Y’all! I had an overwhelmingly lovely trip to New York City, and I just couldn’t fit all my love and gratitude for it onto Instagram. So I’m writing a little run-down blog post of my four days there, and all the wonderful people I was so privileged to hang and work with.
Confession: I find New York City incredibly overwhelming. I’m a suburbs/smaller city/occasionally rural kind of person. I live on the outer edges of Boston, and that is as busy as I can handle. So usually, I’m scattered and skittish in NYC, and I feel exhausted like 2 hours into my trips there. This is no offense meant to people who love NYC life. That is wonderful and great. I just usually get overwhelmed there.
But it’s been about two years since I was last in NYC, and this trip I did a couple things differently. I packed really well. Like, all the things I’d actually need to keep myself feeling together and healthy. I have all those sweet food and environmental allergies, so I made sure to bring my own soap, salt, tea, sugar, etc., so my body wasn’t trying to fight off a million little allergic reactions. I stayed with my friend Doug and his lovely significant other, and I didn’t put pressure on myself to go out. When we were tired, we stayed in and watched SMASH. It was great. And then, the biggest thing, I think, was that I didn’t over schedule myself. Usually, I try to fit everything in when I’m in the city, and this time I left ample hours for napping, chilling out, and bookstore browsing. This was super important. I realized: I can’t fit everything in, and if I’m going to enjoy the things I need/want to do, I need down time too. With age/experience comes wisdom! And therefore better planned trips. And watching SMASH.
So day 1 was fun, because I got into the city, and then almost immediately met up with my agent, Alex, for the first time, IRL, in like two years! It was so good to see him in person and brainstorm and trade book recommendations. He’s always reading such fantastic stuff. He also just got into Over the Garden Wall, so we geeked out over that too, and talked some projects. Secret projects.
Day 2 was a day of absolute pure and total Shakespeare magic. The main motivation for coming to NYC was that Thalia Book Club Camp, at Symphony Space, graciously invited me to come talk about Saving Hamlet and teach a workshop. It was a fantastic experience. I got to work with a wonderful, book nerd-y staff, and 24 adorable teens. I did a little run-down of how Saving Hamlet became a book, and then we did a speed-writing workshop, including a theatre game and a Shakespeare-inspiration prompt. This was my first time using Shakespeare quotes as a creative writing teaching tool, and it worked better than I could have imagined! It was a blast, and whoa, these kids could write! I wanted to read the finished pieces of all of their snippets they’d written for the prompt. I was hooked, 100%.
After the workshop, we got to tour The Public Theater where Hamlet is currently playing with Oscar Isaac!! For a few more days, anyway.
It was amazing how they had completely transformed the space. They’d even created a new wall for the back of the theatre, that when I walked in, I assumed was just, you know, the typical purple wall. Nope. They’d made that purple wall, and added red carpeting. The rest of the set was fairly bare: the props masters who talked to us explained it was to give the illusion that this Hamlet started directly after Hamlet Sr.’s funeral. Like, the audience comes in and his body is all laid out on stage, with flowers, in a casket, as it would be for a funeral. I was blown away. They’d also created a door in the back wall, that opened to a bathroom that they’d created to use for Ophelia’s drowning scene.
One of the coolest parts of this trip was that the benevolent props masters passed around the skulls they’d created for the show – the Yoricks. They were impeccably painted, and then also covered in the actual dirt brought onto the stage every night for Ophelia and Polonius’ graves. It was chilling to hold them. I also fangirled a little (read: a lot) thinking that I was holding the skull that Oscar Isaac spoke to.
The kids were absolutely thrilled with all of this and had some Saving Hamlet inspired questions about the production’s props, lighting, and staging. It felt amazing to know that they’d liked the book enough to remember the choices made in Emma’s and Shakespeare’s productions of Hamlet, and wanted to compare them to this one!! It turns out, the lighting was similar: the Oscar Isaac Hamlet didn’t use many stage lights, and for most of the show, the actors could see the audience. Just amazingly cool.
So that was a dream day. Thank you so much to Symphony Space for having me! I had the most wonderful time ever. Thank you also for these photos, and for letting my use them!
Day 3 was awesome for at least two reasons. The first was that Doug told me he’d bought my book at The Strand, which meant that The Strand was carrying my book!! Every NYC trip I’ve made since I was in high school has nearly always included a trip to this bookstore. So I made a special visit, sharpies in bag, to search for Saving Hamlet. Low and behold! It was right there, in the YA historical fiction section. I took a breath and asked an employee if I could sign them!
I am always nervous to ask this, but I’m getting used to it! It was thrilling. I also have a tradition of trying to buy a book on the craft of writing at The Strand when I go, and this time, I got my own copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, which was long overdue!
The second super cool thing on day 3 was getting to hang out with Jack Rossiter-Munley, my co-host for Party Bard, our new Shakespearean, bard-tastic podcast. I got to meet his adorable cats, Emily and Roger, and then we watched an intriguing independent film of Hamlet, and recorded our first Surprise Party episode! You can listen to that here. It was an all around wonderful time. So many mind spiders. So many cats.
In between these big events, I got to catch up with Doug, who I’ve been friends with since we both worked at an arts summer camp together in high school and college. Getting to spend extra time with him was such a gift! Look for Doug’s name dropped in my summer camp book, Nothing Happened. 😉
So those were all the wonderful things! There were not as wonderful things, too. Worrying about allergic reactions, losing my deodorant* and having to replace it (twice), taking my inhaler a lot because running around in a big city is hard on my lungs, and accidentally flinging my loose leaf tea ball onto train tracks. And losing my train ticket. But overall, these were small issues in an otherwise fabulous trip, and I wouldn’t trade in any of it. NYC, you’re growing on me.
*I found one of my sticks of deodorant, so now I have an extra. What’s to complain about, really? xD