Column: Celebrated author shares stories of success, excess with Ladies of the Club

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Hoosier author Dan Wakefield (second from left), joins Christy Tidwell, Carol Saviano and Ellen Leffler at the Ladies of the Club meeting Jan. 7. (Submitted photo)

Hoosier author Dan Wakefield (second from left), joins Christy Tidwell, Carol Saviano and Ellen Leffler at the Ladies of the Club meeting Jan. 7. (Submitted photo)

Commentary by Donna Monday

Hoosier author Dan Wakefield (of “Going All the Way” fame) is a good sport. He agreed to attend our book club meeting last month and discuss his book, “Returning a Spiritual Journey,” with us – the Ladies of the Club.

I’d met him at a workshop he was teaching on “Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography.” Both he and the experience were so interesting I invited him to be our guest.

He was kind enough, foolish enough or just plain curious enough to accept. The upside was that it was great to hear real stories from a successful author who’d had it all – or seemed to – and shared his personal life in a book and in person.

The downside was that the club met Jan. 7. If that date doesn’t ring a bell, go to your computer and check. The wind chill factor that night was 20 degrees below zero. And yours truly had to pick up Mr. Wakefield at his home.

Now in his 80’s, he doesn’t drive. I didn’t tell him about my night blindness. What I did, unbeknown to him, was scout out the place earlier in the day so I could pick him up and honestly report I “had no trouble at all” finding him in the dark.

I took him to the Savianos’ home in Raintree, as Carol was our hostess for the evening. She’d gone all out.

“I tried to make manly food,” she said. “I don’t think men like finger food.”

So, while Carol fed us little crocks of mac and cheese with meatball hors d’oeuvres, Dan fed us stories.

Stories of his friend Kurt Vonnegut, stories of Shortridge High School when it was one of the best in the country, stories of beating out Senator Richard Lugar to give the graduation speech. Of Ben Affleck appearing in “Going All the Way” just before he and buddy Matt Damon struck gold with “Good Will Hunting.”

He told us how he’d once had too much – too much alcohol, too much Hollywood, too much everything – and of finding grace.

I asked how writing this book had come about. He said he’d called the editor of New York Times Magazine.

“He said, ‘what’s new?’

I said, ‘Going to church..’

He said, ’Write about it.’”

I’m sure it wasn’t that simple. But it made a good story, and a great winter evening, even at 20 below zero.

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