[Introduced in the post, Picture the Book: MWF Seeking BFF: My Year Long Search for a New Best Friend, relocated Chicago writer/editor Rachel Bertsche chronicled her search for a new, “closer in proximity” friend in MWF Seeking BFF: My Year Long Search for a New Best Friend. Due to email snafus, Rachel’s Q&A was MIA but can now be presented along with her guest post on why she writes. Yes, a double post plus a Book Giveaway and now, without further ado, here’s Rachel.]
Although Rachel Bertsche’s quest for a best friend in her new home of Chicago was personal, the author focused on a dilemma that have many searching for a new and/or another best friend.
Let’s meet this debut author through her “official” bio:
Rachel Bertsche is an author, journalist and editor in Chicago, where she lives with her husband. Her work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire, More, Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Fitness, Women’s Health, New York, Huffington Post, CNN.com, and more. Prior to leaving the office life for the comforts of working from home (and in her pajamas), Rachel was a producer for Oprah.com and an editor at O, The Oprah Magazine.
And now it’s time to get to really know Rachel, quite possibly even better than some of her “trial” BFF.
Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. I am at my happiest right about now.
Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Do one thing at a time. (Or try, at least.)
Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. I’m not sure there is such a thing as perfect happiness. To me, happiness is happiness. It looks and feels different for everyone. I don’t think one type of happiness is better than another. Even in my own life, I could have two relal happy days, but they might be totally different. Maybe happiness is like porn: You know it when you see it.
Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. Losing loved ones.
Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. Is it so lame to say right here, where I am… which is on my couch? Yes? Ok, Sicily.
Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. I want to say someone super cool like Annie Oakley, but that would be a real stretch. The truth is I have no idea. I guess I feel like so many people in history went through so much so that people like me could be where we are today. So I don’t identify as much as feel really grateful.
Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. Michelle Obama is pretty amazing.
Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. When it comes to speaking: “Literally.” In my writing: “just.”
Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. To dance!
Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. MWF Seeking BFF. That I wrote a book at all still amazes me. That I wrote one that someone agreed to publish, and that enough people read to make it a bestseller…I’m still pinching myself.
Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. I’m so impatient.
Q. What’s your best quality?
A. Don’t take myself too seriously.
Q. What do you regret most?
A. Any days I should have spent with my father and didn’t.
Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. JK Rowling. I just want to know—for one day!—what it would be like to walk around with that kind of imagination.
Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. My curly hair.
Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Neville Longbottom
Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. A tie! Ed Rooney (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and Regina George (Mean Girls)
Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. Michael Jordan. I’d say: “You are awesome! Also, my husband wore Air Jordans to our wedding.” Or maybe Sheryl Swoopes or Rebecca Lobo or Hope Solo. Those female athletes who have left me in awe over the years. I’d tell them that they inspire me. That when I watched them play when I was a kid (or with Hope Solo, even as an adult) I felt like I, too, could kick some ass.
Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. The sound of cardboard rubbing together. Ugh.
Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. That’s the only occupation, in some form or another, that I’ve ever had! To say editor would probably be a copout, but it’s true.
Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Oh there are so many: Yoga teacher. Bookstore owner. Book editor. Pop culturist (not an actual profession, but I’d like to turn it into one). Ballerina.
Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Sense of humor, kindness, intelligence.
Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. If calories didn’t count? French fries. Otherwise, um, still french fries.
Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. Trick question! Depends on the day. If you looked at my ipod now you’d think I only listen to Glee. I’m that person who no matter what song comes on, I say “ohmygosh this is my favorite song!”
Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, Harry Potter series (counting the whole series as one but if I have to choose I guess Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite since that’s when the whole series changed for me), Little Women, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. (Honorary mentions to A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and AJ Jacobs’ books)
Why I Write
After MWF Seeking BFF came out, I got a lot of feedback from friends and family.
“Wow, you really love How I Met Your Mother,” some people said. And, “You must have a truly patient husband.” Or, from one friend, “You’re way funnier in print.”
But the comment that struck most deeply came twice. Once from my very first friend-date and then later from my boss. Both said the same thing: “I can’t believe you think that much. It must be exhausting to be you!”
They were both reacting to how thoroughly I analyzed my every interaction with potential friends.
In the first chapter of MWF, I explain how Hannah, my first “date,” invited me to a friend’s house for a baked ziti girls night. And then I launch into all the reasons why maybe I should go, and why I shouldn’t, and why I eventually didn’t. I asked Hannah what she thought of the chapter after she read it. “I had no idea you thought about it that much! I was just inviting you over for ziti! It was no big deal.” She was laughing.
I laughed too. She was right. I do have a tendency to overanalyze things, especially when I’m nervous or unsure and really hoping for a future with this person.
My boss had a similar reaction. “You think about everything so much,” she said. “It must drive you crazy. Aren’t you tired?”
I’m not tired, especially, because I’ve always been like this. I analyze. I assess. I observe. I think in long paragraphs, or, sometimes, quick one-liners. When I’m in the shower or on the treadmill or in the car, my mind wanders, meandering into long inner dialogues that refuse to go away.
Until I write them down.
It doesn’t always have to be in book form. Sometimes it’s a text message or a tweet. It can be a blog post or an email. Or a paragraph in a Word document that gets saved in a folder hidden deep in my hard drive.
When I found myself thinking over and over about the last days of my father’s life, I could almost feel the pull of the computer. They weren’t just thoughts in my head, they were sentences. Arrangements of words. For a moment, I believed that this was my next book longing to be written. But then I sat down at the table, tapped my fingers on the keyboard, and got my thoughts on the page. I knew as soon as I hit “save” that there wasn’t a book there. I just had to free the words in my head. So I saved it, buried it, and haven’t opened that document since. I haven’t needed to. It was my momentary coping mechanism, and after a single 10-minute writing session, I knew it was done.
It happens with less serious stuff, too. Like the night I found myself watching Audbrey O’Day’s reality show on Oxygen. (Haven’t heard of Aubrey? You must not have watched Diddy’s Making the Band for, like, five seasons in a row like I did. For shame.) (If you’re curious I think she’s on Celebrity Apprentice now.) She had a dog who had pink-frosted tips. PINK FROSTED TIPS. I couldn’t get the absurdity of that fact out of my head. And so I wrote a quick nugget. In 140 characters. On Twitter. And then I moved on.
Because they why of why I write isn’t about being literary or capital S Smart. A tweet about an F-list celebrity is as worthy as a flowery paragraph about life and death. Writing is about the release. It clears my head.
So that I can fill it with the next day’s ramblings.
Announcement: The winner of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris is: Ruthie B. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and the book will be sent out promptly.
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be announced here on Tuesday.