Last night’s author event at the Watertown Library.

Photo taken by my husband during a smoke break.

Wow. I’m still a little overwhelmed by last night’s reading at the Watertown Library. Going into the event, I was having nightmares that I’d walk in to see hundreds of folding chairs and that only a few would be filled by my family and by the folks who work at the library.

In reality I walked into a room decorated with balloons bearing the world “e-book.” There were just barely enough seats for the people who came out to hear the lecture and reading. And those people included my friends’ parents and siblings, my neighbors when I was growing up, the people who employed me when I was a teenager, a high school teacher and his wife, and of course my family.*

I was kind of nervous, even with all the familiar faces. I’ve done readings before – but always as part of a group. This was just me, and part of the event was a lecture about e-books. I’ve been doing a lot of research about e-books lately and I had note cards and everything, but there was this one dreadful moment when everything I knew just disappeared and I accidentally entered that blank-slate state of mind that I’ve been trying – and failing – to cultivate during meditation. Holy horrible timing, Batman. But then the moment passed, and everything from that point on went smoothly.

One of the most thrilling things about last night: there were people I don’t know in the audience, including a 13-year-old writer who wants to have his own book published someday. I used to be the 13-year-old going to readings with my parents. I don’t think he could possibly know how much it meant to me to sign his copy of Beware the Hawk (even though I told him to wait a few years before reading it.) It’s the circle of life, people.

Speaking of circling, I read with my back to a huge window, and I’m told that a hawk was flying around on the other side of the glass during the reading. As I posted on my Facebook author page last night, I want to try to duplicate this experience by naming future titles after animals that might appear outside of a library window. I’ll name the next one Beware the Squirrel. Or something. There is an interesting discussion about possible common-animal book titles going on over there right now.

Thank you so much, Watertown Library, Friends of the Watertown Library, and people of Oakville and Watertown. You’ve made me so happy.

*My father took scads of photos last night. I will post them when I get them.




One of my first memories is of either standing or being carried down a wall of baby toys in Toys R’ Us by my father or by an uncle. I’m two and a half years old. It’s November. I’m staring at that wall of toys because I have a job to do, an honest-to-goodness task, and it’s my responsibility, because I’m no longer a baby. I’m a big sister, and I’ve been charged with picking out my baby brother’s very first toy.

I probably didn’t take too long to do this. Probably just a few minutes. But it seems like I was staring at that wall of toys for hours. I guess that makes sense; child time moves three times slower than time as experienced by adults. (Unless a swimming pool is involved. Then child time moves five times faster than adult time.)

Anyhow, I finally selected a yellow and orange plastic rattle, shaped like a bell. I remember thinking that it seemed like a good toy for a boy, but a little bit different. None of this blue-for-boys stuff. My little brother was special and deserved a special toy. I was very proprietary of him right from the beginning. Mom tells me that on that first visit I informed someone that “we just had a baby.”  I might have just chosen him a new toy, but I was pretty sure that he was my new toy. Mom and Dad had produced this child just for me. I remember clutching that rattle in my sticky toddler hands as someone held me up to the nursery window at Waterbury Hospital and pointed the new O’Connell, Chris, out to me.

He has remained the newest O’Connell for the past 31 years. Tomorrow that changes. My little brother is marrying his best friend, Cayla. And then we will have a brand new O’Connell.


Sometimes I still accidentally refer to my parents’ house as home.

I’ve been out of the house, more or less, for a decade but it’s an easy mistake. They still live in the same awesome, 100-year-old house I grew up in. Its silhouette has changed over the years, trees have grown up and come down, and it’s recently been painted yellow, but it’s still the same house I was brought home to as an infant. It provided the setting for all of my childhood dramas, games and fantasy. I spent hours in the backyard. I used to look out my window at the hills opposite and imagine the kingdoms that lay beyond them. (I was disappointed to learn that the hills were only hiding Waterbury.)

I know where everything in this house is, and a lot of the things I used to think of as mine are still here – the mural on my old bedroom wall, the painted rock that serves as a doorstop, the shelves on which my international doll collection used to sit – but recently something’s changed. Continue reading