Friday, August 19

Good News Friday: Baby!

I missed my TFC post this week (sorry!) but I have a good excuse, I promise! Baby June is here, almost three weeks old, and so delightful. She has a big library already and will definitely be a Teen Fiction Cafe girl before I know it.

Happy Friday!


Thursday, August 11

Favorite Haunts: Vacation Edition

August is vacation season and since I'm about go to on mine, I thought I'd talk about my favorite haunts away from home to fit in with this week's TFC theme.

When I was a kid, my family had some regular vacation spots, mainly Door County and the Apostle Islands in Northern Wisconsin. Some times we stayed a bit closer to home and went to Starved Rock, a state park in Northern Illinois. Or there were trips to Michigan where my aunt had a cabin. We did a lot of camping. For someone who is terrified of spiders, likes the comforts of a nice indoor bathroom, and has lots of allergies and dislikes extreme heat, this wasn't usually very pleasant.

Fortunately, now I get to pick my own yearly vacation spot and that would be the city that I wish I could afford to move to:

Ah, Seattle. Sigh. City of my heart. I visited for the first time in 2004. It sounds kind of morbid, but I went on the 10th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death. No artist has had a bigger influence on me than Nirvana and since Kurt committed suicide when I was 14, it left a really big impression on me. I'd always wanted to go to Seattle since I was a teenager, so I went with some friends to pay tribute to Kurt and I also kind of closed the door on my own troubled youth in the process. It's hard to explain, but I tried to do so in this essay if you are interested.

Anyway I didn't expect to fall in love with Seattle. It was just a vacation, a trip with my girlfriends who were fellow music nerds. But as soon as I saw all the bright green trees (that rain is good for something) and all of the water (of course as a Cancer I would love a city that is surrounded by water on three sides), I fell in love. The air smelled better. The land had dimension. (I come from the abysmally flat Midwest.) And I just felt like I belonged.

One of these days (like when the economy turns around and we can sell our house), I will move out there and live happily ever after. But for now I make a yearly visit. Usually I go with two of my girl friends that I visited with the first time in 2004, who fell in love with Seattle like I did. The three of us live in different cities (me in Chicago, my friend Jenny in St. Louis and my friend Eryn in Denver), so it's like a little reunion. Normally we go in spring, but this year we head out on August 20th and I'm currently putting together a list of must-do's for us. Eryn and I have visited Seattle together 6 times and I've been there 2 additional times on top of that, so I definitely have my favorite haunts. Here are some of them:

1. The Waterfront:

The first time we stayed in Seattle, we were in a hostel just a block away from it so the first thing we did was walk along Elliott Bay. Now it's basically a tradition. We dump our stuff in the hotel and head directly there. Yeah it's touristy, but it's beautiful and there is nothing like it back home so who cars.

2. The Pike Place Market:

Also a touristy location, but I love a good farmer's market and this is pretty much the king of them all. We generally stay downtown so I like go here every morning for breakfast. Then I can buy fresh fruit and a vegan cinnamon roll at Cinnamon Works. (I definitely can't get vegan cinnamon rolls at home!) If I were a coffee drinker, I might grab a cup at the original Starbucks, but I'm a tea gal so I stock up at Market Spice. I usually will get one cup of Joe while in Seattle because well when in Rome... But I generally go for one of the smaller, local coffee houses.

3. The Seattle Center:

This is basically as touristy as it gets, but since the Space Needle symbolizes Seattle to me, we always have to walk by and get some cool shots of it (or totally dorky ones like the one above of me pointing to it), though I don't usually feel the need to pay to go up in it. The Seattle Center is also home to the EMP (Experience Music Project) and the SFM (Sci-Fi Museum), which is that super funky looking building pictured above. I geek out hardcore over both music and Sci-Fi so I do love both places and when they get exhibits I'm interested in, I go. Right now EMP has a huge Nirvana exhibit and SFM has a Battlestar Galactica exhibit. I am so there.

4. Thrift Stores and local crafty boutiques. It's weird because I don't shop much at home. Maybe because I grew up in Chicago now I'm cynical about it and nothing seems as cool as it used to be. But in Seattle I love to hit Red Light, my favorite vintage store at both of it's Capitol Hill and U-District locations and then I like to wander both of those neighborhoods and see what else I find. I also love the Ballard neighborhood which has this strip of boutiques where I can always find clothes by local designers. A lot of times we also hit up craft fairs like I Heart Rummage because I love to support local artists and find unique clothes and accessories. There's something wonderful about knowing that no one in your town will be able to get that hoodie or necklace.

5. Food and Drink. Since I work at a dive bar, I'm kind of a dive bar aficionado and Seattle has some of my favorites like The Comet Tavern in Capitol Hill, Nitelite downtown, The Central Saloon in Pioneer Square, and 9 Pound Hammer in Georgetown. It's also vegan paradise, especially compared to Chicago. I love the all-vegetarian Asian Restaurant, Bamboo Garden and Pizza Pi has the best vegan pizza I've ever tasted. Georgetown Liquor Company has these great vegan sandwiches with sci-fi names like Frac and the Picard. Umm yeah, that is pretty much the best thing ever.

6. Outdoorsy stuff. Seattle definitely has Chicago beat for this as well. I love going to the very odd Gasworks Park:

And visiting the nearby Fremont Troll:

Then there cool hikes like through Discovery Park to this neat little beach:

But this year I am really excited to check out Lincoln Park in West Seattle which has public pool right on the beach that is fed by Puget Sound waters.

7. Of course the big mama of parks for me is actually a very tiny park, Viretta Park. It's next to the house that Kurt Cobain owned, the house where his body was found. Fans gathered there in mourning in 1994 and my friends and I gathered there in 2004. It was where I had a bunch of personal epiphanies about letting my past go, fitting since like my characters in Ballads of Suburbia, I spent much of my time as a teenager hanging out in a park. So I do have to make a trek there every time I visit Seattle and leave a little hello and thanks for the music to Kurt on the bench where fans write messages to him and then have a little quiet reflective time for myself.

So those are my favorite Seattle vacation haunts. Do you take an annual trip somewhere? Or do you have a city that you wish you could visit regularly (or move to!)? What are some of your favorite places there?

Tuesday, August 9

Indie Bookstores: Gotta Love 'Em!

First off, don't forget to comment on Lauren's post below for a chance to win 2 signed copies of her books!

This week we're talking about Favorite Haunts and I've decided to dedicate my post to indie bookstores. We all have our favorites, whether a local one or one that we love to visit when we're traveling. Today I'm posting some photos I've taken at The King's English, a bookstore located in the Salt Lake City, Utah area that's full of wonderful character, genuine book lovers, and of course great books.

In the below photo, you'll see YA authors and Utah residents Sara Zarr on the left, me in the middle, and Emily Wing Smith on the right. The King's English is great about celebrating local authors.

Recently, Emily Wing Smith launched her highly anticipated Back When You Were Easier to Love and I was lucky enough to get to come to the party The King's English threw. (Bottom photo)

Do you have a favorite indie bookstore? If you're looking for one close to you or in the next town you're visiting, check out this cool web-site:

Monday, August 8

Favorite Haunts + Little Women and Me/Crazy Beautiful Giveaway!

It's still summertime, time to be a little lazier - yea!

Here are some of my current favorite summertime haunts:

- The movie theatre. On hot days, I love going to matinees with my daughter. And my favorite thing to do there with her is take over six seats in the back row, three for each of us, and lie down on our sides head to head to watch. Since she's gotten a bit older and has always had more mature tastes, this has been the Summer of the Inappropriate Movie for us. Probably tied for first are "Friends with Benefits" and "Horrible Bosses".

- Shopping at J Crew. Everyone knows by now how short I am, but at J Crew there's always at least something that fits and the clothes last and last.

- My own dining room table. Every Friday night for over 10 years now, I've hosted a writing group in my home. It's something I always love but particularly in summer, when I can also have my (beleaguered) Mets on mute on the living room TV and when we take breaks outside the weather is conducive to sitting for a spell over a glass of good wine and good gab.

- The bench outside my front door. Over the course of the day, I take several 10-minute breaks outside to recharge. While I'm recharging, I'm also always reading. I read all year long but there's something special about summertime reading, that nostalgic feel of hot days with no responsibility but plenty of time to lie by the pool or under a shady tree and gorge on books. I'm like a tick when it comes to books. Did that image just gross you out?

- The couch in front of the TV. "General Hospital" in the afternoons, "Glee Project" on demand with my daughter, catching-up-on-movies Saturday nights with the lights out - I love it all.

So those are my summertime haunts. OK, maybe you'll think they're lame, with a serious homebody bent, but they're mine.

How about you: What are your favorite summertime haunts?

Oops, almost forgot! I'm offering a signed ARC of LITTLE WOMEN AND ME and a signed paperback copy of CRAZY BEAUTIFUL to one commenter below. Just leave a comment between now and midnight Friday and I'll randomly select the winner. Please do leave your email address if it doesn't automatically follow from your name link so I'll have a way to notify you. Thanks for playing!

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Monday, August 1

I know it's only Monday but..

This week's focus is art, and when this came into my mailbox this morning, I had to share because a. I love pugs and b. therefore I love this picture.

Comment here with the name (or better yet pic!) of your fave pic through midnight EST on Friday, August 5th, and the person who talks about/posts the pic I like best will win a signed copy of Between Here and Forever. You must have a US mailing addy, and make sure to leave a way for me to contact you!