"And then our kid turned into f***ing Good Will Hunting or something." - A Thing said in our house tonight. #NoIdeaIfAnyOfThisIsActuallyCorrect

"And then our kid turned into f***ing Good Will Hunting or something." - A Thing said in our house tonight. #NoIdeaIfAnyOfThisIsActuallyCorrect



so my school had this thing called “senior skip day,” except that senior skip day didn’t exist and every year the administration sent out emails in the spring that were like DON’T FUCKIN SKIP CLASS OR YOU WILL RECEIVE RESTRICTION (restriction was like, my boarding school’s equivalent of detention where instead of staying after school you had to go to bed early and help stuff envelopes advertising the summer program until your hands were BLOODIED AND CRIPPLED BY CARPAL TUNNEL) and every year the seniors were like YOLO THEY CAN’T PUNISH ALL OF US!!!!!

  • spoiler alert: yes they can? THEY ALWAYS CAN.
  • 200 years of american high school and teenagers still think that there is a cap limit on kids in detention and that you can leave after 15 minutes if the teacher doesn’t show up.

anyway, my senior year, we all got together and nattered at each other until some brave soldier (i feel like it was my friend paula but WHO KNOWS) was like “OK SENIOR SKIP DAY IS THIS THURSDAY!!!! NOBODY GO TO CLASS OR UR A SCAB.”

  • she didn’t say scab because she’s not from the 1920s and we aren’t newsies, though this story would be way more interesting if we were
  • what she said was “YOLO THEY CAN’T PUNISH ALL OF US!!!!!”
  • except not yolo because it was 2009 and drake hadn’t been invented yet except as a dear sweet boy in a wheelchair.

we also used this email system to communicate with one another that has very deeply informed the way i understand email and which probably makes it very frustrating to be my friend and receive emails that have subject lines like “URGENT” and then just 42 links to the same florida georgia line youtube video.

  • I’M NOT ASHAMED, but in that way where like i kind of AM ashamed so i’m really aggressively NOT ashamed? 

so the day of reckoning rolls around and my alarm goes off at 8 (class started at 8:05 but i liked to PLAY WITH FIRE when it came to being late; my mom actually asked the school to stop emailing her when i was a sophomore because i was late so often that their rote “Mrs. Ofgeography we are emailing you to say—” was CLOGGING UP HER INBOX and she was like “i GET IT MY CHILD IS THE MOST BORING MISCREANT OF ALL TIME.”) and i looked at my roommate elle and she looked at me and went, “you going?”

"hell no," i said. "YOLO. they can’t punish all of us."

elle, who was far prettier and far cooler than i was with the notable exception of her obsession with tswift’s “love story” and her tendency to look at the endangered species list and cry sometimes during study hall, quickly bizounced across the street to this shopping center thing where all the cool kids smoked in secret where huge trucks dropped off clothes for the Dress Barn. i think there were also tennis courts nearby. more importantly there was this chinese food delivery place and a lil restaurant that made HELLA BAGELS.

  • HELLA.

off goes elle! meanwhile i’m like, “yessssss i’m gonna use senior skip day to watch 14 hours of tv shows and eat frozen peanut butter bars that i stole from the dining hall! I’M GONNA LIVE LIKE I’M 23 ALONE IN CHICAGO ON A WEEKEND WHEN MY ONLY PLAN IS TAKEOUT AND CUDDLING WITH THE FAUX-SNOW-LEOPARD BLANKET I WILL ONE DAY SURELY OWN.” 

of course, during this time the administration was continuing to send out emails that reminded us with increasing urgency that senior skip day was NOT A THING and that we were ALL GETTING RESTRICTION if we didn’t get our STUPID ASSES TO CLASS, GODDAMNIT, WE ARE NOT RUNNING A CIRCUS HERE. 

but i was like! yolo, motherfuckers!!! i already got into college, YOU CAN’T TOUCH ME.

at some point during the day elle and our friend ginna came back to the room with takeout from the chinese delivery place and we sat on our floor eating it and probably watching veronica mars or looking at the endangered species list and crying.

all of a sudden, elle said, “guys shut up, guys shut up, GUYS SHUT UP,” and ginna and i were like, “WHAT we have a LOT to SAY about FRIED FUCKING DUMPLINGS, ELLE," and elle said, "did you hear that?"

"hear what?"


'that' was the sound of one of our dorm moms, mrs. f, knocking on doors and saying things like, “IF YOU DON'T GET YOUR BUTTS TO CLASS IN 5 MINUTES YOU'RE ON CATEGORY 4 RESTRICTION FOREVER.” elle quickly scampered up our raised beds to hide in the corner, where a tiny human like elle could actually hide from view; i leapt immediately into what we called a closet but was basically a cubby with a flap that was DEFINITELY not meant for a 5'8” individual with knobby as hell knees.

our door, which was never locked because we both hated the effort of typing in the lock code, opened. mrs. f said, “mollyhall?”

i held my breath. 

  • i should add here that i seemed to be operating on like a scooby-doo level of logic where basically i thought that she was somehow NOT ALLOWED to investigate?
  • like, if she can’t see me, there is NO POSSIBLE WAY that she could prove i’m in here, right?
  • she’ll just poke her head in and be like oH GOSH NO KIDS HERE and leave!!

you can see the flaw in my logic.

mrs. f sighed. “mollyhall, i know you’re in here, i literally heard your voice ten seconds ago.”

  • there’s no WAY she guesses i’m in the closet!!!

"mollyhall, i know you’re in the closet."



there was a creak. mrs. f stopped. it wasn’t actually a “creak,” so much as this like, prolonged groan? like it’s the sound an elephant would make if it sat on a really large accordion.

i poked my head out of the closet. mrs. f looked at me. elle sat up.

i said, “where’s ginna?”


"um," said elle, "she’s in the—"


ginna yes.

i really wish i could describe the sound the ceiling made when it collapsed. it sounded a lot like the way losing your breath feels. i sort of remember ginna falling in like, really slow motion, like i could see the expression on her face. i didn’t really think about how i would describe this in words. ginna’s face said:

  • oh no.
  • what have i done?
  • this was a mistake. 
  • i regret a series of decisions that i have made.
  • is there a way out of this?
  • are those oreos under mollyhall’s pillow?
  • why are there oreos under mollyhall’s pillow?
  • mollyhall, you HAVE a food cupboard, what good is a food cupboard if you don’t—
  • oh, crap.

she belly flopped onto the floor. i mean, the girl bounced. and then she just laid there. mrs. f looked at her. elle looked at her. i looked at her, still mostly in the closet. we were all going to get category 4 restriction forever.

ginna said, “hi, mrs. f. i feel like i should explain.”

Daenerys: *never gets on the bed* Me: *attempts to make up bed* Daenerys: *gets on the bed* *refuses to get off bed* *has always lived on the bed*

Daenerys: *never gets on the bed* Me: *attempts to make up bed* Daenerys: *gets on the bed* *refuses to get off bed* *has always lived on the bed*



A wee fact I was made aware of recently, and really quite fascinated by, was that the two people above once met in a London bookshop in 1932.

The old lady is Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and the young man is Peter Llewelyn Davies, the boy on whom J M Barrie based Peter Pan!

I’m not quite sure why I find this so intriguing, I just think I’d like to know what two people with such a unique bond talked about.*

* A fictional play called Peter and Alice based on this encounter was written by John Logan and starred Dame Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw.

Legit spelling test my kid brought home. Thank you, Baby Jesus, he spelled “come” correctly.

Legit spelling test my kid brought home. Thank you, Baby Jesus, he spelled “come” correctly.

How is J going to convince people to sign up for his Study Abroad in Scotland program? KILT, OBVS. #SingMeASongOfAJThatIsGOOONE

How is J going to convince people to sign up for his Study Abroad in Scotland program? KILT, OBVS. #SingMeASongOfAJThatIsGOOONE

You have very pretty skin. :)

Oh, that is so sweet of you to say, thank you! But I have to admit, in pictures, you are usually not seeing my skin but rather the 1,100 layers I put on it every day. ;)

How do you know when an idea for a book is "The One"? How can you tell it's worth pursuing, that you won't tire of it halfway through?


Dear Anon:

Well, the sad truth is, you probably will tire of it—right about half way. Or hate it, or doubt it, or think you have SCREWED THIS ONE UP big time because you don’t know what the heck you’re doing.

The other truth is, right around halfway is when so many new writers abandon their manuscripts because they are sure it is going to be a big mucky mess, and hey, that new idea that has come flirting with you is so much shinier and cooler, and it keeps winking at you and whispering in a sultry voice, “Come hither.”  Yeah, that must be the one. 

It isn’t.

You reach dry, bone-parched valleys in the process of writing all books. I have never spoken to a fellow author who was exhilarated through the entire writing process. Novels take a long time. It’s a commitment. Sometimes it’s down and dirty work—showing up and just doing it. And yes, a mucky mess. When I’m in that mucky mess (for the umpteenth time) and bemoaning my progress, my very wise writer friends remind me, “Just get it down. You can’t revise a blank page.”

And that of course is key.  Revision.  When you finish a draft, it will still be crap, but you can fix that.  You can’t fix a blank page.

With all that said, when a shiny new idea comes knocking (with their seductive little smiles) I always tell them to wait.  If they are worth spending a year or more of my time with them, they will still be waiting for me when I finish my current project. If they are still needling and poking me at that time, I might examine them a little closer to see if they have legs too and not just a smile. I might jot down a few more ideas about them, an opening line, some fuzzy thoughts, search out the character a little more deeply.  And then at some point I know, I CAN’T ignore this story. It’s latched onto me. I have to write it because it’s not going away.

I highly recommend reading writing books on craft. Lots of them, because no one writes or thinks exactly the same way you do, but you can pick up a few tools from each book—ones that fit your hand and your style—and those tools will help you when you hit the valleys that play with your confidence.

Another little trick I use that helps me through the muddle, is a little post-it note that I plant somewhere on my desk.  I answer the question, what is the point?  Because seriously, sometimes when you are knee-deep in the muddle, you can’t remember! Though there are lots of points and layers in a book, what is the overarching point?  Redemption? Belonging? Justice?  What does your main character or the world they live in desperately want or need? Sometimes a few words on a post it can be a much needed beacon.

Good luck anon.  Power through.


Oh baby, baby, be cuttin’ off mah hurr. (Paraphrased Beyonce lyrics, always appropriate when discussing haircuts.)

Oh baby, baby, be cuttin’ off mah hurr. (Paraphrased Beyonce lyrics, always appropriate when discussing haircuts.)

Random, but why is your cat named Nessie?

Ah, Nessie. Okay, so we were a strictly No Pets Household, but then two years ago, we went to Scotland, and when we came back, we were in an EMOTIONALLY WOBBLY PLACE because Scooootttlllaaaand, so we succumbed to the lure of Teensy Kittens. We let our then six year old name one, and he picked Nessie due to the obsession he developed with the Loch Ness Monster. Yes, I believe the REAL Nessie is a female, but our Boy!Nessie does not seem to mind. He identifies more as a Fatty Lumpkin than a boy or a girl anyway. We almost called our other cat “Caledonia” to have a whole Scotland theme, but we went with Daenerys instead, and, well…