Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 month ago

WB S1E30: Rockin' Around the Podcast Tree!

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

WRITERS' BLOCK: Toasting to the holiday season through memories, traditions and a look at the year ahead!

...great to get to know so many newreaders. Yes, from all over the place to they're everywhere. It's a terrificgroup. I look at where the podcast is, listen to around the globe, and I'malways surprised how many actual listeners we have from like Australiaand Ireland, and it's really were global, global, global. I love that.First we were just in Mary Kay's office, and now we're global, right, Right,right, right, right. Mary Kate's office with the Bad Internet Connection Mhm. Welcome to the friends and fictionwriter's block podcast for New York Times. Bestselling authors one rockstar librarian and endless stories joined Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel,Kristy Woodson Harvey and Patti Callahan. Henry, Along with Ron Blockas novelists, we are four long time friends with 70 books between us and Iam Ron Block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews andinsider talk about publishing and writing. If you love books and arecurious about the writing world, you are in the right place. Welcome to atruly wonderful holiday special. I am so thrilled to be hosting this partywith some of the most amazing humans that I am so lucky to know it's sowonderful to think back and what the past year and a half has put us allthrough. And as the old saying goes, when life gives you lemons, you makelemonade. Who would've guessed such amazing friendships would form and growinto the community? We're all a part of. While I could go on and on, I think youwould much rather hear who's at my holiday party. So first up, we haveMary Kay Andrews. Hi, Mary Kay. Hi. Just on cue, my dogs are barking, so Imean my dog dogs. Not my feet. Dogs. Christmas, everybody. It's a party. Sonext up, we have Kristy Woodson. Harvey. Hi, Christy. Hi, Ron. Merry Christmas,everybody. Happy holidays. And now let's welcome my next guest, PattiCallahan. Henry. Hi, Ron. I sure wish this was in a room together. Yes, wherewe were all celebrating. But Merry Christmas. Happy holidays. And this isso fun. Yes, I know. Next up is Kristin Harmel. Kristen, it's so good to seeyou. It's so good to see you or hear you. You hear you as well. I am sohappy to be here. Happy holidays. Thanks. for the party invitation. But Ithought someone said there would be drinks. I think it was wired. Christian.Oh, my gosh. I'm always always screwing that up. All right? Okay. Microphoneand bring your own drink. Yeah, sadly, someday in person will have a liveparty with drinks. And last but absolutely not least is the glue thatholds everything together. I am so thrilled to welcome Meg Walker, Meg,managing director and welcome to the show. Thank you. Merry Christmas,everybody. It's really nice to be here. I wish it was in person, but very good.I'll take it to right. So what would a party be without cocktails? Right? Wetalked about that already a little bit. So I want to go around and find outfrom you all. What are some of your favorite libations that you lookforward to at the holidays? So let's start with you, Mary Cain. I love this, um, adult Slurpee. It'scalled the Red Rooster. And it's made with, um, frozen cranberry juice,orange juice and lemonade and ginger ale. And you freeze that, uh, into,like, a Slurpee thing, and then you throw in some ginger ale and somedelightful vodka. I'm drunk already. Just festive. Wow. Really festive. So Kristimakes it even more refreshing. It always does. Always gotta have vodka.Christie, what is always on your list for a holiday favorite? You know, thisdoes not really seem Christmassy, but for some reason, my sister in law and Igot into this a few years ago. And, you know, you said when life gives youlemons make lemonade, but I think limoncello. So every year I got to lovelimoncello and sometimes strawberry cello. And it's not really that superfestive, but for some reason, really different. I don't know like that. Justplop a cranberry in it, and you're good. There you go. Yeah, exactly. Somethinggreen. A little holly spreading on the side. But don't hit your face. Let'sjump over to Meg. Meg, what is your...

...drink of choice around the holidays?Well, I like anything with bubbles at the holidays. Um, we tend to makepoints set of cocktails. I don't know if anyone's ever had that, but everylegacy has a great recipe. It's basically vodka, champagne andcranberry juice. And then, um, he says to put an orange twist and but Iactually put actual sliced up oranges and squeeze them because I like thesweetness of the orange juice in there. Yeah, really young. Wow. We're going tohave quite a party that Yes. So, Kristen, Kristen, I know that you musthave a holiday cook. I'm also a big fan of champagne, but I'm a big fan ofchampagne. 365 days a year, all the time, not just on holidays. I feel likechampagne goes with everything and every holiday during the winterholidays. Though, um, I really like mulled wine. That's, um, that'ssomething I first had maybe five or six years ago. And it's become kind of atradition where you add, um, a bottle of red wine, a little bit of sugar,some mulling spices and either a little bit of orange juice or apple cider. And,um, it's just so good, and it kind of warms you up on a cold winter day. You need that in Orlando? No, that'sthe the irony of the Florida girl telling you about a cold winter's daynot be overlooked, but, yes, the irony of the Florida girl having the onlywarm drink right. I mean, you guys, for those for those days, and it drops downto a sugary 72, you have to be Okay. When I lived in Florida, I justalways so weird. Not weird to help, but like people that when it gets to 70,they put on the park as they all think they're uggs. Come on, it's crazy. Sopack your next up. You know, Christy just said, I don't know if that'sholiday festive, but I think that's the thing with our favorites during theholidays. That it's our favorite makes it festive, so it doesn't have to belike pink or Green or red. But my favorite, um, during the holidays,because it's such a treat is what's called a French 75, and it's myfavorite. I can only have one, right, Um, but it's made of gin and simplesyrup and lemon and champagne. And if a bartender knows how to make one like areal one, it's the best holiday drink I can think of. I think that's absolutelygreat in Las Vegas. How wasn't it? Did theymake a good one? We really did. Yes, it was beautiful and tasty You know, it'sso funny. Whenever I order when I always say, do you know how to make aFrench 75? And if their face kind of goes blank like, I'll figure it out.I'm like, forget it. No, that's not good. Like they don't know what you'regonna get. That's funny. So I premiered a new cocktail that I actually, I'm inlove with now, and I don't usually like sweet drinks, but it's a cranberrybourbon sour that I premiered with the book club Happy Hour last week, and itwas so good and again it's probably only about one is all you could handle,but it's so delicious. So I think what we'll do is we'll hopefully collect allthese recipes and post them on the Facebook page once this drops. You knowwhat's interesting, too, is to know Where the names came from for thesedrinks, because we drink them without thinking so, for example, a French 75.What I've been told I have not done my research Is that it's named after acannon in in was the French Revolutionary War. French 75 is a canonbecause it hits you so hard So where use of these drinks came from? I neverThat was cool. I love it. I love it. So So let's, um let's just change the tonea little bit because, as I said when we started, we've been through an awfullot as as a nation as people, Uh, the last year and a half, and it's reallybeen really, really rough. But I feel like friends and fiction was the brightspot. So what has the this bright spot meant to each of you? Who wants to go1st? Well, we'll go upwards this time. I'llgo first and then we'll go around. Um, what's meant them is to me. I've saidit so many times that it can't be overstated. Is the community um,...

...there? There is no way you can downplaywhat community means to us, whether it's a neighborhood, a family, areligious group, a spiritual group or this book loving community. And, um toto realize that we did something we love and a community grew up around it.That's what means the most. I love it. I love it, Christian, you know, alongthose lines, along the lines of what Patti said I think it's just that sensethat we will never be alone again. Um, and, uh, and that we never were. And Ithink, um, I think it took me the pandemic to realize that that there wasthis community here all along that unites all of us. We we all love books,and I think we unite in friendship over that. And I think that's something thatwill always exist. Pandemic or no pandemic. Um, you know, even even manyyears from now. So it was good to be reminded of that. And I'm grateful tothe friends and fiction community for doing that for us. It's a wonderful,wonderful Meg. How about you? I This has been such a respite. It's hard tothink of it that way, with the six of us on the screen together, looking ateach other, knowing how much work we put into this. But I think I kind ofbecame a workaholic during the pandemic. But it was a good thing because therewas so much stress and Loss in my in my family personally, 2020 was a terribleyear. And so having having worked to distract was really welcome and I thinkthe one thing that's been, um, really rewarding for me personally is that tolisten to so many people say, how we have reignited their love of reading.Um, it's tough for us because we're so connected to books and publishing andwhat's coming out. And we always have these gigantic to be read piles and, um,to hear, like, personal friends of mine and people that we know through thefriends of picture community on Facebook say that, you know, they had,um, not been able to read much. And they had, you know, their attentionspan wasn't there. And then the show came along, and, you know, Suddenlythey've read 25 or 50 books in a year, but they've never read that much beforethat. That part's really rewarding. Yeah, that's so true. So true, Christie.I sort of ripping off of what Meg said. That was sort of what I was going tosay is that I think we have this, Um, like the outside world has thisperception that, like, you know, publishing is going somewhere. It'schanging so rapidly, and I think this group more than anything, it kind oftook away that fear that that's happening or that you know what we dois not going to be as relevant anymore because, um, there are so many peoplewho I wouldn't trade anything for holding a book or the written word orlistening or whatever it is. But there's still a place for these storiesthat we're telling. There's still an audience for them, and, um, it's bigand it's growing and it's vibrant. And it's people who are, um, you know, fromall different places who believe all different things. And, um, it's justreally fascinating to get to have that kind of one on one connection with ourreaders, and I think we probably felt like we did in a small way, through oursocial media and that kind of thing. But But this group has just comealongside us in a way that I just don't think I could have really anticipated,and it's just been hugely rewarding and so great to get to know so many newreaders from all over the place to they're everywhere. It's a terrificgroup. I look at where the podcast is, listen to around the globe, and I'malways surprised how many actual listeners. We have from like Australiaand Ireland, and it's really were global, global, global. I love that.First we were just in Mary Kay's office, and now we're global, right? Right,right, right, right. Mary Kay's office with the bad Internet connection.People crawling on floors, Yeah, things. And I love it. So, Mary Kay, what hasthis chapter meant for you? I think it's allowed all of us to be a littlebit vulnerable and to say to ourselves and to each other, I I'm not good atthat. I need help And knowing that you know this, the sisterhood is ready andwilling, um, to step in and to lift the burden a little bit. So if one of us ishas on a deadline, which I have been on, the others just, you know, smoothly,step in and say, I got your sister and that's then that's been great. And Ihope that that has, um, I hope that...

...that has been made visible to ourlisteners and to our viewers who say, Okay, that that happened, That's goingon. But look, they're helping each other out, and and I think ittranslates to um, the friends in fiction community where somebody willsay, Well, you know, I can't get that book from the library, so I'll send itto you Or, you know, people sharing their book loves and really opening upto each other. And of course, you know, we've all experienced now, um, being ata live event, a public event, and and friends and fiction members, you know,saying, Hey, I know you from friends and fiction, which has been really cool.I saw a post the other day, Mary Kay and somebody was posting about WildDunes and said, How do we all find each other? I'm not holding back. No problem,because they would like to think they're going for us. And maybe theyare. But they're also going to find each other. Yeah, so true. So true.Heard from so many people that are like, Oh, my God, I can't wait to meet you inperson and see my favorite authors. It's really wonderful. So I had thisunique perspective of, uh, first being an enjoy a of everything that you weredoing when you first started friends and fiction, and I would, um and itstarted to give me as a reader such a focus because I was a little tired ofmaking focaccia bread and pizzas, and sour does blah, blah, blah going on andon and on, and it kind of kind of. And I think a lot of the listeners andviewers will share this. It kind of brought us back. And then when you werealso gracious and wonderful to ask me to join the team, I was overjoyed. Andwhat that's brought me is a focus again. It's bringing everything back to lifeand then helping me be organized. And I just love everything about doing this.You know, I've said this before, but I cannot thank you all enough for Bringme along. Oh, we don't know what we would do without. You were Absolutely.I mean, you put into this. It's just Well, I well, mine will top years everyday. Okay, so now that we're all cheering, going to argue about wholoves you more than a, that's not a bad problem to have, right? So I also wanted to talk because notonly for me, but for the people listening. There's, um we know eachother pretty well, but there's always things that we can learn about eachother and stuff. So let's talk about some traditions. What are some of thememories that you have, um, surrounding the holidays, When when you were young,younger or, you know, growing up. Mm, We have a We have a Christmas Evetradition, Um, going back to when my husband and I were dating in college.We both come from big ethnic Catholic family, so we would always go tomidnight Mass together. And then after midnight Mass, we would come back tohis mom's house. She would always have a ham Brady come out of the oven and,um, we would have a cocktail and, um, open one present. Each person got toopen one present Christmas Eve. And so now, fast forward. When the When thekids were little, we went to The children's math, which was 6:00. Then,when they got older, we go back to midnight. Now we've got grandkids thatwe're about right back to the kids mask. But the ham, it's the same. The ham isstill coming out of the oven when we get back from Mass, and the kids areyou know, in the in the living room, shaking packages, trying to figure outwhich one is the one they want to open that night. Kathy, do you just Mary Kay,Do you just leave the ham on low in the oven while you're at Mass? How doesthat work? That's cool. That's a great idea. Yeah. So cooking tips to Don't do the MarieCallender pumpkin pie, though I cannot even tell you how much I needed that.Yesterday I was like lying reading this comment. Yep, I was laughing out loudreading that it was crazy. People should jump on, don't they? The crowdsource. Right? And the right on the social media's Christy, What about you?Let's talk about tradition for you. Well, I am have been telling the storywrong, because in our family, we call them party poppers. Like the thingsthat you hold both in all that they have the hat inside and whatever.Evidently there called Christmas crackers. I don't know why they callthem party poppers, but we have, you...

...know, ever, right, whatever you you'reevidently like fireworks. So I need to stop saying that because people areprobably like setting off fireworks with their dessert in your, um, in yourhouse, like with the Children. That's a really big thing, Like I'm going to getan email about that. That is not what we do, but it's not. But Christmas Eveand Christmas Day. My mom does actually both meals now because my grandmother,you know, just comes over. She wasn't Christmas anymore, but but so we havetwo different kinds. The Christmas Eve we have, like little party games andChristmas Day. We have these, like whistles and musical notes, and, um,everyone gets together and we try to play Christmas carols, which isterrible and ridiculous. It's really fun, and we have the kids versus adultscompetition. It's very serious, and grandmama gets to judge, and we have abig time doing it. You have to wear your crown the whole time. Like that'svery important, because there's of course you do. That's awesome. Yeah,those tissue paper crowns never fit my head, By the way, I know they're alwaystoo small. You can see I've got a lot of hair here crackers during or afterdinner or a dessert when you pop them. When you found with dessert and it'slike a big thing like everyone gets really excited and you cannot do itbefore a dessert. It has to be. We do ours at the beginning of dinner. Oh,yeah. You see, everyone would be too distracted. We'd all be like playingare like, Jack, where we got, I'm getting I'm getting Christmas crackerParty poppers. Well, girl, But they do. But they do. They do pop like there isa mark and gunpowder and whatnot. It's It's pretty good. I'm not sure we needher Christmas crackers at south of the border. I think a once they're like shegot a bunch of coming to visit me at the Alabama. I mean, there's so manytimes this year I thought I might as well stop and see what they had. Oh,God, that place is something else. So, Meg, tell us the tradition that youhave in your family. So I kind of like the traditions have to be kind ofadaptable, right? Because times change and relatives I mean, I'm in thesandwich generation here with aging relatives, and the kids are gettingolder, but so I like each year something we do something new, and thenthe kids. Like last year. It was just the four of us for Christmas Eve, whichseemed not festive, but we made it super fun. And so this year, mydaughter, Grace said, That's what we're doing every year from now on. A reallygreat dinner, just the four of us home alone. I like that. And I was like,Okay, so new traditions get born every year. Um, being born on Christmas Dayis my birthday. Um, so the tradition in our family since you know, forever aslong as I can remember, is that it's Christmas until a certain time And then,uh, and then it becomes my birthday, uh, thing which is, and we haul out thebirthday cake and the candles and presence that must be wrapped not inChristmas paper. And, uh so it's fun because everything sort of shifts over,and it's like a second party starts. And I'm always since I was a kid, myfriends with my mother's house. And it was this understanding that anyone whowanted to could come and you don't even need an invitation. In fact, I'minsulted that you asked that you think you need an invitation like So it'sIt's an open door policy and all night long people just start flowing in andit's great and it still happens. And even though I'm in my 50s and all ofour kids are grown, so now my high school friends and their husbands andtheir Children and everyone you know. So it's a nice little open housetradition that I think we may all show up this year. Please, please. You know,my my daughter's birthday is New Year's Day, so it's the same thing. Like we'reall up late. We do that. We sing Auld Lang Syne, everybody hugs and kisses,and then we immediately break out the Happy Birthday song. I love that.That's really cool, so I can relate to you. Megan, my birthday's on the 17th,so it's the whole things. But I saw a recent thing that I'll try to find anincentive to you. Somebody had taken, um, the wise men coming, um, toJerusalem on Christmas to hand the gifts to Mary and they said, Oh, youknow, these are for Christmas and birthday. I'm right. Oh, my gosh, that'shilarious. I'm going to go find it and...

...put it on our f n f page. That'shilarious. Do it. I love it. How about you, Kristen traditions. You know, whenI was young, we used to go around and see the Christmas lights. Every year mymom would pile us into the into the car. We would drive around. We would seethem with chocolate. Yeah, ST Pete, where you and I both grew up. Mary Kay.Did you go? Did you go to Snell Isle to see the rich people? Yeah. Yes, Yes, wedid, Snow. I'll had some great lights. That's actually always where we started.Yeah. Um, that's so funny. Uh, so that was always kind of a big tradition. Wehave our candy canes. We have our hot chocolate. So we try to do a version ofthat now, which, um, if you haven't read it yet, Patty talks about in herparade essay, which I think she kind of details the whole thing, which is verycool. Um, another tradition we have now is it's actually from my husband's sideof the family. We always go to his mom's place, Um, the week beforeChristmas to have our family Christmas dinner together, and they make thisdish called pineapples and cheese, which has Ritz crackers on the top. Andit sounds so weird and so terrible in the first year when she told me, Thisis what we're having I was like, What kind of a Christmas? And by walkinginto. But now I cannot imagine Christmas without it. So I think it'sthose little it's it's delicious in a weird way, Um, but it just saysChristmas to me because it's a tradition that means something thatkind of brings us together. We kind of laugh about it every year. And then weall scarf down a gigantic portion of pineapples, and she's so you know, it'sthose those traditions that that binds you together. And I think, um, it'ssuch a neat thing to talk about because those things that you come back to yearafter year are the things that ground you and that you can pass on for, youknow, forward to the next generation, back to the last generation. And Idon't know, just pulls us all so much closer together. Yeah, I love it. Ilove it. Crazy dishes. Patty, how about you? Um There's so many in Like Kristensaid. I wrote an essay for Parade this coming up that I sort of fell down arabbit hole of research into where all our traditions come from, like the treeand Santa Claus and Evergreen inside the house. And we don't often think ofwhere they started. Um, and yet we start our own traditions all the timeor don't think about where they began. And I know when I was a kid, we thepresents were not under the tree until Christmas morning. Not one present, notone thing. And I did the same thing. And now my kids are, you know, marriedand have their own kids are out working or they're grown up. But if I put apresent under the tree during December, they're like, Oh, no, no, Uh, take thatup. I don't want to see that until I wake up Christmas morning and they'regrown adults and they want to wake up Christmas morning as if some magic elfe me at midnight, put all the gifts under the tree and and I think they'veever thought that much about it or what that means. But these things that makethem feel like I'm home. It's the holiday. We're together. It's done thisway is really interesting. I love it since I came to see me Until Will wasold enough that I was like, He's gonna start to wonder like, Why does Santacome see Mommy? But like, not be Bea and Ollie and Daddy, you know, likewhat? A So I finally had to be like, Okay, I'm going to have to give it up.I love it. I love it. Yeah, So in my family, we very much like Kathy. I mean,Mary Kay, we get together, the family would all get together. We have mycousins would all get together. My father was one of seven so that you canimagine there was a ton of cousins there, and, um, we'd all go to midnightMass. But my I had an uncle who also was an incredible guitar player andsinger, and we swore he was Johnny Cash. He sounded just like it was awful. Andthey always had a great big party, lots of food, lots of fun. And then theterror would happen. My father would have had a great time and he would bedriving us all home and a little scared. Great memories, right? But it was Thatwas in the old days. When? When that was that was okay. It's hilarious. Whatsticks. Right, Right. Yeah. So we've touched a little bit about food. I wantto know as a group. Let's put together the perfect holiday meal. Why don't youtell us something that you absolutely can't live without, And you can includepineapple and cheese. Let's start with...

...you this time. Cranberry sauce. I mean,no holiday meal. I've tried a couple different recipes. I'll even eat it.You know, the can gel thing? Um, cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce. Imade the recipe that you posted this year. The head of Isn't it good? It wasdelicious. We've had ginger in it. It was Yeah. Yeah. Kristen candy cane piefrom the village in. So when the village in stops making them ordisappears altogether, I don't know what I'm going to do with myself. I'mgoing to have to. Obviously, I'm sure there's a recipe for that pie floatingaround out there somewhere. But picking up the candy cane pie from the villagein every year, um, is tradition, and eating it for dessert on Christmasnight is tradition. A good meal so far were lots of sugar here high. Someone'sgonna have to bring the main dish to this party. So I think we make a stopyuko. We used to make it every Christmas Eve. Um, it is delicious. Andthe reason I think I only made it once a year traditionally is because it's alot of work. Um, inexpensive. It's expensive to feel, but it's just withthe veal shanks and the slow cooking sauce that cooks all day long andhungry. I can smell it now. I know. Yeah. Um, so, Christie, what is alwayson your table at the holidays? So we have super specific meals for ChristmasEve and Christmas Day, but my favorite is the one that Kristen putting herparade article, which is my grandmother's brown rice. It's so goodand it's full of butter and terrible things for you, but it's just it's sogood. We all fight over it. We have to make double the amount that we wouldhave for our family. Met everyone. It's delicious. I made it. I taste tested.It for the parade article, and it was fantastic. Wow. I want to try it. Yeah,all right. Almost a familiar. I feel I feel like I'm you know, I'm obligatedto throw in a vegetable. I don't think this is a story meal. This is I thinkit's whatever you like. Well, you know, my son loves scalloped potatoes, so Iwill. And scalloped potatoes are a lot of work to you got to slice them taters.You gotta make the cheese sauce blah, blah, blah. But I made this Christmassalad, and it has, uh, romaine lettuce and pink grapefruits, fruit sectionsand red onions and dried cranberries and, um, candied pecans And, um, like avinaigrette. Kind of addressing. And is it in your cookbook? It is. It is. It'scalled. I think it's called Charleston Christmas. I actually had it the firsttime at the Charleston Book and Author luncheon years ago. Okay. It'sdelicious. Yeah. Yeah. So I had a standing ribroast. Yeah, Tom does that to to get those and get them in the oven and letthem slow. Cook. And I always like, take red onions and I roast them aroundit with potato. That's like, Oh my God, the same thing as a crown roast. That'sa crown roast. No, I don't know where you're standing. River was crownedraised. Put it in a circle. No, no, no, no. This is a rib roast, and then it'sbut it's standing at the risk of overloading our table with meat. I dolike a good turkey for for Christmas, too. I know it's, you know, it'ssomething that we think about with Thanksgiving, but I think it's a greatoption for for Christmas, too, especially cause I think sometimes it'sdifferent families hosting each, uh, and it's such an easy thing to roast inthe oven and comes out so beautifully. And it's such a nice centerpiece to theChristmas table. So true. And we got through that whole conversation withoutthe word scratch cock. It was in my head. It was so close. You can almostmade it. You cannot Well, I have a new tradition. I think I was starting lastnight. I tried to garden and gun recipe for cheesy grits. I saw you put it onFacebook. Oh, my God. I just I'm trying to, like, lower my calorie So I had onespoonful. The rest of the pan is gon not by me. I don't know how you do that,like how you cook all that amazing stuff and then just like it, eat it up.Somebody once said, If you just at least taste a bite and it's your firstbite and it's so good and it's so amazing that any any after that it'sjust you shoving this into your mouth. So it's always just remember that first.I don't know if it works. I don't know.

I'm not gonna help, is it? You know,there was a novel, I think I don't know if it was Diane Johnson's lay divorce,um, where it takes place in Paris and the woman's husband is French and, hesays, very dismissively, to her, Why do you have to eat all the chocolate? Andshe's like because it's delicious And he says something like, Well, Frenchwomen only have to have one taste. That's why they stay skinny. They justhave one taste of the very best thing. Well, I am clearly not French. I maybe, you know, maybe it wasn't adivorce. It was a book set in France with a Yeah. Anyway, so we've done food.We've done drinks, We've done traditions. Let's talk about gifts. Um,I want to know, Like, what was the kindest gift you ever received? Becausewe're all about being kind to others these days, and I think that's elevatedmore through their friends and fiction community. And I think in the world ingeneral there's just so much kindness out there that we're finding. But what?What What is the kindest gift that anybody ever gave to you? Mary Kay? I'mjust trying. I'm sort of puzzling that next. Okay, I think I have an answerfor that. Well, I guess maybe the most memorable. Um, my grandmother I'veactually written about this, but my grandmother died when I was three. Andthe Christmas that I was 10, there was a wrapped present from her with a heartin her handwriting under the tree, And she her, like, favorite thing in theworld where her pearls and she wore them every day. And she loved them. Andshe, um, you know, before she died, wrapped them up and left me a note. Andthey were under the tree when I was 10 and I got them for Christmas. And itwas definitely, um it was really cool, because, I mean, I remember hershockingly like surprisingly, I remember her in these little bits andpieces just to hand in her handwriting in her voice and to have, like, one ofher most prized possessions. Like, for me, it was really amazing. Wow, I lovethat I, um Well, I opened the gates thismorning from Patty That made me cry, and it's no special, but I can't evensay what it is because I think she got something very similar for everybodyelse here already. I I opened it up in its original illustration of a stack ofbooks and the mine because I'm not an author, as you know, the top ones, hisfriends in fiction. And then there's just a bunch of spines and my mind ismy name. And then cat and then Mary Kay, each of you, and just to be on thatstack with y'all was really are warming. And yeah, it's really nice not hangingon my office wall, and it'll be there forever. Oh, dictionary. Right next tothe definition for kindness. That was actually one of my favorite gifts I'veever received. Two. I was thinking the same thing and I had the same thought.Meg like, I can't say what it is because what if everyone has been doingthat was tremendously thoughtful. Gift you another gift? See, I think I thinkthe point is, the more personal it is, right, Like the more personal it couldbe something small. It doesn't have to be something expensive. But just ifsomeone's really thought about you and giving you something that will touchyour heart and stay with you, I think that's that really means a lot. And tothat end, this was not a Christmas gift. But I will tell you one of the nicestthings I've ever gotten. I'm looking at it right now when I hit the New YorkTimes list for the first time, which again? Not a holiday gift. Um, you guysgot me a a framed page from the From The New York Times, with thathighlighted, and not only did I frame that which she sent me in a beautiful,matted frame, but I framed the note that you wrote me along with it becauseit meant so much to me to know. Um, it wasn't just something that I had done.It was something that we all did together. You guys were there with meevery step of the way, and that just meant the world to me. So along withthat idea of a personal, meaningful thing that you'll never forget. I knowright now with my little eye, Patty. So one of the most thoughtful gifts I evergot wasn't a thing. It was about five years ago when I was sneakily writing,becoming Mrs Lewis and in secret, and I needed to go to London. But I justdidn't have the freedom I still dedicated home and like, we're tryingto juggle things. But I didn't want to finish that book till I visited Londonand Oxford. And even though I had been...

...before, I hadn't been there with an Ibent towards. You know what I was writing? And for Christmas that year,my husband gave us a trip to London and Oxford, and he had planned the hotels,the flight, like all the things that were weighing on me. And it was just itwas really thoughtful. That's that's awesome. Okay, Okay. I thought about Ithought about mine the first Christmas we got married Thanksgiving weekend. Soour first Christmas as newlyweds, we moved to Savannah, right Right afterthe honeymoon. We never went back to ST Pete. And so my mother in law, who wasa tremendous, tremendous seamstress, loved so very creative. She and myfamily didn't do Christmas stockings, but there's did. She made me a greenvelvet Christmas stocking. It looks like a high button shoe. And then shefilled it with all kinds of sewing implements. So good scissors and athimble and a pin cushion and a tape measure. And I had, I don't know, maybeshe bought it for me and my mom did a second hand, Um, sewing machine fromMontgomery Wards. That's how old I am. And so meet. And so I had, you know, wehad this little tiny apartment in the upstairs of the house in in Savannah,and with that sewing machine and the little all the sewing kit stuff thatshe gave me and a sewing basket, I made our kitchen curtains, which looked likea disaster. But I made the isil God's awesome. That's awesome. And I stillhave the stocking, by the way. So you guys stockings now? Like Yes. Okay,that's a huge part of our tradition. Like we open our stockings duringbreakfast and you can't open the presents until you already, and then wetake a break, put up the breakfast, and then open the presents. I can't imaginenot having stocking. So that's interesting. Stockings for ChristmasEve. That's what we could open. Oh, I like that. Yeah. So, um, this I havethis story again, back to my big get together on Christmas Eve. All of thefamilies were together. My father was like I said, one of seven. Everybody'stogether, but all of a lot of the cousins would exchange gifts throughthem. But, you know, my parents struggled a lot, so we didn't Weweren't able to participate, but we never really noticed that because wewere having such a great time. And one Christmas, we got there and there wassomething in the corner and somebody pointed it out to us. And then it wasjust me and my three brothers. My sister hadn't been born yet, and wewent over there, and it was a gigantic wooden Taba. And it just said to theblack boys from Santa. And I have and I It was years and years and years beforeI ever knew who did that. But it was my aunt and uncle that we're hosting thatyear. They wanted to make sure that we felt included. So I just really, youknow, I just think ultimate kindness really right? Yes. That's so sweet.Yeah. I love that. Yeah. So Okay, so what was the one treasured gift thatyou had as a little kid? Like, what's one thing that you just think aboutthat you still you can't stop thinking about as you get older? I, um, snuckinto the closet where my mother was hiding Christmas. Uh huh. I found onewith my name on it, and it was one of those. It was one of the large, fullformat, um, golden books of Swiss family Robinson. Uh, and I was, youknow, my mom had five kids in seven years, and there wasn't very much money.Um, we all like to read, but there wasn't a whole lot of money for that.So this was my book. I think it was my first book That was just mine, thatnobody else it belonged to. And I think I read it until, you know, the spinecame apart. And I can still remember. This is my book and that story. I lovethat story. We saw, you know, the Disney movie with, um, Tommy Kirk. Ithink he was one of the sons. Ron, do you remember that movie? I remember themovie. I don't remember the people that were Kurt Russell or Tommy Kirk wereone of the sons in the movie. They were Disney kids, also the guy who ended upon a show called Emergency or anyway, uh, but what about a gift for you,Christie? There's so many that are like floating through my head right now. Butthis one, I think, is like the funniest and sort of most unexpected. So I hadto have this single uncle who, like you would not think would be like theultimate, like, amazing gift together for a little girl. Like he just didn'thave any interest in any like It was. It's bizarre, but he always gave me thebest gifts. And I remember when I was like, three He gave me my first littlepurse and like I still remember it. And it was, like, so proud and carried itaround, and he put McDonald's gift certificates on it. I think I thoughtthis was, like, the greatest thing in...

...the world, and I felt so grown up. AndI remember, like going and having my person like getting to use my giftcertificates and feeling like I was like, You know, 25. It was like, thecoolest thing ever for love that Meg we're looking for. I think my favoritegift as a kid was the year that I got a 10 speed bike, which, because I againwe we didn't have a lot of money. And you, you know, you'd make your list andyou put things on it and you would never think you'd get them. But youknow, you got to give it a shot. So I put the I knew exactly what I wanted. Iwanted a powder blue Ross 10 speed bike, and I thought, wouldn't that be greatif I woke up and it was there under the tree and it was there and I couldn'tbelieve it. I loved that bike while I had it. And can we please bring backthe storybook lifesavers? Did anyone else used to get Oh, my God. We got toexchange those in school because you always get somebody's name. You had togive a gift to under $5. And that was always the choice. Never flavor thatyou always ate first. I always went right to the butterscotch is but you'rethe best that you line the line young. I have missed out on a life moment here.Yeah, it looks like a little book and you'd open it up and there were fiverolls on one side and five on the other or something like that. They don't makethem anymore. I don't think everybody happened in their stocking. It wascalled flavors that you couldn't buy in the store. So they didn't make the like,um, from whatever the you know, like like right? They only have a cherry inthe store. But in the storybook, there were all the special ones that I can'tdo that. Maybe that was just at your house. May be a special elf. Made you aspecial lifesaver book. Magical flavors. Speaking of special elves. I had a Iremember asking for something super specific. I was maybe first or secondgrade. I don't know if I was thinking like, Oh, this is a test to see if Ican actually get this from Santa. Um, but I asked for a doll and I wasn't ahuge doll girl. I was like, a very tomboyish. But that year I wanted adoll, and she wanted her to have brown hair and being a white dress that hademeralds and Rubies on it. So it was, like, so specific. It was a thing. Butthat is all I want is the only thing I put on my list for Santa. Like I justthought about this doll. It just gets stuck in my head. And on Christmasmorning, sure enough, there was a doll with brown hair, Um, a white dress andsomeone had sewn little round. Santa obviously had sewn red and greenRhinestones all over it, and it was exactly what I had envisioned. I mean,you did it because that is very specific. I've got to tell you, itwasn't I think it wasn't just the doll I got that year. I think it was acouple more years of Christmas magic. That makes sense. You know what I mean?Yeah, that's awesome. Okay, Patty topped that.I can't. I'm kidding. I'm kidding. I was going to say a bike, but, Magda,because I remember that bike, and I have a picture of him standing next toit, but and I know I've posted it before. Maybe I'll find it again. Butone Christmas, I got a nursing uniform. My sister got matching little nurse'suniforms with the stethoscope and the hat and the whole thing, A littlemedicine bag. And I remember just like, Oh, my gosh. Like freaking out aboutthis gift. But the other gift that I loved so much in the same I was apreacher's kid, you know? It wasn't like we were ripping open cars forChristmas, right? And I remember I got an easel, I guess stand up, woodeneasel that you could put paper on and it had a chalkboard, and I coveted thatthing. I mean, if I could have taken it to bed with me that night, I would lovethat thing so much. I don't want to hold it and like right on it. And thatwas a teacher. And it was I love that thing. That's, uh that's that's awesome. Sowhen I was very young, we, um there was This is going to show my age. But therewas a cartoon that was on called Beany and Cecil Remember Beanie And so do youthink it was a sea serpent was I can't believe you. What was the show? There'shistorical beany, and Cecil isn't really but they One year they came out,or maybe more than one year, they came...

...out with a doll, basically. But Beaniewas like a little kid with blond hair and overalls, and he would wear a capwith a beanie on it that would spin around. But they also you could pullthe string and all of the sayings that he was famous for on the show but wouldcome out. So you can you like, help? Seasonal help. I love that thing somuch, so much. And I believe it or not, I still have it. It doesn't work. Istill have it. So yeah, it's great. So Okay, so we've been talking about giftsthat we've been given. Um What are some? What is a gift that you were so excitedto give to somebody else? Whoever wants to start camp, I'm gonnastart, and I wouldn't say this, but, um, I think this will come out before he'lllisten. Uh huh. But this is this year. I'm excited about the gift. I'm givingPat because I had a portrait done of our doggie space and it came out sogood and so cute. And I think it's just going to be. And then I'm going to takethat painting and I'm gonna get to guiltily Prince for my two sons so thatthey'll all have. They're obsessed with our dog is the point. That's that'swonderful. Definitely. Well, when he is a very photogenic creature, she hasbrown eyes and these top ears and a little grin on her little white mouthwith a little white dot on her for stripe on her forehead. So she isimmortalized in oil. Now that's awesome. How cool I'll post it after Christmas.Everybody anybody else have Katie the other day was saying that sheremembered one year for Christmas. She got a Levi's blue jean jacket withshearling lining and she said When I wore that jacket, I thought I was theship. I bet she was. I was great. Christie, Kristen, Mag. Anybody we canmove on to the year. A couple years ago, I gave David peloton bike for Christmasand yeah, I managed to keep it a surprise. And I had it delivered on theday that he wasn't here, and they brought it into the garage and I got aking size bed sheets and hit it. And I don't know how he didn't see it outthere because it was just It's kind of a big thing to hide. Um, but I had thekids help me drag it in Christmas Eve night, real late. And he didn't seeuntil he woke up on Christmas morning under the train was, like, bowled over.So it felt like being a kid again, you know, having this big surprise underthe Yeah, that was fun. You know what I stumbled upon recentlythat I think is kind of a cool gift to give for Christmas. Um, you know, whenI was researching the winemaker's wife, which is set in champagne, I got reallyinterested in this idea that the idea of thinking about the soil that thewine is coming from, that the grapes are coming from right? Like, what hasthat soil been through? What has that piece of land been through? What hasthat land scene? And Israel recently has been doing some amazing wines,wines that get like 92 93 94 points from wine enthusiasts. They're goodwines. They have some Big Red's like big Bordeaux blends Marlowe's thingslike that. But the specific area that I think is best known for producing thosereally award winning reds is Galilee, which is where Jesus grew up. And Ilove that idea of giving a wine that's a delicious wine that pairs well with ameal. But that's literally from the place that Jesus lived and performedmiracles and lived his life. And a lot of the Old Testament took place there,too. So I just you think about that idea of the terroir like the earthgiving, giving the wine something. I can't imagine anything more appropriatefor the holidays than the Earth, having given the wine that I So that's kind oflike one of my new go to gifts I'm excited to gift Israeli wines for all.That's wonderful. Yeah, is that cool? I love that. I'm definitely feeling thatit's a good one. I think will have this grill that he really, really wanted andwouldn't get for himself and never thought that I would get for him. And Imade up this really elaborate story about, and it was having, like,furniture recovered. So I could, like, borrow this truck and, like, drove acouple hours away to get this thing and then had to have, like, his friends,meet me at the house to get it out. So...

...he got home and it was all set up andhad this big bow on it. And he's just impossible to surprise. It's not evenlike what the gift is. He's just really hard to surprise. And so he was sosurprised, and I was like pro proud was like, this is I will always rememberhow surprised he was. He was so excited, and we still have. It was like 13 yearsago, so that's wonderful. So the last couple of years it's been really kindof epiphanies like Don't necessarily. Everybody buys what they want forthemselves a lot of times, and it's hard to think of things, and you don'tlike to give things just to give them. So it's kind of switched to think aboutgiving an experience. So if somebody has, um, I know that my my in laws forseveral years, we would give them tickets to a show and take them out toa really nice dinner. Seven. So that that became the gift for them. And itwas really It's memorable, too. So it's It's not. Yeah, that just shoved undera bed or something or another tie or yeah, right, Right, Right. So So we'restill in the mood of giving. So you want to recommend some favoritecharities to people out there? Because I think that that is a great way for usto tell people what we're what's important to us. Mhm. Uh, well, I've got a Yeah, I havea pretty selfish, personal, um, charity this year. My daughter Katie, um, is inliver failure and needs a liver transplant. So we are supporting, um Ithink every state probably has one. The one in Georgia is called the Georgia.We're gonna transplant foundation. Um, and So that's that's currently are, umI like no kid hungry, too. Um, I hate the idea of of Children not having ahot meal or having a lunch. So no kid hungry and, uh, Georgia OrganTransplant Foundation. Yeah. And we're all there with you on that one. You'realways in our thoughts. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, I am a huge world vision fan. Ialways have been even. I had my first little like, sponsored child when I wasyoung, and I remember it like, you know, making that big decision. And I thinkI'm on my, like, 10th or something now, which is so crazy because they, like,graduate out of the program. Um, but they're just I don't know, I reallylike it. I did some work with them, like a little more in depth for a fewyears, and I just learned a lot about the organization. I think they do a lotof really good things. And, um, I feel really good about the money actuallygetting to the people who need it, which I think sometimes it's a littlebit iffy. And our friend Debbie McCumber just started help them launchtheir new literacy program, which is really Yeah. So, um, it's really greatand it's just a good organization will go up. Meg. I have a favorite localcharity here at the Jersey Shore called Bridge of Books Foundation, and afriend of mine started up, and she the whole mission is to get books into thehands of Children who wouldn't normally own their own books, just like thestory before about this Swiss family Robinson book. Um, so many kids. Youdon't think about it, because if your house is brimming over with books, likea lot of ours are, um, there's plenty of kids who will never have a book thatthey own that they can tuck away. Um, so she gets donations. She gets usedbooks from cleaning out your house. Or she's in touch with publishers foroverruns or, um, and she gets them into for towns and then barbershops wherekids can take, you know, and all sorts of little locations around they don'tthink about, um but I love supporting her because it's such an importantmission. Yeah, what's more important than books to a kid? Yeah. Ask Kristen.How about you? Um, you know, I always support support. Um, is that theJuvenile Diabetes Foundation? I think that's the name of the organization. Uh,there's a very close family member who's had diabetes since a type onediabetes since he was three. Um, and I think that's such an important thing toput more research money into. I think you know, a lot of the time the thingswe feel compelled to to support our things that hit very close to home. Andthat's one that hits close to home for me. Um, I also always donate to make awish. My mother in law used to work for them, and I saw how how closely theyreally did work with the families and how hard they worked, you know, makingsure that those donor dollars made it through to those Children and reallydid grant those wishes. So, you know, I just kind of saw a lot of that from theinside. So I know what wonderful work they do. Um, and then second Harvest,which is a local, uh, local food pantry that gives meals to Central Floridafamilies, Um, who need them? Um, and I...

...think that that's an important thing todo also, especially in these times, Um, you know, Florida in particular.Orlando, where I live has a lot of hotel workers who haven't had worked ina in a long time because of the pandemic because of, um, you know,decreases in travel. And I think there are a lot of families who are hungry,um, this year through no through through circumstances beyond theircontrol, which, you know, I think is always the case. But I think it's animportant thing to keep in mind that I think it's it's definitely on. Theincrease to the need is very great. Absolutely. Patty, You know, it's so hard because each oneof the things you all have mentioned, like, want to whip out my check becausethey're also important. There are all important. Um, so I think I mean, I'lltell you for me. Uh, I always lean towards literacy when I'm trying tomake a decision just because literacy for Children means answers, even someof the questions we're talking about like having food being supported. Sothere's so many good literacy foundations, and, um, the ones that arelocal to where you live are probably the ones that you should focus onbecause there they change your community. Literacy foundations forChildren change your community and then changing the community. They literallychange the country. So, um, that's always my flat out answer. But, youknow, because I had breast cancer, I'm always, um, you know, for the cancercenter at my local hospital, do, um, the bigger ones. Most of my giving, um,I try to funnel into local whether it's for kids, foods or programs or literacyor cancer. Yeah, yeah, so true. And it's right. It's Whatever hits close tohome to is always becomes important to us. As a group. We are all, you know,making a donation in Katie's name to the thank you, George your organs, andwe'll post about it. But it's been heavy on our hearts, and you got to putyour money where your mouth is or I guess, money where your heart isabsolutely where your liver is. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that's our That's ourslogan right there. There you go, your money where your liver is. There's atag line for a just Israeli wide. That's hilarious. This is funny. Yeah,up here, we've partnered with the local food bank. So I'm a big supporter ofthe food bank. So we were using the libraries to distribute food tofamilies, and I would hear some of the greatest stories from them. Um, what?What they do at the food bank is incredible. And we we hand out boxesnow of things, but we used to do it inside the library, and it was a momwho came up and said, You know, I had an accident with my car and I had tosave up money for it to be repaired. But my kids being able to eat here fortwo weeks, uh, helped me able to fix my car and put it back in business. Sothose kind of things just are cementing that what we care about really can makea difference. It reminds us that libraries it's not just about books,absolutely. Libraries are such a hub for every community, and in Ohio werenow the we're I think we're one of the highest distributors of at Home covidtest kits. Wow, it's a lot. It's a lot I can imagine. We kind of cringe whenthe ups driver comes with 15 giant cartons of them, but we have to tearout. But you know, it helps people. It is such an important thing for them.And they can't afford a lot of times to go and get those to be able to go towork or go to a trip or wherever. Um, okay, So last question. What is yourwish for the New Year? Who wants to start Mary Cain, Uh, again.My Yeah, continuing on the liver theme. My my wish for the new year, of course,is is a healthy family, and, uh, the person we need the health for the most.It's Katie so very selfishly hoping for a liver for her. But I'm also hopingthat we'll get past covid soon because hers is a byproduct. Her illness is abyproduct of coded, so yeah. Yeah, and I have to sign off y'all. So I'm justgonna fade into the background. Merry Christmas, everybody. Tomorrow? Yep.Christie, um, I think mine is just to kind of be ableto take a step back and re focus on,...

...like, what's important? I think thishas been such a busy, um, time in, like, a couple of years and um, sometimesit's hard to prioritize the things that you know you need to because you'resort of buried under these things that maybearen't as important. And, um So I think that's for me. Just, like, reallyweighing, like what we say yes to and what is important. And this communityis definitely one of those things. So yeah, reinvigorating mad and yeah, well,yep. Perfectly said, Meg, Uh, I'm gonna say health and and for for all of us, Ifeel like the pandemic has just shown and what Mary Kay is going through andwhat we've all been quit missing her go through it is, And without it, you havenothing. So all the wishes and dreams you have and all the things you want todo and experiences you want to have If you're not healthy enough to do them,you can't. So at the basis of it all is good health. And I wish that foreveryone so well put Yes, Yes, Kristen, You know, we've talked a lot of times.I think on friends, in fiction and here, even today on this podcast about how acommunity like friends and fiction connects us because we find this thingthat brings us together, and in the case of friends in fiction, I thinkit's books and books, lead us to this community and form these friendships.But it doesn't mean that we all have the same backgrounds, are the sameviewpoints are the same beliefs, were just able to find something that wehave in common and find those bridges to each other over the things that areour differences. And I think maybe my hope in general for the world for thenext year is that we find more of those bridges through books, throughgardening, through cooking through through the things we have in common.Whatever those hobbies are, whatever those loves our that we find those waysto come together and realize that the things that separate us aren't asimportant and that those differences can be overcome and those gaps can bebridged. I think we've seen so much division and so much politicizing ofthings that don't need to be politicized. Um and I hope that I hopethat things begin to swing back the other way because it's time, it's timewe need to come together. I mean, look at all that bird's eye united us. Imean, thanks for for anyone listening that doesn't know that I reference.Just look on Twitter and Marie Callender and Sharon Voice. Now it hasits own Facebook page. Doesn't really Carin Pai Facebook page checking thatout. If I had some magic wand with little sparkly things on it, and Icould wave it, um, I would combine everybody's wishes of health inconnection and healing, and and I would throw in that recipe some peace. ForGod's sake, just peace. Some calm, some kind calm peace where we can approachit all. All these things were wishing for and and come at it in this economyand never can say that word. Right? Um peaceful, um, peaceful place. Yeah, youall ought to be writers. We're going to try that. We're gonna try that. See howthat works. Yeah, let's read a book, guys. Hilarious. Good. So, like theywere going to write an anthology Since Kathy's Mary Kate's not here, let'sjust go ahead and sign her apart and not ask her. It's going to be calledChristmas wish, and we're each going to get one, and we're just going to saywe're doing it. I like it. You'll end up with Santa suit to never, Right?Exactly. Oh, my God. So on that note, I I want to wish you all a happy happyholiday season. A happy New Year. Merry Christmas. Whatever you celebrate andeverybody listening This this is just the best community ever. And we are sograteful for every one of you. And, um, we just wish the best for every singleone of you. Absolutely. Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays, everyone. Yeah, Thank you for tuning in to thefriends and Fiction writer's block podcast. Please be sure to subscribeRate and review on your favorite podcast platform. Tune in every Fridayfor another episode.

And you can also join us every week onFacebook or YouTube, where our live friends and fiction show airs at sevenp.m. eastern standard time. We're so glad you're here.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (147)