Dear Jen Lancaster,
How do I write this without sounding like a fangirl or Oprah guest? Your books are awesome. I have never found books I connect to like these books. I have actually written a letter to you, but here I will write as if I hadn't before. Jen, you are so "fetch" (mean girls reference :-) ).
The first book I found was Such a Pretty Fat. As one who has ridden the diet train many many times, I connected to everything in the story. I too know what it's like to try and be tough but sometimes when some idiot says something stupid, you just break down. I know the world of the gym, mostly for working at one. I have seen those idiot gym girls with less on than you'd where to the beach giggling and flirting while sweat is pouring down my face. I also seem to continue to punish myself by attending group aerobics. My latest encounter was in a rich suburban near here with moms who never need to work, wearing $300 worth of workout gear. They are singing along, yelling to the instructor to go harder and asking each other, "what are you doing tomorrow? you want to meet for coffee?" Meanwhile, I am in the back in my target workout clothes (clearance!) so red in the face, you'd think I was part lobster. What am I doing tomorrow? WORKING. Shut up and keep punching the imaginary things in the air! I am here to work out, not listen to you like a bad sitcom scene. Even with that, I may not be having the results you had, but I'm on my way and doing better than I have in a while.I know that in the end it's only how you feel and who loves you for you that matter.
Bitter is the New Black came just a few months after that when we had just moved to Orange County and I didn't have a teaching job. I knew I was taking a risk leaving one teaching job without having another in a the years when hundreds of teachers were being fired. Bill bought me Bitter is the New Black and Bright Lights, Big Ass for my birthday. As I was reading Bitter, summer was slowly fading away and I was coming to the realization that I was now just another Disney minimum wage employee and I wasn't going to be a teacher that year. I was beyond depressed when the first day of school came and went with no options. Four weeks later, I was teaching in that affluent suburb, happier than I had been in any other teaching job. In the end, it all came together and we were all better because of it. Had I had to go to unemployment, I knew to leave the designer clothes at home. (see Dear Phillip Done to see how things changed from there).
The strongest connection I ever read was in My Fair Lazy. I love me some trashy TV. Now, I think these shows are great, but I get so much flack from Bill about them. One of my all time favorite awful shows is Real World/ Road Rules Challenge. For those of you who don't know, it takes previous MTV reality stars and put them in competition with each other. There have been many different version of the Challenge with how the teams are formed and what the rules are. Fresh Meat, The Duel and the Ruins are my top three favorites. One night, Bill came home and went to take a shower, like an addict I secretly changed the channel to watch while he was gone, even though it was being taped by the TIVO in the other room. With two minutes left, I didn't switch it off when he walked back into the room. Bill couldn't get over it. "Why are you watching this crap? You are too smart to like this!" I huffed him off explaining that I just love this and after a long day of thinking, I want to tune off and watch some nonsense. A few weeks later, My Fair Lazy came out. The very first chapter made me nearly fall off my chair. Jen and Fletch are having the exact same conversation. Fletch cannot understand why Jen likes this same crappy TV show. When Bill came home that night, I made him sit and read the chapter out loud to him like my students. See? I'm not the only one was repeated multiple times that night.
We all feel, at least from time to time, that no one has ever or will ever feel the way we feel. Whether it's about work or relationships or ourselves, we wonder, is it just me? For me, it was unbelievable to find so many parts of myself in these books and I think a lot of your readers feel the same way. I have tried to figure out what it is that makes us all feel connected and what I think it comes down to is being real regardless of how it may look to everyone else. When you write, you can write yourself how ever you want. You can make yourself as elegant or poised as you desire. But when you write how you took an old raisinette out of the bottom of your purse and ate it, that is real life and something I'd probably due myself. So many stories and books just show the nice, pretty side of things, but when you put in all the good and all the bad, we see the reflection of all the good and all the bad that make us up too. I think if I had to tell what message I get from reading your novels, it would be it might not always be pretty, but it's a damn great ride.
As I am reading the latest book, If You Were Here I find myself connecting to all the crazy adventures we had buying this house. But most of all, I am just enjoying myself when I'm reading. And in the end, as an author, isn't that the most important part? Thank you for your books and never being afraid of saying what you're thinking. Your fans appreciate it.
If You Were Here: A Novel