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:

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