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Deep in the Heart of Texas
A love letter to Cathy Berner of Blue Willow Books
Whew! I had my first good night’s sleep in about a hundred years—allow me to HEARTILY recommend the Hotel Zaza, which had a fruit plate waiting for me.
You see? I’m not only the president of the club, I’m also a client. (That is both a Very Good Hats joke AND a Hair Club for Men joke.)
I couldn’t wait to come to Houston, because Cathy Berner at Blue Willow is one of my best bookselling pals, and the person I most often text with about boybands, and one of the truly great kid lit evangelists in the country. Cathy picked me up and we hugged and then she told me the news—the two schools we were supposed to visit had cancelled, due to a couple of parents complaining to the school board about something they’d seen on my social media. Cathy, the hero that she is, had already arranged a visit to another school, with about eight hours notice.
Here’s what I could find on my social media that a Texan school board might object to: the abortion fundraiser we hosted at Books Are Magic, at which we raised more than $15,000 for abortion funds, one of my sons in a dress, and our ongoing Melt The Guns fundraiser for Everytown, for which we have raised (to date) over $25,000. I am very proud of all of those things, and obviously I come from a place of extreme privilege in pretty much every way possible, and my various livelihoods are not impacted by these schools choosing not to host me. Mostly it just made me think about all the incredible books and authors that won’t be welcome in these schools and others like them, and all the kids who are missing out. So I guess the PSA here is to join your local school board if you want a say about which authors are invited (or uninvited) from your kids’ schools.
This was the sign outside the school I did get to visit in Houston. What a wonderful question! I also got the best question of my entire tour thus far, following my presentation on hats. “How many dinosaurs fit in your town?” They should put that one on the sign next.
You know a school is going to be good when you walk in and there are many boxes of donuts waiting.
My new friend Emily runs the show—here she displays her new very good hat.
After the school visit, we had a little time to explore, and Cathy brought me to the place she knew I’d like best. I’m going to hold myself to only a few of the photos that I took about Buc-ee’s, but please know, there are about 500 more where these came from, and I brought home a suitcase full of Buc-ee’s merchandise.
Cathy had an inflatable Bucc-ee on her holiday card. This one is year-round.
I didn’t buy any jerky but I DID buy several kinds of weird Buc-ee’s candy (for my children), some chocolate covered raisins (for me), a truly disgusting Carmel corn/cheese puff combo called Beaver Nuggets, one pair of sweatpants, one sweatshirt, two t-shirts, a coloring book….and probably other things that I’m forgetting. I drank an iced tea. I was in heaven.
I would have bought this banana pudding for my husband but I was worried about it surviving the plane ride home.
Wine coolers? I think? In round containers for some reason? These seem potentially lethal and very, very gross.
You know I had to try on a hat.
Cathy and Ayah were both wearing their Harry Styles gear so I threw mine on too. OH WAIT, THIS IS ALSO WHERE I TELL YOU THAT CATHY MADE ME A WHOLE PLAYLIST and I will post it below! It’s all boy band and boy band adjacent, and honestly, booksellers, if you’re not picking up your authors with a curated playlist based on their deepest loves, what are you even doing.
The staff at Blue Willow is funny and generous and wonderful. I loved hanging out with them. They let me sign the wall! And again, truly, Cathy is a hero for turning what could have been a total sad bust of a day into a wild success. Let’s all resolve to be more like Cathy, okay?
Then it was off to the airport, where I ate some tortilla out of a ziplock bag. I did appreciate the serving size.
Now I’m home for a few days to celebrate a 7th birthday, do a storytime at Books Are Magic, and be a regular human who eats three meals a day again for a little while, then off to Miami next week for more chaos. Thanks for following along.