My RI Life: Writer, Artist & Underwater Fire-­Breather Heather Rigney

What makes me think I am Rhode Islander? 

Born in Johnston, then raised in Burrillville, I went on to RISD, then taught art in the Warwick Public School system for twelve years. In 2011, I left teaching to care for my seven year ­old daughter and spin stories full time in our home in historic Pawtuxet Village. As for my art, I still create from time to time, and I only breathe fire underwater when bribed with donuts. ;)

What I've created lately (and would like to share with you!)

Over the past few years, I wrote and released the first two books in The Merrow Trilogy Book 1: Waking the Merrow, and Book 2: Hunting the Merrow. Based in Pawtuxet Village, the books explore a world where an antihero, Evie McFagan (funeral director, new mom, semi­functioning alcoholic), encounters a merrow (Think mermaid, but spookier.), known as Nomia. The creepy Nomia has lurked in Narragansett Bay for centuries, and has a foul habit of turning frat boys into dinner. When the rarely ­sober Evie discovers this atrocity, no one believes her, and a chaotic adventure ensues.

Moving back and forth through Rhode Island's nautical history, the book touches upon some of the more interesting events which I have reimagined to include a group of nasty female merrow wreaking havoc on the local gentry. 

Why you might enjoy my books

While writing the series, I tried to bring as much of my own Rhode Island experiences into the books as possible, staying as true as I could to the people, culture, history, and quirk of our little Rhody. 

Bobby Forand of Motif Magazine placed Waking the Merrow on his 2015 Summer Reading List, calling it "... the best book that I read last year. It’s a fantastic tale of anti­hero Evie McFagan who learns that there is a somewhat dark family history that she married into, all while being chased and harassed by mermaids. This work is funny and terrifying, with picturesque descriptions of Pawtuxet Village."

Where can you get my books? 

Interested in a fun read based in Rhode Island? Grab your own copy of Waking the Merrow and Hunting the Merrow at these fine places: Hard Copies: Twice Told Tales (Pawtuxet Village), Wakefield Books (Wakefield), Curiosity & Mischief (Narragansett) eBooks: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes Books.

As for the Food & Restaurants I dig...

Coffee­: For your best writing day­, go to Seven Stars on Broadway. Get a table by the windows. Order an Americano and two slices of toasted olive bread with butter. Write a novel. You can do it! 

Breakfast: J.P. Spoonem's­, just outside Pawtuxet Village, is our go-­to breakfast place. I like sitting at the counter and listening to the regular's chat with the lovely staff. I either get the Mozz & Tomato Omelette or a side of seasoned sautéed spinach, Johnny Cakes, and an egg over hard. Kitchen on Carpenter Street in Providence is another favorite of mine, but it only seats 14. The sweet man who cooks your food is also the waiter, the busboy, and the host. Sometimes he has help. Sometimes. Best to go mid­week, and get there early. Get the bacon­­ it's GINORMOUS and amazingly good. Pair it with the muffin of the day, made daily with fresh ingredients. There's only one choice. You can't go wrong. It's always good. Have it grilled, then have a great day. 

Donuts: My daughter and I like to go on Donut Safari's both locally and when we travel. On Instagram you can search for #DonutSafari and find our adventures. In RI, Allie's Donuts is the gold standard. However, have you tried Sip N' Dip? ­Yes, there IS an alternative to Allie's and it's in East Providence and other East Bay locations.

Lunch/Dinner: El Rancho Grande ('ERG' to those in the know!), in Olneyville, is probably my favorite restaurant. Who am I kidding? It IS my favorite restaurant! I have an agreement with one of the waiters. When I walk in, he gets me a tall glass of Pacifico. He catches me up on his studies (He's at CCRI.), and then I get my usual­­ 3 tacos de playa (The best shrimp tacos I have EVER had.), and a side of rice and beans. If Maria, the owner, comes out, she has been known to knock back a shot of Tequila with the customers. I may or may not have been one of the customers on many previous occasions. **NOTE: It fills up fast! We try to go for lunch, or before 5pm to avoid the rush.** 

Oysters: There are lots of choices. LOTS. We live in the Ocean State. Yes, we love Matunuck Oyster Bar, but do you know DeWolf Tavern in Bristol? In the summer (and all year round), they have buck­-a­-shuck on Monday nights at the outdoor bar in the back. The bartender is always entertaining, the sunsets­­ always amazing, and how you get there can be half the fun. We found out the hard way that if you park your car at India Point Park and ride the bike path, it's fifteen miles. One way. We bike a lot and always have lights on our bikes. ­­It was quite dark on the ride back. However, it was truly a night to remember. Thank goodness we went with adventurous friends!

Drinks: What Cheer Tavern, just over the border of Cranston and Providence on Allen's Ave, is a tiny bar that we like to call ours. No, we don't own it, but it's on our way home and my husband and I like to stop in, say hello to Dave, the owner, and enjoy craft beers, good bar food, and a small, lively atmosphere. We check the chalkboard for what's on tap, usually some tantalizing draft that's regional, if not down-­the-­street local, then settle into one of the high­tops or head out back, if the weather is nice. Dave has recently revamped the menu to reflect both his and his wife's (the amazing chef's) love of Mexican food. The menu is constantly in flux, so check their FB page for updates. Also, this special is super fun: Cans and Roses, a Gansett Tall boy and a shot of Four Roses, for just $6. 

Hiking/Walking/Paddling in and around Pawtuxet Village

Gaspee Point Beach: We go here year­round for walks, paddle boarding, and the occasional swim. There are lots of sea treasures to find and it's never crowded. 

Still House Cove: This beautiful historic cove is a great place to visit. There is a boat ramp (but not much parking) and a small beach to explore. Around the corner at the public beach access end of Ocean Ave, to the right of the RI Yacht Club, you can find an enormous amount of the best sea glass!

Pawtuxet River Trail: This place is magical. We walk through here to get to the heart of the Village from our house and it's always breathtaking. There is an abundance of wildlife (frogs, fisher cats, egrets, herons), trails, interesting plants and trees, and friendly people out and about. The year­round walking/running trails are accessible behind Rhodes on the Pawtuxet.

Salter Grove: At low tide, walk along the jetty and gain access to the islands along the shore. This is another beautiful place to walk or just sit and look at Narragansett Bay. There are always an amazing amount of birds to watch and treasures to find along the shoreline. We stay on the jetty and hop on the rocks. It's also a great place to kayak or paddle board because it's a sheltered cove. 

Roger Williams Park: It's not all about the zoo. I like to think of it as our own Golden Gate Park. I detour through here as much as possible on my drive to and from Pawtuxet Village. The landscape is constantly changing and it is always beautiful. The Botanical Garden is a fun place to visit in the spring and fall and so is the Natural History Museum. Did you know there is a beehive in the upper window? Or that you can go to the planetarium on Saturdays? The Temple of Music is a great sledding place in winter and a wonderful picnic/be lazy and read a book in the sun/spot in warmer seasons. We also ride our bikes here and enjoy watching the annual Cyclocross Events in October. 

I'd love to hear what you think of my books, so feel free to connect with me on any of these fine social media sites:


Photo Credits: All photos courtesy of Heather Rigney