For my final post this merry month of Mystery May, there was one more mystery game I thought I would try. It sounded unique and intriguing and fun. However… I didn’t do it. I’ve been too busy this month finalizing copy edits for Book #3, sorting out my ideas for Book #4, and generally trying to keep up with my responsibilities at work and at home. But maybe I’ll still give this thing a try one of these days, when I have more time (and cash) to spare....
And what, you may ask, is this mystery game of which I speak? Why, it’s another interactive and immersive mystery-solving entertainment experience: the mail-order mystery.
Have you heard of this? I’m not sure where or when I first came across the idea—maybe I read about it in a magazine. But recently I looked it up online and found out that this is, indeed, a thing.
For future reference, here’s a list of the mail-order mystery options I was able to find:
~ Mail Order Mystery: Aptly named, this one is geared toward kids with three themes to choose from: pirates, fairy tales, or spies. It’s a weeks-long mystery with multiple deliveries. Just choose your mystery, and a series of letters, documents and curious objects will arrive in the mail. Cost is $73-$81 each, plus shipping.
My thoughts: Sounds fun if you have elementary school-aged kids. But my fourteen-year-old probably wouldn’t be interested.
~ Mystery Mail: This is a family-friendly game with multiple mailings. As it says on the website: “Something peculiar arrives in the mail. Opening it reveals strange elements, items, leads, ciphers, and conundrums. Use the clues in the mail, hidden web pages, (free) apps and online resources, and common household items to unlock the secrets and solve the game." Total cost is $125 (to the U.S., from Canada).
My thoughts: This sounds like a fun, though challenging, group activity. You’d definitely need to find a bunch of willing participants to share the fun—and perhaps the cost.
~ The Mystery Experiences Company: This is a subscription-based monthly mystery club. As it says on the website: “Each month, you will receive a mysterious package in the mail. Use the items and clues inside to solve a compelling mystery-- hunt serial killers, find your way out of escape rooms, conduct crime scene investigations, search for lost artifacts, and much more! In most of our mystery experiences, you can also interact with characters through email and telephone. …Items from past mystery packages have included maps, FBI files, artifacts, newspapers, suspect profiles, cryptic letters... and much more!” You can also join the Facebook group to chat with fellow detectives. Cost is $29.99/month (plus shipping).
My thoughts: This is the one I had thought I might try, with the plan in mind to play one or two and then cancel. But you can’t just start anytime. Everyone’s game is mailed at the same time, during the last week of the month prior to the game month. AND, they can sell out. As of now, the next chance to play is in July….
~ The Mysterious Package Company: This one is to gift only—and not to yourself. As it says on the website, the creators are “Purveyors of strange and unannounced deliveries, designed to intrigue, befuddle, and delight.” In other words, you’re supposed to anonymously buy the experience for someone else, so they get to receive mysterious packages out of the blue. Supposedly, they might actually think it’s all real. The site itself is very cryptic and mysterious. You have to sign up for a free membership in order to learn more details, including the price. Cost: ?? I’m guessing it’s pricy, based on how slick the website is. Oh, and the fact that one of the testimonials is from Neil Patrick Harris!
My thoughts: I don’t think I could pull this off—at least not for someone I see or speak to on a regular basis. It sounds too much like a prank, which I don’t dig. Sure, the mystery itself might be fun, but… I don’t know. It seems like either an elaborate trick, which is too much like lying for my tastes… or else it’s super hokey.
However, this one does remind me of that Michael Douglas thriller, The Game. Did you see that movie? Now that was an absorbing mystery—in a creepy, freaky kind of way. Hmm, I wouldn’t mind watching that again, now that it’s been a number of years…
So, what do you think? Have you—or would you ever—try a mail-order mystery? I think playing one could be fun. But as a writer, I think I might have even more fun creating such a game. When I was a kid, I would create treasure hunts for my younger sibs and their friends, hiding slips of paper with riddles and instructions around the backyard, one clue leading to the next. I liked making up stories to go along with the hints.
As a matter of fact, I do have a rough idea for an interactive mystery computer game. It’s on my mental list of creative projects to pursue… someday. (That ever elusive someday!)
For now, however, it’s back to the mystery writing.
Continuing with this month's theme of "all things mystery," I've been thinking about other ways we immerse ourselves in mysteries--besides getting lost in a good book. As I mentioned before, we can play detective in board games (such as Clue and Mysterium) and computer games (yay, Nancy Drew!). Another game I played as a kid was sort of a combination board game and computer game, called Electronic Detective. The game box featured a picture of Don Adams and the suspects had funny names such as Candy Roll and Ripp Rapp. I still remember the computerized music it would play: Dun Dun Dun Dun....
But if you want to go even deeper than tabletop or screen games, you can always seek out a live action experience such as mystery dinner theater. Have you ever been to a mystery dinner? This is where professional actors put on a show during a three or four course meal. There is typically a lot of audience participation and definitely a lot of comedy. In fact, they're really more like a comedy improv act than anything else. ("Come to our show and solve a hilarious murder!")
In big cities such as Chicago, mystery dinner shows are performed every week, and you have several places to choose from. There's even one that takes place aboard a train! (Murder on the Orient Express, anyone?)
However, you don't have to go to a large city to join in the fun. I went to a mystery dinner show about a year ago in a small town. The traveling theater troupe consisted of just two or three actors who played multiple parts. Certain audience members were also assigned characters and given lines to read. In the end, everyone voted on who they thought the culprit was. I don't remember now if the votes determined the outcome, or if the villain's name was drawn from a hat. Either way, there wasn't really a single answer you could piece together from the clues. Still, it was an entertaining evening.
Other dinner shows have bigger productions. In addition to the actors telling the story from the floor, some are secretly planted among the audience members at their dinner tables. (Incidentally, this was the type of mystery dinner Keli Milanni attended with her friend Farrah in Bell, Book, and Candlemas. Of course, Keli was secretly on a mission to solve a real mystery!) In these types of shows, dinner guests mingle with one another as they try to flush out the murderer.
Another option is to host your own private mystery dinner. You can hire actors to come to your place of business or other location. Or you can just buy a boxed game and do it all yourself. This is what I did the other night-- sort of. My mom had found an old “How To Host A Murder” party game at a yard sale recently, so we decided to give it a try after dinner last Saturday.
I say we “sort of” played, because we didn’t really have the full experience. I didn’t send invitations or provide costumes or anything. In fact, we kind of sprang the game on my brother and his fiancé without much preparation. And we only had seven players instead of the required eight, so Sage played two characters, which got a little tricky.
All in all, the game was neat, but it involved a lot of reading: reading at the start and reading all throughout. Besides that, the thing I found most challenging was being both a detective and a suspect—for much of the game, I actually suspected myself!
But it was all in good fun. Like mystery theater, at-home mystery games include plenty of laughs and silliness. (Some of the characters’ names were Hamilton (Ham) MacTorr, Anne T. Ickwitee, and Arthur (Art) E. Faxe, which was appropriate since the mystery took place at an archaeological dig... at the “Rock of Vages.” Lol.
Now that I think about it, I guess mystery and comedy often go hand in hand. Think of Scooby Doo, Inspector Clouseau, and Maxwell Smart, just to name a few comedic detectives. And I can't forget one of my all time favorite movies, the Woody Allen flick Manhattan Murder Mystery.
Yeah, I guess I do like my mysteries with a few laughs. How 'bout you?
One Christmas many years ago, when I was a young woman living in New York, my husband and I made a trip back to the Midwest to visit our families. This particular year my mom had bought a game—I don’t remember if the game was a gift for one of my younger sisters, or if it was a house game for everyone to play. But I do remember gathering around my parents’ computer to check it out—one person in control of the mouse and everyone else backseat driving. My brothers might have been in on the action at first, but playing this game soon became a favorite obsession of my sisters and me—much to the vexation of our husbands! We spent hours at the computer, searching for clues, talking to suspects, solving puzzles…
The game was Nancy Drew: Treasure in the Royal Tower. It was actually #4 in a series of games by Her Interactive, but it was brand new to me. After that first Christmas, every time I’d go home to visit my family, I’d sit down at the computer and play a bit more. Eventually, I ended up taking the game home and playing it on my own with my toddler on my lap. Sage played along with me, watching the action and helping to choose our next move.
After solving that first game (which, for some reason, took an inordinate amount of time!), I went online and ordered another Nancy Drew game, and then another. Sage and I played Message in a Haunted Mansion (where we participated in a séance, taught ourselves Chinese, and learned San Francisco history, all while renovating a B&B); Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake (where we learned about birds, and Roman Numerals, and Prohibition); and Secret of the Scarlet Hand (where we learned about the Mayans). These games were educational! And they were very fun.
On average, I probably bought a new game every year or so for several years. But we would also go back and replay games that we’d already finished. It didn’t matter if we already knew who the culprit was. (As they say, it’s all about the journey, rather than the destination!)
Some of our favorites have been: The Secret of Shadow Ranch (with a ghostly horse and hidden treasure!); Secret of the Old Clock (a historical version that takes place in 1930); Trail of the Twister (not the most popular among fans, but Sage liked it a lot—probably because of her fascination with tornadoes); The Creature of Kapu Cave (snooping around in a cool Hawaiian setting); Shadow at the Water’s Edge (a good and creepy mystery, with lots of interesting Japanese culture); and so many more.
Believe it or not, we haven’t played them all. And we haven’t even loved them all. A couple very early ones were kind of boring, and a couple of the newest ones didn’t really grab us. But most of them have been pretty neat. In addition to the intriguing story lines, there are several running jokes throughout the series, including some recurring characters, references to past games, and hidden “Easter eggs” that are literally eggs. Nancy’s trusty friends, Bess and George, and her boyfriend, Ned, even get in on the action in many of the games.
As Sage gets older and busier, our game playing has slowed down quite a bit. But that’s not to say we won’t still pop in a disk now and then. I also like to keep an eye out for the new releases. (I’m eagerly awaiting game #33, called Midnight in Salem!)
But the best part, to be sure, is the mother-daughter bond we’ve formed playing this game. I can’t tell you how many times something in real life, or in a movie, has reminded me of something from one of the games. When I mention it, Sage knows exactly what I’m talking about. I feel like we’ve traveled the world together. We’ve visited Venice and New Orleans, Edinburgh and Egypt, a foggy castle in Ireland and a snowy resort in Canada; and even Nancy’s hometown of River Heights. We’ve puzzled and persisted, and we’ve given each other high-fives when we survived the final challenges, time and time again.
Come to think of it, though, the bond is much greater than the two of us. My sisters still enjoy playing these games now and then—we were the original Nancy Drew detectives! On a larger scale, fans of these games must surely number in the thousands upon thousands. There’s something timeless and infinitely appealing about Nancy Drew.
So, I know I'm part of a larger group-- that group of fun-loving gamers who know the satisfaction of finding lost keys, unlocking tricky puzzles, piecing together random clues... and of course, trapping the bad guy and saving the day. : )
Here's to Nancy... and many more years of playing detective.
By Jennifer David Hesse
Ah, mysteries. They add such interest to life. And such fun. As a mystery writer and long-time mystery reader, I’ve given quite a bit of thought to the appeal of this genre. As I’ve written before, I think we’re drawn to mysteries because of our fascination with the unknown. It all starts with the great mysteries of the Universe and our desire to have some level of control in a chaotic, often mystifying world. We want to figure out the truth, solve the problem, see justice served.
Plus mysteries provide a nice diversion from our day-to-day lives.
Maybe that all helps to explain the popularity of other mystery-solving experiences. Besides reading a mystery novel, there are many other opportunities to put on your Sherlock hat and get to sleuthing.
Take games, for example. You can play detective in a wide variety of games, from board games and computer games, to live-action role playing games.
When it comes to board games, one comes immediately to mind: Clue! Did you play Clue as a kid? Known as “Cluedo” in the U.K, this game has been around since 1949! There have been several editions of Clue, not to mention a few spin-offs. It’s easy to learn and simple to play—just your basic game of dice rolling and deductive reasoning. The backdrop provides the fun. (Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the lead pipe!) It’s a nice, rainy day activity, all classic, lighthearted fun—that is, if you don't think too much about the fact that you’re casually discussing murder with an eight-year-old!
Beyond Clue, there are many other mystery deduction games that, to be honest, I’d never heard of before writing this post. With names like Sleuth, Inkognito, and Top Secret Spies, these games sound like loads of fun.
However, there is one game that I recently came across and decided to buy. I saw it at Barnes and Noble and was intrigued by the spooky cover art. It’s called Mysterium (which means “mystery” in Latin, German, and a few other languages).
Then I read the premise and couldn’t wait to try it out. It’s a cooperative game where one player is the ghost and the others are psychics (all with back stories that don't affect your game play at all, but could add to the fun if you want to go all out). The psychics are having a séance on Halloween night to try to figure who killed the ghost—and in what room and with what weapon. (That much seems familiar!) To figure all this out, the psychics have to interpret the “visions” the ghost gives them—in the form of cards featuring surreal Dali-like images.
Sounds cool, right?
Well, unfortunately, the game is way more complicated than that and, unlike Clue, not so easy to learn. At a recent family get-together, we decided to play the game. But after an hour (I swear, it felt like at least an hour!) of set up and perusing the instructions—and even watching a YouTube video—most people lost interest and wandered away.
But the next day I studied the instructions some more, Googled a couple explanations that weren’t clear in the game manual, and recruited a new group of family members—including some enthusiastic youngsters. This time we actually played the game. And I think folks had fun....mostly.
However, for me, in the role of the ghost, I found the game somewhat difficult. The images on the cards are so random and weird, it was hard to find good clues to help the psychics solve the mystery. And, in the end, they didn’t! So, we all lost.
Still, I’d give the game 4 out of 5 stars. Four for cleverness, uniqueness, and potential—minus a star for terribly unclear directions. (As my brother said the first night, the mystery was how to play the game!)
Now that I have a better handle on how to play, I’ll give it another chance. Assuming I can recruit some players again….
How about you-- do you play board games? What are your favorites?
As I’ve mentioned, it’s Mystery Week over at Goodreads. (And it's Mystery MONTH, here on my blog!) To participate in the fun, I decided to try my hand at a “five-sentence mystery.”
Such tiny stories—aka flash fiction—are an interesting beast. With so few words, much of the action must take place off screen, so to speak. As a reader, you have to peer between the lines and employ quite a bit of your own imagination. As a writer, you have to be choosy about your words. It’s a lot like poetry in that way. In fact, many of the examples I found remind me of haiku, at best—or silly limericks, at worst. Others are chock-full of run-on sentences as if to pack as many words as possible into the allotted space. But the best examples are clever and solid. They succeed in evoking a mood, in making the reader feel something, even if it’s just amusement.
As for me, I can’t say I love this story format. I prefer stories with a bit more substance than flash fiction allows. In my mind, I’ve started calling it a “five cent story” instead of a “five sentence story.” So take it for what it’s worth. Ha!
Still, I did have fun giving it a try. (And fun is the name of the game!)
Without further ado, my 5-cent story:
“Ghost in the Graveyard”
Laughing, Allie stumbled through the old orchard, as her tipsy friends disappeared into the shadows. All at once, she was on the ground, the sting of her skinned knee transporting her to the balmy summers of childhood: weenie roasts, backyard camp-outs, hide and seek with the neighbor kids—and one boy in particular, with twinkling eyes behind horn-rimmed glasses and shaggy hair in need of a trim.
What was his name?
He was there, with Allie beneath the apple blossoms, and then he was gone.
Suddenly, a cloud parted, shooting moonbeams through the gnarled branches, and Allie’s eyes fell upon the glint of a forgotten treasure, hidden all these years: a metal dog tag on a silver beaded chain.
At first, this old song almost sounds like it could be the beginning of a mystery story, doesn't it? Of course, it’s really an ode to love, but mystery and romance do make great bedfellows. *wink* Romantic suspense is a fun genre, but personally I think ALL genres are better with a little romance. (Especially cozies...) “Love interest” is an appropriate phrase, since love adds lots of interest to any story!
Let me tell ya 'bout the birds and the bees
I must have spring fever... these songs keep going through my head. And they’re perfect for this time of year. It’s almost May!!
Do you celebrate May Day? Dance around a maypole? Surprise someone with flowers? Have a picnic or a bonfire? For Wiccans, May Day, or “Beltane,” is a jubilant fire festival that celebrates abundance, fertility, and love. And who wouldn’t want to dance in the great outdoors these days? Summer is just around the corner!
I was thinking a lot about Beltane in recent months, because I thought Book #4 in the Wiccan Wheel Mysteries might revolve around that holiday. I wrote a few chapters and a plot summary with that in mind. However, it turns out the publishing schedule requires a different holiday for Book #4…. It’s gonna be the Halloween/Samhain book! (Coming in 2018... That’s going to be a fun one. I just love Halloween!) Beltane will have to wait for Book #5.
Here in the real world, however, it IS time for April showers, May flowers, and… Mystery Month! For the second year in a row, I’ve decided to designate May as Mystery Month. Because, after all, this blog is for mystery lovers.
Fittingly, Goodreads has also declared the first week of May to be Mystery Week. I’ll be participating in the fun by doing some of the suggested author activities. First off, I’ll answer the question: “What mystery in your life could be the plot for a book?” I already have something in mind which, coincidentally, has a springtime connection. Stay tuned!
I’ll also write and share a “five-sentence mystery.”
Wait. A FIVE-SENTENCE mystery?? That sounds a little weird… and hard! But I’m up for the challenge. In fact, I’ve written flash fiction before. In the spring of 2015, right around the time I got my first book deal and was waiting for some direction from my new publisher, I decided to enter a writing contest on a lark. Speaking of romance, my submission had to be between 300-1,000 words on the theme of “Escaping Love,” because “sometimes Cupid misfires.” Ha ha. And guess what? I was selected as a finalist and published in Splickety Magazine! That was fun...
Of course, 1,000 words is a bit more than five sentences. Five sentences is not a short-short story—it’s a micro story. Nevertheless… you’ll see what I come up with next week.
After that, every post in May will be on a mystery theme. Since we enjoy reading mysteries so much, I’ve been thinking about other immersive, interactive mystery experiences beyond just reading books. Along those lines, each week I’ll review a different kind of mystery game or activity. It should be… you guessed it: Fun! (Have I overused the word “fun” in this post yet? Well, I can’t help it! It’s gonna be fun!)
In the meantime, have a sweet and happy May….
As I mentioned last week, I recently went on a little “into the woods” get-away with my family. This has become a tradition of ours-- every spring when my daughter has a week off from school, we head out of town for some fresh air and R&R. We go someplace different each year, but it’s always someplace south of Chicago (following the warmth of the sun!), and usually within a few-hours’ drive of my parents’ house where we stop along the way.
This year we went to the Hoosier National Forest in Southern Indiana. We stayed at the peaceful and welcoming White Oaks Cabins near beautiful Patoka Lake. And we really lucked out with the weather this year. It felt like summer! The scenery was gorgeous, with flowers blooming everywhere—in the fields of gold, on budding dogwoods and redbuds, and in wildflowers of every color.
Even our drive was as pretty as a picture. As we passed verdant fields, meandered through small towns, and wound our way over hill and dale, we not only admired the view but also kept remarking about how familiar it was—at least in some spots. And this wasn’t because we had been there before. It was just that so many sights reminded us of places we’ve been before. If we didn’t know better, we could easily imagine we were in New York or Pennsylvania, Iowa or Missouri. Or nearby Illinois, of course. While there is obviously tons of geographical diversity across the U.S., there are still so many similarities.
One thing’s for sure: This is a beautiful country we live in.
As for activities, we don’t need much to keep us entertained. Hiking in the forest is our main priority on these trips. However, we usually try to fit in at least one new activity. One year it was canoeing and another it was archery. Last year, we went horseback riding. This year we toured Marengo Caves. It was pretty cool to see all those otherworldly formations hidden deep underground. Our enthusiastic tour guide asked us about other caves we had visited, and he knew them all. He also mentioned that one of his favorite parts about his job is meeting all the visitors. People come from all around the country and all corners of the world to marvel at this national landmark.
In fact, I got to thinking about this during our trip-- about the fact that natural wonders are appealing to just about everyone. The beauty of nature is universal. No matter what your political affiliation, religion, or ideology, everyone can agree that cliffs are majestic and waterfalls are stunning.
The birds that woke us up each morning didn’t know a whit about elections or protests or insane presidents. It was refreshing to get away from it all.
And it was reassuring to remember that most people are good and decent and caring. We encountered a lot of friendly people during our visit to Southern Indiana.
Yep. In spite of all our differences, this is still a beautiful country.
Have you seen Cosmos, the documentary series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson? It aired in 2014, but I recently discovered it on Netflix. So far, I’ve watched only the first two episodes, but I was so impressed I watched each one twice. As I told my daughter, the show is like The Magic School Bus for adults. It’s educational and fact-based, but oh-so-fascinating.
In episode one, we learn that we humans are made of star stuff--literally. Stars gave us the carbon in our muscles, the calcium in our bones, and the iron in our blood. In episode two, we learn about how all life on earth is connected. ALL living species occupy different branches on one “Tree of Life.” In fact, we’re even related to the trees!
It’s so cool to ponder. Watching this show has been an experience that is at once humbling and awe-inspiring. There is so much we don’t know-- and yet a mind-boggling amount that we DO know, thanks to science.
One thing I know is that I agree with Neil deGrasse Tyson when he said: “Accepting our kinship with all life on Earth is not only solid science. In my view, it’s also a soaring spiritual experience.”
Amen. I’ve always felt that there’s something marvelously spiritual about trees. And I know I’m not alone in this feeling. A lot of people have a special affinity to trees. (I’m betting you’re even one of them!) Such folks include TreeSisters and other environmentalists who work towards the reforestation of the tropics, as well as Wiccans and other Pagans who know there is a magical energy in all things in Nature.
This group of tree devotees also includes daydreaming children who ascend trees like faithful friends, searching for solitude, comfort, and adventure. That was me, back when I was a fearless kid. It also describes my daughter, especially a couple years ago when she was just on the cusp of becoming a teenager...
I still draw energy from trees. Walking in a forest is nourishing for my soul. That’s why I’m so excited for the little family vacation I’m taking this week. For a few days, I’ll be “camping out” in a cabin in the woods, and hiking amidst the oaks, hickories, and sycamore trees--alongside the critters who live there, of course.
New pictures to follow next week....
Until next time, Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Spring. And be sure to enjoy the trees!
“Always mindful, every second.” That was my mantra when I was a brand new mother fourteen years ago this week. As I carried my tiny infant up and down the stairs of our rented house in New York, I was exceedingly cautious. I would mind every step and hold my baby with extreme care. I didn’t allow myself clumsiness or careless speed. I had precious cargo! Talk about responsibility.
I was thinking about this recently—about how accidents tend to happen when people aren’t paying attention. And when they’re hurrying and not thinking... Once, when I was a teenager riding my bicycle zippily down the sidewalk in my hometown, I made a careless mistake by glancing over at the upcoming stoplight, seeing that it was green, and then making a sharp turn to cross the street before the intersection. It turns out I had (stupidly) looked at the wrong stoplight. I didn’t realize my mistake until I was smack-dab in the middle of oncoming traffic. “Oh no,” I said, right before a mini-van clipped the front of my bicycle, knocking me to my hands and knees.
I still cringe at that horrible long-ago decision. It could have been way worse. I know I was very lucky. And I'm infinitely grateful for the driver who, thankfully, WAS paying attention enough to brake. I feel sad when I hear about people who weren't so lucky after they made quick, careless decisions (like crossing under a railroad barrier, venturing too close to the edge of a cliff, rushing to do this or that... You get the picture).
It is wise to slow down and watch what you’re doing.
But paying attention has other benefits besides safety. To put a brighter spin on things, I must remember this: We can get more enjoyment out of life if we don’t rush our way through it.
Coincidentally, in my email this week, I received a newsletter from the yoga studio I attend. Here’s what the director, Kerry, had to say:
Paying attention is hard and getting harder. What are you doing as you read this? Are you commuting, waiting in line, killing time on your phone while the kids play? (No judgement from me. I'm multi-tasking even as I type this, finishing lunch and listening to the baby monitor as my daughter sings herself to sleep.)
-Kerry Maiorca, Founder and Director Bloom Yoga Studio.
She goes on to point out how yoga is a great practice for slowing down and clearing your head. Yoga is great for bringing your attention to the present moment and helping you appreciate yourself exactly as you are.
I don’t make it to yoga as often as I'd like, but there are other ways to practice mindfulness. If I can just remember to slow down, take a breath, and open my eyes, I'm sure I could find a way.
for that matter,
It's important to slow down and pay attention to the beautiful things in your midst. After all, fourteen years goes by in a flash!
Not to show my age TOO much, but it’s been a couple of decades since I went to college. And, truth be told, I haven’t given my alma mater a whole lot of thought over the years. I’ve never attended any college reunions or participated in any alumni events. I never felt compelled to subscribe to the alumni magazine, donate money, or show any school spirit in all these years following graduation. I've never really given anything to the school.
Isn't that kind of terrible?
It’s not that I didn’t like the school. In fact, I enjoyed my college experience. I did well in my classes (for the most part) and received a good education. I learned a lot, not only about various liberal arts subjects, but also about myself. And I had fun times too. I even met my husband there! But when I graduated, I moved away and moved on. I was more concerned with trying to be a grown up and make my way in the world than with any thoughts about Eastern Illinois University.
Yet, now that I think about it, I should probably have more pride for EIU. I actually have a LOT of connections to the school, besides having graduated from there. My mother and father both went to EIU--and met each other there. All four of my siblings went there-- and my youngest sister met her husband there too! My grandfather even went to grad school at Eastern, and various aunts, uncles, and cousins have attended the school over the past many years. I have a nephew there now.
Not only that, but my husband is currently an adjunct guitar instructor in the music department at EIU. (This works out nicely because we can visit family when he makes his twice-monthly trips downstate to teach.) In addition, my brother-in-law is on staff at the university as a photographer and online specialist. And my father regularly audits art classes there.
Like I said, I have lots of connections to that school! And I don’t even think I listed them all. Still, in my busy life, I simply don’t give the college much thought. Until recently...
Last weekend I did a book signing in my old college town. Since I knew I would be there, I decided to reach out to the University English Department. I sent them a flyer and said I’d be happy to speak to any students who might want to stop by. As it turned out, not many students showed up. (I’m still trying to figure out the best way to draw folks to book-signing events! But that’s another story.)
However, I did receive a nice response from an English professor. She invited me to participate in an upcoming careers event to speak to students about what I’ve done with my English degree. With my dual career as a lawyer and a fiction writer, I have a perspective that many students are interested in hearing. And I’m more than happy to share.
I remember what it was like, all those years ago, when I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. When you’re that young and inexperienced (like I was), you don’t even know what all of your options are--or, at least, not more than a vague idea of what they are. It helps when professionals visit and talk about their jobs.
So, yeah. In looking back, I do have fond feelings about my college experience. It sharpened my reading, writing, and critical thinking skills; exposed me to new ideas; taught me a few things about the world and about myself; and gave me the opportunity to meet new people and have new experiences. It’s about time I showed my appreciation, right? Giving a bit of my own time and insight seems like a great way to start.
A nature-loving, mystery-reading, magic-seeking, daydreaming kinda gal, Jennifer is the author of the Wiccan Wheel Mysteries.