A Brief List of Good News RE: My Brief History of Sex Education, plus some advice on packing underwear while traveling

September 16, 2010

1. Spent a lovely couple of end-of-summer weeks in a cabin in New Hampshire where I somehow managed to blow through the revisions on my book. I was amazed at how much work I was able to do when, for the first time in my life, I had the luxury of working like writing was a real job (though sadly I received no paycheck).

2. While I only had two weeks and not two years like Thoreau had when he wrote Walden, I did feel a little Thoreau-like in my cabin in the woods, even dusting off my old flute and playing for the birds . . .  (and yes, any bad  “Kate’s flute playing is for the birds” comments would be entirely appropriate here).

3. Other than tidying up what I hope will be the final major edit of My Brief History, I think the other great accomplishment of the trip was convincing my dog Charley to take the great leap and go swimming. Charley is part-Lab, but he only inherited the “likes to jump up on people” Lab gene and has, until now, been completely terrified of any water that’s not sitting quietly in a bowl next to his food. I have to say I was proud of both of us.

How Charley usually looks when he gets too close to large bodies of water.

4. Went to Gilford Old Home Day and fell into the trap of telling the kids “Back in my day there were no fireworks, no climbing wall or fried dough or rock bands playing in the grandstand and still we had fun,” though I strongly suspect that wasn’t really the case. Was pleased to see one band in particular—Rick Page and The Round-Ups, which you can hear for yourself at http://www.myspace.com/rick1page1. I thought they were terrific though I admit I may be a little biased because I was in Rick Page’s first band—a.k.a. the Gilford Middle High School Band . . .

5. Wondered for a minute whether I might deduct my New Hampshire stay on my taxes by claiming it as research for my book, in part because I ran into a handful of people I hadn’t seen since high school and was quickly able to determine that my characterizations were right on . . . would love to hear from any accountants out there if that might count as fact-checking or not.

6. Managed a field trip to the Weirs, which I attempt at least once a summer if only to make sure the neon sign is still there and the Drive-In Theater is still open. (Yes to both). Also learned the disturbing information from the coin-operated animatronic fortune-teller on the boardwalk that my lucky color was pink just before her recorded voice began endlessly repeating, “Fortunes out. Please report to arcade attendant. Fortunes out. Please report to arcade attendant.”

However my luck changed when I discovered the end-of-season $2 sunglass wall at the boardwalk T-shirt shop, where I bought a pair of rose-colored glasses—and yes, life did immediately look better, so maybe my lucky color is pink even if I appear to currently be out of fortunes—and I found a pair of fab white bigger than Jackie O. shades that I now wear everyday out on the playground with my students since summer is over and school has begun again. . .

7. Had a chapter of my book published this fall in Prairie Schooner, a literary magazine I worked for ages ago. Prairie Schooner published Chapter 3 of the book, which I re-titled “Method Acting” because “Chapter 3” sounded a little lame. I’d summarize it for you, but then you might not care about reading it, so I’ll leave it a mystery. I was inspired by a large portion of the rest of the Fall 2010 Prairie Schooner, which is a collection of tributes to the magazine’s editor—my former boss, mentor, and friend, Hilda Raz—to honor her retirement. Hilda Raz is one of the main reasons that today I write more than just grocery lists and notes to Joe and Emily’s teachers about early pickups for dentist appointments, but rather than go on at length about Hilda’s attributes myself, I will instead include the most succinct and witty tribute, written by my friend and one of my favorite writers, Erin Flanagan. I will end this post with her words:

What I Learned from Hilda Raz

by Erin Flanagan

Strong glasses demand attention. Do not let people you don’t respect tell you what to do. Always carry an extra pair of underpants in your purse when you travel. Listen to your instincts. If you throw a dinner party and find a spider in the salad, pluck it from the greens and make a literary reference that will leave your guests charmed. Love your children fiercely and honestly. Surround yourself with brilliant friends. Survive. Listen to what an author is trying to tell you no matter what she is saying. Call first thing in the morning to keep people on their toes. Follow your heart, that nebulous device.

What I failed to learn from Hilda Raz: how to imagine Prairie Schooner without her.

Reprinted from Prairie Schooner, Fall 2010, by permission of Erin Flanagan

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