Intensive Care

I have a new essay in The New York Times today about my son’s experience in the NICU. I wrote the essay after I’d seen a pregnant friend and had found myself telling her what a “great experience” my family had in the NICU. I realized how strange that sounded, and went home and wrote the first draft quickly, stopping only to re-read the journal that I kept during that time. Though the writing came fast, I’d been thinking about those days and trying to make sense of them in the back of my mind for the last three years.

I’m filled with gratitude for the care and love we received from Wanda, Theresa, Belinda, and Patty, and all the wonderful nurses and doctors we met during that time. I’ll never forget them.

Thank you also to my friend Dika Lam, who came up with the title “Intensive Care.”

Happy New Year, With Chocolate

I hope the year is off to a great start for everyone!

One of my favorite discoveries of 2012 was a new kind of chocolate:

My husband brought these back from a business trip to London. The packaging was so pretty I almost didn’t want to open them (but somehow managed to).

They’re from Rococo Chocolates, and they’re amazing. My daughter, who is six now and (maybe, possibly) loves chocolate even more than I do, sensed the enormity of this gift – chocolates from thousands of miles away – and together we ate a piece every night.

A writer friend also recently sent a box of these salted caramels from Montana, which I’m addicted to now:

The other day, my daughter ate a chocolate, a caramel, and took a bath with chocolate-scented soap and said, “This is the best day ever in the whole world!”

It doesn’t get much better than a day with a caramel and two kinds of chocolate. Happy New Year!

Happy 100th, Julia

It’s been a long, long time since I last posted—I’ve been busy revising my new novel, working on essays, teaching classes, and raising the kids. What better day to start posting again than Julia Child’s hundredth birthday?

One of my favorite books that I’ve read in the last few years is Julia Child’s memoir My Life in France, co-written with her grand-nephew, Alex Prud’homme. It’s a beautiful book—it’s not just the story of Julia’s life; it tells the tale of an artistic apprenticeship. The book describes, with a sense of joy so palpable that the pages nearly shake with it, how Julia discovered her true calling late in life (she didn’t start cooking seriously until her late thirties), and how she spent a decade completing her book, despite setback after setback.

I equally loved As Always, Julia, a collection of the correspondence between Julia and her friend Avis DeVoto. DeVoto acted as a sort of literary agent for Julia, counseling her through her multiple rejections and encouraging her to never lose faith. If not for some good luck and a few random twists of fate, Mastering the Art of French Cooking never would’ve seen the light of day. Even Alfred Knopf himself was reluctant to publish it.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from My Life in France, about something Julia learned from one of her earliest teachers:

“Although [Chef Bugnard] must have made this dish several thousand times, he always took great pride and pleasure in his performance. He insisted that one pay attention, learn the correct technique, and that one enjoy one’s cooking—‘Yes, Madame Child, fun!’ he’d say. ‘Joy!’ It was a remarkable lesson. No dish, not even the humble scrambled egg, was too much trouble for him. ‘You never forget a beautiful thing that you have made,’ he said. ‘Even after you eat it, it stays with you—always.'”

Happy birthday, Julia.

Paradise is a library

There’s a beautiful quote from Junot Diaz in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine education issue:

“I do not remember her voice, but I do remember that every time I saw her, she called me to her desk and showed me with an almost conspiratorial glee a book she had picked out for me, a book I always read and often loved.

Every now and then you get lucky in your education and you make a teacher-friend; Mrs. Crowell was my first. By second grade she was allowing me to take out more books than the prescribed limit. By third grade I was granted admission to her librarian’s office. My love of books was born of hers. As a newcomer with almost no knowledge of the country in which I’d found myself, I was desperate to understand where the hell I was, who I was. I sought those answers in books. It was in Mrs. Crowell’s library that I found my first harbor, my first truly safe place in the United States. I still feel a happy pulse every time I see a library. I’m with Borges in imagining Paradise as ‘a kind of library.’ Where instead of angels there will be a corps of excellent librarians.”

The Kansas City Public Library, which I’d love to see someday

Back from Vermont

We got back from vacation in Vermont last week—we had an amazing time there, though we arrived home just a few days before the flood. We stayed near Waterbury, which I read at one point became flooded with 10 feet of water. . . I hope they’ll be able to recover soon. I love Vermont—it’s one of my favorite places in the world.

At the Waterbury reservoir

Now that we’re back I’m looking forward to teaching a YA fiction workshop at the Austin Bat Cave, our local nonprofit writing and tutoring center (similar to 826.) My workshop is aimed at adult writers, but a portion of the proceeds will go to supporting the Bat Cave’s free programming for kids. It starts September 13, and here’s a link to more information about the class. We have a great group of writers signed up—I’m really excited for it to start.