Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

It's become synonymous with BBQs, hasn't it? Here in RI, I'm going to two. One in the city and one at the beach (hoping for a roast pig at that one). But Memorial Day was started after the Civil War to remember those who fought and died. After WWl, it commemorated all who died in all our wars, and it was always on May 30--a date chosen because no battle had ever been fought on May 30. Our love for three day weekends (and BBQs) changed that to that last Monday in May in 1968, not without a lot of dissent. Veterans feared BBQs would diminish the significance of Memorial Day, which over time has come to represent a day to honor not just people we've lost in war, but everyone we've loved and lost. In fact, my grandmother Mama Rose spent every Memorial Day putting flowers on the graves of the people who had died--her parents, her husband, two children--and she used to take me with her. Here's a link to an essay I wrote about cemeteries that recalls this, and more:
http://www.yankeemagazine.com/article/features/cemeteries-grace

This Memorial Day morning I woke with that all too familiar pang of grief. In these thirteen years I've come to recognize it easily. Is it the day itself, created for just such remembering? Or the lovely hazy morning outside my window, the air sweet with lilacs and the sound of so many chirping birds? I climbed out of bed and went downstairs and sat outside with our dog Zuzu, who arrived a white ball of fluff a month before Grace died, her long dreamed of dog now old and blind. I sat there and ached for my funny, smart little girl. Her raspy Tallulah Bankhead voice (so like mine). Her blue eyes behind her wire rimmed glasses. Her encyclopedic knowledge of all things Beatles. 

And the quote by CS Lewis that most captures how these days feel came to me:
Her absence is like the sky; it covers everything. 

I'll drink lots of wine today, eat BBQ of all kinds, stare out at the beautiful ocean. You should too. But let's pause and remember, our lost veterans, our lost hearts. 



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sam Graduates!

Get ready for lots of purple here! Sam graduated from NYU yesterday and everything is coming up violet in NYC and on Bethune Street.

This is the kid who looked at me when he was three and said: "I just gotta sing and dance!" And so he did. As someone who knew around the same age that I wanted to be a writer, I admire and fuel that passion. Too many people spend a lifetime without it, or searching for it. How lucky to have it young and relentlessly pursue it!

I've sat through lots of versions of Sound of Music over the years. And experimental theater. And student written production. And scene study class performances. And Shakespeare. And auditions. And voice classes. And guitar classes. And loved every single minute of it all. 

It doesn't stop here, of course. (This summer he's doing summer stock in Annapolis, MD.) But this graduation from Tisch celebrates years of training and passion. 

I'm about as proud as a mom could be. Not just of that purple cap and gown, but of how Sam has dealt with some tough blows and kept going. Triumphing even. 

Yay Sam! I made spaghetti carbonara for his pals last  to fete him further. And more celebrating as the week continues. 

Thank you for letting me write today about my kid. (Only complaint about the whole day was they wouldn't let me bring knitting needles into YS!)

 Here are a couple pictures from yesterday at Yankee Stadium. 

Can you find Annabelle in this picture?


Monday, May 18, 2015

What's ahead

A busy next half of the year!

Teaching:
Writers at Work
Park City, UT
June 10-13

Providence Noir
Brown Bookstore
Providence RI
5:30 PM

Nantucket Literary Festival
June 19-21

Teaching:
Summer Words
Aspen CO
June 21-25

Providence Noir
Newtonville Books
Newton MA
June 28
2 PM

Providence Noir
Mysterious Book Shop
NY NY
June 29
6:30 PM

Providence Noir
Symposium Books
East Greenwich RI
7 PM

TEACHING:
Castle Hill
Truro MA 
July 6-10

Provincetown Library
July 7
6 PM

Canaan Meetinghouse Reading Series
Canaan Street
Canaan, NH
July 16
7:30 PM

Providence Noir
Bank Square Books
Mystic CT
July 17

Teaching
Bay Path University Writing Seminar
Dingle, Ireland 
July 25-August 1

Teaching 
Bread Loaf Writers Conference
Middlebury VT
August 12-22

Spencertown Festival of Books
Spencertown Academy, NY
September 5-6

Brooklyn Book Festival
Brooklyn NY
September 20

Burlington Book Festival
Burlington VT
September 25-27

Brattleboro Literary Festival
Brattleboro VT
October 2-4

Snow Library
Orleans MA
October 5
10:30-12

Teaching
Writing at Spannocchia 
Tuscany
Italy
October 12-19

Miami Book Festival
November 20-22  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Providence Noir

One of the great delights and surprises of my world recently has been editing Providence Noir, part of Akashic Books Noir series. Basically, I got to ask my pals to try their hands at a noir story that takes place in my hometown. Every time a new one dropped into my inbox, I got excited. Imagine Elizabeth Strout, Thomas Cobb, Peter Farrelly, Luanne Rice, Hester Kaplan, Taylor Polites, Robert Leuci, LaShonda Barrett, Marie Lee, John Searles, Dawn Raffel, Amity Gaige, and Bruce DeSilva sending you a story and you'll have an idea of how fun this job was. 

If you are in or near Providence on Saturday May 16 at 7PM, come to Books on the Square and meet five of us!

There are more events coming up from then through summer. In NYC, Boston, Mystic CT, and other RI bookstores. I hope to see you at one! And I know you'll love this book as much as I do. 

Belated thoughts on Mother's Day



Readers of this will remember that last year I spent Mother's Day with Gogo on a cruise to Bermuda. It was an incredible week, filled with long dinners where we bared our souls to each other (not for the first time), sunshine and lots of rum. I admit it felt strange to be away from my kids, but we celebrated when I got home. 

And I admit that this holiday (is it actually a holiday?) is fraught with mixed emotions for me--and for every mother who has lost a child. (I'm sure the reverse is true too). 

I remember the first Mother's Day after Grace died. It was less than a month later, and I was still reeling. In shock. In the most excruciating pain I've ever felt. Some of you have read my essay about, like a phantom limb, my arms ached from  not holding Grace. 

How did I get through that day? Surely
Sam smothered me with love. Surely everyone did. I was, after all, still a mother. To Sam, yes. But to Grace too. And it's that realization, that acute loss, that strikes every Mother's Day. My beautiful, smart, funny daughter. She loved Charles Addams cartoons, the Beatles, and drawing. Every night, as dinner was winding down, she would climb into my lap and rest her head on my chest. Her voice was husky, like mine. If I close my eyes and sit in silence, I can almost still hear it. 

To all of you who have lost a child, I hope your memories helped you get through Sunday. And I hope too that the other people you love helped too. 

To that end, here's a couple pictures of my zany kids. We spent the night before in NYC at Sam's show (after a truly yummy dinner at Il Buco de Alimentari: Go!) and then cold beers outside at the White Horse Tavern on a very hot night. And Sunday breakfast with these two, before heading home with a car full of food from Han Dynasty for Gogo. 


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The pleasures of home

Here I am, a week at home, with just my enormous manuscript and me. Dear Reader, it's almost 600 pages. I'm on my third, or fourth, or fifth revision, depending on what you count as a revision. During revision, you love the story, you lose the story, you loathe the story. Then you repeat. Each time you experience something like terror. You wonder if you are making it better, or worse. You wonder if you're answering your readers questions. You wonder if you will ever finish this book. Somehow, you do. Somehow, after five or ten or fifty revisions, it's truly finished. A story. A story that works, that brings characters to life and explores the human condition and makes people nod their heads and clutch their hearts and wring their hands. 


Here in providence, spring appears to have finally sprung. Out my window: trees with pink blossoms and trees with green leaves. Sunshine. Blue sky. 

All day, every day, this week I pick up a pen and rewrite, page by page, scene by scene, word by word. And I watch my story start to bloom. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring!

It's here. That elusive thing called spring. I remember so many years ago when I lived in NYC, how the sight of blossoms and the promise of spring delighted me. Nowadays, spring leaves me saddened by the deaths of my father and Gracie; joyful for the births of Sam and Annabelle. 
It makes me smile, at the pink outside my window; and cry at the unexpected chill, the cold driving rain. 

For you, dear readers:
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171754