August 30, 2009

niagara falls + washington, d.c. snapshots

captions below the photos.
(new york is coming up next.)

niagara falls, ontario
more snaps of the fallsies.
fyi, the mist from the falls alone is like
stepping into a shower.
the maid of the mist boats. this is the view from the
place in the hotel where we had breakfast.
this is the thingy we went on. it's called the
niagara skywheel, and the gondolas are closed,
climate-controlled, and air conditioned.
how's that for a luxurious view of the falls?

niagara falls lit up at night,
changing into the colors below.
niagara falls lit up at night. (view from skywheel.)
it was fun to come back around to the top and see
that the colors had changed again.
the canadian (horseshoe) falls. (view from our hotel room.)
(that steamy stuff is mist.)
the american & bridal veil (the little one off to the side) falls.
(again, view from our hotel room.)
aww. i love that little guy.
hershey's! the largest hershey store in the world ain't that large.

washington, d.c.
guess who?
lincoln memorial
the eternal flame at the kennedys' grave,
arlington national cemetery
the white house.
the capitol
the washington monument at night
(view from jefferson memorial)
the jefferson memorial
sunset at the jefferson memorial

August 28, 2009

news flash

Check this out! There's only one spot open, so hurry hurry!

I'm also going to be featured in an anthology -- I've about six pieces in there. From what I've heard it sounds fantastic, so I'd definitely consider getting a copy.

I'm also answering questions for a few interviews, so sometime in the (currently distant) future I should have links to them.

August 27, 2009

Washington, D.C.

First off, I'm sorry for the enormous delay. But here it is.

We did see the White House and the Capitol, and we tripped over to Arlington National Cemetery and saw JFK's grave. It's a sad but inspiring place; it makes you realize how much each person there has gone through to keep freedom alive.

We stopped by a handful of the Smithsonian Museums, my favorite being the Joseph Hirshhorn Museum -- at first I didn't want to go in, because I didn't know what was in it, but it turned out to be utterly fabulous. It's an absolutely splendid modern art gallery; it's so great. It's creative and unique and funky and fantastic.

The Museum of American History is pretty cool, too; they've got President Lincoln's top hat and the original flag within their walls. They also have the dresses of many First Ladies; it's a very popular exhibit.

We also visited the Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History. Again, two great places to spend a hot day. The Air and Space Museum has some neat videos showing in their IMAX theater, and it's chock-full of fascinating facts about, well, air and space. There's just so much in each of these museums that it would take forever to actually spend time and grasp everything. At some point, we actually skipped about five-sixths of an exhibit and just walked through it in search of an exit.

The Museum of Natural History was the first one we visited, on the day we drove into DC from New Jersey. It has loads of frighteningly realistic models of animals, and every section of the museum has small walk-in theaters playing 10-20 minute videos to accompany the exhibit. My personal favorite section was the gems/minerals one, which is the largest collection in the U.S. (and maybe the world as well, I'm not sure). It's got every kind of gem or mineral you can imagine, from your typical gold or silver to some emperor's ring to every kind of -ite you can name.

Washington D.C. is an architectural marvel. It's not as lively as New York, definitely, but it's still a unique place with a rich political history and a tourist-friendly package.

August 19, 2009

august 19, 2009

August 19th is my sister's birthday. This morning, in the airport, I counted down the minutes until her birth time, 7:15 a.m., a stream of constant updates that -- surprisingly -- started getting on her nerves. Over a matter of minutes, she shook it off. (That is, once I'd finished talking away about the number of minutes until 7:15.)

That's how my sister is. She can be so hysterically funny that I sometimes think she could pass off as a comedian. And other times...well, she can just be a tiny bit like an angry sistah. I guess that's what makes her my best friend (most of the time) -- the fact that we fight nearly every day and then start talking about what book we read recently and loved.

She's a lot of fun. Like any other sister, sometimes I'd really like to punch her hard, but most of the time she's one of the funniest and most entertaining people I know. She's interesting to talk to, has one of the most controversially unique and funky personalities, and can put on an astonishingly cute face when she needs to.

My sister has an endless list of talents and somehow always manages to outdo me in nearly everything. But that's okay. She's still brought a little something into my life -- a little sparkle of sweetness.

What she does best is being her funny yet disciplined self. She's the best Priya I've seen. I love her and I'm so glad she's my sister.

August 17, 2009

Niagara Falls

We drove six or seven hours from New Jersey to Niagara, and it was completely worth it. I'll admit that it was boring to drive past trees, trees, and more trees for six straight hours, but it was neat to drive through Pennsylvania and New York towards Niagara Falls, Ontario.

We stayed at Sheraton on the Falls, which is about the best view of the falls you can get. Our room overlooked all three of the Niagara Falls -- the American, Bridal Veil, and the Canadian Horseshoe. We got to see the falls lit up and changing colors from our room, and it was beautiful.

We went on the Maid of the Mist, where we got wet to the point that we were blinded by the mist and spray, and we went on the Journey Behind the Falls attraction. Basically, it takes you behind the falls to two viewing points where you can see the falls thundering in front of you, and then there's a landing point outside just feet away from the Canadian falls.

We viewed the 4D movie "Niagara's Fury," where the floor was shaking and rain spouted out of the ceiling. It depicted the creation of the falls. We also watched a couple other 4D movies, which were a lot better than I expected.

The highlight of the two-day trip was the Whirlpool Jetboat Tour. The boat traveled really fast and we zoomed over some Class 5 rapids, getting absolutely soaked in the process. During our last run over the class fives, we got drenched by huge waves rising up over us! It was amazing and definitely very cool. It was so much fun.

I'm sorry for the huge delay in posting. Internet access has been pretty hard to come by, and when I do have access it's for a really short time. I'll be back home in a few days.

August 09, 2009

New York

This city gives new meaning to "love at first sight." It's so full of life and culture and it's very alive. It's crowded and moving and a huge city with so much to explore. It's beautiful and artistic and very much a free-spirit kind of city.

I'd hang around in Times Square snapping pictures all night if you let me. It's sparkling and flashing and popping in front of your eyes with bright lights and enormous billboards and television screens and it's chock-full of visuals spinning and moving before your eyes. There are tons of people staying into the early hours of the morning and it's always packed. It's full of energy and light.

We stumbled over the NBC Experience Store, which is the ultimate haven for people with a sweet tooth. It's just candy and merchandise everywhere. There are huge rainbow lollipops, buckets of chocolate bars, and any kind of candy (including cotton!) you can think of. It's really hard to exercise self-restraint. It's really cool.

We went over to the Empire State Building, which feels just like the Eiffel Tower except way more modern and with longer lines to wait and wait and wait. Just when you think you're finally finished standing in line, you go into a new room to find yet another line. And then when you get into the elevator, you zoom up to floor number 86 and your ears start to muffle everything around you. It's very cool.

We also ferried over to the Statue of Liberty, but we didn't get to go inside as they weren't allowing any crown tours that day. It was gigantic and so much more different from the perfect professional photos you see everywhere. It's not that. The statue itself is really marvelous.

We also visited the Hershey store (the world's largest one is next to Niagara Falls, where we're headed now), the 3-floor packed M&Ms World (which has every kind of M&M merchandise you can possibly imagine and really good background music), and the Madame Tussauds wax museum. As predicted, the biggest crowds were around Pres. Obama and the Jonas Brothers. Thank goodness Miley Cyrus was off-exhibit, or else we'd have an even longer line for her. We probably wouldn't have gotten out of there when we did.

We visited Ground Zero, which is a very, very sad place all on its own. We saw somewhat into the huge hole in the ground and glimpsed the broken-up rubble there. It makes you hope and pray that you never fall into a situation like that.

Speaking of sad situations, apparently a plane and a helicopter crashed over the Hudson River while we were in that area. We actually didn't see them crash, as we were near Times Square at the time, but we read it on the huge news tickers outside the Fox Business News building. It should have been loud, but over the NY traffic I guess we didn't hear it.

Nevertheless, we really loved New York. It's one of those huge cities whose life just keeps going. People just keep moving and so many different lives keep crossing each other. It's one of those really diverse cities and it's just one of the most amazing places I've ever been.

We're headed to Niagara Falls this morning, and it's a long drive. I'm not guaranteed of Internet access there; in fact, I probably won't have Internet for a couple of days while we're there. So I'll blog when I return back to New Jersey, where we're staying.

August 08, 2009


The flight over here felt like the longest plane trip ever. The view from the window was amazing, but how long can you try to locate geographic landmarks? I tried to name each of the Great Lakes, but I forgot the order.

Before I leave --

If you haven't tried them yet, The Great American Bagel Bakery has the best cinnamon rolls ever. They're warm and soft and glazed and delicious. They're the one thing you have to eat.

August 06, 2009

headed for the east/i've packed my bags

i'm leaving for the east coast tomorrow morning. i believe i'm going to have internet access from over there, so i'll be able to check my email, blog, tweet, etc. i can't upload pictures from the east, so i don't want to post picture-less recaps of each day. instead i'll blog short bits and pieces when i can: longer than tweets but shorter than typical posts.

i'm so excited. i'll get to visit nyc and the world's largest hershey store, which is going to be absolutely amazing.

anyway, while i'm chilling on the plane tomorrow, enjoy the interview i did with lisa ann sandell. cheers!

August 04, 2009

Chatting with Lisa Ann Sandell

I'm so excited to present Lisa Ann Sandell, a super-sweet and artsy author whose latest book is so heartfelt and poetic that it spurred blog review after blog review in the weeks before and after the book's release. She's so down-to-earth and creative and is the author of the verse novels The Weight of the Sky, Song of the Sparrow, and her latest project (in prose), A Map of the Known World.

I asked her a handful of questions, and her answers are just so lovely (and I have to admit, I was waiting on those answers very eagerly). Lisa is so humble and that shines through in her responses. It's a fascinating (and fabulous) interview, and it's one of those things that you have to sit down and savor -- and enjoy. So here she is.

1. What made you decide to write A Map of the Known World as prose (rather than as a verse novel)?
When I set out to write A Map of the Known World, I knew I wanted to try writing in prose. I just wanted to experiment, to play, to try something different. And as I wrote, the prose (as opposed to verse) felt more natural for this story.

2. What's your thought process for writing a novel? How much of the story do you plan?
I am an outliner. I outline as much of the story at the start as I can. Sometimes I’ll outline the whole thing, knowing that much of the story is likely to change as I write. With A Map of the Known World, I pretty much outlined up until the dance. And I knew that I wanted to end with the art show. The middle bits changed and grew as I went and as I got to know Cora and the other characters better.

3. What was your reaction to finding out that Map was featured in "Seventeen"?
I was gobsmacked, shocked, thrilled, super excited and amazed! I thought it was the coolest thing, since I used to read and subscribe to Seventeen, to actually see one of my books featured in it.

4. Your covers are beautifully simple. How much input do you have in the process of creating a cover, and how did the cover of A Map of the Known World come to be?
I have to say, the covers for each of my books are gorgeous. I had nothing to do with any of them, and can only express gratitude for the brilliance of the art directors and editors who worked on the books. A Map of the Known World has an interesting story—the art director, Elizabeth B. Parisi, knew of an artist Leo Sewell ( who sculpts with found objects. She had seen one of his pieces, a giant red apple (, and used that as the basis for the heart that’s featured on the cover. She got permission from Leo to have a photograph of it repainted in the shape of a heart by the artist Tim O’Brien, and I think this image suits the book so perfectly and so beautifully. I love it.

5. Has the response to your books been what you expected?
I feel really lucky, because I think my books have been well-received overall, and I hear from my readers. I get emails and letters, and nothing makes me feel as good as hearing from the people who read my books, connect to the stories and characters and want to share that experience with me. It is one of the most amazing sensations I imagine life can offer.

6. What's the worst part of writing?
The worst part of writing is the sitting at the desk, alone, and just doing it. It’s really hard, at least for me, to sit my butt down in the chair and get started. I love coming up with excuses not to write—I have to do research, I have to clean the apartment, I have to alphabetize all of my books by author, then again by title, I have to walk my dog…you get the picture.

7. From where do you pull inspiration? How do you come up with the ideas for new books?
The inspiration for each of my books has come from a different source. My first novel, The Weight of the Sky, was the most autobiographical. I was had spent time in Israel during and after college, and those experiences had such a deep impact on me, I had to write about them to really understand and process what had happened to me. Sarah’s story is not mine, but there are great similarities. Song of the Sparrow came about because I’ve always had a deep fascination with the stories of Camelot and King Arthur, and one day, when I was studying in London, I ducked into the Tate Gallery to escape a cold, dreary rain. As I was wandering the halls of the museum, I turned a corner and happened upon this startling, stunning painting of the Lady of Shalott (by John William Waterhouse, 1888). She was so beautiful and tragic looking, and I knew she had a very sad story. So, I wanted to try to retell this part of the Arthurian legend from Elaine’s (the Lady of Shalott) own perspective. It’s hard for me to really pinpoint one source of inspiration for A Map of the Known World. Cora’s story just sort of came to me. I think a lot of it had to do with my grandparents’ passing away and my own sculpting work. My art had helped me deal with their deaths, and it was such an important part of their lives, as well as my own, so I wanted to explore and honor that.

Thank you so much, Lisa!