Lian Dolan: Pasadena's Chaos Chronicler

Apr 27, 2009

chaoschronicles1We have lots of creative people in my Prospect Park neighborhood — composers, writers, artists, producers, teachers, gardeners extraordinaire — but neighbor Lian Dolan is a class by herself. Sharp, observant, wry and downright hilarious, Lian first won national notice as one of the Satellite Sisters, the radio talk show run by the five Dolan sisters. She’s a co-author of the Satellite Sisters book UnCommon Senses, a writer for magazines, radio and television, and now, via her Chaos Chronicles, a blogger and podcaster with a growing national following. Most importantly, she’s the mother of two sons, who have a little something to do with the chaos in her chronicles, and the wife of Pasadena native Berick Treidler.

You’ve written for pretty much every form: magazines, broadcast, books, websites, blogs, even Twitter. What’s your favorite medium to write for? What’s left that you haven’t tried yet?
Definitely, broadcast. I love writing my own material for the air, first for Satellite Sisters, now for Chaos Chronicles podcasts. No topic is off limits, but the creative challenge is to make it funny, relevant, relatable. It’s a double-dip: I write it, then I perform it.
For the same reason, I’d love to try sitcom writing. I have some dusty spec scripts in my drawer from my pre-children days. But after ten years on the air, I have a much better feel for how dialogue really flows and what connects with an audience.

liandolanIn your bio on the Chaos Chronicles site you say your dream is to be in the Rose Parade, but you’ve already lived the dream held by millions of American women: to be on Oprah. What was it like?
One of the highlights of my Satellite Sisters career, without a doubt. Everything that happens at Harpo is top-notch, better than you even imagined, from the airport car and the hair-and-make-up team to the professional producers and Ms. Winfrey herself. Oprah is warm and funny, putting you right at ease after five seconds on the air. The whole appearance was a dream. We hosted a series of events for O, the Oprah Magazine after the TV appearance and the positive vibes continued. Live, in person, Oprah is really inspirational. Harpo is great media company run by a great professional.

I know you’re a writer, but I also think of you as a wise and witty social anthropologist. From that perspective, how would you describe the culture you’ve been observing these last ten years: the Pasadena private school world?
I’d describe it in one sentence: When will it end?
Here’s what I thought ten years ago when my son was accepted to kindergarten: Now we can all stop comparing schools in endless conversations and move on with our lives. But no, the comparisons never end! At every party, on every sideline, in perpetuity, the private school cultures endlessly fascinate Pasadena parents. Which school has the most homework? Best sibling policy? Most kids with perfect SAT scores? Snobbiest moms? I went to public schools my entire life and I doubt my mother ever had a single conversation about the politics of the PTA. Please tell me it will end at high school graduation.

Rumor has it that you’re writing a novel set right here in Pasadena. Can you give us just a little teaser?
It’s part romantic comedy/part social satire about a newly widowed Pasadena woman who has to reinvent her life after her husband’s untimely death. Yes, I include the Rose Parade, the private school madness, the social hierarchy, the local news talent and the iceberg roses in every garden.

It’s Saturday afternoon in Pasadena. Your sons are gone to sleepovers and your husband is out running. What do you do? (The answer can’t be laundry.)
Easy, take the dog for a walk down near the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center. I do the pars course and she chases the gophers. Then, I’m off to the Pasadena Central Library or Vroman’s for new books, my favorite stops in all of Pasadena. And then, if I have time, a swing through Target. That’s my perfect Pasadena trifecta.

Editor’s note: Lian will be speaking at Holy Family Church, 1527 Fremont Ave. in South Pasadena, on Wednesday, May 6th, at 7 p.m. This free Mother’s Day–themed talk is titled: Staying Connected to Stay Sane: Lessons I Learned from my Mother.

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