Julia Child is Ruining My Writing

I am midway through writing my 3rd book, and Julia Child is ruining all my plans.

Last New Years Day, I—always a big proponent of setting high, unachievable goals for myself—vowed that one of my resolutions for 2014 was to read better books. Every author knows that you only write to the level at which you read. So, if your literary diet is high in, say, the Harlequin/Silhouette genre, then that’s probably what you’re apt to write. Mind-Candy in, mind-candy out, I say.

Thus, aiming high, I started my Brave New Reading Regimen with the rather unfortunate choice of Willa Cather’s My Antonia. It’s not a bad book. In fact, literati reckon it to be a great book. I just didn’t count it among, you know, my favorite books.

*shifty glance away*

I wish I were a smarter reader.

But I kept doggedly on, and early into my resolution, a friend passed me Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France. I not only loved it; I devoured it, in a single, guilty, protracted sitting, much like eating an entire Charlotte Malakoff Aux Fraises all by myself. With only virtual calories, thank goodness. But it started me on a Julia Child kick. I promptly went out and (I, who never pay Full Price for a book, ever, at all, for any reason,) paid $40.00 for a hardcover copy of Julia’s cookbook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Then, even as I cracked the green, be-fleur-de-lis’d covers for the first time, I started watching any clip of Julia’s TV show The French Chef that I could find on YouTube.

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10 Books That Have Never Left Me

I have a terrible memory for books. I have to look at my Goodreads shelf to remind myself what I’ve read, and even then I often don’t remember the stories. But a few books have stayed with me through the years. Stories I’ve devoured, and my heart has digested until they’ve become part of my molecular structure, altering the way I think. That’s what the best books do: they change the way we see the world.

Today, I thought I’d share 10 books that have never left me. They’re not the only ones I could list, but hey—I have to limit myself somehow. Here you go:

10 Books That Have Never Left Me

10. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: a Leadership Fable (Patrick Lencioni) Weirdly enough, someone gave me this book as a gift. I never imagined I would pick up a business book, let alone love one. But the principles here aren't just for businesspeople: they're sound advice for marriage, ministry teams, or any time you have more than one person forced to work together to accomplish a single goal. What made it memorable: This book taught me that conflict is not a bad thing: it’s a necessary thing that can be an opportunity to heal and build. This rocked my world. It taught me to welcome healthy conflict and deal with it in a constructive way.

9. Life of Pi (Yann Martel) My aunt passed this book on to me, and I put off reading it for years, because... boy trapped in a lifeboat with a tiger: how good can it be? The answer is: Brilliant. Pi spends 9 months lost at sea, trapped in a lifeboat with a 450-lb Bengali tiger and survives by learning to tame the tiger. What made it memorable: The twist at the end staggered me. This book speaks to the places a mind and heart will go in order to survive reality.Bookshelf

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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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