Still getting caught up with WriterHouse business after having been gone a week and then caught up in the whirlwind that is Virginia Festival of the Book. I was on one panel and attended several others, and then there were the lunches, dinners, receptions, and finally the big program: a reading and Q&A with Lee Smith, Elizabeth Strout, Colum McCann, and E. Ethelbert Miller.
These were four outstanding authors with four outstanding readings. Normally I get bored and fidgety when people read aloud, but this held my attention. Colum McCann was particularly riveting, even though I had read his book and so was hearing the text for the second time.
I was particularly proud of my sixteen-year-old son who waited in line to ask Colum McCann about a particular passage he remembered from Let the Great World Spin and then bought an extra copy of the book with his own money so he could have it autographed.
We were on the west coast visiting colleges this week. Every information session and tour makes that school sound like the best place on the planet. Compared to being a grownup, I suppose, any college is fantastic. This is the second (and last) time we’ve been through this process and both times it’s provoked existential angst about my own college choice.
Back in those days, we made our college selections based on the flimsiest of reasons, with next to no research. Looking at five schools this week (and this is only the very beginning), I can’t help thinking I’d have had a better experience at pretty much any of them than at the school I attended. Sure, there are people I wouldn’t have met, but I probably could have been happier overall without the excessive Greek influence and the southern preppy culture. I was a girl from the soybean fields of the midwest. What did I know from debutantes? I spent four years muddling through, without ever considering any other options. I probably should have transferred, or gotten involved in more campus activities or sought out a mentor or somehow gotten more out of the experience. Would that I could do it all over again.
It’s true: “Youth is wasted on the young.” (George Bernard Shaw)