What I Ate in France

The food in France had me at “hello,” and I need to do some serious gushing.

Here are almost all the meals and the photos (some crappy and some not) and the gushing. At the bottom, I put a list of everywhere I remembered eating in case you are going to Normandy or Paris for a week and want a little help from a friend. (I get by with a little help from my friends.)

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Part One, Breakfast:

Okay, so breakfast is different in France. It was during this meal that I discovered that the good people of France hold two things most dear: bread and cheese. So much delicious, crusty bread. So many croissant flakes. So much hard cheese and soft cheese and stinky cheese. And really, really tangy yogurts.

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A word on eggs, s’il vois plaît. Omelettes? Amazing. I had a tremendous omelette bursting with mushrooms and cheese late one morning. I was so hungry that I didn’t wait for it to cool, and I left behind a lot of good mouth tissue at the restaurant. Fried eggs? Hard pass, unless you’re into what I call a mullet egg–raw in the front and burnt in the back.

Oh my gosh. I just remembered that the omelette place had about a million framed photos of the British royal family on their walls… without explanation. They were also a little rude, but I found myself forgiving them because, well, baby George!

Not pictured: The meals I had at the Bed & Breakfast in Bayeux because I was talking to the owner while she was in her pajamas and I was trying to figure out exactly what kind of weird and wonderful homemade jam I was eating.

Part Two, Lunch:

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Poor lunch is always such a throwaway meal, isn’t it? I used to say lunch was my favorite meal because I thought it felt left out. There are deeper issues there, I’m sure.

Lunch was not a throwaway on this trip, my friends. I tried to grab quick food while checking on my step count and mapping out the next destination. I’m going to brag hardcore right now. My step count was off the charts AND my “quick food” was pretty spectacular AND I never got completely, entirely, irrevocably lost.

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I drank the entire jug of water in the picture above and then asked for more. (We’re talking over 30k steps, okay.)

Not pictured: About a billion more crepes because I wanted to do things right.

Part Three, Dinner:

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I’d like to start on a downer if I could, and then I’ll jump right into the gold. The above photo is foie gras at a fancy restaurant with fancy reviews and fancy prices, and I had every intention of finishing every dish I was given. However, I can barely think about foie gras right now without feeling ill. I think it was the fat content; it made me think of eating lard. I’m going to stop now, thanks.

Dinner was a spectacle. I loved the drama. I did not love that pretty much all restaurants were closed until 7 or 8pm. I know 7pm doesn’t sound late, but when you’re a morning person who had a crepe at noon, it’s near torture. The food made up for this, of course.

To you, this next photo just a very close-up shot of adorable baby fancy butter with a reflection of my new blouse. To me, it is a picture of the best butter I’ve ever had. The butter that made me forget that foie gras faux pas business completely.

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Food, wondrous food!

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L'Rapiere Fish

Okay, I’ve suspected for a couple of years that I have some sort of fish allergy, but I guess I thought I could eat my way out of it? Because oysters! And pollack! And brill with truffles and champagne sauce! This strategy ended with a terrible headache (whatever) and weird, patchy rashes on my limbs (worth it).

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Oh my gosh, this was the pizza of my dreams. It was a tiny restaurant on an adorable street that I happened to walk down–basically, everything you want out of your Parisian experience. There’s nothing like a pizza (that you have to cut yourself) made by a chef from Naples and a boatload of warm red wine to make you feel like you might actually be a mafia boss or living out Moonstruck.

I hesitate to share my final dinner meal in Paris because while I think it’s absolutely hilarious and very much me, that also means it’s kind of uncool. But if I’m uncool, I’m uncool while eating delicious food.

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Part Four, Dessert:

You thought we were over? Well, you’re almost right, except for these little pieces of heaven.

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Fin!

Bayeux:

  • La Rapiere – Tremendous, expensive, delicious
  • Lion d’Or – Don’t be fooled by the menu outside. It is a lunch menu. Otherwise, see above.
  • Au Georges VII – The omelette! Get your royal fix here.
  • Au Louis d’Or – I’ve never had so much goat cheese in my life.

Mont St. Michel:

  • Unsure of the name, but certain of the experience. The one disappointing meal of the trip. I was given a microwaved crepe after being turned away from a different creperie because making me a crepe (the only thing they had on their menu) would “take too long.”

Paris:

 

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Your Southside/Downtown Indianapolis Weekend Itinerary

The Definitive Weekend Itinerary for Visiting Moi,
or,
One Woman’s Cry for Friends from out of Town,
or,
A Local’s Take on What You Should Do with Your Weekend in Indy… ish

Friday:

You’ve arrived! Yes, this airport is surprisingly clean and bright and cute. I know, right?! Go ahead, take a picture of the IndyCar. Go ahead, get someone to take a picture of you with the Ndy sign.

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A note on the Ndy sign: If you take a picture with multiple people at the Ndy sign, it will ruin the illusion and you run the risk of looking like an idiot. I’m only telling you this as a friend. I don’t want you to be the person with spinach unknowingly in her teeth for four, very public hours.

So, what are you going to do now that you’re here? Oh, you “know” already? Oh, your friend Gavin–the one with the neck scarves and crown molding–told you that Broad Ripple is where it’s at? Oh, he said the Southside was trash? Well, fine. Fine. By all means, follow Gavin’s advice.

Oh, you’re in Broad Ripple now and you’re confused and you’re hungry and you hate everything… Oh, no? You are having a good time? Gavin was right? Well, you know what? Gavin doesn’t know all, okay? Are you going to follow Gavin the rest of your life? We both know he’s going to exit your life, leaving you with a better wardrobe, weird furniture, and no children. So, give the Southside a chance. I DARE YOU.

Oh, good. You listened. The first thing you need to do is hop on the convenient, scenic pedestrian and cyclist path, the Monon Trail. Head south a quick seven miles to Mass Ave. Use this time to think about whether Gavin has a positive influence on your life.

(But really, I hope you rented a car. This is not a walkable city. This is a drivable, parkable, lovable city.)

Okay, you’ve made it to Mass Ave! It turns out, you’re at the beginning of the Cultural Trail. You could rent a bike! I wouldn’t.

Instead, I’d walk around. Yes, bum it up! Live a little!

Stop at Indy Reads Books, and send a picture of the exposed brick and obscure reads to Gavin. He’s going to flip. Feel good, knowing you’re supporting adult literacy in Indianapolis.

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Oh, and the mural outside? Someone’s found her new lock screen photo.

Make your way down Mass Ave. Buy some really weird, pro-Indiana jewelry that will sit in your jewelry box forever, until posthumously, your daughter finds it and realized you really were mentally unstable. It doesn’t matter. It will be the best thing you own.

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Grab another photo of the Kurt Vonnegut mural, posing like him is optional. See the “dancing lady,” which is actually called “Ann Dancing” by Julian Opie.

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Maybe you’ll stop at Union 50 for a fancy meal. (For evidence of fanciness, I give you a bathroom selfie with a faucet that someone HAD TO SHOW ME HOW TO WORK.)

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Maybe it’s a nice day and you’ll grab a beer at The Rathskellar. Both places will be nuts, so don’t do it.

Do this instead:

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Option #1: It’s baseball season, silly. Head to Victory Field. Eat a giant bratwurst covered in onions. (Honestly, it was silly of you to think you were going to get a kiss on this trip. Gavin lied about a lot.) Drink Sun King beer. Cheer with people until your voice is hoarse and you question whether this really is just a minor-league baseball team.

For part of the game, pull out your hand radio. (I bet Gavin forgot to mention that on his Pinterest list of musts.) Hold it up to your ear and hear the magical voices of Howard Kellman and Andrew Kappes. Someone told me recently that Andrew doesn’t work full-time for the Indians? THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NUTS. GIVE THE BOY A JOB.

Stay and gawk at the too-close fireworks after the Indians win (and even if they lose).

Also, be prepared to yell at children who think they are entitled to a ball. What’s this world coming to and is it Gavin’s fault? I bet Andrew Kappes would know.

Option #2: Go to a night of comedy at ComedySportz Indy. It’s spelled with a “z.” Do I need to say more?

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Grab the best Rueben of your life from the cafeteria-style deli Shapiro’s, before falling asleep with sauerkraut breath.

Saturday:

Of course you’re up early! You’re excited! Who wouldn’t be?! You’re in the Amateur Sports Capital of the World! The Crossroads of America! THE CIRCLE CITY!!

And today you’re going to get out of that city and discover some of that small town charm the Southside is (not) famous for. (The Northside, aka Eagletonian slime, has luckily not infested God’s country.)

Wake up and put on real clothes. Be very careful here. If you try something new, e.g., overalls, maxi dresses, or–my word–a jumpsuit, be prepared for people to stare and perhaps even make comments about your inventive style. You’ve been warned.

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Go to Long’s Bakery. Get a yeast donut for now and a dozen for later. Eat in your car.

On your way to Franklin—kind of, but not really—get a peanut butter cup mocha from the Strange Brew café. In case you are Tom Cruise or you didn’t read the sign, do not stand on the couch. They do not like it when you stand on the couch.

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Go to Franklin. See an “old” movie at the Artcraft Theatre. Possibly a classic, like a Hitchcock. Possibly a newer classic, like, Hitch.

It will cost a approximately $3 to get in (though if it’s Saturday and they’re showing cartoons, it only costs a can of food) and another $2.50 for refillable, local popcorn. Prepare yourself. We, Hoosiers, are a patriotic, nostalgic people. You will stand and sing the National Anthem. (Yes.) And then, there will be a Looney Toons cartoon before every film. (Also, yes.) Will this be weird to you? Absolutely. Will you also kind of think it’s neat and that you are now in a WWII film? Also, yes. Don’t share this with Gavin. He would only ruin it for everyone.

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Walk down the street, passing lovely renovated homes, to the Wild Geese Bookshop. Relish in the pleasures of local business. Immediately follow them on Instagram and feel a bit better about the direction of your now Gavinless life.

Head east to the Taxman brewery for the burger with an egg and pork belly (because Heaven is for real) and have a very tiny beer.

Stop by my house. Duh, bruh.

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Go fishing. And do that thing that I assume most people do when fishing, which is to really want a fish because it would be cool, but also really hope that you don’t get a fish because no one wants to be the murderer, fish-gutter person here.

If it’s April, May, or June, go morel mushroom hunting.

Make s’mores. Maybe go to a cork and canvas night at Mallow Run Winery or a summer concert at Willowfield Lavender Farm if you’re feeling extra energetic.

Sunday:

Weep that the weekend’s almost over. Dry your tears with a leftover donut because there’s too much to see still.

Are we doing church? If yes, go to one with coffee and donuts and people who like to say, “Hello, sweetie,” in an accent that feels scandalously southern. If not, go to one of the following places for breakfast:

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Milktooth, because Gavin will want to talk to you about it. Look, here’s a warning: You might not have any idea what you’re ordering because the menu was written by someone very much like Gavin. They’re suffering from what I believe is called “deconstructed hipsteritis.” However, you will probably enjoy what you eat and where you’re eating it.

The Original Pancake House, which is never to be confused with IHOP. Order a German Dutch Baby Pancake. Finally find happiness.

Yiayia’s House of Pancakes or Flap Jacks. We get it. This morning you just wanted a lot of decent breakfast foods for a decent breakfast price. Good for you.

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If you didn’t make it last night, now’s your chance. Walk around, fill your nostrils, and grab some local souvenirs at Willowfield Lavender Farm or sip some wine and stretch your legs at Mallow Run Winery.

After all that walking, it’s onto another eatery. After all, that’s what we do best in Indiana.

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We’re heading to Zydeco’s in Mooresville. You have every right to be shocked at the prices (too high), but there’s a work-around. Order 2-3 small dishes. It’s cheaper, and you get to try more things. Get the garlic soup. Again, YOU’RE NEVER MAKING OUT WITH ANYONE ON THIS TRIP GAVIN IS A LYING JERK. Enjoy the atmosphere of New Orleans transported to suburbia.

Walk down the street to one of three consignment shops in the center of town. Find treasures! Find things that should never be considered treasures!

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Stop for pie at Gray Bros. Cafeteria. Chocolate silk, duh. Complain to their faces that they no longer have peanut butter pie. I’m convinced that if enough of us do this, they will bring it back.

I once brought an entire peanut butter pie on the flight from Indy to L.A. The TSA guy almost took it until I explained how much I adored it. He said her understood. “It’s Gray’s.”

Head back to the airport. It’s time to go! We’ve come so far. Stay strong when Gavin asks you about your trip. When he runs a hand through his skin fade undercut (a thing?), take a deep breath, look him dead in his colored contacts (you know the truth even if he said they were natural), and begin with, “ComedySportz was great.”

“ComedySportz with a ‘z’?” he’ll ask.

“Yes,” you’ll say. And you’ll watch him run away, and you’ll never have to lie about his tight pants again.

just realized you didn’t eat a tenderloin! COME BACK!!!!

All the Places in One Convenient List!
Indianapolis International Airport
Monon Trail
Mass Ave.
Cultural Trail
Indy Reads Books
Union 50
Rathskellar
Victory Field
ComedySportz Indy
Shapiro’s Delicatessen
Long’s Bakery
Strange Brew
Artcraft Theatre
Wild Geese Bookshop
Taxman
Mallow Run Winery
Willowfield Lavender Farm
Milktooth
The Original Pancake House
Yiayia’s House of Pancakes
Flap Jack’s
Zydeco’s
Gray Bros. Cafeteria

2017: A Photo Tour

I have a hard time telling a story when I don’t know the ending.

I don’t usually plot out stories from start to finish. I’m not one of those writers who knows what happens on page 112 before I even begin writing. But I always have at least a vague idea of the main thread. I know the big twist. I can see the movie poster in my mind. I know the questions I want discussed. I just don’t know the details. On my current project, I didn’t know what my main character did for a living until I started writing. Meanwhile, I painted a mock cover for the book almost as soon as I had the idea.

The book cover (fan art?) gave me context, and I like context. I don’t have to know the bits and pieces, but I like to know the packaging. This extends beyond writing. We all need the punchline before telling a joke. That makes it difficult to talk about 2017.

I don’t know how to package a year like this. In many ways, it feels like a year in the middle. A combination of things big and small and great and bad. A year of questions without total answers.

I had a professor in grad school who said that the first step in storytelling was creating glitter. Plotting, then, was placing glue on the paper and throwing the glitter at it to see what sticks. I’ve been trying so hard to put into words what this year in the middle has been, but I don’t have the glue for 2017. So I’m not going to package this story, not yet. I’m just going to share a little of the glitter.

Here’s a photo tour of my year. Strap in because I took way to many pictures.

January

Winter struck me differently this year. It was my first back in Indiana, and I’d forgotten how barren and stark and sharp everything looks.

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Writing Project #1: I edited my book about hillbilly robots.

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Indy, 2001-2017.

February

Then: “I love my new hair!” Later: “Can we just fix the front?”

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Trip #1: Dallas, TX. I met the cat that makes me wish I were a cat person.

March

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We created blackout poetry in English 12. March was the month thought that I was really starting to get the hang of teaching. (It should be noted that I only had students for two weeks due to Spring Break.)

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Trip #2: England and Scotland! You can read the long version here. In short, I loved it.

I took pictures of my outfits so that I could choose clothes quickly, but Mom made fun of me for it, so I’m sharing that shame with you. (Run-on sentences don’t count in blog posts.)

Not pictured: Getting ultimately rejected from every agent EVER or so it felt. The meltdown from this. The rise from this.

April

I became obsessed with creating all of the delicious foods from the UK trip. This faded slightly when I spent hours making scones only for them to turn out as biscuits. However, I’m a master at clotted cream and hot cross buns, thank you.

I went roller blading, which quickly turned into realizing that I can’t really roller blade. But I can work the camera timer on my phone!

Baseball season began. Someone had to eat all the hotdogs.

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Am I stepping on that duck’s foot? Maybe. These were the “first” ducks. Yes, there were second ducks. I’m not ready to talk about it.

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Trip #3: We went to Megan’s Dallas Pets Alive! photography show and spent a total of 16 hours in Texas.

May

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I chaperoned prom, but my hair still thought I was in Texas.

School came to a close with a pie in the face and a teacher-of-the-year award. I decided that if you don’t cry at every graduation you attend, you don’t have a heart.

I became the person I always want to be during the first days of summer break. This person loves dogs and crocheting and fishing and is a general ragamuffin.

June

Running again. Writing again. Everyone knows: selfie or it didn’t happen.

Writing Project #2: The grandma screenplay that was so. much. fun.

More baseball.

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The “second” ducks.

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Trip #4: Westerville, OH. Katie and I laughed and talked and wrote and got tatted. Her tattoos were much cooler and less ridiculous than a millennium falcon.

July

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Professor Hilary

Someplace old (Bloomington), someplace new (Mooresville’s lavender farm), somethings borrowed (library books), and something blue (that July sky!!).

Writing Project #3: Othello Novel

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I decorated my classroom and got excited for school to start.

August

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Too excited.

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Trip #5: Cape Cod, MA, for Rob and Jill’s wedding. I loved my flower crown. Can you tell I loved my flower crown? The last picture is me in pajamas and my FLOWER CROWN.

Now you might be distracted from the flower crown. You might actually be thinking, “Hilary, a bathroom selfie? Really?” I’m not proud. I’m not proud, I say!

The blurrier the photos, the better the time. Seriously. Jill‘s wedding was personal and lovely and there’s just nothing like watching someone you love marry their person.

September

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U2!!

This was an actual outfit I wore to school, and it took me until lunch to realize the state of affairs.

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I chaperoned the dance, which really meant spending the dance taking notes on ridiculous teenage behavior and going home with an entire pizza.

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I attempted to capture the space station. (It turned out to not be a strength of mine.)

October

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Okay, so I was very proud of myself for getting the crockpot full of chili in the car without spilling, especially considering I did it in the dark. I drove to school, got out of the car, and was greeted with this mess. Me, to myself: “Oh, honey.”

Trip #6: Fall break in Los Angeles, CA. I expected to feel sad going back to California, to feel like I was missing out, but honestly, I was just thankful–thankful for the time I had there, thankful that it still feels a little like coming home, and thankful that I got to laugh and hug so many dear friends.

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I became this person for about twenty minutes.

November

I traded in Indianapolis Indians baseball for old movies at Franklin’s Artcraft Theatre.

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“Mom, will you take a picture of me with my popcorn?”

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I found a lesson planning approach that works for me. It is in no way practical and in every way fulfilling to the deep parts of my soul.

Writing Project #4: Rom Com novel.

December

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I need you to know that this exists in the world.

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Sigh. Christmas, at last!

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Trip #7: Destin, FL. I’m still here, actually.

I’m here and enjoying the glitter of these “middle” moments. Loving them, really.

And now we’ve made it. To be honest, I wanted to give up in April, but by golly, I persisted (even if it did take entirely too much time).

Happy New Year!

Home

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Moving home is hard.

I won’t pretend that it’s not hard, that there aren’t times when I see myself getting further (mostly geographically and a little figuratively) from my dreams and wonder how in the world I got here.

I won’t pretend that there aren’t times when I wonder what life would be like if I hadn’t left California.

I won’t pretend that I don’t sometimes yell at the garage code that refuses to work and curse the dogs running from the yard and begrudge the grey skies that seem to go on for weeks without end like they’re making money from anti-depressants.

But, I also won’t pretend that this is what I do often.

I expected to do it often.

I expected to come home and feel like I was missing out, to weigh the pros and cons and finally decide that moving back to Indiana was worth it in the end. I expected to get a little sting in my heart when I visited California, when I heard news I could’ve been a part of, when others forge ahead.

But, it’s not like that. I won’t pretend it is.

Instead, it’s like this.

I call a local bookshop, the one I follow on Instagram, the day before the John Green book comes out. (I just know I’m way too late to get a copy.) I chat with the owner and tell her I love her Insta and she invites me to a midnight party and says she’ll save me a signed copy for tomorrow even if I don’t come.

I get my haircut by the same person who asks how my classes are this year. I begin talking about the TV show Supervet, and she kindly informs me that I told her about it and that tragic episode with the St. Bernard puppy last time.

I talk to my students about farriers, how I didn’t know what one was until I worked there. (They’re the blacksmiths who do horseshoes.) When a kid asks me what I thought they were called, I answer, with a shrug, “Horseshoe man? Feline cobbler?” I realize my mistake instantly. About three other kids do too. I find myself laughing all day about it.

I make pasta for my family. It’s a big, communal production, and at the end of it, my nieces actually eat the broccoli. We carve pumpkins with teeth and smiles and give them voices and names.

It’s Friday night, and my mom and sister and I are heading to Sense and Sensibility at an old theater that plays the national anthem and WB cartoons before the movie begins. There are four hundred other women there who cheer for Alan Rickman when he comes on screen, who laugh at Emma Thompson’s comic genius, who clap at the end of the movie.

This is it, and it’s not how I imagined. I don’t weigh the pros and cons because I don’t have to. This doesn’t compare. This is so much better.

I don’t feel a sting for something else, and that doesn’t mean I haven’t stopped working my butt off.

It just means I’m home.

Pitch Wars Introductory Bio

 

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Hi! I’m Hilary.

My manuscript, HERE AND THERE, is a YA-retelling of OTHELLO in the vein of TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU. It’s told from a different perspective each of the four years of high school. Peter (Othello) shuns music and his girlfriend, Mona (Desdemona), when his best friend (Iago) tells him a lie. It’s a decision that leads him away from the things he loves and into a mental health battle.

HERE AND THERE includes:

  • Show choir drama
  • A love story
  • Swim meets
  • Mental health struggles
  • Awkward bus rides
  • Trailer parks
  • A controlling boyfriend
  • Water slides
  • Racial prejudice
  • An unabashed love for movie musicals
  • Quirky minor characters that one only finds in rural Indiana

Books that I think are similar:

  • Julie Murphy’s DUMPLIN’
  • Jennifer Niven’s ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES & HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE
  • John Green’s LOOKING FOR ALASKA
  • Rainbow Rowell’s FANGIRL

MS aesthetics:

2017-07-07

 

Information about me:

I aim to be myself even when it gets weird. I once put a joke in a cover letter about pooping my pants. That is the kind of person I am. At the risk of a major #humblebrag, my cover letter resulted in an interview for Conan, which only encouraged poop-joke behavior.

I also try hard. In 2013, I attended the Big Sur Writing Workshop. I was a second-year grad student in screenwriting, but writing a book still felt like an impossible task. When two friends and fellow writers convinced me to go, I did what any sane person would do: I wrote a MG book in five weeks. (I had no idea what I was doing.)

When the very kind agent who ran my workshop informed me that my first ten pages were total crap(!), I knew I had a decision to make: bring in ten other pages (that were largely written the same way as the total crap ones) or rewrite the beginning of my manuscript overnight. So I did something I never do: I stayed up late.

When I brought in my new beginning the next morning, the agent loved the pages, but she also loved that I tried something new overnight. I learned never be afraid of a revision just because it was going to be hard. I learned that I am a person who goes for it completely, fails big time (usually in memorable and embarrassing ways), and gets back up to try again.

Since that workshop, I’ve written four more manuscripts and several screenplays. Earlier this year I queried a YA manuscript that had several full requests from agents. I’m so close. But I’m not there, and I need a mentor’s help.

Even after five years of being critiqued in grad school and by my LOVELY writers group, getting my pages ripped apart isn’t my favorite thing. It sucks, but it’s also completely necessary. As a writer, I’ve learned to pick myself up again. I know that failing in front of people is survivable. I love writing enough to get better, and for that, I inevitably need help. That’s where a mentor comes in. I promise to be open and to work hard, to participate fully in making my manuscript as good as it can be, and to be the kind of mentee who isn’t afraid of a poop joke.

Oh, what? This was supposed to be ten words long and I just wrote seven paragraphs? Well, you see why I need your help then.

Day 10, 11, & 12: Omega

(Start at Day One?)

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Day Ten:

Me leaving Edinburgh:

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I don’t know how I feel about that GIF since she’s leaving Ireland and not, erm, Scotland, but I think it’ll do.

Bad Things on Day Ten:

  1. We left Edinburgh.
  2. We spent the whole day on a train or in a train station, which isn’t as romantic as it sounds, especially after an hour.
  3. I came down with a cold.
  4. I had what can only be described as a total mental breakdown.
  5. The mental breakdown was induced by a rejection on my manuscript from a top agent. You see, I totally went for it and queried a bunch of literary agents before the trip, and THE DREAM AGENT requested a full of my novel. On day ten of the trip, I got a rejection from that agent, and it hit, hard. And maybe it was my cold and traveling too, but all I wanted to do was cry and eat and sleep.

Good Things on Day Ten:

  1. Mom discovered luggage trolleys, making us look more sophisticated and less sweaty.

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  1. Mom, sensing the total mental breakdown, brought us Chinese food.
  2. My mom makes everything better.
  3. Supervet was on television.

Day Eleven:

We go back to Raison D’etre. Why did we ever leave?

When we get there, the tables are full except for one that says it’s reserved.

“Hello, sweetie. Good to see you.” It’s good to be back with this charmer.

“Looks like you’re busy this morning.”

He points to the table. “No, reserved for you.”

The total mental breakdown is mostly forgotten.

Tube to King’s Cross. We’re actually pretty good at this whole metro system.

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King’s Cross Station.

Future job: running Platform 9 3/4.

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Mom and I planned this really wonderful last day in London, which included a seeing a play at Shakespeare’s Globe. From what we’d heard (and read) seeing a play at the Globe was a harrowing experience. The seats are uncomfortable, and since it’s an open-air theatre, it’s super, super cold.

No fear! Mom and I packed layers for the occasion. I wore long underwear under my dress (see the photo above for evidence), and I brought my winter coat and scarf. Mom was dressed in a similar, multi-layered outfit. We spent the day being very hot in our multiple layers. No matter! We’d be warm during the play!

We arrived at Shakespeare’s Globe and were ushered into an adorable, quaint playhouse. An indoor playhouse.

Surely, we were in the wrong room.

It was supposed to be an open-air theatre.

Then, someone explained that this Jacobean-style, INDOOR theatre is used during the winter to avoid the weather.

Because we had non-adjacent seats, Mom and I had to endure the shame of this misunderstanding separately, sweating in our several layers next to perfect strangers.

Outside of this mishap, Othello was lovely. Emilia! The woman who played Emilia made Emilia the kind of character I always want to see in a play. Emilia!

Anthony Bourdain has a list of “13 Places to Eat Before You Die.”

Over a year ago, Jill and I ate at number thirteen, Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue in Kansas City. I didn’t know about the list until then. I still think about the food at Oklahoma Joe’s, so it made sense then, to spend our last night eating at Bourdain’s recommendation in London, the number one spot, St. John.

Unfortunately, we didn’t know all of the details before we made reservations. (Are you noticing a pattern? Is there some sort of diagnosis for being a slight idiot? I’d like to call it Bridget Jones syndrome if I could.)

You see, St. John is a “nose to tail” restaurant with an emphasis on offal. Sounds great, we–who suffer from Bridget-Jones-pox–said. We arrived to discover that “nose to tail” was less of a whimsical tagline, and more of a literal philosophy. We also found out that offal is another name for organ meat.

Basically, St. John believes in using every part of the animal, which is really great until your choice of starter is bone marrow or duck heart.

Despite this minor hiccup, Mom and I were able to find foods that we could deal with. I’m sure that in the world of St. John, we ordered the equivalent of chicken fingers and fries, but to us, it felt adventurous-ish. (Adventurish?)

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(A note on offal. Please don’t misunderstand. I’d like to think I’d eat entrails if it were truly necessary, but aside from a bite of braunschweiger ball at Christmas to be polite, the occasion has never really called for it. Please see photographic evidence for braunschweiger here.)

Day Twelve: The Longest Day in the World

We fly into Chicago on a plane full of teen girls going on a ski trip to Colorado. Many of them have never skied before. I have a couple of things I want to say about this:

  1. Are the Rockies really the place to learn how to ski? As someone who couldn’t move her arm for four days after falling on a bunny hill in Southern Indiana, this concerns me.
  2. Aren’t the Alps a lot closer?
  3. That’s all.

We spend the next 26,000 hours trying to get back home. Eventually, we do, and I’m stuck between loving the feel of my own bed and missing someone asking me if I’m “in the queue” and answering back in a fake British accent. (I only did it once. Okay, twice. WHATEVER IT WAS VACATION.)

And that folks is the end of my vacation, posts. A little–cough–late on updating (considering we got home in April and it’s July), but we got there.

For never was a story of more hysterical laughter & people acting a bit dumb 
Than this of Hilary and her mum.

Arthur’s Seat Hike

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I never imagined that hiking would be my sport of choice.

I’m still not sure it is.

But if there’s a place where I can go and be still and come back a different and slightly better version of myself, that place is on a hike.

I’d rather have my place be a Chipotle, but some things choose you, you know?

Hiking chose me in California. Before then, hiking was most definitely not my place. Hiking in girls scouts meant me at the back of the pack, struggling to keep up, and generally tripping over my own feet. Hiking as a young adult meant fearfully clutching my shaking legs and saying, “No, you guys go on. I’m good here.”

Then, I went hiking by myself in Malibu, and it was wonderful: peaceful, relaxing, exhausting, and life-giving.

Other people are the problem is what I’m saying.

When we planned our trip to the UK, I knew I wanted to do some munro bagging. If you don’t know what munro bagging is you obviously haven’t been doing your civic duty–that duty being following Sam Heughan on Instagram.

I built it up in my head that I was going to go to Scotland, be a badass, and bag myself a munro. (I’m slightly confused on the nomenclature.)

But time constraints meant that I had to settle for a large hill instead. I’m sorry, Sam!

So on a morning when I reaaaaaally didn’t want to go to “my place” and become a better person because I was pretty good with being the person who slept in, I strapped on my sports bra and… realized I did not bring appropriate footwear. No matter, I was going on a hike.

The hike was lovely. At first.

The grasses and hills distracted me from the sense that I was quite possibly on the brink of dying due to my general (and surprising) lack of physical stamina and the steep edges of the trail. I took as happy of a selfie as I could manage in case I died, so my mom could have one last picture of me, forever etched in her mind:

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Close to the top, I slipped, and this gentleman–who was not struggling–stopped to watch me scramble up the rock face. When I got to the top, he said, “Well done.” I’m mostly indifferent about this encounter… I should probably delete this paragraph because who cares if a guy watched me scramble and I’m so boring boring boring.

(I’m just going to leave all of that messy editing business there because guys, sometimes we are just not very nice to ourselves. (And also, it makes me laugh, even if it only serves to confuse you. #PersonalBlog))

And then, I was there. At the top.

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I think something really wonderful happens when we do something we don’t think we can do. We get to be a little better than we are, even if it’s just for a moment.

But not so much better than we’re above asking someone to take our picture.

I stared out at the waking city and the sea and the hills, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my life, for that moment. I got to be here. I’m quite often not thankful for where I’m at. I’m usually too obsessed about where I’m going to be thankful for where I am. I fill out my planner and set goals and troll social media and I fantasize. I wish I were somewhere else most of the time. Wouldn’t it be great if…

I love that about myself, just to be clear. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to set goals and go after them. I love imagining possibilities.

But I also think that spending my time without any thankfulness for where I’m at equals a life that’s a lot less joyful than it could be, than it should be.

In that moment, I was really, really thankful for my life. And it wasn’t just because I was in Scotland (though, okay, duh, a little of that). It was because my life really is pretty great, warts and all, and I like it.

There. I said it. Doesn’t that seem almost a foreign attitude? I like my life.

I like my life now as I sit on an old couch in Indiana with seemingly few hikes to conquer. I still want so many things in the future. I could get lost thinking about them, but I’m also content right here. I’m thankful for right here.

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So I left the hill with a shot of the medicine that is gratitude, and this enormous joy overwhelmed me. So much so, that I had to dance:

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Walking down the mountain like a lady

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Well, how do YOU walk down a hill?

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Hiking. I think it’s my place.

Day 8 & 9: We Are Not Fancy People

Read from Day One here.

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How do I accurately convey how I feel about Edinburgh?

Do I tell you that I spent every night in Edinburgh and many nights after reading about the Ph.D. in Writing program at Edinburgh University?

Do I explain that I when I was there I read an email where one of my students asked me a question and somehow I got that question to relate to five paragraphs of bragging on how great this city was? (I didn’t send the email. I realized at some point that it was the work of mania.)

Do I say that Edinburgh felt like a hometown? Like, the kind of city we all want to live in where people are kind and funny and there’s history and culture and families?

Do I tell you that somehow for this introvert, everyone in Edinburgh felt like a potential friend?

Yeah, I loved Edinburgh.

I loved the cobbled streets and little cafés and fearless humor and charming accents and antiquated buildings and the sea and hills and the actual castle that is in the middle of the freaking city.

London was rushing. Rush to see the sights. Rush to catch the train. Cram cram cram. Edinburgh was slower. It was moseying along and taking the trail without looking at our phones. It was not knowing exactly how the day was going to go. Relax relax relax. It was lovely.

 

I’m stopping myself now, but if you also love Edinburgh, please send me an email (hillymillerblog@gmail.com). Let us gush and squeal together.

Day Eight

Both Sides Now: Breakfast at Mimi’s Café

Clotted cream and jam light as air
And sun streaks through the window there
And delicious coffee everywhere.

I’ve looked at breakfast that way.

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1: How far is the castle?

2: Six blocks…

1: We can do that.

2: … Uphill.

1: I’m really full.

2: Me too.

*Eye contact is avoided. She opens her phone. She pulls up Uber.*

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I didn’t even say, “Have fun storming the castle!” #MissedOpportunity

We shopped on Princes Street and ate the most delicious Indian food and slept for two hours and ate pizza. Life is good.

Day Nine:

I could make my morning hike its own post. Heck, I’m going to just do that, okay? You have my word. By the end of the day tomorrow, there will be a post about hiking Arthur’s Seat. Prepare yourselves.

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Breakfast: They made a sausage patty out of barley. I think that tells you everything you need know.

We are not barley people.

Also, I know we’re Americans and therefore trained to think JUMBO-SIZED is normal, but this is some sort of sick joke, right?

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Shopping!! You mean the kind of shopping you did yesterday with plastic keychains and teapots that you hesitated to buy because who knows if they have lead or mercury in them?

No no no.

This is NICE shopping: handmade afghans and glass jewelry and breakable ornaments.

What’s that? A Scottish wool sweater? TAKE MY MONEY AND GO.

Afternoon tea at the Dome.

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1: This is so fancy.

2: Soooo fancy.

*Attempts to eat tea sandwich. Attempt goes poorly.*

*Drops spoon.*

WE ARE NOT FANCY PEOPLE.

Room service for dinner with my new favorite soda. We are not difficult people either. EDINBURGH, DON’T GO!

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Read about Day Ten here.

DAY SIX & SEVEN: On the Road Again

Read from Day One here.

Oh, you thought I’d fizzle out and never return to these posts?! You were almost right.

A Man with Yellow Teeth (a poem in-progress)

A Man with Yellow Teeth
Never stopped talking a beat.
He sat in front of us
On the bus,
And made us realize
That even England could become nightmarish.

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Warwick Castle was everything you’d expect from a castle owned by the same people who run Madame Tussauds: gimmicky and touristy and wonderful.

The Greville family owned the castle for generations and threw massive parties with medieval set pieces. Imagine going to a 1975 rager at a medieval castle where liquor is served in a forty-gallon, cast-iron pot. If anyone knows of a good book about this family, just like a prayer, take me there.

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Stratford-Upon-Avon,

or as our tour guide would probably call it, Heaven.

Our tour guide was an acting school graduate who retold this sketch beat-for-beat. He also gave the “to be or not to be” line ten times, putting the emphasis on a different word each time. You know when a comedian (or a sibling) does something funny and then they do it enough and it becomes super annoying and they press on until it becomes funny again? That was this guy.

Also, once you’re in the room where Shakespeare was born, you’re kind of like, well, this is a bit gross, isn’t it?

Cotswolds.

For the first six times I listened to Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill,” I thought he was saying, “We watching the sunset over the Cotswolds.” Of course! Ed gets it. The magic of the Cotswolds! The wool churches! The hills!

It’s “the sunset over the Castle on the Hill.” That’s the name of the song. (You all knew this, huh?)

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Where the Inklings would meet NBD.

Like so many places we’ve visited, I could spend weeks (months?) in Oxford. I get this pang when we visit because Oxford University used to be my DREAM college. I spent ages 10-17 convinced that I was going to go there. So, what did I do fall of senior year?

That’s right. I didn’t even apply.

And I remember this when we we’re walking those cobblestone streets and seeing Hogwarts buildings, and it isn’t regret exactly that blooms in my chest. Instead, it is this immense sense of responsibility–a responsibility to go after life with all that I have in me. There’s so much we can’t control.

Seriously, there is so much we can’t control.

But we can turn in the application. We can always try. We have a responsibility to try.

Another pub. Another dark beer. Another wonderful day.

Early morning. I’ll get delicious hot cross buns before we leave! It’s only a mile away!

*Walks there*

*Realizes upon arrival that businesses aren’t open at 6:30 am on a Saturday*

*Takes selfie to document idiocy*

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All-day train to Edinburgh.

“Is this our stop?”
“Maybe this one.”
“This one?”
“The next one.”
“This one? Oh, this one. Hurry!”

Mom and I have the most lovely hotel experience of all time, which is to be expected in the most perfect city of all time. More on that later, but look at these photos for now:

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Mom and I walk up the Old Town street past bagpipers and magicians and street performers.

“Oh, the Museum of Childhood. We’ve got to go in there, right?”

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“Let us never speak of this again…”

We see the sight of my future wedding (half kidding), St. Giles Cathedral, and we sit and marvel and admire.

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Dinner: The World’s End Pub.

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A couple of beers in, without food…

Waiter: What would you like?
*I look at Mom. She looks at me. I look at the waiter whose face is right by my face.*
Me: I’m sorry.
Waiter: That’s all right. We can just stare at each other, if you’d like.
Me: Oh. HAHAHHAHAHA. I think we’re lightweights.
Waiter: What?
Me: When you can’t hold your liquor.
Waiter: You’re Americans. Are you Chiefs fans?
*I look at Mom. She looks at me. I look at the waiter whose face is right by my face.*
Waiter: American football.
Me/Mom: Ohhhhhhhh.

I’m going to like this place. I definitely like the haggis.

Read about Day Eight here.

My First Year of Teaching

I’ll probably have a lot to say about this year. Like, a whole lot, but this was on my mind tonight, 10 school days before summer:

At the beginning of the year, I would have said my favorite part of teaching was talking stories. All day long, reading and rereading and dissecting and gushing and arguing and editing and writing and recommending and comparing and living in fairytale land. Dreams do come true!

I still love that part, but it’s not my favorite part.

My favorite part is watching a kid who usually answers with “I don’t give a dump” say that the Lord of the Flies is a book about everyone wanting to be a leader no matter who they hurt. My favorite part is begging a kid to stay in school with tears in my eyes and finding them in his too. My favorite part is googling some inappropriate name and laughing because I couldn’t figure out “dixon cider” on my own. My favorite part is the girl who tells me she’s got a learning disorder and never liked English class until now. My favorite part is the quiet boy who can barely ask me a question write the most in-depth analysis of Jay Gatsby you’ve ever read. My favorite part is hearing “yes, ma’am” or better “yes, Mom” to a request. It’s seeing the F to C+. It’s hearing the speech. It’s her dissenting voice in front of her friends. It’s the unabashed British accent when he’s reading Shakespeare.

My favorite part is when I’ve done my job and a student is no longer a too-cool, confused, angry, hurt, apathetic teenager; my favorite part is when for a brief flash they become who they always were supposed to be—silly and smart and loving and brave and vulnerable and oh-so-very kind. My favorite part is not the books. It’s the kids.

It took me a whole year to figure that one out.

An accurate depiction of first-year teaching, thank you.