Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Season of Signings

Postcards and lattes and Sharpies: Oh My!
Now that my season of back-to-back booksignings has drawn to a close, I'm a little unsure what I'll be doing on Saturday afternoons!  
Neither wind nor rain nor gloom of night will stay this booksigner from her appointed BAM!

Thanks to all the Books-a-Million stores that hosted me, and to all the lovely people who dropped by to say hello.  I've enjoyed spending time with you all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Search For Stars Hollow: Cape May, New Jersey

At the Emlen Physick Estate and Museum
The entire run of Gilmore Girls recently became available on Netflix, and re-watching it has renewed a longtime obsession of mine: finding a real-world community like Stars Hollow, the charming but fictional Connecticut town in which Lorelei and Rory Gilmore wittily banter.

Before I became obsessed with Stars Hollow, I was in love with Cicely, Alaska, the equally fictional, equally charming setting of Northern Exposure.

Towns like these--cozy, quirky, lively, and artsy--do exist in real life.  Before our careers brought us to the Philly suburbs, my family lived in just such a small town--Yellow Springs, Ohio.  We've missed it ever since we moved away.  And Andre and I have turned our obsession into a hobby, taking day trips in search of the little town of our dreams.

This weekend our search brought us to Cape May on the southmost tip of New Jersey.  With its colorfully painted Victorian homes and its pretty beaches, Cape May is a popular summer shore destination for Philadelphians. 

Last weekend, most of the town's restaurants and hotels were preparing to shut down for the season.  The streets were quiet, and we found ourselves surrounded by mostly locals, battening down the hatches for the long sleepy winter.

Homey and picturesque, with plenty of great places to eat and shop, Cape May is a little gem of a town.

Too bad it's not quite in commuting distance!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Crossing the Delaware (Again)

From New Hope to Lambertville
Tomorrow, in the immortal words of Tom Waits as performed by Bruce Springsteen, I'm going to "take that ride/across the river to the Jersey side."  

From three to six, I'll be signing copies of my novels Catherine and Jane at Books-a-Million in Mays Landing

The forecast calls for rain--perfect bookstore weather.  So if you're a South Jersey girl or guy, please put on your coziest sweater, grab a pumpkin spice latte, and drop in for a little snug indoors October bookstore cheer.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Nico's (Not So) Great Escape

So it's been almost a year since we brought home Nico the formerly-stray cockapoo.  All our other dogs, past and present, have been the rugged kind that don't need much in the way of grooming--a quick brushing and a bath every so often.

But Nico's the poofy kind.  When we first met him, he was all matted and tangled from his days on the mean streets of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.  The Montgomery County SPCA shaved away the worst tangles before they handed him over, but three months later, he was a little black cumulous cloud of curls.

Lather, rinse, shave...then repeat.  Every three months.

Two days ago, Nico visited the groomer's, where he was de-fluffed and pampered:

He came home sleek, neat, and smelling like a daisy.  Lovely, right?

Well, yes.  Except it turns out that the newly sleek Nico--a.k.a. Sleeko--can fit through a gap in our backyard fence--one we'd never even noticed before.  One moment he was in the backyard, and the next he was gone. I screamed his name and clapped my hands, and just before I started hyperventilating he came running back, seeming almost as relieved as I was.

Which doesn't mean he won't try again.  The world's a mighty tempting place.

To guard against future escape attempts, the gap in the fence has since been boarded over.  We've been scouting out other possible escape routes, hoping to stay one step ahead of trouble.

Would somebody please remind Nico that he's got it pretty good here?

Sleeko the Mischievous rests after his big adventure

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Some Writing About Not Writing

Busy.  Crazy.  Why don't we hyphenate the two?  Busy-Crazy.  That's how things get this time of the year when you're a teacher.  The freshman papers roll in thick and fast, as do the meetings and the student conferences.

Add in some book signings and readings in far-flung locales:

The calm before the storm

They're an awful lot of fun.  And they're an excuse not to clean my house....which is a good thing.  Until the dust bunnies rise up and take over.

Recycled Art Dust Bunnies by Suzanne Proulx

I'm okay with not cleaning.  I can live with those life-sized dust bunnies.  What's hard is the other thing I'm not getting done: writing.  

A writer who isn't writing tends to get cranky or downright depressed, and I'm no exception.  Stray ideas for the book I'm theoretically working on--the one I've been working on more theoretically than actually for months now--ping around in my head at inopportune times.  I list them in Word documents about which I promptly forget.

As the weeks wear on, I start to have more ideas for books and random writing projects, and before long I'm filled with doubt.  Should I abandon project A and start project B?  Or should I be not-writing them both simultaneously?

Meanwhile the achingly beautiful fall days tick by and November approaches, bringing with it NaNoWriMo, that time of year when people challenge each other to draft that novel they've long been intending to write in thirty-one frenzied days.  

Maybe we could all just agree to move NaNoWriMo to June this year?  

To those intrepid souls who have done NaNoWriMo: Did you walk away from November with a workable rough draft, or was one month not enough time?  How did you manage to fit all that writing around your daily life?  And exactly how much coffee did you have to drink to make it happen?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Late September Odds and Ends

New York's Washington Square Park by night
I've been wearing grooves in the Jersey Turnpike lately, running back and forth to book-related events.  And the misadventuring continues: this coming Friday (October 3) I'm Lawn Guyland bound.  I'll be reading a mix of poetry and prose at 7 p.m. at a coffee shop called Sip This.   The location is 64 Rockaway Avenue, Valley Stream, NY.  

After that I'll be heading in the general direction of home to sign books the very next day (Saturday, October 4) at the Cumberland Mall in Vineland, New Jersey.  I'll be at the Books-a-Million from 2-4, and I'd love to see you there, Jersey friends!

The glitzy interior of NYU's Bobst Library

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Amuse-Bouche

Photo by Melissa Goldthwaite/Food styling by Howard Dinin
This Thursday (September 25), I'll be joining a panel of fabulously talented writers at New York University (Fales Library and Special Collections, 70 Washington Square South, 6 p.m.).  We'll celebrate the relationship between literature and food, and the release of Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal.  If you happen to be in the big city, please drop by for some gustatory and literary delights.

In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here is a selection from Books That Cook by poet/photographer Howard Dinin.  If you follow its instructions, you too may enjoy the perfect fried egg sandwich.

Making the Perfect Fried Egg Sandwich

dedicated to (n-1)

One egg.
The mammoth chicken gamete.
Primary color: yellow. Unary.

Dust to dust. A sustainer.
Life itself
and contained in that
a death.
Not a paradox:
a meal, even for the dying.
Indeed, a preferred repast.

It may be the simplicity.
The sustenance
in so many dimensions.
A perfect food.

Here’s the recipe,
the one the dying prefer.
There’s that one egg,
and butter.
That’s it:
one egg,
one lump of butter,
sweet, mind.
Let the one dying add the salt.

The trick,
the cooking secret?
Frame of mind.

Think French.
The French for egg
requires three vowels,
the eggs of the alphabet.

The vowels open sounds,
throat and gullet unconstricted.
You can’t say “egg”
and swallow one at once.

You can in French.

One consonant,
and those French:
they don’t pronounce it,
but barely, a puff of air
between open lips, there
just to hold the word
together. The packaging.
An eggshell.

Think, consonant
with life.

Think French
for speed,
or rather pace.
The perfect fried egg
takes time.
We all,
not just the dying,
have so little.

You must take your time.
Haste is dissonant.

Consider this.
Perfect means
no flaws.
Ovum? Perfect, no?

Open vowel sounds
Open throat
No constrictions.
No velar stops.
No looking at the clock.

Ovoid. Use a pan
with curving sides.
Curves, mind.
Not slopes,
no crevices.
Here’s a memory tip.
Curves are feminine;
it’s all one:
the egg the female cell.

You need a cup,
ovoid. An espresso cup.
French, remember?

Crack the shell,
and separate it
intimate as you please
just above the cup.
Glides right in.
Just fits.
Let it sit.
And while you’re at it
let the butter sit.

The unary thing,
all one temperature
to start, once you start.
No hurry.

And for cooking,
keep it low to keep it slow,
the heat
a low flame, enough
to melt the butter.
No more, no less.

Let the butter liquefy
till it’s albumen clear,
no color.
The only color is the yolk.

Swirl the pan
let the butter lap
the sides.
Then once it pools,
hold the cup
above the surface,
intimate as you please,
and tip the cup,
slowly please,
and slide the egg out.

So far, all lubricity.


Just as the albumen sets,
gently, please,
swirl the pan
so the egg slides free.
The flame stays low,
no browning,
the white stays white
to the end.

Now gently as you please,
and intimate,
you should have the hang of it
by now,
the fat to top the yolk.



Watch the pan, and drop
one slice,
of bread
into the toaster.
What does the dying diner
Or classic, something to take
in the hands?

I’ll remind you again.
No browning.
While the bread toasts,
spoon more fat
to top the yolk.


No browning.
Don’t hurry now,
so close to being done.
No short-orders
for the dying.

And when the toast pops,
plate one slice for sure.

Kill the flame
and swirl the pan.
Make sure the egg is free
to glide around.

Now here’s the tricky part.
Simple, but you’ll need
and a very thin
bladed spatula,
which you slide beneath the egg;
plate with toast
as near the pan as you
can get.
Slide the egg onto the toast,
and leave the fat behind.

Top it with the other slice,
if that’s what’s called for.




French, think French.
The order’s done.

Get it to the bedroom
where the dying diner