Sunday, November 25, 2012

After Africa . . . what?

Suitcases unpacked, photos downloaded, jet lag nearly overcome. The cold I caught on the airplane still hanging around. Three weeks in Tanzania, Africa, gave me a big break from writing. No netbook; no computer. No notebooks. One travel journal and a camera. Sixteen people, a tour guide, and two drivers. 4:30 am wake-up calls for "game drives" through three of the most beautiful national parks and game preserves in Tanzania.

Game Drive in Serengeti National Park: Wildabeest & Zebra Migration
Altogether, the trip was unforgettable and not just for seeing zebras, lions, jaguars, monkeys, baboons, wildabeest, and giraffes in their natural habitat -- and the beginning of the Great Migration. Yes, that's one of our jeeps in the photo, right in the middle of wildabeests and zebras crossing the road.

Our group (in 10 days) also visited a coffee plantation, a Maasai compound, an elementary school in Keratu, and a Iraqw family (brickmakers). We sang, danced, learned a little Swahili, talked, ate, and took photos. Lots of photos.

The trip changed my perceptions of Africa. I'm trying to assimilate what we experienced in a daily post  of photos, videos and commentary in my travel blog! So head on over if you want to see elephants eat a Baobab tree, or baby lion cubs playing with their mom -- or in coming days, Maasai women dance a welcome dance.

For this trip to Tanzania did give me a wonderful break from writing, but now it's time to get back to work.


  • WRITING: Now that the first draft of Years of Stone is complete, I'm rereading Standing Stones (the first book in this trilogy) with new eyes, section by section, with particular attention to character arcs and tension. Then I'll jump back to Years of Stone, hopefully for final revisions. The deadline for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association's literary contest is February 22, 2013. I would like to be ready!
  • CRAFT/READING: Setting weekly goals seems to help me keep on track with specific action steps. So here, I'm making steady progress in reading writing mags and currently working through Bell's Plot & Structure.  Is anyone else on GoodReads? I'm finding them very useful in identifying good historical fiction and currently am reading T. C. Boyle's San Miguel (literary fiction) and Annelie Wendeberg's The Devil's Grin (popular fiction), a story of a female doctor and Sherlock Holmes, set in Victorian London (sort of my era). 
  • MARKETING: As a somewhat terminally shy person with an outgoing style, I find it difficult to promote my own work. But by keeping this goal of developing a marketing plan and testing it with my collection of short stories (i.e., The Mermaid Quilt), I'm finally finding specific steps to take here too. One example: Brian Johnson's "How to Launch a Book". So that if I do self-publish my historical fiction, at least I'll have more than motivational pats on the back. And three people from the Africa trip expressed interest in my writing! A writer from the Internet Writers Workshop sent a press release to everyone on his e-mail list. I may try this.
  • SOCIAL NETWORKS: When people comment on a blog posting, do you respond right on the blog? In the past, I've tried to reciprocate with comments on the person's blog, but interactivity, that is responding directly to people's posts, is another way to connect with readers. Twitter is starting to feel more comfortable and by gradually "following" other writers, I'm learning how to promote my work without being too obnoxious (I hope!). 
Long story short. Now it's time to hop on Twitter and Facebook and find out what other ROW80 writers are up to. I still feel that participating in ROW80 has been so helpful this last year. May your writing go well.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

November 1: Hiatus

Just a note to say that we're on the road and in Amsterdam, today being the first day we have access to Internet. So we are sitting in a very large and moern library, one Euro for 30 minutes, and next to us, two women are chattering away in some unknown Arabic language, studying. We have walked along the canals here, enjoyed the European flavor, polyglot languages, and are getting ready to fly to Africa tomorrow morning at 4 am. I did not bring my computer with me, but I have a journal and write everyday, pondering what to work on when I return home in three weeks.

Writing a poem a day for October was somewhat challenging. What I learned was I cannot focus so much on my own writing when working on poetry. For me, the paths are very different. But I enjoyed meeting a new online community of writers and will persevere with ROW80 (a round of words in 80 days).

Right now I am drawing my main characters and writing back story, something I haven't completely done.  Here in Amsterdam, the people ride everywhere on bicycles at a hectic pace, drive tiny little electric cars and park them in impossibly small spaces, and eat and drink with great gusto. Our bed and breakfast faces one of the canals. Every so often we are treated to a boat full of tourists pointing up at our old house, build, I think, in 1716.

I think the hardest part of traveling is being so far from family and friends, but last night the moon was full, Amsterdam at night is all lit up with little lights over the canals, and I feel at peace to be once more on the road. May your own writing projects go well!