Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Au revoir, 2013!

First autocorrect changed revoir to reboot. Then to revoke. Both interesting ideas for 2013!

Since New Year's Eve is my least favorite holiday, and since due to my thankfully waning flu I'm forced to do nothing tonight, I don't have to look back, review, choose top 10s, reboot or revoke. I just have to start packing for Paris! 

We leave January 2. Move into our apartment in the Marais. And spend two glorious days wandering the city. I love Paris in rainy empty January and cannot wait to hit our favorite fondue restaurant, cook dinners, go to museums and flea markets and bistros. Home January 12. 

So for tonight I plan to maybe cook up some spaghetti carbonara and keep on the get better track. I hope you have the last day of 2013 of your dreams!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Dreaming of my next novel

In Meredith Maran's wonderful book, Why We Write, Isabel Allende says that she always begins a new book on January 6. No matter what. I do not share her discipline, or regiment, I'm afraid. I begin when I know what I am trying to say, and when I think I know how I'm going to say it. 

It's been a matter of some frustration that my next novel fell into place months and months ago. But my reading/speaking/teaching schedule prevented me from writing even one word. Except in my head. And how the characters and plots have grown with so much time to do so! As an advocate of thoughtful, purposeful  writing (rather than that phrase I loathe of "a shitty first draft" or a "vomit draft") I have learned an important lesson these past months: trust my imagination. Let it take me to unexpected places. Don't rush to the page. 

The theme I'm working with in this one is secrets. How layered and nuanced my characters and their secrets have grown! So much deeper. So much more interesting. 

When I realized I wouldn't be able to begin in the fall, I admit to both panic and crankiness. But then I decided to embrace the delay. And that freeing decision has opened the novel up in unexpected ways. 

This morning I woke up with the first line (or a version of it), in my head. And the excitement and terror that always accompanies a blank page filled me to the point that I forgot I still feel flu-sick. 

Ahead for me is two weeks in Paris, a week home, and then a week teaching at the Eckerd Writers Conference. In there, that first line will be typed onto that blank page. And then the next. And the next...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Health Report

I made my own grilled cheese! And it was good! But when I got to the kitchen, the overwhelming smell of broccoli gone bad led me to my beautiful (unbaked) broccoli gratin for the pot luck Christmas night (not to be confused with the fabulous Christmas lunch that Gogo made and I missed due to getting IV drugs at the ER) was left behind. True, I made it in a fevered fog, but it was a thing of beauty. So I tossed it and cleaned the whole kitchen, then had to get in bed and sleep. When I woke up, I indulged in a little pity party. But then I thought of the little match girl, and tiny Tim, and Rudolph, and the brave little toaster--brave souls everyone. Me too. Ordered the Essential Pepin cookbook to reward myself and allowed many minutes of dreaming about Paris, 5 days and counting. 

And since I am no longer contagious my hubby is taking me to a matinee of American Hustle and maybe even buying me much yearned for burger before returning me to my sick bed. 


Friday, December 27, 2013

Adventures in the ER

My husband is Canadian. Why is this important to this tale? By genetics, he is tough. He ran a marathon with appendicitis. He climbs really big mountains for fun. When Sam pierced his finger with a fork, and that fork dangled from that finger, he removed it without flinching. So when he looked at me on Christmas morning and said he was taking me to the ER, I knew I was pretty darn sick. Turns out my temperature was 103.6 and my lungs sounded "raucous". No pneumonia, thankfully. But it took five hours, IV antibiotics and fluids, before they'd send me home to 3 days of bed rest and at least 5 days of general rest. Lots of meds. Lots of Gogo's soup. Lots of hot tea and honey. Lots of sleep. No voice but my coughing is sure noisy. In six days we all leave for two weeks in Paris, so send all the healing thoughts you can my way please!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The flu! On Christmas Eve!

Twenty years ago I had pneumonia starting on Christmas Eve and an 8 month old baby. That "baby" really stepped up today when I was felled by the flu. Fever. Chills. Aches. Cough. The works. But Sam helped Gogo throw a smashing Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes, while I groaned and trembled on the sofa. Now in my own bed trembling and groaning. Maybe this is a once every couple of decades thing?

Still, it's Christmas and I love it. Annabelle figured out this year who Santa is, but she still left out cookies and milk and a note. And went to sleep surely with visions of sugarplums dancing in her head. 

Merry Christmas to you and yours. May the day be merry and bright. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Everything Christmas

Let the madness begin! My knitting room floor is covered with presents, wrapping paper, tape, and hopefully the scissors that always go missing while I'm wrapping. 

Today: baked strata that I made the night before for Annabelle's class brunch. Carried piping hot Pyrex across icy cobblestones in heels (hey, gotta wear the cool silver booties to the party, right?) and then over chunks of icy snow into the school. All worth it to hear the class rendition of The 12 Days of Christmas. 

Back home to catch Zuzu and bring her to the vet. 

Dog fine. Bring her home. Try to convince Sam to come to faraway ballet store. No luck. So I drive there alone and spend $50 on random ballet things AB needs for Polar Express (live in RI? Come this weekend! Saturday at 2 and 6; Sunday at 2. Nathan Bishop school in Providence. Performed by Jump! dance company)

Back home. More wrapping. 

Back to school. Ice chunks on street now melted into slushy puddles. Silver boots hold up surprisingly well. School Christmas show. 

Stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee for big kid, snack for little one. On to Polar Express rehearsal. 

Sam and I continue on to Gogo's for complicated car thing. 

Back home. Bake three dozen madeleines for Polar Express bake sale. 

Sam and I go to a holiday party where I drink champagne and eat cheese and have holiday fun. 

9PM in bed with an amazing hot toddy (recipe courtesy of Prune in NYC), latest Top Chef, and Annabelle. 

Tomorrow: repeat, sort of. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What's It All About?

I'm blown away by this show I saw last night, a reimagining of Burt Bacharach songs arranged by Kyle Riabko (who is a genius, methinks). It was followed by the best hot toddy on the planet at Prune (and radishes with salt and butter, and braised lamb shank, and roasted broccoli, and an amazing Cote de Rhone). The only disappointment? No cast recording. 


Oh! And Climb and Swirl cowl finally 13.5 inches. Which means finished!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

City sidewalks, pretty sidewalks...

...dressed in holiday style, in the air there's a feeling of Christmas! 

I love seeing all the Christmas trees on every corner here in NYC. Love their smell in the cold air. Even loved yesterday's snowfall. 

Burgers with a dear friend. Wine with cousins. The wonderful play BAD JEWS at the Roundabout. Dinner at Barbuto (raw Brussels sprout salad with hazelnuts and pecorino, roast chicken, and those potatoes I love so much). 

This is a much needed break, doing things I love with people I love in the city I love. 

Came at the right time too. Everyone out there who has experienced deep grief knows the holidays have a way of slamming you. I was starting to get pretty blue, felt that grief rising up. Oh! How I miss Gracie! 

So I've been knitting. A lot. Reading a lot. Trying to take care of myself. Grief is so powerful, and I felt it tugging at me, pulling me down. The tsunami brings back not just losing Grace, but my father who I miss every day, my brother gone longer now than we had him. And with that, old hurts surface too until you find yourself watching every episode of Scandal, your body feeling like it's held down with stones. Or knitting until your fingers ache. 

But Christmas and the love of family and friends, the promise of baking cookies, Seven Fishes, smiles on everyone's face when they open presents, the big trip ahead, beginning finally a new novel, and so much more help pull me through once again. 

Today: the Union Square Christmas Market. Matinee of Betrayal. Cocktails with cousins. Burt Bacharach play. Dinner at Prune. 

In the air there's a feeling of Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dashing through the snow

...on a warm and cozy train to NYC. Three days of theater, shopping and good eating! Snow falling in a blustery way, making it fun to look out the window from time to time as I knit. Yes. Still the Climb and Swirl cowl. 3 1/2 more inches to go. 

When I arrive, lunch with someone special. Then hitting Calypso and maybe rustling up an Irish coffee before seeing Betrayal followed by dinner at Barbuto. 

Tomorrow a matinee, then the play about Burt Bacharach, and dinner at Prune. 

All a reward for a hard working fall. 


Sunday, December 15, 2013


After over three months of travel, readings, talks, teaching, conferences, school visits, book signings, and fundraisers I am finally home to stay. (Sort of). 

Today, I intend to stay in this cozy bed with its new plaid flannel bedding as long as possible, reading the Sunday NYT and eating blueberry scones in my most worn pair of (martini decorated) Jammie's. When I finally get up, I'm going to wrap Christmas presents while I listen to the new bio FOSSE on tape. 

Then my favorite chore: laundry! I love to fold warm laundry. Especially when in between loads I can knit and watch cooking shows. 

A batch of turkey tetrazzini will get made and eaten at some point today. 

Big big sigh. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Norwich Bookstore rocks!

What an incredible event last night at the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, VT! A packed house full of knitters and readers. A cozy room at the Norwich Inn down the street. A snowfall so perfect in the moonlight it felt like Camelot. 

Would love to stay home and best tonight but a party awaits me. Have to put on my black sparkly dress and some eye make up and head out very soon. 

Dreaming of making the African peanut soup from Joshua's in Woodstock, NY. So if we get the snow predicted I'm taking out my stockpot! Also have the fixings ready for turkey tetrazzini. 

Otherwise, I'll be at my old stomping ground, the West Warwick Library at 10AM on Saturday. Lunch after with old pals and another friend's birthday party that night. Sunday, if no snow, another birthday party on the Cape at lunch and an evening discussing THE OBITUARY WRITER that night. 

And, still knitting the climb and swirl cowl: http://www.loopknits.com/2010/10/28/hannah-yarn-and-the-climb-and-swirl-cowl/

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Moonlight in Vermont

Off to Norwich, VT and the Norwich Bookstore where I'll be reading tonight at 7. Hope to see you there!

A wonderful night last night at the Providence Public Library with John Searles:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My holiday love story

When you're asked to write an essay on a particular theme, it's surprising where that takes you. Here, my essay on the theme of a book I've given for the holiday:

Tonight, Providence! Tomorrow Vermont!

As the tours for THE OBITUARY WRITER and KNITTING YARNS wind down, I'm so grateful for all the loving support from fans both knitters and not. Happy to be at the Providence Public Library tonight at 7 with John Searles and at the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, VT tomorrow night at 7. 

With both the tours and my class finished, I look forward to three days of theater, eating out, and shopping in NYC next week. A weekend of Polar Express with Annabelle in her white tutu. Lots and lots of reading. Lots and lots of knitting. Working on our jigsaw puzzle. Cooking and baking with Sam. All the love and warmth that comes with the holidays. 

And then in January turning my attention to writing my new novel!

Until then, still basking in all my birthday wishes, and my dinner with friends at Babbo. 

Knitting up a climb and swirl cowl in neon blue now as Amtrak takes me through snowy CT toward home. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

We are stardust! We are golden!

That's right! Heading to Woodstock tomorrow for my event at The Golden Notebook at 4 with the ever fabulousMartha  Frankel and KNITTING YARNS! Excited to see so many Woodstock friends. If you are in the area, please bring your knitting! 

Also excited that my article on hunting the Northern Lights is in the WSJ this weekend! Read here: http://m.us.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303670804579234082500241604?mobile=y

Orange dishrag almost done!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

John Searles and me! December 10 in Providence!

I am so excited for this event next week at the downtown Providence Public Library! John was my student at NYU about a million years ago, and this is the first time we are doing an event together! Hosted by Robin Kall, aka Reading with Robin, things will get rolling at 6:30. John's new novel is Help For The Haunted, and I'll be talking about KNITTING YARNS and THE OBITUARY WRITER. 

I'm so delighted that KNITTING YARNS. Is flying off the shelves! Already in a second printing, it makes a great holiday gift for knitters and readers. Contributors like Anita Shreve, Elizabeth Berg, Sue Grafton, Andre Dubus lll, Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett, and more; four stars from People Magazine; and 5 original patterns by Helen Bingham make it even more special. For me, it's a labor of love: working with writers I adore on essays about one of my favorite things. 

If you can come on December 10, email Robin at: robin@readingwithrobin.com for tickets and details!

PS Speaking of knitting, just finished arm warmers for Auntie Junie and am busily knitting a few dishcloths while I wait for yarn for a cowl to arrive!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tonight at Slater Mill in Pawtucket, RI

Built in 1793, the Old Slater Mill was the first successful factory in the US. It was dedicated exclusively to the production of cotton thread until 1829. Can you think of a better place for a KNITTING YARNS event???

Tonight at 6:30 contributors Taylor Polites, Elizabeth Searles, Helen Bingham, and yours truly will be there to talk about all things knitting. Bring your yarn and needles and join us!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Loving Buffalo!

What a great event at Larkin Square and The Filling Station here in Buffalo. Got to gaze at Lake Erie. And see the birthplace of grain elevators. And so much more. Full of wine and pizza and good cheer. 

Tomorrow night: come to Slater Mill in Pawtucket, RI. Taylor Polites, Helen Bingham, Elizabeth Searles, and I will be there to celebrate KNITTING YARNS. Can you think of a better place???

Shuffling Off to Buffalo

Excited to get on that Jet Blue flight this afternoon that will zoom me to Buffalo and Larkin Square. They have a dynamite Author's Series and I'm delighted to be a part of it. 5PM today. http://larkinsquare.com/the-larkin-square-author-series/

Monday, December 2, 2013

Yarn bombing!

What an amazing day I had in Duxbury, MA. Not only did I spend over an hour at The Wool Basket (knitters: go there!) talking to people, signing KNITTING YARNS, and touching gorgeous yarn, I also signed up for their block a month class and left with the dreamiest yarn to knit my blanket. OK. I'm 6 months behind, but am going to class for the 7th block in a few weeks and will slowly catch up! Beth is amazing! 

Taylor Polites met me there and we continued onward to the library where Brooke from Westwinds Bookstore and Carol from the library were waiting along with contributors Marianne Leone and Anne D. LeClaire and a packed auditorium. I love events in Duxbury. Brooke and Carol really know how to make everything work. 

Later, dinner at Patrizia's in Plymouth, one of my favorite Italian restaurants anywhere. 

And the icing on the cake? They had yarn bombed the library!!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

On my way to Duxbury with Taylor Polites!

Can't wait to get to The Wool Basket at noon and then on to the Merry Room at the library at 2 with Taylor Polites, Marianne Leone, Anne D. LeClaire, and KNITTING YARNS!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope your day is full of friends and family, turkey and all the trimmings, good books and lots of yarn and love!


Sunday, November 24, 2013


It is very nice to step off a plane into 80 degree weather and see palm trees and ocean. Very nice indeed. 

The Miami Book Fair is one of my favorite events, writers everywhere I turn, in elevators and around every corner. Great to spend time with old friends and to meet new ones as well as doing a little stargazing. 

If you are in Miami, I'll be at the Fair all day on Sunday. At 11, John Dufresne, Joyce Maynard and Martha Frankel will join me to talk about KNITTING YARNS. Then at 4 I'll be on a panel for THE OBITUARY WRITER with writers Amity Gaige and Kathleen Kent. 

No rest for the weary: I fly home right afterward. Hopefully I can rustle up a Cuban sandwich before getting on that plane!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tonight! Center For Fiction with Elissa Schappell!

Ann Hood & Elissa Schappell

On November 20 we're presenting Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting. The event celebrates a new essay collection edited by Hood, with contributions from 27 great writers, including Schappell. Want to know why they're great? Hood and Schappell have both published original short stories in our magazine, The Literarian. Check out "Hum" by Ann Hood (think houseguests from hell) and "Elephant" by Elissa Schappell. Both deliver an emotional wallop, in the best way. Now do you want to hear what Hood and Schappell have to say about the intersection of literature and knitting? Of course you do! So RSVP.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Titcomb's in Sandwich, MA

What a gorgeous day here in NYC yesterday. Practically balmy, with bright sunshine, a day that demanded I get outside and walk. So walk I did, enjoying the West Village streets and Union Square and lower Fifth Avenue. Still managed to get my writing time in. And three episodes of Scandal. Before my wonderful class and vino and brussel sprout salad with my chum. 

Cooler today but a bright sunny one for my train ride home, where I'll pick up my car and head to East Sandwich and Titcomb's with dear friend and KNITTING YARNS contributor Anne D. LeClaire. If you are on or near Cape Cod, I hope to see you there!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rainy days and Mondays

Fell asleep last night watching the rain and mist out my bedroom window, thinking it looked like London out there. Woke to more of the same, which of course leads me to want to snuggle deeper beneath the covers. Alas, it's Monday so no snuggling for me. Off to an early train to NYC and lunch with one of my favorite people, then an afternoon devoted to writing before I teach tonight. 

It has been a tough few days here. On Friday my beloved uncle died, just a year after my aunt. I was lucky to have writer friends hold down the fort at a KNITTING YARNS event at Newtonville Books so I could see him Thursday night. And lucky that a few other events could be rescheduled so I could devote myself to family time. But such sadness fills me, even as I experience so much enthusiasm for KNITTING YARNS, with wonderful events in York and Portland, Maine and yesterday here in Providence. 

Upcoming events at Titcomb's in Sandwich on the Cape Tuesday; the Center for Literary Fiction in NYC on Wednesday; and Wellesley Books in Wellesley, MA on Thursday. Then off to Miami and the Miami Book Fair this weekend. I hope to see you at one of these!

No surprise that I've knit two Avery hats from Loop Yarns and am half done with a Hannah hat, also a Loop Yarns kit. Next up, cabled arm warmers. Knitting continues to hold its comforting magic. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

KNITTING YARNS and I are off to Boston

That is, after I lounge in my big bed here in Portland, drinking coffee until they kick me out. I love this city, and plan on shopping and eating lunch here before pointing the Mini south for Boston. 

Tonight, contributors Elizabeth Searle, Suzanne Strempek Shea, and Marianne Leone will join me at Newtonville Books at 7. Bostonians, please come and hear us read about all things knitting (which means, of course, all things in life)!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Onward to Portland, Maine!

Cousin Gina and I are tucked under lots of covers here at the Harbor Inn in York, Maine, where it's a chilly 23 degrees. Drinking coffee and looking out at the ocean. A lovely morning after a great visit to The Yarn Sellar last night, followed by dinner here at the inn. 

Soon we will raid the continental breakfast downstairs before I head north to Portland. Please come at 6 tonight to Harmon's & Barton's at 584 Congress St if you are in the hood!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

KNITTING YARNS and I go to Maine!

Watching the wet snow fall as Amtrak slowly chugs its way from NYC to Providence. A great night last night with my wonderful class and now heading home to pick up my suitcase and drive north. 

Tonight I will be at Yarn Sellars at 6 in York, Maine. I love Carrie and that store! You will too!

Tomorrow night I will be in fabulousPortland, Maine at  Harmon's & Barton's, 584 Congress St, at 6. Thanks to Barbara Kelly for organizing what promises to be a fun event. (Anything Barbara touches is fun!) plus, I get to have lunch with two of my favorite writer buddies before and dinner and a sleepover with my dear college buddy. Sigh. I always love going to Portland. 

Thursday I turn the Mini Cooper southward to Newtonville Books where I'll be joined by other KNITTING YARNS contributors. Details:

Newtonville Books
With Elizabeth Searle, Suzanne Strempek Shea, and Anne Le Claire

Sleepover with Cousin Gina in Charlestown and then home Friday in time to unpack and repack and continue south to Long Island and the Williston Park Library where contributor Janice Eidus will join me at 7 PM. 

I'll snooze in the NYC pad and sleep late Saturday before heading to one of my favorite towns: Woodstock, NY, one of my favorite bookstores: The Holden Notebook, and joined by one of my favorite people, contributor Martha Frankel at 4PM. 

A dinner party there with Woodstock pals, then the long trek home. 

But that trek is worth it because at the end will be contributors Taylor Polites and Helen Bingham (knitting goddess who designed the patterns for KNITTING YARNS) at Books on the Square in Providence at 5. 

A busy yarn filled, friend filled week! Details are under EVENTS on my website. 

Now, I'm going to put my earbuds in, turn on the New Yorker podcast Page Turner, and knit my whitecaps cowl...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Big Fish

My week here in NYC has been a wonderful blur of catching up--with friends, with reading, with deadlines, with editors, with knitting and Broadway shows. Last night saw Big Fish with my crush Norbert Leo Butz in another amazing performance. Critics panned it, and I think they're nuts. My trio cried through most of Act II. 

Today getting to see the real Girl With the Pearl Earring at the Frick, then to the Lee Woodruff fundraiser where I finally finally get to see The Boss!!!

Finished the Avery hat, which is awaiting its pompom. 

But can't start whitecaps cowl yet. Here's why:

Monday, November 4, 2013

New York, New York

Arrived yesterday en famille so one of us--not me!--could run part of the NYC marathon. Annabelle and I headed to the Brooklyn Flea in Williamsburg, but couldn't cross the street due to aforementioned marathon. No problem. Two hungry girls found solace with Chinese food delivered back at the apartment and some knitting time before we met up with the boys for a matinee of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. Go see it!!!!

(Knitting the Avery hat from Loop knits for AB and I love this pattern! So cute! Will post a picture when it's done)

No words can describe the originality and sheer brilliance of this play. And the actor who looked so familiar? I realized he gave Sam a tour of Juilliard back in college audition days! 

Left the theater and walked right into Barbra Streisand leaving The Glass Menagerie, Jim Brolin by her side. As a Marcus Welby MD fan that excited me but not as much as seeing Barbra Streisand up close! 

Turned down 7th Avenue and there was Victor Garber, he of Titanic and Alias. All in all, kind of a perfect NYC day. Finished up with dinner at Barbuto with my old pal, and that chicken just makes me happy. The potatoes even more so. 

And now this morning I get to stay in bed as long as I like. Nowhere to be for the first time in way too long. Coffee and a pile of reading by my side. Sounds of the city in the background. And the promise of hitting my fave knitting store later along with a few other shops. 

My family has had a hard week health wise. Lots of scares and one big serious surgery. I'm glad to cocoon today, to be quiet and read and knit. To smile from time to time over my Barbra encounter. To listen to my city. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

New events listed on my website!

Just updated for fall and hopefully I'm coming to a bookstore or yarn shop near you!


I'm excited to be on the train to Newark (even though it meant getting up at 4:30, which meant I woke up at 3:30 afraid of oversleeping) to tape the Audible version of KNITTING YARNS! I have three more days scheduled for next week as well, since this takes a lot of time. But what a fun thing to do!

Hopefully there will be some time at the end of the day for a nap...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

On my way to Bestsellers Cafe in Medford, MA

Annabelle and I arrived home happy and a bit weary from our week on the road for The Treasure Chest series. Gogo had meatballs and sauce waiting and I cooked up the pasta I'd bought in Sicily. With the Sicilian wine Cousin Gina added to the dinner we were happier still. 

Stayed up until the bitter end watching the World Series...

Now a glorious day to drive to Medford and Bestsellers Cafe for 2 today. 

Hosting a dinner party tonight and in the mood for beef tenderloin with Gorgonzola sauce. Thinking of all the yummy fall vegetables I can roast up too. 

Started to knit the Avery hat from Loop Knits. It knits up fast! Even if you drop a stitch in row 1, knit an inch in seed stitch before you realize it, take the whole thing out and start again...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

WRITING THROUGH GRIEF workshop, December 6-8

So many times when I teach non-fiction writing, people writing about grief get lost among the other topics of coming of age, travel tales, cooking stories, love stories, etc. 

and so many times people who haven't experienced grief don't know how to talk about it. 

In this workshop, we will work on just the topic of grief. No one will tell you to "get over it."  No one will not understand. You will work on how to write your grief story in a safe environment with people who get it. 

And: the food is great too!

Conference begins with cocktail hour at 5 on Friday, December 6. We will have our first session after dinner that night. 

Saturday morning we will have a session and then free time to write. Our next session will be Saturday late afternoon and our final one will be Sunday morning. 

Whispering Pines Conference Center is a gorgeous place in the woods on a lake. Great place to write, think, walk...

It's in Exeter, RI, accessible by Amtrak to Kingston, RI or Providence, RI. By plane to Providence. Or by car. We'll pick you up at the airport or train and get you back there on Sunday. 

I understand their is another group meeting there that weekend and for some reasons massages will be available!

I hope to see you there!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sheep and Wool Festival

Happy to be heading home and going to the Sheep and Wool Festival in Millbrook, NY this weekend to sign copies of KNITTING YARNS! See you there, knitters and yarn lovers!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hello Seattle

Sitting happily on an Alaska Airlines flight, Seattle bound. Hoping to hit Mario Batali's father's sandwich place, if there's time. 

Looking forward to reading tonight at 7 at Third Place Books. Hope you can join me, Seattle friends!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Goodbye SFO, Hello LAX!

Sitting at Perry's in SFO eating an omelet, remembering that Perry's (in the city) is where I'd go for those Ramos gin fizzes!

I'll be in Pasadena tonight at Vroman's at 7. Please come if you're in the area!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

SFO Bound!

On my bumpy way to JFK, heading for San Francisco and tonight's event at Book Passage in Corte Madera (a favorite bookstore of mine). Watching the sun rise reminded me of so many such early morning taxi rides to JFK, me in my Ralph Lauren TWA uniform, black pumps, lipsticked and scarf just so. I did the NY-SFO route often. Coming back once, so long ago, I met a guy in 47F who became my longtime boyfriend. He was moving to NYC that day, and much of my love for the city came from us exploring it together. Indian food on E. 6th Street. Wandering the Strand. Seeing True West with very young John Malkovitch and Gary Sinese. 
And memories of so many SFO layovers. Ramos gin fizzes on Union Street. Irish coffees at the Buena Vista with my buddy Matt. Crab Louis and Hunan food and Anchor Steam beer. Long foggy walks. Peet's coffee. Cucumber soap. Cody's bookstore. 
This is why I always feel excited heading to San Francisco. Memories wash over me and make me smile. Even at 6AM! Funny. I always imagined I'd live there I love it so much. Who knows? Maybe someday I will. Until then, happy to be heading west. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Coming to the west coast for paperback of THE OBITUARY WRITER!

Please join me, West Coast Friends!

Tuesday, October 15
Book Passage
Corte Madera, CA

Wednesday, October 16
Pasadena, CA

Thursday, October 17
Third Place Books
Seattle, WA
7 PM

Friday, October 11, 2013

Alice Munro wins Nobel Prize!

And I've been grinning since I heard. I read her way back in the late 70s and early 80s and never stopped. 

Since I'm talking about writers, have you read Mavis Gallant? Her short stories are wonderful! Even better, listen to them read on the New Yorker podcast. You will fall in love with her writing. 

I guess I have short stories on the mind because my next book is a collection of interconnected stories. Stay tuned for more on that. 

On my way home from Chicago and feel like doing the Fred Flintstone to get there faster. All kids home for the weekend, plus our fabulous former exchange student Willy here from Germany. 

Big name game planned for tomorrow night. Possible pumpkins will get carved. Lentil soup is happening. And hopefully pumpkin squares. Oh! And pumpkin pancakes. 

Hurry up car!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


THE OBITUARY WRITER is just out in paperback! And it looks beautiful!

And KNITTING YARNS got a rave PW review! Yay! It hits stores on November 11. 

Had an incredible night at the ART in Boston last night. AliceHoffman's annual fundraiser for the Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital with Alice, Jodi Picoult, Lee Woodruff, Ann Leary, Elinor Lipman, Gregory McGuire and me. Such a great event. And such an honor to be included. Alice's new book, a memoir about being a breast cancer survivor is just out. Buy it for all your girlfriends. 

I'm doing lots of promotion. For The Treasure Chest series. And the paperback. And the anthology. Racking up those frequent flyer points! But feeling a bit travel weary. Today in the line at Starbucks at Logan airport, 4:45am, a young woman told me she loved my dress. Perfect for traveling, she said. And I agreed. Do you know what make it is? I told her it was Eileen Fisher and she looked horrified. But my grandmother wears Eileen Fisher! I can't wear it! 

Reading and loving Elena Ferrante's My Beautiful Friend. And knowing it's the first in a trilogy makes me happy, like the St. Albyn books did. 

Best find: The New Yorker podcasts of contemporary writers reading stories from the archives. My favorite so far is Margaret Atwood reading Mavis Gallant. Listening while I finish that second Mara shawl and wait for my yarn for the whitecaps cowl from Purl Soho and for twoAvery hats from Loop. Oh I miss Fresh Purls and Helen and Karen in Providence! But a party is in the works in December. 

Calling my flight! Onward!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

On Writing

Just reread Stephen King's ON WRITING and am feeling inspired. It's a terrific book. It's 5am and I'm already on a flight leaving EWR! 

Busy week in Oklahoma City for THE TREASURE CHEST. Cutest power point ever made. Can't wait to use it and see reactions. 

And can't wait to begin Elena Ferrante's MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, finish that second Mara shawl, and sleep! Hopefully will be tucked in by 8 tonight. Until then, bad United Airlines coffee while I zoom across the country...

Saturday, September 28, 2013


What a perfect autumn day! I've been lucky enough to have had two events on two consecutive days on Cape Cod, and was able to enjoy the drive there and back (twice!) with the gorgeous views of water and changing leaves.

Yesterday was at the Dennis Library was made even more special when I got a true surprise from an old buddy showing up. I almost had a heart attack when I saw him standing there! We even got to have a quick glass of chardonnay before I had to get back to Providence. So often here, and in our daily lives, we are caught off guard by something sad, or hurtful. But yesterday as I drove home I was all warm and fuzzy with this kind of surprise, one that you really never thought would happen and that opens up all kinds of possibility.

Another big surprise there was that they are making a brick walkway with the names of all the writers who have appeared in their Author's Series and it was really special to see my brick! What a great idea! And a great series!

On Thursday I spoke at an Author's Tea, which is a wonderful library fundraiser. i was delighted to take Gogo with me, and share cucumber sandwiches and macarons as well as lots of good cheer.

On this beautiful day, one of my favorite Libras (see last post) and I are shopping for her birthday dinner and then spending the afternoon making our famous bolognese ragu. Much food, wine, and friendship is on the schedule for this evening when we share that bolognese with a dozen other people!

I am treating myself to the gorgeous yarns from Purl Soho to knit up their Whitecaps cowl, my next knitting project now that the second Mara shawl is almost done! I think the story that goes with the pattern won me over as much as the beautiful cowl:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Libras

I admit that when I was planning my kids, I thought about astrology. I can't help it. As a teenager Linda Goodman's Sun Signs was like my bible. And I have found it to hold true. I'm a Sagittarius. And I get along best with fire and air signs. Somehow I managed to create a family of fire and air: Aquarius, two Aries (Sam was supposed to be a Taurus, which would NOT have worked! He cooperated by coming early), a Leo, and my Libra Grace. Two of my favorite most beloved people in my life are also Libras: September 26 and 28. So Grace coming on September 24 was perfect in the birthday lineup. (She too came early, due date was October 1). September 24, 1996 was also F. Scott Fitzgerald's 100th birthday-- so all around, Gracie had the perfect birthday. 

And as I begin the march into fall, my Libras all having their birthdays, I am relieved I got through that first one. I never know what makes grief rise up and punch you in the stomach. But this year it sure did. I was comforted by family, by shell pasta with butter and Parmesan, by Sicilian wine and blueberry pie and memories of my beautiful funny daughter. 

Now the other Libra birthdays come. Saturday GJ and I will make her birthday feast. We'll make a bolignese that will cook all day. And gather friends around my dining room table. We'll celebrate love and family, and my beloved Libras, those with me and those gone. 

Fall is my favorite time of year. The chill in the air has me browsing knitting patterns all of this early morning, dreaming of cowls and cables and needles in my hands. I can see red and orange leaves in the trees outside my bedroom window. I want to cook and read and wrap myself in a warm blanket. Libra marks the beginning of all these things I love. Happy birthday, to mine: Gracie, Gina, and GJ. Let autumn begin!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Watching the sun rise

On a day like today, when I have to give a lecture and a reading, I still get enough butterflies to wake me up early to obsess about said lecture and reading. But then I get to see this. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I believe in kindness. Also in mischief...

Most of you know that is a quote from the ever amazing Mary Oliver. I have spent this morning re reading her poetry in honor of her birthday and it's a good way to start the day. 

I'm here in NYC, listening to my favorite city sounds, drinking coffee, and organizing the work I have to do today--most of which will be done on the train back to RI. So much to do before I leave for Sicily on Thursday to teach at Bread Loaf there. I am super excited, since my last trip to Sicily was kind of hellish. Don't ask. Suffice it to say I left several days early! 

Getting so many good emails and such good news about KNITTING YARNS, my anthology of writers writing about knitting. Non knitters will adore it too! Contributors include Barbara Kingsolver, Sue Grafton, Anita Shreve, Elizabeth Berg, and many more! Pub date is November 11. 

Ok. Work work work. 

But I leave you with this:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?” 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First day of fourth grade!

Chocolate croissants in the oven. Purple dress and silver sparkly shoes ready. Lunch packed. School supplies gathered. This mom is going to miss my buddy. But boy did we have a summer together!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Back on the grid

September: new pencils, new shoes, school clothes, book covers made out of brown paper bags. For me, September is beginning again. End of summer. I love the chill of fall, the first red leaf, the first fire in the fire pit. I make promises in September. I make schedules. I get back to things I've let slide. I read more. I write more. I start new knitting projects. 

This September 1, I awoke to loud thunder and bolts of lightning flashing across the rooftops. Both kids sleeping under this roof. Gogo's 82nd birthday party of all you can eat chicken at Wright's Farm at noon. 

Seventeen Septembers ago I was waiting for Grace to be born. The promise of fall and a new baby. I remember that every September 1, how full of hope and joy we can be. I steel myself too, for the inevitable memories that overtake me this beautiful month. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


OhFrom Block Island, where I had a GREAT event (not to mention a long overdue day on the beach with my beach chair at the water's edge and my New Yorkers nice and soggy) to Canada and back. Too much! But all worth the hours and hours in the car, all the steaks I ate and wine I drank and student mss I read. Tomorrow off to Cape Cod, home Thursday, and staying there until I leave for Italy on the 18th!!!

Oh. And how about this?!

Italy on my mind

Not a bad thing to wake me up at 4 am, that's for sure! Mind too busy checking off items on my to do list before we leave on Sunday. Today, getting Annabelle's palate expander put in, slogging through financial aid labyrinth, taxes, and stuff had my brain spinning. So I grabbed GJ and headed out into the rain for a visit to Dish, my favorite store here located in Warren, RI. (Go!!!!) Nothing like a 25% off sale when you're having some shopping therapy! An hour chatting with our favorite owners and trying on clothes (ok, and buying some too) lifted spirits and cleared my head. Dropped some homemade pesto at Gogo's, then home for some cooking therapy, which I admit works even better than shopping therapy. Laurie Colwin's tomato pie and, since our grill died, burgers on the grill pan. Have you made that recipe? I'm going to post it here. So easy and yummy. Don't be scared away by the mayo/lemon juice stuff. Somehow it works. If you don't know about Laurie Colwin, please read her. She was a columnist for Gourmet magazine and her books HOME COOKING and MORE HOME COOKING are delightful. She also wrote fiction, and when I was an aspiring writer living in Greenwich Village, I hoofed it over to Three Lives bookstore in a cold icy rain to hear her and Deborah Eisenberg read their short stories that were in The New Yorker that week. I arrived late, or just on time as they hadn't yet started but there were no seats, so I was directed to sit literally at their feet. The smell of steam heat and wet wool. Those two women writers. All of it added up to create magic, and somehow I left there knowing I could do it. I could be a writer. Sadly, Laurie Colwin died young. But I think of her every summer when the tomatoes are red and juicy and the basil hangs in abundance in our yard. 


Friday, August 9, 2013

A writer's work

I often get asked how many hours a day I write. Seems like an easy question, but so much of what I do is actually not writing. I try for two hours a day, but travel, book signings, talks, and book clubs--all of which I love doing--make up a lot of my workday. But I get to meet great people and hear their stories, always a humbling and thrilling experience. I've been at this long enough now that I know some of my fans! What a treat when I look up and see a familiar face, like Wednesday at the Brewster Bookstore on Cape Cod. Notice the great table, covered with authors' signatures. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cape Codders!

No, not the cocktail! People on or near Cape Cod today! I'll be at the Brewster Bookstore from 10-noon. Come say hi!

Spent a great afternoon here yesterday, eating lobster rolls and building sand castles. 

Summer day, summer day, summer day...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Enjoying NYC

Even though it was tough waking up for that early train after driving back from Ithaca Sunday night (traffic jam on the Mass Pike kindly added an hour or two to the ride!), as soon as my feet hit NYC asphalt I was happy. Annabelle and I met up with fabulous Erica, who whisked AB off to play in water and ride the carousel at Chelsea Piers. I went midtown for lunch and meeting with my editor, then walked back with a stop at Calypso (time to start thinking about fall, and to that end got a yummy brown skirt and some cream and brown tops). AB spent the evening with her buddy Ella while Ella's parents and I hopped over to the Wyeth Hotel in Williamsburg to catch the sun setting from the roof top bar. Two Hemingway's daiquiris later we made our way to dinner at Diner. Hipster waitpeople actually write the menu on your butcher paper table top. Food was good! Hipness forgiven, even bemused. 

Now AB continues to sleep. Coffee is brewing. She is off to more playgrounds and I am off to more meetings. Rumor has it I might be meeting Giada DeLaurentis this afternoon. Stay tuned. 

Haircut. Chinese take out dinner. A perfect NYC visit. Big sigh. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rainy ride to Ithaca

Lying here in bed listening to the rain, reading the NYT, drinking a very good cup of coffee, and willing myself to get up and make the tarragon chicken salad to complete the picnic I'm bringing up to Ithaca. Already packed the fixings for spaghetti carbonara, baked a strawberry rhubarb pie, bought a coffee cake, and packed up tomato mozzarella salad, cucumber dill salad, and toasted orzo salad, plus double chocolate cookies. All of this food equals one dinner tonight, breakfast, and aforementioned picnic. I got a condo on Groupon with a kitchen and 6 tix to a waterpark, so not only do we get to see Sam in Othello (picnic!) with Ithaca Shakespeare, but we also get to splash around and eat. Lots. 

Also need to pack a weekend bag. 

But oh this rain sounds so nice on my roof...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Home Sweet Home continued

Well, I posted the picture of Gogo and Gus and couldn't continue typing. Sigh. 

Anyway, I love newborn babies. Love them! And so had a happy afternoon cuddling Gus. And then came home and made a yummy dinner of salmon (smear with mayo, Dijon, lime juice, and fresh tarragon), my kale Caesar salad, and snap peas followed by berries a la Annabelle. Then watched first two episodes of House of Cards. Officially hooked!

Off to the Cape for two days. This afternoon a lobster and champagne lunch with the fabulous Anne LeClaire and the lucky raffle winners who won us (and the lunch!). Tomorrow an authors' luncheon hosted by Where the Sidewalk Ends. 

And on Friday it's off to Ithaca to see Sam in Othello. Might even finish my second Mara shawl on that long round trip journey!

Home Sweet Home

IIJet lag is working its bad juju on me--I'm either up until 3AM and sleeping till 10 or falling asleep in my dinner and up at 4. Guess which one it is this morning???

But the birds are chirping and the sun is shining so I decided to use the quiet time to catch up on all the things that need catching up on when you've been without wifi for two weeks. 

I had a great event Monday night at the Holy Trinity Church in Tiverton. And then yesterday took Gogo to visit Gus:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Gazing at the moon

...which is perfectly framed in my window. Almost full. And beautiful. 

Are you homesick? Annabelle asked me as we lay side by side tonight. No, I admitted. Our little cabin here in beautiful Port Townsend, doing puzzles and reading and running by the water. It reminds me of how the simple things make me so happy. I always get these same feelings when I spend time by the water. I have written one good essay and one good short story here these two weeks, taught classes and read and talked and thought my thoughts. It has been lovely. 

Sunday home, where hopefully the heat will have broken. And hopefully I can bring some of this simple pleasure back with me. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Port Townsend, Week 2

I am just pinching myself that I am here in WA with my jeans jacket on and missing the heat wave back home for another week! New workshop group started yesterday and it's always fun to face a new bunch if writers, observe group dynamics, read new stories, tackle writing problems. 

Annabelle is having a ball, exploring beaches and bunkers and coffee houses. We've discovered a new game called Quattro that one of us (ok, me) is addicted to. And we've managed to finish one jigsaw puzzle and start a new one with the help of a closer poet and our fearless babysitter. 

Cafeteria food growing old week 2, so tonight: pizza from town and some Pinot noir. Tomorrow is the whiskey and pie party, another fabulous combo!

Our whale watch on Sunday had us find seven orcas!

Here's the male. 

I've even managed to finish a short story here, which right now I'm liking a lot. And I've started an essay. So nice to write with a view of the water...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What's not to love

When I wake up here in Port Townsend and look out the window, I see a strip of fog over the water. So beautiful. Some afternoons that fog lifts to reveal tall snow capped mountains. Add a family of deer frolicking in front of my cabin. A high blue sky. And my happy sigh. 

Last night we ventured into town for dinner, after shopping. Of course there is an amazing yarn shop on Water Street where I had to be dragged out. An entire room just of knitting needles! At another store I picked up some Jane Austen band aids. Need I say more?

Here is my neighbor:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Greetings from beautiful chilly foggy Port Townsend, WA

I had forgotten just how gorgeous it is here. Well, it's been about 30 years since I traveled around these parts, out in the San Juan Islands and here in Port Townsend. I was smitten then and am again now. So far I've been here in the state park where the writers conference is held and haven't had a chance to get into town yet ( tomorrow I will!). But the deer everywhere, the morning fog, the bay and mountains and evergreens...all enough to keep this girl happy. Oh. And it's chilly here! That heat and humidity in New England is no friend of mine. So I am loving the air. Loving everything. I have a terrific workshop. Good friends teaching too. And Annabelle with me thanks to the tireless Erica. Big happy sigh. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I've been getting lots of emails asking for my upcoming teaching schedule. Thanks for your interest!

FYI, my summer classes in Port Townsend, Sicily, and Tuscany are full.

But there's lots coming up. Please email me at amhood@gmail.com if you would like more information on any of these!

The Provincetown Fine Arts Workshop, online:
September 30-October 25

MA residents are eligible for a scholarship if they apply before September 6!


December 6-8

Whispering Pines Conference Center
Exeter, RI


Eckerd College Writers Conference
January 18-25
St. petersburg, FL

THE FIRST 10 PAGES: workshopping your beginning pages of fiction and/or memoir
January 31- February 2

Whispering Pines Conference Center
Exeter, RI

Summer 2014:

The Aspen Writers Conference, June
Tin House, July

Tuscany Writers Conference 2014
Date TBA

It's a boy!

August Lloyd (middle name after my brother and my dad) Goldberg. We waited all day, but the little guy took his time. Gogo and I are heading to Boston this afternoon to meet him. 

Spent yesterday afternoon making soup. I believe in soup. For this hot weather I made a gallon of gazpacho, a gallon of vichyssoise, and a gallon of corn chowder. Enough to feed the Goldberg's for a little while, especially in combination with all the food Gogo made! (Last night she told me we had to take her car to Boston because her cooler of food was so big)

I am also bringing cute gifts for the baby. My favorite: a pacifier with a moustache over it. Very debonair. 

Annabelle sewed a rabbit family. They are super cute. 

Welcome to the world, August!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I just got the Blogger app and am really excited!

Weddings and babies

First: News Flash:
Amazon picked THE OBITUARY WRITER as one of the top ten books this year so far!!!!!!!!!

Okay. Now that I got that out of my system...

Sitting up in bed on a sultry summer morning, the fan whirring and Annabelle sleeping beside me. Outside: gray sky, air heavy with rain. A strange few days, filled with so many different emotions. I spent the weekend in Ithaca to see Sam in HAIR! What an amazing show! Such talented performers, and such brilliant directing (ok, full disclosure...his girlfriend directed it). They performed it outside, which after seeing it in Central Park a few years ago I think is the best way to see that play. A rainy weekend, but the sun did shine in enough for the show to be outside. Only complaint about the weekend is not enough Sam time. But there never is, alas. Still, got to enjoy a picnic with all people associated with the play, and to have a souvlaki pita at the Farmer's Market.

(Coming soon to More Magazine, FYI, my essay on my smoker, a few years ago Christmas present that Sam mastered and I had to learn on my own last summer. Made some amazing smoked salmon...well, when the essay runs I'll put the link here and you can read all about it...)

Funny thing: at the hotel we were watching a show about a guy who builds tree houses and one was in Ithaca! So as we left town (we being Cousin GJ, Annabelle and me) we went to see it. Crazy! Also saw baby peacocks (peachicks?) there and snapping turtle feeding time and a butterfly garden before getting into the car for the long trek home. But those treks are numbered now that Sam has decided to transfer to NYU! He'll be studying at the Experimental Theater Workshop at Tisch starting in the fall! That means Monday night dinners with him...yay!

(Total digression here: if anyone knows of any sublets in Manhattan, preferable East Village or Lower East Side let me know? Sam is apartment hunting big time. And I can vouch for what a nice, reliable person he is!)

Anyway, we hit major traffic coming home, so that the 6 hour ride became an 8 hour ride. Cousin GJ spent too much time reading the NYT and doing the Sunday crossword puzzle. Passengers need to keep driver entertained, right??? The soundtrack to Matilda played about a zillion times. And so my mind wandered all around, until it landed on remembering that it was the anniversary of my brother Skip's death. With all my traveling this summer, I'm never sure what the actual date is. But I was calculating that when it hit me. 31 years. Yikes. And driving down the Mass Pike through torrential rain, I remembered that awful day. I was on a layover in LA (flight attendant days) and coming back from eating Mexican food I heard the phone ringing in my hotel room as I walked down the hall. Since no one ever knew where I was in those days, I knew immediately something was wrong. Picked it up and an old BF was on the other end, telling me he had very bad news, that someone had died. And I hung up on him. Twice. Before he could tell me it was Skip and that I had to make the red eye home.

I started to tremble remembering it, remembering that flight and entering the house and my father in his blue flannel shirt despite the heat, a bottle of Jack Daniels on the table. So many things I try not to remember came flooding into me. Does that ever happen to you? 31 years. But all of a sudden like yesterday. My handsome funny charismatic brother.

But then it passes. Not the grief, but the ache that makes your chest hurt. And next thing you know you're home eating pizza and drinking a really good chardonnay, then laughing in bed with your 9 year old and reading a good book and the fan is whirring and it starts to rain...

What makes this even stranger is that also this week--the 4th of July--is my father's birthday, and anyone who knows me at all knows how much I loved that man. I still go to sleep asking him for strength or advice when something really gets me down, or mad, or hurt. And I swear he comes through, even now. How he loved his birthday! I woke up every 4th of July to the sound of John Philips Sousa marches playing, loud. He'd already be drinking cold beer (and when I was old enough I'd join him, beer with breakfast) and getting food ready to grill and smoke (he built his own smoker way back). People would start arriving by 10 or 11 AM and stayed until way past midnight, for years in our backyard, but later at the beach where we'd rent a house every July. My friends. Skip's friends. Aunts and uncles and cousins and the card club ladies. Just everybody having fun. When the fireworks began, my dad always said they were for him.

And this year, sandwiched between these two dates, my niece Melissa (Skip's daughter) is having a baby boy. Today. In a couple of hours she's off to get induced, and I suspect there will be a baby born by tonight. I'll make corn chowder and vichyssoise and gazpacho to bring her so that the family can have soup any time they want it (I'm a firm believer in soup) and still get in quality baby time. How fitting that little guy is coming July 2. I think my father is working his magic again.

I'd like to end there, but in the heading I promised a wedding too. That's Saturday. In NH. My good friend Joyce Maynard is getting married and I am just so happy for her. Proof that we can find our soul mates after 50, and start new lives, and be happy. Annabelle is the flower girl. We're sharing a carriage house with my good pal Laura Lippman and her little girl. Arriving on Friday for rehearsal and pizza party. Wedding on Saturday. Lots of friends will be there, and I'm packing a case of wine and a couple newly knit wedding dishrags, plus my dear friend Francesco, and the flower girl, and heading to New Hampshire with bells on!

Let the celebrating begin!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mosquitoes the size of mangos

So we left the fjords and Anchorage behind and headed to Denali National Park. Five hours by bus to meet their bus for the long drive through the park. But when you see moose and caribou around every corner, and golden eagles flying overhead, the ride feels pretty special! We stopped for a picnic, my first indication that staying at Camp Denali meant AMAZING food! There was cake and fruit waiting for us when we arrived, and then we were escorted to Little Maude, our cabin in the woods. Idyllic really, except for the hordes of mosquitoes. I could go on and on about these mosquitoes--how huge they were, how plentiful, how nasty--but I'll spare you the whining. They did put a real dent in our experience. I was up at night swatting and spraying and smudging the room, and still woke with welts on my arms and face. If I dared go outside without my net over my face, my DEET everywhere, and my body covered up, I got eaten alive. Ok. There's the whining.

The first day we opted to skip the hike (read aforementioned description of the mosquitoes) and took a private plane around Mt. Denali instead. That was pretty cool! The afternoon was spent watching Annabelle and her new buddy frolic in the little pond while we lounged, read, and eventually cracked open a bottle of chardonnay. That was the first day in a very long time that I did not work at all. I just relaxed. No internet, no phone, and I just loved every minute. At 6 there was a little reception with yummy cheeses and then a delicious dinner. We met such great people and just enjoyed talking to everyone.

The next morning we signed on for the foray (read: easiest hike). And it is a happy blur of wildflowers and ground squirrels, and Annabelle working on her Junior Ranger activity book in time to get sworn in before we returned to camp. That's when we found out that the group ten minutes behind us encountered a grizzly bear during lunch!!!!

I will long remember the kale salad from that night's dinner, and the ribs and rice that followed, and then the rhubarb crisp. Sigh. The food.

It was a long way out the next day, but we were rewarded with several grizzly bear sightings (nice when you're on a bus!) and then once on the train a moose with two calves! It doesn't get better than that. And here's a big shout out to the Alaska Railroad and their Gold Star Service. We drank Alaskan beer and ate yummy food and Annabelle played tag with all the staff. A real delight that ride was.

And as these things go, before I knew it I was on a plane home...

Happy to be back, to eat Gogo's spaghetti and meatballs last night and then flop into bed with Annabelle reading (her: Betsy Tacy; me: the new Curtis Sittenfeld)

Hit the ground running today and am already in NYC to be on a panel at the Center for Fiction tonight.

But home tomorrow, where we are waiting for my niece Melissa to have her baby! I want her to hold off until I get back from Ithaca on Sunday, but not sure she can.

So I will be watching Sam let the sun shine in during Hair. If you are in or near that part of NY, go see it. It's free!!!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

There's no place like Homer

First, the Kachemak BayWriters Conference. Writers out there: GO! Next June.

The scenery: like a postcard. Mountains. Ocean.

The wildlife: bald eagles--babies and big guys with salmon in their talons. Puffins. Otters. One stunning sandpiper crane. More birds than I can name.

Flying in a Cessna over surreal blue glaciers and craggy mountains.

Eating: salmon. halibut. rockfish. oysters. repeat.

Local beer. Local wine. Local coffee.

My room with that view.

The writers I met! New friends!

Inspiration around every corner.

I hated to leave this place.

But I am now in Anchorage and loving a whole new kind of experience.

Today the zoo, full of rescued native animals, plus one tiger and the grave of an elephant won in a contest years ago.

Moose Tooth pizza and local beer.

Off to a salmon and steak barbecue now with new friends.

Ah! Alaska!

Friday, June 14, 2013

I wear my sunglasses at night

Happily in Homer at the Land's End Resort, which reminds me of every slightly ramshackled, totally fabulous beach hotel I've ever stayed in. Love it! I am reminded of a little place in Capitola, CA where I used to go with my old beau, and where I spent many happy days and nights. Even though I was exhausted when we landed here, that bright sunshine and my growling tummy kept me motivated to keep going. First stop Safeway (thank you, Nancy!) for supplies (read: half and half, water, and wine). Then on to dinner at the Sourdough Cafe. Grilled halibut sandwiches and local beer. Pretty heavenly. Sunglasses still on and now closing in at 10PM, we arrived on Homer spit at this perfect place. The rooms are small and designed to look lie they are on a boat, including a Murphy bed that I'll drop down when Annabelle arrives tomorrow. I begged for a small fridge (thank you person who found me one!) and chilled aforementioned supplies. Unpacked, sort of, then stood on my balcony--still with my sunglasses on at 11PM!--and stared out at the jaw dropping view: rocky beach complete with driftwood, salt water, snow capped mountains. Did someone from Hollywood set up a stage set here? It's that perfect! I fell asleep to my favorite sound of waves lapping up on shore, and woke to that and seabirds calling. I made a pot of coffee and drank it on the balcony as the fog began to dissipate. Free today until 5, so not sure what the day will hold. Near future: a walk on the beach. Breakfast. And working on a very special up close bear tour for later in the week. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Waiting in Anchorage

A long travel day but quite an enjoyable one! I was lucky enough to get upgraded to First Class and so the six hours to Seattle and then three more from there to Anchorage went by in a nice blur of dozing and knitting (that Mara shawl!) and reading the Fiction issue of The New Yorker. I was pretty wowed by the short story in it by Ed Parks called "Slide to Open" and the Personal History essay by Gary Sheyngart (totally misspelled that but hey! I've been awake since 3:30 this morning!)

I'm about to plug in my earphones and listen to the end of The Wasp Season by Denise Mina. The reader's Scottish accent has me so charmed, and Mina's writing is so good that this has become one of my great pleasures. I'm bummed that there's only one book left in the Alex Morrow series. But maybe she is working on another one (I hope!)

A cup of Pike's Place coffee and huge windows looking out on craggy snow capped mountains. Big happy sigh.

My flight to Homer leaves at 6:30. Everyone who hears that's where I'm heading gets all dreamy and gushes about how beautiful that little town is. Cannot wait to get there, though I admit my bed has the most appeal short term...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Westward, ho!

I am staring at a BIG empty suitcase that needs to be filled. With what Cousin Gina and I call our ugly clothes. Translation: hiking boots, those weird pants that are long but zip off and become (ugly) shorts, thick socks (not cute even in hot pink), floppy hat, rain gear, etc etc etc. Yes, folks, I'm going to Alaska. Which probably has most of you already laughing. I can walk a million miles on a beach or down city streets. But woods? Not so much. You will remember my (mis) adventures in Uganda. The gorilla punching me in the jungle. Me crying when I had to cross the rickety bridge across troubled waters (read: hippo infested). The hike into a crater to view chimps. Yes, yes, yes, all of it AMAZING. All of it worthwhile. But this girl is happier on a sailboat or a subway car.

Still. When you get invited to teach in GORGEOUS Homer, Alaska on Kechemak Bay, you say YES!  The town looks so beautiful. A spit of land sticking out into the ocean. Sea lions and otters. Very cool, and I am psyched. The question is why I decided to go deep into Danali National Park, stay in a cabin with an outhouse, and hike for three days? There are bears in those woods. And moose. And wolverines. I know it will be fun! I know it will be memorable! I know I will cry. Frequently. Still, Annabelle and Cousin Gina and I are heading west on Thursday. I will get my fill of salty air in Homer. Then I will don my ugly clothes and hike. No internet there, so if I come out alive I will post pictures on FB then. For now, I will pack up. And since Homer is first on the trip, many beautiful ocean-y type pictures to come. And as Cousin Gina reminded me, we slid down Incan ruins on our butts (fear of heights) in Peru. I was hidden in a tree in the Ugandan jungle to protect me from my hairy lover the gorilla. We are about to have another adventure! And despite my bellyaching, I am excited!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Let the Sun Shine In!

Seems every time I sit down to post here, it's raining! And readers of this blog know that's aok with me, but even more so because the rain will hopefully stop this heat wave. I mean, really? 95 degrees in May? I was lucky to escape the heat on Friday by going on a friend's boat. Cold wine. Cool breezes. Happy me!

But that happy jaunt made me miss our old boat and all the summers spent on it sailing around Newport Harbor, and off to Block Island, and floating to the sounds of the Newport Folk Festival. Big sigh. It's been eleven years since we sold it, and there are many times every summer when I miss those long ago days. Driving back from Ithaca last night with Gogo and she was commenting on the changes in our lives. Every Friday night for decades she and her friends met and played poker, staying up smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee until the wee hours of Saturday morning. (I wrote about "The Girls" for Parade Magazine in March: http://www.parade.com/news/views/guest/130303-ann-hood-remember-the-girls.html) "Those days are gone," she said last night. She sounded bittersweet rather than sad. I guess at 81 you get used to these huge changes that make the landscape of your days so different. But still, we long for them, don't we? One more Friday night, one more sail around the harbor...

Of course my memories of those days sailing are populated with memories of Grace, a surefooted sailor by the time she could walk. We sold the boat the year she died, and even now when I set foot on a boat her smile floats across my mind, her intelligent blue eyes peer out at me from behind her wire rimmed glasses, and I can almost smell her full of salty air, heavy on my lap in her life jacket, almost hear her giggling as she follows Sam below deck to play.

A great weekend in Ithaca though. I got to see the cast of Hair sing at Stewart Park before heading home, and their voices were amazing! If you are anywhere near Ithaca the weekend of June 28, go see them. It's free!

On the way home we got caught in a downpour on Route 88. The sun peeked out to the west, and just as I said, "This is rainbow weather," we turned the corner and were met by the biggest brightest rainbow I've ever seen! So bright I had to pull over and take a picture of it. I pulled back into traffic and Annabelle shouted, "A double!" Sure enough, a second rainbow appeared right beside the first! More pictures. And then Gogo said, "Look at THAT!" The clouds had lifted and revealed Rainbow Number 1's full arc, stretching across us and the trees, every color visible. Wow! Let the sun shine in, indeed!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rainy Wednesday

How I love the rain (maybeI should live in Portland, OR???), and waking up to the sound of it on the roof always makes me smile. That is how I woke up today, the rain beating rhyme and waking me. My jet lag isn't bad at all. But I find I'm waking up much earlier than usual (4:30 or 5). So I am making the most of it by actually getting my coffee and catching up on all the things that need to be caught up on. a rainy day gives me the excuse to stay home and really catch up!

I had a lovely book club visit last night, and another tomorrow night. But otherwise I am blissfully free to think about stories and such. I will be at the Barnes and Noble in Warwick on Saturday at 2 to sign THE TREASURE CHEST. From there I am off to Ithaca to hang out with Sam for the weekend, since I spent most of his vacation in the stans.

Annabelle and I have been getting ready for our trip to Alaska, hitting the REI sale and stocking up on all things hiking. We leave on June 13 and spend our first days in Homer, where I'm teaching at the Kachemak Bay Writers Conference. Then we head to Anchorage and on to Denali National Park and our little cabin deep in the park.

We get home in time to head to Ithaca to see Sam in HAIR! before Annabelle and I go off again, this time to Port Townsend, WA for the Writers Conference there. And home in time to see Sam in OTHELLO at Ithaca Shakespeare Company.

I have to share two book recommendations, by the way: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon by Anthony Marra. Both brilliant! My own summer reading is devoted to reading at least two of Robert Caro's books on LBJ, as well as Tara Conklin's House Girl, Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings, and Elizabeth Strout's The Burgess Boys. 

And I hope to knit two of the Mara shawls. I'm 1/3 finished with the first one, and I have enough flying time to knit two...hopefully...

But for today, I am just enjoying the rain, eating artichokes, and finishing with a cocktail party this evening. Good to be home!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sipping cappuccino in Istanbul, on my way home!

Yes, it's true. Here I am in the Turkish Airlines lounge at the Istanbul airport, waiting for my flight to Newark.

You might have noticed that I haven't updated you on my travels lately. Well, in Ashgabat, all of our blogs were blocked, and Facebook got blocked intermittently.

What an interesting country Turkmenistan is! All white marble and gold or blue domes. Snapdragons and roses blooming in kaleidescopic proportions. Fountains everywhere, often changing colors Las Vegas style at night. Although I think I will not eat a shish kebab of awhile, we enjoyed the hospitality of the US Ambassador in his beautiful home (filled with the carpets Turkmenistan is famous for) and a party at the home of the Deputy Chief (WINE! Finally!)  We met poets, students, librarians, teachers, and had special sessions with people with disabilities. All fascinating encounters.

Perhaps my favorite excursion was to the city of Mary where, in Merv, there is an archeological dig that began just two weeks ago. Watching the painstaking work of sifting through dirt for shards of colorful pottery, I remembered my parents' story of watching Pompeii getting excavated when they lived in Naples in the early 1950s. They would take picnic lunches there, and watch as columns and murals got revealed.

We also got to visit The mausoleum of Seljuk ruler Ahmad Sanjar (1118 - 57), considered a jewel of Islam architecture for good reason. It was absolutely beautiful--and you can see pictures of it and other sites in Turkmenistan on my FB page.

I have a long trek home, but am happily upgraded so that the eleven+ hour flight will be less painful. Lots of time to dream of pasta and bacon and eggs and Gogo's meatballs. And the smiling faces waiting for me at the other end...