Five Fictional Towns I Want to Live In

I have a deep and abiding love of small towns full of weirdos. My favorite media (from books to movies to TV shows) revolve around tiny villages and close-knit hamlets filled with manipulative dwarves with a God complex, pretty bush pilots, and Kirk. Based on the sheer number of Hallmark movies set in similarly small, quirky towns, I’m guessing I’m not the only one who wants to pack my stuff and move to a fictional city.

I did the next best thing and moved to a real-life small town full of eccentric characters, charming gathering spots, and rogue livestock who seem to wander the streets with impunity. (Seriously, our town Facebook group is full of alerts about escaped cows and renegade goats, as well as the occasional flock of chickens taking over a tennis court.) For years, I’ve said my dream would be to live in some village in England (also acceptable: Ireland and Scotland) with thatched-roof cottages (think Kate Winslet’s house in “The Holiday”) where I can walk into the local pub on any given night, catch up on the local gossip and then stumble home free of fear from all but the coziest of murders.

If I believed in “The Secret,” I might say I manifested my dream of small-town living without realizing I was doing it. I can walk to our local cidery — though I tend not to during these long, dark winter nights — and hear all about the rodeo a longtime local property owner is dreaming up (and also the “Birds for Sale” sign that said property owner put up in the window of one of his vacant buildings). Sure, we may not be as quaint as a village in the Cotswolds, but what is, really?

Then I stumbled upon HGTV’s “Townsizing” podcast. I was, of course, immediately in… and found myself yelling back at the podcast as one guest talked about wanting to find a diverse, walkable small-town. “BRATTLEBORO, VERMONT!” I shouted, though no one could hear me except for my dogs. For some reason, all the talk of charming little towns got me thinking about the many fictional towns I’ve encountered in my 41 years, and which ones I would most want to live in. Here’s where I landed:

Gravesend, New Hampshire from “A Prayer for Owen Meany”

80 Front Street: If you know, you know.

I am a known Irving-head and it all started when a Barnes & Noble employee looked at my summer reading list and told me that if “A Prayer for Owen Meany” wasn’t the best book I’d ever read, I could come back and hit her with it. (She went unassaulted.) Most of the book takes place in Gravesend, New Hampshire (based on Exeter) in the 1940s – 1960s. In fact, many John Irving books place take place in some version of the town where he grew up. He’s not the only writer to call Exeter home; Joe Hill and Dan Brown both live there now. I don’t know if it’s the prep school or the fancy bean-to-bar chocolate shop, but writers really seem to love that town.

So, this summer, I made a pilgrimage to Exeter. These days it’s a bougie town filled with preppies who look like they somehow got their yachts up the Swampscott and are now in search of craft beer. But based on what Lara Bricker of the Crime Writers On podcast says (and writes) about her adopted hometown, I’m guessing it’s still a quirky place. I digress, though, as we’re talking about Gravesend, not Exeter. So… let me count the ways I love the home of wee, lil’ Owen and his best friend Johnny Wheelwright.


  • Has a thriving community theater scene
  • Tolerant of eccentric locals
  • Harriet Wheelwright is the O.G. dowager countess
  • Home to the possible second coming of Christ


  • Streets are not safe for roving labradors
  • Even the congregationalist clergy is full of creeps
  • Little League games can get a bit scary
  • Home to the possible second coming of Christ

Cicely, Alaska from “Northern Exposure”

When I was in college, my physics class was across the street from my dorm. So I would sit on my futon watching reruns of my then-favorite show, “Northern Exposure,” before sprinting to class when the credits rolled. It’s a classic fish-out-of-water tale that follows Dr. Joel Fleischman from Flushing, Queens as he goes to pay back his student loans by serving as the doctor for tiny Cicely, Alaska. Even as a (slightly odd) teenager, I wanted to move to Cicely and hang out at The Brick with Dr. Joel, eat a moose burger cooked up by Holling, chat about old movies with Ed, and talk philosophy with Chris. I could probably do without the blowhard Maurice, but in small towns, you have to take the good with the bad.

Living in a close-knit small town is not unlike having your own tribe.


  • Pretty decent medical care for such a tiny burg
  • Being surrounded by the great Alaskan wilderness
  • Feminist AF Maggie O’Connell and I can be friends
  • “Chris in the Morning” should win all the broadcasting awards
  • Marilyn


  • Shameless capitalist despot Maurice Minnefield
  • The spring thaw seems like a tough time for everyone
  • Dr. Joel’s constant whining
  • Cold and dark AF for most of the year

Stars Hollow, Connecticut from “Gilmore Girls”

Do I even have to explain Stars Hollow? If you’re a Millenial woman, the answer is definitely, “Oy, with the Poodles already!” I’ve been to the “real Stars Hollow” and the Gilmore Girls Fan Festival, and I can tell you, there are a whole lot of towns that are more like Stars Hollow than Washington, Connecticut… and I’ve lived in two of them. A friend who was driving through Brattleboro, Vermont met me at The Whetstone (a brewery and restaurant right on the Connecticut River). I walked from my apartment to meet him there, and we were sitting on the roof deck when one of our locals started driving his pontoon boat made up to look like a steamboat and flying the Canadian flag went trolling by. “Do you live in Stars Hollow?” he asked.

Then, years later, I ended up in my current town in North Central Connecticut. Just last week I was at the Cidery when someone told me that an out-of-town friend uttered that familiar question: “Do you live in Stars Hollow?” The answer is always the same, “Not technically, but yeah, kinda.”

Can you imagine Luke dealing with outdoor dining?


  • Takes quaintness to a level not seen since “The Andy Griffith Show”
  • Luke’s Diner (breakfast is my favorite meal)
  • I already live in Connecticut, so it’s an easy move
  • Babette & Miss Patty


  • Taylor Doosey
  • It seems to be completely lost in space (and maybe time), somehow near New London and also Woodbridge
  • In theory, I like the idea of community events, but Stars Hollow may have too many of them
  • Loralei and Rory are totally unhinged

Beartown, Sweden from “Beartown”

Skip the show, the book is better.

Listen, the point of Frederik Backman’s “Beartown” (or its follow-up “Us Against You“) is not to make small-town life seem idyllic. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Beartown is a bleak place filled with hockey nuts, criminals, and the under-employed. It’s not a happy story, but it is probably one of the more accurate portrayals of life in a secluded place where everyone knows everyone. Benji Ovitch and his badass sisters are among my favorite characters in any book, and I would 100% book a trip to Beartown just to meet them. But could I live there?


  • The Bearskin Pub
  • You can probably see the Aurora Borealis
  • A loosely organized band of criminals with hearts of gold seems like as good a form of government as any
  • As far as sports go, hockey is pretty fun
  • Democratic socialism


  • Pretending I care about sports
  • I’m going to have to take up hunting
  • Seasonal affective disorder seems unavoidable

Dillon, Texas from “Friday Night Lights’

Listen, I know pretty much everyone who lives in Dillon is trying to escape it, but I may be the only person who was cheering when Tim Riggins bought his little plot of heaven, dragged some lawn chairs out there, and had a beer with Tyra. Frankly, owning your own business (Riggins’ Rigs) and a beautiful plot of land is the closest thing you can get to the fabled American Dream and Timmy did it! The rest of the town is a mix of used car salesmen on the verge of a heart attack, attractive young people, strip clubs, and the Taylors (every sane person’s #relationshipgoals). Is that enough to want to move there?


  • Tim Riggins, Vince Howard, and Matt Saracen
  • Tammy Taylor is the single best guidance counselor to ever grace the halls of a high school
  • I’d get to vote in Texas and try to make a difference


  • Texas

Fictional Towns to Avoid

Not all of these towns are entirely fictional, but based on what I know of them from “IT” and “Little Fires Everywhere,” it’s best to avoid them. (Shoutout to Rebecca, who came up with this list!)

  • Shaker Heights, Ohio – Too many Karens per square foot
  • Derry, Maine – Deranged clowns and child orgies abound!
  • Wind Gap, Missouri – Psychotic teens + institutionalized racism = hard pass
  • Twin Peaks, Washington – The owls are not what they seem!!
  • Forks, Washington – Too many teens looking for toxic vampire boyfriends

The Verdict: To Which Fictional Town Am I Moving?

Absolutely everyone I know is going to be shocked to hear the answer is not Stars Hollow. But, much like Rory, I have made my pro-con lists and after much deliberation I am going to choose the underdog.

I have been dreaming about shopping (and picking up my mail) at Ruth Ann’s since the ’90s. Maggie O’Connell may have done more to shape me than anyone in my own family. Frankly, it’s a wonder I didn’t become a bush pilot. I do tend to yell at annoying men much like she does, though. Every time I hear someone recite the Kaddish I think of the episode where an unknown Jew turns up dead and Dr. Fleischman tries to gather enough people to sit Shiva for him. None of this seems like enough reason to move across the continent, but since the town doesn’t exist and I don’t actually have to move, it’s “Cicely or bust!”

Sorry, Tammy. Maybe you, me, and Maggie can have some wine together.

#VTLIFE – A Lesson in Slowing Down

A look back at what I loved about Vermont.

Lean Back

There’s this conversation I had with friends years ago after they returned from Italy. They were waxing poetic over the slower pace of life, and I was sitting back secure in my knowledge that even if they moved to Italy nothing would change but the scenery. They’d still have expensive hobbies and shopping habits that kept them chasing a paycheck.

i thought, it doesn’t matter where you are, what matters is your state of mind. You have to change your mind–your ideas about what you want and need–if you really want to change your life.

I wasn’t wrong. But I wasn’t totally right either.

That became abundantly clear after I sold my house and moved to Vermont to accompany my partner on his journey to grad school.

We rented a place near downtown Brattleboro, Vermont and settled in to enjoying that #VTLIFE.

Brattleboro is a town of about 12,000…

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Do Something

Unable to protest and want to know how you can help Black Lives Matter make a difference this time? Check their website first. Right now they’d like you to sign their Defund the Police petition.

Then write to or call your local officials and ask them whether they support these steps toward reducing police violence:

If they don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s a good time to educate. If they tell you they don’t support these commonsense measures, tell them you’ll find a candidate who does come voting day.

And speaking of voting day. When the protests end, it’s important to keep the momentum going. It’s an election year and the GOP has been systematically disenfranchising black voters for years. Learn how you can help make sure every black vote is counted.

Silence is violence, they say, and they’re right. And no matter your particular limitations, there’s always something you can do. What matters most is that you do something. (Learn more about allyship here.)

Coronavirus in the Woods

Pandemics are scary for everyone. The idea that just conversing with someone over the avocados in the grocery store could lead to your death is a literal nightmare. It’s like M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening,” but with less Mark Wahlberg. 

But the truth is, I’m having an easier time coping with the stress of self-isolation than most—with the exception of a few actual shut-ins and hermits, I was better prepared than most. I’m not talking about being “prepared” in the “Doomsday Prepper” sense of the word. I didn’t have a bunker filled with beans and rice—though since I live with a vegetarian we do have our own little stockpile of those goods at all times—or an elaborate bug-out plan. In fact, my preparedness was more of an accident. 

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Is Self-Employment the Key to Worklife Balance?

I’ve been working on a book–and blog–that explores work-life balance, and how we can all build happier and healthier lives. This post seemed relevant to all you writers out there!

Lean Back

The other day I received a press release from Elaine Biech, the author of The New Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond, about worklife balance for consultants. “On one hand, you get to do the work you love while enjoying perks like setting your own schedule and traveling to exciting cities. But on the other hand, you must endure the punishing realities of your job: 4:00 a.m. flights, hours upon hours of work, poorly prepared restaurant food, and getting home at midnight after a long week.”

It got me thinking! So often we associate overwork culture with companies that demand we work longer hours and answer emails in the middle of the night. But that’s not always the case. Being self-employed brings a whole new level of stress to the table.

It’s not just consultants that run themselves ragged despite having more control over their schedules than most…

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Career vs. Lifestyle

I started a new site to collect my thoughts about work-life balance and changing the way we think about success. Here is one of the first posts from “Lean Back.” If you like it, please visit and subscribe!

Lean Back

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” We ask kids that all the time. When they get older and start thinking about college, we tweak the question a little, but we keep asking it. We rarely ever ask anyone, “What kind of life do you want when you grow up?”

Frankly, it’s a better question.

When I was in elementary school, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d tell you I wanted to be a veterinarian/gymnast. (Who would take care of my patients while I was competing at the Olympics?) But then I quit gymnastics when I was in the fourth grade, and I realized I’d spend a good portion of my life sobbing if I was a vet. (Seriously, veterinarians have a hard job and it shows in their mental health.)

I wish someone had asked me…

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May’s Heavenly Day

Only a very good doggo could inspire such a beautiful song.

The first time I laid eyes on Maybelle she was behind bars, in a kennel between the two dogs I’d come to see at the Humane Society. They were big German Shepherd-mixes. One was mostly black and impressive, and the other was about as striking a dog as I’ve ever seen — yellow like a lab, but with the profile of a Shepherd. And between them was a little 45-pound cattle dog mix with oversized ears that stuck out at a strange angle from her head. While the other dogs jumped and barked, she leaned up against the bars of her kennel and waited for someone to give her a scratch.

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Big Little Podcast

Anyone who knows me, knows that my most frequently uttered phrase is, “There’s this podcast…” Well, now I’m officially part of the podcast revolution. I’m so happy to introduce a fun big, little project I worked on with a couple of friends.

Take a stroll down Monterey’s Memory Lane. Relive Season 1 of Big Little Lies with us.

In one 7 hour long marathon recording session, we drank some boxed wine and dished about Monterey’s favorite murderers. (Bonus points if you can pinpoint the episode where we actually start to get drunk.) If you loved Big Little Lies and wished you had someone to talk to about it, this is the podcast for you!

We explore all the important questions.

Is Madelyn a nightmare? Is Ed a creep? Are all the men creeps? Which of the husbands would you marry/f*ck/kill? Is Otter Bay’s first grade taeacher the worst teacher alive? Which kid is the creepiest? (It’s always Amabella.)

You can binge all of Season 1 today in anticipation of Season 2 — iTunes, Stitcher, or our website.

And I want to know if you’re a Madelyn, Celeste, Jane, Bonnie, or Renata?

Finding the Right Freelance Content Writer

I am amazed by the sheer number of services devoted to helping you find the right freelancer. The only thing more surprising is that there are enough freelancers to support all these platforms. I suppose this was inevitable in the age of #sidehustle. But as someone who works with freelancers every day, I can tell you that they are not all created equal.

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An Ode to Monty Don

I’ve got Spring Fever, and I blame Monty Don, otherwise known as Britain’s Favorite Gardener. After discovering a season of Big Dreams, Small Spaces on Netflix that I hadn’t already seen, I spent a couple of weekend mornings watching intently as people across England transform their backyards with the help of Monty. When I came to the end of the unwatched season I wasn’t satisfied. I started watching Monty Don’s French Gardens, and Monty Don’s Italian Gardens. All of this is on Netflix, ready to be binged. And while you might be saying, “I don’t care about gardening, that show isn’t for me,” I’m going to make a case for why you should all be watching Monty Don.

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Why Every Writer Needs an Editor

An acquaintance of mine, after finding out what I do for a living, asked me if I considered myself a writer. She’s an English professor, who has devoted her life to studying writers. So when I said, “I love writing, but I think I lean more toward being an editor,” she seemed surprised. When you’re a kid, you never say, “When I grow up, I want to be an editor!”

Everyone wants to be a writer--but every writer needs a good editor. 

When I tell people I’m an editor, they don’t really know what it means. If they have some idea about the profession, it’s that we spend our time looking for misplaced commas and typos. Of course, we do a bit of that, but in reality, that’s what copy editors and proofreaders are for. My time is spent assigning articles, and then making sure that the writers have hit the mark. I’m usually editing articles about business and technology, which means there are a few things I’m looking for.

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Happy Sunday: Just Fine

Brandi Carlile wowed people on The Grammy’s. Unfortunately, I missed that performance–at least the live broadcast–but her newest album has been in heavy rotation at my house for months. Then, recently, I saw that this song made President Obama’s playlist last year. I thought that was a good reason to share.