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20130925-093439.jpgLast night, I hosted a Happier Hour with J. Courtney Sullivan. Courtney is a novelist whom I greatly admire, and a woman I've come to call a friend. How lucky I am to be able to say this.

The evening was brilliant. Dozens of women arrived ready to talk, really talk, and listen. Courtney spoke poetically about her new bestselling novel The Engagements and also more generally about the writing life and modern womanhood. There were questions and stories. And there was a great deal of laughter.

After, when most of the guests had departed, Courtney stayed a bit along with the agent we share and love, Brettne Bloom. We talked and caught up on our respective lives and took some pictures and finally said goodnight.

20130925-095317.jpg When the house was quiet, I sat with Sister C at my kitchen island and we picked at leftover sandwiches. C came to town for the event and to do other things too and I'm always happier when she's here.

Finally, I crawled into bed. Debated getting up this morning to write but ultimately concluded to be kind to myself and to sleep. And sleep I did.

I woke up this morning and felt hungover. Which I wasn't because I'm not drinking these days. But, in a way, I was hungover. It was a happiness hangover of sorts, my body and mind aching with ideas and gratitude and overwhelm. I know that sounds cheesy.

The kitchen island was covered with wine bottles, hostess trinkets that were unnecessary but will be treasured, all of this wonderful evidence of what transpired last night.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but instead I will leave you with five things I learned last night. As an academic romantic, a soul who longs for her college seminar days, I'm a huge fan of lessons. Here goes:

1. Happiness is being surrounded with good people.

It is up to us to seek out positive people, people who are thoughtful and supportive, and to find ways to spend quality time with these people. Conversely, we must work to distance ourselves from naysayers, yum yuckers, people who give off negativity.

2. Even superstars are human beings.

Courtney is a very successful writer. All three of her novels have been best sellers and her most recent novel has been optioned by Reese Witherspoon. In short, she's rocking it. And yet, what struck me most last night, what made me smile, is how real and relatable she is. As she spoke, I was not thinking "what a powerful master of the literary universe" but "what a wonderful human being."

3. All experiences matter. And deeply.

Courtney said something I can't shake, that as novelists we are always working on our stories. We might not always be at a desk with a pen or keyboard in hand, but our story is always evolving in our head. And, she said, everything is material for a one day story. We collect moments, memories. Experience is itself research. What a compelling reason to live fully.

4. Sisters, biological and other, are everything.

Two of the four Donnelley sisters were there last night and this meant so much to me. My sisters are my story. But I looked around the room at all the other women, ones I know very well and less well, and thought they are sisters too. Life can be a tricky thing and it is so much better and more rewards to have women friends along for the ride.

5. Conversation brings the biggest buzz.

Confession: About an hour before these events begin, I feel some jitters and I long for a glass of wine. To take the edge off. This was true last night but I pushed through and once the evening was underway, I forgot all about wine. The cool thing? The conversations that I had made me feel plenty buzzed. A happy realization to keep having.

Okay, enough. There's a Wednesday out there to tackle. Off I go.

Thank you so much, dear Courtney for being with us last night.


How Do You Handle Being Hurt?

A Happier Hour with J. Courtney Sullivan