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Today is Day 3 of my impromptu urban writing retreat. So far, it has been a pretty awesome experiment.

On Monday, I met my friend George at the New York Public library on 5th Ave. We’d intended to work in one of my favorite spaces, the Rose Reading Room, but (naturally) that part of the library was closed for renovations. Fortunately, it was a beautiful fall day, so we relocated to Bryant Park, grabbed a table under a sun umbrella and chilled out for a couple hours. I worked on revising my novel and tried not to get stung by a crazy bee. Later we headed down to Housing Works Bookstore Cafe to hear a reading and panel discussion by Lev Grossman, Lauren Buekes, and Jeff Vandermeer.

Yesterday I decided to stay in-borough and risk the perils of invading a hipster paradise. I put on my best rolled up jeans and my most ironic army jacket and headed to Brooklyn Roasting Company in DUMBO. I can see why all the hipsters want to keep this place for themselves. It’s awesome. The space is huge and there’s a lot of seating (still, I had to really hunt for a free table). I scored a fab spot on the bar along the front window looking out over the East River. There was good tea, lots of light, plenty of background buzz, and super-tasty donuts. I wrote 2500 words on a new short story.

Today I’m meeting George again. Our plan is try the fabled Lobby Bar at the Ace Hotel. We figure if we get there early we can beat the start-up kids who supposedly camp out there. If it sucks…well, stay tuned!

So far, the best thing about the urban writing retreat isn’t that I’m getting lots of writing done (though, I am being quite productive). It’s that I’m being reminded what an amazing city I live and how many wonderful things I have available to me for the swipe of a Metrocard and cost of a donut :)

Don’t get me wrong, I have a proper home office (which basically is the elusive unicorn of NYC housing), but a change of scenery can be invigorating. This week has been a great reminder of that.

Urban Writing Retreat

The college where I teach is closed next week for the Jewish holidays, so I have an entire five days to devote solely to my writing! Yay!

To make the most of this, I’m planning an Urban Writing Retreat for myself. The idea is to have all the perks of a writing retreat without spending a bunch of money or leaving my home city (NYC).

In doing research over the last few days, I’ve discovered (perhaps unsurprisingly) that there are some fantastic places to write for free (or for the price of a latte) in the city.

From indie cafes in DUMBO, Greenwich village, and SoHo to some of New York’s many wonderful libraries (the Rose Reading Room at the NYC Public Library and Poet’s House) to less conventional locations like the lobby of the Ace Hotel, I’ve got a really fun schedule lined up. And, naturally, I’ll have to take breaks for lunch and will need delicious fare to sustain me. Good thing NYC has so many awesome restaurants!

My writing goals for the retreat are to finish a short story to submit to the Paradise ICON writing workshop I’m attending in October and to get as close as possible to finishing the version of Project Awesome I’ll send to Beta readers.

I’m so excited!

Ugh, where to begin? It’s been a rough couple of weeks, but also a great couple of weeks (isn’t life just like that sometimes?).

Between finishing up my last hectic trip of the summer (to a wonderful, wonderful wedding in Charleston), getting sick with some sort of sad hybrid cold/stomach bug thing, starting the semester, and having my costochondritis flare up in the worst way (think clavicle literally pulling away from sternum…ouch!), I am feeling a little worn around the edges (or delirious, depending on whether or not I’m taking my yummy painkillers).

After a summer of lovely but disruptive travel, I finally have time to devote to my writing again and I’m feeling inspired and eager to work. My goals for the fall are to work on writing faster and with less hesitation. There will be new words every day, even revision and editing days. I will not allow myself to agonize over first drafts (as is my wont) and I will take a deeper dive into emotion and creativity. I will experiment more with short stories and drive forward more aggressively with my novel projects.

So, that’s the plan. Time to get to work.

Today is the first day of the fall semester, and so the wild rumpus begins again.

I’ve only just returned from our two week trip to Norway and am crazy jet-lagged. Setting the time difference aside, it’s pretty disorienting to go from wearing winter clothes in August while hiking through a spectacular fantasy landscape in 22 hours of daylight to sweating on the concrete streets of Brooklyn. Suffice it to say, I’m still adjusting to being back.

The trip was, in a word, breathtaking. I honestly felt as though I were exploring the wild and untamed wilderness of Lord of the Rings. The fjords were so serene, so still, and so immense that you felt almost invisible. A tiny speck of a thing passing nearly unnoticed through a landscape untouched by modern blight. We spent about five days all told exploring places (almost entirely by boat and canoe) with magical names like Songefjord, Esefjord, Faerlandsfjord, Naeroyfjord, and Hardangerfjord. And I really thought it could not get any better.

Then we rented a car and drove the hairpins turns up into the Jotenheim mountains. There were far fewer tourists here — I think the peaks outnumbered the people. And those peaks were insane. Jagged and soaring with hooks and glaciers (so many glaciers!) and spires. I had thought the fjords immense but the mountains truly dwarfed all. We passed through eerie moonscapes covered only with moss and lichen in some places, and richly forested slopes adorned with roaring waterfalls in others. One day we drove up to the the highest car accessible point (Jurvasshytta). It was snowing at the top and all the mountains spread out below us. I felt as if our car might simply slip off the narrow little road and tumble down and down forever. It was terrifying. Also, exhilarating. We hiked until our legs gave out and stuffed ourselves full of wine and salmon and venison and potatoes in the evenings, curling up in front of a crackling fire while the Norwegian night grew colder and colder.

It was hard, honestly, to think about leaving all the silence and beauty and returning home.

But, home we had to go.

So now I’m back and thrust into the chaotic world of New York and work and the subway and students and noise and people, people, people. This is all wonderful in its own lively way, but (honestly) I miss Norway.

One of these days

One of these days I’ll figure out how to properly schedule my summer.

Some years I plan too little and end up sitting around Brooklyn, boiling and bitching about how bored I am. Other years I plan too much and have permanent jet lag. This summer has fallen into the latter category. Without question, this has been the Summer of Travel. Three weeks digging in Missouri. Two weeks visiting family in Seattle. And now, two weeks coming up in Norway.

I’m not complaining (well…Missouri kind of sucked, so maybe I’m complaining a little), but the problem with the Summer of Travel is that it is most decidedly NOT the Summer of Writing. Don’t get me wrong, I did make headway on my various writing projects between trips, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped or envisioned when the semester ended in June.

Still…Norway! I’m very excited. There will be fjords, and mountains (and if we’re very lucky) trolls! Also 22 hours of daylight. Yikes. I’ll try to post some updates, but in the meantime, have a fjord:

V10-644272

You’re welcome!

Bon voyage, my friends! I’ll see you in September :)

Update from the writing mines, my lovelies.

I’ve been home a whole week and am getting ready to leave again tomorrow. I’ve managed to make good use of my in-between-travel time by revising a short story, breaking a novel, and beginning revisions to said novel. I’ve actually been really struggling with the changes to the short story. I drafted it during the writing retreat I attended in Philadelphia last month and I’ve been tinkering with it ever since, trying to layer in nuance and still keep it under 5k (it keeps wanting to get unwieldy). I think it’s almost there, except I’m not loving the opening two pages. So, on the side it goes for a time out.

My big plan for this month is to get Project Awesome revised so I can send it to Beta readers before I leave for Norway in August. I think it’s a doable plan. There’s mainly editing needed in the first half, some new pieces to lay in the middle and final third, and a new ending to write. We shall see. I’ve got it all mapped out, so it’s really just a matter of finding time to get fingers on the keyboard. There’s today, some time on the plane tomorrow, a few days while in Seattle next week and then then about 2 1/2 weeks back in NYC at the beginning of August.

So, there’s no time to waste, is there?

Laters!

Homeward bound

Today (assuming Delta and the weather cooperate), I’ll be winging my way home to NYC. Goodbye, Missouri!

It’s been a trip with a lot of highs and lows. Spending time with my friend Bill and his wife Mary over the last two weeks has been awesome. I even got to see my good writer friend, Brent, who lives here in the KC area. Missouri is quite beautiful right now, all verdant and lush, and KC has a plethora of yummy restaurants. So, those aspects of the trip were great.

Don’t get me wrong, the dig had its highs too, but there were some lows, my friends. Indeed, there were. The work was challenging physically, and it was quite hot, quite buggy, and quite hard not to be able to go home (or even inside) when we were done for the day. Camping sounded like it would be fun (and sometimes, when the fireflies were out and it cooled down, it was), but mostly it just made things more difficult. And we didn’t find very much. The Steed-Kisker house we’d hoped to excavate appeared to have already been destroyed by modern farming activities. So that was a bummer.

But! I have new muscles and am rocking a farmer’s tan. And I’m excited to be heading home. I miss my husband and my cat and my friends and my apartment and…well, you get the idea.

So, today I’m NYC-bound and looking forward to getting in some writing time on the plane. Bon voyage!

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