Posted in adventure, Daily travel meditations, Rolf Potts, Travel Writers, Travel Writing

The Vagabond’s Way by Rolf Potts

I don’t typically review books on my blog, but this is an exception. I studied travel writing with Rolf Potts through the Santa Fe Workshops in San Miguel de Allende in 2017. I learned a lot from him as he shared his vagabonding days and how to find a good story and then how to craft it into a finely honed travel story.

Potts latest book, The Vagabond’s Way: 366 Meditations on Wanderlust, Discover, and the Art of Travel. He had the pandemic-imposed two years to write this book, while landlocked in Kansas, his home.

The book offers his philosophy on travel, his encouragement to engage the world beyond our own backyard, rather than escape to our fenced or gated communities.

… travel is as much a way of being as it is an act of movement. — Rolf Potts

Potts organizes his book in themes that vaguely follow the hero’s journey: the chance to travel, the decision to take off, the preparation to make one’s way into the world, the experiences of awe and obstacles on the road, overcoming those unexpected obstacles, returning home with a new and extended sense of self.

I haven’t completed the book, of course, because the year has just started, but the sage guidance to encounter the world as we go by being open to our senses, to other people, to ourselves (no demanding advice to do it this way or that way) is his gentle way of sharing his own experience.

What makes our stomach churn with anxiety? What sends gleeful joy pulsing through our bodies? What unexpectedly delights our owns sense of self? These are the questions we should ask ourselves as we sojourn.

But I have started reading for January and already found much to mull, chew on, and consider for future travels. He quotes other writers on each day. Potts pulls from the writing of others to convey his thoughts about travel–from ancients such as Rilke and Seneca to modern-day philosophers such as Ryan Holiday and Maya Angelo. And then he slips in his own mighty perspective of how important travel is to the world and to ourselves.

Indeed, one of the reasons travel can lead to a sense of awakening is that leaving our home habits allows us to see things with eyes undimmed by familiarity. — Rolf Potts

Find a copy of the book to indulge your own need for wanderlust and adventure. When we discover the metaphors of travel and life, we often see they are inseparable. I’m sure you will enjoy Pott’s book.

Let me know what is one of your favorite travel books, recent or ancient.

My Debut Novel, Song of Herself

To read my debut novel, Song of Herself, an epic adventure to India by an Iowa horsewoman, click here.

Please, please, when done with the book, go to Amazon, BookBub, Goodreads, or your favorite reading app to leave a review of the book. I appreciate every assessment of the book for you the reader. It helps know if they are interested in the book. Thanks so very much!!!

Posted in adventure, Craft of writing, Debut Novel, fiction, Historical Fiction, Travel Writing, Women traveling, Women's Fiction

The Gold Standard of Book Reviews

I’m thrilled to share with you the book review I received from Kirkus Reviews just last week. Kirkus Reviews are the gold standard for anonymous, fair, unbiased book reviews. Many librarians use their reviews to determine which books they will purchase and shelve. See a partial review of Song of Herself, my debut novel.

… Wiley-Jones packs her narrative with a plethora of captivating themes and images that expose Fiona and readers to India’s cultures, religions, and styles (Women “wrapped their silhouettes with sarees in every color from ruby red to sapphire blue, and marigold to lemon yellow”) as well as the building Indian resentment toward British imperialism. Then there is the chaos of Calcutta, which the author describes in vivid detail, capturing the city’s history, topography, sounds, smells, and foods. Fiona is a complex character who repeatedly turns to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass for inspiration and guidance in her search for her own center. …

… An engaging period drama overflowing with historical tidbits.

Consider buying a copy for a Christmas gift of the book, Song of Herself !

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1639885501

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BDK7Q54J/

Recently my friend Marge wrote me,

“I just finished your book and loved it. It was a page turner! I loved the character development and learned so much. All your hard work paid off! Thank you for the adventure. I loved the ending!!”

If you have read the book, please leave a short review of two or three sentences on Amazon. 

Posted in adventure, Craft of writing, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horses, Research for Fiction Writers, Women's Fiction

Research Enhances the Story

Do you ever wonder if research is done before the writing starts? Or if it’s done as the author is writing? And how does the research change or enhance the story?

For me, I found I needed to conduct more research than first realized. I discovered along the way, how many details were required to satisfy my reading audience. So I had to stop and dig for info, dates, and details. In the process, I learned that history was often on the side of the story.

The First Example: British Indian Military’s use of Polo for Cavalry Training

As I researched the game of polo, I came to know that the British Indian military utilized the game of polo to train and prepare their cavalrymen. The agility of horse and rider working in tandem and moves atop a horse were just the right skills for warfare. In addition, building a strong relationship between horse and rider was equally important.

The Second Example: The Garment, Salwar Kameez, Worn by both Men and Women

The combined garment consists of the trousers as the “salwar” and the overshirt as the “kameez.” I thought it was worn only by men, but research illustrated the outfit as fitting both men and women. This made it an androgynous attire that fit Fiona’s work life and her preference for comfortable clothes.

In addition, a salwar kameez is made of cotton or linen fabric that both shades and therefore cools one, while simultaneously allowing the breeze through the open weave of the fabric. It serves as a symbol of a paradox, a “both/and” of allowing air in while keeping the sun out. (Yes, today, we know better, but in 1906 they did not.)

Third Example: The 1905 partition of West Bengal

As I did a history dive, the 1905 partition of West Bengal reared its head. The fallout that continued into 1906, the date in which my story happened, created much unrest and many factions that each wanted to respond differently.

In the midst of this civil unrest I anticipated that the Society of Religious Friends or Quakers would be involved. In this accompanying research I learned that indeed Quakers were split on the issue of how much they should get involved.

Fun Writing & Fun Reading

With those three examples of research that served my story, I let my imagination loose to fill in some unknown details. All the more fun in writing fiction.

I hope you will find Song of Herself as much fun to read as I had writing it.

If you haven’t read the book, please choose your reading preference and order the book in one of two ways.

Order Here

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1639885501

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BDK7Q54J/

If you read the book, please leave a short review of two or three sentences on Amazon, what you liked, what you found intriguing, or what you discovered about yourself in reading the book. Thanks, so much!!!

 

Posted in adventure, Adventure Fiction, Coming-of-Agency Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction

DEMYSTIFYING THE CREATION OF A NOVEL

IDEA CREATION

Idea creation is often mysterious and vague. But I can recount the two specific events that led to the creation of my protagonist, Fiona Weston, Song of Herself.

The first. I took a walk in Spirit Lake, Iowa, after conducting a workshop in the early 1990s. I meandered down a lane of houses built on the lake. One house had a large letter, F, encircled on the side of the garage—like you see on ranches in Texas.

My imagination leapt to the attic of that garage with an old trunk and a woman named, Fiona, who was going through the trunk with a young girl at her side. They were reliving Fiona’s life.

The second. Several weeks later, I woke up from a dream in which my fantasy Iowa woman, Fiona, stood dressed in an outfit that looked like it was from India. I didn’t know what it was until weeks later when I described it to a Pakistani friend, who said it was a salwar kameez.

The morning I awoke from that dream, it continued to unfold in my mind during the next several waking hours. The skeleton of a story. It clung to me as a baby monkey clings to its mother.

A NOVEL IN THE MAKING

In the coming weeks, I wrote a three-page story for my writing group. They informed me that it was definitely a novel. There was too much there for a short story.

I balked and brought them an expanded ten pages and later twenty-five pages to show them I could tell the tale in short form. They insisted it was a novel and Fiona was begging me to tell her story.

In coming years, I took a novel writing class at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival in Wayne Johnson’s class. During my one-on-one with him, he informed me I didn’t have a 300-word novel, but a saga, one that could yield 600 pages. I won’t print my reply.

THE CURRENT BOOK, SONG OF HERSELF

In the end, the book turned into a 480-page book. If you have the book and are reading it, you may be interested to know the story took new twists and turns in the writing process. New characters and events beyond the skeleton grew out of the writing process.

My dream life set Fiona on a journey of a lifetime.

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM NOVELS?

Journeys of this importance create chances to open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts. They show us what we can become.

We can build confidence (self-assurance and the ability to make decisions for ourselves), resilience (adaptability and flexibility, the ability to the bend and sway as life throws obstacles), and agency (the ability to organize our lives around what is best for us, choose who and what we take with us, and take action to make these things happen).

These are things all individual need to learn for themselves as they mature. But it is especially critical for women (in our culture, which makes them second guess themselves too often) to take the reins of their lives to give the world the best they have to offer.

Fiona’s journey opened her eyes to different ways to live, seized her mind to realize she could think with an open mind, and captured her heart to know she could be who she is and to live openly and unafraid.

HERE’S HOW TO ORDER, SONG OF HERSELF

The novel’s protagonist, Fiona Weston, an Iowa horsewoman in work boots and trousers, sails to India in 1906 from San Francisco to discover her journey is not the quest for which she had yearned, nor the escape from those at home who ridiculed her unconventional ways. Fiona’s journey is fraught with obstacles that create a sturdy sense of self.

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1639885501

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BDK7Q54J/

If you read the book, please leave a short review of two or three sentences on Amazon, what you liked, what you found intriguing, or what you discovered about yourself in reading the book. Thanks, so much!!!