Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Back to the Future




HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Did you go to your class reunion? What do you remember? I went to my high school's fortieth...and I was ON A MISSION. I had a (simple expensive) black dress, and simple (expensive) jewelry. (Which I borrowed from my mom.)  But. Weirdo me, unpopular me, misfit me, had a secret. Forty years later: I was happy. There is no more important power.

My dear amazingly talented colleague Sandra Block--whose book WHAT HAPPENED THAT NIGHT I just read and am giving a total standing ovation--had a class reunion situation, too. (She's, um, younger than I am. But these things transcend age.)

And I am giving a copy of Sandra's brand new book to one very very lucky commenter.


SANDRA BLOCK: As my twentieth college reunion approached, I was terrified! 

I still hadn’t quite recovered from my my tenth year reunion experience. My roommates and I had decided to stay in the dorms instead of a hotel. You may think you want to go back to the halcyon days of single beds, paper-thin walls and no air-conditioning, but believe me, you do not. Being sleep-deprived and hung over is not the optimal frame of mind for socialization, especially for an introvert. 

I went to Harvard, for what it’s worth, where students become hedge fund managers upon graduation. So it was easy to compare yourself to your old classmates and come up…lacking.
       
     It took me ten years to get over that reunion.

And now I was looking at number twenty. When I got my Red Book, six months before the reunion, I still wasn't sure I was going. 

The Red Book is a reunion stand-by, a book of reflections from your classmates sent out before the big day. Everyone writes a page about themselves. Sometimes it comes off as a resume, sometimes a poetic reverie. The famous people (yeah, I'm looking at you, Matt Damon) never write anything, not even an address to facilitate stalking. 

            Anyway…that year, I had put something different in the Red Book.

Because, I had a secret. I wasn't actually jealous of all of the gagillionaire hege-fund managers out there. No, I wasn’t. 

I was jealous of the authors. The actors, the sit-com writers, the dancers. Those who had followed their dreams. I’m a neurologist – which is respectable, no doubt. I heal people, I think all day, I make enough money. By all accounts, I done good. But, I wasn't what I really wanted to be.

 So this year, I wrote that down in the Red Book. I said I’ve always wanted to write a book, and I was finally going to do it. 

 Putting my dream on paper did something for me. It made me accountable. It made my dream not just a dream, but a dare. And then, I did it. I didn’t have a book deal, or even an agent, but I was still writing that damn book. That year, my room-mates smartly booked a B & B instead of the dorms. And we had – dare I say it – fun.

 Flash forward five years, to my twenty-fifth reunion last year. A lot had changed. This time, I could proudly put doctor and author in the Red Book. I had three books out, and even signed a copy at Logan airport! (Yes, I accosted and strong-armed a stranger into buying it – but hey, a sale is a sale).

Who knows what the next five years will bring. But this time, I know I’ll be there to find out. Before your next reunion comes up, ask yourself: what will you dare yourself to do?

What will you put down in your own Red Book?

HANK: See what I mean? Fabulous. TRUST ME, it's all about that. What will you put, Reds? And remember, you can win WHAT HAPPENED THAT NIGHT!
           

           
Sandra A. Block   graduated from college at Harvard, then returned to her native land of Buffalo, New York for medical training and never left. She is a practicing neurologist and proud Sabres fan, and lives at home with her husband, two children, and impetuous yellow lab. Little Black Lies is her debut, a finalist in the International Thriller Awards, and The Girl Without a Name and The Secret Room are the other books in the Zoe Goldman series. What Happened That Night is her latest novel, and is in fact DEDICATED TO HER ROOMMATES!

Sandra is also a proud author/member of the Tall Poppy Book Club--which you can join here! (Lots of fun, good stuff...and free books!)

82 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your newest book, Sandra . . . I’m looking forward to finding out “What Happened That Night.”

    Yikes, there’s a book to write about yourself before you go to the reunion?
    Since I've managed to miss every reunion up until this point, I’m probably not too likely to change . . . .

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    1. I’m laughing about your “yikes, there is a book to write about yourself before your go to the reunion?” I never really thought about how very “Harvard” that is!

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    2. Well, I understand your decision! But in the end, I went. I guess I have been to three, now.. and at the last one, some sort of dark cloud of lingering bitterness :-) about how mean everyone was to me simply vanished.
      It just didn’t matter anymore.
      It was very strange.

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  2. I have never been to a class reunion. I will never go to a class reunion. The few people I have in my life (whether real time or simply via Facebook due to distance) from my high school days are all I care about having in my life. The rest, to put it plainly, I don't give a damn about. So there's no reason to go to a reunion to pretend that I do.

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    1. Jay! Aren’t you even a little curious about how everyone turned out??

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    2. I pretty much hang out with my roommates there!

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    3. Hank,

      The only ones that I care about are in my life via real world or FB, I know how they turned out. As for the rest, nope, not interested in the least.

      Also, some of those in my life have gone and said that they'd never go to another one.

      So, I'm all set with that.

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  3. Isn’t it crazy how our school years emotionally define us? When I went to one of my reunions, I peeked through the door before going in—and the thought came to my mind: “oh, I am in the wrong place—these are somebody’s parents.”
    Nope—they were my classmates.
    I had to run to the bathroom to regroup. It was such a revelatory moment.

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    1. This was me in high school reunion. We all looked like our parents - it was weird.

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    2. Hank, that is hysterical. And so true!

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  4. I was always too afraid to go to my high school class reunions and I'm not sure exactly why. My class had only 64 members so it is fair to say we all knew each other pretty well. Finally, last fall I took the plunge and went to my 53rd reunion! It was a picnic in the park and that seemed doable to me even though on the way there I was not sure I would actually go in. But I went in and had a good time and will go back again next year. I was so happy to see that everyone looked as old as I did!
    As for my college reunions I have never had any desire to go.

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    1. Picnic sounds low-key enough to work!

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  5. High school reunions can be excruciating, especially when you haven't met your own goals and there you are, confronted with all of the clearly inferior(!) classmates who have out-performed you. And what a pleasure to go back and strut your stuff when you've got something to strut about. I went to my last night school reunion and tried to leave my ego at the door. I had a blast.

    Sandra, you're a NEUROLOGIST?! Does that factor at all in your stories?

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    1. Hi Hallie, let me fangirl a minute here, AHHHHHH!!! Okay, got that out of my system. Yes, I am indeed a neurologist, and you’re right - I do find medicine (or at least pyschiatry) factors into my stories. I just can’t help it...

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    2. Hallie, the way Sandra weaves her knowledge about the way the mind works into the stories is amazing. I've been a fan since the very first Zoe Goldman book.

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    3. Hey there Raven Award Winner! (That’s how I refer to you now :) Thanks for the s-o!!! Xoxoxo

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    4. I'll answer to that, Sandra. ;)

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  6. Congratulations on your new release!
    Reunions...no, I don't think so.

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  7. Those Red Books are always interesting to read! I went to my 10th but skipped the 20th because of travel hassles. We'll see about the 30th when the time rolls around. And Hank, you are right. Being happy is the most important thing.

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    1. Hook up with me if you come!

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    2. Sorry, I used the term Red Book loosely. I didn't actually go to Harvard and was referring to my own high school's version of the Red Book. But if we're ever in the same place at the same time, I will definitely seek you out!

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  8. I would read every Red's and every member of the Reds' community's story about reunions. I love them! I love seeing people at different stages of our lives -- snapshots, really. But there are amazing connections made.

    I loved my 50th reunion this spring -- but my husband (who graduated from the ivy league school in the town where we live) decided not to attend his. As with most things about him, his reasons were political -- George Bush was a classmate. He didn't want to hang out with "people who think they are benefiting from the new tax bill." He didn't go. We had dated all through college, and I had wanted to see the guys, but instead we stayed home.

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    1. I can see his reasoning though....

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  9. I loved every minute of college and made friends for life. We still meet every 2 years at a lovely hotel, eat, drink talk and laugh a lot. But I never went to a high school reunion. I didn't particularly enjoy my all-girls school. I wasn't one of the good girls who were teachers pets. I challenged the status-quo and got into trouble. But I'd love to show them now. Hey, remember me? I'm an internationally best-selling author!

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  10. I haven't been to a reunion since I live far from my roots. My husband loved his 50th high school reunion and enjoyed seeing all the people whom he knew back then. I wasn't friends with many at that time and don't keep up with them now.

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  11. Congratulations on the new book, Sandra. When I read that you are a neurologist, I immediately started naming cranial nerves, and I thought what an opening line that could be for a mystery:

    "On old Olympus's towering tops, a Finn and German viewed some hops."

    There, feel free to use that line. I don't have a copyright.

    I have been to two high school reunions but never a college one. Somehow I've avoided being on the alumni list any more, probably because I have never sent a donation. Also, I attended no less than two colleges and three universities in my checkered career before finally managing to get a degree. But the high school reunions were fun. Almost all of my classmates stayed in the area, so there was a goodly crowd to hang out with I was the rara avis who had lived all across the country, been married, divorced, and acquired a girlfriend. And brought her along.

    The sad part was all about the ones who weren't there, mostly because they had died. And one, who gave me my first kiss, was being led about, an old man in overalls with Alzheimer's Disease.

    My highschool friends had a luncheon for me, and it was great to see how we all got comfortably back into the old days. This time we talked about grandchildren instead of boyfriends tho.

    I recommend this to anyone who is thinking about it. Highschool or college, either one. You might not have many more chances to reconnect with your youth. Mine is already on the endangered list.

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    1. Sounds like you would have a lot to put in your Red Book!

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    2. NAming cranial nerves. You guys are FUN!

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  12. Living well is the best revenge. You could also say exceeding your own expectations will do the same.

    Like Hank, I was a misfit in high school, and only kept up with a handful of friends afterwards. Since I moved away (only to the next county, but back then it was an expensive long-distance phone call to keep in touch) a year into college, I soon lost touch. I never got around to finishing college, and have not seen a single person from that class since 1971, except my ex.

    However, I have gone to nearly all our high school reunions. Mostly because I'm nosy. I wanted to know what everyone was doing, how they navigated through life, and how they were to change, if they were going to do so.

    As a social experiment, it's been fascinating. The popular crowd who ended up staying in our hometown seem not to have moved from that comfort zone, while many of the ones who moved far away are endlessly more interesting people, and for a lot of reasons. Rhys, you would fit into that category! It seems as though many people never get over high school, but that fits both those who had a terrible time, and those who were prom queen and football captain. Attitude is everything!

    Our fiftieth is next year, but we have lots of get-togethers, especially after losing so many classmates. Last weekend we had the fifth annual picnic at one classmate's rural home (near Oxford, Hank!). It was mostly the same old people, with a couple of exceptions, and my husband (who is a tremendously good sport about joining me for these things) and I talked with one of our class couples. So many new things about them I had not known. Like Denise's husband, I've learned to steer wide of some of my classmates, though. Political reasons, mostly--this is John Boehner country. No matter how hard you try to avoid such discussions, they always seem to come up. Naturally, these are the ones who are always part of the group.

    We were on our way home from one of my big reunions, doing some post mortem on our night, and I said to my husband, "You know, none of those people remember me from high school." Steve was surprised, since so many had greeted me warmly, etc. "They remember me from reunions." So, it is possible, I think, to rewrite your own history.

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    1. What a fascinating way to look at it!

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  13. Attending my high school reunion was a life changing experience. To see all of these individuals who had been young and youthful and become old overnight (50 years had transpired) was a revelation. My hometown was what I enjoyed, the revisiting my high school and catching up with everyone.

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  14. Reunions. I went to my 10-year high school reunion. It wasn't horrible. My best friend went with me. We had a nice evening at a lakeside bar/restaurant. But every reunion after that has been...underwhelming and I just haven't been motivated to make the trip.

    Now college...I've been to every one except 20 years, because I had some kid-related thing to do. But 25 years is coming up in 2020, and I will be there. But yes, making hotel reservations this time. I've always done the dorms and, well, I think I've outgrown that.

    And I finally get to put "author" in my Red Book (not that my alma mater has such a thing, but I could!).

    Mary/Liz

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    1. That is SO great, Mary! And you can just oh-so-casually hand out bookmarks. xo

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  15. I've never been to my high school reunions, but I've been to every college reunion, except for the most recent, my 25th. I couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to fly across the country one more time, particularly when I have a lot of writing to do!

    Sandra, I'm so impressed that you were motivated to start writing in addition to practicing medicine and raising a family. When you were writing your first book, did you write it full-time or fit it in around your "day job"? ;)

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    1. Hi, I’m still doing my “day job” as you so aptly put it! So, I fill my writing around it...

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  16. Accountant and reviewer. And ultimate Frisbee player. And mud runner. But they probably would only care about how I make my money, which is just accounting, sadly.

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    1. You have a fascinating life, see?? oxo

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    2. I seriously want to hear about the mud runner thing!

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  17. Well, I went to ONE high school reunion, and that was one WAY too many. I did not "like" some people in high school, and I found that I STILL did not like them, even though they were older. (I, of course, was still my youthful, pleasant self!) It did make me glad that I have the family, the experiences, and the life that I have, and NOT the ones they have. The good, the bad, and the in between, it is I do with MY life that counts.

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    1. Isn't that a funny realization? The way life works, and how we have no idea in high school?

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    2. It’s true, comparing yourself to others can be the pits....

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  18. My 40th (egad!) high school reunion is coming up in October, and we too, have a red book, except it's blue and gold. Our class also has mini-reunions every year and is very active on Facebook, so the reunion is sort of anti-climatical. I have not been to any of my college reunions -- for some reason the thought of them really makes me feel old (I know, it doesn't make sense). Thanks for visiting Jungle Reds, and I am really looking forward to reading What Happened That Night -- I was actually thinking about it this morning!

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    1. Oh, great! Well, there's always time, dear Celia! xoo

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    2. Thanks right back! I love that you have a “blue and gold redbook” :)

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  19. Congratulations, Sandra! I love your determination to follow your dream. Because I live 3,000 mi away from my alma maters I've never attended a reunion, which is too bad because I had a great time in high school and college and would love to catch up to some of the people with whom I've lost touch. The people I care most about I'm still in contact with so that'll have to be good enough. I love the titles of your books - did you come up with those or did your publisher?

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    1. Oh, good question, Jenn! And you'd be such fun at a reunion...xoxo

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    2. “Little Black Lies” was given to me by the pub :) “The Secret Room” and “The Girl Without a Name” came from my list, and “What Happened That Night” was pure me!

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  20. My school career was busted up by a lot of moves. Junior high is the only school I started and finished uninterrupted. If someone organized a reunion of my 5th grade class I'd go. Or junior high! I went to one H.S. reunion - the 40th. I didn't graduate from there but I had been there the longest of any, 3 semesters. It was a huge disappointment. The class had several hundred people. Maybe 40 came. None of my friends or buddies. I've never gone to a college reunion; I went to one college for 3 years and loved it. Transferred to a second for family reasons to finish up. As a result I've been disconnected with no ties to anywhere really. I've one close friend from my senior year of H.S. (only one year at that school!) and we've kept in touch.I have gone to a couple of reunions of my husband's. I've also declined to go with him to a couple of his. Neither of us has considered going to a college reunion. Too big a class? I don't know. Just no interest in it.

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    2. And now you're in the class of Jungle Red, right??? And we re-un every day. xooo

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    3. 5th grade reunion - now THAT would be a thing!

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  21. Although I didn't actually graduate from high school, I went to what would have been my 14th class reunion. Even after only fourteen years the hot guys were fat and bald, lol, and the mean girls weren't any nicer, just more bleached and brittle. I've never been tempted to attend another.

    Although I loved my college, most of the people I've kept up with were my professors (not that much older than, although they seemed like it at the time!) and I've seen them a good bit over the years at college functions. I've never managed a reunion. They are always at Homecoming in October and I always seem to be gone or on a deadline.

    Sandra, you book sounds fascinating, and I love that you weave your knowledge of the brain through your stories. (Fellow biology major, here.) I'm going to look up the first book now, and good luck with the newest!

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    1. Yes, I think it's fascinating how some people are connected to their schools. and some...aren't. I could not tell you one person from college who I still know.

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    2. Thanks for looking up my first! Bio was okay...but I killed my corn plants....

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  22. I've never been to a college reunion. I think that there would only be a handful of people I'd be interested in seeing. But, I've been to the last two high school reunions, 40th and 45th, and they were a blast. I'm quite nostalgic about my hometown, and since the high school was a small one, most of us knew everyone else. I was also really active in high school, so it helped me connect with most classmates. We couldn't give a fig whether someone is a CEO or a daily wage earner. No "Red Book" for us. I think it helps that we have reached our mature years where we can just enjoy the essence of a person and not have to impress each other or feel bad about what we haven't achieved that we think we should have. It has been so much fun seeing old friends, many of whose families I knew, too. After the 40th reunion, I have a group of friends whom I get together with whenever I visit my hometown and others scattered across the country with whom I stay in contact. It's been so much fun.

    Sandra, you book sounds interesting, and I will be putting it on my wish list and TBR list. I've actually meant to read a couple of your books, and I'm sure I will be kicking myself for not having done so once I do read them. I look forward to reading how you work into them the mind's fascinating processes.

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    1. Thanks! I hope someone gives you a book for your wish list!

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  23. I love this idea! Hank always says to "put it out there." I need to figure out what I want to happen and start telling everyone.

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  24. No Red book for us - that’s the way to go! Hope you get one for your wish list!

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  25. Sandra, welcome to Jungle Reds and I am impressed that you went to Harvard! I was fortunate to get into Berkeley, though it was not always accessible. I consider it a big achievement that I graduated from Berkeley despite the obstacles!! Since I already am involved with my college alumni association, I help out at reunions.

    Congratulations on your Red Book. If I was writing my Red Book, I would write that I am living the life that I want to live. I think I have a pretty good life. I am not going to rub other people's nose with the details. Some people are struggling. It is a waste of energy to be jealous or envy other people. Would you be surprised if a certain person you are jealous of had the same feelings about you? They could be jealous of you. If they are doing something you always want to do, then you figure out how! Write every day if you want to be an author. Ask friends to read your rough drafts. Interview different literary agents.

    Apologies if I was blunt for a minute.

    Diana

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    1. You are right - others might be envious of me and vice-versa - BIG energy waste! Luckily, I was able to snag that agent and publish some novels - I feel blessed for it every day...

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    2. Very wise and thought-provoking! yes.--great. Thank you!

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    3. Thank you for your gracious replies. I was worried that my words were blunt.

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  26. I like the Red Book idea. I went to my 25th and was happy to reconnect, albeit briefly. I was pleased to see how many were doing what we always wanted to, but saddened reading the names of those lost in Vietnam. I haven't gotten news of any subsequent gatherings . . . now wondering how many remain of our 900+ graduating class.

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    1. Glad you were able to connect - and yes, it is sad to hear about friends lost...

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  27. I didn't go to my high school reunions for years because my mother had some bad experiences with hers. A classmate who also goes to my church urged me to go to the last two, and I really enjoyed them. As I was "the Shyest Girl" in the yearbook, I wasn't very social in school but everyone talked to me. Maybe because we were older. I never considered college because it's further away, and I was only close to a few people that I lost touch with.

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    1. It’s interesting to hear all these takes - it definitely sounds like high school reunion is the more significant to folks...

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    2. Aw...so glad you were brave, shy girl! And wonderful to see you here!

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  28. And the WiNNER is: Pat D! Pat, email me at h ryan at whdh dot com and I will send you your book! YAAY!

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  30. And wow, what a wonderful day! Thank you, dear Sandra! And let's have a reunion when your next book comes out! xoxo .

    And OH NO! We forgot to talk about the Tall Poppy Book Club--reds and Readers, you MUST check it out! https://www.facebook.com/tallpoppywriters/ . And say Hank and Sandra sent you!

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  31. Great post! I loved What Happened That Night. Just sayin.

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  32. I was at that 25th Reunion! And that's where I met Sandra! (Embarrassingly mixing her up with another Sandra for a full two hours before realizing my mistake.)

    I took on the job of getting the Coop to order books by the authors in our class--it was so interesting to see the breadth of talent and topics.

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