Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Monthly Archives: October 2007

Catching up, and Travel

It has been a long time–over a month–since I posted here. Life, in its usual way, has tossed shiny things and distractions at me, and though I have been writing my fiction, and writing in other blogs about restaurants, sports, and our writing workshop, I haven’t updated here. I have several books backed up to write reviews on, and some writing thoughts to share, but for the last two weeks, I’ve been traveling, and writing very little–at least, committing very little to permanence.

Driving to the midwest and back from California is a terrific experience. Because Mark’s family is in Colorado, we’ve driven to and from Colorado on a couple occasions, but the only other time I’ve crossed the highways from Minnesota to California since 1978, it was behind a moving van packed full of my stuff. That’s a story worth telling in its own right: the lake in Kansas that used to be a field, creeping over the highway; the black clouds and screaming headwinds of Oklahoma; the dry, empty flatlands of West Texas, dotted with crosses and prisons; the glow of Las Vegas visible from an hour away. But this was a leisure trip, visiting relatives in Colorado, friends and relatives in Minnesota, and various landmarks along the way.

It is always instructive to shake up your surroundings (perhaps not literally). Leaving the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming, we saw some lovely little houses and wondered about the people living in them. We could never survive being a three-hour drive from the nearest place from which you could fly somewhere, but these people are clearly fine with it. They would look at our house, no doubt, and think that they could never live three hours from the beautiful empty spaces of the Central Valley and the mountains of the Sierra Range. The good people of North Dakota are like Minnesotans, only more so: their state capitol complex celebrates their “hardy pioneer stock.” They expect the worst from the world, and they get it, every December through March, and they soldier on (true story: I met a woman from North Dakota while I was living in Minneapolis who said that she liked the Twin Cities for their mild winters). These are all characters, archetypes, personalities. In a book, I might say to myself, this person comes from North Dakota, and even if it’s a fantasy world, I know what kind of person that is, what sort of world they grew up in, what their parents and peers were like. Maybe she is the kind of North Dakotan who moves away as soon as she reaches eighteen. Maybe she is the kind who was wrenched away from her home and still longs for it. Having been there, albeit briefly, I can imagine that background, and give her depth, even if none of it shows up in actual words on the page.

Book reviews soon to come. Sarah Canary, The Road, Music Through The Floor. Lovely stuff, all different.