Winter Institute

Winter Institute is amazing and what a joy it was to spend time with independent booksellers.  I was invited by my wonderful publisher, Scholastic (book fairs!  book clubs! Harry Potter! The Hunger Games!)  to join the party in Denver CO and talk about my first YA novel, The Secret Language of Sisters. My fellow authors were Sharon Robinson (great writer, daughter of Jackie, my mother's idol) and Derek Anderson (amazing artist and writer of picture books) and we celebrated the fact that writing for children (in my case teenagers) is a very special calling.  Their warmth and welcome into this new world for me made me feel so lucky.  On top of that, we were taken care of, introduced, and nurtured by Scholastic's inimitable Bess Braswell and Jennifer Abbots.

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Talking Bruce Springsteen

Today at 4 pm I'll be the Guest DJ on SiriusXM's E Street Radio, talking about Bruce Springsteen and playing ten of my favorite songs of his. I am inspired by Bruce's music.  From the beginning I was captivated by his passion for storytelling, the way he focuses in on the places and people he loves most, the issues he cares about, the underdog and the downtrodden, people's stories that otherwise might not be heard.  He's been a voice for migrants, the deeply human story of immigration, and that touches me so much.  I love his song Matamoros Banks, which he introduces with these words:

"Each year many die crossing the deserts, mountains, and rivers of our southern border in search of a better life. Here I follow the journey backwards, from the body at the river bottom, to the man walking across the desert towards the banks of the Rio Grande."

There is so much to say, and I make a start during my hour on E Street.  I hope you'll join me.

the songs:

~matamoros banks live from devils and dust tour, along with bruce's psa about immigration.

~land of hopes and dreams (from live in nyc)

~ghost of tom joad (acoustic)

~my city of ruins from the concert for new york city after 9/11

~born to run

~incident on 57th st from the june 22 2000 show including bruce's psa for new york cares.

~youngstown

~badlands from the october 1, 2004 vfc concert in philadelphia

~if i should fall behind (live in nyc)

~the river, if enough time the live version with bruce's intro from live/75-85

#TheLemonOrchard Suggested Social Media

luanne_rice_lemon_orchard_social To promote to other book clubs:

  • Our book club is reading #TheLemonOrchard by @luannerice. Join us & share your thoughts! bit.ly/lemonCover
  • Are other book clubs out there reading #TheLemonOrchard by @luannerice? What do you think so far? bit.ly/lemonCover
  • Our book club’s favorite character in #TheLemonOrchard is XXX. What about you? @luannerice
  • Use #TheLemonOrchard Book Club Kit and you won’t be hosting your average book club bit.ly/lemonkit @luannerice
  • A conversation with author @luannerice, some discussion questions, and of course, cocktail recipes #TheLemonOrchard bit.ly/lemonkit

To promote to members of a book club currently reading The Lemon Orchard:

  • Stay hydrated this summer! Cocktail recipes inspired by Malibu’s Santa Monica Mountains bit.ly/lemonkit #TheLemonOrchard
  • What goes great with #TheLemonOrchard – a cocktail, of course bit.ly/lemonkit via @luannerice bit.ly/lemonCover
  • Was there a real-life John Riley? Read a conversation with @luannerice bit.ly/lemonkit #TheLemonOrchard
  • Did @luannerice spend much time along the Mexico-US border while researching #TheLemonOrchard? bit.ly/lemonkit
  • What actor(s) from Hollywood’s Golden Era did @luannerice base Lion Cushing on? bit.ly/lemonkit #TheLemonOrchard

Discussion questions, Twitter-ized:

  • Is staying in a marriage for the sake of children ever a good idea? #TheLemonOrchard bit.ly/lemonCover
  • How do Lion’s feelings for Graciela change the way you feel about him? #TheLemonOrchard
  • Is there an object you cherish because it belonged to a lost loved one? #TheLemonOrchard
  • How might Roberto & Julia’s story have turned out if Jack hadn’t become involved? #TheLemonOrchard
  • #TheLemonOrchard ends on an ambiguous note. Do you think Roberto & Julia’s story ends there, too? bit.ly/lemonCover
  • America is a land of immigrants. Did Roberto’s experience resonate with your family’s journey to America? #TheLemonOrchard
  • Do you think that most would-be immigrants have a clear picture of what life in the US is really like? #TheLemonOrchard

MOTHERHOOD OUT LOUD in the Berkshires

IMG_3983 Please come see MOTHERHOOD OUT LOUD in the Berkshires to benefit the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers and WAM Theatre. I will be doing a talkback after the Friday 3/28 performance and would love to see you there. Jayne Atkinson will direct, and Jane Kaczmarek and Michael Gill (currently appearing as the president on "House of Cards") will star. Very excited and happy to see Jane again--she performed my monologue at the Geffen Playhouse in LA. My friend Susan Rose Lafer is producer; Joan Stein also produced, and I still miss her every day. MOTHERHOOD OUT LOUD continues to be a wild, wonderful ride. You can get tickets here.

EVERY MOTHER COUNTS Book Club Pick

Here is a note from Elizabeth Benedict: PageLines- what-my-mother-gave-me.jpg"I'm thrilled that Christy Turlington's fabulous organization EVERY MOTHER COUNTS chose WHAT MY MOTHER GAVE ME as its book club pick this week. Turlington writes about her favorite gift from her mother: 'While I am just grateful to still have my mother in my life, the gifts she gave me that mattered most were the ones she gave herself: Mothering my sisters and me, traveling the world and continuing her education. The fact that she was born in El Salvador provided me with an early connection to a larger world than the one I would have known otherwise...'  Shout out to Judith Hillman Paterson, Luanne Rice, Elinor Lipman, Caroline Leavitt, Karen Karbo, and all the other wonderful contributors to the anthology."

Liz edited and wrote for WHAT MY MOTHER GAVE ME.  My essay is Midnight Typing, about how my mother gave me the gift of...perhaps you'll read it.

I am touched by Christy Turlington's words about her favorite gifts from her mother, and about the important work she is doing. According to a story in The New York Times, the goal of her organization is to help "people understand that pregnancy and childbirth, even though it’s a joyous experience for so many women, really is a risky endeavor for millions of other women,” according to Erin Thornton, executive director, who happens to be expecting right now herself. “To this day, hundreds of thousands of women will die in pregnancy and childbirth, but 90 percent of those could be prevented just with basic, simple access to health care.”

 

Review of The Lemon Orchard

Thank you to Kris Phillips for this lovely review.  I'm lucky to have such a supportive reader. Kris Phillips - June 2013 I’ve been a huge fan of Luanne Rice’s novels for many years now and was thrilled when I won the first copy of her novel, The Lemon Orchard, in a contest on her Facebook page. I quickly devoured the wonderful book and was honored when Luanne asked me to review it for her blog. While Cloud Nine will always hold a special place in my heart as my favorite of her novels, The Lemon Orchard is now a close second. I love that Luanne believes in angels, in second chances, in the power of the human spirit, in true love and in the importance of family above all else – and she will make you a believer, too! Julia and Roberto’s story touched my heart so much; I didn’t want to put it down. As a mother to a little girl, my heart broke for them both for the loss of their daughters. The bond – the love – between these two lead characters is palpable. And the story of how Roberto and his young daughter, Rosa, try to cross the border into the United States from Mexico was so heart wrenching, I actually dreamt about it and woke up exhausted, my legs aching, my throat parched. No book has ever affected me like that! I’ve always had a strong opinion about illegal immigrants, but Luanne’s story changed my heart. I could not imagine what Roberto, Rosa and the others went through to try to make it into this country and a better life. Julia and Roberto not only find love with one another, but help to heal each other’s broken hearts over their mutual losses. While this book did leave me wanting more (don’t expect a “happily ever after” ending), it was a satisfying ending that touched my heart and gave me hope. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves stories about the resiliency of the human spirit. It will not disappoint! Here’s hoping that Luanne is already working on a sequel.

By Kris Phillips

Excerpt From The Lemon Orchard

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Roberto

September 2012 Before dawn, the air smelled of lemons. Roberto slept in the small cabin in the grove in the Santa Monica Mountains, salt wind off the Pacific Ocean sweetening the scent of bitter fruit and filling his dreams with memories of home. He was back in Mexico before he’d come to the United States in search of goodness  for his family, in another huerto  de limones,  the lemon orchard buzzing with bees and  the voices of workers talking,  Rosa  playing  with  her doll Maria. Maria had sheer angel wings and Roberto’s grandmother had whispered to Rosa that she had magic powers and could fly.

Rosa wore her favorite dress, white with pink flowers, sewn by his grandmother. Roberto stood high on the ladder, taller in the dream than any real one would reach. From here he could see over the treetops, his gaze sweeping the valley toward Popocatépetl and iztaccíhuatl, the two snow-covered volcanic peaks to the west. His grandmother had told him the legend, that the mountains were lovers, the boy shielding the girl, and tall on his ladder Roberto felt stronger than anyone, and he heard his daughter talking to her doll. In dream magic, his basket spilling over with lemons, he slid down the tree and lifted Rosa into his arms.  She was five, with laughing brown eyes and cascades of dark curls, and she slung her skinny arm around his neck and pressed her face into his shoulder. In the dream he was wise and knew there was no better life, no greater  goodness, than  what  they already  had.  He held her and promised nothing bad would ever happen to her, and if he could have slept forever those words would be true. Sleep prolonged the vision, his eyes shut tight against the dawn light, and the scent of limones  enhanced the hallucination that  Rosa was with him still and always. When he woke up, he didn’t waste time trying to hold on to the feelings. They tore away from him violently and were gone. His day started fast. He lived twenty-five miles east, in Boyle Heights, but sometimes stayed in the orchard during fire season and when there was extra work to be done. He led a crew of three, with extra men hired from the Malibu Community Labor Exchange or the parking lot at the Woodland Hills Home Depot when necessary. They came to the property at 8 a.m.

The Riley family lived in a big Spanish colonial–style house, with arched windows and a red tile roof, just up the ridgeline from Roberto’s cabin. They had occupied this land in western Malibu’s Santa Monica Mountains since the mid-1900s. While other families had torn up old, less profitable orchards and planted vineyards, the Rileys remained true to their family tradition of raising citrus. Roberto respected their loyalty to their ancestors and the land. The grove took  up forty acres, one hundred twenty-year-old trees per acre, planted in straight lines on the south-facing hillside, in the same furrows where older trees had once stood. Twenty years ago the Santa Ana winds had sparked fires that burned the whole orchard, sparing  Casa Riley but engulfing neighboring properties on both  sides. Close to the house and large tiled swimming pool were rock outcroppings and three-hundred-year-old live oaks— their trunks eight feet in diameter—still scorched black from that fire. Fire was mystical, and although it had swept through Malibu in subsequent years, the Rileys’ property had been spared.

Right now the breeze blew cool off the Pacific, but Roberto knew it could shift at any time. Summer had ended, and now the desert winds would start:  the Santa Anas, roaring through the mountain passes, heating up as they sank from higher elevations down to the coast, and any flash, even from a power  tool,  could ignite the canyon.  It had been dry for two months straight. He walked to the barn, where the control panel was located, and turned on the sprinklers. The water sprayed up, catching rainbows as the sun crested the eastern mountains. it hissed,  soft and  constant, and  Roberto couldn’t help thinking of the sound as money draining away. Water was delivered to the orchard via canal, and was expensive.  The Rileys had told him many times that the important thing was the health of the trees and lemons, and to protect the land from fire.

He had something even more important to do before his coworkers arrived: make the coastal path more secure. He grabbed a sledgehammer and cut through the grove to the cliff edge. The summer-dry hillsides sloped past the sparkling pool, down in a widening V to the Pacific Ocean. Occasionally hikers crossed Riley land to connect with the Backbone Trail and other hikes in the mountain range. Years back someone had installed stanchions and a chain: a rudimentary fence to remind people the drop was steep, five hundred feet down to the canyon floor.

He tested the posts and found some loosened. Mudslides and temblers made the land unstable. He wished she would stay off this trail entirely, walk the dog through the orchard, where he could better keep an eye on them, or at least use the paths on the inland side of the property. But she seemed to love the ocean.  He’d seen her pass this way both mornings since she’d arrived, stopping to stare out to sea while the dog rustled through the chaparral and coastal sage. He tapped the first post to set his aim, then swung the sledge- hammer overhead, metal connecting with metal with a loud gong. He felt the shock of the impact in the bones of his wrists and shoulders. Moving down the row of stanchions, he drove each one a few inches deeper into the ground until they were solidly embedded. The wind was blowing toward the house. He hoped the sound wouldn’t bother her, but he figured it wouldn’t. She rose early, like him.

 

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice. Copyright © 2013 by Luanne Rice

Music from THE LEMON ORCHARD

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While writing THE LEMON ORCHARD I listened to music that inspired me.  These are songs of love, travel, connection, family, and crossing borders.  Because the music meant so much to me and the characters I was creating, I wove the songs into the novel.  They are songs of America, Mexico, and Ireland, by artists I have loved forever and others that were new to me.

I was introduced to some of the music by the man who inspired the character of Roberto.  He comes from a small town outside Puebla, Mexico, and now he lives in East LA. The story between Roberto and Julia is passionate, and the music is the soundtrack to their love.

Because I wanted you to hear the songs, I put them together in a Spotify playlist.  My own musical taste goes like this: if the song makes me feel something, goes into my heart, I'm there.  I react to music with emotion--it makes me feel, remember, ache.  Because this playlist says a lot about the novel, and because I wanted it to express my family's Irish roots and "Roberto's" Mexican roots, and because I wanted to include songs about immigration--ones I might not have heard before--I asked my friends Mark Lonergan and Becky Murray for suggestions.

Music and friendship are deeply linked.  I've included two songs by my friend Garland Jeffreys.  Becky and Mark both gave me excellent ideas--Mark, also my guitar teacher, introduced me to Tim O'Brien's music a while back--we went to see him perform at NYC's The Cutting Room back when it was in Chelsea and owned by Chris Noth.  I think it's still owned by Chris Noth. Becky and her husband Ed suggested songs by Lady Gaga and Billy Walker.  Those artists are on the playlist along with Bruce Springsteen, Lila Downs, Ry Cooder, Los Tigres Del Norte, Tom Morello, Alison Moorer, Juan Gabriel, The Chieftains, Lola Beltrán, Luis Miguel, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and others.

Thanks to Winnie De Moya of Viking Penguin for posting my Spotify playlist to my Pinterest The Lemon Orchard board.

Maya, we love you...

IMG_3752For so long we were four.  As someone who knows us well has said, I was the fourth cat.  I think that is true.  When you spend so much time with beings, and  you are together most of the time, your species merge.  I do know that I learned to speak their language. Cats are kindreds in the sense you never have to be your "best" (whatever that is) with them, and they meet  you where you are on any given day, in any given mood.  That has been true of my girls.  They have sat on my desk through book after book, giving me love, being the best friends and companions.

maya3Maya died on April 5.  I called her Mae Mae for a long time, but when we moved to California she wanted to be called Maya and so that's what we called her.  She was the sweetest, most loving kitty.  I think back to when she was a kitten, those white whiskers and her bright green eyes, and the way she wanted to play and play.

Sickness never took the play out of her.  She loved to take walks--back home in New York we would walk down the hallway of our apartment building, nothing much to see, but just being together as we strolled from one end of the hall to the other.  She had the cutest habit of stopping, looking up to make sure I was following, taking a few more steps, glancing up again, continuing on.  maya

 

 

 

maya walkIn California I'd sometimes take her outside.  I'm a believer in indoor kitties--too many dangers out in the world, and I am the biggest worrier around.  I'd be afraid of coyotes, cars, hawks...but by the time we reached Malibu she had a diagnosis of lymphoma--the same disease that took Maggie and, decades ago, each of my parents--and I knew she didn't have long.

So one day when she stood at the screen door smelling the jasmine and salt scented air, I opened it up and let her out.  I followed close by, never let her more than a few feet away.  I had done the same for Maggie when, a year ago, she began to die.

maya blueMaya, like Maggie, loved those hours in the garden.  We would sit together on the blue thing, and I can only imagine how good the warm sun felt on her black fur.  Her hair had started falling out in patches--she wasn't having chemo so it couldn't have been from that, but she seemed to love the breeze and the fresh air.  Heading back into the house she would stop on the stone path, glance back just the way she did in our Chelsea hallway walks, make sure I was right there, and keep going toward the house. 

She died in my arms just past noon on April 5.

Each cat has her own story.  Maggie was born on a sprawling farm of red barns and mountain laurel-covered hillsides in Old Lyme CT.  Her mother was killed by foxes when Maggie was just days old, and this tiny kitten was taken into a stone wall and fed by a squirrel mother for just a few days--enough to keep her alive.  A friend with super powers captured tiny Maggie--she was swift as a bird--and I fed her on a bottle, and she thought I was her mother, and we became each other's family.

hello maggieMaggie was a wild kitty and I was a wild woman.  This is true.  My mother's life was ending, her long illness concluding, and my way of raging against the dying of the light was to behave as recklessly as possible.

maggie among sweatersMaggie was tiny and fast as a shooting star.  She would hide in the most unlikely places.  Once she disappeared so totally I thought she was gone forever, but then she jumped down the stone chimney into the fireplace and shook the soot off her fur--she had been hiding on the smoke shelf.  Often I would climb into bed and find her under the covers--flattened and invisible to everyone but me.

mae mae copyMaya--"Mae Mae"--came into our lives when Maggie was one.  She was also a rescue cat.  I got her from Dr. Kathy Clarke, a vet in Old Lyme.  Maya was the daughter of a brave cat named Cruella for her black and white streaks.  One night when someone left the d00rs open, Cruella patrolled the kennels to keep the dogs at bay, away from her kittens.  One of her kittens was Maya, and she inherited her mother's ferocity.

maisie bookMaisie joined us a few years later.  Also a rescue cat, the only survivor of a family who died of diptheria, Maisie is skittish and fears losing everyone and everything.  She needs special attention.  Traveling upsets her--to put it so mildly.  All three were born in Old Lyme CT, raised in New York City, and traveled with me to California when, after lifetimes on the east coast and with little warning to anyone including myself, we just picked up and moved west.

I haven't written about Maya's death--or Maggie's--until now because what is there to say except that they were the dearest girls and I loved them and to say I miss them is the understatement of my lifetime?  They are together in the garden now.  Maisie and I are alone, and we are trying.  It is not easy.  For so long we were four, and now we were two.  We feel the loss.  Yes, we do.

Right now Maisie and I are forming a new relationship.  Because she was the third, the baby, she has never been the only kitty--the favorite kitty.  And for the first time in her life she is both.

maisie on ol's birthday