Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 11 months 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 new readers. Yes, from all over the place to they're everywhere. It's a terrific group. I look at where the podcast is, listen to around the globe, and I'm always surprised how many actual listeners we have from like Australia and 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 fiction writer's block podcast for New York Times. Bestselling authors one rock star librarian and endless stories joined Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey and Patti Callahan. Henry, Along with Ron Block as novelists, we are four long time friends with 70 books between us and I am Ron Block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews and insider talk about publishing and writing. If you love books and are curious about the writing world, you are in the right place. Welcome to a truly wonderful holiday special. I am so thrilled to be hosting this party with some of the most amazing humans that I am so lucky to know it's so wonderful to think back and what the past year and a half has put us all through. And as the old saying goes, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Who would've guessed such amazing friendships would form and grow into the community? We're all a part of. While I could go on and on, I think you would much rather hear who's at my holiday party. So first up, we have Mary Kay Andrews. Hi, Mary Kay. Hi. Just on cue, my dogs are barking, so I mean my dog dogs. Not my feet. Dogs. Christmas, everybody. It's a party. So next up, we have Kristy Woodson. Harvey. Hi, Christy. Hi, Ron. Merry Christmas, everybody. Happy holidays. And now let's welcome my next guest, Patti Callahan. Henry. Hi, Ron. I sure wish this was in a room together. Yes, where we were all celebrating. But Merry Christmas. Happy holidays. And this is so fun. Yes, I know. Next up is Kristin Harmel. Kristen, it's so good to see you. It's so good to see you or hear you. You hear you as well. I am so happy to be here. Happy holidays. Thanks. for the party invitation. But I thought 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. Microphone and bring your own drink. Yeah, sadly, someday in person will have a live party with drinks. And last but absolutely not least is the glue that holds 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? We talked about that already a little bit. So I want to go around and find out from you all. What are some of your favorite libations that you look forward to at the holidays? So let's start with you, Mary Cain. I love this, um, adult Slurpee. It's called 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 some delightful vodka. I'm drunk already. Just festive. Wow. Really festive. So Kristi makes it even more refreshing. It always does. Always gotta have vodka. Christie, what is always on your list for a holiday favorite? You know, this does not really seem Christmassy, but for some reason, my sister in law and I got into this a few years ago. And, you know, you said when life gives you lemons make lemonade, but I think limoncello. So every year I got to love limoncello and sometimes strawberry cello. And it's not really that super festive, but for some reason, really different. I don't know like that. Just plop a cranberry in it, and you're good. There you go. Yeah, exactly. Something green. A little holly spreading on the side. But don't hit your face. Let's jump 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 make points set of cocktails. I don't know if anyone's ever had that, but every legacy has a great recipe. It's basically vodka, champagne and cranberry juice. And then, um, he says to put an orange twist and but I actually put actual sliced up oranges and squeeze them because I like the sweetness of the orange juice in there. Yeah, really young. Wow. We're going to have quite a party that Yes. So, Kristen, Kristen, I know that you must have a holiday cook. I'm also a big fan of champagne, but I'm a big fan of champagne. 365 days a year, all the time, not just on holidays. I feel like champagne goes with everything and every holiday during the winter holidays. Though, um, I really like mulled wine. That's, um, that's something I first had maybe five or six years ago. And it's become kind of a tradition 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's the the irony of the Florida girl telling you about a cold winter's day not be overlooked, but, yes, the irony of the Florida girl having the only warm drink right. I mean, you guys, for those for those days, and it drops down to a sugary 72, you have to be Okay. When I lived in Florida, I just always 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. So pack your next up. You know, Christy just said, I don't know if that's holiday festive, but I think that's the thing with our favorites during the holidays. That it's our favorite makes it festive, so it doesn't have to be like 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 my favorite. I can only have one, right, Um, but it's made of gin and simple syrup and lemon and champagne. And if a bartender knows how to make one like a real one, it's the best holiday drink I can think of. I think that's absolutely great in Las Vegas. How wasn't it? Did they make a good one? We really did. Yes, it was beautiful and tasty You know, it's so funny. Whenever I order when I always say, do you know how to make a French 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're gonna get. That's funny. So I premiered a new cocktail that I actually, I'm in love with now, and I don't usually like sweet drinks, but it's a cranberry bourbon sour that I premiered with the book club Happy Hour last week, and it was 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 all these recipes and post them on the Facebook page once this drops. You know what's interesting, too, is to know Where the names came from for these drinks, 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 a cannon in in was the French Revolutionary War. French 75 is a canon because it hits you so hard So where use of these drinks came from? I never That was cool. I love it. I love it. So So let's, um let's just change the tone a little bit because, as I said when we started, we've been through an awful lot as as a nation as people, Uh, the last year and a half, and it's really been really, really rough. But I feel like friends and fiction was the bright spot. So what has the this bright spot meant to each of you? Who wants to go 1st? Well, we'll go upwards this time. I'll go first and then we'll go around. Um, what's meant them is to me. I've said it so many times that it can't be overstated. Is the community um,...

...there? There is no way you can downplay what community means to us, whether it's a neighborhood, a family, a religious group, a spiritual group or this book loving community. And, um to to 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, along those lines, along the lines of what Patti said I think it's just that sense that we will never be alone again. Um, and, uh, and that we never were. And I think, um, I think it took me the pandemic to realize that that there was this 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 that will always exist. Pandemic or no pandemic. Um, you know, even even many years from now. So it was good to be reminded of that. And I'm grateful to the 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 to think of it that way, with the six of us on the screen together, looking at each other, knowing how much work we put into this. But I think I kind of became a workaholic during the pandemic. But it was a good thing because there was so much stress and Loss in my in my family personally, 2020 was a terrible year. And so having having worked to distract was really welcome and I think the one thing that's been, um, really rewarding for me personally is that to listen 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 and what'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 the friends of picture community on Facebook say that, you know, they had, um, not been able to read much. And they had, you know, their attention span wasn't there. And then the show came along, and, you know, Suddenly they've read 25 or 50 books in a year, but they've never read that much before that. 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 to say is that I think we have this, Um, like the outside world has this perception that, like, you know, publishing is going somewhere. It's changing so rapidly, and I think this group more than anything, it kind of took away that fear that that's happening or that you know what we do is not going to be as relevant anymore because, um, there are so many people who I wouldn't trade anything for holding a book or the written word or listening or whatever it is. But there's still a place for these stories that we're telling. There's still an audience for them, and, um, it's big and it's growing and it's vibrant. And it's people who are, um, you know, from all different places who believe all different things. And, um, it's just really fascinating to get to have that kind of one on one connection with our readers, and I think we probably felt like we did in a small way, through our social media and that kind of thing. But But this group has just come alongside 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 new readers from all over the place to they're everywhere. It's a terrific group. I look at where the podcast is, listen to around the globe, and I'm always surprised how many actual listeners. We have from like Australia and 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 has this chapter meant for you? I think it's allowed all of us to be a little bit vulnerable and to say to ourselves and to each other, I I'm not good at that. I need help And knowing that you know this, the sisterhood is ready and willing, um, to step in and to lift the burden a little bit. So if one of us is has 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 I hope that that has, um, I hope that...

...that has been made visible to our listeners and to our viewers who say, Okay, that that happened, That's going on. But look, they're helping each other out, and and I think it translates to um, the friends in fiction community where somebody will say, Well, you know, I can't get that book from the library, so I'll send it to you Or, you know, people sharing their book loves and really opening up to each other. And of course, you know, we've all experienced now, um, being at a 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 Wild Dunes 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 they are. 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 in person and see my favorite authors. It's really wonderful. So I had this unique perspective of, uh, first being an enjoy a of everything that you were doing when you first started friends and fiction, and I would, um and it started to give me as a reader such a focus because I was a little tired of making focaccia bread and pizzas, and sour does blah, blah, blah going on and on and on, and it kind of kind of. And I think a lot of the listeners and viewers will share this. It kind of brought us back. And then when you were also gracious and wonderful to ask me to join the team, I was overjoyed. And what that's brought me is a focus again. It's bringing everything back to life and 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 Bring me 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 every day. Okay, so now that we're all cheering, going to argue about who loves you more than a, that's not a bad problem to have, right? So I also wanted to talk because not only for me, but for the people listening. There's, um we know each other pretty well, but there's always things that we can learn about each other and stuff. So let's talk about some traditions. What are some of the memories 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 Eve tradition, 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 to midnight Mass together. And then after midnight Mass, we would come back to his 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 to open one present Christmas Eve. And so now, fast forward. When the When the kids 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 that we're about right back to the kids mask. But the ham, it's the same. The ham is still coming out of the oven when we get back from Mass, and the kids are you know, in the in the living room, shaking packages, trying to figure out which 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 does that work? That's cool. That's a great idea. Yeah. So cooking tips to Don't do the Marie Callender 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 loud reading that it was crazy. People should jump on, don't they? The crowd source. 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 story wrong, because in our family, we call them party poppers. Like the things that you hold both in all that they have the hat inside and whatever. Evidently there called Christmas crackers. I don't know why they call them party poppers, but we have, you...

...know, ever, right, whatever you you're evidently like fireworks. So I need to stop saying that because people are probably like setting off fireworks with their dessert in your, um, in your house, like with the Children. That's a really big thing, Like I'm going to get an email about that. That is not what we do, but it's not. But Christmas Eve and 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 have two different kinds. The Christmas Eve we have, like little party games and Christmas Day. We have these, like whistles and musical notes, and, um, everyone gets together and we try to play Christmas carols, which is terrible and ridiculous. It's really fun, and we have the kids versus adults competition. It's very serious, and grandmama gets to judge, and we have a big time doing it. You have to wear your crown the whole time. Like that's very 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 always too small. You can see I've got a lot of hair here crackers during or after dinner or a dessert when you pop them. When you found with dessert and it's like a big thing like everyone gets really excited and you cannot do it before 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 playing are like, Jack, where we got, I'm getting I'm getting Christmas cracker Party poppers. Well, girl, But they do. But they do. They do pop like there is a mark and gunpowder and whatnot. It's It's pretty good. I'm not sure we need her Christmas crackers at south of the border. I think a once they're like she got a bunch of coming to visit me at the Alabama. I mean, there's so many times 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 you have in your family. So I kind of like the traditions have to be kind of adaptable, right? Because times change and relatives I mean, I'm in the sandwich generation here with aging relatives, and the kids are getting older, but so I like each year something we do something new, and then the kids. Like last year. It was just the four of us for Christmas Eve, which seemed not festive, but we made it super fun. And so this year, my daughter, Grace said, That's what we're doing every year from now on. A really great 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 Day is my birthday. Um, so the tradition in our family since you know, forever as long 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 the birthday cake and the candles and presence that must be wrapped not in Christmas 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, my friends with my mother's house. And it was this understanding that anyone who wanted to could come and you don't even need an invitation. In fact, I'm insulted that you asked that you think you need an invitation like So it's It's an open door policy and all night long people just start flowing in and it's great and it still happens. And even though I'm in my 50s and all of our kids are grown, so now my high school friends and their husbands and their Children and everyone you know. So it's a nice little open house tradition 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're all 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 an incentive to you. Somebody had taken, um, the wise men coming, um, to Jerusalem on Christmas to hand the gifts to Mary and they said, Oh, you know, these are for Christmas and birthday. I'm right. Oh, my gosh, that's hilarious. I'm going to go find it and...

...put it on our f n f page. That's hilarious. Do it. I love it. How about you, Kristen traditions. You know, when I was young, we used to go around and see the Christmas lights. Every year my mom would pile us into the into the car. We would drive around. We would see them 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, we did, 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. We have our candy canes. We have our hot chocolate. So we try to do a version of that now, which, um, if you haven't read it yet, Patty talks about in her parade essay, which I think she kind of details the whole thing, which is very cool. Um, another tradition we have now is it's actually from my husband's side of the family. We always go to his mom's place, Um, the week before Christmas to have our family Christmas dinner together, and they make this dish called pineapples and cheese, which has Ritz crackers on the top. And it sounds so weird and so terrible in the first year when she told me, This is what we're having I was like, What kind of a Christmas? And by walking into. But now I cannot imagine Christmas without it. So I think it's those little it's it's delicious in a weird way, Um, but it just says Christmas to me because it's a tradition that means something that kind of brings us together. We kind of laugh about it every year. And then we all scarf down a gigantic portion of pineapples, and she's so you know, it's those those traditions that that binds you together. And I think, um, it's such a neat thing to talk about because those things that you come back to year after year are the things that ground you and that you can pass on for, you know, forward to the next generation, back to the last generation. And I don't know, just pulls us all so much closer together. Yeah, I love it. I love it. Crazy dishes. Patty, how about you? Um There's so many in Like Kristen said. I wrote an essay for Parade this coming up that I sort of fell down a rabbit hole of research into where all our traditions come from, like the tree and Santa Claus and Evergreen inside the house. And we don't often think of where they started. Um, and yet we start our own traditions all the time or don't think about where they began. And I know when I was a kid, we the presents were not under the tree until Christmas morning. Not one present, not one thing. And I did the same thing. And now my kids are, you know, married and have their own kids are out working or they're grown up. But if I put a present under the tree during December, they're like, Oh, no, no, Uh, take that up. I don't want to see that until I wake up Christmas morning and they're grown adults and they want to wake up Christmas morning as if some magic elf e me at midnight, put all the gifts under the tree and and I think they've ever thought that much about it or what that means. But these things that make them feel like I'm home. It's the holiday. We're together. It's done this way is really interesting. I love it since I came to see me Until Will was old enough that I was like, He's gonna start to wonder like, Why does Santa come see Mommy? But like, not be Bea and Ollie and Daddy, you know, like what? 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 my cousins would all get together. My father was one of seven so that you can imagine there was a ton of cousins there, and, um, we'd all go to midnight Mass. But my I had an uncle who also was an incredible guitar player and singer, and we swore he was Johnny Cash. He sounded just like it was awful. And they always had a great big party, lots of food, lots of fun. And then the terror would happen. My father would have had a great time and he would be driving us all home and a little scared. Great memories, right? But it was That was in the old days. When? When that was that was okay. It's hilarious. What sticks. Right, Right. Yeah. So we've touched a little bit about food. I want to know as a group. Let's put together the perfect holiday meal. Why don't you tell us something that you absolutely can't live without, And you can include pineapple 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. I made the recipe that you posted this year. The head of Isn't it good? It was delicious. We've had ginger in it. It was Yeah. Yeah. Kristen candy cane pie from the village in. So when the village in stops making them or disappears altogether, I don't know what I'm going to do with myself. I'm going to have to. Obviously, I'm sure there's a recipe for that pie floating around out there somewhere. But picking up the candy cane pie from the village in every year, um, is tradition, and eating it for dessert on Christmas night is tradition. A good meal so far were lots of sugar here high. Someone's gonna have to bring the main dish to this party. So I think we make a stop yuko. We used to make it every Christmas Eve. Um, it is delicious. And the reason I think I only made it once a year traditionally is because it's a lot of work. Um, inexpensive. It's expensive to feel, but it's just with the veal shanks and the slow cooking sauce that cooks all day long and hungry. I can smell it now. I know. Yeah. Um, so, Christie, what is always on your table at the holidays? So we have super specific meals for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but my favorite is the one that Kristen putting her parade article, which is my grandmother's brown rice. It's so good and it's full of butter and terrible things for you, but it's just it's so good. We all fight over it. We have to make double the amount that we would have 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 obligated to throw in a vegetable. I don't think this is a story meal. This is I think it's whatever you like. Well, you know, my son loves scalloped potatoes, so I will. 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 Christmas salad, and it has, uh, romaine lettuce and pink grapefruits, fruit sections and red onions and dried cranberries and, um, candied pecans And, um, like a vinaigrette. Kind of addressing. And is it in your cookbook? It is. It is. It's called. I think it's called Charleston Christmas. I actually had it the first time at the Charleston Book and Author luncheon years ago. Okay. It's delicious. Yeah. Yeah. So I had a standing rib roast. Yeah, Tom does that to to get those and get them in the oven and let them slow. Cook. And I always like, take red onions and I roast them around it with potato. That's like, Oh my God, the same thing as a crown roast. That's a crown roast. No, I don't know where you're standing. River was crowned raised. Put it in a circle. No, no, no, no. This is a rib roast, and then it's but it's standing at the risk of overloading our table with meat. I do like a good turkey for for Christmas, too. I know it's, you know, it's something that we think about with Thanksgiving, but I think it's a great option for for Christmas, too, especially cause I think sometimes it's different families hosting each, uh, and it's such an easy thing to roast in the oven and comes out so beautifully. And it's such a nice centerpiece to the Christmas table. So true. And we got through that whole conversation without the word scratch cock. It was in my head. It was so close. You can almost made it. You cannot Well, I have a new tradition. I think I was starting last night. I tried to garden and gun recipe for cheesy grits. I saw you put it on Facebook. Oh, my God. I just I'm trying to, like, lower my calorie So I had one spoonful. 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 first bite and it's so good and it's so amazing that any any after that it's just 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, he says, very dismissively, to her, Why do you have to eat all the chocolate? And she's like because it's delicious And he says something like, Well, French women only have to have one taste. That's why they stay skinny. They just have one taste of the very best thing. Well, I am clearly not French. I maybe, you know, maybe it wasn't a divorce. 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? Because we're all about being kind to others these days, and I think that's elevated more through their friends and fiction community. And I think in the world in general 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'm just trying. I'm sort of puzzling that next. Okay, I think I have an answer for that. Well, I guess maybe the most memorable. Um, my grandmother I've actually written about this, but my grandmother died when I was three. And the Christmas that I was 10, there was a wrapped present from her with a heart in her handwriting under the tree, And she her, like, favorite thing in the world where her pearls and she wore them every day. And she loved them. And she, um, you know, before she died, wrapped them up and left me a note. And they were under the tree when I was 10 and I got them for Christmas. And it was definitely, um it was really cool, because, I mean, I remember her shockingly like surprisingly, I remember her in these little bits and pieces just to hand in her handwriting in her voice and to have, like, one of her most prized possessions. Like, for me, it was really amazing. Wow, I love that I, um Well, I opened the gates this morning from Patty That made me cry, and it's no special, but I can't even say what it is because I think she got something very similar for everybody else here already. I I opened it up in its original illustration of a stack of books and the mine because I'm not an author, as you know, the top ones, his friends in fiction. And then there's just a bunch of spines and my mind is my name. And then cat and then Mary Kay, each of you, and just to be on that stack with y'all was really are warming. And yeah, it's really nice not hanging on my office wall, and it'll be there forever. Oh, dictionary. Right next to the definition for kindness. That was actually one of my favorite gifts I've ever 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 doing that was tremendously thoughtful. Gift you another gift? See, I think I think the point is, the more personal it is, right, Like the more personal it could be something small. It doesn't have to be something expensive. But just if someone's really thought about you and giving you something that will touch your heart and stay with you, I think that's that really means a lot. And to that end, this was not a Christmas gift. But I will tell you one of the nicest things I've ever gotten. I'm looking at it right now when I hit the New York Times list for the first time, which again? Not a holiday gift. Um, you guys got me a a framed page from the From The New York Times, with that highlighted, 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 because it 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 me every step of the way, and that just meant the world to me. So along with that idea of a personal, meaningful thing that you'll never forget. I know right now with my little eye, Patty. So one of the most thoughtful gifts I ever got 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 just didn't have the freedom I still dedicated home and like, we're trying to juggle things. But I didn't want to finish that book till I visited London and Oxford. And even though I had been...

...before, I hadn't been there with an I bent 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 it was really thoughtful. That's that's awesome. Okay, Okay. I thought about I thought about mine the first Christmas we got married Thanksgiving weekend. So our first Christmas as newlyweds, we moved to Savannah, right Right after the honeymoon. We never went back to ST Pete. And so my mother in law, who was a tremendous, tremendous seamstress, loved so very creative. She and my family didn't do Christmas stockings, but there's did. She made me a green velvet Christmas stocking. It looks like a high button shoe. And then she filled it with all kinds of sewing implements. So good scissors and a thimble and a pin cushion and a tape measure. And I had, I don't know, maybe she bought it for me and my mom did a second hand, Um, sewing machine from Montgomery Wards. That's how old I am. And so meet. And so I had, you know, we had 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 that she gave me and a sewing basket, I made our kitchen curtains, which looked like a disaster. But I made the isil God's awesome. That's awesome. And I still have 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 during breakfast and you can't open the presents until you already, and then we take a break, put up the breakfast, and then open the presents. I can't imagine not having stocking. So that's interesting. Stockings for Christmas Eve. That's what we could open. Oh, I like that. Yeah. So, um, this I have this story again, back to my big get together on Christmas Eve. All of the families were together. My father was like I said, one of seven. Everybody's together, but all of a lot of the cousins would exchange gifts through them. But, you know, my parents struggled a lot, so we didn't We weren't able to participate, but we never really noticed that because we were having such a great time. And one Christmas, we got there and there was something in the corner and somebody pointed it out to us. And then it was just me and my three brothers. My sister hadn't been born yet, and we went over there, and it was a gigantic wooden Taba. And it just said to the black boys from Santa. And I have and I It was years and years and years before I ever knew who did that. But it was my aunt and uncle that we're hosting that year. They wanted to make sure that we felt included. So I just really, you know, 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 that you had as a little kid? Like, what's one thing that you just think about that you still you can't stop thinking about as you get older? I, um, snuck into the closet where my mother was hiding Christmas. Uh huh. I found one with my name on it, and it was one of those. It was one of the large, full format, um, golden books of Swiss family Robinson. Uh, and I was, you know, 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, that nobody else it belonged to. And I think I read it until, you know, the spine came apart. And I can still remember. This is my book and that story. I love that story. We saw, you know, the Disney movie with, um, Tommy Kirk. I think he was one of the sons. Ron, do you remember that movie? I remember the movie. I don't remember the people that were Kurt Russell or Tommy Kirk were one of the sons in the movie. They were Disney kids, also the guy who ended up on 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. But this one, I think, is like the funniest and sort of most unexpected. So I had to have this single uncle who, like you would not think would be like the ultimate, like, amazing gift together for a little girl. Like he just didn't have any interest in any like It was. It's bizarre, but he always gave me the best gifts. And I remember when I was like, three He gave me my first little purse and like I still remember it. And it was, like, so proud and carried it around, and he put McDonald's gift certificates on it. I think I thought this was, like, the greatest thing in...

...the world, and I felt so grown up. And I remember, like going and having my person like getting to use my gift certificates and feeling like I was like, You know, 25. It was like, the coolest thing ever for love that Meg we're looking for. I think my favorite gift as a kid was the year that I got a 10 speed bike, which, because I again we we didn't have a lot of money. And you, you know, you'd make your list and you put things on it and you would never think you'd get them. But you know, you got to give it a shot. So I put the I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted a powder blue Ross 10 speed bike, and I thought, wouldn't that be great if I woke up and it was there under the tree and it was there and I couldn't believe it. I loved that bike while I had it. And can we please bring back the storybook lifesavers? Did anyone else used to get Oh, my God. We got to exchange those in school because you always get somebody's name. You had to give a gift to under $5. And that was always the choice. Never flavor that you always ate first. I always went right to the butterscotch is but you're the 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 five rolls on one side and five on the other or something like that. They don't make them anymore. I don't think everybody happened in their stocking. It was called 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 in the store. But in the storybook, there were all the special ones that I can't do that. Maybe that was just at your house. May be a special elf. Made you a special lifesaver book. Magical flavors. Speaking of special elves. I had a I remember asking for something super specific. I was maybe first or second grade. I don't know if I was thinking like, Oh, this is a test to see if I can actually get this from Santa. Um, but I asked for a doll and I wasn't a huge doll girl. I was like, a very tomboyish. But that year I wanted a doll, and she wanted her to have brown hair and being a white dress that had emeralds and Rubies on it. So it was, like, so specific. It was a thing. But that is all I want is the only thing I put on my list for Santa. Like I just thought about this doll. It just gets stuck in my head. And on Christmas morning, sure enough, there was a doll with brown hair, Um, a white dress and someone had sewn little round. Santa obviously had sewn red and green Rhinestones 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, it wasn't I think it wasn't just the doll I got that year. I think it was a couple 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 to it, but and I know I've posted it before. Maybe I'll find it again. But one Christmas, I got a nursing uniform. My sister got matching little nurse's uniforms with the stethoscope and the hat and the whole thing, A little medicine bag. And I remember just like, Oh, my gosh. Like freaking out about this gift. But the other gift that I loved so much in the same I was a preacher's kid, you know? It wasn't like we were ripping open cars for Christmas, right? And I remember I got an easel, I guess stand up, wooden easel that you could put paper on and it had a chalkboard, and I coveted that thing. I mean, if I could have taken it to bed with me that night, I would love that thing so much. I don't want to hold it and like right on it. And that was a teacher. And it was I love that thing. That's, uh that's that's awesome. So when I was very young, we, um there was This is going to show my age. But there was a cartoon that was on called Beany and Cecil Remember Beanie And so do you think it was a sea serpent was I can't believe you. What was the show? There's historical 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 Beanie was like a little kid with blond hair and overalls, and he would wear a cap with a beanie on it that would spin around. But they also you could pull the string and all of the sayings that he was famous for on the show but would come out. So you can you like, help? Seasonal help. I love that thing so much, so much. And I believe it or not, I still have it. It doesn't work. I still have it. So yeah, it's great. So Okay, so we've been talking about gifts that we've been given. Um What are some? What is a gift that you were so excited to give to somebody else? Whoever wants to start camp, I'm gonna start, and I wouldn't say this, but, um, I think this will come out before he'll listen. Uh huh. But this is this year. I'm excited about the gift. I'm giving Pat because I had a portrait done of our doggie space and it came out so good and so cute. And I think it's just going to be. And then I'm going to take that painting and I'm gonna get to guiltily Prince for my two sons so that they'll all have. They're obsessed with our dog is the point. That's that's wonderful. Definitely. Well, when he is a very photogenic creature, she has brown eyes and these top ears and a little grin on her little white mouth with a little white dot on her for stripe on her forehead. So she is immortalized 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 she remembered one year for Christmas. She got a Levi's blue jean jacket with shearling lining and she said When I wore that jacket, I thought I was the ship. I bet she was. I was great. Christie, Kristen, Mag. Anybody we can move on to the year. A couple years ago, I gave David peloton bike for Christmas and yeah, I managed to keep it a surprise. And I had it delivered on the day that he wasn't here, and they brought it into the garage and I got a king size bed sheets and hit it. And I don't know how he didn't see it out there because it was just It's kind of a big thing to hide. Um, but I had the kids help me drag it in Christmas Eve night, real late. And he didn't see until 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 under the Yeah, that was fun. You know what I stumbled upon recently that I think is kind of a cool gift to give for Christmas. Um, you know, when I was researching the winemaker's wife, which is set in champagne, I got really interested in this idea that the idea of thinking about the soil that the wine is coming from, that the grapes are coming from right? Like, what has that soil been through? What has that piece of land been through? What has that land scene? And Israel recently has been doing some amazing wines, wines that get like 92 93 94 points from wine enthusiasts. They're good wines. They have some Big Red's like big Bordeaux blends Marlowe's things like that. But the specific area that I think is best known for producing those really award winning reds is Galilee, which is where Jesus grew up. And I love that idea of giving a wine that's a delicious wine that pairs well with a meal. But that's literally from the place that Jesus lived and performed miracles 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 earth giving, giving the wine something. I can't imagine anything more appropriate for the holidays than the Earth, having given the wine that I So that's kind of like 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 that it's a good one. I think will have this grill that he really, really wanted and wouldn't get for himself and never thought that I would get for him. And I made up this really elaborate story about, and it was having, like, furniture recovered. So I could, like, borrow this truck and, like, drove a couple 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 and had this big bow on it. And he's just impossible to surprise. It's not even like what the gift is. He's just really hard to surprise. And so he was so surprised, and I was like pro proud was like, this is I will always remember how surprised he was. He was so excited, and we still have. It was like 13 years ago, so that's wonderful. So the last couple of years it's been really kind of epiphanies like Don't necessarily. Everybody buys what they want for themselves a lot of times, and it's hard to think of things, and you don't like to give things just to give them. So it's kind of switched to think about giving an experience. So if somebody has, um, I know that my my in laws for several years, we would give them tickets to a show and take them out to a really nice dinner. Seven. So that that became the gift for them. And it was really It's memorable, too. So it's It's not. Yeah, that just shoved under a bed or something or another tie or yeah, right, Right, Right. So So we're still in the mood of giving. So you want to recommend some favorite charities to people out there? Because I think that that is a great way for us to tell people what we're what's important to us. Mhm. Uh, well, I've got a Yeah, I have a pretty selfish, personal, um, charity this year. My daughter Katie, um, is in liver failure and needs a liver transplant. So we are supporting, um I think 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, um I like no kid hungry, too. Um, I hate the idea of of Children not having a hot meal or having a lunch. So no kid hungry and, uh, Georgia Organ Transplant Foundation. Yeah. And we're all there with you on that one. You're always in our thoughts. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, I am a huge world vision fan. I always have been even. I had my first little like, sponsored child when I was young, and I remember it like, you know, making that big decision. And I think I'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 really like it. I did some work with them, like a little more in depth for a few years, and I just learned a lot about the organization. I think they do a lot of really good things. And, um, I feel really good about the money actually getting to the people who need it, which I think sometimes it's a little bit iffy. And our friend Debbie McCumber just started help them launch their new literacy program, which is really Yeah. So, um, it's really great and it's just a good organization will go up. Meg. I have a favorite local charity here at the Jersey Shore called Bridge of Books Foundation, and a friend of mine started up, and she the whole mission is to get books into the hands of Children who wouldn't normally own their own books, just like the story before about this Swiss family Robinson book. Um, so many kids. You don't think about it, because if your house is brimming over with books, like a lot of ours are, um, there's plenty of kids who will never have a book that they own that they can tuck away. Um, so she gets donations. She gets used books from cleaning out your house. Or she's in touch with publishers for overruns or, um, and she gets them into for towns and then barbershops where kids can take, you know, and all sorts of little locations around they don't think about, um but I love supporting her because it's such an important mission. 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 the Juvenile 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 one diabetes since he was three. Um, and I think that's such an important thing to put more research money into. I think you know, a lot of the time the things we feel compelled to to support our things that hit very close to home. And that's one that hits close to home for me. Um, I also always donate to make a wish. My mother in law used to work for them, and I saw how how closely they really did work with the families and how hard they worked, you know, making sure that those donor dollars made it through to those Children and really did grant those wishes. So, you know, I just kind of saw a lot of that from the inside. 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 Florida families, Um, who need them? Um, and I...

...think that that's an important thing to do 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 in a 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 their control, which, you know, I think is always the case. But I think it's an important thing to keep in mind that I think it's it's definitely on. The increase to the need is very great. Absolutely. Patty, You know, it's so hard because each one of the things you all have mentioned, like, want to whip out my check because they're also important. There are all important. Um, so I think I mean, I'll tell you for me. Uh, I always lean towards literacy when I'm trying to make a decision just because literacy for Children means answers, even some of the questions we're talking about like having food being supported. So there's so many good literacy foundations, and, um, the ones that are local to where you live are probably the ones that you should focus on because there they change your community. Literacy foundations for Children change your community and then changing the community. They literally change the country. So, um, that's always my flat out answer. But, you know, because I had breast cancer, I'm always, um, you know, for the cancer center 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 literacy or cancer. Yeah, yeah, so true. And it's right. It's Whatever hits close to home 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, and we'll post about it. But it's been heavy on our hearts, and you got to put your money where your mouth is or I guess, money where your heart is absolutely where your liver is. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that's our That's our slogan right there. There you go, your money where your liver is. There's a tag 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 of the food bank. So we were using the libraries to distribute food to families, 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 boxes now of things, but we used to do it inside the library, and it was a mom who came up and said, You know, I had an accident with my car and I had to save up money for it to be repaired. But my kids being able to eat here for two weeks, uh, helped me able to fix my car and put it back in business. So those kind of things just are cementing that what we care about really can make a difference. It reminds us that libraries it's not just about books, absolutely. Libraries are such a hub for every community, and in Ohio were now the we're I think we're one of the highest distributors of at Home covid test kits. Wow, it's a lot. It's a lot I can imagine. We kind of cringe when the ups driver comes with 15 giant cartons of them, but we have to tear out. 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 to work or go to a trip or wherever. Um, okay, So last question. What is your wish 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 hoping that we'll get past covid soon because hers is a byproduct. Her illness is a byproduct of coded, so yeah. Yeah, and I have to sign off y'all. So I'm just gonna fade into the background. Merry Christmas, everybody. Tomorrow? Yep. Christie, um, I think mine is just to kind of be able to take a step back and re focus on,...

...like, what's important? I think this has been such a busy, um, time in, like, a couple of years and um, sometimes it's hard to prioritize the things that you know you need to because you're sort of buried under these things that maybe aren't as important. And, um So I think that's for me. Just, like, really weighing, like what we say yes to and what is important. And this community is 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, I feel like the pandemic has just shown and what Mary Kay is going through and what we've all been quit missing her go through it is, And without it, you have nothing. So all the wishes and dreams you have and all the things you want to do 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 for everyone 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 a community like friends and fiction connects us because we find this thing that brings us together, and in the case of friends in fiction, I think it'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 same viewpoints are the same beliefs, were just able to find something that we have in common and find those bridges to each other over the things that are our differences. And I think maybe my hope in general for the world for the next year is that we find more of those bridges through books, through gardening, through cooking through through the things we have in common. Whatever those hobbies are, whatever those loves our that we find those ways to come together and realize that the things that separate us aren't as important and that those differences can be overcome and those gaps can be bridged. I think we've seen so much division and so much politicizing of things that don't need to be politicized. Um and I hope that I hope that things begin to swing back the other way because it's time, it's time we need to come together. I mean, look at all that bird's eye united us. I mean, thanks for for anyone listening that doesn't know that I reference. Just look on Twitter and Marie Callender and Sharon Voice. Now it has its own Facebook page. Doesn't really Carin Pai Facebook page checking that out. If I had some magic wand with little sparkly things on it, and I could wave it, um, I would combine everybody's wishes of health in connection and healing, and and I would throw in that recipe some peace. For God's sake, just peace. Some calm, some kind calm peace where we can approach it all. All these things were wishing for and and come at it in this economy and never can say that word. Right? Um peaceful, um, peaceful place. Yeah, you all ought to be writers. We're going to try that. We're gonna try that. See how that works. Yeah, let's read a book, guys. Hilarious. Good. So, like they were going to write an anthology Since Kathy's Mary Kate's not here, let's just go ahead and sign her apart and not ask her. It's going to be called Christmas wish, and we're each going to get one, and we're just going to say we'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 happy holiday season. A happy New Year. Merry Christmas. Whatever you celebrate and everybody listening This this is just the best community ever. And we are so grateful for every one of you. And, um, we just wish the best for every single one of you. Absolutely. Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays, everyone. Yeah, Thank you for tuning in to the friends and Fiction writer's block podcast. Please be sure to subscribe Rate and review on your favorite podcast platform. Tune in every Friday for another episode.

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

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