Writing is a Bloodletting

Okay Dave, up and at ’em. You’ve got a novel to write. Stop checking Twitter, Instagram, your twelve e-mail accounts, the only good excuse not to write is to CALL YOUR PARENTS, and you connected with them yesterday so that excuse is gone too. WRITE!

Sure, you’ve laid down the beams and struts of your second novel, but it’s not done yet, so you’ve got to GET WRITING! You finished the last draft in March, which means you’ve had 3 months to clear your head. Now you’ve got four precious weeks of holiday and you’ve got to make it count. WRITE!

Still lacking motivation? Think about this. All that crap you spout when you’re signing books for kids? All those motivational messages you scribble on the inside flap? All that: Dig deep / Never give up / Keep chasing your dreams / You can do it! hyperbole... Listen: It’s all true. You can do it. But only if you WRITE!

Autograph - you are faster

Sure thing. Will do. But! Can I just say that, um, re-writing a novel in the first person, when it was previously in the 3rd person, is, um, HARD! It feels like I’m running a lawn mower over my feet again and again and again. Every time I sit down at the desktop I feel grenades of panic detonating in my spleen. Yes, I squeezed out a novel before, but that must have been a fluke, right? There’s NO POSSIBLE WAY I can do it again.

It feels like someone wove bicycle spokes into my veins. It feels like I’m on a crazy game show where I have to run through a medieval castle populated by ax-bearing zombies.

Dig deep, Dave. Count backwards from ten. Ten, nine, eight seven… Hey – how about a run?

As usual, running saves me. When I run, new ideas flash though my mind, funny lines of dialogue scorch themselves on my hippocampus.

I’ve logged 100 miles since I arrived here 5 days ago. I run for hours up and down 500-foot hills and I drink aggressively coloured carbonated drinks that dye my tongue appalling shades of turquoise.

IMG_1357

I’ve been meaning to add in some night runs but, well, there are a lot more coyotes out here in these parts than usual. Every night we hear packs of them howling in our forest. They’re inevitably tearing apart some poor animal, and it sounds like a kindergarten class is being disemboweled.

Sometimes, when I’m writing, I feel like that animal being torn apart. But other times, when the writing is going well, I feel like the coyote, with delicious flesh between my teeth.

You’ve got to be fearless! Creating art is always a bloodletting. I think of this as I strap on my headlamp and step outside. Only two people in North America have ever been killed by coyotes. Unfortunately, one of them was a writer.

Real Life Superhero #34

I have lots of running heroes. And almost all of them are women.

Laura Perry running

There’s one: Laura Perry, from Ottawa.

A couple of years ago, Laura was running a 100-mile race near Haliburton, Ontario. It was early in the race. She’d run maybe 20 miles, when she suddenly met a black bear on the trail.

bear on trail

This happens from time to time in these races. And Laura knew what she had to do. She yelled at the bear to scare it away. But instead of running away, the bear began walking towards her.

This was bizarre. Black bears are typically scared of humans. Usually they’ll bolt if you so much as sneeze.

Laura hollered at the bear, but it refused to back down. When it got too close for comfort, Laura lay down on the trail and played dead. The bear came right up to her and started sniffing her shoes. It walked around and around her curled-up body. It poked her back and arms with its snout.

Finally the animal got bored and walked away. It lumbered down the trail, and disappeared into the woods.

Terrifying, right? If that had been me, I would have dropped out of the race right then and there. But Laura didn’t drop out. Instead, she jumped to her feet and started running. And 16 hours later, she won the 100-mile race.

Laura Perry mountaintop

(By the way, Laura told me later that the bear smelled horrible: a combo of rotten cucumber and vomit and wet dog!)

Anyway, I love sharing this story with kids in schools. Some girls have found Laura’s bravery so inspiring, they’ve drawn pictures of her little encounter on the trail:

Laura Meets the Bear

I should mention that Laura recently won another 100-mile race – setting a new course record at the Sulphur Springs Trail Run. Laura finished in a blistering time of 17 hours and 48 minutes. Happily, she didn’t run into any bears that time around.

Anyway, all this to say, if YOU are going hiking or running in bear country, be sure to go with a friend, and make lots of NOISE. Give those bears plenty of time to get out of your way. Better yet, check with the local park warden if the area is safe for runners and hikers. You don’t want this to happen to you: (WARNING: Language alert!)

 

Why You Should Run an Un-Fun Run

The other day I drove down to Niagara. A local school had invited me to join them in a fun-run.

Rankin Run Logo

Actually, it was a charity run for cancer research. Which should have made it un-fun. Except it wasn’t.

Rankin Run start line

More than 12,000 people laced up for the 5k course. I met my team in the field beside the Welland Canal. They gave me a T-shirt that said WESTMOUNT TEAM ULTRA on the back. Yes, there’s now a running team named after my novel!

Westmount Team Ultra

Select members of Westmount School’s “Team Ultra”

Fifteen minutes before the race, the kids dragged me over to the stage for a Zoomba warm-up.

“What’s Zoomba?” I asked.

“It’s hard to explain,” said the girls.

I still don’t know what Zoomba is, but it’s LOUD and there’s DANCING, and it’s, like, THE BEST THING EVER! Somewhere out there in Internetland, there’s a video of me doing Zoomba. When you see it, you shall know that I AM THE ZOOMBA MASTER!

When the Zoomba ended, I assumed the race would start. But instead, a little girl in a wheelchair was given a microphone. She was maybe 7 years old. She told the crowd how, a couple of years ago, she started having headaches and dizzy spells. The doctors discovered cancer in her brain and quickly operated and gave her six months of chemotherapy. Then the doctors did another operation to remove more cancer and then there was another round of chemo.

I know this isn’t much fun to hear, and it wasn’t much fun to listen to either. Of course, as hard as it was to listen to, I’m sure it was much, much harder for her.

This brave little girl sat in her wheelchair and explained to 12,000 runners how she grew weak from the chemotherapy and had to use a wheelchair to get around. Then she took off her red hat and cried, “And I lost all my hair!”

I was crying now and everyone around me was crying too, and I was glad that we’d done that Zoomba business first, because we certainly weren’t in the mood for it now. And I thought, this is why we are running this race: to drop-kick this stupid! bloody! disease! into the filthy Welland Canal!

Rankin Run canal

After the little girl finished her speech, everyone started moving toward the starting line. The teacher who’d invited me to run the race pulled an orange card out her pocket and wrote the word “Mom” on it.

“What’s that?” I said.

“It’s who you’re running for,” she said. She pinned the card to the shoulder of my t-shirt.

I smiled. My Mom had cancer more than a decade ago. She’s now 12+ years, cancer free.

Rankin Run 2014

The race began. I ran with a group of kids from Westmount School, many of whom had orange cards pinned to their t-shirts too. As we ran we talked about the people we were running for, and of course, we talked a lot about books.

“Why do some people have orange shirts?” I asked suddenly.

Most of the runners were wearing white t-shirts, but here and there, I saw people dressed in orange.

“They’re the cancer survivors,” a grade five student answered.

Rankin Run canal 2

We ran out to lock 3 and then turned around and came back. We passed a 900-foot freighter along the way. Some of the sailors looked down from the bridge and waved.

We finished the race strong, with a time of 37:30.

Of course, I’m used to running 100-mile races, which are 32 times longer than a 5k race. So I said goodbye to that first group of kids and headed back onto the course. Eventually I caught up with more Team Ultra kids. These students were walking, and they were fans of my book, so we walked and chatted, and they gave me some excellent suggestions for my second novel.

This time, we finished the race in 1:26:36.  It was the first time I’ve ever finished the same race twice!

* * *

After the barbecue and the goodbyes and the hugs I drove out to Short Hills Provincial Park. I was energised from all the conversations I’d had with the kids, and I still felt the need to do some running. So I pounded myself, running up and down those spiky hills, and splashing through thigh-deep mud-slicks. At the end of my run I was way too mucky to get in the car, so I jumped into a fast-moving river to rinse myself off. A huge water snake darted between my legs. I shrieked with terror, then started to laugh. I thought about how lucky I was to be standing there, in a healthy body, snakes and all. And I sent that little girl in the wheelchair a whispered prayer of support.

Run hard. Be kind to others. You’ll feel ten feet tall.

 

 

More Real-Life Superheroes!

The best thing about writing a book is you get to meet all sorts of inspiring people.

David and Nathan on stage

You are looking at a real-life superhero.

I don’t mean me. I’m talking about the young man I’m hugging. His name is Nathan Duke, and he introduced me at the Silver Birch Book Awards ceremony a couple of weeks ago.

OLA Forest of Reading festival

I don’t know how often you speak to an audience of 2000+ people, but I never do. Man, I was scared! My stomach felt like it was full of frogs.

Nathan, on the other hand, was totally calm. He breezed up to the microphone and started chatting with that audience as if he was Jimmy Fallon. He’d written a funny speech about how I wasn’t athletic when I was a kid, and how I’d never dreamed that I could write a book. As he spoke, I thought to myself, He’s the real writer, not me!

After Nathan said my name, I was so humbled and impressed, I jumped up and gave him a big hug. Let’s take another look at that picture, shall we?

David and Nathan on stage

That is probably my favourite picture in the world. Me hugging one of Canada’s most gifted young orators. One day, I hope to return Nathan’s favour. I can’t wait to introduce him when his book gets nominated for an award!

* * *

Here’s another inspirational person:

Dave and unnamed girl at St. Jude's

Her name is Paige Marchant. She came up to say hello to me after I gave a presentation at her school. Her last name sounded familiar, so I said, “Did you know there’s a famous marathoner named Marchant?”

“I know,” said Paige. “She’s my aunt.”

Lanni Marchant is Canada’s fastest female marathoner. Last October she set a new Canadian record, running the marathon in a blistering time of 2:28:00.

“Lanni Marchant is your aunt?” I gasped.

Paige nodded. I knelt down on the floor and shook her hand. It felt like I was touching royalty. I was.

lanni

 

 

Running in London

My life changed on a Thursday. Last Thursday, actually.

I drove down to London and visited a bunch of schools. School visits are one of my favourite things to begin with, but it was a gorgeous day, all sunny and spring-like, and the kids I met were more beautiful than brand-new iPhones, and the energy in the classrooms was all hoverboards and high-fives. 20140129_090301_1 I had a total ball at all those schools. But that isn’t what changed my life. At the end of the day I visited St. Robert’s Catholic School, and did my usual “Ultra talk” for a class of sixth graders. The teacher had read almost all of my novel to the kids, and after my presentation was over, the kids asked me if the Urinal Hockey League actually existed in real life (it did!) and are there really bandits in running races (there are!) and have you really run into bears in the forest (many!). We took crazy group pictures while Katy Perry blasted from the boom-box, and then the kids asked, will you come outside and run with us?

The last period of the day was about to begin. It was their P.E. class.

Since it was so beautiful and I had my running shoes with me, of course I said YES!

I thought we’d maybe do a few easy laps around the schoolyard.  But after we’d conga-lined out the back door and into the bright sunshine, the P.E. teacher said, “Okay, let’s play Manhunt. Caleb, you’re it!  Who do you choose as a partner?”

Caleb glanced around, and then chose me.

ME! It was the FIRST TIME I’ve been ever picked first for a sports team!

And do you know what? I rocked at that game! As a kid I was terrible at soccer and basketball and volleyball and baseball and just about any other game with a ball, but when it came to Manhunt, I was THE MASTER!

Manhunt, by the way, is basically tag, except that two people start out being it, and slowly but surely tag everyone else. Once the other kids are tagged, they become “it” too, and join in the hunt, helping to chase down the last remaining players. Manhunt is basically nothing more than a 15-minute SPRINT. And I was sprinting after some extremely speedy sixth-graders!

It was the best possible way to end a long day. We laughed and screamed and bounded around that schoolyard like gazelles!  I wasn’t a grownup anymore. I was eleven years old. Eventually I tagged someone, and Caleb tagged someone too and our little group of “it” people grew and grew.

When the game ended we pleaded with the teacher to let us play again. He said yes.

What that game ended we pleaded with him again.

When the third game ended we convinced him that daily physical activity is part of a healthy lifestyle, so of course he had to let us play one more game.

After the fourth game, the teacher gathered all of us kids in a quiet corner of the playground, and he had us sit down on a bunch of boulders. Then he handed me a beat-up copy of Ultra. “Would you mind?” he asked. “We’re only five pages from the end.”

He wanted me to read the end of the book to the kids! I was hesitant. That’s a very intense section of the book. In those final 5 pages, Quinn not only saves ——–, he also gets passed by ——— and nearly loses ———-, but then he thinks of ———, and sees ——— and ———, and there’s an intense final showdown with ——— at the finish line. And the whole time the clock is ticking…

The kids cheered and cheered until I agreed to read. I got a bit emotional as I turned the pages, and I actually choked up a couple of times. I often read from the novel in my school visits, but I’ve never read THE ACTUAL CLIMAX!  The kids were RAPT. They were so totally into it, and we were outside in the sun, and we’d just spent an hour racing around the schoolyard.

When I finished the last few sentences the kids stared at me in silence. “Keep going,” someone said.

“I can’t,” I said. “That’s the end.”

I was shocked to find that the book was actually pretty good.  I hadn’t really expected that.

“That can’t be the end!” said Caleb. “You have to write a sequel!”

On the two-hour drive home, I couldn’t stop singing.

Blindfolded in Boston

hopkinton

Did I mention that I’m not in Boston right now? That I’m not running the fabled marathon, on this, the most emotional of years?

I’m thinking of my friends who are running the race. Not least Rhonda-Marie Avery, who I’ve written about before, and who was on the course last year when the bombing happened.

My Boston experiences pale by comparison (thank goodness), but I do have some choice memories. I ran the 2008 race with my buddy Kai, who, like Rhonda-Marie, is blind. Kai had asked me to be his guide, but I don’t think I did a very good job. Thanks to me, he nearly did a face-plant on the infamous “Three Mile Island.”

“Buddy!” I shouted. “Veer left!  Veer left!”

Three Mile Island is a cement protrusion in the middle of Route 135 near Ashland. If you’re running in the middle of the pack, or drafting behind another competitor, it’s easy to miss the warning signs and pilons. Half the runners go right and the other half go left.  If you’re not careful, you’ll smack into the cement wall.

“Kai!” I screamed. “LOOK OUT!”

I grabbed his sleeve and yanked him out of harm’s way.

“What was that?” Kai asked.

“An early death,” I said.

When Kai was still a teenager, macular degeneration robbed him of ninety percent of his central vision. Mercifully, the disease (called Stargardt’s) left his peripheral vision intact.  And it’s those twin curtains of sight that allow Kai to run with some degree of confidence – to deke left and right, and to find the gaps between other runners.

“I actually feel pretty comfortable running in a pack,” Kai told me. “I can see the contours of people ahead of me. So all I have to do is find my opening and keep up with the crowd.”

Although he chose me to be his guide, Kai had no particular interest in being tethered to me by a rope. Nor was he interested in pinning a bright yellow BLIND RUNNER sign to the back of his jersey. “Thousands of cute Wellesley girls, and you want me to advertise that I’ve got a disability?” he said.

So we ran side by side. Kai was worried about slowing me down, but I assured him that I wasn’t looking for a PR. “I’ve run lots of marathons for speed,” I told him.  “I’m looking forward to actually seeing this race.”

So there we were, two best friends, clipping along at a 3:50 pace.

“Who’s that singing?” Kai asked me at the 10-mile mark. We could hear a karaoke version of Cracklin’ Rosie.

“There’s a Neil Diamond impersonator standing on the roof of his El Dorado,” I said.

Ten minutes later we heard intoxicated screaming.

“Who’s that?” said Kai.

“Hundreds of drunken dudes,” I said. “They’re lobbing beer cans to the runners.”

“Can you grab us some?”

As we ran, it occurred to me that this was my true role as Kai’s guide: to animate the lunacy of the race for him. After all, running Boston is only half the fun.  Watching the crazy people on the sidelines is almost as good.

Heartbreak Hill

Heartbreak Hill

Before Boston, I’d run a hundred marathons for time, but in retrospect, I’d done those exclusively for myself. This was the first race where my eyes were fully open.

There is a photograph of Kai and I completing the race together. Our arms are raised, and we appear to be laughing.

“Where’s the finish line?” Kai said.

“Right behind you,” I said.

Dave and Kai

Real-Life Superhero

Rhonda-Marie

The superhero runner

There she is. Her name is Rhonda-Marie Avery. She’s got three kids, works as a RMT, and this summer she’s going to run the entire 885-kilometer Bruce Trail.

bruceTrailMap

This winding footpath starts in a sleepy fishing village on the northeastern shore of Lake Huron, and follows the rugged Niagara Escarpment all the way south to Niagara Falls. Rhonda-Marie plans to cover that distance in 20 DAYS (!), which means she’ll have to run 45 kilometers each day. This would be a Herculean feat for the toughest of runners. But Rhonda-Marie has an extra challenge: she’s legally blind.

Rhonda-Marie was born with a rare genetic eye disorder called achromatopsia, which means she has no cones in her retina. She figures she has 8 per cent vision. But she hasn’t let this disability slow her down. Five years ago, when she was getting into running, she met with a group called Achilles Canada. Achilles paired her up with guide runners, and taught her how to run safely. Now Rhonda-Marie is returning the favour. This summer’s run is all about raising funds and awareness for Achilles.

It won’t be easy, of course.

Rugged Bruce Trail

The Bruce Trail features ankle-busting limestone outcrops, yawning crevasse caves and, uh, cliffs.

Bruce trail Cliffs

But the biggest danger RMA may face…is me. For two days in August, I’ll be her “guide.”

fear

It’ll be my job to point out the rocks, roots, holes, streams and rivers along the trail. It’ll be Rhonda-Marie’s job (God help her) to trust my judgment.

I met Rhonda-Marie for the first time the other day. We got together with some friends at a remote section of trail near Ravenna, Ontario. It was below zero and the wind was howling. We ran for 4 1/2 hours through waist-high snow. I took a turn as Rhonda-Marie’s guide. I ran five feet ahead of her (about the length of a piano keyboard); close enough that she could make out the motion of my body. I pointed out the ice patches, and the tree branches at eye-level. At one point I ran down a little gulley.

“Whoa!” Rhonda-Marie cried out behind me. “You need to tell me when we’re going downhill!”

I asked Rhonda-Marie how she felt about this summer’s challenge; if she felt intimidated by the enormity of the distance. “Of course,” she said. “But I’ll be fine as long as my guides follow the rules.”

“What rules?” I asked.

“Rule number one,” Rhonda-Marie said, “is ALWAYS LIE!”

Of course, I thought. Ultra runners are in near-constant pain, and need a steady stream of inspiration in order to keep their legs moving. So when an ultra-runner asks: “How high is this hill?” the correct answer is always: “Not high at all!” And when they ask, “How much further until we eat?” the correct answer is always “We’re almost there!”

“Got it,” I said. “Anything else?”

“Rule number two…” Rhonda-Marie said, “is DON’T CODDLE! If I complain or slow down, kick my butt. Don’t ever feel sorry for me – unless I break my leg or something.”

And rule number three?

Rhonda-Marie smiled. “Rule number three is…there’s no such thing as snakes or bears.”

limehouse

Rhonda-Marie’s epic adventure begins on August 4th. That means she’s got 3 1/2 months of training left. Every week she does two back-to-back long runs ranging from 20 to 50 km, two shorter runs (10 to 15 km), three swims (two to six km), and two bike rides (four hours or so).

You can follow her progress, and support the cause (and Achilles Canada), HERE.

 

The Freakishness of the Long Distance Runner (Video)

So there I was, bouncing around in an Ontario classroom, talking about my novel Ultra, and sharing some of my craziest running stories. A brilliant documentary filmmaker happened to be there, and she made this little video about me:

 

Many thanks to Lisa Lightbourn-Lay for making that video. The still images were provided by my photog brother Andy.

You’re a Rock Star! Yes You Are!

For the last few years I’ve been leading a double life. I work on my novel, then I head off to work. When I finish work I go back home, and dive back into my novel.

It may not sound all that crazy, I know. But occasionally, the contrasts can get extreme.

School-Kids-Running

Take last week. In addition to my regular job, and working on a new novel, I also went on a bunch of school visits. Oh my gosh, I had SOOOO much fun at those schools. It’s a real gift to be invited into classrooms, and to share my craziest running stories with hilarious and talented young people. I love their thoughtful and pointed questions. For example:

“Is Kneecap based on a real person?”

(Kneecap is a character in my novel, Ultra).

“Yes,” I answer. “She’s based on Jennifer Roy. Jennifer was my best friend in grade seven. She really did tell me to ‘throw away my weird pills.’

“Was there really a Urinal Hockey League?”

“You bet,” I explain. “At Dalewood Public School in St. Catharines. But you can’t play Urinal Hockey at this school. You’ve got the wrong kind of urinal. I already checked.”

The kids treat me like I’m a rock star. You’d think my head would swell with all that attention. But don’t worry. My day job keeps me humble.

Lou Reed

The same week I visited all those schools, I helped to produce a special tribute show to the late musician, Lou Reed. The concert was held at the Glenn Gould Theatre in Toronto, and all sorts of real rock stars came out to perform. Gordon Downie of the Tragically Hip, Emily Haines of Metric, a bunch of Barenaked Ladies, Carole Pope of Rough Trade, opera singer Measha Brueggergosman, Commander Chris Hadfield, etc. Just when I felt faint from all the glitter, Kim Cattral walked in (she played Samantha on Sex and the City). Then Ron Sexsmith and Kevin Drew appeared. Then someone introduced me to Lou Reed’s actual band! 

It was all kinda dizzying. I mean, these weren’t just rock stars, these were rock icons. These were the people who wrote half the songs on my iPod; the people who wrote the songs that carried me through my toughest road races (Carole Pope’s All Touch, the Hip’s Courage, Metric’s Gimme Sympathy, Hawksley Workman’s Autumn’s Here).

Since I’d helped to write the script for the concert, it was my job to make sure the celebrities got on and off stage at the right moments. But as the show progressed things got emotional. Most of the performers had been friends with Lou Reed, and there were plenty of tears, and I had to run back and forth with Kleenex boxes. Nonetheless, the show rocked. Chantale Kreviazuk did a blistering performance of “All Tomorrow’s Parties.”  Commander Hadfield (who, in case you were wondering, has the strongest handshake of anyone I’ve ever met) brought the house down with his version of “Satellite of Love.”

I enjoyed the music, and I loved hanging out backstage with those celebrities, but I kept thinking about the kids I’d met earlier in the week. Many of them had dreams of writing and singing songs too, and some had even shown me the lyrics they’d written. I thought about this as I watched the show, and I wondered if, one day, their songs would wind up on my iPod too.

As I mulled this over, Hawksley Workman appeared. His song was up next, and he was about to take the stage. But then he suddenly stopped and looked at me. He peeled off his sunglasses. He said: “You’re David, right?”

Hawksley

I looked up. I’d met Hawksley – very briefly – once before. I was shocked that he’d remember.

“Hi Hawksley,” I said.

“You wrote that book!” he said. “The one about the kid who runs that race. I heard you on Shelagh Rogers’ show. You were terrific!” 

We all have a little bit of rock star inside us. We just need to be reminded sometimes.

rock show

NOTE: You can watch a killer song from that concert (including a cameo by everyone’s favourite Canadian astronaut) HERE

The Perks of Being an Author

Being an author’s cool. You get to make up stories, you can wear a beret and no one complains, and from time to time people send you fan mail and tweets.

Best of all – you get invited into schools. Sometimes the students even give you stuff.

20140129_090301_1

That’s part of a huge banner featuring scenes and quotes from my novel, Ultra. It was drawn by a cast of thousands (okay, maybe hundreds) of students at Oakville’s New Central School. Those same kids also gave me a pair of awesome running “sleevies” – inscribed with the name of their school:

Sleevies alone

How awesome is that?! I’ve always wanted a pair of sleevies.  They’re perfect for those brisk spring runs.

Dave wearing sleevies

Here’s something else I was given – by the amazing students at St. Hillary Catholic school in Mississauga:

School letter

A school letter! This was particularly meaningful, since, when I was growing up, school letters only went to the football players and the track stars. Since I was completely un-athletic back then, I never had a shot at one of these…

Until now!  😉

It’s quite a thrill, going into schools. Some days I’ll speak to 500 kids. I tell stories about running into bears and having hallucinations on the trail. I talk about writing and being creative and never giving up! Sometimes I even get my nephew Quinn on the line via Skype, and ask him how it feels to have inspired a literary character.

Most of all, I try to have meaningful moments with as many students as I can. I keep my eye out for the arty kids – the ones who have something special inside them that needs to be expressed. Maybe it’s a graphic novel, or perhaps it’s a new computer language, or maybe it’s a cure for cancer. With luck, those kids will find the strength to pursue those dreams. If they have someone who believes in them, I believe their odds are improved.

Autograph - you are faster

I like to think that I’m inspiring these kids, but the truth is, they inspire me more. Almost every single one of them asks me: “When’s your next book coming out?” It’s the greatest gift. Almost better than those running sleevies.