Oh, Katie, Katie, Katie.
There are a lot of things I could tell you but won’t, because as tempting as it would be to give you all the lottery numbers and sports scores, that would change a lot of things that I’d just as soon not change.
Instead, I’ll just tell you that, yes, this is definitely your awkward stage. And yes, you will grow out of it. The funny thing is that someday the things you’re being made fun of for are going to be the things that your life is about. It’s okay to be smart, when you’re grown up. In fact, it pays better than being dumb.
It’s also fine to be a prolific writer, no matter what the bastards in 8th grade history said to you that one day. Also, your 8th grade history teacher was a bastard for letting them say those things. (Never trust anyone who says the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery.)
Here’s the thing–someday you’ll be prettier and your hair won’t be so, you know, awkward, and you’ll be better at putting on makeup and getting dressed. But you’re never going to wake up in the morning feeling the way you think the popular kids feel. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that even the popular kids don’t feel the way you think they feel. Maybe they learned early on how to blow-dry their hair or perfectly poof their expensive shirts out of their expensive shorts, but that doesn’t guarantee happiness.
So what’s the purpose of all the angst and lonely nights spent listening to that one New Kids on the Block album, over and over again? Here’s a hint: someday you’re going to write about girls like you. And the girls that read about those girls are probably going to be like you, too. And letting them know they’re not alone is actually a pretty good legacy.
Now, put on those generic Keds and the too-bright lipstick and go work on your observation skills and compassion. Nobody is ever what they seem to be, and you, my dear, are no exception.
Katie Alender (that’s right, you’ll eventually find a boyfriend and get married–don’t worry, you’ll kind of know him when you see him)
PS – The pearl ring is on your top bookshelf, and the heartburn is from nitrates! Nitrates! Put the cheap lunchmeat away!
Stop taking yourself so seriously. No really. Stop it. Look, I know you feel like everything you do now will reverberate down through the decades and color your entire life, but guess what? You’re going to have babies and do other cool things that have nothing to do with the fact you slept through introductory geology on Friday morning. Believe me. I oughta know.
See, that fiasco the spring semester of junior year? The one that feels like it has ruined everything? It didn’t. Thirteen years later it barely registers, except as a stressful memory and a good life lesson in tying up all loose ends yourself. Same with winter semester, senior year. Older, wiser, etc.
Consider this: take a semester off from the college paper. I know, I know, The State News is awesome, the best college paper in the country, but three straight years is an awful lot of Chinese food and late nights wrestling with the file server and harassing college administrators for quotes between classes. It won’t ruin your journalism career to take a semester off and, I don’t know, work at the library or something.
Go to more of those seminars and lectures and fun, interesting things advertised on flyers and on the walkways in sidewalk chalk. You’ll miss the opportunity someday.
Also, say what you want to say more often. You know what I’ve figured out? If you say it politely, and with respect, you really can speak your mind and people won’t hate you. And if they do, well, they probably hated you anyway and were waiting for a reason to show it. Or they’re bastards. Whatever.
Final thought: plan for your future, but you might want to consider the fact that your life doesn’t go exactly according to script. And though it won’t always seem that way at the time, this is a good thing. Trust me.
Here are some interviews with Deb Kristina about REAL LIFE & LIARS that have appeared in the last week: Lansing City Pulse, Traverse Magazine online edition, and a review in her hometown paper, The Grand Rapids Press, saying the book is “bursting at the seams with believable people.” You can also catch an archived radio interview performed by old college newspaper pals, here.
Kristina also this week had a guest blog appearance featuring her dog, Lucky, (complete with pictures!) and a lengthy interview at Writer Unboxed which focuses a great deal on craft and process.
FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA is now featured at the Diva Toolbox. A humorous (and helpful) article about travel tips for women, written by Deb Eve also appears at the Diva Toolbox. And the podcast of Deb Eve’s interview with Janet Powers will be be airing soon.
A feature article about Deb Eve appears in today’s Staten Island Advance.
Friend of the Debs–and recent guest–Joshilyn Jackson hit the NYT Best Seller List this past week with THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING! If you haven’t read it, Joshilyn’s novel is a contemporary ghost story with a Southern Gothic twist, and a perfect beach read. It’s out in paperback! Congrats, Joss!
We’re very pleased to welcome Maggie Dana to the ball. A book designer and typesetter, Maggie is also the author of six books for children. Her first novel for grownups, Beachcombing, has just been published by Macmillan New Writing in the UK, where she’s been doing a book tour and hiding from her family.
Sometimes old flames burn the brightest…
This is the tag line for Beachcombing, my debut novel. Pretty catchy, huh? My youthful editor at Macmillan came up with it for the cover. But see the word old in there? That’s me. And the flames? The burning? That’ll be my face when my 16-year-old granddaughter discovers the two bedroom scenes in the book and realizes her grandmother still thinks about sex.
It’s silly, I know, to be embarrassed about sex when it comes to your family. I mean, none of them would be around if you’d not had any, right? I have three children and five grandchildren, so it’s pretty obvious I’ve had a few romps in the hay. But my very English parents (no sex please, we’re British) never discussed such things; nor did my teachers. I came of age in the fifties when married couples on TV sitcoms slept in single beds, and nice girls didn’t even get to first base. Not that we knew what first base was, given our national sport was cricket, and it had wickets, not bases.
Like most authors, I have a trusted reader and when I wrote that first love scene she was inconveniently down in Florida visiting a friend who didn’t, at that point, have email. So I faxed her the pages. Trouble is, I mistakenly faxed them to her friend’s business partner who is probably still scratching his head over them.
Are they very racy? Do they border on soft porn? Not in the least; then again, I don’t leave my reader at the bedroom door, either. But since they’re written in first-person point of view, I know I’m going to get some funny looks from family and friends once the book is published. Good thing I’ll be in the UK when it is. That way, my family will (hopefully) read it while I’m gone and by the time I get back, the initial shock will be over. Or so I keep telling myself.
All this makes it sound like I’ve written a geriatric Lolita or Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Far from it, but it is about a mid-life love affair and, quite frankly, there aren’t enough novels with 50-something heroines who’re not ashamed of their wrinkles and saggy boobs, as I’ve tried to show in this snippet:
We light the candles and watch one another undress, and for once, I’m not ashamed of my middle-aged body. Tonight my hips aren’t wide, they’re generous. My soft stomach is smooth and sensuous, and I’m proud of my full breasts that never passed the pencil test.
When Deb Kristina, who I met several years ago in an online writer’s forum, then in person (she’s absolutely gorgeous!), invited me to write an article, I decided to write about book design and typesetting which is what I do for a living. I love talking about fonts, about whitespace and leading, and why readability is a typographer’s first obligation to the reader. But Kris convinced me that while this is all very interesting, sex is even moreso. As she succinctly put it, “Marketing, baby. Sex sells.”
I just have to hope my kids don’t read this blog as well.
Did I ever tell you guys I used to do stand up comedy? This was a couple of years ago and I was actually aiming to brush up on my Spanish. But when I looked through the continuing education catalog from our community college there were no Spanish classes that fit my schedule. But, it turns out that STand up comedy comes right after SPanish in the course catalog … and well, the rest is history.
I’d like to do some stand up comedy for you right here. But alcohol licensing laws don’t allow me to serve alcohol over the internet. And good comedy requires a two-drink minimum. So you go right now and get yourself a few drinks. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Are you back now? Am I starting to sound funnier already? And I’m cuter, too, right? Good, now just imagine me throwing out quips about the adhesive strips on feminine products (I mean, just where will these things go if they are not permanently adhered to your underpants? Has there been a rash of menstruating women leaving a trail of untethered sanitary pads behind them?)
And then imagine me talking about the question I hate most in the world: Did you have natural childbirth??? (Why, no. I had a synthetic one. Actually, we got little Johny here freeze-dried out of a vending machine and then just added water! Excuse me, but if the kid came out of any orifice in your body that’s natural childbirth as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care if they had to yank the screaming little banshee up through your tonsils!)
And then moving on to the dreaded childbirth education class. Because here was a woman who was on some sadistic mission to convince me to endure the most painful of all human conditions without the benefit of anaesthesia! And what I want to know is why isn’t this lady stationed outside of a dentist’s office? Excuse me, are you going in to have root canal, sir? You know it’s really better for you – and all of mankind – if you do it without anaesthesia.
But wait, it gets better because (true story, here) during one of these childbirth education classes, one of the dads was complaining about a headache. And does Ms. Just-Breathe-Through-The Pain childbirth educator tell whiny dad to just breathe through the pain? Hell, no. She hands the guy a bottle of Tylenol! Which was so unfair, because I was pretty certain that no matter how bad his headache got, there would be no little human being coming out of it anytime soon!
My children are grappling with God these days, partly because they’re at that age, but largely because we just sent them to church camp for a week, NOT because I wanted to indoctrinate them but because:
a) it got them out of the house for three hours a day
b) it’s a good opportunity to learn some of the Bible stories, foundation of so much Western literature and art, and
c) they have to have something to reject when they turn eighteen.
Camp has had some interesting consequences, however. For starters, the children now wish to say grace, which is lovely. The other day, the six year-old made a charming “thanks for the food speech,” and then the three year-old got on the bandwagon, too, to thank god for dump trucks.
I was horsing around with the three of them, and grabbed my son, which is when my oldest daughter charged me, arms outstretched, fire in her eyes, and cried, “Let my people go!”
“Did you study Moses today?” I asked, setting my son down, and she very proudly nodded. Great. I have a prophet on my hands.
But it’s the middle daughter who’s really gotten into the spirit of the thing. First of all, she informed me, the DEVIL brings bad dreams, but not to worry! All I have to do is say “Hail Mary!” and the devil will disappear. Got that, everyone? (And, in case you’re wondering, I don’t think this is exactly what went down at camp. We attend a really liberal, Episcopalean church, where I’ve never, in all the years I’ve been going there, heard them mention the devil, much less say the Hail Mary.)
But the funniest thing is her new proclivity for praising. She really gets into it, walking around in a bliss-bubble with an electric candle upraised. Nothing and no one is safe. “Praise this house!” she chants. “Praise my brother! Praise these pancakes!” She’s like an old-timey, revivalist preacher. I’m worried she may erect a tent on the front lawn and start saving the neighbors.
So, that’s my life at the moment. Full of gospel tunes. Full of praise, and full of grace for the dump trucks. Bon Vivant!
I love funny books. Not ones that are archly funny, always examining whether or not they’re funny all the time, but ones that seem to effortlessly reveal a hilarious new angle on life. I enjoy David Sedaris (his description of taking French in Paris is the best) and Bill Bryson’s take on American culture. They often are laughing at themselves as much as the people around them. And I always try to inject a little humor in the mysteries that I write (mostly making fun of hipsters).
But the best way to enjoy a funny book, to really laugh, is to read it out loud. Every Christmas Eve, my family sits around the living room after dinner and reads aloud from winter/seasonal literature that we’ve chosen to share and sings Christmas Carols. I love this tradition. It’s way more fun then the presents. Every year we have the usual stuff (my step-father reads an excerpt from the bible), and we often fall back on old favorites. Laura Ingalls Wilder writes some great Christmas chapters, and the story of catching the giant Christmas tree in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN always makes me laugh (and makes me teary). But it’s always “Ashtray Christmas” that really gets to me.
If you’ve never read CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, then you’ve really missed out. It’s a great book (and no, I haven’t bothered to see the movie—I know it’s not the same). Two efficiency experts have twelve kids and much hilarity ensues. And the book BELLES ON THEIR TOES continues the Gilbreth family’s adventures. It is their first Christmas without their father and one of the boys decides he’s old enough to buy his own Christmas presents for everyone in the family. So 12 strange shaped packages appear under the tree. No one can guess what the presents are, even though his sister and mother are great snoopers.
The story of Dan’s presents is so funny and poignant, no one in my family can possibly finish the reading on their own. As the first present is unwrapped revealing the most hideous ashtray in the world… I collapse into hysterics. The book must be then passed several times when the reader (myself, my brother, my mother…) each starts laughing, and of course each of the listeners can’t stop laughing either. But somehow we make it through, sing another carol, and reward ourselves with a big Christmas cookie feast.
What have YOU read lately that has been laugh out loud funny? Please share!