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.

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.

Continue reading

The Best Way to “Reread” Your Favorite Books

When I was 14 years old, I wandered into my local Barnes and Nobles with the summer reading list my high school had given me. There were hundreds of options on it that I could hardly make sense of. So I handed it to an employee and she quickly zeroed in on John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. She told me that if it wasn’t the best book I’d ever read, I could come back to the store and throw it at her.

I never threw the book at her, because it’s still my all-time favorite. If she’s out there, I’d love to thank her.

I’m not one for rereading books. There are just too many new stories to discover, but when I found myself with a few Audible credits to use, I thought, this might be a good way to revisit some old favorites. It can be hard to follow an audiobook for 20 hours or more (though I’m getting better at it), so rather than trying to follow a new story–and incessantly having to rewind–I downloaded my old pal Owen.

Continue reading

Happy Sunday: Free Thinkers

Over the past month or so, I have wasted an inordinate amount of time watching two guys watch and react to music videos. It started–as so many of my YouTube rabbit holes do–with Jason Isbell. But it quickly led to Chris Stapleton and Amanda Lambert…and even some Alanis Morrissette.

Here’s the premise: Ryan and George, two black men , listen to music you might not expect them to like (based on stereotypes), and they react. I don’t think I have ever wanted to be friends with two people as much as I want to be friends with Ryan and George. Continue reading

Happy Sunday: Live from The Stone Church

IMG_3025A couple of weeks ago we finally made it to The Stone Church in Brattleboro. If you like live music, it doesn’t get much better than this place. It’s literally an old church with great acoustics, beautiful stained glass, and a giant organ. And boy is it intimate…

Brian and I were there see our friends Ashley Storrow and Putnam Smith. They were opening for a band we hadn’t heard of. They were great, just like we knew they would be.

The big surprise of the night, though, was Town Meeting. It was the best live show I’ve seen in a long time. At one point Brian turned to me and said, “I saw The Dropkick Murphys on the small stage at a Warped Tour back in the ’90s… and I feel like I just had the same kind of experience. We’re never going to be able to see these guys in a setting like this again.”  Continue reading

Anxiously Awaiting Roseanne

I’m almost always the first one up on Saturday mornings–if you don’t count the dog and cat, who are the ones who wake me up–and I spend my alone-time with Roseanne. I make a cup of tea and I cozy up on the couch with the TV Land marathon of one of my all-time favorite shows.

I loved Roseanne from the beginning. It was the first TV show I ever saw where the people were recognizable to me–who behaved, dressed, talked, and just plain lived like the people I knew. I didn’t grow up in a nuclear family where one parent was a therapist and one was a news anchor. (Shout out to the Seavers!) Nor were they architects (the Keatons!) or doctors or lawyers (the Huxtables). My mom waited tables, my grandmother watched me and my cousin, and my grandfather worked shift-work at the paper mill. If there was ever a family that I could imagine living next door to, it was the Conners.  Continue reading

One Woman Book Club: The Stand

“She reminded me of a warning I was fond of repeating: do not, under any circumstances, belittle a work of fiction by trying to turn it into a carbon copy of real life; what we search for in fiction is not so much reality but the epiphany of truth.”  – Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

These words appear on the first page of Reading Lolita in Tehran, which I took down off the shelf today after finally finishing The Stand by Stephen King. I found both books in the donated piles at the Welles Turner Memorial Library Book Sale–the kind of lovely town event where kids show up towing red wagons and you see spouses barking at each other about who is supposed to cover which table. But after spending the better part of three months with the lone survivors of the super flu (aka Captain Trips), I was on the hunt for something very, very different. Little did I know that the first page of Nafisi’s book would send me back to the often bleak world of The Stand. Continue reading

Political Podcast Picks


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m addicted to podcasts. And lately my listening tastes have leaned toward the political.

Here’s the thing, skimming your Facebook and Twitter feeds isn’t really informing you. Even if you’re clicking through to actually read some of those articles, they can only do so much. Sometimes you need more insight or analysis (preferably not of the screaming talking-head variety)…or you just need to have a laugh along with your political chat. That’s when I turn to podcasts.  Continue reading

My Halloween Podcast Picks

Happy Halloween, ya’ll! The holiday snuck up on me this year, and I actually keep forgetting what day it is. Like, I still don’t have candy… but I do have some podcasts for you to listen to in order to celebrate the spookiest of holidays!

Since Serial fully sucked me into the podcast rabbit hole, I’ve been exploring a wide variety of genres. I like roundtable discussions, true crime stories, and serialized fiction stories. These three podcasts manage to hit on all of those genres. Good luck, and try not to waste too much of your life listening to these…

62b3a07e4ea6d503edb28f603f6db2c1My Favorite Murder – I’ve been a Murderino for a few months now. You might think a podcast that features two comedians talking about their “favorite murders” would be offensive, but you’d be wrong (and probably have no sense of humor). Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff somehow manage to make talking about horrific murders fun. It helps that their interest in murder is driven, in part, by anxiety about being murdered (something all of us ladies know a little  something about). I also highly suggest joing the MFM Facebook group where Murderinos come to talk about the podcast, but more importantly, telling their own stories. You’d be surprised how many people narrowly miss being murdered. Continue reading

One Woman Book Club: Swamplandia!


Swamplandia! first caught my attention when I heard about it on NPR (or here). If you’d asked me, I would have said the book came out in 2014, but apparently it was 2011. Time just keeps slipping away…

It took me a while to really get into the book. It made me chuckle and the lovely writing kept me going, but I wasn’t sure where it was headed (which, I guess, is a good thing in a world where so much seems so obvious all the time). But in the end I was glad I stuck it out.

Author Karen Russell told NPR, “The Bigtree family members have created their own fantastical history springing from their alligator-wrestling tradition, but in reality, they’re just the lowly operators of a shabby tourist attraction in a swamp.” Swamplandia! is funny, and weird, and heartbreaking. You’ll find yourself wishing the place was real so you could give the family your tourist dollars… but if you don’t like to see characters you care about punished, it may not be for you.

I ventured on to the web to find questions to help me discuss this latest read. Here it goes! Continue reading

Pokemon Go Teaches Us a Lesson About Racism

A couple of days ago I went to visit a friend, and she told me a story that stuck with me as the single most of-the-moment tale I’ve ever heard. I decided it needed to be told to a wider audience.

You’ve heard about Pokemon Go, right? If not, you have somehow successfully avoided the internet, the local news, and pop-culture as a whole for the past week, and I salute you. Basically, an augmented reality game meant for children has taken over the world, and adults are now wandering around staring at their mobile devices looking for “hidden” cartoons.

slim Continue reading

NaNoWriMo: 3 Tips For Writing a Novel in a Month

Shield-Nano-Side-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiRes 4At the end of last month I decided to use this year’s NaNoWriMo as an impetus to finish the romance I’ve been working on — or at least make some decent progress on it. Before National Novel Writing Month even got underway I ran into a snag. I heard back from my editor about another book, and he needed me to go over a few small queries within a few days, and I happened to be going away for the weekend. I managed to get the queries answered in time, but over the past week I’ve developed a few practical tips for actually getting a significant amount of writing done.

  • Leave the House–When I was writing the aforementioned book (you know, the one I had to answer queries about) I would try to work at home, which has a dedicated office. But it just wasn’t working for me. I needed to get away from the house. Away from the cats who want to lay on my keyboard, and the dog who seems to be able to tell time and stares at me with a look that says, “It’s after 5 o’clock, time to call it quits!” So, I would head out to a coffee shop (usually the one in my local book store), order a chai latte, and sit down to work. My most successful NaNoWriMo moments have been in that same coffee shop.
  • Don’t Forget to Charge Your Battery–This is not a metaphor. I am not going to suggest you do some yoga to get your creative juices flowing (though, walking has been shown to enhance creativity). If you aren’t going to be working at home, where you have exclusive claim to all the outlets, you need to remember to charge your laptop battery before you head out. There were at least a few times where I did not, and I have been sorry.
  • Don’t Edit–I don’t always follow my own advice. I edit all day, it’s hard to stop. When I’m stuck in my own writing, I go back and start adding, subtracting, and rewriting. But if you actually expect to finish a novel in an entire month, there’s just no way you can waste time on editing. Besides, editing is not really the point of NaNoWriMo, right? Just get the words on the page. You can spend December editing.

These tips can only help set you up for success. The truth is, writing an entire novel in a month is not easy. At times it will feel practically impossible. The only way to make it happen, is to just do it.