Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ubi Bene, Part Two: An Afternoon in Lambertville, NJ

The Delaware River 
Yesterday, Andre, the dogs, and I were exiled again, this time while prospective buyers checked out our house.  Combining business with pleasure, we took a daytrip to our longed-for future hometown of Lambertville and went for a stroll along the Delaware & Raritan Canal.  

The path that runs along the canal is a state park--a very long and skinny one.  On it, we passed families fishing for trout and were passed in turn by little kids on bikes.   We glimpsed five hawks wheeling above the canal, and inadvertantly scared quite a few fat Canada geese out of our path and into the water.

The canal

A day later we would see the first green spears of crocus and daffodil poking up in our Pennsylvania garden, but last Saturday New Jersey seemed in a perfect state of suspension between winter and spring.  Between the old life and the new.

Kind of like us.

Downtown Lambertville

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ubi Bene, Ibi Patria: Revisiting Asbury Park

In this time of scrambling to sell one home and buy another, Andre, the dogs, and I needed to vacate our house while our floors were refinished.  So why not take advantage of our weekend-long exile to feed our souls with a visit to Asbury Park?  Epicenter of the Jersey Shore music scene, Asbury's also home to many wonderful places to break bread with friends.

Dinner at the homey and delicious Porta

We ate at Porta, a family-style eatery that always manages to feel warm, festive, and authentically Italian, no matter how gray and cold the weather.  Then we made our way to the legendary Saint.

The wonderful Toby Lightman was on the bill that night. 

We soaked in the warmth, the music, the lights...

...before returning home to spiffy new floors and a little statue of Saint Joseph awaiting burial in our backyard.  Not to mention the packing, cleaning, and Goodwill runs that must be done--all in service of moving to a place we hope will be our hearts' true country.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

In the Air Again: Lucy Takes a Fantastic Flying Book Club Tour

Thanks to my friends at The Fantastic Flying Book Club for taking Lucy on tour.  Check out her itinerary here.  There will be reviews, interviews, and a giveaway, so visit any of the stops along the way for  chance to win a copy of Love, Lucy.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Off The Air

Yes, I have been.  You see, we're in the process of getting our house fixed up to put it on the market, because we've found a house we love in a river town we adore.  

Yes, I do have a thing for river towns.

So wish us luck, because this business of trying to simultaneously sell one house and buy another is fraught.  I promise to be posting soon, when my life isn't in quite such a state of disarray.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

An L.A. Interlude

Audrey Hepburn on Sunset Boulevard
When the L.A. Teen Writer Series invited me to appear on a panel with some very fabulous writers--Susan Adrian, Jennifer Niven, Amy Talkington, Sandra Waugh, and moderator Mary McCoy--I wasn't about to let a whole continent stand in my way.  

I've never been to Los Angeles before, so of course I had to squeeze in a little sightseeing.  First stop: TCL (formerly known as Grauman's) Chinese Theater!

After that, I set off for a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard.  In New York City you can tell the tourists because they're looking up.  But on Hollywood Boulevard, the tourists are bumping into each other because they're all looking down--at the Walk of Fame.

Here's what I noticed about L.A.  They do things with a special flair.  Take, for instance, the lowly shopping mall...

Hollywood and Highland Shopping Center
...where a person might buy herself a plain old-fashioned smoothie.

Even the local high school is pretty darn flashy.

Hollywood High

Record stores hardly even exist anymore, but Hollywood's Amoeba Music is a super-funky work of art.

And the Central Public Library's not too shabby either.

By the way, our panel was loads of fun.  Here's photographic evidence--a collage by author Jennifer Niven:

And a post-panel get together proved that L.A. has a lively, vibrant community of Young Adult authors to match everything else that's stellar about the place.

Oh, and here's a link to a little interview I did with the LAPL Central Library Blog.

Hollywood Still Life: A Star, Crushed Roses, and a Weave

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Home is So Sad: A Poem By Philip Larkin

Not long ago,  I was in Florida, taking care of my mother who was recovering from pneumonia.  My Mom is doing better (knock wood!) but the illness took its toll on her body and her psyche, and made her a sadder version of herself. 

Even being home in Florida felt sad.  Something about the contrast between the piercing blue skies and balmy weather and my mother's newly circumscribed days.  The visits from nurses and physical therapists.  The meals--carefully prepared but barely eaten.  The soft boiled eggs and canned peaches and Ensure.  

This visit was like a new, gray layer in a pentimento.   The early layers are bright: Christmas with my parents, my sister, my husband, my uncles and aunts.  Disney World with my sons.   Lobster dinners on the water.  Pilgrimages to the power plant where the manatees gather in cold weather.  Boat tours on the Indian River.  And then, six years ago, my father's illness and death.  

Now the things that used to signify homecoming and vacation mean something a bit sadder.  The Melbourne airport with its relentlessy cheery carpet and festive manatee statue. 

The wall clock that chimes a different song on every hour.  Even the weather--the tossing palm fronds, the sunshine, the blue, blue sky.

How can I not think of this magnificent poem by Philip Larkin?

Home is so Sad

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was: 
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.
Flying home

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Love, Lucy Playlist

photo by Eric Blackmore.  https://blackmorephoto2013.files.wordpress.com
Whatever else my new novel Love, Lucy is about--romance, Italy, finding your way in the world--it's also about music.  At the book's start, Lucy has given up her first love--musical theater--in exchange for parental approval and a backpacking trip through Europe.  Then when she meets Jesse Palladino, a New Jersey street musician busking his way through Italy, she starts to find her voice again.

So of course there has to be a Love, Lucy playlist--the songs that might catch Lucy's ear in a Munich internet cafe or a boutique on the Via degli Strozzi.  Songs she listens to on her iPod on the overnight train from Munich to Florence.  Songs she revisits after returning home to Philadelphia, trying to recapture the thrill of her travels:

Thanks to Ashley and Alexis of With Her Nose Stuck In a Book for inviting me to contribute Lucy's playlist, and this little riff on my song choices:


When I graduated from college, my parents gave me the gift of a lifetime: two months backpacking solo through Europe.  I climbed an Alp in Switzerland, took the Sound of Music Tour in Austria, rode a Bateau Mouche in Paris, and ate fish and chips in the general vicinity of John Cleese in London—but nothing thrilled me as much as my time in Italy.  

Maybe my abiding love of all things Italian can be explained by the fact that I’m half Italian.  Maybe it’s because I studied the language in college and can bluff my way through conversations with cabdrivers and waiters.  Or maybe it’s the art, the architecture, the amazing food, the warmhearted Italians, or the rolling hills of Tuscany.

Photo found at http://hqworld.net/gallery/details.php?image_id=2692&sessionid=7ae409375ffdf1775656b4550a4b7965

Whatever the reason, I go back to Italy whenever I can (not often enough!) and, the rest of the time, I rely on music to transport me back to the land of my dreams. I can shut my eyes and listen, and suddenly I’m riding an overnight train into Florence, wandering through a sun-drenched piazza, hearing a street musician’s guitar, and falling in love all over again.

In putting together a playlist for my new novel, Love, Lucy, I chose songs with the power to jolt me back into Lucy’s world.  

For Lucy’s playlist, I’ve chosen a mix of American rock and European pop. Here are some highlights:

  • The first song, Check In by Fiamma Fumana perfectly captures the buzz of an airport’s busy international terminal, the sheer excitement of being about to hop on a plane to Europe for the very first time.
Fiamma Fumana

  •  Lucy and her friend Charlene land in Paris, then backpack on to Salzberg, Vienna, and Munich, so I have tossed in some of Lucy’s favorite songs in German and French: Ne Me Quitte Pas by Regina Spektor; Elle Me Dit by MIKA (a British pop star I first discovered in a cafĂ© in Rome):

       and Madchen Mit Plan by 2raumwohnung.


  • Italy is meant to be the trip’s grand finale for Lucy, and it’s the place where she meets and falls for Jesse. Songs like Cosa Hai Messo Nel Caffe by Malika Ayane, Come un Pittore by Moda, and Fammi Dormire by Matteo Beccuci capture the tenderness and excitement of a summer love in romantic Florence, Italy.

  • Finally, I’ve tossed in some songs in English for good measure—We are Golden by MIKA, Every Single Body Else, by Butch Walker and Whole World With You by Willie Nile—songs that capture the excitement of an American in Europe for the very first time—making new friends, walking through thrilling new landscapes, and saying yes to adventure.
  • Butch Walker