Dinner Party Guest List

With my first hardcover! Five minutes later, as my husband and I were lovingly cradling it beside the street, someone leaned out their car window and yelled at me, "FREEEEAK!"

So I'm staring at that little countdown clock on the side of my blog, and it says there are twenty-three days until the release of my first novel. Twenty-three days until everything and nothing changes.

I will still be me. I will still have the same worries and obsessions and passions and neuroses. Not THAT many new people will learn who I am, and the few who do discover me will not appear in my inbox on December 2, 2010. They'll trickle in slowly over the years.

But. I will also have a book out, on the shelves, that anyone can read. It will (hopefully) make some of those readers happy.

And that's pretty cool.

Still pre-"FREEEEAK!" (No worries, I laughed. It seemed like an oddly appropriate ego check.)

I'm not quite sure what to say today. I had a very nice email request to blog about my revision process, which is perfect timing because I'm deep in Lola edits, but I don't feel like I have the mind to discuss it right now. Hopefully soon. These days, my brain is more concerned about . . .

. . . the dinner party problem.

I've grown increasingly worried about the five guests that I'll invite to my fantasy dinner party. You know the question I'm referring to. Out of all of the interview questions that I've recently been asked, surprisingly, I have yet to receive this one! But I know it's coming. And who WOULD I invite to a dinner party?

I need to prepare my answer.

If this is a "living or dead" question, I've already decided that I'll stick to the living. Even if a person came back as their younger, more beautiful, non-decomposed self, and even if potential language barriers had been removed . . . if you pick someone from history, face it: they'll be just as interested in your modern life as you are about the Big Questions. They'd be fiddling with your cell phone and TiVo and their Wikipedia entry the whole time!

Plus, think about how hard it is to describe YouTube to your grandparents. Now think about how hard it would be to describe YouTube to Henry VIII.

And if you invited someone who passed away in recent years, I doubt it would be much different. You'd probably have to explain what happened to Michael Jackson or who won the World Series. And if you invited someone you loved who passed away? You'd have to say goodbye to them all over again. I can't even begin to fathom how terrible that would be.

No. Only the living would be invited to my dinner party.

I'd like to invite them on Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. That way, there would be plenty of courses (and plenty of wine) to help persuade them to stay longer. The lazy-inducing tryptophan in the turkey might help, too! And I'd want it to be a dinner party, not some kind of serious philosophical discussion, so it's important to me that my guests get along. There are plenty of celebrities that I'd like to meet, but do I really want to invite someone who might be so important, so in-demand that they'd sit awkwardly in their chair, too uncomfortable or "too good" to speak to the rest of us?

No way!

I want guests who will make me laugh. I want charismatic people with stories to tell—the more outrageous, the better. My favorite people are those who tell me something surprising. Whenever someone starts a conversation with, "I saw the most disgusting/horrifying/obscene/terrifying thing . . ." I get excited! In fact, I'm the person at YOUR dinner party who you have to STOP from telling those stories.

("I'm eating," my mother often complained.)

I want guests who will replenish my supply of juicy stories! So who would I invite?

My first guest would be a man I've admired for years, whom I even saw speak in 2007, but whom I've only become obsessed with in the last few months: the self-proclaimed "Filth Elder," John Waters.

For my younger blog readers—or my readers who lead healthier lives than myself—John Waters is a cult filmmaker. His most popular film is Hairspray, which even more people are familiar with now, thanks to the Travolta remake. (Fun fact: Waters is in the new Hairspray, too! He plays the flasher in the opening sequence. In the original, he plays the creepy psychiatrist.) He's also known for launching Johnny Depp into his weirdo career with Cry-Baby.

And, of course, he's known for his trademark pencil-thin mustache.

But in other crowds, Pink Flamingos is his masterpiece, a film about two families competing for the title of "the filthiest people alive." Waters is famous for casting both the infamous (like Traci Lords) and the convicted (like Patricia Hearst). He's also known for putting together the best cult Christmas album ever, which features such deliriously tasteless songs as "Here Comes Fatty Claus" and "Happy Birthday Jesus."

Yes. You have to be a certain type of person to love John Waters. I hate to break it to you, but I am that type of person.

But . . . he's also wonderfully well-spoken and a truly charming and kindhearted writer. I enjoyed his latest book of essays, Role Models (the most obscene book I will ever recommend on this blog, and I DO recommend it, but definitely not to everyone), so much that the night I finished it, I downloaded the audio version, which he narrates, and listened to it twice, back-to-back! I'm listening to it for a third time now. His piece about Leslie Van Houten, ex-Manson girl, is the most thought-provoking essay that I've read in years.

Just last night, I dreamed I was hanging out with Mr. Waters in some greasy city diner, and we were getting along really well! But I knew we'd stumbled upon genuine friendship when we held up a doughnut together and posed for a Polaroid picture.

Truth: I woke up more relaxed and happy than I have in years.

But enough about my current obsession. ("Sure," my husband snorts.) My second guest runs in a similar, though less creepy, vein: David Sedaris.

Now here's a guy who can tell a good story. I also saw him speak in person a few years ago, and he made me laugh so hard that I cried. I worry that he might be shy or quiet for the first half hour of my party, but with the proper nudging, he'll shine. I don't even mind if he tells a story that I already know, a classic from any of his books (Naked is my favorite; it's probably still the craziest), because any Sedaris fan knows that the real charm is in how he delivers his stories aloud.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, try this one that he did about the "Stadium Pal" on Letterman. It's much easier to give you an example than to explain it myself. And, yes, it's exactly the type of story I want to hear at my dinner table!

My third invited guest would be Jack White.

If you've ever seen an interview with him, you'll understand why he made my list. Charismatic? Check! Weird? Check! Storyteller? Check! Hilarious? Check! I think he'd get along with my other guests, and I think they'd be interested in him, too.

I find him endlessly inspiring. The man is a creative machine. Whenever I consider the amount of work he's done in just a few years, I am astounded. How does he do it? Maybe he'd have some secrets to share!

[Fun fact: I recently wrote a Gothic short story about Jack White, reinvented as a rocker/orchid collector/ghost hunter. Maybe someday I'll share it with you. I call it "The Story That Doesn't Exist." But it does. I assure you, it does.]

Other potential dinner guests:

The remainder of my dinner party seats are still up for grabs. Ira Glass would have incredible stories to share from his years of hosting This American Life, but I worry that the connection between him and David Sedaris (who is a frequent guest on his show) might alter our table's dynamic! I'd also love to invite Neil Gaiman. He seems down-to-Earth for a writer superstar, and I think he'd appreciate my assembled oddballs. Plus, he's got a great voice. Hearing him speak would be enough.

But this leaves me with another problem . . .

I haven't invited any women! Frankly, I'm embarrassed about this. I'm proud to be a feminist, so I'm not sure what this unintentional exclusion reveals about me. And I can't even blame the boy-crazy thing, because half of my guests are gay! Maybe Meg Cabot? I adore Meg, and I'd bet everything I own that she'd come prepared to laugh.

Also, I'd be willing to bump someone if you'd enlighten me about some cool, fun historian who specializes in the weird and twisted. If you've heard of one, let me know! The additional historical perspective would be welcome. ("People have ALWAYS been nuts! Listen to this . . .")

So who would you invite to a dinner party? And would you attend mine?


  1. I'm assuming you left me off the list because I'm such an obvious choice. Charismatic, witty, hilarious, and modest. Heck, I have it all. I'm also rather fond of the wine and the food. Then there's the accent. What more could you want?

    AND I need a new crowd because everyone here has heard all my stories at least eight times, but they're such good stories, especially if you've been consuming said wine.

    YAY for Anna being a REAL BOOK! Soon I'll have one too!

  2. Jade — "I'm assuming you left me off the list because I'm such an obvious choice." Naturally, dah-link! You never need an invitation to attend my dinner parties.

  3. I would totally come. I'd probably sit slack-jawed and listen, though (rare for me), so I don't think you'd want me. Unless...

    I once dreamt I was at a dinner party with George Lucas. My chair was too low, so I sat on my legs to reach the table, the way kids do. George Lucas frowned at me, then ducked under the table, then reappeared with the comment 'Resourceful.'

    See? Mr. Lucas though I was resourceful. That has to count for something.

  4. Your pictures! SO RED!!!!!! and your hair color totally matches your book cover, sort of, kind of.

  5. I was just thinking there were no girls when you said it. Meg Cabot would be a lot of fun. I'd enjoy having some writers like JK Rowling and Sarah Dessen.

  6. I LOVE those pictures! The color is awesome....and what awesome reader could have possibly sent an email about revisions????

    Anyway good luck with everything--and I have a feeling that more people than you think will know who you are very soon!

  7. I love Jon Waters' books! "Crackpot" & "Shock Value" are soooo good. I haven't read "Role Models" yet. Thanks for reminding me that I want too! Also, I have a signed of "Pink Flamingos and Other Filth" around here somewhere...

  8. I'm in favour of Meg Cabot!

    Oh, the things writers have to worry about.

  9. Anonymous8:58 AM GMT-5

    The book looks amazing!!

    I'd invite Neil Gaiman, definitely, and his fiancée Amanda Palmer. I've met them both, and they're incredible people. So that's two.

    I'd also invite Sarah Dessen, as she's my writing idol and I want to be Just Like Her when I grow up.

    I'd invite JK Rowling, not to grill her about Harry Potter (honestly) but because she's had such an interesting life and views it with a wry humour that I covet.

    Finally, my college philosopher professor, because I think he'd get on well with Neil, and is very good at drawing conversation out of people.

  10. Hey! You totally sidetracked me! CONGRATULATIONS!

  11. I'm not sure who I would invite. It would definitely include J.K. Rowling and John Green though. And probably you and your husband too. :)

    I'm so excited for you and for Anna and the French Kiss! My friend and I entered the drawing for the signed copy at Wrockstock seven times each! Do you know when we will find out who won it? I'm looking forward to reading it more than any other book this year!

  12. Alicia — Thank you so much for entering!! Jarrod is still traveling back home from Wrockstock. He'll draw the winner tomorrow or the next day, and we'll both announce it on Twitter. Good luck! :)

  13. I would invite
    Sarah dessen! Honestly no need need for an explanation, right?
    Susane colasanti- I love her! She's funny and would bring great conversation!
    Jk Rowling! Cause oh my! She started my reading career when I was 7, I've always wanted to meet her!
    You!! Because your blogs are funny and since I've read an ARC of Anna, you've been next to Sarah dessen in my mind!!
    And hmmmm my blogging friend who I haven't met in person, Tricia, because I know she would love this group as much as me! And I'd enjoy meeting her, we've become writing buddies!

    Yes, I am very satisfied with that group!!!
    Twitter: justreadbooks

  14. I am impressed by your choices! I love both John Waters and David Sedaris, but haven't gotten the chance to see them speak. (Jealous!) But, I do have to say that I've worked with Jack White on a few occasions and was thoroughly impressed by him. Not only was he entertaining, sweet (remembered your name and looked you in the eyes when you talked with him), but he was undoubtedly one of the smartest businessmen around.
    I will be in the states for your book's debut and am looking forward to buying and reading it on my winter vacation! xoxo

  15. Oh, I would love to be a fly on the wall at that dinner party. Plus, then I'd be able to just listen in and not worry about what I was going to say or what I was going to wear.
    I'd want JK Rowling at my party fo sho...and probably Britney Spears, just because I think that would be hilarious.

  16. Three words: Neil Degrasse Tyson. He could tell you stories about the UNIVERSE, and it's so adorable how excited he gets when he's talking about quasars and black holes and stuff.

    Also, definitely Barbara Kingsolver. She would bring good snacks.

    I bet Bruce Campbell would be fun, too.

  17. Ahh--you clearly throw the best dinner parties ever! And you've pointed out so many errors in the way I normally approached this question that I can't even begin to answer it now. So instead I'll just beg an invitation to one of yours. *bats eyelashes*

  18. I would totally love to attend your dinner party! :) I'd be honored in fact, hehe.

    Ahhh I'm so happy for you! Can't wait to read Anna & The French Kiss. Oh and you are not a freak, you're completely sane Why? Because any other writer who got their novel published (in paperback or hardback!) would've cradled it just like you cradled yours! :)



  19. 'Plus, think about how hard it is to describe YouTube to your grandparents. Now think about how hard it would be to describe YouTube to Henry VIII.'


    loved this post. congrats on the hardcover! and even though it's never nice to be called a freak, these days I take it as a compliment, as should you :)

    didn't know any of your other guests, but Jack White, yesss!! Gah. Love him. I'd probably want to invite Tim Burton as well. This kiwi musician Tiki Tane because he has the loveliest voice I could just listen to him talk and laugh all day. And then J. K. Rowling and Nigella Lawson...

    that was fun lol

  20. David Sedaris is on everyone's dinner party guest list. I need to get with the program and see what all the fuss is about with him. I haven't read any of his books before. I did see him on the Daily Show last week and he was quite hilarious, so I think I'm starting to get why people love him so much. Even my husband cracked up and he's not one to laugh easily.

  21. Oooh, yes, I LOVE Nigella Lawson! Good one, Toni.

  22. Doris Kearns Goodwin might round things out, and Ricky Gervais.

  23. I'm not much for throwing parties currently, but I would definitely come to one of yours! You know, IF invited....not just show up in a creepy stalkery kind of way. I save my creepy stalkery-ness for blog comments. : )
    (can I come to the one with Neil Gaiman? TOTALLY agree about his voice! Did you happen to see the episode of Arthur that he did? You can watch it on PBS Kids website......link, link, where is that link?)

  24. Here it is! : )


  25. Someone yelled freak at you? They must not have seen the amazing book in your hands! ;)

    PS I just saw Jack White on Conan and he was hilarious and weird and fantastic. He's from my home state (Michigan) so I've always felt this totally unjustified kindred thing between us. I'm definitely stealing him for my guest list.

  26. I'm really glad this was a fantasty dinner party, because I was starting to get jealous that I wasn't invited. I was like "dinner party????" I love your choices of guests. Ira Glass would be the BEST. I love him. And Jack White our vampire boyfriend would be amazing. It would be crazy to see all of these people interact. I love it.

  27. It is 15h40 in Paris. I'm supposed to study. But I have just finished Anna&FK. Let's share it! I'm posting a tweet after this comment!
    I loooOoooove it!(This is going to be a very long comment, take a sit )
    I want someone to be my home. I'm going to write a song about this. I want a relationship like that.
    The characters were alive. All of them The only thing I don't get is why is Etienne so Handsome and Hot and everything?..silly me.

  28. Steff aka NeuroHormone.9:53 AM GMT-5

    Okay I split the comment in two. So it doesn't seem that long.
    While I was reading it, my heart was throbbing, I would jump in the air, getting mad, and excited. I wasn't happy like this since a very looong time. Thank you.
    Yesterday night I took the bus, it was pouring and the lights of Paris were yellow, orange and GREEN ! I could'nt believe you were right. They are green! It was beautiful. I see Paris differently now. This is crazy.
    You replied to my tweet the other day and said my English was lovely. I always get thrilled when someone says I'm lovely because it never happens in real life. There is no word to say lovely in french.
    Ok. I go study now.
    Have a great day!

  29. I would come to your dinner party. But I don't have to think about guests for mine since I am allergic to throwing dinner parties and having house guests.

  30. wednesday4:41 PM GMT-5

    chuck palahniuk. great storyteller. maybe not at dinner though.