Samara O'Shea

Archive for February, 2011

Play Like a Girl

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

I learned to play chess in high school. I loved the game immediately—or I at least loved knowing how the pieces travel. It made me feel like I knew a secret. I also liked that the Queen was (still is!) the most powerful piece. I had a minor obsession with the game for a few years, despite not being the best player. The obsession went away, as most obsessions do, and now I hold the game of chess in the highest esteem and hope to pick it back up someday.

My friend Jennifer, on the other hand, learned to play at a much younger age and mastered the game in her 20s. She is a two-time American Women’s Chess Champion (2002, 2004). Since then, she’s taken her skill set and assumed some chess-inspired creative endeavors—like being in a video called Naked Chess. Here is a vibrant book trailer for Jen’s latest (a collaboration with 9 Queens) entitled Play Like a Girl:

My Funny Valentine

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

I was in Target two days after Christmas and saw that they had the Valentine’s Day cards on full-frontal display already. That was fast! I thought. It wasn’t until about ten minutes later that I realized, for the first time in years, I did not feel assaulted by the Valentine’s Day display case. I was tempted to jump up and down but managed to control the urge. I did an instant replay in my mind: I walked by the cards without a passing thought other than They got them out quickly. In other words, the cards weren’t whispering to me You’re useless and unwanted as they have done so many times before.

It was an extraordinary personal achievement, and it’s a place I’ve been trying to arrive at for a while. I’ve had a boyfriend—or a date—on Valentine’s Day maybe five times in my life, and not in the past few years. I have had romantic situations come to their end just before Valentine’s Day, which makes it that much more painful.

Years ago I learned to appreciate the love—any type of love—that is shared on V-Day, and I’ve had some amazing Valentine’s Days spent with friends. I’ve just never been able to fully overcome the uncomfortable moment between me and the Hallmark display case. It sits there in all its red and pink glory reminding me that I don’t have anyone to buy a romantic card for.

Until this year! Booyah! Take THAT display case! I realized once and for all that whatever the display case was saying to me was in my head, and the voice has left the head.

One of my most memorable V-Day’s was 2007. My mom and I took a train to D.C. for my first radio show. At the end of the day, I received the most wonderful voice message I have ever received—it was my agent telling me what a great job I did.

Yesterday was a relatively tame V-Day, but I did receive some amusing gifts. From my sister, SpongeBob stickers and chocolate-covered pretzels:

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From Masa in Louisiana, a unique and thoughtful rose petal and pistachio chocolate bar.

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Top Ten Letter-Writing Movies

Monday, February 14th, 2011

My latest for the Huffington Post.

My Valentine’s Day Bone(s) to Pick

Monday, February 14th, 2011

First things first: Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope everyone has an extra skip in their step due to all the love going around. Today, I received a nice e-card from my sister’s fiancé, and I’m beginning to make plans for a summer girls’ weekend in Montreal. Both of those things have me in a good mood.

On a more irritable note, there are two things that have me a little disappointed. If you don’t care to hear any complaining on V-Day then you are welcome to stop reading now. See you tomorrow! Otherwise:

Two weeks ago I received an e-mail from a reporter named Jill wanting to interview me for an article on love letter writing for the Atlanta Constitution Journal. We had a lovely chat, and she told me she’d mention my website in the write up. The story ran last Friday, and it’s a good piece. There are many varied opinions. Here’s my bit:

Samara O’Shea is a professional letter writer in Philadelphia. In the past five years she’s created about 50 love letters for strangers who either want to “turn it up a notch” on their own halfhearted efforts, or can’t even find a notch to begin with.

“We’re losing our ability to communicate effectively in writing because we’re losing the language itself,” O’Shea said. “There are roughly 600,000 words in the English language, and so many are going untouched now that it keeps shrinking and shrinking into acronyms and emoticons.”

I am miffed that they didn’t mention my website. In the year 2011 “professional letter writer” needs an explanation. It’s not as though there’s one sitting outside every post office—as once was the case.

The article’s antagonist is Michael Fiore who claims that real romance takes place over . . . text messaging. His website TextTheRomanceBack.com was mentioned. Grrr!

My second bone to pick is with Dunkin Donuts. Yesterday, I was walking to a friend’s house and passed a DD. There was an ad for these cute donuts on the door:

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Sold! I thought How fun to show up with a half dozen heart-shaped donuts. I walked and requested six heart donuts. I was told they were out. This morning, I went to a different DD—this time to bring the confectionary hearts to work. And again, I was told they were out.

Dear Dunkin Donuts,

If you’re going to advertise the hell out of the heart-shaped donuts, please be prepared to serve them on Valentine’s Day.

Lots of love,
Samara

Wisdom from The Pioneer Woman

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

As a blogger, one often asks herself: What the heck am I doing? I mean, I know what I’m doing. I’m having fun and putting my random thoughts and observations out into the universe, but is that really an okay thing to be doing?

I found the answer last week when I came across this bit called “Ten Important Things I’ve Learned About Blogging” by The Pioneer Woman. She’s one of those enviable bloggers who makes money off her blog. While it would be nice to blog for a living, I am more than happy to do it on the side, and this article has reinvigorated me.

If you’ve ever thought about starting a blog, here are your rules:

1. Be yourself.
Write in your own voice.
Write as if you’re talking to your sister.
Unless you don’t get along with your sister.
Or don’t have a sister.

2. Blog often.
Whether you write a sixteen-paragraph essay about the cosmic implications of a free market system, a one-paragraph description of what happens to your soul when you walk into your godforsaken laundry room, or a simple photo and caption, consider your blog a precious bloom that requires daily nurturing.
And watering.
If you water a plant once every two weeks, it will shrivel.
Unless that plant is a cactus, and then it would thrive.
And to tell you the truth, I really can’t figure out how a cactus fits into this analogy, so forget I brought it up.

3. Be varied.
Change things up.
Offer a smorgasbord of content.
Unless you’re, say, a fashion blog.
And in that case, you should probably continue to blog about fashion.
But never blog about the same top twice!

4. Exercise more.
Blogging is an insidiously sedentary activity, and if you blog daily you should take steps to markedly increase your daily movement.
Unless that movement involves eating coffee ice cream.
In which case it would be better not to markedly increase your daily movement.

5. Allow your boundaries to set themselves naturally.
Don’t feel like you have to sit down and set rules about what you will and will not blog about from day one. Just blog, and see what feels comfortable for you.

I did that.

I’ve found, over time, that I tend to blog about the same things I’d talk to my sister about.
I’ve also found, over time, that I tend not to blog about things I wouldn’t talk to my sister about. For example, I don’t blog about hanky panky. I also don’t talk to my sister about hanky panky. If I did, she’d cover her ears and say, “Okay, gross.”
And you probably would, too.

6. Bring back retro phrases like “hanky panky.”
But only if it feels right to you.

7. Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself.
On this website, over the course of the past five years, I have burped, performed Britney Spears songs in Ethel Merman’s voice, misspelled words, posted typos, and talked about ways I humiliated myself as both a youngster and an adult.
At times I’ve wondered if maybe the burps were too much.
But they’re a part of me.
At least they were…until they came out of my esophagus.
But you know what I mean.

8. Try your best to spell words correctly and use proper grammar.
You don’t necessarily have to wig out about it.
But do try.
It’s important.
And if one or two of your readers emails you alerting you to a typo, don’t be offended. Thank them profusely and sing praises for the day they were born.

9. If you have writer’s block, push through and blog anyway.
I posted the first chapter of Black Heels on a morning when I woke up with the most raging case of writer’s block, I couldn’t even type my name.
I was sure you’d hate it, but I posted it anyway.
I went on to write forty-plus more chapters.
What if I’d given in to my writer’s block and decided not to blog that day?
I would never have written my Green Acres-meets-War and Peace romance novel.
And my bottom would likely be a little less jiggly.
Please see #4 above.

10. Value every person who takes time out of their day to stop by your blog.
Tell ‘em you love ‘em. Regularly.

And on that note—I love you all dear readers. I am grateful for those of you who comment, don’t comment, send me letters, don’t send me letters. I am grateful that you spend a few moments of your day with me. Thank you!

Presidential Gratitude

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

I mentioned that I was due to receive a thank you note from the president. It has arrived! obamafamily.jpg

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You are very welcome Mr. President!

Blue Valentine

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

I haven’t seen the movie Blue Valentine yet, but it’s on my must-do list. I just came across an introspective interview with director Derek Cianfrance, and it makes me want to see the movie even more. My favorite quote:

“Fantasy in people’s lives leads to great disappointment, and I just feel as a filmmaker that my responsibility is not to perpetuate fantasies. What I’m interested in is, after the knight in shining armor rescues the damsel in distress, what happens when they have to share the bathroom? What happens when they have to do the dishes three times a day? I’m interested in what happens after that story we’ve been told.”