Downsizing My Parent’s House

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So many wonderful vintage photos!

Soon after I returned from my August vacation, my parents called to tell me that they had decided to sell their home of the last 20-years and move into a 2 -bedroom unit at a nearby retirement community. As my kids would say, I was shook.

My 79-year-old parents , are healthy and actively involved in their community. I knew that they were checking out the area’s senior residences – but I thought it was for the way-off future and also because of the  nice free lunches.

I am fortunate that my parents together have been able to handle all the many complexities of selling their house, buying the new unit as well as the logistics of downsizing their house. But there is a lifetime of belongings- furniture, kitchen stuff, tools,  photos and memorabilia involved when you have been married for more than 50 years. They’ve chosen to do the sorting, weeding and most of the packing on their own. As Mom told me last week, “Every item in this house needs to pass through my two hands.” Clearly, she is very much in control.

I, along with my husband Masoud, have visited their house every Saturday for the last 4 weeks.There are powerful memories in every room, closet and  drawer in my parent’s home. Lucky me to have this time with my Mom and Dad to remember the stories with them. Going through my parent’s belongings has me thinking a lot about family, legacy and love.

Lucky too are my 24 and 26-year-old sons who have recently moved in together into an apartment in Brighton. They are the beneficiaries of some of  Nana’s and Grampy’s stuff including an oriental runner for their hall,  a maple desk, a chip and dip bowl and a paper mache deer. My mother’s beloved army trunk now serves as the boy’s coffee table.

My brother and his family lives in Missouri, so clearly, I am now the keeper of our families memories. It’s a good thing that my old New England  house has both a full  basement and a walk-in attic. Some of the things I am holding for my own kids include the wicker baby basinett that once held my father, myself and my daughter; my parent’s gold-plated wedding china set;  retro Christmas ornaments from the 1960’s and a Dresden plate quilt my mother made in the 1970’s.

Among the most treasured  possessions that I have “inherited” are the family photos and memorabilia. There are wonderful black and white photos of my Grandfather Sullivan and his brother (Joseph? Danny? I have to ask Mom), my Grandfather Dascanio dancing at New Years in Venezuela, and my parents dating in Oklahoma.  I’m drowning in the photos. And I am reminded that I have let down the side. I stopped actively organizing the family photos just about the time that  I started to seriously  write.  These vintage photos and the memorabilia will need some care. But I’ve ordered a case of albums that promise organization along with several archival photo and document boxes.  Thinking about the recent hurricane and wild fire destruction- I’m also considering scanning the very best pieces– just-in-case.  What a great winter project. It’s a start.

Family Vacation With Adult Children: Travel Itinerary Tips

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Santa Barbara sunset on the Whisper.

I just returned from my August vacation, a 6-night  family trip to California to visit my oldest son Bijan and a 6-night trip to Scotland to drop off my daughter Leda for her 4th year at the University of Edinburgh. The trips were nearly back to back but both went off without a hitch.  Both trips featured lots of good times with friends and family and great   material for future writing projects.

There is always  a bit of pressure on me to craft a bang-up itinerary when we travel as a family.  Travel is what I do for a living. My four now-adult children grew up traveling along with me. Together, they are an adventuresome lot- they love the outdoors, historical attractions and great dining.  They even like museums. The kids don’t mind traveling with Mom and Dad- especially because we still foot the bill.  But they do have their conditions. As my 26-year-old son recently said, “We are not your luggage”.

The challenge always is for me is to create a trip that will please everyone at an affordable price. So here are some of the things that have worked for me over the years when choreographing a family vacation itinerary that includes adult children.

  • Make plans and do your homework. No one wants to waste vacation time standing in line for hours to buy tickets to a theme  park or wait for a table at a restaurant.  I made reservations in advance for every dinner for both trips and saved the spontaneous restaurant choices for lunch.  Besides, reservations can always be cancelled if you change your mind. For our trip to California I bought our Universal Studio tickets in advance on-line and saved a few dollars from the at-the-gate price. I also reserved our free tickets on-line and in advance to the excellent contemporary art museum The Broad.  We felt like Hollywood VIP’s as we walked by the 1 1/2 hour line for same -day tickets and waltzed right in.
  • Be realistic.  Over the years I have moved away from jam-packed itineraries. Case in point was this year’s visit to Edinburgh.  I didn’t schedule a full day’s activities for day one.  Leda and I had an overnight flight to Edinburgh and I requested (and got!)  early check-in at the Hotel Indigo  where we were able to take a shower and have a short nap.  In the afternoon, we walked over to the nearby Edinburgh Writer’s Museum  before having a light dinner at modern Scottish eatery  Checkpoint  before an early bedtime. It was a perfect first day in Edinburgh. Less really is more.

 

  • Bookend your trip with both a memorable start and finish.   In California, our trip started with a bang and a first night dinner and magic show at LA’s  Magic Castle . We  ended our California trip on a high note too with a with a private chartered sunset cruise of Santa Barbara’s harbor on the Whisper– it was just $99!

 

  • Include a variety of activities so that everyone has something to look forward to.  Whether it is just a vacation for husband and I or with the entire family, having dinner at an Iranian restaurant makes Masoud kheili happy.  Bijan is a composer (really!) and I usually include something music-related on the family vacation. It’s a great way for the rest of us to learn about his world.  Last year we saw a flamenco  performance in Malaga and two years ago,  we saw Madama Butterfly at Verona’s outdoor amphitheater- it was magical! For this year’s family trip to California, we saw Herbie Hancock perform at LA’s iconic  Hollywood Bowl. The 1920’s amphitheater is nestled in the Hollywood Hills and offers the opportunity to enjoy music outside under-the-stars. We had a pre-concert picnic on the grounds with gourmet sandwiches that we picked up from Pitchoun.

 

  • Know what your family likes and be prepared to adjust your expectations as your family changes. Renting a car and driving in unfamiliar cities has proven to be stressful for our family. The kids refer to Masoud and I as the “King and Queen of Lost”.  Over the years, the kids have introduced us to the benefits of using Uber instead.  The kids  and Masoud are all huge fans of hotel club lounges- for the free breakfast and especially for evening drinks. And travel  fun for my crew of  twenty-something kids often involves a vineyard, brewery or distillery tour.

The Internet Lasts Forever: Essay Writing and My Children

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My “kids”.

 

Yesterday at Sunday dinner, my 26-year-old son let me know that my essay A Reluctant Child now shows up on the third page when he Google-searches his name. It was one of my first parenting essays, written in 2004 for an on-line pre-teen parenting magazine.  The essay chronicles my son’s struggles of fitting in at middle school- academics, friendships, sports. Typical adolescent stuff.  Back then, running helped to develop my son’s self- confidence.  I always thought the piece had a quiet honesty.  He never liked it.

My four kids- now adults – have always inspired my writing. I started writing in 1992.  At the time I was newly unemployed from my job as a financial analyst when I suddenly found myself a stay-at-home Mom of three boys under four-years-old. My brain was beginning to rot. My husband had just finished his PhD and was working at several universities as a part-time professor. Money was tight.

I have always loved writing. Even as a child, I was forever writing letters to far-away pen pals. I was a diary keeper.  It occurred to me that writing would allow me to stay at home with my kids, help support the family and be both intellectually stimulating and creative.

The only problem? I didn’t really have any writing experience.  So I bought a self-help book on how to be a freelance writer. I broke into publishing with pieces for my local newspaper, the Newton Tab.  My first articles  A Persian New Year’s Feast and Markets Bring Middle East to Local Region– were written for free.

My writing career grew even as my family expanded to include a daughter. I was placing articles a few times a year. I eventually bought Writers Market to help me find paying publications for my early service articles like Halloween Candy Overload for Woman’s Day and Road Trip! Drive-in Movies for Parents Magazine. I became a stringer for my local parenting publication and eventually I began writing travel books.

But my parenting essays about my children are among my favorite works. Besides Reluctant Child, I wrote Letting Go Helps Mother Find Harmony for Bijan, With Composting a Family Bond Grows for Camy and Talking about Sex For Her Daughter for Leda (all for the Boston Globe). And there were essays that featured all four children like Poker Party for Working Mother Magazine.

Deeply personal, essay writing forced me to examine my relationship with each child more closely. Writing those essays was cathartic; helping me sort out my own feelings  when I was overwhelmed by the isolation and drudgery of child-rearing.  From my kids’ point of view, the published stories of their childhood are a permanent record of their lives, whether they like it or not.  I think that my kids are mostly proud of my writing career. But I don’t feel that I can write essays about my kids anymore. The boundaries have shifted.

 

 

 

Reading, Traveling,Writing New England

511aJGH353LNot only do I write guidebooks, but I buy them. And whenever I book a trip, I always purchase a couple of up-to-date travel guide books to help me with the travel planning process.

But I also always choose a pre- vacation read based on where I’m traveling. A good novel, biography, or work of historical fiction really helps me better understand the culture of a place.

My book club just finished reading  A Piece of the World: A Novel by Christina Baker Klein. One look at the cover of the book-  the field of long, golden grass with a weathered grey farmhouse in the distance – and you would be right to think that the scene is familiar.  And it is. The cover is inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s iconic 1940’s painting Christina’s World, one of the most recognizable pieces of American art. The book is a fictional account of the life of Christina Olson, the subject of the painting and Wyeth’s neighbor and is set in mid-coast Maine in the remote town of Cushing  during the  pre and post-World War II era. Today, the Olson homestead is a National Historic Landmark,  and part of the Farnsworth Art Museum in nearby Rockland.  The museum has a significant collection of paintings by Andrew Wyeth as well as works by N.C. Wyeth, Andrew’s father, and Andrew’s son Jaime Wyeth. I am definitely putting the Farnsworth Museum  on my must-visit list for this summer.

Reading the book, I was struck by the Klein’s description of  life in rural Maine: the rugged and unforgiving coast, farming’s never-ending work and the simple pleasures of sewing circles and church socials .

Over the years, the essence of Maine hasn’t changed. Drive north along the coast from Portland to Brunswick and Rockland and you will find the same starkly beautiful landscape of pine forests, meadows and rocky beaches that inspired Wyeth.

As a book lover and avid traveler, I often cross off my reading list and my bucket list at the same time.  I read Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls before last year’s trip to Spain.  The year before I was in Italy and read the more contemporary Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters.  And for a trip to Ireland, I picked up James Joyce’s Dubliners.

The list of books set in New England is long indeed. You could reconnect with books from your high school required reading list. Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick  are classic New England reads.  More contemporary New England-inspired page turners that I have read recently include  Boston Girl by Anita Diamant, Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick and Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks.

Do you have a favorite book set in New England?  I always have a list of books to read next. Let me know!

 

New England Travel Writing and Politics

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Freedom Trail Foundation Walking Tour. Credit: Kyle Klein and Bostonusa.com

Whether you identify as left or right or somewhere in-between, the Trump presidency has created a tumultuous political climate that is difficult to ignore.

As a New England travel book writer,  part of my job is to be an ambassador to  the region. Writing about politics is a tricky business. But just as I need to write about the Red Sox in describing our regional psyche,  I can’t adequately and fairly describe New England’s culture without acknowledging the region’s socially progressive and liberal political views.

New Englanders are both forward thinking and preoccupied by the past. We are proud of   the role of New England’s patriots- Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, John Adams, Sam Adams John Hancock and Ethan Allen –  who were the leading voices against British authority and  played key roles in the events that led up to the American Revolution. Less than a century later, New England’s churches were at the forefront in challenging the country’s indifference to slavery. And in more recent times, Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage (2004) and pioneered universal health care (2006) for all its citizens.

And although New England is viewed as a hot bed of liberal thinking, the reality is a little more complex.  Massachusetts is without question a deeply blue state,  yet we have had a string of Republicans in the State House over the past two decades,  including our current governor, the well-regarded Charlie Baker.  Mainers have a proud  Republican heritage, often electing moderates like Susan Collins to represent the state in Washington.  And while Vermont is the home of Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders , next door in “live free or die” New Hampshire residents are much more conservative, but with a libertarian slant.

I’m a huge believer in travel as a broadening experience.  If you are curious and open-minded, travel can be  a wonderful  opportunity to learn about yourself and about other people’s perspectives. And of course travel  is a great  way to  learn history – and perhaps foster a greater understanding of the complex issues like immigration,  equal rights, and gun control,  that our country faces today.

America is great. I think that we just have to find common ground. In Massachusetts we will soon be celebrating Patriots Day. The holiday takes place on the third Monday of April. It is also the day of the Boston Marathon.  But the holiday actually honors the first outbreak of open armed conflict between the militia and British soldiers that took place in and around the towns of Concord and Lexington on April 19, 1775. I dare anybody on either side (or outside) the political spectrum to visit Concord’s Minute Man National Park and not have a sense of the enormity of this first military victory for the  colonists.

Or tread in the steps of our Founding Fathers as you follow Boston’s  Freedom Trail  which highlights some of the most significant sites of Boston’s colonial-era.  At the simple circle of cobblestones that mark the sight of the 1770 Boston Massacre, imagine a mob of colonists throwing snowballs and taunting a small group of  panicked British soldiers. In the chaos, shots rang out and five unarmed colonists were dead. Did you know that  John Adams (our future second President) defended the British soldiers in court? Adams won and the soldiers were acquitted, There are many lessons for our era here.

I don’t think that it is happenstance that both Boston’s Irish Famine Memorial (at Washington and School Streets)  and the New England Holocaust Memorial  (98 Union St., Boston) are located just steps from the Freedom Trail. Today, New Englanders continue to inspire citizens to rebel, reform and protest. Come to New England and visit the historic sites that spawned our nation.  Learn from our stories; our triumphs and mistakes. It is my hope that my travel books -in some small way -shape how readers come to know my beloved New England.

 

 

 

Day Trips New England: Lots of Changes Over the Past Three Years

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Changes in Stowe Vermont !

I just finished rewriting Day Trips New England. Of all my books, Day Trips New England is my most comprehensive and most wide ranging. Originally published in 2011 , it is now in its 3rd edition. It has been 3 years since the last revision and boy, have there been lots of changes !  Here are five New England travel trends that hopefully will stand the test of time.

Restaurants. Everyone wants more restaurant recommendations. Even with  Yelp, TripAdvisor and Zagat, travelers want to know the best places to dine for every  location and every situation . So this go-around I’ve added lots more restaurant reviews-my favorite kind of site visit and one of my favorite kinds of writing.

Hotels. Even chain hotels want to be perceived as “boutique”. These days, creating “a sense of place” is hugely important with Instagram-worthy hotel design and a high level of personal service setting the bar high- and New England travelers benefit!

A longer travel season. Traditionally, New England’s travel season for the  coastal destinations- the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket , Block Island and Maine was May through September. Now many coastal hotels  and restaurants are opening in April and closing in late fall. New England’s ski destinations too have a longer season. More and more  resorts  are open year-round offering  activities like zip lines, mountain biking and golf.

Farm-to-table and free Wi-Fi. When New England Day Trips was first published, farm-to-table was a trend. Now, if a restaurant isn’t farm-to-table  I would be hesitant to recommend it. And years ago, free Wi-fi  and flat screen TV’s were the much desired, latest amenities. Now, both are expected in even entry level hotels and the smallest of inns .

Vineyard and Brewery Travel. Day Trips New England gives readers 50 pre-planned itineraries throughout the region. When it was first published, I had my doubts about the staying power of the vineyard and brewery itineraries. I was wrong. The vineyards and breweries in the region are thriving with many expanding their product lines and  increasing  public visitor hours.

 

 

Let’s Write! Boston’s Jewish Community Day School Humanities Day Workshop

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My first “clip”. Clearly it was important that it was read in the tri-state area !

Thank you to Boston’s Jewish Community Day School  for inviting me to participate in their annual Middle School Humanities Day Festival last month.  What a fun morning it was talking with the kids and having them share their writing.

I still have my first “clip”, published in my local paper when I was 11-years  old- the same age as some of the JCDS workshop kids.  I decided that my workshop theme  would be  to introduce the kids to  basic journalism and to  introduce the basics of writing a service article.

Everyone likes to share what they think of their favorite places – just look at the rise of anonymous review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. I offered the kids the opportunity to write their own version  of my book Insiders’ Guide to Massachusetts . The kids  would each  write a 30-50 word review of a favorite place for an Insiders’ Guide to Boston- Middle School edition.

The kids took right to it.They wrote reviews of the New England Aquarium, Rosenfeld’s Bagels, Melrose House of Pizza, Sofra and many others.

T. wrote that “C& N  is a small, local  pizza restaurant located in Newton close to “the circle of death”  over the Mass Turnpike where the owners are nice and companionable. The food is cheap but good quality and you can buy a slice of  pizza for $1.65.”

A. wrote about the local frozen yogurt shop,  Sweet Tart  “…where  most people get their yogurt for take -out so that they can enjoy it while taking a nice walk.  And sometimes they swap out the flavors and switch out the toppings.”

The kids ranged  between the ages of 11 and 13.  I was amazed by the JCDS kids’ ability to write descriptive text in a short amount of time.  Privacy concerns made me hesitant to take photos at the school,  so I sadly don’t have any pictures of the gorgeous JCDS campus or of the actual event.  Trust me though there was a lot of creativity going on in that room! The pleasure was all mine.

Writing News for 2017

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Truly candid -very seriously considering menu choices!

The first work day of 2017 is conveniently the first Monday of the year. It’s the perfect time to share my latest writing news!

I am rewriting Day Trips New England (Globe Pequot) for publication in the early summer. I am so excited to have  the opportunity to update and revise this book. Covering all six New England states, Day Trips New England is the most-comprehensive and wide-ranging of my travel books. It was last published in 2014- which means that I did most of the research in 2013- and a lot has changed in the region since then.

Boston is constantly evolving- and almost always for the better. Lucky me to live just 5 miles from the city. Over the past couple of years I have been able to gather a long list of the latest restaurants in Boston to include in this new edition: Little Donkey featuring international small plates in Cambridge,  Back Bay’s Doretta Taverna for rustic-chic Greek  and buzzy Tiger Mama  next to Fenway for a remix of classic Asian street fare. Can you tell that I like ethnic cuisine?  There  a lots of new ways to have fun in town too.  With  the opening of the Boston Public Market in June 2015,  the city finally has a proper indoor farmer’s market. And  Mario Batali’s Italian food emporium Eataly Boston just opened at the Prudential this  November.

In the past 2 years I have also written 2 more books; Discovering Vintage Boston and New England’s Colonial Inns & Taverns. Discovering Vintage Boston gave me the opportunity to  delve deeper into places nearby, spots like Cambridge’s quirky Cheapo Records and the charming Grolier Poetry Bookshop. New England’s Colonial Inns & Taverns had me exploring further afield. For this book, I visited some of the region’s more obscure sites; places such as Mount Hope Farm in Bristol, Rhode Island, the ancestral tribal home of the Wampanoag Indians and the stuck-in-time Salem Cross Inn & Tavern in West Brookfield, Massachusetts. Both books had space requirements that forced me to leave out some places. Here is my chance to share with you some of these new-to-me discoveries.

However, the premise of the new edition of  Day Trips New England remains the same: to offer you  50 mini -itineraries throughout the six-state region:  a mix of the predictable- trips like a first-time visit to Boston and the Cape for families- along with unfamiliar, but remarkable, destinations like Block Island, Rhode Island and Bar Harbor, Maine.   Of course, there are lots of suggestions for places to stop along the way. And in this edition, there will be some brand- new adventures as well- including more food /wine/beer itineraries  and trips for classical music lovers and baseball fans.

As always, if you have any suggestions for places that you would like to include, let me know!

 

 

 

Empty Nest Travel: Tag-along Business Trips

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Donkey Selfie with Seymour!

Now that our four (!) kids are grown and (mostly) living on their own, when it comes to travel,  I find that my husband and I can focus on what we want.

Empty nest travel can be a lot of things-  seeing your college kid during family weekend or visiting your adult child at the new address that they now call “home”.  Some of the best empty nest trips are celebratory vacations for big anniversaries or milestone birthdays. For my husband and I, one of our  “deals” is that for every five years of marriage (and we have been married now for 30 years!) we go on a romantic getaway .  Some of our past  anniversary trips have been  to  Montreal , Paris and London-  and these trips are some of our best memories as a couple.

Another  option to see the world?  To be the tag-along-spouse on a  business trip. In my case, as a travel writer, my husband has been my “plus-one” on countless of my press trips and site visits.  Now  it’s my turn.

As a college professor, my husband’s  job doesn’t require a lot of travel. However this year, he had the opportunity to attend a November conference in Phoenix.  I would need to pay for my flight and meals, but his expenses -including the hotel room- would  be covered.  The trip would be an inexpensive way for us to see a bit of the West.  And  why not extend our stay to include a side trip to the Grand Canyon? Taking a Grand Canyon mule ride excursion  has been on my bucket list for years.

Because Grand Canyon portion of our trip  was so short , it made sense of us to stay at one of the Grand Canyon Park hotels. Even though our trip was during the off-season and even  though I called months in advance, I was lucky to get a room at all!   We stayed at Bright Angel Lodge ,right on the canyon rim, in a  room best described as charmingly historic-rustic.  Our room had twin beds, a tiny bathroom and no TV (but it did have Wi-Fi). At just $100 per night, the room was perfectly adequate – and best of all- we were just steps away from the canyon and its breathtaking vistas.

The Grand Canyon’s premier lodging is El Tovar , a spectacular  hotel which was built in 1905.  It’s  a turn-of-the-last century beauty, reminiscient of the some of my favorite New England grand dame hotels like New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Hotel or  the Vineyard’s Harbourview Hotel . We ate in the enormous, yet elegant dining room of El Tovar twice during our stay.  Massive log beams frame  a fireplace and a wall of windows that open to the  canyon.  For dinner I chose the sirloin steak- this is beef country after all! But hands down, the best  dish was the appetizer- the beef and pork tamale with adoba cream.

Everyone staying at the Grand Canyon Park hotels seems to  wake up early for a hearty breakfast (along with copious cups of coffee) before catching the sunrise. We fueled up on omelets before heading out for our morning mule ride along the canyon’s rim.

Book your Grand Canyon Mule ride well in advance. There are only two rides each day and they fill up early.  We chose to do the three-hour trail ride along the South Rim.  What an adventure ! We learned that mules are a cross between a female horse and a male donkey and that their eyes are set further back giving them outstanding peripheral vision – and a steady sure footedness that makes the journey safe – even for novice riders like me.

My mule was named Seymour- and together we saw a lot! Our guided mule train  of 20 riders meandered along the top of the canyon, stopping at several overlooks to take in the  panoramic views of the inner gorge and its orang-ish layers of sedimentary rock.  Although pricey at $135, the  Grand Canyon mule ride was a terrific introduction to the history of the canyon and truly a once in a lifetime experience. By lunchtime we were back at El Tovar and making plans for next year’s conference in Tampa. Having an empty nest isn’t so bad after all.

 

Writer Challenges: Public Speaking

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At the Boston Globe Travel Show Day 2  -when I came back!

Last month, I gave a  talk about New England’s Colonial Inns & Taverns at the Thomas Crane Library in Quincy.  I was worried that no one who show up. But the audience of 25 Quincy residents was delightful and they were eager to share their own New England travel experiences. One gentlemen talked about the difficulties of restoring older properties. Another spoke of growing up in the Bristol, Rhode Island area and his memories of Mount Hope Farm.

I have always had much admiration for those clever and funny authors that can hold forth a room. I am not one of them.  Other than saying a few words at my kids’ graduation parties or giving an occasional toast at the dinner table, I’ve been able to avoid public speaking for most of my life.

But with this last book, I finally realized that maybe I should get serious about publicity.   Like almost every writer that I know, I have mixed feelings about marketing my books. Lucky Elena Ferrante, the reclusive and anonymous author of the Neapolitan Novels including My Brilliant Friend, who has said of book promotion-

If the book is worth anything that should be sufficient. I won’t participate in discussions and conferences if I’m invited.”

For this title I had traveled through New England for weeks, interviewing inn keepers and tavern owners. The long, slow process of writing took many months.  And in the final weeks of editing I  sent hundreds of emails bugging the inn and tavern owners to send me high-res photos to accompany their stories.

So last year I decided to plan some book events. My first talk was in February at the Boston Globe Travel Show at the Seaport World Trade Center.  I was the first presentation on  the cultural stage that Saturday morning for a small audience of 20 friendly folks. I thought I was ready. I prepared a Power Point presentation with my best book photos. I had practiced out loud dozens of times as I walked around Crystal Lake on my morning stroll.

I certainly started out well enough. But after 5 minutes- just as I was talking about Boston’s Union Oyster House- I froze. For 2 interminable minutes my mind went blank. I wanted to flee. Somehow, I managed pull myself together and read a section of Discovering Vintage Boston without stuttering and stumbling too much. Then I talked through the slides and answered a few audience questions. When I was done, I slinked away from the stage  without talking to anyone.

My good friend Marjorie was in the audience. Later she told me, “Everyone probably thought there was a technical problem with the slide show.” We’ve been friends for more than 30 years- and  Marjorie is supportive like that.

From that not- so- terrific public speaking experience, I came back to the Seaport the next day to give the talk again.  It went a lot better. And since then I have done a book launch and a book festival. In January, I will be speaking at Humanities Day at a local  middle school.

And what do you know? I think that I am better at small talk. And I even speak up more in the adult education Italian class that I take at the high school.  I’ll probably never relish standing up and speaking in front of a crowd, but with practice I  know that I can only get better.