Gros Bisous from France! (And RED GLASS on Oprah!)

Well, I'm not actually IN France anymore-- just got back a few days ago. This blog post is way, way overdue-- forgive me, dear friends and family and readers.

Okay, where to begin? First, if you weren't aware where I was last month, I'll fill you in: I was in southern France, in a town called Aix-en-Provence for a month doing research my next novel (the next one I'm writing, that is, not the next one to be published- the next ones to be published are The Indigo Notebook in 2009 and Star in the Forest in 2010. This one is a sequel to The Indigo Notebook, its title TBD-- I'm guessing it will be out in late 2010.)

So, you ask suspiciously, what kind of research exactly?

The best kind, the kind that involves sitting in outdoor cafes and jotting down notes in a little notebook,

listening to dazzling musicians in the streets (this is the group Gettabang, and some others were Samenakoa and Pense-Bete-- check them out!)

island-hopping by ferry off the coast of Marseille,

climbing around on ancient Celto-Liguric ruins,

following narrow labyrinth roads lined with buildings half a millenia old,

discovering little ancient courtyards

and fountains tucked in here and there,

walking down the street to the morning fruit and veggie market every day and getting these cute mini-melons

and lots of lavender honey for my tea

passing through the flower market near my apartment,

noticing the strange old faces carved over doors (the pins on his head are to keep pigeons from pooping on it, I discovered),

thinking about mysterious things-- like this very old lady who sat by a second floor window watching the goings-ons in the Place de la Mairie all day,

wandering around the giant Saturday morning market, lingering in the flea market section

meeting captivating people-- a lovely young Romanian dancer who speaks a zillion languages,

an artist-craftsman from Spain with an enchanting imagination and eye for the mysterious , a musician from Marseille who speaks perfect English with a rural mid-western twang from his exchange abroad year in Iowa (in response to my question about the most exciting thing that happened to him in Iowa, he replied, getting drunk in a cow pasture and hiding from an angry rancher wielding a gun. TP-ing houses was a close second.)

I lived in Aix for one year fifteen years ago my junior year in college. I stayed with a wonderful, warm family (who I spent time with again on this trip). Even then, I felt the town was brimming over with mysteries and stories that I wanted to tell. At the time, I wrote some stories set there, and now, many years later, I feel ready to write the book I've always wanted to write. So on this trip, I was revisiting places that fascinated me years ago, and discovering some new places, and soaking up ideas and floating back into the atmosphere of the place.

I love the town-- its zillions of fountains from underground springs-- it seems like every time you turn a corner, there's another ancient fountain. And you can actually drink from most of them, too-- people are always taking sips from them or washing their faces or dunking their feet in there-- I love that the fountains are so all-around useful in addition to being gorgeous. I love the sound of water tumbling into water-- it's so relaxing and mesmerizing. I spent a lot of time sitting by fountains and writing.

My favorite fountain was kind of hidden at the intersection of three narrow roads-- pigeons particularly loved this one, as did my son. It was very nook-ish. It's just next to the ivy-covered wall at the end of the street.

I rented out a cute little apartment on the fourth floor of a 17th century building... luckily, the fresh-baked baguettes and tartes aux fruits and pain au chocolat and quiches on every block provided me with energy to carry my 16 month old son up and down and up and down those stairs. My mom helped out a lot by taking care of Baby, giving me a few hours in the morning and in the afternoon to wander around on my vague research missions.

So you're probably wondering about this Oprah thing I casually dropped into this post heading... well, it's not on Oprah's couch exactly, but on her website... In the words of my lovely friend Lauren Myracle: "Holy Fish Cakes-- You've been OPRAH-FIED!!!" And indeed, amazingly, RED GLASS was chosen for Oprah's Kids' Reading List. Although the chance of me ending up on her couch is beyond miniscule, this is still exciting. Your average Joe has no idea what ALA BBYA means or what the heck Kirkus or Booklist are, much less what a starred review by them means... but OPRAH!! As one member of my writing group put it, "Oprah's like, more important than the president!" So, I have to admit a certain giddiness at this news!

Okay, thanks for reading all this! Savor summer!