Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Two at the Most: The Manhattan Cocktail Classic

Yes, I'm taking over Steve's column for the moment, though I’m not sure I can capture all the excitement of our recent trip to New York with the specific purpose of attending the events of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic in one blog post, written after being annoyingly sick [not from drinking!] and while trying to pack for two weeks away teaching at Converse in the low-res MFA program…but, I shall try!

First, kudos to husband Steve for becoming aware of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic (MCC) in the first place.  The event—a long and important boozy party in various venues through New York—is in its fourth year, and based on what we heard from other participants, is only getting better and boozier.

Second, by “booze” and “cocktails,” I mean the artful kind.  People who attend this thing are generally incredibly knowledgeable about, say, various gins distilled in Brooklyn, pre-Prohibition cocktails, what composes a classic rum punch, and so on. People were not here to “get wasted.”  In fact, I didn’t see any drunk people or anyone behaving badly.  The organizers stress that this is a classy event, and it definitely was.  (This is not to say that we didn’t get more than enough to drink.)

Our first event took us to the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn…hipsters in their own environment!  Looked like a fun place to live, for sure, despite the drizzly gray, people were snappily dressed, filled with shared camaraderie, and I vaguely felt as though I were in a set for a commercial for a product I’m too old to buy...but, honestly, in a good way, kind of like seeing literary Paris in the 1920’s.  We had signed up for “Brooklyn State of Mind: Believe the Hype” at the fabulous Huckleberry Bar, and the event was designed to showcase local Brooklyn liquors/distillers and to teach us how to mix our own drinks, from recipes specifically crafted by the bartending staff for the featured alcohol.  It’s always a good sign when you walk into a room and someone hands you an excellent gin and tonic (made with Dorothy Parker gin).  We divided into small groups and went to various stations to learn about the liquors we were using and to mix up our drinks.  (SIX stations, I might note, plus the original gin and tonic…clearly I would have to scale back!  On the other hand, maybe I could just eat more of the grilled burgers out on the charming patio and scarf down the excellent, mustardy, booze-sopping potato salad.)

Our first drink involved Sorel Hibiscus liqueur made by Jack From Brooklyn, based on his Caribbean family’s recipe.  It was fun to talk to Jack himself, and hear his path from finance guy to liquor mogul…and even more fun to taste the spicy Sorel.  I was reminded of Thanksgiving pie immediately—clove-nutmeg-ginger—and my chest got warm.  This stuff was unlike anything else I’ve had, and I think that Steve ordered me a bottle for my upcoming birthday, which I’m afraid I’ll slurp up.  [Note:  Here’s the best source Steve has found for finding small-batch liquor: Drink Up NY at http://www.drinkupny.com/]  We mixed a Kumbayah Cooler with our Sorel (yes, reminiscent of sitting around a campfire), and the process is so easy when all the prep work is done!  Such perfectly thin apple slices for garnish!  And I learned an important bar tip:  always pour to the VERY top of the jigger.  “Don’t be afraid,” advised the Huckleberry bartender who was probably going crazy watching my poor technique but was too polite to say so.  (Ingredients: 1.5 oz Sorel, 1/5 oz Apple Brandy, .75 oz smoked maple syrup, 1 oz lemon juice; served in a Collins glass over ice.)

We moved to our next station, the Octopussy.  Reading ahead, I realized I truly would have to pace myself, since this drink contained a mix of gin and vodka! Six drinks like that would really put me under the table, if not underground.  This drink featured the crisp and complicated Brooklyn Gin, made with fresh citrus peels, and it was here that I learned another important tip:  “Shake until you hear the ice crack.”  No wonder craft cocktail bartenders have such beautifully sculpted arms!  Another fabulous drink…and definitely time to get some food in the stomach!  (2 oz Brooklyn Gin, 1 oz vodka, .5 oz Coccchi Americano, up with a lemon twist)

Clearly I was not going to make it through six drinks, so we had to pick and choose, which, now, in the light of a different day, makes me ache with regret.  Alas…life is hard for everyone.  So we went to the Believe the Hype station and learned about Due North Rum, since I don’t know much about rum.  Rum = yum, especially this darkly rich, oak-aged version from Red Hook, Brooklyn. (2 oz. Due North Rum, .75 oz fino sherry, .5 oz CioCiaro Amaro, .5 oz apricot liqueur, strained into a coupe)  Apricot liqueur might scare you, but this was NOT a syrupy-sweet drink in the least.

I’m not a big tequila/mezcal person usually, but why not?  It was right next to the Due North Rum and there was no line.  So…now I’m a big fan of El Buho Mezcal, which is smoky, reminding me of single malt scotch.  Here, when mixing “The Owls Are Not What They Seem” (named for beautiful owl on the mescal bottle), I learned how to “express” the grapefruit peel so the oil lightly sprays aromatically across the surface of the drink.  Okay, I tried to learn, since in the process of pinching and “expressing,” I broke my peel in half.  Steve, who has worked hard on his peel skills, got an admiring “great job” from the bartender.  Another fabulous drink!  (1/5 oz El Buho Mezcal, .5 oz tequila, .25 oz Fino Sherry, 1 oz grapefruit juice, .25 oz maple syrup, five fresh tarragon leaves; strained into a martini glass with a grapefruit peel twist)  Oh, and let the record show that I HATE grapefruit, and yet this was an amazing drink!

I can only imagine what delicious drinks we missed by not making it to the other two stations—featuring No. 4 Vodka and Owney’s Rum—but we’d been at the Huckleberry Bar since one o’clock, and the regular crowd was filtering in, and we were perfectly sated, ready for our subway ride back to Manhattan…we spontaneously decided to stop in the East Village for Polish food at Little Poland and some browsing at the Strand.  (Got a signed Jay McInerny ARC of Brightness Falls from the Rare Books Room, and surely an oversight, a signed Grace Paley book for only five bucks off the regular shelves!)  And…responsible drinking meant no hangover the next day and we were ready for our next adventure:

“100 Years of Grand Central Cocktails: Behind the Bar at the Campbell Apartment.”  There’s a private apartment in Grand Central Terminal (we learned that’s the correct name, not Grand Central Station) that’s now open as a gorgeous cocktail lounge.  Walking in, you feel as though you’re back in the 1920s or so, when this was a private office (complete with pipe organ!): Persian rugs, marble fireplace, dim lighting…just the perfect place to relax, away from the hustle and bustle of commuters and tourists.  Again, we walked in and were handed a drink:  rum punch!  Father and son Jack and Jonathan (hmm…why didn’t I write down their last names? The problem with combining note-taking and cocktail drinking!) gave us a fascinating rundown of the history of cocktails, including sharing with us some first edition cocktail recipe books (the first drinks book was published in 1827 by Oxford University Press, composed of recipes for rum punches given to visiting clergy at Oxford!, and the first true cocktail book was written by American Jerry Thomas in 1862, the Bon Vivant’s Guide….yes, cocktails were invented by Americans!).

Lots of excellent passed hors d’oeuvres—including some smoked salmon and lobster-macaroni and cheese bites!—accompanied the history lesson, which quickly became taste-buds-on, as we were treated to an expertly mixed Rob Roy and a fabulously fresh Gin Daisy.  Fun fact:  Nascar arose from Prohibition!  Another fun fact:  It’s easy to make one’s own grenadine by mixing equal parts POM pomegranate juice and super-fine sugar, as with a simple syrup.  One last fun fact (out of many more to choose from):  The Campbell Apartment was used in the 1970s and 80s as a holding cell for the New York Police…peek in there next time you’re in New York, and your mouth will drop open in astonishment to think of it. (Here are some photos.)

As non-industry specialists, we simply signed up for a series of events, but the MCC is geared to hospitality and industry workers—distillers, media, bartenders, restaurateurs, etc—and there was a trade show going on at the MCC conference hotel.  I find there are two ways to get into a place you’re not supposed to be but want to be:  begging or sweeping by security as if you belong.  I generally prefer the first approach, and THANK YOU so much to the kind woman with the clipboard who agreed to let us into the industry tasting room for an hour.  If I have any say, you have a star in heaven!

The room was set up as any sort of convention with tables and vendors…but instead of getting dumb magnets while listening to a pitch about window cleaning solvents, we got tastes of amazing and innovative alcohol, while listening to fascinating stories about shifting a vineyard from dessert wines to vermouth or collecting old and classic bottles of booze.  It was a crazy-giddy whirl of mouth excellence…maybe like being I mmersed inside a glass of champagne!  So I can’t capture everything, but here are a few memorable tidbits and products to note:

--Vya, produced by Quady in California. Steve had bought some of this superb sweet vermouth in DC, and here we tried it in a 50:50 Manhattan that led me to gush to the other people roaming the room, “You MUST try this drink!” (1.5 oz Vya Sweet vermouth, 1/5 oz rye [they used Overholt], 4 dashes Regan’s Number 6 orange bitters).

--Owney’s Original Rum (which we had missed at the Brooklyn event), produced by a woman-owned company, The Noble Experiment, and the best classic daiquiri I’ve ever had…again, I was gushing to people around me and I even had to jump in when some idiot walked up and said, “Rum in Brooklyn? Really?”  I said what the owner couldn’t possibly have said but surely wanted to:  “Why don’t you try this amazing drink before you let loose with that attitude?” (Okay, maybe I was a little softer in reality, but not much.)

--Zwack, a Hungarian liqueur, of which Joseph II, Emperor of Austria said, “This is unique!” and which I fully concur:  40 secret herbs and spices from a secret family recipe will do that.  At this point, I had two drinks in my hand, unable to give up either.

Again, no hangover—though I was thinking that cocktail garnishes probably don’t constitute a full serving of fruit and that I might be suffering from malnourishment—and we went to our final event on Monday night, up in Harlem at the 67 Orange Street bar.  Honestly, this was the least satisfying of the events, but we still managed to have fun, and also honestly, I had one of the most transcendent drinks of my life here, a drink was totally worth the allergic reaction triggered by the fresh pineapple juice.  So that’s not to be sneezed at.  The set-up was a competition between three bartenders to create a drink based on their culture/heritage.  There was a panel of judges, but the audience would taste and vote as well.  Sounds good, but the pacing dragged, we couldn’t see, the event was totally over-crowded and claustrophobic, and while the judges got full drinks, we got tiny shotglass tastes (while being badgered to order drinks and food for pay…even though we had already purchased not-cheap tickets).  Enough whining—we met some like-minded women and had fun chatting with them in the (rare!) seats we snagged in the corner and made the best of it.  (It was the first event I saw people bail early.)

The first guy was a bartender from Long Island who apparently thought he was working with a TGI Friday’s crowd, mixing up a gooey-sweet concoction that one of our new friends noted, “I guess that’s the culture he’s going for, getting young girls drunk fast.”  The second guy was from Jamaica and produced an excellent, spritely variation on a classic daiquiri.  And the last guy produced some complicated and delicious slightly mapley-drink that harkened to his youth in New Hampshire.  Then there was a face-off between the Jamaican guy and the New Hampshire guy…who produced the transcendent drink.  It was complex with about a thousand notes, toasty without feeling overly wintery, spicy…like nothing else I’ve had.  Clearly, he won.

As he was walking past our table, I congratulated him and asked him what was in the drink (since we couldn’t really see or hear) and he mentioned pineapple juice…which I’m allergic to.  I tend to be very careful about tropical fruit and there was no way I had sensed pineapple in there…that’s how incredible this drink was.  I assured him the drink was worth the possible hives and upcoming diet of Benadryl and then one of women asked where he bartended, and he said, “I’m the bar-back here.”  I said, “You’re the BAR-BACK?!?!” and the woman said, “Not for long, I’m guessing. You definitely should go out on your own,” and he was still sweet enough and young enough to be startled and pleased by our reaction.

And so a star is born!

And so our foray into Manhattan Cocktail Classic ended.  It was a rigorous trip—it was!—but I’m so happy we went: small compensation for Steve, who handled daily life back home while I was off in Nebraska.  And fun to see that the world of cocktails is filled with as many obsessive lunatics as the world of food…and that a marriage of two obsessive lunatics can be rich and happy indeed!

***Check out this graphic review of the Huckleberry Bar event…yes, that’s me and Steve IN the cartoon!

***If you’re interested in learning more about the Manhattan Cocktail Classic and/or attending in the future, I suggest you sign up for the email list at http://www.manhattancocktailclassic.com/.  You’ll get pre-registration information, which is essential, as many events sell out in a matter of hours.

***And if you want to try any of the products mentioned, Steve recommends Drink Up NY: http://www.drinkupny.com/, if you don’t have a very good liquor store.  For local readers, Ace Beverage in DC was also mentioned by many of the distillers we spoke to.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Registration Open for My 6/18 Prompt Class

I'll be teaching another session of my prompt writing class in June at Politics & Prose. I'd love to see you there!  I promise low-stress and lots of fun!

Tuesday, June 18, 1-3:30 p.m.
Right Brain Writing: Guided Prompts
Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, DC

Explore your creative side at this afternoon of guided writing exercises designed to get your subconscious flowing.  No writing experience necessary!  This is a great class for beginners and also for those fiction writers and/or memoirists with more experience who might be stuck in their current projects, looking for a jolt of inspiration.  The goal is to have fun in a supportive, nurturing environment and to go home with several promising pieces to work on further.  Please bring lots of paper and pen/pencil or a fully charged computer.  We will be using as our inspiration work fromSpeed Enforced by Aircraft, a book of poetry by local author Richard Peabody. It will be helpful if you bring a copy to class.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nebraska Update #3 and Wrap-Up

So much to report on…so much food, so many words, never enough books, always train whistles cutting through the night, and lord knows how many church bells ringing from all corners of town! (Oh, and I finished my book, too...but more on that later.)

Let’s start with some food of note.  First, potato salad.  I know that potato salad is highly personal, so I won’t be offended if you think I’m crazy, but one strain of the potato salad family that I love is the “very creamy Midwestern potato salad,” usually made with Miracle Whip (which is called “salad dressing” out here).  This potato salad is sweet, and in the ideal world, slightly tart—with lots and lots of creamy stuff and definitely no weird additions like tarragon (which is a fine addition for other potato salads, but not the Midwestern kind).  Anyway, I discovered that the local Fareway grocery store does a pretty excellent version, which makes for a nice lunch.  Um, I mean a nice SIDE DISH at lunch.  Who would ever eat grocery store potato salad as an entrée?  (Or, well, for breakfast, as I did today.)

There’s an excellent Mexican restaurant here, called, I believe Tacos el Pueblito, but everyone knows it as “the pink place” because it’s painted a very bright, salmon pink.  (I overheard men at the Windmill Museum [see below] trying to direct an out-of-towner there for lunch, and none of them could remember the name and simply referred to it as “the pink place.”)  Anyway—you can’t miss it because it is that pink, and while everything is good, Thursday is notable for the chile rellenos special and Saturday is tamales day!  Both versions are good enough for my fussy, I-lived-in-Arizona palate.

Back to the deli counter at the Fareway…tear yourself away from the potato salad section, and check out the smoked pork chops.  I don’t know why these are so hard to find outside the Midwest, but smoked pork chops are incredible, and so easy to cook—just heat them lightly in a frying pan.  They taste like ham, except more so:  meatier, choppier.  Oh, yum.  And the breakfast sausages were also excellent—I was pleased that I could buy only four (so worried about my heart health, obviously!) and that the purchase set me back seventy cents.

I went to the lovely Lewis & Clark Missouri River Visitors Center where I learned about the amazing journey up the Missouri River.  Impossible to believe that only one member of the party died (appendicitis).  And lovely trails around the grounds which were called “nature walks,” which, honestly, left me panting and breathless.  Nebraskans are hardy people, obviously, if these are the types of walks out-of-shape museum-goers like myself are expected to manage.  All worth it, though, for a lovely bluff view overlooking the river and the hyper boy on the school trip who ran to inform me that they had found “a huge copperhead outside in the boat outside and someone chopped its head off,” not a word of which was true except that there is a replica boat outside.

In the more quirky vein of museum-going, I went to the River Country Nature Center, which is a museum based on the taxidermy collection of one man who lived to be 99 years, 9 months, and 9 days old.  It’s really a stunning array of animals, arranged thoughtfully, and I was able to appreciate the artistry in this field of work; upstairs were rows and stacks and piles of old nature magazines and taxidermy publications and books about nature and books about taxidermy that Joe Voges read and accumulated over his life (he took up taxidermy in 1933).  The wealth of that collective knowledge was evident in his work and the way he organized his life to devote it to taxidermy.  Really, it was a beautiful thing to contemplate.  Also of note:  100 different types of domestic chickens (stunningly varied and gorgeous…some would give peacocks a good run for the money; many are or are on the verge of extinction at this point), and for the people who like the creepy chills up their spines: an albino porcupine (there were other albino animals on display, but I thought this was the creepiest one) and a three-legged chick from 1934.  (I hope it died naturally, because wouldn’t you be just the least bit curious to see what happened when it grew up?  Plus, THREE drumsticks for fried chicken!)  I had a lovely conversation with the lady working the front desk who knew Joe, and then I bought some pretty rocks.

The Kregel Windmill Museum had its grand opening during the Arbor Day festivities, and I stopped by.  What a visually arresting place; machinery and belts and forges…everything left exactly as it was in the 1950s, just right there in place when the owner closed the shop and locked up in 1991, down to the papers on the desk.  It was interesting to gain a larger appreciation for windmills, which contrary to what you may be thinking, are NOT merely decorative ornaments outside fake “Dutch” restaurants, but are vital parts of farming life:  that’s how the water got pumped.

Hands down, the quirkiest place I went to was the Antiquarium Bookstore, 30 minutes away in another river town, Brownville, NE.  The Antiquarium is a bookstore that used to be in Omaha and moved in 2008 (and is still a work in progress); it’s housed in an old school, and books (and miscellaneous ephemera) are stacked and shelved and shelved and stacked in every square inch of the place.  Literally.  I cannot exaggerate how many books there are in this place.  The owner, Tom, is happy to give a tour and then let you roam around at will…I knew I could spend days happily engaged (plus, I may tend to get obsessive), so I tried to maintain my focus, but it was virtually impossible with so many temptations.  For example, when passing over on my way to the fiction section, I discovered an old movie scrapbook with signed photos of old-time stars, each individually for sale.  It seems I missed Clark Gable for $1.50, dang it!  I was tempted by Phyllis Diller and Fanny Brice (both pricier), but the books, the books!  Moving forward with the ruthlessness of a shark, I found in the rare book room a first edition of Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge that I decided to splurge on, and a SIGNED edition of Robert Lowell’s For the Union Dead that, alas, was too expensive, even given Tom’s willingness to bargain a bit.  There was a reasonably priced first edition of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, priced to sell due to its rather ratty condition, and I decided that ratty condition or not, it’s Hemingway!  (Plus, tucked inside the cover was a charming black & white photo of a family inside labeled, “Seasons Greetings from the Dempsters” from the late 40s/early 50s.)  And then—call me narcissistic, but I was delighted to find a paperback of my own Pears on a Willow Tree, which I signed to Tom, who carefully placed it on the tip-top of a teetering stack of books that he planned to read.

Oh, I could go on…the Arbor Day Parade that lasted an hour, with kids lined up with plastic bags to carry home all the candy they planned to score; Kim at the tasteful and impeccably organized Warehouse Antiques; snow on the ground in May; tremendous thunderstorms; the computer crash that knocked my poor computer out of business for two days but which resulted in my getting to know the guy at the computer repair shop who is an online foreign/cult film critic and who got to vote for the Oscars (a Hungarian film, The Turin Horse, was his Best Picture pick; “you must have known in your heart that it probably wouldn’t win,” I noted, and he nodded); the fun local radio station KNCY that keeps me informed on top 10 country music and soil conditions (planting is waaay behind; the soil is still too cold!); dollar beers at The Wheel on Thursdays and the regulars who greet me with a smile when I walk in…. 

I’m not sure if I’m ready to head home on Friday.  It seems as though there’s always one more thing to see or do or wonder about or eat (do you think those red Husker hot dogs at the Fareway deli counter might be incredible??), one more question to ask, one more place to go.  My immense and sincere thanks to the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts for making this all possible.

It’s like the way the whoo of the train whistle passes through the night and then lingers gently in the dark.  Nebraska City—all of it, all—will linger gently with me after I pass through.

Friday, May 3, 2013

What Willa Cather Thinks about Facebook, Nebraska as Setting, and Writing Novels

I went to the Nebraska City Public Library yesterday (the original building was built in 1896 and has been beautifully updated while maintaining the historical senseto keep the historic feeling intact). While they didn’t have the book I was looking for, in a room full of books, I found books I didn’t know I was looking for (always part of the joy of any library), including On Writing by Willa Cather, published in 1949. Being in Nebraska at the moment, and loving Willa Cather’s work (My Antonia is firmly on my favorite books bookshelf), of course I have to share a few tidbits:

This is from an essay called “My First Novels [There Were Two]”:

My first novel, Alexander’s Bridge, was very like what painters call a studio picture.  It was the result of meeting some interesting people in London.  Like most young writers, I though a book should be made out of “interesting material,” and at that time I found the new more exciting than the familiar….
            O Pioneers! interested me tremendously, because it had to do with a kind of country I loved, because it was about old neighbours, once very dear, whom I had almost forgotten in the hurry and excitement of growing up and finding out what the world was like and trying to get on in it. But I did not in the least expect that other people would see anything in a slow-moving story, without “action,” without “humour,” without a “hero”; a story concerned entirely with heavy farming people, with cornfields and pasture lands and pig yards,--set in Nebraska, of all places! As everyone knows, Nebraska is definitely déclassé as a literary background; its very name throws the delicately atuned critic into a clammy shiver of embarrassment.  Kansas is almost as unpromising.  Colorado, on the contrary, is considered quite possible.  Wyoming really has some class, of its own kind, like well-cut riding breeches.  But a New York critic voiced a very general opinion when he said: “I simply don’t care a damn what happens in Nebraska, no matter who writes about it.”….
As for what Willa Cather might say about Facebook, I think I can extrapolate from this piece titled “The Novel Demeuble”: 

“One does not wish the egg one eats for breakfast, or the morning paper, to be made the stuff of immortality.”
Okay, a bit more context!  She goes on to write:

            Every writer who is an artist knows that his “power of observation,” and his “power of description,” form but a low part of his equipment.  He must have both, to be sure; but he knows that the most trivial of writers often have a very good observation.  [Here comes a quotation from Merimee on Gogol that is probably brilliant and amazing, but it’s in French so I have no idea.]
            There is a popular superstition that “realism” asserts itself in the cataloguing of a great number of material objects, in explaining mechanical processes, the methods of operating manufactories and trades, and in minutely and unsparingly describing physical sensations. But is not realism, more than it is anything else, an attitude of mind on the part of the writer toward his material, a vague indication of the sympathy and candour with which he accepts, rather than chooses, his theme? Is the story of a banker who is unfaithful to his wife and who ruins himself by speculation in trying to gratify the caprices of his mistresses, at all reinforced by a masterly exposition of banking, our whole system of credits, the methods of the Stock Exchange? Of course if the story is thin, these things do reinforce it in a sense,--any amount of red meat thrown into the scale to make the beam dip. But are the banking system and the Stock Exchange worth being written about at all?  Have such things any proper place in imaginative art?
            [She argues against her own point, citing Balzac, and then comes to Tolstoy:]  …Tolstoy was almost as great a lover of material things as Balzac, almost as much interested in the way dishes were cooked, and people were dressed, and houses were furnished.  But there is this determining difference: the clothes, the dishes, the haunting interiors of those old Moscow houses, are always so much a part of the emotions of the people that they are perfectly synthesized; they seem to exist, not so much in the author’s mind, as in the emotional penumbra of the characters themselves. When it is fused like this, literalness ceases to be literalness—it is merely part of the experience.
            If a novel is a form of imaginative art, it cannot be at the same time a vivid and brilliant form of journalism.  Out of the teeming, gleaming stream of the present it must select the eternal material of art…. [She cites The Scarlet Letter as a quick example of a book that doesn’t discuss Puritan dress and interiors and yet:] As I remember it, in the twilight melancholy of that book, in its consistent mood, one can scarcely see the actual surroundings of the people; one feels them, rather, in the dark.
            Whatever is felt upon the page without being specifically named there—that, one might say, is created. It is the inexplicable presence of the thing not named, of the overtone divined by the ear by not heard by it, the verbal mood, the emotional aura of the fact or the thing or the deed, that gives high quality to the novel or the drama, as well as to poetry itself….
            The elder Dumas enunciated a great principle when he said that to make a drama, a man needed one passion, and four walls.”
Onward, to spend my day contemplating the four walls of my current story-in-progress....


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.