These are my titles currently in print. For more details, go to http://joanmarieverba.com
October 28, 2014 is the 35th anniversary of my reaching lifetime status with Weight Watchers. I have never been more than 2 pounds over my goal weight in that time, and I have 35 years of weigh-in books to prove it.
I also was an employee of Weight Watchers for 9 years (2000-2009).
In addition, I’m a member of the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). This is a registry of people who have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept it off for at least a year. The object of the registry is to find out what people who have long-term weight loss success have in common and see if there is anything others can learn from that. (The hope is/was that if everyone overweight follows the same habits, they’ll all be successful, too.)
Still, despite all recent efforts, the majority of residents in the USA remain overweight or obese. Some commentators have said that we simply need to admit defeat and accept it. (One article I read even said it was impossible to lose weight and keep it off long term…another was a little more moderate and said that it was nice that the NWCR people had lost weight, but the NWCR research had no applicability to the average overweight person.)
I’ve been thinking for a long time on the reasons most people haven’t been losing weight and have come up with some conclusions (my opinion only).
First of all, obesity is not simply a physical/biological problem. It also has social and behavioral aspects that are significant and cannot be neglected in searching for solutions.
Scoffers will often maintain that obese people are lazy. I maintain the opposite is true: many individuals are overweight because they are busy: busy with their families (especially if they’re caregivers to children or the elderly), and busy with their jobs (especially if they’re working 2 or 3 jobs to pay the rent). Losing weight is not easy. It takes a lot of effort. The fact is, most people (including me) need a lot of help in order to successfully lose weight and keep it off, simply because it is so hard.
Health professionals are just starting to get a clue about this. Whereas earlier, many naively thought that all there was to weight loss was “eat less and exercise” or “just push your plate away” (and some still do), they are beginning to talk about an “obesogenic” environment. And it is. Food is everywhere. Food is advertised heavily. Food manufacturers deliberately make their food enticing to the taste buds…and the taste buds favor high-fat, high-sugar foods. Healthy foods are expensive and can take a lot of preparation, and can be inaccessible (“food deserts”). A lot of people don’t know how to cook – and home-cooked food can be significantly healthier than food served at restaurants or fast-food places. Those whose taste buds have been accustomed to high-fat, high-sugar foods can find healthy foods such as vegetables and nonfat dairy products tasteless, and not consume them.
Then there’s the social area. There’s a lot of social pressure to eat. Family members who equate love with food can react negatively if their food isn’t eaten. Others want to give you permission to overeat (“oh, going off your diet one day won’t hurt” or “just have a bite”). Significant others can become jealous of or feel uncomfortable with a partner or friend who is losing weight and try to sabotage weight loss efforts.
Food is not just food (nourishment). Individuals can see it as a companion, as well as turn to it for comfort (the problem with comfort food is not that it doesn’t work; it’s that it does). People tie food with other activities, so that the activity seems empty without the food (I’ve met people who find it almost unthinkable to watch a movie without eating popcorn, or to sponsor foodless birthday parties and other celebrations).
The enormous social stigma of overweight also is a major contributing factor. Individuals can be in denial (as I was for years), see the scale as an enemy (I sure didn’t want to get weighed when I was overweight), and therefore avoid getting help. Or, if they attempt to get help, waste time and money and endanger their health by going for quick-weight-loss schemes. (Currently bariatric surgery is offered as a solution. While it does have some degree of success, it is neither quick nor easy and has the potential for complications. Further, I personally know of cases where a bariatric patient has regained all the weight, and then some.)
How about activity? Most people find exercise boring and tedious. There have been advances in this area, yes. Devices such as standing desks and treadmill stations help, and more has been done to make exercise fun and enticing. But there’s still work to be done.
So, in order to tackle the obesity problem, I believe society needs to:
- De-stigmatize obesity
- Change the obesogenic environment
- a. Make healthy food cheap, available, tasty, and effortless to prepare
b. Teach minimal cooking skills to everyone
- Change society’s attitude toward food
- Train people ways to deal with anger, frustration, sadness, and trauma other than reaching for a quick snack
- Make activity fun and enticing
Can this be done? Based on the attitude change toward smoking (which took decades), I think it could; however, this is not going to be quick or easy.
Back when I was overweight, one of my attitudes that was delaying my start into a weight loss program was the wish and the hope that science would invent a formula which would enable me to eat to my heart’s content, and not gain any weight. I’m glad now that I went ahead and lost weight anyway, because it’s 35 years later and science still hasn’t stepped up!
However, though I applaud all that’s been done so far to address the obesity problem, I now believe that it is essential for science to do just that. Because there are individuals (and I have met them), who, for biological reasons beyond their control, cannot and will not lose weight no matter what lifestyle, behavioral, or eating changes they make.
While researchers are working on this, doctors can be a lot more helpful than they are. The fact is, the average Weight Watchers employee has more knowledge and experience in the scientific, behavioral, and social aspects of weight loss than the average doctor (and doctors admit they get little training in obesity issues – except for the obesity specialists, of course). It’s long past time that physicians stop blaming obese people for their obesity, realize that healthy weight loss requires expert help, and actively extending that help in an empathetic and effective manner.
Again, these are my opinions only, but even though I’m no longer a Weight Watchers employee, I continue to read extensively on the subject of obesity and healthy living (as well as completing a one-year training course as a health coach), and I believe that a commonsense approach can work.
I also have maintained an email list for the past few years where I share a daily health tip. To sign up, or to find further resources, I invite you to visit my site at: http://personalweightlosstrainer.com
Break the Curse of the Dirty Purse with Machine Washable Shoulder Bags
Need a Clean Handbag? Try a Machine Washable Shoulder Bag
Hi, I’m Joan Marie Verba and I sew the shoulder bags you see on the page. I started using these because I found that whenever I purchased a purse, it would not be long before the purse became stained or dirty, or something spilled on it. Then I’d either have to try to clean it, or I’d have to throw it away. After throwing away a lot of purses, I decided that I needed a purse that I could simply wash when either the inside or outside was dirty. That’s when I started using these, which are machine washable. They’re durable, roomy, comfortable to wear, and have a lot of pockets. I believe you’ll find them as useful as I have. They can be tossed in a washing machine when they get dirty and dried in a standard dryer. The bags come in a variety of colors, patterns, and sizes.
Where can you find these bags? They’re currently featured in a Kickstarter project, and can be found at the site for the bags as well. (Kickstarter link: http://kck.st/188ycdt )
Joan Marie Verba learned sewing from her mother, who maintained a home-based sewing business for over 40 years. She has been sewing shoulder bags for herself for decades, and has recently expanded the line to include other useful washable accessories as well.
Update: this project was funded, but you can order shoulder bags and accessories at any time at:
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 11/17/2013 4:53 PM
Star Trek: Into Darkness review
Joan Marie Verba
(Yes, there are spoilers, so don’t read this if you don’t want them.)
Before this movie was released, I read an article that said the studio and production staff wanted this movie to appeal to more than Star Trek fans. This is understandable, and it can be done (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home managed it). However, though this movie did have elements that definitely appealed to the long-time Star Trek fans, it also had some discontinuities where it was not…quite…Trek.
Even so, I felt this movie was better than the 2009 one (and I found the 2009 Star Trek to be satisfactory). ST:ID avoided silliness such as the 2009 scene where a large beast chases Kirk across a snow-covered plain and into a cave, or Scott being beamed into a water tube.. Star Trek: Into Darkness is serious throughout, and that’s a strength.
From the publicity before the movie, I also feared a couple of developments, which, fortunately, did not appear . The first was the statement that ST:ID was set mostly on Earth. Maybe if someone timed it, there were more minutes spent on Earth, but to me, the bulk of the movie seemed to be in space, where it belonged (you know, the “Space…the final frontier…” sort of thing?). Roddenberry deliberately avoided Earth in the original series, and Star Trek seldom went to Earth even after that. The second was the movie poster showing the Enterprise descending into a planetary atmosphere. When I saw this, I groaned inwardly, thinking that they were going to go for cheap dramatics and destroy the Enterprise yet again. Well, they didn’t. Good for them.
There’s also been some complaining about ST:ID being a remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. So what? The 2009 Star Trek was a remake of The Wrath of Khan (you know, the bad guy wants revenge for losing his wife and picks a member of the Enterprise crew as the primary object of his revenge?). For that matter, Star Trek: Nemesis (which I enjoyed, in contrast to about 90% of other Star Trek fans) was a remake of The Wrath of Khan, with Data in the place of Spock. I find it contradictory for fans who didn’t protest those films copying Wrath of Khan to complain now.
The movie starts with Kirk disobeying the Prime Directive by (a) saving a planet from destruction and (b) allowing the Enterprise to be seen by a non-spacefaring culture. As a result, he’s demoted. Really? How often did Kirk violate the Prime Directive in the original series and get away with it? And since when is it a violation of the Prime Directive to save a planet from total destruction? Seems to me that the Enterprise did that a lot (in both original series and in TNG), and why? Because it was the moral thing to do, that’s why. Once you’ve saved the planet from total destruction, you’ve already artificially changed the course of history, so allowing the planetary residents to see the ship is a negligible event. Kirk should have demanded a hearing and hired Sam Cogley to advocate his case.
Then there’s the matter of John Harrison. As “John Harrison, terrorist,” the character works. As Khan Noonian Singh, he doesn’t. I don’t know whether Benedict Cumberbatch (whose performances I enjoyed in Sherlock and Amazing Grace) saw “Space Seed” or The Wrath of Khan before assuming the rule of Harrsion, but he’s not channeling Khan. The personalities are entirely different. It would have been better to cast either Antonio Banderas or Lou Diamond Phillips or Naveen Andrews in the role if they wanted Khan. We needed an actor who projected the viciousness of Khan (as Cumberbatch did), as well as his egomaniacal rants and his explosive anger (which Cumberbatch didn’t). Banderas also has the advantage of having acted with Ricardo Montalban before and could capture his acting style (which Cumberbatch didn’t). It would have been far better for the character to remain John Harrison, terrorist, and say he either was genetically enhanced on Earth (remember, the technique was not lost, it was simply illegal, as we see in Dr. Julian Bashir on DS9), or another crewmember of the Botany Bay. The non-Star Trek viewers of ST:ID won’t notice the difference, of course. But the original Trek fans will.
(There’s a similar mistake with Carol Marcus. Alice Eve simply does not project the strength of character we saw in The Wrath of Khan. Sarah Michelle Gellar would have been a better choice.)
Even so, again, I enjoyed the movie overall, and thought it had some nice touches. I was glad that Uhura had more to do, although putting Chekov in charge of engineering was far above his pay grade. I would have preferred to see Sulu get more screen time than he did. McCoy and Scotty seemed just right. They also put in “Cupcake” from the previous movie as a red shirt, and he seemed to have survived the movie!
What I thought was the best of the movie was the conflict between the idea of Starfleet as a science/exploration fleet or Starfleet as a war fleet, and I’m glad the movie ended with the idea that it should be exploratory. Spock convinces Kirk that killing Harrison (sorry, the guy’s not Khan), with a drone is NOT something they should do, and Kirk agrees. This was a wise move not only because executing Harrison without a trial would be a bad precedent, but also because a drone strike on the Klingon homeworld could have started a war (whether it was in inhabited territory or not) and because it would have killed 72 of Harrison’s associates. And, the ending wrapped up the theme very well: “There will always be those who mean to do us harm. To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves. Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us. But that’s not who we are…” – Capt. James T. Kirk
Back to the story: upon the Enterprise crew leaving the Klingon homeworld, Admiral Marcus shows up with his super-ship and decides if Kirk won’t abandon his and Starfleet’s principles, Kirk (and his crew) have to go, and he (Marcus) will make sure that Starfleet goes to war. Montgomery Scott, who made his moral choice earlier, sticks to his principles and helps the Enterprise. (Speaking of Scott, there’s an astronomical error when Scott discovers the super-ship: Jupiter’s clouds are in constant motion, and the movie’s special effects department put in a still photo of Jupiter as background instead of having the clouds move, as they correctly did in the movie 2010). I wondered why Scott didn’t disable the super-ship’s weapons systems before Marcus fired on the Enterprise, but at least he was still there to help when needed. I also appreciated the realization of the factor of inertia when Kirk and Harrison arrive and slide across the floor quite a distance before they can stop. I also thought it was nice that Spock contacted his counterpart to ask about Khan. Smart move.
When they get to Earth, they correctly say that the Enterprise is in danger if it re-enters the atmosphere, and it did show the heat of re-entry, but unless there was some sort of shielding at work, re-entry would probably have caused even more damage, if not catastrophic damage, before theEnterprise hit the cloud tops. (I was delighted to see that the Enterprisefinally got seat belts for its crew, even though some seat restraints were seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.) I presume the super-ship, which was intact, survived re-entry because of shielding.
Back on the Enterprise, the warp core needed attention, and this time it’s Kirk that sacrifices his life to fix things (though I wondered why Kirk didn’t bring any tools in with him). Spock then releases his anger in an all-out chase to get Harrison (J. J. Abrams seems to think Spock needs to have an anger release every so often). I didn’t have a problem with reviving Kirk with Harrison’s blood (though I agree with the observers who said that any of Harrison’s genetically engineered associates could have been the blood donor), because it saves us from having another movie on the order ofThe Search for Spock. I did miss, however, Kirk saying, “Out there. Thataway!” in response to being asked where to take the ship next.
In brief, yeah, it wasn’t perfect, it had problems, but in its own awkward way, it got to where it needed to go: putting the Enterprise on a five-year mission “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.” We can only hope that will be the case in the next movie.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 5/20/2013 1:35 PM
Here we go again.
Yet another study has been published, saying that people would give up a job promotion to lose 10-20 pounds. Earlier studies showed that people would give up a house or a job to get thin and stay thin.
Here’s what they mean: they mean that they’d give up these things if their excess weight would go *poof* and they would be instantly thin without having to work for it, and, more important, would not have to change their eating habits or their sedentary habits.
Yes, they’d be willing to give up their house or promotion or raise, but what they’re not willing to give up is mindless eating. What they’re not willing to give up is junk food. What they’re not willing to give up is a few minutes of their time each day to write down what they eat or count calories. What they’re not willing to give up is eating whenever they want, whatever they want, in whatever quantity they want.
Hey, I’ve been there! At the time I started my ultimate weight loss effort over 30 years ago, I could not imagine going the rest of my life without drinking a six-pack of cola every day. Or a bag (a large one, not a single-size one) of chips every day. I was just going to stick to the program as long as it took to lose the weight and go back to the way I was eating before.
By the time I got to my goal weight, I realized I could never go back to the way I was eating before.
Do I get nostalgic for the old days? Sure! (Check previous blog posts on the subject.)
Do I get nostalgic about being obese? No, I do not! That’s what keeps me at a healthy weight.
Bottom line: people don’t lose weight by giving up their jobs. They don’t lose weight by giving up their houses. They lose weight and keep it off when they give up the idea that they’re going to be miserable if they don’t (over)eat the way they do now for the rest of their lives.
Life can still be fun and satisfying without consuming large quantities of food. It takes time, it takes work, it takes finding other ways to comfort and entertain oneself without using food. But it can be done, and people don’t have to give up a house or a job to do it.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 8/17/2010 8:16 PM
Henry Jenkins is the Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. He recently interviewed me about Star Trek, Darkover, and Thunderbirds.
An account of early Star Trek and Darkover fan fiction by archivist/chronicler Joan Marie Verba: http://bit.ly/dvvyzg
Thunderbirds are Go and Joan Marie Verba Explains Why.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 5/19/2010 1:20 PM
On Tuesday, May 18, 2010, I’m hosting a virtual online (re)launch party for my Thunderbirds books, particularly Countdown to Action!
On that date, if you order one or more of the Thunderbirds novels, you will be able to download free bonuses!
A number of partners are helping me with this virtual party. These include:
Dan Poynter, author of the Self-Publishing Manual.
Peggy McColl, author of Your Destiny Switch and other self-help books.
Michelle Cimino, Digital Etiquette Expert.
Hasmark Services, The Heart and Soul of Book Marketing
Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, authors of the Liaden series of science fiction novels.
Henry Jenkins, popular culture expert, the author of Textual Poachers, and the Provost’s Professor of Communications, Journalism, and Cinematic Art at the University of Southern California.
Put the date on your calendar so you won’t miss out on these special offers!
More information will be posted as the Countdown to the Virtual (Re)Launch continues!
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 4/22/2010 8:02 PM
When I heard about the death of Phoebe Prince, the student at South Hadley High School, who was bullied to death, I experienced the same anger, frustration, and grief as I have at the reported death of all the others who have been bullied to death. At the same time, I identify strongly with these tragedies, since, I, too, was bullied from the day I started kindergarten at C.S. Elementary to the day I graduated from high school. I felt the same despair as they did, and seriously considered suicide myself on more than one occasion. (Why didn’t I commit suicide? In retrospect, it was probably due to 2 factors: first, committing suicide requires effort, and that was energy I didn’t want to expend; second, I clung to hope that one day things would get better.)
When I was in high school, I reviewed my record with a counselor. She said that my elementary school teachers recorded that I cried a lot. I did. I came into school naively believing that the other students held on to the same values as I did (that is, to follow the Golden Rule to the best of one’s ability). When they taunted me, I cried to show that they had hurt my feelings, because I innocently believed that once they saw they were hurting my feelings, they would stop.
I was completely bewildered as to why anyone would bully me. After all, I had done nothing to them. I didn’t taunt them. I didn’t try to make their lives miserable. In fact, when they did bully me, I did not retaliate.
A pattern emerged: when a new person came into school, that person would be friendly to me, and maybe we’d be friendly for a while. Then the rest of the group made it clear that I was not to be associated with, and that person would drift away. One particular sign that this was happening was that my peers addressed me by my last name, and always with a sneer. In our local school culture, you called your friends by their first name, you called those you had contempt for by their last name. New students more than once expressed surprise to me that my first name was “Joan” and not “Verba.”
My parents knew what was going on. When I complained about what was happening, my parents said, “just ignore them.” This didn’t work. Nothing did. In junior high, other students taunted me for carrying my books in a briefcase. I got rid of the briefcase, believing that they would stop bothering me. They didn’t. The girls in junior high taunted me because I didn’t wear nylons (I wore socks). I started wearing nylons. They found something else to find fault with. I was always “ugly” and (until I lost some weight in high school) “fat.”
Once, my father offered to move to another state, to escape the bullying. I strongly vetoed the idea and we remained where we were. My reasoning was that as long as I stayed in that school system, I could console myself with the idea that nothing was wrong with me; I was just in a school full of losers. If, however, I went to another school and was bullied again, that would be proof positive that something WAS wrong with me and I knew the idea that I was at fault would have destroyed me.
I did have a handful of friends. These were largely students from outside my school district, daughters of friends of my parents. Our family went to a church outside the school district. My peers in Sunday School didn’t bully me, but they weren’t friendly with me, either. I had the perpetual feeling that they just wished I would go away.
I did gain one friend in junior high, who remained friendly with me until high school, when we split because we had no classes in common. She told me that the other students thought I was stuck up. I was stunned. I remember blurting out, “I always thought it was because I was ugly!” She said she didn’t think I was stuck up, and I certainly didn’t think I was stuck up, and thereafter I desperately tried to figure out what it was I did that gave people that impression and what I might do differently. (No one would tell me, and whenever I asked others to explain what it was about me that annoyed them, I’d get answers such as, “You know.” No, I didn’t. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that I had Asperger’s, and I definitely did not know that non-Asperger’s people get upset if you don’t look them in the eye, and they also get upset if you don’t say “hello” or “how are you” to them—things that were not at all obvious to my Asperger’s brain.)
I gained a BEST friend when I was a junior in high school. She was new, and a senior, and popular, and therefore immune to the pressures of my fellow students in the junior class. Once I graduated from high school, and went to college, my freshman year was astonishing. People liked me, they really liked me! They liked me a whole lot! I had never, of course, been asked out on a date in junior high or high school, but wonder of wonders, I wasn’t far along in my freshman year when not one, but two, men asked me out! That confirmed to me that I was just fine, and the others in my high school graduating class were indeed a bunch of losers.
When I got a summer job after 1 year in college, I ran into one of those rare classmates who treated me decently. She sat me down and offered an apology for not doing anything while others of our classmates bullied me. I said there was nothing to forgive, because I fully understood that the bystanders feared (and probably rightly so) that they, too, would become targets for bullies if they interfered.
Those who did torment me were still a bunch of losers when I went to my 10 year high school reunion, full of love and forgiveness in my heart, believing that my peers had grown up in those 10 years and would welcome me with open arms. They didn’t. The handful of people who treated me decently in high school still treated me decently. However, when I went up to one of my former tormentors with a smile and extended hand, he took one look at my nametag, and, with a facial expression full of disgust, pivoted on his heel and walked away. After a few more minutes sitting alone, hearing exclamations of glee and welcome as OTHERS walked in, I left for a more productive afternoon with my current friends, which assured me that the tormentors among my former high school classmates were indeed a bunch of jerks. (I went to my 20 year high school reunion with similar results. By the time my 30 year high school reunion came, I sent my regrets to the committee.)
I tell this long story to get to this point: I am glad that the Massachusetts district attorney arrested the bullies who tormented Phoebe Prince. I hope that this will set a precedent: every bully needs to be held accountable for her or his actions, and if bullies commit misdemeanors or felonies, they need to come to the attention of law enforcement.
Bullying isn’t “just kids.” Making excuses for bullies and bullying must stop. Blaming the victim must stop. The “culture of cruelty” in grade school must stop. Bullying is criminal abuse, pure and simple, and needs to be addressed as such.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 4/5/2010 8:11 PM
I am thrilled to report that my novel, Thunderbirds™: Action Alert, is a Mom’s Choice Awards® (Silver recipient) for 2010. The Mom’s Choice Award is given to books the judges feel represent the best in family-friendly entertainment. I am proud of this because it is my goal to create novels that are family-friendly, and this award confirms that I have met that goal.
My novel Countdown to Action! won the same award last year, so I am doubly pleased to get another award this year.
Most of the time, I find that others are pleased and impressed when one of my books gets an award. Other times, the response isn’t as favorable.
There seems to be a thought among the unfavorable responses that some awards are better than others. Last year, for instance, when I called the local newspaper to ask if they’d announce I’d won this award, I was told, “I haven’t heard of this award.”
Well, so what? The fact that I won an award means that someone who I do not know, have never met, and am not related to thinks that my book has merit. Really, almost any award, better known Hugo Awards, etc., has this characteristic. Hugo Awards, for instance, are reader awards, and most voting for the award are not literary professionals. Even so, the Hugo Award has prestige and significance.
Last year, I read a blog from a professional book critic who slammed one of the lesser-known awards. She claimed that this award (and this wasn’t the Mom’s Choice Award, by the way) had a paid entry fee and that everyone who paid the fee got some sort of award. Not true. I have entered my books for this particular award. The award granters state very clearly that they get on the order of 1000 entries, and maybe 50 titles get an award. That means 95% of the books entered don’t get an award.
There may indeed be “vanity” awards; I have heard of them, though I’ve never entered my books in one of these to my knowledge. Almost all the awards that I enter are judged by professionals (and if not professionals, they are readers, such as the people who voted on the Hugos are). Some have fees, some don’t. I don’t necessarily think paying a fee to be considered devalues the award. Before I enter any award, I check to see (and the reputable awards committees provide this information up front) who is judging, what standards are used, etc.
Therefore, when I win an award, I’m happy, no matter what anyone else thinks!
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 2/1/2010 4:33 PM
I now have a personal Twitter account, @JoanMarieVerba, for posting comments and links that I find of interest.
That’s in addition to my Weight Loss Coach account @JoanWeightCoach
The publisher’s Twitter account is @ftlpublications
Feel free to follow!
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 1/21/2010 9:07 PM
Weight Loss Success! came back from the printer today, and it looks very nice, if I do say so myself.
This is a 32-page book, mass-market paperback size. I wrote it to address the question I received so often as to how I managed to keep my weight off for over 30 years. I’m glad that it’s short, because I think a lot of people purchase large books, and never get around to reading them if they’re too thick. I’m glad that it’s small, because it’s easier to carry around and refer to. It’s $1.95 as an eBook on Smashwords, so it is inexpensive, and half of the book is available for sampling on the Smashwords site, too. (It’s $6.95 if purchased in paperback and ordered through the mail.)
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 1/6/2010 8:59 PM
I’m 56 years old. I have no problem giving out my age, and that ties in to what I call “my annual birthday story.”
When I was in my mid-20s, I went to a gathering of the Minnesota Science Fiction Society. The subject of telling one’s age came up. I said I was 26 (or whatever age I was at the time) and didn’t mind telling anyone that. K.F. said that I might not mind giving my age when I was in my 20s, but I would when I was in my 30s.
On my 30th birthday, I had this overwhelming urge to call K.F. and say, “I’m 30 years old!” However, I didn’t.
I did, however, tell the story to others. In the mid-1980s, when I told that story to M., she said that while I might not hesitate to tell people my age in my 30s, I would most certainly not be telling people my age when I was in my 40s. My reply was, “I have your phone number. Do you want me to call you on my 40th birthday?” She said no, that wouldn’t be necessary.
Some days after my 50th birthday, I ran into K.F. again. I thought he would be amused at my story, so I told it to him, and, as I expected, he was entertained. His response was, “Call me when you’re 90!”
I think I shall.
P.S. Today (the day of posting) isn’t my birthday. I generally tell this story if the subject of age comes up, however.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 12/19/2009 6:45 PM
I became a lifetime member of Weight Watchers on October 28, 1979. This means that I have maintained a healthy weight for 30 years. In the 30 years since I reached lifetime status, I have never been more than 2 pounds over my goal weight, and I have 30 years of weigh-in books to prove it. (Lifetime members of Weight Watchers weigh in monthly.)
At the time I joined Weight Watchers (spring 1979), I could not imagine living the rest of my life without drinking a six-pack of regular cola every day, or eating a bag (not an individual serving bag; a large bag) of chips every day. By the time I got to lifetime, I changed my mind.
Actually, the first thing I did when I got to lifetime was bake a batch of brownies and eat it. That was a wake-up call: I realized then that if I was to keep the weight off, I could never, ever, go back to the way I ate before I joined Weight Watchers. So I stayed on the Weight Watchers maintenance plan for a year. That is how long it took me to learn the lifestyle changes necessary to stay at my ideal weight for the rest of my life.
When I first learned that most people who lose weight gain it back within a year (the numbers I see range from 60% to 98%), and that therefore I was one of the tiny fraction who didn’t regain the weight, I was astonished. Losing weight was one of the most difficult tasks I’ve ever done in my life. Why waste all that effort by gaining the weight back? I thought if I could do it, anyone could.
It wasn’t until about eight years ago that I began to realize that most people don’t take the same approach to weight loss as I did. The late actor Ricardo Montalban was once asked why he remained married to the same woman while other actors in Hollywood had such short marriages. Montalban replied that when you get married, you take vows, and either you mean them or you don’t.
I discovered the difference between me and those who gain their weight back was that when I promised myself I would do anything to lose weight and keep it off, that I kept that promise. Others seem to take a different view: if they go to a restaurant, for instance, they think they’ll just go off the diet for that night. Or if they go to a wedding, they think they’ll just go off the diet for that event. I didn’t. If went to an event and there was nothing there to eat on program, then I didn’t eat. If a restaurant didn’t have anything to eat on program, I didn’t eat there. If (fictional) Aunt Ethel felt insulted that I didn’t eat the special dish she made just for me, then Aunt Ethel would just have to be insulted; I was not going off the program just to satisfy Aunt Ethel.
Also, others seem to think that they can partially follow the program and still have success. When Weight Watchers told me to write down every single thing I ate, I wrote down every single thing I ate. When Weight Watchers told me to weigh and measure every single thing I ate, I weighed and measured every single thing I ate. When Weight Watchers told me to eat so many fruits and vegetables (and breads and milks and proteins, etc.) every day, I ate that many…no more, no less. It never occurred to me to do anything else. (And it never entered my mind at the time that others might not be doing the same thing.)
By the time I had finished my self-imposed one year of maintenance, I had essentially been following the program for 2 years. The National Weight Control Registry reports that people who have been able to maintain their weight for 2 years after reaching their goal weight have the greatest chance of keeping it off permanently. That is what I found as well. After those 2 years, my attitude toward food had changed, my habits had changed, and my tastes had changed (that is, junk food did not appeal to me as much anymore). That is how I’ve been able to keep my weight off for 30 years, and that’s the reason I’m confident that I will be able to continue to keep it off.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 10/11/2009 12:42 PM
My books, and in particular, my October 2009 novel, Deadly Danger, are featured on the Reading Minnesota blog:
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 10/2/2009 4:14 PM
Since I’ve lost weight and successfully kept it off for decades, articles about the current obesity problem capture my attention. Most of the experts seem to say that all we need to do is get everyone to move and make healthy food choices, and that will address the problem.
Far from it.
I’m not saying it’s not important to exercise. I believe exercise is important to good health. However, I don’t think exercise is a major factor in weight loss, and I don’t think too many people are going to lose much weight through exercise alone. Some experts agree that exercise is not a major factor in weight loss.
Should people be taught healthy food choices? Yes. Study after study shows that weight loss is directly dependent on the number of calories ingested. Healthy food choices have fewer calories and are more nutritious. When I was a teenager, trying to lose weight by counting calories, I unwisely tried to pack all the junk food I could into those limited number of calories. Better weight loss comes from having the majority of calories from nutritious foods, and a smaller percentage of calories from entertainment foods.
But that’s not the entire picture.
Anyone who says that all one has to do to lose weight is eat less and exercise is, at best, naive. Losing weight requires a multitude of skills. Unless those skills are taught, the exercise and food information will be wasted.
The most important skill to teach is how to deal with emotions and stress without turning to food, since the most common reason for being overweight is emotional eating. This skill is not learned overnight or with one twenty-minute lecture. It is learned over a long period of time, and takes constant reinforcement.
The next important skill is how to manage social situations. Many, many people will give in to eating unwisely if everyone else is doing it. A number of people do not have a clue as to how to refuse food that is offered, particularly if they don’t want to offend or insult the friend or relative who is offering it. They don’t know how to handle ordering at a restaurant, particularly on a social outing with friends. And it doesn’t occur to some people that one can actually attend a movie or sporting event without eating! Again, these things will not happen by only giving a gentle word of advice. These things have to be learned, and it takes time and practice to learn them.
There are other skills to learn, too, from awareness of food situations, to keeping one’s surroundings free of unnecessary food, to dealing with others who cannot or will not understand the challenges inherent in weight management.
In addition, societal attitudes need to change toward food, realizing that food does not need to be served at every and any occasion.
By the time all of these skills and knowledge are accumulated, successful individuals will need to have the equivalent of a Ph.D. in weight loss. Unfortunately, too many individuals think that all anyone needs to know about weight loss can be learned in kindergarten.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 9/15/2009 8:25 PM
When I ask for suggestions on how to sell more books, inevitably, someone will suggest that I visit local bookstores (chain and independent ones) to see if they’ll carry my books.
It isn’t as if I haven’t tried this. Both local science fiction bookstores (Uncle Hugo’s and Dreamhaven) already have purchased my books (for which I am grateful). I have also tried the Barnes and Noble Small Press Department…their response was, in essence: don’t call us, we’ll call you. Generally my experience with bookstores is similar to that of sf author and small press publisher Steve Miller, who reported driving from his home in Maine down the eastern seaboard to Florida, stopping at every sf bookstore he could find along the way. None of them purchased his books. Most bookstores won’t purchase books from authors (or small presses). They just don’t. They prefer to purchase books from suppliers, and suppliers prefer not to handle books that don’t bring in at least a couple of thousand dollars in immediate sales.
I have also attended the midwest bookseller’s convention—twice—to promote my books, with no success (oh, they’ll take free copies, but they don’t order any). I have used a service which lists your books in their catalog, then forwards review copies of books to interested booksellers who request them. Although I have sent books to these booksellers, I’ve never received any orders from the ones I sent copies to. I’ve also sent a large number of copies to a national distributor for their “sales reps,” presumably so those sales reps can show my books to bookstore owners and get them interested in purchasing. I haven’t seen any results of that, either.
However, at the Bloomington Book Fair earlier this year, a man (let’s call him Joe Author), told me that he had success selling his self-published book locally. He specifically indicated the University of Minnesota bookstore, Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books bookstore, and the Science Museum bookstore. So I thought I’d give them a try.
Joe was most enthusiastic about the University of Minnesota bookstore. According to him, the book buyer there was eager to purchase books from alumni, and wrote a check on the spot for Joe’s books. I brought them both Thunderbirds books and Boldly Writing. I went to the bookstore (which had moved since I was last at the campus bookstore), and asked for the manager, who indicated there were 2 buyers. One came to talk to me. I introduced myself as an alumna and went on from there.
I talked about Boldly Writing first. I told the buyer (twice) that I received comments and e-mails regularly from professors in the field of popular culture saying that this was a valued reference, that it had been cited in academic papers, and that I had been told by Ph.D.s that they had used Boldly Writing in their dissertations. Despite this, she indicated she wasn’t interested.
I then brought out the Thunderbirds books, asking if they carried science fiction. She said they did, but that they “only carry the big science fiction authors.” In parting, she said that my books weren’t the kind that their bookstore carries.
Before leaving the subject of the U of MN bookstore, I do want to say that the newsletter of the Department of Physics and Astronomy (from which I graduated), has always been eager to print news of my books in their department/alumni newsletter. (The general U of MN alumni magazine, however, has not.) Obviously, the Department of Physics and Astronomy isn’t running the U of MN bookstore.
From there, I went to the Red Balloon Bookstore in St. Paul. This wasn’t a bookstore that Joe Author recommended, but it is a bookstore that members of the MN SCBWI recommended, and I had called ahead. The manager there was very nice and took 2 copies of each Thunderbirds novel “on consignment” and asked me to check back in 3 months to see whether they sold.
After that, I went to the Common Good Books store, which was not far away. This bookstore is a basement store, and I found it well-lit and comfortable. I approached an employee at the front desk and asked her if they purchase from Minnesota authors, and if they purchase science fiction. She was very nice and replied that they do, but they only carry books that one of the staff has read and would recommend. I asked if I could leave copies of my books for her to read. She said that was fine, and I did.
Last, I went to the Science Museum and asked to talk to the bookstore manager. He was courteous and explained their purchasing policy, saying it was their experience that only books that relate to the current exhibit sell. For instance, he said, when they had the “body works” display, the only books sold were those relating to the human body, and to their frustration, none of their other books sold. He said that for that reason, they did carry science fiction when they had the Star Wars exhibit, but wouldn’t carry sf again until or unless they had another sf related exhibit, and added that they may in the future and I could contact them again.
Such is my experience with trying to sell directly to bookstores. Joe Author may have had a different experience—of bookstore managers writing him a check on the spot—but most authors who try to sell direct don’t have that kind of success.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 6/30/2009 3:54 PM
First, a word about what I think about spoilers: I prefer never to go to a movie unprepared. I can think of only one movie I’ve seen in my entire life where I felt I was better off not knowing the ending beforehand. Otherwise, I prefer to know as much as possible. For the early Star Trek movies, I had the local science fiction bookstore call me when the novelization came in so that I could read it before seeing the movie. For this movie, I read a detailed synopsis on the Internet. I’m glad I did.
Therefore, if you don’t want to know anything about a movie before you see it, and you haven’t seen the Star Trek movie yet, this essay is not for you. Come back and read it after you’ve seen the movie.
I noted that the last Star Trek movie I saw was Star Trek: Nemesis, in 2002. I haven’t enjoyed all the Star Trek movies. I left Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, with feelings of disappointment. On the other hand, I greatly enjoyed Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek: Nemesis, which many other Star Trek fans weren’t happy with. I feel the best of the Star Trek movies were Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The remainder of the movies I felt were satisfactory.
I always want to see the Star Trek movie on the first day, as soon as possible. Knowing that there might be showings on Thursday, May 7, I checked the newspaper for movie times. I found out, to my surprise, that the newspaper doesn’t have movie times anymore. Instead, I was directed to call the theater for show times or check the theater’s web site. In so doing, I couldn’t find anyplace showing the movie before 7 pm. I prefer to go earlier to avoid crowds (and sellouts). Also, afternoon prices are lower.
For the 7 pm showing, I arrived at 6:40 pm to avoid a sellout. Not only was there not a sellout, I was the first one there. By the time the movie started, there were maybe 20 viewers in the theater. (This was about the same number as I found when I watched Star Trek: Nemesis on the first day.) In addition, the projection was out of alignment and one of the audience members had to inform the theater staff to fix it (they did).
Now, for the movie:
J. J. Abrams did a very smart thing by establishing this as an alternate Star Trek timeline. This has the advantage for him, as a producer, of not having to keep track of all the Star Trek history for the past 40 years; and, it has the advantage for me, the viewer, of not having to be annoyed at the production staff and writers for not following the history.
With that in mind, I thought the movie was largely spectacular with occasional unnecessarily silly scenes (example: materializing Scotty in the water tank). I left the movie with a pleasant feeling, and I would want to see it again. I would definitely want to purchase the DVD.
I thought the characters were great. Chris Pine does a wonderful job with James T. Kirk. I felt the portrayal was realistic. As with Jean-Luc Picard, it seems that a defining moment for Kirk was that he was in a bar fight where his opponents won. This concept didn’t work for me for Picard; it did for Kirk. The Kobyashi Maru scenario was vintage Kirk. I thought the idea that Kirk was a genius with an attitude also worked. (In fact, the Enterprise seems to be filled with geniuses. That’s fine with me, since the Enterprise WAS supposed to be staffed with the best and brightest.) He ends up being, as before, the youngest captain in Starfleet, and the way the story unfolds believably tells us that he deserved it. (His premature sitting in the captain’s chair was priceless!)
I always felt Spock was the strongest character, and Zachary Quinto does a great job. (As did the actor who played the young Spock, fighting his schoolmates…which is a part of Star Trek history, though hinted at in the animated “Yesteryear.”) Leonard Nimoy also did his usual fine portrayal.
I knew from the hints that Dr. Leonard McCoy joined the academy as an older student, and I really enjoyed this being played out on the screen. I’m glad they mentioned the divorce as his reason for joining Starfleet.
Scotty, Sulu, and Uhura also came off very well. I particularly enjoyed Uhura’s conversation with Spock when she tells him that she deserves to be assigned to the Enterprise.
The Chekov character and actor were first-rate. I was not happy with Chekov from the time he was introduced in 1967 (and wasn’t happy with Walter Koenig, either). But THIS Chekov I enjoyed watching! He is not the annoying boy genius that Wesley Crusher was, either. I wish they had given Chekov this potential in the first place!
Being a long-time fan of Vulcan and Vulcans, I was grieved when Vulcan was destroyed. I presume that T’Pau was one of the rescued? Sarek, however, was well-played, though the Amanda character seemed weak.
Miscellanous comments: I noted Admiral Komack in the tribunal, though he didn’t have any lines. When Sulu and Kirk went to destroy the drill, I wondered why they didn’t have phasers with them. (Sulu, at least, brought a sword!) And this is the second movie where the bad guy is motivated by revenge for the death of his wife. I hope that this is the last time, because this is getting old!
These are my initial thoughts about the Star Trek movie. I hope there’s a sequel!
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 5/8/2009 11:09 AM
Garage Sale Story
I completed my first garage sale last week. Of course, I observed my mother conduct garage sales when I was growing up and after I moved back home, so I was familiar with the essentials, but this is the first one I’ve run myself.
I held a four-day garage sale: Thursday through Sunday.
I knew that signs were essential, so I put out signs Wednesday night. Thursday morning, one of the signs was gone. I put out another one. In the afternoon, people coming to the garage sale reported it had fallen. I put it up again. Sunday, I found 3 more signs were gone, and replaced them in the morning. They were all still there when I brought them home late Sunday afternoon. In total, we lost 4 signs over the weekend. Why would people take garage sale signs?
Most people came Thursday. Even after putting up additional signs on Friday, not many people came. Saturday was slow as well. Sunday practically no one came.
A lot of people drove to the end of the driveway, and, without getting out of their cars, peered toward the garage, and then drove away. What’s that about?
Before the garage sale, I tried to sell my items to stores which buy and sell used items. They wouldn’t take my books…told me they were worthless. They wouldn’t take my VHS tapes…told me they were worthless. They wouldn’t take my records…told me they were worthless. They wouldn’t take my jigsaw puzzles…told me they were worthless. This was a primary reason for having a garage sale in the first place. All the VHS tapes sold. Nearly all of the books sold. A huge quantity of the jigsaw puzzles sold. All of the 45 rpm records sold (to 2 people) and about half the record albums (33-1/3 rpm) sold. So much for them being worthless. So much for the idea that no one would want any of them.
What people didn’t seem to want (i.e. I only sold a few of these items): they didn’t buy the handbags or tote bags. They didn’t buy the clothing. They didn’t buy the art prints (mostly nature prints). They didn’t buy the stuffed animals. They didn’t buy the doll clothes. I didn’t sell a single gift bag, though I had 3 bins.
Although I did sell a lot of items (Thursday, at least), I still have a lot of items remaining. I’ll probably have another garage sale later in the summer. Here’s what I think I’ll do:
1. Make sure I have plenty of extra signs, and check them every day.
2. Have a 2-day sale: Thursday and Friday.
3. Put some items out on a table on the driveway.
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 5/8/2009 10:13 AM
Video of Joan giving weight loss tips: http://youtu.be/pOWdM3LBQ1o
I’ve been asked to make a video of myself giving weight loss tips, or, more precisely, a reminder to interested parties to stick to their weight loss program. Here it is. Hope it’s useful!
Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 3/30/2009 1:42 PM | Add Comment