Saturday, December 3, 2011

'Tis the squeezin'

Dear Ashley,

Holy cow, it's December.
I've been terrible about writing back to you.

My NaNo stalled at 10 thousand words, and after that I gave up, which I think I told you. I've sent out several queries (not as many as I'd hoped to, but I've still got a list to get through. The problem is that everyone wants something different, and it's time consuming to keep adapting query letters and sample chapters.)

How did your NaNo go?

My time lately has been spent getting my holiday-crochet on.
That's the sunflower blanket for my friend Amanda's little girl who is due to make her appearance in the world towards the middle of January. That's really all I can post without running the risk of someone seeing something that they shouldn't. I also made myself a version of your gray hat, although mine is purple.

In other news, I am officially no longer a dog walker.
Yay! I'll now be working full time at the accordion shop. Ben and I talked about it, and then Mike (accordion shop owner) and I talked about it, and it just made sense.
I can be inside, and take the train to work, and not have to worry about biking in ice and snow.
I can work four days a week, Tuesday through Friday, 10-6 and make the same money (basically) that I was making working two jobs. Because my crappy clients canceled so much that the extra hours that I was working at the shop after the dog job was really just making up the difference so I was earning what I should have been earning walking dogs.
So I quit. Yesterday was my last day, and Tuesday I'll start at the shop full time. I was kind of sad to leave the dogs, but all the other things that I was glad about outweighed that, and I'm looking forward to not having to deal with it anymore.
I did take pictures to remember them all, though :)

That's Watson. He's the wire-haired dachshund who has a brother named Dietz. Like the deli meat company. :)

I'm not sure if I officially told you this, but I'm putting off grad school for another year. I'm hoping that in a year from now I'll have a better idea of what I want to be doing, and where I want to be. I was reading an article in the New York Times yesterday about a group of 20-somethings who all have Master's in English or CompLit from places like NYU and Columbia and they can't even get unpaid internships either.

This article served two purposes for me. It made me not feel like such a complete failure for a little while, and it also made me think that if I want to have a job that I enjoy, I might have to create it for myself.

I've been saying for awhile that I want to buy Purple Mountain Press from Wray when he retires, just to keep it running, because I think it's important. It's a weird little niche market, but it's all history of the Catskills stuff that he publishes, and just for the historical value, and the fact that it's an entirely independent and totally run by him and his wife little publishing company, I'd like to keep it open.

I'd really like to make it an imprint of my own small publishing company.
And I'd still kind of like to buy the school building in Hartwick and turn it into a writer's retreat.
So I think I need to look into grants.
And sell that mediocre YA book and become a gazillionaire so I have the money to do everything I want.

And that's pretty much my life right now. How are you? (PS- Amsterdam is GORGEOUS! You're so lucky!)

PPS- I hope I told you how much I loved your NaNo idea. Because I think it's brilliant.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Another NaNo Idea - Another Unfinished Book....

I just realized that I never replied to your last post! I’m sorry, but my reasoning is this - remember when you hoped that I wasn’t too overworked yet…
Anyway that would have been very cruel of Ben to gaslight us. First of all I would not be in Budapest and that would make me quite sad. Secondly he would have been denying us writing days and potential brilliance and that would have been intolerable – think of all the potential NaNo ideas we could have come up with instead of wallowing in half ideas and contemplating zombies :p
Your idea sounds very good though! I’m excited to read it :) I loved your Don’t Forget the Hummingbirds short, but the idea to make it a story of two people finding themselves by running away or else running home, but nonetheless running unless I am very much mistaken, is a brilliant idea and I can't wait to read a sample as soon as possible!
Mine is yet untitled, but focuses on a young women and her rapist. At the beginning she confronts him and tells him that he stole her life and so he decides to give it back to her and they partake in a trip around the world. I have so few words I’m going to need another month to catch up! But the characters have already endeared themselves to me and so I will tell their story the best way I can having never had the need to find that kind of forgiveness…
On a happier note – well you spent your Halloween recreating Les Mis (brilliant costume, by the way!!) I spent mine in Amsterdam! Well actually I spent the weekend in Amsterdam and Halloween recovering, but that’s totally beside the point.
It’s a very beautiful city. It’s quiet and full of cyclers and nobody seems to be in a hurry and there are art museums seemingly on every corner. My favorite was the Van Gough museum because, as you know, I’m such a sucker for impressionism, but really I just enjoyed walking around it was that picturesque :) I’ll leave you with some pictures of my excursions as a nice way to procrastinate from making your word count today!

Miss you!
PS Don’t worry about Grad School. Do something crazy! Move to Italy with Ben, open your own dog walking business, walk from publishing house to publishing house until somebody realizes how lovely Smell of Rain is and publishes it! I’m in grad school now and I still don’t know what I want to do, but I guess that’s the thing with increased life expectancy we don’t really have to for a few more years :)           

Monday, November 7, 2011

NaNo Thoughts

Dear Ashley,

A blog post, as promised! I'm still behind on my word count, but I have hopes of catching up after work today.

This year for NaNo, I've decided to combine two pieces of flash fic to make one (hopefully long enough) novel. If not, there might be zombies, or the pillow-throwing chat room bot from last night's Philly online write in.

Anywho. I've combined the Hummingbirds flash, as you saw on facebook, with the one called Je Me Souviens (probably spelled that wrong) about the man who returns to his life after three years of being gone.

I wasn't totally sure that I wanted to mess with either of them, because I really like the way they stand alone as flash, especially Hummingbirds, but I'm starting to like the novel too.

As you saw, it's now called Don't Forget the Hummingbirds and the tagline that I put on the NaNo site is:

Three years ago, Jasper walked out of his own life and disappeared. He never intended to go back, but then he found Lola's letters. As he reads of her journey, Jasper learns about his own. Can a woman from the past help him find a future?

So that's it, in a nutshell. Actually, that's it, period. It just happens to fit in a nutshell, which is why there may be zombies or robots somewhere around 35k.

I also really need to get my shit together as far as grad school. I just don't know what to do. I haven't registered for the GRE or begun to put things together, because I still don't know what I want to do. And thinking about the future makes me a little panicky and stressed and makes my head hurt, so I've been avoiding it and crocheting instead.
Probably not a good idea, I know.

It also makes this novel a little difficult, as it's one of the more personal things I've written lately.

This post needs a picture, and to not end with depressing thoughts,'s what else I did yesterday besides write.

LATER... Never mind. Blogger won't let me upload the picture. Anyway, I managed to cook and freeze all my pumpkins so I can use them all winter to make delicious pumpkiny things.
I was moderately productive yesterday; I need an extra hour or two every day.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Comparative Art Museums

Dear Ashley,

This is totally random (well, not totally) but the Phila Art Museum looks just like the Budapest Fine Art Museum. This is not my picture, I stole borrowed it from google, but here's the Phila Museum.

Slightly more steps, but the basic architecture was strikingly similar. I said to Ben "Look at this! It's just like the one here!"

And he replied: "That's 'cause I've been gaslighting you both. She's really been right here in Philly the whole time."

I don't believe him. Philly's got some pretty parts, but it's not nearly as pretty as Europe. I love your apartment building! It does look like it came straight out of the lower East side. (The somewhat mythic lower east side of things like Rent, anyway. I've been reading stuff lately about how that neighborhood has gone completely and dangerously ghetto, it's nothing like it used to be anymore, which is sad.)

I really appreciate your insight into my college choices. I think Cornell is still my number one, because more research revealed that they push you to be out in five years, and that it's very job centered. And while they want you to be proficient in your primary language going in, there are no class requirements, which both other schools have. At Cornell I feel like they treat you like a grad student, and basically, you have a committee of supervising faculty to guide you, but you get to do whatever you want from the start without having to go through the "you have to take one medieval, one renaissance, one romantic class, etc." That appeals to me, because I've done all that in my undergrad, and none of those periods in English lit are really my thing, which is why I'm turning to the more broad CompLit field.

*sigh.* We'll see. I'm overwhelmed, so I haven't done more research on UMass or Dartmouth yet, but I will. I think I may need to stock up on chocolate first. Halloween is coming though, so I have an excuse to buy it :) I'm so excited that we'll actually have kids come to the door this year! At home we had exactly 1 trick or treater every year, the same girl, that lived down the road.

I've actually got my costume mostly put together. I'm going as Cosette from Les Mis, and I found the most perfect oversized peasant shirt at the thrift store, and I already have a beret! I borrowed a skirt from my mom, and I plan on buying a handmade broom at Rhinebeck this year anyway, because our plastic one literally falls apart when I try to sweep.

Speaking of Rhinebeck, the gray leftover from your hat, and the teal leftover from my vest was perfect for making myself a pair of mitts to match said vest:

In other news, I've picked up a second job, doing clerical stuff at the accordion shop Ben worked in all summer. They needed someone to do inventory, and manage the ebay listings, to get the shop ready for Christmas. It's an easy enough job, but the shop is a disaster. I spent three days this week just trying to organize and alphabetize the books, to figure out what we need to order, and I'm only half done. Oh well. It guarantees me some extra income for awhile, which is good.

Other than that, nothing too exciting. We're going to see my favorite toddler this weekend, and then next weekend is the Sheep and Wool Festival, so there will be pictures from both, I'm sure. Right now, I think I'm going to stop rambling and try to work on finishing some projects and writing query letters.

Oh! Thank you also for reading my Glen scene. I love how you make everything I write seem so much more profound that I thought it was when I was writing it. Maybe it's just hard to see the connections in one's own work, but I was like "hmmm I kinda like how badass Clare is in this scene." and you were like "I love how it highlights the importance of community and family and ties into the overall theme."

This is why we work so well together. Anyway, really done rambling now. Hope you're having lots of fun adventures and aren't too overworked yet.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

One Street at a Time...

You’ve done a thorough job of pros and cons (of course you have, you're you :D) so mostly I’m just going to throw in my opinion.
Ivy leagues always look good and are almost always out of reach. The biggest pro for them is the networking that comes with going to a school where the alumni form a full time sorority/cult. I’m not saying this as a bad thing – it’s incredibly useful, unfortunately it’s also quite unobtainable for us somewhat realistic folk who don’t want to spend out whole lives (only two-thirds or so) paying off student loans.
Masters programs have their pro’s – is there a required internship at Dartmouth or even a career office that will circulate your resume to non-traditional job markets. This could potentially make it a contender, but still a bit risky…
UMass Amherst is a wonderful school. I don’t know about the English department, but the psychology department was kick ass. This also means that they’re looking for something spectacular on your application. GRE scores, publications, etc. You’ll pay out of state tuition, but it will still be cheaper than someplace like Harvard. I think that it is a serious contender.
Cornell is Cornell. The problem with an accelerated program like that is that you’re getting a very general education which may limit your job opportunities. On the other hand, it is Cornell and sometimes name dropping works wonders…Still a contender, but honestly I’m still a bit more for UMass.
Binghamton is a good school and I think that you’re problem with it is that it feels a lot like backtracking, but it’s not and you’ll probably benefit from being in a familiar area. And as much as the clouds will lead to acute depression they will also motivate you into finishing as quickly as possible. Also, receiving two degrees from the same university shows loyalty and may perhaps open job doors. Plus you know at least one professor who will make you work and actually like it which is almost impossible to find.
So, to sum up, yes to UMass, Cornell, and Binghamton. Also, do a bit more digging for Dartmouth – it may be worth it.
I think the festival sounds lovely and I’m glad that despite the late start you had a good time.
Friday I went to a gypsy jazz concert and it was glorious, but I’ve kind of had a lazy week so not a lot of new and exciting things. Still I can take you on a mini tour up Andrassay Utca (Street).
This is the opera house and its painted ceiling which is beyond words and you could probably spend hours looking at and still take it all in.

I get student discount tickets which I really need to take advantage of, but there are so many options and you know how indecisive I can be when faced with too much choice…
These are some random houses on the street I thought they were pretty freaking cool and so I took photos of them. If they have any significance I don’t know what, but still I hope you appreciate them.

This is Heroes Square. It was erected to celebrate Hungary’s thousandth year in existence and to support the, then, monarchy.

On either side of it are art museums.

They are the reason I was walking on Andrassy, but when I got there they were closed for a while due to some military thing. I’m not sure what was happening, but the music was quite interesting. Military drums are kind of universal and kind of not, but they always make you think of power and I think if the crowd had surged forward I probably would have followed…
I did make it to one Museum – the National Museum of Fine Arts (second in the two museum pictures) – and they had some old paintings from all over Europe. Some very good, some very primitive, but all worth looking at. I wish I’d had a bit more time to check it out, but now I suppose I’ll have an excuse to go back!
Lastly, and not on Andrassy, this is my apartment building. I like it. It feels like it could be in Greenwich village, NYC.

I hope that your query letters are coming along well and that you’re coming up with lots of ideas for NaNo! Can you believe it’s in less than one month?!? Crazy.
~ Ashley              

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Arrrrrrrrgh, Grad School.

Dear Ashley,

Welcome to today's episode of "What Should I Do With My Life?" In today's episode, we'll examine the pros and cons of various Graduate Schools.

Princeton, Yale, Brown: All of them look like seriously good, seriously hard, and seriously expensive programs. My GRE score was not "high to very high" and I don't already speak three languages, so I think I won't even waste my time applying.

Dartmouth: unfortunately is just a Master's program. I may still apply, but at this point I think a Master's is just a waste of time. I don't want to teach high school, and adjuncts make less than no money, so I really need to go PhD or bust.

UMass Amherst: It's an MA/PhD program, so if I decide that I can't take it halfway through, I can still graduate with a Master's. I'll come out of it with a firm grasp of three languages, and likely be able to teach courses on any of them.
Con: I don't know what it costs, or what the chances of getting in/getting a scholarship are. I'll need to do more research.

Cornell: Looking at my list, I've just realized I never did the pros and cons for Cornell. Excuse me while I open a new tab...

...Pros: The program is SHORT. Their FAQ says generally two and a half years. That's half the time of most other programs. Huge pro.  Cons: Cornell is historically expensive and hard to get into. They accept maybe 6 people per year. My GRE scores weren't that good, but I guess I could try again. Also, I'd have to make Spanish my "primary language" because they want candidates to come into the program proficient in English and their primary language, because the program is so short, they won't have time to become proficient in more than one while they're in it.

Finally, Bing. Pros: The Little Russian Lady is there. I love her; she was my favorite professor at Bing. Cons: It's Bing. It's the 9th cloudiest city in the country and the single most dreary place in the world.

I'm going to apply to Bing, (because another pro is that I think I have the best shot of getting in there) UMass, and Cornell. Any insight you have would be greatly appreciated.

And now, to break up the monotony of grad school woes, a picture! Nothing nearly so exciting as Budapest, but it's the only thing besides drinks that I bought at the Irish Festival. It's a gorgeous and soooo soft merino wool that I've started spinning.

The festival was fun, but was a lot smaller than I imagined. We got there too late to dance- we missed the tutorial and everyone else there comes regularly and was really good- so we just watched. It was still fun. The next day Ben went to his workshop with Billy McComiskey, one of the few American button accordion players to win the All-Ireland Competition. He loved it, and hopefully will be taking lessons with Billy this winter, since Billy lives in Baltimore, not too far away. 

While he was doing that I listened to some local bands that were really good, and then Saturday night was the big concert with Billy, an amazing fiddle player, and a pianist as the main attraction, and a really fun local band that opened for them. All in all, it was a successful birthday weekend :)

Now I think I'll go try to write that scene with Glen. I really want to get query letters out for Rain, and work to revise some other stuff before NaNoProper in November. I feel like I should since I have an abundance of free time right now.

Can't wait to see more of Budapest,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Its hard to read in Hungarian!

So first things first…
Blogger is now in Hungarian and I have yet to find the button to switch it back into English so It's become quite difficult to get to the edit/new post screen. I also can’t use spell check because everything is spelt wrong – good news if I right click I learn the Hungarian word for whatever I’m trying to say.
Now I’m going to give you a tour of Budapest!

This is Central European University. Well this is the main entrance, building 9 on Nador street. It’s called monument building because when you walk inside you’re in a circular room of statues. I don’t have a picture of them yet, but I’m pretty sure that they’re the muses. The school actuall goes on for half a city block, but it looks, from the outside at least, much the same as this first building.
This is the St. Steven’s Basilica.

To get to the top and see the view you can take the elevator or you can walk up 302 stairs which I thought sounded like not so many – it is, many.
But this is the view so, in the end, it was way worth it!

Budapest is separated by the river Danube. The hilly region is Buda, the flat industrial side is Pest (pronounced pesht).
I live in Pest in district VII. No pictures yet of the house, but it’s not so intricate as something like this –

Which is actually my favorite piece of architecture to come across a la Atlas.
This is the view from the highest point in Budapest which if I’m not completely mistakes used to be called o’Buda, but is now part of Buda itself. The left side is Buda, right pest.

On the Buda side you can see overpowering buildings. This is the castle district. Last weekend I went to wine festival here and it was amazing over 200 vendors in this majestic setting. I watched traditional folk dancing and picked which wines to taste by how pretty the label was. My camera’s not awesome in the dark, but here are a few pictures of the castle walls.

This is Parliament.

You can see it towards the back of the panoramic view on the Pest side. I quite like the outside of the building… I haven’t toured inside yet, but based on the gorgeous exterior I’m likely to be disappointed.
In the next addition of Budapest through Ashley’s eyes I’ll show you the opera, the synagogue which is the second largest in Europe and literally a few blocks from my apartment (which incidentally I’ve started calling a flat because EVERYBODY here does), and more pictures of the castle district in daylight!
I start classes tomorrow so I’ll be sure to give you an update soonish that is if I have time with the zillion classes I’m taking this term…
Now to you!
You have a great relationship with Ben and I‘m super glad that the only thing you have to complain about is his being a bit bad at time – although it’s not the first time I’ve heard it so you should probably take your mom’s advice and set the clocks ahead :p
How was the dancing and the concert? Did you find anything fun at the festival? I hope you come to Italy while I’m still here and I can see you and Italy at the same time – it would be perfect :)
P.S. It’s getting colder at night here so pretty soon I’m gonna have a chance to break out my new grey hat!!     

Friday, September 9, 2011

Birthdays, etc.

Dear Ashley,

I'm so incredibly jealous that you're in Europe. Seriously, it made me a little depressed. Totally not your fault, don't feel bad. I can tolerate the dog job most of the time, but when something pops up on facebook about what other people are doing, or in your case, where you are, I get a little angry that I can't find something better, and I feel incredibly stagnant.

But every day I rip off a page of my day by day Italy calendar, and hope that I'm that much closer to really being there.

When in doubt, there's always travel memoir, which is like crack. 

Things are good in Philly, although I could throttle the boy right now. We're going to a Ceili Dance as part of the Irish Festival that I bought tickets to for Ben's birthday (which was yesterday). Dancing starts at 8, he said himself that it could take us 45 minutes to get there in Friday evening traffic, and we need to eat first. So at 6 o'clock I said "okay, it's 6." And by that, I really meant "stop playing your silly war computer game and let's go."

He didn't take the hint because 20 minutes later he finally got up to start getting ready to leave.
This is why we're late everywhere we go.
My mom suggested setting all the clocks in the house a half hour ahead and not telling him. I might take her up on that.
But really, if that's the only thing I have to complain about, then our relationship is pretty good.

Throttling aside, we going dancing tonight, and to a concert tomorrow night, and he's going to an accordion workshop given by one of his favorite accordion players so he's stoked. I'll wander around the festival and see what I can find. More on that on Sunday, probably.

In other news, I found $100 on the sidewalk today!! It was soooo exciting- I'm not lucky, I never find anything. But it totally made up for the otherwise shitty week I'd been having (loads of rain, flat tires on the bike AGAIN, that sort of thing).

I think that's all the exciting news from here. CAN'T WAIT to see Budapest pictures!! And your apartment, when you get there. Sorry the hostel people are noisy...that would suck.

Oh, yay, the shower's off. We can (finally) leave soon.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011


I made it to Budapest!
It’s like walking into the past , well minus the occasional pink spray paint graffiti and consistent car fumes :p
The architecture is beautiful, marble buildings, random wall carvings, the occasional park with well-known Hungarian men and women preserved forever in stone… In other words, incredible.
I haven’t had much time to explore, but I get the feeling that the city is as much a player in this country as the people who live here. I honestly don’t think you could come here and not be affected by your surroundings, but ask me again in a year and I’ll probably be like ‘yeah, that’s a building – point please’.
I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to find my way around CEU, mostly with luck. Everything is connected and in circles and sometimes it requires backtracking (you know 4 or 5 times) to end up in the right place. I’ve met some nice people from my program and by the sound of the programs intensity they’re the only people I’m going to meet so fingers crossed for them to stay as normal and kind as they are now.
I also got lost on the metro today – twice. But I found my way home eventually with cell phone and computer adaptor in tow!
Oh, and I found this fantastic little restaurant behind the school called the humus bar which was delicious and reasonably priced as well as having fantastic fresh lemonade and you know how much I love lemonade.
I finally feel human again so I’m hoping that means that the worst of my jet lag has passed, but living in the hostel until my apartment is ready has its challenges especially since most people here are on a backpacking schedule which means they leave to party late and get in super early and as you know unless you’re operating on that same time table it’s hard to wake up to that.
Despite hostel living and remnants of jet lag I’m having the time of my life and I can’t wait to explore Budapest and get some pictures which I have yet to do being too lazy to find the camera in my Mary Poppins bag, take it out of its own bag, and hope that the battery is still charged!
Don’t worry though they’ll be some in my next entry!
Hope all is well in Philly!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Procrastination not Packing


I don't want to pack!!!!!!!!!

So instead I caught up on our awesome blog :)

I love your pesto, crayon, and (not on the blog, but equally as exciting!) the first couple entries of letters!!

I leave in 2 days which is literally insane and I've been having minor panic attacks for the last 24 hours, but my suitcase is still unpacked so I know that I'm fine and still me :p

On another note I used my first F****** Genius post-its for the first time! It was actually quite fun coming up with a line exciting enough to want to remember. It's for Alice so I'll post it when I've written the monologue that comes out of the sentence, by itself it may not sound so genius...

All right I'm gonna go get some shut eye in preparation for tomorrows marathon packing day!

I'll post some yay Budapest pictures as soon as I get a chance :)


Monday, August 29, 2011



Quick post, before I go off to work on some of the things on my ginormous list. I said I'd post a picture when I had finished a crayon.

I has a crayon! A giant, red crayon made of yarn!


Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Saga of Pesto

Dear Ashley,

Once upon a time, there was a large pot of Basil.

It was in desperate need of a haircut. So it got one.

The trimmings were gathered in a bucket, that was conveniently also a salad spinner.

The leaves were pulled off the stems...

(and the formatting was screwed up by blogger) And a little less than half the leaves were combined with other delicious ingredients like pine nuts, garlic, cheese, and olive oil and pulverized.

Finally, the now mostly-liquid green stuff was cooked with pasta and veggies, and served with a lovely Pinot Grigio.

It was totally yummy, and a good time was had by all.


PS- I had such a good time in the city, and I'm so glad you like your hat! Next time, I'll be hopefully updating you on an almost finished novel :D

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Maine and Brainstorms


I leave for Budapest in 16 days!

Crazy, yes?!

I'm floating with excitement and yet there's a knot in my stomach that grows bigger by the day. You'd think that it would be equalizing, but its not its a weird sensation like I'm being pulled in two directions. But the bubble is bigger than the knot so its all good :)

I spent a long weekend in Maine with my college girlies. It rained the last couple of days so we stuck to malls and movies (Crazy Stupid Love which was refreshingly funny and had an unexpected twist!). But the first day we made it to the lobster shack a really cute seafood (what else??) place that had a gorgeous view and the lighthouse at Fort Willamsburg which also had a gorgeous view! Here are some pics to support my lack of original phrasing.

Saturday night we went and saw the Maroon 5/Train double header which literally blew my mind and my vocal cords. Seriously, I woke up sounding like a veteran smoker!

But nonetheless it was amazing. I know they sound pop, but Maroon 5 puts on a hardcore rock show and Train is insane but great entertainment. I'm actually trying to get people to go with me to the same concert at the State Fair, but so far not a lot of luck :p

I put in a few blurry pictures of the concert to just for fun.

Now onto my great idea... I'm trying my hand at a play!

I decided that the things I love most about Finding Alice are the monologues so I'm going to make it a two person monologue fest and the stage directions are going to have the characters silently revolving around one another portraying the moments being discussed. 

I hope it works!

I love the cover for Letters to Myself and I'm glad to hear that you're moving along on the word count!!

Can't wait to see you Saturday :)