I had quite the weekend.

On Thursday evening, I had a reading and book discussion at the Albany Park Library in Chicago with a small group of careful readers, whose insights and concerns generated lively and generous discussion. My characters are fictional, but whenever I have the opportunity to talk about them, they feel like old friends, which is always a little disconcerting but wholly satisfying. So thank you, Albany Park, along with the patient and kind librarian on staff there, John.

On Friday, I received the 2010 Illinois Author of the Year award from the Illinois Association for Teachers of English. This was quite a thrill for many reasons, these among them: (1) My good pal Gary Anderson, in his usual calm and heartfelt way, introduced me. Awards and recognition only mean something when you can share them with others, and to have a dear friend play a part was most gratifying; (2) The audience was filled with both veteran and new teachers, some of whom have not even started their student-teaching. After meeting many of these young teachers afterward, I feel that the future of education is in good hands—if they can navigate their way through the bureaucracy that awaits them. I find nodding works well, both at work and in marriage (I love you very much, honey...just kidding); (3) As a teacher myself, I felt a strong camaraderie with the audience. Teachers of English understand the difficulties inherent in writing—both in the writing process and in getting published—so to get an award from them was deeply moving; (4) As I told the audience, about six years ago, I nearly quit writing, starting to believe all the THEYs out there that my writing wasn’t good enough, which has informed my teaching and my passion when telling students to listen to their own hearts and to ignore all the THEYs out there. (5) Fifty-two years ago, my family came here from Italia with nothing. Though they never learned to love sentences the way I have, they taught me discipline and hard work and the value of decency.

Thank you, IATE. Thank you, teachers. Your kindness will stay with me.

On Sunday, I got to pick up my freshman daughter from college, the first time she’s been home. This, along with seeing her with her two sisters, suddenly became the new thrill of the weekend.