Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The First True Lie, Cartwheel, The Firecracker King, Cash: What I'm Reading

CASH by Robert Hilburn
What I love about this dark, gritty book is how it’s a picture of a whole career. People think of Cash as this icon, but his career had tremendous up and downs, and even someone like Cash struggled with failure. Just a towering book.

Richly atmospheric and haunting, this coming of age tale, set against a 1965 backdrop, investigates the murder of a beautiful teenage girl. Fun fact: Bayan is the genius I relied on for all-things-gun research for my novel-in-progress.

THE FIRST TRUE LIE by Marina Mander
A young boy navigates life after his mother dies in his house, a fact he keeps secret. Unsettling, spare, and unforgettable.

CARTWHEEL by Jennifer DuBois
Who wasn’t fascinated by the Amanda Knox case? DuBois imagines the story as fiction in a novel that is all about how we believe what we believe--and why.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The amazing Anne Lamott talks about Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair, loss, life, and so much more

Aces and diamonds. That's beloved author Anne Lamott. I've read and loved every one of her amazing novels like Rosie and Crooked Little Heart. I learned how to raise my son reading Operating Instructions (and I'm learning how to let go from reading Some Assembly Required). Writing woes? I turn to Bird by Bird. Spiritual Ones? Help, Thanks, Wow and now Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair, which I think is her most profound and powerful book yet. This is the book that explores how we can best live in the midst of a deeply troubled world, how we can make sense of tragedy, or at least get through it. Glinting through this wondrous book is wisdom. Help one another. Be Kind. Wait for the real meaning to reveal itself, because it could be a gift.

You can watch Annie on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday and please come hear me interview her in person at Word Bookstore in Maplewood, November 9th, Saturday at two. 

Annie, I remain so grateful to you, and I am so giving you a huge hug when I see you on the 9th! Thank you for being here.

I’ve read and loved all of your books, but this particular one felt different to me--the power was much rawer, the language more beautiful and poetic. Were you aware of this? And why do you think this is?--
I don't know!  I started it the day after the slaughter at Newtown, and was filled with fear and grief and being stunned.  I never lost faith in the greatness of God, and of people, but I thought, Where do we find meaning now, after this appalling tragedy?  I have seen so many people come fully back to life after literally unsurvivable loss, one day at a time, through love, profound loyalty, maybe...dare I say it?  Grace.  I mean grace in the sense of buoyancy, when you think you are going down under the waves--but it turns out the Love is like water wings.

Newtown was uniquely awful, but every day, we live with terrifying images, of polar bear cubs floating away, and all these shootings, and the crazily wailing roaring addictive sickening pace of our lives.  I wondered, where is the meaning for us ow, in the modern era?  

The opening struck a chord with me, where you talk about how anything can and does happen. You find love and there is a school shooting. The baby you lovingly raised turns out to be a stripper. How can we go on in the face of this? In a way, this book, your attempt to find meaning in the face of terrible tragedies like the school shooting.
I think the question is not so much, How do we go on, because life naturally wants to stay alive.  But how do we live again fully both in the face of devastation, AND in the modern world's chaotic technological frenzy?  In this bizarre, new science fiction world?  How do we stay, or become,  who we were born to be, when we are pummeled with both feelings of loss and confusion, AND the information bombardment--to which we are often magnetically drawn?  And to which some of us feel somewhat addicted?  

What actions do we take to insist on a rich, present human life, where we are not strung out over meaningless multi-tasking bullshit, helicoptering, or unresolved grief and damage from possibly VERY crazy childhood situations?

How do we trust that God or Life has something better in store for us?  And how do we begin or sustain this process and path of Seeking?

As I said in the book, I think these questions are worth asking.

I also loved what you said about grief, how the books are all wrong, how it does not go away--no, not ever--but you learn to live with it alongside you and even find meaning, whether it’s by honoring someone who has died by living in a way that they might have, with grace and kindness. 

I started to have a suspicion ten, fifteen years ago that we may NEVER get over the hugest losses of our life, contrary to what society and family tell us--that time heals all.  When you can't "get over" someone's death, is it you that is crazy?  And are we even SUPPOSED to?  Who got this meme started?  Maybe I am willing to pay for sorrow in my heart that my dad and mom and Pammy's deaths caused, because they are very much alive to me.  They're right here, and maybe that has to do with my lack of willingness to "get over" their death.  To tell an older person that time heals all, and they will "get over" their spouse' death or dementia, seems abusive to me

“We live stitch by stitch.”  I know what this means, but can you talk about it for readers?  

When we have a huge change, or loss, empty nest or divorce, or a public catastrophe, like Newtown, it's so daunting. It leaves us stunned, raw, speechless, feeling like little children.  It seems hopeless.  Our minds tell us that we can't get over this, or make peace with that, or have a big rich trusting life again; let alone joy and laughter.
But all around us are people who can and do help, who rush to our sides, like white blood cells.  I love that Mr. Rogers' mother told him when he was a boy that after a tragedy, he should look towards the helpers--that's where we'll see the miracles.  And all around us are people who did lose their spouses to death or divorce or Alzheimer's, who did resurrect, over time and with infusions of grace, and the revelation of life's difficult, gorgeous truths.  And one of these truths is that we just have to make a knot in a piece of thread, and make one stitch, in fabric that will hold a knot, and then figure out one place on the other side of the torn fabric, that will hold one stitch.  How can that POSSIBLY be enough?  I just know that it is.

The book is also about all kinds of other stitches, not just emergency ones but ones we take in creating beauty, and connection; and in helping lost causes find their way back to cool lives, and in finding very surprising patterns and connections, where we had thought none existed.

My favorite part of the book was the most devastating, about your friend Pammy and her blouse and how you wore it until it was a rag and then you had to let it go. But even in letting it go, you still carry Pammy inside of you. This felt like the truest metaphor for grief that I’ve read in a long time. 

Thank you,my honey.

I also loved your line that comfort and isolation--the ways we try to protect ourselves--comfort and isolation are not where surprises are, because that’s where I feel safest, I’m sorry to say.

I completely hate this, too, and am most comfortable in isolation.  I also hold resentments, and hold my breath, and hold onto the old ways, even though over and over again, when I let go, here and there, Life surprises me, and God is such a show off.  Left to my own devices, I am positive that if I get what I think is best, then I will be happy and safe....but (horribly) this is just not true, or at least, the feeling doesn't last very long. And thank God I am NOT left to my own devices.  I have friends!  The greatest miracle and gift of all.  At the same time, I can't get safety from something outside, that I can buy, lease, date, or manipulate.  Safety is an inside job.  Safety comes NOT from clinging and holding on to what I love, but letting go, breathing deeply, practicing radical self-care, repeating and affirming myself.  Left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe.......

The search for meaning is where we find meaning is a lot like the whole idea of the journey being more important than the destination. I hate thinking this is true, but it is, isn’t it?

I think so.  I hate when people say cheerfully, "Life is a journey."  I find that I want to attack them.   And yet, I read Cavafy's  "Ithaca" several times a year, and to me it is one of the greatest, truest, loveliest poems ever written, and it totally convinces me that fully engaging in our own unique journey is the greatest way to live this one precious life we've bless with.

What surprised you in writing this book? What were the discoveries you made? What do you hope people will bring to it? Or have it bring to them?

It surprised me that I wrote it at all.  

It sounds so depressing, especially after Help, Thanks, Wow, which was pretty cheerful--the search for meaning, like something you' should think about in college.  But it is exhilarating stuff to ponder--why are we here?  How can we become more awake, more alive, and break the trance of being so busy, yet so shut down and small?  How can we become big and juicy?  How can we possibly come through the dark and scary times that are inevitably a part of each human life, and help those we love, too?

I hope this book is very nourishing for people, and that they find it funny, and encouraging, that we can and do come through it all, together, one day at a time.  And that we do grow, and our lives can become more expansive, and immediate, and sweet.

What’s obsessing you now and why? 

Publication!  I think you know the drill. The whole month before is such a nightmare.  I'm so positive that if this or that happens, with reviews and sales, that I'll be completely healed of all my self-doubt and Swiss cheesey-ness.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Adriana Trigiani talks about The Supreme Macaroni Company, food, fate, and so much more

I first met Adriana Trigiani at BEA, at a special luncheon for the American Library Association. I was one of four authors speaking, and Adriana went last, which was a good thing, because she was so hilarious that none of us could have followed her. Way more famous than any of the other writers there, she climbed to the podium carrying all our books and said a bit about each one, urging everyone int he audience to buy our books immediately! My editor introduced me to her afterwards and Adriana gave me a huge hug. How could you not adore a person like that?

And adore her I do. She shot to fame with Big Stone Gap, followed by Big Cherry Holler, Milk Glass Moon, Home to Big Stone Gap, Lucia, Lucia, The Queen of the Big Time, Rococo, Very Valentine and Brava, Valentine, all of which top the bestseller lists. She's also written a cookbook, Cooking With my Sisters, and her books have sold in over 35 countries. Viola in Reel Life, is her young adult novel, and Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from my Grandmothers is her peak into the lives of the women who meant the most to her.

But wait, there's more! A former writer/producer on The Cosby Show, A Different World, and executive producer/head writer for City Kids for Jim Henson Productions, she wrote Growing up Funny for Lily Tomlin, which won an Emmy nomination.She's also a screenwriter, who has written the adaptation of Lucia, Lucia and Very Valentine.

Her new novel, The Supreme Macaroni Company is the final installment in the Valentine trilogy. About juggling family and business, it's truly a book about the paths that fate takes us, and what we do when we get there.

I'm thrilled to host Adriana here. Thank you, thank you, Adriana.

Did you always know that you were going to do a trilogy about Valentine? And since, this is the final installment of the Valentine trilogy, I have to ask, do you miss her already? (Because I do.)   

I do miss Valentine! My dream was to follow a woman from 30 to 40 and tell her story in work and love and family. She's gotten more complex over time, but every woman I know becomes more interesting and more complicated as she faces life, figures out her career, motherhood, caring for aging parents and grandparents- being a good and faithful friend.  

You’ve been called a master of visual detail (Washington Post), an epic writer, and an ambitious and daring one, which is absolutely spot on. Your pages virtually breathe. So let’s talk about craft. How do you write? Do you know where the story is going or do you have only the barest idea? Do you map it out before hand or let it find its way organically?

Thank you for these beautiful compliments. I'm one of those people who has to write everyday- and I like a good eight hour schedule. I break it up- I rise very early and do several hours before my family is up- then, once the school day begins, I get back to it. I work at home, often outside in our backyard when the weather is good. Even when it gets cold, I head outside. Sometimes I know where the story is going, but even when I do, I allow for sudden inspiration that gives way to surprise. Surprise is often the mother of wonder.  Novels are such a great home for the art of wonder. I do an outline, and I spend months noodling with names. I keep a gold box of memorial cards with saints on them that my grandmother collected at funerals. Maybe this is why I write about Italians so often! 

All the information about shoes and cobblers just fascinated me. Tell us about the research, and could you make a pair of shoes if you had to?  My work is really about honoring the working person. And then, I dig in deep, honoring the person in my family who could do that particular work. I felt close to my grandfather when I went to Italy to learn how to make shoes by hand. I handled the tools he used on a daily basis, and learned how to discern the quality of suedes, leather and fabrics, not an easy task in Italy where everything has aesthetic appeal.
I think I could make a pair of shoes- but you're also talking to someone who thinks she could ice skate in the Olympics with enough practice. By the way, I've never ice skated, but when I was a kid and saw the Ice Capades, I was crazy about the skaters and those wild Vegas costumes and thought, "That's the career for me." I'm one of those people who thinks she can do anything- and I can, I guess, in my imagination. However, the art of shoemaking, like any art form, is based in technique- and technique is hours of practice. Then, the designer has to have an eye- and the strength to deliver elements that will please the customer. I like the unexpected element in a shoe- that makes my happy when I look down at my feet. I am a lover of the craft, not a designer, and certainly not an artisan. I believe the artist becomes a master craftsman when she spends decades refining her craft. It's not about liking shoes- it's about living shoes. 

There is such feeling in the book--and such food! And there is my favorite line,  “Love is only real and true when it makes you feel safe.” Can you talk a bit about that glorious line, please?

Well, I think about this a lot. I am married, and I think about commitment a lot. As an artist, I hope to be adventurous- but the truth about love is that over time, you have to love security as much as you love discovery. When I fell in love, and I remember this, I needed dramamene. I had to really navigate that surrender- as it's not really a comfortable place. I need my solitude and I like standing outside the circle and observing everyone else- but when it's your heart you're giving away, to someone, who hopefully deserves it, it's the ultimate sacrifice. As an artist, it's as if I observe the world in a state of challenge- and as you know, as you read my books, I'm fascinated by work and love- I'm forever fascinated by why we choose the person we choose to love- over say, that person over there. And then, that great mystery, a long marriage, is a rubics cube. And it's different for everyone. Now you know why I write so many books- I really haven't come close to figuring it out. 

The Supreme Macaroni Company has a lot in it about fate. Do you believe in fate or do you think we make our own destinies?

I really don't know! If you want to see the world differently, have a baby. I used to believe in fate, but as a mother, all I have is control of this moment- and even then, it's an illusion.  The best part of my job is hearing the stories of the women who read my books. They have such an effect on me- A young widow in Youngstown, Ohio shaped The Supreme Macaroni Company. When a woman tells me she's a widow,  I always ask, "Did you like him?" We always have a big laugh over that. And sometimes she says, "No I didn't." but most of the time she says, "I was crazy about him."  I guess the best answer for your question is- yes there's fate, but you have to make your destiny too. 

You’re both an award-winning playwright, television writer and documentary filmmaker. Do you prefer one medium over the other? is it difficult to switch gears? You’ve written a script for Big Stone Gap, which you are also going to direct, and I’d like if it was difficult to change the story so it would work for film (if indeed, you did change it). Did the book come alive for you in different ways as a script? Was there anything you had to give up?

As I write this, I'm up early in Big Stone Gap prepping for the day to go out with our cinematographer Reynaldo Villalobos. The script is written, the roles are cast- the producers are the plane on their way here. The best way I can describe it is this. It's as if all the elements of the novel have come to life and I have invited them here to play their parts. Every location is a pop up book that folds out and opens up, and I stand before it, acknowledging the layers.  I will write about this experience later, but for now, I don't know where the writer stops and the director begins. I was on the phone with one of our actors the other day and he spoke of the character with such knowledge, it was as if he wrote it. And I put my feet up and surrendered. In the beginning was the word- but in the middle and at the end is also the word. The story. 

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention your extraordinary generosity towards other writers (what other writer would bring up the books of the other writer/speakers and promote the before launching into her own hilarious sparkling speech?) How and why does such kindness come about?

Kids, I'm a middle child. Once a middle child, always one. I want everybody to get their share of m&m's- and by the way, they deserve it. I know what my fellow authors go through- and any way I can help ease their burden, I will do. I didn't get here because I deserve it- I got here because I was surrounded by love and support and a keen understanding that the world needs art. Needs writers. Need stories. Like a good cook feeds your body, we're in the feed your heart and imagination and soul business. Anything I can do to help- I'm there. 

What’s obsessing you now and why?

I'm obsessed about the American dream. I am the beneficiary of some big immigrant dreams, and in my gratitude, I look for signs of it everyday, and hold out hope that it is alive for the new immigrants.

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?  

They were perfect- thank you! xoxo

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The amazing Dani Shapiro talks about STILL WRITING, yoga, leaps of faith, paying attention, her husband's new film A BRIEF HISTORY OF DECAY, and so much more

I first met Dani Shapiro through her work, soul-scarring memoirs, brutally honest fiction and the occasional amazing article. Then we finally had lunch, became friends, and I can't tell you how lucky I am to know her. 

What I loved so much about Still Writing is that it isn't just a book about how to be a writer, how to make the most of that particular way of life, it's how to be a human being, how to make the most of any day. Pay attention. Be kind to yourself. Focus. Don't give up. It's all hard but it's all so worth it. This is the kind of book you want to hand to friends, whether they're writers or not, because it nudges you to be your very best self. It reminds you that caring about something is always worth the cost. 

I'm so honored to host Dani here again (my blog is always your blog, Dani.) Thank you so, so much, Dani.

You’ve written astonishing memoir and brilliant novels. Why a book on writing now? 

Oh, Caroline, thank you for that compliment.  I feel like I’ve built my writing life a sentence at a time.  I just try to get better with each book.  That’s always been my challenge to myself.  Can I make each book better than the last?  

So, a few years ago, I started a blog for the same reason a lot of us start blogs: my publisher told me to.  But I couldn’t figure out what I could post about in a regular manner that would interest me or anyone else, until I chose writing as my subject.  Not craft, so much as the process: the sweat, the rejection, uncertainty, resistance, distraction, self-censorship, questions of betrayal, exposure, that are a part of every writer’s day.  And after I’d been blogging for a while, I noticed that I was getting a lot of notes from other writers.  These writers ranged from well-known to just starting out, and they all said the same exact thing: this is what I needed today.  I mean, word for word, over and over again.  This is what I needed today.  But it never occurred to me to turn the blog into a book.  People kept asking me if I was planning to do so.  They assumed I was going to.  And then finally I caught up with the message I was clearly getting, which was that when it came to writing about this life we all lead, I might have something helpful to contribute.  And even though I sold Still Writing based on the blog’s success, I never once went back and looked at the blog as I wrote this book.  I wanted the book to be a book, written with the kind of care and attention and focus that a book requires –– which is different than the looseness with which I approach blogging.  

Anyway, that’s how Still Writing came about.  All of my other books announced themselves to me.  This book took a chorus of voices, basically asking me to write it.  I had to pay attention to what I was being told.

This is actually so much more than a book on writing, because it ties together how to live a life, as well as how to write a book. It’s almost a spiritual manual on writing. (Well, actually, it IS that.) Can you talk about that? Did you always approach your writing in a spiritual way?

I do think writing is an act of faith, whether we think of it that way or not.  There’s the blank page.  And then there’s the leap onto that blank page without the slightest indication or proof that anything will come of it.  It’s like diving into a swimming pool and hoping it will fill with water between the dive and the landing.  That leap requires many traits.  A kind of lunacy, a tenacity, a stubborn willingness to fall, pick ourselves up and leap again (“Fail better,” to quote Beckett) but it also requires a kind of faith.  For me, the act of taking that leap every day of my life for the past twenty years has been what has formed me and helped me know how to live. 

As one cannot, absolutely cannot, stay in a yoga class for more than two seconds without wanting to flee, I’m curious if you can speak about how you came to yoga, and how it changed you as a writer and as a person.

Well, first of all, come to a yoga class with me!  I’ll bet you just haven’t found the right one.   I’ve been practicing yoga since I was in my twenties.  I began because a friend had a wonderful teacher and invited me to share some private sessions with her, so that was a pretty great introduction.  Over the years, my reasons for practicing yoga have changed.  At first, I was just in it for the exercise, and for the vanity.  I liked what it did for my body.  But over time I became aware that my mind quieted down during yoga practice.  That ideas came to me.  That it was a fertile, fluid, wordless way of coming home to myself.  Of knowing what was going on in my mind and in my heart.  And so, in recent years, it has become an integral part of my writing life.  I work in the morning, unroll my mat at some point during the day, practice yoga, then go back to my desk.  Of course I’m describing a perfect day, in which I don’t get lured by the Internet or distracted by my endless to-do list.  “The fleas of life,” as Styron calls it.  

You talk about how when writing, you want to write above the emotions, to not be laughing or crying or carrying on when you write.  But have there ever been difficult passages, where you did weep because you were so lost in the story world and it was so real that you were actually living it?

Oh, sure.  I think this relates more to fiction for me.  When I’m deep into a novel, the characters are so real to me that I feel I’m living two realities –– the one of my book, and, um, the other one.  Those characters have made me cry.  I have felt their stinging loss, their powerful grief, their betrayal of each other as surely as if it were playing out in my  “real” world.  I think, though, in memoir, that I cast a colder eye.  Simply in the sense that I’m aware that I’m crafting a story out of my life, and keeping in mind first and foremost the story.  Otherwise one runs the risk of being really self-indulgent.  I will say, though, that I just recorded the audiobook of Devotion and I did get choked up a couple of times, particularly when reading the parts about watching my father pray when I was a little girl.

The work is the only thing that saves us. I know so many writers who feel that the work is what keeps them from madness (myself included.) Shouldn’t then, we really see our work--despite the sometime agony of it--as a great gift?

What I also really deeply appreciated was your talking about “the cave”, the way we need to be immersed in our work uninterrupted, that we can’t just grab coffee and then come back to our writing desks because the whole rhythm is spoiled.  The hermetic joy. as you call it, really is that. I’ve had friend say they can’t imagine doing what writers do, but my feeling is, I can’t imagine going into a noisy bustling job everyday. For years, I’ve thought of that as a failing of mine, but I’ve begun to see it as a positive Can you talk about this? 

I relate to this so completely!  I’ve begun to embrace the parts of myself –– my shyness, feeling like an outsider, my need for solitude –– instead of seeing them as liabilities, I’ve come to understand that they are traits necessary to being a writer.  Almost like a prerequisite!  I couldn’t have worked in an office either.  I become over-stimulated very, very easily.  I’m thin-skinned.  I think we all are.  My feelings are easily hurt.  I don’t enjoy groups.  Thank god I’ve been able to make a life for myself as a writer, because I can’t imagine what else I could have done.  As for madness, I am certain that writing saved me.  It has allowed me to know my own mind.  And that is the beginning, at least for me, of sanity.  

I also love the very true picture you present of what it is to live a writing life--that there is economic unease, that there is risk, that sometimes there is envy, too. On top of that, writers are expected to have a platform. Can you talk about the dangers of writers becoming self-marketers at the expense of their work?

Oh, the irony of answering this question on the eve of the publication of my new book, responding to questions for your wonderful blog!  I think it has become more and more time-consuming and complex for all of us writers.  Right now, getting my new book out into the world is my full-time job.  That was the case with Devotion as well.  It really has been the last five years or so, I’d say, that writers are expected to have platforms.  (I write, in Still Writing, about how much I hate the word platform, unless it is attached to the bottom of a very cool shoe.)  That said, I’m on Facebook, and Twitter, and I have the aforementioned blog.  I will be going on book tour for the next few months.  Months!  And I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity.  In fact, I’ve made many of the opportunities happen myself, by sheer force of will.  I’ve learned to ask for favors, to enlist people –– just as people ask favors of me.  This is part of what we do for each other.  In a way, it’s more grass roots than ever, and I like that part of it.  

As for the economic uncertainty, risk, envy –– all just part of what we signed up for.  I’m married to a screenwriter/director and our life is a pretty much a constant rollercoaster.  The only thing to do is embrace the rollercoaster.  This life is not for the faint of heart, or the risk-adverse.  

I also loved when you talked about how every writer’s journey is simply that--their own journey. We can’t know when we will have a shot of great luck. For some it comes early, for others, it comes later, and it's often something we can't plan or work toward. You’re going to be on Oprah! So I’m wondering, given that Oprah slot, do you feel now that you can relax, that you’ve made it? Or, would you still feel uneasy even if you won the Pulitzer?

I know, crazy, right?  When I got the call inviting me to appear on Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” –– she spends an hour interviewing me about my life and my work –– it felt like it fell out of the sky.  Of course, it both fell out of the sky, and was the result of a lifetime of work.  It’s a great lesson in doing our work and keeping our heads down.  In not anticipating, or waiting for the phone to ring.  (It never rings when we’re waiting for it to ring.  This is a law of nature.)  It was the first time in my life I’ve ever been shocked by good news.  But no, there is no relaxing.  No sense of having arrived.  I mean, can you imagine that?  Look at what’s happened to your career over the last five years or so.  Do you brush your teeth in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror  and think, hey, I’m the coolest?  No.  I didn’t think so.  But it also keeps us honest, and hungry, and creatively ambitious.  And that’s a good thing.  Complacency has no place in an artist’s life. 

What’s obsessing you now and why?

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

Well, there was a pair of Rag & Bone boots, but I took care of that obsession.  Just kidding.  Or JK, as my fourteen year old would say.  I’m thinking a lot about books that live in the blurry boundaries, the grey area –– ones that aren’t quite fact, aren’t quite fiction.  Hybrids.  I recently wrote an essay for Tin House about Elizabeth Hardwick’s wonderful novel, Sleepless Nights, which occupies that territory.  I think when I finally come back to the page, that’s where I’ll be heading. 

As for a question you didn’t ask.  How about: Dani, your husband just directed his first film!  How’s that going?

Caroline, I’m so glad you asked.  My husband’s beautiful film, “A Short History of Decay” is going to have its festival premiere in just a couple of weeks at the Hamptons Film Festival.  His stars are coming in, they’ll all be on the red carpet, and I will be giving a reading that day at my neighborhood bookstore in Connecticut.  Well, at least I don’t have to go buy a new dress.