Thursday, September 6, 2012

10 Things I'm Loving Doing in the Midst of a Busy Life

1. Watching “Covert Affairs” on USA Network.

Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly, Cheaper By the Dozen) as Annie Walker, a CIA operative with kick-ass shoes and a big, brave heart; Christopher Gorham (“Ugly Betty”) as her hot, sweet, and smart as heck colleague; exotic locations befitting the creators of the Bourne movies …. What’s not to like?

2. Reading every issue of Garden & Gun Magazine.

Sure, it’s filled with ads for vacations and second homes in places only a seer-sucker-wearing millionaire may be able to afford, but the articles are prime: written by wonderful Southern writers like Alison Glock, Julia Reed and Roy Blount, Jr. and covering topics from football to holes-in-the-wall to musicians to the great Southern beverages, it is becoming my new favorite little magazine-that-could.

3. Taking naps when my three year-old daughter does.

No, I don’t have the time to really do this, and yes: I should be doing a hundred other things when this occurs—including studying, grading papers, writing Novel #2, promoting the upcoming release of Keowee Valley, or cleaning my house. But lately, I’ve been tired. And it has felt oh-so-wonderful to lie atop the blanket on my bed, under the fan, and just let go.

4. Reading books by first-time authors, like me.

Recently I finished Kimberly Brock’s The River Witch (Bell Bridge Books), and was utterly entranced by her mystical settings (Appalachian small town to the Georgia coast) and beautifully-drawn characters.
Currently, I’m reading Jon Buchan’s Code of the Forest (Joggling Board Press), a Southern political thriller with language so crisp and so bourbon-soaked I can hear the characters’ Lowcountry accents as I read.
Discovering these two debut novelists publishing with smaller presses reminds me that there’re SO many good stories out there just waiting to be heard—many, many more than sit on the New York Times bestseller list. No, these are not on my approved MFA reading list. Don’t tell my advisor.

5. Drinking apple juice.

I know, seems childish, right? But I loved apple juice as a child, and I love it still. We’ve got a huge bottle of Ingles brand organic apple juice in our fridge, and I’m sharing it with my three year-old.

6. Dreaming of Fall.

The sycamores are already shedding their leaves, and at night our temperatures in the mountains drop sometimes into the low 60s. Fall is on its way, and I’m so ready for my very favorite time of year! On our family agenda (and by God, we will make it happen): apple picking at a local orchard, hikes, drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway, fires in our fireplace, and college football.

7. Reading a modern classic novel.

Yes, I mentioned I’d been reading others. But last month I also read Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient for the first time, and I’m smitten. Now I’m into his book of poems, The Cinnamon Peeler. If you’re like me, and never read the The English Patient but did see the movie, don’t let the cold formality of the film keep you from delving into the novel. It’s a fragmented, dream-like, gorgeously rendered account of three very different people brought together in an abandoned Italian villa at the close of World War II. And it will stay with you long after you’ve put it down.

8. Taking a yoga class for the first time.

I just started a Basic Yoga class at the college where I teach, and though I’ve only been once, I’m already hooked. One night a week, my husband finishes up work a little early and watches our daughter while I, with rolled yoga mat under arm and water bottle in hand, head to join several other women of various ages. I’m not good at yoga—in fact, I’m as tight as they come from years of hiking and trail running without stretching. I’ve been sore for the past three days, since my first class. But lying on the floor in corpse pose, silent, for the 15 minutes at the end of class, my mind as relatively clear and free as it gets these days, is heaven. With each “Namaste,” I’m determined to follow through: to give of my “highest self” to my loved ones' highest selves.

9. Drinking as much water as is possible.

This is simple, really. I fill my bright green, severely dented aluminum water bottle up several times a day with crisp, cold water from our Brita pitcher. And I gulp it down like it’s the last drink I’ll ever have. It’s delicious, good for me, and gives me something to do.

10. Letting my daughter walk beside the stroller, even when we’re a mile from home.

Several days a week, if I can, I pick my daughter up from preschool with the stroller. Pushing her, it takes me about 12 minutes to make it home. But lately, when we get to the sidewalk, I’ve been letting her walk. Even when I’m tired. Even when I’m impatient, hungry, and ready to be home. She struts in front of it with an athlete’s bounce in her step, sometimes painstakingly slow, sometimes at a full-out run. She picks up rocks in gravel driveways, studies ants, waves at joggers and people on their porches, sometimes even sits flat-out in the middle of the sidewalk, just for the heck of it. Her blonde hair is usually a scraggly mess, the fanny of her pants stained from sitting in the dirt. And she does not look back at me, not even once.
What do you enjoy doing, in the midst of your busy life?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Upcoming Events

Happy Belated Labor Day, all!

My family and I are finally back at the ranch after almost three weeks traveling between three different beaches and three different sets of friends and family. We did come home for two days somewhere in the middle, but it was a fly by. Suffice to say, though it has been a wonderful trip, I am feeling like Dorothy: there is most certainly no place like home.

I'm getting pretty darned excited about the launch of Keowee Valley, coming up on Sept. 27th. It looks like this is going to be a busy and exciting Fall, and I've got some events planned I'd love to share:

  • Friday, Sept. 21 at 9 a.m., I'll be presenting a paper at the 2012 Southern Women Writer's Conference at Berry College in Mt. Berry, Georgia. The paper's essentially a longer excerpt from Keowee Valley. I'm excited to learn from great Southern female writers like Dorothy Allison and Josephine Humphreys, and to hear some wonderful new voices in Southern literature. I'm also looking forward to touring Berry College, which I've heard is simply gorgeous.

  • Friday, Oct. 12 at 11 a.m., I'll be the featured author at Litchfield Books' lunch with the author series, called Moveable Feast. My luncheon will take place at the famous Sea View Inn on Pawleys Island, South Carolina. I'll talk about the novel and myself, read from it, and take questions. After, there'll be a book signing back at Litchfield Books for those who couldn't make the lunch. Litchfield Books owner Tom Warner tells me that this venue sells out FAST, so if you're interested and in the area, I hope you'll contact Litchfield Books soon! I grew up vacationing in the area, and can't wait to be back and to meet wonderful readers!

  • Tuesday, Oct. 16 at noon, I'll be presenting at the Transylvania County Library's Bag Lunch Arts Series in Brevard, N.C. My presentation, "The Slanted Truth: When Fiction Meets History," will delve into the murky waters of historical fiction, past and present. I plan to talk about my own journey researching and writing Keowee Valley, which is set in a time and place shrouded in mystery, even now. After the event, copies of the novel will be sold by the fine folks at Highland Books, Brevard's fabulous independent book store.

  • Saturday, Oct. 27 at 2 p.m., I'll be giving a reading and book signing at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, North Carolina. City Lights is a Western North Carolina staple and hub for book lovers and lovers of the arts. I'm very much looking forward to being a part of such a wonderful book store, and to meeting area readers and writers.
More events to come, both real and virtual!