Tobermory


My new obsession is Tobermory, Ontario, a small town on the Bruce Peninsula in Lake Huron, about 7 hours north of Clayton, NY.

Why, you ask, does a woman who spends her summers 7 hours north of New York City dream of spending a week 7 hours further north?

Because she can, dear reader, because she can.

It began with The Wind in the Willows, which accompanied us up to the River for the third year in a row. This year, however, we actually read a couple chapters aloud.

Then, one day, during 30 seconds of the 30 or 40 minutes of television the children watched all summer, there was an ad on t.v. for a new musical based on Kenneth Grahame’s book, set on the St. Lawrence River, and coming to the stage in Gananoque in August.

I was sold. I got tickets. The girls and I got our passports and went. The girls loved it—just adored the show. I thought it was about as good as you might guess good regional theater in Ontario would be: the first act was terrific, the second relied a little too heavily on very rusty jokes (from Grahame’s book, but that was 1933) about a Toad in an Irish woman’s pink dress. It might have been 1950.

I was disappointed, too, to be sitting seven rows back with my little girls, behind a busload of old age pensioners. Why did the 80-year-olds get all the good seats? And it does spoil my time a little to be a good 40 years younger than the average audience member.

Nonetheless, the opening moments were fantastic. The opening scene takes place on the dock—Gananoque’s Singer Theater is the old Canoe Club—and we were treated to a few songs from David Archibald, the play’s co-author and composer.

“Up the River” opens with the actors singing and dancing on the dock. Mole comes on stage, welcomes spring, notices the River in wonder, and then Ratty (who, in the true Canadian spirit, keeps insisting he’s a Beaver. The Canada jokes were pretty tired but this one was funny.) actually rows up to the dock. Mole climbs on board and they row out to a little grass-covered float anchored near the dock. As they picnic, a wet-suited and flippered otter swims up and joins them. That was great summer family theater: witty and funny and worth the price of the ticket. (You can read a review here.)

I also liked David Archibald’s singing: very old school folk with a British Isles/Canadian/Great Lakes tinge (sincere, story-telling, sentimental about a park-like vision of wilderness). His song, “The Rocks of Tobermory” was haunting, so I looked him up.

Then I looked up Tobermory. There is nothing like a map to inflame my dreams of travel. Just look at that peninsula! And then listen to this:
Fathom Five is Canada's first National Marine Park, with over 20 shipwrecks and 19 islands within it's boundaries. The deep clear water and the numerous shipwrecks attract over 8,000 divers each year. Glass bottom boat tours leave Tobermory several times each day to take visitors over the shipwrecks and to Flower Pot Island. The best known island in the Park features two 60 foot high 'flower pots', a lighthouse and walking trails.

When I lie awake worrying about the coming semester and all that I will have to do, I soothe myself back to sleep with promises of a trip to Tobermory next summer…


More on that cheese


We were gone for seven weeks. Six of them we spent, as we have come to do, down the road from my mother-in-law about six miles outside Clayton, New York. It’s incredibly beautiful there, but the gourmet/organic/locavore culture has yet to arrive.

In the middle of our time, we dropped down to Amherst, MA for a week.

The Farmer’s Market there could make you weep for joy: artfully displayed berries, lettuces, sunflowers. Every booth staffed by a thin, tanned New Englander, some liberal arts graduate turned farmer.

I bought a little container of goat cheese for us to take on a picnic. The label said “Healing the earth through organic farming.” That took it a bit too far even for me and I had to laugh. I mean, I know we were in the Happy Valley—I love the happy valley—but the outrageous navel-gazing arrogance of suggesting that a tiny little goat cheese operation was “healing the earth”!

Then, two days later, we pulled out of town and headed back up to Clayton.  On the way to the highway, we passed farmstand after farmstand. We planned to get some corn to bring back for dinner but, with a long drive ahead, it seemed better to wait until we got closer to the River.

It was too late before we remembered that Central New York just doesn’t have that farmstand culture. We had missed our shot at corn. There would certainly be no more organic goat cheese until our next visit to the Happy Valley (or the Union Square Greenmarket). Suddenly, the farm’s slogan didn’t seem so inflated. We laughed at ourselves, wishing a few more people upstate were interested in healing the earth.

Tallying Summer


After seven weeks away, seven hours from home, six of them spent in our customary little rented cottage just four doors down from my mother-in-law’s, on the shores of the mighty St. Lawrence River, I am surprised by what I missed and what I did not miss about city living:

I did not miss:
  • podcasts
  • NPR
  • television
  • the news in any form
  • running errands
  • calculating the commute time
  • a feeling of constant hurry and competition 

I missed
  • really good cheese
  • fresh produce (up there, it’s a private culture: people have gardens, not farmer’s markets, and the tomatoes were only just arriving as we left)
  • music at dinnertime (somehow, not a habit of my mother-in-law’s at the River, though she listens to it in her home in winter)
  • seeing people on the street who look interesting, look like people I’d like to meet

I am fond of traffic, of street noise, of the subway. I am fond of waking at 4 AM to the sound of an owl, of the sound of waves hitting the shore. I like going for a run and checking on the osprey nest. I like going on a run and smiling at the nervous tourists in line for the Statue of Liberty Cruise. I have beloved friends and family in both spots and, in both spots, I am delighted to run into them. I feel profoundly at home in both places.

Baby sparrows


There is a black raspberry bush right outside the kitchen door of our summer rental, and was picking berries the other day. I pulled a branch aside only to find a nest full of baby birds.

I haven’t wanted to bother them, so I let myself take a picture every two days. We were away for the weekend and this morning, when I went to take a picture, I startled the birds and two tumbled out of the nest and hop-flew away. The mama—who revealed herself as a sparrow—flew down to protect the one on the sidewalk. The other fell into the bush. I hope they’ll be fine; I expect they will. I am glad that they’re big enough for me to pick berries again. They’re getting ripe.

I thought you might like to see the birds, too.

July 5, 2010.

July 7, 2010.

July 9, 2010.



Sissinghurst


I am still occasionally reluctant to admit I’m a Woolf scholar, but I’ve never been a Bloomsbury person. I drew the line there.

Nonetheless, I loved my visit to Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens, a ruined castle which Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson made into one of the most celebrated gardens in England. What makes Sissinghurst special is that it represents the best of an English garden: lush, overplanted, and making subtle use of architectural elements to better show off the plants. This is not Versailles. Instead, there’ll be a low brick wall, then a high one, each sized to best show off the clematis and roses growing before it. An arbor frames a view of the farm in the distance. The white garden, with every kind of white flower, is like a canyon between high walls, flowers on left and right, with a wide lawn between. It’s not hard to envision oneself in a moonlit scene in such a spot.

Even on a dreary day, with a damp ticket entitling me to the buffet lunch in my pocket, and with the diesel engines of the tour bus idling in the background, in my Barbour raincoat, pretending not to see all the middle-aged Americans who’d come on this pilgrimage with me, it was a romantic sight.

If you’ve been there or not, you’ll find it’s worth a click over to the lovely personal essay in today’s Times by their grandson, Adam Nicolson, who lives there now.

Photo of The Rose Garden at Sissinghurst Castle; Jonathan Buckley/National Trust Photo Library

Megan Kelso’s Artichoke Tales


The Kelso girls were my good friends in high school. They had a great big house and the best parties in Seattle. I remember going over there on a Saturday night, dancing to the Psychedelic Furs, The Police and Grandmaster Flash while helping Jenny stir up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. These were the parties you dream of: really fun, really wholesome, where sometimes one of the cute boys actually asks you to dance (which, in the 80s meant jumping up and down like a pogo stick in his vicinity).

Megan was younger and smart and mysterious, with a very cool bulletin board covered with gnomic Dylan quotations.

Now, she’s all grown up and coming back out to New York (there were some Brooklyn years in there) from Seattle to celebrate her new graphic novel, Artichoke Tales. I loved her girlhero comic books so much! The ‘zines were sized just like comics and came with paperdolls to cut out on the back. They were masterpieces of 90s girlpower. Then, I gave them to a newly out dyke friend of mine and never saw them again: they are just the kind of books that a feminist covets and wants to keep. Megan writes about strong, independent women, gay and straight, navigating the landmines of war and family strife. It’s deep, powerful, political, and beautiful. Don’t look away. Run toward it.

She is giving a slideshow & booktalk at the Strand this Thursday, June 24, at 7:00 with Kim Deitch. She will also be speaking at Desert Island on Friday at 7:00. I so wish I could go. You should!!!




Pilates

Some goals languish; some taunt us, always far in the distance; some, we abandon; others, we meet. Whatever else I can and cannot say about this research leave, I have met my goal of exercising 4 or 5 times a week. 
As surprising as that is, my new obsession with Pilates surprises me more. Perhaps it shouldn’t. I flinch when a ball comes my way, so ball sports are out for exercise. I have an intense love-hate relationship with running. My body is not built for the jumping around of aerobics. Having grown up in Seattle in the 70s, I had my share of yoga-like experiences as a kid, lying on the floor in a gym, listening to the sounds of the Orca, suppressing giggles; leaning forward practicing my deep breaths while the young undergrad grazed my newly sprouting breasts under the guise of improving my technique. I like yoga a lot, but I often smell ulterior motives.

I’m sure there is lousy Pilates, too, but I’ve been lucky so far. I love the story of its founding as a method for rehabilitating WWI veterans. From the outset it welcomes broken and bruised bodies, promising some therapy, some relief. Plus, it attracts retired dancers, and I used to adore the modern dance classes I took as a child. All that technique, all the specialized vocabulary, all the concentration: I have found it again in Pilates.

So, I go once a week to the PilatesHaus and take a mat class. I do a video at least one other day. Even without the equipment—which is really fun but too expensive for anything but a treat—every exercise depends on five or six isolated muscle contractions at once. The more you do it, the more challenging the exercises become. At first, you’re just doing a fancy sit up; only later can you make that c-curve with your spine, press your inner thighs together, lower down one vertebrae at a time, keep your ankles together and toes apart, all while pulling down on your lats and pushing your belly button in to the base of your spine. All these instructions, spoken as gentle reminders, “Shoulders in their sockets, Anne,” are immensely reassuring to me. I can’t think about anything other than Pilates when I do Pilates, and, an hour later, I’m taller and happier.

My mom reminds me that I struggled and struggled to learn to skip when I was 5 or 6. Finally, she asked my dance teacher, the amazing Martha Nishitani, to help me. “One knee up; the other knee up,” she explained, and I was skipping in no time. I am indeed a verbal learner. Strangely enough—though perhaps, not so strange, as my teacher needs me to keep coming back—two of my three teachers so far have told me that I’m actually pretty good at it. I’m embarrassed at how I cling to these compliments, and yet I’m beginning to think that it may not only be flattery or the desire to keep a paying client. Maybe I am kind of good at this. Who knew?

The videos of Joseph Pilates training people are wonderful curiosities, but you can see Brett, the co-owner of the studio I go to, here, and you can see how cool it would be to get that good. 

Safe Space and H.O.W. Fundraiser and Art Auction


This Thursday, the literary journal H.O.W., for which I am on the board, is having its spring fundraiser and it looks to be a great one. The fantastic Roxana Robinson, author of Cost, will be reading and they’ll be auctioning off a bunch of art, including some really amazing looking t-shirts featuring the prose of Jonathan Ames, Amy Hempel, Rick Moody, and Honor Moore.

H.O.W. is not just a journal, it also functions as a nonprofit to raise money and awareness for children. This season, once again, money will go to Safe Space, an NYC nonprofit that works with children and youth in the foster care system.

I am so sad that I can’t go to this event, but if you’re looking for something cool and literary to do for a good cause on Thursday night, why not check this out. Student tickets are only $10—don’t forget your id!

Lizzie Skurnick for Girls Write Now

I’ve encouraged you all to go to the Chapters Readings before, and Friday brings another chance. The wonderfully smart and funny Lizzie Skurnick will be reading from her new book, Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading (2009). Lizzie’s book is a love letter to some of the great young adult fiction of the seventies, much of it by women and about real girls facing real and interesting problems: the very books that I hope the girls of Girls Write Now discover and find refuge in. My mother-in-law and I devoured the book together last summer, reminiscing about all the books we had loved and the ones that had meant so much to her 9th graders back when she was teaching. Reading with Lizzie will be some of the teen girls and their mentors who are participating in Girls Write Now this year. Here is the roster:
  • Emily Alvarez, "I Write for a Reason"

  • Michaela Burns, "Red Apple Pie"

  • Tianna Coleman, "Who am I: An Ode to Precious"

  • Clio Contogenis, "Mary Ellen, Nana Mary"

  • L’Eunice Faust & Tasha Gordon-Solmon, "If God Had Made Eve First"

  • Rachel Garcia, "The Yellow Dress"

  • Dalina Jimenez & Corey Binns, "Welcome Home"

  • Ceasia King & Ariana Proehl, "Ego Trips (We Know Exactly Why)"

  • Syeda Showkat & Kirthana Ramisetti, "Nora and Carol at the Discount Plus Christmas Party"

  • Shannon Talley & Jen McFann
Pamela Vasquez, "Bark Bark Roof Bark"

  • Quanasia Wheeler & Cynara Charles-Pierre, "The Yum that Keeps Giving" & "Thanksgiving No More"
I’ll confess that the first time I went to a paired reading, my heart sank a little at the length of the program. But, trust me, the women of Girls Write Now are fierce and organized: the readings are snappy, and the girls will have you laughing and crying. It’s the kind of event to make you remember why all the work we do, all the love we have, for literature really counts.

The event happens at the wonderful Center for Fiction (17 E 47th), this Friday from 6:00-8:00. I will be there & I hope to see you, too.

P.S. It’s not too late to apply to be a mentor for 2010-2011.

P.P.S. Finally, whether you’re in New York or not, you can pretty up your home and help the cause by buying one of (Seattle’s own) glassybaby votives/vases. Stop by their beautiful New York shop (in Jane Jacobs’s old house!) at 55 Hudson Street or just enter the code GWN on their website. (You can also just donate to Girls Write Now through the Network for Good here.)

These are the prettiest candleholders ever. Our apartment is FULL of them and I cannot get enough.

Celebrating Woolf


If you’re in New York and in search of a Woolfian adventure, during this, her birthday week, you might check out a new play, Among Roses and The Ash.

I know nothing but nothing about it except the information they sent me, which I pass on to you here:
Among Roses and The Ash
Written by Elisabeth Aroneau and Kellie Mecleary
Directed by Kellie Mecleary
January 27-30, 8pm, January 31, 2pm and 8pm.
Tickets $10 at door, or online at fabnyc.org 
Purchase tickets in advance - seating is limited!
SYNOPSIS: AMONG ROSES AND THE ASH is a meditation on the power, beauty, and limitations of the English language, seen through the eyes of an author. Inspired by the life and work of Virginia Woolf, AMONG ROSES AND THE ASH incorporates movement, sound and image to explore the work of a literary artist. 
The Author contemplates two of her characters: a Woman planning a party, remembering past loves and questioning current ones, and a Man, haunted by his own past, attempting to create the world anew. As the Author travels through the lives and minds of her characters, she asks questions all writers must consider: what can one communicate through words? What gets lost and unexpectedly found? AMONG ROSES AND THE ASH is a lyrical exploration of our human desire to connect and all that may happen in the attempt.
WOW Cafe Theater is located at 59-61 East 4th Street 
on the Fourth Floor. 
between Bowery and 2nd Avenue in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City, USA.


Nina Paley’s Sita!


Taking my mom’s advice and giving myself a day to enjoy some time to myself last Friday, I went to see Nina Paley’s animated film, “Sita Sings the Blues” on the strength of A. O. Scott’s enthusiastic review in the Times. (There's an earlier positive review here.)


It’s such a treat. Just look at the art!

The movie parallels Nina Paley’s own failed marriage, precipitated by her (now ex-) husband’s move to India for a job, with the miserable and humiliating plight of Sita, the wife of Ram, as detailed in the Ramayana.

There is so much to love here: the art is exuberant and funny and the improbable (and slightly wacky) parallel works because it’s not forced, because it’s treated with wry feminist humor, and because the varied drawing styles and vivid, smart writing (especially the chorus of three Indonesian shadow puppets who appear from time to time to bicker over their imperfect memories of the story of Sita) keeps it lively.

We mostly follow poor Sita, who follows Ram into exile in a dangerous forest where she is kidnapped. When Ram finally rescues her, he forces her to undergo a purity test (by fire), which she passes. Still doubting, he exiles the pregnant Sita a second time. She raises his children in the forest, teaching them to love Ram. These episodes of the epic humiliation of a faithful wife are intercut by the minor key and excruciating scenes of a drably drawn Nina being scolded by Dave when she arrives in India. Her exuberant hug and kiss is met with a cold: “Don’t kiss me in public! This is India!”


I have dated that guy. It stinks.

I didn’t know till afterwards that the film's distribution had been held up because, in using 20s recordings of blues singer Annette Hanshaw (whose songs are a highlight, coming out of a Betty-Boop style Sita’s mouth), she ended up owing about $50,000 in rights to others. (Don't get me started on how unfair copyright is to artists and scholars!) All the copyright nightmares—now resolved—are detailed here. They mean, happily for you, that you can watch Sita for free online! Or buy the DVD. Do it. There are so few great films by women and Nina Paley did EVERY BIT of this by herself. It's amazing.

It’s a great movie!

Bridget Jones Redux


The problem of how to spend, mark, and assess the worth of my research leave has been bugging me. It’s a high-class problem, believe me, I know. Still… My husband is reading Murakami’s running book, which, I read, got its start as a training journal. This and my own goals have got me thinking, mostly jokingly, about writing an amped up version of those tired year-in-the-life memoirs: how many pages written and read, how many minutes of what kind of exercise, how many WeightWatchers points consumed, how many pounds lost and gained. It’s a 9-month leave, if you include summer, and maybe I could just keep track of my progress and setbacks.

All of this, however, seems too depressing and too far from the real goals of having fun in the gym while losing weight, and, more to the point, of contemplation, reading, and writing something that makes a real contribution to a meaningful conversation.

It’s not that I’ve lost my sense of humor: heaven forbid! Just that I feel my energy draining away in the triviality of witty comments on friends’ status updates or bits of self-deprecation about my latest sampling of the children’s macaroni.

I was shocked recently when my mother, stern-voiced, told me that she hoped I would work very hard during my leave: “Why don’t you put in four good days each week,” she said, as if imposing a strict limit. All I could think was four? Only four? “and then do something nice for yourself on Fridays: go to a museum or a movie.” My girlfriends agreed with my mom.

Frankly, Fridays “off” hadn’t occurred to me. But it has now. I’ve been to the gym. I have a small task to do for my spouse, and then I’m heading to a matinee. See you on Monday.

H.O.W. Holiday Costume Party!!!

I'm on the board for the H.O.W. Literary Journal, an exciting new journal that is also a charity dedicated to helping orphans worldwide.

On December 6, they're having a holiday party with readings by Willie Perdomo and Tao Lin and the proceeds benefit teens in the Safe Space Program.

My costume involves peacock feathers.

Tickets are only $20 and drinks are free from 6-7. Click on the link to purchase.

What's not to like?

H.O.W. Journal wants to see you
on Sunday, Dec 6th, 6pm - 9pm

at Macao Trading Co.
311 Church Street, NYC 10013
$15 advance tickets, $20 at the door
Funds raised at this event will be used to start an art, music and film-making program for young adults at Safe Space. For more info. and to buy tickets please see below.

Readings by Tao Lin and Willie Perdomo

Free Drinks from 6-7pm!

Holiday Costume Contest

West Coast Hornby/McSweeney's Event!

A former student writes from her internship at 826 Valencia/McSweeney's to say that I should tell all my readers about this event: a special screening with Q&A by Nick Hornby of his new film. I think I should:
a special advance screening of
an education
a new film written and produced by nick hornby with an in-person Q&a with the author
wednesday, october 7, 2009 O 8:30 p.m.
$30 for tickets + a free book

The screening will be held at the Embarcadero Center Cinemas, Promenade Level, located at One Embarcadero Center in San Francisco.
purchase tickets online here:
Directions and theater information are here:
Further questions? Email letters@believermag.com or call (415) 642-5684
$30 is a lot, but when you throw in a book, it's a great deal. I don't really know if I have a lot of readers in San Francisco, but if I do, here's a great-sounding fun event for next week.

The Clintons at the Minetta Tavern

My dad and I were utterly charmed by Frank Bruni’s review of the new Minetta Tavern. So charmed that we had the same idea: this would be the perfect spot for our Saturday night dinner in September, my birthday dinner. My parents still live in Seattle, where I grew up, so these twice-yearly visits of theirs to New York City are much anticipated on all sides. They revolve around eating and we have made it our custom to get a babysitter on Saturday and go out someplace really fancy. The Minetta Tavern would be a bit of a break from tradition--it’s a steak house in the West Village—but Bruni made it sound so fun and fabulous that it seemed worth it.

When the only reservation we could get was for 6:00, we hesitated: do we really want to settle for such an unfashionable time? After all, the city has many, many other grand restaurants. My dad and I held fast and, since this was for my birthday, I held the day.

That block of MacDougal Street is still caught in the 80s: falafel shops and beer dives, tourists eating lousy looking nachos, thinking they’re experiencing the West Village. My husband and I walked around the block to see Il Mulino, where Presidents Clinton and Obama had lunched a few weeks back. That was exciting and funny, too: on the one hand, Il Mulino is tucked away. On the other hand, it’s across the street from NYU law. Not hard for them to find, we thought. The Minetta Tavern inside leaves the falafel far behind; it is full of old world charm: just as lovely and hip as Frank Bruni promised.

We walked in at 6:00 and couldn’t be seated right away. It was packed and the energy was young and vibrant. Passing from the bar to the dining room, I overheard one waiter/manager say to another: “San Francisco chef and restaurant owner; position three.” It seemed we were in a happening spot. Little did we know. When our waitress came to take our order, the hostess and maitre d’ were opening and shutting the side door; we could see red flashing lights; our waitress was distracted.

Five minutes later, we could see why: Hillary Clinton came in with two aides.

That was exciting, but it was even more amazing when, a few minutes after that, Chelsea and her boyfriend arrived.

When, ten minutes after that we heard a familiar voice say “Sorry I’m late,” as the Big Dog himself sidled into the booth.

It was very, very exciting! And distracting. And fun. Hillary Clinton looked beautiful—really happy and rested and lovely in a pretty ivory jacket with boucle details on the lapels. Chelsea is very, very pretty, too, in a black sleeveless tank and a gorgeous necklace of gold loops.

It was hard not to gawk or ask for an autograph. We did keep track of their orders—beet salads for the Clintons to start, burger for Chelsea and fish for Bill at dinner. Not a lot of wine at all. (The four of us, on the other hand cruised through a bottle of champagne and 2 reds.) I wanted to meet Hillary Clinton especially, but once it was a family dinner any intrusion seemed cruel and wrong. We giggled that I should start mentioning my days at Wellesley and Yale really loudly, but, in the end, we let them eat in peace. So did everyone else.

That is, until Rob Reiner came in with his family. (I know!!!) Meathead, as I still love to call him, greeted the Clintons and President Clinton greeted the Reiner family while Reiner talked with Hillary.

(Turns out, there was a tiny little Streisand concert at the Village Vanguard last night…)

It is very strange to think of the Clintons as people, to see that they are real. Hillary’s charisma was palpable from the moment she entered: she was powerful, kind, beautiful, and self-posessed. Bill, in tattersall and a blue blazer, was more like charisma in retirement: stunning, but in repose. I have been thinking, this fall, that maybe I’m becoming a New Yorker (with a Jersey zip code) but this knocked me right back. I was utterly star-struck.

Help Orphans Worldwide by having a cocktail on the Vineyard

There is a delicious absurdity to the charity fundraiser. Still, as middle class as I am, I can see the point: it’s a lot easier to open your wallet for AIDs orphans if, in the short term, you get to hear great writers read and sip a nummy cocktail.

This is probably the fanciest event I’ll ever be on the poster for:
An Evening of Readings and Cocktails.
H.O.W. is going to Martha's Vineyard!


Please join us for an evening of readings and cocktails at Midnight Farm in Vineyard Haven.

Readings by Geraldine Brooks, Mary Gaitskill, Fanny Howe, Honor Moore, Natasha Radojcic, Alexandra Styron and Alison Weaver.

August 7th, 2009
5-7pm
Midnight Farm
18 Water-Cromwell Lane
Vineyard Haven, MA 02568
I wish I were going to be on the Vineyard to raise a glass to these writers and to support the journal and the cause! But maybe you can be there for me.

I’m as stunned as I am proud to be on the board AND in the current issue of this journal (with an essay on rivals, their use and abuse). It’s a gorgeous journal, full of art, poetry, essays, and fiction. It also all goes to raise awareness for a worthy cuase: the plight of children left orphaned by AIDs. Contributors have the option of taking payment or donating it and the fundraisers’ proceeds go directly to a specific orphanage (a new one each issue).

H.O.W. was founded by my friend, the brilliant novelist, Natasha Radojcic, along with Alison Weaver (who is equally gifted and beautiful). Please tell your friends to come to the party in August, and, Vineyard or now, check out the journal and support the cause.

Woolf 09



I'll try to write up some text of Woolf 09 for you soon--the conference was incredible--but for now, how about a few images:
Here, you see Woolf Conference publicist, and Fordham student extraordinaire, Megan Branch posing with the fabulous Cecil and Jean Woolf. Megan and I paused a moment at the pre-banquet reception, and here I am posing with our plenary panel, Inspired by Woolf. The inimitable Katherine Lanpher interviewed three fabulous women inspired by Virginia Woolf: Dr. Ruth Gruber (she wrote a dissertation on Woolf at age 20 and went on to be a journalist and activist), Susan Sellers (who was launching her new novel, Vanessa and Virginia), and Kris Lundberg, actress and founder of the Shakespeare's Sister Theater company.

You can read Paula's account here.
It's not too late to attend the Woolf Conference at Fordham's Lincoln Center campus.

We're expecting over 200 people starting on Thursday. The first talks begin at noon.

We have plenary sessions every day. Rebecca Solnit will be giving the keynote address on Friday afternoon at 3:30.

You may purchase a day-pass for $45. 4-day passes are $175. We will have volunteers helping register people beginning at 10:00 on Thursday morning. All events are in our classroom building at 113 W 60th, with plenary sessions in Pope Auditorium (street level), registration one flight up (escalator) on the Plaza, and most sessions on the 5th floor.

We have some wonderful fiction writers and poets reading from work inspired by Woolf on Friday, 1:30-3:00 and on Saturday, 11:00-12:30. On Saturday, 2:00-3:30, NYC public high school girls in Girls Write Now will be reading their work inspired by Woolf and from 4:00-5:30 we will have a panel discussion featuring three amazing women inspired by Woolf.

We also have two ticketed events. On Thursday at 8:00 we will be hosting a staged reading of "Vita & Virginia" directed by Matthew Maguire. Tickets are $15 at the door. On Friday at 8:00, The Stephen Pelton Dance Theater and the band Princeton are presenting a one-night only collaboration of Woolf inspired modern dance & pop music. Tickets for that are $20 at the door.

You can find more information about the conference at our conference website. Please note that the website lists the Merc reception as being on Thursday: we changed the date to Friday.

it was this : it was this:

Even if you're not coming to the Woolf Conference, you should make time for June 5th's one night only music and dance performance, "it was this : it was this : "

it was this: it was this:
songs and dances inspired by the life and work of
Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group
with Princeton & Stephen Pelton Dance Theater
at the 19th Annual Virginia Woolf Conference
Friday June 5th, 2009 8pm
Pope Auditorium, Fordham University
113 W 60th St, New York, NY 10023

Tickets $20. Available online today & tomorrow only & then at at the door.

But don't take it from me. Here's what the collaborators say:
Southern California frolic meets Northern California serious in a one-night only collaboration of song and dance.

Princeton, the Los Angeles-based trio, join forces with San Francisco’s Stephen Pelton Dance Theater in it was this: it was this: an evening of songs and dances inspired by the life and work of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group.

Princeton will perform all of the songs from their recent EP Bloomsbury, each lyrically focused upon a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Portraits of Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf and John Maynard Keynes are each presented in a different musical framework with lush orchestral arrangements. The band is comprised of twin brothers Jesse and Matt Kivel and Ben Usen. The band will be joined by 8 additional musicians in recreating their frolicsome, exuberant take on the cast of Bloomsbury characters.

Stephen Pelton Dance Theater, known for known its intimate theatricality and emotional intensity, may be familiar to audiences from previous Woolf conferences. This year the company will perform several new works including the premiere of it was this: it was this: a choreographic study of Woolf’s punctuation. Using a single paragraph from To the Lighthouse, the company dances their way from the first word to the last, pausing briefly for every comma, parentheses and semicolon in-between. The company also performs a revised version of The Death of the Moth, first seen at the Plymouth State Conference in 1997.

The artists will combine forces for the premiere of Lytton/Carrington, a portrait-in-miniature of this most original of love stories.

Pelton writes, “What is most interesting to me in this collaboration with Princeton, is how remarkably different our approaches to Woolf are. I suspect that some of this may be attributable to the fact that we are from completely different generations—I am in my mid-forties, they in their early twenties. Their sweet, light-hearted and, at times, irreverent response to the material would have been unthinkable to me twenty years ago when I started to read Woolf and make dances inspired by her. Though they are always respectful, their songs embrace the playful spirit in Woolf’s work and in the lives of her colleagues; whereas I have tended to focus my response on the gravity of Woolf’s concerns. This contrast should make for a very fascinating evening in the theater.”
Tickets are selling fast, so hop online & buy one: no need to register for the conference, just get a ticket (or four or five). And big, big, big thanks to Paula Maggio of Blogging Woolf for turning me on to Princeton in the first place!