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December-November 1, 2008Another Thing to Know

Change You Can Really Believe In

I'm sorry I haven't been updating the website. The reasons are prosaic. I am channeling Lily von Shtupp, I have too much to do and -- the last part might sound odd -- I enjoyed a bonanza of good news in October, so much that I cringed every time I tried to write the November entry. Given all the bad news in the world, I didn't want to go all Walt Whitman on you. ("I dote on myself/There is that lot of me and all so luscious.")

And, like a lot of people, I found it hard to concentrate as Election Day drew near. But while I realize that my politics are easily sussed out from my novels, I don't want to use this site to promote my views. In fact, I was deeply offended this year when I received unsolicited e-mails instructing me how to vote/think about the election. The writers -- truly nice guys -- made quite a few presumptions in sending those e-mails. The primary one was that I needed their help to figure out how to pull the lever, if you'll permit the anachronism. I've been voting for almost thirty years. I don't know much, but I do know my own mind.

Then a friend with whom I volunteer sent me an e-mail on November 5th that I realized was remarkably non-partisan:

"I am totally disoriented this morning. I feel as if I have to retrain myself in how to relate to my government and how to think about the future."
That could work for just about anyone, right? Unless you're a bitter cynic who thinks it doesn't matter who inhabits the White House, you probably feel a little disoriented since the election. Chances are, you're also worried about the future and the economy, whether you voted for That Guy or the Other Guy. Turns out the rhetoric was right: this election really was about change.

The problem with change, however, is that we tend to be too ambitious. We aim for large, impossible goals, fall short, then give up. The new administration needs to think big, but the rest of us could afford to think a little smaller. Plus, we all actually hate change! Here are my two cents, almost literally. Stop worrying about change. Think about spare change.

Baltimore Gas & Electric toy bank Chances are you have a jar or a bank for loose coins. I like banks, so I have several. In fact, I slipped a reference to my favorite bank in a recent installment of The Girl in the Green Raincoat. Like Tess Monaghan, I have a bank shaped like a Baltimore Gas & Electric appliance truck. I also have one dedicated to Madeline, another to the Little Prince, a globe, and a cast-iron pig with a stripped screw, which is going to hold onto its change FOREVER.

This past weekend, I emptied four banks and tallied up. Remember, these are small banks, yet I had $111.31. I'm not sure what I'll decide to do with it, but there are several options. A local charity or nonprofit, of course, but perhaps a local merchant, where I might treat myself to a purchase I could never otherwise justify. I encourage others to do the same: Cash out, indulge, contribute. But I also urge you to think locally, rewarding small businesses -- especially independent bookstores. (The new Stewart O'Nan!) If you don't have an independent bookstore in your hometown, consider using one with an Internet presence. From Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Pittsburgh to Powell's in Portland, independents make it easy to place orders.

Meanwhile, I'm going to let this entry stand through the end of the year. As noted above -- I'm tired! (You did get the reference to Lily von Shtupp, right?) See you in 2009, okay? But if you feel so moved, I would love to hear what you did with your spare change. You'll find the e-mail address here.

The Career Blah, Blah, Blah

When I was a child, my mother believed that every child should leave a birthday party with a prize. Except the birthday girl, because she got all those presents. My mother would NOT approve of what happened at Bouchercon 2008. I was the birthday girl. I got a lot of presents: WHAT THE DEAD KNOW won the Anthony, Barry and Macavity for best novel, while "Hardly Knew Her" won the Anthony for best short story. Thank you to everyone who voted. It was a lovely weekend and I was proud of my hometown, which put its best face forward. Except for this one little burp.

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