In and out of routine at the festival

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I write from the depths of a post-book festival hangover.

No, this hangover is not due to alcohol (that one ran its course on Saturday). This hangover is more mental than physical, the kind of brain fog that comes from driving eight hours to Baton Rouge, cramming your whole family into a hotel room for two nights, then driving back up to in Arkansas on Sunday, the work week looms like a thunderstorm in the next day’s forecast.

It has been back to back book festivals for the Cranor family. Last week it was an hour drive to Little Rock. Nothing to do. This trip was different. Three days later, and we’re still recovering.

I’m currently in my basement, trying to get back into the rhythm of writing. My wife, on the other hand, is upstairs trying to get our kids downstairs for a nap.

Our family works best with a routine. Both my parents were teachers. Minus the year I spent abroad – and two months each summer – my whole life has been punctuated by a bell.

My wife and I took the same disciplined approach to parenting. We put our kids to bed at 8 p.m. every night and they wake us up around 6 a.m. every morning. There are no bells, but there is a set schedule, and every second of our life follows it.

My wife’s grandmother, a silver-haired woman we all call “Grandma”, has dementia. That’s why, when we see her, she repeats this same line, often more than once per visit: “Have you ever wondered what you were doing with your time before you had children?

Despite Granny’s diminished mental state, her question is relevant. So sharp, in fact, that it makes me cringe when I realize how much time I wasted before becoming a father.

Which brings me back to Baton Rouge and our choice to take the Cranor kids to the Louisiana Book Festival. It was the third and last festival for me before the end of the year, and when I received the invitation, I almost refused.

I remember looking at my calendar, seeing all the different events piling up, and thinking another trip would be too much. It didn’t help that the LA Book Festival took place on Halloween weekend, a hallowed time at the Cranor house.

I expressed my concern to the event coordinator, and he responded by sending me a link to the Baton Rouge Fifolet Halloween Parade. I watched the attached video, watched all those Mardi Gras-sized floats roll down Convention Street, and decided I’d at least ask my wife, aka “The Boss.”

The Boss didn’t grow up loving Halloween like me. She wasn’t a big reader either. But in the 10 years we’ve been married, she wears ornate suits at the end of every October and now reads a few books a month.

Long story short, The Boss said, “Let’s do it.

And that’s what we’ve done.

We arrived in Baton Rouge on Friday afternoon and took the kids downtown to see Amanda Shaw and her band “The Cute Boys”. We ate jambalaya and got two oversized snow cones. A green. A bruise. My daughter has never stopped dancing. My son fell just before intermission and scratched his hands. The boss retained him for the rest of the show.

That night, I went to an author event and ran into Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jericho Brown. Later, I chatted with New York Times bestselling author MO Walsh about that time we met at the Yoknapatawpha Writers’ Workshop in Oxford, Miss. see real people in the audience.

As wonderful as all of the author’s events are, nothing topped the Halloween Parade. It was everything the festival coordinator had promised, with a bunch of crazy clowns, a horde of Elvis impersonators and enough spookiness to last us until next year.

It took me a little over half an hour to write the first draft of this column, the time the children finally settled upstairs. Maybe they are sleeping now, already dreaming of our latest adventure. I watch the cursor flash, timing the seconds, each leading us back to our normal routine.

Eli Cranor is an author from Arkansas whose debut novel, “Don’t Know Tough,” is available wherever books are sold. He can be reached via the “Contact” page at the address elicranor.com and found on Twitter @elicranor.

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