I’m sitting in the Richmond airport, getting ready to fly JetBlue to New York, where tomorrow evening I’ll be speaking at the Princeton Club. I’ve got several other interviews scheduled for today and tomorrow, and then I’m flying back early on Thursday (I’m teaching Thursday afternoon). Then I’m heading back out to Princeton next Monday, speaking at the Princeton Public Library. (Incidentally, I’ll be getting together with some readers for dinner beforehand…so if you plan on coming, let me know.)

Travelling is part of writing; if you publish a book, you’re going to have to spend some time promoting it. It can even be fun. This particular trip is STRESSING me, though, for four reason.

First, the flight just got delayed two and half hours. I have better things to do than sit in the airport. (Don’t we all.)

Second, this is my first talk based on the Art of the Public Grovel (not counting my dissertation defense, at which I was under no pressure to be entertaining). The more often I speak on a subject, the more fun I have. A completely new talk is no fun at all.

Third, the Princeton Club is one of those places designed to intimidate the uninitiated. I’ve been there for coffee with my editor a couple of times. The building isn’t marked; you have to be a Princeton alumnus/a to belong, so the place is run on the assumption that if you need to know where it is, you already will. When you do find it and (cautiously) let yourself in, doormen descend on you to ask you why you’re there. If you’re a guest, they escort you into a little side room (very pleasant, of course) where you sit and wait for your Princeton alumnus/a friend to come and get you. I could wish that my first talk on grovelling came in a slightly more relaxed atmosphere.

Fourth, business travelling–for mothers, anyway–is always fraught with guilt. It doesn’t matter how much time I spend with the kids beforehand, or how long it’s been since I’ve travelled; when I get ready to leave they look at me with huge Bambi eyes and say, “You’re leaving AGAIN?” Do men sit in airports and feel guilty, or is it just women?

And then last night, Emily (aged seven) came up to kiss me goodnight and gave me a huge hug and said, “Mommy, I just want you to know that I will never forget you.”


I’m not even a nervous flier, and that creeped me out a little. Probably watching the pilot episode of Lost (I’d never seen a single episode, but Pete just bought the DVDs) afterwards was not the best strategy.

Showing 11 comments
  • Trish

    Happy travels. You’ll do great. I’ll be thinking of you. You’ve earned this honor, and you are a fantastic and engaging speaker. Just pretend they are all homeschooling moms and your biggest fans.

    Have fun with LOST. That first season is completely addicting. You have a thing for world disaster movies; I have a thing for stranded on remote island movies (I have worn out multiple copies of Swiss Family Robinson). And the LOST plane crash wasn’t a typical plane crash. But shhhh, I won’t say one more thing about it. 🙂

  • Katie

    Oh Susan I’m sorry but I had to laugh when I read Emily’s comment — I have gotten the same type of “farewell” several times from my somewhat melodramatic 7 year old girl. Hope you’re blessed with no seatmate and an unventful flight!

  • Laura

    I once posted on the WTM boards that I would wager that you were a Lost fan. The ladies told me you had not watched it. Please report back as to whether you like it or not. People tend to love it or hate it. I am obsessed with it.

  • mary kathryn

    Okay, if you’re not already, buy your kids presents when you’re away. They’ll be BEGGING you to travel 🙂

    That Princeton Club sounds like Jeeves’s gathering at the Ganneymeade. I think you should hold out for Bertie Wooster’s club, and let them throw dinner rolls at you! That should cut the tension 🙂

  • Staci at Writing and Living

    Oh, my. Kids just know what to say, don’t they.

    Hope your flight is uneventful.

  • Fran

    I’ll be gone for a day and a half next week to some conference and I don’t think my kids will even realize I’m gone….Does that mean that I raised secure, independent children or that they can’t tell the difference between Mom at home and Mom gone?
    It’s like the first day of kindergarten. If they cry, you worry that they are traumatized, and if they don’t cry, you worry that they don’t care!

  • Lorna

    I overheard our eleven year old son tell his father (who was in Paris working for a week), on the phone, ‘Well, we’re really busy actually, Daddy. Today the bin-men (garbage men) come and then tomorrow you come home’.
    I guess we can just about squeeze him back into our hectic schedule.
    East, West, home’s best!

  • Lori

    I’m sorry but I had to laugh at Emily’s comment. At least it’s better than, when I was in the middle of a self-pitying cry, my 3-year-old son saying, “Mommy! Are you dead?!” and crying with me. 😀

    No, I don’t think men feel guilty like women do. My husband is grateful for the relative peace and makes no bones about it.

  • Michelle in MO

    I’m sure your first talk on your new book will go well. I was privileged to hear you speak once, and I think you’re a great public speaker! I can imagine it’s difficult, though, with a new topic.

    You will love LOST! It is completely addicting; we own all four seasons and are anxiously awaiting the next one. We’re always wondering what the next weird plot twist will be. My oldest should become a screenwriter, because she usually has the best guesses for what will happen next.

    Enjoy LOST, and enjoy your trip!

  • Josh

    Can’t speak for all men, but I know I go through the same guilt you’re describing in the airports and the hotel rooms when I’m away. But the return home is always a wonderful feeling, so I just look forward to that!

  • Amy in NH

    I thought of you this weekend when I was listening to A Prairie Home Companion on my car radio. Do you listen to that show? Garrison Keillor was singing The Book Tour Blues: http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/2008/10/04/scripts/book_tour.shtml

    Too funny about the creepy farewell hug from your daughter! When my 3yo daughter (also the youngest, after 3 brothers) would get upset when I was leaving, I would tell her that she would be having so much fun she wouldn’t even notice I was was gone. Now, when I get home from being out by myself (which doesn’t happen too often), she says “Hi, Mommy, you’re home! I didn’t miss you!” Hmmm. I don’t know if I like that. 😉

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