Saturday, August 5, 2017

Busy Book Tour

After three weeks away--one week teaching memoir at The Provincetown Fine Arts Center, one week teaching in Dingle, Ireland, and a week in Naples Italy doing research for my new novel and for a magazine article--I arrived home at 1 this morning tired and happy. even the four hour delay in Dublin for our flight back to Boston didn't damper my joy at this time traveling.

We went from the 58 degree Irish weather to the sweltering 96 and humid weather in Naples and I managed it all with just a carry on bag! Highlights were dinner at Global Village, readings at The Dingle Bookstore, old friends, new friends, rain, Guiness, Dick Mack's pub; the statue The Veiled Christ, the anatomical rooms, pasta with potatoes at Nenella's, ragu at Tandem, pizza everywhere but especially at 50 Kalo, an air conditioned apartment, new houses uncovered at Pompeii, the ferry to Procida, lunch on Cousin Chippy's roof, handmade umbrellas, the streets of nativities. Of course this list could go on and on, but let's just say it was magnificent from start to finish (except the 24 hour flu that knocked me down in Naples).

And now after teaching at Vermont College of Fine Arts this coming week and then BreadLoaf the following two weeks, I will start doing book events for MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS.

Please come to see me at The Flannery O'Connor House in Savannah GA on September 1, The Decatur Book Festival on September 2 and 3 (with my husband!), The Provincetown Book Festival on September 15 and 16 (also with husband!), and The Miami Book Fair November 18 and 19 (husband there with me too!)

I'll also be at Newport Vineyards with Island Books in Newport RI, Block Island Library, Gibson's in NH, and lots of other fun places that are or will very soon be posted on my website. Please come and celebrate MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS with me!


I can still remember the great fear, excitement, and anticipation that came when my very first book, SOMEWHERE OFF THE COAST OF MAINE, was published in May of 1987. And thirty years later I'm here to say that those feelings never fade. Each time I have a new book published I get the same giddy, terrified feeling I did back then. So it is with that giddy, terrified feeling that I tell you pub date for my new memoir, MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS, is here!

The book tells the story of ten books I read as a teenager that helped shape me into the person I am today, that helped me learn to live and to achieve my dreams of being a writer and seeing the world. I could have included three times as many books, but I wanted to stay very focused and explore very particular lessons that books gave me.The books range from THE GRAPES OF WRATH to LOVE STORY, THE BELL JAR to JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN, and more.

As I wrote this book, I became even more aware of how coming of age in the 60s and early 70s shaped who I am. the music, the culture, the shifting rules of that era remain a deep part of who I am.

I'm so delighted and proud that IndieBound, Apple, and Penny's Picks have all chosen MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS as August picks. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Urban Fourth of July

Ever since my beloved dad died in 1997, I have dreaded Fourth of July. That was his birthday, and no one celebrated a birthday--or the Fourth--like my dad. He woke early and started drinking beer, grilling food, and playing John Philip Sousa marches as loud as possible. By noon, hordes of friends and family had arrived, and the partying continued long into the night, always ending with sparklers and Roman candles and bottle rockets, and sometimes ending with Dad and various uncles and pals marching up the street with pots on their heads and broomsticks and mops over their shoulders.

The year he died, we all fled to Mexico, where margaritas and the ocean dulled our pain and no one was celebrating the Fourth of July. As time went on, I've managed to mostly avoid the holiday. For years, I taught in North Carolina that whole week. Sometimes I went to friends' parties, but usually left early.

This year, I found myself dividing the long weekend between my two homes, in NYC and in Providence, with my wonderful new husband (who was missing his own dad too).

While in NYC, we took in a new play at the Cherry Lane Theater and dinner afterward at Chumley's (more on that later), followed by bourbons at Barbuto where we could get all mushy reliving our wedding. In true NYC tradition, we bought out Sunday NYT late Saturday night so that we could wake up on Sunday, drink coffee, eat croissants, and read the newspaper all morning. Then we went up to The Met to see the Irving Penn show--which isn't to be missed! We had a light lunch at Bouchon Bakery before heading back downtown to see Sweeney Todd at The Barrow Street Theater--another not to be missed! Before the show you have meat pies and mash in an authentically recreated British pie shop, which to our utter delight and surprise, the entire play takes place. You haven't lived until you've had Norm Lewis singing on your table.

Monday we drove to Providence, where my son's theater company, WHAT WILL THE NEIGHBORS SAY?, was waiting at the loft. Tuesday we brought an entire barbecue of hot dogs and hamburgers and all the fixins to Gogo's, then came home to nap and start cooking again: ribs and black beans and zucchini salad (made for me by my husband to convince me that zicchini can actually taste like more than tepid water--it worked!) on the roof with WWTNS. As we ate, fireworks started all over Rhode Island, and we could see them all. By the time we walked across the roof to our neighbors for apple pie and vino, the whole sky was exploding! We stayed up late playing a lively game or three of Code Names. And I went to bed, happy for this Fourth of July filled with love and food and fireworks and cityscapes...

My digression on Chumley's:
If you are a real New Yorker--meaning you lived there for many years as an adult during the worst times in NYC--you hung out at Chumley's, the hidden Prohibition era speakeasy at 86 Bedford Street (where the restaurant term 86 originated!). The place had good cheap(ish) pub food, lots of atmosphere, drunken writers at the bar, and was just one of everyone in the Village's favorite spots. Sadly, it closed about a decade ago, and rumors of its reopening circulated, always met with great excitement.

One day last fall, my beloved and I were walking down Bedford Street and to our delight saw a sign announcing the upcoming reopening of Chumley's. We got ourselves there pretty quickly after it opened, only to find our shaggy dog pub turned into a fancy restaurant (with prices to match). That night we ate oysters at the bar and drank overpriced cocktails, disappointed. Still, word that it served the best hamburger in the city brought us back the other night, because I am a girl who loved my burgers. But...not for $28. Cocktails? $18. Wine? Nothing under $60. And all the black and white photos of writers that now fill the walls (not many writers I know can afford to hang out at the bar there anymore!) made for fun guessing who's who, but no one who worked there knew the answers! Google helped, a little.

Ah well. Nothing, not even an overpriced burger in a bygone place, could ruin our weekend. But I still choose to remember the Chumley's of old, where I'd sit and drink beer with my writing buddy Phil, eat pot roast, and listen to ghosts.

WWTNS is leaving us this afternoon, so we will eat dinner at The Slow Rhode, one of my favorite little spots in my fabulous neighborhood and curl up with a movie back home. Lots of fun with friends planned over the next few days before Annabelle and I head to our yearly week in truro, where I teach at Castle Hill and then she and I play mini golf and go to the drive-in and meet up with dear friends for lobster rolls and clams.

When we return from Truro, it's only to repack before a week in Provincetown teaching at the Fine Arts Center, a week teaching in Dingle Ireland, a week of (mostly) vacation in Naples, Italy, then a week teaching at the post-graduate conference at Vermont College of the Fine Arts, and then two glorious weeks teaching at Breadloaf, where in 1988 my now husband called out to me...and I walked away. Sigh!

I hope your summer brings to mind Henry James:

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

Enjoy your summer afternoons!


My new book is available for pre-order!

I am so excited that my new memoir, MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS, is available for pre-order from your favorite bookstore!

Library Journal calls it "poignant and enlightening" and Booklist says it is "affecting and inspiring". I hope you all find it so too!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chicken Marbella and me

Hello Everyone! Happy Flag Day!

Last night I hosted a dinner for three colleagues to help with the exciting plans for a Low Residency MFA program in Newport RI at Salve Regina College, launching in June 2018 with fabulous poet Jen McClanaghan and me at the helm. As anyone in New England knows, it has been very hot and very steamy here. For dinner I was thinking of cold food--panzanella salad maybe. Corn salad. And I had pretty much landed on Laurie Colwin's yummy mustard chicken when my darling husband suggested I make Chicken Marbella, my no fail recipe from The Silver Palate.

He was in NYC doing publicity for his new book, so he wasn't going to partake in my Chicken Marbella. But I could almost see the twinkle in his eye when he suggested I make it.

Back in 2011, I wrote an essay about my beloved Chicken Marbella for the sadly now defunct literary journal Alimentum, which was dedicated to all food writing. That essay won a Best Food Writing Award that year, and unfortunately that's the only way you can still read it as it isn't available online.

"The Golden Silver Palate" told about my history with Chicken Marbella, and how in some ways it turned me into a cook--mostly because you can't mess it up. I've forgotten the brown sugar, the wine, marinated it too long and too short, and it's always delicious. So the first time I cooked for Michael (well, it was technically the second time, the first being spaghetti cacio e pepe, but that's another story) I was so nervous--I was madly in love! With a chef!--the only thing I could make that I knew wouldn't fail was Chicken Marbella.

So organized was I! I set up the chicken to marinade the night before he arrived. I snipped the parsley for the garnish, measured the brown sugar and wine for the baking, and...

It was terrible. I mean, really really bad. Michael likes to tell the story of how I woke in the middle of the night and said: I forgot the olives! But this was more than that: flabby chicken and tasteless juice.

Almost every woman I know who came of age in the 80s makes Chicken Marbella as her go to dish--BECAUSE YOU CAN'T MESS IT UP. When Michael and I tell about the first meal I made him, when I say I messed up the Chicken Marbella, we always get the same response: That's impossible!

Alas, it's true. But seven months later, at my sweetie's prodding, I made it again. And it came out perfectly. Check out my Instagram at annhood56 or my Facebook page for pictures of its yumminess. I guess it proves no dish is foolproof. Or maybe that you can be so blinded by love that you can even mess up Chicken Marbella?

It's been a truly lovely week, this victorious dish only adding to it. Michael and I drove to Coney Island with Cousin GJ and her beau on Friday night for a walk on the boardwalk and dinner at a new restaurant. Then we headed to Cousin Chippy's beach house in Breezy Point for a weekend of food and wine--pizzas in the pizza oven, long beach walks, lots of vino, lots of cousin love when Cousin Tony and his Girlfriend showed up and Marina arrived too, and our traditional Sunday morning ribs slow cooked all night in aforementioned pizza oven for breakfast. Perfect weather to boot.

I am still knitting away on the Churchmouse Yarns Airport Shawl in alpaca. This week I've been reading A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW by Amor Towles.

Tomorrow I'm meeting my beloved in NYC for our friend's art show opening and the performance of the daughter of another friend. On friday I'm on  a panel at Hunter College's Summer Symposium, then we are going to see the play WHIRLIGIG with my theater crush Norbert Leo Butz in it.

And then we are off to northern California for a week for some reading, writing and romance. Looking forward to eating lots of oysters, drinking lots of California wine, working on my new novel, reading Maggie O'Farrell novels, and well...the romance part!

I hope you are enjoying Flag Day wherever you are. And that you are eating and drinking and reading to your heart's content!

Monday, June 5, 2017

I say it just begins to live that day...

Beginning this post with a quote from my beloved Emily Dickinson is fitting today because I just spent three glorious hours making words live. (Full poem is at end of post)

Woke at my beautiful loft in RI with Annabelle beside me. the loft has been (happily!) taken over by Sam and the theatre company he and his friends have formed, What Will the Neighbors Say? (WARNING: proud mom approaching) They are doing a month long residency in RI, bringing the acclaimed play IN HER OWN WORDS: THE DIANA TAPES that played at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh last summer and a new musical for kids, UNTITLED SHAPE SHOW to Providence. I had a great time feeding them all, and playing cards and dancing into the night. 

But today I left them with a fridge full of food to come to NYC for the launch meeting of Penguin Workshop, which my new YA novel, SHE LOVES YOU (YEAH YEAH YEAH) is debuting in! So so excited for this. 

On the train here I reread the 47 pages I have of my new adult novel, THE MUSEUM OF TEARS, and cut 12 pages, four characters, and one sub plot! I love a day like this, lost in words and story. I was able to rearrange and add sentences here and there, all to get ready to bring it to life. Just this morning the story led me to Pablo Neruda poetry, uniforms for waitresses at IHops in 1972, and the Merimekko website. God, i love my job!

When I looked up, ready to take a break and knit (Churchmouse Yarns airplane shawl), I was fifteen minutes from NYC! 

Now it's off to Penguin, and dinner with my wonderful editor and friend, and then a very early wake up tomorrow to catch a flight to Cleveland where my darling husband awaits me. He's doing publicity for his new book, GROCERY, which is selling like gangbusters, and I'm excited to be at his upcoming events at Heinens grocery store downtown tomorrow and on Pepper Pike on Wednesday, as well as his reading at Loganberry Books. If you are a Clevelander, come and say hi!

Thursday we fly back to Providence, ever so briefly, before a family weekend at the beach in Brooklyn. Hopefully the rain will pause (the hole in my ceiling and the leak from it would be especially grateful).

And here, as promised, the full Emily Dickinson:

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just begins
to live that day.
– Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

On Books and Knitting

After a busy, fun-filled long weekend in Chicago with Annabelle and two cousins of mine, I am happily home in my loft with my kittens and my husband and my kid. We got perfect weather in Chicago and did such wonderful things--the architectural river tour, the Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute (I went back alone just to gaze at the Impressionist art there), and of course HAMILTON, which blew me away. We ate well too: of course deep dish pizza at Gino's East, but also Fonda Frontera, Roister, and my favorite The Girl and The Goat. Our hotel, The Chicago Athletic Association, is now among my favorites (having Shake Shack room service was a plus!).

Before I left, I sent off revisions of my new YA novel, which I am very excited about! Tentative title is She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) and I will tell you details (pub date, basic story) here soon.

As I wrote about last week, I'm also celebrating thirty years with my very first novel, Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine, which has been in print ever since its debut. So proud of that little book, and the life it began for me.

Today, as my darling husband works across from me on his new book, I am taking out index cards to begin a blueprint of my new (adult) novel, The Museum of Tears. I began it many months ago and this is the second time that the start of a novel got interrupted by other work. And the second time that the months away from it made me, as Joseph Conrad said, re-vision it. Even though I wasn't actively writing, I was thinking the story. And this time thinking and not writing has opened up the story in a new and dazzling way. Our rush to putting words on paper isn't always the best route to the story we should be writing, I think. Now that my writing time has returned, I am even more excited to tell this story in this way. I cannot wait to begin!

But first, the promised knitting updates too. Yesterday I finished the Summer Scarf from Mason-Dixon Knitting's Snippets newsletter. This was a very fun knitting project, using cotton yarn in two different colors and the helical striping technique. I liked it so much that I'm going to knit another one later this summer (it's a great travel knitting project). Until then, I am going to start a summer wrap from Churchmouse Yarns and continue the swoncho from The Yarn Lady (my home knitting project). All of this finishing and beginning made me reflect on beginnings and endings on the flight home yesterday as I cast off that summer scarf.

Yes, I'm beginning a new novel just as my new memoir, Morningstar: Growing Up With Books is being published (in August! Available by pre-order now!), and I'm casting off and casting on knitting projects.

So this week is all about books and knitting for me. And cooking and loving. I hope your week is full of all these good things too.