On The Road

Last week I drove to Baker City, Oregon with my friend Sharon. 

Yeah, I know, a lot of people here in Portland don't know where Baker City is, either.  (For the record, it's about five hours east of here, in the dry side of the state on a high desert plateau surrounded by gorgeous mountain ranges.)

It was a quick trip, just overnight, and a long drive for the amount of time that we actually stayed in town.  But, like most travel, its had an impact on my writing.  I'm not writing about Baker City directly, (except in this post), and most likely its not going to creep into my novels or stories in the future (although you never know). 

But it has informed my writing since I returned, because my mind keeps going back to:

–driving for miles beside the blue expanse of the Columbia River

–taking a deep breath and driving up (and down the next day) the slightly hairy grade over the Blue Mountains

–watching the temperature climb to 107 and stay there for hours as we drove home

–staying at the historic and wonderful Geiser Grand Hotel

–eating dinner in the bar of said hotel and enjoying great conversation with other guests

–hanging out in the hotel room (there are few things I love more than a hotel room)

–checking out shops on Main street

–driving around the small town, looking at the Victorian houses

There's just something about getting away that inspires me.  I've written about this before, most recently when I spent ten days in Louisville in May at my MFA alma mater.  I travel to Nashville regularly to teach, and I'll be heading to France at the end of the summer to host a writing retreat.

But, really? It doesn't matter where I go, whether by car or plane.  I just love getting out in the world and it always, always, always loosens something in me that translates to words on the page.  Whether it is describing the new landscape I find myself in while journaling, or turning somebody I've met into a character in a book, travel always inspires me.  It expands my brain, and trust me, the old noggin can always use some expansion.

Does travel inspire you or make you cringe?  (Some people really don't like it.) Where have you gone (or are planning to go) this summer? 

I stole the photo from the Baker City website, but I don't think they'll be too upset with me.

Emma Jean Edits

The day came.  My edits for the novel arrived.  And I promptly left for a two-day vacation. Arch-cape-or

We went to the beach to stay with old friends, our daughter and the Most Adorable Baby in the World in tow.  I had visions of myself on the deck, feet propped up, laptop in lap, working away on the edits.  Or sitting in a corner of the beach house, happily revisiting my old friend, the novel.


Because it was way too sunny on the deck for me to see the laptop screen.  And every corner of the beach house was filled–gloriously so–with people. Most importantly, I wanted to be present in the vacation world and hang with my living friends, not hobnob with my fictional pals.  And so I sat at the kitchen table and answered a few emails and replied to some blog comments (thank you, I love your comments). And then I called it a day and went for a walk on the beach.

Turns out I'm not really slacking.  Before I left I emailed my editor, asking her for a deadline, thinking she'd probably mention a date in mid-August.  But, no, she said I could get it in right after Labor Day.  So I've got plenty of time. 

I'm eager to get to this.  As already noted, it's not a huge job, at least it doesn't look like it from a quick scan of the file.  I'm always a little wonky in the Track Changes feature on Word until I get into it, so there's that.  And I did see one comment about an important character reappearing at the end that my editor thinks is unnecessary.  That will require some thought in how to fix.  I'm sure there's more stuff like that throughout.

But I can't wait to get started on it–opening the file was like visiting old friends.  Which, come to think of it was the theme of the week, both in my real world and my fictional world.  How about that?

What about you?  How do you feel about the editing process?  Do you have experience working with an editor?  I'd love to hear!

**If you want to write a novel of your very own, I've got a novel-writing class beginning August 14th.  We'll cover the basics of the process and all the things you need to know to have at it.  Read more here and join us!

(I found the photo on the interwebs, and I think it comes from Tripadvisor.)



Here, Not There

Last week I co-lead a writer's retreat in remote Diamond, Oregon.  (We kept referring to it as "the middle of nowhere" but one of the hotel's employees took offense to that.  However, it kind of is.)


It was an awesome week, with attendees and myself and my co-leader making strides in our writing.  I had come upon a wee block in how to reconfigure my novel and I had a breakthrough about that while gone.  Yay!  I even ran into an old writing buddy.  (Go figure–billeted where the paved road ends and you run into someone you know.)

The days went like this:

9AM-12PM:  Writing instruction, discussion of literary pieces, workshopping of participant pieces

Noon-1:30ish:  Lunch at the hotel

1:30, on: Writing, time to work on assignments

5 PM sharp: Happy Hour on the screened-in porch

It was a shock to drive from brown, high desert Diamond into lush, green Portland on Saturday.  It was even more of a shock to learn, as soon as I got into cell-phone range, that my daughter was at that very moment in emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder.

Which is why this week I am here, not there.  There being Maui, where I had planned to head for a spiritual retreat.  But a daughter recovering from surgery with a five-month old baby to care for is reason enough for me to stay home, don't you think?

Maybe I'll get some more writing done in between caring for them.  In the meantime, I've got another guest post lined up for this Friday, and I'll be lurking around, so stay tuned!

PS.  The retreat was so successful we're thinking of doing it again in the fall, probably for a shorter amount of time.  You should come.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: How do you retreat to write?  Or do you?  Are you one of those souls who fit in your work around everything else that you do on a day-to-day basis? Please share how.

The photo is of the old hotel sign at the Diamond Hotel and I snitched it off their website, but I don't think they'll mind, because they are really, really nice people.

Writing in the Rain

It rained yesterday.Umbrella_with_raindrops

A lot.  I drove home from a meeting on the freeway last night and waves of water splashed over the windshield, just like in winter.  But I didn't mind.  All day yesterday I waited for the rain to come in.  It was hot and muggy in the morning, but there were hopeful clouds to the west, the direction all good storms come from.  I didn't fully believe that it would rain, because its been a horrible hot summer (several days of temps near 106 degrees) and because along with that hot summer has come this weird weather pattern.  The day will start off sunny and cool, with a nice breeze, thus lulling one into thinking its going to be a gorgeous Oregon day.  And then, boom, no warning, all of a sudden it is hot.  Like flippin' hot, uncomfortable hot, sweaty hot.

So that is why I was looking for rain.  Because I was sick of the nice weather. And because I missed sitting in my office with the window open, listening to the rain as I typed away.  I missed falling asleep to the sound of raindrops.  Sometimes the rain makes me melancholy, but in a good way, if you know what I mean.  Yesterday I felt tired and unfocused until the rain actually began, something to do with the actual low pressure system making its way inland.

And once it began raining, I thought, oh good, we're back to normal around here.

I'm a native Oregonian, in case you hadn't guessed.  Which is why, to me, there is nothing better than writing to the sound of rain.  And no better explanation of writing, then this quote from Tom Robbins, another Northwest kindred spirit:  "People ask me who I write for, I tell them I write for the rain."              (Images courtesy of Wikipedia)