Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Happy Birthday to me!

And what a year!  The Simon and Garfunkel lyrics come to me: "Time it was and what a time it was..." In fact, take three minutes and listen to that song, Old Friends:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sovVYInjHjw

Ok. Back to the blog post!

As many of you know, I got divorced this year. And had a new book come out. And visited 75 book clubs since August. And moved. One of those years, in other words. And I am grateful for all of it. Who gets such opportunities at sixty? Some of it has been tough. Some of it heartwrenching. Some of it exhausting. Some of it fun. But all of it has been inspiring and life changing and dizzying and yes, profound.

The Book That Matters Most and I are winding down our whirlwind tour that started on August 9. We will be at the Barrington Library tonight at 7, the Waban in Newton MA tomorrow December 14 at 7, and at Dueling Pianos in Providence (thanks most fabulous Reading with Robin, Robin Kall!) on December 20 at 7. Then, dear ones, I am taking a much needed break until the end of January when I'll be in Miami for a reading at FSU.

Until then, I'm going to read a lot, knit a lot, cook a lot, eat a lot, finish my new book about cooking and start my make progress on my new novel THE MUSEUM OF TEARS, drink good wine, nest in my groovy loft, hug the people I love, play cards with my kids and do jigsaw puzzles and...and just revel in December, my favorite month of the year.

Check me on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram (both @annhood56) where I will be posting pictures of Hermia and Gertrude (my new kittens) and probably OF Sam and Annabelle, and definitely of food. Also some new and exciting surprises will show up soon.

This birthday, I am grateful. For all of you who stop here from time to time to see how and where I am. I know you are knitters and readers and grieving moms and old pals and devoted fans. (Ok, I know that some of you are a little nosy too--I don't want to get all Hallmark here!). Thanks for caring enough to click the button that gets you here. See you in January!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving

There are so many years when being thankful comes easy. I remember the year Sam was born and I hosted Thanksgiving with my cousin in my small apartment on Transit Street here in Providence. I'd just moved from NYC seven months earlier (and Sam came along just two weeks later, early) and was homesick. In the past, each of our families held their own Thanksgiving dinner and then visited later in the day. But this year was different: there was a baby. And I tell you we were all giddy with gratitude. Enough gratitude to change a longstanding tradition and combine our Thanksgivings. I had to buy a table and chairs for the occasion, a white farmhouse table with blue and white chairs. We made everyone do a Thanksgiving craft--making turkeys out of their traced hands. I still remember my father drew his watch onto his turkey,  a funny memento that I saved for years. That day a tradition was born: GJ and I have hosted Thansgiving ever since. Today will be our 23rd.

Gratitude was easy to find the year Thanksgiving was held in our big drafty Victorian on Prospect Street. We couldn't afford to furnish the place, so we used folding tables covered in French tablecloths along with that white farmhouse table. That year we had over thirty people--tables in the dining room, the hallway, and one of the double parlors. Sam was three by then, and Grace a two month old in a Snugglie strapped to my chest while I cooked. Just a few weeks earlier, my father had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, and I was leaving for Chimayo NM with Grace and my friend Matt to find him a miracle cure in a few days. (Matt was at this Thanksgiving too, beginning the tradition of flying east from LA and making Thanksgiving cocktails) (my memoir, DO NOT GO GENTLE: MY SEARCH FOR MIRACLES IN A CYNICAL TIME, documents that journey to New Mexico). Even with that prognosis hanging over all of us, that Thanksgiving remains one of the best: people dancing in our empty parlor, my father's glazed carrots, Sam helping to cook for the first time, Grace nestled against me, the guest who danced the tango alone, Matt's Manhattans, my aunt and uncle sweeping the kitchen together, my handsome husband smiling at me across that white farmhouse table, bounty.

Other years, it was hard if not impossible, to be thankful. The year Grace died I had to run out of dinner in my 1792 red Colonial house and into the street, mad with grief. I pulled at my hair and screamed at the sky, comforted by my mother who wrapped me in her arms and gently led me back inside.

There was the Thanksgiving eight or nine years ago when just days earlier I realized this thing I treasured most, my family, was in danger of splitting apart and rather than gratitude at that table I felt sadness and fear and fragility.

This year could be one of those Thanksgivings. But it is perhaps a sign of maturity or age or years of living and losing and loving that instead I wake up this morning, this Thanksgiving, filled with gratitude. A divorce doesn't have to destroy a family, not when there is so much love still. Leaving that home i I made for my family has only led me here, to a new home, already filled with kids and friends and kittens and food and sunshine. I am grateful that my 85 year old mom is coming with the mashed potatoes and her mother's stuffing. Grateful that I've earned my living myself, as a writer! The thing I dreamed of being since I was a little girl. That I bought this loft and this food and wine--and this table, made by hand from NY state trees by my friend Steve of Fabulous Furniture in Woodstock, with my stories. And friends! Such gratitude for the friends who lifted me into their arms after Grace died, who set up my kitchen here and traveled across many states to flatten my boxes and eat take out and sleep beside me on a small bed as I awaited my furniture. Friends who cook me dinner in Miami and listen to me as I unravel and then mend my broken heart. Friends who find me in Maine and Vermont, NYC and California, MA and anywhere I land, who laugh and cry with me as years tumble by and life keeps getting more and more interesting. Gratitude for the person who called my name at Breadloaf long long ago, and kept calling it until I finally listened. Gratitude for finding happiness despite this year's hardness. For picking myself up again and letting that sun shine in every morning when I open my shades to the big beautiful messy world.

And gratitude too for my beloved father for whom even a daughter's love could not find a miracle. For my daughter Grace, here for only five short years and gone now for over fourteen. When I close my eyes I can still hear her throaty voice, still feel her sticky hands and tangled blond hair. Oh! I can still taste my father's glazed carrots!  So sweet, they were. So beautifully sweet.

Sending love and gratitude this thanksgiving to all of you from my cherry and metal table in my loft to all of your tables and hearts. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Grace Happens

Do you remember when there were bumper stickers and mugs and things that said:Grace Happens? Someone gave me one of those stickers when Grace was three or four and I used to have it propped up on my desk. After she died, like so many things, it was too painful to look at every day so I put it away. When I moved last summer I found it again, and now it makes me smile. It's back on my desk where I can see it every day.

I thought about that saying--Grace happens--a lot this week. I did one library talk, three Bookstore readings, and eight+ book club visits from NJ to Sarasota to St. Pete to Tallahassee to Brooklyn to Queens. Lots of miles. Lots of talking. Lots and lots of hugs. And bracketed by two experiences that reminded me that grace does indeed happen.

At the Bernardsville Library in NJ I met a woman who lost her daughter too. She found me here,  and we have been emailing each other for ten years,  finding and giving strength to each other on our daughters birthdays, anniversaries, and the dark hours when grief grabs you and won't let go. But over time we've shared joyful things too. Laughed about our insomnia. Smiled about our other kids as they grow up. To hug her, finally, was grace happening.

Then Friday, exhausted, I made my way to a house in Flushing Queens to visit a book club. I have visited over 60 since August, and met so many lovely people (more grace happening). This book club touched me so deeply that I have to tell you all about it. They were a family--sisters and sister in laws and a wonderful matriarch (85 years young). The warmth and love in that house felt like a giant hug. A hug I still feel. This big happy family had suffered two big losses. A husband/brother  dead too fast and too young; a beloved son lost suddenly. How do we do it? How do we manage to sit together and smile and love even as our hearts are broken? When that mother whose son died four years ago told me that my book COMFORT mattered most to her after losing her son, my heart grew and yes, I felt grace happen.

I've been reminded anew this week that writing and reading and loving hard and big matter most. That grace happens, every day. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Book That Matters Most goes to Florida part 2

If you read my last post you are perhaps wondering: what about Florida? Yes, I am headed there on Sunday after my event at the Bernardsville Library in NJ at 2. Then on to Sarasota and Bookstore One on Tuesday at 10 and the Hermitage at 6:30 that evening on the beach. Finishing up in Tallahassee the next evening at 6:30. Then on to NYC. All details are on my website under EVENTS. 

The Book That Matters Most heads to Florida

It has been pretty divine staying (mostly) in one place these past couple of weeks. Though I had a great time at The Boston Book Festival and the Detroit Book and Author's Luncheon, where I got to share the stage with Richard Russo (BBF), Marisa Silver, Stacey Schiff, and more fabulous writers. And I had a great return visit to a book club (#57!) in Birmingham Michigan after my visit with them almost ten years ago for The Knitting Circle!

But my biggest news is that Annabelle and I brought home two kittens a couple of weeks ago! I always had cats, until my beloved Lewis died in 1994 and his mom Daphne a couple of years later. Living in a household with cat allergies, I happily got our beloved (non allergenic) Bichon Zuzu in 2002, just a couple months before Gracie died. She was so happy to get a dog and ZuZu' was the perfect one for her and Sam--small and fluffy.

Welcome Hermia and Gertrude to the new loft! They are the most lovable kittens I've had the pleasure to know. I will post pictures separately!

Second biggest news: all of my boxes are unpacked! My desk is set up and waiting for me to sit at it and write my new novel, The Museum of Tears. More on that as time goes by. And my dining room table, being built even as I write this, by my pal Steve Heller of Fabulous Furniture in Woodstock NY.   Almost all of my art is hung. And my tunnel (yes, I now own a tunnel) has been painted and leveled.

My first party, with cats and a dining room table and a renovated tunnel, is November 6. With a pre party November 5. When you cook for people, you know you have a home. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Blitz!

I have four exciting events coming up in the next 48 hours: October 12 at noon at Hickory Stick Books in Washington CT; the Little Compton Library at 6 on October 12; BUTTONWOOD Books at 10am on October 13; and the Melrose MA Library at 7:30 on October 13. Hope to see you!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Buffalo Readers and Knitters!

I can't begin to tell you how much I love the great city of Buffalo and its readers and knitters! To that end, I'm coming to celebrate both. First, I'll be at Larkin Square tomorrow October 5 at 5:30, thanks to Talking Leaves Bookstore. 

On Thursday October 7 I'm visiting the Buffalo Knitting Guild at 7pm with doors opening at 6:15 at the Hyatt Place in Amherst NY. The ever fabulous Jenna Meyer of Knit Buffalo will have her knitting truck there! Yay!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Come study with me online

My personal essay writing workshop for 24 Pearl St starts October 3. At first I was a little apprehensive about teaching online--I like seeing your faces! But I fell in love with it pretty quickly. I mean, I can do it in my jammies! What's not to love? 

If you register by October 1, you get a 15% discount. Give it a try?

Friday, September 16, 2016

NYC reading

Monday September 19 I'm doing a reading at the Barnes and Noble on the Upper East Side and would love to shake the rafters! Please come and hear me in conversation with the fabulous Billy Goldstein at 7PM!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

HELLOOOOOO Columbus, Vermont, Denver, Boston, Northampton, Burlington, Brooklyn, NYC, Jersey City...

Phew! Book tour whirlwind for The Book That Matters Most!

What great events at The Thurber House in Columbus and the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich VT!

Monday September 12 I will be at The Tattered Cover in Littleton CO at 7. I'd love to see you there!

For details on all these events, please look at the EVENTS section of my website!

Special shout to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference! They blew me away today. I love you all!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

First day of school

I have never been a fan of New Year's Eve. Something about all that forced excitement and anticipation just never worked for me. But the first day of school? That still makes me tingle with hope. Here in Rhode Island, I've started to see yellow school buses again. Kids in new clothes. Even cooler temperatures. A new year. For me, I'm starting anew in many ways. After seventeen years, I've moved from lovely 1792 Colonial home into a loft in a renovated factory across town. On the snowy April day in 1993 that I moved from NYC to Providence, unfamiliar with its neighborhoods, I chose an apartment in Fox Point because I could walk everywhere and it looked slightly shabby. But it had loads of trees that blossomed that May in a burst of pink and white. And all those Colonial homes in between triple decker and small aluminum sided houses. I raised my kids there, and I often think I can still see Grace's footprints on the path to the playground. I walked that path every day, Sam and Grace running ahead of me, our puppy Zuzu tugging on her leash. Now Sam is out of college pursuing his acting dreams. Zuzu is a blind and deaf but still zippy fifteen year old dog now. And Grace, my funny smart little girl, is fourteen years gone from us. I walked that path with Annabelle too, Zuzu beside us. And now Annabelle is in middle school, my French speaking, book a day, traveling buddy. In so many ways it pains me to leave that house, that street, that neighborhood. But life keeps throwing challenges at us, no matter how hard that is, and we can choose to have them defeat us, define us, or help us grow. Once again I've chosen the latter. A marriage ending. A farewell to my home. A new start. At almost sixty not many people have the opportunity for that. Annabelle and I are unpacking boxes, choosing furniture, eating dinner on the coffee table, and looking forward to an exciting future. Our new neighborhood is more urban, more gritty, with new restaurants opening at a rapid rate and a new bookstore coming in November. Books are on shelves. Art is waiting to be hung. And school starts tomorrow. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Heading West!

What an exciting August The Book That Matters Most and I are having! People Magazine, USA Today, The Library Association, and IndieBound have all selected The Book That Matters Most as their reading picks. I've already started my sixty book club visits (32 to go!) and have had wonderful events in Newport, Providence, and Westhampton. 

Tomorrow I'm heading to LA and San Francisco. If you're in or near Pasadena come see me tomorrow night at 7 at Vroman's; if you're in the Bay Area, come see me at Bookshop West Portal in San Francisco at 7!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pub date nears!

I'm so excited for my new novel, The Book That Matters Most, to enter the world! 

August 9 is the official pub date, and today I start my book tour, which will take me from Cape Cod to Pasadena to San Francisco to Columbus, Ohio to New York City to Burlington VT to Boston to Miami and Sarasota FL...you get the idea. Check events on my website for all the details. 

What a lovely week Annabelle and I had in Paris:


And in Dingle, Ireland

And then I came home to celebrate Sam's play, SOURCES OF LIGHT OTHER THAN THE SUN, that he wrote and staged at The Hudson Theater in NYC this week!

His fabulous cast:

Proud mom here!


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pub Day!

The Book That Matters Most is officially out today! I'm teaching in Vermont, and my lovely workshop brought mimosas to celebrate. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Paris!

Food Glorious Food!

Greetings from steamy Paris! It is very hard to complain when I'm in a lovely apartment in Montorgueil, eating great food, and seeing great friends. Still. It's hot. Hotter than hot. I'm sweaty and crabby and unable to run around as much as I'd like. Ok. Complaining done. And I just heard the rumble of thunder! Maybe relief is on its way. 

At the end of this post you will see pictures of the fabulous food I've been eating here. Onion soup. Escargots. Crepes flambĂ©. Croque Monsieur. Cheese and bread and jambon. How I love Paris! 

I had the great good luck to give a lecture and reading at NYU here. And to meet for consultations with 14 wonderful MFA students. And the great good luck to be in Paris as the same time as Melissa Coleman  (she's in Knitting Pearls!) and Helen Schulman. To see my former RISD student who lives here and always helps me find groovy apartments in the best hippest neighborhoods. And to have Annabelle and our most wonderful babysitter here with me. (Those two went off to visit friends in Grenoble, the lucky pair). 

Alone this afternoon, I went to five cooking supply stores. I bought fun accessories and tools and managed to shop and browse for three happy hours. 

Still ahead: haircuts. Knitting stores. Steak frites. Musee d'Orsay. Fabric shops. Pompidou. Then: onward to Ireland!

Now for those promised photos!





 


Friday, July 15, 2016

Goodbye Chautauqua, Bonjour Paris

Annabelle and I continue our nomadic summer today by packing up our latest digs, driving 8 hours back to RI, waking to do laundry, take care of business, visit Gogo, repack, and go to Logan for our flight to Paris. 

We had a great week at Chautauqua. We got to visit old friends, make new ones, learn to make an omelet and ride a bike to and fro alone (well, one of us did that). My workshop was absolutely terrific. Such thoughtful, warm, talented people!

Here's one of those omelets:


And here's some good news for The Book That Matters Most! Library Reads chose it as an August read! As always, grateful that what I write is reaching so many people. 


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Cape Cod, Chautauqua

After a lovely week teaching at Castle Hill in Truro, Annabelle and I landed home for just enough time to have dinner in the backyard, do laundry, and repack. This morning we are heading to Chautauqua where she will take classes in Robotics and Code Breaking while I teach. So different than her afternoons in Truro making objects with shells and driftwood! Our days have such a lovely pattern. We both have work to do in the morning, usually over pancakes or eggs. No tv, and early to bed with books. As we drive, we listen to Book Three of The Penderwick's. And we've seen so many friends, so many glorious sunsets, and one drive in viewing of Finding Dory. 


Monday, July 4, 2016

Checking in

I'm writing this from Truro, which is on Cape Cod. Castle Hill is a wonderful arts organization here that I've had the privilege of teaching writing for the last three years. Best of all: I teach in the morning and Annabelle takes art classes in the afternoon. We've established all these traditions for our week here. We see my fabulous friend, the writer Anne LeClaire. My friend Pam. We go to the drive in. We play mini golf. We go to Provincetown. But most importantly, we just be. We read. We write. We laugh. We talk. Today I was reading a student manuscript and Annabelle said: want to color? (She had brought an adult coloring book and colored pencils). I said in thirty minutes. But as soon as I said it, I thought: I have this lovely child here, and too soon she will not be asking me to color, and I said: yes. Let's color. And oh! We did! 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I love book clubs!

And I wrote about why in Parade this week!

http://parade.com/486461/annhood/ann-hood-why-we-love-book-clubs/

Friday, June 24, 2016

The shadows from the starlight are softer than a lullaby

Do you recognize that? If you're a John Denver fan like me then you know it's from Rocky Mountain High. Yup! I've been in Colorado all week, teaching at the lovely Aspen Words. My beginning fiction workshop has dazzled me every day with their bravery, talent, and general wonderfulness. And while I'm teaching and paneling, Annabelle has been tracking bears and building beaver dams at ACES camp. 

Today the first leg of our summer adventure ends as we head home. What a great start to summer! 

We are in the midst of big life changes, which I'll write about later when all the dust settles. For now, we are sadly packing up our Aspen condo and bidding goodbye to the mountains. I love how it rains puffs of cotton from the cottonwood trees here...

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The man in the street

Yesterday was one of the more stressful days in a long string of stressful days. At 3:00 I had to drive an hour to a book club in a little seaside town here, and I was kind of looking forward to the drive: no emails, no pressures, maybe just saw classical music or Alec Baldwin on podcast and me. 

I was on Route 1, the beach road, a two lane 55 mile an hour road with a grassy median and then two lanes heading the other direction, and I saw a man on the median. He looked nervous as he watched the traffic heading south--my car among it. I wondered why he didn't cross when there was a break. Then, my car fast approaching, he threw himself into my lane. I mean, he did a belly flop smack onto the road and stayed there. 

I both braked and swerved into the other lane, and the man began to roll and then crawl across the road, finally crawling into the nearby woods. Miraculously, I didn't hit him or even come close to hitting him. But I realized in the shock that followed that was he wanted. He didn't try to run across the busy road; he threw himself onto it. In front of me. 

I know I should make something of this, some realization about life and death or the human condition. I should take inspiration from it: I'm going through a lot right now but we all need to keep going, or some such. But I have had no epiphany. Just the image of that man, scared, jumping. 


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Summer on its way

After a busy, jet setting May I'm looking forward to a calmer June. Though my frequent flyer miles will keep stacking up this summer. The first couple of weeks will find me at home cheering Annabelle on to the end of sixth grade, seeing friends and plays in NYC, and catching my breath. Then summer begins with Annabelle and I heading to Aspen (Aspen Words for me, camp for her), Castle Hill in Truro, Chautauqua, Paris, and Dingle Ireland. 

My teaching schedule will be posted on my website soon. But my book tour schedule for The Book That Matters Most, which is published August 9, is there now! Lots of exciting events ahead! So I'll take this pause in travel to read and knit and cook and laugh with Annabelle. 

Hope to see you in the classroom or at a book event in the next few months!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Cuba!

Just home from amazing Cuba! Truly amazing. 

Highlights:
Spending 10 days with Alden Jones and Tim Weed and our fabulous group of writers. 
Roast pig. 
Bike taxis. 
Havana Havana Havana. 
Club Havana 7 year rum. 
Seeing sigourney weaver at San cristobal last night. 
Buena Vista Social Club. 
The dancers, the painters, the singers
Laughing. A lot. 
Crying. A lot. 
Cigars. 
Hemingway. 
The people. 
Che. 
The story. 
Palm trees and tamarind trees everywhere. 
Sugar cane coffee stirrers. 
The bus. 
The old cars. Of course. 
Mojitos. Free!
The old elevator in our hotel. 
Hemingway daiquiris. 
Well. Everything. 

Pictures are posted on Facebook and Instagram. But here's two. 



Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

These simple holidays, when flowers and greeting cards are everywhere, can slay us. I'm sitting here on a chilly morning remembering the first Mother's Day after Grace had died just three short weeks earlier. How I sat stunned holding tulips. How I could not wrap my brain around any of what had swept through my family and knocked us to our knees. 

Today, children of all ages without mothers and mothers without their children will mean a kick in the heart. 

But I hope too we can celebrate what we had. The joys of a mother's hug, her hand on our fevered foreheads, her happy face. The joys of our child's hand in ours, her voice saying Mama, her curled up on our laps. 

Typically on Mother's Day I post a picture of my feisty fabulous 84 year old mother, Gogo. But today I posted pictures of my three kids: Sam, Grace, and Annabelle. I posted them with gratitude. And a heart overflowing with love. 




Monday, April 18, 2016

The heart

It's an amazing thing, the heart. 

Fourteen years ago today I was sitting right where I am now, in the room we call the puzzle room, in shock. My five year old daughter Grace died from strep in the morning, and friends and family had come to our house bearing flowers and food and hugs. And tears. So many tears I hoped they might wash me away. 

Twelve years ago today, in Loudi, Hunan China, my daughter Annabelle was born. Five months later she appeared on the doorstep of an orphanage. And a year and a half later we were bringing her home. Ours. 

Today I woke with grief so strong, the memory of Grace's hands and smile and eyes filling me. Then Annabelle burst in: she was twelve! And she climbed in bed with me and we drew pictures together. I fed her breakfast in bed then we went for pedicures and lunch and to pick up her dream gift: a sewing machine. 

She set it up and got to work. I came in here to sit and think. In no time she appeared in the doorway, grinning. 
"Catch!" She said, and threw me a heart she had just sewn and stuffed. 

"Amazing," I said. 

Amazing. All of it. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Cruelest Month

My fourteenth year without Grace. Like all of you who have suffered loss, it feels both forever and like yesterday that I held her sticky hand, felt the weight of her on my lap, combed her tangled hair, heard her husky laugh, smiled at her bright blue eyes behind her wire rimmed glasses, sang along with her to Eight Days A Week

My body and heart know that April is here before my mind registers it. The depression begins. The waking at night and lethargy during the day. The inability to write or read and instead binge watch--this year--Transparent.

T.S. Eliot wrote:

"APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
 
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing 
Memory and desire, stirring 
Dull roots with spring rain." 

         

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Can you help me meet my goal?

Friends! Can you help me reach my goal? My new novel, The Book That Matters Most, is about a woman who joins a book club to help her after her divorce. To celebrate the book and my own birthday, I want to visit 60 book clubs between August 9 (pub date) and December 9 (my birthday) in person or via Skype. 
Will your book club help me reach my goal? Email me at amhood@gmail.com for details!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Book That Matters Most is available for pre-order!

I really can't describe the thrill of holding a book I've written in my hand for the first time, or seeing it on a bookstore shelf. But it is similar to holding any new book in my hand. Do you sniff books? I do. And I caress them too. I read the back copy, and the flap copy, and the dedication. I look at the author photo and read the bio--the kids, the odd jobs, the education and hometown. I love every inch of a book. 

I hope you love my new one, coming August 9 but pre-orderable now!


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Winter Blues

I must admit that here in New England we have been spared the 100+ inches of snow and polar vortexes of 2015. In fact, there have been more than a few days when I've gone without my puffy black coat altogether. Yet there's something about winter that gets to me. The early darkness. The threat of snow or cold always right around the corner. 

The other night I dreamed of Grace--at her little nursery school, Tot Spot; me just watching her play and paint, feeling both confused and grateful--and that began the blues, the sense of sadness that bubbles always beneath the surface. I know that many of you who read this understand this melancholy. And I write about it to remind you that you aren't alone. Or crazy. You are just human. 

As I tend to do, when these feelings grip me I force myself to be grateful too. Not just for my other two remarkable, marvelous kiddos, but for my writing life, which is rich and full. 

Last week my wonderful publisher, WW Norton, threw a media lunch for me and The Book That Matters Most (along with two other summer novels by Liz Moore and Lydia Millet). There were hydrangeas and wine and editors and writers who write about books. Truly a dream day. 

I have so many exciting things coming up too: a trip to Venice, teaching at the Geneva Writers Conference, teaching in Cuba and Aspen and Ireland and Paris. 

Even now, as I write this, I am on a bus to Logan Airport, heading west toward palm trees and white sand beaches and Mai tais. 

Here's what's accompanying me on my very long flight:

Those size 50 needles are for Purl Soho's Eleventh Hour scarf, knit with yummy Gentle Giant yarn. 

I'm rereading A Long Long Way because I'm writing something about WW I. (Sort of...it's the very beginning of what in 2 or 3 or 5 years will be a novel). 

I see the airport ahead. Often we are advised to stay home with our sadness. Me, I take to the skies. http://www.more.com/relationships/attitudes/runaway

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A day without a phone

People are always talking about the great pleasure of going off the grid or unplugging. Well, I just spent a day involuntarily doing that and I'm sorry to admit it wasn't a pleasure at all! Last night I lost my phone at the movies and thus began my almost 24 hours without it. Although I felt very Nancy Drew watching it move around RI on Find My IPhone, and even went to the creepy park where it landed finally, searching trash cans and disgusting litter, mostly the day was not fun. Why? I couldn't set my alarm (no alarm clock here!), check the weather (without putting on the TV), call my mom (she's 84! I call her a lot!), plan Annabelle's play date, get Sam's texts, or hey! Communicate with any of the people I touch base with every day. Sure, I emailed from my computer, but I wasn't home most of the day. I'm not whining. Instead, I'm here to say that as someone who does love technology (I even look back fondly at the hulking Leading Edge computer I bought at Crazy Eddy's in NYC decades ago), I like how this small thing I can hold in the palm of my hand keeps me close to the people I love, the world outside my own little world, the news and goings on both big and personal. I don't like staring at it instead of into the eyes of someone I love, or even someone I like. I don't like using it when good food is in front of me, or someone is talking to me, or a million other times when I want or need to be looking up and at this beautiful world. But today I realized how much this phone of mine adds to a full life rich with people I love and a world I care enough about to want to check in on how it's doing throughout the day. And yes, I also suffered Word With Friends withdrawal. 

Nancy Drew failed. No doubt my phone thief tossed it in the pond. But three hours with the charming Kyle and I'm the proud new owner of an upgraded pink (Apple calls it rose) phone. The magic of the iCloud had everything appear here, and I've now called everybody I couldn't call and checked everything I couldn't check and taken all my turns on WWF. I managed to read a novel today (Ann Leary's The Children, coming out in May, and you will thank me for the recommendation!) and bind off my gorgeous mountain cowl from Purl Soho, and visit Gogo, and grocery shop for a dinner party tomorrow, and talk to Annabelle. But I do all those things when I have my phone too. It just lets me reach out even more. So here's to technology! 

What's for dinner tomorrow? Cauliflower al forno, pappardelle with pork ragu, and an arugula salad. I'll be cooking all morning. Can't wait!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

So many exciting events for The Book That Matters Most!

The Book That Matters Most will be published on August 6! And there's lots of readings and talks being planned already! When the schedule is set, I'll post it on my website. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Happy it snowed on Saturday...


While I was still in St. Pete! Don't get me wrong, I like a blizzard from time to time. But missing this one had a double benefit: I got to go sleeveless and the airport was open so I could get home on Sunday with no problem!

Another fabulous week at Writers in Paradise with Andre Dubus lll, Laura Lippman, Stewart O'Nan, Dennis Lehane, Les Standiford, Sterling Watson, Gilbert King, Campbell McGrath, and Laura Williams McCaffrey--a stellar group of writers and teachers and pals. If you are thinking about a writers conference, and Florida in January appeals, consider Writers in Paradise for certain. 

Here are a few pictures from my week:


Also, this happened:


See that handsome guy in the glasses smack in the middle? That's my kid! On SNL! #proudmon

And now I have several weeks of writing, cooking, reading, knitting Annabelle time ahead of me (with several trips to NYC). What am I writing? This week it's correcting page proofs for The Book That Matters Most, coming this August:

Also in the planning stages of a new novel. Always a terrifying and exhilarating place to be. And two different non fiction projects in the works. More on those soon. 

What am I cooking? Annabelle's favorite, risotto. A roast chicken. And for a dinner party this weekend, porchetta with cauliflower al forno. 

What am I knitting? The mountain cowl from Purl Soho, with the yummiest yarn ever. 

Reading? Read Outline by Rachel Cusk and My Name is Lucy Barton byElizabeth Strout last week, and am dazzled by both. This week I've got books for blurbing and also eager to start Beatlebone. 

And then on Wednesday there's the premiere of this: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GaLX8s3xVGc

Finest Hours! My kid's in it! Okay, one scene. But still!

 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Chilly Florida

Every January finds me here in St. Petersburg, Florida teaching at Eckerd College Writers in Paradise writing conference. I've never been much of a Florida girl--except those long ago spring breaks to Fort Lauderdale, the always fabulous Miami Book Fair, my residency at the Hermitage, and memorable readings at Bookstore One in Sarasota. Yet these weeks here feel more and more like a homecoming of sorts. I always have a knockout group in my workshops. The readings never fail to take my breath away. And sitting in my jammies at night sipping whiskey with my writer pals warms me, makes me laugh, makes me think, inspires me, and reminds me how lucky I am to be part of this vibrant community of writers. And hey! There's nothing like seeing sunshine and palm trees in January! 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

From minus 9 to palm trees

What a treat it was to spend those cold snowy days in Vermont with my truly wonderful VCFA students and faculty. Now I'm back home, preparing for a new group of students in St. Petersburg, Florida where the weather forecast promises temperatures in the 70s. 

It's my tenth year teaching at Writers in Paradise at Eckerd College and everything from the B and B where we stay to the faculty and our favorite restaurants feels like a home away from home. I'm looking forward to my workshop, the readings and stories I'll hear, the late nights in my jammies laughing with my Jammie clad pals. 

In the chill of Vermont I knit two scarves; I'm hoping to knit myself the mountain cowl from Purl Soho in Florida. 

I've got lots to write in the months ahead. Two non-fiction books due this year, both in various stages of completion. One is a memoir through food, the other a look back at the books that mattered most to me growing up. It's been fun rereading those books, and revisiting that girl I was who loved them. As for the food book, I've been writing about food for years and I'm excited to collect those essays and write some new ones. That's where my writing mind will be turned for the early part of 2016: food and books. Not a bad way to spend my days. 

Lots of other exciting things ahead. My cousins and I just booked a trip to Venice for the week before I teach at the Geneva Writers conference in March. And in May I'm teaching in Cuba, then in the Bahamas, followed by a return to Aspen Words in June. 

What's most exciting is the August publication of The Book That Matters Most! It took me three years to get this story right, and I'm over the moon that it's ready to meet the world. 

My 2016 resolution to read 100 books this year is off to a grand start. Old Filth by Jane Gardham and Outline by Rachel Cusk are both knockouts. Cusk's writing has me flat out dazzled. I'll be sure to keep you posted on the next 98!

I hope I'll squeeze in writing a couple short stories amidst all the non fiction writing. They are pushing at my brain, begging to come out...

Ah well, for now I'm happy to spend the weekend doing laundry, reading student stories, getting a pre Florida pedicure, going to a friend's reading, seeing the movie Carol, doing yoga, hanging with Annabelle, and having dinner with pals. Oh. And thawing out. 



Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy 2016 from Montpelier Vermont!


Yup! It's cold here! 1 the last time I checked...

But it's wonderful to meet new students, see old friends, make new pals, hear amazing readings and lectures, and even walk these snowy streets. 


Lots of listening means lots of knitting: one scarf (knit in ridge stitch) done, an infinity scarf in deep purple almost done. 

Reading Old Filth when I have down time, which isn't often. But read it! 

I hope your holidays were happy. And that you soar in 2016!