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No river named Tomorrow around here

Lesley KagenWhen my first novel, Whistling in the Dark, was declared a breakout hit and New York Times bestseller, I was utterly bowled over.  Especially after the invitations came pouring in from readers who invited me to their monthly book club discussions, and the bookstores that’d set aside evenings for me to speak. Almost overnight I, a 57-year-old menopausal woman who felt lucky to remember where she’d parked her car, had magically morphed into a sought-after author.

I’m truly grateful for all the time I’ve spent talking to readers who share their wine, tasty treats and feelings.  While many of their reactions to my books have moved me to tears, it’s not always been a smooth sail.  I’ve received more than a few comments from readers and others along the publishing trail that would qualify as out-and-out odd and decidedly, well, testy.  Here are a couple of the more intriguing ones along with my responses that I may or may not have spoken aloud:

1. This from a woman at a library event during a discussion of Whistling in the Dark:  “I like the book and everything, but I grew up during that era and I think you should’ve tried harder to be more accurate. You do know that there were no homosexuals in Milwaukee during the 1950s, don’t you?”

Me: (Stunned.) “Ahhh…are you suggesting that gay men weren’t invented until 1967 in San Francisco?”

2. A young woman commenting during the Q & A time at a bookstore appearance for Good Graces, which is set during my childhood years: “I really loved your book and I don’t normally like historical fiction!”

Me: (Unable to respond because my jaw had dropped down to my historically sagging bosom.)

3. During a book club discussion for Mare’s Nest: “Clear something up for me. You just told us this book took you almost 10 years to write. How come?  I read it in three days.

Me: “Hmmm…do you have any more of those peanut butter cookies?”

4. In an email from a reader in Virginia commenting on my novel, Tomorrow River, which was set in her hometown: “I lived here my whole life and there’s no river named Tomorrow around here.”

Me:  It’s not a real river.  The book is just titled that because it was something the girls’ mother told them. I made it up.”

Her response:  “Well, what ya wanna go and do that for?”

5. When absolutely nobody showed up to hear me speak in a bookstore in Michigan, the manager tried to cheer me up by telling me: “Don’t feel bad. Everyone’s probably at the grand opening of the new Dollar Store. They’re giving away combs. You wanna head over there?”

Me: (A woman who hasn’t had a drink in 30 years.) “Can we stop at a bar along the way?”

7.  This last encounter took place when publisher’s representative, Sylvia, and I were lunching before the release of my first novel. This gal, who was supposed to be my book’s number one supporter, had just inserted a dinner roll into her mouth when I asked her what she thought the chances were that Whistling in the Dark would be selected by the exclusive independent booksellers BookSense list. Sylvia began snort-laughing so uncontrollably that the roll became lodged in her throat.

Me: (Sitting in the ruins of a burst bubble.) “Oh, gosh.” Barely patting her on the back, just a graze, really.) “I used to know the Heimlich maneuver, but my memory just isn’t what it used to be.”

— Lesley Kagen

Lesley Kagen is a mother of two, a grandmother of two, an actress, former restaurateur, celebrated public speaker, essayist and the award-winning, New York Times’ bestselling author of Whistling in the Dark, Land of a Hundred Wonders, Tomorrow River, Good Graces, Mare’s Nest, The Undertaking of Tess and The Resurrection of Tess Blessing. Her novels have been published in the Netherlands, China, Taiwan, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Russia. She lives in Wisconsin in a 100-year-old farmhouse. Find reading guides and event information at www.lesleykagen.com and at www.facebook.com/LesleyKagenBooks.

Open letter to my husband’s work wife

Samantha RodmanDear “Work Wife,”

Ha ha! I think that term is so funny. Mark only uses it to be ironic. He is a really ironic guy. I mean, you should see his collection of funny T-shirts. Wait, you can’t, since you only see him at work. There is so much about him you don’t get to see, I guess. “Work wife,” super funny.

I think it’s so great that you guys are close friends, though.  I mean, not close close, since you’ve never even been over to our house.  Except for that one time, the barbecue, and people invite everyone to a barbecue. You barely have to know them. Not like you, though. Of course, he knows you! From work.

I really also appreciate that since he can’t call me during the day, because of that work policy, he has you to talk to. He loves to have someone listen to him talk, ha ha!  Meryl says it’s because he was an only child, and he got so much attention.  Oh, Meryl is his mom, you wouldn’t know that. I never call her Meryl, though, except to strangers. I call her Mom. We’re super close.

I heard about how you’re getting really into golf. I never liked golf even though Mark does. He said it was fine because he liked to hang out with the guys anyway. Now he takes you. Guess you’re like one of the guys, ha ha! I use that time to go to spin class and Zumba. Because golf isn’t really exercise. Men can just hang out in a golf cart and drink beer, but if a woman wants to look good, she has to work at it! But I’m probably boring you; you don’t look like a gym type, ha ha! To each her own!

The time you guys went to that conference and he didn’t pick up his phone for two days didn’t bother me at all. I understand about how there aren’t a lot of cell towers in Orlando. I was grateful that at least he had you there if spouses weren’t allowed to go. And I saw how sad he was that he couldn’t take me along, even though he didn’t want to say it out loud and make us both upset. And it was so sweet that he got me that Mickey Mouse mug, since he knows I love Disney. It’s the little things.

In fact, did you know we went to Disney on our honeymoon? We had a lot of sex then. Oops, TMI! But it was really over the top. We just have that physical connection. It’s a shame about work making Mark so exhausted lately. But I’m sure we will get our mojo back! Even the best marriages take work, which you wouldn’t know, since you’re still single. But it’s okay; I mean, being single is fun. Ha ha!  I mean, for some people, it really is! For me, though, it was actually super lonely and depressing, and I was so happy to find my soulmate.

Speaking of that, I’ve tried to ask Mark to set you up with some of his single friends, but it goes nowhere. It even seems to irritate him when I ask. I think it’s probably because you’re not any of his friends’ types, so it might end up awkward for everyone. His friends are really attractive guys, so they usually go for model types. And who can compete with that? I mean, I modeled as a teenager for some catalogs. But nothing major. Mark got a kick out of the pictures, though!

It’s too bad about that new thing where you guys have to work late twice a week. It’s getting so strict there. Totally different than when Mark started and he was home every night by 6 and never had to go in on weekends. But I guess that’s why he makes the big bucks! And you do too, of course.

Let’s definitely hang out sometime. If you’re the “work wife,” it makes us like sister wives! Ha ha! I love those shows with sister wives. I always think they’re so funny because the man so obviously prefers one wife to the others. It’s always the first one, too.

Anyway, talk soon!

XO,

Mark’s Real Wife, ha ha!

— Samantha Rodman

Samantha Rodman is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Maryland and a happily married mom of three kids under 5.  She blogs on Dr. Psych Mom and has been featured in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy. Like her on Facebook, and tweet to her @DrPsychMom.

A newborn, a toad and a knight in a raincoat

Anne BardsleyMy daughter and son-in-law were in the hospital nuzzling their newborn daughter. I was at their home entertaining my two-year-old grandaughter, Kaylee. I was in heaven! They’d left at five a.m. for the hospital. Contractions were coming fast. I seem to remember some directions about the alarm as I pushed them out the door. “Don’t worry,” I told them. “Go have that baby.” I went back to bed.

When Kaylee awoke around eight, I explained that mommy and daddy went to the hospital. Her new baby sister, Riley Mae, had arrived. We were going to see her, too. Their Labrador, Tahoe, was prancing to go outside. I picked Kaylee up and carried her to the door to let him out. Wait, wait…what about that alarm? Do I turn it off? Or is it already off? I couldn’t remember. Tahoe needed out so I hit the passcode and opened the door. “Intruder! Intruder! Intruder!” the alarm screamed. I hit cancel. Nothing! More intruder warnings ensued. My meltdown was brewing.

I hit reset. I hit every button on the panel, smacking at it like a wild beast. It got louder and louder! Kaylee started wailing, the dog was barking, and I was cursing. By the grace of God, I hit a button, and it stopped.

“Shut the DUCK up!” Kaylee mimicked me loudly. I looked at her in horror, thankful that she misunderstood me.

A UPS delivery arrived just as the alarm quieted down. I put Tahoe back in the house and stepped outside to sign the receipt. I was holding Kaylee in my arms. We were both in pajamas. My hair was matted from the sweat of the alarm snafu. Kaylee’s looked like she’d been electrocuted. I apologized for our appearance. I got the paperwork all squared away and went to go back in the house. UH-OH, the door was locked!  My cell phone was inside. I had no way to contact my daughter. We were in a jam, big time. Did I mention no diapers? Meltdown was increasing to a Defcon level.

God was watching over me because the neighbor, Jay, was working from home that day. They actually call him Neighbor Jay. Kaylee refers to him as Uncle Neighbor Jay. I padded across the lawn in the swampy grass. Then it started to rain really hard. “Oh, Neighbor Jay,” I called sweetly dripping all over his porch. Fortunately he had a spare key, and he knew the pass code for the alarm. He let us in and headed back across the lawn. “Let’s keep this a secret between us, okay?” I asked. “Oh sure, Gigi, no problem.” I loved Neighbor Jay at that moment.

I put a load of clothes in the washer and proceed to make us breakfast. Kaylee sat on the counter watching me get her bagel ready. Suddenly Tahoe was at my feet nuzzling me. He kept jumping at my wet socks. I looked down to see something moving. I thought it was a hairband or a dust bunny. Tahoe began to bark incessantly.

I looked at my feet and sitting right on my toes was a huge, brown spotted toad. I’m not afraid of frogs, but I screeched, grabbed Kaylee, shoved Tahoe in the garage and tore ass back to neighbor Jay’s.

By now it was pouring sheets of rain. My hair was soaked, Kaylee was hanging on for her life…sagging on my hip. I was puffing from all this excitement. “Oh, Jay,” I bellowed again. Poor Neighbor Jay. All he wanted was a peaceful day to work from home, and here I come in meltdown mode, like a raging wild maniac.

“Neighbor Jay,” I pleaded, “I need you to be my knight in shining armor…. again.” This can be a secret, too, right?” He nodded. “Sure Gigi. Do you want to come in and dry off?” He got us each a towel.

I explained that I’d just done some laundry and out of nowhere this toad arrived. He was somewhere in the kitchen; at least I hope he’s still in the kitchen. I didn’t know what to do. He grabbed his hat, an umbrella for me and his rain jacket. We trudged back through the soaked grass. We gingerly got to the kitchen and, sure enough, he was waiting for my wet feet to come back so he could perch longer. He was probably recovering from the boot I gave him when I realized he was a toad!

Jay scooped the frog up in his hand. “Do you want to pet him?” he asked. Mr. Toad looked at me, and I felt bad. All he wanted to do was sit on my wet socks. He was content there. Now we had all this excitement. I declined the touching experience as he took him to the garden. Kaylee started crying because she didn’t get to pet the frog.

I hadn’t even take a sip of coffee yet when my daughter called to brag about the baby’s cuteness. “How things are going there?” she asked.

“Oh, things are good here. We’re having breakfast. It’s all good. Kaylee woke up at eight, had her breakfast, and we’re watching Mickey Mouse. I did a load of laundry. It’s in the dryer now. I’m having my second cup of coffee. Everything is calm as can be here. I let Tahoe out, and I signed for your delivery. All is good.” I breathed deeply.

I didn’t mention the screaming alarm, getting locked out, bothering Neighbor Jay or the toad. Basically, I lied.

“Oh, Brett just talked to Neighbor Jay, and he said he saw you this morning. Twice!”

What kind of knight in shining armor can’t keep a secret?!?!? Seriously! If it wasn’t raining so hard, I’d trudge back to his house and give him hell. A calmer mind prevailed as I remembered that he really was my knight in a raincoat that morning. It wouldn’t be fair to yell at him after all he’d done for me that morning.

And who knows? I might get fired and have to stay at his house next trip. I baked him cookies instead.

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley, of St. Petersburg, Fla., is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles, a collection of humorous and sentimental stories about marriage, motherhood and menopause. She lives in a menopausal world with a husband who gives her wrinkles. When people ask her age, she sometimes tells them her bra size. “36-C,” she says, “was a wonderful age.”

Bacon and lies

Doug CloughJust last week I got the best compliment from my son that a man can possibly get. When I asked him how he liked his breakfast, he said, “It was in the top five of my bacon moments.” I was so proud that I posted it on Facebook.

My good wife saw the post and everything went awry. You see, I made the eggs, but I really didn’t cook the bacon. She did. She baked it in the oven resulting in pork belly perfection that my son proclaimed, “not burnt and not chewy — awesome.”

In my defense, I didn’t tell him I made it; I just smiled and walked away in triumph. Those of you who have teenage boys knows what it’s like to receive the slightest praise — deserved or not — and run with it.

To this end, I offer this formal apology to my wife. This isn’t the first time our kids have given me praise for something that she’s done. I’ve been thanked for wedding, birthday and Christmas gifts that I had no part in choosing.

The extent of my participation is uttering the noncommittal ‘uh-huh’ when my wife asks for my opinion.

My daughter has thanked me for UPS packages when I barely knew the contents. I’ve even ribbed my wife for a gift choice and found out later that toddlers still do play with a ball for hours. She’s smart like that… simple or complicated, she knows her audience and enjoys playing to it.

This could be a gender issue. My mother was clearly the gift giver in our family. Even when we wrote letters to Santa, we gave them to mom to get mailed. Give them to Dad? Preposterous! He would have uttered the noncommittal, “uh-huh,” and the letter would have been kindling in a yuletide fire.

A single-income family, our father financially backed mother’s love for gift giving but left her entirely to the details. Keeping track of her son’s likes and dislikes is what mom did best: a rocket kit for Charlie, art supplies for Jeff and a weight-lifting set for Mike. If my dad would have been cornered into buying me a gift, he may well have bought shrimp cocktail on sale — and I have a shellfish allergy.

I refuse to play the gender card, however. I am above such behavior even if my gift is the ability to lie by omission. This Thanksgiving, I will let my daughter know who sought out the perfect gift for her birthday. At Christmas, I will make sure my son knows who gave the presents that are under the tree. Like, Ebenezer Scrooge, I will be a changed man.

I most sincerely regret my Facebook post. Granted, it was bacon. I put the four tender slices on the plate with the same fried eggs I slaved over. You should have seen my boy’s expression and his genuine sense of gratitude. As proof of my presentation, my post got 37 likes, nine comments and an invitation to a Missouri Bacon Festival. A man rarely lives to get that kind of praise. You’d think my wife would be more supportive.

Uh-huh.

— Doug Clough

Doug Clough writes a column for the Ida County Courier in Ida Grove, Iowa, called “From our backyard…”  His work has appeared in Farm News, The Iowan and Boating World, and he served as a travel scout for Midwest Living. “I am a father of a salad bowl family (aka ‘blended’), a customer service manager, the possession of my Labradoodle and — in a former life — an English teacher. Someone has to enjoy that mix; it may as well be me,” he says.

Turkey day history quiz

myron.kuklaThanksgiving is coming this month. As we all know, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 by the Mayflower Pilgrims to give thanks to God for having an abundant fall harvest and the fact that less than half of them died from starvation, scurvy or the plague during their first year here. 

The Pilgrims shared their first Thanksgiving with local Indians who had taught them how to plant, hunt and find edible fruits and berries that first year, which contributed to their survival.

And that’s pretty well all most of know about the first Thanksgiving. To prove it, I’ve created a little Thanksgiving quiz for you.

1. The first Pilgrim Thanksgiving was in?

a) a McDonald’s

b) Lions stadium in Detroit between halves

c)  Plymouth, Mass.

2.  Deer was likely served at the first Thanksgiving, but turkey became the traditional dish because?

a) you have deer leftovers for months

b) turkey fit on the table better

c) the Turkey Producers Association had a strong lobby

3. Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in the U.S.?

a) as a way to find a use for cranberries

b) to set a standard date for the after-Thanksgiving sales

c) by President Abraham Lincoln

4.  Which food was probably eaten at the first Thanksgiving?

a) chili dogs

b) Pilgrim ice cream

c) corn or maize

5. It is traditional to watch the Detroit Lions play football on Thanksgiving Day because?

a) it used to be the only thing on television

b) people need to snooze after a big meal

c) Detroit might win the game

6.  The Horn of Plenty, or Cornucopia, symbolizes?

a) drawings we had to make in grade school

b) Fruit of the Loom underwear

c) abundance

7. Who led the crusade to establish Thanksgiving as a national day of thanks?

a) Pilgrims

b) Butterball

c) Sarah Josepha Hale

8. Why do Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October?

a) the Canadian calendar doesn’t have November

b) Canadians have less to be thankful for so they celebrate earlier

c) who cares, they’re Canadian

9. The Pilgrims had what to drink at the first Thanksgiving?

a) Mayflower cola

b) a cranberry martini

c) creek water

10.  In the Thanksgiving song “Over the River and Through the Woods,” to whose house are we going to?

a) House of Flavors

b) the House of the Rising Sun

c) grandmother’s house

11.  During the first Thanksgiving men and women did not sit together at dinner because?

a) the men where in another room watching football

b) no one thought to invite them

c) women had to cook, serve the meal and clean up leaving little time for such frivolous, time-wasting activities as eating

12. Why does the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November?

a) to coincide with the Thanksgiving day football games

b) to give men a break from deer hunting

c) because President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set that as the day of observance of Thanksgiving as a national holiday

13.  The first Thanksgiving was at the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement in 1619 but didn’t catch on because?

a). they lost the recipe for turkey

b). Plymouth Pilgrims had better public relations

c). they only had a prayer service and no dinner to celebrate

14. Scallops and cranberry dressing is a favorite Thanksgiving dish for?

a) no one

b) people searching for the most obscure cranberry side dish recipe they can find

c) residents of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia

15. Giblets are?

a) garbage

b) martini drinks garnished with lemon

c) edible bird entrails

16.  A wattle is?

a) an instrument played with a comb and tissue paper

b) the sound a turkey makes when it drinks water

c) the fleshy red rubbery-thing hanging from a turkey’s beak

17.  Stuffing got its name from?

a) the feeling you get when you eat too much

b)  the culinary act of “stuffing”  meat cavities with bread

c) the French word for “farce,” which means “stuffing”

18. If you find the wishbone of a turkey it is?

a. not a lucky thing for the turkey

b. means you get to do the Thanksgiving dishes

c. supposedly lucky if you break it with someone and get the bigger piece of wishbone

19. President Harry Truman was the first president to do what with a turkey?

a. give a presidential pardon to the White House turkey

b. be investigated for giving a presidential pardon to a turkey

c. be indicted for abuse of power by giving a pardon to a turkey

20. Which of the following phrases best fits this day?

a. “I’m hungry. Let’s eat”

b. “Happy Thanksgiving”

c. “Let us be thankful to God”

Answers 1 through 18 are C, 19 is A, and 20 is your choice.

— Myron Kukla

Myron Kukla is a professional journalist, writer and owner of the West Michigan-based marketing company WriteStuff.  Kukla is the author of two books of humor, Confessions of a Baby Boomer: Memories of Things I Haven’t Forgotten Yet and Guide to Surviving Life. He has also just published two ebooks on Amazon.com, Chomp andSomething in the Blood.

Sometimes a word or two says it all

Steve EskewI recently returned to my hometown of Grand Island, Neb. In due time, I headed for a nightclub on the edge of town that has been in business for over 50 years, affectionately known as the Snake Pit. Back in my youth, when running water was a novelty, I worked after school busing tables in that joint. The owner and I have been pen pals all these years.

During intense introspection that only a narcissist could appreciate, I came to realize that the Snake Pit housed many personalities that I’ve conceived both consciously and subconsciously as models for many of the characters in my writings. One guy in particular.

Positioned like a wine cellar down under a four-story country hotel, the Snake Pit has actually changed very little in 50 years. Still clean. Still fun.

The proprietor and my longtime pen pal is a gal named Myrtle. She’s 86 now and she reminds me of TV-star Betty White. Sharp, loaded with energy and funny. After I entered the joint on the first night of my hometown visit, I introduced myself to the host/bouncer and asked if Myrtle was around. As he swaggered off to fetch her, I gazed at the diners, mostly a crowd of 60-somethings. Some were dancing to the band’s 1940s music.

Someone behind me said, “BOING!”

Grinning, I turned around and looked into Myrtle’s mischievous eyes. Whenever we wrote to each other, our greeting would begin with the word, “BOING!” That had been the signature sound emitted most nights in the early 1960s from a six-foot-five, 350-pound slot machine addict named Mortimer O’Malley.

Whereas most the Snake Pit’s patrons came clad in casual dress up, Mortimer consistently showed up in clean blue-jean overalls and a red baseball cap. He would come roaring into the rear of the hotel parking lot every night on a dilapidated orange tractor. His driver’s license had been permanently revoked but, most nights, he could successfully (thus, legally) pilot the tractor down the county dirt roads.

When Mortimer uttered a complete sentence, he would stutter, so he pretty much preferred to express himself with one-syllable words like “BOING!” As he played the one-armed bandits, the drunker he became, the louder the “BOING!” As the night moved onward ever onward and Mortimer grew woozier ever woozier, he  would variate his loud “BOING!” to a lighter “BONG!” and his last utterance before he would stagger out and plant his enormously fat fanny on his tractor was a high-pitched “BING!”

One night, he brought Myrtle a load of fresh farm eggs , dropped them on the floor, slid across the room in the slick mess, screaming “BOING!” But before he could say “BONG!” or “BING,” he fell hard, racking his head on the dance floor. He died instantly. No blood. We speculated that his heart had stooped beating right after he said his final: “BOING!”

After his body was removed, no easy task I grant you, I had the chore of cleaning up the broken-egg mess. I’m ashamed to admit it but all I could think of as I scooped up the broken eggs was “Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.”

Most people liked Mortimer, but no one really mourned his death. His Irish family held his wake at the Snake Pit. His wake was a joyous affair. At one point, Myrtle’s husband  Maynard and I stepped outside of the nightclub to sneak a smoke. We noticed crows perched on the trees above. In a giddy mood from celebrating our man Mortimer’s life, I yelled at the crows “CAW!” Maynard repeated the word: “CAW!

We got the giggles.

Eventually, it became our salutation to each other. Throughout the years, whenever  Myrtle and I talk on the phone, Maynard takes the phone out of her hand, says “CAW!” I answer “CAW!” and that is the extent of our conversation.

And, wouldn’t ya know, as I was standing there reminiscing with Myrtle the night of my recent visit to the Snake Pit, I heard a loud “CAW!” It was the now-88-year-old Maynard. I countered with “CAW!” He grinned and walked away.

Smiling at Myrtle. I said “BOING!” She said “BOING!” and I walked out.

And people say I’m gabby. Sheesh!

— Steve Eskew

Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website, eskewtotherescue.com.

The simple beauty

Scary Mommy Thanksgiving ProjectThe Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Project began three years ago, with just a handful of families.

A handful of mothers who confessed not being able to afford Thanksgiving dinners and a handful of readers who volunteered to help them. Nobody was trying to save the world; we just wanted to be able to make a difference in one family’s life.

And then the magic happened.

More families came forward with their struggles and even more families pitched in to help, donating anywhere from a dollar to several hundred. Over four hundred families celebrated a Thanksgiving dinner they otherwise would have gone without and Scary Mommy Nation (now a 501(c)3 charity) was born.

Every day, Scary Mommy is proud to showcase a variety of viewpoints and perspectives from mothers everywhere. Underneath all of our differences – behind all of that which too often divides us – the wonder of a mother’s love for her children is universal. And what can be more instinctually maternal than wanting to be able to nurture and provide for your family?

That’s the simple beauty of the Thanksgiving Project. Our children – and our struggle for their well-being – is what connects this community. To date, more than 4,500 families have benefitted from the Thanksgiving Project. Last year alone, we received 2,765 applications and were able to fulfill each and every one. It’s time to do it all again.Welcome to The 2014 Thanksgiving Project!

If you are involved in blogging or social media, please help us spread the word.

If you have or know of a business who would like exposure and good karma, learn more here.

If you can afford to help a struggling family, please donate here. Fifty dollars buys an entire dinner – you can, of course, give less and be grouped with other donors, or give more and sponsor multiple families. (You can also mail checks to: Scary Mommy Nation, PO Box 20866 Baltimore, MD 21209)

Thank you for supporting the Thanksgiving Project, however you are able!

— Jill Smokler

New York Times’ best-selling author and domestic satirist Jill Smokler, creator of the popular parenting blog Scary Mommy, sought out a number of EBWW writers for hilarious essays for her newest e-book, Scary Mommy’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays (Simon and Schuster). She’s also the author ofMotherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies) andConfessions of a Scary Mommy. Her nonprofit organization, Scary Mommy Nation, has provided Thanksgiving dinners to more than 4,500 struggling families in the past three years. Jill has more than a million followers on Facebook and Twitter alone, and her website averages 30 million page views a month.

Love hurts, cake helps

Muffin Top: The MovieIn a recent survey, 96 out of 100 women say they think a bad thought about their bodies every day, and romantic comedy “Muffin Top: A Love Story” says those other four women are lying, or in a coma.

“Muffin Top” is a hilarious, romantic antidote to our culture’s Photoshop madness, and its core message is this: Be happy now, not five pounds from now. The movie’s fans say, “Muffin Top is not just a movie; it’s a movie-ment.”

Wait, how does a movie that isn’t even out yet have fans?

Crowdsourcing, driven by social media, is creating an audience revolution. Last fall, “Muffin Top” fans saw the movie’s trailer and came together to:

1. Create a nationwide red-carpet tour;

2. Create screenings in their own towns;  and

3. Create Girl’s Night IN Video-On-Demand parties to raise money for Girl’s Inc., the national girls’ empowerment organization.

Using Kickstarter, “Muffin Top” tapped into the female audience frustration as movie theaters are flooded with white male super heroes in spandex. The campaign to create a multi-city red-carpet tour with the film’s stars went viral and raised 122 percent of its goal because people embraced the film’s slogan “Love Hurts, Cake Helps.”

Now Muffin Toppers are using audience empowerment platform Tugg.com to create Girl’s Night Out screenings at their local multiplexes. For more information, click here.

“Muffin Top” is about a women’s studies prof who gets dumped and goes into a body image shame spiral, eventually learning that the first step to finding true love is loving yourself.  I co-wrote and directed the film, which also stars David Arquette (“Scream”),  Retta (“Parks and Recreation”),  Dot Marie Jones (“Glee”), Haylie Duff (“Napoleon Dynamite”), Gary Anthony Williams “(Key and Peele”), Melissa Peterman (“Fargo”), Marissa Jaret Winokur (Tony winner, “Hairspray”),  Diedrich Bader (“Napoleon Dynamite”) and Maria Bamford (“Arrested Development”).

“Muffin Top” is distributed by Mar Vista Entertainment and will be on all Video-On-Demand platforms Nov 4, simultaneous with the Muffin Top Red Carpet of TRUE Beauty tour, the Tugg.com screenings and the “Girls’ Night In” VOD parties. You can download the free party kit here.

View the movie’s trailer here. For more information, visit Muffintopmovie.com and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

– Cathryn Michon

Cathryn Michon is a best-selling author, stand-up comic, actress and Hollywood screenwriter and director — as well as the creative catalyst behind Muffin Top: A Love Story. Her husband, W. Bruce Cameron, co-wrote the screenplay. In 2014, both were part of the faculty at the EBWW.

Reflections of Erma