Volunteering Or You Never Know Who’s Going to Write a Best Seller (Jen Lancaster!)

One of the best volunteer jobs in any fraternity or sorority is one where you have the opportunity to interact with collegians. The lessons that are learned on both sides, as a collegian and as an alumna/alumni, can be enlightening, eye-opening, frustrating, rewarding, and priceless, often all at the same time.

As a Collegiate Province President from 1991-93, I worked with four chapters, two in Illinois and two in Indiana. I loved my visits to Northwestern, the University of Illinois, Purdue, and Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne (IUPUFW). I knew one of the women who was very active in the Fort Wayne Alumnae Club when the chapter was founded (Hi Kay!) and I enjoyed that connection.

IUPUFW is a commuter campus and fraternity life there has some special challenges and opportunities, yet the chapter members I met truly valued their membership. The chapter was welcoming of me and I enjoyed talking with them and sharing the love of our fraternity. It wasn’t until 15 years later that I realized that in my visits to the chapter I had met a future New York Times Best Seller List author. If only I had a crystal ball with me, I’d have asked for some autographs!

A few years ago, when I picked up a book off the biography table at the McCracken County Public Library Book Sale in Paducah, Kentucky, it looked interesting and the title caught my eye. I thought it read Bitch is the New Black, because there was a sticker over some of the word “Bitter.” The full title of the book is Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomanical, Self-Centered Smartass, or Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office.

After I read the hilarious book, I realized that the author, Jen Lancaster, was not only a Pi Phi, but she was a member of the Indiana Eta Chapter when I visited it all those years ago. To her and the other chapter members I may have been that “woman from nationals who is going to go on and on about all sorts of drivel,” but I kept plugging away, hoping to impart some words of wisdom. I was just thankful that my visit wasn’t one of the things she discussed in hilarious fashion in her writings.

Jen’s greatest accomplishment, in my book, is making a lemonade to die for out of some very juicy and somewhat bitter lemons. You’ll have to read her books to find out her story. Her other books include Bright Lights, Big Ass, Such a Pretty Fat,  Pretty in Plaid, My Fair Lazy, If You Were Here, and Jeneration X. Her web-site is at www.jennsylvania.com.

Special thanks to one of my favorite Pi Phis, Jenny Whittom Schmidt, for picking up this signed first edition for me.

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