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Molly McCaffrey

December 25, 2011 • The meaning of Christmas?

I don't know the meaning of Christmas any more than the person who claims that he or she does know the meaning of Christmas (cue Linus explaining that meaning on stage to Charlie Brown, a scene which I admittedly still love), but I do know that almost nobody admits how difficult it can be when people put so many expectations on each other . . . you have to be with family, you have to buy gifts, you have to send cards, you have to go to church, you have to eat turkey or ham, you have to be happy . . . 

Honestly, it's pretty hard to be happy with so many things you HAVE to do, and it's no wonder that people sometimes crack underneath the weight of all those expectations.

That's part of the reason I wrote "The Season for Giving," one of the stories in How to Survive and why I'll continue to write stories about the holidays no matter how much it drives my family nuts—to show that it's okay not to love all of these holiday obligations. Yes, the holidays give us a chance to spend quality time with the people we love, but let's be honest—they also wreak a lot of havoc on our otherwise routine lives.

And maybe that's the meaning of Christmas—to remind us how much we appreciate that routine, so that when we inevitably go back to it, it won't seem quite as mundane or unappealing as we remember. 

 

November 24, 2011 • Giving thanks

One of the stories in How to Survive Graduate School & Other Disasters—"The Season for Giving"—is a satire of Thanksgiving about three women trying to wrest control of the holiday from each other. Though I love to make fun of holidays, I also do feel pretty thankful today.

I'm thankful, of course, to have my book in print and obviously greatly appreciate my publisher and editor. I'm thankful for my amazing circle of friends (from both my past and present lives), for my tough but rewarding job teaching at Western Kentucky University, and for my family who continues to tolerate me writing about them. And most of all, I'm thankful for my husband, who puts up with all of my insanity.

 

November 20, 2011 • What can I say about high school?

My high school newspaper, The Roar, just sent me some interview questions for a story they're doing about How To Survive Graduate School & Other Disasters, and I found myself completely stumped by the first question: "What is your most memorable experience from high school?"

Honestly, my most memorable experiences from high school are all pretty out of control and have to do with drinking in the darkroom, stealing fetal pigs, and blowing up toilets. (Not that I was personally involved with either of the latter, but I was certainly guilty of the former.)

For this reason, I wasn't sure how to answer, but this is what I finally wrote: "That’s a tough question to answer because what I remember most was probably not the kind of thing you’d want to print. Let’s just say I had so many memorable moments in high school—and watched so many memorable things happen—that I’ll have enough to write about the rest of my life."

 

October 27, 2011 • Miami U visit

Dave and I just got back from the second leg of his book tour. This time we hit Dayton, Oxford, and Cincinati, Ohio. Because we both earned our Master's degrees in creative writing from Miami of Ohio, we were invited to visit classes and give a reading there in Peabody Hall. Miami's campus is always beautiful, and since it was fall and the leaves were changing, it was as inspiring as ever. We visited the buildings where we studied as well as the ones where we taught our first college classes, and I honestly felt awed by how far we'd come in the past thirteen years. Thanks to Eric Goodman and everyone at Miami for having us there. It was a wonderful experience. 

 

October 19, 2011 • You can never go back. Or can you?

I've been on tour the past few weeks with Dave, who is promoting his latest book, Cemetery Girl. Though the tour has primarily been about him giving readings (and me tagging along for the ride), I did talk with him at two spots in Warsaw, Indiana, where I lived from the middle of my freshman year through the summer after my senior year of high school. The first place we visited in Warsaw was the morning Optimist Club, a group that gave me my very first writing award—for an essay I wrote about freedom when I was a sophomore in high school. It was fun to remind them that they were some of the first supporters of my work, and I loved seeing old friends.

We also visited my alma mater, Warsaw Community High School, where we spoke to over two hundred English students and checked in with some of my former teachers—including English teacher Joe Conlon, history teacher Dan Kuhn, and match teacher Chuck Wappas. It was surreal to return to WCHS after all these years—I hadn't been back since my sister graduated in 1991—but also heartwarming to find that the students were so excited by my success, as if it gave them hope about their own futures. I had been nervous about going back to a place where I was once a young awkward teen, but honestly I'll now go back every chance I get.