Friday, June 29, 2012

Gin and Tonics at Ida Lewis Yacht Club

As many of you know, Newport is hosting the America's Cup match races this week, and I've been lucky enough to watch those beautiful boats out on the water. Reason to love Rhode Island: sailboats under a sunny blustery sky, dancing across the beautiful blue Bay. Spent yesterday at the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, sipping gin and tonics and nibbling shrimp, gazing out at that gorgeous view. Sigh...

A nice cap to a week of low key work, reading manuscripts for my upcoming teaching at Tin House in Portland, OR; xeroxing for that workshop and next week's in Chautauqua; working on short stories in various stages of completion; and resting and eating lots of steak and kale to battle the anemia (it's working! iron levels are up up up!)

Today is all about packing for those two weeks away teaching. Annabelle, Gogo and I shuffle off to Buffalo tomorrow and get us settled in at our apartments in Chautauqua. The rest of the crew arrives at various intervals on Sunday night. Gogo has made enough meatballs and sauce to feed us all week, I think. But I'm thinking of making a batch of gazpacho for lunches, maybe even packing up the slow cooker for some BBQ pork...

I just love our weeks there, which began ten years ago. That summer was a tough one, right on the heels of losing Grace. I remember having to cancel the Reading class she'd signed up for, and her swimming lessons. Remember too how hard I cried on this shot July nights, as little girls spun around on the grass, happy and alive. But that summer I met a man who changed my life. Dan Moseley gave the morning sermons that summer, and as serendipity or divine intervention would have it, his topic was grief. I sat every morning, grasping the wisdom he so freely gave, and finally managed to talk to him privately. Dan became a lifeline for me over the next few years, always there for my existential and grief crises. He taught me too, indirectly, how to help others. When I get emails from grieving parents, I  think of Dan and how he knew exactly what to say and do, and I take my lead from him.

We returned to Chautauqua every other year ever since, and have made lifelong friends there. I love the sight of one of my kids riding off on a bike, arriving wet from swimming in the lake, sitting beside me at concerts and dance performances. And so we are off again tomorrow for another week of old fashioned bliss.

Straight from there, I fly off to PDX again for a week at Tin House, another ritual I treasure. The writers, the students, the food and drink, the intellectual stimulation, the nearness of my buddies Heather and Hillary, Portland coffee and Oregon wine and marionberries...

So today is all about packing for these two weeks. And finishing my reading and Xeroxing.

For those of you who might be looking for a writers conference, I want to share the details of the FIU one in Coral Gables, Florida this October 25-27. Held at the historic Biltmore Hotel, the faculty includes Scott Spencer, John Dufresne, Ellen Sussman, Les Standiford, Steven Raichlen, Denise Duhamel, Julie Wade, Lynne Barrett, Debra Dean, and yours truly. Plus my own beloved editor Jill Bialosky and literary agent Richard Pine. If you enroll by August 1, tuition is ONLY $400! That is a deal! Hope to see some of you there!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rain! And more rain!

Left rainy Portland, Oregon and arrived just in time for a week of rain here in Rhode Island. Funny thing is, I actually love the rain (which is one more reason why I think living in Portland would be just swell) so it is okay with me. Especially when my day consists of laundry and cleaning up (I've been gone ten days and somehow the laundry I did the day I left is still sitting in the laundry basket, waiting for me to come home and fold it) and signing Annabelle up for swimming (my other kids took to the water like, well, fish. But Annabelle still can't swim, despite years of lessons. Maybe this time?) and getting her to theater camp,preparing classes for my upcoming two teaching gigs,  and then meeting Gogo for dinner. Steak for me as I work on getting my iron levels up. All of these things are done well, maybe even done best, while it's raining. I like knitting when it rains. Reading. Doing a jigsaw puzzle (on my new jigsaw puzzle table! Thank you, Steve!). And I admit I have had some pretty romantic times while it rained. So all in all, I am happy to be home, happy to have it raining nice and hard, happy to wake up with a pigtailed Annabelle smiling down at me.

My Waves blanket is so beautiful that I ordered yarn to knit three more, one for each kiddo (Christmas presents?). And my bright striped dishcloths with kitchen cotton yarn from Lion Brand are so snazzy that I'm ordering up more of that yarn too. Here is the link:
I think next time I am going to try the graphic dishcloths, using the same bright yarn.

Now I need to also share my new favorite writer, Gillian Flynn. I'm probably the last one on the block to read her, but I first read her new one, GONE GIRL and was so blown away by her use of point of view and her insights into marriage, all wrapped up in a mystery, that I immediately bought the one just before, DARK PLACES, and read it all the way from Philadelphia to Providence yesterday without looking up once until landing. She has another one too, which I'm sure to read next, even though I'm reading them backwards!

Other reasons that I am excited:
I am starting my research this week for Book Seven of THE TREASURE CHEST

I have almost all the fabulous essays for the knitting anthology I'm editing. What a line up of writers! You will all love it, I know. (Think Anita Shreve, Sue Grafton, Elizabeth Berg, Andre Dubus III, Jane Smiley--to name just a few of my wonderful contributors. I have read each one gobsmacked. I laugh. I cry. I shriek with joy!)

And in just a week, Sam will be joining us at Chautauqua. He is having quite a summer touring with the Missoula Children's Theater, and I have loved hearing his stories about his experiences. But boy am I glad he'll be with us that week...

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I admit it. I am completely addicted to Damages, the show starring Glenn Close and Rose Byrne and an an ever changing cast of terrific actors (Ted Danson! William Hurt!) Thank you to everybody who checked in with me on my fainting the other night. It turns out I am anemic (!!!!) and have been ordered to eat steak and kale for starters, probably take iron pills and/or B12 when I see my doctor at home next week. Meanwhile, in between readings and classes and panels, I get in bed and OD on Damages...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Much to my horror, I fainted last night! Pretty scary business. I wasn't hot, drunk, thirsty, sick, scared, upset, or any of the other reasons I can think of to faint. I walked out of a reading and felt confused about how to get back to my dorm room. Then I got the classic weird vision thing and ringing ears, made my way to a low wall and boom! Luckily, writer friends were on the scene and helped me out. They reported I was pretty pale at the time. Still feeling kind of wobbly, so I'm taking it easy. I did do my panel on long form narrative with Frank Gaspara and Craig Lesley, and I must say we rocked. Dorianne Laux brought me Gatorade, which I think helped (maybe my electrolytes went haywire?) But I was happy to get back in bed with Gillian Flynn's terrific novel Gone Girl. I have a meeting in a half an hour, but I think it's back to bed after that. I hate to miss the readings tonight, and the Silk Road party after, but I'm pretty sure I won't be up to it.

But feast your eyes on this! The gorgeous cover of the Italian edition of THE KNITTING CIRCLE!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Miles to go before I sleep

I love wifi on airplanes, yes I do! En route to Portland, OR from Chicago, writing this at 35000 feet. The hum of a plane is one of my favorite sounds, like music to me. What a week of traveling around! And actually it's the start of a busy month of travel. Tuesday, as soon as Annabelle's last day of second grade party ended, GJ and I loaded her in to the car and headed back to Woodstock. (It is so hard not to write here: We are stardust, we are golden...) The fabulous Martha Frankel put us up for the night, and fed us the yummiest salmon dinner with kale salad, and invited good friends to join us. The next morning we went to her husband Steve's store Fabulous Furniture where I picked up the table he designed and built for me--it fits 1000 word jigsaw puzzles! I will post a picture of it when I get around to transferring photos from my phone to the computer. Also, the lamp with the pink Cadillac sticking out of it, which now stands over the aforementioned table in my playroom back home. The fact that Steve fit these items in my Mini Cooper is kind of mind boggling. But he did! Stopped at the excellent bookstore there after breakfast at Bread Alone and signed books, then drove home where, for one hour, I ran around like a crazy person, doing laundry and packing for my flight to Chicago the next day (more in a minute), and loading up on groceries, all before I hopped on Amtrak to New London where my darling buddy met me at the train station and took me out to dinner. The food: awful. The night: lovely. Back on Amtrak to Providence, arriving at 11:30. Home to bed for only a few hours sleep before it was time to get up and make one of those awful 6AM flights. But we were all excited to get to Chicago for Ariane's graduation from Northwestern (missed Sam who couldn't come because he was busy putting on Cinderella in Westminster, CO). Got to Baltimore and our flight was delayed...for 5 hours! Ugh. Somehow the time passed, and eventually we were driving north from Chicago to Evanston and all sorts of graduation fun. I had to leave a day early to get to Oregon and the Pacific University low res MFA program. Connecting in SFO very soon. Then it will be the stocking up on supplies for the week (Oregon wine and fruit and if I'm lucky Stumptown coffee), moving in to my groovy pad in Forest Grove, and hopefully having some Copper River salmon for dinner tonight. Teaching begins tomorrow, first thing, so tonight will be me preparing for class...A crazy week!

I have brought my Waves blanket, which I just might finish as I listen to all the great readings and lectures this week. Then it's on to striped dish rags with Lion Brand's new kitchen vintage yarn, The colors are so yummy!

Just finished reading Sophie Hannah's Truth Teller's Lies. If you haven't read her yet and you like psychological thrillers, you will love hers. Great women characters, messed up detectives, Great Britain...what's not to love? On to Gone Girl next...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer day, summer day, summer day

I think that's a quote from Henry James, and it sure fits today here in Providence. Warm and pretty, birds chirping away, flowers in bloom, sun coming through the leaves on the trees outside my window. And the first day in a very long time that I do not have a deadline hanging over me. At least for today I can do whatever I like.

In the daily life of a writer, I find that my rhythm is idle time alternating with too much to do. There isn't really ever idle time because I always have stories developing in my mind. Those days--like today--when I am free to just think my thoughts are valuable to my writing process. It's a difficult part of writing to explain to non-writers or beginning writers: seemingly doing nothing is actually vital to stories taking shape.

Today I might take a walk to the library or the RISD Museum. I will definitely defrost my freezer. I might watch a few episodes of Damages (I am addicted to it!) I might knit. Likely, hours will pass with me just thinking...

The week ahead will not be as decadently free. Tomorrow GJ, Annabelle and I are going back to Woodstock. I'll sign some books, hang with friends, and bring home my new table and lamp. The lamp has a model pink 1959 Cadillac on it; the table was designed to fit a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle on it (no more doing my puzzles on the floor or dining room table!) Both were designed by Steve at Fabulous Furniture. You can see what Steve's work at: 

Also tomorrow (ok, I'm now writing in green and can't switch back!): Annabelle's last day of second grade! Yikes! 

Wednesday night I'm meeting my old pal in New London, CT for dinner. Then up way to early Thursday for one of those dreadful crack of dawn flights, this one to Chicago for Ariane's graduation from Northwestern. Two fabulous days in Chicago before I head to Oregon and the low res MFA program at Pacific University. 

My niece's wedding at the Athenaeum library on Saturday night was amazing! We roamed the stacks and drank great wine and nibbled on yummy snacks and celebrated Love. Ah! The wedding came in between Annabelle's school play (Viva the French revolution!), Auntie Junie's 78th birthday party (Viva Caserta's Pizza!) and Annabelle's ballet recital (Viva the tutu!). Capped off with a dinner party at our dear friend Bruce's--smoked salmon on johnny cakes followed by grilled lamb chops. Need I say more?

By the way, I am loving this new format for my blog. And I've received lots of positive feedback too.One of the features I really like is that I can access statistics about the blog--how many views it gets a day, where the people reading it are located, the gender of my readers. Lots of surprises! 

THE OBITUARY WRITER has come through copy editing and is on its way to becoming a real book that we can hold in our hands. 

And my Waves blanket is half done. It's gorgeous! The pattern calls for each color to appear only once. But I have enough yarn to repeat my waves and make it a bigger blanket. I will definitely make more of these--the pattern is so easy and it's a great project to take on my travels. I also ordered Lion Brand's new kitchen vintage yarn--the colors are so vivid! I'll take that with me too to knit up some striped dishrags this summer. 

Enjoy this summer day!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Transit of Venus

As a lover of rain, I am enjoying this lovely rainy weather we've been having all week. But I hope it clears up in time for the transit of venus tonight.As you probably know, this is very rare--in fact, it's only been recorded six times, ever. I love this from today's NYT: "This week, people on Earth can see with their own eyes the beauty spot--as beautiful as Marilyn Monroe's--bestowed by Venus on the Sun."Isn't that beautiful?

I have a little romantic story about this too. When I was a teenager, a boy I liked took my to Providence for the afternoon--a very big deal for me.He walked me up and down the neighborhood where I now live, and told me odd and whimsical historical facts. The whole time he spoke, I wished he would hold my hand, although if he did I might have fainted. I remember standing on Benefit Street, peering down Planet Street as he explained about the transit of Venus, and how the street names Planet and Transit came from it. Even back then I was a romantic, and believed that all this talk of Venus must be a sign of a great love developing. But as these things go, eventually my feelings for that blue eyes boy changed. I fell in love again and again, but always remember that summer afternoon with him.

I hope we all fall in love a little bit today, in honor of that beauty spot bestowed by Venus on the Sun...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Both Sides Now

Woke up to the most beautiful sounds in the world: NYC waking up outside my window. Greenwich Village in particular makes the sounds I most love. Add to these this morning rain falling gently onto Greenwich Street and I have the perfect background music for a morning of working. Today's goal is to finish revising Book Six in The Treasure Chest series, in which my time traveling twins meet the last Queen of Hawaii. I took a risk with this one, and introduced a lot of new ideas. All of which failed (according to wise powers that be). So it's a total revamp, and one that is going slowly.

But it makes me pause to think about the importance--no, the necessity--of revising. Too many new writers resist it, and their work suffers as a result. So far for me, 2012 has been all about revision. More so than writing. I spent months on revising THE OBITUARY WRITER. And truly, folks. The book sings now. I am so eager for everyone to read it.

The novel deals with themes of grief and loss, but also explores questions of love and marriage, infidelity and women's changing roles over time. I am going to post random sentences from the novel here starting next week as a kind of fun way to introduce it to you. 

Last night, I went to hear Judy Collins at Town Hall here in Manhattan. I don't go to lots of concerts. In fact, as I was walking there--along the High Line, which you must do when you're next in NYC--I realized I go to about one a year. Last year Aaron Neville, the year before John Prine and Iris Diment. Of course, I always try to go to at least one day of the Newport Folk Festival, which last year meant Emmylou Harris and Pete Seeger. And I admit to being a Parrot Head too. So you get some insight into my musical taste here. I am dying to get to a Zac Brown concert, but so far haven't been able to make that happen. But I digress...

Stopped at 23rd. Street and descended the High Line for dinner at The Half King, Sebastian Junger's pub. This is a fun place to grab a burger if you are in the neighborhood. I opted for a soft shell crab po boy instead, because the window for eating soft shell crabs is so narrow that I have to have them constantly. Unfortunately, this one was mostly coating and iceberg lettuce. But it didn't really matter. Drinking beer and sitting outside and dipping my fried into a chipotle mayo more than made up for it. Plus, I made fast work of a giant bowl of mussels to start, and they were fabulous. Cooked in a rich garlicky marinara. Eating them made me decide I should make mussels more at home. Easy and yummy.

Back on the High Line and onward to 43rd. Street. Madeleine Peyroux opened the concert. I love her first CD, and when she sings Leonard Cohen or Edith Piaf, you just want to weep. But everyone had come for Judy, and after intermission (mine spent in an interminable line to the bathroom) she took the stage in black sequins, knee high boots, that gorgeous mane of gray hair (note to self: when I am 73 I too will have a gorgeous mane of gray hair. And knee high black boots.) and sang her heart out. Both Sides Now. Helplessly Hoping. Send in the Clowns. Mr. Tambourine Man. Her encore song: Somewhere Over the Rainbow. And her in between song banter was almost as mesmerizing as she reminisced about the Village in the early 60s and the folk scene there. My heart be still. I kind of floated back home, and sat with a cold glass of chardonnay grinning until bedtime.

Today, I'm getting a surprise visit from an old friend. I'm thinking we might hit MOMA and the Cindy Sherman retrospective. Unless the rain sends us into a movie theater instead. Tickets tonight to the play Peter and the Star Catcher with another old pal. Cannot wait to see it! We are having an early dinner pre show, probably at his favorite place. I don't know the name, and there is no sign on the door. You just have to know which brownstone door to open. I always see someone famous there. Last time it was the guy who played Sal on Mad Men. 

But of course I am still fresh from our trip out west to deliver Sam safely into the arms of the Missoula Children's Theater. Above, one of the little red trucks that travel the country all summer, delivering theater to kids. Sam will be in truck #38, visiting Colorado, NM, Kansas, and Nebraska.

But before we hit Missoula, we spent an interesting day in Salt Lake City (which is where we flew into because there is nothing like a road trip out west!). From there the next morning we drove through Idaho to Yellowstone, and spent the night at the great Old Faithful Inn. Lots of bison spotting, and some huge mule deer. And lots of snow! And of course, Old Faithful. I watched it erupt about five times because it is just one of those things that gives me the chills to see, like the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge in the fog. Day three found us in Bozeman, MT and there I discovered the Country Bookshelf, one of those indie bookstores that you can lose yourself in for a very long time. I did! Final stop with Sam still in town: Missoula. I cried, yes I did. A lot. Happy for him, sad over a Sam-less summer in RI. When we left Missoula, we got fortification at Liquid Planet where I think I had one of the best cups of coffee ever. Back to SLC, and a night in a gorgeous B and B near the state house. A bottle of cabernet on the porch, watching evening settle over the city.

I had photos to share, but it is almost 10 o'clock and I have a book to revise! So I will post them soon.

One final thing: knitters, you must knit this blanket in the Waves pattern. has it on their website. It is easy, with just one challenging row out of every four. I will post a picture of mine when I finish, which will be soon!