Well, it's that time of year again. Today, many Americans are gathering with their families and eating a huge meal, spending time in front of the TV and talking.
Of course, I'm pretty far away from those activities, but that's okay. The tradition dictates that we share something we're thankful for on this Thanksgiving holiday, and so, in honor of Thanksgiving and for this Thursday Thirteen, I would like to share
13 Things I'm Thankful For
1) My hubby, Alessandro.
He supports me in my writing endeavors, he endures my crazy crushes, and he's always there whenever I need him. He loves me and isn't afraid to show it - to me or to the world at large.
What more could I possibly ask for?
2) My Mom.
I'm thankful for her every single day. I'm grateful that she got to come over to London for the launch and that I got to spend time with her while she saw one of my favorite cities for herself.
And again, she supports me and loves me unconditionally, and there's no way to explain how much that means to me.
3) My friend, Cristy.
She went to extraordinary efforts to be able to come to London for the launch too. She's turning into the best (free) publicist I could ever ask for!
I'm thankful for her friendship, and for the friendship she shares with my Mom.
This last year has been made easier and better because of her, and I could never thank her enough. So I'll just have to settle for being thankful for her presence in my life.
4) My friend and CP, Nell Dixon.
Nell and I met in person for the first time the day after the launch for Ask Me..., but that doesn't mean we're not good friends.
She deserves a lot of credit for keeping Ask Me... on a steady keel, and I cannot thank her enough for her advice, her kindness and her expertise. She's truly a friend to be thankful for.
5) My friend, CP and ever-so-patient editor, Jason Horger.
If not for his dogged determination to edit and critique Ask Me... in his free time - what little he has - I am sure the novel would have taken much longer to complete, and it wouldn't be nearly as good as it turned out to be.
He's a good friend, dishes up a tasty barbecue, and is one of the most genuinely wonderful people I've ever met. I'm thankful that chance found a way to throw us together.
My Italian family meets my American family in 2006. Martin, my stepfather (at table, center) passed away unexpectedly one year ago.
6) My family.
I lost two members of my family last year, and the holidays always bring the memories of them in bittersweet ways.
Of course, those losses also remind me how important the time we spend with our loved ones truly is. I love them all - even when they drive me completely batty. If they didn't, though, I'm not sure they'd really be family, if you know what I mean.
My brother, Chris, my sister, Lisa, and me in 2007.
I'm thankful that, before he passed away in 2009, my father and I were able to overcome the distance which had grown between us over the years. I'm thankful we got the chance to reconnect and express our love for each other.
8) I'm thankful for all the experiences I've had.
Good or - for lack of a better word - bad, I've learned from them all, and I've become who I am today as a result. If nothing else, I can look back on the things I've done, the people I've met and the places I've been and say:
"It's all research."
I'm thankful that my squirrelly little brain is still able to draw from the countless sources around me to build stories. Aural or visual, tactile or emotional, it's all fodder for the creative impulse - and it certainly makes life interesting!
I get so much out of this pic, you've no idea. At least, you've no idea until I complete 27 Stages...
10) Sophie, a.k.a., Doodle.
I'm thankful for my kitty. She's maddening sometimes, but she's also cuddly, sweet and so "squee!" she almost makes up for the chomps she delivers on a semi-regular basis.
11) Basic Necessities.
Food. Shelter. Clothing. I have these things in abundance, and I'm thankful for what I have. How could I not be?
12) I'm now a published writer.
I can now say this with pride - and proof! I'm truly thankful for this opportunity, and hope to do it justice as best I can.
13) The life I've been given.
I am thankful for the opportunities before me, the history behind me, and the present I share with all of those I love. I'm thankful that I miss my family back home, because that means I love someone far away and they love me too. I'm thankful to have met so many wonderful people in my life - some extraordinary folks in just the last couple of weeks - and I carry these experiences with me wherever I go.
Now I just need to share them in my stories.
And on that note...
It's been a while since I was able to do this.
Now that the weather's turned a bit chilly,
It's time warm up a bit.
So, I reckon a little cross-country running is in order.
Ciao for now!
Well, it's been a busy week-and-a-half, to say the least. Alle and I left on Wednesday morning (the 10th of November), driving down to Bologna (fittingly, I should think) to fly out of Guglielmo Marconi Airport. (Which is, of course, the airport Emily flies into and out of in the last part of Ask Me if I'm Happy.) We arrived in London shortly after one p.m., and then we went to the South Terminal to find my mother and my friend Cristy, who had flown over from the States for the book launch. The reunion went smoothly, and after catching the Gatwick Express train, we stepped outside Victoria Station and caught a couple of black cabs (Mom and Cristy in one, Alle and me in the other) to head over to our hotel.
That's when things got a bit interesting.
As I said before, we traveled to London on the 10th of November. What we didn't know was that there was a protest being held in the city, regarding the raising of tuition fees for students. Another thing we didn't know – but soon discovered – was that the protest had gone a bit wrong and a riot had broken out. What should have been a ten-or-fifteen-minute ride (and a ten pound fare) took nearly forty-five minutes and cost quite a bit more than planned, as we attempted to circumvent the crowds and found ourselves diverted repeatedly. In some areas, traffic was at a virtual standstill. Luckily, we arrived at the hotel (literally right next to the London Eye) just after my mother and friend had checked in.
Soon we were reunited and headed out for dinner. We went to a small restaurant across the street from our hotel's door, and tucked in to a few hearty dishes. (I'm always starving by the time I arrive in London, it seems.) Then we took Mom and Cristy over to the 24-hour grocery store nearby so they could get themselves a few snacks and breakfast munchies in case they didn't make it down to breakfast in the morning. This was followed by a stroll 'round the corner so they could see the Eye lit up as well as the Parliament building across the river. Unfortunately, it was cold and windy, so we soon retreated to our respective hotel rooms and settled in. In short order I found myself doing what I'd be doing every night I had the time for it: watching QI, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You while enjoying a hot cocoa and a cookie (or two). (Seriously Knobbly Cookies in white chocolate and cranberry are my favorites, but the Sainsbury's white chocolate and raspberry we found the day before the launch were great, too.)
Thursday morning got off to a lively start. After breakfast there was a test of the hotel's fire alarm system. Unfortunately, we didn't see any of the notices posted in the lobby (I have some extensive quibbles about this, I confess) so it was all a bit of a shock for us. Once that was sorted, Alle and I only had time for a quick visit with my family before he and I headed to Waterloo to take the Tube to Tottenham Court Road. We had a short walk to the British Museum, where we met SJ Hecksher-Marquis for a light lunch and chat regarding the upcoming launch and various and sundry Diiarts/Ask Me… related business. Afterwards, Alle and I caught a cab with SJ back to Waterloo Station, and then met with Mom and Cristy for dinner that evening.
Friday was a touristy day. We all took one of the guided bus tours around the city, and even though it rained a little, Alle and I stayed in the open-air part of the bus while Mom and Cristy sat under the covered portion. It got pretty cold, but I enjoyed it so much, I didn't care. Because of the rain, however, I didn't take any photos (I didn't want to get my lens wet). We actually went round again and repeated nearly half of the tour because one of the stops was just outside the street for our hotel. We hadn't realized we could get "door to door" service! Oh, well, it's good to know for next time, I suppose.
Saturday we opted to walk across Westminster Bridge (some great photo ops there, of course) and took the second half of the tour we'd paid for – this time on a sightseeing boat on the Thames. I did take pictures, and some turned out pretty well. Afterward, we had planned on going to the bookshop where the launch would be held, but weren't able to go. As happened last year, the Lord Mayor's Show threw a wrench into a few plans, but that was fine – we simply took advantage of the free time, went back to the hotel and then rode on the London Eye. Then we went out to dinner again before returning to our rooms to rest and relax for the evening.
On Sunday, we took it easy. In the late afternoon, Alle and I took the Tube up to High Holborn and checked out the Waterstone's where the launch would be on Monday. Of course the shop was closed, but that was okay, too. I got a couple of photos of the notice in the window about the launch, walked with Alle down to the local Sainsbury's to buy some snacks (the cookies I mentioned above, for example), and then we caught the Tube again back to Waterloo. We hung out with my family for a bit and then retired to our room for the night, where we were promptly startled out of our impending sleep by another fire alarm! This time it came from the Mariott on the other end of County Hall (but they're all connected, of course, so if one goes, they all go), and was quickly silenced, but still – not at all a pleasant experience at 11:45 at night.
Monday was a busy day. After breakfast, we went to Waterloo to catch a train to Leatherhead so we could do the following things: Get my mother's hair done for the launch; have a nice chat about business, etc. with SJ over lunch; and, as it turned out, give/receive a Christmas present. My mother bought me a brand-new camera after she'd spotted me admiring Cristy's Nikon! Surprise! Then we hopped the train back to Waterloo to change clothes, pretty ourselves, and head over to Waterstone's in High Holborn for the launch. As it turned out, it was a rather small affair, with only a few attendees. However, Richard Pierce-Saunderson – a long-time online friend since the Authonomy days – made it down for the event, and we spent the hour-and-a-half chatting. After wrapping things up there (I had eight pre-sales to autograph! Two copies of Ask Me... are still in the shop, btw.) we toddled back to the hotel for a nice long dinner in the hotel restaurant, then went up to bed and sweet, sweet sleep. After QI and Mock the Week, that is.
Tuesday was a "free" day, of sorts. We took Mom and Cristy up to King's Cross Station so Cristy could try to see "Platform 9¾" but I'd confused where it was supposed to be and didn't find it. Next time, Cristy! I swear! We had a walk along the road past St Pancras Station and went to a pub for lunch. Then it was another trip along the Tube to get back to Westminster, so "the girls" could see Westminster Abbey. Alle and I wandered around and got some shots of the exterior of the Abbey while they took the tour. When they'd finished with that, we strolled across Westminster Bridge back to our hotel at dusk. We got some lovely shots of the clock tower with the moon behind it, too.
Wednesday morning, I made my way alone via the Tube to Euston Station to meet with my lovely and talented cp, Nell Dixon. We found each other easily even in the confusion of the main concourse, and soon we - along with her good friend Vik - were on our way to John Lewis to meet up with fellow writer Phillipa Ashley. We talked, we laughed, we ate - and after a measly three hours I had to make my farewells and was bounding across town yet again (this time in the midst of a protest by the cabbies!) to join Alle, Mom and Cristy for the train to Oxford out of Paddington Station.Late afternoon found us toting a few copies of Ask Me… to the East Oxford Community Centre for the fundraising poetry competition for the Oxford International Women's Festival. At last, I got to meet the amazing Dan Holloway. He's another one of my online friends since my time on Authonomy. He's also been a big fan of Ask Me if I'm Happy since Authonomy, and a supporter of my writing in general. It was a thrill and an honor to finally get to meet him in person. The event itself was fantastic! There were at least 40 people in attendance, loads of talented people performing – writers, poets and a singer-songwriter with her pianist – and an atmosphere of creativity and encouragement like nothing I'd felt before. Three copies of Ask Me… were sold: two of them were given as prizes to the winners of the competition, and one was purchased by a poet who read her work that evening. Exciting stuff, and it kept me buzzing all the way home, which was good, because we didn't get in 'til after midnight.
Thursday I spent a little time with my mother (after another fire alarm test!) before Alle and I went to Oxford for the second event. She and Cristy were too tired to travel all the way out this time, and they had to pack for the flight home on Friday. Disappointing as this was, I knew they were tuckered out after all the running and touring around London. So Alle and I went alone to Oxford Castle for the Into the Desert Live Event. The exhibition was held, appropriately enough, in the O3 Gallery in Oxford Castle; what a setting for a literary event! Though the space was tiny, the split-level effect made a truly unique environment for the readings/performances. Not a bad seat in the house, so to speak – and no need for a microphone in order to be heard. I really felt like the audience appreciated the readings – mine included – though the only two books sold were the other author's. When Alle and I got back to the hotel, we visited a little with Mom and Cristy again, and promptly sold six books to them. LOL! I had fun signing those, too. Then we toddled off to bed so they could finish off their packing and rest.
Friday morning, Alle got up and went to take Mom and Cristy to Victoria Station and the Gatwick Express train. He saw them safely off, then came back for breakfast with me before we went out for our final day in London. We took the Tube up to White City, because I was determined to have a visit to the Westfield Shopping Centre and the Butler's Chocolate Café there. (I'm not addicted to their chocolate. No way. Uh-uh.) We also hit the bookshop (five books – four for me, one for both of us) and the Lego shop where we got a gift for our niece, Mia. One hot cocoa (and a delectable chocolates purchase) later, we returned to the hotel to drop off our purchases and organize a final meeting with the illustrious SJ.One final goal remained to be met, however, and we launched into it with gusto: A viewing of the latest Harry Potter film. I checked the internet, found the closest theatre (not in IMAX), and off we went to an early evening showing. I enjoyed the film and Alle did, too, which was a relief. The audience were appreciative and post-teen, which made the film that much more enjoyable too. The best part of the whole thing? The premiere had been just a few days before, not far from where we saw it. Seeing the London scenes in the film was even more fun, because I'd just seen many of the places for myself that week.
Ah, yes. It was all I had hoped it would be. But this meant we were approaching the end of our stay, and I returned to the hotel with a somewhat heavier heart than before. We spent the evening after dinner (at the fantastic Troia restaurant across the street) packing up our things. Or, rather, Alle did. I watched QI and Mock the Week for the final time. When everything was packed away we settled down to sleep with a real sense of accomplishment.
Saturday morning, we had our final "full English" breakfast and went to catch a train to Leatherhead after checking out of the hotel and putting our bags in the Left Luggage room. After this final meeting with SJ – once again over coffee – we returned to retrieve our bags and make our way to Victoria Station, then Gatwick. Since we were so early (nearly four hours!), we were really able to take our time, and found the whole trip back relatively stress-free. We strolled around the shops in Gatwick, had a leisurely dinner and dessert at one of the restaurants there, then waited patiently for our gate to be announced. The flight home went smoothly – not many people traveling on Saturday night, it seems – and after a few "Welcome to Italy" bumps in the road, we arrived at home, tired and eager to pile into our bed after a sometimes frantic holiday.
So now it's back to the "real world", as it were. …sigh… I've still got loads on my plate – lessons to plan, schedules to make – so I'd better get on with it.
Ciao for now!
A new blog is coming - I want to share my thoughts about the events of the last week-and-a-half, but I need time to compose them, first.
So, check back Monday evening for more!
Ciao for now!
As I start to write this, it is 10:30 in the morning. In twenty-four hours I'll be waiting to board my flight (a whole two-hour journey) to London out of Bologna.
My bags are almost completely packed (just a few items to go).
I've read and re-read my excerpts for the readings until I'm nearly sick of seeing 'em.
I've decided on my outifits for the launch and the readings. (Dressy, not fussy; quite "me", really.)
When Alle and I arrive in London, we'll find my mother and my friend who are waiting for us there (their flight gets in earlier), and we'll get them to the hotel. We'll rest, have dinner, and then?
My nerves will start kicking in and I'll become a chattering, blithering idiot, most likely. LOL! Not that anyone can tell the difference, I reckon.
No, I'm sure we'll have a quick toddle around our neighborhood before we retire to our rooms, chat and then get some rest. Thursday morning, to one degree or another, my London adventure will begin. I hope things go smoothly, and that I don't actually make a fool of myself in front of anyone.
To quote the Grateful Dead (and when you think London, don't you just think of Jerry and the gang?) "What a long, strange trip it's been..." I mean, I started out writing this little short story which I initially meant to be just for me and mine, and instead it became something much, much bigger - both literally and figuratively.
In the end, a story about Bologna is taking me to London, and then back home again where the real world will intrude once more - and regularly at that. I'll have to look on the next ten days as something out of the norm, and cross my fingers and hope and wish and pray that all goes as well as it can.
And then I'll have to knuckle down and get to writing again. I want to see where the next story takes me.
In case you missed it, I've done another guest blog this week. This time, I popped up on the Power of Language blog.
And I'm doing a massive Happy Dance because the launch was mentioned on the website for Time Out London. Squeee!!!!!
I've really got to learn to multi-task better. I'm struggling daily with my wordcount for 27 Stages
, thanks to my preparations for my trip to London and doing what promotional work I can from home for Ask Me if I'm Happy
.Strangely, I've had a couple of opportunities in recent days to refer to myself as a writer. As in, "I am a (soon-to-be) published writer." It felt good, but a little strange - kind of like one's first real kiss. It's wonderful and exciting and a little bit off, somehow. In a delightful, happening-to-someone-else sort of way.Or was that just me?Hmph.I think the reason it's taking some adjusting is the fact I've always said I was a writer. I've believed it in my heart of hearts from a pretty young age. It's only now that other people are conceding the point in a real way.And then there's the sense of unreality that comes from this phrase:"I am a writer and I live in Italy."There's so much weight in those words, it's almost inconceivable to me how to make them mean what I want them to. Because when I say "I am a writer and I live in Italy", people get all sorts of wrong ideas. They imagine that I don't have a "real" job. They think I don't need one. They think I live in a place full of warmth and sunshine year-round. They think I live in a Tuscan villa, complete with vineyards and/or olive groves.
They think I have an airy apartment filled with light. They think I live a glamourous lifestyle, sipping wine on a balcony which overlooks rolling hills, while I wear some sort of designer frock.The reality is far different.I have a "real" job. I teach English to Italians at a language school in the city where I live. Yeah, the job can be fun sometimes, no doubt about it - I've probably mentioned some of my students here before, and how much I adore them - but it's still work, with all the bureaucracy and paperwork any teaching job entails.
My writing hasn't made me rich. The book isn't even out yet, remember? (November 15th is coming soon, though! Not that I'll be "rich" anytime in the near future. Heh.)Reggio nell'Emilia is a sunny place - in Spring and Summer, anyway. In Autumn and Winter, however? Not so much. It's rainy, it's cold and it's very foggy. Which is one reason I love it so much here. It suits me and my creative energies.I most definitely don't live in a Tuscan villa, or sit on a balcony overlooking rolling hills, vineyards or olive groves.
These are the views from my balcony. I don't see any vineyards, do you?
Some folks - including my husband - don't understand why I might want to correct the misinformation about my life or my lifestyle - such as it is. I think I do this because I want people to see that I'm the same person I've always been. I'm not particularly lucky, or blessed, even though I am.
Does that make sense?
I'm here because of chance, and because I followed my heart and did what I had to do in order to be happy. I took chances, and chance took me where I needed to be, so I could tell the story I needed to tell and find more stories when that one was finished.
I'm here because I was open to the possibilities which lay before me. I'm here because a real gem of a guy caught my eye when he slipped under the radar of women who were too focused on the flashy guys around them. Their loss, my gain, thank you very much. This is the payoff for ignoring the superficial and appreciating the substance of a real man.
I have friends who envy my living here in Italy. Sometimes I don't know why, but I suspect it's because of those words I mentioned. For the record, my life is no different here than when I'm in the States, in many ways. I write, I work, I do laundry, I cook dinner and clean the catbox (not at the same time). I grouse about politics with friends. I complain about the potholes in the road and the fact people can be so darn rude! Argh!
I miss home a little bit, every single day. I miss my family, and my friends. I miss the view of the mountains from my mom's back porch. I miss being able to find clothes in my style and size. I miss US junk food and television and driving myself around (I don't have an Italian driving license - another story for another time). I miss a lot about the US, but overall, it's just like here, in Italy.
Wherever I am, it's just life. And yes, life is beautiful. Life is strange, and life is hard wherever you are.
It's all in how you choose to look at it.
This will be a text-heavy Thirteen this week - I'm running short on time as I get ready to go to London next week. ACK!!! With that in mind, I must present to you:
13 Things I Must Pack for My Trip!
1) My computer (and all the peripherals it requires) so I can blog about - basically - everything.
2) 'Arty' blouses for the launch in London and the other readings in Oxford.
3) Comfy walking shoes.
4) My copy of Watership Down. (The reason will be explained after I'm back.)
5) Though I never normally wear it - I must pack makeup for the photo ops. (Lawd help me.)
6) Shoes to wear in (potentially) muddy places. (Again, this will be explained later.)
7) Contact lenses.
8) Dressy trousers.
10) My camera, and all the batteries, memory cards and various cables, etc, which go with it.
11) A warm nightgown, and a not-so-warm nightgown. To be prepared, either way.
12) Antacids. ('nuff said, I reckon.)
13) An extra suitcase (for bringing stuff - books, tea, chocolates) home. Heh.
And that's just scratching the surface, really. EEEEIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!
That was quick and dirty, no?
And no, that's not meant as a tease.
I mean, you know me...
I like to keep it clean.
Ciao for now! :)
and then I'll be in London to prepare for the launch of Ask Me if I'm Happy
! That I'm excited is no surprise to anyone, I'm sure. This is my first published novel, and so I'm experiencing a lot of things for the first time:Interviews - initially by my Diiarts cohorts, and soon by others.Guest Blogs - I did one a couple of years ago for Shelley Munro, but now I've done two for Diiarts, as well. You can read them here and here.People asking for my autograph - Honestly! It's so strange, even if they are/were friends and/or acquaintances before the fact. I'll be doing a lot of signing in London, too, on the pre-orders of Ask Me... and of course at the launch.Public readings - I did one here in Italy last June at the End of the School Year party at the language school where I work, and that was fun - and a little nerve-wracking, too. In November, I'm scheduled to do three readings: one at the launch and two in Oxford (at the Oxford International Women's Festival Poetry Competition and at the Into the Desert Live event, respectively)!I was in London one year ago, too. I went for the launch of Diiarts' first four titles
and I had a wonderful time. Alas, it was only for an all-too-brief weekend, but Alessandro and I had fun with our friends while we were there.This time around, my mother and my best friend will be in attendance, and with a little luck, many of my online mates will be there for the launch, too. I'll get to meet my cp (critique partner), Nell Dixon in person for the first time, and I can't wait for our lunch date together!My appearances in Oxford were facilitated by a longtime supporter, too - the lovely and talented Dan Holloway - and I can't wait to meet him, too!
With luck, I'll also be meeting many of my longtime Authonomy and Facebook friends, and I think this event will be even more exciting as a result of finally getting to be with them, in person.All the good wishes I've received so far, all the encouragement from friends and acquaintances are only now starting to make this feel real. I can't even begin to imagine yet how it's going to feel once I'm actually there, in London, sitting behind that table and signing copies of Ask Me if I'm Happy - and, yes, answering that very question over and over and over again - but I'm sure it'll feel good.And I know what my answer will be.