Forget Spring cleaning, it’s time for Spring reading! To celebrate, SHELTER US ebook is only 99 cents, from now until March 21! Friends, please spread the word, spread the love! Get it now: Amazon Kindle Barnes & Noble Nook … Continue reading
I would spend every day going to author panels if I could. I wouldn’t care if I were the author or the audience. Give me a room of 80 people who made special time in their day to talk about what they are reading, what they are writing, all gathered in honor of the written word. Except for snapping a few photos, cellphones were nowhere to be seen. I heard not a word about apps or chargers or data. Ah, sanctuary.
I joined Aline Ohanesian (Orhan’s Inheritance) and Gwendolyn Womack (The Memory Painter), two generous, funny, tenacious story-tellers. (You have to read them.) I still pinch myself, I told the audience, every time I come up to a podium and remember that I’m one of the authors.
The most delightful person I met today (and there were many) was someone who may be behind the podium in the next decade: 12-year-old Ally, granddaughter of the Friends of the Library President, who was very excited because “she had never met a writer in person.” Imagine my delight when she took the seat next to me, and I got to ask her all about her home on a small island off the coast in Washington State. I told her. “I can’t wait to read your story.”
Happy Friday, everyone. What are you reading?
I think of myself as at least a tad bit worldly and well-traveled. So it came as a surprise to learn that Cape Cod is not one town. It is many towns, separated at the farthest ends by a two-hour drive.
This would have been good to know, as I’d allotted one day to visit Cape Cod’s indie bookstores. I’d have to forgo Wellfleet and Provincetown, and stretch just as far as Chatham and Brewster.
In my defense, this was an easy mistake to make. I’m an L.A. kid, descended from Eastern European Jews who did not build houses on the Cape in the 1900’s to pass down to me. (And those Cape Cod t-shirts do give off the “it’s-one-place” impression.) For me, summer meant day camps called Cali Camp and Tumbleweeds, and sleep away camps were in Malibu and Big Bear. Family weekends might be on Catalina or Coronado Island, not Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard (yes, I’ve now learned the difference between them, too).
So we picked two stores, in Chatham and Brewster, and set out toward Chatham first. We missed a turn and ended up rerouted north. No problem! We’d go first to Brewster. Except we missed the road to Brewster, which forced us to backtrack through a town we hadn’t planned to visit, Orleans. Great news. Orleans has two bookstores.
That was my favorite wrong turn of the trip. (The kids kept playing Go Fish in the minivan. Seen one indie bookstore, seen ’em all, I guess.)
We finally arrived at Brewster Bookstore. It was packed with customers, and its summer event schedule was packed, too, with 8 author events in July, and 7 in August, including Alice Hoffman.
After lunch, we headed to Chatham, whose Where the Sidewalk Ends bookstore plans a drool-worthy summer of author literary events. Walking in, we were greeted by a vision fitting the final stop: on the front table of the store, Shelter Us shared space with Harper Lee and Anthony Doerr. Be still my heart.
My family left while I signed books (please go get one from this wonderful store, or order online if you want a signed copy) — and I found them at the ice cream store discussing the Soviet Union before the fall of communism. (True story.)
We had completed the task. After another hour’s ride, back in our rented house, the kids wanted nothing more than to be left alone to (and with) their own devices. But it was our last night on Cape Cod, the sun had come out, and we were going to get some fresh air or else. We had to scream to get them out the door, and it was worth it.
We swam (even me). We played soccer (even me). We felt the delicious breath of salt air on our skin. We looked over a landscape so different from our California beaches, vibrant green marshes growing out of the sand, inlets of saltwater stretching toward scrub pines. I felt the tiniest bit more familiar with this place called Cape Cod, knowing well I had only scratched its surface.
(And still knowing nothing about that other exotic, mysterious-to-me place known as: The Hamptons.)
When I was a student at Penn, most of my activities were limited to a square 1/2 mile of its West Philly campus — classes, rehearsals, libraries, parties. Occasionally I ventured downtown. There was the (impressive but ineffective) rally for Michael Dukakis in front of City Hall. There was my weekly SEPTA ride to an internship at the Women’s Law Project. And there was lovely, leafy Rittenhouse Square, an area I had no particular business in, but which appealed to my west coast eyes and ears with its older, sophisticated sensibility.
It’s hard to put that feeling into words. I’ll try, and then I’ll let the pictures tell the tale.
When I graduated from Penn and returned home to Los Angeles, I could not have known that some day I would marry a boy from Pennsylvania, that his family would become my extended family, and that they would be some of my biggest supporters. Time passes so swiftly that I can sometimes forget I’m not a “newcomer” still, that I’ve known them nearly 19 years.
I talked about the connections between Shelter Us and the values Jewish Family & Children’s Services represents, helping others, welcoming the stranger. One woman pointed out that being “a stranger” does not always refer to the stereotypical outsider I’d referred to — a homeless person, an immigrant — and that money can mask stranger status. She choked up. I did, too.
At Q&A time, my son asked: “Did you ever have doubts about some of the things you included in the book?”
Yes, I answered. Doubt abounds. But when the time came to finish, I had to let it be. I hope I modeled something for him and his brother. To follow elusive dreams. To celebrate achievements. And to be grateful for the people who celebrate with you.
Thank you, thank you, one and all.
The last (and only) time I came remotely close to the Hudson Valley in New York was while racing from Vermont toward Pennsylvania, trying to stay a step ahead of Hurricane Irene. Danger tends to sprinkle itself through our travel.
We had wanted to return to this beautiful area ever since. As the last book event in New Jersey wound up, Christopher found a Bed & Breakfast in Rhinebeck, New York, that would be our home base for the next two nights.
The late sunlight of mid-July guided us to Whistlewood Farm Bed & Breakfast just as twilight descended. Oh me oh my. Consider this my hearty recommendation of this place, three miles outside of the town of Rhinebeck. Whistlewood Farm B&B not only offers creature comforts (comfy beds, lots of living space to stretch out, and homegrown, homemade breakfasts) but also creatures. We watched the horses have pedicures, fed the chickens, and unwound into the pace of life away from it all.
In the morning, our host Maggy asked how many just-laid eggs we wanted, then pointed to the fresh baked blueberry muffins, sausage, and dollar pancakes. Thinking of what my Dad calls “preventative eating” — eat now so you won’t be hungry later — we said yes to everything, and figured that would last all day.
It worked. We drove all over, visiting small town bookstores, meeting booksellers and signing copies of Shelter Us. We visited Oblong Books in Rhinebeck (and could not pass by the Rhinebeck Aerodrome, to ogle biplanes and triplanes.)
We visited the small town of Millbrook, which boasts the lovely Merritt Bookstore.
We stopped at the Vanderbilt Mansion and gawked at its immensity, wondering what impulse compels some people (and peoples) to construct castles, while other peoples (say, Native Americans) would never deign to claim the land as theirs at all?
Just a thought.
The next day brought more small towns and more bookstores, including the charming town of Hudson’s Spotty Dog (books and ale).
(Hudson, it is worth mentioning, rocks the eclectic, hip, artsy and funny, as in this store, Flower Kraut — selling flowers, sauerkraut, and “gifts” — and this sign outside of a motel.)
We would not rest until reaching Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, and sampled some of the famous waters.
Our last day, we visited The Golden Notebook in Woodstock,
and Inquiring Minds in New Paltz.
Before heading home for the long drive, we wanted to get some exercise.
In Woodstock, we hiked Overlook Mountain Trail, and were rewarded with beautiful views and a fine adrenaline rush — not from climbing the six-level tower at the top, and not from watching a rattlesnake slither across the path. It was from the bear.
The bear, whom I saw face to face when I peeked into the woods, curious about the little sounds I had heard, expecting perhaps to see a fawn, or a chipmunk. “Bear!” my brain said. “Bear,” my mouth said to Christopher. The syllable was not fully formed before I was scooting at twice my previous speed up the hill.
Yes, the Hudson Valley trip proved to be memorable for many reasons. Each bookstore had friendly, enthusiastic booksellers who welcomed this California author’s first novel. Each town had a distinct personality, even if they didn’t all have a stoplight. And everywhere we looked, wild nature in all its manifestations came out to greet us. Heading back to urban Philadelphia never sounded so good.
For almost a year, today’s date, June 8, 2015, has glimmered impossibly in the future: my first novel’s Publication Date. It has the same magical qualities as a baby’s due date.
And, practically speaking, it is almost as reliable a metric for when your baby or book will arrive.* Stores have been selling Shelter Us for a couple weeks, Amazon has been shipping it, and friends and family who have read it and liked it have told me so. (I’m not keeping a list, ahem.)
Still, I’m human, and humans love to infuse meaning into 24 hour periods — like birthdays, anniversaries, and the 4th of July. I can’t let this date pass without a little huzzah. Besides, seeing as I’ve been talking and talking and talking about this book (I’m so sorry) for so long, the least I could do is share some Launch day trivia with you.
Here’s a glimpse of the glamorous life of a newly published novelist:
- Wake up foggy-headed and remember that you’re supposed to pick up your eldest child from a sleepover in twenty minutes.
- Send newsletter announcing Launch Day, asking everyone to please read your book. Again.
- Throw on sneakers and sweatshirt, lick finger to wipe mascara from under eyelids (why does it never come off all the way?) in case there’s an earthquake and you have to get out of the car.
- Check e-mail, read a new review!
- Bring child home, make him breakfast and a sack lunch for camp. Take to camp.
- Come home. Wash dishes.
- Do a radio interview! (…while sitting in a closet, because this is the day tree trimmers came.)
- Take child shopping for shorts and bathing suit for camp.
- Come home. Wash dishes. Again.
- Let your kids break into the cookies you bought for tomorrow’s Launch Party.
- Remember to thank your spouse for being unconditionally supportive and amazing, including that last text that dinner is almost ready.
- Pinch yourself that people are reading your book, and even if you never write another word, this is enough.
There you have June 8, 2015, a big day, and also just a Monday, drizzled with bursts of excitement and the mundane. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get any better than this.
*Side note: Only 5% of babies are born on their due dates. My second baby was one of those!
I have never before used the word sizzling in a blog post. (You can check me on this. If you find that I have, I will publicly announce your doggedness and my wrongness.)
But today is about sizzle! And gifts! Announcing the “Sizzling Summer Reads Giveaway!”
Click here for giveaway
To celebrate the impending publication of Shelter Us (June 8), we’re having a giveaway party. All this week, register to win a gift bag of summer reads and a $50 Sephora gift card. And while you’re doing it, if you want to show some love and like my FB page, or check out my fellow authors, have at it.
Whether this April day is showing you dreary gray skies or the possibility of blue, hang on — summer is on its way. Wouldn’t winning this bundle of books brighten your day?