Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Snowed in!

How hard to leave balmy St. Pete and land just as two feet of snow got dumped on little Rhody! But in the count my blessings category, at least I wasn't in transit and stuck in Charlotte or Philly. (though truth be told being stuck in St. Pete at the Water Garden Inn, where Bill and Wilder take such good care of us would not be so terrible). Ah! Palm trees! Sparkling ocean! Flip flops!

And the best faculty a writer could ask for, including Laura Lippman, Andre Dubus III, John Searles, Les Standiford, Sterling Watson, Lori Roy, and David Yoo. The keynote speaker JessWater, who only wrote one of my favorite novels of the last decade Beautiful Ruins, made everything even more wonderful. Yes, Writers in Paradise was a love fest as usual. And lots of that comes from the students, who are brave and talented and funny and smart and hardworking writers. At the end of the week, Johnny Temple and Lisa Gallagher and Bill Contardi arrived, bringing Ridge zinfandel and even more merriment. Andre made pomegranate margaritas. Kimberly Standiford baked challah and we had our traditional shabbat on Friday night. Henry made sure we got where we needed to get, and did so with elan and humor. Norris had to step into Christine's shoes--Christine, we miss you!--but managed somehow to get all my xeroxing done, an onerous job indeed. Anthony kept us miked and lit. Jackie Mitchard closed the show.

And then just like that, conference over and here I am, snowed in, drifts so high I can't remember what's beneath them. Second day of no school, Annabelle helping me get final manuscript of Knitting Pearls ready to send off to publisher (have I shared that list of contributors with you? No? Get ready: Steve Almond, Anne Bartlett, Cynthia Chinelly, Melissa Coleman, Michael Collier, Stephanie Danler, Jared Flood, Nick Flynn, Diana Gabaldon, Debra Gwartney, Jane Hamilton, Cathi Hanaeur, Lily King, Perri Klass, Christina Baker Kline, Ann Leary, Caroline Leavitt, Laura Lippman, Maile Meloy, Stewart O'Nan, Clara Parkes, Jodi Picoult, Robin Romm, Bill Roorbach, Michael Ruhlman, Dani Shapiro, Samantha van Leer, and Lee Woodruff!) I know you just swooned when you read that list because I sure did!

Snowed in, I've cooked up a storm. Pork chops and fried rice and corn Monday; flank steak, rice pilaf and sauteed carrots last night; spaghetti carbonara tonight.

Plus I am happily happily knitting my confetti scarf, which is absolutely gorgeous. I cannot wait to finish it and wear it! You can too:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

In the next few weeks

I've been home for six glorious weeks, knitting and cooking and reading and writing and hanging with Annabelle and (too briefly) Sam. 

What I've knit:
Two dishrags
One hat
One scarf
and I've wound 7 skeins of yarn to knit the confetti scarf from Purl Soho

What I've read:
Loitering by Charles D'Ambrosio
Someone by Alice McDermott
The latest by Tana French
several books to blurb
and re-reads of many short stories, including "In Dreams Become Responsibilities" by Delmore Schwartz

I've packed the new stories by Edith Pearlman and the memoir The Fall to take to Florida with me. 

Which leads to my next point: time to hit the road again. 

Heading to teach at one of my favorite places to be, Writers in Paradise at Eckerd College. Every January I spend a lovely, exciting, hardworking, hard partying week there. Last year I arrived with pneumonia, and still managed to have fun!

Then in early February I have the great honor of attending the Jerusalem Book Festival. You can imagine how excited I am for that! My first trip to Jerusalem!

But lots of at home time too in the upcoming months. So I can finish my new novel! On the home stretch with it, which is always thrilling and terrifying in equal measure. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

An online essay writing class by yours truly

If you've been wanting to take a writing class but find the time is never right or the flight is too expensive, this might be perfect for you. Taught online through the Provincetown Fine Arts Center, this three week course has been very popular. I'd love to see you there!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Blues

It is one of the many mysteries of grief that you can be laughing and busy and baking and noshing and--dare I say it?--even happy, yet get slammed with sadness seemingly out of nowhere. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in the summer at the beach. And by a lot, I mean almost every day. I used to be (and still am) fascinated by waves. Watch waves long enough and you discover their pattern. One day, or hour, there might be a pattern of two small gentle waves and then one big curling one. Or several overlapping ones and then one solo perfect wave. This was important to figure out if you liked to ride the waves, which I did. I'd figure out the pattern to catch the best wave, then throw my Coppertone'd self into it headfirst. 
What does any of this have to do with grief, which really has no pattern and acts more like the rogue waves that used to knock me down and drag me to shore? Exactly that. As someone who likes patterns, to know the architecture of a book I'm writing or when someone will call every day, this inability to figure out grief's pattern frustrates me. I'm caught instead by those rogue waves. Like right now. 3:11 in the morning after a truly wonderful day cooking with Sam and wrapping presents with Annabelle, finally decorating our tree and house, a spur of the moment dinner party. Then finding myself an hour ago awake and unable to stop that rogue wave. Was it hanging Grace's tiny slipper on the tree? Or hearing about a boy her age who is now away at college? Or the loss of a friend's child that reminds me of what we've lost. I've come here into my knitting room, walking past a sleeping Annabelle, because it's one of my favorite places to be, hoping I can sleep among all this yarn and this stack of books waiting to be read, the mementos on the fireplace mantle and blue glowing light of the printer. But alas, I'm too knocked down for sleep, even here snuggled into the pink patterned bed linens and plethora of pillows that make this daybed perfect for napping and knitting and reading. So I'm thinking about waves. I'm remembering those long ago days at the beach, the sandy plums and quickly melting root beer Popsicles. The hot sun and salty breezes. The scratchy Navy blanket beneath my wet bathing suit. How carefully I'd study the waves! And oh that feeling of being lifted by a big wave, tumbled about, carried to shore. Despite my prowess at this game, at least once a day I'd get the wind knocked out of me. Perhaps that's why I'm thinking about waves on this eve of Christmas Eve. The holidays, with all their predictable pleasures and ability to lift us, also knock us down and take our breath away. Perhaps that's what I've learned tonight here alone in the dark. That rogue wave that is grief is going to come, and there's nothing to do but ride it to shore. 
Then stand up again, bruised and battered, and find the joy in a sandy plum, a dripping Popsicle. Or better yet, the sleeping people around you, the big messy glorious world outside your window. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Holidays approaching

Dear Everyone Out There Who Reads This,

It doesn't quite feel like Christmas yet--our tree is too short and not yet decorated (waiting for Sam to come home), none of my nativities are out yet, it's 42 degrees most days and rainy, and I have a pile of presents in the knitting room to wrap. 

But. Annabelle is in high gear for her ballet, Polar Express, this weekend. And her class breakfast and holiday show tomorrow. And those Christmas gifts are all bought. And the cookie baking plan made. So I'm getting there. 

I'm up at 3:30 because I'm in the middle of a new novel, and my brain is working overtime. Every day, when I could be wrapping presents, I'm working on it. And when I do that, time flies. 

It's almost Christmas and I miss Grace. I can't help but remember how all she wanted were art supplies and anything to do with the Beatles. And I can't help but wonder what she would be desiring at 18, what college she would be coming home from, the joy I'd feel when she walked through the door. My beautiful girl. 

I know many of you reading this are feeling the same about your own beautiful children. Know a mom in Rhode Island is thinking of you. 

Please look for my op Ed on grief in the Boston Globe early next week. I'll post the link here. 

And please, if you're so inclined, follow me on Instagram or Twitter at annhood56. 

Be strong in the days ahead. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It's my birthday!

I was born during a blizzard, and had today been a few degrees colder I would have celebrated this birthday in one! Instead: epic rain and wind. But happily home, under a blanket reading and listening to the rain falling hard. Lucky to have had lunch with Gogo and done a littleChristmas shopping with her. Soon enough there will be presents and a surprise dinner tonight. For now, enjoying solitude and quiet after a fall of touring and teaching. And tomorrow I begin my schedule of two hours of reading, two hours of writing, two hours of knitting. That's how novels get written, scarves get made, brains get fed, and I get centered.