Saturday, November 14, 2009

Love is never easy...

Sometimes, it's down-right hard.

And this week, its been damn-near impossible where my darling city is concerned.

Oh, Toronto, with your whimsical Tower and your quaint streetcars and adorable junior subway (I can say that - I just had to navigate around the NYC subway by myself and - trust me - the TTC is Subway Lite!), and your unpredictable lake-effect weather that always assures that whatever I choose to wear on any given day is exactly the wrong thing. I do love you. I do. That's why I'm here. You are vibrant and cultured and polite and pretty. But this week, you have put my love to the test.

Well maybe not the whole city. Maybe just my immediate neighborhood.

I live right downtown. This has the advantage of putting me smack where the action is. I'm a seconds-long walk to 2 streetcar lines (which is lovely - except when there's an accident east of the bridge and neither of them are running...)

I have a local pub just up the street where I can go for a pint and a brainstorming session about whatever current plot problem is making me crazy.

There is shopping and entertainment on Queen Street.

There is the historical Distillery District a brief stroll away.

There is Leslieville with its up-and-coming funkiness and the creeping revitalization of Corktown which is slowly taking it from seedy to hip.

There is a lot happening in a very close radius to my house. Hence the love/hate attitude. See... I understand that for revitalization to take place, there must be new building. I just object to the fact that it has to be right in front of my house. My view of the aforementioned whimsical tower is gone now and I haven't slept past 7:00 am in almost a year (and I am NOT a morning person).

I understand that to accommodate the growth you need to do things like replace water mains. I don't understand why this needs to be done at 4:00 in the bloody morning. Yes. 4. Not a typo. (See - sleep deprivation, above).

I completely get the fact that living downtown means bustle and noise and craziness. But on Saturday? Every Saturday? Seriously?

So you see... this post would be much more elegiac if I wasn't so very very tired.

It's like this: it's tough to write a love note to someone who's kept you awake all night with monster-loud snoring. Mostly you just want to elbow them sharply in the kidney.

Also... the Leafs lost again last night. Love hurts, man. Love hurts.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Love of Landscape

The place where I went to college is rumored to be the second rainiest place in the US after Seattle. I can’t tell you if this is actually true or not, but I can tell you that it felt true. And that I hate rain. I hate umbrellas and the way puddlely sidewalks always splatter the bottoms of your jeans, and I hate the way my hair turns to instant frizz when it’s raining, no matter what I do to try to stop it. Though I loved my four years at Penn State, I can’t say I was sad to leave all that rain behind when I left to go to graduate school in Tucson 10 years ago.

It felt crazy, at first, moving across the country from a place of luminous green and snowy mountains to a place of cactus and dry (but intense) summer heat and desert landscapes. But at the time, I figured it would only be two years, that it would be an adventure.

Yet something happened to me during those two years. I fell in love with the dry, dry air. I fell in love with the constant sunshine. I fell in love with the brown mountains that surround Tucson, that sometimes make me feel like I’m living in a postcard. And then it felt impossible to leave all that behind.

And thus my favorite things about living in Tucson are not so much the attractions you can visit, the things you can do or see or eat (although, I do love the Mexican food), but just the place itself. The dry, crisp air. The saguaro cacti that seem to stretch up the sides of mountains for miles. The winter weather filled with days that are perfect for long walks and taking kids to the park and eating dinner outside. I love that 60 degrees now feels cold to me.

I love the miniature hummingbirds that flutter in my bougainvillea and the jackrabbits that eat my teeny tiny patch of (irrigated, of course) grass. I love the real honest to goodness road runners and quail that dart in front of my car.

I love that the brown mountains turn purple and orange every day at sunset, and that the prickly pear cactus bloom with brilliant pink flowers in the spring. I love that often at night, when it is cool and dark and the air is clear, I can hear coyotes howling from somewhere not too far away.

Part of this landscape I tried to re-create in The Life of Glass, because living here, I think it’s become something I’ve absorbed, something that felt big and important enough to my life to become a part of a story. I hope that when readers pick up The Life of Glass, they’ll be able to understand, to see it, to imagine it, just a tiny part of this landscape that I’ve come to love.

And speaking of The Life Of Glass, I’ve got a “three-months-and counting contest” (because yes, it’ll be out in three months!!) going on over at my blog. You can click here to read about it and enter to win a signed ARC and a $25 Sephora giftcard!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Divided Heart

The word hometown instantly sends me into a quandary. You see, my heart is divided between two places. In the South when we refer to our "home" it means the city in which we are raised. And I was raised in Memphis, Tennessee. Not one to venture too terribly far away from home (my only exception is a short three-year stint as an innkeeper in Vermont - thus the inspiration for the book), now I live three hours from Memphis in Franklin, Tennessee. I have raised my children in Franklin so technically that's my new home.

What to do? Where to live? That question has been tangled up in my mind now for the last fourteen years. Both places have their strong-points. Franklin is a picturesque, quintessential little Southern town in Middle-Tennessee with a statue of a Confederate soldier on our town square greeting our town's visitors. Franklin holds the distinction as hosting the bloodiest battle ever fought on Southern soil, The Battle of Franklin, and while that's not so wonderful, the history here certainly draws wonderful tourist dollars to our adorable little town.

It's safe, it's clean, and the people are as warm as the climate. There are hundreds of antebellum homes still standing and if you're a lake person you're in luck. We've got plenty of those nearby and most of the kids learn to wake board and ski at a young age.

Now Memphis, the other side of my heart, is wonderful, too. You'll never find a prettier sunset no matter how hard you try. "Reds, pinks, oranges, and yellows streak the sky and you can watch the entire fireball melt into the cotton fields of Arkansas right across the Mississippi." That's a quote from Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter. The book is set in Memphis for the simple reason that my heart never left. Even though I've been gone for the past 17 years, I still cry every single time I leave. My girlfriends who live here are more like my sisters and it kills me to leave them behind.

If you like bar-be-que (and that's not a verb) it's the best in the world. And to prove it we have the annual Memphis In May International Bar-be-que Cooking Contest every year held downtown on the banks of the Mississippi during May. That's our annual month-long festival to celebrate our prettiest month of the year.

I'm hoping (well actually at this point I'm still dreaming) that one day I'll be able to live in both cities, become a famous full-time writer and own a house in each. But for now, I'm happy to live solely in Franklin. After all, it's where my boys call home and my friends in Franklin mean as much to me as my friends in Memphis. Like I said, I'm in a conundrum.

By the way, tomorrow night, Thursday November 12, I'll be in the wonderful Mississippi Delta at Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Mississippi. Please tell all your Mississippi friends and cousins to drop by and say hi anytime between 5:30 to 7:00. Until next week, have a great week y'all!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sweet Home Chicago

I absolutely love this week's topic--probably because I am in love with my city. For me, Chicago is the best city in the country. I've been to New York, Los Angeles and most other major cities and they just don't compare. For me, Chicago balances the opportunities of a big city with laid-back midwestern values.

First off, the city itself is beautiful. Situated on Lake Michigan, the entire skyline comes alive on a sunny day thanks to the reflections off the water. It's also a remarkably clean city, as we have the alleys that NYC does not, so there are no piles of garbage bags on the sidewalk. (I was in NYC a couple of years ago, in July, the day before garbage day. Just thinking about the smell still turns my stomach!)

Second, we have some of the best restaurants in the country. From Charlie Trotter's to Moto to the Gibsons Steakhouse, you will eat well when you're here. And let's not forget our famous deep dish pizza. It will induce instant food coma. At the American Library Association's conference in Chicago this summer, some fabulous members of the St. Martin's crew were asking me about Gino's East pizza, eyes-wide. They simply were astounded that people actually choose to eat a pizza as thick as an apple pie.

And finally, we have some amazing sports here in Chicago. Well, after the Bears game this Sunday, maybe we'll just say amazing fans. But seriously, we have two major league baseball teams, a football team, a basketball team and a hockey team. As I've mentioned before, my favorite sports team is the Chicago Cubs--who haven't won a world series in over 100 years, but still pack the stands 40,000 deep every game.

Which is not to say that everything is perfect. Our traffic will kill you, or at the very least take a few years off your life. In the winter, it's not insane to experience windchills in the -20 range. And I won't even get into all of our infamous former politicians such as Rod Blagojevich, our ousted governor.

But, my love for my city is what prompted me to set A Bump in the Road and the sequel, Not Ready for Mom Jeans, in Chicago. And you'd better believe that my hometown will be featured in future books!

So, tell me, have you guys ever been to Chicago?

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

I'm a little at a loss about this week's topic. It's not that I hate my city (I don't), but if I'm going to be completely honest, there is only one reason I live here: my family. I grew up here, my parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and various cousins all live here. I moved back here because of family. But...and here's the big but...I have been planning on moving away almost from the moment we moved back.

I know. But it's the truth.

Where do I live? Toledo, Ohio. And I can also honestly say that every reason I love this city has nothing to do with the city itself. It's about the people I love. Not just my family, but my friends, my writing group, and...oh, wait...that's about it. Not that Toledo doesn't have anything great to offer, because it does. Here are a few of those things:
  • The Toledo Zoo: Toledo has an amazing zoo. Seriously. We're "one of the world's most complete zoos," and the zoo has been in existence for over 100 years. So that's cool, and my kids definitely enjoy summer visits to the zoo, as well as the special Halloween and Christmas exhibits.
  • The Toledo Museum of Art: Our museum is also globally recognized and has won many awards over the years. Because the museum remains privately-endowed, admission has remained free since the museum's opening in 1901.
  • The Toledo Mud Hens: Toledo's very own Triple-A Professional Baseball Team that has been around for over 100 years, and whose popularity extends well-beyond this community.
  • Toledo Botanical Gardens: Also free to the public year-round, the Toledo Botanical Gardens is a living plant museum that is a beautiful place to stop and smell the roses.

Oh, and there are a few celebrities who are from Toledo:

  • Jamie Farr
  • Eric Kripke (Creator, writer, and more of Supernatural)
  • Katie Holmes
  • Bonnie Turner

And, we're also the home of Tony Packos, made famous on the TV show MASH. Yummy Hungarian food, especially their hot dogs and dumplings. And, we're also the home of Hickory Farms.

Hm, now I'm feeling a little guilty about my statement of only living here because of family, but I'm not going to delete and re-write. Mostly because while I love all of these things that Toledo offers, I'm still planning on moving to another city when we are financially able. But while we're here, there's a lot to do, and there's a lot to be proud of.

And yep, my family is still here too. :)