7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 54)

October 16, 2009 | 42 comments

— 1 —

This is a public service announcement for anyone who is writing a book, has written a book, might want to write a book one day, or has any interest whatsoever in what makes a good book: Buy Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (and the workbook too). Just do it. Right now. You will not regret it.

Based on the title I thought the book might be gimmicky, encouraging people to write formulaic novels with the goal of making a quick buck; I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s written by a literary agent with 25+ years of experience, and he walks you through the common qualities that all good modern stories have, using plenty of excerpts from successful books to illustrate his points. Though it’s geared at fiction, I found that 90% of his advice applies just as well to memoir — it’s basically just advice about how to tell a good story. It helped me resolve so much of the confusion I had about why the first draft of my book wasn’t working — I can’t say enough good things about this book. Recommend it to every aspiring novelist or memoirist you know!

— 2 —

Speaking of books, the other day I was making notes for a chapter in which I recount a particularly ridiculous bacchanalian memorable evening from my pre-conversion days, and I remembered that Tucker Max was out with us that night. Since it was a rather unusual occasion (a bunch of us were going from bar to bar in a yellow school bus while dressed up as clowns — kind of a long story — you’ll have to read the book) I wondered if he might have mentioned it in his eternally-at-the-top-of-the-bestseller-list memoir I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (the movie version of which is currently out in theaters). I admit that I have not read Mr. Max’s reflections, so I’m not sure if that story made the cut, but I thought that it would be bizarrely amusing if there were overlap between our two books.

UPDATE: It was pointed out that I should probably go ahead and clarify that I do NOT recommend reading Tucker Max’s book or going to his website.

— 3 —

Funny thought: If some psychic person had come onto the school bus that night and said, “Jennifer and Tucker are both going to write memoirs that involve stories like this. One of the books will be about partying, the other will be about a conversion to Catholicism, ” I would have looked over at Tucker Max and thought, “Dude, you’re going to become Catholic? Lame!”

— 4 —

When we visited my dad in El Paso a couple weeks ago I was so envious of his back yard:

After about the third week of daily battles to keep our crunchy, yellow grass from dying out completely this summer, I was about ready to let go of this fantasy that we live in a climate hospitable to life and just call someone in to pave over the whole thing. Some people might think that there would be something mildly depressing about looking out the back window to see a bunch of rocks and pavement, but I think I’d love it. No maintenance, no fire ants, no random stinging insects lying in wait in unmowed grass, no constant feelings of failure as all your efforts toward keeping your yard a less depressing shade of yellow end in futility. Ah, that’s the landscape for me!

— 5 —

Yesterday was the feast of the great Doctor of the Church St. Teresa of Avila, and I enjoyed reading this great collection of her quotes (via New Advent, who always has the best links).

— 6 —

I KNOW that I am not the only person who can sing every word to this commercial. With passion:

Oh, man, I remember watching that cartoon about 20 times a day when I was a kid, suspecting — nay, knowing with certainty — that owning that Barbie would pretty much be the apex of the human experience. And the part where the three kids take out their awesome cassette tapes? I swooned to behold that level of coolness. (Hat tip to Domestic Engineering for finding that gem of a commercial and opening up to me the world of wasting hours of my life laughing at 80’s commercials on YouTube.)

— 7 —

Speaking of wasting time on the internet, it’s good to be back from the fast! I still can’t believe how effective it was; a lot has changed around here since my week offline. I’m hoping to have time to put together a post about it for next week.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Below is a Mr. Linky list if you’d like to add a link to your own 7 Quick Takes post. (1) Make sure the link you submit is to the URL of your post and not your main blog URL. (2) Include a link back here.

I look forward to reading your posts!

1. It Feels Like Chaos
2. Angie @ Many Little Blessings
3. Gae
4. violingirl
5. Kate Wicker @ Momopoly
6. Venite
7. Missus Wookie
8. Sarah Reinhard – The Rosary Workout
9. DebbieQ @ stophershesknitting
10. Mary @ passionate Perseverance
11. Mary @ Hope Echoes
12. Pharmgirl @ Adventures in Pharm Land
13. Tami @ The Next Step
14. Elizabeth@In the Heart of my Home
15. Dawn Farias @ I Hate Socks
16. SoJoBlog
17. Erin@Seven Little Australians Plus One
18. Sarah @ This Heavenly Life
19. Cheryl (My Thoughtful Spot)
20. Sara @ AShowerofRoses
21. Katherine @ The Domestic Church
22. Tina @ Multiple Mom T
23. Becky @Beck’s Three
24. Gill-Life of a Photographer
25. becomewhatyouare
26. Written on Your Heart – V
27. Linda
28. Janet in Toronto
29. Mary Alice
30. KC
31. ThatMarriedCouple
32. Marie, Two Ways of Renouncing the Devil
33. Dympha @ The Well
34. Joy@ joy in the morning
35. Enbrethiliel @ Shredded Cheddar
36. Lori @ Busy With Blessings
37. Trena @ The THird Prayer
38. Chelsea @ Roots & Rings
39. suburbancorrespondent
40. Preggo@ the Bjorn Identity
41. Jen @ Happy LIttle Homemaker
42. udubalum mama
43. Therese@Musings of a Mom
44. Holly @ Hollison Journey
45. An Extinct Angel
46. (just) Lenae
47. majellamom
48. Emily
49. Darren and Sara Jones
50. Tracy@The Secret of Living
51. Bill White
52. Matching Moonheads
53. Katie @ The Baby Factory
54. Jeffrey’s Wife – Adoption Couple
55. Transitus Tiber
56. Rebecca
57. Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook
58. David Marciniak
59. Shelley @ …life on the farm
60. Jordana @ Curmudgeonry
61. Nicole @ As Many As We’re Given
62. annies home –
63. Margaret in Minnesota
64. Judy
65. The Keeping Time
66. Anna @ Annalogue
67. Emily @ Me In Life
68. Christina@Mrs. Broccoli Guy
69. Randy
70. Jen @ The Short Years
71. Sarah @ Simple Pleasures (welcoming new baby niece!)
72. Peony Moss
73. Karen @ Flash Light
74. Therese (Aussie Coffee Shop)
75. Cheryl
76. Peace Garden Mama
77. Catherine @ Adventures in Domesticity
78. Karen @ Needs New Batteries
79. NCSue
80. Love2learn Mom
81. Ladyofthelakes
82. Paul A. Nelson
83. JoAnna @ A Star of Hope
84. Melodie @ The Me You Can’t See
85. Lillian
86. nadja@patch o’ dirt farm
87. Barbara @ Praying for Grace
88. Natatomic
89. Catholic Mutt
90. Elena @My Domestic church

Powered by… Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets.


  1. Angie @ Many Little Blessings

    I just burst out laughing when I read your #3! Too, too funny!

    I agree though, if someone had told me even five years ago that, as a family, we would convert to Catholicism, I would have said, "Seriously? Are you sure?" And, if they told me that 15 years ago, when I was at the height of my excitement for our old church (while I was a teenager), I would have told them they were insane.

  2. Mary

    I totally agree with your recommendation of "The Breakout Novel" I have been seriously writing for three years now and have had the privilege of seeing Donald teach in person. He is a fabulous speaker and teacher. Great book!

    I LOVE the Barbie song. I sang right along. It made my morning. Thank for sharing.

  3. Dawn Farias


    Love it!

    Thanks for hosting.

  4. Tami Boesiger

    I'm anxious to hear about your conclusions from your internet fast. Have a good weekend, babe.

  5. Jasmine

    You might want to think about adding a warning that Tucker Max's stories (and probably movie) are EXTREMELY OBSCENE. Really. They've very, very, very bad.

  6. Sarah

    This is my first time to your blog, though I have seen Seven Quick Takes on a couple friends' blogs over the past few months.

    #6 — someone emailed me that clip several months ago and I meant to blog about it, but I forgot. Thanks for reminding me about it! Those 80s toy commercials were the best. I miss Lite Brite, Operation and Trouble.

  7. Antique Mommy

    Love the quotes from St. T, especially that pain is never permanent. She forgot to mention that happiness is not permanent either. I wonder how my life would look if I really embraced the fact that nothing is permanent?

  8. V

    I'm so shocked that you hung out with Tucker Max. His book is so horrible, I'm hugely ashamed that I read it, and probably should go to confession for it. The clown story is not in his book.
    Since you hung out with him, your conversion story is even that more amazing.
    Welcome back from the fast!

  9. Mary Alice

    This was my first one, super fun. I love your blog!

    Mary Alice from Building Cathedrals

  10. Marie

    Loved the "funny story".

  11. Barbara C.

    Barbie has reissued the Barbie and the Rocker's doll as part of a "Barbie Through the Decades" series. I saw it at Toys R Us recently.

  12. Enbrethiliel


    I can't sing every word of that commercial, but I'm as big a sucker for 80s goodness as anyone! =P

    Thanks for posting it. =)

  13. Jessica

    I loved Writing the Breakout Novel. Another good one – though not aimed at novels (which I write) or memoirs (which you do) – is Save the Cat! A cartoonist friend recommended it to me, it's on screenwriting. Much like Maas' book,it breaks down successful movies and points out the elements they all have. Some of it is specific to movies, but a lot of it is just "what is good storytelling?" kind of stuff. Like including either false victory or false defeat halfway through. That kind of thing.

  14. Anonymous

    tucker max is an intelligent dude who has some cojones. It actually takes a lot of cojones to be a committed catholic too. Speaking from experience, it is not surprising that you and he crossed roads. Frankly, if I hadn't had some intution that what the Catholic church's teachings were correct, and then been willing to experiment by folowing the teaching, and had the courage to follow through with it, I would probably be doing the same thing. In fact, for part of my life, I certainly WAS doing the same thing (to a much lesser degree). But really, after having some of the God experiences that I have had, going back to that doesn't hold the same attraction. It also is astonishing to me that as a still young handsome intelligent dude who is attractive to 95% of the women out there, the idea of staying home to pray or read is more appealing than going out and getting drunk and laid. I'd take the peace over the hilarity/drama any day. The road of excess can lead to the palace of wisdom, I guess. And you read tucker's stories and you almost want to smack his philandering dad's head. That's not how you teach a kid to be a MAN.

  15. Emily

    I like the rock garden idea!! Sort of Zen. 🙂

  16. Larissa Smith

    Give up on your grass. Get a ground cover like clover or creeping jenny. No mowing, less picky about water, stays green and short. No guarantee on fire ants, though…

  17. Anonymous

    I love your dad's backyard. Perhaps some sort of fountain would be nice. The same water would be recycled and it's not like there is a lawn to water. It would be soothing and might even cool things down a bit. Some potted plants, perhaps a cactus or two. Very lovely….

  18. Jeffrey's Wife

    I'm a regular reader, albeit non-frequent commenter.
    My husband voted in favour of our current home because it had a basically grass-free yard. One shattered maine line and resulting pool-deconstruction later, our yard's returned to a grassy state. In the future it will be a funny story, once we get past the angst-y stage.
    I hope you have a great day!

  19. Colleen

    Love your list. Thanks for telling us about that book. And I would love that backyard myself!!

  20. Rebecca

    Welcome back from your fast – so grateful for you that is was beneficial!

    I must live under a rock, because I thought people were kidding when they said there was a movie called that – and because I'm curios, I'll probably go see what it's about so that your references make sense!

    Have a great weekend!

    Oh, and I love the backyard idea!

  21. shopannies

    I have often thougth about writing a book on parenting and family I believe I will check out the book you mentioned

  22. Blondie

    I would LOVE to pave my backyard…the snakes would have no place to hide!

  23. Lesley-Anne Evans

    Oh shoot… I didn't read that properly… now I need to write 7 Quick Takes!!! Please forgive me! It will have to wait until next Friday 🙂

    Love your blog,


  24. David Marciniak

    Thanks for hosting, posted my very first…and bought the book upon your recommendation this afternoon from Amazon. Thanks!

  25. mrsbroccoliguy

    Love that Barbie commercial! Where on earth did someone dig that up? Thanks for hosting again – I've put my link up!

  26. Peony Moss

    Ditch the grass, you don't live in England. Go for the gravel.

  27. Trisha Niermeyer Potter

    Thanks for posting this! I'm working on finishing my memoir manuscript up and sending it off to a major literary agent who's interested. I think I'll have to go get that book and read it while I'm writing/editing/reworking, etc.

  28. Cheryl

    I've spent far too many hours watching old commercials on YouTube as well. For even more fun (okay, and wasted time!), watch the collections of 70s and 80s cartoon introductions.

  29. Karen

    oh, thank you for sharing the Teresa of Avila quotes!

  30. Rock Star Ma

    nny that you mention that book by Donald Maass. My husband just finished reading it and was like, "you must read it!" I felt hesitant to, since my book isn't near being finished but after your experience, maybe I should reconsider 🙂

  31. Christian H

    "Speaking of wasting time on the internet, it's good to be back from the fast! I still can't believe how effective it was; a lot has changed around here since my week offline. I'm hoping to have time to put together a post about it for next week."

    I don't intend to be mean, but does this seem a little ironic?

    I think you're good, though; if you can't claim that being on-line is a missions field, no one can.

  32. Lillian

    Sorry I'm linking a day late! 😉

  33. Anonymous

    I found your blog from Minnesota Mom's link in her blog (I read a BUNCH of Catholic blogs)and oh my gosh– this is akin to the six degrees of separation phenomenon. Here's the weirdness: My son started working for the aforementioned Tucker Max 3 years ago (disclaimer: I have not, nor will not read the book or see the movie)right around the time my daughter became a cloistered contemplative nun. And yes they were raised in the same house with the same parents! Your conversion story gives me hope that my son will come back to his Catholic roots someday

  34. Dianna@KennedyAdventures

    Hanging my head … am I the only one who thought Tucker Max was funny?? Obviously, I do not agree with his moral standing, but I laughed until I cried at some of those stories. (Jennifer, I found him a few years ago, when I was dating my husband)

    Continue on with your wonderful blog!

  35. Genny

    I just ordered the book; thanks, Jennifer!

  36. Paula Margulies

    Couldn't agree more about Donald Maas and Writing the Breakout Novel. It's the one book on writing I find myself returning to over and over again. Like Mary, I met Donald in person at one of his workshops here in San Diego. He was developing his Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook at the time, so we got to be the first to use some of the exercises.

  37. Alisa

    Thanks for the heads up on the book. I doubt I'll ever truly write a book, but I know some people who would love it as a Christmas gift.

    And my daughter is totally into Barbie right now. And it's rubbing off. Fun stuff.

  38. monica_divineoffice.org

    Your no. 3 … great, although I saw it coming… still great!

    Divine Office Podcast

  39. Val

    I totally owned the Barbie and the Rockers video! How funny.

  40. Roz

    For some reason, the Mr. Linky link isn't showing up in my browser. I'll switch and try again. But, in any case, anyone who wants to read my Takes is welcome to c'mon over to Exultet.

  41. Smoochagator

    So my "baby brother" (and I use that term very loosely) has been reading Tucker's book, and I mentioned that I knew someone who knew Tucker. And he FLIPS OUT, like, "REALLY? THAT IS SO COOL!" Then I have to clarify that I don't really know this person who doesn't really know Tucker, I just read the blog of a person who one night happened to hang out with Tucker. I read him your Tucker stories from this entry, which he thought were hilarious, and he let me know that Tucker does NOT recount the school bus story in I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. So none of us have to wonder any more!

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