Why most career coaching fails

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Melissa left yesterday. She moved back to Austin. She moved for a job that I think is totally stupid, but her future employer reads this blog, so I have to watch what I say. On the other hand, she ended up giving references the same day I posted about me worrying about her having an affair with the Farmer, so the woman interviewing her decided not to use me as a reference.

I can see why she wouldn’t want to have to deal with me. But, if I am not a reliable reference then I’m probably also, in her eyes, not a reliable person for assessing whether the job that Melissa took is totally stupid for her to take. So maybe she is just ignoring my blog anyway. Or maybe she is printing out each post and putting it on she office wall and throwing darts at it.

The second-to-last day Melissa was here, we went berry picking.

The farm is full of little pockets of wild blackberries. And we set out to pick enough for me to make a pie.

We sort of stick together, but it’s fun to search the sides of the hayfields til you find your own bush full of berries.

We each took our own bucket and, did you ever read that book Blueberries for Sal? In the book, the little kid eats more berries than she puts in her bucket. It’s best to do that when you think no one’s looking.

After a while, it starts to feel like you have picked everything. And you don’t want to go back where someone else has picked, but as you walk toward that place where they have already picked, invariably, you find plenty that they missed.

If you approach a bush from the left, you end up missing the berries you’d find if you approached the bush from the right. And, really, the angles of approach are infinite. For example, my son specializes in the berries growing closer to the ground.

The same variety of approach exists for career coaching as well. I, for one, have given bad career advice (like, for example, to my brother’s college roommate,) and most of the time that I’ve given bad career advice it’s been because I have a perspective that just doesn’t shift in that instance. For example, I have very little patience for people who won’t leave a terrible career because they need to earn six-figures.

So—back to Melissa. I have told her before that I think she is a phenomenal photographer. I think she should earn a living doing that. Melissa has a problem that is really, really common for people with Asperger Syndrome. She is almost always the smartest person in the room, but she can’t last in a job.

She is not alone. People think they would like to hire me, but really, I’m a nightmare. And really, at this point in my life, I don’t think I would try to do life without an assistant. I’m just not good enough at the day-to-day life that non-Asperger’s people find manageable. Like, going to the DMV, sitting through a long, loud dinner, or navigating an airport.

The issue here is executive function. People with Asperger’s have terrible executive function. We cannot stay focused on the thing that is most important. We are easily distracted by what is most interesting. This is a low-level problem for everyone. But for someone with Asperger’s it means forgetting to respond to someone who says, “Hi, how are you?” or, literally, burning down the house.

You won’t believe what I am about to tell you. Melissa’s new job is an executive assistant. I asked her, “What? How can someone with terrible executive function take a job with the word executive in it?”

“Shut up,” she says. “You were a CEO. That’s executive.”

We have this fight all the time. I think she should work at Forever 21, which is her favorite store, and do photography on the side. Today, retail is a totally respectable career path, and the trend to do a day job while you get the real job up and running is so mainstream that Jon Acuff just published a book called Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job.

Melissa does not want to work at Forever 21. She is making way more money at the job which I am not going to name because maybe if I don’t name the company then Melissa won’t be mad that I’m writing this post.

Yesterday, Melissa packed up her life. She is great at packing. She changes countries every year, so Wisconsin to Texas is nothing for her. It’s not a move so much as a hop, skip, and jump. She wheels and deals frequent flier miles until she lines up her international miles to coincide with her local miles and her premier flier perks and soon she’s flying six suitcases for free with a seat upgrade to boot.

She throws out fashion souvenirs of Milan and Hong Kong and Shanghai and other places where the clothes don’t work on a farm, or in Austin, Texas.

As she moves her clothes out of the cupboard, I move my books back in.

I’m a grouch that Melissa is moving, but I am happy to have a place for my books. I lift up the old wooden door we used as a makeshift desk, and I forgot she raised the door to the right height by putting books underneath.

I find Picture This, by Molly Bang. It is one of my favorite books ever. Every designer in the world should read this book, and anyone who wants to give criticism to designers should read this book. In fact—Wait. I have an idea. Designers: pass this book out to everyone you have to work with, and tell them, “You cannot give me input about my design until you have read this book.” This is a great strategy because smart people will read the book and understand that design is way too hard for them to be telling you they don’t like the color blue. And dumb people mostly don’t read books so most of them won’t read the book and you will never have to talk to them.

Melissa is packing and I am unpacking and we are both sad. I will miss Melissa and anyway, I really think if the Farmer was going to cheat, he’d find someone to cheat with without my help. It’s not like men are dependent on their wives supplying resources for cheating. (If they were though, wouldn’t it be a great world?)

Melissa wants me to understand why she is leaving. I don’t want to be overbearing. I know the kinds of parents who want you to do what they want you to do. I think half of my coaching business is giving people in their 20s confidence to choose a life that their parents think is totally stupid. I don’t want to play the role of that limiting parental influence.

Then the phone rings, and I hear Melissa talking to her friend Missa. Melissa sounds like a college girl. She talks about things I don’t care about like Facebook status updates, straightening hair, new stores in Austin. I realize that Melissa is a twentysomething who has adjusted to my family life in order to get stability. But now she needs to go back to her twentysomething life.

Of course I think the choices she is making are lame. Everyone thought the choices I made in my twenties were lame. I stuck with them, but I wish I had had more confidence doing that. I wish I had believed more in my ability to steer my own life.

So I hug Melissa. I don’t like touching anyone besides the Farmer and my kids, so it’s a big deal that I’m hugging Melissa. She knows that. I tell her, “You need to go be a 27-year-old, right? That’s what you’re doing. I get it.”

The next day, we try the berries again. It’s absurd that we are doing it the day she is leaving. But I think it’s normal to cope with a very sad goodbye by ignoring it. Besides, the berries are only ripe for a few days each summer and I don’t want to miss them.

We go back to where we were the day before. We each go to places we didn’t go yesterday, and I find myself watching everyone else find berries that the other people missed. I want to be the person who can see answers from many perspectives.

I want to help people by seeing past my own experience to a place where the number-one value is people making their own decisions—good or bad. I want to help my children do that, too. But I think the first step is for me to work on helping myself to have faith in my ability to make my own decisions.


121 replies
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  1. Katy
    Katy says:

    I took a job as an EA and four years later was a director. It was a great stepping stone. I’m doing contract work right now but have thought about restarting my corporate career via an EA job. But I realised I couldn’t do it again. Once you’ve had an assistant, it is really difficult to go back to be being one. I feel like Melissa is doomed in this job. That’s okay. Trying out new things is good and will eventually help her get to the job that is right for her.
    Which should be photography. Her photos make me want to take a class in photography.

  2. Agnese
    Agnese says:

    I went berry-picking last weekend and agree that no berry bush is clean-picked unless you’ve gone around it. And often not even then. I like how that translates to work and life decisions.

    I got my book this week. It’s beautiful. Thank you!

  3. Brooke Farmer
    Brooke Farmer says:

    When I was seventeen years old I got pregnant. Everyone told me it was stupid for me to keep the baby. I love my son.

    When I was twenty one I decided to put myself through college as a single mom. My father told me it was the worst decision I could make. He was sure I would never be able to make it through four years while working and caring for my son and I would be burdened with student loan debt that I couldn’t pay with no degree. I graduated on time with a double major. I am not really using my degree. But I was the first person in my family ever to graduate from college. And I loved it. I’m glad I went.

    Maybe both decisions were stupid. But they were mine. They helped shape who I am. You’ve said before that even if we make the wrong decisions we find a way to justify them to ourselves and still be happy. So even if it is a stupid job, ultimately, Melissa will probably be glad she took it in the end.

  4. Yvette
    Yvette says:

    Can you fix the link to Molly Bank’s “Picture This” please?

    Thanks, and I love this summary: People making thier own decisions, good or bad.

    It’s what our country was founded on, 300 years ago, when people were leaving Europe in droves for “freedom.”


  5. Yvette
    Yvette says:

    Oops, Molly Bang, right? (I googled it, but didn’t find what was so interesting. Not sure I get her point.)

    And yeah, I know the good ol’ USA was founded only 235 years ago, but I’ve been doing geneology stuff, and my ancesters fled England in the 1640s (fleeing poverty and religious domination).

    Happy Summer.

  6. Ken Carlson
    Ken Carlson says:

    Sad for you that Melissa is leaving. I love the perspective you are discovering and the connection to your heart that you expressed here at the end.

  7. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Penelope, I can hear how sad you are that Melissa is going, and then in comparison how much of your recent happiness has been through her presence. Looking at all of this from another direction, one could say something about needing the right team for happiness, no matter how much one loves the task or the domain.

  8. Amy parmenter
    Amy parmenter says:

    Bye Melissa!!! I will miss you too!

    I think it is very courageous Of Melissa to be leaving her comfort zone for a job that someone she respects does not think is right for her…

    It’s not a life or death decision…but it is her own.

    Amy parmenter
    The parmfarm

  9. Don B.
    Don B. says:

    I am still picturing the contrast between Darlington and Austin. Wow. Melissa is certainly adaptable. Hope she enjoys the busy life, traffic and heat. 27 and so much ahead for her, I’m excited. Blackberries not ripe here yet. Let us know about the pie.

  10. Candice
    Candice says:

    I know people in their 40’s who are still not pursuing the life they want because they’re afraid to make a choice their parents will think is totally stupid. Anyone who can learn to do it in their 20’s is way ahead of the game.

    • MJ
      MJ says:

      OH TOTALLY. I know a lot of “nice” achiever kids – now in their 40s – who are still trying to get out from under parental orders and expectations. Anyone who can do this in his or her 20s has a huge advantage.

  11. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    Ah, youth! I remember mine, and how courageous I was back then. I took risks. Many risks. Crazy risks. Some advanced me. Some shot me down. ALL added to the richness of my Being.

    But now, many years into my life, and having shared it with the woman of my dreams for 36 years, I approach the unknown with “risk avoidance.” That doesn’t mean I don’t take chances anymore. I have to, in order to grow and change and stay refreshed. But my choices are measures and thought out, with plans B, C, and D backing them up.

    I know that in general, the greater the risk, the greater the gain. But my ride is subtler now, yet still creative, still moving forward filled with discovery. But I can’t help missing the days of the wild ride and the adventure and the thrill of vulnerability when meeting new people. I still get it, but it’s a shadow of what it once was. But maybe that’s how it supposed to be. Life for me now, is all about the details, the nuances, a deeper exploration of the mind, and the meaning of love, and kindness. Would I be able to do that if I were racing much faster? Looking more out instead of in? Probably not.


  12. Ivy
    Ivy says:

    Thank you for writing this. I wish I had more of the moxy Melissa seems to have. I think I’ve spent too much time worrying about making decisions I might regret, second guessing myself, and getting bogged down in all the advice that gets thrown at me. This was a beautiful reminder that building a career is not a simple step-by-step process, in order to get from point A to point B. I suppose the real challenge is finding the faith to trust your own decision-making.

    (@Denise, I also love, love, love Sugar. She is wonderful.)

    • chris Keller
      chris Keller says:

      @ Ivy:
      I think it is okay to be cautious. There are still people who stay at the same job for years and years. I did this, as a nurse, and there were other nurses who had been on the same nursing unit for 25-30 years. I always thought that they were taking risks and pushing the envelope in other areas of their lives and so they kept cautious in their career in order to have stability going on somewhere . . .

      Readiness is all–when you are ready to take a risk or take a leap (of faith), you will do so. And you will learn what there is to be learned. Success is not the only lesson/goal. I actually place resilience and mental toughness up above success . . .

      And failure, blessed failure, leads one to perseverance and an indomitable spirit.

  13. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    I have this fear of being trapped, but then I seem to always get myself stuck anyway. I usually move in with boyfriends far too soon even though I know I’m way more suited to single life (or maybe just a relationship with someone else?), and working for my dad means that I have to balance the assumption that I get special treatment with that bit of added vested interest I have in the company. And I got a dog before I really should have; my parents warned me it would be tying and I didn’t listen, so now she’s an extra thing to worry about while I’m away on business, when really I feel like I should be planning on just packing up and going to Mauritius on a whim (or somewhere). But then I think, well I’m 24 so I still have time to carve all these decisions into a path that’s particular to me– I’ve started a company blog that no one else would do, and I’m trying to learn how to make business relationships, which to me is scary. Secretly, Penelope, I look you up on LinkedIn and compare your early career path with what I have started, but that’s such a futile act, and embarrassing too. I guess I’m lucky that my parents don’t think anything I’m doing is stupid, but also that makes me feel sort of like a coward. The only thing I’ve done lately that my mom thinks is dumb is paint my fingernails yellow (when actually that’s quite trendy right now).

  14. barchbo
    barchbo says:

    I taught kids with Asperger’s and kids on the spectrum for years and there are a lot of people like Melissa here in Austin. I hope she loves it here!

    No one ever died from taking a bad job. It’s all an adventure! And just because you told her not to doesn’t make that “bad” advice – it’s sound, risk-averse advice. It really depends upon the advice for which someone is looking.

  15. Leonie
    Leonie says:

    Isn’t the Tiger Beat pin up fellow who was at your farm also from Austin? The one Melissa was dating.

    Good luck Melissa! I will miss your photographs here.

    • Mel
      Mel says:

      LOL @ “Tiger Beat pin up fellow”! hahaha!

      and good observation – that he also happens to be in Austin ;)

      I’m surprised that she’s lasted THAT long on the farm with no cute boys around.

  16. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    Before you recommend a career in retail, check out the book “Malled” by Caitlin Kelly. Her book is not meant to discourage people from working in retail, but it highlights the real world challenges retail workers have to deal with on a daily basis. If people with Asperger Syndrome have difficulty connecting with people on a personal basis and feel overstimulated and overwhelmed in crowds, then it seems like retail work would not be a good fit (especially during the holidays). Maybe I am wrong about that and I welcome commentary to enlighten me, but I am just relating the situations described in Caitlin Kelly’s book to Penelope’s trouble registering her car at the DMV. Have you ever seen the throngs of teenage girls rifling through merchandise and lined up to try on clothes at Forever 21?

  17. Dan
    Dan says:

    Melissa 2 is the really incredibly good-looking person in the first picture on Melissa 1’s website.

  18. Justin
    Justin says:

    Hmmmm… Your problems at work revolved around not doing all the little things you’re supposed to do, my problems have always been the opposite: I think I’m too good at the little things.

    Everyone thinks I’m the smartest person in the room, but I’m just a good communicator of ideas. I’m also funny, easy to get along with, and I have so many interest it’s easy for me to find similarities with other people. I’m also pretty honest, so managers always ask me for my advice/opinion because they know I’m not an ass kisser and will tell them things they don’t want to hear. So what’s the problem? I have no idea what my “real” skills are. I don’t think I ever get hired/promoted/complimented because of quality of my day to day work; I always find ways to skip the boring, menial tasks.

    You might think that sucking at the little things is a problem, but at least you know that you’re so insufferable in the workplace that people are paying you well because of some very well defined skills, and not just because they like having you around.

  19. Lisa May Simpson
    Lisa May Simpson says:

    Penelope, I love reading your blog because you and I so often disagree about things. But you write in a way that let’s me see past my initial reaction and consider what I really think. And also because you write such dramatic headlines that make my blood boil, only to discover that we mostly agree when it comes to the content of the post.

    Today is a perfect example of that. I’ve been sharing this post all over the place because the title suggests that career coaching (which is something I do for a living) regularly fails. But the content very eloquently lays out exactly what I believe: that in order to support someone effectively, you have to believe in their ability to steer their own life. As a coach, I’m constantly working to step back a bit so I can see the section of blackberry bush my client may be missing. And my clients are constantly teaching me that the section they’re working may be enough for them right now.

    Thanks for helping me remember this.

  20. Erika Harris
    Erika Harris says:

    Wow, you hugged. Loved, hosted and hoisted. I send a vicarious bouquet of gratitude… ’cause it seems appropriate.

    I think, when you haven’t yet circled the sun 30 or 40 or 50 times… when you haven’t yet anchored yourself with vows and tots and mortgages… it’s a whole lot easier to pick berries from all around the world.

    What’s much more daring, IMHO, is to have the womb-width of a Mama, and STILL be able to say “Yes!” to radical transparency and hospitality.

    There are honey-bees (who drink nectar) and blooming flowers (who provide nectar). I had a blooming flower when I was in my 20’s, and to this day, (20 years later) they remain at the TOP of my life-list.

  21. Heather R. Huhman
    Heather R. Huhman says:

    Penelope, I loved this post. It’s really sweet how you’ve woven Melissa’s professional path in with a perspective on life. I think it takes a lot of guts to pick up and leave like that. Sure, we’re all in the careers industry, but a career truly is only one small part of our lives. Maybe your idea of a bad job will be the best stepping stone Melissa will take.

  22. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    There’s only so much a career coach can do and then it’s out of their control. I wouldn’t call it a success or failure proposition. It’s more like a discovery process … and the heavy lifting has to be done by the client. The coach can facilitate the process and provide tips and guidance but it’s the client that needs to discover the values and goals that matter the most to them. And like most discovery processes, there are a number of steps involved … hopefully with learning and forward progress.

  23. victoria
    victoria says:

    Penelope, does that mean you need a new Melissa? I’m free this summer and fall if you need someone.

      • Justin
        Justin says:

        You should hire a male so you don’t have to worry about the Farmer cheating on you with your assistant. The Farmer could then spend the next 3 months worrying about you cheating on him.

        Also, I like cooking.

  24. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    My problem exactly. Let me know when you figure out how to do this…

    But I think the first step is for me to work on helping myself to have faith in my ability to make my own decisions.

  25. Becky
    Becky says:

    Penelope, you also advised Melissa to get married. She’ll probably have a better chance finding an eligible bachelor in Austin than in Darlington.

  26. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    The little nugget of advice you mention in this post that was specifically for Melissa is really good. The retail job is a way to pay the bills, not some place to move up within the ranks, which makes the job low-risk. The career path is the photography, so a person has to be able to personally invest in that and not the day job. The arts take a long time to turn into a career and don’t provide any structured daily activity or routine. Getting a job at a place that sells stuff you like to look at is a great way to balance and stimulate creativity.

    I will admit that at age 27 I may not have understood this (I’m 31) but no one ever gave me that advice. My interest in some of the specific bits you give to people is piqued. The sweeping advice and big ideas are great, but the smaller ones are becoming extinct on the ‘net, and it saddens me because the small ideas are the ones I can use. OK, the concept that simple advice is easier to follow than complicated advice is a no-brainer, but I’m guessing a lot of people who read either one don’t actually try doing what is suggested. There are people who really do take advice. It may be butchered to shreds then stapled into a Frankenstein-like abomination by the time we are done interpreting it, but at least a few of us try.

  27. Meredith
    Meredith says:

    Your blog has been so great lately! I hope Melissa’s departure doesn’t decrease your output.

  28. sprocket
    sprocket says:

    For those who aren’t putting it together:

    Melissa grew up in Austin. Cullen (her farm hookup) is from Austin and living there again. While there are a lot more jobs in Austin than Farmville, WI, this seems like it’s less about jobs and more about people. Don’t forget, Penelope counseled Melissa that she’s supposed to be working on getting married.

  29. Adam Rico
    Adam Rico says:

    When I was 27 I quit my job as a marriage and family therapist, sold my house, and moved in with my in-laws with no means to support myself and my wife. How’s that for life planning? Fast forward 6 years and the house is back, career is back, and I now coach others who find themselves in career predicaments like mine.

    Sometimes we have to go the wrong way in order to find the better way.

    Oh, if you are able, can you ask Melissa to not take on a mortgage? When the EA job runs it’s course she won’t want that albatross around her neck. Thanks.

    • Steve C
      Steve C says:

      Good advice. It sucks feeling trapped, and a mortgage will sure do that, especially these days.

  30. Sadya
    Sadya says:

    Now that the Gen-yer living with u is leaving, is there anything u would like to add to your earlier post on What Gen Y doesnt know about themselves?

  31. Kay Lorraine
    Kay Lorraine says:

    Change is always difficult. But you’ll be OK. You have the Farmer and your kids and your company as a support group. It will be difficult for a while, but I have faith in you.

    Melissa will be OK, too. For a 20-year-old, she has already made a lot of changes in her life and she seems to be able to roll with it. She will miss you, but she’ll be OK.

    Sometimes there is nothing to be done but wait for it to pass. Ya know?

  32. Deborah
    Deborah says:

    I am 57 years old, and I have spent the last 26 years working in administrative support, which is a career that is not suited to who I really am. Bored to death in my current position is an understatement, and I have been there for 6 years; losing a little bit of me everyday.

    For those of you that have found your passion and are living it, I admire you, and pray that I have a light bulb moment to get myself out of this situation and spend the rest of my working life happy.

    • chris Keller
      chris Keller says:

      @ Deborah:
      When I was your age I hoped as you did. In order to advance myself, I got a Master’s degree at age 58, hoping to land myself in academia, teaching nursing. It happened and it wasn’t what I expected, and I was no more satisfied than I was as a bedside nurse.
      So, my jump-start was a false start . . . perhaps a mistake.
      I tried to apply other skills I learned in my Masters pgm, but my organization was not interested in the new skills I had to offer. My organization wanted an interchangeable part, not an innovative person.
      I looked into other areas of healthcare while keeping my day job (actually a night-shift job). I saw more and more what a bad fit I was in my org; and could no longer deny my unhappiness–it was taking a toll health-wise in the end.
      I retired early. Actually, semi-retired, working still as a nurse, but outside a large organization and outside a structured environment. I am happy working part time now. I am living lean–paying Cobra is the worst of it.
      Deborah, you have to make some bold move or do some smaller, incremental tweaking of your job/career. Emphasis on YOU have to do it. Get active on your own behalf–bold moves are not mandatory, but being pro-active is. Mistakes may be a part of it . . . false starts, even at our age . . . but you will see, even with mistakes that you are creating opportunities and answers–and everything is in perfect order.

      • Deborah
        Deborah says:

        Thank you Chris for responding to my post with your experiences and encouragement. The truth be told-when you reach a certain age of maturity, you have to work alot harder to prove yourself and have your accomplishments acknowledged. After I lost my last full-time position in 2005, I tried hard for several years to land another position. My resume got me interviews, but no full-time job. So, I have been working part-time at the same company for 6 years.

        I admire the fact that you went back to school, and were able to see firsthand that teaching was not really what you wanted. I have never found what I really wanted to do, but I know that I am tapped out in my current career. You stepped out there and seem to have found your peace. That is what I am searching for. I am tired of the rat race, but don’t know how to jump off the wheel and do me. One day, I will figure it out though.

        Thanks for your thoughts.

  33. Lori
    Lori says:

    i had an incredibly coincidental conversation yesterday with my half-my-age 20-something bff yesterday about her next life move. she is my second practice-child; my first was my younger sister. all this wisdom gained through experience just feels wasted if you can’t share/force it with/onto someone else. i was hoping to get it all out of my system before i tried to influence my own kids, but it’s too late; i’m already trying to talk my 14yo out of going to college. i just trust that i’ve raised him to be virtually impervious to my opinions. so far that appears to be true.

    also, your relationship with melissa reminds me of the time that i employed my younger sister, an era that we described as me “paying her to be my friend”. those were really good times.

  34. Michael Strickland
    Michael Strickland says:

    When I read your post about the possibility of The Farmer cheating with Melissa, I knew that you were telling Melissa to be gone.

    Funny how this works.

    • Sarah
      Sarah says:

      I thought this also, and it seems she knew it too as she removed “working with Penelope trunk” from her Twitter intro at the same time.

  35. Tom
    Tom says:

    “So maybe she is just ignoring my blog anyway. Or maybe she is printing out each post and putting it on she office wall and throwing darts at it.”

    Had to point it out, as it jumps out at me. Unfortunately, in my own writing this goes unnoticed until someone else points it out. A lot like picking blackberries.

    For what it’s worth, I get a ton out of your posts. Often, it’s like you’re in my head!

  36. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    It might be different things. When I was that age I went back and forth between wanting to be married and wanting to enjoy myself with only small commitments–and marriage was/is a big commitment! A conundrum. If she wants what she wants and what you have (married life), really her best option is to leave to go and get it. However, as Joe Jackson says. . . You can’t get what you want, till you know what you want http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q0IuNU0kvs

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Me too! And I’m so happy someone wants to talk with me about Molly Bang. I am about to launch a children’s book club. I didn’t plan to announce it in the comments section, but whatever. This is the pre-announcement, I guess :)

      Anyway, I so much want to be talking about children’s books. I feel like I learned everything about creative writing and design from reading children’s books. They are so short so there is no time for the author’s boring, irrelevant BS that fills so much of the long-form writing that I read.

      In fact, maybe children’s books will be the only part of the publishing industry that doesn’t die because they are absolutely a thousand times better if you hold them in your lap.


  37. Jennifer P
    Jennifer P says:

    Good luck Melissa! You’re going to love Austin even though moving here in late summer is a bit nuts. I’m about to go stir crazy from feeling sick when I go outside, but I really do love this city. It’s a great place to find love and a passionate career! I’m sorry you are losing her companionship though Penelope. She seems like a treasure to have around.

  38. Tony
    Tony says:

    As parents I think most of us want to give our kids free, but informed, choices. The trick is to provide information that’s unfettered by our own prejudices.

    Where they can’t see the consequences of their decisions, we can contribute our own life experience, as advice, to take or leave. It’s a careful balance between empowering them and stifling them.

    The decision is wholly theirs, as much as it may irk us, all we can do is offer love and support as they work their way through whatever their decision brings. Of course they’ll learn much more by failing than succeeding.

    What we may think of as a disaster in the making might actually be the making of them.

    All the best to Melissa in Austin!

  39. Rita
    Rita says:

    I love Melissa’s photos, they capture her affection for you and your family, they are beautifully and intelligently composed, and they tell great stories! But I think what makes them really amazing is that they are ripe with emotion, they constantly surprise and delight with their curious and often witty take on life, and with their sweetness. Her photos have been a wonderful complement to your posts, I’ll miss them!
    The sign of a good artist is consistency, and Melissa has this with her photography. But maybe she needs more of a challenge, to prove herself in an area that is not such an easy fit..
    Best wishes to her :)

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