Blog Category: Uncategorized


September 11, 2001

By janey,

This year is the sixteenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93.

Every year, in remembrance, I post this essay about my experience living in Manhattan a few dozen blocks from the World Trade Center on 9/11.  I think it’s important we don’t allow the brave acts that so many men and women performed that day to be forgotten.

So if you have a few extra minutes in your day, please read on. And if you think what you read was important, please share it with a friend.

Meg’s 9/11 Diary

9/11/01 started out as one of those super nice fall days where the sky was cloudlessly blue and it was just warm enough, but not hot. My LA friends call that “earthquake weather.”

So we probably should have known something awful was going to happen, but most of us didn’t.

My husband had woken up early to go jogging before leaving for work at his job as a financial writer at One Liberty Plaza, which was across the street from the World Trade Center.

He has never been jogging again.

Not being a morning person, I was still asleep in my apartment on 12th Street and 4th Avenue, a few dozen blocks from the Trade Center, when the first plane hit. Our windows were closed and the air conditioning was on. I didn’t hear a thing until my friend Jen called.

Jen: “Look out your window.”

That is when I saw the smoke for the first time.

Me: “What’s happening?”

Jen: “They’re saying a plane hit the Trade Center.”

Me: “But how could the pilot not see it?”

Jen: “I don’t know. Isn’t that near where your husband works?”

It was. I couldn’t see his building from our apartment, but I could see the World Trade Center. The black smoke billowing from it had to be going right into my husband’s busy investment office on the 60th or so floor.

“I better call him to see if he’s okay,” I said, and hung up to do so.

There was no answer at my husband’s office, however, which was crazy, because over a hundred people worked there.

Were they all right? I didn’t know. I couldn’t get through to anyone anywhere. I couldn’t make any outgoing calls from either of my phones that day. For some reason, people could call me, but I couldn’t call anyone else.

It turned out this was due to the massive volume of calls going on in my part of the city that day, both on cell and land lines.

But I didn’t know that then.

Sirens started up. It was the engine from the firehouse directly across the street from my apartment building. It was a very small firehouse, but it was always bustling with activity. All the young, handsome guys used to sit outside it on folding chairs on nice days like the one on 9/11, joshing with the neighbors who were walking their dogs, with my doormen, with the neighborhood kids. The old ladies on my street always brought them cookies.The firemen, in turn, always had treats for the old ladies’ dogs.

Now all the firemen from the station across from my apartment building were hurrying to the fire downtown, throwing on their gear and urgently blaring the horn on their truck.

Every last one of those young, brave boys would be dead in exactly one hour. Their truck would be crushed beyond recognition. That firehouse would sit empty and draped in black bunting for months. No one would be able to look at it without crying.

Of course none of us knew it then.

I turned on New York 1, the local news channel for New York City. Pat Kiernan, my favorite newscaster, was saying that a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

Weird, I thought. Was the pilot drunk? How could someone not see a building that big, and run into it with a plane?

It was right then that Luz, my housekeeper, showed up. I’d forgotten it was Tuesday, the day she comes to clean. When she saw what I was watching, she looked worried.

“I just dropped my son off at his college,” she said. “It’s right next to the World Trade Center.”

“My husband works across the street from the World Trade Center,” I said.

“Is he all right?” Luz wanted to know. “What’s happening down there?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t reach him.”

Luz tried to call her son on his cell phone. She, too, could not get through.

We didn’t know then that our cell servers used towers that were located on top of the World Trade Center, and they all had stopped working due to the intensity of the flames shooting up the building.

We both stood there staring at the TV, not really knowing what to do. It was as we were watching that something weird happened on the TV, right before our eyes:

The OTHER tower at the World Trade Center — the one that hadn’t been hit — suddenly exploded.

I thought maybe one of the helicopters that was filming the disaster had gotten too close.

But Luz said, “No. A plane hit it. I saw it. That was a plane.”

I hadn’t seen a plane. I said, “No. How could that be? There can’t be TWO drunk pilots.”

“You don’t understand,” Luz said. “They’re doing this on purpose.”

“No,” I said. “Of course they aren’t. Who would do that?”

That’s when Pat Kiernan, on the TV, said, “Oh, my God.”

It’s weird to hear a newscaster say, “Oh, my God.” Especially Pat. He is always very professional.

Also, Pat’s voice cracked when he said it. Like he was about to cry.

But newscasters don’t cry.

“Another plane has hit the World Trade Center,” Pat said. “It looks as if another plane — a commercial jet — has hit the World Trade Center. And we are getting reports that a plane has just hit the Pentagon.”

That’s when I grabbed Luz. And Luz grabbed me. We both started to cry. We sat on the couch in my living room, hugging each other, and crying as we watched what was happening on TV, which was what was happening a dozen blocks from where we sat, where both the people we loved were.

We could see things flying out of the burning buildings. Pat said that those things were people. People were choosing to jump from their offices in the World Trade Center rather than burn to death. They couldn’t escape the flames, and rescuers couldn’t reach them.

But their offices were sixty to ninety floors from the ground. Some of them were holding hands with their colleagues as they jumped. Many of them were women. You could tell by the way their skirts ballooned out behind them as they raced towards the pavement below.

Luz and I sobbed. We didn’t want to watch, but we couldn’t stop. This was happening in our city, just down the street, to people we saw every day. Who would do this? Who would do something like this to New Yorkers?

That’s when my phone rang. I grabbed it, but it wasn’t my husband. It was his mother. Where was he? she wanted to know. Was he all right?

I said I didn’t know. I said I was trying to keep the line clear, in case he called. She said she understood but to call her as soon as I heard anything, and hung up.

Then the phone rang again. It was my husband’s sister-in-law. Then it rang again. It was MY mother.

The phone rang all morning. It was never my husband. It was always family or friends, wondering if he was all right.

“I don’t know,” I kept telling them. “I don’t know.”

Luz went up to the roof of my building to see if she could see anything more from there than what they were showing on New York 1. While she was gone, I went into my bedroom to get dressed (I was still wearing my pajamas).

All I could think, as I looked into my closet, trying to figure out what to wear, was that my husband was probably dead. I didn’t see how anybody could be down in that part of Manhattan and still be alive. All I could see were things falling —and people jumping — out of those buildings. Anyone on the streets down below would have to be killed by all of that. The jumping people couldn’t choose where they landed.

I remember exactly what I put on that day: olive green capris and a black T-shirt, with my black Steve Madden slides. I remember thinking, “This will be my Identifying My Dead Husband’s Body outfit. I will never, ever wear it again after this day.”

I knew this because when I worked at the dorm at NYU, we had quite a few students kill themselves, in various ways. Every time a body was discovered, it was so horrible. All the first responders involved in the discovery could never wear the same clothes we wore that day again, because of the memory.

Luz came back down from the roof, very excited. No, she hadn’t seen if the buildings in which my husband and her son were in were all right. But she’d seen thousands — THOUSANDS — of people coming down 4th Avenue, the busy street I lived on at the time. 4th Avenue is always heavily trafficked with honking cars, buses, taxis, bike messengers, and scooters.

Not today. Today all the cars and buses were gone, and the entire avenue was crowded with people.

“Walking,” Luz said. “They’re WALKING DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET.”

I ran to look out the window. Luz was right. Instead of the constant stream of cars I’d gotten used to seeing outside our living room window, I saw wall to wall people. They had taken over the street. They were coming from the Battery, where the Trade Center is located, shoulder to shoulder, ten deep in the middle of the road, like a parade or a rally. There were tens of thousands of them.

There were men in business suits, and some in khakis. There were women in skirts and dresses, walking barefoot or in shredded pantyhose, holding their shoes because their high heels hurt too much and they hadn’t had time to grab their commuter running shoes. I saw the ladies who worked in the manicure shop across the street from my building running outside with the flip flops they put on their customers’ feet when they’ve had a pedicure (the flip flops the staff always make sure they get back before you leave).

But today, the staff was giving the flip flops to the women who were barefoot. They were giving away the flip flops.

That’s when I got REALLY freaked out.

The manicurists weren’t the only ones trying to help. The men who worked in the deli on the corner were running outside with bottles of water to give to the hot, thirsty marchers. New York City deli owners, GIVING water away. Usually they charged $2.

It was like the world had turned upside down.

“They have to be in there,” Luz said, about her son and my husband, pointing to the crowd. “They’re walking with them, and that’s what’s taking them so long to get here.”

“I hope you’re right,” I said. But I wasn’t sure I shared her faith.

Then Luz ran downstairs to see if anyone in the crowd was coming from the same college her son went to, to ask if anyone might have seen him.

I was afraid to leave my apartment, though, because I thought my husband might try to call. Not knowing what else to do, I logged onto the computer. My email was still working, even if the phones weren’t. I emailed my husband: WHERE ARE YOU?

No reply.

A friend from Indiana had emailed to ask if there was anything she could do. At the time, the only thing I could think of was, Give blood.

My friend, and everyone she knew, gave blood that day. So many people gave blood that there were lines around the corner to give it.

After a month, a lot of that surplus blood had to be destroyed, because they didn’t have room to store it all. And there turned out to be no use for it, anyway. There were few survivors to give blood to.

My friend Jen, the one who’d woken me up, e’d me from her job at NYU. Fred (out of respect for their desire for anonymity, I have changed the names of some people in this piece), then one of Jen’s employees, and also a volunteer EMT, had jumped on his bike and headed downtown to see if there was anything he could do to help.

Jen herself was organizing a massive effort to set up shelter for students who didn’t live on campus, since the subways and commuter trains had stopped running, and the kids who commuted to school had no way of getting home that night. Jen was trying to arrange for cots to be set up in the gym for them.

She ended up staying in the city too that night. She had no way to get back to her house in Connecticut.

Another co-worker from NYU, my friend Jack, did manage to reach his spouse, who worked in the Trade Center, that day. Jack used to train the RAs. He would ask me to “interrupt” his training with a fake administrative temper tantrum — “Why are you in this room?” I would demand. “You never reserved it!”— and then he and I would “fight” about it, and then after I left Jack would ask the RAs what would have been a better way to handle the situation . . . and by the way, did any of them remember what I was wearing? After they’d tell him, he’d have me come back into the room, and point out that every single of them was wrong about what I’d had on. This was to show how unreliable witness testimony can be.

Jack’s wife had just walked eighty floors down one of the Towers to reach the ground safely since the elevators weren’t working due to the flames, only to realize the guys in her IT department were still up there, backing up data for the company. Once she reached the ground, and saw how bad things really were, she tried calling them to tell them to forget backing up and just COME DOWN, but of course she couldn’t get hold of them because no phones were working.

So she went back up to MAKE THEM come down, because who doesn’t love their IT guys?

“Why did you go back up?” Jack asked her, when he finally reached her. By that time she, along with the IT guys, had become trapped in the fire and smoke, and couldn’t make their way down again.

“It seemed like the right thing to do,” she said.

Of course it did. She was married to Jack. Jack would have done the same thing. She told Jack to say good bye to their twins toddlers for her. That was the last time they spoke.

I can never think of this, or of Jack’s happy, cheerful greeting every time I saw him, or the stunned looks on the RAs faces when they realized we’d pulled one over on them, without wanting to cry. It seems so unfair that those twins have had to grow up not knowing their mother. And for what reason?

Another friend, a pilot who had access to air traffic control radar, e’d me to say all the planes in the U.S. were being grounded — that what had happened had been the result of highjackings. That it was a commercial jet that had hit the Pentagon, where my friend’s father-in-law worked (they eventually found him, safe and sound. He’d been stuck in traffic on his way to the Pentagon when the plane hit. Many people that day were rewarded for tardiness).

But another friend – a girl I’d worked with when I’d been a receptionist in my husband’s office, a girl whom I’d helped pick out a wedding dress, and who, since the big day, had quit her job to raise the four kids she’d had – wasn’t so lucky. She never saw her husband, who worked at the Trade Center, again.

Then, behind me, I heard Pat Kiernan on the TV say, “Oh, my God,” again.

And this time he really WAS crying. Because one of the towers was collapsing.

I watched, not believing my eyes. Since having moved to New York City in 1989, I had become accustomed to using the Twin Towers as my own personal compass point for the direction “South,” since they’re on the southern tip of the island, and visible from dozens of blocks away. Wherever you were in the maze of streets that made up the Village, all you had to do to orient yourself was find the Twin Towers, and you knew which direction to go.

(If you ever watched closely during the movie “When Harry Met Sally,” you can see the towers beneath the Washington Square arch in the scene where Sally drops Harry off when they first arrive in New York.)

And now one of those towers was coming down.

I don’t remember anything else about that moment except that, as I watched the TV in horror, the front door to my apartment opened, and, assuming it was Luz back from the street, I turned to tell her, “It’s falling down! It’s FALLING DOWN!”

Only it wasn’t Luz. It was my husband.

He said, “What’s falling down? Why are you crying?”

Because HE HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING ON.

Because my husband, being my husband, had picked up his briefcase after the first plane hit and said, “Let’s go,” to everyone in his department, took the elevators downstairs, and insisted everyone start walking for our apartment, because it was the closest place to where they were that seemed unlikely to be hit by an airplane.

(He told me later he’d worried they were going to try for the Stock Exchange, or the federal buildings you always see on Law and Order, and so had made everyone take small side streets home around those buildings, which is why it took them so long to get there).

They had to dodge the bodies of the people who jumped from the burning towers because they couldn’t stand the heat anymore. They saw the desk chairs and PCs that had been blown out of the offices so high above littering the street like tickertape from a parade. They saw the second plane hit while they were on the street, and ducked into a cell phone store until the rubble from the explosion settled. A piece of plane, nearly twenty feet long, flew past them, and landed in a parking lot, just missing Trinity Church, one of the oldest churches in this country.

And they kept walking.

I don’t know what people normally do when someone they love, who they were convinced was dead, suddenly walks through the door. All I know is how I reacted: I flung my arms around him. And then I started yelling, “WHY DIDN’T YOU CALL ME?”

“I tried, I couldn’t get through,” he said. “What’s falling down?”

Because they had no idea. All they knew was that the city was under attack (which they had surmised by all the airplanes).

So my husband and his colleagues gathered in our living room—hot, thirsty, but alive, the ones who lived in New Jersey wondering how (and if) they were going to get home. Eventually, that night, they managed to catch boat rides – see the film above.

Meanwhile, Luz, not wanting to go home until she’d heard from her son, who was supposed to meet her after class in my building, cleaned.

I told her not to, but she said it helped keep her mind off what was happening.

So she vacuumed, while eleven people sat in my two room apartment and watched the Twin Towers fall.

It wasn’t long after the second tower came down that our friends David and Susan from Indiana, who lived in a beautiful condo in the shadow of the Twin Towers with their two young children, showed up at our door, their kids and half the employees from their office (which was also in our neighborhood) behind them.

They had been some of the people shown on the news escaping from the massive dust cloud that erupted when the towers fell. They’d abandoned their daughter’s stroller and run for it, while shop owners tossed water on their backs as they passed by, to keep their clothes from catching on fire.

In their typical way, however, they had stopped on their way to our place to pick up some bagels.

For all they knew, their apartment was burning down, or being buried under ten feet of rubble. But they’d stopped for bagels, because they’d been worried people might be hungry. Or maybe people just do things in times like that to try to be normal. I don’t know. They didn’t forget the cream cheese, either.

I took the kids into my bedroom, where there was a second TV, because I didn’t think they should see what everyone was watching in the living room, which was footage of what they had just escaped from.

I set up my Playstation for Jake, who was seven or so at the time, to use, while Shai, just turning 4, and I did a puzzle on my floor. Both kids were worried about Mr. Fluff, their pet rabbit, whom they’d been forced to leave behind in their apartment, because there’d been no time to get him (their parents had run from work and grabbed both kids from school).

“Do you think he’s all right?” Jake wanted to know.

At the time, I didn’t see how anything south of Canal Street could be alive, but I told Jake I was sure Mr. Fluff was fine.

This was when Shai and I had the following conversation:

“Are planes going to fly into THIS building?” Shai wanted to know. She was crying as she looked out the windows of my thirteenth floor apartment.

Me: “No. No planes are going to fly into this building.”

Shai: “How do you know?”

Me: “Because all the planes are grounded. No more planes are allowed in the air.”

Shai: “Ever?”

Me: “No. Just until the bad guys who did this get caught.”

Shai: “Who’s going to catch the bad guys?”

Me: “The police will catch them.”

Shai: “No, they won’t. All the police are dead. I saw them going into the building that just fell down.”

Me (trying not to cry): “Shai. Not all the police are dead.”

Shai (crying harder): “Yes, they ARE. I SAW THEM.”

Me (showing Shai a picture from my family photo album of a policeman in his uniform): “Shai, this is my brother, Matt. He’s a policeman. And he’s not dead, I promise. And he, and other policemen like him, and probably even the Army, will catch the bad guys.”

Shai (no longer crying): “Okay.”

And she went back to her puzzle.

Watching from my living room window, we saw the crowds of people streaming out from what was soon to be called Ground Zero, thin to a trickle, then stop altogether. That was when 4th Avenue became crowded with vehicular traffic again. But not taxis or bike messengers.

Soon, our building was shaking from the wheels of hundreds of Humvees and Army trucks, as the National Guard moved in. The Village was blockaded from 14th Street down. You couldn’t come in or out of the neighborhood without showing proof that you lived there (a piece of mail with your name and address on it, along with a photo ID).

The next day, after having spent the night on our fold-out couch in the living room, Shai’s parents snuck back to their apartment (they had to sneak, because the National Guard wasn’t letting anyone at all, even with proof that they lived there, into the area. For weeks afterwards, on every corner from 14th Street down, stood a National Guardsman, armed with an assault rifle. For days, you couldn’t get milk, bread, or a newspaper below Union Square because they weren’t allowing any delivery trucks — or any vehicles at all, except Army vehicles — into the area), and found Mr. Fluff alive and well.

They snuck him back out, so that later that day, we were able to put the entire family on a bus to the Hamptons, where they lived for the rest of the year.

As my husband and I were walking back to our apartment from the bus stop where we’d seen off our friends, we saw a familiar face standing on the corner of 4th Avenue and 12th Street, where we lived:

Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea Clinton, asking people in our neighborhood if we were all right, and if there was anything they could do to help.

I didn’t go up to shake the ex-President’s hand, because I was too shy.

But I stood there watching him and Chelsea, and something about seeing them, so genuinely concerned and kind (and not there for press or publicity, because there WAS no press, there was never any mention of their visit AT ALL in any newspaper or on any news broadcast I saw that day), made me burst into tears, after having held them in the whole time Shai had been in my apartment, since I didn’t want to upset her.

But you couldn’t NOT cry. It was impossible. Everyone was doing it …so much so that the deli across the street put a sign in its window: “No Crying, Please.” Our doormen were crying. Even Rudy Giuliani, New York City’s mayor (whom I will admit up until this crisis I had not particularly liked for cheating on his very nice wife, Donna Hanover, who used to be on the Food Network), kept crying.

But he also kept showing up on New York 1, no matter what time you turned it on, even at two in the morning, there he was, like he never slept, always crying but also telling us It’s going to be all right, which was BRILLIANT.

The same day we put Shai and her family on a bus to the Hamptons, September 12 — which also happened to be poor Shai’s birthday — companies (even RIVAL companies) all over Manhattan offered up their conference rooms and spare offices to all the businesses in the Trade Center and One Liberty Plaza that had lost theirs, including my husband’s company, so that they would be able to remain solvent, another act of kindness that never gets mentioned anywhere, but should.

Since he was the only person in the company who lived downtown, my husband was elected for the duty of removing all the sensitive data from their now mostly destroyed office, which meant he had to pass through the Brooks Brothers in his building’s foyer, from which he had bought so many of his business shirts and ties. The Brooks Brothers at One Liberty Plaza was now serving as Ground Zero’s morgue.

While under escort of the National Guard, he and guardsmen–the first to enter his floor since the event–found a body in an emergency stairwell. It was determined to be the body of someone from another office, who had probably suffered a heart attack while trying to evacuate One Liberty. The body was removed and taken to the morgue while my husband watched. (He threw away the clothes he wore that day.)

For the next week in Lower Manhattan, even if you wanted to forget, for a minute, what had happened on that cloudless Tuesday morning, you couldn’t. The front window of my apartment building filled with Missing Person posters of loved ones that had been lost in the Trade Center. The outside walls of St. Vincent’s Hospital were papered with them as well, and Union Square, at 14th Street, became an impromptu memorial to the dead, filled with candles and flowers. So did the front doors of every local fire station, including the one across the street from my building. The old ladies who used to bring cookies there stood in front of it and cried.

You couldn’t go outside during that week — until it finally rained Friday night, four days later – without smelling the acrid smoke from Ground Zero … and, in fact, you were encouraged to wear surgical masks outdoors. An eerie grey fog covered everything. Some of us tried to brave it by not wearing masks — like Londoners during the Blitz — meeting for lunch like nothing had happened, but the smoke made your eyes burn. I have no idea how the rescue workers at Ground Zero could bear it, and I’m not surprised so many of them now have respiratory diseases and cancer. I have no doubt that for some, the horrors of 9/11 will continue to be felt years from now.

It wasn’t until employees from a barbecue restaurant drove all the way to Manhattan from Memphis, and stationed their tanker-sized smokers right next to Ground Zero, and then started giving away free barbecue to all the rescue workers there for weeks on end, that the smell changed to something other than death. Everyone loved those guys. It was just barbecue.

Except it wasn’t just barbecue. It was a sign that, as the mayor kept assuring us, things were going to be all right.

But of course, for a lot of New Yorkers that day, things were never going to be all right again. While I was celebrating the fact that my husband had come home, Fred – Jen’s employee, the volunteer EMT who had ridden his bike downtown to see if there was anything he could do – couldn’t find his crew. This was before the buildings fell, before anyone had any idea those buildings COULD fall, when the police and firemen were still streaming into them, confident they could get people out.

The crew that Fred normally volunteered with were inside one of those buildings, helping people down the stairs. Fred couldn’t find them, because all the cell towers were down, and communication was so sketchy. Someone told Fred to drive a bus they’d found, to help evacuate people out of the World Trade Center area.

Fred didn’t want to be outside driving a bus. He wanted to be inside with his crew, saving people.

But since he couldn’t find his crew, he agreed to drive the bus.

Then the buildings came down. Later, Fred found out that the crew he normally volunteered with had been one of the many rescue squads buried under the rubble.

Like a lot of the rescue workers who lost coworkers in the attack, Fred seemed to feel guilty about having survived, while his friends had not. Even when all his NYU co-workers pitched in and bought him a new bike (after his old one got buried beneath rubble at Ground Zero), Fred couldn’t seem to shake his sadness. It was like he didn’t believe he’d done any good that day.

“All I did,” he said, “was drive a stupid bus.”

But that’s not all he did. Because remember Luz’s son?

Well, he showed up at my apartment not long after Jake and Shai and their parents did. Luz grabbed him and kissed him and shook him and cried, and when she finally let go of him, he told his story:

He had been heading towards — not away from – the towers, because he’d wanted to help, he said. A lot like Fred.

But suddenly, from out of nowhere, someone grabbed him from behind, and threw him onto a stupid bus.

“But I want to stay and help!” Luz’s son yelled at the guy who’d grabbed him.

“Not today,” Fred said.

And he drove Luz’s son, and all the other students from that community college to safety, just before the towers fell.

Fifteen years has passed since 9/11. A year or two after finding that body, and the company he worked for got back on its feet, my husband decided financial writing wasn’t for him. He decided to follow a lifelong dream: he enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. He got to work with chefs like Jacques Pepin. At his graduation, Michael Lamonaco–who ran Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the Twin Towers. Michael is another person who happened to be late to work on 9/11–offered my husband a job in his new restaurant.

My husband declined, however, because we were moving to Key West, where the pace of life is a little bit slower. Michael said he completely understood.

Luz and her family are doing fine. Fred is now married with two children, and head of his own division at NYU. Mr. Fluff did eventually die, but of natural causes. Jake is enrolled in law school, and Shai is now attending a college she loves. Shai’s mother says her daughter has no memory whatsoever of that day, or of the conversation she and I had, or of the promise I made her — that we’d catch the bad guys.

Shai, however, says she does remember our conversation, and that I was right: we did catch the bad guys.

Of course, now there are some new bad guys out there.

But the important thing is that we never forget . . . and that we all remember: we’re all in this together.

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Royal Crush Tour

By meggin,

Did you not know I have a new book coming out on August 1, 2017? Well, I do! I wrote and even ILLUSTRATED it myself!

More details (and events) to be added soon, but in the meantime, mark your calendar because I just got my tour schedule for this book, and I would LOVE to see you at some of these events!

Meg’s Events for Royal Crush, Book #3 in the From The Notebooks of a Middle School Princess series:

Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Cleveland, OH
Cuyahoga County Library
7:00 pm

Thursday, August 3, 2017
Seattle, WA
University Bookstore
7:00 pm

Saturday, August 5, 2017
Menlo Park, CA
Kepler’s Books
2:00 pm – Don’t forget to RSVP!

Monday, August 7, 2017
Mission Viejo, CA
Mission Viejo Library
6:30 pm

But if you can’t make it to these events, no worries—like I said, more will be added soon! And you can always read the book, which is tons of fun (or so I am told).

What happens in the book? Well, Princess Olivia is turning thirteen and adjusting to life in Genovia. . . but her cousin Luisa isn’t making it easy, always teasing Olivia about the crush she may or may not have on her friend and classmate Prince Khalil.

To make matters worse, Olivia’s sister Mia is due to give birth any minute . . .

. . . but Olivia’s school is competing in the Royal Winter Games–and Grandmere is chaperoning! Could things GET any worse?

The answer, of course, is YES! Yes, they could.

Now if I may digress for a moment, I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all of you who offered condolences after my mom’s longtime boyfriend passed away last month.

It was very sad and will be a big adjustment for all of us, but so far my mom’s doing super, as always!

In other news, many of you have probably learned by now that the character I chose to write about in Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View is Aunt Beru.

Aunt Beru was my first choice when I learned I was being offered a chance to participate in the book, and I was overjoyed when I found out I got her! In my opinion (and hers), Beru is the most important “less important” character in Star Wars: A New Hope. You’ll have to read her story on October 3 to find out why!

Finally, in cat news, Allie Finkle Cat is doing fine! She has adjusted well to her new home (mine) and spends her days beautifying herself, scratching her scratching post, sleeping, and…

…plotting ways to be as adorable as possible to distract me from working.

See you in August!

More later.

Much love,

Meg

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2016 – A happy ending

By meggin,

Well, I’m back from my book tour in France, where I had a GREAT time.

I met readers old and new, visited places I’ve never been before, celebrated the publication of a new book, and ate some FANTASTIC food.

Bookstore in Toulon!

Allie in Paris, a novella in French!

Meg in Paris, a photo about cheesy mashed potatoes!

Meg on Rue Princesse, contemplating the vagaries of life

Now I’m back in Key West, far from the reach of the polar vortex, and everyone is celebrating the holiday season . . .

It’s a nice ending to a year that hasn’t been so great, what with losing various things, including our beloved cat Gem (I still can’t believe it. A brain tumor? Running off with her feline boyfriend, Edward Cullen Cat, I could believe. But a BRAIN TUMOR?).

But even though we had a GREAT time in France, and are so happy to be home, one thing was still bothering me. It took me a while to figure out what it was.

Remember that random cat I met before I left for France? I posted a photo of us on Twitter way back in November to say that if you feel depressed, hug a random cat.

Me with random cat

That cat had spent a YEAR living in an animal shelter. No one wanted to adopt her because

  1. she was too old (9), and
  2. she was mostly black, and people STILL have outdated superstitions about black cats,

even though she was the sweetest, friendliest cat.

Fortunately Scott, the owner of Dog 30, a Key West pet store, has an agreement with the Marathon animal shelter, and regularly brings hard-to-place cats into his shop, so they can get a little more attention from customers, and possibly find a forever home.

That’s how I met Random Cat…and why I couldn’t get her out of my head the whole time I was in France.

Fortunately, there’s a happy ending to this story: Random Cat ended up getting adopted last week.

BY ME!

Allow me to introduce Allie Finkle Cat:

(Yes, it’s Random Cat!

She is sitting right here as I type this,

waiting for me to put the computer away so she can crawl in my lap.)

After spending such a long time in the shelter, Allie Cat could not be happier to be living in a house! I knew, in fact, that she was the right cat for us when she sauntered into the house (no hiding, the way some cats do when they’re introduced to a new environment) like she’d always lived here, headed for our very best pillow, plopped down on it, and took a nap until dinner.

Is it soft and comfy? Then Allie Cat will sleep on it.

We named her Allie because it sounds enough like her shelter name (which is a name that a lot of our friends – and even a neighbor’s dog – have) while still being uniquely her own, much like her personality. Allie, for instance, likes to watch over the street to make sure everyone is obeying the rules (much like her namesake, Allie Finkle).

Hey! You over there! Clean up after your dog!

Oh, wait, did I hear my name? Here I come!

At nine (or older. Who knows? Not even the vet can really tell), Allie is not a silly frisky kitten, which, along with her black fur, is probably why so many people overlooked her.

But their loss is our gain, because she is the sweetest, most well behaved cat, who has yet to stop showing us how grateful she is to be here.

I’m Purring Here

So if you’re still looking for a happy ending to 2016, maybe it’s time to consider adopting an older pet. You’ll be doing something wonderful for an animal who will spend the rest of her days showing you how much she loves you. You won’t regret it.

As for us, we’re going to have the best holiday ever, hanging out with our new family member, and looking forward to 2017, which I hope will bring happiness and joy to all of you, too.

More later.

Much love,

Meg

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Giving Thanks (in France this year)

By meggin,

Well! I don’t know about yours, but quite a lot has gone on in my life since we last chatted:

  • I had a new book come out (The Boy is Back).
  • Ironically (considering it’s a story told entirely by characters using electronic devices) said book’s electronic version had some problems.
  • The publisher has since fixed those problems.
  • But if you bought a copy of the e-book and haven’t gotten the new, fixed version, please go here!
  • I went on a book tour for said book and got to see a bunch of you (although during the Oklahoma portion of that book tour, there was a massive statewide manhunt for a guy who murdered his aunt and uncle and shot two policemen, causing me to write a book in my head wherein I personally apprehended said murderer using only my computer cord, and became Oklahoma’s greatest visiting author EVER OF ALL TIME).
  • Then we got a new president.
  • Then the cat died.*

p1000479

RIP Gem

*Events above did not necessarily occur in order listed.

Yeah, so I’m just going to say it: Except for a few bright moments (the Olympics; getting to hang out with you guys; Stranger Things; Crazy Ex Girlfriend; that awesome burger I had at Louie’s in OKC), 2016 hasn’t been so great.

I know some people are happy about the outcome of the election. But more than half of the nation’s voters are not (a fact a lot of people, particularly the media, seem to be forgetting).

And some of those people are more than just unhappy: They’re really worried and scared.

For them I have no real words of comfort, because none of us know what’s going to happen (although I have some suspicions).

I do have some experience with this kind of thing though. I marched on Washington in the 80s for women’s health care rights, and I’m prepared to do it again if I have to.

In the meantime, the one thing I keep thinking about is my friend Sophia.

p1000383

Sophia and her son Finn.

When my friend Sophia became unhappy about the way things were going politically where she lived, she volunteered her time for causes that mattered to her, until she ended up being elected TWICE as a county councilwoman – the first Finnish-Korean American county councilwoman in Bloomington, Indiana history.

Sophia wasn’t any different than you or me (well, maybe she was. When I first met her, she was working as a waitress in our small town’s most popular deli. I only lasted four days in food service).

But Sophia realized, way before any of the rest of us did, that the way to make change globally was to act locally.

The problem is, Sophia passed away. Now the rest of us have to step up to continue her important work.

We can all do this by volunteering (community organizations are always looking for volunteers), or simply by making our voices heard at the state, town, and even school level.

bethechange

With that in mind, I’m going to France next week to further spread the gospel of Mia Thermopolis (and of course her sister Olivia; Mediator Suze Simon; 4th grader Allie Finkle – known as Allie Punchie in France, where she is spending Christmas in her latest book, which sadly is available in French only – and all the other characters I’ve created over the years, many of whom have a sprinkle of Sophia in them). I’ll be making my voice heard in schools as well as book stores, book festivals, and private events.

1507-1

Here’s where I’ll be, in the hope that some of us can meet up:

NOVEMBER FRIDAY 25th
PARIS/ ST MAUR DES FOSSES
Librairie La Griffe Noire
4 -6 pm: Signing

 

NOVEMBER SATURDAY 26th
RENNES
Librairie Le Failler
3:00 – 5:00 pm :  Signing
NOVEMBER MONDAY 28th
METZ
Librairie Hisler-Even
4:00 – 6:00 pm: Signing

 

NOVEMBER WEDNESDAY 30th
LE MANS
Librairie Doucet
3:00 – 5:00 pm: Signing

 

DECEMBER THURSDAY 2nd
AMIENS
Librairie Martelle
4:30 -6:00 pm: Signing

 

DECEMBER SATURDAY 3rd
TOULON
Librairie Charlemagne
2 :00 – 3 :00 : meeting
3:00 – 4:30 pm: signing

 

DECEMBER SUNDAY 4th
PARIS – MONTREUIL BOOK FAIR
11 :00 -12 :00 am : meeting
3:00 -5:00: signing at Hachette Romans’ kiosk ( G25)

image-html

Some people have said to me, “Meg, you should just stay in France. You don’t even have a cat anymore.  Why come back to America?”

What??? Of course I’m coming back! Not that I don’t love France – who wouldn’t, with their beautiful language, their trans fat free food, and amazingly illustrated children’s books?

martine-fait-du-camping-826943

(Martine was the first series I ever read and is still one of my favorites)

But my Irish and Italian ancestors came to this country to flee actual oppression (which, as a white heterosexual woman, I am obviously not experiencing) and to make a better life for themselves (one of them changing his name to Cabot in the process, because of what he perceived as anti-Italian prejudiced and because Cabot sounded “ritzier.” I thank the goddess daily that he did not choose Rockefeller).

It would be ludicrous for me to leave this country just because I might have to march on Washington again (although to be honest I really don’t have the shoes for it this time. But I swear I’ll be there if we have to do it again, my sisters).

And where would Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia and the rest of the Rebel Alliance have been if Han Solo hadn’t come back in the Millennium Falcon to help them battle the Death Star? You can’t just take your reward and fly off to France!  You have to stay and fight for what you believe in!

Besides which, after dealing with the agony of the death of the cat, who turned out to have a brain tumor (which is so not how I expected her to go: I expected her to run off with a rock band at the very least, since she so enjoyed sitting on the laps of strange men), word has reached us of many new cats in need.

Well, not actually new cats. Old cats in need of new homes.

So I simply must return to make sure they are all taken care of, possibly by me.

I will post photos – both of my trip to France and any new old cats that come my way – on my various social media soon. But in the meantime:

  • See you in France next week! Come to see me at the places above!
  • Or if not, see you when I get back from France. Because like Han, I WILL be back (well, Han in the first movie, anyway).
  • Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
  • And remember that we all have a LOT to be thankful for, including:
  1. Our ability to make real change
  2. New cats (who were someone else’s old cat, but it feels good to give a nice old cat a new home)
  3. Good books
  4. Good food
  5. And of course each other!

Bisous! XOXOX

More later.

Much love,

Meg

 

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September 11, 2001

By janey,

This year is the fifteenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93.

It might seem impossible to believe, but this year’s incoming high school freshmen weren’t even born in 2001! So they might not be aware of some of the events that happened on that day.

That’s why I continue to post the essay below about my experience living in Manhattan a few dozen blocks from the World Trade Center on 9/11.  I think it’s important we don’t allow the brave acts that so many men and women performed that day to be forgotten.

So if you have a few extra minutes in your day, please read on. And if you think what you read was important, please share it with a friend. There’s tragedy in the personal story I’ve written below, but there’s also plenty of inspirational heroism, too, I promise, starting with this, the boat lift on 9/11 that helped rescue some of my husband’s co-workers:

Meg’s 9/11 Diary

9/11/01 started out as one of those super nice fall days where the sky was cloudlessly blue and it was just warm enough, but not hot. My LA friends call that “earthquake weather.”

So we probably should have known something awful was going to happen, but most of us didn’t.

My husband had woken up early to go jogging before leaving for work at his job as a financial writer at One Liberty Plaza, which was across the street from the World Trade Center.

He has never been jogging again.

Not being a morning person, I was still asleep in my apartment on 12th Street and 4th Avenue, a few dozen blocks from the Trade Center, when the first plane hit. Our windows were closed and the air conditioning was on. I didn’t hear a thing until my friend Jen called.

Jen: “Look out your window.”

That is when I saw the smoke for the first time.

Me: “What’s happening?”

Jen: “They’re saying a plane hit the Trade Center.”

Me: “But how could the pilot not see it?”

Jen: “I don’t know. Isn’t that near where your husband works?”

It was. I couldn’t see his building from our apartment, but I could see the World Trade Center. The black smoke billowing from it had to be going right into my husband’s busy investment office on the 60th or so floor.

“I better call him to see if he’s okay,” I said, and hung up to do so.

There was no answer at my husband’s office, however, which was crazy, because over a hundred people worked there.

Were they all right? I didn’t know. I couldn’t get through to anyone anywhere. I couldn’t make any outgoing calls from either of my phones that day. For some reason, people could call me, but I couldn’t call anyone else.

It turned out this was due to the massive volume of calls going on in my part of the city that day, both on cell and land lines.

But I didn’t know that then.

Sirens started up. It was the engine from the firehouse directly across the street from my apartment building. It was a very small firehouse, but it was always bustling with activity. All the young, handsome guys used to sit outside it on folding chairs on nice days like the one on 9/11, joshing with the neighbors who were walking their dogs, with my doormen, with the neighborhood kids. The old ladies on my street always brought them cookies.The firemen, in turn, always had treats for the old ladies’ dogs.

Now all the firemen from the station across from my apartment building were hurrying to the fire downtown, throwing on their gear and urgently blaring the horn on their truck.

Every last one of those young, brave boys would be dead in exactly one hour. Their truck would be crushed beyond recognition. That firehouse would sit empty and draped in black bunting for months. No one would be able to look at it without crying.

Of course none of us knew it then.

I turned on New York 1, the local news channel for New York City. Pat Kiernan, my favorite newscaster, was saying that a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

Weird, I thought. Was the pilot drunk? How could someone not see a building that big, and run into it with a plane?

It was right then that Luz, my housekeeper, showed up. I’d forgotten it was Tuesday, the day she comes to clean. When she saw what I was watching, she looked worried.

“I just dropped my son off at his college,” she said. “It’s right next to the World Trade Center.”

“My husband works across the street from the World Trade Center,” I said.

“Is he all right?” Luz wanted to know. “What’s happening down there?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t reach him.”

Luz tried to call her son on his cell phone. She, too, could not get through.

We didn’t know then that our cell servers used towers that were located on top of the World Trade Center, and they all had stopped working due to the intensity of the flames shooting up the building.

We both stood there staring at the TV, not really knowing what to do. It was as we were watching that something weird happened on the TV, right before our eyes:

The OTHER tower at the World Trade Center — the one that hadn’t been hit — suddenly exploded.

I thought maybe one of the helicopters that was filming the disaster had gotten too close.

But Luz said, “No. A plane hit it. I saw it. That was a plane.”

I hadn’t seen a plane. I said, “No. How could that be? There can’t be TWO drunk pilots.”

“You don’t understand,” Luz said. “They’re doing this on purpose.”

“No,” I said. “Of course they aren’t. Who would do that?”

That’s when Pat Kiernan, on the TV, said, “Oh, my God.”

It’s weird to hear a newscaster say, “Oh, my God.” Especially Pat. He is always very professional.

Also, Pat’s voice cracked when he said it. Like he was about to cry.

But newscasters don’t cry.

“Another plane has hit the World Trade Center,” Pat said. “It looks as if another plane — a commercial jet — has hit the World Trade Center. And we are getting reports that a plane has just hit the Pentagon.”

That’s when I grabbed Luz. And Luz grabbed me. We both started to cry. We sat on the couch in my living room, hugging each other, and crying as we watched what was happening on TV, which was what was happening a dozen blocks from where we sat, where both the people we loved were.

We could see things flying out of the burning buildings. Pat said that those things were people. People were choosing to jump from their offices in the World Trade Center rather than burn to death. They couldn’t escape the flames, and rescuers couldn’t reach them.

But their offices were sixty to ninety floors from the ground. Some of them were holding hands with their colleagues as they jumped. Many of them were women. You could tell by the way their skirts ballooned out behind them as they raced towards the pavement below.

Luz and I sobbed. We didn’t want to watch, but we couldn’t stop. This was happening in our city, just down the street, to people we saw every day. Who would do this? Who would do something like this to New Yorkers?

That’s when my phone rang. I grabbed it, but it wasn’t my husband. It was his mother. Where was he? she wanted to know. Was he all right?

I said I didn’t know. I said I was trying to keep the line clear, in case he called. She said she understood but to call her as soon as I heard anything, and hung up.

Then the phone rang again. It was my husband’s sister-in-law. Then it rang again. It was MY mother.

The phone rang all morning. It was never my husband. It was always family or friends, wondering if he was all right.

“I don’t know,” I kept telling them. “I don’t know.”

Luz went up to the roof of my building to see if she could see anything more from there than what they were showing on New York 1. While she was gone, I went into my bedroom to get dressed (I was still wearing my pajamas).

All I could think, as I looked into my closet, trying to figure out what to wear, was that my husband was probably dead. I didn’t see how anybody could be down in that part of Manhattan and still be alive. All I could see were things falling —and people jumping — out of those buildings. Anyone on the streets down below would have to be killed by all of that. The jumping people couldn’t choose where they landed.

I remember exactly what I put on that day: olive green capris and a black T-shirt, with my black Steve Madden slides. I remember thinking, “This will be my Identifying My Dead Husband’s Body outfit. I will never, ever wear it again after this day.”

I knew this because when I worked at the dorm at NYU, we had quite a few students kill themselves, in various ways. Every time a body was discovered, it was so horrible. All the first responders involved in the discovery could never wear the same clothes we wore that day again, because of the memory.

Luz came back down from the roof, very excited. No, she hadn’t seen if the buildings in which my husband and her son were in were all right. But she’d seen thousands — THOUSANDS — of people coming down 4th Avenue, the busy street I lived on at the time. 4th Avenue is always heavily trafficked with honking cars, buses, taxis, bike messengers, and scooters.

Not today. Today all the cars and buses were gone, and the entire avenue was crowded with people.

“Walking,” Luz said. “They’re WALKING DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET.”

I ran to look out the window. Luz was right. Instead of the constant stream of cars I’d gotten used to seeing outside our living room window, I saw wall to wall people. They had taken over the street. They were coming from the Battery, where the Trade Center is located, shoulder to shoulder, ten deep in the middle of the road, like a parade or a rally. There were tens of thousands of them.

There were men in business suits, and some in khakis. There were women in skirts and dresses, walking barefoot or in shredded pantyhose, holding their shoes because their high heels hurt too much and they hadn’t had time to grab their commuter running shoes. I saw the ladies who worked in the manicure shop across the street from my building running outside with the flip flops they put on their customers’ feet when they’ve had a pedicure (the flip flops the staff always make sure they get back before you leave).

But today, the staff was giving the flip flops to the women who were barefoot. They were giving away the flip flops.

That’s when I got REALLY freaked out.

The manicurists weren’t the only ones trying to help. The men who worked in the deli on the corner were running outside with bottles of water to give to the hot, thirsty marchers. New York City deli owners, GIVING water away. Usually they charged $2.

It was like the world had turned upside down.

“They have to be in there,” Luz said, about her son and my husband, pointing to the crowd. “They’re walking with them, and that’s what’s taking them so long to get here.”

“I hope you’re right,” I said. But I wasn’t sure I shared her faith.

Then Luz ran downstairs to see if anyone in the crowd was coming from the same college her son went to, to ask if anyone might have seen him.

I was afraid to leave my apartment, though, because I thought my husband might try to call. Not knowing what else to do, I logged onto the computer. My email was still working, even if the phones weren’t. I emailed my husband: WHERE ARE YOU?

No reply.

A friend from Indiana had emailed to ask if there was anything she could do. At the time, the only thing I could think of was, Give blood.

My friend, and everyone she knew, gave blood that day. So many people gave blood that there were lines around the corner to give it.

After a month, a lot of that surplus blood had to be destroyed, because they didn’t have room to store it all. And there turned out to be no use for it, anyway. There were few survivors to give blood to.

My friend Jen, the one who’d woken me up, e’d me from her job at NYU. Fred (out of respect for their desire for anonymity, I have changed the names of some people in this piece), then one of Jen’s employees, and also a volunteer EMT, had jumped on his bike and headed downtown to see if there was anything he could do to help.

Jen herself was organizing a massive effort to set up shelter for students who didn’t live on campus, since the subways and commuter trains had stopped running, and the kids who commuted to school had no way of getting home that night. Jen was trying to arrange for cots to be set up in the gym for them.

She ended up staying in the city too that night. She had no way to get back to her house in Connecticut.

Another co-worker from NYU, my friend Jack, did manage to reach his spouse, who worked in the Trade Center, that day. Jack used to train the RAs. He would ask me to “interrupt” his training with a fake administrative temper tantrum — “Why are you in this room?” I would demand. “You never reserved it!”— and then he and I would “fight” about it, and then after I left Jack would ask the RAs what would have been a better way to handle the situation . . . and by the way, did any of them remember what I was wearing? After they’d tell him, he’d have me come back into the room, and point out that every single of them was wrong about what I’d had on. This was to show how unreliable witness testimony can be.

Jack’s wife had just walked eighty floors down one of the Towers to reach the ground safely since the elevators weren’t working due to the flames, only to realize the guys in her IT department were still up there, backing up data for the company. Once she reached the ground, and saw how bad things really were, she tried calling them to tell them to forget backing up and just COME DOWN, but of course she couldn’t get hold of them because no phones were working.

So she went back up to MAKE THEM come down, because who doesn’t love their IT guys?

“Why did you go back up?” Jack asked her, when he finally reached her. By that time she, along with the IT guys, had become trapped in the fire and smoke, and couldn’t make their way down again.

“It seemed like the right thing to do,” she said.

Of course it did. She was married to Jack. Jack would have done the same thing. She told Jack to say good bye to their twins toddlers for her. That was the last time they spoke.

I can never think of this, or of Jack’s happy, cheerful greeting every time I saw him, or the stunned looks on the RAs faces when they realized we’d pulled one over on them, without wanting to cry. It seems so unfair that those twins have had to grow up not knowing their mother. And for what reason?

Another friend, a pilot who had access to air traffic control radar, e’d me to say all the planes in the U.S. were being grounded — that what had happened had been the result of highjackings. That it was a commercial jet that had hit the Pentagon, where my friend’s father-in-law worked (they eventually found him, safe and sound. He’d been stuck in traffic on his way to the Pentagon when the plane hit. Many people that day were rewarded for tardiness).

But another friend – a girl I’d worked with when I’d been a receptionist in my husband’s office, a girl whom I’d helped pick out a wedding dress, and who, since the big day, had quit her job to raise the four kids she’d had – wasn’t so lucky. She never saw her husband, who worked at the Trade Center, again.

Then, behind me, I heard Pat Kiernan on the TV say, “Oh, my God,” again.

And this time he really WAS crying. Because one of the towers was collapsing.

I watched, not believing my eyes. Since having moved to New York City in 1989, I had become accustomed to using the Twin Towers as my own personal compass point for the direction “South,” since they’re on the southern tip of the island, and visible from dozens of blocks away. Wherever you were in the maze of streets that made up the Village, all you had to do to orient yourself was find the Twin Towers, and you knew which direction to go.

(If you ever watched closely during the movie “When Harry Met Sally,” you can see the towers beneath the Washington Square arch in the scene where Sally drops Harry off when they first arrive in New York.)

And now one of those towers was coming down.

I don’t remember anything else about that moment except that, as I watched the TV in horror, the front door to my apartment opened, and, assuming it was Luz back from the street, I turned to tell her, “It’s falling down! It’s FALLING DOWN!”

Only it wasn’t Luz. It was my husband.

He said, “What’s falling down? Why are you crying?”

Because HE HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING ON.

Because my husband, being my husband, had picked up his briefcase after the first plane hit and said, “Let’s go,” to everyone in his department, took the elevators downstairs, and insisted everyone start walking for our apartment, because it was the closest place to where they were that seemed unlikely to be hit by an airplane.

(He told me later he’d worried they were going to try for the Stock Exchange, or the federal buildings you always see on Law and Order, and so had made everyone take small side streets home around those buildings, which is why it took them so long to get there).

They had to dodge the bodies of the people who jumped from the burning towers because they couldn’t stand the heat anymore. They saw the desk chairs and PCs that had been blown out of the offices so high above littering the street like tickertape from a parade. They saw the second plane hit while they were on the street, and ducked into a cell phone store until the rubble from the explosion settled. A piece of plane, nearly twenty feet long, flew past them, and landed in a parking lot, just missing Trinity Church, one of the oldest churches in this country.

And they kept walking.

I don’t know what people normally do when someone they love, who they were convinced was dead, suddenly walks through the door. All I know is how I reacted: I flung my arms around him. And then I started yelling, “WHY DIDN’T YOU CALL ME?”

“I tried, I couldn’t get through,” he said. “What’s falling down?”

Because they had no idea. All they knew was that the city was under attack (which they had surmised by all the airplanes).

So my husband and his colleagues gathered in our living room—hot, thirsty, but alive, the ones who lived in New Jersey wondering how (and if) they were going to get home. Eventually, that night, they managed to catch boat rides – see the film above.

Meanwhile, Luz, not wanting to go home until she’d heard from her son, who was supposed to meet her after class in my building, cleaned.

I told her not to, but she said it helped keep her mind off what was happening.

So she vacuumed, while eleven people sat in my two room apartment and watched the Twin Towers fall.

It wasn’t long after the second tower came down that our friends David and Susan from Indiana, who lived in a beautiful condo in the shadow of the Twin Towers with their two young children, showed up at our door, their kids and half the employees from their office (which was also in our neighborhood) behind them.

They had been some of the people shown on the news escaping from the massive dust cloud that erupted when the towers fell. They’d abandoned their daughter’s stroller and run for it, while shop owners tossed water on their backs as they passed by, to keep their clothes from catching on fire.

In their typical way, however, they had stopped on their way to our place to pick up some bagels.

For all they knew, their apartment was burning down, or being buried under ten feet of rubble. But they’d stopped for bagels, because they’d been worried people might be hungry. Or maybe people just do things in times like that to try to be normal. I don’t know. They didn’t forget the cream cheese, either.

I took the kids into my bedroom, where there was a second TV, because I didn’t think they should see what everyone was watching in the living room, which was footage of what they had just escaped from.

I set up my Playstation for Jake, who was seven or so at the time, to use, while Shai, just turning 4, and I did a puzzle on my floor. Both kids were worried about Mr. Fluff, their pet rabbit, whom they’d been forced to leave behind in their apartment, because there’d been no time to get him (their parents had run from work and grabbed both kids from school).

“Do you think he’s all right?” Jake wanted to know.

At the time, I didn’t see how anything south of Canal Street could be alive, but I told Jake I was sure Mr. Fluff was fine.

This was when Shai and I had the following conversation:

“Are planes going to fly into THIS building?” Shai wanted to know. She was crying as she looked out the windows of my thirteenth floor apartment.

Me: “No. No planes are going to fly into this building.”

Shai: “How do you know?”

Me: “Because all the planes are grounded. No more planes are allowed in the air.”

Shai: “Ever?”

Me: “No. Just until the bad guys who did this get caught.”

Shai: “Who’s going to catch the bad guys?”

Me: “The police will catch them.”

Shai: “No, they won’t. All the police are dead. I saw them going into the building that just fell down.”

Me (trying not to cry): “Shai. Not all the police are dead.”

Shai (crying harder): “Yes, they ARE. I SAW THEM.”

Me (showing Shai a picture from my family photo album of a policeman in his uniform): “Shai, this is my brother, Matt. He’s a policeman. And he’s not dead, I promise. And he, and other policemen like him, and probably even the Army, will catch the bad guys.”

Shai (no longer crying): “Okay.”

And she went back to her puzzle.

Watching from my living room window, we saw the crowds of people streaming out from what was soon to be called Ground Zero, thin to a trickle, then stop altogether. That was when 4th Avenue became crowded with vehicular traffic again. But not taxis or bike messengers.

Soon, our building was shaking from the wheels of hundreds of Humvees and Army trucks, as the National Guard moved in. The Village was blockaded from 14th Street down. You couldn’t come in or out of the neighborhood without showing proof that you lived there (a piece of mail with your name and address on it, along with a photo ID).

The next day, after having spent the night on our fold-out couch in the living room, Shai’s parents snuck back to their apartment (they had to sneak, because the National Guard wasn’t letting anyone at all, even with proof that they lived there, into the area. For weeks afterwards, on every corner from 14th Street down, stood a National Guardsman, armed with an assault rifle. For days, you couldn’t get milk, bread, or a newspaper below Union Square because they weren’t allowing any delivery trucks — or any vehicles at all, except Army vehicles — into the area), and found Mr. Fluff alive and well.

They snuck him back out, so that later that day, we were able to put the entire family on a bus to the Hamptons, where they lived for the rest of the year.

As my husband and I were walking back to our apartment from the bus stop where we’d seen off our friends, we saw a familiar face standing on the corner of 4th Avenue and 12th Street, where we lived:

Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea Clinton, asking people in our neighborhood if we were all right, and if there was anything they could do to help.

I didn’t go up to shake the ex-President’s hand, because I was too shy.

But I stood there watching him and Chelsea, and something about seeing them, so genuinely concerned and kind (and not there for press or publicity, because there WAS no press, there was never any mention of their visit AT ALL in any newspaper or on any news broadcast I saw that day), made me burst into tears, after having held them in the whole time Shai had been in my apartment, since I didn’t want to upset her.

But you couldn’t NOT cry. It was impossible. Everyone was doing it …so much so that the deli across the street put a sign in its window: “No Crying, Please.” Our doormen were crying. Even Rudy Giuliani, New York City’s mayor (whom I will admit up until this crisis I had not particularly liked for cheating on his very nice wife, Donna Hanover, who used to be on the Food Network), kept crying.

But he also kept showing up on New York 1, no matter what time you turned it on, even at two in the morning, there he was, like he never slept, always crying but also telling us It’s going to be all right, which was BRILLIANT.

The same day we put Shai and her family on a bus to the Hamptons, September 12 — which also happened to be poor Shai’s birthday — companies (even RIVAL companies) all over Manhattan offered up their conference rooms and spare offices to all the businesses in the Trade Center and One Liberty Plaza that had lost theirs, including my husband’s company, so that they would be able to remain solvent, another act of kindness that never gets mentioned anywhere, but should.

Since he was the only person in the company who lived downtown, my husband was elected for the duty of removing all the sensitive data from their now mostly destroyed office, which meant he had to pass through the Brooks Brothers in his building’s foyer, from which he had bought so many of his business shirts and ties. The Brooks Brothers at One Liberty Plaza was now serving as Ground Zero’s morgue.

While under escort of the National Guard, he and guardsmen–the first to enter his floor since the event–found a body in an emergency stairwell. It was determined to be the body of someone from another office, who had probably suffered a heart attack while trying to evacuate One Liberty. The body was removed and taken to the morgue while my husband watched. (He threw away the clothes he wore that day.)

For the next week in Lower Manhattan, even if you wanted to forget, for a minute, what had happened on that cloudless Tuesday morning, you couldn’t. The front window of my apartment building filled with Missing Person posters of loved ones that had been lost in the Trade Center. The outside walls of St. Vincent’s Hospital were papered with them as well, and Union Square, at 14th Street, became an impromptu memorial to the dead, filled with candles and flowers. So did the front doors of every local fire station, including the one across the street from my building. The old ladies who used to bring cookies there stood in front of it and cried.

You couldn’t go outside during that week — until it finally rained Friday night, four days later – without smelling the acrid smoke from Ground Zero … and, in fact, you were encouraged to wear surgical masks outdoors. An eerie grey fog covered everything. Some of us tried to brave it by not wearing masks — like Londoners during the Blitz — meeting for lunch like nothing had happened, but the smoke made your eyes burn. I have no idea how the rescue workers at Ground Zero could bear it, and I’m not surprised so many of them now have respiratory diseases and cancer. I have no doubt that for some, the horrors of 9/11 will continue to be felt years from now.

It wasn’t until employees from a barbecue restaurant drove all the way to Manhattan from Memphis, and stationed their tanker-sized smokers right next to Ground Zero, and then started giving away free barbecue to all the rescue workers there for weeks on end, that the smell changed to something other than death. Everyone loved those guys. It was just barbecue.

Except it wasn’t just barbecue. It was a sign that, as the mayor kept assuring us, things were going to be all right.

But of course, for a lot of New Yorkers that day, things were never going to be all right again. While I was celebrating the fact that my husband had come home, Fred – Jen’s employee, the volunteer EMT who had ridden his bike downtown to see if there was anything he could do – couldn’t find his crew. This was before the buildings fell, before anyone had any idea those buildings COULD fall, when the police and firemen were still streaming into them, confident they could get people out.

The crew that Fred normally volunteered with were inside one of those buildings, helping people down the stairs. Fred couldn’t find them, because all the cell towers were down, and communication was so sketchy. Someone told Fred to drive a bus they’d found, to help evacuate people out of the World Trade Center area.

Fred didn’t want to be outside driving a bus. He wanted to be inside with his crew, saving people.

But since he couldn’t find his crew, he agreed to drive the bus.

Then the buildings came down. Later, Fred found out that the crew he normally volunteered with had been one of the many rescue squads buried under the rubble.

Like a lot of the rescue workers who lost coworkers in the attack, Fred seemed to feel guilty about having survived, while his friends had not. Even when all his NYU co-workers pitched in and bought him a new bike (after his old one got buried beneath rubble at Ground Zero), Fred couldn’t seem to shake his sadness. It was like he didn’t believe he’d done any good that day.

“All I did,” he said, “was drive a stupid bus.”

But that’s not all he did. Because remember Luz’s son?

Well, he showed up at my apartment not long after Jake and Shai and their parents did. Luz grabbed him and kissed him and shook him and cried, and when she finally let go of him, he told his story:

He had been heading towards — not away from – the towers, because he’d wanted to help, he said. A lot like Fred.

But suddenly, from out of nowhere, someone grabbed him from behind, and threw him onto a stupid bus.

“But I want to stay and help!” Luz’s son yelled at the guy who’d grabbed him.

“Not today,” Fred said.

And he drove Luz’s son, and all the other students from that community college to safety, just before the towers fell.

Fifteen years has passed since 9/11. A year or two after finding that body, and the company he worked for got back on its feet, my husband decided financial writing wasn’t for him. He decided to follow a lifelong dream: he enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. He got to work with chefs like Jacques Pepin. At his graduation, Michael Lamonaco–who ran Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the Twin Towers. Michael is another person who happened to be late to work on 9/11–offered my husband a job in his new restaurant.

My husband declined, however, because we were moving to Key West, where the pace of life is a little bit slower. Michael said he completely understood.

Luz and her family are doing fine. Fred is now married with two children, and head of his own division at NYU. Mr. Fluff did eventually die, but of natural causes. Jake is enrolled in law school, and Shai is now attending a college she loves. Shai’s mother says her daughter has no memory whatsoever of that day, or of the conversation she and I had, or of the promise I made her — that we’d catch the bad guys.

Shai, however, says she does remember our conversation, and that I was right: we did catch the bad guys.

Of course, now there are some new bad guys out there.

But the important thing is that we never forget . . . and that we all remember: we’re all in this together.

More later.

Much love,

Meg

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Best of 2015, TV edition

By meggin,

Happy new Year! 2015 is finally making its way out the door, and I don’t know about you, but I’m not too sorry to see it go, kind of the way I feel about house guests who’ve over stayed their welcome.

But there were definitely some good things about 2015, am I right? Remember this?

 

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And this?

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This was fun, too:

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But what stood out most to me about 2015 was that it was a GREAT year for books, TV shows, and movies written by or about women.

That’s definitely something to be remembered/celebrated!

So I’m going to list a few of the TV shows, movies and books that I enjoyed in 2015 – limited to what I can remember, obviously. I know I’m going to leave things out, and if I do, please tweet and let me know YOUR favorites, especially if there’s something you saw that I missed and absolutely MUST see.

Of course since I can’t fit all of them in one post, I’ll be spreading the lists out a little over a few weeks.

 

TV Shows I Liked in 2015

(that I can remember)

 

Broad City*

This show about (and written by) two girls trying make their way in the big city has a cult following, and deservedly so, for pointing out all the weird things about life after college, especially in New York City.

 

If there’s a star * by the title it means that HWSNBNITB watches it with me. He Who Shall Not Be Named In This Blog has a notable disinterest in creepy or dramatic shows. I, however, will apparently watch just about anything.

Inside Amy Schumer*

Not everyone likes every skit Amy does on her show, which makes it somewhat controversial, but as Mr. Bennet asked his daughter Lizzie in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice:

 “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

Crazy Ex Girlfriend

A lot of people judged this new show on the CW by its title and didn’t watch it, but that was a huge mistake. “It’s more nuanced than that,” the main character insists. And it is!

Check out the musical number below where “crazy” Rebecca (she’s not “crazy,” that’s a pejorative term!) sings about how good she is at impressing other people’s parents. (There’s an “explicit” version that’s even funnier, but you’ll have to find that one on your own.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLuFBEB3YC8

 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt*

From the addictive theme song to the hilarious musical numbers, this Netflix hit about a girl who’s been through unspeakable trauma trying to begin a new life is perfection. The humor might skew a little too satirical for some people, but I’m happy there’s a second season coming.

 

UnReal 

We all know reality shows aren’t “real” (though I for one sometimes try to trick myself into believing what I’m seeing wasn’t at all set up by the producers).

Now, thanks to UnReal, Lifetime’s scripted show about a “Bachelor-like” reality series, we know ALL the secrets. Its female creators (who have worked behind the scenes in television a long time – one of them is Marti Noxon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) hold nothing back and I was riveted from Episode 1. This was one of the most extraordinarily entertaining, well-acted shows of 2015. Thank God it’s been renewed for another season!

 

A Chef’s Life*

The cook in my life forces me to watch this PBS show about a female chef who’s moved back to her home town in South Carolina to raise a family and open her own restaurant . . . but I like it! Except that it’s a reality show and, well, sometimes I wonder . . . see above.

KIDDING.

Chef/writer Vivian Howard’s show is “disarmingly charming” acc. to HWSNBNIB and her food looks good, too.

 

River

This British detective drama on Netflix, written and created by Abi Morgan, killed me. DO NOT WATCH IT unless you’ve cleared your weekend because you’ll want to binge the whole thing to find out “who done it.” It – along with Happy Valley, which I’ve heard they’re making Season 2 of right now! – could be my favorite detective dramas of all time.

You’re The Worst*

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wocbyBncJg

Kind of like “Crazy Ex Girlfriend,” I think the title of this show is misleading. I feel like in Season 2 especially this became one of the smartest, warmest comedies on TV. The female characters in particular are depicted as being flawed, but still funny and strong, which makes them lovable and sympathetic.

And just when I was worried everything on this show might go in the darkest direction possible, the writers proved that maybe these characters aren’t “the worst” after all…and that made me love the show even more.

Veep

This show has been around for a while but it only gets better every season.  And I don’t just mean the swearing. If this show were a food and beverage, it would be a delicious salt-rimmed margarita with cheesy nachos, basically one of my favorites. Julia Louis Dreyfuss is who I want to be when I grow up!

 

Getting On

Am I the only person who watched this show (besides Buzzfeed)? Because it is one of my favorite shows of all time. Watching the characters on this show (who work in the “end stage” ward of a hospital) go at each other is like watching the duel between Hamilton and Burr (or so I imagine).

It’s both tragic and amazing and you want them to stop but you also kind of want them to keep fighting forever which is why I’m so sorry this show is over.

 

The Affair

I know some people gave up on this show in Season 1 because the flashbacks were in such confusing order. Plus, I mean, it’s totally ridiculous.

But if you stuck with it for Season 2 you’d have found out that:

a) The completely twisted murder mystery only gets twistier and THE BABY IS NOT WHOSE YOU THINK IT IS.

b) There’s a cynical send up of the publishing industry that actually had me laughing out loud (oh yes! You can totally write that book in three months and it will be out by Christmas.* And yes, publicists TOTALLY do that thing. ALL THE TIME.  HA HA HA no.)

c) The wife – Maura Tierney – could NOT be more different than the character she was in Season 1, and it’s brilliant and I want her to win every award.

*You can if you’re Trumbo.  You can write Spartacus in 3 days in the bathtub while drinking.

 

Penny Dreadful

Like The Affair, this show turned everything around, so characters you thought were one thing – cough, Billie Piper – in Season 1 turned out to be something else entirely in Season 2. And I loved it.

Game of Thrones

I watch this show because I also read the books and I’m interested to see what happens next. I know some people are upset by the fact that occasionally characters get killed off (or abused) in nasty ways, but I think there’s so much senseless death and violence in real life that we NEED stories like this – where we get to see a character’s ill treatment avenged later. Because that so rarely happens in reality!

As long as the violence works in the context of the story, it doesn’t bother me.

And we need to know what happens to the mother of dragons! And to Arya and Sansa Stark, of course.

You guys know I was invited to George RR Martin’s indie theater in February to chat about Remembrance, right?

 

Black-ish *

Diane. Her mom, Bow.  But Diane. OMG DIANE

 

Brooklyn 99*

This is pretty much one of the best comedic ensemble shows ever. Thank God we have it to fill the hole in our hearts left by Parks and Rec.  The female characters on this show are AMAZING. I’ve watched all of Chelsea Peretti’s stand up and I want to be Rosa.

But honestly it’s Terry Crews who is my favorite. Whenever I begin to succumb to mean world syndrome I watch this and snap out of it.

Lizzie Borden Chronicles

Lifetime! Again! What’s up with you Lifetime??? If you want to watch a woman slowly realize she can get away with killing all the terrible people in her town to make it a better place, then this is the show for you.  Don’t be mean to your dog around Lizzie!

 

Downton Abby*

It all ends next month! It will be hard to say goodbye but I’m so thankful to the Dowager for bringing us so many put downs..

Call the Midwife

These nuns and nurses are still adorable while delivering babies in sometimes sad and controversial circumstances and oh! That Christmas special!

 

Of course there are many more shows I want to gush about, but I’ve forgotten them (I’m sure you’ll help me out)

Besides, I’ve run out of time.  I’ve got to finish the drawings for Notebooks from a Middle School Princess #2, Royal Wedding Disaster. Freelance writers/illustrators don’t get holidays off when they have deadlines.

But I WILL stop later on tonight for a few glasses of champagne, to toast the New Year!

Join me back here next week year for my “Favorite Books of 2015″ and Favorite Movies of 2015.”

I hope everyone’s holidays are amazing and that 2016 brings nothing but joy!

Remember – be safe  . . .  be happy  . . . but most of all, be yourself!

More later.

Much love,

Meg

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2014: The Year in Review

By meggin,

Happy Holidays!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’m pretty honest.  There are some things I can’t say online because I try to be princessy, and princesses aren’t rude (to people’s faces).

But I think we can all agree that 2014 was a pretty terrible year.  Borrowing from kids’ book author Megan McDonald, I started calling Summer of 2014 the Bummer Summer.

Amidst all the many national and global tragedies that occurred, He Who Shall Not Be Named In This Blog lost his father, and we were forced to put his mother in a nursing home.

And of course the cat, now an only child, has decided to become a solo artist, delighting us with nightly 4AM concertos in the stairwell.

2014 wasn’t all bad, though. Many wonderful people were born, graduated, got jobs, and were married  . . . .

 

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(Find the out of town author at the chic wedding in Palm Springs, CA in the photo above ^^^^.)

Some people celebrated 21 year wedding anniversaries . . . .

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(He Who Shall Not Be Named In This Blog also refuses to allow his photo in this blog.)

Some people had friends kind enough to take them out on their boats and let them practice driving for when they get their own boats, chasing after rainbows, looking for pots of gold.

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But instead of gold, some people may have ended up running their friends’ boats aground.

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That’s okay though! Because the thing about chasing after rainbows is that even when you don’t find gold at the end of them, you usually end up finding something.

For me that something was the realization that the most important thing in the world is having good friends (who don’t mind if you run their boat aground).  And that home is the place where there’s always a warm drink and someone who’s happy to see you:

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2014 was also a great year for me creatively because, since I didn’t have any books coming out, I could concentrate on writing new ones!

Here’s the long awaited COVER REVEAL for ROYAL WEDDING (Princess Diaries XI)!

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Read a sneak preview of it here!

I can’t WAIT for everyone to read the WHOLE thing when it’s out in stores and e-readers on June 2! (In the US and Canada. Updates on when it will be out in other countries coming soon!) Learn more here.

And for those of you asking for proof that Mia (unlike me) can actually plan a wedding and is not going to elope:

Check out this Royal Wedding Pinterest board that I’ve created (with the help of my immensely talented friend and assistant Ann). Watch Mia and Grandmére duel it out over everything from shoes to bouquets and wedding decor.  New fights added weekly.

Before ROYAL WEDDING hits the shelves, though, stay tuned for my first-ever illustrated (by me!) book, FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF A MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCESS, which will be in stores on May 19!

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Yes! I drew this^^^^!

Middle School Princess will take readers back to Genovia, this time through the illustrated diaries of 12-year-old Olivia Grace, who may or may not be Princess Mia Thermopolis’s long-lost little sister!

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 I did not draw the book cover^^^! I can’t draw crowds!

Only the inside drawings are mine!

 

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That’s Lars, above. ^^^ I drew him.  In case you ever wondered what a Genovian bodyguard looks like.

 

 

Sabine

 

Don’t worry, there are female Genovian bodyguards, too. I drew her, too. ^^^

 

Grandmere

This is Grandmere, with Rommel. ^^^^ I drew her. She is quite fancy, as you can tell.

Read an excerpt here!

Check for more sneak peeks (and chances to win SUPER COOL PRIZES, including advanced reader copies of both Royal Wedding and Middle School Princess) on the Official Princess Diaries page on Facebook. (Accept no substitutes.)

Middle School Princess was a super fun challenge for me since I couldn’t write it the way I normally do . . . in bed.

 

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Certain people complained I was getting eraser crumbs in the sheets as I was doing my drawings.

So I had to work at my art desk!

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Here is a photo of me there:

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In reality I do not wear dresses when drawing, I wear yoga pants and very crappy t-shirts. This photo is staged. 

 I wouldn’t allow a “realistic photo” as I, like Grandmere, am too vain.

If you’re a Mediator fan, don’t think I abandoned you for 2015, though. I handed in the completed manuscript for Mediator 7, Remembrance, way back in July, but the only release date we could all agree was special enough for the book was Valentine’s Day 2016.

I know what you’re thinking. When did Meg get so mushy?  I don’t know either.

But even though it’s more than a year away, I promise you it’s going to be worth the wait! I’m hoping this book will be the greatest Valentine’s Day gift Mediator fans—and even readers unfamiliar with the series—will ever receive.

(Well, okay, that might be pushing it. Nothing is better than chocolate.)

In the meantime, I would not be doing my duty as royal spokesperson for the Palace of Genovia if I did not remind everyone that:

As a person who tries to act princessy, I don’t believe in sharing too much of my personal baggage with my readers, especially on my social media. To quote Grandmere in Royal Wedding:

“It’s a royal’s job to entertain and enlighten – not burden – her subjects. Your personal baggage should only be shared with your therapist (or the bell boy, of course).”

However, I sometimes feel like people forget that I have two brothers.  One is a white police sergeant. The other is African American.

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Look, it’s me! Stuck in the middle. No wonder I became a writer.

So here is my sincerest wish for the holidays. . . and I don’t think it’s much different than the wish of any big sister:

Could we please try to get along? Remember that most people are good at heart.

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Let’s give love a chance in 2015.

(Yes, that motorcycle cop dressed as Santa is my brother, and yes, that is his wife, Mrs. Cabot-Claus.)

Back to your regularly scheduled blog:

Books make the perfect stocking stuffer!

And here are some free short stories to enjoy while you’re sipping hot chocolate by the fire (or hanging out on the beach).

We’re slowly putting together my tour schedule for 2015. It’s nowhere close to finalized, but here’s a sneak peek at some of the events I’m booked for so far on tour in 2015!

And finally:

THANK YOU SO MUCH for being the most amazing readers, friends, and family a girl could have! I hope you have the best holidays – and new year – ever!

More later.

Much love,

Meg

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