Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and Calculus

4:30 Sunday morning found me clutching half a cup of hotel-room coffee and staring glassily at the TV, where one Bishop Thelma Buell-Anderson of the Holy Temple of Christ’s Anointed Lambs was exhorting me to go forth and claim all the health, wealth, and blessings that The Lord Je-sus (according to her,) has promised me.

This is what passes for church, when I travel on a Sunday.

I looked sadly at my half cup of coffee and noted that health, wealth, and blessings apparently didn't include a properly-functioning coffee maker in my hotel room. I could have called the front desk and “claimed” the working one that was mine by rights, but I had a plane to catch.

My plan that day was to fly from St. Louis, where I’d been attending a writers’ conference, to Chicago O’Hare, then on to Portland, Maine. Takeoff at 7 a.m; home by 2 in the afternoon. Eight hours: easy peasy.

Except, that this was a Sunday. And two days earlier, there's been fire at the air traffic control tower in Chicago. This tower controls both of the Chicago airports: Midway and O’Hare—the second of which is the 2nd-busiest airport in the country. This one fire shut down tens of thousands of flights all over the world.

I dread few things more in life than being stuck at an airport. Subsisting on $10 sandwiches and $3 bottles of water as I grow increasingly grungy, claustrophobic, and dehydrated is not my idea of a day well-spent. Still, I counted myself lucky: All around me were people missing connections to Europe and Asia; trying to manage cross and hungry children as their flights were cancelled, then cancelled again.

Things can always be worse. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

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The Care and Feeding of Your Author

When I met someone new in my college years, I could count on answering 3 questions:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. What’s your major?
  3. What do you want to do when you graduate? 

It’s the same thing as a nurse. I know what people are going to say when they find out what I do on the days I’m punching a time clock. They’re going to ask:

  1. Where do you work?
  2. What kind of [nursing] do you do?
  3. Do you like it?

But as an author, I can almost never predict how people will relate to my profession. Some never mention it at all. I used to assume those were the ones who had read my book and didn’t like it. They were just being tactful, I reasoned; avoiding an uncomfortable subject. Other people talk about it all the time, as if it’s the only dimension of me that exists.  Love an Author

 

It was a puzzle to me until last month, at camp, when a friend turned a flashlight on the subject (so to speak.)

“I never mention your writing, because I don’t know what to say,” she confessed. “Most of us know plenty of teachers or nurses or engineers, and we know how to talk to them about their jobs. But hardly anyone knows a published novelist. I’m not sure how much you like to talk about—or not talk about—your work, so I just don’t say anything.” Then, she did a brave and admirable thing. She said to me, “How can I love you, as a writer? How can I talk to you about your work?”

Do you realize how many questions in life would be answered if we just had the courage to ask?

So in case this is a burning question for you too, I’ll tell you what I told my friend. Here are 5 Tips For the Care and Feeding of the Author in Your Life

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Why I Don't Read My Reviews, Take 2*

One of the riskiest things about putting your writing out there for the world to see is…well, that it’s out there for the world to see. All Right Here had been released about 2 weeks when I realized it wasn’t a good idea for me to read what people were saying about it. In one morning, I might read 5 great reviews and a single cutting one, but guess which one stayed with me all day? Which hung around at my heels, tugging insistently at my shirttail like some morose, runny-nosed kid, until I dove, sniveling, into the pantry, where I crouched in a corner and ate spoonfuls of Nutella straight from the jar? Nutella, Straight from the Jar

 

Read more: Why I Don't Read My Reviews, Take 2*