Monday, October 9, 2017

Imagine

Hapoy birthday, John Lennon. As a kid I memorized Beatles facts, like their birthdays. And I never forgot them. When my editor at Penguin asked if I had an idea for a YA book for their new imprint, Penguin Workshop, I asked myself what was the thing I wanted when I was 10 that I couldn't have. My answer came fast: to meet Paul McCartney. And in that moment my character Trudy Mixer was born. I hope you will love Trudy and SHE LOVES YOU (YEAH YEAH YEAH) when it comes out next June. I loved writing this novel, loved returning to 1966 and a girl who loves The Beatles more than anything.

Imagine is a good title for this post--well, it's always a good thing!--because I've been doing a lot of imagining lately. I finished my food memoir, writing essays and recipes with wild abandon. I write a 39 page (gasp!) short story.

My husband and I are imagining how our NYC apartment will look when our renovations are done. Yet another wild coincidence about our lives is that for years he had an apt in NYC on W 12th St and I had one on Bethune St, literally around the corner from each other. Now I do miss my funky bright sublet with its Italian tiles, subterranean bedroom, and Glenwood stove. But we are working on bringing light and color into W 12th St, as well as reconfiguring the space so we can entertain, which we both miss sorely. In the Providence loft we do it all the time, but we are eager to cook for our NYC friends too. Hopefully after Christmas the apartment will be done and we can have our first NYC dinner party. Imagine!

Annabelle and I had a fantastic weekend together in Mallorca. I had never been before, but I will certainly return. Gorgeous, rugged scenery. Great food and wine. And we stayed at the most wonderful hotel, La Residencia, that you have to stay in if you go.

Then I flew to Toronto to see Sam and What Will The Neighbors Say perform both The Untitled Shape Show and The Diana Tapes. Talk about imagine! These creative, intelligent, hardworking young people are creating theater around the world. Making their dreams come true. I admit I cry whenever I see their plays--from Edinburgh Fringe Festival to off Broadway and now in Toronto. Proud mama, yes. But also as one artist to other artists.

And I'm honored and delighted to tell you that my essay, "Imagine" was selected as one of the top 100 essays of 2016. It's part of my true crime column for The Normal School (you may remember my essay on "Abington Square" for them was chosen in2015).

So thank you John Lennon for reminding us all to Imagine. We are. We will.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Newport MFA

I could not be more tickled and honored to be launching the low residency Newport MFA program at Salve Regina university! Many years ago I was asked to come on board to help develop this wonderful program, and now it is a reality. It is so fulfilling to see something take shape from a small but vibrant seed and grow into a real MFA program.

We have rounded up an incredible faculty in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young adult. And we have lined up guest writers that will dazzle all of our students and of course the public, who will be invited to all of our events.

 If you have ever dreamed of finishing your novel or starting your memoir or just becoming a better writer, maybe it is time to take the next step? I am attaching the link here for more information, if you are interested. But you can always send me a face book message  to let me know you are interested. I do hope you will join us next year. Our first residency is in June 2018. How exciting to be part of the very first class of the Newport MFA!

salve.edu/mfa

Thursday, September 7, 2017

MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS events

I'm so delighted that my little memoir celebrating books and reading and the magic of literature is out in the world! It covers my high school years when I read books--from Dr. Zhivago to The Bell Jar, Love Story to The Grapes of Wrath, and of course Marjorie Morningstar--to figure out to live the life I dreamed of living. The reception has been so loving and warm, and it's lovely to be out on the road sharing it with people across the country.

Today I'm writing to you from Excelsior, Minnesota on the banks of Lake Minnetonka where I'm honored to be a part of a dynamite group of writers appearing at Literature Lovers Night Out (here last night, in Stillwater tonight). Gabrielle Zevin, JT Ellison, Eleanor Brown and I are talking to a few hundred people about the writing life and our books. We had a great time last night, and I'm looking forward to another terrific night tonight.

After a weekend in Cleveland with my darling husband, I take the stage 6:00 at the Contemporary Theatre on Main Street in my old stomping grounds of Wakefield RI. September 13 finds me on beautiful Block Island at the library at 7PM, then on to one of my favorite bookstores, Gibson's in Concord NH at 7PM on the 14th.

I'm thrilled that Michael and I were both invited to appear at The Provincetown Literary Festival on Saturday September 16. Is there anything as beautiful as Provincetown in September?

On Sunday September 17 I'm at my beloved Newtonville Books at 2.

A brief break before appearing at An Unlikely Story, the fantastic bookstore in Plainville MA (minutes from us in RI) at 7PM, and then also with Michael a anniversary celebration for another favorite bookstore, Titcomb's, at the Daniel Webster Inn in Sandwich at noon on September 27.

I must share my experience in Savannah as the speaker for the author's series through the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home. This honor included a private tour of the house by the fabulous Cody, who had Annabelle as riveted as we were. Like so many writers, Flannery O'Connor has had a huge impact on me and my writing. Her stories, of course, but also her letters and essays collected in The Habit of Being and Mysteries and Manners. What an honor it was to do this talk! And we loved walking around beautiful Savannah and eating dinner at The Grey, a restaurant in the old Greyhound bus station. Read about why its so important in this NYT piece: www.nytimes.com/2015/07/29/dining/the-grey-savannah-history-takes-another-turn.html

We got up early to hightail it to Milledgeville and Andalusia Farms where O'Connor lived out her too short life, only to find it not only closed, but surrounded by barbed wire to keep out people like us who would have jumped the gate just to see it. We did find her grave and I was moved to see that people leave pens there. After some pretty good BBQ, we went to the Decatur Literary Festival, a favorite of mine, for three panels and a great dinner with Joyce Maynard at The Kimball House. Actually, we had lots of great meals, including at my favorite The Iberian Pig (bacon infused bourbon? yes, please!)

Thank you for reading Morningstar: Growing Up With Books, and for coming to any events in your area.

For my knitters out there, I am closing in on my Airplane Shawl, ever so slowly! It takes a lot of knitting! But it is just gorgeous, and I can't wait to wrap myself in it soonish. I ordered a pattern and yarn from Churchmouse Yarns on Bainbridge Island as my reward for finishing. The pattern for Soft washed Herringbone Mitts (fulled rather feted) in Isager's Spinni Wool 1. I got it in Dusty teal.

Just got addicted to Ann Cleeves Shetland mysteries. Wow! I guess I'm on a Scottish writer kick because I just loved Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Two words: Read it!

Time to turn my attention to the copy edits of my new YA novel, She Loves You (Yeah Yeah Yeah), Coming out from Penguin next June!

Happy knitting! Happy Reading! Happy September!


Monday, August 28, 2017

"When summer's end is nighing..."

To quote AE Houseman. Indeed, it is. Already the end of August and it seems like I just blinked a few times!

Recently I remembered with great fondness the summers when my family rented a house on the beach. My mother liked Scarborough Beach, the crowded Coppertone-french-fry-smelling state beach of my youth. For two or three weeks every July we would set up camp in a house (avocado appliances, plaid sofa, big deck) across the street from the beach. After leisurely breakfasts, we'd wander to the beach where we would ride waves and read on a blanket under the sun. Returning home, my father would already have burgers and hot dogs and sausage on the grill, and after eating and working on a jigsaw puzzle or playing cards, we would plan for dinner.

I recreated these glorious beach days with my own kids for several summers in Westport, MA at Elephant Rock Beach. But too soon, financial obligations led me to working most of the summer, and those halcyon days were replaced with different kinds of summer adventures. Recounting those beach house summers to my wonderful husband, he said Let's try for that again. So perhaps next summer will find me on a beach somewhere, a book in my lap, a burger on the grill, a jigsaw puzzle half completed!

Our travels to Ireland and Italy made this summer extra special. Dingle has become one of my favorite places to be, and Michael and I fantasized about renting a house there some time. From Dingle to Naples where we were caught in the heat wave known as Lucifer. Thankfully the (beautiful) apartment we rented had icy AC, so we had a respite from the blistering heat. Much pizza and pasta was consumed, including my new favorite: pasta with potatoes, which I am going to try to recreate this week at home.

We spent a glorious two weeks at The Breadloaf Writers Conference, immersing ourselves in readings and lectures, gin and tonics and trip into Middlebury for long lunches, literary conversation and the joys of both old and new friends. Now back in NYC, where we are planning a renovation of the apartment--oh joy! can't wait to spruce it up so we can have people over for dinner and cocktail parties. Yesterday we had the great pleasure of seeing Sam's kids musical, Untitled Shape Show, in the morning and The Diana Tapes in the afternoon at the IRT (proud mom alert!!!) and hosting friends in the courtyard here for rose and cheese and crackers. By year's end we will be able to host inside!

Thank you for reading my new memoir, Morningstar: Growing Up With Books. I have lots of events coming up--they are posted on my website--and I hope to see you if I'm at a bookstore near you!

I am still knitting the airplane shawl, but only 1 1/2 skeins to go. I took a break from it to knit a cowl for Annabelle, and I'm looking forward to finishing both and getting started on hand warmers and socks.

Hopefully summer's end is leaving you with warm memories, of beaches or far flung adventures, of time with the people you love most.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Busy Book Tour

After three weeks away--one week teaching memoir at The Provincetown Fine Arts Center, one week teaching in Dingle, Ireland, and a week in Naples Italy doing research for my new novel and for a magazine article--I arrived home at 1 this morning tired and happy. even the four hour delay in Dublin for our flight back to Boston didn't damper my joy at this time traveling.

We went from the 58 degree Irish weather to the sweltering 96 and humid weather in Naples and I managed it all with just a carry on bag! Highlights were dinner at Global Village, readings at The Dingle Bookstore, old friends, new friends, rain, Guiness, Dick Mack's pub; the statue The Veiled Christ, the anatomical rooms, pasta with potatoes at Nenella's, ragu at Tandem, pizza everywhere but especially at 50 Kalo, an air conditioned apartment, new houses uncovered at Pompeii, the ferry to Procida, lunch on Cousin Chippy's roof, handmade umbrellas, the streets of nativities. Of course this list could go on and on, but let's just say it was magnificent from start to finish (except the 24 hour flu that knocked me down in Naples).

And now after teaching at Vermont College of Fine Arts this coming week and then BreadLoaf the following two weeks, I will start doing book events for MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS.

Please come to see me at The Flannery O'Connor House in Savannah GA on September 1, The Decatur Book Festival on September 2 and 3 (with my husband!), The Provincetown Book Festival on September 15 and 16 (also with husband!), and The Miami Book Fair November 18 and 19 (husband there with me too!)

I'll also be at Newport Vineyards with Island Books in Newport RI, Block Island Library, Gibson's in NH, and lots of other fun places that are or will very soon be posted on my website. Please come and celebrate MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS with me!

MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS pub date!

I can still remember the great fear, excitement, and anticipation that came when my very first book, SOMEWHERE OFF THE COAST OF MAINE, was published in May of 1987. And thirty years later I'm here to say that those feelings never fade. Each time I have a new book published I get the same giddy, terrified feeling I did back then. So it is with that giddy, terrified feeling that I tell you pub date for my new memoir, MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS, is here!

The book tells the story of ten books I read as a teenager that helped shape me into the person I am today, that helped me learn to live and to achieve my dreams of being a writer and seeing the world. I could have included three times as many books, but I wanted to stay very focused and explore very particular lessons that books gave me.The books range from THE GRAPES OF WRATH to LOVE STORY, THE BELL JAR to JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN, and more.

As I wrote this book, I became even more aware of how coming of age in the 60s and early 70s shaped who I am. the music, the culture, the shifting rules of that era remain a deep part of who I am.

I'm so delighted and proud that IndieBound, Apple, and Penny's Picks have all chosen MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS as August picks. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Urban Fourth of July

Ever since my beloved dad died in 1997, I have dreaded Fourth of July. That was his birthday, and no one celebrated a birthday--or the Fourth--like my dad. He woke early and started drinking beer, grilling food, and playing John Philip Sousa marches as loud as possible. By noon, hordes of friends and family had arrived, and the partying continued long into the night, always ending with sparklers and Roman candles and bottle rockets, and sometimes ending with Dad and various uncles and pals marching up the street with pots on their heads and broomsticks and mops over their shoulders.

The year he died, we all fled to Mexico, where margaritas and the ocean dulled our pain and no one was celebrating the Fourth of July. As time went on, I've managed to mostly avoid the holiday. For years, I taught in North Carolina that whole week. Sometimes I went to friends' parties, but usually left early.

This year, I found myself dividing the long weekend between my two homes, in NYC and in Providence, with my wonderful new husband (who was missing his own dad too).

While in NYC, we took in a new play at the Cherry Lane Theater and dinner afterward at Chumley's (more on that later), followed by bourbons at Barbuto where we could get all mushy reliving our wedding. In true NYC tradition, we bought out Sunday NYT late Saturday night so that we could wake up on Sunday, drink coffee, eat croissants, and read the newspaper all morning. Then we went up to The Met to see the Irving Penn show--which isn't to be missed! We had a light lunch at Bouchon Bakery before heading back downtown to see Sweeney Todd at The Barrow Street Theater--another not to be missed! Before the show you have meat pies and mash in an authentically recreated British pie shop, which to our utter delight and surprise, the entire play takes place. You haven't lived until you've had Norm Lewis singing on your table.

Monday we drove to Providence, where my son's theater company, WHAT WILL THE NEIGHBORS SAY?, was waiting at the loft. Tuesday we brought an entire barbecue of hot dogs and hamburgers and all the fixins to Gogo's, then came home to nap and start cooking again: ribs and black beans and zucchini salad (made for me by my husband to convince me that zicchini can actually taste like more than tepid water--it worked!) on the roof with WWTNS. As we ate, fireworks started all over Rhode Island, and we could see them all. By the time we walked across the roof to our neighbors for apple pie and vino, the whole sky was exploding! We stayed up late playing a lively game or three of Code Names. And I went to bed, happy for this Fourth of July filled with love and food and fireworks and cityscapes...

My digression on Chumley's:
If you are a real New Yorker--meaning you lived there for many years as an adult during the worst times in NYC--you hung out at Chumley's, the hidden Prohibition era speakeasy at 86 Bedford Street (where the restaurant term 86 originated!). The place had good cheap(ish) pub food, lots of atmosphere, drunken writers at the bar, and was just one of everyone in the Village's favorite spots. Sadly, it closed about a decade ago, and rumors of its reopening circulated, always met with great excitement.

One day last fall, my beloved and I were walking down Bedford Street and to our delight saw a sign announcing the upcoming reopening of Chumley's. We got ourselves there pretty quickly after it opened, only to find our shaggy dog pub turned into a fancy restaurant (with prices to match). That night we ate oysters at the bar and drank overpriced cocktails, disappointed. Still, word that it served the best hamburger in the city brought us back the other night, because I am a girl who loved my burgers. But...not for $28. Cocktails? $18. Wine? Nothing under $60. And all the black and white photos of writers that now fill the walls (not many writers I know can afford to hang out at the bar there anymore!) made for fun guessing who's who, but no one who worked there knew the answers! Google helped, a little.

Ah well. Nothing, not even an overpriced burger in a bygone place, could ruin our weekend. But I still choose to remember the Chumley's of old, where I'd sit and drink beer with my writing buddy Phil, eat pot roast, and listen to ghosts.

WWTNS is leaving us this afternoon, so we will eat dinner at The Slow Rhode, one of my favorite little spots in my fabulous neighborhood and curl up with a movie back home. Lots of fun with friends planned over the next few days before Annabelle and I head to our yearly week in truro, where I teach at Castle Hill and then she and I play mini golf and go to the drive-in and meet up with dear friends for lobster rolls and clams.

When we return from Truro, it's only to repack before a week in Provincetown teaching at the Fine Arts Center, a week teaching in Dingle Ireland, a week of (mostly) vacation in Naples, Italy, then a week teaching at the post-graduate conference at Vermont College of the Fine Arts, and then two glorious weeks teaching at Breadloaf, where in 1988 my now husband called out to me...and I walked away. Sigh!

I hope your summer brings to mind Henry James:

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”



Enjoy your summer afternoons!

Ann