|Evening in the foothills of the Appalachians|
You know you are a novelist when your ideal vacation is solitary confinement in a remote location without phone or internet, where although your itinerary consists of venturing no further than your chair for ten hours, your trek takes you far into the uncharted reaches of your imagination where you entertain yourself by obsessing over fictional progeny, and where, if you don't make some small effort, you could exist entirely on coffee, diet coke, and chardonnay. Take me away...
Under cover of driving two dogs to the vacation destination, the old family farm in the foothills of the Appalachians purchased with great great grandfather's mustering out money from the Civil War, I arrived a week ahead of family and won myself six (yes, six!) days of Summer Writing Vacation. I figured my dogs would frisk in hay fields, track small animals through the woods, or frolic in the stream while I enjoyed prolific solitude. I was so wrong.
At 6 AM on Day One, after having laid in bed for 30 minutes contemplating revisions to my protagonist's emotional arc, I dressed and set off for my Writing Room. The dogs followed me outside, but rather than part ways at the hay field, they displayed great enthusiasm for being inside the Writing Room with me. Noses in the crack where the door would open, they raced ahead and assumed the position they would occupy for the next six days--on my late grandmother's antique Jenny Lind daybed. Although I was skeptical, the dogs turned out to be perfect writing companions. The tapping of the keyboard lulled them to sleep and their repose calmed me.
Mornings were the best part of our writing day. Never did my prose sound so brilliant, never did the sun warm the daybed's cushions so perfectly. Although it probably looked as if we spent a lot of time gazing out the windows, me plotting characters, Eva and Sophie tracking a hummingbird, our industry tempted us to skip lunch. Diet Coke for me and a chew for them, we dug back into the heart of the project, blissful hours stretching into the afternoon.
By late afternoon each day, my story would arrive at a fork in the road--or a ditch--and the three of us would set off to hike in the woods. Although good for what ails stories as well as necessary exercise for those who sit on chairs or daybeds all day long, hiking sapped precious writing energy, and by the time we got back to work, the sun would have abandoned the day bed, birds would have called it a day, and my writing would begin to sound awful and hopeless. Rather than cutting without mercy, I looked into the eyes of my writing companions and saw two things: 1. tomorrow would be another Brilliant Writing Day, and, 2. it was time to feed the dogs.
Indeed, family arrived, ending our Writing Vacation, calling us back to reality, which, after six days unleashed, was probably a good thing. The dogs became dogs again, sniffing crotches and barking at relatives, and I resumed being wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, and cousin, catching up on news, and helping feed the masses gathered for our family celebration.
Even though the dogs and I never returned to the Writing Room, we did share one last Writing Event around the back of my car. Days of rain, flooding, and high winds had knocked out the electricity, disabling, among other things, my printer. Although it looked as if I would not have a hard copy of my manuscript to revise during the very long drive home, my husband suggested plugging my gear into the car's electrical outlet, and, as you can see from the picture below, we enjoyed an Appalachian Printing Party with Dogs.
|My car office. Sitting near the exhaust pipe is not recommended.|
Cindy Jones is the author of My Jane Austen Summer.