I am writing to you today from my friend Ben’s dining room. If you’ve been around for a while, you might remember that he used to live in Seattle, where he was like a Kramer to us, but he moved away for a job. Now he’s in Ohio, and for a week, so am I.

I needed to get some work done on Book 2, and I missed my friend, so I rolled the two into one and called it a writing retreat. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but turns out, it’s like summer camp – only there are no counselors to keep us down, and instead of doing archery and riding horses and gathering around the campfire to sing “Down by the Old Mill Stream,” we sweat painfully over our computers eight hours a day, and then Ben puts The Twist Goes to College on the turntable.

Here’s the schedule. Late each night, we set a time to have coffee the next morning. Then I go to my room, and Ben goes to his. We yell goodnight. We sleep. When the correct hour comes, we meet in the kitchen, where Ben makes Americanos and English muffins. Then he walks the two blocks to his office, and I go to mine, the aforementioned dining room. I untangle the cord to my headphones, put something on repeat (mostly, it’s been Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike”), and smash a mosquito with my copy of Bird by Bird. That book is even more useful than I had given it credit for. A couple of hours later, Ben comes back for lunch. Because it’s very loud here on Planet Hunger Strike, I don’t notice his arrival until he walks into the dining room and I scream. We make lunch. After that, we go back to our desks and work until early evening, when he goes for a run and I go for a walk. At 8:30 pm, no earlier and no later, I make a round of Negronis. Then we cook dinner, and then we do it all over again.

The current tally of mosquito bites is 13, and I’ve added about 3,000 7,000 words to the manuscript. If everything goes the way I want it to, the former should hold steady, while the latter hits 6,000 9,000 (Updated at 6:55 pm, Monday, 8/29). I go home on Wednesday.

In any case, no matter where I am, I keep a running list of things to tell you, and today, August 28, this is what’s on it:

– More sage advice from Anne Lamott, found via someone on Facebook. Wish I could remember who. Thanks, Emily!

– Inaki Aizpitarte is a fine-looking man, a very fine chef, and he’s got style. (Don’t miss the handwritten Q&A at the bottom of the page.)

– Speaking of France, Bill Buford wrote a wonderful piece on Lyon for The Observer. A great read.

– The team at More & Co. are friends of mine, but I think I’m still allowed to say that I really like their blog.

– Why do I always forget about “Cover Me”? Man.

– I went to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams yesterday, in Chagrin Falls! It was AMAZING. I’m a giant fan.

– When I was in the late stages of writing my first book, I listened to the Into the Wild soundtrack on repeat every day. Especially “No Ceiling.” But I was surprised to find that I can’t listen to it while I write my current book, because it takes me back to the way I felt when I was writing the first book, which is not the same as the way I feel when I am writing this book. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it made me sort of happy.

And to those of you who were visited by Irene: I hope you’re alright. I’ve been thinking about you.

Have a good week.