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Author inspired by Martha Stewart's life approach

| Thursday, June 13, 2013, 8:43 p.m.
Jen Lancaster, author of “The Tao of Martha: My Year of Living, or Why I’m Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog”
Penguin Group
Jen Lancaster, author of “The Tao of Martha: My Year of Living, or Why I’m Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog”
Jen Lancaster 's “The Tao of Martha: My Year of Living, or Why I’m Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog” ($25.95, NAL/Penguin).
NAL/Penguin
Jen Lancaster 's “The Tao of Martha: My Year of Living, or Why I’m Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog” ($25.95, NAL/Penguin).

Jen Lancaster knew the way she was living wasn't “A Good Thing.”

She was scattered. She was stressed. And coming off a rough couple of months, she was just plain grumpy.

She needed a change, and to get it, she turned to the maven of all things organization: Martha Stewart. Lancaster, a best-selling author of six successful memoirs chronicling various self-improvement projects, saw this as a chance to harness some happiness by tapping into Martha's wisdom on everything from entertaining to organic gardening.

The result is her new book “The Tao of Martha: My Year of Living, or Why I'm Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog” ($25.95, NAL/Penguin). Lancaster will be at the Waterfront Barnes and Noble on June 17 to promote her book, a funny and insightful take on her attempt to find joy by cleaning up her home, her habits and her overall outlook.

“Martha does everything right,” says Lancaster, who lives near Chicago. “Nothing she does is just for appearance's sake.”

Lancaster first became a Martha fan after the media mogul's 2004 conviction for lying about a stock trade. After Stewart's five-month prison stint, Lancaster realized the woman she previously saw as smug was actually worth deeper consideration.

“I started to respect her,” Lancaster says. “She made the best of the situation. She made friends. She made ponchos. She really rose to the occasion.”

In 2011, Lancaster experienced some challenges of her own. A year she calls “death by a thousand cuts” included a break with her agent, endless power outages when she was trying to write a book and some minor albeit annoying health issues. She acknowledges all of it as “first-world” problems, but it was enough to put her in a lingering bad mood.

After a particularly discouraging curtain-replacement project, it occurred to Lancaster that turning to her idol for some guidance might not be such a bad idea. She decided then to take on a year following Martha's advice for just about every aspect of her life.

“I realize Martha Stewart isn't everyone's icon, but she is mine,” Lancaster writes in her book. “I love her because, instead of lording her superior skills over everyone and making them feel bad about themselves, she's out there breaking it all down for even the least-talented among us. Had I thought to consult her guides, the curtain project truly would have taken two hours and not two months.”

So she got started. She sorted drawers. She hosted well-planned, near-disaster-free holiday gatherings. She tackled recipes she'd never consider making at home, like cheesecake. Not everything went perfectly — like the Easter egg hunt that resulted in not one, but two children visiting the emergency room — and those instances make for some of the book's most hilarious moments.

Needless to say, some things went better than others. But what matters is that at the end of it all, Lancaster felt more centered and in control of her life.

“I learned to try so many things I never would have attempted,” she says. “I learned not to be afraid of failure.”

Before her book even hit stands in early June, Fox purchased the rights to a show based on it. It's not yet determined when the show will air, but Lancaster is just excited to know that the Big M herself is supporting the project.

Now, Lancaster is off to promote her book across the country. She says she insisted on coming back to the 'Burgh after visiting here previously.

“It was such a great crowd,” she says. “The thing I really appreciate about Pittsburgh is when you guys like something, you like it.”

Now that's “A Good Thing.”

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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