The Big Easy

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.


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.

Garçon, another glass of wine, please!

I have returned from the south of France, refreshed, nourished (literally), and a half a size bigger than when a I left.  The trip was just as it should have been: super-relaxing and centered around leisurely 3 hour lunches with lots of wine.

Highlights included a cooking class in Nice, during which we managed to sear duck breasts and fry panisse (while drinking) without burning either ourselves or the food, wandering (full of zabaglione and slightly drunk) through the narrow, winding streets of vertiginous Apricale, Italy, and pretending to be brain-starved zombies while exploring the uber-creepy abandoned WWII Maginot Line bunker in a downpour atop the hill village of Saint Agnes.

We racked up a total of 6 Michelin stars (3 2-star restaurants), two of which rank among the best meals of my life (Chevre d’Or in Eze and Mirazur in Menton).  There was also lots of sleeping, hiking rocky paths round rugged, sun-drenched caps jutting into the Mediterranean, exploring castles, and poking (e.g. eating our way) through the offerings in the morning markets of Menton and Nice.

Given all this, it may surprise you (as it certainly surprised me) to learn I also edited over 150 pages of manuscript.  Apparently I work best when the sun is out and wine is on regular offer.  I think I’ve got about 2 more weeks of work to go and then ABSENT will (FINALLY) be ready to send to readers.  So, that’s awesome.

The one thing that did not happen, either while on vacation or in the 24 hours since I’ve been home, was any sort of preparation for my classes this week.  Sooooo….I’d better get to that!

Keep the wine chilled for me, I’ll be back soon 🙂

To infinity, and beyond!

It has been remarked upon by those who know me that I seem always to be traveling.  Whether it’s trips to visit family, vacations with the hubby or my globe-trotting Dad, attending conferences or writing workshops, heading out for archaeological field work, or taking trips to visit friends, I get on a plane and head off for parts unknown an average of 2 weeks out of every 4.

In fact, I leave tomorrow for a trip to Seattle.

Though I have this off-hand notion that travel is disruptive and often think ‘oh, if only I had an uninterrupted stretch of time to settle in get some work done’…in point of fact, I’m far more productive when I travel frequently and have only short stretches of uninterrupted work time.  The truth is, I find uninterrupted work time stultifying and dull and tend to spend it surfing the internet or inventing errands and household tasks.  On the other hand, when I know I’m headed out the door on Wednesday, you can bet I work my little fingers to the bone tap-tap-tapping the keyboard on Monday and Tuesday.

I also find travel a great source of creative renewal.  Every time I go somewhere new (or even somewhere not new), I find myself inspired by the people, the sights, the smells, the sounds, the colors, and the energy.  Likewise, I tend to find myself cramming little writing sessions into chunks of time I would consider too short to be useful at home.  When at home, I might deem a half an hour insufficient to get “real” work done and thus better spent reading, cleaning, or watching dross on TV (totally illogical, I know).  Meanwhile, I’ve snatched half hour blocks of time and pounded out thousands of words while doing the following on the road:

— sitting in the lobby at Readercon in Boston

–waiting for visiting hours to start at a hospital in New Orleans

–waiting for my hosts or travel companions to wake up in places as varied as Miami, Seattle, Arizona, Las Vegas, England, and Scotland

–waiting for the plane at the Salt Lake City airport

–waiting for the power to come back on/rain to stop/bathroom to be free in Honduras

For me, I think it boils down to the fact that when I travel, time takes on much great weight and urgency and I subsequently find myself far less likely to squander it.

Drawbacks to travel include jet lag, cost, and…well, I can’t think of other ones!  Can you?

What’s your view on travel?  Do you do it a lot or a little?  Does traveling and the time constraints it imposes make you more or less productive?  Does it help your writing or hurt it?