25 June 2012

There and Back Again

I didn't get lost in Montana, but I had a wonderful time...even if I was only a few feet from hitting a family of deer on my way out of the state. I spent the next two days tucked away in a small(ish) town in Idaho located in the Palouse Valley. The scenery was extraordinary and a bit unlike anything I've ever seen before.

Moscow, Idaho ended up being the perfect size for me to explore on my own. There are many things to love about a college town and this one was filled with many of the best things. Amazing coffee (seriously, there was a noteworthy coffee shop on every downtown corner), a variety of tempting restaurants, an art gallery, a fountain, a park, an amazing bookstore (where I, of course, bought a book I didn't need), and so much more. And all of it could be reached with my own two feet so I parked the car and didn't move it until it was time to go home. I probably walked 6-8 miles each day I was there, wandering back and forth from my single bedroom house to downtown and beyond.

While I missed my husband and Zelda, it was also really nice to have this time on my own. I read, I listened to music, I wrote. In the end, I didn't edit any of my manuscript. Instead, as I was out walking that first night I stumbled upon two characters (who still haven't revealed their names to me). They began to tell me their story and I began to write it down. In the closest thing I've ever done to an outline, I began to write about them. I wrote that night and then all through breakfast the next morning. I took a break in the afternoon and then sitting in the park listening to the local orchestra play songs by Famous Composers, I wrote some more. I couldn't stop. These two just seemed so eager for someone to listen that I found it a challenge to keep up. I still don't know how their story ends, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

So it wasn't exactly the productive end of the vacation that I had planned for myself, but it was something equally wonderful.

On my last morning in Moscow I ran into the owner of the house I was staying in (she lives next door). We were talking and I was telling her about what I'd been up to. She said to me, "Wow, you are really independent. I'm terrified to eat alone in a restaurant!" I told her the trick is in a good book. Her comment lingered with me for the rest of the day. I guess spending a significant portion of my childhood with a single parent, I got more comfortable doing things on my own. I never really stopped to think about how hard it could be for someone else to do something like eat at a nice restaurant on their own or to travel to a new place and explore.

I had a wonderful time away, but it's good to be home again.

Palouse Valley. Photo by Mike Brand

20 June 2012

The Longest Day of the Year

I don't know if it's just been a super long day or if it was a kick-ass margarita followed by an intense walk back to my vacation house. Either way, I'm a bit tired.

The sun has startled to disappear beneath the roof-lined horizon on this, the longest day of the year. I've driven through some more beautiful country today, some of which I've never seen before. Rolling green hills, mountains, rivers, so much beautiful landscape.

This trip has really reminded me how much I love to drive, how much I truly love the open road. So much of my recent road travels have involved the I-5 corridor and as so many of you know, there is precious little inspiring in that drive. (Though maybe it's partly that I am simply cursed by familiarity.) This trip has been so different. Even though I've stuck to the interstate or at least a major highway, these drives have been anything but ordinary and certainly far from familiar.

After settling into my most amazing 1 bedroom vacation house, I walked into the new downtown area and found a Mexican restaurant that had been recommended to me. Fortunately I got there early because I soon discovered that it was 2 for 1 margarita night and by the time I left there was a huge crowd waiting to get in.

Since I'd spent the day in the car, I decided that a walk would be a wonderful thing to do so I wandered up giant hills and back down again, weaving through neighborhoods. It was perfect.

I thought about life and I thought about my book and I thought about a really interesting idea for another book. Seriously interesting.

Earlier I thought I might dive right into editing my manuscript, now that I'm on my own. Instead I think I'm going to spend the evening writing out my new idea. I don't want it to slip away when I go to sleep. A friend has decided to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo in August and I think I'm going to join her and this might just be a fun little distraction for me to work on. And editing takes a different kind of brain and I just don't think I'm there tonight.

My little home away from home.

17 June 2012

Safe and Sound

I've arrived at my destination after a day of solo driving (some 670 miles). I've visited, been licked by enthusiastic dogs, slept, showered, interneted. Life is good.

Yesterday was an amazing day of seeing how beautiful this world is. From the exit through the Columbia River Gorge Scenic area to my descent into Helena, damn, there's some beautiful country. I don't know that I want to "Get Lost" in Montana as so many billboards advised me to do, but I'll definitely enjoy myself while I'm here. And Idaho? You should really talk to your agent or your PR person because from what I saw you are fucking beautiful.

I arrived in Missoula around 5pm and decided to hang out for an hour or two, eating and wandering around  before the last 100 miles. When I stopped for lunch I asked a couple friends for recommendations for a place for dinner and where the two lists overlapped, I dined. I ate at Old Post which was a great bar with wonderful beer and the most amazing fish tacos I've ever had. (In full disclosure, I've never had fish tacos before...but they were amazing!)

As I walked around Missoula, enjoying a lovely evening of sunshine and big, blue sky, I thought, "I probably wouldn't complain if I was forced to live here." I took many lovely pictures and walked along the river before forcing myself back in the car for the last stretch.

Today is another beautiful day and I'm looking forward to breakfast and further adventures.

10 June 2012

Easy Like Sunday Morning

This morning's clouds are scattered with blue and lit with a brightness that just might contain some sunshine. There is a busy day ahead of me (as it's the last non-working day before my road trip) so I'm really enjoying this quiet time in the library with a cup of coffee and the steady tick of a clock. Time does not feel rushed...yet.

This past week has been full. The majority of my time not spent at work has been about pre-trip errands and graduation stuff. And when it hasn't been that it's been about reading books (I have two assignments to finish by the end of the month) and rewrites.

Tuesday I spent an hour on the phone discussing and brainstorming with my critique partner. There is one last problem (and it's a significant one) I have to work out. It won't change the heart of the story, but it provides a very important context for the reader. We brainstormed several ideas/solutions and in the end I thought of something that just might work. We hung up and I went outside to see what Zelda was up to and the idea began to put down some roots started to grow. Partly because of time and partly because of choice, I haven't worked on my revisions since then. But what I have been working on has been really promising. I'm making some smart choices and I've really been able to get the characters back to where they should be.

This whole process has taught me so much about writing and about reading. One very important lesson that I've learned is that you will never fool a smart reader.

The past few weeks (and I'm pretty sure I wrote about it once before) there has been great discussion about Story. It's a theme that's been recurring in my life over the past month. Story is king. Story rules all. You can have the best characters, the best dialogue, the most clever sentences and brilliant prose, but if you don't have story, you don't have anything. Readers (and writers) need story.

There's been something passed around the internet this week that was absolutely perfect for all this Story talk. Before I had a chance to pass it to my critique partner, she sent it to me. It's the 22 Rules of Storytelling According to Pixar and it's got 22 useful things for any writer/storyteller to consider.

Soon I will be traveling and I imagine my characters will tag along on this journey. It's been too long since I took to the road and I'm really looking forward to the time in the car listening to good music, watching the world pass by, and letting my thoughts wander. Until then, I've got a few things to check of my To Do list...

02 June 2012

Down to Business

It's the first day of my four day weekend and even though I was awake at 6am, I didn't care.

My morning has been spent taking care of life's little details (bills, errands, birthday breakfast with my littlest bro) and now I've got two hours until a lovely afternoon with the loveliest ladies. We will enjoy pedicures, take-out, booze, and a movie that will certainly make us laugh.

Life is good.

With these two hours, I am going to get started on the revisions, for reals. I am going to take the big leap and see where I resurface.

I've been giddy with anticipation all day.

Due to OS issues, I lost having Word on the Desktop...which is much easier to edit on, what with its GIANT screen. But this week I got my new copy of Microsoft Office and so I'm super excited to be able to do everything on one computer rather than double Mac-ing it like I've been doing.

Here goes...

Double Mac