MUSIC: The Proposed Soundtrack in Francie Lanoo’s Head

If you’re a music lover like me, the songs that were playing in the background during life’s most memorable moments—i.e the first kiss, a heart-wrenching break-up, while laughing hysterically on an amusement park ride—somehow got catalogued in the brain for all eternity, and whenever they are reheard, trigger a vivid flashback to the moment they made their impactful impression. Sometimes the recollections are smile-inducing. Sometimes they provoke a good cry.  Always, they have me singing along.

Photo Credit: tumblr.com
Photo Credit: tumblr.com

While writing the novel IF NOT 4 U and Some Shoes, I listened to a lot of music, and because I was plucking story arcs from my teenage/young-adult experiences (first love, coming-of-age, hanging out at parties, taking road trips with my friends), I got nostalgic and listened to my own buried-in-the-back-of-the-brain favourites.  A word of warning, there’s a segment of the soundtrack-of-my-youth that is timeless and classic, like The Ramones, Jackson Browne, Badfinger, The Who, The Allman Brothers Band, Bruce Springsteen, Queen etc; there’s another segment that is  a collection of really bad one hits wonders; and on a seriously-wish-we-could-forget level,  there’s a final segment that involves phrases like Boogie-Oogie-Oogie. Regardless of the flavour, it’s all fun to listen to … once in a while.

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For fun, I kept a log of some of those old songs, the ones that I thought conveyed Francie Lanoo’s sentiment during the most poignant moments of her life. I’ve listed a selection of them below, and would suggest to readers  that they simultaneously listen to the songs while working their way through IF NOT 4 U and Some Shoes.

Sure, the exercise will probably result in a few eye-rolls, groans, and mumblings of the word hokey,  but I bet it’ll also result in some smiles and emotional ahhhs.

(Quick Clarification: IF NOT 4 U and Some Shoes’  chapters aren’t actually called chapters, they’re called FOOT NOTES … because the book is about shoes and feet and such. Get it?)

FOOT NOTE ONE (during The Big Bang Moment)  Suggested Song: I SAW THE LIGHT IN YOUR EYES         Artist: Todd Rungren

FOOT NOTE TWO (At the Dance, Before Francie & Berkeley First Speak)  Suggested Song: I’D LOVE YOU TO WANT ME      Artist: Lobo

FOOT NOTE TWO (during The First Dance Together)  Suggested Song: MAKE IT WITH YOU                          Artist: Bread

FOOT NOTE TWO (while Francie and Berkeley are Sitting in a Tree)  Suggested Song: I WANNA BE WITH YOU      Artist: The Raspberries

FOOT NOTE SIX (on the First Valentine’s Day)  Suggested Song: BABY I LOVE YOU                             Artist: Andy Kim

FOOT NOTE SEVEN (at Berkeley’s Birthday Party)  Suggested Song: LAY A LITTLE LOVIN’ ON ME      Artist: Robin McNamara

FOOT NOTE FOURTEEN (Post Francie’s Ski Trip)  Suggested Song: JUST GIMME SOME KIND OF SIGN      Artist: Sattalites

FOOT NOTE TWENTY (While Playing With the Mistletoe)    Suggested Song: GO ALL THE WAY                             Artist: Eric Carmen &The Raspberries

FOOT NOTE THIRTY (Francie in Italy)   Suggested Song: SOMETHING’S WRONG WITH ME      Artist: Austin Roberts

FOOT NOTE THIRTY-ONE (New Year’s Eve Party)  Suggested Song: NEVER GONNA FALL IN LOVE AGAIN   Artist: Eric Carmen

FOOT NOTE THIRTY-FIVE (At The R.H. High School Graduation Dance)  Suggested Song: MAKE ME DO ANYTHING YOU WANT    Artist: A Foot in Cold Water

FOOT NOTE THIRTY-SIX (when Francie and Berkeley Head Off to College)  Suggested Song: FOOL (IF YOU THINK IT’S OVER)        Artist: Chris Rea

FOOT NOTE THIRTY-EIGHT (Meeting Garner Vale)  Suggested Song: SO INTO YOU                                  Artist: Atlanta Rhythm Section

FOOT NOTE FORTY-ONE (Reminiscing During The College Years)  Suggested Song: CRAZY LOVE        Artist: Poco

FOOT NOTE FORTY-FIVE (At the Cemetery)  Suggested Song: JUST REMEMBER I LOVE YOU             Artist: Firefall

FOOT NOTE FORTY-NINE (After Saying Goodbye in the Airport)  Suggested Song: WITHOUT YOU         Artist: Harry Nilsson

FOOT NOTE FIFTY (At College Graduations, Worlds Apart)  Suggested Song: YOU ARE EVERYTHING        Artist: The Stylistics

FOOT NOTE FIFTY-ONE (during Francie’s Time in London)  Suggested Song: I AIN’T GOT TIME ANYMORE            Artist: The Glass Bottle

FOOT NOTE FIFTY-SIX (Francie Solo Dancing)  Suggested Song: DANCING IN THE MOONLIGHT          Artist: Baha Men

FOOT NOTE FIFTY-SEVEN (Nostalgic Drive Around Town)  Suggested Song:  LOVE DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE              Artist: Rose Royce

FOOT NOTE FIFTY-EIGHT (Dancing with Robert Matthews)  Suggested Song: EVERYTHING I OWN        Artist: Bread

EPILOGUE (In The Hammock)   Suggested Song: EVERLASTING LOVE     Artist: Carl Carlton

The novel contains a whopping 59 chapters, correction: FOOT NOTES, so this list only provides background music for roughly half of the story. If any musically-inclined readers are interested, feel free to suggest some other songs to fill in the blank spots (from any era of music, not just my golden-oldie era). Or, if a reader believes that my musical associations (listed above) are way off base, please send a list recommended replacements.  I’m all ears.

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FLORENCE, ITALY: Why there?

In the novel IF NOT 4 U and Some Shoes, artsy girl Francie Lanoo accepts a prestigious bursary to study at an arts-oriented institute called Idea Incubatrice, located in Florence, Italy. Though the school is a figment of my imagination, the city is very real … and very fabulous. I chose it as a pivotal destination for Francie’s life-adventure partly because it’s one of my favorite places to visit, but mostly because it possesses all of the elements necessary for opening up the dewy eyes of this particular lead character.

Impromptu Street Art, Florence, Italy
Impromptu Street Art, Florence, Italy

For example, Florence is the birthplace of Renaissance art and architecture, and home to a wealth of historical artwork, landmark buildings, and monuments. For someone studious and enthusiastic about art (as Francie is), being immersed in such an abundance of artistry would be Utopian.

Florence is a key city for fashion, with a history dating back to the year 1300 when it became Europe’s main hub for textile production (thanks Wikipedia, for that tidbit of info). Since then, it has become the headquarter-location for several high-profile Italian fashion companies, like Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Roberto Cavalli and Emilio Pucci. Additionally, it’s home to established design boutiques like Prada, Chanel, Armani and Bulgari, as well as emerging fashion designers with fresh and unique ideas, and for someone with career aspirations in the fashion industry, that’s a whole lot of eye candy.

Florence is situated in the heart of Tuscany, offering up picturesque landscapes, as well as an all-around pleasant climate (void of harsh winters)–which seemed ideal for opening up this character’s mind to the joy of world travel.

Florence has an actual shoe museum, The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, created in 1995 to illustrate the company’s artistic qualities, as well as the role it played, historically, in the world of shoe design and international fashion. The city also has hundreds of shoe stores (some of them high-end boutiques, some of them less-expensive chain stores, some of them old-world-cobbler style niches)—great from a shoe-research perspective.

Most important, Florence—like the rest of Italy—is a mecca for amore (love and romance)—key to opening Francie’s eyes to the fact that there are many fish in the sea of love. No surprise, the experience of living there impacts her perspective on relationships.

If you haven’t been to the city of Florence, Italy, consider adding it to your Bucket List, because it really does offer an array of enjoyment: cuisine, vistas, culture, history, shopping, entertainment, relaxation. For more info, check out: www.visitFlorence.com.

Has anyone had a noteworthy Florence experience they’d like to share? Like: Eating octopus on an outdoor patio in a crowded piazza? Sleeping on real linen sheets at Hotel Savoy? Navigating a rent-a-car along a downtown cobblestone street that, without warning, turns into pedestrian-only street market?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.

FRANCIE LANOO: What’s Up With That Name?

Creating a character’s name can be fun but also challenging because various factors have to be considered, like: Has the name already been used in another novel? When using the name of a friend or family member, will that person think the character is based on them? Does the prospective name imply something specific about the character’s persona?

In IF NOT 4 U and Some Shoes, the protagonist’s name is Francie Lanoo, an offbeat choice for sure … and labeled “unique” in a book review published by KIRKUS REVIEWS … but totally appropriate in my mind because of some near-and-dear associations.

The character’s last name, Lanoo, pays homage to a fellow Canadian, Marie Lannooan abstract contemporary artist who easily ranks as one of my top-ten favorites. I own two small works by this huge talent, and something about them—the happy vibe, the bold colors, the deep wood box on which they’re painted—puts a smile on my face every time I look at them. When I was writing IF NOT 4 U and Some Shoes, I imagined the type of artwork that a quirky, artsy-girl like my lead character would produce. Instantly, Marie Lannoo’s artistic style came to mind.  Of note: I tweaked the spelling of Marie’s last name by removing an “n.” I have no idea why I did that. I just did. My apologies, Marie.

Photo Credit: www.shimmeringmagic.com
Photo Credit: http://www.shimmeringmagic.com

The character’s first name, Francie, pays homage to my favorite childhood doll, Francie Fairchild, the groovy member of the infamous Mattel‘s Barbie doll clan, and Barbie’s younger cousin from England. For those of a younger generation–that didn’t play with dolls in the late sixties/early seventies–Francie was strikingly different than her infamous leggy, blond, super-glamorous cousin Barbie. She was petite, boyishly shaped, brunette-haired, brown-eyed, free-spirited and the first in the doll series to have bendable legs and real eyelashes. She also had the coolest clothing/accessories, featuring bright colors, geometric patterns, and uber-mod styling—a collection that, according to her Wikipedia page, was modeled after the fashion of Carnaby Street, a highly coveted fashion movement in London, back in the day. Because this doll’s characteristics, personality and fashion sense registered as ideal to me during my youth, I closely related to her, and wanted to emulate her. Which is why, many years later, I chose to make her my muse for a highly likeable teenage character.

 Coincidentally, it’s noted in www.sheknows.com (a website that deciphers baby names) that Francie means Free One … and that people with this name tend to be idealistic, highly imaginative, intuitive, and visionary. Just a few more traits that ring true for Ms. Francie Lanoo.

Fun facts:

According to www.nameberry.com, there are some other famous Francies in the literary world.

Francie Hugo, in the 1929 Elizabeth Bowen novel, The Last September.

Francie Nolan, in the 1943 Betty Smith novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

 

Additionally, a few Francies have graced the TV screen:

Francie, a character from the movie The Art of a Steal.

Francie Calfo, a character on Alias.

A secret hope of mine is that, by using the name Francie in a contemporary novel, I will cast a spotlight on it and makes it more popular. To aid in that movement, if you know anyone that’s about to name a newborn girl, please spread the word that Francie has a lovely ring to it.

P.S.: Stay tuned because in another blog I’ll explain the name-origin of Francie Lanoo’s love interest, the irresistible Berkeley Mills. No, it has nothing to do with Mattel’s Ken or Allan dolls, nor Hasbro’s GI Joe.  It does, however, have to do with a first sighting on a football field.

Calling all DIMPLED EARLOBE PEOPLE of the World!!

Photo Credit: www.hollywoodreporter.com
Photo Credit: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com

In the novel IF NOT 4 U and Some Shoes, the lead character, Francie Lanoo, is …spoiler alert … involved in an accident that renders one of her body parts marred. Her initial reaction to the misfortune is flat-out anguish, but pretty commonplace. After all, she’s a self-conscious teenage girl living in the world of selflies, freaked about being loved less by her boyfriend, and lacking the coping mechanisms to face adversity for the first time.

I, too, have a physical imperfection, albeit small: a dimpled right earlobe that looks like someone took a bite out of it. When I was young, I asked my mother, “Why don’t my ears match?”  With a grin, she replied, “While I was pregnant, your older sister poked her finger into my stomach, and your right ear got punctured” …a  cute explanation, for sure … and somewhat believable knowing my sister … but, by about age ten, I knew better.

For years, I tried to mask the imperfection, by wearing my hair down so my ears weren’t exposed, and by having a second hole pierced in my left ear so that the double earrings on that side of my head would draw more attention. It was overreactive behavior just like Francie Lanoo’s (and definitely driven by my thin-skinned character), but I couldn’t help myself because I was really bothered when my ear was referred to as weird.

Thankfully, as I matured, I grew fond of the ‘asymmetry’. In fact, a few years ago, I even started a Facebook group to summon others of similar ‘specialness’ to celebrate with me. Check it out: DIMPLED EARLOBE PEOPLE.  Sad but true, the page has yet to receive a single new member (except for Adam Sandler, who I added myself after noticing during one of his David Letterman interviews that he, too, possessed a dimpled earlobe), which has left me wondering: did a lack of publicity cause this group to be overlooked? Or, are there, in fact, only two dimpled-earlobe people on this planet?

My point in drawing attention to the topic of body oddities is to emphasize the fact that the best way to live with them is to embrace them, and be confident about them, and perhaps even make light of them. Others do, including some pretty notable celebrities: Drew Barrymore has a cute crooked mouth. Tyra Banks has that super-high forehead. Supermodel/America’s Next Top Model contestant Chantelle Brown-Young has a skin condition Vitiligo. Megan Fox has clubbed thumbs. Musician Seal has facial scars..

Though you’ve probably heard the line over and over and over, life really is short. So, rather than wasting precious hours worrying about what other people think of your distinguishing physical characteristics, take ownership of the hand you’ve been dealt and do your best to live happily with it.

On that note, what unique markings make you special?

If a DIMPLED EARLOBE is your answer, please reveal yourself and join my Facebook group … because I, and perhaps @AdamSandler, might like to do some bonding.

“NEW SHOES, NEW SHOES, RED and PINK and BLUE SHOES” *

It’s no secret. I adore, crave, and cherish shoes. Of course, what’s not to adore, and crave, and cherish?

I can’t say for certain what prompted this affinity. It’s possible that Shoe Love is in my family DNA, which stands to reason because I have sisters who adore shoes, I had a mother who adored shoes, and I had ancestors who definitely adored shoes—obvious from the many old photographs depicting them sporting some serious dandies. It’s also possible that Shoe Love is in the female DNA because every female I know also goes gaga over great shoes. I wonder if this might explain the latest rage on Instagram: the #shoeselfie … a trend that sucked me in like a wet noodle because I love the idea of Taking A Visual Walk in My Shoes.  See my first on Instagram @laurienenson, taken on a Vancouver Canada rooftop patio (sporting what I think is a witchy Halloween overtone).

Instagram @laurienenson
Instagram @laurienenson

Like most shoe lovers, I own many pairs, a lot more than I need. This year’s favorites have included copper leather platform sandals with ankle straps; white leather, chunky-heeled sandals reminiscent of the mod 1960’s; rain booties fabricated of clear rubber, infused black lace; tall pointy-toed black-suede boots with sparkly silver wedge heels. In another lifetime, I’d be thrilled to come back as a shoe designer. And if I do, I hope that my brain transfers over the many concepts that are presently floating around in my head. The very reason I wrote a 100,000-word novel on the subject.

Unfortunately, I don’t have shoe shelves on which to display my favorite shoe styles like Francie Lanoo does in my novel IF NOT 4 U and Some Shoes. Rather, I keep my collection lined up in rows on the floor of my closet, often stacking them, and resorting to protecting/preserving the most prized pairs inside cloth shoe bags. To manage the stock, I’m very diligent about weeding them on a regular basis, and sending the excess to well-intended charities—organizations like Dress for Success, which is all about women helping women to thrive in life and in the workplace. The way I look at it, the donations are a great way to offer others a hand up, and at the same time, to share my love of shoes.

Expanding on the notion of sharing shoes, how cool would life have been if all female feet had been created in one common size … let’s say, size seven … so we could wear the shoes not just from our own closets, but from the closets of our best gal-pals? Even better if we were of one common shoe size, how fabulous would life have been if clusters of gal-pals the world over pooled their shoes into a large ‘group’ collection that could be made available to all participating members?

Let’s do the math on the potential benefit here: if shoe-wearer Laurie has ten pairs of great shoes and nine close friends, and if each of those nine friends also had ten pair of shoes, then shoe-wearer Laurie would effectively have one-hundred pair of shoes to choose from for any single occasion.

Sure, there are factors that could prove problematic in this ideal-world scenario: like where those one-hundred pair of shoes would be stored, or who gets first dibs at the coolest choices, or what if two group members get pictured in one of those ‘who-wore-it-best’ comparisons, or what if one gal-pal has terrible style and brings duds into the equation? However, if it meant that shoe-wearing opportunities were multiplied ten-fold, then I’m sure we’d all accept the shortcomings. And if it meant that any pair of donated shoes would fit any feet in need, I’m sure we’d all be overjoyed by the bigger-picture benefit.

Out of curiosity, what do other shoe lovers do with their shoes, to benefit those less fortunate? I ask because I’d like to find more ways to use shoe love in a pay-it-forward way.

*an excerpt from the poem Choosing Shoes by Frida Wolfe

ORCHIDS: If You Can’t Grow ‘Em, Say F*%k It and Write About ‘Em

Thus far, my writing efforts have netted me two published novels: a middle-grade magical-realism adventure entitled The Anemara Orchid  and the newly released YA-romantic coming-of-age adventure IF NOT 4 U and Some Shoes.  Featured in both story lines are orchids—those beautiful, enigmatic, charming, and altogether frustrating members of the Orchidaceae species—a detail that is intentional and … with any luck … purposeful.

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The explanation begins with the fact that orchids are in my family blood/DNA dating as far back as 1879, in Lewes, England, when my great-great-great?—not sure how many generations back the lineage goes—maternal grandfather opened a business in his name called McBean’s Orchids. The establishment prized itself in growing and supplying some of the country’s most beautiful orchids, and, in fact, still does under non-McBean-family ownership. Due to this history, it is a big deal on my mother’s side of the family to grow orchids and to grow them well … perhaps as a way of preserving the legacy, or carrying on the lineage, or appeasing any ancestral spirits that might be lurking in our midst.

Full disclosure, right here, right now, though: despite the fact orchids are very forgiving and often outlive their owners … and despite the fact that I should have some natural instinct in me to make them thrive … I suck at it. Big time. In fact, the maximum length of time I’ve ever kept an orchid alive is about two months. When I did some research, and read in Brian & Wilma Rittershausen’s book Orchids that “orchids will continue to grow under the most extreme conditions, even sacrificing their own lives when a situation becomes intolerable and producing one final burst of colour in a last attempt to perpetuate themselves by seed production,” I realized it’s not them, it’s me.  I cause them to commit plant-suicide.

I’ve spent an enormous number of waking hours trying to figure out why I suck at orchid-growing, especially since I do everything the experts suggest: I place them in sunshine; I water and spritz them regularly; I give them expensive orchid food. I even speak to them with kindness and sincerity. But to no avail.

This is why, as a last ditch effort to not drop the ball on my branch of the family-legacy tree, I’ve made it a practice to write about orchids in every story I produce, thinking that, if there’s an orchid spirit hovering around me (ancestral or otherwise), perhaps it will view my sentiment as an act of devotion (or tribute, or bribe?), and will subsequently bestow upon me some well-needed ethereal/otherworldly guidance.

If that doesn’t work, I suppose I could hire a horticulturist … a Plant-Nanny (or whatever it is they’re nicknamed).

Just curious: are there any orchid lover/orchid green-thumbs out there, willing to offer up some tips?

 

SHOE HULLABALOO: My One-and-Only Walk on a Red Carpet

Standing at the petite height of 5’-3”—that’s 160 cm for any metric-loving Canadians out there—I’ve worn my fair share of high-heels over the years. For the most part, any mishaps I’ve experienced while strutting around in them have been minor: shoe-icidal blisters resulting from a poor fit; an ankle twist caused by an uneven sidewalk; pole-up-my-butt-posture triggered by too many hours on the tips of my toes.

One time though, I experienced a stiletto-wearing incident that easily ranks as major … that went from mortifying to bizarre to happy all in a matter of seconds.

The setting was Toronto, Canada, a few years back while I was on an interior design business trip with a client. My sister Bev—who lives in Toronto—worked, at the time, at Citytv, which played host to the Toronto International Film Festival’s SCHMOOZE PARTY, a gala event that took place annually at the uber-cool CHUM-CITY building on Queen Street West. Because Bev was going to be tied up with TIFF festivities for the entire time I was in town, she suggested I attend the SCHMOOZE so we could hang out, and people-watch, and cocktail-consume.  All the best sisterly stuff.

Disregarding the fact that I was undoubtedly going to be one-of-those-things-that-doesn’t-belong-here, I said, “Okay, I’ll see you there around ten, just as soon my dinner meeting wraps up.”

“Be forewarned,” she added, “You’ll spend the evening on your feet.”

“I’m still wearing my heels,” I replied … because what could possibly go wrong if I did, right?

It was after eleven by the time I finally slipped away from dinner.  Struggling to flag a taxi because TIFF goers had evidently occupied every last vehicle-for-hire, I decided to sprint the entirety of eight blocks despite the fact that I was wearing not-made-for-sprinting shoes. Once at the CHUM-CITY building, I met up with a fellow schmoozer/relative named Jill, with whom I became a teeny-tiny fish in a sea of many movie-star-loving fans. Uncertain on how to proceed through the thick of things, I rang my sister and said, “How are we supposed to find you in this madness?”

“Your names are on the guest list,” she replied, “so just come to the red carpet starting point, check in, walk the carpet, and you’ll find me standing at the building entrance.”

Intimidated by the sight of the press/paparazzi-lined thoroughfare, I responded, “Is that the only option?”

“It is unless you can sprout wings,” she retorted … and then laugh-snorted.

[Okay … she didn’t really laugh-snort, but she does sometimes when she thinks she’s funny.]

In response to my hesitant moan, she added, “Just walk that carpet like you own it and you’ll be fine.”  A task easier said than done because, just as I took my first step onto the excessively-lit, crimson-colored synthetic fibers, one of the heels of my stylin’ shoes just snapped right off.

Like a tiny tree branch beset with a penguin, I tell you.

[Side note: I’m using penguin as an example because fully-grown ones weighs about a hundred pounds and so do I.]

Photo Credit: mischiefshoes.co.nz

 As my eyes boing’d out of my head and my body recovered from a stumble, I called my sister and exasperatedly explained my you-won’t-believe-what-just-happened predicament.

Laughing (sans any snorts), she replied, “Just stay where you are, I’ve got the situation covered.”

Mere moments later, and seemingly out of nowhere, a headset-wearing young CHUM-CITY intern arrived at my side, replaced my broken shoes with unbroken shoes, gave Jill and me a gentle shove, and then, like a sprite, just vanished into the crowd.

Afterward, as I carefully made my way along the hundred-foot journey (without a single misstep BTW), I was quick to observe that the cameras were aimed only at the dolled-up celebrities.  Which begs the question: would anyone have even noticed if I’d strutted that red carpet like a peg-legged pirate?   I bet not.

What’s your most memorable/frightening/bizarre/horrific shoe-wearing moment?