Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lyra the Wonder Cat

Meet Lyra the Wonder Cat. This entry came in too late to be considered for the contest, but I LOVED the photo so much, I had to share it with everyone.

This'll be the last blog from the contest. Once last time: Thanks to everyone who entered!


Since early polls predicted that felines were going to be the most prevalent entrant in the popular “Katrina Kittle Animal Contest,” I’d decided I wouldn’t bother to enter my cat Lyra. But as I watched her swimming this afternoon, her black ears slicked back against her black head, her eyes focused intently on the shallows (where she eventually waded for over a minute before she decided she’d had enough), I figured my Little Black Cat deserved her shot at five minutes of fame.

Lyra was my 23rd birthday gift from my parents, a black kitten to keep me company while I was living alone in a different city. It was my first time away from home, and I’d been terribly lonely. But once Lyra moved into my apartment, there was always somebody there to screech at me from the top of the toilet while I showered, to steal my clean socks from my laundry basket and hide them around the apartment, or to bite at my hair to wake me when I slept too late in the morning.

I figured out pretty quickly that Lyra wasn’t your run-of-the-mill house cat. First off, she loved to ride in the car. She’d sit quietly on my lap the entire three hours up north to Mom and Dad’s, and she’d somehow know exactly when I turned onto their dirt road. Then she’d mash her face up against the window and meow until I rolled it down so she could let her head hang out, the wind blowing through her ears.

Four years later, Lyra still knows the instant we turn the car onto “Grandma and Grandpa’s” road, still presses her nose to my car window until I roll it down. She loves to kayak like she did as a kitten; she’ll crawl out to the very tip of the boat and sit with her nose lifted like an Egyptian statuette, sniffing at the bugs as they float by and compelling passing boaters to laugh and snap photos. She likes to hike at state parks, has been cross-country skiing in a front-pack I ordered for her online, loves to sit on Grandpa’s lap while he drives the pontoon boat, and yes, she swims (but that does take a little convincing, I admit). She’s walked down the beach of Lake Superior and sleeps in a tent on family camping trips. When it’s cold out, she happily wears a Christmas tree sweater that came off an old teddy bear. And Lyra isn’t afraid of dogs, especially not blond dogs that look like my parents’ golden retriever Annie.

Lyra leaves my socks scattered all over the house, it’s true. But when I cry, she’s there in an instant, meowing incessantly until I lift her up. Then she’ll lick my nose and get that same concerned look in her green eyes she has when she’s swimming. “Hey, it’s all right, Mom,” I imagine she says, her expression eager. “When’s our next big adventure?”
—Lindsy O'Brien, Duluth, Minnesota

Canine Contenders

Today I'd like to feature three honorable mentions from the dog category. As I said before, cats really swept the contest, but there were some great dog essays, as well. And look at these three memorable faces. Meet Lucas, Grace, and Inga (pictured in that order).

Again, I thank everyone who entered the contest! Your pride in and love for the animal companions who bless your lives is inspiring.

"I looked at my very large canine friend Lucas (generally described as half Holstein and half reindeer) and said, “What do you think, boy? Walkies?” The mention of the “W” word stopped Lucas, who turned and stared, head cocked to one side, motionless. I broke the trance. “Let’s go!” When we reached the bike path, I let Lucas off lead. Zoom! Off into the woods, then back to check with me, then off again, ranging out and coming back as I walked through the snow hushed woods. We’ve walked this quiet, almost otherworldly path many times. Even though it winds through the very center of our city, there are no car horns, no one yelling at their children. The soft gurgle of the creek and a low sigh of wind in the tall trees is our only accompaniment.

I usually hook Lucas’s lead back up where the swamp begins, about halfway down the path. But, instead of hooking him back up, I thought, "What the hell! The swamp is frozen! No worries!"

Just when I was comfortable allowing him to range through the swampy area, he decided to bolt. I knew when I saw his head jerk back and his eyes change; he had smelled something out there. “No!” I yelled. But Lucas's mind was already fixated, and he was off. He raced over the levee, crossed the railroad tracks and crashed into the scrubland behind Taggart Building Supply Co.

I stood atop the levee and repeatedly called him. The minutes crawled by in the now eerie and unnatural quiet. Nothing. Not a glimpse of dog, nor sound of dog jewelry jangling. Then, I heard the unmistakable sound of a diesel locomotive pounding its way nearer and nearer. I screamed “Get back here right now!” into the softly falling snow. Nothing. Afraid he might attempt the lethal sport of train dodging to get to me, I crossed the tracks just ahead of the deafening DT&I diesel. Still nothing. I walked the tracks, fecklessly calling. In the approaching darkness, my thoughts were gloomy. “What if he’s hurt or trapped and can't respond?”

As the daylight dimmed, I began to track him through the snow-covered scrubland. I found where he entered the woods, where he went under bushes, over logs. I wound around and around, until finally arriving back at my starting point. It was dark, and I considered giving up the hunt. I imagined a “Lost Dog” poster, and contemplated the hellish thought that I might never see Lucas again. In despair, I knelt to check once more for tracks, when a series of short sniffs reached my ear. I turned. Lucas's big head was six inches from my face. He cocked his head quizzically, as if to say “That was fun, what do we do next?” I gave him a big hug and a vigorous rub on the head and securely attached the lead to his collar. We walked home together through the soft violet night."
—William Price, Springfield, OH


"Koda Marie was my best friend. She was my heart; she was part of my soul. Koda was a gorgeous all white boxer. One day, due to someone’s horribly selfish choice, she was ripped from our lives.

Only weeks after her passing, right before my 29th birthday, I received more life-altering news. I had the beginnings of cancer and would need to have surgery to remove all of my large intestines. I had no idea how I was going to get through this without my best friend.

After Koda’s tragic death, I swore off ever owning another pet; I could not fathom going through the pain of losing again. My husband, however, had another idea. Daily he was on petfinder.com scouring through all the needy babies. Day after day, I listened to “How about this one?” or “What do you think of him?” Always my answer was the same; I didn’t think my heart could take it. Then one day, I had enough. I agreed to go visit a litter of boxer pups at a local rescue.

I will never forget the first time we saw each other. All of the puppies rushed over to us to greet us. All except one, The Runt. Oddly, she sat back and looked us over, tilting her head from side to side, as if she was judging us. I realized she was looking us over, to see if we were “The Ones”. The instant I picked up her tiny body, I knew. The Runt looked at me with these penetrating brown eyes, and something clicked. The gaping wound in my soul was no longer quite so raw. While it will never fully go away, that day it started to heal.

A few weeks later, we got to bring The Runt home. That is when the healing, both emotional and physical, began. I was only a few weeks out of surgery, but this little pup was the best therapy. I no longer had time to feel sorry for myself. The Runt would not allow lying around on the couch all day. On the rough days, when the pain was just too much, she would bring me offerings. One by one, she would lay her favorite toys next to me. As if to say “Here you go Mama. These are my favorite things. Feel better please.”

Two years later and not a day goes by that she doesn’t bring a smile to my face. Not only did she help me to heal from a devastating loss, she also helped me to recover from multiple surgeries. It is almost as if every time she peers at me with her soulful eyes she is assessing what it is that I need from her.

There is no doubt in my mind that my angel, Koda, picked her out and sent her to me. On the base of her head is the tiniest white patch of fur that marks the spot where Koda kissed her baby sister, Grace, before sending her down to me.

the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them."
—Stephanie Hayes, Grand Rapids, MI


I’d like to share something that I wrote last year intended for a very specific audience. First, a little back story to explain: I’m a volunteer puppy raiser for a non-profit organization that provides highly trained assistance dogs to people with disabilities. Puppy raisers for Canine Companions for Independence are tasked with welcoming an eight week old puppy into their home and then care for, train, socialize and love the pup for the next 14 months. It is truly an awesome job.

After 14 months with the puppy raiser, the dog is returned to the organization for another six to nine months of advanced training before being placed with an individual.

Last November I turned in the beautiful Inga, the first puppy that I raised for CCI.
We’re asked by CCI to share our thoughts at turn in about the puppy raising experience. So, filled with emotion, I wrote the following. The specific audience was really just me; it was therapeutic to get these words out. But I did submit these thoughts to CCI, which were later shared with all in attendance at the November Team Graduation ceremony.

"I’ve spent the past 14 months with a constant companion. This beautiful dog has been by my side more than any one person. And I’ve fallen in love. I love that I’m never alone. I love that this dog is ready to go when I need to go somewhere. I love how easy she is to be around. It’s been wonderful raising a little round cotton ball puppy into the amazing dog she is now. And now I’m letting go. Not because I have to, but because I want to. And like the other puppy raisers, I’m working through the confusing process of being happy and sad at the same time. I’ll miss this incredible shedding machine and suppose that I’ll still be checking on her in the back seat of the car for a while. But my job is done. She has more to learn and much more to do. More than just me. We’ve worked so hard to reach this next step. I’m ready to wish her luck. And maybe soon, someone else will know the awesome wonder of having this extraordinary dog as their constant companion."

How do we give them up? With a lot of pride and a box of Kleenex. This dog that changed my life will now change someone else’s. Inga’s graduation is next month on August 14.
—Donna Sword, Clayton, OH
Canine Companions for Independence

Friday, July 23, 2010

Feline Honorable Mentions

Meet Ronan, Amanda, and Enkil & Akasha (pictured in that order), four cats who almost won the Blessings contest. I'm telling you, these choices were tough! I thank each and every person who entered the contest and shared the story of their animal companion. From the number of entries alone, much less the heartfelt essays, it's obvious that animals do indeed bless our lives. Enjoy!

"We can't have a cat, we've discussed this before," my husband said when I told him that the neighbours had found a kitten on the road near our house. "I just want to have a look at him, nothing more, OK?" I said, believing myself. This little black ball of fluff meowed ferociously when we appeared, as if to say, "What took you so long?" He was so friendly and cute I couldn't believe he didn't have a home. I persuaded my husband that we'd only take him until we found his real owners. The kitten meowed and purred in our arms all the way to our house. The next day, we put up posters. The second day, we were shopping and bought some cute cat bowls. "Don't you think Ronan is a good name for him?" I suggested to my husband on the third day when we were out walking. "I know it's Irish, and I like how it sounds like the Japanese 'ronin', he's feisty enough." My husband agreed. A telephone message awaited our return: the kitten's owner. My husband looked despairingly at me. He made the call. I was too upset. Ronan had been found a couple of weeks earlier, and the woman who called had also been trying to find his 'real' home. The kitten had stowed away on her husband's truck, and had obviously fallen off near our house. I listened in on the other phone and scrawled a note to my husband: ask her if we can keep him! We could.

Ronan is now ten months old and we dote on him. My husband travels a lot and when he telephones, the first thing he asks is, "How is the little boy?" We smile and coo over his every move and look sheepish when we realise we have been talking to our friends for twenty minutes straight about how wonderful our cat is.

Ronan's entry into my life has been a gift. We live in a remote country area, I am a writer, my husband is often away, and because of health reasons I don't drive. Sometimes two weeks can go by without me seeing anyone other than the postman (and he's not that cute). Now I have Ronan. Just as I believe I am part cat, Ronan believes he is part human. He talks all the time; he has learned to use the human toilet, he will play 'fetch' with me when I'm not well enough to chase him around the house (we take it in turns to do the chasing); he will curl up against my chest in bed and lay his head on my pillow, his little body stretched out underneath the duvet, paws entwined in mine, his eyes gazing lovingly at my husband. Not long after we had him for keeps, I discovered that Rónán in Gaelic means "little seal". I remember the selkies, who are able to become human... I think Ronan meant to fall off that truck."
—Sandra Jensen, Inchigeelagh, Co. Cork, Ireland


She could have fit in a tea cup when I got her in 1993. I had recently moved from an apartment to a 100-year-old fixer-upper house and decided maybe I would like some company. I was in a local play, and a fellow cast member had kittens to unload. So, I picked a cute little gray female. I decided to wait and observe her personality before naming her.

That didn’t take long. The first evening as I was watching TV, she started whining and yapping so loud I could hardly hear the program. She had a lot to say and insisted that I was going to listen. That was it! I had played Amanda Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie” the previous year and that woman never shuts up. Teacup cat was immediately dubbed “Amanda.”

Night was her busiest time. Between her constant monolog and her walking on my face, I was getting no sleep. My bedroom door had a gap under it, so I borrowed a 2’x 4’ from the construction and blocked the opening to keep her out. An hour later she was back on my face. She was small, but mighty, and had pushed the board out of the way. “Ok, Miss Amanda, I’ll show you who’s boss.” I got a brick and put it on top of the board to weigh it down. That took her about 20 minutes to move and I remember that she had a lot to say about the incident. After she moved 3 bricks, I gave up. She finally learned to settle down at night and I eventually got some rest.

We both lived through the remodeling, of course I was always concerned that she would get lost in the wall, or get stuck under a loose floorboard. She had the strength of a mule and the determination of an ant, so there was no way to keep her from going anywhere she wanted to go. Our house eventually became our home and I’m pretty sure she felt that she was somehow responsible for the improvements.

Amanda was never a cuddler, but then neither was Amanda Wingfield. My Amanda had a nervous streak that set her pacing at the slightest sound; even a light rainfall on the metal porch roof. Her nerves convinced me constantly that there was a mouse in the house, even though that turned out to be a very rare occurrence.

She was always there; never leaving the house except to go to the veterinarian once or twice a year. Her resistance to those outings set off so much drama that I often wondered if it was in either of our best interests for her to have health check-ups.

She stayed tiny, but always made an unbelievable amount of noise going up the stairs and jumping in the bathtub. I still hear her doing those things, even though she passed several months ago. We had 17 years together. I still call out “goodbye” when I leave. She likes that.
—Dodie Lockwood, Dayton, OH


Over the years, I have found myself daydreaming about becoming a father. This reality seemed continually overshadowed by fears and worries surrounding whether I would be able to provide a stable environment to a child and sacrifice all that is required to care for another. Would this responsibility bring me to my knees? Would I harvest the stamina to manage unseen challenges that would surely arise? The immense weight of such questions would settle over me like a smothering blanket.

Since late adolescence, I have lived independently, caring only for myself. At the age of 29, however, I made the decision to adopt 16-week old Bengal siblings (Enkil and Akasha) mostly for companionship, but also to liven my surroundings. The thought of caring for these exotic furry felines initially caused me pause as I refused to relinquish already mentioned insecurities; nonetheless, I took a leap.

It became evident within their first year that Enkil intermittently would become lame, especially after hefty periods of tumultuous kitty wrestling with his sister. Even so, he did not appear to be in pain, which allowed me to tuck away any overly cautious concern regarding long-term illness. As their first birthday approached, however, Enkil started having trouble walking, and what is worse, I began to see pain in his dark eyes. A blur of rotating medical appointments and interactions with orthopedic specialists ultimately led to a diagnosis of an organic knee deficiency that carried a poor prognosis. Decisions of risking an invasive knee reconstruction (on a young cat, no less), versus the alternative that inevitably involved chronic pain and potential disability, quickly emerged.

I found myself catapulted into unfamiliar territory, negotiating between logic, medicine, and most of all, my heart. Standing in front of radiographs, being forced to make difficult decisions regarding the one who snuggled close to me each night seemed impossible at best. Despite the risk, I moved forward with the full knee reconstruction. Although surgically successful, the knee’s recovery was sure to be grueling. Keeping Enkil sedated, “comfortable,” and most of all still, for many weeks was next to impossible. Managing this unbelievable feat required many things: missed work, lost wages, excessive worry, countless tears, and angry punching of pillows, all while feeling my heart break slowly in the wake of his pain and drug-induced confusion.

In the end, Enkil rallied his strength and recovered. Looking back on those torturous months showed me several things; it illuminated what it felt like to sacrifice everything—sleep, work, sanity—for another. It reminded me how painful loving attachment can be and how fiercely one responds in the face of crisis when the object of their affection is suffering. Many people consider their companion animals as children; I am one of them. Having Enkil (and his sister) in my life has been a blessing and although I am now 32 and single, I feel confident that I will one day be able to father a child. I know this because I am already a father to them.
—Raymond Sheets, Jr., MI

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Winners: Poppy, Ugly and Striper!

CONGRATULATIONS to the winners of my Animal Blessings contest, and huge thanks to everyone who entered!

The choices were tough. I received nearly 70 entries! I do need to report that cats were BY FAR the most represented in the entries, with dogs a very distant second. Three horses and one dead squirrel were also represented (yes, that's right...one great essay was about how an experience with a dead squirrel turned the reader into a vegetarian). I love all animals, but as a cat owner myself I had to smile at the feline love that came through in the contest!

Because I had so many entries, I narrowed them down with these two guidelines: 1.) Did the essay express in what way the animal had been a blessing? and 2.) Was the essay 500 words or less (or at least close)? Since that was the only "rule" I set for the contest, I didn't consider any essays that were over 700 words. (Lots of really, really good essays were way over the word count!)

I'll be posting some of the "honorable mentions" soon, but for now, meet our wonderful winners:

I had forgotten how easy it was to receive and give love. Without any strings attached. Without earning her trust. Yet, there love was, sitting in front of me with bulging eyes, an under bite, and Yoda like ears.

I am adopted, and although I don’t consciously let that define me in any terms, it is still very much a part of who I am. My heart beats a little faster for those who are displaced, not wanted, or abandoned. Perhaps that’s why I immediately fell in love with Poppy. Poppy, who came from North Carolina’s coast with heart worm, teeth problems, and was left at a Pound. She was lucky to be placed into Chihuahua Rescue and Transport and spent a year with a foster mother. I saw her little picture on the internet and knew that it was meant to be. Much like the way my mother saw a tiny black and white picture of me and knew that I was meant to be her daughter.

Her kisses in the morning wake me up. Her sighs at night put me to sleep. Her eerie way of knowing when I am sad is comforting. Her dancing and dainty feet keep me laughing. Her flying white fur prevents me from wearing black. She charms everyone who meets her and has a legion of fans. To say that she has changed my life would be corny. To say that she is the light of my life would be the very honest truth.
—Kimberly Mohn, Morrisville, NC

“Four-eyed Bucky Beaver” is what the other kids called me in school, along with other names that painted my 10 year old heart with isolation and defiance. My mother always said having just one true friend was more important that being a part of the group. I accepted my fate and my one best girlfriend and I romped in the woods, crawled through sewage pipe portals under busy streets and lost ourselves in the wooded land across the way.

Then things changed and my best friend forever was gone. I now had to face the taunting and loneliness of suburban school life with the outer strength of indifference, a void swelling in my chest, my imagination and inner life my only escape from the darkness I felt enfold me.

It was with this emotional backdrop that a horse named Ugly opened himself to me and became my bridge to self love and confidence that would be a lesson of survival through adolescence and beyond.

We would drive 25 minutes out of the plats, through cornfields, past banks of scrub brush filled, wooded land to get to the 30-acre farm for riding lessons. Cathy, wearing her carrot brown hair in two long braids, would greet me and help me saddle up the random horse of the day. Infused with the searing smell of horse sweat, I loved the solid feel of the well worn blanket and saddle being hoisted to the waiting steed’s curved back. These were Pony of the Americas, so when standing shoulder to shoulder, I could just see over the saddle horn as I came to mount my excitement for the day; looking forward to running the barrels and improving my time on flags.

On one particular day, Cathy brought out a horse with a mostly brown head that washed into speckled spots of lighter color ending in a dirty white rump. She said his name was Ugly, but I immediately defended him saying I thought he was the most beautiful horse I had ever seen. I could see myself in him and felt indignant that a creature so magnificent could be saddled with such a name. Putting my boot in the stirrup, I pulled myself up with confidence, feeling the usual surge of power that came with being atop an animal with such gentle power. I felt at peace.

Cathy laughed and said Ugly was now my horse. She said I was the first student who Ugly didn’t buck off right off the bat. I now felt exhilarating fear and adventure humble my indignant thoughts. All my attention was with Ugly now. And so began a deep friendship and mutual respect between horse and girl.

From Ugly I discovered the power of becoming one with another being, wholeheartedly giving your trust and experiencing the connectedness of an unspoken friendship and understanding with each other. I would experience this later in life with my grandmother and then again with my life partner. Ugly and I broke a couple of fences as our friendship grew, but I was never thrown to the ground. I had to learn to know when he was ready to ride fast and how not to fight my own body, dancing with his wild energy. I loved him intensely.

Two years later Cathy’s family sold the farm and all of the horses. I remember feeling such a deep loss of abandonment. I cried in my grandmother’s arms for hours knowing that my friend was gone. I came to understand the gift of life that Ugly had given me through my experience of interdependence with him. To this day, I still search the passing farmland and open fields for his distinctive marks, so beautiful. I still hold his fiery energy inside; sharing it now with confidence with the people who I know will ride my emotions with me through this adventure of everyday life.
—Gail Hixon, Yellow Springs, OH
Striper – so named for the banded pattern woven throughout his fur – was not a fair-weather cat. He was the faithful family pet and resident lap-warmer for over 17 years; steadfast through moments of joy and times of heartache. As the one member of our family who just happened to walk on four legs, he joined us as a kitten when my children were young adolescents; reached maturity when they were receiving high school diplomas, and settled into senior when they said their “I Do’s.” Striper was the wise family member who knew when to curl up on your lap when you needed a friend, and when to perch on a windowsill when you needed your space. It is regrettable that - throughout all the years of his devotion - I did not find the true gift in his loyalty and feline intuition until it was gone. But if hindsight lends clarity to insight, then I have found a gift in that.

Hindsight reflects upon certain memories of Stripers’ life that stand out. The memory of a freshly chewed hole in the beautiful cashmere sweater I’d just purchased reminds me that there are angry moments in life about which you will laugh later. One recollection captured in a precious photograph finds Striper fashioning himself as a scarf around the neck of my sleeping son; giving comfort and security to a young man’s dreams. Brief moments such as these are forever a part of who my son is now, and for this I am forever grateful. I can reflect upon a time of trepidation when Striper became very sick and spent days that seemed like months in the veterinary hospital; each day spent worrying and wondering how I’d tell my children, should he pass. The experience renewed a sensibility of the gift in each day; that each day must be a treasure completely spent and never saved for the uncertainty of tomorrow. The most difficult and poignant memory surrounds the last few moments of his life, when I held him as he slipped into a peaceful sleep to take his last breath. The moment was a closing to his illness and suffering that coincided with the sudden and devastating end to my 30 year marriage. At that time, the exquisite pain of the experience coupled with my own hardship left only the foul taste of life’s cruelty. Looking back, I see that this cat of quiet majesty, love and dedication had given all that he could to our family, and was leaving us with memories that would continue to walk us through life.

Indeed, hindsight illustrates how much our cat Striper has enriched our lives in ways we may not yet fully realize. My daughter is rewarded with a profound respect and love for all animals. My son benefits from the knowledge that sensitivity and compassion are not gender specific. And I have gained a very difficult lesson in how life must go on, and found rewarding enlightenment that memories built upon love never end.
—Jackie Liss, Coatesville, PA

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Big Ol' Box O' Blessings

Early last week, my cute UPS man delivered a big ol' box of THE BLESSINGS OF THE ANIMALS to my door. There's nothing that makes a book release feel more real than to hold the actual book in your hands.

I'm so pleased and thrilled. I think it's gorgeous. I love the cover, I love the font, I love the flap copy, I love how it's all put together. I've been blessed by so many talented, wonderful people at HarperCollins...and very blessed by the three amazing novelists who gave me generous blurbs.

I even woke up in the middle of the night, got out of bed, and turned on lights just to look at the book again! All that time, all those various drafts, all the revisions, all the slogging work of putting words on the page...and here it is, an actual book soon-to-be-for-sale in stores. Even though there actual, physical book makes the years long process seem real, there's also something very surreal about it.

Here we are, less than two weeks away from the August 3rd publication date. Huge thanks to everyone who helped bring this book to life—fellow writers who inspired me and offered insightful feedback, all those who helped with research, every reader, friend, and book club who offered me encouragement and support on this crazy journey!

Here we gooooo....

I'm feeling very blessed indeed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Goodreads Debut Author Panel

Would you like the chance to ask some first time authors questions about their writing lives and routines, their paths to publication, and their thoughts on promotion? Here's your chance!

From July 12-18, I'll be moderating a panel of five, fabulous debut authors.

If you're already a Goodreads member, just click here to join our group. If you're not a member, it's easy and free to join (and a really, really cool site). Just go to www.Goodreads.com Signup info is on the home page.

Here's more info from Olive Reader (a blog about all things Harper Perennial) about who these great authors are.

Hope you'll join us!

Loving Librarians at ALA

Okay, so I'm a little belated, but I had the privilege of being a guest author at the 2010 American Library Association Conference in DC in June. What a fabulous time, getting to hang with some of my very favorite HarperCollins folks (that's Book Club Girl herself, Jennifer Hart, looking saucy in one photo), running out of galleys during my line-never-stopped-for-the-entire-signing-hour, meeting talented and lovely fellow author Emily Gray Tedrowe (do yourself a favor and go get a copy of her new novel, COMMUTERS. This is a book that actually made me wish my flight home was longer!). That's Emily in the photo with me.

But the most important thing? Meeting all these great librarians and remembering how amazingly cool libraries are and how lucky we are to have them. I'm fortunate to be surrounded by several excellent libraries in the Dayton area, but the Wright Memorial Public Library in Oakwood has a special place in my heart. The reference librarians there are my heroes and they've helped in some way on every one of my novels. I'll be doing a reading & signing there on August 15th.

Take a moment to think about your favorite library. When was the last time you visited it? Times are tough for lots of libraries—librarians are often understaffed, overworked, and underpaid. Anything you can do to help your local library? Think about it, and no matter what...make it your goal to at least take the time to thank the librarians next time you're there!