It’s 2:05 a.m. and instead of forcing my brain to create something new and brilliant tonight, I thought I’d take the easy route and try reposting something from way back when. It’s not something I do often, but each time I’ve searched the archives — which date back to September 2009, by the way — I’ve found the experience to be something like the writer-equivalent to reminiscing with an old photo album.

There are squeals — I forgot about that!

And frowns — Oh shit…I forgot about that, too.

There are emails to friends mentioned in shared stories with links and love and laughter.

And sometimes, the beginning of a story we didn’t know was actually starting surprises us when we stumble across the words, marveling at the moment captured in words. Looking at that moment from the After side of things is much different than the Before, what with hindsight being ever so much clearer than tomorrow’s uncertainties. Could I have told you that the first time I met The Husband that we would marry and move across the country? Not when I met him.

Looking back, though, I can see it. All the little bits and moments that made that first encounter so very different from all the rest. Because everything is obvious when you walk the steps already taken.

Four years ago, I met a man at a writing conference named Rick Najera. At the time I couldn’t have possibly told you that our paths would cross again. An hour ago I couldn’t have told you the words below even existed — five years of blogging can do that to you. Right this very minute, I’m rereading the bits and the moments captured in a post written in May of 2010 and counting the steps taken between my yesterday and my today.

***

 

the pain of the macho

“What do you want me to say? I’ll write whatever you want.”

It’s Rick Najera speaking. He’s holding a copy of The Pain of the Macho in his hands, pen ready to personalize the first page for me.  My response is nothing but a “blink, blink.”

“Come on,” Rick says. “Tell me what to write.”

I imagine sweet little lies. Empty words of praise that might look good on paper but ring false to anyone with a heartbeat.

Pauline Campos is the best writer I’ve ever met!

Pauline Campos will be more famous than me!

Pauline Campos is so good I’m going to ask her to become part of my Hollywood team and she can work from home because it’s just safer that way!

The man might be a comedic genius and a highly respected actor/writer/director who told me my work has serious potential doesn’t suck, but he only met me 24 hours earlier. To ask him to lie to me verbally is one thing.

On paper?

That’s just sacrilegious.

“I really have no idea,” I said out loud. “I don’t want it to be bullshit.”

Rick stood there for a moment, probably amazed by both my lack of a filter and the fact that I didn’t want him to whisper meaningless sweet nothings that would just piss me off when he handed the book back. I hadn’t planned on buying anything else that would add to my already busting-at-the-seams suitcase, but we all got yelled at by the higher-ups at the conference for not supporting our fellow writers during the first book sale/book signing. So I bucked up, bought the smallest book there, handed it to Rick, and made a mental note to send my receipt for having a 55-pound suitcase back to the conference organizers for guilting me into buying more books (I already had five on the nook written by conference faculty that I paid for) with a demand for reimbursement.

I almost asked what he had been asked to sign in other people’s books, but decided I really didn’t want to know.

“Let’s try another route,” Rick said. “Where do you want to be a year from now?”

Ding, ding, ding!

That one was easy and I answered without hesitating.

“I want my book on the New York Times best seller list and America Ferrera pegged to play me in the movie based on my book.”

Rick smiled and began to write. This is what he “put out into the universe.” Which, he says, means it has to come true…

*****

This break is brought to you by our sponsors, Chicken Scratch and Man Writing, as the author of this post tries to decipher what was written. Please, ladies and gentlemen, your patience is appreciated…

*****

Um…I think it says:

This book was my beginning. Yours will end up on New York Times with America playing the lead. Best, Rick Najera

*****

Disclaimer: And I only got that far because he read it out loud to me before handing back my book. There’s something to be said for memory retention, people.

 

 

ricknajera

So I traveled to New York to speak at Rick Najera’s #AlmostWhite NYC book tour stop and you bet your sweet ass I wasn’t leaving without picture proof that he knows who I am.
Yes, I *know* he’s an actor and good at pretending. I take adderall and am good at forgetting. I think that makes us even. Moving on….

And when I say traveled, I mean four hours driving from my home to Portland, Maine, for the hotel that happens to be located right by the Amtrak depot, an overnight stay at said hotel, two hours on a bus the next morning, and then six on a train into Penn Station. Eliana travels with me. Score for Team Crazy Mexican Homeschooling! Kiddo was so excited to see the New York City skyline it made me a bit teary to think about packing up for the Land of Moose and Snow, but turns out we both love living in the Maine tundra as much as we love our little forays into Places Normal People Live. So it all works out in the end.

And when I say traveled, I mean four hours driving from my home to Portland, Maine, for the hotel that happens to be located right by the Amtrak depot, an overnight stay at said hotel, two hours on a bus the next morning, and then six on a train into Penn Station.
Eliana travels with me. Score for Team Crazy Mexican Homeschooling! Kiddo was so excited to see the New York City skyline it made me a bit teary to think about packing up for the Land of Moose and Snow, but turns out we both love living in the Maine tundra as much as we love our little forays into Places Normal People Live. So it all works out in the end.

We had just arrived at Penn Station. How warm is it, she wanted to know. So I told her. 50 degrees. Back home it was was 27 and look like the tundra. After looking around a bit, maybe weighing her options, she made up her mind. Mom, she says, do you mind if I take off my fuzzy sweater? I answered by taking off my own.  While we exchanged sly smiles at the New Yorkers rushing by bundled in their winter layers, because we left winter in the back of my Yukon which was parked in the hotel lot back in Portland. All we brought with us? A fleece pullover and a spring rain trench.  'Cuz we're hard core, that's why.

We had just arrived at Penn Station. “How warm is it?” she asked. So I told her. 50 degrees. Back home it was was 27 and covered in feet upon feet of snow. After looking around a bit, maybe weighing her options, she made up her mind. “Mom,”  she said, “do you mind if I take off my fuzzy sweater?” I answered by taking off my own.
We exchanged sly smiles at the New Yorkers rushing by bundled in their winter layers, because we left winter in the back of my Yukon which was parked in the hotel lot back in Portland. All we brought with us? A fleece pullover and a spring rain trench.
‘Cuz we’re hard core, that’s why.

The only SNAFU occurred when my original babysitting plan went out the window because that's just how shit works. Instead of a relatively easy drop-off in the Bronx, Eliana and I ended up taking a train to upstate NY to meet a Wendy DelMonte, my forever friend whom I now owe a pony, who drove an hour and a half south from Connecticut to pick up Eliana for the night. My child had the time of her life because Wendy and her kids are fabulous and that two-minutes I had on the platform before jumping in the return train for the hour-and-a-half ride back so I could haul ass yet again to my hotel to drop off my Too Much Luggage, shower off the travel stink, and change just in time to get lost on the way to the venue and show up an hour late?  Yeah...those two minutes may be the only time I actually breathed that day.

The only SNAFU occurred when my original babysitting plan went out the window because that’s just how shit works. Instead of a relatively easy drop-off in the Bronx, Eliana and I ended up taking a train to upstate NY to meet Wendy DelMonte, my forever friend whom I now owe a pony, who drove an hour and a half south from Connecticut to pick up Eliana for the night. My child had the time of her life because Wendy and her kids are fabulous and that two-minutes I had on the platform before jumping in the return train for the hour-and-a-half ride back so I could haul ass yet again to my hotel to drop off my Too Much Luggage, shower off the travel stink, and change just in time to get lost on the way to the venue and show up an hour late?
Yeah…those two minutes may be the only time I actually breathed that day.

Meet Dennis Sanchez, the genius behind MVM Events. He's the lucky guy smack in the middle between me and the only white chick in the room. That's Sarah Fader and I think it's important to note we became friends because I saw an update about Three Year Olds being Assholes and was all It's Like you KNOW Me and this is probably also a good time to mention that she'll tell you she's Jewish and that isn't the same thing as white.  I'm not disagreeing. I'm only stating that it wasn't the Not White chick's face I had to work my ass off to make visible while editing this photo.  Also? You can step away from the tanning bed now, Dennis.  You're *welcome*.

Meet Dennis Sanchez, the genius behind MVM Events. He’s the lucky guy smack in the middle between me and the only white chick in the room. That’s Sarah Fader and I think it’s important to note we became friends because I saw an update about Three Year Olds being Assholes and was all It’s Like you KNOW Me and this is proof that you can be friends with someone one Facebook and not know who the hell they are until they post an update you could have written yourself. This is *also*probably  a good time to mention that she’ll tell you she’s Jewish and that isn’t the same thing as white.
I’m not disagreeing. I’m only stating that it wasn’t the Not White chick’s face I had to work my ass off to make visible while editing this photo.
Also? You can step away from the tanning bed now, Dennis. Or plan for better lighting at the next Thing for Latinos because…Obviously.

photo(8)

This girl introduced herself by her social media handle and it went something like this: “It’s @VDLR, youknow, like for my name but think Venereal Disease Lion Roar?”
And that, boys and girls, is how you make a first impression. Don’t ask me her for her actual name. I got nuthin’.

This girl is hereby nominated as President of Any Fan Club Ever Created in My Honor Should I Become Important Enough for One. Her name is Joyce and you should follow her on twitter and instagram (@hvnlee) because I just made her important.  And yes, thanks, my therapist says I'm making major strides on that self-confidence thing.

This girl is hereby nominated as President of Any Fan Club Ever Created in My Honor Should I Become Important Enough for One. Her name is Joyce and you should follow her on twitter and instagram (@hvnlee) because I just made her important.
And yes, thanks, my therapist says I’m making major strides on that self-confidence thing. Oh right…and the adderall wore off before I got to water-marking the rest of my pictures. So, don’t be an asshole and we can remain friends.

I spoke. Dennis spoke. Rick spoke. And after calling Rick a motivational asshole and only stuttering three times, there was much merriment at the after party (I drank water because allergies suck), and then I went back to the Hotel from Hell to not sleep because security couldn't figure out the door I was pointing to was actually mine when I called about my key not working. I woke up at 2 p.m. after going to bef at 5 a.m. and suddenly it was time to drag my Too Much Luggage back to the subway and the train for the hour-and-a-half ride to upstate NY to meet Wendy and pick up Eliana just in time to go back the way we came, hop another bazillion subway trains once in the city, and make our way to the Bronx to meet up with another friend for the rest of our stay.

I spoke. Dennis spoke. Rick spoke. And after calling Rick a motivational asshole and only stuttering three times, there was much merriment at the after-party (I drank water because allergies suck), and then I went back to the Hotel from Hell to Not Sleep because security couldn’t figure out the door I was pointing to was actually mine when I called about my key not working. I woke up at 2 p.m. after going to bed at 5 a.m. and suddenly it was time to drag my Too Much Luggage back to the subway and the train for the hour-and-a-half ride to upstate NY to meet Wendy and pick up Eliana just in time to go back the way we came, hop another bazillion subway trains once in the city, and make our way to the Bronx to meet up with another friend for the rest of our stay.

So many subway stops. So many flights of stairs to drag my Too Much Luggage up to catch the next train. My Jawbone Up band tells me I clocked an average of 23k steps per day while in NC. But this?

So many subway stops. So many flights of stairs to drag my Too Much Luggage up to catch the next train. My Jawbone Up band tells me I clocked an average of 23k steps per day while in NYC. But this?

And these guys? They all made me want to plan a trip devoted to interviewing the subway artists and performers. There are so many stories to tell.

And this? This makes me want to plan a trip devoted to interviewing the subway artists and performers. There are so many stories to tell.

Eventually we made it to the Bronx. My friend Heiddi was worried I'd be worried because Bronx and Perception. I smiled. Then I reminded her I might *live* in Maine but I'm *from* Detroit.

Eventually we made it to the Bronx. My friend Heiddi was worried I’d be worried because Bronx and Perception. I smiled. Then I reminded her I might *live* in Maine but I’m *from* Detroit.

A surprise planned for the next day meant pulling out the stick on nails I had brought home from BlogHer 13 and Eliana had saved for a special occasion. Girlfriend was all kinds of proud of these nails -- which, by the way -- she made sure every person on every train *knew* she was wearing fake nails because she was fancy.

A surprise planned for the next day meant pulling out the stick on nails I had brought home from BlogHer 13 and Eliana had saved for a special occasion. Girlfriend was all kinds of proud of these nails — which, by the way — she made sure every person on every train *knew* she was wearing fake nails because she was fancy.

We hustled from train to train to take our kids to a surprise involving The Story Pirates and were delayed when these guys swarmed my kid. So I took a picture. Then the minion pointed to his necklace which says "Tips".  Heiddi said this is why she doesn't stop for these idiots. The minion stopped pointing to his necklace after I pointed out they may wanna reconsider baiting the impressionable children of bitchy mothers until they've collected the requisite cash from said bitch mom.  Heiddi nodded. Detroit, right?  Detroit, born and bred.

We hustled from train to train to take our kids to a surprise involving The Story Pirates and were delayed when these guys swarmed my kid. So I took a picture. Then the minion pointed to his badge which says “Tips”.
Heiddi said this is why she doesn’t stop for these idiots. The minion stopped pointing to his badge after I pointed out they may wanna reconsider baiting the impressionable children of bitchy mothers until they’ve collected the requisite cash from said bitch mom.
Heiddi nodded. Detroit, right?
Detroit, born and bred.

This is, obviously, a first-grader. At least, that's what they script says. The Story Pirates were worth the throwdown with Strawberry Shortcake. We will be returning.

This is, obviously, a first-grader. At least, that’s what they script says. The Story Pirates were worth the throwdown with Strawberry Shortcake. We will be returning.

A stop at Jennifer Esposito's gluten-free bakery was in order. I bought what I can't eat because I'm allergic to ALL the Things, but even the non-gluten free were impressed. Also? Thank you to Victoria for hiding my iPhone until I frantically returned in search of my sanity. Jennifer? Victoria totally gets a raise.  Victoria? *You're Welcome*.

A stop at Jennifer Esposito’s gluten-free bakery, Jennifer’s Way, was in order. I bought what I can’t eat because I’m allergic to ALL the Things, but even the non-gluten free were impressed. Also? Thank you to Victoria for hiding my iPhone until I frantically returned in search of my sanity. Jennifer? Victoria totally gets a raise.
Victoria? *You’re Welcome*.

photo 3(1)

The stop in Boston on the way home?
Three hours.
So we explored. Instead of eating, my kid earned my appreciation at the Boston Children’s Museum for a week proving to the haters that homeschooled kids don’t live in closets and are, in fact, very socialized.
Thankyouverymuch.

photo 5(3)

A text message led to a change of plans. We left New York City a day early for an overnight stop in Albany to visit with Ana Roca-Castro and her family. Eliana is in love with her daughter and I’m under orders to ask Miss Ana if we can stay with her every time we happen to “be close by”.

Leaving New York for upstate for our final stop and New York wins. She gave up naps at 15 months. I may have to move. Or at least visit regularly.

Leaving New York for upstate for our final stop and New York wins. She gave up naps at 15 months. I may have to move. Or at least visit regularly.

CameraAwesomePhoto(4)

And then it was over.
We were in Maine.
On an interstate that got emptier as we drove further north. It’s still light out. We still had hope we’d arrive home before midnight, seeing as we had four hours between us and home at this point.

Because my life is a sitcom without the laugh track.  11:00 p.m. and still 100 miles from home after various stops for eating and car sickness and more eating because throwing up left her hungry but eating made her car sick again.  Then of course, there was Starbucks two hours ago because Obviously and me not making her go potty and the child with the bladder of a camel decides she must pee and she must pee NOW. She told me to pull over. In the middle of a deserted freeway where moose and Random Wildlife live, because she wasn't kidding.  I'll squat, she said. She didn't, I observed.  We changed her, bagged up her wet clothes, and as settled back in to drive. Just as my own bladder reminded me that I'd knocked back two trenta green teas and maybe I should consider squatting.  I opted for getting the hell out of whatever scene Stephen King was writing before the evil clowns showed up and held it until we got to the only rest stop between nowhere and home.

Because my life is a sitcom without the laugh track.
11:00 p.m. and still 100 miles from home after various stops for eating and car sickness and more eating because throwing up left her hungry but eating made her car sick again.
Then of course, there was Starbucks two hours ago because Obviously and me not making her go potty and the child with the bladder of a camel decides she must pee and she must pee NOW.
She told me to pull over. In the middle of a deserted freeway where moose and Random Wildlife live, because she wasn’t kidding.
I’ll squat, she said.
She didn’t, I observed.
We changed her, bagged up her wet clothes, and as settled back in to drive. Just as my own bladder reminded me that I’d knocked back two trenta green teas and maybe I should consider squatting.
I opted for getting the hell out of whatever scene Stephen King was writing before the evil clowns showed up and held it until we got to the only rest stop between nowhere and home.

And now we are home and slowly getting back on track and there is much snow and no subways and I’m firing my dogs for not noticing the herd of deer leaping through the backyard as they circled for a spot to do their thing. Also, stick around if you’re new. That #mexicaninmaine hashtag will start to make a lot more sense.

The End.

***

UPDATE!!!

I forgot to mention that Rick sent me home with three copies of his book, Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood. One is mine, so step off and we can still be friends.

The second I gave to Ana Roca-Castro because I know Latism stands for all that Rick discusses in his book. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks.

The last, y’all, I saved for you. Or…well, one of you, at least.

Picture Proof that I actually HAVE the book in my possession. The line for My New Best Friend forms *here*.

Picture Proof that I actually HAVE the book in my possession. The line for My New Best Friend forms *here*.

Rick Najera’s autograph. Related: My favorite things are Starbucks Iced Green Teas, ponies, and MAC Russian red lipstick. Priority consideration will be focused on those who try to buy my love. *Nods head*

To enter for your chance at the book, here’s the not-so-fine-print:

* First let’s make sure everyone knows I am incapable of kissing ass so a free book isn’t going to buy anyone a flowing review. If I don’t like it, I’m simply not going to mention it. End. Of. Story.

* The rules:

**Leave a comment on this post. It can be anything as long as anything includes your email so I can contact you if you win. Bonus points if your comment actually pertains to the discussion at hand. Giving a damn is always nice.

** Share the following on your social media channels and leave me a separate comment for each share with the URL:

Check out this post by @pauline_campos: Enter to win an autographed copy of  by  

** Deadline is midnight, EST, April 22.

And that’s it. I’m excited to share this book with all of you and am live-tweeting quotes as I read a chapter each night. Which means that yes, I love #AlmostWhite.

So…who’s in?

 

 

Rick Najera

 

A few years ago, I had an idea for a book and a blog come to me while I was trying to fall asleep. Any writer will tell you that ideas are fleeting — and that sleep is optional– so I quietly slipped out of bed, tip-toed out of the room as to not wake the sleeping husband, and promptly grabbed my purse and my credit card before sitting down at the computer.

I had URLs to buy, dammit.

That’s the night I launched Aspiring Mama and started working on the memoir I hope to publish one day. I didn’t know any successful writers personally. I didn’t even know any Pretty Shitty But Determined to Make it Happen writers. Hell, this was five years ago, people. That’s a lifetime in the digital age. Twitter was a verb describing that noise birds make and Facebook was MySpace’s slightly more respectable older cousin I didn’t feel like wasting my time with.

It’s okay. Obviously, I smartened up.

Back then, though, me and my Blackberry only knew how to make phone calls and I was still trying to figure out how to wash the used car salesman smell away from my soul after my previously brief (but highly convenient and yet utterly soul-sucking) foray into the world of blogging. The blog written from my dog’s point of view was brilliant but I don’t think the world was quite ready for that kind of genius. And the baby product review blogging phase means we scored free things like expensive car seats, but I walked away from it because I knew I needed the break to clear my head. My writing “voice”, the one I had honed in the newsroom, had been lost in the free baby-carrier and teething jewelry carnage, you see.

Six months later, I was awake at 3 a.m. buying Aspiringmama.com and began working on the memoir I had titled “Baby Fat: Adventures in Motherhood, Weight Loss, & Trying to Stay Sane.” (Think Erma Bombeck but with more “F” bombs.) It was this manuscript, coincidentally, that led me to Rick Najera and why I’m talking about his new book  — Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood.

Buy it on principal, y'all. Because the title alone is fucking hilarious and that needs to be recognized.

This one wins for Best Title.

 

Also important? I’ll be speaking at Rick’s April 3 reception celebrating his book launch in New York. Because that’s not the kind of thing you almost forget to mention when writing about the event at which you happen to be speaking. But I digress…

I attended the National Latino Writer’s Conference in New Mexico the following year and had been smart enough to sign up for a chance at a critique of the first 15 pages by two of the conference workshop teachers. I was already signed up for Rick Naerja’s comedy writing workshop — not because I knew who he was, mind you, but because comedy has always been a part of what I do — so I figured, “What the hell? This guy might know something about being funny.” And a few months later, there I was, sitting before Rick in our on-on-one session discussing my manuscript…and something amazing happened.

This Hollywood writer who, it turns out, is actually quite the big deal, told me I had a voice. And that it was a good one. Rick told me I was funny and more importantly, that I could write. I remember texting my husband frantically after my critique session to tell him that I had the potential to go mainstream … because RICK NAJERA SAID SO.

I could feel The Husband smiling back as I read his response. He said he liked this Rick guy. He said Rick was smart.

I read between the lines. My husband was thanking Rick for giving me something he couldn’t because This is GREAT, honey! is always suspect when sex is the end goal. While The Husband has told me from the beginning he believes in me and my words, the creative spirit in me needed the validation of an objective party. I needed to know the sleepless nights pounding away at the keyboard, the rejections, and the days where I kicked myself in the ass for thinking I could make something of this little dream, were all worth it.

It is worth it, by the way. I’m proud to be able to say to Rick that I listened, mainly because I don’t do that very often. But this time, I did and I can say I’m Latina Magazine’s Dimelo advice columnist because I kept at it. And y’all? Did you know you can actually get paid for telling people what to do while sitting on your couch without a bra on?  You can thank Rick for that visual, because he told me I had potential.

But I’m not the only one. Rick has played a crucial role in not only encouraging fellow Latino writers, actors, and comedians to not only fight for their dream, but also in creating opportunities focused on showcasing their talents. While picking up honors like earning a spot on Hispanic Business’s 100 Most Influential Latinos in America, an Alma Award for Best Writer for the 2008 film Nothing Like the Holidays, and most recently, a nod from Latin Teen Heat Entertainment for being a Hot Hollywood Dad, Rick also has helped launch the careers of countless performers in his role as director of the CBS Diversity Comedy Showcase. The 2014 Showcase alone delivered three writers to Saturday Night Live and 16 series regulars to TV. I’m sure, of course, that Rick also serving as coach, mentor, and teacher during the four months of preparation has something to do with that.

It’s because he makes us laugh. You know that, right? Comedic writers wield a power like no other, because it is through laughter that so many of us are able to process and discuss controversial or difficult subject matter. If you’ve watched one episode of In Living Color, you know what I mean. Rick Najera is a master of comedic timing and knows exactly which buttons to push so that when we get to the punchline, we aren’t just laughing…we’re thinking, too.

Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood”. I’ll give you the short version because I know you’re already planning on buying the book — which — by the way, was just nominated for Most Inspirational Non Fiction Book by Int’l Latino Book Awards. Basically, Rick says dream big or go home. The focus, of course, is on the Dreaming Big part, because Rick is inspiring and not an asshole. When you want something, you make it happen.

Since we’re talking about change and forging our own paths, let’s talk about diversity and Latino representation in Hollywood. I’ve always subscribed to the Write What You Know philosophy. For a long time I think I had convinced myself that every writer thinks like this, but the truth is that white males dominate in the writer’s rooms. Without real world experience from which to draw upon when creating the Latino characters and culturally-themed story-lines the public is calling for, their attempts fall flat and are oftentimes stereotypical and offensive.

Jesenia, Co-Creator of The Comedy Girls (and apparently too fancy for a last name) is another Latino fighting for more diversity. She’s made it her personal mission to get a Latin American FEMALE cast member on SNL. She says, and I quote, “Because Latin Americans are only represented accurately when we are representing ourselves, we need to not only continue creating high quality, non-stereotype content – we also need to step out of constantly boxing ourselves into the Latino category, and instead create work that speaks to all audiences of every race.”
I’ll high five you Jesenia for that one later. Because what she says here is that the responsibility in how we are portrayed in the media is not one we can just pass off on Hollywood. And that, my friends, leads us right back to Rick, being Almost White in Hollywood, and encouraging Latin American writers to keep knocking on those closed doors. If it never opens, we knock a new hole in another wall, pull up a table and some chairs, and write the stories that we know need to be told.
***If you’re in New York, I’d love to see you there! Click here for ticket information. I’m driving four hours to the closest train station so I can not have to think for the remaining 6 hours of the trip, so I don’t want to hear bitching about how traffic in the city is a nightmare. Suck it up, show up, and a good time shall be had by all.

 

 

You know what’s refreshing? When a writer more famous than the rest of us actually takes the time to respond to something we’ve said on our various social media channels. That’s the kind of stuff that makes us smile all day, brag to our friends that s0-and-so tagged us in a tweet or Facebook update or in response to our many fan-girly comments on instagram.

No matter how many friends I see moving on to incredibly successful writing careers or how many times I have to pinch myself as my own career begins to be worthy of stuff to write home about, I’m always going to feel like I’m on top of the world when a name on a book in my shelves says hello. It’s that important, this reaching out and connecting.

Today, author Elizabeth Gilbert shared a beautifully written memory-snippet on her Facebook fan page about and clicked Like, along with thousands of other fans. I liked it so much, in fact, that I left a comment asking if I could share it here with you. And I promptly forgot about it because she’s Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Roberts played her in a movie based on her best-selling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, for crying out loud.

Until I saw that she replied. And she said yes.

 

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Gilbert

I found this photo the other day at my mom’s house, and I burst out laughing.

This is me in 1980, ten years old, showing off everything I had made that year for our local 4-H fair. (That’s an agricultural fair, for those of you who aren’t so familiar with 4-H.)

I had a dream that year. I wanted to win BEST IN SHOW in the Home Goods department. I’d been coveting that giant purple ribbon for years, and wanted to make it mine.

My plan was to enter as many items as I could in every single category (cooking, canning, baking, gardening, sewing, industrial arts) in the hopes that at least one thing would be BEST.

I worked all summer at this. I drove my mother crazy. I cooked, I canned, I baked, I picked (and pickled) beans and beets and cucumbers, I made a teddy bear (!), I built a coat-hanger, I made a automobile first aid kit, I did needlepoint, I was out of control. (By the way — thanks, mom. Because of course I didn’t really know how to do any of this, so she spent the summer helping me as I hijacked her kitchen, her sewing machine, her craft table, her garden…)

After all that, I didn’t win BEST IN SHOW. Another kid did, for a dessert that he had made. I don’t even want to talk about it. I’m sure he was a very nice kid and the desert was probably fine — but seriously, it killed me. I was a sobbing mess.

But then some sympathetic judge must have put it together and noticed that — out of the 300 exhibitions in the Home Show that year — about 175 of them had been made by the same girl. Somebody must have been like, “Oh my god, that poor pathetic child.” Because later in the day, I was given a special award — a giant ribbon upon which some kind soul had written: “MOST IN SHOW”.

Which soothed my sad heart and made me very proud, though today in makes me laugh my ass off because: MOST IN SHOW? That it the best turn of phrase ever. “You, little girl, are not the best at any of this stuff…or even the second best…or the third best…but, by god, you are the MOST.”

But you know what? I’ve always been MOST IN SHOW. I wasn’t the best writing student in any class I ever took, but I was the MOST — I was the one who tried hardest. I think I finally got published because I was MOST IN SHOW — because I spent years writing and writing and writing and writing and sending out those stories to publishers and getting rejected and rejected and rejected, and sending out more and more and more stories until I finally wore them down and they published one at last.

I’m not the best at anything, you guys. Not the smartest, not the most talented, not the prettiest, not the strongest, not the best traveler, not the best journalist, not the best public speaker, not the best with foreign languages, not the best novelist, not the wisest, not the best meditator, not the best yogi, not the anything-est. But by god, I show up with a truckload of effort and participation and preparation, and I give to life the absolute MOST I’ve got. In every category I can.

The uniquely talented guy with the fancier dessert still usually wins the big prize, but you know what? I still wear them down (the great judges of life, that is) and they still have make up special ribbons for me all the time.

Because I just won’t go away.

Not one of us should go away, not ever. Make up your own rules. Give what you love to do all you’ve got. Be Most in Show. Be fabulous.
Thank you, Elizabeth, for your words, allowing me to share them in my own space, and for that Acknowledging My Presence Thing.
Yeah, especially that last one.
That was awesome.

 

This *is* happy two hours after her usual bedtime. Trust me.

I passed my Internet to IRL Stalker test yesterday. And with flying colors, to boot, having driven two hours to wait three for five minutes with The Bloggess.

I also did not know that bringing a five-year-old to a book signing on a Saturday night would grant me the opportunity to skip ahead in line and save about an hour of just standing there, but I do now and plan to keep a random five-year-old on standby for book signings and Stalker Re-certification training because mine will eventually age out.

Jenny is amazing, and you already know that, so it’s not like I made The Husband drive me just so I could let it slip to anyone that would listen that I, like, totally already know Jennybecausethatishernameyouknow and follow up with this little story about how she once pet my mexifro in a Hilton bathroom. Now that I think about it, that sounds kind of raunchy, and it’s probably why The Husband got excited when I first told him that story two years ago until he found out that Jenny isn’t a redhead. And it totally explains why he got all huffy and told me to stop embellishing my stories when he read my blog and realized she just hugged me in the bathroom and asked me to show her my mexifro and then I took a picture of it and posted in online for the world to see. I, personally, don’t really see why he got all worked up.

I would write more, but I’m functioning on about two hours of sleep after being kept awake all night by some horrible and mysterious food allergy reaction, thereby proving my level of suckness has been upped to code She’s Probably Just a Giant Fucking Hypchondriac So Let’s Serve her the Peanuts and See What Happens on the national registry of dinner guests. And then, because destroying my own dignity wasn’t enough last night, one of the dogs had her ass explode multiple times from only God knows what and I somehow managed to not throw up on my MacBook every time I sat back down after cleaning the mess up to work on Girl Body Pride. I think my point was that I’m tired and then I wrote a bunch of shit saying how I wasn’t going to do exactly that so let’s all blame the Adderall for only lasting four hours before I start pissing you off again.

So here are the highlights: a small child that was not my own raised her hand to ask The Bloggess why she is so freaking awesome and her mother automatically won for Coolest Mother of the Year because, obviously. And then a small child that is my own tried getting a reaction out of me today by dramatically calling out LIKE, WHAT THE FOOT, MOM???? before falling down into a pile of giggles and cluelessness because there was this microphone and this book reading and there’s probably going to be a few very offended teachers tomorrow when other people’s kids get that last part right…in public…because that’s always a bonus.

The other best parts of the night includes Jenny graciously accepting a Buttercup original artwork and making one little girl’s day when Mommy’s Writing Friend promised to hang it in her office because that makes her a real artist. The Husband giving up his day off to drive two hours so we could wait for three hours for five minutes with a woman I am proud to say actually remembered me when I stood before her was also a bonus. And when I walked away with my smiling kid and my signed copes of her book and he started talking about what it will be like when it’s my turn after I get published while we drove back home, I just smiled and let him dream out loud.

Me, Buttercup, and Miss Jenny. I'll explain The Bloggess thing when she drops her first F-bomb, because then I know she'll actually appreciate this photo.

 

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