Friday, May 25, 2012

Westward ho!

Tomorrow we head west to deliver Sam into the loving arms of the Missoula (MT) Children's theater. He'll be training in Missoula for a week or two before he heads off in his little red truck to bring theater to kids in four western states. I am so proud of him! But have had a lot of crying jags over him being gone all summer. These past couple of weeks with him home have been so good. The sound of his big feet coming up the stairs. Sitting around watching Tony Bourdain's No Reservations marathons. Hitting the meat truck for lunch. Sharing music. Just being with him. I have done a pretty good job of keeping my tears to myself. But oh dear.

Still, I am excited for us to take this trip, all of us together driving through Utah, Wyoming and Montana. I love the west, and I'm thrilled to share it with Annabelle. I was lucky to snag a room at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, and a dinner reservation there that night. She so loves the natural world that I can't wait to see her reaction to Yellowstone. I'm hoping we get to spot a moose or bear, which I have done on past trips, just for Annabelle.

And I can't let today pass without saying Happy Birthday to two of my favorite proper nouns.

Raymond Carver's writing helped make me a writer. I will never forget the thrill I felt when I discovered his stories in The New Yorker long ago, and how his unique style opened up my imagination and helped hone my own style. Celebrate him today! Maybe read one of his short stories, like "Cathedral" or "What we Talk About When we Talk About Love."

And Happy Birthday to the Brooklyn Bridge! One of my best things to do on a beautiful autumn day in NYC is to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and marvel at it, and at the two boroughs it connects. If you're in NYC, take a moment to gaze at it. or better yet, take that gorgeous walk!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Greetings from the land of sneezing, coughing, and nose blowing. Yes, I have been taken down by a very bad cold. If ever there could be a good time to have a bad cold, this week is it. Annabelle is on a class trip to Quebec and my sweetheart is on a work trip to Singapore. This means that I have been free to moan and complain, wake up at 3AM miserable and listen to podcasts without headphones on, stay in my jammies all day--mostly in bed--and read (SHIRLEY JACKSON: A RATHER HAUNTED LIFE) and write (working on not one but two secret projects!) and watch TV (GIRLS, CHOPPED, and a spur of the moment rental of THE BREAKFAST CLUB) and knit (the second fingerless mitt for my sweetheart, a finished hat with alpaca and a pattern from Yarnia in Nacogdoches TX, and a puzzling how to video for the pattern a month from Mason-Dixon Knitting).

I have soft scrambled eggs (some people call these French eggs) in a double boiler with butter and cream and fried up bacon and made toast; cooked up my favorite comfort food, which is doctored packaged ramen from a NYT recipe (you poach an egg in it, add butter and two slices of American cheese, scallions or sesame seeds if you have them on hand--I didn't); reheated fried rice leftover from a dinner party we had in which sweetheart made sous vide short ribs with char sui sauce, I made the fried rice and dry fried Szechuan string beans, and we bought a whole chopped duck in garlic sauce from the duck place two doors down from me. Last night I finally dragged myself to the supermarket and got the fixings for the pot of black bean soup I've been dreaming of all week.

Here is the revelation I had while I sat in bed coughing and sneezing and nose blowing, my two cats--Hermia and Gertrude--nestled beside me, my computer on my lap: there is great joy for me in being a writer. In writing. In not talking to anyone all day (well, except my mom who is very sympathetic to my misery and Sam who calls in reports of his life as an actor in NYC and my sweetheart in Singapore who has the same bad cold but is eating giant crab legs and shrimp that are still wiggling on the plate and who patiently tells my what time it is across the world). Mostly, I am just living in my head, in my imagined worlds, which is what writers do. Happily.

Yesterday I remembered with great fondness having a similar bad cold thirty years ago when I was writing SOMEWHERE OFF THE COAST OF MAINE and living on Bleecker Street. Every day for a week I called my local Chinese restaurant and got cold sesame noodles and fried pork dumplings delivered. Every day. I stayed in my jammies and wrote my book, typing on an electric typewriter, living in the imagined world of those three friends who had gone to college together in the 60s and of their teenaged children. My two cats, Lewis and Daphne, nestled against me then. I read Anne Tyler's DINNER AT THE HOMESICK RESTAURANT and I ate those dumplings and noodles and I was happy.

So often, writers have to do the opposite of this cocooning. We have to go to libraries and bookstores and fundraising luncheons and book clubs and talk to people. We have to get up at 4AM for a 6:30 flight, and sleep alone in hotels, and eat airport food, and not write. This, my friends, is not a complaint. I am the luckiest person in the world. When I was four years old I read my first book and had one thought: I want to live in a book. And that's what I do. I love the great pleasure of meeting people that my books have touched. I love all the independent bookstores that hand sell my books. I love sharing the story of how I got from that four year old girl to the woman who wrote these books. But in the excitement and busy-ness of promoting our books, writers can lose the simple joy that comes from writing. That's what I rediscovered this week. The joy of moving your story along to an unexpected new place; of understanding something new about your character; of keeping the real world at bay so that you can be in your imagined one.

Tonight I will meet the bus bringing Annabelle and her classmates home. Tonight my sweetheart begins his long journey across the Pacific back to me. Tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 I will give a talk at the Athenaeum Library here in Providence. And I am grateful for all of these blessings. But I am grateful too for the blessing of this bad cold that kept me inside and in the world of my imagination, the place a writer needs to dwell.

On this, my last day of seclusion, I will write for hours. I will dip into Shirley Jackson's life. I will watch that damn video again and hope I understand what I'm supposed to knit. I will roll some yarn and make my black bean soup. And I will return to the real world of teaching and parenting and loving rejuvenated, inspired, writing.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dairy Hollow

Well, I admit it. This is the first time I've ever been to Arkansas (unless you count a ridiculous  run over the border form Memphis just to say I've been in Arkansas). The fabulous Crow Johnson picked me up in Little Rock and took me immediately to Corky's for BBQ. I had ribs, memphis style, which means dry rubbed with the sauce on the side.

Yup. They were good.

We arrived here at Dairy Hollow:

Like most artists' colonies, as soon as you walk in the door you feel pampered. Then you arrive at the suite and you want to fall down on your knees with gratitude. Quaint. Big. Views of trees. No interruptions...heavenly. I dropped my bags and got whisked off into Eureka Springs and the White Street Walk, which was basically a blocked off street of Victorian houses showing art and serving wine and snacks.

After that 4AM departure for my flight, the flight itself, the five hour ride from Little Rock, the wine and snacks and walking, I was ready for bed and basically just collapsed into it happily after eating my dinner (saved by the chef here) of beef stroganoff and a beautiful salad. I put dessert in the fridge for breakfast, which I was happy I had thought to do because I woke up and basically stayed in my nightie all day working. Coffee and that amazing Turkish cake (???). Reading some of the essays for the knitting anthology. Folks: it is going to be a wonderful book. I cried and laughed reading them. Truly. Then I set about writing my own essay for the collection. Suddenly, it was 5 o'clock, the day a lovely blur of words. I got dressed for the author's reception  at the historic Crescent Hotel.

It was in that little gazebo on the right.

There, I met up with another writer, Kevin Brockmeier (his novel)

and two wonderful Eureka Springs citizens, Fred and Sue, who took us into town for more wine, more galleries, more snacks. This is a fun place!

Tomorrow: author's brunch and then readings all day. This is the kind of place where you don't what exciting, interesting thing will happen next.

A lovely day. Just lovely. I hope yours was too.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sometimes you have one of those days, and really can't figure out why. But this is just one of them, when that old grief rises up and really knocks the wind out of you. For me, that meant watching too many episodes of DAMAGES (thank you Netflix!) and pondering an idea for a short story without having the gumption to actually begin it. I learned long ago to let these days wash over me, to not push the feeling away, and to do just what I did: feel sad, watch TV, watch the rain...

I did do a little bit of knitting on my blanket. I got the pattern for free on if you want to see it. They call it Waves, and it really is nice and rippley! I will post pictures of my progress when I figure out how to transfer photos from my phone to the computer to here.

By the way, the pork tenderloins cooked in root beer for seven hours in the slow cooker were amazing!

I used a delicious Wegman's brand of Memphis barbecue sauce, and it was quite a hit. Served it with homemade cole slaw and corn on the cob. No leftovers!

Tonight I am going to a cookout at GJ's and my blue mood had me take a strange route to my appetizer assignment:

Well, I did make a great corn salad (5 ears, 1/2 a red onion chopped, 3TBS olive oil, 3TBS cider vinegar, lots of fresh basil) which I hope redeems my dip laziness.

And I have a really yummy wine called Lost Angel, a spicy California blend. So with BOTH of my kiddos in tow and a cookout by the bay, surely my spirits will lift by bedtime.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


My darling son Sam, home from college, has just set up a fan page on Facebook for me. My personal page hit 5000 friends, which apparently is all Facebook will let me have. Now, thanks to Sam, I can have an unlimited amount of friends via this groovy new fan page! Yay! If you want to "like" it, go to:
See you there!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A day of games

Drowsy after arriving home from Ithaca at about midnight last night, but woke up with a happy eight-yesr-old grinning down at me because the tooth fairy came last night. It was hard to do tooth fairy duty when I was so bleary eyed from that drive (even though I was a passenger cramped into the back of my Mini Cooper while Sam drove and Gogo made sandwiches in the passenger seat beside him). But a gap toothed smile made it worth digging in the bottom of my purse for stray dollars!

It is hard to believe that Sam's freshman year is already over. Wasn't it just yesterday that he fit in the laundry basket? Exhibit A:

Yes, that's Sam and Grace. With Mother's Day approaching, my thoughts are with Gracie of course. And with all the mothers who I speak with and email who are missing their children especially hard this weekend.

I am sitting here looking out at a beautiful May day. Green leaves against bright blue sky. Dogwoods all pink and lush. Azaleas in full bloom. It made me think of a line from a Pablo Neruda poem:
"You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming."

Today: Annabelle's belated bowling birthday party. Then she is off to Boston with Cousin Gina to go to the Big Apple Circus while Sam and I make dinner in preparation for a Name Game. This is our family game that involves lots of rowdy friends and good food and wine.

Tomorrow: 13 people coming for a Mother's Day cookout. Many of these people love the RI hot dog known as a saugie. I am not among those fans, so for the rest of us I am trying an interesting new recipe. Put two pork tenderloins in the slow cooker with 12 ounces of root beer and cook on low for seven hours. Then remove, shred and add BBQ sauce. I will let you know how that turns out! Mimi is bringing her version of my dad's mac and cheese. I'm making a vat of guacamole. Auntie Junie is bringing a strawberry shortcake. I'm hungry just writing all of this down!

I'm very excited to share my new knitting project with you. As some of you know, I smashed my finger pretty bad closing a tray table at Gogo's. I did that thing where it won't close so you shove really hard and it pops out and closes--on your finger. My pinky got bruised but also cut, and it was that gash that caused me so many problems. I probably needed a stitch or two, but it was late and a school night and I needed to get Annabelle home and to bed. The thought of spending the evening at the ER didn't appeal, so I wrapped the finger nice and tight and went home. Well, that curtailed my knitting for quite some time.

But I am healed, and the whole time I couldn't knit all i could think about was knitting a blanket. I ordered gorgeous yarn and found a pattern called The Wave. The yarn arrived just when my pinky got back in working order and I began to knit. I'll take pictures as I go and post them here. (I am loving being able to post pictures!)

Despite the injured finger, I had a great time in Miami teaching at Miami Dade's Writers Institute. Not only did I have talented students who I loved spending three afternoons with, but I got to see my Miami buddies and eat paella with them. From there, it was on to The Muse and the Marketplace in Boston, Grub Street's annual weekend event.

This week is mostly just Sam and Annabelle time. Big happy sigh. Then I'm off to the Dairy Hollow Artists Colony in Eureka Spring, Arkansas and the literary festival there.

Time to get party favors ready and warm up my bowling arm I hope you all enjoy today, and tomorrow remember mothers here and gone, children here and gone...because really, really, they are all still here with us. They are.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ann Hood attempts to set up her new blog

I am sitting here with the fabulous writer Taylor Polites eating lemon cake and getting a lesson in Blogspot, Pinterest, and all things that make my head hurt. But I do like my new background picture and the lemon cake. And Taylor.
I don't have a picture of Taylor, but this is my friend, Jane Hamilton and me.

Wish me luck with this, I need it. But soon I will be able to post pictures of knitting, yummy food, and all things I like!