Patagonian Road sees little action these days, but for the sake of promoting my writing family, I'm participating in this blog hop. Rebecca Brooks tagged me, asking that I respond to the questions below. You can find her bio at the bottom of this post - and consider checking out Above All, her debut romance novel, published by Ellora's Cave.
Of the writers she's tagged, she asks four questions, to which I will now respond!
What am I working on/writing? I'm finishing up a non-fiction travel memoir about my year in Latin America. In 2011, I backpacked alone from Guatemala through Central America, then from northern Ecuador to Buenos Aires, Argentina. My route traced the one Paul Theroux described in his 1979 travelogue, The Old Patagonian Express. It has taken me years to write this book, and the pages have changed forms many times. I've pared 600-plus pages down to around 300, and I've broken it into four sections- Four Seasons.
Ultimately, I'm proud of the book, for addressing questions I hadn't thought to ask five years ago when I first embarked upon my journey. How can we see the world with new eyes? Where does art come from? How can we pare down our lives so that we're living with much less? Mine is a book about opting for risk and choosing to trust, about plunging down empty roads and up mountains and into cities and towns, about learning a language and bumbling through, feeling stupider and simpler and more helpless because, all of a sudden, the words I always had turned useless. It is about being alone, and finding inspiration through solitude. We are told that the world is a dangerous place, and it is, but it's also kind, and travel reminds us of that. Each time I return to the pages of this book, I marvel again at the places I saw, the nights I spent, the buses I rode, the people I met. Even then, it felt like a dream.
How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre? Philip Graham once told me that all writing is travel writing - that all writing brings us somewhere, takes us someplace, shows us another realm, be it inside the mind or across the world. And so, in that way, 'travel writing' is exactly the genre for me, though my book doesn't necessarily live up to the standards of 'travel writing' as most think of it. My journey links the emotional to the physical, the inner to the external. I write about traveling both in the mind and over the earth, and I value the quality of every sentence. I think my writing differs from its genre because, as all good writing does, it transcends it. My book is not a journal, and it's not a guide. It's a book about being alive, about seeing the world, about writing. It's a book about beauty, and about being alone. It's not just about Latin America, though that is the setting.
Why do I write what I do? When I travel, it's easy for me to write. The words just come. When we travel, our senses are heightened, our eyes and ears alert, and we notice more. I love to write details, scenes, landscapes, flavors: I love to describe. I love to send myself somewhere else; writing makes that happen. Writing is travel. I write poetry, too, as of late. Still, I find myself returning to the same CNF themes I've always been drawn to - land, culture, travel and place.
How does my writing process work? I write in the mornings, and I try my best to write every day. Recently, I read that Gertrude Stein wrote for just thirty minutes a day...but books came of it. Thirty minutes a day adds up to a lot if you do it 365 times. And so this is the basis of my writing process: sitting down, seeing what comes. Sometimes nothing does. Sometimes two hours pass and I realize I haven't had a sip of water, haven't peed, haven't spoken a word, haven't even stood up. I love these times, when I go away, when the writing lifts me from my own life and brings me somewhere else. It's a trance. All writers know - if we write, I think it's because we've tasted this thing. Our words have transported us, and our reality takes on new dimensions.
Next up: I tag Donigan Merritt and Miriam Sagan. They're both very busy so maybe they won't respond. But I love them and I'm proud to know them- so I'm tagging them here. If they have a little time, they can answer the questions above on their blog, then 'tag' some new folks.
About the Fabulous Rebecca Brooks: