Book Club: Me Before You


You know when someone tells you do a thing, and you’re like, “Yeah, sure okay!”

And then someone else tells you to do that thing, and you’re like, “Weird, someone else just told me to do that thing!”

And then it’s like, “Yes, I know, I must do that thing. Everyone keeps saying so.” And then it becomes, “You know what? I don’t think I will do that thing, just to prove the point that I am not swayed by the madding crowds and the peer pressure of it all. I am strong! I am iconoclastic! I shan’t do that thing!”

And then everyone is like, “Okay, chill out, that’s fine, don’t do it.” And then everyone leaves you alone and you forget about it for awhile.

And then, about two years later, you find yourself doing that thing?

Enter Jojo Moyes and “Me Before You.” I could not get my friends to stop talking to me about this book. The premise always seemed interesting – a quadriplegic and his caregiver fall in love despite a looming and tragic deadline – and I am a sucker for true romance, the against-all-odds kind, like The Time Traveler’s Wife or Jane Eyre. I don’t really need for books to be tied up into a neat little bow, it’s the complexity and the heart-shattering reality of these stories that gets me.

It was just my own stubbornness and the need to read less popular (i.e., more literary) books that prevented me from reading this wonderful book for over a year. Thankfully, I got over myself, read it in two sittings, and then spent the entire weekend sobbing. Mission accomplished, Ms. Moyes.

At Big Sur, I had the pleasure of taking an incredible master class called “The Elegant Geometry of Story” that has changed the way I think about structure for my own novel, and has changed the way I read, too. You can google Four Act Story Structure and all kinds of things will come up, but what I learned there is what’s working really well for me as I revise, and I thought it would be fun to run “Me Before You” through the paces of the Four Act Structure, both for people to learn from and me to keep flexing these muscles on something that is not my own book.

Act I: Orphan. Our protagonist Lou isn’t a literal orphan, but she IS alone and emotionally marooned in ways that fit her into this category: The Buttered Bun has just closed, and with it, her waitress job of six years. She can’t find a job in her tiny hometown that isn’t demeaning or disgusting and her family is struggling financially. Her parents also clearly favor her younger sister, and Lou gets the shaft in so many ways: the tiny room, the joking about her intellect that hits too close to home, and a boyfriend who’s phoning it in after seven years of dating. Lou lives a very small life.

It would be easy to see Louisa as tragic, yet she is plucky. As readers, we look for moments that redeem our protagonists when they don’t lay out perfectly (and they shouldn’t ever) and those moments of redemption are called “save the cat” moments by screenwriters. Lou saves the cat allll the time: when we learn she gives part of her wages to her struggling family, when she takes the smaller bedroom just so her single-mother sister can have the big one, when she’s kind to her grandfather who no longer speaks. Lou is a hero we can root for.

The Inciting Incident: getting a job caring for Will Traynor, a young quadriplegic, former playboy and world traveler, now an angry 35 year old who is stuck: both in his chair and in the same small town as Lou. He hates his life and Lou’s entry into it kicks off the real plot of the book.

Act II: Wanderer. In the wanderer act, the protagonist is reacting to the environment around them, but not necessarily driving the plot forward themselves. As Lou gets acquainted with an embittered Will and his cold family, she simply tries to exist around them: cleaning, feeding Will, staying quiet and trying not to disrupt anything. But after Will’s ex and former best friend come to announce they are getting married, Will lashes out by breaking picture frames and Louisa, rattled by this outburst, is sick of treating Will with kid gloves while he’s so arrogant and mean to her. Because she shows backbone, Will finally starts to respect Lou. It’s a turning point in their relationship.

Wanderer also refers to how protagonists react to other characters, and Lou and Will continue to wander around each other in this section. She offers to give him a haircut, he starts to tease her in a kinder way. They visit a maze on the castle grounds and Lou reveals a deep secret about a sexual assault in her past that helps Will see why her life is so small and contained: she’s scared. They begin to understand each other and build a foundation for not sympathy, but empathy and not just friendship, but perhaps even love.

The Turn: Often, there is a moment that turns a protagonist from a wanderer into a warrior. For Lou, it’s when she overhears Will’s mum and sister discussing his previous suicide attempt and his new plan to commit doctor assisted suicide in Switzerland. He promised them six months, and Lou realizes she might be the only one who can help him see that life is still worth living. She also realizes that they only have a few months left, which propels her into action.

Act III: Warrior. In warrior, protagonists are now driving plot forward and making action and conflict happen. Louisa realizes she can make plans and book trips that will get Will out of the house and start to see the beauty of life. Some of these trips are a disaster (horse racing) while others are simple (picnics, walks, dinner with Lou’s family) And some are milestones: a wedding where they dance together, a concert where Will sees his plan – to show Louisa there is a great big world out there for her to play in – is also coming to fruition. They experience ups and downs during this act and as they do, they begin to grow closer and their relationship becomes romantic. For Will, this is a heartbreaking consequence of letting his guard down. For Lou, it’s the exhilaration of first love and knowing perhaps she has made a difference.

Then, Will almost dies from pneumonia. Louisa sees that Will’s not strong enough for her final trip: a bungee jumping, zip lining California adventure. So instead, they go to Mauritius to recoup in the island sun. This act culminates when Lou confesses her love for Will. Will admits that he loves her back, deeply, but that his love will never be enough to make his frozen life worth living. She hasn’t changed his mind, he will still commit suicide in Switzerland when they return. Lou is devastated and must now mourn both her friend and her true love.

The Oracle: The oracle is a character who holds the last bow in the quiver of the protagonist’s knowledge. Lou has leaned that she is capable of great insight, planning and execution, creativity and bravery. But what she ultimately needs to accept is that nothing she ever could have done would be enough, including unconditional love. Nathan, Will’s medical caregiver, tells her that while he, too, loves Will, he understands why Will is doing what he’s doing. Nathan helps her see that she couldn’t change it. Nathan’s wisdom sits with Lou for the next few days, after she’s handed in her notice and refused to speak to Will.

Act IV: Martyr. Lou finally realizes that she could have done nothing to stop Will and that, in fact, he’s gone to Switzerland while she was at home grieving. Then, Will’s mum calls Lou and begs her to fly to Switzerland for a final goodbye because Will is begging to see her before he ends his life. She flies there, despite opposition from her own mum, and realizes that in doing so, she has handed Will the final arrow in his quiver – the knowledge that he was so, so loved – and he’ll be able to see that Lou is taken care of. This ends Will’s journey of internal knowledge, as well as his plot.

Lou has realized what she needed to learn, but the epilogue where she reads Will’s last letter in the marais, is now the end of her plot, closing the loop on whether or not she will go out and explore the world. Will has left her the resources to do so, and now she’s in Paris doing it.

Will’s theme (i.e., what he needed to learn) was how to let love in.

Lou’s theme: how big the world is, and that she must find her own place in it.

Once the protagonists realize their themes, it’s the end of their internal journey and also the external journey, which is plot.

This idea of the four act structure has been a game changer for me as I write and revise. And if you, also, are an aspiring writer, get out there and do that thing. “That thing” of course, being either reading this wonderful book or figuring out the four act structure for you own books!

Book Club: The Raven Cycle


I have been up all night and it’s Maggie Stiefvater’s fault. But I HAD to know – was Gansey going to die? Would Blue ever kiss Adam? Would they wake the ley line? WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MY LIFE!

Very few of my questions were answered, but because Maggie Stiefvater is a magical piper who drags us deep into her imagination, I am already into book two.  There are people* who happen to be sitting in my apartment, watching the fog swirl in, thinking that maybe they should go outside today despite San Francisco’s commitment to crappy weather. Today is looking very un-promising for those people. You know who things are looking promising for? COFFEE.

The best part about going deep into a new series as a reader is the fact that you just never know what’s going to get you. I can easily predict the books I’ll be interested in: historical fiction, fairy tales reimagined, YA romance that guts you from the inside out because YA writers will always go for the jugular (i.e., one of them has cancer, or will time-travel away from the other, or has to make an impossible choice and there are no other options.) Books with a strong voice, books that are cheeky, books that are set during WWII. Automatic me-getters.

If your book is a cheeky romance about Cinderella nursing  Prince Charming back to health after he was hit by a German shell, but then! Wait! No! It turns out Cindy has cancer and Charming’s only hope in the whole world is to time travel into the future to get Cindy the chemo drugs (and shiny hair wig) that she so desperately needs…well. SIGN. ME. THE. EFF. RIGHT. UP.

There are also books about things you are not interested in, and some about things you actively dislike. Things like medieval times, dragons, pillaging, architecture. (Ken Follett, I’m looking at you) are things I have no interest in at all. While I am curious about most things – after all, it’s the job of a writer to follow the flare of curiosity – the zeal required for digging deep, investing time, and going the distance is limited to certain things. I know what makes me tick. And what I’ll spend months upon months researching and writing and working on and thinking about. In other words, what I’ll let occupy the limited mental real estate that is my head.

Enter The Raven Cycle.

Prep school boys? My interest in this begins and ends with Dead Poets Society. Coincidentally, so does my crush on this dude. My 15-year old heart still says hellll-oooo.

Psychics? Bleh, move along please.

The mash-up of Welsh lore and Virginia? I can barely spell Virginia.**

I don’t like any of these things. And I LOVE these books. I so, so love them. I’m not even really going to tell you why, but will instead strongly encourage you to buy the books or hightail it to the library to see what’s what. Advance apologies to San Francisco public library goers, because I have them alllllll.

And THIS is the triumphant fun of being a writer. Seeing what a writer can do to make you care, get invested, make your time and investment take the shape of their book. Even when that book isn’t something you’d pick up ordinarily.

For me, the not-yet-published kind of writer, reading good writing is a chance to try and take it apart, that interest, and then examine it and see how it’s done.

Do I know what makes you, a reader, tick? Let’s find out.

*Those people = just me

**I can totally spell Virginia, but you know what gets me every time? Conscience. Concious? Couscous? LIFE IS HARD.

Best rom-coms for extremely particular situations

 hey girl


When you you can’t decide between watching a Wes Anderson movie OR sobbing your eyes out: Love Story.

When you’re in love with your best friend and you want someone to give you false hope, those someones are Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan! When Harry Met Sally.

When you have improved your mind through extensive reading and what you read was most definitely not Nicholas Sparks, but you also, maybe, are casually interested in laying your eyes on a pair of bulging breeches: Pride & Prejudice.

When you are really a glutton for punishment (but Alan Rickman! Be still my heart!) watch this version. And when you want your P&P with more fun and flair than Austen ever imagined: Bride & Prejudice. Austen would have torn it up at an Indian wedding, tho. So.

When you miss Sandra Bullock’s good old days and you also want to see eyebrows get top billing: While You Were Sleeping.

When you want to pretend that your current boyfriend isn’t an asshole per se, but rather, just a sassy Brit-sort of man who will eventually come ’round and be worthy of people: About a Boy.

When you know you are smarter than anyone and can toss Occam’s Razor and Schrodinger’s Cat around like nobody’s biz, and also, you think that guy who carries lumber across the quad is real cute, reconcile yourself: IQ. It’s the most adorable.

Happy Galentine’s Day!

amy and tina

My college years were some of the girliest of my life. I lived in a sorority house with 60 women, went to class for my journalism major surrounded by women, took modern dance and yoga classes with a ton of women. My life was an estrogen-fest for several years…and I loved it! I’ve never found another environment that was more supportive and kind than my college years.

I know many women have a different experience with all-girl groups (and especially sororities) but I’m happy to say that wasn’t my experience. I love those gals with all my heart, and that’s one of the reasons I love Valentine’s Day so much. It’s a day to celebrate love in all its forms, and the love between friends is no less powerful than Notebook-level, making out in the rain, showing up with a boom box in the rain, getting caught in the rain. True love is so rainy, but hey. Whatever it takes.


And I do feel very “whatever it takes” about my friends. I draw the line at Notebookin’ it, however. Human sacrifice is creepy.

At the KD house, our little Galentine’s tradition was a watertight, no fail, love and cry, guaranteed good time every year: we caravanned over to that classiest of eating establishments, Sonic, and placed a mass order of Sonic Sweetheart Blasts. Once back at the house, we piled into the sunken living room in our comfies and proceeded to cry into our ice-cream while watching rom-coms and going to that screechy wailing place that only girls know. Boys, as far as I know, never screechy wail. They probably just ugly cry into their TMNT sheets, like this:



For Galentine’s Day this year, we have something very similar on the menu: Sweetheart shakes,   loads of rom-coms, and hopefully, will keep the screechy wails to a minimum.

Whatever it takes.

What are you doing for Galentine’s Day?

Top 10 Travel Products

Top 10 Travel Products!

I travel more than 100,000 miles every year for work (yeah, you read that number right) and after people say, “Uh, wow!” and “Uh, how does your husband feel about that?” people always, ALWAYS ask the same thing: “Uh, got any travel tips?”

Uh, yep. In fact, I have more than tips, I’ve basically distilled my travel regime down to a science. I know exactly what I’m taking, where it goes in my suitcase, and the fastest route to the airport lounge for one last glass of wine to fill up my water bottle and to check my email like the responsible person I am.

Because I’m asked so often what it takes to travel so much, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of my must-have travel products. There’s more to the process of professional business travel than a quick shopping trip can do, but these 10 essentials will get you moving in the right direction!

  1. The Sherpani Soleil bag. My friends and colleagues have joked that I should become a spokesperson for Sherpani, such is my intense love for this bag (uh, Sherpani? I’m open.) It’s a sturdy tote that’s professional enough to carry to client meetings, yet will sling over your shoulder or torso messenger style, and ALSO becomes a backpack when you suddenly have your hands full, a sore shoulder, or find yourself doing a little surprise hiking (what, it happens!) It also has a luggage strap, so it will slide onto the handle of a roller board suitcase like buttah. BUTTAH. Laptop sleeve, water bottle pockets, and just the right amount of space make this bag the best $100 I’ve ever spent on travel accessories. BUY ONE RIGHT NOW WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS.
  2. Bose noise canceling headphones. You know that roaring in your ears when you get off the plane? That ain’t happening if you wear these headphones. They cut out the ambient noise just enough so that you can still hear the world around you, but it’s just low enough that you can block it out. Crying babies and overly chatty flight attendants on Southwest, I’m looking at you. It also sends a subtle message to your seat neighbor to pretty please ZIP IT.
  3. Vaseline. This is really a life essential more than a travel essential, but I won’t get on a plane without it, so it makes the list! Vaseline replaces about 10 other things in a cosmetic bag, from eye makeup remover to lip balm, hand cream to soothing a cut or scrape. The travel size pot is about two bucks at Target and they are in every suitcase and tote I own, just in cases.
  4. Burt’s Bees grapefruit face wipes. These are a life saver, especially for international flights or long layovers. The grapefruit smell is lovely and can make even the most tired traveler feel a little more pulled together upon arrival.
  5. E-reader. I use a B+N Nook and downloading books from the library couldn’t be easier. I spend more time on planes reading than watching movies, and the e-reader makes it easy to carry thousands of books – or at least the complete Outlander series. (I cannot be the only person obsessed with these books, right? RIGHT?)
  6. Oversize scarf. I usually reach for my pale blue pashmina from Paris, or this giant tartan, but any big scarf will do. I use them as blankets on the plane, to bundle up in case it’s cold, and to jazz up the basic blacks and grays that make up 90% of my wardrobe.
  7. iPhone and extra charger. While I dream of the day we all get tired of screens and go back to typewriters and letters, it’s not happening. I have a little folder on my phone just for travel apps. My favorites are WhatsApp for free global texting, CityMapper for navigation, the United app for checking in and mobile boarding passes, the AirBnb app to keep in touch with hosts, and Skype Qik to send fun videos to friends and family!
  8. Glass water bottle. Fo much flying is bad enough for Mother Earth without buying plastic water bottles and effectively punching good old M.E. in the face. I try to combat this in a small way by filling up my glass water bottle pre-flight and saying no to all those little plastic drink cups from flight attendants.
  9. Eye mask. A must for international flights, but sometimes I want to get a head start on sleep coming back from the East Coast, when I might land at midnight or 1 am. Eye masks help you sleep like a champ and help you channel your inner Holly Golightly, too.
  10. Airport-approved footwear. With admission into TSA Pre, I no longer have to take my shoes off and it’s like traveling in 1992 (thank you, Baby Jesus) but in those rare instances Pre is closed and you end up like Shoeless Joe, you don’t want to be that schmo holding up the line trying to unlace your gladiator sandals. These fly slip on sneaks are my current fave. And here I thought Aerosoles were just for grandmas!

What are your travel must-haves?! I’d seriously love to hear!

Aerosoles slip on shoes

Linea evening shawl
$36 –


Bkr fragrance

Iluminage eye mask

Therapy lip care

Mura tech accessory

Hearty Fall Tabbouleh


Hi, hi, HI!

We are back from Italy and Greece and have begun the slooow recovery process of acclimating back into life as SF residents, rather than residents of Pyrgos, the charming Greek village we’ve been living in for the past week. Um, I mean visiting. We certainly didn’t pretend that we were Greeks who lived in a luxe wine villa with a hot tub, but who also had no noticeable way of making income other than going to the beach every day, nosiree nope not us.

Travel is so restorative, and being in Greece was especially amazing. It was my first time there and Santorini is for inspiration and dreams, I tell you. It was the most magic place I’d ever been, and among the most magical of things: FOOOOOOD.


As everyone knows, we at this house love to cook and eat. And yet, one of the perks of vacation is that you can pay someone else to do half of that equation for you for a few weeks and not feel even a little bit badly about it.

One of my staples last week was Greek salad, either as plain Greek salad OR tabbouleh! Tabbouleh = Greek salad + bulgar + a boat load of parsley – feta cheese. That there is called “salad math.”

Just because we’re back does not mean I plan on quitting my regime of Greek salad any time soon. I just had to San Francisicify it a bit, give it a little more protein and warmth for the chillier weather we’re having here. This may make the Lebanese shudder at the sacrilege of it all (sorry, Joya!) but it’s so delicious, let’s just hope they’ll make it and forgive us.

This tabbouleh calls for faro instead of bulgar, for extra heartiness, and cooked lentils for protein and to complement the nuttier flavor of the faro. The result is a hefty little salad that will fill you up without weighing you down, while also whisking you back to the best of Greece.

That last part might just be me…




. 1/2 cup cooked faro

. 1 heaping cup of chopping tomatoes (your preference as to what kind)

. 3 persian cucumbers

. 1 cup chopping parsley

. 2 lemons

. 1/2 small red onion

. 3/4 cup pre-cooked lentils

. EVOO, salt and pepper


  1. Cook the faro according to instructions.
  2. Chop the tomatoes, parsley, onion, cucumbers. Put it all into a big bowl, add the lentils, and mix mix.
  3. Once the faro is cooked, add it into the big bowl and top with the juice of two lemons and a very generous glug or two of EVOO, salt and pepper.

*Please note – you can play with all these measurements! This is how I happen to like my tabbouleh, but if you want more lemon or fewer tomatoes, or whatever – go for it!



Part two of our mediterranean journey takes us to Santorini. Thus far, our big plan is to rent a Vespa and scoot from one glass of wine to the next while wearing a giant sun hat.

That last part might just be me.