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14.46.107

That’s right, travel season is nearly upon us, and this year it is all about family.

In 14 days spring break will FINALLY be here and my dad, sister, and myself will travel to the British Virgin Islands where we’ll spend a week semi-conscious on the beach.

In 46 days I will have administered my last final exam and submitted my grades and I’ll get on a plane for Seattle. I’ll spend about 2 1/2 weeks visiting my parents and sister, helping my mom in her amazing garden, writing a lot, and camping with my nieces. It will be awesome.

Then, in 107 days, my husband and I will take a family vacation with my parents to the Dordogne in SW France. I will wallow around in prehistoric cave art, stuff my face with truffles and foie gras, drink lots of wine, and post photos on Facebook that will make everyone hate me. Apologies in advance.

These trips will no doubt be fabulous, but the best part is that in the next 4 months I’ll spending almost 5 whole weeks with my family. This makes me really happy because they live in Seattle and I live in NYC and I never get to see them this much in such a short time. Yay!

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I’m back, again, in New York, and thus end my whirlwind travels for the summer.

Only 6 days after returning from Italy, I headed out again to visit my family in the Pacific Northwest. It was everything a summer vacation should be: warm, sunny, and relaxing (see gallery below for evidence).

Now it’s time to buckle down and get to work.

I have a number of projects lined up for the coming months:

1. Finish polishing my current project

2. Educate myself about astronomy via several Coursera classes

3. Brainstorm, outline, and begin drafting my next project (which will draw on the aforementioned classes)

4. Get ready to participate in the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference and Pitch Slam, taking place here in New York at the end of July

5. Work on my new blog, a site devoted to gluten-free recipes that don’t involve the use of unhealthy, yucky, scary substitute products (more to follow on this as it develops)

And I think that’s enough to be getting on with.

To work!

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It’s 4:30am, Day Two of the Great Jet Lag Escapade, and I’ve just returned from a whirlwind tour of Italy, in which I consumed every edible, drinkable, and cultural experience I could lay my hands on.

The trip was fantastic, offering a glimpse of what the Grand Tour of yore must have been like (you know, if you had a chaperone, gobs of time on your hands, a well-developed sense of superiority, and infinite money). Still, to wander the loggia of Florence, admiring the sinuous bodies of marble sculptures, to climb the towering domes of ostentatiously beautiful cathedrals, and to stroll the shores of rivers like the Tiber and the Arno, turgid with history, was all pretty spectacular.

And the food. And the wine. I partook of it all and I have no regrets (well, maybe a few…eating all that gluten wasn’t exactly without consequences…).

Now I’ve returned to Brooklyn and am eager to get back to work. The last few edits to the novel, and some more work on the query letter, await. I have some ideas for new short stories and plenty of brainstorming work to do for the next novel project. I’m also taking a couple of Coursera classes on astronomy, which are turning out to be very interesting.

A few small items to mention: I have a recipe published in the latest issue of Flash Fiction Online, titled Norwegian Waffles (for weekends, before or after the apocalypse), as an accompaniment to a delightfully creepy story by the wonderful Sunil Patel. Also, upcoming in August, my story The New Arrival will be podcast on Pseudopod – details to follow!

Before I leave you, I thought I’d share a few photos from my journey through Florence, Tuscany, Rome, and Pompeii. Enjoy!

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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 🙂

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The title of this post pretty much sums up how my weekend is going to play out.

I’m heading to Austin, Texas today for the Society for American Archaeology meetings. I’ll be presenting two papers, attending sessions, and listening to some interesting talks. But mostly the conference will consist of a bunch of archaeologists hanging out in a bar, drinking and catching up.

In the end, then, archaeology conferences are not very different from writing Cons.

This will be the first time I’ve attended the meetings in several years and I’m excited to see old friends from graduate school and from my fieldwork in Honduras. Since I’ve funneled my money and time mostly into writing workshops and Cons these last few years, I expect it’s going to feel a little strange to be at a big convention filled not with Doctor Who enthusiasts but people whose eyes light up at the mention of lithic analyses and studies of surface treatment on pottery.

Clearly the two communities to which I belong are unconventional, albeit in different ways 🙂

The flight to Austin is pretty long, so I’m hoping to take advantage of the time to work on revisions to my novel and begin preparing critiques for the upcoming Paradise Lost Writing Retreat (also in Texas, one week from today).

I didn’t get as much writing and editing done while on vacation last week as I intended, though I did come up with a whole new plan for the ending of Project Awesome, so I have a very full to-do list. Plus, as soon as I get back from the meetings Spring Break will be officially over and end-of-semester madness will begin. Any serious writing I want to accomplish between now and the end of the May will probably get done in the next five days or not at all.

So–to the airport and adventure-bound!

 

 

 

 

 

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Vegas debrief

It’s my last morning in Las Vegas. I’m sitting in my room at the Aria looking out on the sprawl of hotels and pools and kitsch all spilling south toward the mountains. I came here on Thursday for a writing retreat and after three days of eating, spa-ing, partying, and (of course), writing, it’s time to take stock.

This is the second year in a row we’ve done this particular retreat. The idea is for a small group of journey-woman writers to escape their daily lives, get to know each other better, and support one another. Rather than revolving around critiques or workshopping, this retreat is just a chance to write in the company of other writers and to be able to talk freely about issues and challenges we’re facing both in our manuscripts and in our careers.

Every time we’ve done this retreat it’s been fun, easy, and drama-free. Best of all, it’s also always very productive, providing a needed jolt to languishing projects and a reminder of how much you can accomplish when you prioritize your writing and shed other distractions.

There are a number of different retreats, workshops, and Cons that I’ve taken to attending over the years. Each are different and each are awesome in their own ways. This particular retreat has a couple of qualities that I think make it distinctive.

First, it’s usually a small group (typically between 5 and 7 people). This has the advantage of intimacy, of really getting the chance to talk and work as a group with no cliques forming or drama brewing. Additionally, this retreat is organized collaboratively. No one person decides where we’ll stay, what we’ll do, or who will be invited. Both years the retreat has taken shape organically. Thus, we all feel we have a say and a piece of what’s happening. This, obviously, wouldn’t work very well with a larger retreat or workshop, but it works great with a small group.

Second, because it’s focused on producing material rather than critiquing material, I always leave this retreat feeling like I accomplished something meaningful. Typically when I go to a critique-based retreat I leave thinking of all the work I have before me (not necessarily a bad thing, but still…) rather than feeling good about the work I’ve already done. Both types of retreats galvanize you, albeit in different ways.

Third, this retreat emphasizes fun and socializing and indulgence as much as it does productivity. Vegas is a mad, crazy playground and thus the perfect place to let go for a little while — to dance and drink and eat and let your hair down. For better or worse, in co-ed work-related situations (which, at the end of the day, writing workshops and Cons are) many women often feel they have to monitor their behavior more carefully than they otherwise would. Indeed, I’m sure many men feel exactly the same way. While we always miss our male writer friends at this retreat, there is something freeing about being temporarily in the company of other women.

As always, when I leave a writing retreat or workshop I’m thinking as much about the writer friends I’ve been spending the retreat with as the ones who aren’t here. That’s the downside of retreats: whether you’ve invited everyone you know or just a small group, there are always friends absent. Because our community is so spread out and many of us only get to see each other a few times a year, these retreats — and their fleeting intensity — are both wonderful and a little sad.

So, as I head for the airport, I put my first writing retreat of 2014 behind me. I had a wonderful time and I moved my novel that much closer to completion (I wrote about 5.5K across 2 days). I’m chalking this one up as a win.

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Yup. I’m off to New Orleans today to visit my in-laws, eat po’boys, and thaw out post-arctic cone of shame (or whatever it was called..)–that is, if the freezing rain in Brooklyn and thunderstorms in New Orleans don’t result in a cancelled flight 😉

I plan to spend the time at the airport and en route writing. Or, so I hope. This has been a frustrating week in the novel-drafting department. I’ve been spending hours sitting around thinking about my novel. About where it’s going. About what the next chapter is going to look like. About specific lines of dialogue and character dynamics.

Actual writing accomplished after all this thinking? Oh, about 300 words.

Gah.

I know thinking about writing is sometimes as important as putting pen to paper. But still, GAH.

Perhaps a change of scene will be the trigger I need to escape my own head. If not, I suppose I can drown my frustration in fried food and booze. It is, after all, New Orleans.

We shall see.

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