Tuesday, April 30, 2013


THE OBITUARY WRITER and I are participating in a really fun event in NYC on Thursday. below is the invitation, which of course is extended to all of you!

Dear friends of Sweet!,

For many centuries now, humans have been celebrating spring by watching five wonderful actors read works by five remarkable writers. This Thursday, we are keeping that beautiful tradition alive, and we hope you'd be there to help us!

Where Three of Cups, 83 1st Ave @ 5th St.
(F/V to Second Ave)
When THIS THURSDAY, May 2nd, 7:30pm sharp.

This month's Sweet! features:

Clyde Baldo
Elizabeth Galalis
Piper Goodeve
Larry Ruth
Emily Warshaw 

Reading from

Lyndon by Amber Dermont
Every Answer Is Yes and other poems by Nicole Terez Dutton
The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood
Poe’s Basement by Matthew Mercier
The Diggings by Claire Vaye Watkins

Please note that this event is FREE and features a sweet HAPPY HOUR deal!

Hope to see you there!

Your curators and hosts,
Shelly Oria and Annie Levy

Monday, April 29, 2013


Well, I don't really have any. Except this one: in 1981, I had the opportunity to live in Tripoli, Libya and fly back and forth to Mecca, taking pilgrims to the Haj. And I chickened out. Ever since, I promised that i would never say no to a travel opportunity again. That is why I'm getting ready to leave for Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in a couple of weeks!

I will keep you updated on all things Central Asia. For now, I'm just trying to get everything in order before I go. Catching up on so much that fell by the wayside during the book tour.

Lots of articles coming out in the next few weeks. I think my essay on smoking salmon is in the new More magazine, but haven't seen it myself to confirm. Travel essays in Coastal Living and The Wall Street Journal are pending. I'll send links when they appear.

Excited to knit my Mara shawl as I make my way from here to Istanbul and beyond.

I won't ever again regret stepping out of my safety zone and going places I never imagined! Surely I will bring home lots and lots of stories. And a new shawl!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Writing in Tuscany

Just a quick note here to put out the word that a couple of spots have opened up in my writing workshop in Tuscany. Please let me know if you might be interested in a week of good food, good wine, good company, and lots of writing!

Here's what you can expect:

And here's more on the fabulous place where it is held:

The writers Jane Hamilton and Anne LeClaire will be joining me this summer, August 23-30.

I am already counting the days...

Friday, April 26, 2013


Thanks to everyone who has found the three typos in THE OBITUARY WRITER. It is maddening for me, since they appeared after copyediting. But they will be fixed in the next printing!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Home, Sweet Home

I am sitting in what we call the puzzle room (because it's where we do jigsaw puzzles) happily catching up with my life. The sun is streaming in the window. Our prayer flags that stretch from one corner to the other in this room are drooping pleasantly. I am thinking my thoughts at a leisurely pace, which i haven't had much time to do with the whirlwind publication of THE OBITUARY WRITER.

Annabelle is at ballet, but she'll be bursting through the door in about half an hour. Then she and cousin GJ and I will drive to the Wellesley Bookstore in Wellesley, MA where I'm reading at 7PM tonight. Come! After, we're eating at Blue Ginger. I've wanted to eat at Ming Tsai's restaurant for a very long time so am excited!

On Saturday I'll be at Tatnuck Booksellers in Westborough, MA at 1PM. Please stop by if you are in that area!

Exciting news: I'm off to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in mid-March as part of the International Writing Program out of the University of Iowa. Hopefully I will be able to post here and on FB, but I understand that at least in Turkmenistan the internet is spotty and/or expensive.

I've got lots of books stocked up to take along (the flights are brutal to get there!) and a pattern for a shawl to knit, as well as 5 books downloaded from Audible.com, thanks to my pals and wonderful writers, Lily King and Debra Spark. I also stopped reading my New Yorkers so I could bring them along too.

But before I leave, I have one of my favorite weekends, Grub Street's Muse and the Marketplace, in Boston.

For the next twenty minutes or so, I think I'll just enjoy this sunlit room...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Catching my breath

I am sitting here in NYC, lovely street sounds coming in through the open window, catching my breath after a week of travel. Is it boring or redundant to say that flying has really become a test of stamina? US Air yet again put me through travel hell, and I've decided to request no more bookings on that airline. They are truly awful. Rude and without compassion or customer service training. They actually looked at a woman behind me in line on friday night and told her they would put her on a flight home Tuesday. How could someone say this without apology or irony????

But enough bellyaching. I had such terrific events in Indianapolis and at the Woodstock Writers Festival that I feel bad complaining. Bravo to the wonderful women of Indianapolis who raise money for scholarships for the Christamore House! And to Martha Frankel for organizing one of the best literary festivals out there.

This week I will be in Wellesley, MA on Thursday night at 7, and in Westborough, MA at 1 PM on Saturday. Details are on my website.

For now though, another cup of coffee while I listen to the beautiful sounds of the city.

Monday, April 15, 2013


My mind is kind of all over the place this morning, so this post will probably be a bit scattered too!

Yesterday we drove to and from Ithaca to celebrate Sam's twentieth birthday. The big day is actually Tuesday, but something tells me twenty year old guys would rather celebrate with their college friends, so off we went, leaving at the crack of dawn, eating Frito's and drinking Dunkin Donuts coffee to fuel us. But when that boy grinned at us as we drove into the parking lot, I would have driven a thousand miles for that! We ate a late lunch, showered him with gifts, hung out in his apartment, then turned around and came home. Phew!

A nice ending to a lovely weekend at home, cooking and entertaining and teaching Annabelle to play Clue (it was Professor Plum in the Library with the rope).

And a lovely event in Osterville, MA with truly lovely people there. Many thanks for driving so far and bringing so much light into that cloudy afternoon!

Tomorrow we go to NYC to take Annabelle to see Matilda on Broadway and celebrate HER birthday in style, which means a trip to the zoo and lots of scallion pancakes.

You all know this is a tough month for me (oh! TS Eliot, it is the cruelest month) including yesterday marking the sixteen years without my beloved dad, who I miss every day. And Thursday marking eleven years without my Gracie.

But I struggle during these hard anniversaries to focus on the sweet joy all around me. In that big grin. In that almost nine year old hand in mine.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"To what purpose, April, do you return again?"

Many of you recognize that title as the first line of Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "Spring", which I've added at the end of this posting.

Yes, it's April again, and the eleventh (how can it be?) anniversary of Grace's death looms. That familiar feeling of unease arrived a few days ago, and at first I felt puzzled because I have been having such a lovely time on my book tour, have wonderful trips and more events coming up, and basically have little to complain about. And in the flurry of activity, I didn't even notice April arrive. But like kinesthetic memory, my heart knew.  


To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My Orange VW Bug and Other Tales of the Terror of Buying a Car

Why did I wake up at 4:30 this morning in a panic? Because I bought a new car yesterday, and something about buying a car sends me into fits of anxiety. I can see that car from here, sitting in my driveway all bright red and shiny, tormenting me.

My parents bought me my first car, also red, when I was a sophomore in college. Even when they paid for it, the day I drove it home, I panicked. So much money! (and really, it wasn't so much money, just the most I'd ever spent for anything) And now I had to take care of the thing, put gas in it, check the oil.

After I hit a Jersey Barrier on a rainy night in St. Louis, I got a second car, one I hated as soon as I paid for it.

When I moved to NYC, I was happily car free for years. At some point, during Marriage Number 1, I bought a Jeep that lived at our house in the Berkshires, and for some reason with its four wheel drive and general utalitarian demeanor, it's the only car that did not produce the panic I am feeling this morning.

In April 1, 1993 I bought a used Volvo 240 for ten thousand dollars. Ten. Thousand. Dollars. I was nine months pregnant with my son Sam. I had just left my beloved Manhattan for Providence, RI. And now I had a new old car. I did not sleep that whole night. I liked that car. A lot. But for twenty four hours all I could think about was that money. Gone.

The Volvo was followed by a snazzy Passat wagon, bought for me by Husband Number Two. By that time, I had two kids and was making no money to speak of, so I accepted this gift gratefully and my anxiety level remained low.

One day, as I was waiting for the Passat to get its ninety thousand mile check up, a flash of orange caught my eye. There sat the cutest, brightest, VW Bug you've ever seen. I drove it around Seekonk, MA like it was already mine. But I didn't buy it. I talked about it though. All the time. I dreamed about owning it. And then one day, I saw an ad in my local coffee shop, for a used orange VW Bug. That's the one I bought. For twelve thousand dollars. I LOVED that car. Yet the panic struck. What was wrong with my reliable, cute-ish Passat? Why did I spend so much money?

(I actually wrote about that particular panic attack in the NYTimes:
"The Boys of Summer" http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/opinion/04hood.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

The Bug hit ninety-eight thousand miles and I sold it on Craigslist in like two minutes. Then I went and bought the cutest car I could find, a Mini Cooper Countryman, or as I like to call it, a Maxi Mini. It had four doors and a BMW chassis, a sun roof and a shiny blue exterior that was called Comet Blue. I parked that baby in the driveway and then tried to throw up.

Yesterday, I brought that car in for its thirty six thousand mile service and decided while I waited to check into re-financing. In the two years since I bought that car, my credit rating has improved dramatically. What did I learn when I checked on refinancing? That my credit rating had improved so much that for two thousand dollars I could get a whole new car and pay less for my monthly car payments? I had that check for two thousand ready to buy a warranty for the old car because I was miles away from the warranty expiring. I did some math. I gazed out at that Blazing Red Maxi Mini. Next thing I know, I own it. And just like that first car all those years ago, I'm in a state of panic. I don't even really like to drive! I like to walk. Or take subways. And now I have this new car...

I will love it soon. Maybe even by this evening when I drive it up the coast of Maine...