Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

harvard yard construction

I work at Harvard. And right now, I work in a construction zone.

For the past year and a half, I’ve worked in a red brick building on Appian Way, a quiet Cambridge street several blocks northwest of the bustling center of Harvard Square. And for months now, since the construction crew began work on a project that includes adding two new floors to our building and various other improvements, we’ve lived with the sounds of drills, jackhammers, and construction workers shouting instructions to one another.

The elevator is permanently out of service until it can be brought up to code. Scaffolding wraps around the outside walls of our building, and a thick film of construction dust coats the windows in our ground-level office suite. By the time you read this, my colleagues and I will have moved across the street to a temporary office suite in the library so the construction crew can install a (long overdue) sprinkler system in our usual location.

Over in Harvard Yard, three blocks away, it’s a similar story.

I’m over at the Art House America blog, talking about life in a construction zone. Please click over there to read the rest of my essay.

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green shoes purple pants

Monday morning, 8:00 a.m.

I take a last swallow of black tea, carry my mug and cereal bowl to the kitchen sink. I shrug into my jacket, reach for my shoulder bag, kiss my husband if he hasn’t already left for the gym. I hurry down the narrow back staircase, step onto the back stoop. I adjust my purse and tote bag, snap open my umbrella if it’s raining. And I walk.

Wednesday, 12:15 p.m.

I push my chair back from my computer, dry-eyed after a morning of moving words around on the screen. If I’ve brought leftovers for lunch, I retrieve them from the office fridge and stick them in the microwave. I eat at my desk, reading a few pages of my current novel, sipping water from the tall plastic cup I refill all day long. As soon as the last bite is gone, I stand up, grab my purse and jacket. And I walk.

I’m over at TRIAD magazine today, writing about the walks that bookend my days. Join me over there?

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Via Karen, this recent TED Talk from Elizabeth Gilbert is the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. (I loved her first TED Talk too, on genius and the creative spirit.)

Gilbert explores the emotional effects of success and failure, and the value of coming back home: “Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself.” Wise and powerful words – definitely worth a watch.

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katie fur hat

For the past few years, I’ve made a list of things I want to do, try, accomplish and/or enjoy before my next birthday. Here’s an update on the (short) list I made this year:

1. Try a new-to-me author every month. I’ve hit this one several times over. My reviewing gig for Shelf Awareness definitely helps.
2. Knit myself a pair of cozy slippers (probably from this book).* I’ve knitted two pairs for friends. Now to make myself some!
3. Visit Nantucket. (We’ll wait until it’s warmer.)
4. Buy a go-to neutral handbag (black or brown). Scored a great black bag in December.
5. Fly to San Diego to visit our friends who live there. (Photos and stories to come soon…)
6. Go to the dentist (carried over from last year). Finally scheduled an appointment and had to go back THREE TIMES. That’ll teach me to put it off.
7. Visit Prince Edward Island.
8. Attend a carol service at Harvard. Inclement weather meant I gave this one a miss. Maybe next year.
9. Spend at least one lovely long weekend in NYC.
10. Visit a place I’ve never been. (Three of the above items qualify for this one.)
11. Get a massage with that gift certificate I got for my birthday. It was lovely. Ahhh.
12. Develop a regular exercise routine. I’m going to yoga twice a week, but I’d like to add in some walking when the weather warms.
13. Write something I can be proud of.* Always working on it.

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The grandest lives

I lead a small life. Well, valuable, but small. And sometimes I wonder: Do I do it because I like it? Or because I haven’t been brave?

–Meg Ryan (as Kathleen Kelly), You’ve Got Mail

tea journal sunglasses

Even the grandest lives come down to a few people and places. Loved ones, your daily work, your neighborhood. I don’t mean that in a belittling way. I’ve been realizing how complete our lives can be with just the few people and activities you most love.

–Daphne Kalotay, Sight Reading

I spend a lot of time wondering about the shape of my life.

I’ve made two grand, sweeping location changes as an adult: the first, a move to Oxford to spend a year studying for my master’s degree; the second, a cross-country move to Boston from Texas with my husband nearly four years ago. Both of these moves, the kind that would mark a turning point in a novel, required more than the usual round of packing, planning and good-byes. They demanded a leap of faith, a willingness to plunge into an entirely new culture: new weather, new food, new ways of getting from place to place. The shape of my days – my work, my commute, how and where I shop and eat – has shifted each time, forming itself to the contours of my new city.

But I still wonder if my life is big enough.

I’m over at TRIAD today, musing about the quotes above and the size and shape of my life. Click over there to read the rest of my post.

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My name is Katie and I am a stationery addict.

stationery notecards

I have a whole drawer in my desk dedicated to notecards, spare pens, stickers and envelope seals. (There’s a separate drawer for notebooks and notepads.) I have a snail mail pen pal with whom I exchange long, newsy handwritten letters. And despite the fact that I didn’t manage to send out Christmas cards this year, I think handwritten notes are always a good idea.

I’ve been looking for a challenge to pep up February – since the shortest month can feel awfully long when you’re caught in the grip of a New England winter. Since Valentine’s Day falls in February, it seemed like the perfect time to write love notes – not just to my husband (though he’s definitely on my list), but to lots of the people I care about. So, this month, I’m writing one snail mail love note a day.

This project will force me to use my stash of stationery and notecards instead of hoarding them, and I’m hoping my increasingly chicken-scratch handwriting will improve with a bit of practice. And, of course, I hope my loved ones will smile when they open up the mailbox and see a note from me.

The month has already started, and so far I’m right on target. (Here’s hoping I don’t lose steam after Valentine’s Day has come and gone.)

What are you doing to make February a little brighter? Want to join me in writing a few love notes?

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shoes book harvard yard

(Remembering the days when it was warm enough to sit and read in Harvard Yard.)

The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Since moving to Boston, I’ve reached for this book every winter. The Ingalls family’s hard winter gives me perspective – at least I’m not living off seed wheat! – and courage to face the bitter winds and freezing temps. I particularly love the bond between Pa and Laura, and their staunch bravery (and honest frustration) in the face of blizzard after blizzard. A favorite.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Sarah Addison Allen
Emily Benedict, orphaned at 17, moves from Boston to her mother’s North Carolina hometown, longing to discover her family history. She gets more than she bargained for and also meets an unusual boy. I like Allen’s gentle magical realism, but I had trouble believing in this book’s central conceit. Garden Spells is still my favorite of hers.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, Austin Kleon
A fun, fast, quirky list of creativity tips (per the subtitle). Good reminders about the importance of side projects, the potential to get ideas anywhere, and other aspects of the creative life. A quick hit of inspiration.

Meant to Be, Lauren Morrill
Type-A, straight-A Julia believes in being prepared for all scenarios. But on a class trip to London, she gets paired with Jason, a goofy, spontaneous rule-breaker who drives her completely crazy. Can Julia – and Jason – let go of the notion that “meant to be” is always what you’ve planned? A fun YA love story in a fabulous setting.

The Supreme Macaroni Company, Adriana Trigiani
Shoemaker Valentine Roncalli is finally marrying the man she loves, but juggling a new marriage and an established business proves challenging. I usually love Trigiani’s stories of women from big Italian families chasing their dreams, but this third novel about Valentine felt rushed and unsatisfying.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

I’m joining Leigh’s February Reading Challenge, so I won’t be buying any books in February (though I will be using the library). Wish me luck!

What are you reading?

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