Many of you know that my passions have long been community, and connection. I worry that by the time we hit mid-life, when our children have grown and flown, we are all increasingly isolated, hidden behind our computer screens and phones, forgetting how to connect, even though that’s what we long for.
It’s the reason why I started a creative co-working office space in my home town of Westport, CT, and the reason why, a few years ago, I started an active group in that same town that is now up to almost four thousand members.
Today, I am thrilled to announce the start of something special, combining community, connection, and the other thing I truly love…books.
Most of you on here are huge readers. Because there’s nothing better than discussing books you love with other smart women, I am enormously excited to be launching The Jane Green Book Club. Every month we will pick a book, and get together to discuss it. If we’re very lucky, we may even get the occasional author to join in.
If you really want to make the most of it, bring your book groups on board, or start a Jane Green book club yourself, joining in the fun. I’ll be posting recipes and ideas for what to serve, and the occasional live chat with our guest authors.
I can’t wait to announce our first book. I read it recently and completely loved it. To find out what it is, make sure you like the Jane Green Book Club Page so you’ll be the first to hear.
Tag your friends who are big readers underneath this post, and click on this link, and like the page: Jane Green Book Club
Every now and then I decide to give up caffeine, but it never lasts very long. Mostly because I am so extraordinarily healthy (mostly), that caffeine seems like the least harmful of all my vices, and so after a couple of weeks of mint tea (which is never the same), I start to think that life is too short, and go back to drinking my morning coffee, vowing not to give it up again.
Recently, my husband and I embarked on a three-month cleanse. In the past two months since we started, my husband has lost 20lbs and feels twenty years younger. I have lost almost nothing and feel exactly the same, apart from one significant difference: I am sleeping again.
I have not slept properly for years. I fall asleep quickly, but am always wide awake sometime between two and four, and am usually awake for hours, if not the rest of the night. The worst thing of all is that once I am resigned to being awake, I then reach for my phone, charging quietly on my nightstand, after which time all bets are off. I never thought you could spend hours on Facebook. What do all these people DO, I had wondered, hearing friends complain that they were wasting hours a day scrolling through their news feeds, until my middle-of-the-night sessions when I have found myself scrolling, sometimes until daybreak.
The cleanse we are on involves giving up all the usual things; essentially, anything delicious that makes life worthwhile. Sugar, carbs, dairy, legumes, alcohol, and caffeine. Some of it has been very easy for me. I haven’t really eaten a lot of dairy for years, so that hasn’t been a problem. Alcohol triggers my migraines, so I don’t drink. I thought sugar would be a hard one, but after a couple of weeks, I stopped thinking about it.
The one I was really going to miss, was caffeine, and because I decided to commit to this completely, I knew I had to stick to it. Along with the caffeine, I had decided to leave my iphone downstairs when I went up to bed. I wanted to get into bed and read, without having to put the book down every few minutes to check if something momentous had happened on social media since I last looked. I wanted to see what happens if I woke up at 2am, and didn’t automatically reach for my phone. I wanted to see if Beloved and I talked more, if neither of us were buried in our screens.
At this point, I have to say I am not someone who drinks a lot of coffee. Two cups perhaps, always in the morning, before 11am. I did not think for a second that it would affect my sleep. I do love a cup of tea, but only in winter, or I have a case of the blues. Not for a second did I believe giving up caffeine would affect my sleep.
How wrong I was. Once I get into bed, I have barely been able to read, because within three pages I am so sleepy, I have to switch off the light and close my eyes, after which point, I sleep like a baby. I still wake up at 2am, but now I am fast asleep again within minutes of getting back from the bathroom, with no phone to distract me and wake me up. When I awaken it is daylight, and rather than being 5am, it is usually 7am, and sometimes later. And Beloved and I talk! Yes! We actually talk!
I still miss my morning coffee. This cleanse is over in a couple of weeks, and there is much that I plan to continue. My life is much easier without sugar, and I feel better without flour. I would love to re-introduce coffee as my only sin, but I’m sleeping too well to even consider it, so shall spend this time trying very hard to develop a passion for mint tea.
When I was a very small child at junior school, I would often wrap my scarf around my entire head, and wander around the playground. Yes, clearly this was a little bizarre. I remember feeling completely safe, as if I was invisible, tucked up in my own little world.
I had the same feeling on the rare occasions we would have thick, pea soup fog in London. I had a long walk to the bus stop, and I remember very clearly walking through the fog, unable to see more than two feet in front of me, loving the isolation and peace, the feeling of being invisible.
This summer, I have discovered that a very large hat, with a downturned brim, gives me much the same feeling. Also, it is far more socially acceptable than wandering around with a scarf over my face, peering out through the tiny holes in between stitches in the wool.
For an introvert like myself, the discovery of a big hat may be life-changing. If I could have a superpower, it would undoubtedly be invisibility. Not for eavesdropping on people’s conversations – if I ever have the misfortune of overhearing someone talking about me, I scarper as quickly as I can, firmly of the belief that you are unlilkely to hear anything you will want to hear when you are eavesdropping – but for the feeling of privacy it allows.
I walked the beach yesterday with a giant hat on, the brim pulled low, so I could see everyone’s feet as they approached, but nothing more. And they could see a woman, with a giant hat on, so no-one (presumably) knew it was me.
There are days when I am quite sure I am an extroverted introvert. The truth is, I love people, and I am very happy in a crowd of people, as long as it is a crowd of people I have chosen for myself. I do not particularly like small talk, but I have a horror of running out of conversation, and so, should I find myself in an awkward conversation with a stranger, I have learned to fill silences with lots and lots of questions, and generally people are happy to open up and tell you about themselves.
There are days when I will gladly go to parties and chat, but there are other days when I would rather stick pens in my eyes than walk into a room filled with people I do not know. There are days when I do not want to see anyone, and I do not want anyone to see me, and although I do sometimes spend these days hiding at home, sometimes I need to be out in the world, even though I wish I wasn’t.
A very big hat is clearly the perfect solution to the days when the introversion gets the better of me, and I promise not to wrap a scarf around as well, unless snow is on the ground!
I am notoriously bad at booking things. Part of the problem is that I do things very quickly, and don’t have the patience to study the details. Invariably I am disappointed that things are not what I expect.
I also have an assistant who is very, very similar to me. This is why I completely adore her, but we are both disastrous at things like booking travel. I just want to get it done, as does she, and neither of us ever realize how long and complicated things can be, until I am actually on the road.
Eldest daughter was desperate for a spa day once we got to Lithuania, so I decided to treat the two girls, and my husband and myself. I am not good at spa days. I am spectacularly low-maintenance when it comes to looking after myself. It’s all I can do to get myself to a hairdresser a couple of times a year, let alone do things like facials and massages. It just isn’t in my DNA, but I decided to splurge.
I have no idea what I googled, but I came up with an amazing looking resort, just outside of Vilnius, that looked more like it belonged in Fiji than in Lithuania. It had Tiki huts on stilts on a lake, and was offering spa days that included massage, facials, steam room, saunas. And all for a ridiculously bargain price. I immediately booked four spa days, congratulating myself on my find.
Vilnius is very beautiful, particularly the old town. The taxi picked us up and wound us through town, before taking us to the countryside, which is rather grey and dismal. About twenty minutes later we pulled into a long driveway, at the end of which stood our resort.
I can’t say the pictures didn’t do it justice, because I’m not sure there were pictures of the front of the resort. It was very…. Well. I’m not too sure I can find the right words. It was huge, and empty. There was lots of orange wood that had been lacquered in high gloss, and slightly musty sage green carpets.
The spa was in the bowels of the hotel, and was empty, save for a woman with a hoover in the ladies changing room, which was vast, and marble, and smelled dank, as if it hadn’t been used for years.
It felt like a relic from Communist Russia. Our two girls looked at me, wide-eyed. We changed into threadbare robes, then made our way upstairs, to a few sunloungers outside. The sun-loungers were in a bed of weeds, at which point, I got the giggles.
“See?” I said to Beloved, who frequently says I was rather grand when we met. “You’ve knocked all the princess out of me.”
“And you’ve now gone lower than I ever would,” he responded, with a grin, at which point I looked around at the weeds, and became vaguely hysterical – I started laughing so hard, I was doubled over in pain.
“Can we, er, bounce?” said eldest daughter. As a famous newspaper used to often say, we made our excuses and left. And I have now been told that I am never to be put in charge of spa treatments again.
Years ago I saw a George Clooney movie called Up In the Air, in which he played a traveller so seasoned, he never ever checked his bag. Since that time, I have lived my life in a Clooneyesque manner, never ever checking my bag. It doesn’t matter where I travel, nor for how long, I manage to fit everything into my carry-on.
I have always been something of a light packer. My most important item has always been my hairdryer. I once travelled Europe with a backpack the size of the one my children take to school every day. It contained a handful of T-shirts and clean knickers, and a very large powerful hairdryer.
But my recent trip to Sweden, Iceland and Lithuania proved to be more challenging. Sweden required city clothes, and Iceland, layers of warm clothing including hiking boots and rainproof jackets. Lithuania was going to be hot again, and I had cocktail parties and perhaps dinner with other people, so needed something vaguely nice.
In other words, there was no way in hell I was going to be sticking to carry on. It was just this once, I figured; what could possibly happen?
I remembered we had an enormous suitcase in the basement, which I dragged out, and proceeded to fill to the brim. It was so full, it was groaning. I wasn’t sure it would make it without splitting.
The suitcase did very well in Stockholm, and Iceland, but sadly Scandinavian Airlines lost it somewhere between Iceland and Lithuania. Three of our suitcases went missing, and there was no-one to help us, nor answer our increasingly desperate plea.
After a couple of days, we learned our suitcases had been sent to Poland. We weren’t sure why, but it was quite clear it was going to be a while until we would be reunited.
And so I hit the shopping mall next to our hotel in Vilnius. Oh dear. This was not the smart shopping mall, this was the one filled with multi-colored polyester kaftans. Reader, I really tried. I am firmly of the belief that if you have a good eye, you can always find something good, and I very much believe that I have a good eye, but I couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make the green and orange floaty nylon top work.
Eventually we discovered another shopping center. By this time we were all starting to smell, and drastic measures were needed. There was an H & M, which we all pounced on with glee. By this time, I was fed up, and tired, and not in the mood to try anything on. I gathered a handful of T-shirts, a pair of jeans, and on the way out, in a slightly dodgy shoe store, found some sandals that seemed the height of fashion in Lithuania, plus enough make-up to ensure I felt like me. Back at the hotel I discovered that nothing looked very good, but by then I was determined to make-do.
Our luggage arrived after four days. I have never been so happy to see my hairdryer, and my clothes. I celebrated with a hair wash, and I have decided that no matter the circumstances, I will never, ever be checking luggage again.
A few months ago my whole family discovered something brilliant on our iphones – an app called Find my Friends. I added all my children, and Beloved, and they did the same to me.
This is particularly brilliant for me at this stage of life because of the following scenario which occurred multiple times during any given week. What are you doing this morning, I will ask Beloved, on a Sunday morning. He will say words, and I will respond by making approving noises or telling him to have a good time, and a few minutes later I will ask him again what he is doing this morning. He will look at me in disbelief, and then say more words, that may or may not be the same as the words he said before, and I will nod approvingly and pretend that I am listening, and two hours later, when I realize he is nowhere to be found, I will send him an angry text asking where the hell he is.
He will then tell me that he has told me repeatedly where he is going, and I will deny it furiously, with every fibre of my being, convinced that he has not told me, and that he is in fact gas-lighting me by making me feel completely crazy. I will not, for one second, ever, admit that a lot of the time I do not listen to him. I will not, for one second, ever, admit that there is so much going on in my head all of the time, that even if I am looking at people, smiling, and nodding, the chances are that in my head I am thinking about something completely different.
I blame ADD. Which is besides the point. Since adding Beloved to Find my Friends, rather than send him furious texts or phone him demanding to know where he is, I click on the link and see that he is at the gym. Oh yes, I think, now I remember him telling me that. Or I see that he is in a neighboring town. Ah yes, think I, I do vaguely recall him mentioning lunch with a business colleague who lives over there.
Find my Friends has done wonders for our relationship. He no longer things he is married to an angry crazy woman with early-onset dementia, and I no longer find myself despairing over where my husband disappears to. Although, he still disappears. I’m just going out to get some groceries, he will say, and three hours later I will track him on Find my Friends and discover he is at the boatyard, discussing outboard motors for the Boston Whaler.
Beloved also knows where I am all the time. Thankfully, I have nothing to hide, but my goodness, I have no idea how people conduct affairs with all the apps and texts popping up on your screen all the time. I have heard of people who are unfaithful having second phones, but I have a hard enough time keeping track of one phone, let alone two (never mind the fact that I am hopeless at secrets not to mention very happy in my marriage).
I am also busy tracking my children, but I am very careful to pretend that I am not in case they should decide to remove me. I phone them all the time asking where they are, when I can see perfectly well they are at the beach, or at a friend’s house.
Somewhat worryingly I have found myself attempting to track my friends when they are late. I have gone as far as opening the app, wondering where Sophie is, or whether Nicole is on her way, or is Dani back home. And then I remember, this is for family only.
I’d very much like it for my friends, but I think it’s epically stalker-y, and so I will keep on wondering where they are, and I will keep sending texts, having forgotten entirely that they have already told me they are on holiday for two weeks. Hopefully, because they are all women of a certain age, rather than think I am losing my mind, they will know exactly what it’s like.
In the meantime, I’m off to check what Twin B is up to today…
A few weeks ago I was invited to a rather swanky literary dinner at a hotel called The Gramercy Park, in Manhattan. It was to be filled with the great and the good, and not only was I excited for the dinner (and utterly thrilled to have been invited), I couldn’t wait to go back to the Gramercy Park hotel.
The last time I went to the Gramercy Park hotel was in 1996. I had decided to write a modern take on the Cinderella story called Jemima J. I had booked an extended stay in Los Angeles to do the research, and was spending a week beforehand in New York with a girlfriend. We were going just after Christmas, with plans to be in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Both of us were young single girls, with little money. We were doing New York on a shoestring, and had booked into a terrible hotel near Times Square with stained furniture and dirty sheets. We lasted one night, before deciding that squalor was not what we had in mind for this trip, and I would use some of my new book advance to upgrade.
Have you ever tried getting a hotel room in New York at Christmas time? We spent hours desperately trying to find a hotel, and the only thing we could find was a suite at the Gramercy Park Hotel.
A suite! It sounded so grand! We discovered the Gramercy Park had hosted The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles. U2 had lived there, as had Debbie Harry of Blondie. This was clearly the epitome of cool, and we had to stay there.
The hotel faces a pretty private park, in a lovely neighborhood. I caught my breath as we got out the taxi, and walked in to the hotel, past the dark wood-panelled bar, and exhaled again in vague disappointment when we were taken up to our suite. I remember the carpet being impossibly worn and shabby, in an unflattering shade of green. The hotel was dated and dingy, with an old and fabulous bar filled with New York characters, and we felt incredibly cool staying there.
We were there for a week, and over the final weekend, I fell slightly in love. A friend of a friend was in New York at the same time, and my girlfriend and I spent the day with him. We came back to the suite, and while she was in the bathroom, he kissed me.
We spent the next two days together, as characters in a Nora Ephron romantic chick-flick, circa 1996. It snowed as we held hands walking down Park Avenue. We had snowfights in Central Park then drank hot chocolate in a storied bar. We went up the Empire State Building, before I left for Los Angeles, itching to get back home to London, to see whether this new romance might turn into something more.
So here I am twenty one years later, a married mother, living in Connecticut, standing outside the hotel that truly epitomized my single girl adventures, and it is almost unrecognizable. A few years ago it was transformed into a sleek, stylish, trendy hotel.
The hotel is now beautiful. The party was wonderful, and the food, delicious. I spent the evening looking over my shoulder expecting to see the ghost of the love-struck girl I once was, but she, along with the shabby green carpet, had long since disappeared.
And whilst I loved everything about the evening, and whilst I am so happy and grateful for the way my life has gone and the woman I am now, I have to confess I had a few moments of yearning for just a touch of the hotel I used to know.
July 4th is a very big holiday on this side of the pond. On American Independence Day we fly the flag proudly (the American one), gather with our friends and neighbors and celebrate with a barbeque, and tables filled with disgusting desserts turned red, white and blue with food coloring.
In our neighborhood, there are fireworks at the beach every year, and parties at almost all of the houses. Guests spill from the front yards across the road – closed for the day – and onto the beach. In the old days, when I lived on the other side of town, we braved the traffic to come down to the beach, with a twenty minute drive taking up to an hour. In the past I have assigned the driving to someone else, jumping out of the car and stopping at various people’s houses for glasses of wine on my way down to the beach.
The mood is celebratory, and fun. At the beach, when the children were small, we would set up picnics, and bump into everyone we had ever met. It was social, and happy, and one of my most favorite holidays.
It was crowded, but not too crowded. I have never been good with crowds. I once spent New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop in New Orleans, and as the crowd closed in on me, I had my one and only panic attack. Now I tend to avoid crowds wherever possible, even in my home town.
As the years have gone by I have become more introverted, and the beach has become busier. This year traffic was so bad, one friend drove to our house from her own, fifteen minutes away, and she sat in traffic for almost three hours. It was back-to-back traffic for miles, and the beach was so packed with people, you couldn’t see any sand. In the back, was an area for standing, and hundreds of people were crammed in there, sardine-style, for the firework display. Twin A returned from the beach saying there were so many people there this year, it was utter hell.
Happily for us, we live on a little private street just off the main beach area. We can cross the street to a private beach with a spectacular view of the fireworks, thereby avoiding the crowds entirely. We decided to eat at home with friends, then perhaps wander the beach when it got dark to experience some of the magic.
I made the obligatory barbeque food. For the first time I succumbed to one of those disgustingly decadent desserts, making brown butter Rice Krispie treats with a salted chocolate topping. I alternated spooning the stuff into the pan to set, and into my mouth. Once I had started, I didn’t seem able to stop. We ate smashburgers on pretzel rolls, and hot dogs with sauerkraut. We served corn on the cob and tomato salad. I had no room for the kale and grapefruit salad. Unsurprisingly I often find I have little room for kale.
By the time we thought about strolling along the beach, my stomach was so full, it was actually painful, and a headache was forming. I excused myself, went to bed and had Beloved bring me a mug of mint tea. Outside, I could hear our friends laughing softly, as I snuggled down, drank my tea, and drifted into sleep. All in all, it was about the most perfect July 4th I could ever have imagined. And not once did I have to brave the crowds.
Something strange is happening on book tour this year. It used to be that after I had given a talk and read from my book, I would sit behind a small table, and sign books. The line tended to move quickly, some people having questions that took a little longer, but I signed, made small talk, and left feeling much the same way as I did when I walked in.
Now that we all travel with permanent cameras built into our phones, everyone in that line asks for a picture. For the past couple of events this year, I bounced up and down from my signing table like a jack-in-the-box for pictures to be taken. It was fun, and tiring.
Recently I had an event in Cincinnati. I could tell instantly that this was a room of devoted readers. Mostly because they laughed uproariously at all my jokes, and audibly sighed with pleasure when I mentioned some of my older novels.
It was a wonderful talk. Afterwards I went to my signing table and the first two women came up, iPhones clutched in their hand. I stood up for the photos, sat back down again, stood up, sat down, stood up, and realized (clearly I am a little slow) that this would be much easier if I stayed standing.
I moved from behind the table to in front, and the strangest, and loveliest thing happened. After each picture, every single woman gave me a huge hug.
Now I know this happens to some authors. Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Love Warrior, turns all her events into love-filled hug-fests. I have also seen videos where she sits on the laps of her fans and cuddles them. Please know that this will not be happening at my events. Glennon is teeny tiny. If I were to sit on your lap, I may very well flatten you. The hugs, however, I will gladly take.
My boring old book signing turned into a glorious love fest, and my heart felt like it was going to explode by the end. This is only strange because my mother’s childhood nickname for me was “touch-me-not”. I never liked being touched, by strangers or anyone else, but as I have grown older, I seem to have completely shed that outer protective layer I carried for so long, and now there is nothing I love quite so much as a hug. Especially from a stranger on book tour.
I am fascinated by how I am changing as I am ageing, as I shed the insecurities, the fears, the need to impress or try to be good enough. I feel like I am finally Becoming Jane: more comfortable in my skin, more myself than ever before. And it is precisely by showing those vulnerabilities that enables me to connect with my readers in the way that I do, that ends up in a hug.
And so I have decided that for my solo events, I am never going to sit behind a signing table again. I am going to be standing in front, dispensing signatures, photographs, and many, many hugs.
(Picture is with the delicious Emma Straub, who is not only extremely huggable but the author of the brilliant Modern Lovers, and now bookseller extraordinaire at Books Are Magic in Brooklyn.)
All I want on book tour are events filled with adoring readers, drivers who drive smoothly enough that I don’t get car sick, and quiet hotel rooms with soft pillows.
The only one that is truly important is the quiet hotel room, and regular readers may know I have a history of disasters in that area.
Recently I showed up at very swanky hotel in Boston, after a grueling few days on tour. I couldn’t wait to crawl into bed, order room service, and spend my one day off doing absolutely nothing other than reading in bed and drifting off to sleep.
After an excellent night’s sleep, I spent the morning reading and was just drifting off for a second sleep when I was startled by a loud cacophony of whistles and cheering outside. I looked out the window to see the street outside my hotel had been cordoned off, and was filled with thousands of people, all carrying rainbow flags.
It was Pride march in Boston. I stood in the window in my long white nightie, watching my dreams of sleep and quiet disappear. The crowd looked up, and saw me, ghostlike, in my window, and started waving. I waved back, and then, as a smile spread upon my face, I figured if you can’t beat them, you have to join them.
If you read my novels you will know that I am an unequivocal supporter of gay rights, and that I firmly believe that it doesn’t matter who you love, as long as you love.
My gay male friends (and I have many) ask me if I am sure I am not secretly a gay man. My lesbian friends (and I have many) ask me if I am sure I am not secretly a lesbian.
Perhaps, in another life, I was one of each. I do know that I am fervently and passionately and ardently supportive of gay rights, and that watching that Pride parade brought me to tears. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act in the U.K., which decriminalized homosexual acts between two men in private. How wonderful that today so many are out and proud and accepted.
And yet, after years of growing acceptance of different races, colors, sexualities and genders, we are again living in frightening times with no idea if these past few decades of freedom will soon be a distant memory.
I jumped in that march. Someone gave me a rainbow flag, and I hollered and whooped with the best of them.
It may not have been what I planned for my one day off, but I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.
Jane Green's fifteenth novel, Tempting Fate, is soon to be released; she is the author of fourteen previous New York Times Bestselling novels.Full Bio