Friday, 15 August 2014


Emily's house - side view
Eleanor Heginbotham of EDIS
I had a great time at my first meeting of the Emily Dickinson International Society (EDIS) in Amherst, Massachusetts, last weekend. It was brilliant to meet so many other Emily nuts. It is amusing how nerdy it all gets when it comes to people who love Emily and her circle - we spoke about them all day, every day: at the sessions, over lunch, at the banquet etc. There were experts, PhD students, poets, fiction writers and general enthusiasts present, and I learnt loads and enjoyed having more time in Amherst to womble around and soak it all in. I stocked up on postcards and magnets to give away here next year, when the book comes out, so stay tuned for that. It will appear in late July in the US and Canada with Penguin, and in August in the UK, Ireland and Australia. (I will announce who the UK publisher is asap.)

Black-eyed Susan in Emily's garden
The mural at West Cemetery is under threat (building being knocked) - but it will most likely be saved
Note on Emily's grave
My mini St Brigid's cross on Emily's grave
Susan Gilbert Dickinson's grave - Em's friend and SIL
I enjoyed spending time with my friend Jeff Morgan, a guide at the Emily Dickinson Museum, who gave me sneak-peek tours into off-limits parts of both Emily and her brother Austin's houses. As well as a trip to Wildwood Cemetery where Austin, his wife Susan and their family are buried. I also went back to Emily's grave in West Cemetery twice and left a tiny St Brigid's cross there (in my novel Ada, the maid, gifts one to Emily).
Amherst History Museum
The real ED dress
Another highlight was the Amherst History Museum to see the real Emily D white dress. (The one in the ED Museum is a replica.). The curator in the Hist Museum brought me behind the scenes to show me paintings and screens by Mabel Loomis Todd (Austin's long-term lover) and even a dress of hers (black with intricate braid trimmings). The generosity of the guides at all the museums is incredible. They love Emily and co. and are only too happy to share their knowledge, and the artefacts in their care, with fellow enthusiasts.
A quiet corner in the Book Mill
The Book Mill and the Alvah Stone restaurant, Montague
Marcy browsing, me musing - the Book Mill
My dear friend Marcella Brown lives in Colrain, Western Mass, and she drove me around to other spots near Amherst to show me places I hadn't been. Places like Montague with its fantastic riverside Book Mill and restaurants. We enjoyed two visits there, browsing, drinking, eating and generally having a fabulous, relaxed time.The Book Mill's slogan is 'Books you don't need, in a place you can't find.' Marcella also brought me to an outdoor performance of 'Shahrazad, A Tale of Love and Magic' by Double Edge Theatre Company on their farm in Ashfield. Stunning performance, where we followed the actors through gardens to streams and tents, and they ate fire, stiltwalked, swung from trees, swam etc. We weren't allowed take pics but you can check out their website.

Marcella, Nuala, Suzanne
Suzanne with Irish pottery and local flowers
I also met up with another friend, writer Suzanne Strempek Shea, whose latest book is This is Paradise, about Irish woman Mags Riordan who founded a medical clinic in Malawi. Look out for Suzanne's Irish appearances in September in Dingle, Howth, Galway (Charlie Byrne's) and at Clifden Arts Festival.

Amherst is great for food, lots of fresh, healthy fare available in cute cafés and at the Saturday farmers' market. Suzanne, Marcy and I had a delicious meal in Judie's, followed by fabulous desserts.

Molten chocolate Bundt Cake at Judie's - mmmmmm
I had a wonderful time overall and I look forward to returning to Amherst next summer for my second EDIS meeting.
Emily shared my airbnb bed!


Miss_Úna said...

It seems like you had the perfect trip. I love reading about your adventures. I want me some of that Bundt cake!

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

And I want me some more. It was warm, gooey, melty ice-cream. Drooooolllll!!

Mari said...

What a trip! Sounds and looks wonderful! And you were right in Ashfield where I used to retreat to Wellspring House!!! WOW!!!!! Isn't that theatre group amazing? So thrilled you'd a blast, got to meet up with so many, and got such inspiration! Rockin' woman.

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

It's such a great part of the country isn't it , Mari? I love it more each time. Those actors on the farm rock!

shaunag said...

Wow sounds great, love the photos especially the one of you musing xxx

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

Thanks, Shauna. Am jetlagged out the wazoo, but getting there slowly. Dying to back writing.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thanks for sharing your fab experience, Nu - lovely pics!

Religion's Biology said...

Such a nice remembrance of the time there! Am particularly grateful for your cogent succinct advice to this novice novelist who has Emily in 20% of his novel, A Little Girl at Willow Spring. Am on the search for your novels.
Russell Gardner

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

Russell! It was very nice meeting you in Amherst. Wishing you all good luck with your wonderful-sounding novel. I hope you find the perfect publisher for it. Nuala