“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Words haven’t come easy these last months. I’ve struggled to simply hang on, to perform routine jobs – household projects, tasks at work – seeking a sense of normalcy in a suddenly abnormal world. Other than two valued meetings, my once bright realm of writing dimmed into darkness.
But recently, out of the night shadows a plan slipped in that might help awaken my creative soul. I decided to go on an adventure. I would take a road trip.
So, early Friday morning I brewed strong coffee, grabbed suitcase and snacks, and climbed into the Honda Accord. It was my husband’s car, the one he used on his daily commute. Driving it, I still felt his warm presence. I gave Ingrid her coordinates then began my journey across the vast green of Pennsylvania and beyond. A three-day weekend lay ahead.
Over rivers and rolling farmland, through the turnpike’s mountain tunnels – Blue Mountain, Kittatinny, Tuscarora, Allegheny – I drove west toward Pittsburgh. A quick stop at a service plaza netted farm-fresh peaches and a jar of homemade pear butter. Occasionally I’d turn on the radio, scanning local stations. Mostly I drove in comfortable silence keeping company with thoughts and memories.
As I neared Pittsburgh, partially cloudy skies greyed. Ingrid guided me into the city and through the proper turns while rain splashed down. The downpour didn’t last long. By the time I reached my son’s apartment it was dwindling to a drizzle.
He’s a Pitt student, my middle son, as was his father’s father. So after I toured his apartment we drove toward the University and parked. We ate lunch at The Porch on Schenley then strolled over to the Cathedral of Learning, built during the early part of the 20th century in part by dimes collected by the nuns from area school children. It’s a magnificent structure filled with beauty and knowledge. My son showed me where he’ll attend classes and hear lectures this fall. Together we walked around campus and I bought Pitt t-shirts – 2 for $12 at a corner street kiosk. Too soon time ran short so we made plans for Sunday then hugged and parted.
I continued on my road trip, toward Cleveland and a Saturday writers’ workshop just south of the city. It was the timing and location that first tempted me into registering for NEORWA’s one-day workshop. It fit well with my needs, I thought, and might motivate me to begin writing again. It was all that and more.
From 9 am until 5 pm on Saturday, prolific Texas author Candace Havens spoke to a group of 60+ writers on a myriad of writing topics. She talked about goals, plotting, and brainstorming. She gave a thrilling talk about Fast Draft – a way to generate the first draft of a novel in two weeks by writing 20 pages a day. She discussed Michael Hague’s six-step plot structure, and Jim Butcher’s story arc. We broke for lunch and conversation with fellow writers. The workshop continued into the afternoon – “Revision Hell,” branding, marketing, and building an image in the marketplace. An incredibly rich, motivating day.
On Sunday morning I drove back to Pittsburgh where I once more met with my son. This time we enjoyed a full and varied Sunday breakfast buffet at Joe Mama’s on Forbes Avenue. Under blue skies and sunshine, we again strolled around campus. Then, as on Friday, all too soon it was time to part.
The drive east went smooth, despite heavy Sunday traffic and occasional summer road construction. Two-thirds of the way home, I detoured down to the National Cemetery near Annville to visit my beloved’s grave. The section where he rests isn’t filled so the sod is not yet laid. The brown, barren ground around the granite stones gives it a stark appearance. But that didn’t diminish the power of the site. For a long while, I stood in silent conversation then strolled back to the car.
I arrived home late evening. It was a good trip for many reasons. The open highway in fair weather brought some peace. I cherished the visits with my son. I enjoyed NEORWA’s writers’ workshop and new writing friends made there. I savored the warmth of memories relived.
And somewhere, along the way, a seed for a new story miraculously germinated and is taking root. ♥