Sunday, January 30, 2011

Floaties in the Ocean of No

My husband's a pretty remarkable guy. He's one of those rare people who helps you find the best within you. I've seen his invisible power work on all sorts of people. It's a combination of optimism, sincerity, and strength. He Thinks You Can and somehow, almost miraculously, you discover that indeed you can.
Being around him is just good for you.
I get a lot of credit for my success (which is very nice), but the simple truth is that the difference between success and failure is the ability to endure failure long enough to achieve success.
One little yes in the Ocean of No can save you.
But after you've been adrift for a while, it's easy to begin doubting that a yes actually exists.
The Ocean of No is vast.
And cold.
And can easily swallow you up.
I swam around in the Ocean of No for ten years looking for someone to say Yes, we'll publish you. People ask me how I survived it, and I usually tell them one part of the truth: I didn't know it would take ten years.
Each day I thought: Today could be the day.
But the other part of that truth is that during all that swimming in publishing's Ocean of No, I was wearing little floaties.
You know, those arm bands that keep innocent young people (who are too naive to understand that people do drown in Ocean of No) afloat?
In his helpful, quiet way, Mark slipped on those floaties--he kept me believing that what I was doing was good and important, and that, hey, today could be the day.
And then one day, almost miraculously, it was.
I look back on the me that met him and realize that he's done a lot more than buoy me through the Ocean of No. He's helped me become more reasoned and empathetic and giving. And when I'm upset about something like I was this week, he makes me get in his little Rowboat of Reason and paddles me across my choppy waters to a calmer place where he helps me sort through things until I feel better.
For all the praise and acclaim I get, I know the truth--I'm the me I am because of him.
I just wanted you to know.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Home, Sweet Home

There was no room for ruby slippers in my carry-on, and the Converse didn't seem to have any transport magic in them, but the United puddle-jumper was on time and San Francisco had clear skies, and I got a fantastic sky view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and the City as the pilot circled and banked and gave us quite a show on the final flight of The Running Dream tour. I came home to flowers and a welcome-home cake and an impressively tidy house. And I just didn't want to stop hugging m'boys. If you've been following my posts for the past two weeks, you know that going on a book tour like this is not the glamorous excursion one might think. It's a lot of hard work. School visits during the day, presentations at bookstores at night. And it all starts to blur together, which can be disturbing. What day is it? What is my hotel room number? Who is my driver today? It gets pretty lonely. I only had one meal in the company of people I knew. The rest were on the run or in my room....or just skipped. So seeing familiar faces, or getting little comments on the blog, or mail in my all helped more than you can imagine. Thinking back on the bright spots, here are some that buoyed me along:
  • Having a former student show up at a Chicago booksigning. It was nice to just sit and chat and talk about writing. It was also great to see him again!
  • Meeting my "twisty-tie" pen-pal and her family who drove 2 hours to meet me at a library event in St. Charles.
  • Getting a picture of my two darling nieces (who I think are actually second cousins?) from my cousin in California (the picture posted) to let me know they'd bought the book and were reading!
  • Getting messages from Mark and Roberta and Caradith and Elizabeth and Brenda and Greg and Mary-Mary and MaryLou...just checking up, checking in. Friends indeed!
  • Seeing The Wadhams! Blueberry Hill Diner! Chuck Berry! The Duck Room! Burgers and PIE!
  • Meeting optimistic4ever -- good grief. I can't believe you weren't going to tell me!
  • Discovering "Amy" is...Amy! Good grief. I can't believe I can be so dense.
  • Walking into Hicklebee's and hearing our Risky Whippet CD blaring over the speakers.
  • My "homecoming" at Hicklebee's -- what a store, what a staff, what a home-away-from-home.
  • Hugging Walter.
  • Having my cousin Rolf and his family and dad show up at a booksigning. It's really nice when family doubles as friends and makes the effort to turn out.
  • Having people in three different cities come because they read my post on John Scalzi's blog.
  • Discovering that the two couples with big bags sitting near the front of the room during a bookstore event were collectors...and had first printings of all of my books--even How I Survived Being A Girl.
  • Meeting Amanda and seeing Ryan. (who I met at an airport years ago)...and reading their package of letterboxing fun (Sammy Keyes and the Ham Sandwich!).
  • Having a principal tell me I was a "firestorm of inspiration."
  • Reading the comments posted on this blog--thank you for following along and for taking the time to write.
  • Discovering that the audience at my last bookstore event held two sets of three-generation Sammy Keyes readers--Grandma, Mom, and Daughter--all having read every book.
  • Hugging Mark at the airport.

Thanks to everybody, vocal or not, who traveled along with me through the past two weeks' posts. And thanks to my awesome in-laws for holding down the fort while I was away. It's good to be home.

For next week, if you're curious about some aspect of touring that I didn't touch on in the last two weeks, ask away -- I'll do my best to answer.

See you then!

Friday, January 21, 2011


Couldn't sleep. Up at 3:00, lift to airport at 5:30, just arrived in San Francisco. It's SUNNY! Looking forward to the school event today -- Walter Mayes' school for those of you who know the thespian and Giant Storyteller. Then Hicklebee's bookstore tonight--I love Hicklebee's and the staff! Then one more event tomorrow and I get to go HOME, kiss all my boys, and COLLAPSE. Can't wait!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I missed yesterday, sorry! I arrived late, crashed, woke up super early because I was still on St. Louis time, made myself get up and go for a run along the waterfront. It was cold and dark, but gorgeous with all the lights and a view of the Space Needle. Then it was go-go-go all day, doing school visits and then a video interview before an evening book signing at Third Place Books. My cousin and his family showed up to tonight's signing--it was so nice to see them! There were two collectors in the audience who had stacks of first printings for me to sign. One of them even had a first printing of How I Survived Being A Girl--cool! There was also someone whom I'd met at the Phoenix airport a couple of years ago, and a person who'd read my piece in the Scalzi blog -- actually she was the second person who came to a signing on this tour because of the Scalzi blog. It's interesting (and a little strange) how immediately bonding that is. Now I'm back at the hotel, eating crumbs from a scone and nuts because it's too late (and I'm too tired) to go get any dinner. Lame post, I know. I could tell you about the deranged guy who was shouting at runners as they went by the naked statue in an enormous fountain by the waterfront this morning, but I'm too tired. Much, much too tired! Thanks for checking in on me. It's nice to know you care. G'night!

Monday, January 17, 2011

How NOT To Interview

Despite interference from ice, The Running Dream tour has been pretty uneventful. I get where I’m supposed to go, the equipment all works….things go as The Schedule says they should. Until today. Today I was escorted to Booksource in St. Louis, a wholesale retailer that had me sign a gazillion books for stock. The people were nice and everything went great. The Schedule said they would take me out to lunch afterwards, which they did, mindful of the fact that I needed to be back at my hotel by 1:00 to do a live phone interview with Atlanta-based “Americas Web Radio” (rescheduled from last week when no one could get to the station because of the ice). We got seated immediately, placed our orders fairly soon thereafter, and relaxed…everything was going according plan. Then my phone rang. As I clicked it on I noticed the time was 12:00. “Hello, this is Tom from Americas Web Radio, are you ready to do your interview?” “But it’s only—” and then I realized that it was an hour later in Atlanta. The Schedule was messed up! I gave him a quick rundown of the situation, excused myself from the table, and scooted out of the noisy restaurant and into the bar. And then I realized we’d been disconnected. So I hit redial and when Tom answered he informed me that he’d just put me on hold while the host, Lisa, did the introduction. He went “dead” again, and I held on. The bar was suddenly filling with people and was loud, so I went into the small foyer, but groups of people were stompping in in their snow gear and loud voices. Lisa was now on, but I could barely hear her. So I moved into the snow room up front and shivered through a few questions, until loud people started filing in there, too. I ducked back inside desperately looking for a quiet space, all the while trying to discuss The Running Dream with some level of cohesive intelligence. I finally found a back staircase. It was a straight flight up with a “lift” along the side – you know a single motorized chair for people who cannot walk up stairs. The rails of the lift apparatus narrowed the staircase by about a third, and with me standing there passage was pretty tight. Fortunately, nobody went up or down for a while, My open ear was plugged tight with my finger, and it was a strain to hear, but at least I could answer the questions, and was able to talk to Lisa for a whole 10 minutes without interruption. Then big men in parkas started lugging up huge coolers. When the first one appeared I just squeezed up against the lift rails to get out of the way. Then the second guy arrived carrying something even bigger. And the third. And I’m trying to stay out of the way, hear what’s being said, and answer questions without sounding like anything’s wrong. Finally I went the other half of the distance up the stairs, sat on the little chair at the top of the lift to make room for these hulking guys and their giant coolers, and that’s when I saw that the room at the top of the stairs wasn’t an office, but a room with table and chairs—like an upstairs annex to the restaurant—and after the hulking guys left, there was nobody in it. So I went inside, found a corner, faced the wall and hunkered down with my finger in one ear and my cell phone cranked up to maximum volume against the other. For about three minutes it was quiet in the room. Then the sheet metal started arriving. Big sheets of it, boinging and banging around behind me. Now, the whole time I’m answering questions I’m trying to ignore the sound and I’m hoping they can’t hear it in the radio station studio, but after the drills started Lisa asks me, “What is that noise?” So, live on the air, I recounted everything I’d done to try to conduct this interview. Lisa was great about it, and I managed to make it through a total of four 15-minute segments. Who knows what it sounded like to people listening? I’m told it’ll be posted as a podcast online later, but I don’t think I want to hear! The women I was supposed to have lunch with were very nice and understanding about their disappearing guest (my escort explained the situation) and I’m glad they went ahead and ate without me. After all this I really needed to get out for a run, and since Forest Park is right near my hotel, I bundled up in three shirts (don’t have a sweatshirt) shorts (don’t have sweats) 3 headbands (two over my ears, one around my neck) and mittens, and headed around the park. Despite the snow and the brrrrr temps, it was a lovely run. I went past a zoo and an outdoor ice skating facility. I saw beautiful architecture and a 1904 (?) World’s Fair building. And then I took a wrong turn and wound up facing what you see in the picture posted. A little bit scary, but hey, I had my phone (which I took the picture with) and my speedy (although frost-bitten) legs to get me out of any potentially dangerous situation. And see? Here I am, safe and sound (and finally warm!) telling you about it. The day’s not over though—I have an event at a Border’s store tonight and who knows what--whoops! The Schedule says it's in 45 minutes! And I’m still in my running clothes! Tomorrow Seattle—see you then!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why Else Would A Whippet Be Risky?

Today marks the end of the first week of The Running Dream tour.
Half done!
Well, if you count Atlanta, which was sort of a non-start.
Now, just because it's Sunday doesn't mean I got the day off. Not only were there official engagements, I don't seem to know how to give myself time off.
I was very disciplined this morning and worked on Sammy 15 (working title today, which may change tomorrow because that's how working titles are: SK&the Slingshot Vigilante). Then I had a well-attended event at St. Charles, MO public library (about 45 minutes by car away) where a wide range of ages and types showed up to hear me speak. There were boys with Shredderman books, college girls with Sammy Keyes (I love that they're still reading Sammy!) and everything in between. The parents asked lots of questions, too, and several of them told me afterwards how glad they are that I write edgy books that resonate with their teens "without resorting to crass content."
Amputated legs, yes.
Sex and cussing, no.
A very minor--make that extremely minor--segment of my slide show touches on "Fun Stuff" and includes a picture of our band. Then I give away a Risky Whippet EP to someone who "does not like Justin Bieber" (because anyone who likes Justin Bieber would hate Risky Whippet).
Giving away stuff for free is always fun, but what's been really surprising to me is how one little EP can generate so much interest from a room full of teens. How'd you get on iTunes? Do you really play? Does your son have a girlfriend? Does your dog pee in your house?
Well...why is he risky?
Anyway, tonight I'm actually forcing myself to do something that's not book related.
I'm going to the movies.
Now, if the movie house were across the highway, I wouldn't do it, but it's right downstairs inside the hotel. I've never seen anything like it. For two days I've been going down the elevator and along a looooong tile hallway past the front of the glassed-in theater lobby to the front hotel lobby and out to my transportation, but tonight I'm going to go down the elevator and stop at the theater to see The Fighter (the only Golden Globe best picture nominee I haven't seen).
I realize this is not a big deal to probably any of you, but to me?
Not exactly risky, but definitely radical.
Maybe I'll even buy some popcorn.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ozzy & The Situation

I've made it to St. Louis! I caught an early flight out of Chicago this morning, did a library event this afternoon, then was taken to dinner at the Blueberry Hill Diner--a rock 'n' roll type diner that will be hosting the one and only Chuck Berry in their "Duck Room" on Wednesday night. Too bad it's Saturday! Plus, it's already sold out. Go Chuck, go, go, go! Now a little tour insight, for those of you who may be curious: The publishing house uses a driver to get the author to their events. (Can't trust us to know where we're going!) Sometimes this is a car service--a black "town car"--most commonly used for those early or late trips to or from the airport. Sometimes this is the region's sales rep--the person who is very familiar with the area and the book stores and your books. Sometimes this is an "escort" - someone from a private company that drives you to the venue, stays through the presentations, and helps process the books as they get autographed. The car service is nice, but there's usually little conversation between you and the driver. The sales reps are fun because they work for the same company you do and there's always tons to talk about. And sometimes you go on wild adventures, getting lost, or whatever, and it's all okay because, hey, you were yakking and laughing and nowadays you just turn on the GPS and get back on track. But so far on this tour--except for trips to the airport--it's been all escorts. Escorts are all different. Some have big personalities, some are rather quiet. Some drive SUVs, some drive BMWs, some dress up, some don't, some meticulously vacuum their car, some don't...but they've all had a huge variety of people sitting in their passenger seat, and although, as professionals, they never "dish" about other clients, they will, if asked, share the positive things they've experienced while transporting "stars." And I like to ask! So here are a few things I've learned so far this trip: Ozzy Osborne is the sweetest man you'd ever want to meet. "The Situation" is very polite. Everyone--including J.K Rowling--has had dismal attendance at signings when they're first starting out. All little nuggets, I think. Anyway, that's it for today--off to check in at home, then get some sleep. It's been a long day!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What's "The Big Idea"?

Yay! A day that went as scheduled. Two school visits and an evening book signing. I'm beat. But happy! Any of you who are writers, or want to be writers, may already know about John Scalzi's blog. If not let me introduce you to it by linking you to my guest post on The Big Idea which is basically his "column" where authors tell the story behind the story they've written. The posts can be very interesting and it gives an insight into the minds of writers. It's not a forum to "sell" your book--it's a place where you share your inspiration and process. Early day tomorrow, so I'm calling it a night. Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Abandon Ship!

Well, abandon Atlanta, anyway. Sorry Atlanta! I couldn't get to either event today, so they got me to the airport and flew me into Chicago. This hotel boasts $15 tomato soup. I'm sure it's the "torn basil" they garnish it with that makes it so pricey. Imagine what it would cost if they garnished it with "cut basil." Wow. The labor involved would make it astronomical. I eat basil right off the potted plant at home. So does my older son. We play chess, eat whatever goes good with pizza or grilled cheese or, hey, tomato soup!-- and then yank leaves and munch. I'd probably muzzle up to it like a deer if he wasn't there. Love the stuff. I've got to stop thinking about home because it's only been 2 (LONG) days and I'm already homesick. Big day tomorrow! See you then!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Trapped! (Or, At Least, Iced-In)

The only touring I did today was of the hotel. Roads are iced over, schools are closed...hard to do the scheduled events with no way for anyone to get to them.
Tomorrow doesn't look much better. Low tonight is supposed to be 18, which means any ice that may have begun to melt will refreeze, and the high won't reach 32, so it'll stay ice all day.
I was told today that this has never happened in Atlanta before -- that usually when it's icy, the temps get up high enough to melt it -- so their road clearing system isn't what it might be in areas where they're used to these weather conditions.
The picture posted was the view from the fitness center -- which was packed with people looking for something to do while they're stranded in the hotel!
I spent a lot of the day researching Sammy 15 and tried to be productive. I'm definitely grateful that I'm stuck in a hotel and not at the airport like a lot of people are.
We'll see what tomorrow brings!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Safely in Atlanta

I made it! And what's weird is that for a day that we were all thinking was going to be nothin' but trouble, everything went smoothly. I can't say as much for people traveling on the roads of Atlanta last night because during our trek from the airport to the hotel we passed by at least 6 cars skidded out on the freeway in the snow. My driver said they'd been there since the big storm last night. They're just in the lanes of the "freeway" which was icy and snowy and had a max speed tonight of about 25. I felt like I was in some end-of-the-world movie -- snowy roads, cars abandoned, big city buildings, and us, crawling along the freeway at 25 mph with nobody else around. Yeah, it was a little eerie! The driver was very careful, but we did slip slide a little. He told me his name, but each time we skidded a little I wanted to pinch my nose and say "Skidworth!" You have to be a Sponge Bob fan to understand why I think that's so hilarious. Anyway, how lucky am I that my tour started today and not yesterday? Skidworth! Okay. Enough of that. Obviously I'm punchy. Two very interesting chance meetings at the airport today. My connection was in Phoenix, and I've been to Phoenix enough times to know that Terminal 4 of the airport is the Barry M. Goldwater Terminal. It's in big letters outside, and inside. If you're one of my young readers, you almost certainly have no clue who Barry M. Goldwater was, so here's a little history: He was a senator from Arizona who ran for president against Lyndon Johnson in 1964, a year after LBJ took over the presidency following John F. Kennedy's assassinated. His senate seat is now filled by John McCain. Well, today in the Phoenix airport, at the gate for the Atlanta flight there was this guy, probably about 70. (No, it wasn't BMG, he died in 1998.) He was dressed in tasseled loafers, dark slacks, a white shirt, and vest. He was sitting next to me in the terminal, and was on the phone most of the time. Shortly before we began boarding we talked a little -- just pleasant do-you-think-we'll-make-it-to-Atlanta type chit chat. Which led to talk of air travel. Which led to how we don't like it. Which led to him asking me why I...a 'girl' in snow boots, jeans, two sweatshirts, surrounded by carry-on luggage...would have cause to have to travel. Obviously, I don't look like much of a business person. The pink streak, I'm sure, doesn't help. So I told him that I write books--novels, mostly--for kids, and that this was the first day of a book tour. That seemed to really interest him, and then it came out that he'd written a book, too. So I asked what he'd written and he said it was a book based on a journal his dad had kept. "So...was your dad somebody famous?" He nodded. "Barry Goldwater." So, there I am, standing in Barry M. Goldwater Terminal, talking to Barry M. Goldwater's son, whose name turned out to be....Barry M. Goldwater Jr. I continued talking until I left him in first class and made my way back to sardine class, where I somehow jockeyed into an empty aisle seat with no screaming baby next to me (poor dear) and an empty middle seat beside me. (Bonus!) The Window Guy was quiet for about half the trip while I ate and worked, and then we started talking to each other. You know. Small talk. Like, isn't-it-amazing-that-we're-actually-on-our-way-to-Atlanta type chit chat. And then it came out that he's an up-and-coming reality show personality who goes by Bully the Kid. He's an announcer for events based around pit bulls, of all things. It's not dog fighting, it's more the opposite -- he gets dogs that are used for fighting unchained. Smart guy, and a good guy, too. Really solid. We talked about Hollywood and how to keep life real because things are moving really fast for him and oftentimes people skid out of control in those circumstances. Skidworth! Never mind. That was just dumb. But hey, I'm tired and I'm allowed. Wow now it's 12:30 AM Atlanta time. I'd better quit yakking and hit the sheets. Thanks for stopping by. And for worrying about me. I know some of you were and I think that's really sweet of you. But I'm fine. Everything's cool. Cold, actually. Maybe I should turn up the heat before my nose starts dripping icicles. Skidworth! Shut-up, Wendelin, and go to bed. Yes, ma'am! (Skidworth!)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Snow Boots Packed, Check!

The Running Dream comes out on Tuesday!
My book tour starts tomorrow!
At least I hope it does--I start in Atlanta, and tonight flights were cancelled due to weather.
But my publicist is awesome and on top of it and she's says she'll get me there. And you know what? I believe her!
Just tonight she landed a 5-star review in the Examiner. I love that the reviewer says it's not just a book for young adults -- that adults will love it too. So far, so true!
Also, that video I told you about is also now available -- it's only 90 seconds, but I think it sums up the basic premise beautifully. YouTube trailer
Here's the finalized itinerary for the public appearances during this January Tour. It doesn't seem like much in the way of events, but I'm crazy busy doing school visits before (and sometimes after) what's listed. I can't take a prosthetic leg with me, but Peg-Leg Greg (bless his heart) allowed me to photograph him donning his, so I've got a step-by-step as part of my slide show.
I sent out an announcement asking people who are interested and able to buy a book to please consider doing it on release date (Tuesday, 1/11) because a good early sales rank helps a book gain momentum (and after everything I put into writing this book that would be greatly appreciated!). So if that's you, please visit your local independent bookseller or Amazon Barnes & Noble Powell’s Indiebound And if you know of anyone else who may be interested, please pass this information on! While on tour I will do my best to break the once-a-week protocol at the blog here and update every day. It'll make me feel like I've got company on tour -- and people who stop by here definitely make for good company!
Many thanks for your enthusiasm! See you soon!

* * * * * · “This heart-touching story is a helpful reminder that we must appreciate each day and each blessing.”—Jordan Hasay, four-time USA Track & Field Junior Women’s Champion, 1500m, 2007–2010 · “I felt as if this wonderful young woman was sitting right next to me telling me the story of her year of discovery—her journey of frustration, loss, friendship, laughter, and enlightenment. Running is something you do from your heart.” —Anthony Edwards, award-winning actor, runner, and chairman of Shoe4Africa · "The real magic of The Running Dream is not just the conquest of one individual over a physical limitation. It is the collective good an athletic team can do for themselves, their teammates, and their community. I would certainly recommend The Running Dream to any high school athlete, regardless of the sport."—Ken Reeves, teacher and coach for 35 years, 2-time National High School Cross Country Coach of the Year, 11-time California State Championship Team Coach, 14-time CIF Southern Section Championship Team Coach · “With deep insight and sensitivity, Wendelin Van Draanen explores a profoundly human and liberating concept—to see the person, not the disability—in this wonderful portrait of a girl and her community.” –Marianne Leone, actress, author of Knowing Jesse: A Mother’s Story of Grief, Grace, and Everyday Bliss.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

For Samantha

The idea for The Running Dream scared me at first. I knew the research would be extensive, and not only did I not have time between Sammy Keyes deadlines to learn everything I would need to know to write the story with authenticity, I knew that diving into the subject would be a very emotional undertaking. At first I kept at arm’s length. I absorbed information in an almost clinical fashion, trying to master the necessary jargon and thoroughly understand the process of amputation and rehabilitation. Being the overly teary-eyed person that I am, even that was tough. But all the reading on a subject can’t substitute for real life examples and real time input from people who have been through an experience similar to the one you’re presenting on paper. Which meant I had to find…someone. But who? My main character, Jessica, is a high school track star who loses her leg in a terrible bus accident. I didn’t know anyone like her. I didn’t know anyone with a prosthetic limb. I didn’t even know anyone who knew anyone. (And, as you may recall from Why the Taxidermist is Cockeyed, I’m terrified of making cold calls.) There are a few prosthetists in the area, but not many, and at that point I was still afraid of blowing it. (And as you know from Why the Taxidermist is Cockeyed, I’m pretty good at blowing it.) After another agonizing month of avoidance, my husband produced a name. Someone who knew someone who knew someone. This began a series of dead end leads. People move. Disconnect their phones. Change jobs. You know. Then one morning I was following a tentative lead—another friend of a friend of a friend—and as fate would have it, this friend of a friend of a friend no longer worked there. “Maybe I can help you,” the receptionist said. I remember holding my hand to my face and trying hard not to sigh. Desperate, I told her, “I’m a children’s book author. I’m writing a book about a high school track runner who loses her leg in an accident. I’m hoping to find a prosthetist who’s willing to answer a few questions.” “His schedule’s pretty tight,” she said. “But I’m a below-knee amputee and a dancer. I could probably help you.” When I got over my shock, I laughed and said, “That would be great!” Then I told her my name and asked her what hers was. “Samantha,” she said. So yeah, I about dropped the phone. This angel’s name was Samantha? I told her why the name was significant. “I go by Sammy sometimes too,” she said. “But usually just Sam.” I arranged to take her out to lunch. We ate tostadas at her favorite outdoor patio restaurant and she talked frankly about losing her leg to cancer when she was a child and the things she’d been through growing up and dealt with now, as a young woman. She was sweet and upbeat and told me it was fine if I called her with more questions. Which I did. But since I really also needed to witness the casting of a residual limb (stump) and the building of a prosthetic leg, I also asked if she could arrange a tour of the facility and maybe allow me to sit in on a casting. Samantha was willing, but in the end her boss was not. And when my phone calls and e-mails stopped being returned, I took the hint and began pursuing other avenues. My author copies for The Running Dream arrived shortly after Christmas. I always give away my copies to the people who have helped me shape the book, and in this case that included Samantha. It had probably been a year and a half since I’d spoken to her – maybe two years – but I was excited to finally deliver her copy. For one thing, it’s a beautiful book, for another, as promised, she’s thanked on the Acknowledgements page. So I called the office to see when she’d be working. A voice that I didn’t recognize answered the phone. “Hi,” I said, “Is Samantha there?” “I’m sorry, no,” came the reply. “She passed away earlier this year.” I live in such a happy little world. It hasn’t always been that way, but it is now. And it’s not like I forget or ignore or am oblivious to the agony of others – I just try to wrap myself in the good that is today and hold it close knowing that things really can change in the blink of an eye. Samantha’s death didn’t come in the blink of an eye. Cancer shadowed her her whole life. So the news of her death made me feel oblivious. And neglectful. And so sad. No, life’s not fair, but I mean, come on. Through the new receptionist, I delivered a copy of The Running Dream to Samantha’s family, and I included a little letter that explained my connection to her. I also told them that the character Chloe is fashioned after her. She’s cheerful and sweet and helpful. And probably much braver than I know.