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29 November 2010

Nora Ephron: She Remembers Everything

As a freshman English major, we read Nora Ephron. I can't remember exactly what we read, but our English 101 professor obviously thought enough of her work to include her in his canon.
Now age 69--tho' she hardly looks it--Ephron is in the news again with yet another book: "I Remember Nothing," a memoir released this month. On the heels of "I Feel Bad About My Neck" And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman," this writer and film director dominated The New York Times this weekend with an interesting interview in the magazine section AND a nice page-and-a-half piece complete with 4-color portrait in the Book Review.

Even if you don't know Ephron's books, you probably know her movies.

In addition to her books and essays, Ephron, in case you didn't know, brought us these romantic comedy confections: "When Harry Met Sally" and "Heartburn," "You've Got Mail," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Julie and Julia."

Some writerly fine points from the pieces:

From "Domains: On Location" by Edward Lewine:

• Nora Ephron uses "Freedom" on her computer so she can write without Internet distraction.

• She not only writes, she reads: "I read four or five books a year I wish I had written," she said.

• She reads the newspapers in bed. Breakfasts. "Then at some point I actually sit down to write."

• Her parents, Phoebe and Henry Ephron, were writers.

From "The Oft-Examined Life" by Alex Kuczynski:

• She has been nominated for three Oscars.

• "She's like Benjamin Franklin or Shakespeare: her words are now part of the fabric of the English language. Whenever we talk about 'white man's overbite'...we're quoting her."

• "...Ephron is the poster girl for the religion of When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade."

And Ephron's evidently still got the juice.

Colleen Smith’s debut novel Glass Halo, set in Denver, was a finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Prize and was praised in the latest issue of The Bloomsbury Review. The novel is available online and through your favorite bookstore.

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10 November 2010

"GLASS HALO" upcoming book-signing events in Denver

Writing a book is one thing. Publishing a book is another. And signing one's own published book? Well, that's something entirely different, too.

Photo by James Baca: Signing copies of my first novel at the "Glass Halo" launch at Dixon's Downtown Grill.

This weekend, I'm scheduled to sign copies of my now critically-acclaimed novel, "Glass Halo" at several locations: a greenhouse, a warehouse, and--more conventionally--a bookstore.
Here are the details. Thanks for stopping by to say hi. And remember: Books make terrific and easy-to-wrap gifts for people on your holiday shopping list.
Thank you for helping me wag my tale.

• Friday, November 12: Echter's Holiday Art Sale ~ Three of my passions come together: books, glass art, and gardening. I'll join the Glass Artist's Fellowship as they open their 7th annual show. Glass looks great in the natural light of the greenhouse!

• Saturday, November 13: Gallagher Books ~ signing from 1 - 3 p.m.
This bookstore boasts the original shelves from the first Denver Public Library.

• Sunday, November 14 and Saturday, November 20: Shop to the Nines ~ signing from 11 am - 2 pm.
This event happens over two weekends, offering a "haute holiday shopping weekend;" find chic and high-quality gifts at deeply discounted prices.

• Saturday, December 4: Fireside Books ~ signing from 1 - 3 pm
Drop by this bookstore for a great inventory of used books and fresh pastries.

• Thursday, December 9: Broadway Book Mall ~ signing begins at 7 pm
This book mall houses ten bookstores offering a wide array of books that can satisfy every reader's tastes.

Colleen Smith’s first novel, Glass Halo, is available through bookstores and

Named a finalist for the Sante Fe Literary Prize and favorably reviewed in the Fall 2010 issue of The Bloomsbury Review, the novel is set in Denver.
• To learn more about Glass Halo and Friday Jones Publishing
visit and--if you like--please post a comment on the blog.
• Or visit Friday Jones Publishing on Facebook and become a fan.
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06 November 2010

Seeing Wild Parrots on Telegraph Hill, San Francisco

When the documentary "The Parrots of Telegraph Hill" came out in 2005, one of my editors called me and told me, "This is your kind of film." She knows I am an animal-lover, a tree-hugger, and a colorist.
The documentary sounded fascinating, yet I never got to the theater. And then I forgot about it.
Until recently, when I was preparing for another trip to San Francisco. My editor, whose husband used to be a report for The San Francisco Chronicle, sent me a list of curious San Francisco highlights. She mentioned that she walked up Telegraph Hill, but never saw any parrots.
I remembered her recommendation, years ago, of the film.
In San Francisco, I had the good fortune to meet up with two friends for a walk. The three of us share similar interests: walks, museums, nature, art. We decided to take a long walk to a secret garden mentioned in a guide book. The secret garden was in a long corridor-like space on a hill. Charming and romantic, the garden had exotic features such as Chinese lanterns and elegant birdbaths, bright bouganvillea and mossy fern-covered shady spots.

Parrots in a secret garden

As we made our way down the stairs and around a corner, one of my friends ahead of me remarked that the tree was shedding something. It had been raining off and on, so I wondered it she was seeing or hearing raindrops. Then I looked into the tree and saw them: parrots!
"The parrots! The parrots!" I said, sneaking back up the stairs and pulling out my iPhone.
My friends had not heard of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. We watched them for a good long while as they feasted on the red berries in the trees. We took photos and got quite close to them.
"There you go," one of my friends said as one of the parrots made his way down a branch. "He's posing for you."
And then, suddenly, with a screech, the parrots flew off in a hurry, lime Jell-O green on the wing.

Parrots with personalities: Lessons from so-called bird brains

Today, I picked up the film at Denver Public Library. Tonight, I watched The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. I laughed. I cried. And I almost flew out of my chair after the delightful surprise ending.
If you get this DVD, be sure to watch some of the extra tracks, too. Colorful and uplifting! Share/Save/Bookmark

05 November 2010

American Indian design draws upon ravens

In 1990, November was declared National American Indian Heritage Month. Native American design and lore frequently draws upon the mysterious raven. Scientific research has revealed ravens to be highly intelligent creatures, sentient beings. Learn more about this common, yet uncommon bird at this link to my feature on ravens: "The Raven in Your Garden"

THE IMAGE: Birds inspire Native American dance.

••• Colleen Smith's first novel, "Glass Halo," was released 1 September 2010, and was a finalist for the prestigious Sante Fe Literary Prize.
••• Check out the book at your local library, bookstore, or
Wag your tale.


04 November 2010

Color your world; color your mood

At left, one of Vance Kirkland's dot paintings demonstrates the impact of color.

I've been crazy about color since I was a kid. One of my earliest memories involves a family trip to Como Zoo in Minneapolis. I was not yet in kindergarten, so the city and the animals excited me. And the balloon vendor with a giant, buoyant bouquet of red, yellow, and blue balloons--just like on the Wonder Bread wrapper--especially thrilled me.

My parents bought me a balloon.The balloon man asked me which color I wanted. I knew I wanted red, but I was a terribly bashful youngster. Research indicates that red is a favorite color for many kids.

"Which color do you want?" the man asked me again. I was too shy to say. My second choice was blue--a pale sky blue. Almost the color of my eyes. "Do you have a favorite?" the balloon man asked me again. Again, I did not answer, afraid to voice my preference.
And then the balloon man handed me a yellow balloon--my least favorite. I was crestfallen. Maybe he thought the yellow balloon matched my hair. I was disappointed, yet still did not ask to swap the yellow. I wanted red, would settle for blue, but wound up with default yellow. My dad tied the balloon around my little wrist, and I looked up and it and pretended the yellow balloon was the sun. Still, I had wanted red.

Ask for what you want. And don't be afraid to specify.

I look back on that anecdote and realize that it's important to ask for what we want. And sometimes it's ok and even appropriate to ask with some specificity. If we have a choice, why not speak up and ask for our heart's desires?

Pantone Matching System: A designer's wide spectrum rainbow.

The story also underscores my early appreciation of color. Selecting color palettes is one of my favorite aspects of my work as an art director for printed materials. I just inherited a new set of Pantone Matching System color selector books with more PMS colors that you can shake a mahl stick at. This year, Pantone added 566 new colors: 224 solid colors, 300 premium metallics, and 42 neons. You might not believe how much we deliberate over colors. A trained eye can see many colors--even in white.

Color is a vibration: choose carefully.

I have one main rule when I work with color: The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. I've found this truth both in my home decor and in graphic design projects. Colors have clout.

Color, we know from the scientists, is a vibration. Different colors have different vibrations. We know, too, that black in paint represents all pigments. Yet black in light represents none.

Pay attention to colors that lift your spirits. Use them in your wardrobe and on your walls and any way you're able to incorporate your favorite hues to color your world. You just might kick your blues, stop seeing red, and find yourself in the pink. Share/Save/Bookmark

03 November 2010

"I can't get no": Why I won't read Keith Richards' new memoir

I never really rolled with The Stones; but I'm a rock fan, and I saw the band in concert once at Mile High Stadium and could, of course, see and hear what all the fuss was about.
I don't plan to read Keith Richards' newly released memoir, titled "Life."
But I did read David Remnick's review of the book in the new issue of The New Yorker. The magazine where Remnick serves as editor devoted seven pages to the boss's critique of the ghost-written book for which the publisher Little, Brown paid Richards a staggering $7 million advance.

"Maybe you can't always get what you want. The rule doesn't apply to Richards," Remnick wrote.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Remnick's piece in the 1 November 2010 issue demonstrates once again why he's chief at one of the most literate publications in the land. Remnick must be a Stones fan to have turned over so much of his magazine's pricey real estate to his review, titled "Groovin' High." But he provides less-than-flattering commentary, too.

As for the book's redeeming value, Remnick points out that the sweet chord of "Life" sounds when Richards describes playing a guitar. Or, at least, Richards' ghost writer James Fox describes playing guitar.

Remnick labels "Life"--released 26 October--as "half book, half brand extension."

Yet Remnick's review of the book is informative and entertaining. Describing Richards' progression from young rebel to geezer rocker, Remnick wrote, "Where he used to have a wolfhound named Syphilis, he now has a golden Lab named Pumpkin."
It's just one of Remnick's rockin' riffs in this entertaining article that tells me all I want to know about the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll defining Richards' "Life."

••• Colleen Smith is the author of the recently released novel GLASS HALO, which was a finalist for the prestigious Sante Fe literary prize. Purchase GLASS HALO at Denver bookstores or through For more details, visit

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