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Posts Tagged ‘Rachel Simon’
But in February, 2012, that will change. I’ll be on my first book tour!
Grand Central Publishing will be releasing the paperback of The Story of Beautiful Girl on February 13, 2012 – the day my book tour will begin. All appearances will be in independent bookstores, taking the form of a reading, brief talk, and Q&A, followed by a book signing. All appearances will also be free and open to the public. (One bookstore, in Mystic, CT, is requiring a ticket, which is the purchase of a book.) The cities are Denver; Chicago; Wichita; Austin; Miami; Atlanta (2 places); Charlotte, NC; Mystic, CT; and Madison, CT. I give the details below.
I’ll still continue doing my usual speaking engagements. Right now my confirmed talks, which run through the spring, are in Wilmington, DE; Indianapolis, IN; Columbia, MO; Philadelphia, PA; Wooster, MA; Westmoreland, PA; Appleton, WI; Columbus, OH; and Lake George, NY, with more to come as soon as arrangements have been finalized. You can learn more about these, including whether they are public or private, by going to the Appearance page on my website (updated regularly). Please click here to see this page. The book tour is also included on my Appearance page.
As you might have guessed from the image above, the paperback of The Story of Beautiful Girl will have a new cover. And yes, it’s totally different from the hardback cover, which is to the right. It’s not uncommon for publishers to change covers between the hardback and paperback, and in this case they felt that the hardback design worked well for that format, and the paperback design would work well for the paperback format. I’m happy to say I love both.
The hardback will continue to be available in stores and online for a long time to come.
If you’d like to pre-order the paperback, you can find your favorite retailer by clicking on this link.
I hope you’ll share my tour itinerary with friends. They can also learn more about The Story of Beautiful Girl at my website by clicking here. At the end of this post you’ll also find a printable flyer with my book tour information, which I hope you’ll give to friends who prefer paper notifications. It’s in both jpg and pdf formats.
It would be great to see you at one of these stops!
Monday, Feb 13 7:30 pm
1628 16th St. (at Wynkoop)
Wednesday, Feb 15th 7 pm
123 W. Jefferson Ave.
Naperville, IL (near Chicago)
Thursday, Feb 16 7 pm
4701 East Douglas Ave.
Sunday, Feb 19th 4pm
603 N. Lamar Blvd.
Monday, Feb 20th 8 pm
Books and Books
265 Aragon Ave.
Coral Gables, FL (near Miami)
Tuesday, Feb 21st 7 pm
Eagle Eye Book Shop
2076 N. Decatur Rd.
Decatur, GA (near Atlanta)
Wednesday, Feb 22nd 7 pm
Peerless Book Store
8465 Holcomb Bridge Rd. in Rivermont Station
Alpharetta, GA (near Atlanta)
Thursday, Feb 23rd 7 pm
Park Road Books
4139 Park Road
Friday, Feb 24th 12:00 Noon -ticketed luncheon
Bank Square Books
53 W. Main St.
Friday, Feb. 24th, 7:00 PM
768 Boston Post Road
Again, to pre-order the paperback of The Story of Beautiful Girl, please click on this link.
And here’s the flyer for the book tour, in jpg format. For the pdf format, click here. Rachel Simon’s book tour – pdf
This video about book cover design aired on Dec. 19, 2010, on CBS Sunday Morning. The reporter was present at the offices of Grand Central Publishing when the book cover meeting for my upcoming novel, The Story of Beautiful Girl, was held over the summer of 2010. To my delight, the wonderfully eye-catching cover they decided on in that meeting – a cover I absolutely love – is featured from the 1:07 to the 1:20 mark in your time counter. As a reminder, the novel, along with the audio, e-book, and large print versions, hits the shelves on May 4, 2011, and is already available for pre-order. See this link for a reader’s guide and ordering information.
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But memory and muscles were fine. My suitcases were stuffed like overburdened sleds because I was on my way to Fairbanks, Alaska. There, over the next five days, I would be doing three presentations related to my book Riding the Bus with My Sister. And a trip to Fairbanks in the wool-fleece-and-thermals month of December simply necessitates bulk.
I’d almost squealed with delight when the Fairbanks Resource Agency contacted me in the spring and asked me to speak at their annual gala in December. Although I’d spoken for many service providers that support adults with disabilities and had even done such talks in Anchorage six years ago, I’d never been as far north as Fairbanks. And I’d been to Anchorage in April, right after “breakup,” when the winter snow suddenly melts, and when sunrise is at six in the morning, sunset near ten at night. I was now heading into a land of subzero temperatures, where daylight would commence after ten in the morning and depart by two thirty in the afternoon.
I made my way to the gate for the first of my flights, remembering Hal’s reaction when I got the invitation.
“Are you kidding?” he’d said.
“It’ll be an adventure!”
“Fairbanks in December?”
“If Jack London could do it, so can I.”
He’d made a scrunched-up face that he hadn’t unscrunched in the months since.
To be fair, Hal’s reticence about this trip was not simply the result of him envisioning himself slogging through a wind-swept, snow-drifted, dark-as-sleep nowhere. It was more a result of him knowing me.
I am not just someone who gets cold. I am someone who often wears a jacket in the summer, and in the winter I wear coats even inside the house. I get a chill deep inside my chest, and once it starts, there seems little I can do to stop it. This isn’t just imagination: touch my hands during these episodes, as people inevitably do when I meet them at talks, and you’ll be grabbing onto an ice glove.
How, Hal and other caring friends wondered as the day for my trip neared, would I possibly endure the extremes of a place like Fairbanks? Which, we found out the night before he took me to the airport, can get as cold as seventy below? And where sunshine itself is powerless to induce warmth? “You’ll spend the rest of your life thawing after this,” he said.
But how could I say no? I would be seeing a faraway land close to the tip of the globe, where all that is familiar to me about light and dark, winter and summer, ordinary and extraordinary would become but a memory, and new rules of day, night, cold, time, and even the colors of the sky would take its place. How could I not take the opportunity to shake up all I know about my relationship to things so fundamental, I can barely imagine my consciousness without them?
Besides, I kept wondering: what kind of people actually live there?
I got my first answer to this question soon after I arrived at the gate. My flight, which was supposed to depart at 1:00 PM, was delayed until at least 3:00 PM. This one change would prevent me from making my second connection, and so I spent the start of my trip rescheduling all my subsequent flights. My original plan was for three flights that would last fourteen hours. Now I would be taking four flights lasting twenty-two hours. A test of mere stamina became a test of endurance.
This is what Alaskans live with, I understood as I hunkered down for my first, second, and third waits. Not just snow and ice and wind and midnight sun and daytime night – but the need to expect the unexpected. And all the patience and fortitude that might be required.
I can do this, I thought, hauling my carry-ons through the concourses at Chicago O’Hare and Seattle-Tacoma International and Ted Stevens Anchorage Airport. Each time my effort proved harder and more laborious, and soon I was cursing myself for not having crammed even more into my checked bag. But then I’d think about the thousands of intrepid individuals who made this journey before the age of flight. My pitiful twenty-two hours would bear little resemblance to the months, or years, of hardship they endured on rail, stagecoaches, horseback, and ships. I told myself to enjoy the luxury of dozing on a seat in an airport, with music and televisions blaring, and babies crying, and, in Seattle, a water fountain that blasted loud glug-glug sounds whenever it was used. Stop kvetching, I told myself. Be tough.
Fortunately I forgot that sometimes, when people made the trek to the Last Frontier, the duration and the physical demands were so great, they fell ill, or even worse. This could happen to the hardiest of souls. So it was quite possible it could also happen to a twenty-first century city girl from the Northeast.
Who’d just—she thought—gotten over the sniffles.
And whose final, fourth flight—the one she’d had to reschedule herself onto—required her to walk across the tarmac in twenty below, schlepping the unbearably leaden carry-ons, so sleep-deprived and so confused by the darkness and the snow that she almost walked in the wrong direction.
So by the time I landed in Fairbanks at 7:00 AM (11:00 AM to me), my fate was sealed. I thought I was just exhausted from the four thousand mile ordeal that took me from thirty-nine degrees latitude to sixty-four degrees latitude and from thirty degrees Fahrenheit to twenty-two below. But my exhaustion was actually a portend—and the proof that my curiosity, adventurousness, and Jack London admiration surpassed the current limits of my constitution.
But for the first day I gallivanted about, unaware that my immune system was about to shut down. I was tired but with such a brief period of sunlight, I wanted to see all I could. After all, I immediately realized that Fairbanks was not what Hal and I had envisioned, and I realized I wasn’t just in a land of cold and dark. I was also in a land of surprises.
For starters, this was not a windswept, snow-drifted, dark-as-sleep nowhere.
There was, in fact, no wind—there rarely is in Fairbanks, I learned. Nor were there snow drifts, because Fairbanks tends to be too cold for snow; the more common weather challenge is ice fog, which so impedes visibility that it’s one of the few conditions that might close schools for the day. The terrain was mostly flat, and I didn’t even see mountains in the distance.
This was not a nowhere, either. It was a place with four military bases, a large university, a museum that’s an architectural wonder, multi-lane roads that pass the same stores we have in Delaware, a population of over thirty thousand—and more people who’ve relocated there from all over the country than I can remember seeing anywhere else. In fact, I heard almost every kind of accent a person can hear in America.
And whether they came from New Jersey, Long Island, Minnesota, Phoenix, Colorado, or California, no one I met, and no one I saw, allowed the weather to inhibit them in the slightest. They went to jobs and stores and coffee shops and movies and everything you can think of just as much as anyone in a warmer climate.
They did it all without the bulky clothes I’d schlepped across the country, preferring layers topped by sweatshirts or jackets when they were outside. And, when they were inside, a significant number of people wore t-shirts and short sleeves, even if the rooms were cool. How was this possible, I found myself asking over and over. To which the answer would inevitably be, “You just get used to it.”
I spent most of my first, still-healthy day with my escort, Eva Norwood, Community Development Director for Fairbanks Resource Agency. She picked me up at the airport, drove me to my hotel and then, over the course of the day, around Fairbanks. We rode in her trusty station wagon, fleece blankets on our laps, a horizontal crack across her windshield. “It’s impossible to avoid the cracks,” she said as we made our way along the snow-slicked roads—her car, with its studded snow tires, never skidding. “They cover the roads with gravel, and the little pebbles are always flying into your windshield. You can spend all winter repairing it, so I figured I’d just wait.”
Gravel-strewn roads and fleece blankets were just two ways people made their peace with driving in Fairbanks. In the interest of keeping their engines warm, they also leave parked cars running while they’re inside, as I discovered when Eva and I went to lunch at a packed Thai restaurant. They might even have upgraded their cars to include remote starters, which they have to reactivate every two hours. Those of more modest means can plug their cars into the engine block heaters that dot many, but not all, of the parking lots I saw.
The highlight of my tourist expeditions came that first afternoon, when Eva brought me to the Museum of the North. Located at the university, the striking building was designed to convey a sense of Alaska, with shapes and spaces evocative of alpine ridges, glaciers, and whales. The collection was equally stunning. One enormous room takes visitors through the five major areas of Alaska, each with its own history, animals, folk arts. Eva had once been a docent here, and by the end of my private tour, I had a vastly enriched appreciation for the state, and the resourcefulness of the people who’d inhabited it for millenia. Other rooms featured artwork by classic and contemporary Alaskan painters and sculptors. (At the end of this blog, I have additional photos I took while I was there.)
And then there was a room unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere. Called “The Place Where You Go To Listen,” and created by composer John Luther Adams, it is a continuously changing sound and light art installation—with both the visual and the audio experiences derived from, as an article in the New Yorker once put it, “information from seismological, meteorological, and geomagnetic stations in various parts of Alaska…fed into a computer and transformed into an intricate, vibrantly colored field of electronic sound.” The sound on the day I visited hummed and tom-tommed, with harmonizing echoes like a choir in a cathedral; the colors were magenta shading into deep red. It differs at every visit, Eva told me; sometimes you hear the sun create more harmony, the moon make dapples of sound, and the Northern lights ring across the ceiling like bells. The room reminded me of my beloved light tunnel in the Detroit Airport, which I wrote about in The House On Teacher’s Lane. But this was a tiny space, and the sounds and lights weren’t pre-set; they were happening in real time, reflecting the current state of this corner of the planet. I could have stayed in there forever.
But the sun was setting, and as we emerged from the galleries in the museum and looked out the windows over Fairbanks, I learned that I needed to correct yet another misunderstanding. I’d thought of this part of Alaska as a place of extremes. Standing beside me at the window, though, Eva pointed out that it’s a place of subtleties.
At this time of year, the sun doesn’t rise, or set, in the way it does back in the Northeast. Instead, it stays low along the horizon. So the sky is a study in golds and pinks and pale blues—which then reflect on the snow. “We don’t have white snow here,” she told me. “You think it’s white until you really look and see it’s not.”
Later, when I went out for dinner with three other people affiliated with Fairbanks Resource Agency, I learned more about subtleties. “We don’t have real darkness here,” there told me. “You think it’s dark but it’s not.” I asked how that could be; when I looked out the window, it sure looked like my idea of night. “Yes,” they said, “but with the snow reflecting the stars and the moon, we don’t really have dark skies.” Not the way the skies can be dark in, say, rural Hawaii or Arizona, they added, where they sometimes spend the winter, and where the nights are so completely dark that they actually feel scared.
In Fairbanks, they added, they never feel scared. Rather, they feel at peace with nature—and embraced by everyone around them. “It’s one big family here,” they said. “If you see someone broken down on the road, you stop to help. That’s just the way it is.” They all moved here from the lower 48, and love Fairbanks so much, they never want to live anywhere else.
I went to bed that first night, amazed at how wrong I’d been about this place, and eager to learn so much more.
But by the next morning, my immune system had surrendered. I woke with a ferocious sore throat and thudding headache. I still hoped to get out to see other sites, to stand a chance of catching a glimpse of the aurora borealis, to meet new people and learn more surprises.
I did manage to have a few more conversations. During a marvelous dinner with Emily Ennis, Executive Director of FRA, I learned she entered the field decades ago by without training, family ties, or preconceptions; she just walked into a room of adults with disabilities in Fairbanks who needed to be occupied during the day, and instantly understood that they were full, whole individuals desirous of living meaningful lives. I also connected with a waitress in my hotel restaurant who was the sister of a woman with a disability, and who spoke tearfully about her sister’s transition from living in the state institution to a community setting. Politics also crept into some discussions. Yet even though folks in the lower 48 seem to think immediately about Sarah Palin when they hear the word “Alaska,” the people I met were less inclined to talk about her than about the recent, contentious Senate race, which Lisa Murkowski won over Joe Miller by a write-in vote.
I also managed to get through all three of my events—a book discussion, a visit to a writing class at the university, and the big, fancy gala dinner. I enjoyed all three, and I think I satisfied my audiences at each.
But my tourist expeditions were behind me.
So I spent the rest of my time in Alaska in my hotel room, savoring yet another unexpected aspect of this part of the world. In the dark and the quiet, it is easy to sleep. Your dreams rise and fall like whales, your thoughts beat steadily as the bells of the Northern lights, and your feelings ease through you as subtly as horizon light.
I am no Jack London. I would have made a frail pioneer.
But I’m hoping my host asks me back, and I’m told they probably will. I’ll be keeping my sense of adventure warm until then.
Last week, I had a magical trip to Orlando. Yes, I was in Disneyworld, but I was not there for vacation.
The main reason I went to Orlando was to do a presentation at the National Council for Community Behavior Healthcare Conference. Since we still had snow on the ground in Delaware and the temperature in Orlando was seventy degrees, I was particularly happy to go.
My host was Core Solutions, a software company for the behavioral health and human services industries. I appeared for a special event in their hospitality suite, where I showed clips from the movie adapted from Riding The Bus With My Sister, talked about the real experience I wrote about in that book, and signed complimentary copies of my book. The attendees included the parent of a woman with disabilities and a self-advocate, both of whom shared their own stories. As often happens at these events, I laughed and I cried, and I came away deeply moved.
But there was an additional reason for why my trip was more than just memorable – it was magical.
For the past several months, I’ve been corresponding with one of my readers, Lily Grinsberg. The mother of three sons, two of whom have disabilities, Lily is devoted to exploring all avenues to help her children. She also wants to share her insights, so she runs programs where she talks with guests about her recent discoveries. (You can read more about her on her Double Rainbow website.) As luck would have it, when I went to this conference, she happened to be in Orlando with her family for a vacation – the twenty-eighth one they’ve taken to Disneyworld! We arranged to visit.
We met in her hotel lobby, falling into a big hug as if we were old friends – which, because she knows me through my books, and I know her through her life mission, we pretty much are. After so many emails, I finally got the chance to hear her story in person, and to learn about the many fascinating things she’s involved with. These include Nordorff Robbins Music Therapy, a music therapy that nurtures people of all levels of ability to build well-being; Camp Acorn, a recreational program that builds confidence and self-esteem in children and adults with multiple disabilities; and Radiant Awareness, a form of therapy that inspires joyful awakenings and inner connection. All of them look terrific. (For contact information about Nordorff Robbins, see the comments for this post.)
Then we went to dinner, and I got to meet her whole family. The love in this family is a sight to behold. The father spontaneously hugs his sons. The typical son shares a close bond with his brothers. And everyone is close to the personal assistant for the oldest son.
Here’s a photo of Lily’s son, meeting up with Donald Duck, followed by a photo of Lily and me.
People often ask what my life is like.
The honest answer is it’s lacking in drama and steeped in routine, both of which help me stay on track with my writing. I know that the image of a tranquil life with a lot of consistency is at odds with the myth of the emotionally overwrought writer who lives to excess and hobnobs with celebrities. But I like telling the truth, so here are a few broad strokes to give you a sense of my life.
I live in a row house in Delaware with my husband Hal and our two cats, Peach and Zeebee. Our marriage, which came about after a nineteen-year courtship I chronicled in my memoirs, is a happy and enriching one. We laugh a lot, prop each other up when we feel low, and give each other a lot of privacy for our respective creative endeavors. When we disagree, we try to do so in a respectful and productive manner.
I make my own schedule, since I don’t have a day job right now. I get up with the sun, write as much as I can, and do my best to keep up with emails, letters, and phone calls.
Every day I try to work out, and once a week I volunteer for hospice.
I treasure long-term relationships. I’m still close to my best friends from nursery school, fifth grade, sixth grade, junior high, boarding school, college, and many of the jobs and twists in my life since then. I’m also close to a number of people I’ve met in my trips to give talks related to my memoir Riding The Bus With My Sister.
I don’t drink, use substances, eat meat, watch TV, or feel comfortable in loud spaces, including stores and restaurants where music is played at high volume.
To stick with my writing routine, I prefer meeting people in the evenings rather than at lunch. To be kind to both my waistline and wallet, I prefer visits over tea rather than dinners.
I like almost everyone I’ve ever met. I find every person interesting.
I like to talk but I love to listen.
I wake up a lot in the middle of the night and worry. Then I fall back asleep, and in the morning, I wake up happy.
Most days, I’m very content with my life. I’m less content about the state of the world.
I walk around with a cast of characters in my head: everyone I’ve known in person, and many others who are entirely fictional and have yet to emerge from my pen.
I write by hand.
I write because I enjoy the act of writing. I finish my writing projects because life is brief.
I don’t see much of a division between past and present, and can wake up fully immersed in other time periods I’ve lived in.
I’m slightly synesthesic. Numbers and letters come to me as colors. Sounds come as emotions.
I’m five feet tall and feel that the benefits of my short stature eclipse the difficulties.
I get cold all the time. At home I sometimes wear a coat in the house, and when I go out I almost always bring several extra layers of clothes.
I’m not a joiner. I like living outside life. Though sometimes when I feel too outside, I get sad.
I try to be open-minded and openhearted.
I believe in the power of forgiveness and the pointlessness of holding grudges.
I believe in the inherent dignity and worth of every human being.