Growing up on Clinton Place in River Forest, a corner house with what I thought was the largest back yard in the universe, I was the youngest of six in less than eight years. I dreamed of being a writer, although ballerina also looked exciting as a dream career, but less plausible since I was not especially athletic. I did love to dance, still do. 

My latest book, Act Like You’re Having A Good Time, is my sixth nonfiction book, and first book of essays. In 16 narrative essays I explore themes of life, work and meaning, in an attempt to discover — not solve — where I have been, where I am and where I am going in a third act of life during an intensely complicated time in our culture. 

The essays touch on privilege, multi-generational friendships, parenting, aging, childhood memories, style, faith, art and many more questions that are not neatly answered. It is my wish that this book resonates with women like and unlike me, plus a broader audience of ages and genders. Many of us seek these same deep interrogations, even with vastly disparate experiences.  

The title comes from a phrase my father told the six of us often if we ever refused to comply with a request from him or my mother. Opting out of any duty was not allowed. 

“Just act like you’re having a good time,” he would say. My loving father’s instruction was about positivity, not inauthenticity, and realizing that no matter what, we needed to acknowledge we were blessed and act responsibly. 

I wanted to write about parts of my childhood that contributed to my identity and also about the adult path as an author, journalist, professor, mentor, parent and mature woman still trying every day to find  purpose in my work. I write about disappointments and fears of invisibility, worrying if I have done enough, or will ever be able to achieve my ambitions. 

There is no neat checklist to happiness or 15 ways to live a better life. There are inquiries and discoveries. 

I have been writing and publishing essays since I was a teen, writing in Seventeen magazine, and local papers. Professionally, I have been writing for major outlets across the country and internationally for 40 years. The genre of essays is extremely satisfying — and challenging — because of all you can accomplish in a short space. It is creatively and intellectually athletic to articulate a truth in a limited number of words. Because the goal of all I do in my work is to tell the truth.

Most all of the essays in the book are new; I wrote them for this collection, but a few have been published earlier. And because book publishing has deadlines almost a year ahead of publication, the final draft was due Jan. 15, before the world became infected with COVID and the protests over social injustice dominated daily thoughts. Revisions were due March 15 when the beginning of the lockdown was mandated. Then my editor allowed me to add in updates in June, as COVID and racial injustices required reshaping of some essays to make more sense and be timely and relevant. 

River Forest is my home again — and still. I write about the 1932-built home where I raised my three sons and still live in after 24 years. I went to school here, graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School, where my three sons did also. This place, this community helps define me. 

There is truth hiding in tradition and new truths reveal themselves in every experience. My hope is this small book — it is only 145 pages — can have a big impact during a chaotic time.  It is my wish that these essays can offer solace, some laughter and introspection during these heated and intense moments in our country and world. 

The River Forest Public Library — the same library I went to as a little girl — is hosting a virtual event on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2 to 3:30 p.m., where I will be introduced by Village President Cathy Adduci (register: The Book Table, 1045 Lake St., Oak Park, has signed copies available. 

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