Lisa Burstein

This Be Where I Blog

WORDSTOCK Recap- See my reading that had them laughing in the aisles!

on October 15, 2012

So Wordstock literary festival was this weekend and it was AWESOME! It was great meeting fans and also some super amazing authors including my panel mates: David Levithan, Katie Kacvinsky and Jen Violi. Below are some pics and a video of a short reading I did from PRETTY AMY filled with much audience and panel-mate laughter(!), which I have also included in print. All in all it was so fun and great to get out there and be authorish 😉

From the top: Festival Lobby, My book on the YA Table, ME and Katie Kacvinsky signing books, Jen Violi, David Levithan, ME and Katie Kacvinsky talking Contemporary YA.

The following night was Moons Over My Hammy for
Connor and his wife and chocolate milkshakes for me.
Connor had been right—I didn’t have a choice. I had to go
to dinner and to their church group with them, just like I
had to do all the other annoying things my mother told me
I’d never admit it, but it was mostly because I didn’t
know what else to do. I called Aaron as Connor beeped in my driveway,
hoping he might come to my rescue, but he didn’t answer
his phone. He probably didn’t know it was me. I called
again as my mother banged on the basement door. It went
straight to voice mail and I hung up. What message was I
supposed to leave? Meet me at Denny’s?
I sat across the table from Connor’s wife, trying to
figure out what she saw in Connor. Not like she was
any prize, but she was female and she was breathing.
Considering the age of their children, they must have met
in high school. I wondered if he used to surprise her in
parking lots, if they used to have hot and heavy make-out
sessions in cars parked in dark places.
She had a chin-length bob and apricot-blond hair. The
color you get using an at-home color kit, which, other than
usually turning out orange, illustrates like nothing else that
you are completely uncomfortable with yourself. I knew
that because I’d used them.
She wore one of those plaid flannel overall dresses with
a yellow turtleneck that made her look like Big Bird from
the neck up. I couldn’t help feeling like I looked pretty
good sitting next to her. Maybe she could be my new best
friend. I tried not to wonder whether Lila had thought
something similar the night we first met.
I looked over at the blue daisies Connor’s wife had
brought for me. I guess blue daisies signified a last-ditch
effort with a burgeoning convict, like red meant love
and yellow meant friendship. I considered going back to
Blooming Maples to give them to Mrs. Mortar, since then,
at least, I wouldn’t have them around to remind me that
the only person who had ever bought me flowers had been
Connor’s wife.
“You could at least be grateful this whole prayer circle
is for you,” Connor said between bites of his sandwich.
I sipped on my milkshake. “Don’t they have anything
better to do? Like drinking strychnine or speaking in
“That is very closed-minded of you,” he said.
“I’m Jewish, Connor,” I reminded him again, in case
he’d forgotten.
“Well,” he said, wiping his mouth, “look where that has
gotten you.”
“This night is not about converting me,” I said,
spooning up chocolate ice cream from the bottom of the
“The night’s not over yet,” he said.
His wife stayed silent, but she ordered me another
chocolate milkshake.
“Do you guys eat like this all the time?” I asked,
starting on my second milkshake, even though I felt like I
might puke. I really hadn’t eaten much since the arrest. It
felt good to have a stomach full of chocolate.
“Only on special occasions,” his wife said, finally
breaking her silence, turning to look at Connor and rubbing
his shoulder.
Hopefully this prayer circle really did drink strychnine,
so I could kill myself as soon as we got there.

I hated to admit it, but part of the reason I didn’t want to
go to Connor’s prayer circle was because I was afraid of
churches. Any time I went to one, I was immediately made
aware of my otherness.
Sure, every church I’d been to looked the same as my
temple at first, brick on the outside, waxy tiled floors on
the inside, hallways flanked by classrooms and offices, and
school-grade public bathrooms. But then I would enter the
sanctuary and see that big cross hanging on the wall, and
I’d realize it was all different and I was all different. There
was nothing more terrifying than being completely unlike
everyone around you.
I felt that enough in my secular life.
Luckily, the prayer circle was in the rec hall, so at least
I could pretend I wasn’t in a church—that is, until they
started praying.
Connor paused for a second before we entered, just
long enough for me to see that all the women were dressed
exactly like his wife. Like they had taken a big pile of those
overall dresses that were on sale and had them all blessed.
Connor put himself between his wife and me, then put
his arms around both of us. I elbowed him. “I was forced to
agree to praying, not to touching.”
“Touch is one of the most powerful healers.”
“So is morphine. I’ll take that instead.” I walked ahead
of them to a seat in one of the metal folding chairs they had
arranged in a circle in the middle of the room. I crossed my
arms and legs and harrumphed, letting everyone know I
was not a willing participant.
A woman in a blue-and-green-plaid overall dress sat
next to me and said, “You must be Amy.”
I wanted to say something smart, but I couldn’t figure
out what, so I just nodded.
“We get strangers here, but not too often,” she said, like
some maid in a haunted mansion taking you up to your
room, where you’ll be killed that night. “We are just so glad
to be able to help you with this decision.”
“I don’t know how much help you’ll be,” I said.
“Well, not us. Him,” she said, looking up.
The craziest thing about all of this—and there were
many crazy things: the fact that I was in a church, the fact
that I was with Connor and wasn’t at work, the fact that I
was with a bunch of Dress Barn rejects, the fact that within
minutes I was going to be praying to Jesus to ask Him for
guidance—was the fact that this was my mother’s idea.
My mother, who was an image Jew, which is a Jew who
only cares as much about her Judaism as the person she is
trying to prove it to, was sending me to the feet of Jesus for
help. She must truly have run out of options.
“Let’s get started,” some guy said, cupping his hands
around his mouth to make sure everyone could hear. I
guess this was supposed to include the Man himself.
Everyone sat down in the circle of chairs, alternating
man, woman, man, woman, and I felt instantaneously
uncomfortable. Not because it was obvious I was the only
one here who was not adhering to God’s Perfect Plan, but
because my stomach hurt and not in the tummy hurts sort
of way. It hurt in the dysentery sort of way.
Someone said something about taking your neighbor’s
hand, but I was afraid that if I let go of my stomach, which I
was clutching like a ball in my lap, it would explode, and by
explode, well, just guess.
Then Connor said, “Jesus, we come to you today for
guidance for our sister Amy.”
I think I groaned, because everyone looked over at
me—either that, or they were trying to picture me as their
sister, superimposing an orangey bob and my own overall
“She seeks your wisdom in making a decision with
immense gravity over the rest of her life.”
I groaned again, and Connor whispered, “It’s okay.”
Pulling me to him and shaking me, like an older brother
giving your whole body a noogie.
It caused whatever had been struggling to escape from
inside my stomach to start coming loose. I got up and ran
for the bathroom.
“Where are you going?” Connor yelled after me.
I didn’t bother explaining. I was afraid that if I took the
time to stop, my soul wouldn’t have been the only thing this
congregation was cleaning up.
I practically pulled the bathroom door from its hinges
as I ran inside, saying my own little prayer, thanking
whoever was responsible for putting the bathroom right
next to the rec hall.
As I sat on the toilet, I couldn’t help wondering
whether God was punishing me. Not that everything that
had happened already hadn’t made me consider it, but until
that night I hadn’t actually been purposely taunting Him.
Maybe this was His way of telling me that I had even less
control over things than I’d thought.
There was a knock at the bathroom door. It was
Connor’s wife, asking me if I was all right.
“Fine,” I said, even though my stomach was saying
something very different.
I heard someone come up behind her and heard her
whisper, “Just a case of the Loosey Gooseys,” and then,
“Hell hath no fury like lactose. That’s why Connor and I
stay away from it.”
Then I heard that someone chuckle.
Connor’s wife opened the bathroom door. “Do you
need anything?”
I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. I just groaned. Even if I
could talk, I was not about to have a conversation with this
woman while I was on the toilet.
“Some water, some juice?”
I said nothing, just answered with the sounds of
someone whose large intestine is turning to liquid.
“She’ll be okay. We’ll just move everyone out here into
the hallway,” she said as she closed the door.
To which I answered by puking onto the floor in front
of me, which seemed more than appropriate.
I sat there, dying on the toilet, as a group of Christians I
didn’t even know huddled in a circle in the hallway outside
of the bathroom and prayed that their Lord Jesus would give
me the wisdom to make the right decision. If that isn’t enough
to turn someone into an atheist, I don’t know what is.

Add PRETTY AMY on Goodreads

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Read the first chapter here

One response to “WORDSTOCK Recap- See my reading that had them laughing in the aisles!

  1. Sharon says:

    Loved hearing you read your own words!! Such an amazing book!

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