Now that's a road trip, or where faith can take you

Apr 3, 2005

At the AHCJ conference today, I met Julia Lampam, a Brit who was in to teach the health journalists to use the Cochrane Library, “the best single source of reliable evidence about the effects of health care.” We got to talking about blogs, and she mentioned her new blog, The Mongol Rally Blog, about the 8000-mile trip she and her husband will soon set out on. All the best, Julia.

Last night, the association held a silent auction before the plenary dinner. My Cleveland friend and fellow health writer (I was her editor at Live), Eileen Beal, arranged for one of the best auction items ever: the highest bidder would get his or her name used as a character in the next novel of Cleveland writer Mary Doria Russell. Russell wrote the awesome Jesuits-in-space novels The Sparrow and Children of God, and her new historical novel about a Jewish family escaping over the Alps to the safety of Jew-saving Italians during WWII, A Thread of Grace came out in January. (I stopped into the bookstore tonight to read the first few pages of that novel—it’s got a prelude with a punch. Don’t miss those pages.) When I was editor of Live, Dan Rourke covered the publication of The Sparrow by writing up his conversation about the book with a Jesuit from Ignatius High School.

Yesterday being my birthday, I thought I’d give myself the gift of getting into the pages of Russell’s next book. So I started a bidding war with Elizabeth Maggio, a freelance writer and frustrated novelist, but bowed out when she told me she’d never get her own book published and this would be the only way for her to get her name into a novel. (I’ll write a book of my own someday, so I’m not worried.)

Among the many writers and journalists I met this weekend was Laurene Sorensen, a lawyer from Moscow, Idaho. She told me she plans to blog about her travels on RoadCat—“Eating, drinking, working, and sleeping on the fly.”

In the bookstore tonight, I came upon the latest book by Michael Ruhlman, House: A Memoir. Ruhlman is another Cleveland writer and Live connection; he trained me for the no-glory role of being the calendar of events editor for the magazine before he left to write his books. And he’s written some excellent non-fiction books. House is about the Cleveland Heights home he and his wife bought and renovated.

I was in that house one afternoon in the Spring of 2000. I’d gone to meet Ruhlman on his lunch break to try to recruit him to be a contributing editor to PlanetKnowHow, the startup how-to website John Ettorre and I were creating (a house of cards, as it turned out). Ruhlman met me in his kitchen, and as I made my pitch—monthly retainer for help in beefing up the cooking section—he munched and crunched on his lunch of carrots and celery. I’ve often thought back on that strange time. Ruhlman told me his days were regimented (so he could write at least 1500 words a day) and his lunch time short, and he obviously wasn’t about to consider writing for a web startup … and dammit if I didn’t misspell his name on the one-page outline I’d written to explain the possible collaboration. The few times I’ve met him since, Michael’s always been cordial to me. So I’ll buy his book this week.

Anton Zuiker

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