Monday, May 10, 2010

The Travelling Scribe

Summer is nearly upon us, and though we may not be in school anymore, the siren’s call of the summer vacation pulls at us like a memory of the students we once were.

When we travel, we as writers had a different perspective than most. We are students of humanity, explorers of cultures with a magnifying glass and an archeologist’s brush, and eavesdroppers of the world’s tongues. Writers don’t just go on vacation. We go in search – in search of what exactly may differ between us, but adventure, romance, character, scene, perspective, and mystic are all editing tools of the travelling scribe. Our familiar worlds and words are left behind.

In Barcelona, I once sat at a corner cafĂ© as a leathery skinned old man pulled a thin leash behind him attached to a wooden dog. The carved creature on its stick legs bounced across every divot in the cobbled street, and perhaps it was this energy that kept the old man talking to the wooden pet. What drove this man mad – be it the ghost of a dead dog or the tragedies of his past – was surely heartbreaking. I haven’t yet entered this man or this moment into a work of fiction, but it has stuck in my memory for years, waiting for the opportune story to strike.

Hiking north on the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut, once I encountered a grizzly backpacker with his lips parted and dry headed in the opposite direction. He asked how far behind us was a stream. Confused, we explained how the last water source was five miles back and watched his reaction of sheer dehydrated desperation. According to our maps, a riverbed was two miles ahead of us; however, the drought of 2003 had dried it up. There had been no water during the last thirteen miles of his southbound trek. Imagine his mindset, his fear, his challenge. Imagine his glory at taking gulps from our water bottles.

Why do I tell you my stories today? I’m off again, capturing a new adventure, new details, new voices, new plots, new tastes for my tongue, and new accents in my ears. I also say this, of course, because my weekly blog is going on vacation as well.

I’ll be back soon. Happy writing and good luck with your pursuits of publication!