Tag: travel

Alive! Sort of.

Greetings from the Land of Not Dead Yet! After spending the weekend more or less unable to remain upright, I’ve now graduated to hunching over the keyboard and coughing like a chain smoker. Be very grateful that you’re safely outside of my germ radius.

I’ve not yet written my urban Sleeping Beauty story, but, thanks to M.E. Garber and Widdershins, it is now a giant irritating grain of sand in my oyster of a brain. Bone, spindle, graffiti…some words are best not combined, unless you are prepared to deal with what they conjure.

My other bedridden dreams were of the Antarctic. I recently learned of this program, thanks to my dear spouse. One might ask why he’s travel-agenting me toward the ends of the Earth…the answer is out of the goodness of his heart, of course. Despite my general down-ness on snow these days, I’m fascinated by Antarctica. Unfortunately, the closest I’ve ever come is being stuck in a line of weather-stranded flyers in O’Hare behind a woman on her way back from a research trip there.

So, somewhere in my future is a novel that takes place entirely in the Antarctic. Until then, my non-existent coffee table is laden with this book, a tome only slightly smaller than the continent itself.

Later this week I’ll post the first of those interviews I keep promising. For now, tell me about your perfect grant–where would it take you? What would you write/study/do once you were there? Tell me a dream or two.

The glamorous writing life

The things I’ve had to research recently for Crossroads: hopping freight trains (which I keep writing as fright trains–please, someone write that story for me, okay?); finger picks for guitar players; constructing underground shelters; New England Patriots players (yes, I wrote that out for anyone who would be lost if I said the Pats–I may not watch football, but I am a Massachusetts native); bus lines in upstate NY; train lines everywhere; busking; surgical scars on backs; and the scenery of I-90 from Massachusetts straight through to Montana.

It’s the last one that’s giving me the most trouble. I like to write about place. I like to be able to touch and smell and listen to a place, and I can’t, not for this trip. Luckily for me, it’s possible to find things like a website devoted to pictures of exits off I-90 in the Dakotas, which is something like driving driving driving across the states, if I were taking very long slow blinks.

After having spent much time reading up on knives and knife fighting for The Lost and Wren, I find it both a nice change of pace (no more hunching awkwardly over the computer screen, wondering how to explain if anyone catches me watching YouTube clips on carrying concealed blades), and a little overwhelming. So many facts, and so many things I could easily focus on for months. Maybe not the Pats, or guitar picks, but the others. The world is full of fascinating things, and time is so unfairly limited.

Still, I’d like more images. Not glossy coffee table book pictures, but snapshots by travelers, peeks at roadsides and city benches and the unpolished places a young wanderer might find herself. Those things feel much harder to find. If you know of any good places to look, please let me know–here, via email, by fireworks or flag semaphore, whatever suits you. Blue will be most grateful.

Bits and pieces on a Sunday morning

Mike Dariano is the kind soul that tweeted to me about the notable stories list with The King’s Huntsman on it last week. He runs a blog where writers and other interesting people (are there actually uninteresting people?) list their three favorite things to read, watch, and use. It’s a fun space to browse, and full of good ideas. I encourage people to check it out.

If my gentle encouragement is not reason enough to click on the link, my own list of threes will be there on October 4. Yes, another exciting chance to travel the blogosphere with me, completely free of charge and without any danger. I’ll slap up a reminder up on the 4th, just in case anyone neglects to mark it in their datebook. In the meantime, do consider stopping in and exploring some of the other entries.

In related travel news, I’m actually going someplace this fall! Someplace out of state, out of New England even! I’ll be traveling in Virginia and D.C., and returning home via Gettysburg. Some Civil War exploration, some visiting friends, some museum stuff, and a wedding. Okay, maybe the wedding should come first on that list. The thing about great little brothers is that you can’t help but be happy when they are, like on their wedding day.

Life is good.

Being here

I started to write this a while ago, then set it aside until I read this post by Widdershins at the Clarion blog. It inspired me to dig mine back out. It’s nice to find that sometimes the conversations I have with myself are being had by other people as well.

Write what you know is one of those rules tossed about as either brilliantly true or completely ridiculous. On a literal level, it’s simpler to write about things you know. I find it much easier, for example, to write about the life of a midwife, even one in a refugee camp, than to write about a mechanic rebuilding an engine. It’s more than just an understanding of the process–it’s knowing the language and the intuitive responses that aren’t likely to be covered in an instruction manual.

But I’ve never hunted anything in my life, and I still wrote a novelette about a woman who lived to hunt. Everything about her life I drew from things I do know. I’ve tracked and studied animals, I’ve camped in a shelter I built myself, and I’ve worked with dogs and horses. I understand what it’s like to sleep outside at night, to explore the banks of a river, to feel a heavy rain on my skin.

Those details give me confidence when writing about something I haven’t experienced myself. Hopefully that confidence extends to the reader as well, allowing them to believe what they read, even if it isn’t a literal truth.

There’s more, of course. There’s the emotional framework of a story. The tools necessary for building that come from being alive in the world, from listening and watching and feeling. It’s what makes one story about a mechanic different from twelve other stories about mechanics–the motor that drives their particular set of actions.

Why have I been thinking about writing what I know? Because I’m a little frustrated about writing a novel about travel to places I haven’t been. Yes, I can look at pictures and read descriptions and watch videos. The trouble is that visual resources lack other dimensions, and written ones filter place through another writer’s senses. Smells, sounds, how the air makes your skin feel, the pebbles that your fingers can’t help but reach for…these things are deeply personal.

Place is a character that longs to shake your hand, to look into your eyes. I won’t have that intimacy this time around. It’s been forcing me to think about how important place is to me as a writer. My interiors are often weak–the number of times I’ve had to go back and add the contents of a room is embarrassing–but I could spend days writing about the world outside of doors and walls.

I could simply stick my protagonist on a plane or a train, or have her spend her time in chain motels. It’s not what I want for her, or for the story. I need her feet on the ground, the air on her skin. I want her to reach for those pebbles that feel right in her hands.

This will be interesting experiment.