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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Midwest, part 1

I never anticipated that the best part of publishing a book wouldn’t be the good reviews, readings, or invitations to literary festivals. The best part isn’t seeing a gorgeous book with your name on it on the new fiction shelf at Borders (although that’s pretty trippy too).

No, the really trippy part is this: making new friends, and eventually counting them among my dearest, all because I wrote a book and somebody decided to publish it.


Me, Maggie, EVA!, and Sarah at The Sow’s Ear.

In August 2008 Maggie left a comment telling me how much she enjoyed Mary Modern, and when I visited her blog I found the best review I’ve ever gotten.  Maggie doesn’t usually write about books on her blog, but this time she made an exception. She even took the book into the bathroom with her, and there can be no greater compliment than that.

So we emailed back and forth a bit, and then lost touch until last summer. Thanks to Twitter, I reconnected with Maggie and ‘met’ Sarah, the friend who’d recommended my novel in the first place. I got to meet Maggie and her family back in August when they came to New York on vacation, but this trip to Wisconsin last week was the first time I met Sarah in real life. She is so good at expressing herself online that I kept having to remind myself that we hadn’t ever had a conversation in person before. (You know how it is if you’ve ever met an internet acquaintance in real life–they’re never quite how you pictured them, not necessarily looks-wise, but the way they speak and carry themselves and whatnot. Not Sarah!)

I also wondered how or if we ever could have met in a time before the internet. I like to think that if we’d lived on the far end of the twentieth century we would have written each other letters, but obviously it wouldn’t have been the same–it would have taken us months to iron out a visit by mail, if we’d ever found the opportunity to meet at all, and our (sometimes rapid-fire) email correspondence is probably equivalent, wordcount-wise, to a pen-pal friendship over the course of ten years. Every time their names pop up in my inbox I feel amazed and grateful all over again.

We knit and talked about books and writing and had a sleepover and watched classic 80s movies (I fell asleep midway through The Neverending Story—haha!—but The Goonies was every bit as awesome as I remembered it), and I loved spending time with Maggie’s daughters. We fondled beautiful yarns at The Sow’s Ear and had delicious fancy coffees afterwards. (The Sow’s Ear is far and away the coolest yarn shop I’ve ever been to–huge selection of great yarns and really nice staff, like Brooklyn General, but with coffee and treats!)


Locally produced sock yarn from Sun Valley Fibers.


Fromagination. If there is a heaven it will look exactly like this.

And before I left Maggie and I went to Madison to sample the amazing local cheeses at Fromagination (she knows a lot about Wisconsin artisanal cheeses, having recently published an article on the subject) and she took me on a tour of UW Madison. I got to see Sarah and her husband Matt one more time for pizza and hot chocolate before I left; and then the next day I hopped on a bus to Minneapolis to visit Jill, and I also did a really fun reading at Common Good Books. Will blog about that next time.

(Edit, 2013: It’s strange to be reformatting this entry for my new blog, having very happily not eaten cheese in 2 1/2 years. I won’t knowingly eat it again, and for some very good reasons why, read my post on cheese addiction.)

11 Comments to Midwest, part 1

  1. November 3, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I try so hard to live a life free of jealousy, and then there’s THIS post! I’m beyond jealous. And yet I love you all despite these horrible throat-choking feelings. I’m glad the visit was all that and more! Maybe some day it will be my turn. 🙂

  2. November 3, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    YOU. How I love you!
    That is all.

  3. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    November 3, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    I feel like if I watched The Neverending Story now I wouldn’t be able to get beyond the hokiness of the giant flying dog.
    Jealous about the cheese!

  4. November 3, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    It will, I promise you, Fran!

  5. November 3, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink


  6. November 3, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t even make it to the giant fuzzy worm-dog.

  7. November 3, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    I love you. So glad I got to have you for practically a week. You are a rare and gracious bird, truly.
    And that pic of the cheese is fantastic.

  8. November 3, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    At first, I was going to say how jealous I was of you spending so much time with the fabulous Wisconsin gals, Maggie and Sarah, but I think that has been trumped by the visit to that cheese shop.

  9. November 5, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    YOU are the rare and gracious bird. xoxox

  10. November 5, 2010 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    The cheese was fantastic but you should be even more jealous of the slumber parties.

  11. December 27, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    No one should be jealous of the part that involved The Neverending Story. Kate’s right abt that.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.