Thursday, July 30, 2015


What a week I've had here in Dingle, Ireland! For a foodie like me, it's heaven: locally sourced everything, microbrews, oysters and mussels and cockles from right in front of me; for an ocean girl like me, it's heaven: think Big Sur, but with farms. For a writer: well, damn, it's Ireland! Here's where I read with the ever fabulous Richard Hoffman tonight:

If you haven't read his knockout memoir, Love and Fury, stop reading this and pick it up!
Big thank you to the also ever fabulous Suzanne Strempek Shea for inviting me here. And ditto above for her book, This Is Paradise. 
Below, gorgeous pictures of this gorgeous place. 

Plus yarn!
And oysters!

Saturday sadly I say goodbye to Dingle. But more adventures in Ireland coming...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Hope is the thing with feathers

Many of you recognize this quote from EmilyDickinson. As I sat here thinking of the poem that might capture what I wanted to express here, I thought of many others about loss, and sadness, and grief. But ultimately I chose the one that my friend Beth quoted to me last year when she was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. We shared a lot of early morning texts and FB messages this past year as she, with her trademark humor and honesty and giant heart, fought this terrible disease. We laughed together a lot. And shared stories of our almost the same age kids. And talked about Italy and wine and food and books. For a glorious brief time, Beth was cancer free. That hope soared for everyone who loved her. We do that, don't we? Believe in the impossible. Or the hardly possible. Hope is that thing with feathers. 

Most summers I end up in Maine for a week or so. This summer I didn't. By summer, Beth's cancer was back and she was fighting again. Oh that hope! I had it. I believe she had it too. Due to her grueling chemo, our communication was sometimes one way. 

And then the unthinkable. 

Less than a week ago Beth was told the cancer had spread and there was no more treatment. I was about to come to Ireland to teach with my friend Suzanne  Strempek Shea. Suzanne is Beth's friend too, and the three of us had a wonderful visit full of laughter not too long ago. 

Here we are during that visit:

I texted Beth when I received the news and we went back and forth briefly. My plan: to go to Maine to see her as soon as I returned. 

But what are plans? 

Beth died yesterday. 

She has the loveliest husband and son, and good good friends. And a beautiful novel. And she was extraordinary. 

So why, in the throes of grief, do I quote this Emily Dickinson poem?

Because hope is that thing with feathers. If we don't have it, what do we have? 

Today I was on the wild beautiful road along the Atlantic here. There were hurricane force winds. And rain. And in the middle of all that dark weather, the sun broke through. For an instant. And of course I thought of The Beatles Here Comes the Sun. And of hope. Which we hold on to, even when we don't think we will believe in it again. 

'Hope' is the thing with feathers— 
That perches in the soul— 
And sings the tune without the words— 
And never stops—at all— 

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard— 
And sore must be the storm— 
That could abash the little Bird 
That kept so many warm— 

I've heard it in the chillest land— 
And on the strangest Sea— 
Yet, never, in Extremity, 
It asked a crumb—of Me.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Revision Happy

My goal was to finish revisions on The Book That Matters Most before I go to Bread Loaf on August 11. I'm happy to report that yesterday I finished my pen to paper ones, which means I put lots of big X's everywhere, changed words, rewrote sentences, groaned a lot, smiled a lot, and reached THE END. Now I'm off to Ireland to teach with the fabulous Suzanne Strempek Shea and Richard Hoffman in Dingle, and when I return I will put those changes into the manuscript on my computer as well as insert some new scenes here and there. Then I hit SEND and go to Bread Loaf.

For the writers out there, this is my ninth revision. And my editor will send still more suggestions and line edits before we are done. Nine! (The Knitting Circle had 35, The Obituary Writer 17)

Nabokov said: "My pencils outlast my erasers."

And in his famous Paris Review interview from 1956, when the reporter asked Hemingway why he had to rewrite the last page of Farewell to Arms 39 times, he replied: "To get the words right."

That same year, in her Paris Review interview, Dorothy Parker said, "I can't write five words but that I change seven."

So here I am, along with all of you, wearing out my erasers; writing five words and changing seven; trying, trying, to get the words right.

Happy Revising!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I thought you might enjoy this

From Aspen Words 2015:

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Summer Afternoon

This week I've thought a lot about a Henry Janes quote I love:
"Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."

With weather like we've had--no humidity and low summer temperatures--these afternoons have been glorious. I've never been a lover of hot and muggy, and this 1792 house has no air conditioning. So open windows letting in summer breezes have had me smiling. 

Thursday I had an especially magical summer afternoon. Annabelle and our French visitor Julie drove north to NH for my reading with Deirdre Heekin in the beautifully restored Canaan Meeting House. But first we got to eat and drink and visit with the fabulous Phil Pachoda, father of fabulous writer Ivy Pachoda, at his home. Annabelle and Julie spent the whole time in the pond as the sunlight filtered through pine and birch, all of it like walking into a postcard of NH. (Please read Deirdre Heekin's book, An Unlikely Vineyard!) Deirdre and I read to a full house of avid readers later that evening. And the wonderful Norwich Bookstore was there with our books (thank you, Penny!) Yes, magical. 

We three spent a cozy night at The Lyme Inn before heading south the next day. And while the girls went off to see Minions, Taylor Polites and I had another gorgeous summer afternoon, this one in Mystic CT. Trade trees and mountains for ocean and sailboats, but keep the glorious temperature. At the always lovely Bank Square Books with Thomas Cobb and Pablo Rodriguez, we celebrated Providence Noir:

Now rumor has it the hot humid days are coming soon, and I'll be cursing Mr James: what's so beautiful about this?

So I'll just look forward to my upcoming weeks teaching in Dingle, Ireland and at Bread Loaf in VT. 

And I'll put my head down and go into revision mode on my new novel, which I hope to have done by the time I head to Bread Loaf (which means it's coming with me across the sea to Ireland). 

Summer afternoon, summer afternoon...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Providence Noir play list

I love Large Hearted Boy, in which authors create a playlist for their books. I did it for The Red Thread a few years ago, and was delighted I got invited to do it for Providence Noir. Enjoy!

Two readings this week: NH and CT

I'm looking forward to two exciting events coming up. If you're near Canaan NH or Mystic CT please join me!

"The second  Canaan Meetinghouse Readings will be held on Thursday, July 16, with local author -- and restauranteur, farmer, vintner --  Deirdre Heekin  (reading from her new book  An Unlikely Vineyard, her amazing story of making wonderful wines in Vermont) and best-selling author, Ann Hood, (reading from her new novel, An Italian Wife. Readings start at 7:30."

Then on Friday Providence Noir rocks Mystic CT at Bank Square Books:
"Editor Ann Hood and contributors Taylor M. Polites, Pablo Rodriguez, Thomas Cobb and Robert Leuci will bring "Providence Noir" to Bank Square Books, 53 West Main St., Mystic, Conn., on Friday at 6 p.m."