l. The crossword puzzle in The New York Times. I don't do the Sunday one (it's too long), but I do the easy Monday puzzle all the way through the rest of the week to the sometimes ridiculously hard Saturday puzzle. One year I attended a crossword-puzzle contest, and let's just say I do a lot better without a timer.
2. Walking around Washington Square Park. I live near this beautiful New York City landmark, nearly 10 acres of amazing things to see and hear. For the past few years, hawks soar overhead; they nest in the eleventh-floor windowsill of the main New York University library. Or at night, you can look up Fifth Avenue and see the gorgeous new LED lights on the Empire State Building.
3. Listening in on other people's conversations in coffee shops. Once I heard this exchange:
First woman: "Everything is driving me crazy. I should be in solitary."
Second woman: "I should be there with you."
4. Reading the newspaper. I got the idea for A Trick of the Light directly from an article in the New York Daily News.
5. Playing softball. My brother has had a permit to play softball on the Great Lawn in Central Park for the past 30 years. It's a pick-up game, fun, not competitive, and a great way to clear and refresh the mind.
6. Bananagrams. This game makes your brain more flexible with words.
7. My cat. I was supposed to take care of her for a woman traveling to Paris for three months. That was almost 15 years ago. I'm crazy about this black-and-white cat. Her name is Mischief; she came with the name, and it suits her a little too well.
8. Old movies. I love the romantic comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. Black-and-white, and no special effects, of course, just some of the best dialogue you'll ever hear. Here are a few suggestions: The Lady Eve, The Awful Truth, Ninotchka & It Happened One Night.
9. Alfred Hitchcock. He's known for scary movies, but there's so much more to his films—he's a master at telling a story. Again, some suggestions: Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Lady Vanishes & Foreign Correspondent.
10. The Dog Run (back at Washington Square Park). Actually there are two of them -- one for little dogs (under 25 pounds) and another for big dogs (over 25 pounds). I don't have a dog (see cat, above) but I can't get enough of watching them. You never know what you'll see. Sometimes, in the group of dogs that show up, no two are alike; another time it'll be eight dachshunds. Go figure.
Lois Metzger, author of A Trick of the Light, was born in Queens and has always written for young adults. She is the author of three previous novels and two nonfiction books about the Holocaust, and she has edited five anthologies. Her short stories have appeared in collections all over the world. Her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, and Harper's Bazaar. She lives in Greenwich Village with her husband and son.