Wednesday Again

Plane_random_australia_56977_hIt's Wednesday again, in case you hadn't noticed.  And this is the day I devote to a personal post not related to writing.  Or the day I try to devote to a post not related to writing.  It seems like somehow or another everything links back to writing for me.  But anyway....

At this very moment I am sitting in the Portland airport, waiting for a flight to Burbank.  I'm going to Pasadena to visit my friend Mary-Suzanne.  She and I met many years ago at a Creativity Camp put on by Julia Cameron, and have been good friends ever since.  I'm going to stay with her for a week, hang out, eat the wonderful food Suzanne makes, work on my novel, and see my friend Diana.  Also, I shall bask in the 80 degree heat!

I was calculating earlier, and this is my fifth trip this year.  It's my second to southern California (the first in May for my nephew's graduation from law school and wedding).  I've also been to Kansas City twice, and to France for three weeks.  It's really not a lot of travel by many people's standards, but also more than a lot of people do.  

So, I thought it would be fun to do a list of things I like and don't like about travel.  I was going to do things I like and don't like about L.A. but changed my mind because the "don't like" list would be so much longer than the "like" list.

Things I Like

1.  Meeting people.  When we were in Paris in September, we met people from all over the world. These were brief but fun encounters that ended up being memorable nonetheless.  Who knew how many people came to France from Australia?

2.  Getting a new perspective.  This is especially good for writers.  Travel helps you see things in a different way just because your brain expands to encompass all the new stuff it is absorbing.  Or at least that's my theory.

3.  Being present.  When one travels, particularly in a foreign country, you have to stay present and alert.  In France, I'm always straining to understand what people are saying or figure out how to get somewhere.  Once I'm back home, I get complacent and fall into the old routines.

4.  Place inspires me.  I wrote my MFA critical thesis on landscape as character for goodness sake. Certain places inspire my writing and find their way into my novels.  My hometown of Portland is always a setting, and L.A. seems to appear a lot also.  Sun Valley and Santa Fe are perennial favorites. And yes, Paris is an important location in my next novel.

5.  Discomfort.  Let's face it, we are pampered.  And travel puts you into situations that cant you out of your comfort zone.  This is a good thing, as it stretches you.  (And yet, I think it is also the reason that many people do not like to travel.)

Things I don't like:

1.  Airplane travel.  Enough said.  Those long flights from the West Coast to Paris are killer.  But I did discover the joy of watching a million movies on my last long flight home.

2. Jet lag.  Anybody figured out how to mitigate this?  I tried melatonin with no results.  But this year I didn't suffer too bad on the way. I was not able to sleep, and so by the time I got to Pezenas it had been 24 hours and I'd been on a plane and a plane and a train with maybe three hours of sleep here and there.  I was so tired I fell right out.  But for some reason coming back home was brutal.  Felt like it took me forever to recover.

3.  Window seats.  Yes, I like the view, too.  But I also like to drink tons of water on plane flights so that I won't get a headache.  And that means several trips to the bathroom.

4.  Car sickness.  Ask my sister, when I was little I was famous for throwing up on car trips.  None of my sisters or cousins wanted to sit next to me for fear I would vomit on them.  I still have a hard time sitting in the back seat of a car, though I have discovered the wonders of Sea Bands that seem to mitigate most car sickness problems.

That's it!  That's all I've got.  What about you?  Do you like to travel or prefer to stay home?

Because I know you care desperately, here's the first Wednesday post from last week.  (I'm looking for a name for these posts.  Ideas?)


Come to France With Me in 2015

Just saying right off the top here--this is a teaser post.

Because you want to come to my next writing retreat in France, don't you?  You know you do!  We don't have every detail confirmed yet but we have decided where we will be.  Ready?

Collioure, France. Coll800

It is a seaside town with mountain views, and also the twisty, curvy medieval streets I love so much in part of it.  Tons to explore in the town itself, and many wonderful things to see nearby. Collioure is in the Languedoc-Roussilon region of France, and I can personally attest to the wonderfulness of their wines.  It is near the border with Spain (you could take the train from Barcelona if you so desired), in the south of France.

So, yes, that's the location.  But let's not forget that this will be a writing retreat/workshop.  I've had some questions about how this works, so here is the scoop:  Every morning (Sunday-Friday), we meet from 9:30 to 12:30 for the workshop.  This time is devoted to mini-lectures from Debbie and myself, and discussion about the designated subject (an aspect of writing).  We assign a book in common for all to read, from which we draw examples. There's in-class writing and every day, we give an assignment, which will then be discussed in-depth the next day.  (For an example of this year's schedule, click here.)

But we're not all work and no play.  Huh-uh.  Yes, you will have assignments to work on, but there will also be plenty of time to explore the town and a field trip or two to other locales.  And we have been known to enjoy the local wines, um, quite a bit, when we reconvene in the evening for talk and food and drink.

There's also the option for staying on for a second (non-writing) week.

Stay tuned.  Debbie and I are meeting next week to work on the schedule, and we'll have that posted as soon as we can.  We've got quite a long list of people who have expressed interest in the workshop this year, so drop me a line if you want to nab a space!


Soaking It In

As you may have noticed, things have been a bit quiet around here.  I've been in France, as some readers know.  France, people! Two weeks in the south and several days in Paris. 

And I have been soaking it all in.

So much so that my brain feels ready to explode and I can't wait to get on the plane and have time to write.  (But given a choice, I'd stay here longer in a hot second.)

To back up a bit:

The first couple of weeks in September, I wrote a lot. I took a class about fast drafting, and managed to write 80 pages on a brand-new project before I got on the plane for Europe.

The third week in September, I was in Pezenas, co-leading a writing workshop.  And, since all the participants were writing every day, I wrote, too.

Then my husband arrived in Pezenas.  And a group of us stayed on a second week.

There was no writing.  Instead, there were adventures.  Like a trip to Sete, where we rode a boat in the canals and harbor and got drenched in a rainstorm.  (None of us even had coats on.) A visit to St. Guilhem-de-desert to see the old houses built up a ravine and the Cloisters.  A journey to the beautiful and lively city of Montpelier.  And lots of time spent wandering the town of Pezenas, which has an historic core that is fun to get lost in (and get lost you will, the streets are very curvy and narrow).  And now, of course, Paris.  Just, Paris.

About mid-way through the first week I bought a journal.  (Buying paper goods is one of my favorite things to do here.) And I wrote in it a few times in the morning.   I thought for sure I would write delicate, important words about Paris in it once we got here.  But I haven't.

And for once, I'm not worried about it.

Because I am filled up with the sights and sounds of my time here.  And the flavors, let us not forget the flavors: macarons from Laduree, foie gras with fig jam in a small cafe in Pezenas, leg of lamb at a cafe on Boulevard Montparnasse after walking all day.  And the wine! Vin rouge, from theLanquedoc, the best wine in the world.

It really doesn't get any better than this.  Even if you're not writing.

So here are my recommendations for going with it and just letting it soak in:

1. Take insect repellent.  Les moustiques Francaise love me.  I was covered with bites the first two weeks, and they would suddenly activate in the middle of the night and start itching.  Once I bought insect repellent, my sleep improved dramatically.  The moral of the story? Be prepared.  I think being prepared in writing is related to soaking it in.  Being a sponge for every sensual experience is preparing yourself to disgorge words on the page.

2. Try.  I speak French haltingly.  But I find if I at least attempt a few words in French, people laugh and talk to me in English.  It is nice to try, though.  Same thing with writing.  Try putting some words down on paper.  When you're blocked, just try it and see what happens.

3.  Be willing to be uncomfortable.  I've written about this before, but on my table it is way too complicated to find the link.  Part of the experience of travel is a willingness to be embarrassed because you did something wrong in a different culture.  To get lost.  To have to walk 2 miles because you missed the bus.  To be uncomfortable.  And is this not also the essence of writing?

4. Have fun.  Every time something goes a different way than we anticipated, my husband and I look at each other and say, "Who cares? We are in Paris!" And then we soak in some more of wherever we find ourselves.  If you're not having fun with your writing, you might want to consider another career.

5. Use the toilet wherever you find one.  This is excellent travel advice.  Alas, I find I cannot relate it back to writing.  Maybe you can. 

As is so often the case with writing, I find that now I am to the end of this post I finally get what the true theme is.  And that is what I said in #4.  One should always live life, and approach writing, with the idea that wherever you find yourself is the most wonderful place on the planet to be.

Bon jour.  I promise that next week I'll be back to normal on my blogging.  In the meantime, what's up with you?  How's the writing going? Please report in the comments.

 (Alas, posting photos is too complex at the moment and I only have one day left in Paris so I am off to explore.  If you want to see some images from my trip, follow me on Instagram.

 


Writing in France (Or Anywhere)

Bon jour.

I am in Pezenas, France, down near Montpelier and Beziers (where we stayed Friday night and had an experience on the free bus trying to find our hotel that still makes me laugh out loud every time I think of it).  We--six of us--are staying in a house that could more accurately be called a mansion, with three floors and a grand marble entry on the inside, and a koi pond and swimming pool with a swag of oleander dripping above it on the outside.

Every morning at 9:30 we meet to workshop attendee's stories and discuss our book in common (Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes).  Our subject this year is character, so everything is viewed through that lens.

And every afternoon we write.  (I got in five pages yesterday).  Then at 5:30 we meet for wine, olives, pate, cheese, and bread--lots of bread.  (Paleo people just have to put aside their thing about carbs.  Besides, the wheat is better here.  And so is the butter.  And the eggs.  I'll stop now.)

In between, when the writing is done, there are walks into town (curvy streets barely wide enough for cars, restaurants tucked into every alley, shops and art galleries and lots of people smoking) or into the country side (vinyards and big old stone houses).

But notice I said, when the writing is done.

Because that's the point of being here, after all.  And it is surprisingly easy to get writing done, even in paradise, when you've got a whole houseful of people doing the same thing.

Between this experience and the Book in a Month class I took before I left (which entailed writing 20 pages a day for 14 days, thus finishing a draft, and then rewriting it the last two weeks of the month)I've come up with new knowledge of how to get words on the page and, as always, I am here to impart this wisdom to you.

Are you ready?  It's a multi-part process, so it is imperative that you pay close attention to the very end.  Here we go.

1.  Write

2. Write some more

3. Take no longer than one minute to ring your hands about how bad the writing is and then get back to it.

4. Write more

5. Notice you are writing utter crap and charge ahead anyway

6. Write, write, write

7. Finish your goal of pages or words for the day and breath a sigh of relief because you did it.

So, yeah, I'm being a bit tongue in cheek here (ya think?) but the gist of it is true.  I'm come to realize that we (myself included) make the act of writing way too complicated and emotional, when really, it all boils down to one thing: getting words on the page.

It doesn't matter how good or bad those words are, your only job is to throw them at the page.  To sit your butt down in the chair and write.  Because the wonderful thing about writing is that it can always be revised--and revision is ever so much easier when you actually have word on the page to work with.

What about you?  How is your writing going? What tricks do you use to get yourself to the page?


Traveling Discomforts and Mercies

Contrast_tower_toureiffel_14714_hWhen you read this, I'll likely be sitting on an airplane from Seattle to Paris.  It'll be cramped and the flight attendants will be speaking in French and I'll have no idea what they're saying and the person next to me will look like they just got out of prison, or the hospital.

Yeah, you're not feeling too sympathetic to me, are you?

Because, Paris.

And the south of France.

I know.  I can't wait.

But just because I'm gone doesn't mean the blog won't continue.  As mentioned in a previous post, I hope to be able to blog from Pezenas, unlike last year when I got to France and realized you can't freaking blog from an Ipad.  And I have at least one guest post scheduled.

Also--there's seven years of content, over 1,000 articles to explore on this site.  (One of these days I've got to figure out a better way to organize it.  I've tried and failed in the past.)

And before I leave, I want to say something about travel that bears on writing.  One word:

Discomfort.

I've realized that a lot of what we fear in travel is discomfort.  We fear not being able to communicate, sleeping in an uncomfortable bed, eating weird food and drinking water that makes us sick.  Getting lost or missing a plane.  

And then when one or more of those things happens, we realize its not that bad.  And then you feel really good for having worked through the discomfort.  All of which adds up to something my wise friend Mayanna said yesterday: "I've learned that I have to do things that scare me."

And sometimes traveling is scary, or at least anxiety-producing.

Much like writing, no?

So next time you're in the middle of a writing session and you stop, paralyzed with fear because it has suddenly occurred to you that what you are writing sucks beyond repair, remember that a little discomfort is good.  Because it forces us to go places we've not been, whether in the real world or your writing world.

And remember how much better you'll feel once you have pushed through it.

So, what about you?  Do you like to travel?  Where's the most recent place you've traveled to?

Photo by Shawn Allen.


My Mind is as Dry as the Desert

(Brief aside: you know how you can remember the difference in spelling between dessert and desert? You want more of dessert, and thus it has two of the letter s in it.  My seventh grade teacher, Charles Nakvasil, taught me that.  He owned movie theaters after he quit teaching.) Desert-arizona-summer-47866-h

Last week I was out of town.  This was not the usual kind of travel I do, to writer's retreats or workshops or conferences or meetings with clients.  This was for fun only.  My nephew graduated from Pepperdine law school and two days later got married in Malibu.  Yeah, he's kind of nuts.  Runs in the family.

We, all of us, went to the wedding. Kids, grandkids, the whole shebang. Long-lost brothers and sisters-in-law.  Stayed at the same hotel, congregated for breakfast, hung out by the pool, like that.  We spent a day in Santa Monica (on the beach!) and wandered around the Venice canals. And then, when the kids went home, my husband and I played tourist, taking the best Hollywood star home tour ever, and wandering along Hollywood Boulevard to see the Walk of Stars and Grauman's Theater.  You gotta love all that.

And now, I'm home.  Have been for a few days.  Came back to appointments and laundry and family duties and tons of errands to run, as one does.  

But I haven't done a lick of writing.  

I've not written down a single idea.

Taken even the tiniest note.

I can't seem to land on anything.  My brain is full up, that's for sure.  But nothing is coalescing.  When I think that I should sit down and write, I can't seem to remember any of the projects I was working on before I left.  (Um, that would be the novel, and the two stories, and the idea for novella.)

I can't connect with anything.  My brain is as dry as the desert.

And, of course, I know the antidote for this.   Say it with me now:

Write something.  Anything!  Just put words on paper! 

And so I will.  Because I'm familiar enough with the creative process to understand that this happens sometimes, and while it's often important to just go with it, as I have been, it is also important to break the spell at some point with activity.

In other words, writing.

It's gone on long enough, and so I shall get to it.  Because if I don't get to it, the Not Writing may become a habit, and I can't allow that to happen.

What about you?  How do you break dry spells?  Leave a comment!

 

***For fun, some other posts I've written about southern California:

 Here's a post I wrote about attending a party on the Venice canals a few years back.

A post on why travel is good for your writing.

A letter from L.A.

A post titled, Ah, L.A., in which I discuss how its illegal to be anything but thin and blonde and tan there.

There are no doubt more, but that's all I can find for the moment.  Enjoy Memorial Day Weekend, everyone!

 Photo by Wolfgang Staudt.


10 Ways to Connect With Other Writers

Rockamring_crowd_968605_h
The crowd of writers probably will not be quite this rowdy.

As you read this post, I will be attending the annual Associated Writer's Programs conference in Seattle, more commonly known as AWP.  Rumor has it that 11,000 writers will be there, though I'm a bit suspicious of that number.  (I've had numerous people, writers among them, ask me what on earth an AWP is, so here's an explanation: it's the organization that all the university writing programs belong to, and it also hosts a massive book fair of independent presses and journals.)

I've been to AWP four or five times in the past, in such disparate locations as Baltimore, Chicago (twice) and New York City.  It is always a blast to be around a bunch of other writers (the bars are crowded all day long) and wonderful to sit in on various panel discussions and presentations.  One year I even presented on a panel--biggest crowd I've ever spoken in front of, and it was pretty great.

Anyway....all this has got me thinking about how important connecting is to writers.  After all, independent ad solitary by nature, we like to sit in our rooms and write, so connecting may not be uppermost on your list of goals.  But I've always found that writers, once they get unchained from their desks, are the most interesting people in the world.  That's reason enough to connect with other writers, but you'll also find a sense of belonging that only talking shop with other knowledgeable souls can bring.  When you get stuck or discouraged, or face another rejection, you'll know someone you can call on who will understand.  (Because, let's face it, non-writers just don't get so many aspects of our lives.)

I've had several students and clients, though, ask me how they can get connected to other writers. This post is my answer.  Here you go:

1.  Conferences.  These tend to be big and glitzy and lots of fun.  You can take workshops on all aspects of writing, meet agents and editors, and kibbutz with other writers.  Some conferences also offer workshop components.  Many conferences tend to be held in the summer, so now is the time to plan to attend.  Look to Shaw Guides, Poets & Writers, Writer's Digest and The Writer for information on writer's conferences.

2. Workshops.  I'm arbitrarily naming these workshops, for gatherings that will be smaller and more intimate. While a conference may host hundreds or even thousands, a workshop can be as small as 6 participants.  Most often, there is a teaching component as well as a chance to share and discuss your own work.  I offer workshops through my business Let's Go Write, and our next one, in September will be in Pezenas, France.

3.  Retreats.  Many organized retreats for writers exist.  I used to be on the staff of one in Nashville that featured a few scheduled events and lots and lots of time to write.  It filled up every time we held it! There's something about getting away from your ordinary life that encourages writing.  If you can't find an organized retreat to your liking, create your own--hide out in a motel room for a few days, or rent a room for AirBnB.  It doesn't take much to make a writer happy--computer, pen, notepad and lots of coffee and you're set.  Okay, maybe some wine for the end of the day, too.

4. Ongoing Writer's Groups.  I'm talking about critique groups that meet to discuss work.  Some are led, i.e. you pay someone money to guide the evening, and others are informally organized.  I'm a huge fan of these.  I've belonging to two very-long running groups, one informal, the other led and I actually co-lead a group now.  I also belong to a small ( 4 person) informal group that I organized last year.  Not only will you get some good feedback on your work, you'll most likely make a few writing friends as well.

5.  Beta Readers.  Many writers I know make a habit of assembling a group of beta readers to send their work to when they've finished a draft.  This may not have quite the same degree of connection as in-person contact, but it is still a form of community.

6.  Crit Partners.  Other writers limit their criticism to one crit partner.  I can't speak to this process or how it fosters connection as I've never done it, but I hear good things about it from others who have.

7.  Local Writing Associations.  Here in Portland, we have two largish and very active writing associations who sponsor conferences, regular meetings with speakers, workshops, and readings. When I first started writing years ago, attending Willamette Writers meetings is how I first met other writers.  From there I became active in the group, found an ongoing writer's group and my path was set.

8.  Readings.  Most bookstores offer regular readings.  Go attend them!  Not only will you be supporting other writers, but there's a good chance you'll meet a few while there.  At the very least, you'll hear some good words being read.

9.  Classes.  And, of course, you can always take a class.  The first writing class I ever took was at a local community college, led by the wonderful (and under-read) Craig Lesley.  That was where I first experienced a workshop-style reading of my work.   There are many private classes as well, and don't forget certificate programs such as the one I teach at, The Loft.  

10. Online friends.  Through Twitter, other social media, and this blog, I've made many connections with other writers that I treasure.  Don't be shy--dive in!  I love the way I can communicate with other writers I'd never otherwise meet online.

So those are the ideas that spring to my mind.  What about you?  What are you favorite ways to connect with other writers?

Photo by rp72.


10 Takeaways from France

CobblestonesI flew home from Paris last Sunday, and as I write this, I'm still a bit jet lagged.  One of these days I'm sure I'll get back to a normal sleep schedule.  I now seem to rise at 4:30 every morning--at least it gives me time to write.

But I'm not complaining.  Because travel--any kind of travel, but especially international travel--is good for the writer's soul.  Really good.  So herewith is a round-up of some of my impressions of France, and how I see they relate to writing.  (Because, you know, everything relates to writing.)

1. Potato chips.  You gotta love a country that is as obsessed with potato chips as France.  Nearly every bar or cafe brings you a little cup of them with your wine or Orangina (my new obsession).   It's offering a little something extra--a habit we writers would be wise to emulate, don't you think?  Take the time to go deeper, to go back and rewrite that scene you've never quite been able to get right.  Take the time to give a little extra in your writing and your life.

2. Fantastic wines from the Languedoc Roussillon region.   Oh man, we loved the wines from the area we stayed in.  (It was the south of France, but very close to Spain.  Big Catalan influence with many signs in both languages.)  What can I say?  Setting is important. Bring yours to life with details from the location you're setting your story in.

3.  Water follows a natural course.  In Ceret, the sides of the narrow, cobblestones streets have gulleys in which water flows all day and night.  (See photo above.) The sound of running water and church bells chiming the hour (starting at 7 AM--no sleeping late there) are a constant backdrop.  Hopefully, your writing flows, too.  It does when you just let it, go I've learned.  And it doesn't when you force it.

4.  You will get jet lag.  And that's a fact.  The best way I found to cope  was to go with it.   The first few nights in France, I awoke every night and stayed awake for a few hours, but I was so excited to be in Paris (and have a 360 degree view of the city, including the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur) that I just got up and admired the vista.  You will get writer's block at some point, too.  My advice?  Quit resisting and go with it.  Take a break.  Refresh yourself.  You'll get back to the work, trust me.

5.  French women do have more style.  They just do.  And I think its because they make an effort to put their best selves forward in every situation.  Even if they are running to the corner boulangerie, they pay attention to what they're wearing.  Do me a favor, would you?  Check over your manuscript one more time before you send it out to anyone.  Make sure its formatted correctly (double spaced, please) and that there are no typos. I've seen a lot of manuscripts lately wherein the writer seems to have forgotten this crucial step.  Put your best self forward.

6.  If you don't speak the language, try anyway.  My high school French is rusty, very, very rusty.  But a smile and a sincere effort to communicate always did wonders.  Funny, because this was one of the things I worried about most but I always muddled through.  So maybe its time for you to try writing that personal essay you've been mulling?  Perhaps you really do have a novel in you? (And by the way, if you decide you want to learn a language, there's a fabulous free website called Duolingo that can help you.)

7.  In Ceret, there's a boulangerie on every block.  (Kinda like there's a coffeeshop on every corner here in Portland.)  Every morning, I'd take a walk and swear I would not return home with chocolate croissants.  I'll leave it to your imagination to decide how successful I was.  But this baked goods abundance made me think about ideas, and how we live in a rich stew of them.  An idea on every corner!  And many more in between.  We just have to become aware.

8.  Tourist areas are fun--but many other areas offer delights as well.  I traveled through Paris on my way to and from Ceret.  My first couple of nights in the city, I stayed in the home of a wonderful woman named Diane (this was where I had the amazing view of Paris).  I rented this place through AirBandB.com.  On my way back, I stayed in a fancy hotel on the Champs Elysses (thanks, Marlene).  Two very different experiences.  Is there a different area of your creativity you'd like to explore?  Painting?  Line dancing?  Fiber arts?  Head off the beaten path and see what you create.

9.  A community of writers is crucial in so many ways.  Our hardy band of retreaters read and commented on each other's work every morning as part of our workshops.   Not only did they enjoy the support and trust that sprang up, but they spurred each other on to new heights in their writing.  No kidding.  You wouldn't believe some of the amazing work that got put on the page! Find your community, whether it's a physical or in cyberspace.  (And I have one word for anyone interested in going on retreat with us next year: Italy.)

10.  All roads lead to Perpignan We took the bullet train (that baby really is fast) from Paris to Perpignan, which is a bit of a hub.  It's where Salvador Dali reputedly had a psychedelic experience that led him to declare that Perpignan was the center of the universe.  This may well be true.  As we were out and about on the countryside, we discovered that no matter which direction we traveled, there would be a sign saying we were on the road to Perpignan.   For me, this is true of writing as well.  All roads lead back to my writing.  All experiences, everything that happens, are reflected in my writing one way or another.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

What about you?  Does travel, foreign or domestic, inspire you?  What exotic locale would you most like to visit?

***The above photo was taken by moi.  I had planned to add a bunch more images to this post, but major wonkiness is going on with Typepad and photos.  I took tons of pictures, some blurry, some crooked, some actually halfway good, and you can see them all on my Instagram stream.

 


Jet Lag

I have returned.

EiffellTower

France was wonderful.  Paris has only gotten better in the years since I've been there, and Ceret, the small town in the south of France where I spent a week leading a writing retreat, charming.  I had full intentions to blog regularly during my trip.   Obviously, that didn't happen.  To my credit, I did try, but discovered that with an Ipad, one can only use Typepad, my blog host, on an app.  Which I did download.  But then it seemed easier to walk to town and enjoy an afternoon glass of vin rouge than figure out how to use it.  So I didn't.  (But, between teaching and drinking, I did manage to write quite a bit on my own projects, so that, at least, is something.)

In the meantime, after the 12-hour flight (10 from Paris to Salt Lake City, and 2 from SLC to Portland) home on Sunday, I've been a bit wigged out, trying to straighten out a weird sleeping pattern, and catch up with a million things that happened while I was gone.  So my grand plans for blogging have gone astray.

However, I am working on a round-up post (that will also go out with my newsletter) for Thursday, and I'll have a book review posting on that date as well.  So please stay tuned, and know that I missed you.  By the way, the writing retreat/workshop was fantastic!  All of our participants turned out a high level of writing and seemed well satisfied with the week's work.  Next September we're going to Italy--so start making plans to join us now!

Until then, you can view my photo stream, with tons of pictures of Paris and Ceret, on Instagram. 


On The Road

Last week I drove to Baker City, Oregon with my friend Sharon.  5

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.


A Writer Travels

Boeing_window_wing_248675_lOne of the missions of this blog is to write about the writer's life, all of it, and for this writer (moi), travel for work is an integral part of it.

My writing-related traveling began when I was accepted into the brief residency MFA program at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky, and fell into the flow of flying back there twice a year, in May and October.

It continued when I was hired as a mentor, lo those many years ago, at the Loft Certificate in Writing program in Nashville (well, really, Murfreesboro, but close enough).  For that gig, I traveled in September and January, and for awhile also went to Nashville in December and April when I was on the staff of the now-defunct Room to Write retreat.

Back in the day, I had clients in Los Angeles, and I'd fly (my favorite commute ever--just two hours on the plane, long enough for a good session of reading and voila, you have arrived) down there several times a year.  (Now I just go visit my friend Mary-Suzanne.)

And now that I do writing retreats, I get to head off the exotic locations such as Diamond, Oregon (population, 9, and we meet in a hotel that was once a stagecoach stop), and Ceret, France, where I'm headed the first week of September.

But at the end of this week, I'm heading back to Louisville again, to be a graduate assistant at Spalding after a ten-year absence.  This all started because at the beginning of the year, I started jonesing to be in the MFA environment again.  I wanted to see how different or similar it might be from the kind of teaching I've been doing, both privately and at the Loft.  I longed to be seriously immersed in the world of writing and literature again.

And, well, seriously immersed doesn't really begin to describe it.  The schedule for the 10 days is 30 pages long!  I'll be assisting one of my former mentors, Mary Clyde, whom I adore, in workshops devoted to critiquing student work, recording lectures, running errands, setting up events, attending readings by faculty and students, and soaking in as many words about writing as I can cram into my brain.  (Oh yeah, and there will be lunches, glasses of wine and dinners with old friends and new along the way.)

(I will also be reading from Emma Jean on Friday the 24th, I believe at 6 PM, and selling my book.  So come see me if you're in Louisville.)

I am going to attempt--attempt--to blog from the residency while I'm there. (If Patrick Ross can do it, surely I can!)  But, like I said, the schedule is 30 pages long, with every day packed and lots of duties outlined for me.   I am not complaining, however.  On the contrary, I cannot wait.

Oh, and the best part?  I don't have to take that cursed 6 AM flight to Dallas that I always get booked on.  My plane leaves at a leisurely 8:20 AM.

Do you travel for work, writing-related or other?  What do you like best or least about it?  Please leave a comment!

Photo by Dolphin22.


Freelance Writing, A New Publishing Model, and Haiku (Or, What I Learned in Nashville)

VanderbiltYesterday I wrote a post about my adventures in Nashville.  Today, I'm writing about what you really want to know more on, some of the writing activities I partook of.  Wait, that's a poorly constructed sentence, with that dangling participle.  Today, I'm writing about the writing activities about which you want to learn more.  Technically correct, but a bit high-faluting.  Well, let's just get to it.

The Writer's Loft

To refresh your memory, I travel to Nashville twice a year, in September and January, to participate in the certificate writing program sponsored by Middle Tennessee State University, the Writer's Loft.  It's a program modeled on the brief-residency MFAs that are so popular now, and in the words of the Loft's founder, Roy Burkhead, it's "MFA lite." (By the way, Roy's editing a cool literary magazine that I contribute to called 2nd and Church--check it out.)The program offers weekend orientations during which students hear lectures and workshops on all aspects of writing, and meet with their mentors after which, students go forth and do what they should be doing--write.

This year, I presented a lecture at the Loft on Scene and Structure, a variation on one of the sessions of my Get Your Novel Written Now class.  It was an information dense hour and a half, let me just say, so much so that I feared my student's heads might explode.  They graciously refrained from allowing this to happen, however.  I also sat in on a variety of other presentations, two in particular that I want to highlight here.

Freelance Writing

Writer Jennifer Chesak spoke on freelance writing and got me all inspired about it again.  She went through the basics of getting started, establishing relationships with editors, and so on.  Jennifer recommends starting with querying on small articles that would go in the news sections at the front of magazines and working your way up.  When I graduated from journalism school a gazillion years ago, I got married and had babies right away and so working at a newspaper was something that never happened for me.  But I did begin free-lancing and did it off and on for years, until I went back to school for my MFA and began doing more teaching and coaching.  But listening to Jennifer made me want to have another go at it, so I'm now on the lookout for ideas. 

A New Publishing Model

VPWebsiteBannerClassic-600x230Jennifer has also begun an innovative publishing company that intrigues me. It's called Wandering in the Words Press and here's how it works: it's submission-based, so you submit your work and go through a vetting process.  When Jennifer selects your novel or memoir for publication, you pay her for the editing process, either upfront, or through your royalties.  She not only edits, but creates you a website, and assists with marketing.  And the royalties are good--50%.  This is a very similar arrangement to my publisher, Vagabondage, though I didn't pay any fees to them for editing or anything else.  What I like about it is that you get all the benefits of indie publishing but there's still some quality control, which is often lacking in self publishing.  It's worth checking out.

Haiku

Another one of the workshops which captured my attention was Aaron Shapiro's on writing Haiku.  He went through the rules of writing Haiku, gave us some visual prompts and let us have at it.  Okay, okay, if you insist, I'll share my brilliance with you:

Past his given time Absolutwade_model_wasp_255102_l

Fading days of a short life

A bee in winter.

This was my ode to the bee that appeared in my Portland bathroom at 4 AM as I was getting ready to catch my plane to Nashville.  What I liked about the Haiku writing was the idea that you could play around with it as a warm-up to writing.  Or when you're blocked, or don't know what to write but want to write something.

So that was what I learned in Nashville.  But I also want to give a shout-out to the Living Writer's Collective, this amazing group of writers in Spring Hill, about a half-hour away from Nashville (in which direction, I'm still not entirely certain).  I had the great good fortune to speak to them on Thursday night before the Loft orientation began and I loved it.  What a great group of writers--not a wanna-be in the bunch.  All of them, as far as I could tell, were actually engaged in the work of putting words on the page.  They were a friendly and welcoming group, also, and if you live in the area, check them out.  Thanks, guys, for having me!

And I think that is quite enough from me for the moment.  What have you learned of heard or read about writing lately?  Comment, please.

Images:

The top image is one I took on the Vanderbilt campus, which is serving as a stand-in for MTSU.  They are two very different beasts, but oh well.

I snitched the Vagabondage Press image for the website.

The bee is by Mordac.


To Nashville and Back

Estock_commonswiki_353383_hYou might have noticed my absence from this space over the last week.  That's because I went to Nashville on a teaching trip, which was wonderful as always and also turned out to be a bit more adventurous than usual.

To wit:

--My husband got so sick before I left I almost cancelled my trip.  I did try to delay it by one day, but the airlines charge a lot for that.  Like $1,000 a lot.  So off I went anyway, with promises by my daughter to look in on him.  Instead of him rising at the crack of dawn (4 AM) to drive me to the airport, I ordered a cab and had the dubious pleasure of riding with a taciturn Russian driver who did not say one word the entire trip.  My husband started antibiotics and soon felt much better. So did I.

--I stayed the first two days with a student I had worked with for three semesters but beyond that didn't know well.   I think we were both a little nervous about it.  I mean, what if I burped or farted in front of her and/or her husband and embarrassed all of us?  You'll be happy to know that didn't happen, and I had a great time, ending up the time feeling like I made a wonderful new, close friend. (Hi, Karen!)

--Got my debit card hacked.  Yes, really.  Somewhere in my travels across the country, the card got skimmed.  Was it the surly cab driver?  The sweet woman at the newsstand in Dallas?  Who knows?  I've got to hand it to Paypal, they took immediate action and dealt with the problem without a lot of fuss on my part.

--Almost missed my flight home to Portland from my connection in Denver.  Apparently, Frontier Airlines likes to cut things close with connecting flights.  I had 30 minutes in which to make it.  And, of course, the plane from Nashville to Denver was late.  Turned out there were 50 of us on the flight with the same insanely short connection time, so they held all the planes for us.  It still required a mad dash through the airport (wearing boots and an oversized purse, wheeling my computer bag behind me), because, wouldn't you know it, the arrival and departure gates were about as far apart as you could be and still be in the same concourse.

--Remembered about fear: that it's a sneaky beast that can masquerade as anxiety or a variety of other emotions.  And really, it all just goes back to fear.   I remind myself that the word that pressed itself upon me this year is fearless and it is that word that I have pledged to live by.  And so I shall.

So those were some of my adventures.  In my next post, I'll write about the actual writing part of the trip, including some of the highlights of the Loft orientation.

Have you had any adventures lately, in life or  your writing?  I'd love to hear about them.  Leave me a comment and share.

***By the way--you can get $50 off my next Get Your Novel Written Now class if you sign up by next Thursday, Jan. 31st.  It doesn't start until March but sign up now for early bird pricing!


The Writing Life: Travel, or Why Travel is Good for Your Writing

800px-HollywoodSignAs I mentioned in my previous post, I'm in LA, actually Pasadena, visiting my dear friend Suzanne.  I'm working a lot while here, but no matter, I'm somewhere other than my usual here.  Last week I was at the Oregon Coast.  Now, neither of these short vacations are trips to exotic locales.  But they are trips.  And they are reminding me why travel of any kind, near or far, for a short or long time, is such a valuable activity for writers.

One reason is because you see the world through other's eyes.  For instance, last week we stayed with old family friends, a large rowdy bunch from Denver who I adore.  And they do things differently than me, particularly in food choices, opting for standard mainstream brands and products.  This week, in LA, its a whole different story when it comes to food.  Suzanne is an advocate of a real food lifestyle, which means consuming fresh and fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir made from raw milk, kombucha, and cultured vegetables (think kraut).  Two different sets of people, two different viewpoints of the world.

The characters who populate our novels and memoirs and non-fiction books all have unique viewpoints, too, with very specific ways of looking at the world.  Travel introduces me to people who think differently than me.  It pops me out of my bubble and forces me to live according to a different schedule than I usually do.  So here are some guidelines for getting the most benefit to your creativity from travel:

Be Open to Anything.  Another way to put this would be to say yes to any experience that presents itself.  Be willing to go with the flow and see what happens.  Here's an example: Suzanne had an appointment with an acting coach and I tagged along.  We thought it was a private appointment.  Wrong.  It was a class.  And I got pressed into service to run lines.  Now, let me be very clear here: I speak in public all the time, and it doesn't scare me, because I'm talking about my passion, writing.  But acting?  This is a whole different thing we're talking about and it terrifies me. 

SunsetblvdnearvineBut there wasn't much I could do.  And I figured, what the hell?  I'm in a building on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood with people I'll never see again.  So I might as well go for it.  And I did, even when I found out I was going to be taped and had to watch the playback.  It was a lot of fun when I allowed myself to just be open to it.  The next day the coach called Suzanne and told her I should look for commercial acting jobs in Portland.  When I pulled myself together after the laughing fit that ensued, I actually thought about it.

Because in being open to acting, I've realized how similar it is to writing.  How you have to parse out the scene, go deep into it and figure out the character's motivation.  How you have to allow the character to inhabit you as you say his or her words, just like you do when you're writing in a character's viewpoint.  I may not actively study acting because of this, but you can be damn sure I'll find some books about it in order to enhance my ability to understand my characters.  And none of this would have happened if I hadn't been open.

Soak It In.  To really get the benefit of travel, you've got to have your eyes wide open, be present, and soak it all in.  You've committed to being open to whatever comes your way, right?  So while experiencing different activities, be present.  Watch, listen, smell, pay attention, be alert.  Notice things so you can use them later.  And along the same lines....

Take Notes.  I'm filling my Moleskine journal, sadly neglected over the last month while my spiritual community went through some uproar, with notes and ideas and plans for my next novel.   Because I also remembered to...

Plan Ahead.  The first five chapters of my new novel are set in southern California, specifically, Malibu.  I asked Suzanne if she'd drive me over there if I bought her a tank of gas.  And so we spent a wonderfully cool afternoon while the rest of SoCal baked in record temperatures, exploring locales in and around Malibu that I planned to use for my novel.  Already, I've decided to make some crucial changes in these scenes, the result of being on-site and seeing how things really are.  (The real world is sometimes so inconvenient.)

Be Grateful.  I love being here.  I loved being at the beach last week.  I can't wait until I travel to Nashville in September.  I feel lucky and blessed that I get to travel to places near and far.  Suzanne and I sit outside in the morning and the evenings and planes fly overhead after taking off from the Burbank airport.  They are high enough up that I start to imagine, that plane is going to India.  Or, that plane is going to New York.  And I want to go, too!  I'm grateful these last two weeks have reawakened my love of travel, and it's all good for my writing.

And now, excuse me, but I'm going to go learn how to make raw milk yogurt.

Where have you traveled recently, near or far?  How has it impacted your writing?

**Need a boost for your writing?  There's still time to sign up for my novel writing teleclass, which starts next week.  Check out the page, it's going to be a lot of fun!

Photos from Wikimedia Commons.

 


Its Pretty Amazing: This Vision Board Stuff Works

So, you might be a bit like me (or a lot like me, since you are reading this blog). GotoImage

You might be like me in thinking that this vision board stuff is all well and good when it comes to applying it to a book that you're writing.  Because, book writing is a very visual thing, right?  And so finding pictures of your characters and settings is a great idea because it will help to visualize things for the writing.  And yeah, maybe you can see how having a visual reference could help you to not get stalled or, God forbid, blocked on your project.

But, vision boards for your life?

Um, maybe.  Except they take a lot of time.  I mean, you've got to leaf through magazines or do searches on Google and find just the right image.  And, honestly, who knows exactly what they want in life anyway?  So why bother?

I'll tell you why bother: because this shit works.  Excuse me for being profane.  But this shit works.  Let me tell you my little story.

This spring I took a class at church called the 4Ts Prosperity Program.  The 4 Ts class, created by the late Stretton Smith, is a spiritual approach to prosperity based on the 12-Step program.  Stretton encourages class members to set intentions for what they want in life and also make a vision board.  And so, I began the process.

And it took flippin' forever.  First I took an hour or so one Saturday afternoon to find images for what I wanted.  And then the pile of images sat on my desk for a few weeks, until I felt guilty enough had time to work on the vision board again.  And then when I started sorting through the images I realized I had way too many for one board.  So I ended up with three, count 'em, three vision boards: one for my spiritual goals, one for my temporal goals (if that's the correct usage of the word) and one for my travel goals.

Because, I love to travel.  And there are places I really, really want to go.  Like Hawaii, which takes up one-quarter of my travel vision board, and Africa, which takes up three-quarters of it.  I have wanted to go for Africa for years.  If you gave me one place I could choose to go above all else, it would be Africa.  And Hawaii would be second.

This travel vision board sits above my desk, with the board with the other worldly goals to its right side.  And when I'm gazing off into space (an important component of writing) my gaze often lands on the images of Africa and Hawaii.  And besides that, every morning I'd read my list of intentions, all 90 of them, with trips to Africa and Hawaii duly noted.

So, guess what happened?

First of all, the women at my church designed them a retreat next April on Maui, for an unbelievably cheap price which can be paid in payments.  So I signed up.  Kind of a miracle, no?  And then the real miracle happened.

A trip to Africa to write a book materialized.  For this November.  It is not final yet, we are working on the details, but it is looking pretty certain that it will happen.  I've been in a daze for days.  And when it does happen, I'll be blogging every night in this very space.  I'm so excited I could just pop.

So think good thoughts about the trip for me, would you?  And check out the website of the wonderful folks who are organizing the tour here.  You might even want to donate money to their cause, because they are building wells to provide fresh water in Ghana, some of which we'll be visiting and I'll be writing about.

Like I said, its still not all final yet.  But I've got great hope that it will happen.  So please hope and pray with me. 

* Photo by Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain

***Because this shit works, imagine what it can do for your book!  If you haven't yet, sign up for my list and download my free Ebook on  Jump Starting Your Book With A Vision Board.  The form is to the right of this very post.


Off I Go Again

I'm heading to LA tomorrow.  Coconuts_trees_tree_221641_l

Yep.  Swimming pools.  Movie stars.  Just like the Clampetts. 

Except I'll be working the entire time, attending a two-day business intensive that is part of the Suzanne Evans 10K Coaching Club.  Together with 98 other women, I'll be designing a plan for the next stage of my business.

Frankly, I'm terrified.  And excited, too.

Some days I just want to be a writer.  I am a writer, it is the basis of all that I do, every single thing.  But sometimes I want to go back to the days when that was all you had to do.  Before you needed to do nearly all the marketing for your career yourself. Before social media and coaching and blogs and websites.

Some days all I want to do is write novels.

And instead, I'm designing classes and products and writing newsletters and blog posts.  I'm coaching clients and critiquing student work and attending networking groups.

Truth be told, I love everything that I do.  I love all the extra stuff almost as much as I love writing, and I know that if I decided some day to stop it all and just write, I'd miss it.  (And of course, that day will never come, because the world has changed now.)

But still, some days I just want to write.  And that is good.  Because it is what drives everything.

A couple notes:

Patrick Ross has requested that I write a post on ghostwriting.  Meant to get to it today, but I ran out of time to do it justice, so expect this brilliant expose next week.

I'm taking registrations now for the Book Proposals That Succeed Teleclass.  It is going to be rockin' so don't miss out.  Check out the page here.


On The Road Again

I'm heading out again first thing tomorrow morning.  It is unusual for me to book trips so close together (I got back from Nashville less than a week ago), but it is just the way it worked out this time.

Tomorrow's destination is Diamond, Oregon, way over in the southeastern section of the state, a near-eight hour drive from Portland.  I first visited this area last fall, which you can read about here, complete with photos of cows.

This time I'm going with two writer friends and we're staying at the hotel. Hoping to get writing and hiking in, as well as planning for a retreat one of the writers and I want to host (perhaps at the Diamond Hotel). 

Here's the catch:  I'm pretty sure there's no internet at the hotel, so I won't be posting this week.  I'm sure it will be good for me not to have internet access, but still, the thought is a bit unnerving. I'll report how I do when I return on Thursday evening.

In the meantime, go check out the blog of Roz Savage, ocean rower.  She's amazing, and she's just set off on another leg of her journey to row around the world.  I love reading her daily blog posts about her adventure.

Can you even imagine doing such a thing?  I can't, but I love that there are brave people in the world who do.

How do you handle not having internet access?


Separation Anxiety

I'm leaving for Nashville tomorrow, and I don't want to go. Holiday-travels-airport-1199-l

I do really, because I'm the "book doctor" at Room to Write and there are going to be a dozen fabulous writers there.  And I'm going to see lots of friends.  Stay on the beautiful Scarritt Bennett campus and then with my friend Candace.  Get a lot of writing done.

But at the moment, everything is going wrong and I don't want to go.

When I leave Nashville for Portland next week, I won't want to leave Nashville.

I've gotten used to this push and pull of emotion before I leave for a trip.  It always happens.  I think of all the reasons I shouldn't go and long just to be at home.  Which is really just a silly illusion because I adore going to Nashville for all the above reasons.

So, its separation anxiety.  And the only thing there is to do about it is live through it.

Like so many things in life.  And writing, come to think of it.  Rejection comes to mind.

What do you get anxious over, either in writing or in life?

 


The Brain Dump

I'm just back from a road trip that knocked my socks off. 

Aspens
I drove, with two friends, to a remote ranch in southeastern Oregon, near Steens Mountain.  (The above photo was taken on the gravel road up to the summit if said mountain.  The Aspens were peaking and unbelievably gorgeous.)  This part of Oregon is very different from the west side, which is lush and green.  Instead, we were in high desert country, basin and range, where wild mustangs still roam and we saw at least 30 different kinds of birds, including a great horned owl, whooping cranes, a bald eagle, grebes, and mountain bluebirds.

Seeing as how we were on a ranch, there were also cows:

  Cows
Excuse the sideways image, I don't know why it is loading that way.  At any rate, this is the cattle looking in the front door of the ranch house.  Crane your neck to the left and note the gate in the background, which, being city girls, it didn't occur to us to close.  So we had a lot of fun herding the cattle out from the backyard and back into the front pasture.  They went every which way, over the fence, leaving fur behind, and under it, breaking down a couple rails along the way.  One even went under barbed wire.

We climbed to the top of the afore-mentioned Steens Mountain:

AtopSteens
From where I'm pretty sure you can see Idaho and Nevada in the distance, hundreds of miles away.  It was colder than a witch's you-know-what up there, and windy as hell.  But spectacular.  Oh, and all these years as an Oregonian, I thought it was Steens Mountains, plural, as in a mountain range.  But it is one very long mountain, a fault-block mountain which makes it so.

The idea was to write:

Bootsingrass
Which I did a wee bit of.  But mostly I was too busy inhaling the grand vistas, spotting birds, looking for wild mustangs, and meeting fabulously interesting people during dinner at the Hotel Diamond, which has been in operation since 1898.  Considering that its in a town with a population of 5 at the end of a road, its amazing and wonderful to me that the place is pretty much always booked up. 

By the way, the writer Ursula Le Guin stays at the same ranch house we did every year with her husband, and is so inspired about the place she just wrote a book about it, which you can buy here.  And, in another by the way, a friend and I are planning a writing retreat for next year that we've been scouting locations for--and this might just be the place.  So stay tuned for more details about that.

When I did have a small amount of time and sat down in the grass by Benson Pond to scribble away, I intended to work on something I've wanted to get done for a long time--a new freebie to entice people to sign up for my newsletter.  Its going to be a really good one, and I'm excited about working on it.  But I found I couldn't.  Why?  Because I had too much new stuff in my mind to focus.  That day by the pond I wrote about what I had seen.  And even since I've been home, I've still been writing and processing. 

I've been engaging in a brain dump, getting every new experience and vista out of my head an onto the page, clearing the way to go back to my other work.  And now, after journaling and blogging about it, I'm starting to feel clear enough to write the freebie.  So sometimes it is important just to allow yourself to do a brain dump.

What about you? How do you process new experiences?


Trust Versus Foolishness

Navigation-navigon-1262813-l

Two experiences with the GPS system in my rental car:

1. I'm driving to Nashville on Friday night to pick up a friend at her condo and go to dinner.  Gertie, which is what I've named my GPS, tells me to take a freeway route that does not look at all familiar to me.  But, I figure, it is important to trust Gertie.  After all, she has the satellite hook-up, not me, right?  And it is good to trust in general. So I take a deep breath, follow her instructions and arrive at my friend's front door easily and quickly.  Gertie success.

2. The next night, I'm going to a different friend's condo, also in Nashville.  I give Gertie the address, and off we go.  Again she tells me to take an odd exit.  But, based on my experience of the previous evening, I decide to follow it.  After about 10 minutes, it occurs to me that I am lost.  Well, not lost exactly, but way far away from where I was supposed to be.  And so late for drinks with my friend that we had to cancel.  All was not lost, however, as I drove straight to the bar at J. Alexander's to watch the mighty Oregon Ducks stomp University of Tennessee, even though I actually had to resort to texted updates from my son, seeing as how LSU fans had taken over the bar to watch the LSU-Vanderbilt game.  Why, when the game itself was being played in a stadium not 100 feet away, was beyond me.  Despite all this, we must rack this up as a Gertie fail.

So, the question is, to trust or rely on one's own experience?  In the past, I've hated using GPS systems because I have felt better about relying on my own knowledge.  (And, one might say, because I have a control-freak streak.)  But this time I'm going to so many different places on my own I've decided to indulge in a bit of trust.  With decidedly mixed results, no? When does blindly relying on the GPS system become foolishness?

When do you trust and when does knowledge override that trust?  I don't have the answer.  I'm not even sure how it relates to writing to be honest.  But I can't wait to see what you guys think.

Photo by dirkjan72 from Flickr, via Everystockphoto.