Welcome to the new millennium, dear readers. Welcome to a world of expectation and excitment. Welcome to this week's Smart Woman Online interview with Jory Des Jardins...a writer extraordinaire, a young woman who is strong-minded, but very feminine, who isn't afraid to question the world and all that is in it, and who pens a very smart blog called Pause.
Jory has been a favorite of ours for months now...not because she gets chatty on her blog (she is), not because she writes so well (but she does!) and not because she is so interesting (she is that, too)...but because she is authentic. We think she represents the best of what this country has to offer to our young men and women coming out of high school and college. She represents the future-- a tangible, possible, wonderful, future. Read on to learn why we think so much of this young lady...
Lip-sticking: Jane is going to begin this bloggersation (our new word for what happens when people connect through blogging) with a frank comment: we are highly jealous of your beautiful name. Can you tell us what it means, why your Mom (or Dad) gave you this name, and...did you ever wish for a different name?
Jory: Mom gets credit for the first name—Dad the last. My mother wanted J names for me and my sister (I’m an identical twin), as she and my father have J names, and my older sister was given a J name. I guess to do otherwise would have screwed with the alliteration. (Jane is going to keep quiet...but, families whose members have names all starting with the same letter...never mind...that was a long time ago, when we were married to Donald, whose sisters were Debbie and Donna)
She had a more traditional name picked out for me, but while very pregnant, she caught a movie on TV (she doesn’t remember the name of it, only that it was one of Pierce Brosnan’s first films). There was a woman in the movie (Mom thinks it might have been a nurse) named Jory and she liked the sound of it. She swears she never had a single drink during the pregnancy, but you have to wonder.
Dad’s responsible for the last name, but he pronounces it differently. I say it the cool way you learn in French class: Day-zhar-DAN. He pronounces it exactly as it’s spelled. He said the French way is “too schwah” for his tastes. (we like your Mom and Dad, a lot)
Lip-sticking: Your blog is one of several we read that intermixes business with pleasure...from a completely open viewpoint. We learn more about the world from your musings than from any industry publication. After all, real news is about real people...and real people are ones who write blogs. So, why do you write your blog? And, why 'Pause'?
Jory: I started writing because I am a writer (something I never admitted until recently). When I wrote professionally for magazines, several years ago, I wrote whatever I could get paid to write (I think there’s an industry term for this—a Hack). It was a very unsatisfying and short-lived existence, trying to write what I thought other people wanted to read; it felt like re-inventing the wheel every time.
I started writing my blog when I’d spent enough time not writing to miss it again, and when I finally asked myself the question, “If you did it YOUR way, without any concern of who would publish it, what would you write?” Frankly, I started the blog to see if I had it in me—the ability to connect with myself.
As for the name—writing is a transcendent experience for me. When I start, nothing short of a nuclear disaster will make me look up until I’m done. It’s like the world stops, or pauses, for a while. Also, I think the word PAUSE conjures the notion of stopping the constant forward motion and letting life catch up just long enough to learn something from it.
Lip-sticking: Only a few weeks ago we were delighted (Jane uses this word a lot and does not care to defend her desire to do so...it's a nice word, when it suits, we dress up with it), anyway, we were DELIGHTED to meet you in person. You are everything we imagined; young, spirited, curious, gorgeous, sweet, outspoken...all the things Jane hopes her own daughters are (trust us, they are!). And, you write about your Mom in your blog--- so, tell us, are you representative of your age-and-gender-group?
What we want to know is...are all your girlfriends just like you, or--as your blog writing purports-- is the rest of the world standing off to the side, while you
teeter on the edge, forever challenging Fate to push you over?
Jory: I love that word—DELIGHTED! So few people cop to being delighted. I like to think I’m VERY indicative of my age group and of women (Plenty of men, too). My girlfriends often tell me that’s what they “get out” of my blog—they can relate to it. Most of them are mid-level professionals who are very driven, only many of them are finding they’ve confused being driven with pursuing a pre-defined, often corporate, path. Now they are wondering what happened to their post-college years and are a little pissed off.
None of my writing is conceived in a vacuum; I write when I get home from drinks with my friends, after phone calls with my sister; even after talking with my Mom. In that way I speak more for a (pardon the marketing term) psychographic than for any age or gender group.
However, I’ll offer this caveat: I’m much more of a risk-taker than many of my friends, as I also tend to hear comments like, “I totally agree with what you are saying and may do it too, someday… Let me know how it goes.” (ha! we knew it! some people are just wimps...but not you!)
Lip-sticking: Wow, that was a complicated question. Let's get back on track...tell us about the b-friend, if you can. Does he buy you flowers? You mention him in your blog occasionally, and we wonder how he feels about that.
Jory: I’m on a plane right now, sitting next to him, and trying to hide my computer screen. This is a complicated question, to be completely honest. He’s kind of gross at the moment—he got food poisoning before we boarded the plane and he’s been leaving to go barf and come back. If someone else were sitting next to him I’d feel mighty sorry for them.
Jesse is a lanky Jewish guy (often confused for being Italian or Mediterranean) who is a geek and a manly-man all at the same time. My sister thinks he looks like Luke Wilson with a ponytail. He’s crazy-smart but has an almost non-existent sense of irony, so I’ve stopped using sarcasm around him, as he tends to respond as if I literally mean everything I say. He’s very intuitive and knows when something’s up with me, sometimes before I know. He’s very grounded and, as I like to say, “in his body.” He helps to bring me back into mine, as I tend to spend a good portion of my time in my head. When he’s not throwing up he’s one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known.
Bottom line: Jesse supports me full-out. He’s never questioned decisions I’ve made about my career, my work, my shoes (though he has made well-intentioned suggestions when it comes to what I’m wearing). I think he was a bit naïve when he opted to get serious with a writer. He was bummed when he read a semi-autographical book I wrote (before we dated, incidentally) that did not include him. But then he read a few doozies about him on my blog and he’s now way over it.
We’ve had discussions about including him in my work and have only agreed on the following: I would never write anything about Jesse with any intention of embarrassing or hurting him. But let’s face it; I’ve got fairly loose parameters.
Flowers? He was always giving me something when we first dated—flowers, music, chocolate. But, as he explained to me, “he has me now, so what’s the point?” The guy cooks me dinner; that’s plenty. (hear, hear!)
Lip-sticking: You have a book sitting in a desk drawer...we read about it on your blog. Jane and friends want you to publish this book. We do not want to hear excuses about how it might not be this or that. It's the public's choice to do the judging. You have a marvelous writing talent...we have trouble believing the book would not be well-received. With that thought in mind,tell us if you think the Internet is putting the book industry out of business? Is that a concern?
Jory: Yes the oft-mentioned BOOK. The thing that keeps me up at night; that compelled me to quit my job; that taunts me—I can hear it laughing from my hard drive. It’s taken me so long to finish for a number of reasons. 1) I’ve been a bit of a perfectionist about it. I’m working on the 12th draft currently and gave myself permission to just let the thing go. Now I just need to tie up the loose ends and put it in my agent’s hands. 2) I’ve been a victim of if/then thinking. You know: IF I reach a certain level of acclaim with my writing THEN I’ll cough this up on to the public. But my IFs have always been unattainable, so I’m learning to just say (not literally, but you know what I mean) It ain’t perfect, but here it is. Plus, my attitude about writing has changed. I don’t write any longer for people who don’t like my work, much the same way as I stopped dating men who acted like they hated me.
I just met with my agent and she’s got a great outlook on the effect that blogging has on the publishing industry. Signing a debut work used to be a big gamble. You could throw together some marketing projections but more often than not they were way off. The Blogosphere tends to weed out great work; it’s a great screener for the publishing industry. I think the two media will threaten each other for a while and then learn to work in tandem: blogging helps to grow good writers; publishing helps to get the word out. Blogging has made it easy to get my voice out to the public, but I still love the notion of sitting down with a good book.
Lip-sticking: If you could take a month off...and go anywhere in the world... alone...where would it be, and what do you consider absolutely necessary to have with you?
Jory: I’m a big fan of Europe. If I could pick any place—probably Florence, as I’ve been and know I could rent a villa there and be happy to drop off the radar. I would absolutely positively need to have reading material and a notebook, that’s it—assuming I can find coffee when I get there.
Lip-sticking: Tell us a secret. Something like...an item of clothing you desire... that you saw online...but can't afford. Tell us some things you can afford and if you buy them online or offline.
Jory: Right now it’s all about real estate. The b-friend and I like to torture ourselves by signing up for automatic listing services for several areas we have our eyes on. We aren’t committing to any city until he’s done with grad school, but we still read these listings for homes with huge yards (he’s a landscape architect and would like to practice, I guess) and gi-normous kitchens (think the set-up you’d see on Iron Chef). It’s pretty sick—we can’t move or afford these places, but we ogle them and start designing the living room, then we look at our tiny cottage and sigh.
When it comes to researching I do it all online. When it comes to buying, it depends: If I’m going to wear it I need to see it first. Things I commonly buy online: travel, electronics, books, movies. Some things I have NEVER bought online: shoes, art, and underwear.
Lip-sticking: We should get a little more serious. Enough of the "girl-talk." For our readers, can you describe the perfect website... aimed at marketing to women? Give us some details...like, how important is the design? What about the product descriptions? What about a loyalty program? How about flash openings?
Jory: I’m much better when I see a site that doesn’t work—then I can tell you EXACTLY what’s wrong with it. Simplicity is the key, and in terms of usability so is predictability. This might sound old-hat, but I love Amazon! It’s very “traditional” in the sense that search is in the upper left-hand corner. I always know where to look for things and can break down the categories right away.
Also, they have a Wish List feature. How many times have you gone to a site, weren’t sure you wanted to buy something, and then signed off, lost forever by the company that had caught your eye? I often go back to my Wish List, see what I wanted to buy and click, it’s done. If I’m reading an article and see a title of an interesting book I want to read, I just pop it onto my Wish List and it’s “captured.”
My point here is that the site understands how women shop, maybe, but certainly how I like to shop, and I imagine, other women like to shop. How many times have you tried on something and opted to put it on hold, in case you changed your mind or found something better? By acknowledging this aspect of female shopping indecision, Amazon will catch the girls who come back to the store, saying, “OK, I can’t seem to get that product out of my mind, so I’ll take it!”
Lip-sticking: We read about your broken mug. How is life without it? It's easy to get attached to an object, to assign certain notions to it, even give it a personality (Jane does this with pens--we have favorites and when they run out of ink, we think we will never write again!). Assure us that you have moved on and...perhaps been given the gift of a new mug? BTW, we agree with your assessment...the breaking of that mug means your life is going to start anew.
Jory: Thanks, I certainly liked to interpret the demise of my career coffee mug that way. To be honest, I have not yet replaced it, though I seem to be leaning towards a New York Times mug I got while I worked for the NYT Company, way back, job #2 of 9, so it’s nearly as old as the first mug. And it’s almost as large. I probably shouldn’t be drinking so much coffee anyway. (we heard that coffee is good for your love life...we don't remember where...we just 'heard' it)
Lip-sticking: If you were to write a book-- a different book than the one you're not working on now :-) -- about women in the 21st century, young women on the brink of a new world order-- what would you call it? Give us the first paragraph of the introduction.
Jory: Funny you mention this. More and more women are feeling compelled to bow out of the corporate world, or approach it differently, as it really hasn’t accommodated us. I would argue it hasn’t fully accommodated men, either, but there are traits that women bring to the table that are left in the parking lot of insert-name-of-corporate-compound-here. We’re inherent collaborators, communicators, and empathizers; yet this mushy stuff gets trounced by data (relevant and not) and a winner-take-all attitude.
I feel a definite shift toward appreciation of the feminine gifts; however, 21st Century Girls aren’t the most patient people in the world. Why wait for corporate recruiters to come to us when we can have our life our way and make more money doing it? My book would not so much be a guide for how to do things right, but a confirmation that things will certainly go wrong. Even so, you can’t blow off the journey.
The journey...one that begins with a single creative thought in the mind of a talented young woman entering a world of possibility.
What's not to like about that?