessa Craft, author of the newly released Out of Character, and as part of Freebie Friday, you could win a personalized copy! See you then!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A little note about notes...

Today I was editing a story by one of my favourite freelance writers about ways to destress by making little changes to your workday and workspace, when I got to #8 on the list, which I just love:

File your happy thoughts
What do you do with all those nice thank-you notes, accolades and laugh-out-loud emails from clients, friends and colleagues? Don’t recycle or delete them – start a happy file. Add a new folder to your inbox and a brightly coloured folder beside your desk. The next time you’re feeling down, peek into your collection of motivating messages to give your spirits a lift.

Isn't this the cutest idea, ever?