The Friday Five!

1. It’s Friday already? Where did this week go? More importantly, where did the summer go? I remember years ago my husband’s grandmother telling me that the older you get, the faster time passes, and now I seriously believe it. I feel like I closed my eyes in April for a quick rest and now it is almost Halloween. WHAT? What I have noticed, though, is that it’s starting to get dark earlier, which always bums me out. There is nothing quite like the sadness you feel when the sun is fully down by 5pm. Last year, when I felt like I was getting a bit TOO sad during those winter afternoons, I bought myself one of those lights that’s supposed to simulate daylight. I was a bit hesitant but they had been recommended, and I have to say, I busted mine out this week when we had a string of long, gray days PLUS sundown coming earlier and I feel like it helped. Of course, my sitters can see me sitting in what is basically a spotlight in my office while I’m writing: they must think I’m on a serious ego trip. But no! It is for my HEALTH. So there.

2. This time last week, I was getting ready to go to Nashville and The Southern Festival of Books. I headed to the airport thinking my plane was delayed only 20 minutes, only to get a text right when I arrived that it was instead two hours. Okay, then. I was flying Southwest, which is one of the only airlines still flying out of an older part of RDU, my local airport. The NEW terminal is lovely and amazing: the old one, well, not so much. It was packed with people, many flights delayed, and had more the feel of a bus station. But a CHEERFUL one: I ended up chatting with a bunch of students from Elon College, who were heading various places for Fall Break. We were all hanging out, bonding, and then something was said about dorm living and roomates and I realized that I, um, am actually a 43 year old mother and wife, NOT an undergrad. That’s the thing with me. I get so caught up talking to people—and I can talk to anyone—that I start thinking I am just like them. I think it helps me with the writing thing, to be able to assimilate, but to the actual PEOPLE I’m talking to it might be weird. So, Elon College students at RDU last Friday: sorry! And thanks.

3. Once I made it to Nashville, I had a blast. It was my first time at the festival, and I’d always heard amazing things. Plus these things are always great places to catch up with old friends and make new ones. On Saturday morning, I bumped into the amazing Jill McCorkle, who was once my teacher at UNC and is a friend and mentor:

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I had met Jennifer E. Smith, who I was sharing a panel with in the afternoon, earlier in the day. But then I saw her with Meg Wolitzer and of course I had to crash in and fangirl a bit about THE INTERESTINGS. I tried not to come off like a total dork. Not sure I succeeded.

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Then it was time for my panel, with Jennifer and Lauren Morrill. We were in a room where the actual government meets: there was a gavel and everything! I so wanted to legislate. But instead, we had a great talk about writing YA, which was equally fun.

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That night, after a cocktail party, we three headed down to Broadway to catch some real Nashville music. The first place we went was PACKED, had an amazing band AND was selling fried baloney and cheese sandwiches. We stayed awhile, then went down the street to another place where we could sort of hear each other talk and the band was playing more covers. After a couple of glasses of fruity tasting merlot (I was so thinking Sideways, as I always do when I drink merlot) I tipped the band to play David Allen Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.” It was AWESOME and I am so glad I stayed out late to make it happen, even if I felt a BIT rotten the next day. Totally worth it. You can tell by this picture we had fun.

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4. After all that excitement, it was back home to real life. Every kid in my daughter’s class gets a week to be VIP—they get to help the teacher, be first in line, that kind of thing—and this week was hers. One thing they can do is invite a parent to lunch, so yesterday I showed up, got my visitor’s badge, and waited in the hallway for her class so I could walk with them to the cafeteria. When she saw me, she grabbed my hand (sob!) and showed the me the way. I tried to stand back and NOT help her with her banana, or opening her milk, but it was hard. We’ve just started letting her get school lunch some days instead of taking her own that we make. This was what she had yesterday. It is very…beige.

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I took a bite of the potatoes and was hit with a wave of nostalgia so hard I almost fell of my (very low to the ground) bench. The world may have changed irrevocably since 1976, but school cafeteria potatoes are still the same. It was totally crazy for me to sit and watch her talk with her friends, eating her (beige) food. She has this whole life without me now! It’s both wonderful and sad. But mostly wonderful.

5. A week or so ago, I recorded a podcast with the fabulous Sara Zarr for her series This Creative Life. Sara’s an amazing writer, National Book Award finalist and all around cool person, and we had a blast talking about writing, neurosis and Mandy Moore’s hair in How to Deal, among other things. If you want to listen, you an find the podcast hereShe’s talked with a ton of cool authors, so check out the archives as well. I left our discussion feeling better about the struggles I’m having with my current draft and feeling very grateful, again, that I have a job in common with such cool people. The only thing that would be better is getting to eat lunch with them in a cafeteria each day. With mashed potatoes.

Have a great weekend, everyone!