7 Quick Takes about going to the East Coast, embarrassing myself in interviews, and losing my ability to write the letter F

April 11, 2014 | 51 comments

— 1 —

People of New York City and Washington DC, get your margarita glasses out and dust off your dress banana suits, because I’m headed your way! I have the all-clear from my publisher to visit your area, so now we just need to decide what we want to do while I’m there! Dates are still up in the air, but it’ll be sometime soon.

I get the impression that the good folks at Ignatius Press are open to pretty much any activity that would involve promoting the book, so let’s start thinking! Book signings? Speaking engagements? Public readings? Downton Abbey-themed parties complete with butlers serving us caviar where we all use fake British accents to talk about the book? Remember, there are no bad ideas in brainstorming.

If you’d be up for helping arrange an event, that would be awesome!ย I’m going to put up a form in a couple of days where we can discuss details, so be on the lookout for that. I’m so excited!!!

— 2 —

Yesterday I was paying bills, and when I signed the first check, the process of writing my name filled me with dread and made me start twitching. At first I didn’t understand why, but then I remembered: THE BOOKPLATES.


To recap the situation for new readers or those who have blocked it out of their minds because they need to believe that they don’t share the planet with people this stupid:

  1. I have a book coming out at the end of this month.
  2. Earlier this year, I mused aloud to my publisher that it would be cool if I signed thousands and thousands of bookplates to be inserted into the first copies of the book that come off the presses.
  3. Because I didn’t understand what an awesome and capable team of people they are, I never thought they’d say yes.
  4. They said yes.
  5. The next thing I know, someone in the marketing department is sending me proofs of the beautifully designed bookplates and asking where I want them shipped.
  6. My publisher is heavily promoting the signed bookplate offer.
  7. After I sign them all, there needs to be time for them to be shipped back to the printer and inserted into each book by hand.
  8. The book ships on April 29.
  9. I have not finished signing the bookplates.

Because God looks out for fools, the wise folks at Ignatius talked me down to doing only 1, 000…which doesn’t sound like a lot…but really starts to feel like a lot after the 498th time you’ve signed your name in one day.

UPDATE: I just found a packing slip that would seem to indicate that there are many more than 1, 000 bookplates in the box. I’m not sure if I’m reading it correctly, but it would make a lot of things make sense. I carefully calculated my signatures-per-minute rate at the beginning of the process, and used that to put together an estimate of how long it would take me to get through the stack. When I was not even half way through by the time I should have been finished, I thought in despair, WHEN DID I GET SO BAD AT MATH?!

— 3 —

I posted this shot on Instagram and Twitter:


…And I got a bunch of responses from people commenting that my Fs are inconsistent. To which I wanted to say: You do not even know the half of it.

The problem is that signing your name hundreds and hundreds of times will make you become neurotic about your signature (by “you” I mean “me”). Somewhere around the 150 mark, I began dotting the i‘s in the wrong places. Around bookplate #275, I stopped dotting the i‘s altogether.

At bookplate 350, around the time the photo was taken, I started wondering if that’s even how you write a cursive capital F. Though it is how I’ve signed my name every day for all of my married life, I began to have delusional visions of readers cracking open the book, gasping, and shouting, “THAT’S NOT AN F! WHAT DOES THIS SIGNATURE EVEN SAY?!?!”…so I switched to a printed F just in case.

By the time bookplate 475 was signed I had drifted back into my usual way of writing F‘s. I was pretty sure my signature says JEMFR 2-WILLR, but I no longer cared.

And somewhere around #525 I lost my grasp of the English language, my hand had turned into a claw, and I forgot why I was scrawling markings on these rectangular pieces of paper.

The last few bookplates may just contain a few marks smeared with drool.

— 4 —

On top of that, it’s tax season. Joe recently became a CPA, which he’s excited about, but which means that he’s working crazy hours until the 15th.

Last night he came home after midnight to see me hunched over a pile of bookplates on the kitchen table. Instead of the usual “how was your day?” chatter, we just kind of grunted at one another.

I will say, though, that it’s all a lot of fun. I wouldn’t want to be this busy forever, but it’s energizing to have a crunch period where we have a lot to do to get our family closer to goals we’ve been working toward for a long time. Everything we’re doing right now is inching us closer to the ultimate family vision I talk about in the ebook, so it really feels like energy well spent.

— 5 —

Speaking of the ebook and family visions and stuff, I had the pleasure of doing a Google Hangout interview with Mystie of Simply Convivial. We talked about how to apply the ideas from The Family-First Creativeย to daily life, with a focus on families who homeschool.

I knew that Mystie was going to come up with a bunch of good questions when I read her About Me page, which begins:

Home is infused with metaphoric and symbolic significance. The struggle lies in being motivated to make our homes a foretaste of the heavenly home, an outpost of the kingdom, while remaining content in the muddle that is everyday life.

So well said. Thanks for a great interview, Mystie!

— 6 —

Now that I’m going to be doing more interviews, I need to brush up on my Easter greetings. I was pre-recording an interview that will run during Easter the other day, and at the end of the segment the host said, “Jennifer, He is Risen!”

I started to say, “Yeah, isn’t that great?” Then I stopped myself. Mercifully, I quickly realized that he was initiating the ancient Paschal greeting in which the proper response is: “He is risen, indeed!” (I actually had to Google it after the call ended to make sure I’d said the right thing.)

Or maybe the media outlets can air a warning before my interviews, sort of like an explicit content notice that warns you that what you’re about to see may have graphic material, except with a warning that the woman you’re about to see may say something ridiculous.

— 7 —

I love discovering great new resources from your comments. The other day author Connie Rossiniย mentioned that she has an ebook called Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. I looked it up on Amazon, and was delighted to see that it’s free! At only 20 pages, it’s also a quick read. I want to recommend it as a perfect Holy Week book if you need something short and inspiring to give you a spiritual shot in the arm next week.

(And if you’re not familiar with the Carmelite order, here’s a brief summary of what they’re all about.)

Happy weekend! I hope you all have a blessed Palm Sunday!



  1. ElizabethB

    That’s a lot of bookplates and signatures! I think the front bottom left one may say Jennifer Falafel… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Jeremiah 29:11

    I live in Rockville, MD – it’s a DC suburb – my parish would love to host you and I know would have a huge crowd. (It’s part of the Archdiocese of Washington – St Patricks.) I would love to help plan any kind of event in our area! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Kate

    Thank you for making my Friday mornings such a treat. I look forward to this all week! I noticed myself reading soooo slowly this morning, and then I realized that it’s because I don’t want to speed through any of it too quickly…I’m sad when I get to the end! I can’t wait to read your book!! Also, it was nice meeting you really briefly in Raleigh after Holy Mass ended on Saturday at the IBT Conference (you said I look like a Kate). I am a big fan! With the challenges that come with four little ones, I am so grateful for the smiles, laughs, and true encouragement that you bring me whenever I stop in at your blog! Thanks again!

  4. Amelia @ One Catholic Mama

    My hand is cramping just thinking about signing all those bookplates. Wow, I’m impressed you took that on!! I’m sure whoever gets those books will appreciate the hard work!!

  5. Laura

    I happen to know a great place for margaritas in NYC….what time should we meet?

  6. Rita @ Open Window

    You should come to Baltimore, the oldest diocese in the U.S.! We have a gorgeous historic library, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, right across the street from the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (I don’t think I missed a word there) and you could easily do a signing at the library or maybe at the Basilica, which you’ll want to visit anyway if you’re coming to the East Coast because it was the first cathedral in the United States and it is breathtaking. Let me know if you need help making connections locally.

    • Corita

      Rita, if you get this reply, I live in Baltimore, too! Do you know anyone who could pull something like that together? I would help!

  7. Tracy Bua Smith

    When I saw “East Coast”, I was excited thinking a bit smaller town, “my” town, but NY and DC sound like fun too! ๐Ÿ™‚ And that’s alot of signatures! Maybe you hit a Guinness world record with the number of (legible)signatures in one sitting without having to endure surgery from carpal tunnel. Then you could sign all the Guineess World Record books that feature your record breaking signature ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll check out Carmelite Saint book. I’m always looking for inspiring, short reads! Have a blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week! Oh and is there no Quick Takes linky today? I don’t see any?

  8. Rosie

    I would probably be worthless at planning a *real* event, buuuuuut if you find yourself missing your crazies I guarantee my house will cure you of any homesickness! We’re about 15 minutes outside of DC and I can boast such activities as:

    – lying on the futon watching as the babies longingly stare out the windows at the big, beautiful backyard that the big kids have free range over (but that the babies rarely get to use because all they want to do is eat dirt)

    – no fewer than 2 hilarious tantrums per day

    – dramatic reenactments of any and all TV shows the kids happen to have watched on Amazon Prime

    – forced reading of the same dollar store books over and over again (Ginger and Louie are sister and brother. Where one goes, the other follows. Best friends forever! The end. AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN)

    – early morning wakeup calls!

    We even have a guest room with a baby swing next to the bed in case you need some light-up stars or soothing music during the night ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Rosie

      In all seriousness though, http://www.instituteofcatholicculture.org/ – they will hook you up!

      Also, I think cursive capital F’s are gross. Who decided that was the way to write it? Someone drunk.

    • Melissa H-K

      She isn’t exaggerating at all. Trust me on this.

  9. Amanda

    I would LOVE to see you in New York!! A talk would be AMAZING but I would be happy with a book signing. ๐Ÿ™‚ You have been instrumental in my own conversion experience. We (my husband and I and our kids) are officially joining the Catholic Church this year at Easter Vigil. Thank you for letting God use you to help us get there.

  10. Anabelle hazard

    Between you and me, (everyone else close your eyes) if you’re not done with signing, you might consider teaching your kids the ” art of calligraphy” that resembles your handwriting and have them practice on those bookplates. Then have your little ones dot the i’s.
    Connie Rossini is awesome and if you’re ever in the north Birmingham area, I have some ideas.

    • Connie Rossini

      Annabelle, don’t let me forget to pay you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Kathleen

    So excited that you are coming to DC. I live 10 minutes outside of DC in Arlington. I am going to email you with venue ideas. Catholic Information Center, I could help you set up an event there.

  12. Susan

    Hi Jen,

    In D.C. I highly recommend the Basilica, or the John Paul II center. Both have lots of room and are accustomed to hosting speakers. They are also very easy to get to and near Catholic U, which means a big audience. As I mentioned earlier, if you want to bring you family, I am a veteran home school mom with a Master’s in American History and an experienced tour guide. My husband and I will be glad to show y’all around the sites.

  13. Jarrod

    If it were me in #3, I’d likely (sadly) be offering some effs of my own! I once had a job where I had to sign my name just a few times a day and my signature turned into a scrawl very quickly. I can only imagine your situation. God bless and stay strong.

  14. Erin

    I think you have counters in your house that will work for jelly beans.

    We used to go to Latin Mass at St Alphonsus in Baltimore. I recommend it if you get the chance.

  15. alexmangurisra

    What a excellent post. I am so impressed. Really a good tips here. It is very helpful. Thanks for sharing it.
    What a excellent post. I am so impressed. Really a good tips here. It is very helpful. Thanks for sharing it.

  16. Kathleen Basi

    Signing 1000 book plates makes me feel queasy, so I have nothing but sympathy…and er, some laughter…

  17. Kathleen Basi

    Oops, hit a random button. I was trying to say, some laughter–but only the kindest, most empathetic kind. ๐Ÿ™‚ Mostly about grunting at each other.

    BTW…I would not have had any earthly idea how to respond to that ancient greeting, because it only sounds vaguely familiar at all. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Elizabeth@SuperSwellTimes

    You have a way better signature for authorship than I do. I feel like I need to practice more now.

  19. Liesl

    So excited you are coming to DC! Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help!

  20. Morag

    When I got married, I had a job in which I had to sign my name many times a day. I therefore just used the initial of my first name in my new signature in order for it to be shorter and flow more easily. You have two longish names, it must be hard work. Thanks for my Friday LOL ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Dennis

    If I can get Jennifer to do a half-hour radio interview about her changing views on morality as she converted from atheism, what would you like to know?

    p.s. For Jennifer, no nameplate signing will be required ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Stephanie

    I’m taking a break from addressing first Communion invitations and can’t even imagine how sore your hand must be! I wanted to cry after doing five invites. Alas, here’s hoping that one day I’ll be awaiting the printing of my own book, and facing the same problem you have. Congrats on your book. Can’t wait to read it!

  23. Rose

    Capital ‘F’ is confusing! I never thought about in until a few weeks ago. I have a newborn baby who we named “Felicity.” As I write thank-you notes for baby gifts, I have to think hard every time I write her name. I think several times I’ve written it with a cursive capital ‘T’ instead. Now I have to go look up how to do it right!

    • Gina

      Such a pretty name, though. Congratulations on the new little one!

  24. Jessica

    I am so over the moon that you are coming to NYC! I may have a nursing baby slung about me, but I will be attending . . . whatever it is that you are doing! YAY!

  25. Gina

    You’re coming here! SQUEEEE!!!

    If you’re going to be in D.C. itself, my one humble request is for a daytime event. It’s really hard (read: impossible) for me to get into the city at night.

  26. Laura Smeby

    Thank you for the e-book suggestion! I look forward to reading! PS/ I heard you on the radio the other day and somehow just knew it was you before they even said it. I loved hearing one of my favorite blogger’s real voice!

  27. Sadie

    D.C….yippee!!! I just heard Matthew Kelly speak at our local church here in Fairfax (St. Mary of Sorrows). It was a great event. I’d love to hear you speak as well. But we are moving soon, so please tell your people to make it soon! ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. Elise

    Oh, what wonderful news that you’re coming here to NYC. I would absolutely love to help in whatever way I can – I’ll be on the lookout for the form you’re planning to put up in a few days. So excited for your book release, Jen!

  29. Jenny

    I’d kind of like to see the claw.

  30. Mary Creger

    You are so unbelievabley funny!

  31. Stephanie Y.

    DC!!! Yay!! So excited. Ok, gotta plug my suburb as well. Frederick, Maryland – you may remember my Google Doc comment in which I said my city’s downtown is cute as a button! Looking forward to that form. Squeeeee!!!!

  32. Meg

    I live on the DC line but am extremely introverted and would not be likely to Go Somewhere for An Event. However, if you need to come decompress in an apartment with the world’s cutest Puggle who just wants to chill on the couch and maybe have a chew toy but that’s okay we can just cuddle . . . we’re available. (Really!)

  33. Loren

    True love is NEVER idle. It is not the gift but the love in giving that counts (MTeresa). God bless you sister and all your loved ones.

  34. Betsy

    Word on the street in these parts is that “they” aren’t even teaching cursive anymore. So, in 50 years, people will see your awesome bookplate and say, in the words of my six year old, “Look, squiggle writing!” Btw, I’m pretty sure the capital cursive letter that looks like a 2 is Q, but perhaps there are different styles for different types of cursive. Since when are signatures supposed to be legible anyway; they’re the old-school version of today’s internet passwords.

  35. Jennifer Short

    I have a banana suit. Really. Too bad you aren’t a little closer. I could show up in it. Check out my video of me in it on Instagram under jenndiggy Of course, if I really showed up in a banana suit, the powers that be would probably ban me from the event. . . so maybe it’s a good thing I live 4 hours from D.C.

  36. Tiffany O'Hara

    I am so excited you’re coming to D.C.! The Basilica is always a beautiful spot for book signings etc. Can’t wait to hear what you decide for your travels to the East Coast!

  37. Rachel

    I loved your tale about getting hit with “He is risen” because sometimes all these little Catholic call-and-response customs can seem like a sudden pop quiz! Once I went to meet with a priest of a religious order that I was thinking of joining, and he suggested that we say a prayer first. I agreed, and immediately the quiz began:

    Father: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of thy love. Send forth thy spirit and they shall be created.”

    Me: “And thou shalt renew the face of the earth.”

    Father: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”

    Me: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.”

    Father: “Sacred Heart of Jesus…”

    Me: “…have mercy on us.”

    Father: “Immaculate Heart of Mary…”

    Me: “…pray for us.”

    I was, of course, anxious to make a good impression, and I had to think very hard to get all those answers right! And at the same time I had noticed that one of my hairs had somehow landed on the tablecloth between Father and me, and I was trying to subtly remove it before he could notice. Fortunately the rest of the meeting was much less stressful. ๐Ÿ™‚

  38. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    Ha! I love that other people noticed the inconsistent Fs too ๐Ÿ˜‰

    And, I had the pleasure of doing a Viva the Blog session with Connie over Skype. I am excited to see that she has a book!

  39. Patty

    Jen, did you realize that your book is coming out on the feast of St. Catherine of Siena? I seem to remember something about you wanting to name one of your daughters Catherine, and using Joy as part of her name, and connecting it to St. Catherine of Siena whose nickname was a word meaning joy. I remember because she is a favorite saint of mine, our oldest’s confirmation saint, and also part of her religious name.

    Are you stopping by Kansas on your way to the East Coast? Haha. We did have a very good turnout for a series of talks by Fr. Jacques Philippe in a city near me, so maybe it’s not such a stretch that you could do a book signing, maybe a talk, here. Wichita is an awesome diocese…not that I’m biased. But it is.

    St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us.

  40. Gigi

    Being that you’ll be crazy busy while in NYC you should take time and visit the chapel of the Dominicans in Summit, NJ to refuel. Their chapel is heavenly…

  41. David

    I’ll take a bookplate with your intitials on it. Honest that’s all just 2 letters! Great article. What about using a stamp with your signature? I guess you already thought of that.

    There is a Catholic bookstore in Alexandria, Va. which is across the river from DC. It’s run by the Pauline Sisters. You could do a book signing there.

  42. Lisa K

    Hi Jen,
    We are all so excited to see you in NYC or Stamford. Just do what is best for you as I know you also hold this job:


    Lisa K

  43. Sara

    Hi Jen,

    So amazing that you’re coming to DC (kind of a dream come true). I’ll echo other peoples’ idea to get in touch with the Catholic Information Center and the National Shrine. You might also get in touch with Politics and Prose (a coffee shop/bookstore in DC that hosts book talks), especially if you want to reach a non-religious audience.

    For NYC, I’d get in touch with the Catholic Center at NYU…run by the Dominicans of the Province of St. Joseph, so you know it’s legit.

    I assume that you know people in DC where you can crash, but if not, let me know.

  44. Magda

    John Green signed the entire first printing of his novel “The Fault in Our Stars”- here’s a video about it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQnU8mV3oeE. Misery loves company, yes?

  45. Matt

    I’ve been lost in Facebook for a year or so and away from my blogโ€ฆand other blogs I used to read.
    So glad you are healthy again and that your book is soon to be released. I look forward to reading it.

    If you can squeeze it in, the Cathedral Basilica of Sts Peter and Paul in Philadelphia is an important attraction. Sunday evenings at 6:30pm Archbishop Chaput celebrates Mass and attracts a good crowd. Even if you only participate as a layperson, it’s well worth the visit. Sacrament of Penance 5:30pm to start of Mass same day.

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