Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Interview with Margaret Peterson Haddix

Several years ago, before I was first published, I went to a children's writers conference in New York City and was hanging out at the Saturday night cocktail party and feeling a little shy and out of place, when I noticed another writer standing off to the side, alone.

And then I noticed her nametag:

Margaret Peterson Haddix

I about fell over. Margaret Peterson Haddix is a giant in the children's book world, the author of dozens of best-selling and critically acclaimed books for children, an author of books I had read over the years and introduced my own children to, and also, it so happened, the author who was going to be the closing keynote speaker at the conference the next day.

Somehow I gathered up the nerve to walk up to her and introduce myself, using the very original "Hey, I think maybe we both live in Ohio?" line as my opener. Margaret could not have been lovelier, and we had a very nice conversation until other people began to murmur: "Isn't that Margaret Peterson Haddix standing over there?" and she was mobbed by admirers. The next day she gave a speech, that I still remember, about the power of children's stories in an ever changing world and received a standing ovation from a thousand aspiring writers.

Strange, happy plot twist: I am now in an author group with Margaret.

The end.

Okay, not the end. Because today, I've snagged the lovely MPH for an interview, using the "Hey, I think we are both in an author group together and why haven't I had you on my blog?" line.

And Margaret, lovely person that she is, said Let's do it!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jody: Hi, Margaret! First, let me say congratulations on the release of your new novel Children of Refuge, Book Two in the Children of Exile series. For readers (like me!) who haven't had the chance to pick the book up yet, will you give us a teaser?

Margaret: For the series as a whole, I usually just quote the first three sentences of the first book in the series, Children of Exile:

“We weren’t orphans, after all.
That was the first surprise.
The second was that we were going home.”

Children of Refuge, hmm. I haven’t actually done an elevator-style pitch for this anywhere. I guess it’d be:

“A twelve-year-old boy named Edwy disappears in the middle of the first book. In Children of Refuge, readers find out what happened to him.

And—what he makes happen, too.”

Jody: Ooh, I like this! I'm curious about the process behind this book... well, behind all of your books— from idea to drafting to revision. Is it the same process each time?

Margaret: Only in the sense that there’s an idea… and drafting… and revision for every book!

Probably the biggest variation has to do with how long I keep an idea lurking in the back of my brain before I start writing about it. With a few books, I’ve started writing almost immediately because I’ve felt like I can’t NOT write everything down as soon as possible. More often, the ideas are like toys I pull out and play with every now and then, and at some point—sometimes even a decade—

Jody: Wait. A decade?!

Margaret: Or even longer after that first burst of inspiration, and I realize I finally know how to write the thing, or at least how to start. The book I just finished writing (which will come out in 2019) probably set a record for me, because the initial idea came from a newspaper column I read almost thirty years ago. But until about a year ago I didn’t realize that that column was ever going to lead to a book; it was just about a topic that haunted me.

Jody: Isn't it weird how this happens? Where ideas come from... and which ones seem to stick with us. It's one of the coolest aspects of writing. And then comes the work!

What do you next—once that haunting idea snags your attention? Do you plan out the story? Or just sit down and write it by the seat of your pants?

Margaret: I like to think of myself as a hybrid combination of a planner and a pantser. I feel panicked if I don’t have at least some plan in place for where the book is going, but I tend to make up a lot as I go along.

Jody: And clearly, it's worked for you... Children of Refuge is your fortieth book! And speaking of this book, it is a dystopian adventure story for tweens, but I know that you've written for other age groups, both younger and older, and in other genres. Contemporary, fantasy, historical.

Is your approach to writing different when you are working on different kinds of stories for different audiences?

Margaret: It's not much different between YA and middle grades or even with early chapter books, which I’ve also done. (Though it’s been a while.) Certain ideas/topics just feel more appropriate for one or the other, and the age of the main character kind of naturally dictates how I tell the story. I tend to write older middle grades books and what is often viewed as younger YA, so usually I’m right on the boundary between the two. (And sometimes people refer to my MG as YA, and some of my early YA would definitely be categorized as MG now… I think the line is pretty blurry in general.)

Jody: Do you have a favorite age group to write for?

Margaret: I guess I like that general age span of 12-16, because kids change so much during that phase, and there’s so much room for growth and character development and eventfulness (and, sadly for them, misery as well.)

Jody: How about a favorite genre?

Margaret: I really like switching around between both age groups and genres. Lately I’ve mostly done middle grade science fiction, but my next book after Children of Refuge is a YA contemporary called Summer of Broken Things, and it was really fun to shift back into that mode for a while.

Jody: I'm looking forward to that one. I think one of my favorite novels of yours is the YA contemporary Leaving Fishers, about a girl who gets caught up in a cult. There was something so heartbreaking and real about it. I could feel the girl's struggle--what drew her into the group in the first place and how difficult it was for her to extricate herself from it.

This is a much earlier book of yours. I just looked it up. It was released in 1997, so you've been doing this, writing and publishing, for very a long time. Has your writing process changed over the years?

Margaret: In the beginning, I certainly thought that writing would get easier with every book. I thought I would finally feel like I knew what I was doing. But every book is an individual; every book is its own “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” to take Winston Churchill’s brilliant quote totally out of context. (I guess I’m saying every book is like Russia?) Maybe what’s changed most is that I’m a little calmer than I used to be about feeling it’s going to be possible to figure out my writing conundrums; I don’t jump to melodramatic despair quite so quickly.

Along about my fifteenth book I can remember thinking, “Wow—I’ve now written about just about everything I’m capable of writing about; I’ve explored every situation I’m capable of exploring. Maybe I’m done.” And then a collection of really bizarre, unexpected things happened to me in my personal life, and I thought, “No, I’ve still got lots of material to work with. Whether I want it or not.” I think I’m more aware now how many sides there are to any story. That makes writing more complicated, not easier!

Jody: This makes sense and now I am wondering if you have a similar sense of how publishing has changed over the years. Is that gotten more complicated too?

Margaret: It’s changed massively, mainly because of the internet and social media. That’s good and bad. Authors can have a lot more interaction with readers, and they can have a lot more impact on their own careers beyond just trying to write the best book possible. And readers have more access.

Jody: But this isn't always a good thing.

Margaret: Well, it can all be a little overwhelming, and I wonder if there are great books that aren’t being written because the potential writer is too busy trying to, say, build a Twitter following. Some books just require a lot of quiet thinking time, and writers—like everyone else—have more distractions than they used to.

Jody: Is anything the same in your opinion?

Margaret: The publishing world then and now was/is full of smart, talented, interesting people who really care about books and the kids who read them, and that’s all wonderful.

Jody: And it's what makes this writing community we are a part of so wonderful too. Pinching myself here because who knew I'd be one day chatting with you about these kinds of things! So, what's up next for you? Book 41, 42, 43...

Margaret: The next book I have coming out is the YA I mentioned, Summer of Broken Things, which pubs April 10, 2018. Considering that I broke my wrist this summer, soon after I turned in the final version of SOBT, I’m tempted to say that sometimes I throw myself into my books a little too passionately. Or maybe I should be more careful about titles, if they’re going to become self-fulfilling prophecies!

Jody: Oh, yikes!

Margaret: Yikes is right. After that, Children of Jubilee, which is the final book in the Children of Exile trilogy, comes out November 2, 2018.

And what I am working on now is a brand new trilogy, Outliers, which I’m really excited about. The first book in that series is due out in early 2019.

Jody: Before I let you go Margaret, are you ready for the On the Verge Lightning Round?

Margaret: Yes!

J: What are the books on your nightstand?

MPH: My TBR pile isn’t on a nightstand, but it includes our mutual friend Erin McCahan’s The Lake Effect (which I wanted to read on vacation this summer, but that didn’t work out, so now the book will be my way of holding onto the summer in the fall), Emery Lord’s When We Collided, Cory Ann Haydu’s The Someday Suitcase, and Elizabeth Strout’s The Burgess Boys (which someone mysteriously sent me, and I have barely tiptoed into, but love so far.) Another book I’m excited to read, but don’t have yet because it came out the same day as Children of Refuge, is You Bring the Distant Near, by Mitali Perkins.

J: Name one of your non-writing-related hobbies.

MPH: Is walking a hobby? I love walking around places I’ve never been before. I could make it sound a little more exotic and call it “travel and hiking,” but it’s really just walking. And often I’m thinking about writing as I walk. I’m not sure I have any hobbies that don’t become writing-related in one way or another.

J: What's the most embarrassing thing that happened to you in high school?

MPH: Everything that happened to me in high school was embarrassing.

J: What's your best advice for a beginning writer?

MPH: Give yourself permission to be really bad at it for a while. Just write and have fun with it and look at how much you’re improving, not how far you have to go.

Jody: Thanks, Margaret! And now dear readers, if you'd like to find out more about Margaret Peterson Haddix and her forty published books, check out the information below!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Margaret Peterson Haddix grew up on a farm near Washington Court House, Ohio. She graduated from Miami University (of Ohio) with degrees in English/journalism, English/creative writing and history. Before her first book was published, she worked as a newspaper copy editor in Fort Wayne, Indiana; a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis; and a community college instructor and freelance writer in Danville, Illinois.

She has since written more than 40 books for kids and teens, including Running Out of Time; Double Identity; Uprising; The Always War; the Shadow Children series; the Missing series; the Children of Exile series; the Under Their Skin duology; and The Palace Chronicles. She also wrote Into the Gauntlet, the tenth book in the 39 Clues series.  Her books have been honored with New York Times bestseller status, the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award; American Library Association Best Book and Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers notations; and numerous state reader’s choice awards. They have also been translated into more than twenty different languages.

Haddix and her husband, Doug, now live in Columbus, Ohio. They are the parents of two grown kids.

Visit Margaret's website Haddixbooks.com



Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Moments of Serendipitous Flower Arranging

Last weekend I went to a wedding.

I haven't been to a wedding in a while. There was a point a long time ago when I was just out of college that all of my friends were getting married, one after another, and my new husband and I attended what seemed like a bazillion ceremonies and partied at the various receptions, snarfing down the free hors d'oeuvres and clinking our champagne glasses and laughing on the dance floor as we did the Electric Slide with our friends' goofy middle-aged parents. 

This particular wedding was a new milestone for my husband and me because it wasn't our friends getting married, it was our friends' son, a boy-- 

okay, a man-- we've known since he was four years old when he played with our son at preschool. Our son-- also, apparently, a man now-- was one of the groomsmen. 

He flew cross country with his girlfriend to attend the wedding, and our daughter and her boyfriend flew in from out of state, and my husband and I drove in from our neck of the woods, and for a too brief, two-day period, our family was all together, celebrating the wedding of this boy, now man, we've known forever, and his new lovely bride, and our dear friends,

partying at the reception and snarfing down hors d'oeuvres and clinking our champagne glasses and laughing on the dance floor as we did the Electric Slide with

(gulp)

each other.

This could make me tear up if I think about it too much. How time moves faster and faster. How only yesterday I was picking up my son from pre-school while his baby sister toddled around my legs and I struck up a conversation with another young mom, also waiting with a little girl toddling around her legs. The two little boys playing on the floor with Legoes somehow morphed into the two men standing side by side on a church altar. The little girls tearing every single outfit of the closet to play dress-up, now the young women gracefully walking in insanely high heels and laughing as they leapt for the thrown bouquet. 

But I didn't think about any of this last weekend.

I was there, days early, to help my friend prepare for the wedding. I told her that I would do whatever was needed and what was needed was setting up tables for a rehearsal dinner and making a grooms cake shaped like a sailboat and buying plants at Lowes and baking garlic bread.

It also meant assisting her sister, a professional florist, as she created elaborate flower arrangements and corsages and boutonnieres.

I have never made an elaborate flower arrangement or a corsage or a boutonniere in my life. I don't even know the names of most flowers. I stood pretty much in awe the entire time as the sister florist built these creations, trying to be of help but most likely getting in her way. She would ask for a Something Something kind of a flower and I would tell her I had no idea what that kind of flower was and she'd point it out and I'd laugh and say, "Oh! the one that looks like a Horton Hears a Who flower?" And she'd look at me like I was a weirdo.

But later, when the clock was ticking down and there were still many more corsages to assemble, she'd call out, "Hand me a couple of those Horton Hears a Who flowers" and I'd get right to it. 

There is a task in the Artist's Way -- (Yes, I am reading the Artist's Way again because the joy of writing has once more slipped away and I am depleted and my creativity is sapped, probably due to the hellish political landscape we're all living in that has made writing feel pointless) but anyway, 

the task is to list, without thinking about it, five imaginary lives--five alternate reality choices for yourself if you could go back and start everything over. 

I wrote without thinking: Florist. 

The next task was to do something related to that Imaginary Life, and I chuckled to myself, because when in the world would I have the opportunity to be a florist? 

Several days later surrounded by flowers that I didn't know the names of, in service to a friend who was about to watch her only son marry, as I searched for greenery and poked stems in foam and pressed a spray of baby's breath against a white rose and pierced it with a pin, I remembered. 

The next moment the arranged flowers were on the altar, the boutonnieres on the groom's tux, on my son's tux...

Another moment and the ceremony was over, the hors d'oeuvres were eaten, the Electric Slide notes faded, the wedding guests departed, the flowers

already a memory. 






Thursday, August 31, 2017

How I Wrote When I Was Twelve

I didn't think about publication or readers. I had never been rejected; although, I did get the occasional Meh response from a teacher on a writing assignment.

But the Meh responses didn't bug me.

I wrote when I had a funny idea or sad one, when I had something important I wanted to remember, when I'd read a good book and wished I could keep the story and the characters going.

I didn't worry about what type of writing I did. I wrote short stories and novels. I wrote a play. A comic strip. Essays and poems. I even wrote songs. And taped myself singing them.

I kept a journal. I typed on a typewriter. I hand-wrote in notebooks or on loose-leaf paper. I illustrated my stories. I drew my own book covers. I didn't care that I wasn't good at drawing.

Most of the stories I never finished. A few of the stories, I revised. Over and over. But it never felt like work.

If I didn't feel like writing one day, or for a week, or for a month, I just... didn't. And when I pulled out my typewriter to write another story, I didn't wonder if I'd lost my ability.

When I was twelve, I wrote for myself.


And it was my favorite thing to do in the world.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

On Writing, Embarrassing Moments in Middle School, and Adorable Bulldogs: An Interview with Jennifer Maschari

One of the nicest things to come out of a writing retreat is the friends you make.

Several years ago at the Highlights Foundation retreat center in Boyd's Mill, Pennsylvania, I hit it off with middle grade author Jennifer Maschari. It turns out that Jen's from Ohio-- and lives only fifteen minutes away from me. Since then I've read her books and become a fan. Her latest novel, Things That Surprise you, is wonderful. Jen's got the gift for tunneling into the mind of the middle school kid and for crafting tightly woven, clever stories with heart.

Also, one of my favorite things: all of her books have a dog character!

I'm so pleased to have her on the blog today:

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jody: Give me your elevator pitch for Things That Surprise You. 

Jen: Well, it's about soon-to-be-sixth grader Emily Murphy who uses the advice from self-help CDs to try to solve her friend and family problems.

Jody: I loved Emily from the very first page. Her obsession with a book series starring a magical unicorn. Her confession that she always peeks at the ending of a book before reading it. She doesn't like to be surprised.

Jen: No, she does not!

Jody: And then she's got all of these family and friend issues to deal with-- her older sister who is struggling with an eating disorder and a best friend who seem to be growing up faster than she is and pulling away. Where'd you get the idea for a book like this? Or I guess I'm asking how you do it-- go back into the middle school mind.

Jen: I have a lot of memories of my middle school years and also teach middle school. I often joke that I've never left it. I remember how hard those years were for me...

Jody: Do you ever think you'll write for other age groups? In other genres?

Jen: I don't know. I love writing middle grade. First, I think the kids reading it are the greatest. They are SO enthusiastic about books. I love doing school visits and hearing their ideas and thoughts and questions. Second, my voice seems to work well in middle grade. I love to read middle grade books, too. I could see myself writing chapter books or picture books. Chapter book characters are so memorable.

Jen: You and I have compared notes on our writing processes before and I know you see yourself as a slower writer. How long did it take you to write Things That Surprise You?

Jen: About about a year or so.

Jody: That's not too bad. A lot of revising?

Jen: Oh, yes. I did this one massive revision (based on my editor's very smart and kind advice) in which I rewrote the entire story except for twelve pages. There were subsequent revisions after that, but that major revision helped find the heart of the story.

Jody: That is an extensive revision. Did you have a similar process with your first book, The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price?

Jen: No. And I wish my book-writing process was the same for every book because then I would know what to expect! For Charlie Price, I wrote slowly and pretty much in order - from beginning to end. For Things That Surprise You, I wrote the second draft very quickly and skipped around from one scene to the other. One thing that stays the same between books, though, is that I make a list of scenes that I want to hit. This helps me form the shape of the story in my mind.

Jody: I do this kind of thing with index cards. I don't know how other writers can keep all of the scenes straight without keeping track in some way.

I have to tell you that your launch party for Charlie Price was one of the coolest and cleverest parties I've ever attended. I still remember the balloons and cupcakes and gift baskets. Any special plans for Things That Surprise You?

Jen: Thank you Jody! I had so much fun planning that launch party. Sadly, the bookstore where I held my launch for Charlie Price is now closed. Also, the day my new book comes out is the day before school starts (it's going to be a busy week!) So instead of just one launch, I'm going to do a couple of different events at some local bookstores over several weeks. Of course, I still plan on having balloons (unicorn themed!) and cupcakes.

Jody: I am relieved to hear there will be cupcakes! Speaking of launch parties, self-promotion can be tough for writers... how do you approach promotion? Any tips and tricks? Things you'd do again? Things you won't bother with this time around?

Jen: For middle grade, most of my promotion is concentrated on reaching out to teachers and librarians who are then able to buy the books for their own libraries and classrooms. One thing I did for Charlie that worked really well was a mailing targeted at school librarians and local public libraries. I included an information sheet about the book with some pull quotes from reviews, a synopsis, and a very short handwritten note. I think I sent this to about 250 schools. I mailed out some postcards, too. I enjoy receiving mail and sending mail so this was fun for me!

Jody: You have a website too, and I see you on social media.

Jen: Yes. I try to keep my website updated with events and book information and I do send out a newsletter but need to get better at sending it out more regularly.

Jody: You're busy! I know you're still teaching, and that's got to be hard, balancing a day job with a writing career. How do you it?

Jen: Not very well! I'm a person who needs to see a task through beginning to end, and I've found that when I have a bunch of tasks - teaching and writing and taking classes - that's not possible. I need to alternate working on several things. I'm working on putting myself on a schedule so I carve out that writing time, and I'm also learning (and reminding myself) that there's no perfect time to write.

Jody: What's up next for you? Can share any secrets about your current WIP?

Jen: I'm working on another contemporary middle grade. It's still in the very early stages so I don't want to say too much but the main character's name is Trina, and the story has another great dog. I also have a chapter book idea I'm playing with. It's a lot of fun and a bit lighter than my middle grade books.

Jody: Are you ready for the lightning round, Jen?

Jen: Yes!

--What's the best recent book you read?

I reread one of my very favorites: Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

--Non-writing-related hobby?

Hiking - I love being out in nature.

--TV show you've binge-watched?

Forensic Files (I seriously have seen almost all of them and there are a lot.)

--Most embarrassing thing that happened to you in middle school?

Oh goodness - a lot of embarrassing things! I feel like I've blocked most of them out. Supposedly, I fell up the steps in front of my classmates. At least, that's what someone wrote in our 8th grade memory book (which is maybe more embarrassing?!)

--And last, but certainly not least, will you share pictures of your dogs?

Of course! I have two English bulldogs: Hank and Oliver. They are such good boys.

Hank outside

Oliver outside
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Want to know more about the lovely Jennifer Maschari and her awesome books and adorable dogs?


Website: Jenmaschari.com
Twitter: @jenmaschari






Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Who Are We?

A few weeks ago I visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. It was my second visit. The first time was fifteen years ago.

I remembered it being an inspiring place.

A monument, in a sense, to the thousands of every day people who rose up during the struggle for civil rights. College kids who risked their lives to help black people register to vote in the South. Teenagers who sat at restaurant counters while enraged racist people dumped food over their heads and beat them. Preachers and rabbis linking arms and marching, singing We Shall Overcome.

Fifteen years ago I thought that what I saw in the museum was history.

If you go, you will see the remains of the fire-bombed bus, where once students rode for a voter registration drive. You will see the lunch counter, the stoic and courageous people hunched in front of the surrounding mob. You will see a brave kindergarten girl walking into a school escorted by soldiers.You will see statues of the sanitation men in Memphis who were on strike. Each statue holds a sign. I AM A MAN.

You will see the hotel room where Martin Luther King Jr. spent his last night on earth. He was in Memphis to speak in defense of those men. He was shot on the balcony outside the hotel.

Now the hotel is the Civil Rights Museum.

I walked out of the museum fifteen years ago feeling jubilant and inspired, charged with energy at what one person could do to effect change, and one more person, and one more-- ordinary every day people who had reached a breaking point, who would no longer stand for injustice, who marched to show that they had had enough and that they believed in the promise of America, that all men are created equal.

And that meant all Americans.

I went to the museum this time with my grown daughter and her boyfriend, and a friend of mine and her daughter. We are white people. I must mention this, even though I feel weird mentioning it-- it is something I have never felt the need to mention before. When I write about myself, when I write characters in stories, I picture whiteness. I do this because I have grown up in a country where the majority of the people are white. White is the default. By this I mean, that it is assumed

--by white people.

It is uncomfortable for me to write this. It was uncomfortable for me that day at the museum to be in a crowd, the majority of whom were not white people.

This time when I saw the bombed out bus, the lunch counter, the angry mob, I still saw the heroes who rose up against oppression, of course, but I also saw the faces in the angry mob, the faces of the bombers, the shooters, the police officers with fire hoses.

We sat in the dark to watch a short film before we began our tour. When I say We, I mean my daughter and her boyfriend, my friend and her daughter, the only white people in the darkened room, and I mean the other members of the audience that day, who were black people.

The film began with people speaking about American history. One person after another adding a voice to tell the story, of slave ships, of human beings held in bondage, of families split apart, of beatings and murder, of a Civil War, of promises made and broken. One person after another, telling a story of lynchings and unjust laws, of segregation and humiliation. We, the voices said. We. This happened to us, they said, and we rose up.

When I say We, I mean, black Americans.

I am ashamed to say that this was an illumination for me. I have never sat in a room in America and known that when the word We was spoken, it did not include me. For the first time in my life as a fifty year old woman, I became Other.

It is, to put it mildly, an uncomfortable feeling.

It is what American people who are not white feel like every damn day.

Not me! Not me! I wanted to tell the American people in the darkened room. I didn't DO this!! I don't believe in this! My ancestors weren't a part of it! Please, don't see me as Other! Please don't see me as the people holding the fire hoses. Don't see me as the smiling white faces in the crowd cheering a lynched man hanging from a tree.

There is an artist and writer named Bree Newsome, a black woman, who speaks about the Civil Rights Movement in America.

We don't know our own history, she says. And when she says, We, she means both black and white Americans. We don't know the worst of what we have done to each other. And we don't know the best.

White people held the fire hoses and screamed in rage at school children entering a school. White people beat protestors and bombed churches and met peaceful marchers on a bridge with guns.

White people risked their lives to help register black people to vote. White people linked arms with black people and marched across the bridge.

We must acknowledge all aspects of our history. And when I say We, I mean white people. I know it feels uncomfortable. I want this to be in the past. I want it to be history. I want to turn away from it. Defend myself. Say both sides...

I am asking you not to do that. And when I say You, I mean my white readers.

I am asking you to squirm with discomfort in the darkened room for a moment.

And then I am asking you to step out of the room with me and choose your side.



Monday, August 7, 2017

Random Thoughts on Food and Hemingway

I went to the grocery store today to buy some odds and ends for recipes I plan to make this week, and realized as I unpacked my bag that the Me of Twenty Years Ago would not have bought -- or possibly even recognized -- any of the items.

Okay, the honey, but that's about it.

(for the record, in addition to the honey: organic unsweetened soy milk,
flaxseed meal, vanilla bean, almond butter and raw cashews)

The Me of Twenty Years ago had never grown a garden or been to a farmer's market or visited a Whole Foods. (Did Whole Food exist?) I felt guilty about feeding my kids chicken nuggets and Kraft Mac and Cheese, but not so guilty that I quit feeding them chicken nuggets and Kraft Mac and Cheese. (In my defense, I also served them fruit occasionally and as soon as I heard about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup, I never let it into my house again, except in the form of Mrs. Butterworth's.)

What does all of this have to do with Hemingway? 

Nothing, except that I just finished reading his memoir A Moveable Feast, a book I'd somehow managed to skip reading over the years even though I like Hemingway's novels and when I was in Key West, I visited his house with all of the six-finger-pawed cats roaming around. 

Fun fact that I did not know until I read A Moveable Feast

it is not about food. 

Instead, it is about Hemingway's writing and social life in Paris in the 1920's, his adventures with his wife Hadley and his friendship with expatriate writers Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald. There are nice nuggets of writing wisdom and lots of wine drinking and gossipy asides (Zelda Fitzgerald was crazy and F. Scott started drinking too early in the day and Hadley had to put up with having no indoor plumbing.) 

I don't think that Hemingway would recognize many of the items in my grocery bag either. 

But then he didn't watch the documentary my husband made me watch last week called What the Health. I am not recommending that you watch this movie unless you plan to seriously overhaul your diet. Let's just say that until I watched this movie I loved cheese. A lot. And now--

I am having a hard time loving cheese. 

Okay, I just looked at a few articles criticizing some of the statistics in What the Health and now I feel slightly better about my awful parenting food choices twenty years ago and my newly acquired horror of cheese. 

So tonight I will take a more balanced nutritional approach, something I will call Hemingwayterian:

It calls for a colorful plate of tofu and veggies.



And a large glass of wine. 











Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Guest post from my husband writing as me...

Psst: I haven't been honest about being back to work.


My darling husband took me to North Carolina to visit my friend Deb. She turned 50. (insert funny SNL skit with Danny DeVito and Molly Shannon here)


We had an amazing dinner at SoCo, a farm to table, husband and wife owned restaurant and B&B owned by Jeremy and Kimberly (we love them now). Watermelon was cooked for hours until it had the texture of raw tuna. This is a thing!



We drove by a new whirligig park dedicated to Vollis Simpson. Across from it was a huge antique store. I use the word antique loosely. Hats off to Wilson, North Carolina.

Next destination was Boone, home of App State and Yoseph the mountaineer. We also yumped into a LOT of hiking (see what I did there). Hubby was up to 3 shirts and 2 showers a day.

The view on top of this mountain was supposed to be great.

The last day we did some tasting at two wineries, Grandfather Winery and Banner Elk. We met Jensen, a sustainability major at App State, who was our awesome server. We tried to fix him up with Deb's daughter, because, you know, wine.


The end.