A Moment of Jen
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Tuesday, August 20, 2002
posted by Jen at 8/20/2002 10:46:00 PM

Greetings from Connecticut!

There's a lot that's cool about this author gig. You get to spend your days hanging out with your laptop in coffee shops, wearing whatever you please. You get to spend hours reading books or seeing movies, justifying every minute of it as "research." You get to travel to far-flung, distant lands -- and the occasional city in Ohio -- to sign books and do readings and meet people who tell you how your book has touched them.

And, if you're very good or very lucky, you get to do an event like the one I did on Monday. The good people at Waldenbooks were having a conference at a posh casino in Connecticut -- and I got to go talk to them about the writing life, and bring my husband, and my Mom, along.

It happened in shifts. Adam and I staggered onto a train, after our Urban Challenge adventure on Saturday afternoon. By Saturday night we were all checked in. He played blackjack. I soaked in a tub. Then on Sunday, he played more blackjack, and I won seventy dollars playing digital slots -- some kind of machine featuring animated sheep on the wheels, that would baaa encouragingly if you matched them up and won money.

Then Adam caught a train back to Philadelphia, and my mother arrived. We dropped off her bags and proceeded directly to the casino floor, where confusion ensued.

"I don't understand these machines!"

"You have to line up the pictures."

"But look!" she said, pointing indignantly to her screen. "I've got two oranges and two apples!"

"But they're not in a row, so you don't win anything."

"Hmmph," she said, scowling disapprovingly. "I don't think this is a good machine." We both lost about twenty dollars. Then we had a delicious dinner. Then, on Monday afternoon, it was time for my talk.

We headed down to the conference center where there was a lovely buffet lunch, and a table full of nice, interested booksellers. "I'm Jen, and this is my Mom," I said.

"It's fiction," said my mother, in lieu of a more conventional "Hello." Then, as the plates were being cleared -- just as I was starting to get a little nervous about what I'd say -- she reached into her purse and pulled out a tennis-ball sized wad of tinfoil.

"Ma," I whispered. "What is that?"

"Oh, never mind," she said, proceeding to (noisily) un-crinkle the tinfoil, raining an assortment of pills onto the table and into her lap.


"Oh, not to worry. It's my medication!"

"What's wrong with your blue plastic pill case?" I hissed.

"Oh, this is my travelling pill case," she said. She swallowed the pills, re-wadded the tinfoil, put it back in her purse, and gestured toward the stage. "Go ahead....give a good speech!"

Honestly, people....how old do you have to be before your mother stops humiliating you? Does this happen to other authors? Because I'm having a hard time imagining Toni Morrison's Mom pulling crumpled-up tinfoil out of her purse right before Toni had to give a speech.

Anyhow, lots of good news here. I just saw my first finished copy of IN HER SHOES, and it is gorgeous! And I'll have more to share next week. Hope to see you all Thursday at R.J. Julia's in Madison, CT!
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