Novelist. Poet. Professor.

Novelist.  Poet.  Professor.
Novelist, poet, professor, and mother of dogs.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Forging On

All school year long I wait impatiently for extended writing time--a stretch of days when I can put my head down and focus with few interruptions.  And now that time is here--theoretically at least.  While I wait to hear more about the fate of the Greek novel, I've been trying--with uneven success--to get my head back into my next novel--the one set in a New Jersey river town.

Lambertville, NJ

But summer--and serious writing--comes with its own pitfalls.  I may hypnotize myself into believing I'm on the top deck of a ferry pulling into Santorini, or wandering the charming streets of a small New Jersey river town, but my body knows otherwise.

So to fend off the Vitamin D deficiency and a bad case of the blahs, Andre, the dogs, and I went for a walk in Valley Forge...

...a green world where locals and tourists alike walk trails, ride bikes, and commune with ghosts.

Captain Von Steuben looks out across the fields
On other visits, we've opted for a deeper experience of Valley Forge, poking our heads into the cabins where various military heroes slept, or wandering the Revolutionary War museum, taking in the exhibits.

This time, though, we just skimmed the surface...

...guzzling fresh air and sunshine against the work week to come.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Shad Fest 2015: Researching the Next Chapter

  A local celebrity

As I may have mentioned (about a thousand times) Andre and I have been living in limbo these last few months.  Our house is in the market and half of our furniture is in storage, while we wait for the next chapter of our lives to begin--hopefully in the town of our dreams, Lambertville, New Jersey.

What's so special about Lambertville?

It's a small town--charming, picturesque, quirky, and with a startling number of artists per capita--the kind of place that would make the perfect place to live--or the great setting for a novel.

You can probably guess where this is going, right?  Over the last few months I've been working on a new writing project. Another YA reimagining of a classic work of Brit Lit, it's set in a fictional New Jersey river town that bears a passing resemblance to a certain actual New Jersey river town.

The Delaware Raritan Canal

So of course I take every opportunity I can get to research my novel-in-progress.  One great recent opportunity was Shad Fest--an annual event that celebrates the arts in the Lambertville, local small businesses, music, and--of course--the annual running of the shad.

Shad fishing demonstration
As we wandered from booth to booth, I took a ton of photographs and tried to soak up the small town spring festival vibe.

The shimmering river town light:

and the low-key, dog-friendly atmosphere:

While we wait, fingers-crossed, to see where life takes us next, at least I can build my own imaginary little river town, word by word, photo by photo, memory by memory.

We can't get no satisfaction

Friday, May 15, 2015

Clash By Night: A Visit From Poet/Punk Gerry LaFemina

One of the highlights of spring 2015 was a visit by my old friend and collaborator Gerry LaFemina.  Gerry read from his poetry and fiction for a rapt crowd of students at Saint Joseph's University and he answered our many questions about his life as a writer, an advocate for poetry, and a punk rocker.

Gerry also treated us to a preview of his latest project--one that's especially thrilling to a poet-slash-music enthusiast like myself.

Yes, that's Gerry on the cover!
The first in a projected series of anthologies inspired by classic albums, Clash By Night gathers poems responding to specific songs on The Clash's seminal album London Calling

For instance, this classic--

--which inspired this poem by George Yatchisin:


It wasn't the socialism--I had
the Gang of Four for that.
Plus who doesn't want 
to chuck work, especially when
there's rock 'n' roll, a chance
to chant with our chosen
likeminded young believers.
No, it was the pull across the pond
when the song dropped Harrisburg,
and TMI's threatening cooling
towers, close, so close to home.
Atoms split with the power
of a guitar chord and the shock wave
ripples still, accents, angers, all
the things we share in the terror
we hope never bores us to death.

And this blast from the not-too-distant past:

--which kick-started this poem by Chryss Yost:

Guns of Brixton

This whole place has been blasting open

since before it was a place, before there
was a surface to the earth.  Violence
what we're made of.  We are stardust,
tarnished and repelled by the rest
our own dusty breath.  God is a bullet.
The rest of us, we're nothing but targets.


The hits keep coming in Clash By Night.  I look forward to future album-inspired anthologies in Gerry's inventive Lo-fi Poetry series. And I told him that when he's ready to take on Born to Run he should be sure to give me a call.

The Greek Novel Revisited

Snack shack, Tinos, Greece (photo by Shawn Krahmer Heal)
It's been a super-busy spring.  I've been struggling to balance teaching and a flurry of events promoting my most recently published YA novel, Love, Lucy.  In the middle of it all, we put our home on the market, so this spring has been a blur of renovation, cleaning, and dog wrangling to get the house ready for potential buyers.  

That's why you haven't seen me here for a long time.  But now that the spring semester is more or less over, I'll be back, sharing my thoughts about writing, travel, music, etcetera. And now (at last!) I hope to get back to some serious, sustained writing.  I've got several projects in the works, all too new and fragile to discuss in public just yet.   

And then there's my Greek novel--a reimagining of Jane Austen's Persuasion, set on a high school study tour of Athens, Santorini, and Crete.

Mule on Syros, Greece (photo by Shawn Krahmer Heal)

Last week, amidst the grading and end-of-year meetings, I found time to dip back into the manuscript, reading it over to make sure it's ready to go back to my agent. After a lot of proofreading and a little tinkering, I sent it back out into the world last night, fingers crossed for its safe passage into (I hope) eventual publication.

Bon voyage!  (photo by Shawn Krahmer Heal)
So please think some good thoughts for my newest heroine, Anne, as she sets off on her journey.

Sunset, Syros (photo by Shawn Krahmer Heal)

Free the Mice!

  Thanks to Bearings Online , for publishing my poem about trying--and sometimes failing--to be kind to the mammals who only want to sha...