The Skylight by Seamus Heaney


…But when the slates came off, extravagant
Sky entered and held surprise wide open.
For days I felt like an inhabitant
Of that house where the man sick of the palsy
Was lowered through the roof, had his sins forgiven,
Was healed, took up his bed and walked away.

This is an excerpt from my favorite Seamus Heaney poem. Read the rest of it here, and you can buy the collection that contains it here.

“Young” by Jonathan Galassi, and Other Miscellany

I tried, and each attempt was a fiasco.
I yearned, but every love of mine was wrong.
I needed, and the shame was overwhelming.
I failed, and so I hated being young.

Read more at the Paris Review, my favorite online destination for poetry. I read this poem perhaps a year ago, and I can’t stop thinking of it. I love its economy — it’s an entire, very good young adult novel in four lines. I am intrigued by the use of the word “but” in the second line, a variation from “and.” (Consider the “but,” my friends who wish to become writers.) I plan to order Galassi’s collection, Left-Handed: Poems.


On other fronts, I finally signed the contracts that cleared the Stephen Dunn poem I’m using for the epigraph of In the Age of Love and Chocolate. Stephen Dunn is one of my favorite poets and so it was a thrill to be able to use one of his poems. You can read that poem here. (I’m only using the last eight lines, the part beginning with “Often a sweetness comes…” )


Finally, a few answers to your questions about In the Age of Love and Chocolate, the third Anya Balanchine book. 1) There won’t be paper ARCs. I wrote the book twice (not just revised —I mean, two entirely different books with two entirely different beginnings, middles, endings, and even titles, as some of you have already noted), and it became too late for my publisher to print ARCs. 2) The correct title is In the Age of Love and Chocolate, and it publishes October 29th, 2013.


Please feel free to ask any other questions you might have about In the Age of Love and Chocolate, as I’m planning to do a longer post about it in the next couple of weeks. For what such distinctions are worth, it is my favorite of the series. I’m getting excited for you to read it. In the meantime, here’s a tiny preview:

“It takes nothing, save a spot of courage, to kiss a pretty teenager at a high school dance. It takes nothing to say you love a person when she is perfect and her mistakes can be dealt with in a ten-minute confession.”

Finally, finally, after three and a half years on tumblr (Does anyone remember the noble failure of the Dear Writer tumblr with Carolyn Mackler? No? That would probably be because we peaked at 200 followers.), I’ve gone back to a blog. The thing I’ve found about myself and social media is that it’s best to be flexible. Try new social networks, if you want. Move onto different ones, as your mood or needs change. At this moment in my life, I’m feeling like anything that slows things down online is good. I used to think that a particular social network might be the key that turned the lock for me and being online. I am no longer invested in finding such a key. I am resigned to the fact that I am a mediocre-to-poor online presence. Please read my books anyway.

So, I’ll still be on tumblr, but if you want to talk to me, the best place to do it is here, in comments.


It seems to me everything would depend on the stranger.
And the facts of departure:
is it she or I who is sailing away alone;
or is each of us seeing someone off;
or—best of all—are we leaving together?
If the latter, we’ll have the entire voyage—
preferably five days or more—
to enjoy a full-blown affair and then part.
If not, then a half hour in a hastily booked
room overlooking the harbor
will present its own delights,
infinitely sweetened by the pressures of time.
As for the lines employed to effect
the seduction (I am purposely clinical),
no matter if she and I will be together
a week or an hour,
I would try, summoning all my wit,
not to make reference to ships
(especially the kind that pass in the night)
or to insinuate marine metaphors of any sort.
But urgency might overrule novelty,
forcing me to resort to something like:
“In your eyes I see the glittering port
that is my (your) (their) destination—
let us travel there without a ship.”
And if I find I am losing her with that one,
there is always the tried-and-true to fall back on,
good, not just for embarkations,
but any occasion:
“How fortunate we are to have
so little time for words …”

Nicholas Christopher, “Lines to Seduce a Stranger An Hour Before the Ship Sails”
Art Credit Linda Kim.

poem for the heroine of a young adult novel

A girl in a town

—no one gets her—

meets a boy in a town

who does.

Throw in another boy


or someone

not quite human,

and she thinks

the world might end.


You want to tell her:

despite a few close calls,

the world hasn’t ended yet.

And someday you will 

leave this town,

read Anaïs Nin,

cut your hair.

In five years, perhaps less,

you won’t remember

any of this, I swear.

—Gabrielle Zevin