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!!!

Posted in adventure, Travel, Travel Writing

Let Travel Be Your Teacher

Study abroad experiences stretch college students’ horizons; mission trips help church teens see a world different from their own. We expect young people to learn from travel, but do we anticipate the same from ourselves when we travel?

We often say, “Yes,” but fail to do what it takes to make it happen. We may be a tourist, pilgrim, or adventurer. It doesn’t matter. Anyone can let travel be their teacher by setting an intention before leaving, paying attention to that intention, and seizing surprises along the way. When we capture our experiences in a journal, we can reflect on the insights gained. That’s where the learning takes place.

The only things that interest me are people and ideas. I love going on trips that shock me, where everything I believe in my religion, my politics, my social outlook is immediately challenged with diametrically different viewpoints. (Arthur Frommer)

Objection

A frequent objection is one misses travel experiences, while journaling. Early morning or late evening can offer quiet time to write. Or you can convert hours of transportation to useful writing. Using simple methods that don’t take much time is another answer.

Themes for your travel

A purposeful method of journaling is to choose a theme for the trip. You might select to focus on architecture, then create questions that go beyond the obvious.

  • What are traditional and contemporary construction methods and materials used? Why these?
  • What topographic, geological, or historical factors affected building structure design?
  • How are/were homes different from ours and for what reasons?
Journal when you have down-time.

These inquiries set in motion intentional travel that culminates in paying attention more closely while roaming the world. We experience the trip more deeply, and as a result, discover richer insights.

Choose from simple journaling techniques

  1. Categorize differences between the culture you’re visiting and your own
  2. Write about the most influential part of your day; recall one significant conversation, historical fact, or memorable event – not everything
  3. Create a “3D” table: Date, Destination, Discovery (what you learned in twenty-five words or less)
  4. Identify the 3E’s of daily travel: Event, Emotion, and what to Explore next
  5. Each day draft a short poem about something particular or a haiku (a 17-syllable poem)
  6. Ask others travelers to record memorable moments from their day in your journal
  7. List new foreign vocabulary words and their meaning
  8. Describe trees and plants, birds or animals new to you  

Artistic Journaling

Try artistic approaches. Collect items like tickets, coffee sleeves, or maps to paste into your journal—like a collage. Sketch a scene, a historical building, or unique road sign. Ask children you meet along the way draw or color in your journal. Create a mind map of the day’s activities.

Journaling Supplies

People, who journal, choose supplies to fit their personality and the circumstances of their trip. Do you prefer a ballpoint or gel pen, colored markers or pencils? Do you like a sketchpad, a spiral bound notebook with lines and a pretty cover, or a classic leather-bound journal? Will you be at the beach or in a rain forest? Waterproof paper and pencils are available; otherwise, a Ziploc bag will protect your supplies.

Mindful, intentional journal writing allows travel to serve as guide, mentor, and teacher.

Posted in adventure, paying attention, Travel

How Do You Define Travel Adventure

How do you define adventure, escapade, exploration, quest, or venture?

An adventure can be the outdoor, physically demanding kind. Like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, mountain biking, or canoeing the North Woods. But not all of us are that physically fit or daring. Many of us travel for other kinds of adventures. One of mine is to learn to pay attention to what I experience.

How do you define travel adventure for yourself?

Chiapas from the back of a van

One year, at the invitation of two other women, I went along from Isla Mujeres to practice paying attention while seeing another part of Mexico, the southernmost state of Mexico, Chiapas. Once there we decided to take a tour to three different scenic and historical sites in a single day. What we did not calculate was the amount of time we would be in the van.

Jenn, Rhonda, Cathy

We left at 4:30 a.m., got home at midnight, spent 3 hours at three sites total, hurried through meals to ensure a potty stop, and bounced on the back axle of the van the rest of the trip.

My biggest surprise was not the beauty, or the history learned at the three sites, but what I gleaned from the back window of the bus about the way people lived in Chiapas.

Each household had cleared a spot in the tropical forest and built a house on an earthen plot with no vegetation. The houses, painted or not, sat enclosed by jungle. Most yards accommodated a large, non-specific breed of dog, some on a chain, others not. Yet they all barked at whatever passed by and barked with the children who played in the dusty yards. Even at a distance I could see happy kids in tattered clothing. Occasional goats, chickens, or other farm animals roamed free, well-fed and housed in an open shed or simply in the yard.

Because the houses were built close to the road and there was nowhere else to play, homeowners had laid massive nautical ropes in front of their homes. Much higher than most speed bumps and without the merging incline and leaving decline on each side, they made for a torturous journey. Therefore, our ride took the rhythm of down-shift, slow down, (first axle) up and over, then (back axle) up and over again, shift, and speed away. Parents and extended family settled on protecting their children’s safety over the convenience of tourists or even other locals.

As we returned in the fading sunlight, a single light bulb lit the interior of homes. We could tell because they left the doors and windows open for air—their native air conditioning. Inhabitants circled a table under that light bulb for dinner, reading and/or homework, sewing, or other life requirements.

I could see bare necessities were all they had, but they looked cheerful and well-fed to me. They seemed determined to make a life with little at hand.

Americans often feel denied if we don’t have the right brand of clothing, the best margarita on vacation, or a bonus at the end of the year. Often we find it tough to be happy with blessed lives.

From the back of the bus, I could see their poverty, joy, and ability to make the most of what they had.

Is your adventure to try using your rusty French or German, or your newly acquired Japanese; eat different foods than you normally would; or simply to write about your experiences in your journal to turn them into stories later? Any of these and many more can lead you to discoveries you would not have imagined before.

How do you define adventure for yourself? Please send an answer to that question so others can consider it, too.