Summer is coming! Vacation plans are being made. Among dreams of swaying palms hugging sunny beaches, towering redwoods filtering sunbeams, or mesmerizing museums expanding knowledge, have you ever thought of incorporating your writing passion into your itinerary? “And why would I do that?” you say. How about conducting research, networking, honing writing skills, or observing people and places for future story inspiration?
In August 2010, my husband and I took a three week European river cruise and I used the opportunity to research the heroine of my book-in-progress about a strong woman who lived in Paris from 1898 to 1900. Our tour just happened to start in Paris, where my husband and I ended our honeymoon with five busy sightseeing days. So major sites where not of interest. We had ascended to the top of the Eiffel Tower, perused the halls of the D’Orsay and Louvre, and gawked at the splendor of Versailles. Ah, but what about finding the home of my heroine, and the art school she attended? I was excited with the prospect. I had the addresses and used a map program to pinpoint the locations. As we walked the Paris streets my heroine walked, passed the restaurants where she was courted by her lover, and saw the building where they had lived, I knew that this experience would help me bring this part of her story to life. The photos I shot that day keep the memory alive.
We can plan events during our travels that may provide networking opportunities with other writers. This thought came to me recently as I prepared for a panel presentation. I had decided to provide attendees with a list of the CWC branches in Northern California, including my own, and went to the state website for branch information. I clicked on several links and found programs that sounded interesting. An idea struck me. When traveling throughout California, why not attend a CWC meeting at another branch? All branches offer interesting meetings in various formats. This is a perfect way to network with other writers and build relationships. It’s also a good way to let others know what an outstanding branch we belong to. Just remember to bring your membership card with you.
I believe the ultimate vacation, at least once in our lives, is to attend a week to ten day writer’s workshop, free from family, free from cooking, free from cleaning, free to write, write, write, unencumbered by the distractions of everyday life. Include the family or a friend at either end of the workshop and it can be a win-win for everyone. I treated myself to the ten day “Write It, Sell It” workshop in 1994. Not only did I absorb valuable writing tips, I also networked and found my writing mentor. Later, she would give me a lead to my New York literary agent.
Travel also affords us with the opportunity to observe people and places that may ignite a passion for a possible story. We can take a journal along, or a small notepad, and jot down ideas and descriptions that spark our interest. Or we can just absorb new information as we travel along. This is how I got the idea for my current work-in-progress. In 2005, my husband and I toured a jail in Ireland. The guide pointed to a dismal cell and proudly stated that my heroine had been held there after a revolutionary uprising. It didn’t mean much to me at the time. But, further on when we toured a lovely mansion, we were surprised to learn it was her childhood home. We learned more of her compelling history. On our way to Dublin, we saw a statue erected in her honor and I snapped a photo. Later, when deciding what my second book would be about, I thought of the stong Irish woman.