Thursday, December 24, 2015

From me to you for Christmas

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy haircut! Happy holidays!

My father always said Happy haircut when he got a haircut. I've been thinking about him a lot today (oh! How the holidays both lift us and sadden us!) and since I got a long overdue haircut, I thought I'd evoke him here. 

The fact that I've been working too hard to get that haircut is testament to the fact that I'm slowing down in 2016. 

I won't be posting here until after the new year, but you can find me on Instagram and Twitter at annhood56, and on Facebook, where I'll surely be posting pictures of lots of food, knitting, books, and hijinx. 

Two holiday parties tonight. Tomorrow the cooking starts in earnest. Christmas Eve is the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a meal I dreaded as a child with its eel and smelts and baccala. But nowadays it's oysters and stuffed quahogs and scallops so I happily dig in. On Christmas Day it's Italian wedding soup and lasagna. Then it's a day (or two) recovering in my jammies with a book, some yarn, a jigsaw puzzle, and leftovers. 

Here's to all of you, and a food filled, love filled end to 2015. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Yarn trucks, Knitting Pearls, Broadway

Last night I did my final (for now!) Knitting Pearls event in Buffalo, and what a way to end a tour and a busy year! If you haven't been to Buffalo lately, you must visit and see how this city is alive. Larkin Square has very cool lofts and restaurants like the Filling Station and Hearth. Buffalo also boasts one of the best indie bookstores, Talking Leaves. And--are you ready for this?--a yarn truck! Jenna drives KnitBuffalo all around, stocked with yarn (some she dyes herself):

How brilliant is that???

Now I'm home, finally. Got an immediate Gogo meatball fix then Christmas shopped and wrapped the afternoon away. Although I head to NYC again tomorrow, it's for sheer fun. Tickets to King Charles and Fun Home await me. Dinners and lunches with pals. Definitely some last minute shopping. Then Sam and I drive home on Tuesday to Christmas parties, cookie baking, the Seven Fishes, and at least one day spent entirely in jammies knitting and working a jigsaw puzzle. 

People complain about the commercialism of Christmas. But at the risk of being too Tiny Tim, isn't it in our hearts? Time to pause and cook and share ourselves with the people we love? I hope you all have that this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Buffalo bound!

So excited to be headed to the great city of Buffalo and Talking Leaves Books, one of my favorite independent bookstores. If you're in Buffalo, come say hello!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Are you ready to jumpstart your memoir?

And without leaving your cozy winter home? Heck! Without getting out of your jammies! I'm teaching a one week online workshop through the Provincetown Fine Arts Center that will help you get your memoir started. Here's the link:

Monday, December 7, 2015

Titcomb's today!

IKnitting Pearls and I are on our way to East Sandwich for our 1-3pm event at Titcomb's. Cape Codders, please bring your knitting needles and say hello!

What a lovely event at Bookworks in Albuquerque, made even lovelier by a weekend with old pals in Santa Fe. Here are a few pictures of that gorgeous place. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Goodby Portland, hello Albuquerque!

Two great events in Maine--at The Yarn Seller (thank you, Carrie!) and with Kelly of KellyBooksToGo in Portland, where Knitting Pearls contributors Lily King, Bill Roorbach, Clara Parkes, and Melissa Coleman gave tear jerking, rollicking, wonderful readers of their essays. 

Meanwhile, I have fallen in love with the ridge stitch, especially knitting it with this yummy yarn I bought in Ireland last summer. 

Now I'm in Kansas City, about to board my flight to Albuquerque where I'm talking all things Knitting Pearls at Bookworks at 7 tonight. And then I get to play in Santa Fe with my pal Mary before flying home on Sunday. If you are in New Mexico, bring your knitting needles to Bookworks!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In my world these days

Yummy blue yarn I bought in Dingle, Ireland last summer. Knitting it up in ridge stitch, my new favorite stitch. 

Tortellini soup made with homemade post Thanksgiving turkey stock. Especially good because I'm fighting a bad cold. 

Reading: The Tsar of Love and Techno. Eileen. And now Carrie Brownstein's memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl. 

Saw the movie Brooklyn and still feeling its gorgeous illustration of home and homesickness. 

Preparing for upcoming Knitting Pearls events in Portland Maine, Albequerque New Mexico, and Titcomb's on Cape Cod. 

Knitting Pearls chosen by Parade magazine as a top stocking stuffer this Christmas. 

And tasted some Michter's bourbon, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal:

I hope your week is as warm and cozy. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hello Miami!

Great to have a few nights at home, cook up a batch of bolognese, and regroup before heading off to Miami and the always fabulous Miami Book Fair where I will celebrate both Providence Noir and Knitting Pearls on Sunday. For full schedule go to 

I arrive Saturday in time to have a cocktail with my wonderful brilliant editor Jill Bialosky, who is there for her novel The Prize. Check it out. And her terrific book of poems The Players. 

Then we will head to dinner at Les and Kimberly Standiford's house: the only house I know with its own center tiki bar. 

Sunday, panels and interviews. Schmoozing with pals. Home by afternoon Monday. 

See you there?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Knitting Pearls goes to Northampton

Wednesday at 7pm at Broadside Bookshop with the ever fabulous Cathi Hanauer. 

We have been having so much fun knitting and reading our way around the country! And Knitting Pearls was the bestselling book at Hickory Stick Books in CT last week!

Here's a photo from last night at Porter Square Books in Cambridge with Steve Almond and his knitting son. Recognize the hat?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Steve Almond, Knitting Pearls, and me! Tonight!

7pm at Porter Square Books. Bring your knitting and come say hi!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Knitting Pearls takes NY

Jand continues its tour this week in Providence at Books on the Square on November 12 at 7; Washington CT at Hickory Stick with Dani Shapiro and Ann Leary on November 13 at 4; in Middletown RI at Island Books on November 15 at 2 (where Knitting Pearls meets Providence Noir and authors Taylor Polites, Hester Kaplan, Thomas Cobb, and Kaylie Jones join me).

I'm hopeful that these upcoming events will be as fabulous as the ones I just did, first with An Italian Wife at Spoken Interludes and then with Knitting Pearls contributors Perri Klass, Cathi Hanauer, Bill Roorbach, Ann Leary, and Stephanie Danler at the UES Barnes and Noble. 

Here we are last night:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Coming August 2016!

Can you jumpstart your memoir in one week? Yes you can!

December 7-11. Online:

Jumpstart Your Memoir:

In his book on the craft of writing, Stephen King says: the scariest moment is just before you start. This workshop takes that moment and makes it less scary by asking you the right questions about what you are writing and why. Then we will move on to how to begin, and by the end of our week you will have your first 1-3 pages and a road map of where to go next. 

Whether you're stuck in a draft that isn't working, having trouble organizing your story, or just unable to get started, this workshop will help you. 

I will post points for discussion every morning. Your responses by 5:00 that same day will include answering questions to help you get started on your memoir. On our last day, you will post 1-3 opening pages and an outline of your memoir. Everyone will post responses to that by 5:00 that day. 

At the end of our workshop, I will mail you a personal feedback letter that will include my thoughts on your opening and how to tweak it and your outline, as well as suggestions for going forward and reading recommendations. 

Stephen King also says: you can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will. In this workshop, you will!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Come study with me in Cuba in May!

I just got one of those exciting emails: The Cuba Writing Conference is almost full!

Don't miss out on this great opportunity! (I'm counting the days already)

Monday, November 2, 2015

It's getting busy here!

Pub day for Knitting Pearls is fast approaching! I've got lots of really fun events coming up, with my wonderful contributors. So pick up your knitting needles and come join us!

Monday November 9, Ann Leary, Cathi Hanaeur, Perri Klass, Stephanie Danler, and Bill Roorbach will join me at the Barnes and Noble at 86 and Lex in NYC at 7 PM. 

I'll be solo at Books in the Square in Providence on November 12 at 7 PM. 

Then on November 13, Dani Shapiro and Ann Leary and I will be at The Hickory Stick in CT at noon. 

November 15 brings Knitting Pearls and Providence Noir together at Island Books in Middletown RI at 2 with Providence Noir contributors Hester Kaplan, Taylor Polites, and Tom Cobb. (Shhh...I think Long Island Noir editor and fabulous writer Kaylie Jones might be there too)

Steve Almond and Bill Roorbach will be with me at Porter Square Books in Boston on November 16 at 7. 

Cathi Hanauer and I will be together at Broadside Books in Northhampton MA at 7 PM on November 18. 

Then Nick Flynn and Cynthia Chinnely will be on a panel with me at the Miami Book Fair on Sunday November 22 at 3:30. 

December 2 finds me at Yarn Cellar in York Maine at 6. 

The very next night, December 3, Bill Roorbach, Lily King, Melissa Coleman and I will be in the Events Room in the Glickman Library at USM in Portland Maine at 6. 

Then I fly to Albuquerque on December 4 for an event at Book Works at 7 PM. 

Monday December 7 I'll be knitting at Titcomb's on Cape Cod from 1-3. 

And I will wrap up in Buffalo at Falling Leaves Bookstore on December 16. 

Meanwhile I'm busily knitting up lots of Purl Soho's basic cuffed hats. The pattern is in Knitting Pearls!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My friend Bob Leuci

During my wonderful time in Italy I received the very sad news that my old friend Bob Leuci had died. Here is a link to his NYT obituary:

But obituaries neglect the personal stories of love and friendship, as of course they must. Here is one of those. 

 I met Bob in NYC in the 80s. He was quite famous, and a good friend of my first husband. As soon as we met, Bob and I found an easy rapport, a gentle teasing, a mutual admiration. That first night we went to Sammy's Romanian on the Lower East Side and drank vodka set in blocks of ice and veal chops the size of a dictionary. The night was long and riotous, and involved spontaneous singing and even dancing that continued in the streets. 

Another night, Bob took us to a Russian nightclub in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. No veal chops, but vodka and blintzes and more dancing, Bob pointing out Russian mobsters and regaling us with stories of crime. 

A night with Bob back then always meant fun and stories of crimes and misdemeanors that made me shudder and laugh in equal measure. 

Eventually that first marriage ended, and some friends took sides, as often happens. I was sad to lose Bob back then. But I moved to RI, got remarried, had kids. Imagine my surprise when I learned Bob, the most NY New Yorker, had also moved to RI. 

When we were scheduled to do an event together one night in Providence, I confess I had a little trepidation. That first marriage was a lifetime ago. But would Bob feel that way too?

He did. He greeted me with a hug I still remember. In a few words, he placed the past where it belonged and even apologized for taking sides. A foolish thing to do, he said. And just like that he was back in my life. 

One night he came to dinner and sat in my backyard, charming everyone. When I was asked to edit Providence Noir, Bob was the first person I asked to contribute. He was having some health problems, but still managed to write a knock out story in his inimitable style. Please read it if you haven't yet. 

He was eager to help out with publicity for Providence Noir and joined in for the launch and other readings. Just a couple weeks ago, there was a reading at a library in Johnston, RI. I want to do this for you, Bob emailed me. I wrote back: yay! Can't wait to see you!
Uncharacteristically Bob was a no show that night. Days later I learned he died from complications of surgery. 

One more story about my old friend: Bob had been teaching writing for years at the University of RI. A writer on the faculty there was apparently angry over a review I wrote of her memoir long ago, when I stil lived in NYC. For years I've been hearing about this, how stung she was and therefore did not care much for me. This bothered Bob deeply, more than it bothered me, I think. He told me he wanted her to know me and see how (his words) wonderful I was. He wanted me to teach there, or at least be involved in the summer writers conference they held, both of which had been blocked by this person apparently. Would you have lunch with her if I came? he asked me. Can we mend this? I told him I had no ill will toward her and would happily have lunch. If it's a bust, I told him, at least I get to spend time with you. That earned me a big hug. Sadly the lunch didn't happen. But Bob reminded me of what's important, what to let go of, what to keep. 

How I wish we could have kept him a little longer. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Greetings from Florence

Here I in one of my favorite cities, full of prosciutto and gelato, reading the fourth Elena Ferrante book. Oh how I love Italy!

The writers conference at Spannocchia was maybe the best one yet. We are hoping to return next fall. If you're at all interested in joining us, send me an email here to get on the list. There are some very exciting things already in the works for 2016. 

Meanwhile, a slew of pictures. Sigh. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Italy Bound

The leaves outside my window are autumn yellow, and the air has that autumn chill I love. Only October 9, but I can already say it's been a hectic fall. Knitting Pearls and Providence Noir events. Teaching at three different places. Reading manuscripts for upcoming Italy workshop Revising revising my new novel, The Book That Matters Most. And that's just the work part of my autumn. 

But today I woke, did my meditation (thank you Headspace app!), and realized I'm caught up! One class drawing to a close. Those manuscripts read. And tomorrow Annabelle and I board an Alitalia jet to Florence. Then we have a week under the Tuscan sun. 

Appropriate to end this post quoting John Lennon, whose birthday is today. Imagine...

Monday, October 5, 2015

What's better than one library visit?

Two library visits!

If you're on or near Cape Cod this morning, come see me at the Snow Library in Orleans at 10:30. 

Rhode Islanders, please join me tonight at the Mohr Library in Johnston at 6, where Providence Noir contributors Taylor Polites, Tom Cobb, Bob Leuci and I will talk about all things noirish. 

Thank you, Hurricane Joaquin, for staying away!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Exciting weeks ahead!

Oh! I want nothing more than to surround myself with people I adore, good food, copious amounts of wine, and literature. 

Wait! I'm getting that! October 12-19 I will be in Tuscany teaching and doing all of the above! (One spot has opened due to a cancellation, BTW. If you are craving above too, let me know)

Before Annabelle and I get on that Alitalia plane to Florence, I have some other fun events. 

This weekend I'll be at the Brattleboro Literary Festival with Bill Roorbach and other writers. If you're anywhere near Brattleboro don't miss this weekend. It's one of the best. 

And a week from today I'll be at the Snow Library on the Cape at 10:30AM. So Cape Codders, please come by!

I've started my winter knitting, which means hats hats hats. 

The fourth Elena Ferrante is waiting for me, as is Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies. 
But those are my special rewards, claimed when I get on that plane. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Brooklyn Book Festival!

A truly great place to be this Sunday. Not only do I get to introduce five exciting new fiction writers at 11AM, but at 3 I get to share the stage with Phil Kray. If you haven't read his story collection Redployment, run to nearest bookstore and get it soonest. And if you're anywhere near Brooklyn, come see us!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

First Day of School

 Say the words and I immediately smell freshly sharpened pencils, chalk dust, floor wax, new shoes. More than any other day, this one marks new beginnings for me. (Unlike New Year's Eve with its forces gaiety and pressure to find a date and have fun). 

But after Grace died, all of the things I love about the first day of school have been tainted by everything she missed. She died just when she was starting to read. And count by tens, adding ribbons to a paper kite as she counted her way upward. She counted in Chinese too. And drew portraits that still hang on my living room walls. Her teeth were strong, no loose ones yet. And she had just learned to ride her bike. For first grade, a milestone she never reached, she and Sam were finally going to be at the same school. 

When I saw all the kids with their new backpacks and light up sneakers walking into school that first September, my grief exploded and knocked me down. The thing about grief is that it doesn't ever leave, but it does quiet. The pain of all the glorious first days of school Grace missed has lodged deep inside me. This year I would have taken her to a dorm at some college, leaving her to forge her sophomore year there. 

All of that lost promise does not go away, all of the hopes we place on our children do not die. Yesterday a friend who lost her son last year talked about the pain of seeing all the children walking to school and then we held each other's hand and cried. Good and hard. 

But a part of me has held on to the promise that freshly sharpened pencils evoke. It's September. Soon the weather will cool and the leaves will turn glorious reds and yellows and oranges. There will be pumpkins on doorsteps and crisp apples in bowls on countertops. I'll make sausage with grapes and Sam will make his cheesy arugula polenta. Fall. 

This year was the first time Sam didn't have a first day of school. Instead he searched NYC for an apartment, trained as a bartender, auditioned for plays. And Annabelle left elementary school behind and stepped into the next phase of her life: middle school. 

Here they are. Beginning the year. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Being still redux

Another dish rag. A new puzzle. And tomato pie. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Being still

Recently I had a conversation with a writer about the need to be still. For writers, yes. We need to look inward, to think and sort emotions and make sense of the world. We need quiet. A writer can't write amidst chaos. Or disorder. When I was in Dublin in August I visited a recreation of one of James Joyce's rooms, a messy cramped space in which he and his beloved lived. But even in that small room, he made a sliver of order in which to write. Writers aren't special. Everyone needs to be still, to shut out the noise from time to time. But I am, of course, thinking of the writing life here. 

This has been a noisy summer. In some ways, wonderful and inspirational and dizzying and exciting and productive. In other ways more challenging than I've faced in awhile. Into this contradictory mix, not one but two of the people closest to me were diagnosed with cancer and embarked on grueling treatment. A third friend died after a year's battle with cancer. 

And I've taught my butt off this summer, from Salt Lake City to Aspen to Truro to Ireland to Vermont. What talented students I had. And I've been blessed with their humor, intelligence, creative, talent, and friendship. But it's exhausting too, the travel and the work and the partying too!

On top of all of the above, I revised my new novel, The Book That Matters Most. Who me? A Type A, overachieving, workaholic? Guilty!

So this writer--and hopefully all of you--is staying home and being still this week. I'm doing a lot of knitting. I've already read two novels in two days. I made tomato pies. I cleaned my study. I'm not getting on a plane, train, boat, or bus. I'm tending my darlings as they continue their difficult journeys toward health, feeding them and doing jigsaw puzzles and giving out hugs. 

I'm looking inward, listening to my heart and soul. Being quiet. Being still. 

One dish rag knitted. How many more by week's end?

I recommend both of these!

PS Full disclosure: I'll be at the Spencertown Literary Festival tomorrow at noon. But then retreating!

Friday, September 4, 2015

A glimpse of Tuscany

Here's my last group for the writers conference in Tuscany. Counting the days until this year's. That would be 38. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Let the autumn literary festivals begin!

First up: Spencertown Academy in the beautiful Hudson Valley. I'm on at noon on Sunday, September 6, with James Scott, author of The Keep, which Tom Perrotta calls riveting and memorable. I agree! 

For more information on the festival, click here:

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What is Goat Hill?

For many years I've been asked where Rhode Islanders can take writing workshops or get one on one manuscript consultations. And the answer has been: Boston. But not everyone can trek to Boston once a week, battling traffic and fatigue. So I approached two of Rhode Island's prize winningest writers, Hester Kaplan and Taylor Polites (ok. They are also my dear friends), to see if they'd be interested in offering workshops here in Providence. I knew I asked the right writers-- before I knew it we three had formed Goat Hill, a place where writers at all levels of experience can take workshops, get manuscript consultations, and join us for lively conversations this fall with children and YA publisher Francesco Sedita ( he did my Treasure Chest series) and writer and publisher Kaylie Jones. We launched in June with a night of literary lunacy called Writers Behaving Badly, and will end the year with an encore of that in December. 

Interested in jump starting your memoir with me? Or studying the short story with Hester? Or writing historical fiction with Taylor? Or having a one on one manuscript consultation with one of us? Want to hear what Francesco and Kaylie have to say about writing and publishing?

Details are on our website:

Like us on Facebook too! Every day we post an quote to start your writing day! 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Fall online class on personal essay

I'm delighted to teach again through the Provincetown Fine Arts Center. Workshop online begins September 21. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Knitting Pearls

I'm so delighted that Knitting Pearls, the follow up knitting anthology to Knitting Yarns will be out in November. What a line up! Jane Hamilton, Lily King, Steve Almond, Bill Roorbach, Ann Leary, Lee Woodruff, Jodi Picoult, Laura Lippman, Dani Shapiro, Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed and The Yarn Whisperer Clara Parkes--just to name a few. 

I've written often about the healing and transformative powers of knitting. To have other writers share their stories of how the magic of knitting brought them closer to a family member or kept loneliness at bay or taught them about love and life--well, it just makes me so happy. Knitting makes me happy. These writers make me happy. 

We are doing some readings from the anthology this fall. Some details are already up on my website, with more to follow. First up is Brattleboro VT the first weekend in October at the Literary Festival there. I'll be with Bill Roorbach talking knitting. Yes, Bill knits. And his essay "Sarah With an H" is really a knock out. 

Steve Almond and I will be at Porter Square Books in Boston. Laura Lippman and I will be at Loop Yarns in Philadelphia. And a whole mess of my knitting writers--Lily King, Melissa Coleman, and Bill Rootbach--will be in Portland Maine. I'll also be at the Miami Book Fair with Dennis LeHane in November for Providence Noir, but some knitters will join me there too for Knitting Pearls, including Cindy Chinelly. Her husband John Dufresne was in Knitting Yarns. 

Bring your knitting needles and join us?

Maybe I'll be finished with this blanket by the time Knitting Pearls is out;

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Exciting news

Writers of all levels of experience:
Hester Kaplan, Taylor Polites and I are delighted to announce Goat Hill's Fall schedule of workshops and events. We are also offering one on one manuscript consultations. Details can be found here:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Made it! Thanks for all your fun posts with recommendations for food and sights along the way. Next up: fried chicken, Indiana style. 

Two state capitols down, one to go!

Two hours from Greensburg! I love a road trip. Especially one that will end in Indiana fried chicken. 

Yesterday's highlight was Easton PA, home of Crayola. 

But also home of one of the best cheeseburgers I've had the pleasure of eating. Two Rivers Brewery made it: cheese, bacon, and peanut butter dust!  And if that still doesn't do it for you, it was served with dick fat fries:

And you know, it was a brewery, so had to have a flight of beer:

From there it was on to Harrisburg, because if I'm within spitting distance of a state Capitol, I can't resist. I'm the weird kid who loved memorizing all 50, and I still take great pride in knowing them. I didn't take a picture, but it's a beauty with a green tile dome. 

Had to stop here en route: 

Today has been all about Ohio. A great day! I've loved Ohio since my TWA roommate from Fremont brought me home and fed me fried bologna (a first!) and took me to the Rutherford B. Hayes house. But oh, Ohio, your state Capitol is kind of odd looking? I read the history of its design and architecture, so I'm not alone in being surprised there's no dome. Still, I'm happy to have spent the day in the Buckeye State. No fried bologna this time. But there's that fried chicken waiting for me tonight in Indiana. And all the Hood cousins. My sadness from yesterday has turned bittersweet, and excitement is taking over!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Indiana Bound

Boy am I feeling emotional as I head into the Midwest. It's as if every family car trip of every summer of my youth is catching up with me. My father grew up in Greensburg Indiana, a town whose claim to fame--as he would proudly remind 
us--was the tree that grew out of the courthouse roof. We would pile into our station wagon and drive, seemingly forever. I did not grow up in a town where people went on vacation, so this trip seemed exotic, daring. Pillows and blankets in the way back. Eating deviled ham out of a can. The lemon smell of wet wipes. So much cigarette smoke. Special stops in niagra falls, Montreal, Hershey, Amish country. And once there it was cousins and aunts and uncles and great aunts and great uncles. It was corn everywhere I looked. It was Aunt Bo's pies and Aunt Mag's cakes. It was thunderstorms and bats swooping in the moonlight. Time passed. The station wagon became an impala. My brother did the driving, cool in his Wayfarer sunglasses. And then it was me driving, my brother dead, his little girl with us now. Finally I could stay up late drinking beer. We slept in the one motel near town. I bought handmade quilts and postcards of that tree coming out of the courthouse roof. When my father was in the hospital dying of lung cancer, his sisters Mag and Dot came to say goodbye. I have not been back to Greensburg since then. As my mother said about this trip, "I couldn't go without my Hood." But I am. Heading there to eat fried chicken and visit cousins and yes, that courthouse. As the highway through Pennsylvania gets eaten up, I find myself crying. For all I had. For all I've lost. For this road leading both backward and forward. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Goodbye Bread Loaf 2015

I think I say this every time I leave Bread Loaf, but this year was the best ever. My wonderful non-fiction workshop. My Fellow Brando Skyhorse. All the incredible readings and lectures. If you're interested in hearing them, click here:

A lovely ride home, fueled by an egg sausage and cheese breakfast sandwich from the Rochester Cafe. It's hotter here than I like, all sticky and humid. But steak on the grill and tomatoes from the garden and corn on the cob make even the dog days bearable. And Lucia Berlin's story collection, A Manual for Cleaning Ladies, was waiting for me and I got to read Lydia Davis' Foreward while the potatoes cooked. (My favorite way to make them: boil baby Yukons until tender. Throw them on a dish rag and smash them flat. Let them cool, then put them on a baking sheet with olive oil and salt. Cook at 450 degrees for 30-35 minutes. You will thank me. ) 

Now, Bread Loaf exhausted, I'm finishing rereading Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the third in Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan trilogy. The fourth arrives September 2, which means it's no longer a trilogy but which makes me beyond happy. 

A final Bread Loaf picture, taken from my balcony at Maple this morning. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dateline Bread Loaf

Old friends. New friends. Readings. Talking about writing and books and life. The first time I came here, in 1984, I remember spending an hour talking about point of view and thinking that was the happiest thing to do. That hasn't changed! 

Here's what I'm excited about:
My fellow Brando Skyhorse and his memoir Take This Man. 
Jen Percy's Demon Camp. 
Vu Trang's Dragonfish
And, coming in May, my scholar's memoir Boy Erased. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Bread Loaf

Back in 1984 or 85, I was a flight attendant with dreams of becoming a writer. I lived on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, in what is now called NoHo but back then was nameless, the way east end of that beautiful street (still my favorite street in NYC) on the border of the Eat Village. I had a boyfriend who I loved madly, an actor who was also working as a bartender. At night I would scribble my stories in composition books, stories about three women who went to school together in the 60s and what had become of them and their children two decades later. After much prodding, I began to read those stories out loud to my beloved. One night he urged me to take them to someone in the English department at NYU. They're good, he told me. I laughed. But you love me, I said. Of course you think they're good. He told me, I love you enough to tell you if they weren't good. 
So the next day, or the next, I did just that. And in September I found myself in a class with EL Doctorow, and in the spring in another with William Decker, a former editor at Viking who had edited the likes of Katharine Anne Porter. Bill was the third man on my path to becoming a writer ( number one was my dad, number two my beloved). He invited me to his apartment overlooking Washington Square Park and told me two life changing things: I had what it took to become a writer. And he was recommending me to the renowned Bread Loaf Writers Conference in Vermont that summer. 
I didn't know then that with the help of Robert Frost and Middlebury College Bread Loaf had been founded back in 1920 and that the likes of Eudora Welty, Anne Sexton, and so many other literary heroes of mine had graced those lovely yellow buildings on those rolling green hills. 
And so my beloved drove me to Vermont and helped me get settled into my room at Cricket, where I met four other women with dreams just like mine. I didn't know then that they would be lifelong friends. Or that my workshop with Nicholas Delbanco would change my life even more. But one chilly August Vermont afternoon, sitting on two Adirondack chairs overlooking those green hills dotted with bales of hay, Nick told me I wasn't writing short stories; I was writing a novel. A good one. 
Those words were the ones that turned my scribbles in those composition books into my first novel, Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine, which was published in 1987. Here's it's original cover. (How I loved this cover! Thank you, Deb Futter and Bantam Books!)

(And unbelievably, all these years later, this novel born at Bread Loaf, has never gone out of print:

So yes, Bread Loaf led to me getting my first novel published. It set me on a life changing course. It made my dream of becoming a writer come true. 

But it did more than that. It immersed me, for two glorious weeks in a Vermont August, in the world of literature and the craft of writing; in poetry and prose; in crazy dancing and late night revelry and friendships that go long and deep. I've gone back to that mountain many times since that first time when I was a nervous 20something clutching her notebooks of stories. I was a Fellow there in 1987; and a faculty member many summers since 1988. 
Tuesday I pack up my little Fiat and make the ride to that mountain again. Waiting there are writers who I've come to know and love over these many summers, and many more I'll get to know over the next intense, exhausting, exhilarating two weeks.
Even after all these many years, one thing doesn't change there: 
I'll be immersed again in the world of literature and the craft of writing; in poetry and prose; in crazy dancing and late night revelry and friendships that go long and deep. 
And maybe, just maybe, one young writer I sit with on an Adirondack chair overlooking green hills and bales of hay, will feel the magic of this place, just like I did. Just like I still do. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Come to Tuscany in October!

Due to two cancellations, I have spots in my writing workshop in Tuscany October 12-19! This is an incredible opportunity to study with Laura Lippman, Helen Schulman, Rand Richards Cooper--and me!--in an intimate environment in the countryside of Tuscany. If at all interested, email me ASAP at 

Thursday, July 30, 2015


What a week I've had here in Dingle, Ireland! For a foodie like me, it's heaven: locally sourced everything, microbrews, oysters and mussels and cockles from right in front of me; for an ocean girl like me, it's heaven: think Big Sur, but with farms. For a writer: well, damn, it's Ireland! Here's where I read with the ever fabulous Richard Hoffman tonight:

If you haven't read his knockout memoir, Love and Fury, stop reading this and pick it up!
Big thank you to the also ever fabulous Suzanne Strempek Shea for inviting me here. And ditto above for her book, This Is Paradise. 
Below, gorgeous pictures of this gorgeous place. 

Plus yarn!
And oysters!

Saturday sadly I say goodbye to Dingle. But more adventures in Ireland coming...