What a trip!

Thursday, Nov. 7

–Flew to LA (via IAD, airline geography again…). Did a little writing on the plane (good girl). Packed my own lunch (survival tactic for long flights): wild rice-lentil-quinoa salad with walnuts & dried cranberries; edamame; an apple. Excellent.

Decided to have the full LA experience and rented a car at the airport.

Drove to Sunset Strip for dinner at NIGHT+MARKET, Thai street food. (Thanks to cousin Randy for the recommendation!) Really interesting menu. The sour sausage and the hog collar were my favorites.

More importantly, I met my friend Margie there. We hadn’t seen each other in maybe thirty years! But with a rare few people, you fall right back into comfortable conversation as if the years were minutes, and it was just wonderful to catch up with her. I promise that ‘next time’ will happen much much sooner!

Margie and I were in the same freshman dorm at Stanford (Gavilan, FloMo). In my junior year, I left to go to France for my term abroad. In those days you could see air travelers off at the gate. Just as I was about to board the plane, Margie came running through the airport and surprised me with a bon voyage gift, a necklace whose pendant was a tiny exquisite ceramic clown. I had never seen anything like it before or since.

For thirty years, through many moves from city to city and even continent to continent, I cherished that little clown. At one point his chain broke, and I did a dreadfully amateurish restringing job. One of his shoes chipped off. But he stayed with me, and the way I am about my belongings, that’s saying something. (To this day I have no idea what happened to my albums, including Springsteen bootleg….)

So I wore the clown to dinner that night.


Isn’t he beautiful?


With Margie–a terrific reunion.

Drove from the restaurant to my hotel in Calabasas, a ways out of town, but convenient for the next day. Bed at 2:00am EST, zzzzz…

Friday, November 8

–School visit: Viewpoint School in Calabasas. Three presentations, to grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8. This visit was the result of persistence and long planning by ELA teacher Tracy Wymer, who made the original contact, and Michele Shumow, primary librarian. It was a real pleasure: the students well-prepared, enthusiastic, and attentive. The final bonus: meeting a 6th-grade student who had read A LONG WALK TO WATER over the summer and initiated a fundraising drive for Water for South Sudan! I hope to have some photos from Viewpoint soon.

Drove back into town. Getting my freeway chops now. Dinner at Osteria Mozza with Lin & Alan Oliver, Stephen Mooser, and Sally Crock of SCBWI. I had the burrata with bacon, then sweetbreads with spinach and artichokes. Oh, and a very good perfect Manhattan.


Mozza’s sweetbreads. (Those paying attention will spot the Manhattan, with homemade brandied cherries, yum.)

Lin and Steve are top of the pops to me. They founded SCBWI way back in the day, and have overseen its remarkable growth into THE BIGGEST WRITERS’ ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD—more than 20,000 members worldwide. Despite this, they remain among the warmest and most approachable folks I’ve ever met.


With Lin Oliver

Great conversation, plus a celebrity spotting: Diana Nyad, the endurance swimmer. Wow, is she in good shape—I guess she’s in her 60s, but she looks 40, tops!

Freeway again, return to hotel. In bed either early (PST) or late (EST).

Saturday, November 9

–Hello, freeway. A short trip this time: to the Skirball Cultural Center for the Southern California Children’s Literature Council’s Fall Gala. Many thanks to Marjorie Arnett, Betsy Kahn, Maxine Lucas, and the rest of the board for their hard work on this wonderful event.

I gave the keynote address, then got to hear the acceptance speeches of the award winners (given annually to authors/illustrators who reside in SoCal): for YA, OUT OF REACH, by Carrie Arcos; for historical fiction, KING OF THE MOUND, by Wes Tooke (baseball story about Satchel Paige!); for poetry, LOOKING FOR ME, by Betsy Rosenthal; and the winner of the Dorothy McKinzie award for contribution to children’s literature Allyn Johnston, publisher of Beach Lane Books. I enjoyed hearing the other authors (with thanks to Wes for the KEEPING SCORE shoutout), and Allyn’s speech was the perfect way to end the day.

Then a convivial lunch at the Marmalade Cafe in Sherman Oaks with the CLC Board and a guest, my dear friend Theresa Nelson.


Theresa at front left; Marjorie Arnett at rear left; Maxine Lucas, front right; CLC President Betsy Kahn, third from right, and other members of the CLC Board, with me in the middle there somewhere.

Driving into town for dinner, I had my only encounter with the dreaded Freeway Monster: A trip that had taken about forty minutes on two previous occasions took almost an hour and a half. It was, to be honest, awe-inspiring, and I arrived at the restaurant appropriately flustered. But I would brave the Monster ANYTIME when Angelini Osteria is the destination!

Last meal of the trip: at Angelini, which might be my favorite restaurant on the planet. It’s always so hard to decide what to order there; this time I had the beef marrow (dramatic presentation, a large bone split and grilled), which came with the most delicious little dumplings (gnocchetti), then the pasta alla norma, with eggplant. I also ordered the sea urchin pasta, which I shared with the table. Greedy, I know, but I only get to eat here once a year!

With me at dinner were Theresa and her husband, the actor Kevin Cooney. Dinner at Angelini has become almost an annual event for us, and it’s invariably one of my favorite evenings of the year.

Flight home without incident (no small thing these days…). Did a little writing again, and now this morning I had Gramma duty. Lucky me!

Thanks to all who helped make this trip such a pleasure. I love LA.