The Maui Effect

So I’m here at the Maui Writer’s Conference and I know I haven’t blogged in a while, but this place keeps you hopping, plus I’m hitting the wall. The problem with the Maui Writer’s Conference is that it comes right after the Maui Writer’s Retreat. The Retreat is pretty damn cool: We teach dawn to dusk going sixty miles an hour and then we hit the presenter’s lounge and we party, not until dawn because most of us are middle-aged, but into the night. Then we get up at dawn and do it all over again.

And here’s the thing about dawn in Maui when you usually live in Ohio: It comes at noon. Six hour time difference. So although I do not do mornings in Ohio, I am up at the break of day in Maui, walking the cliff path along the ocean, wide awake and full of energy, swinging my arms, laughing too loud, feeling like a Natural Woman, the Maui Effect. Which is why I hate the cell phones.

Maui, in case you’ve never been here, is spectacularly beautiful. The path along the rocks overlooks perfect beaches and tide pools and gorgeous flowers and aggressively cheerful birds. And along this path stroll the rich and richer, and then also the people like me who got a free ride because they agreed to teach their butts off for two weeks. Hey, I can be bought. And most of us are just happy to be alive walking through paradise, but every now and then, you see somebody on a cellphone, making deals, gossiping, whatever, and they’re always looking at the path and frowning. God’s best ocean is on their right, but they’re yelling at somebody in New York, probably ruining lunch. I will give a free pass to those who are standing on the bridge over the little ravine saying, “My God, Margaret you wouldn’t believe how gorgeous this place is, let me take a cellphone picture and send it to you.” They can live. The others, though, I just want to rip the phones out of their hands, fling them onto the rocks, and say, “Fetch.” Because you know that lava rock is brutal.

But I don’t because I’m a nice person. Well, I’m a nice person when I arrive. By the end of the retreat, I have become one of the Grunts.

Here’s the thing: By the time the conference starts, we’ve been teaching our brains out at the retreat for six days. We were neat and clean and perma-pressed when we arrived, but by Thursday night, we’re wrinkled and sweaty and rowdy and toasted. I don’t drink, there is no alcohol in my house and I never order it when I’m out because I don’t like the way it tastes, but in Maui, it tastes good. It may be the little umbrellas. We were supposed to go to a speech the other night but I ran into a literary discussion—Karen Joy Fowler, Gail Tsukiyama, Gail Parent, Dale Burg, John Saul, Mike Sack, Janie Foley, and then Andy Cohen because you never know when you’re going to need an agent—and we were having this deeply intellectual discussion about the worst pick-up lines anybody had ever tried on us, and by the time Bob found us, I had three little umbrellas in my hair. He said, “That’s not good,” but you know, it FELT good. And I checked in the mirror later and it turns out I look DARLING with little umbrellas in my hair. But probably only in Maui.

So anyway after a week, we look like we’ve been rode hard and put away wet, and then the Conference instructors come in to join us at the introductory meeting, all neat and clean and perma-pressed. Now at this meeting, we are all supposed to stand up and tell what we’ve accomplished that year. And the shiny new people, most of whom are editors and agents, get up and tell about all their successes and name drop and establish their professional presences and pretty much pitch the room. Meanwhile, in the back of the room, the Grunts are growing restless. Occasionally we hoot. We are not pretty. Which means none of those agents and editors will ever work with any of us again, but by then we don’t care. We’ll care when we get back to the real world, but now we’re in Maui, so screw ‘em if they can’t take a joke, pass the rum.

So everybody tells what marvels they’ve been all year, and then it gets to us. Bob stands up and says, “I’m Bob Mayer and I write books,” and sits down again. This is a major improvement over last year when he stood up and said, “I’m Bob Mayer, and I can kill you with my little finger,” so the general consensus afterward is that collaborating with me has made Bob a kinder, gentler Surly Bastard. Then I stand up and say, “I’m Jenny Crusie and nothing interesting has ever happened to me.” And the Grunts all boo so that tells you how much love I get here. Then Elizabeth George stands up and says, “You probably don’t recognize me because I’ve had massive plastic surgery in order to escape the paparazzi, but I’m Angelina Jolie.” Then Karen Joy Fowler stands up and says, “No, I’M Angelina Jolie.” Then Gail Tsukiyama stands up and says, “No, I’M Angelina Jolie.” Then Jane Hamilton stands up, turns to Elizabeth George, and says, “And I’m Jennifer Aniston, YOU BITCH.”

Well, you had to be there.

So now it’s Sunday, and we have to do a TV interview and then I have to teach for two hours and then we’re going to work on the book (Agnes) and then go hear Gail Parent talk which I can’t wait to hear because she may be the funniest woman on the planet and she’s definitely a spiritual sister. We were talking about being divorced and she said, “Sometimes I go home and look at that big king-sized bed and think, ‘How did two people ever sleep in that?’” and I laughed and then went upstairs to my king-sized bed and thought, “My God, she’s right, how could two people sleep in that?” so she’s not only Funny, she’s Insightful.

Of course it hasn’t all been working and drinking and talking about king-size beds. I walked the path the other day and passed a woman who was NOT on her cellphone and who looked exactly like Jayne Ann Krentz. And then I stopped and thought, “Wait a minute. That IS Jayne Ann Krentz,” so I said, “Jayne?” and she said, “Jenny?” and we both looked around to see if SEP was there because neither one of us had a stitch of make-up on.

So anyway, I know haven’t blogged in awhile, but as you can see, I’ve been busy. And now I have to go listen to another speech. Possibly with a little umbrella.

And aloha to you, too.

15 thoughts on “The Maui Effect

  1. It sounds like a grand time, if exhausting. The Angelina Jolie bit was a hoot, even if I wasn’t there. 🙂

  2. I visited Maui several years ago for Spring Break, and it is truly a beautiful place. I’d love to visit again someday.

  3. “I’m Bob Mayer, and I can kill you with my little finger,”

    I like that one better. ;+) But you had to know I’d say that.

    “the worst pick-up lines anybody had ever tried on us”

    Ooh, I’d win that one! Or pick up situation, anyway. Ever had a guy shove a dead pig head in your face and say, “Hey, cutey, buy you a drink?”? Those wacky Southerners. He was somewhat the worse for wear, and his friends led him away and settled him down. I still have nightmares. Shudder.

  4. I’m telling SEP on both you and JAK, shamelessly walking the pathways and beaches of Maui sans maquillage, shocking I say!!!

    Sounds like you guys have a lot of fun (or maybe it’s just the rum doing the talking and boing?)

    Every time you tell a Bob story, my anticipation grows for the bookssss.

  5. Great Post, but it sounds like too many umbrellas and too little time!

    Really looking forward to your and Bob’s book.

    Just as an FYI – Bet Me is my ALL TIME favorite book. I gave it to my friend, who loved it so much, she gave it to her 18y/o daughter. Thought the message that “thin does not necessarily make you happy” was a good message. Also, I have a friend who NEVER reads. In fact, I doubt she has read a book since high school (We are 50)I gave her Bet Me. It has turned her on to reading again. I confess however, that I also have turned her on to Janet Evanovitch’s Stephanie Plum series. Congrats on the RITA. Well earned.

  6. Loved the Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston bit. Very clever and probably even hilarious if multitudinous tiny paper parasols were in evidence at the time. LOL

  7. Curious bit of synchronicity here: last night I was reading Ann Rule’s latest true-crime book, HEART FULL OF LIES, and she mentioned that the protagonist, one Liysa Northen, attended the 1999 Maui Conference and won quite a bit of acclaim for her screenplay-in-progress (which was in many ways a blueprint for her murder of her husband a year later). Did you happen to run into her?

  8. That sounds like a fun (and funny) time. I’ve heard great things about the retreat.

    As for the pickup line, when I was in Mexico, a guy actually asked me, in Spanish, what my sign was. I was quite sad to see that that line was also used in other countries.

  9. I’m new to this site, but loved reading the blog.

    Maui sounds heavenly.

    I’m with Cyndi, “Bet Me” is my favorite (although “Welcome to Temptation” holds a special place in my heart). I have read it seven times and also have it on CD (which I listen to when I have to drive 7 hours to St. Louis). The characters are so delightful. It is definitely a “feel good” book and heaven knows you can never read too many.

    I also am looking forward to your new book. Thanks for all the great entertainment.

  10. Okay, the Angelina Jolie/Jennifer Aniston thing is a RIOT! All I could think of was, “WHY do they put writers in the same area with alcohol? No telling WHAT will come out of their creative minds.” And I bet you DID look adorable wearing those umbrellas!!

    Bob, I like the pink finger thing better, too. Gave me chills.

  11. okay, i absolutely was hysterical reading about Angelina and Jennifer, needless to say my cubicle-mates looked a bit worried….also, Bet Me is a favorite…. i strongly identify with all of those Norwegians who carry cows home from pasture 🙂

  12. Y’know, they were selling these “TEAM JOLIE” and “TEAM ANISTON” baseball shirts at some store in L.A. a few months ago. Almost bought one, too.

    I’m not sure who has it worse at the Retreat…the teachers or the attendees. Bob made us jump through flamming hoops and cartwheel across treacherous lava rock, but the good news is, the majority seemed to enjoy it. Sorry you were so exhausted! Although you definitely did look darling with those umbrellas in your hair.


  13. Hey, my worst all-time pick-up situation happened on Maui and involved a guy who tried to get me to sleep with him based on the emphatic confidence that “You wouldn’t turn me down if you knew who my father was.” I don’t think he found it funny when I suggested he introduce me to his father (whoever he was).

    This is becoming one of my favorite blogs to read, by the way, even if I have to re-read entries while waiting for new ones. I think the ice cream one was my favorite.

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