Blog, Travel

Chicago in review

I sit by the window on the airplane, watching the black, jagged shape of the wing against the darkening sky, in which indigo blends with a soft baby blue. The night is winning and soon, black will be the only hue on the horizon, punctuated by, perhaps, the twinkling of stars.

How perfect the sky and the world above and below.

Our trip to Chicago is at its end, and we’re on our way home. Like my son says, part of us is happy to be heading home but part of us is sad. Chicago was fun, while it lasted.

Some reflections:

I was astounded by the amount of sirens that bellowed throughout the city. Every night, as we wrapped up our day and got ready for bed, or as we lay in bed, waiting for sleep to take us, sires bounced through the windows. In the mornings, too, we’d head the sirens of ambulances and police. Every. Single. Day.

I absolutely loved that we walked everywhere. With the exception of the cab we took to and from the airport, and on Thursday, when it rained (oh yea, and when we went to the Navy Pier since it was a bit farther), we walked. It was wonderful! We’d wrap ourselves up, and start walking, passing others in the same treks. It was lovely seeing so many people, young and old, out and about.

I was equally astounded by the amount of smokers in the city.  Everywhere we walked and went, we’d pass by smokers. This got somewhat tiring, though, as we tried to maneuver the sidewalks to get the least possible exposure.

There is amazing history in Chicago, from politics to mafia to immigration.

The hotel in which we stayed, the Renaissance Marriott Blackstone, was perhaps one of the best hotels we’ve visited. The building, over a hundred years old, hosted presidents and mafia lords alike, and a few years ago was bought by Marriott and renovated. It was nicely centered in downtown, an easy 15-minute walk from the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum. The room was spacious, clean, and comfortable. But apart from the logistics of the hotel and room, the people that work at this Marriott made out stay that much more enjoyable. Rory and KoJo were kind and helpful and humored our son with high-fives, fake boxing, and jokes. They, along with Amanda in Concierge, also directed us towards what to see, where to eat, and how to get there. They remembered us, asked us about our day, and again, humored my little man. Every single employee we encountered in that hotel was beyond helpful. We will definitely be returning to that hotel.

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria was amazing. It’s a family owned restaurant on the 800 block of State Street that offers tasty food and a comfortable, quaint environment. Inside, family pictures decorate the walls of the restaurant. The first night we ate there, we had the Chicago-style deep dish pizza with cheese bread and a chocolate chip cookie for dessert. The second time, we ordered delivery (again, pizza and cheese bread), and it was just as delicious as the first. The third time we ate there, we had a salad, burger, and a beef sandwich. Just as good.

As soon as we land, my son says: I miss Chicago. And I agree, though it is nice to be home. Until the next time.

Blog, Writing

“Dual [writing] Citizenship” and other news

I’m in Chicago this week at the AWP 2012 Conference, and I have to say, I’m loving it (granted, it’s only my first day).

This is the first time I attend  such a conference (most of my conference experiences deal strictly with fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or children’s writing, in mostly workshop form. This, however, is a different experience. For starters, it’s no small event. There are over 10,000 (if I misremember the number, please excuse me) attendees, dozens of lectures/panels happening simultaneously across two hotels, and an impressive celebrity author lineup.

Additionally, though, this conference is great because it encompasses two of my loves: writing and teaching. The lectures/panels that are available broach a wide variety of subjects that pertain to writing and writing programs. The beauty of this combination is that, in one place, I can get tools or listen to conversations about the kids of writing that I do and the classes that I teach. It’s awesome.

The title of this post is in reference to one of the panels I attended today that was titled: “Dual Citizenship: Writing for Both Children and Adults.” It was fabulous and I think it really nailed a problem I’ve been encountering, a sort of snobbery if you will. We’ve been so conditioned to accept a reality of labels that we constantly feel the need to fit into one of those labels, as if writing could be contained in such a way. We don’t have to have just one writing identity (the poet, the fiction writer, the memoirist, the kid lit writer); it’s perfectly okay in embracing this multiple personality effect!

I know that when I get asked the pivotal question,”What do you write?” I stumble sometimes because, well, I like writing it all (though not necessarily all with the same strength)! I don’t want to be known just as a fiction writer or a memoirist or a YA or PB author. I want to write it all. I want to strive to be, like one of the panelists said, Julia Alvarez. Why settle for just one writing identity when you can have several (and be good at several)? It makes perfect sense. Still, whenever I do say I write more than one genre or for more than one age group, I tend to get an “Oh” with a glazed look, as if saying I just haven’t made up my mind what I want to write, that I have to find one niche and stay there.

Well, I refuse.

I enjoy writing. Period. So I will write whatever it is that turns me upside down, inside out. Whatever fills me with excitement. Whatever decides to be what I must write right now. Then, when I’m done with that, I’ll move onto the next project that again commands my attention. Because I think that’s what writers should do. Write what they just absolutely have to write and not what they think they should write. That, I think, should be one of the main writing commandments.