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134: How to Find Joy - Discussing WHAT YOU WISH FOR with Katherine Center

episode graphic featuring text How to Find Joy: Discussing WHAT YOU WISH FOR, Episode 134. An interview with Katherine Center

In this Unabridged podcast episode, we're talking with Katherine Center about her latest book, What You Wish For, which released on July 14th. Katherine shares her first experience as a writer, writing fan fic about Duran Duran, why clown socks are the most fashionable apparel, and how she sets out to fight for joy.

Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half

Jen - Jennifer Weiner’s Big Summer

Other Mentions

Brit Bennett's The Mothers

Katherine Center's Happiness for Beginners

Katherine Center's Things You Save in a Fire

Katherine Center's How to Walk Away

Katherine Center's The Lost Husband

Katherine Center's thoughts on reading for joy on her website

Stranger than Fiction

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Jen 00:00

Hi! And welcome to Unabridged, Episode 134, How to Find Joy: Discussing What You Wish For with Katherine Center. Before we get started, we want to thank everyone who's been supporting us, and we want to give a special shout out to some people who supported our Kickstarter campaign.

Kickstarter Shout-Outs

Sara 00:19

I'm going to do my very best to pronounce all of the names correctly. However, these were written, so I have not heard them pronounced by the person who supported us. So I'm going to do my best, but we wanted to thank Leah Pedder Joshua Niday, Alan Rose, Sandria Glasscock, Mary Claire Pedagno, Erin Gienger, Terry Allen, and Caitlyn Fultz.

Ashley 00:46

We really appreciate everyone's support and are thrilled with what we'll be able to do because of the successful Kickstarter campaign. Thank you.

Sara 00:55

Hello, and welcome to Unabridged, the weekly podcast where teachers take on books. This is Sara. Join us for bookish episodes and a monthly book club pick.

Ashley 01:05

This is Ashley. Find us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @unabridgedpod or go to our website where the books we read are linked for purchase.

Jen 01:13

This is Jen. Check out our Teachers Pay Teachers store, our Patreon page, and our newsletter. Please rate, review, and subscribe on Apple podcasts to support us. You want opinions about books? We've got them.

Jen 01:27

Hey, and welcome to Unabridged. This is Jen. We are thrilled today to have with us Katherine Center whose new book What You Wish For is out this week. Katherine is the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away and Things You Save in a Fire, as well as five others, including What You Wish For. Her fourth novel The Lost Husband is now a movie starring Josh Duhamel and Leslie Bibb. Katherine has been compared to both Nora Ephron and Jane Austen. The Dallas Morning News calls her stories satisfying in the most soul-nourishing way, and Brene Brown says Katherine Center writes about falling down, growing up, and finding love like nobody else. She lives in her hometown of Houston, Texas, with her husband and two sweet kids. Katherine, we're so happy to have you here with us.

Katherine 02:13

Yay, I'm so excited to be here. Thank you.

Bookish Check-in

image of a stack of three books

Jen 02:17

So we are going to do our Bookish Check In as usual. Before I do that, I just want to remind everybody about We have lots of great content, including book reviews and bookish faves and lists for you to check out, so if you haven't been there in a while, head over to

Jen 02:32

All right, so we will start with our Bookish Check In and just share something that we're reading right now. Sara, what are you reading?

book cover of Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped

Sara 02:40

So I am reading it's a YA book by Jason Reynolds who is one of my all-time favorite authors . . . just I love him. And then also Ibram X. Kendi. It is called Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, and it's a remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning, which Ibram X. Kendi wrote. But, and then Jason Reynolds basically took Kendi's work and adapted it to appeal to a YA audience. And it is phenomenal. I am listening to it, and Jason Reynolds actually reads it. And we've, it's been well documented on the podcast that we love Jason Reynolds, and we've seen him speak. And he is just . . . does a remarkable job of speaking directly to the kids and speaking to them in a way that is not condescending and that is not sugarcoating anything, but in a real way, and I just love it. As soon as . . . I have about 20 minutes left on my audiobook and as soon as I'm done with that, I'm gonna start listening to it with my 11-year-old son, so--oh, he just turned 12--12 year old and, and basically it is about . . . it is about exactly what the title says, it's about racism, antiracism, and what you can do to be an ally and why it's important to know our history, where we've come, and where we are right now. So it's been a great experience reading it, and I can't wait to share it with my kids.

Jen 04:13

Yeah, that we that is going to be one of our book club picks next month or the month after, I can't remember right now where we are in time. But yeah, I'm excited to talk about it. Because I yeah, Jason Reynolds is great, and I think it is going to be great for teachers out there and just anyone who has a child in your life who needs to learn more about it, but I think it's so good for adults too.

Jen 04:34

Katherine, what are you reading?

book cover of Will Storr's The Science of Storytelling

Katherine 04:36

So I just finished a book on story structure, actually, a nonfiction book called The Science of Storytelling, and it's by this guy named Will Storr [spells name], and I think it is the best book on storytelling that I have ever read. And I've read them all, like I've read them all, for, in my 30 years of working on learning how to write stories, and it's just a phenomenal read, it's . . . I was so excited reading this book that I just kept getting up and going downstairs and like finding some live human in my house that I can read sections of it aloud. You'll never believe this, listen to this, this is crazy. So I kind of went into that, I mean, I kind of go into any storytelling book that I read, like any book about the art of storytelling, feeling like I probably know 90% of what's going to be in it already. Because I've just spent a lot of time thinking about all this stuff. And over and over this book just like surprised me and put things in a new way and gave me a new framework for thinking about things. And it was . . . it was great.

Jen 05:42

Oh, that's wonderful.

Katherine 05:43

So I just wrote a fan letter to the author and said, You know, this is the best book I've ever read on storytelling. So that was fun. That doesn't happen every day. It was really . . .

Jen 05:51

That's great. How did you find it? Did someone recommend it to you or do you know him from something else or . . .

Katherine 05:58

No, I had never heard of him. You know, I think I was, you know, I do a lot of reading about stories and how they work. And I'm, I think I just found it recommended by somebody else somewhere along the way. I mean, I wrote it down on a list of these books about storytelling that I wanted to read that I'm kind of working my way through. But yeah, I don't really remember how I found it. But I'm so glad that I did.

Jen 06:20

That's really great. Good. Oh, I wrote it down. We will definitely include that in the show notes so people can look it up.

Katherine 06:26

Well, and actually, my husband is a teacher. He's a middle school, seventh grade history teacher, and he's reading it, too. He actually got his own copy because I had marked mine up too much. He was like . . . I filled up all the margins everywhere. But you know, he's been trying to figure out, especially during the pandemic, you know, how to Zoom teach, right? And how to keep the kids engaged and how to make it not just be the most boring thing ever, and so all the stuff about storytelling and what hooks us and what keeps our attention and what gets us excited and engages our emotions, like all that stuff, he was like, I need this for teaching. So I know you guys said you have a lot of teachers who listen to this podcast, and I think, I highly recommend it for anybody who's interested in storytelling of any kind.

Jen 07:10

That is great. I love that too, that your husband's reading it. I love that. Yeah. Anytime I can like pass a book on to my husband, it makes me happy it just as . . . yeah, that extra . . . it's a great book already, and then we can talk about it. It's so nice.

Katherine 07:23

Oh, yeah, I hooked him. I hooked him going downstairs and reading out passages. He was like,

Jen 07:29

That's fabulous.

Ashley 07:30

Sounds great.

Jen 07:31

All right, Ashley, how about you? What are you reading?

book cover of Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half

Ashley 07:33

So one of the things I'm reading right now is Bret Bennett's The Vanishing Half. I loved The Mothers and was so excited to read this book, and it . . . it does not disappoint. I am probably only about a quarter of the way through, I just started, but it is just . . . it's such . . . she is just so masterful at depicting characters and the connections between them and really exploring those in meaningful ways, and so I feel like it is such a rich story of two sisters. And you're seeing both their backstories. So it's. . . they're twins, the Vignes sisters, Stella and Desiree, and they're twins and they're growing up in an all-Black town that is all light-skinned people who are . . . who have a lot of consciousness about skin color, and there's a lot of colorism, and so they talk a lot about that in the book. So that's kind of the backstory, but both the twins leave the town together as teenagers, and then after leaving go in two very different directions. And so one of them passes for white and completely separates from her family and you know, breaks from them entirely. And the point that I'm at the story, that's where those things are, but she has just broken from her mom and her sister, and there's no connection at all. And then the other sister marries a very dark Black man, you know, and she . . . as the story is unfolding, she has a daughter, and she and the daughter are coming back to the hometown, and it's about 10 years after she and the sister had left. And so it is just fascinating. I love seeing the complexities between the family members and how that's unfolding. So you know, as she's, as Desiree, is coming back into the town, she and her mom have not spoken and the whole time that they . . . that she's been gone, and her mom is carrying some prejudice toward the choices that Desiree has made. And so it's just, I just think it's really amazing. I'm really enjoying it so far and I can't wait to get back to it.

Sara 09:37

That one's on my list.

Jen 09:38

Where you are in the story, there is some good stuff to come. I love that. Yeah, Britt Bennett is going to be one of those auto-buy authors for me because I think she is just brilliant.

Ashley 09:46

I have to say that there is an appearance of a new character that has . . . that I am very intrigued to see where that part of the story goes. So yes.

Jen 09:55

That's great.

Sara 09:56

What are you reading, Jen?

book cover of Jennifer Weiner's Big Summer

Jen 09:58

So I am almost exactly in the middle of Jennifer Weiner's Big Summer, and this is only the second book of hers that I've read, but I am hooked. Yeah, I . . . it's one of those I did not want to put it down, but I had to get some sleep at some point last night. It's been a busy day today, so I'm hoping to finish soon, but it is. It's about a lot of things. So there's a mystery at its heart, a murder mystery. I don't want to say too much about who is murdered. But there is a murder mystery that has just begun. It is also about social media influencer culture. And what that means. It is about bullying and mean girls and body image. I mean, it's just like, and that list sounds probably really off putting as if she's trying to do too much, but it's just wrapped up in this great story of a character who is trying to come to terms with who she is and how she can be confident. And then her best friend from childhood, who was one of the people who made her lose confidence in herself comes back into her life, and so she's contending with this person who was a bully. Can people change when you're an adult? Are you supposed to get over those childhood hurts that, you know, stick with all of us? I think we all have something from childhood that has scarred in some way. So it's just . . . yeah, it is really good. So I can't

Ashley 11:18

I have that one on my shelf. I can't wait to . . . that's a soon to read for me for sure.

Sara 11:24

When I read a lot of her early work, but I have read that . . . I have not read a lot of her new stuff, but . . . and I saw that one, I think at Costco the other day when I was there, and I'm interested to read it, especially now that you've given that description.

Jen 11:39

Yeah, I'm really enjoying it. And we'll see what happens with the murder mystery. I've heard some people say that this is not typical of her work. And since I've only read the one I don't really have a great sense of it. But my sense is that the murder mystery part is kind of out of what she normally writes. But what she's doing so far . . . there was like this little seed early in the book, and I was like, huh, and then as I've gone in, that's coming into it. So I'm a sucker for that as well.

Main Discussion: How to Find Joy - Discussing What You Wish For

book cover of Katherine Center's What You Wish For

Jen 12:03

All right, well, we are going to move on now to focusing on Katherine and on her wonderful book What You Wish For, and yeah, I feel like I have a million questions in my head right now. But just that focus on story. I think you are such a great storyteller. Clearly, that's something that is a focus for you and that you really work at. How did that become a focus? How did you become a writer? How . . . have they always been linked? It's a lot of questions. Sorry.

Katherine 12:36

Okay, so I'll say that like, probably the most important thing about me as a writer is that I got my start writing novels when I was in the sixth grade. And I wrote a novel, my very first novel, which was fan fiction about Duran Duran.

Ashley 12:52

I love Duran Duran.

Katherine 12:57

So that's where it all began, you know, and my I've got two sisters. I'm the middle child and a family of girls. And, you know, my mom and my sisters love to give me advice. And they're always just like, sweetheart, you have got to stop talking about Duran Duran. And I'm like, I can't, I can't stop talking about them. I'll be talking about them my entire life because that is where it all started for me. Like it was . . . I was awkward and miserable in the sixth grade. And, and I was highly aware of how awkward and miserable I was. And um, the luckiest thing about sixth grade for me was that I had two best friends who were also awkward and also miserable, and we were all in love with Duran Duran. And we somehow got this idea that we should write stories about meeting them, and that we cast ourselves as the main characters in our stories. And so we did. I mean, that's how we spent sixth grade. We would sort of suffer through the school week as only sixth grader girls can suffer, and then on the weekends, we would get together and put on our PJs and jump into somebody's bed and open up our little spiral notebooks with our novels. And we would read them to each other.

Katherine 14:10

So I was like the star of my novel, right? But I very politely included my two best friends as secondary characters. Right? And of course, my novel is all about, you know, how I meet Duran Duran, and then all five of them fall in love with me.

Jen 14:27

Of course.

Katherine 14:28

Like that's the plot, right? So of course, what that means is that, um, you know, there's only one of me, right, there's five of them, so matter who I choose, there are four beautiful, world-famous rockers whose hearts are going to be crushed. Luckily, I've got two best friends who can step in and pick up those pieces.

Katherine 14:52

So it was just, sixth grade was such misery, and I was so hard on myself and I, you know, as we all are at that age, but . . . but finding those stories was like, bliss for me, you know, it was like my first little taste of the magic of what stories can do to you. You know, it was my first little sense that stories can save you. And that stories can give you something to look forward to. And that stories can give you something to believe in, and that stories can generate hope for you when things are really genuinely pretty hopeless. And for, you know, for me, from then on, like, that's what I've always wanted to tap into, is all that goodness, all that yumminess, you know, all that deliciousness of the way that stories can make things better. And I think the world has a lot of stories, plenty of stories, about anti heroes and people whose lives get a lot worse. I mean, we don't have any kind of shortage of stories about that.

Katherine 15:52

But what I've always wanted to write about, because it's what I kind of need as a human, is stories about how we make things better, right? How we figure things out, how life knocks us down, and we find a way to get back up. Right. That . . . those are the stories that I need as a human, and it's still true like, to this day like I'm not a particularly resilient person. And I . . . when life knocks me down, I have to lie there for like three weeks, right? Just like in the fetal position like I can't believe this happened. I'm I don't bounce back very well. I'm a total quitter. I'm easily discouraged. I would say in general, I'm about like, one dirty look in the grocery store away from just being like, you know what we're all doomed. And so I am a person who very badly needs to seek out avenues for feeling hopeful about the human race and hopeful about my own life and hopeful about all of our possibilities. And the way that I do that is through stories. Through other people's stories, but also through the ones that I write myself. So very therapeutic step for me, and that's why, like, you know, like, I feel like my sort of guarantee for anybody who reads, a book that I've written is that I am not going to run the main character over with a bus in the last chapter. That's never gonna happen, right? I'm not gonna do that to you. Um, I might run them over with a bus in the first chapter. It happens, you know, because I'm very much about stories where people's lives get kind of blown apart, and they have to figure out how to put the pieces back together in a new way that's meaningful. But you know, I'm never gonna break your heart at the end. I mean, I'm just not going to do that. So, and that's partly because that's what I want out of a story. I want to come away from story, feeling hopeful, feeling a little bit wiser, feeling really satisfied. You know, I'm looking for a certain thing in a story, and I'm also when I write a story, I'm looking at how to how to give that in a kind of spirit of service to other people. You know, like everything that I know, everything that I've learned about writing since the age of 12, after being obsessed with it for, you know, over 30 years, it's all there so that I can do that thing that I want so badly for other people.

Katherine 18:12

And, you know, this whole time that I've been trying to kind of build a career as a writer, I've just been hoping that other people kind of wanted the same thing that I wanted, right? That's all you can really do as a writer is just write the story that you yourself like, genuinely, genuinely, genuinely need to hear, want to hear, long to hear, and hope that other people are interested in that same kind of story. I got started trying to create, um really honestly kind of trying to create hope for myself in my own life when I was feeling very hopeless. And then I got addicted to that feeling of being able to do that. And, you know, that's, yeah, that's what I still do to this day, you know, is write stories that are hopeful.

Ashley 18:56

I think we see that so much in What You Wish For. So that's it. It really resonates with watching that for the characters and, and feeling it with them.

Katherine 19:07

I think in some ways, it's kind of a hard thing to want to write about. I think it's much easier to depress people. You know, you've really got a lot to work with, if you want people to feel hopeless about the human race in the future, like, you don't have to look very hard. But I think for me to write stories that are authentically grounded in human experience, that are also hopeful and a little bit optimistic... That's harder, you know. If you want to make people cry in a book, it's really easy. You just create a character who's likable, and then you kill that character. It's a very easy thing to do. It's much, much harder to go the other way. You know, it's much, much harder to authentically create fictional characters who don't die, who, you know, we get to the end and we feel somehow moved and inspired and connected to those people. So, I don't know, it's taken a long time to try and figure out what I want to do. But I don't want to leave you feeling hopeless at the end. My sister loves books where people are killed at the end. My big sister; she's a huge reader. She loves the books that just rip your heart out, right, and put it through like a meat grinder. And she's recommended many books like that to me over my lifetime books that I have literally, like thrown across the room, like seriously? And then I get on the phone with her and say, "How could you do that to me? I trusted you." But for me, I'm just looking for a certain type of experience. And it's because I'm trying to convince myself to feel hopeful.

Jen 20:50

So I think that is such a great articulation of What You Wish For and what that book does for the reader, and clearly that was on your mind when you were writing. So do you mind? Do you have a summary in your head that does not spoil the end that you want to share with our listeners, and then we'll discuss?

Katherine 21:08

I thought of a description for What You Wish For the other day. And I was like, I think this is like, the perfect sort of one sentence. I'm not sure it's one sentence. But here's a one sentence description. I would say it's about a school librarian, named Sam, who gets the worst boss in the world. And he turns out to be a guy she used to have a crush on. I mean, you know, there's so much more to the book than that. But I think ultimately, like, that's kind of the... that's the big sort of little scaffolding that all the rest of the story is kind of woven all around is that there's this essential relationship between those two people.

Katherine 21:48

And you know, for me, the big question in the story is like, what happened to Duncan, right? You know, Sam is at this adorable little school in Galveston, Texas. It's a little island off the coast of Texas. I live in Texas and it's the island that I grew up going to whenever we went to the beach, we went to Galveston, I write all my books on Galveston Island because my mom has a little... I don't want to call it a house. It's more like a shack. It's got a little beach shack down there that she's had forever and ever. And it's totally falling apart. Like when you walk in, at the front of the house, it bounces at the back of it. It's not fancy, but it's got great sunlight. And I go down there and I write my books because I can concentrate, you know, and when I have deadlines coming up, I'll go for like four or five days, stay by myself in this house. And I'll wake up in the morning, and I'll make a pot of coffee, and I will sit down start writing. And the next thing I know it's dark outside. You know, and I've just been writing all day and I write pages and pages because it just sort of snowballs... Like I can just write and write and write when I am not interrupted. And so I spend a lot of time in Galveston. I love it. It's a great interesting complicated town with a lot of history. And I've always wanted to set a book down there. So I decided to set this little school where they work on Galveston Island. It's a fictional school. She has a kind of a great setup there. She's got this amazing library, she's got this great community, she's super happy. She's kind of made a good life for herself. And when she finds out that this guy, Duncan Carpenter, is coming to be the principal of her new school, I mean, the new principal of her school, she's kind of like, super excited for the school and sort of full of dread for herself, right? Because she thinks that this is going to be great for the school because he's amazing. And it's going to totally break my heart to have to be around this guy all the time because I'm going to be back to my unrequited crush, but actually, when he winds up arriving, he's not great for the school because he has changed so much since she knew him 10 years before.

Katherine 23:52

So that becomes like a sort of Central story question is like what happened to Duncan? He used to be a certain type of teacher, and now he's a totally different kind of teacher. And why did he change? You know? And so I like that kind of -- it's not a mystery, exactly, but it's kind of this question. She's trying to figure it out, and she keeps getting thrown together with him. And as she keeps being forced to be around him and keeps clashing with him, and keep standing up for her library and her school and for the culture that they've tried to create in this very special little place, and she tries to like defend, you know, their way of life... She is forced to learn more and more about him, and she's got some things in her life that needs to be healed, and he's got some things in his life that need to be healed, and they wind up being good for each other, which, for me, is super fun read about. So. Yeah, they're very cute together. And I will mention, Duncan Carpenter is basically a very, very similar guy to my actual husband.

Jen 24:51

Oh, that's fun.

Katherine 24:54

The original Duncan, the fun Duncan from the before time... like I just borrowed pretty much everything from my husband who wears Madras pants to school all the time, has a bunch of crazy golf pants with flamingos on them, and he wears any tie any student ever gives him you know, like, and so there's kind of an informal competition to give him the worst tie to see if he'll do it, you know, and of course, he will! He'll wear anything. He's got Abraham Lincoln and, you know, rubber duckies and the whole shebang. And my husband is hilarious, first of all. He's like, the funniest person I know, on the planet. And he loves middle schoolers. In particular, he loves that age, which I think you've got to love that age to teach that age because it's definitely a calling. And he's been a teacher for 20 years. Longer, actually. And my sister is also a teacher, my sister's a French teacher, high school. And so I've spent a lot of time over my, you know, adult life talking with both of them about pedagogical strategies and ideas for how to get kids excited and what makes for a really great school environment and what makes for a not great school environment and, you know, what's the difference and how do you promote, like a place that is joyful and, you know, engaging and, and that matters, you know, to the kids. So, you know, I think my husband is basically like if you took Jimmy Stewart and like crossed him with Bill Murray he's kind of an upstanding earnest citizen Jimmy Stewart, you know, but then he's also got that kind of like naughty, slightly sarcastic, Bill Murray kind of quality. And the kids love him because he's hilarious and you know, wears a lot of Hawaiian shirts. There's a lot of my husband and Duncan Carpenter. In fact, my teenage daughter was trying to read this book and she was like, it's basically just like reading about my parents. I don't know.

Jen 27:02

I love it. Well, and I felt like the school... So we are all teachers. Sara is the middle school teacher among us, so when you're saying it was a calling, yay! But yeah, I felt so much of that. And like the philosophy that's reflected in the way Sam approaches the library and the way that Max and Babette had built this school very deliberately to honor certain things. And so then it's just heartbreaking because it seems like this utopia, and so then it's so heartbreaking when you see Duncan, who I have to say I loved in Happiness for Beginners, so I was so excited to see him come back. Yay! And then he comes in, and he just starts chipping away at it. And I think every teacher who would read this book -- your heart's going to break because it's like everything you could dream about, and it's like almost worse if you have it and then start losing it. Oh, that part really resonated.

book cover of Ingrid Fetell Lee's Joyful

Katherine 27:55

I agree. And actually, one of the things that I really wanted to write about in the this book in particular, like the kind of the place where I started with the story, was I wanted to write about joy. You know, I actually read a really fantastic--and I highly recommend it--nonfiction book called Joyful. And it's by a woman named Ingrid Fatell Lee, and I'm now obsessed with her and I like I'm on her mailing list and everything. Um, but she is talking about the intersection between joy and design, like the designed world, the world that we live in, and it's not just design actually, because she talks about nature and other things too. But you know, how the world around us impacts our emotions, our emotional experience of the world, and how we can kind of bolster ourselves by being aware of things around us that are joyful, and you know, filling our lives up with those things. And, you know, being joyful is not an easy thing for me. I think that my basic personality starting place is pretty melancholy, actually. And I think almost everything that I've sort of done in my life has been about trying to help with that, you know, trying to compensate for it trying to find ways of cheering myself up. So I actually crack jokes constantly, my husband and I sit around bantering. I mean, that's how we've spent the pandemic, right, is just joking with each other about every possible thing we can think of. But it's not. And actually, Sam and Duncan have a conversation about this in the book, where she's saying, you know, do you think I'm happy because I don't know any better? You know? She's like, No, no, no. I bite and claw and scratch my way to happiness every day, right? And he's like, so it's a hostile kind of joy. And she's like, no, it's joy on purpose, right? It's a choice. And that's, I mean, that's me. I mean, Sam's just basically quoting me in that moment because that's exactly how I've kind of spent my whole life is trying to find a way to be open.

Ashley 30:00

Yeah, when I read that intersection of her experiences with Max and Babette with that belief and I just . . . I just loved I loved them so much. Like they're just sort of found family for her their mentorship of her, and the way that shapes her even though she's an adult. I mean, I just love it because people are always growing, we're always changing, and we do have new things to learn. And so I loved seeing that because I think a lot of times we see it a lot. Like we all read a lot of young adult books and you know, we work with students and are sharing them and recommending them, but I think a lot of times in adult books, we don't see that, and I love seeing it because I think that we do still need mentors who help us and shape us and and change us for the better. And I just love that part, like the way that that relationship connects to all those things that you were saying that she didn't just suddenly wake up and feel that way, but that she had people who were a rich part of her life who helped her to become this happier, richer, more joyful self.

Katherine 31:06

Yeah, you know, Max was the principal at the beginning of the story who, I mean it's not really a spoiler right because it's first chapter, but he dies kind of very unexpectedly. I kind of . . . I actually, I I wrote that scene of him dying with like tears on my face. I felt very strongly connected to Max, and I didn't even know him all that well. But so Max is kind of her beloved sort of father figure mentor guy, and she loses him at the beginning of the story and then, and then in comes Duncan, right, to be his replacement. And Duncan is like the worst, suddenly, the worst, unexpectedly. And but yeah, there are things that Max says. One of them is pay attention to the things that connect you with joy, which is something that I said to a friend over coffee like six years ago, and like, we both like stopped after it came out of my mouth, and she was like, get a napkin and a ballpoint pen! Like write that down, that seems really important. And I carried around in my purse on a napkin for like two years.

Katherine 32:07

Um, and then the other thing that Max says is, he says, never miss a chance to celebrate. And we actually got that from a family friend of ours, a guy named Bobby Lupin who said it at his son's graduation from high school at a big dinner. He said, you know, that's our family motto, never miss a chance to celebrate. And I was like, you know, we . . . like my husband and I looked at each other at that moment, and we were like, we're taking that. We're stealing that. Like we need. It's a great idea! You know, and so, you know, I think Max has a lot of wisdom to offer, and she's tried to really absorb that wisdom. But I very much relate to Sam because I, I do not find it easy to be happy. You know, I just work at it all the time. And you know, the pandemic has been no exception. You know, I'm pulling out all the stocks. I feel like I've trained all my life for this moment, to figure out, you know how to get through this and be okay.

Jen 33:03

Yeah, so I thought that the parts where Sam is working through the advice Max has given her about color and about, you know, wearing the bright hat, and I don't want to, again, give away too many spoilers, but I think that part all makes so much sense for someone who is so mindfully and intentionally trying to be joyful, even when she's faced with tragedy. And so I just loved the way . . . sometimes I get impatient with descriptions of clothing in books because I feel like the purpose is different. The purpose is about like brand name or . . . and for her it's not. It's just about like, this is the outward expression of the joy that she is fighting for all the time, and I loved seeing the description of her crazy knee socks and the scarf she's wearing and the hat she's wearing. I just thought that was so much fun.

Katherine 33:53

Okay, there's a line in this story, when she's talking to Duncan and she's wearing like, rainbow-colored clown socks, they're they're literally clown socks, and okay, I gotta tell you, I had those. I literally have the pair of rainbow-colored clown socks. They came from Party City. They were for a clown costume, but they were on sale for like 99 cents, and I was like these are super fashionable. So I bought them, and then I would wear them around. And one day I was talking to my daughter, she was probably . . . my daughter is very sweet hearted. She's like, she's basically something out of Little House on the Prairie. She's 17 now, but she's very, she's not in any way a catty person. But there was this funny little moment. We all like, we all appreciate comedy. So if we think of anything funny to say, it's like, get it out there. So we're driving along, and we're talking about fashion, and I'm like, I'm fashionable, right? And then my daughter went, Mom, you're literally wearing clown socks. And the minute she said . . . I laughed so hard I almost drove off the road. And then I said, that's going in a bool. And I've been waiting for years to find a place to put it. I was super excited when Sam was wearing clown socks. He was like, oh, Duncan's gonna do it, he's gonna do it. And then he goes, you are literally wearing clown socks. I'm very grateful to my family for being hilarious. I crib a lot of stuff from them, which is great.

Jen 35:19

So I do think it's tough. So Sara texted me when she was starting to read the book, and was like, I don't know how I feel about the fact that it starts with a tragedy. Because I mean, Max is not in there for many pages. But I, as I was reading it, was crying because somehow you feel like you know him and you see what he means to Sam. Yeah.

Ashley 35:40

And the whole town.

Sara 35:40

And what he means to the school.

Ashley 35:42

You really see how how important he is to the whole community right away. I think that unfolds a lot in the story, even after he's gone. But yeah, I think you really feel that right away. And then that does provide an acute sense of loss because you're seeing you're experiencing that feeling that they have of just that total unexpected . . . yeah.

Katherine 36:05

Yeah, I think it's...t's kind was not my intention to start it that way. Actually. I was just... it was... I was gonna kind of start it sort of afterwards, you know, like, you know, this happened and now we need to find a new principal, right? I found myself writing that scene kind of, against my will a little bit. I mean, it just happened. It was not planned. And, you know, I had a lot of mixed feelings about it, because I thought, you know, this is really asking a lot of people. Right? I think when for me when I'm reading and I think really all you can ever do as a writer is think about who you are as a reader and try to write to that. For me, the hardest part always of a book is the very start. Right? Is getting started. Because you don't know who these people are. You don't know what's at stake. You're still learning everyone's name. You're just getting oriented, right? And so I always try very very hard at the beginning of the story to make it super easy for people, you know, just kind of pull them in. Because I think there's always a moment when you're reading at the very beginning when you're pushing yourself into the story. And then there's always a moment when it switches and instead of you having to push, it starts to feel like you're a conveyor belts. I always want to get people to that pulling moment as fast as possible, right? Because we've all got enough to do, we don't need any more hard stuff in our lives. I want to make it really easy for people. And so, you know, one of the ways I do that is by having people say funny things to each other, which I love to do anyway. But in this one, I realized that I was really in that first chapter. I'm really asking a lot of people, you know, like, I'm putting them through a lot and I wasn't sure how I felt about it at first, but I ultimately decided that I think what it does is it helps sort of create the stakes, you know, he was somebody who really was doing something good in the world. And when he was gone, it was important to honor his legacy and keep that place going. And I think that's part of what makes this story matter is that they're trying to protect this sort of very special, magical school and, you know, I know enough about education to know that places like that are pretty rare and pretty special. And so I felt invested in protecting the school but I wanted other people to feel that way too. And it can't just be an intellectual thing. You know, it has to be an emotional thing. You know, Max is kind of the embodiment of the school, you know, and of that whole philosophy about what it means to give kids a really, really great education. And so when he's gone, it's emotional. It's not just theoretical. I wrote it kind of by accident, but I kept it because I thought, okay, this is doing something important for the story and it's asking a lot of people but I think I hope it will pay off for them in the end.

Sara 39:02

And I just felt like you could feel his spirit throughout the whole book because even though... I mean I was devastated because I when when it started and just the way that everybody gave things for his birthday party, and you just could see how beloved he was. I mean, when that happened, it really touched me and it really made me sad. And I was like, I don't know if I can read this. No, but I mean, I've read some of your other books. So, I felt like I trusted you enough to keep going. But I did feel like that, that Max's spirit was with us throughout the whole book. And it's funny that he was only in the book, like, in the physical form for just one chapter because he really felt like this huge character in the book. I mean, he is probably probably one of my favorites because I feel like he is the embodiment of what we as educators want in a leader because it was all about the kids, but also he entrusted his educators to do to make right choices. And he empowered them to do that. So I just felt like...I think for the three of speaks even more, because we are educators. And that's what we want for our students and for our peers. So, I mean, he really spoke to me as a character.

Katherine 40:30

You know, there's a there's a movie. I don't know if y'all have ever seen it called Stranger than Fiction.

Jen 40:36


Katherine 40:37

And it's Emma Thompson plays a novelist in this movie, and she's writing what she thinks are stories, but then Will Ferrell is one of her characters and he's real in the story

Jen 40:48

And he is so good in that movie!

Katherine 40:50

It's a great movie. It's one of my favorite movies. And then, so he he's listening to her narrate and like his life, and he's like, what's going on? And then he's like, I think I'm a main character in somebody's book. And then he finds out that her whole shtick as an author is that she always kills her main characters, right? And so then the story becomes about him trying to save his own life. And that that's story sticks with me in creepy ways. And I found myself thinking about Max, and on the day that I wrote that scene where he died. I was like, Did I just kill somebody today? I feel really, really bad about that scene? I was like, isn't there some way he can live?

Ashley 41:27

I do think it's good that it happens so early on. [inaudible] experience it as a reader it is emotionally impactful, but it's not far enough in to be as attached, but I also was in that text thread, and I was grateful that I knew before I got to it, so I will say, when you said it's not really a spoiler because it happened so early. Sometimes it actually is really helpful for me, and I know I'm not the only sensitive reader out there that this is true of, that like, it's helpful for me to know going in when something like that is coming. I do a lot better and enjoy the story more than if I am taken by surprise. So I mean, I think it helped me . . . I meant to tell you that, Sara, that I was glad to know, because I think it was helpful to just . . . because then I really enjoyed the scene. But I also knew that the tragedy was coming. And you know, I think that that it does, and . . . it's like what you said, Katherine, I think it would have been so different if we hadn't had that setting up for Duncan coming in. So I do think you need it to see and understand the setting so well, and to see the community so well, because it is when the EMTs come in, and they all have known him, and he is, you know, you can tell how emotionally impacted they are that you can see that the whole community is so connected, and I think you need that part to be able to feel the change as Duncan appears.

Katherine 42:48

Yeah, yeah, I think it's, it's a story where, you know, it's a kind of an unusual set of stakes, in some ways. It's not your typical, you know, it's not it's not life or death in the sort of traditional sense in a story. It's um, it's like protecting this very special place. And so that was actually very challenging for me was to figure out how to get the stakes where they needed to be for the story so that it was like a gripping, page-turning read without adding like, you know, a mustache-twisting villain. Well, what how do you how do you do this? How do you make it matter? Right? How do you make it emotionally resonant? And sadly, for all of us, Max had to be sacrificed. There was actually an early early draft of the story where Max was there the whole time. And, and, and Duncan was his assistant. That was very early on, and it like . . . I felt like, you know, it's just, it's not working, you know, it's not working to have Max here, Max needs to be gone. And so that was a sort of a sad realization that he was going to have to sacrifice himself for the story. Because I love Max.

Jen 44:01

Yeah. I think I marked like every single conversation he had with Sam through the whole book is highlighted faithfully on my Kindle because it just . . . every single thing he said, it felt like something I should remember. And I just kept thinking about the timeline of this. Like, I know that you did not start writing this after we learned about COVID. And all of this happened, but the timing is so bizarrely appropriate because I think so many people need the these messages right now. I mean, yeah, how long ago it you started writing this a long time ago, right? You had no idea this was coming.

Katherine 44:38

I wrote. I started writing it in January of 2019. So I spent most of 2019 writing it and was basically done with it right at the beginning of January 2020. So at the start of this year, was when I really turned it in.

Jen 44:52

It's amazing, because yeah, I felt like so much of it could just speak directly to people right now.

Ashley 44:59

Yeah, it's really timely.

Katherine 45:02

Well, and that's why I feel like, you know, I really do feel like I was sort of built for this pandemic, because, you know, I have spent much of my adult life trying to figure out how joy works and how to get it into your life. And that that book Joyful was really, really helpful to me... like when I'm talking in the story about colors and flowers, and, you know, wearing crazy socks, a lot of that is is from that book. So it's just, you know, for me, I wanted to talk about joy. I built the book around the idea of talking about joy and how it works. And I've never tried to write a book like that before. You know, usually what I start with is some kind of a dramatic premise between some people and I built this one totally differently, and it was very challenging, but I also feel like what resulted is a book that's very, very close to my heart because all of this stuff about joy is just like... I mean, Sam is basically a version of me. I don't have pink bangs, but very similar, like I frequently walk... I always have a barette in my hair, and I frequently have like a big flower on the side of my head. It's fake. It's like a fake flower, like a pretty little fake flower. And, you know, every now and then I'll be like, "Is this ridiculous? I'm not sure." And then I'll be like, "Who cares? I don't care. Maybe it's ridiculous. I'm gonna walk around with a flower in my head. It's fine." And it's partly because I'm trying to figure that out, right? I'm trying to figure out how to infuse my life with as much joy as possible. That's become my primary fashion question. You know, not, is this ridiculous? Not are people gonna look at me and be like, "What's going on with that lady?" But, you know, "Is it joyful? Does it make me happy? Is it bright and colorful? Is it going to make somebody smile when they see it?" You know? So, there's a there's a lot of me in this story.

Jen 46:57

That feels like a good transition. But is there anything... I kind of want to have the conversation about Clay reading, Clay Buckley reading the comic books, but I loved that whole part. I was like, Yes, kids need to read... not Steinbeck when they are in elementary school. But we had that in our division, that whole struggle.

Katherine 47:15

Yes, that was a big thing. I interviewed a couple friends of mine who are librarians. And I was like, you know, what are some things that you struggle with that people wouldn't necessarily expect that you struggle with? You know? And my one friend Mary was saying that, you know, we all know about trying to encourage kids to read but she often sees this other problem where parents see that they've got a kid who likes to read and then they just come down on them like a ton of bricks, right and I had that a little bit in my family growing up, you know, my parents are both big readers. And my mom is actually has an MLS. She wanted to be a librarian. She didn't ever actually work as a librarian because her dad died sort of unexpectedly, so she wound up taking over his company. But she got an MLS and was headed to be a librarian, and she loves books. We're a family of books. But it's also true that in my family growing up, Garfield did not count. You know, like we, you know... They wanted us reading real books, they wanted us reading chapter books. And you know, then I married my husband, who is a huge reader and super fast. I'm like a very slow reader. Like I sort of read it like a talking pace. And I've always been sort of frustrated about that. I wish I were faster. There's so many books in the world, and I just want to consume them very quickly and just eat them like cookies. And my husband reads really fast. And so I've always been kind of jealous of that, and he reads for joy. You know, he reads for fun, he reads for pleasure. He reads anything that catches his attention, so he is perfectly happy reading a Peter Benchley novel. You know, he will read Tom Clancy, but he'll also read these big thick history books, and he's very eclectic, and he's very open to things. I'm like, well, that's just because you're fast, you know; it's not a big time commitment for you.

Katherine 49:04

But when we had kids, when our kids got old enough to be interested in comic books, one day he went on eBay and he bought like a giant box of Archie comics. And then basically, our entire house was carpeted with Archie comics for that entire summer. Our kids just did nothing but read. We were giving them away. We were giving neighbors. We're like, just take some! We're drowning, we're drowning! And, you know, it was very surprising to me, because when I was growing up, you know, there were books, and they were comics, and they weren't really the same thing. And my husband's view is, you know what? Reading is reading. And if they're having fun with those, we should get them more. And so I love that idea. You know, I love that sort of freedom of just letting kids figure out what they love to read, figuring out who they are as readers and not shaming them about it or being weird about it or telling them that it doesn't count. And, you know, I have this whole kind of philosophy that we should all let ourselves read what we want to read, right? That there should be no reading guilty pleasures. I have actually a whole thing about this on my website, a whole essay, and I read an essay about it that's going to be at the end of the audiobook of What You Wish For. It's me, in my husband's closet during the pandemic, reading this essay that I wrote about what it means to me to read for joy. Reading for joy is not just reading happy stories. I think reading for joy means finding the stories that you need to hear, even if they're tragic, even if they're horror stories, even if they're thrillers. Whatever it is that your own heart, your own soul needs to wrestle with on kind of that virtual stage that stories are in our minds, whatever stories you need to work through, whatever challenges you need to face, in a metaphorical way through a novel... When you find those stories, it's so satisfying to read them. You know? when you find the right story for you, whatever that story is that you need at that particular moment in your life, it's so satisfying that it feels like joy. And I think we should pay attention to that. I think, you know, we grow up, and we go to school. And we have English teachers, and we want to be good students. And we absorb a lot of attitudes about what kind of stories are valuable and what kind of stories are not. And I think that it's really important in adulthood to sort of question some of those assumptions, because I think that what I came out of high school sort of believing was that good stories were like a hierarchy--literature at the top, you know, and then it kind of worked its way down through like mysteries and noirs and you know, down to the very bottom, which was probably, you know, romance and I just had this idea of like, you know, It's very simple and it's linear.

Katherine 51:25

And what I figured out as an adult is that stories are not a hierarchy; stories are a universe. Right? It's all different kinds of stories in all different kinds of manifestations for all different reasons. And the way I think about it now, as a person who's thought about it, maybe too much is that it's kind of... I think of stories more like music. You know? On any given day, you might be in a mood to listen to Ella Fitzgerald, you might want to listen to Queen, you know, you might want to listen to George Michael, pick something you might want to listen to like jazz, you might want to listen to classical, you know, you might want to listen to something that's got a lot of violins and is totally gonna break your heart rate and fill your eyes up with tears. Or you might want to listen to some like super happy pop song that makes you just want to jump around in the kitchen and dance. Those are all songs that help you access different kinds of emotions that are kind of rolling around, you know, in the big ocean of your subconscious. And one of those is not inherently better than the other, right? It just depends on what you need in the moment what your mood is. And you have this giant menu of choices.

Katherine 53:17

And I think stories are very much kind of the same way. You know, somebody was asking me during the pandemic, do you think people are going to want to be reading, like love stories with happy endings, because everyone's so sad? And I was like, Well, I know that is true of me, right? I know that I am checking beforehand, before I read or consume any story to make sure that it ends well, because I do not have any tolerance for any more heartbreak right now. But I also think, you know, it may be different for different people. There are people who may want to read horror stories right during the pandemic so that they can get on that sort of virtual story stage and contend with monsters, right? There may be people who want to read tragedy so that they can really get in there and play feel that heartache that's kind of inside right now as television static, and they may need to kind of pull it in and make it something that they can wrestle with, you know? And so I think, you know, we all need different stories in different ways at different times. And for me, that's what reading for joy is. It's giving yourself permission to follow your own compass about what you want to read.

Give Me One: Favorite Pet Story

image of the words "Give Me One" repeated

Jen 54:24

That's great. All right, well, we are going to end our episode the way we ended all of our episodes with a Give me one and today's topic is Give Me One favorite pet story. Let's see... Ashley, do you want to share a favorite pet story?

Ashley 54:41

So when... shortly after -- my mom died 16 years ago -- and shortly after she died, we were visiting my husband's family in North Carolina. And we went to a hardware store. I can't remember what... you know, we needed like a light bulb or something... And so we were running an errand, I think for the family. And on the way in there were pets outside that were.. and it was Animal Control that was there. And they were, you know, they had the animals that were there to be adopted. And I got very attached to a dog that was called Cookie. And we managed to make it through the store. We did the trip, we bought the thing, we left... I don't remember the details. I mean, it was a hard time. And I don't remember the details, but I know that clearly I pushed hard enough to where we went back to the hardware store to Cookie who became Ginger, and that was our dog that we had for 13 years. So she was phenomenal. But we already had a dog, a German Shepherd, prior and we were very young. And so we were already like navigating the one dog. The one dog had a lot of special needs. And so we kept thinking that a second (at least I thought, okay, in my grief stricken mind, that another dog was going to be a big help). So anyway for years and really honestly, to this day, if there are animals outside of a place, I find that we don't wind up going into the place. So I don't know, there was some impact from that. But you know, she was a great dog. She was very sweet. So it did work out well for us, but it was like, I'm sure that my poor life partner was like, I thought we were just running this errand and then there's a situation where I wanted it. And you know, this horrible, you know, I had had a horrible loss. And so it was like, What are you going to do? Say no to the dog? No, no! No one says no to the dog. So we had two dogs, two big dogs.

Katherine 56:46

You know, I've got to tell you, you seem so young to me that when you started this story and said it was 16 years ago, I was like, okay, so she was like seven? And then you said my husband and I was like what?

Jen 57:02

So Catherine, how about you? What's a favorite pet story?

Katherine 57:05

Okay, this is... I do have a good pet store. It's a little heartbreaking, but also so funny. So when our kids were little, they were... I don't remember exactly how old but they were old enough that we were still in the phase of parenting where you can spell things are and your kids are not going to know what you're talking about. So that little, and we had this cat, this sort of plump little calico cat. And she was an indoor cat. She was a house cat and one day she went missing and we couldn't find her, you know, for like a full 24 hour day and I was like, Where's the cat? This is very weird. So that night at bedtime I was putting the kids to bed. My son was maybe like two, and my daughter was maybe like four, and I was in the big rocker with them, and we were reading bedtime stories, and then I said to my husband, "Can you go l-o-o-k for the c-a-t?" Like, I don't know what the situation is. And so he was like, Sure, I'll go handle it. I'll figure it out. So he goes looking. I hear in the room next door like this clumping, like it sounds like he's building a chest of drawers or something. And they're like noises, noises, he finally comes back in. And I'm like, did you mmmmm? And he's like, uh huh. And I was like, is she s-i-c-k, and he was like, she is d-e-a-d. I was horrified. And I was very fond of this cat, right? But, but also when you're a parent, and you've got little kids, and you're at the finish line of the day... I did not want to, like, betray any emotion. I'm definitely not telling it all in right. I'm holding it in. We finished the book we're reading. I pleasantly took everybody, right? And then finally the kids are down, and I make my way into our bedroom and I'm like, Oh, my God, what's going on? Where is she? And he explains that he had found her under our daughter's bed frame. She crawled under there, and she had died. And, and I'm like, Where is she now? And he holds up this hefty bag. And I'm like, What? You put her in a hefty bag? She can't breathe in there! And he's like, Sweetheart... No, you know, have you heard the stories about Martha Washington and how she wasn't really dead, when they buried her? Like maybe she's not actually dead? maybe? And now you're suffocating her! And he was like, Sweetheart, let me tell you something. You could hit a baseball with this cat. Very sad. I cried. It was raining. My husband went outside and like dug a grave for the cat and buried her, and we did not tell the kids about it. We told the kids that she had quote unquote, gone to the vet. Oh, and we maintained that story for a couple of years. They were young enough that they did not question the veracity of that story. They'd be like she's still at the vet? And we'd say yes! Crazy!

Ashley 59:57

I will say that our dog Ginger that I told the story about died when my daughter was two. And we did tell her. I read all these things, you know, I'm a reader. I read all these things about what to do and how to manage it. And it was like, just stick to the facts. Keep it straight, but just say the thing. So that's what I did. So then she was like, newly talking, but she would run into people and be like, our dog ginger died. We were torn up about it. You know, we were really sad. But she, and she was sad, but also very confused. And so then it was just like really bizarre. Yeah, I mean, it's that moment where I was like, I should have said that she went to see your dog friends. I mean, like, because it was just over and over again. These really awkward encounters with people where I was like, well, she did. And we're sad. I mean, you know, what are you going to say?

Katherine 60:51

We had other pets that have passed away at various stages for the kids, and with I will say in our defense with most of them, we just told the kids what happened. But with this one, we both just totally chickened out. I mean years, years went by before we finally let them know that Yeah, that cat has been dead forever. And actually that scene went into one of my books, Happiness for Beginners there's a . . . there's a dog, where the dog dies, and anyway I'm a huge dog person and sometimes dog people don't love that scene. But it is actually based on something real, and I think it's it's very funny that Duncan Carpenter's involved!

Jen 61:28

I was going to say, I know that scene! But it's later on so I wasn't ... you know, maybe spoiler territory, but...

Katherine 61:36

It's kind of a depressing pet story but so funny.

Ashley 61:41

That's hilarious.

Sara 61:47

All right, Sara, how about you? What's a good pet story?

Sara 61:52

So I we don't have a pet now. Much to the chagrin of my children. They they are lobbying for a pet all the time. But we just we don't have one right now. So I'm going to . . . we always had pets growing up at my house, and my dad always had a cocker spaniel. Not the same one, but because there's been a lot of deaths of animals, but, but he always, like cocker spaniels are his favorite. So we always had a cocker spaniel. And we would also have puppies sometimes and I just as a child, I mean that was the best thing ever is having those puppies. And but I mean it would be sad when they left when they went to new homes, but we would . . . my sister is three years younger than I, and we would take the puppies in and dress them in our doll clothes. And because I don't know if you're familiar with cocker spaniel puppies, but they're pretty sleepy little things and they . . . you can pretty well--we didn't torture them or anything, but we did dress them in clothes and put them in doll baby buggies and roll around our neighborhood and stuff. And I mean, I mean it's very fond memory probably not for the puppies, but for me.

Jen 63:07

That's so sweet.

Sara 63:08

But they were the sweetest little puppies. Oh my gosh. And I mean all of our cocker spaniel dogs, like the mothers, were always so sweet. So they . . . cocker spaniels have a special place in my heart. I mean, they remind me of my childhood.

Ashley 63:21

We had cocker spaniels, too, Sara. I did not know this about you. We really had one while I was growing up, but my parents had had them prior as well. But yeah, that's funny.

Sara 63:37

Jen, what about you?

Jen 63:38

Yes. Okay, so I have had a lot of very good dogs over the course of my life, but . . . and our dog is really sweet, though he is the first male dog I've ever had, and that's a whole different thing. But anyway, but growing up . . . so we had always had, and we . . . our philosophy is different, but we had outside dogs like that was just the way my dad had grown up: dogs live outside, and we loved them and we took care of them and we visited them all the time, but they were outside dogs. We had a beloved Basset hound who died when I was in college. And I came home for the summer, and we adopted a new Basset hound. And I was having none of that being an outside dog. So Cleo became an inside dog. And I don't know if it was because it was our first inside dog or if it was just her personality, but she was so bad. And like she loved us. And she loved us very much. But she was . . . if she got mad, she was one of those dogs who would find like a stack of magazines and shred them all over the living room, or she would . . . I mean she just would destroy things. So we had to rearrange basically our entire household around this dog Cleo. We we had to have our Christmas tree in the basement because she would chew it up. We would go down into the basement to open gifts, and she would be mad because we'd left her alone too long. So we would come upstairs on Christmas morning and find like something destroyed all over the living room.

Jen 64:53

So the other thing was my dad thought he was a tough guy, but he was a softy. And so he fed her from the table all the time. She was a Basset hound. She got so fat. I mean she was like a morbidly obese Basset and her armpits would get Chafed. So we would say, Cleo, Cleo, come here. Armpit. And she would lift up her little Basset hound leg and we will put Gold Bond powder. My sister's boyfriend was like, why does it smell like my grandma in here, and it was our dog with this Gold Bond powder. Oh my gosh, I we have a lot of really funny Cleo pictures where you can just tell like she just looked at this look in her eye, and it was like she would mumble under her breath. Like she was telling you off. It's so funny. And I loved her so much like, I don't love her more than the other dogs, but you would think because she was so bad, I would really, you know, it wouldn't be fond memories. But yeah, I loved our Cleo. She was bad. She was a bad dog. She didn't listen to anybody. Yes, she was really . . .

Ashley 66:01

Our German Shepherd was that way with that. Same. She was a very sweet dog, but she . . . same. She was smart, and she would get angry. And when she was angry, man, she would let you know. And she would tear stuff up very deliberately. Our other dog, Ginger, tore stuff up too, but more just like I'm bored. I mean, she was like, yeah, whereas like Honey never tore anything up except when she was angry. And then she would like shred apart, you know, something to make sure you knew that she was upset with you.

Katherine 66:28

We have a little dog right now named Sweetie. And actually her original name was Ginger.

Jen 66:30

Oh, that's funny.

Ashley 66:38

My heart warmed just then, I want you to know. Dogs have that effect on people.

Katherine 66:43

But my, we told the kids they could name her, and I was like, let's just keep Ginger, and they were like, no, so we named the dog Sweetie because that's what the kids wanted to do. And she's super cute. She looks like a little tiny sheep dog, you know like if you didn't know [inaudible], she has no eyes. And she's itty bitty. I mean, she's medium size, but she she's very fluffy. When she arrived, she was a rescue. She was like a year old when they found her. And when she got to her house, she was totally chill, you know. But what's happened is, yeah, my sweet, loving, adorable husband is a total softy with this dog. And at this point, we're just joking constantly that he's in an abusive relationship with the dog because she just, she just stares at him until he does her bidding. I mean, she gives him this face this cute dog face. And he just does anything she wants. Like, stand up for yourself, man.

Ashley 67:38

Our current dog is the same way. She she rules the house ,and I'm like, How did this happen? She was the last one here. There are five of us, and she was the last one here. But she rules that . . . I mean, she just rules the house and particularly rules him and I'm just like, it is a total reversal of every other pet experience we have had together. And it's so interesting. I don't know how that's happening.

Katherine 67:59

It's especially been bad during the pandemic, you know, the dog is staring at me. My husband usually gets a break during the day because he goes to school, but now he's been home all the time with the dog staring. And the other day he was like we can never have any more pets. I can't take it. I'm exhausted.

Jen 68:14

I love that so much. Oh my goodness. Well, Katherine, I have just . . . we have had so much fun talking with you.

Katherine 68:20

You guys are the best! Thank you so much! What a treat.

Jen 68:24

Well and I hope everyone gets your book What You Wish For. So this releases . . . I'm doing the think ahead. So this releases on Wednesday, so the book will have released just yesterday. So everyone, I hope you go out check it out. We'd love to know what you think!


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