May 28th, 2018

I’ll always think of this as the book I wrote on the kitchen table.

That doesn’t sound extraordinary, but it was very unusual for me. After all, I have my sweet office in the back of our yard as a perfect writing haven.

But in early January 2017, I took one step down onto our patio and could tell immediately that something had gone very, very wrong. I already knew I was overdue for a knee replacement, but now I couldn’t put any weight on that knee at all. My first thought was, “Now I’m going to have to have the knee replacement.” Indeed, I had sprained all the ligaments in my knee except the ACL, and had a complex¬†meniscus tear. But that problem was minor compared to the amount of arthritis in that knee.

I probably would have been in surgery within two weeks but there was one big problem. OG THE FROG! I was under contract to write the first book looking at Room 26 from the point of view of that other classroom pet. I’d already started, I had a deadline – the ball was rolling. I didn’t want to delay the book, so I put off the surgery for 5 months so I could finish.

(A little over a year later, it will be released on July 3.)

Because of a previous neck surgery, I was only working on a desktop computer, so I immediately ordered a laptop because I literally couldn’t make the 50 steps or so from my house to the office. I was rolling around the house in a desk chair, but we have a couple of steps to go outside so that was too difficult. I made one trip to the office to get any supplies I might need and I moved into the kitchen.

I am used to writing in solitude with only the sounds of the birds chirping and the squirrels scurrying around my office. I have a very thoughtful husband who never comes out to the office and interrupts unless it’s a true emergency. (They say it takes five to ten minutes to get back up to speed if you are interrupted.) I rarely even bring the portable phone to our landline out there unless my husband is gone and I keep my cell phone muted so I can screen my calls and not hear the sound. Writing in the kitchen meant phones and doorbell ringing, husband coming in to eat lunch (inconsiderate of him, right?) and more interruptions in general. Guess what? I found out I’m not such a special snowflake about writing after all. I was so completely engrossed in creating Og’s past life in the swamp and writing funny songs, I barely noticed any of it. I kept my laptop free from most apps and made it more difficult to go on the internet. All my attention was on Og’s story.

I did miss my office, but not enough to struggle to get out there. The squirrels were probably glad to have the territory all to themselves.

(Doesn’t it make a nice little nightlight for our yard?)

All I did was write. All I could do was write. My husband took over the shopping and I also used Instacart. I like to cook but I didn’t. I finalized the due date with my editor at Putnam’s, Susan Kochan, and scheduled surgery for May 23.¬† I even finished early and had time to prepare. (By then I was hobbling on crutches or cane as the injuries healed somewhat.)

In the end, I think that being so totally focused on the story made me able to ignore the pain, so in a way, Og did me a favor.


Knee replacements require a long recovery (a year) lots of physical therapy, lots of meds. But my husband was a wonderful nurse and a few weeks later, Og’s copy editing came back which I could handle at the kitchen table. I had no pressure to do anything except heal – and the healing went well. I was always ahead of the milestones they gave me – even in the hospital, I got out a day early because I met all the PT requirements.

I just passed the one year mark and my knee is great. I do Pilates twice a week and have gone back to a walking program. I’m stronger in every way. And I just had the other knee checked out, and it only has moderate arthritis around the kneecap. It pops sometimes, but I don’t need surgery.

I’m back in my office … and I just did a major cleaning and restructuring.

But I still write at the kitchen table sometimes. It’s cozy in its own way, with large windows looking out on the yard.

And there are squirrels there as well. If you want to see why we don’t have bigger avocado crops, check this link to a video taken through that kitchen window. I love how he uses his little paws just like hands.



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