Road Trip

“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.

Country Highway

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.

Cathedral of Learning

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.

Pitt Panther

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.   ♥

12 thoughts on “Road Trip

  1. Dear Deb, I am so happy to read this post! You are often in my thoughts and often I check to see if you’ve posted on your blog. I am so sorry that life has been so difficult for you and more sorry that I could not help you. I hope there have been times when you wrapped yourself into a “knitted hug” for a bit of comfort. I will be anxious to read what grows from the newly planted seed! Hang in there…..Rose

    • Ah, but you have helped Rose, as have so many others. Since Tom’s passing I’ve felt wrapped in the prayers and comforting thoughts of friends and family. (The knitted hug helps, too. 🙂 ). The grief and heartache are a part of life. I’m lonely now, but never alone and I know I have only to reach out. Thank you for being there.

  2. Was so pleased to see your name pop up in the emails. I’ve wondered how you were doing. Sounds like the trip was healing and inspirational. Candy is a member of my North Texas chapter, so I’ve been priviledged to hear her on several occassions. Enthusiasm is Candy’s alternate name. You can’t but come away charged up. I’m glad you did. I haven’t taken her fast draft class, but many others swear by it. Frankly it terrifies me. LOL At some point I’ll have to gut up and jump in. I’ve been deep in editing my 4th book after plowing through Margie Lawson packets and looking forward to her Immersion Class in September. Hope to hear more from you. I’ve missed your thoughtful comments.

    • So good to hear from you, Marsha. Candy is certainly enthusiastic, and can’t help but motivate. Next week I’m dipping my toes into a Fast Draft effort with a few folks I met at NEORWA. I’m hoping it works. Will keep you all informed! Thanks for writing!

  3. Hi Deb,
    I’m from Pittsburgh and was also at the NEORWA conference! I spent time this summer wandering around the Pitt area while my youngest attended a camp at the Carnegie Natural History Museum. Perhaps one of my boys will attend there as well. I’m glad Candace was inspiring for you. I had the same reaction to her no-nonsense attitude about writing.
    I saw Candy at RWA Nationals in New York in 2011 and was inspired. It was only a 1 hour session, but it helped me change the way I wrote so that I could accept having a “shitty first draft” and was able to focus just on getting the words onto the page. It’s helped tremendously, but Saturday’s session was the shot-in-the-arm I needed just now.

    Good luck!

    • I love Pittsburgh! You’re lucky to live there. Oldest son is a CMU grad and we have many long-time family ties to the city. I anticipate many more visits in the coming few years.

      NEORWA was great. Yes, Candy is certainly inspiring! Learning to write “crap” for the first draft, just to get the words on paper, has been the most difficult thing for me to do in writing. Gotta change that. As Nora said, and Candy quoted, “I can fix anything except a blank page.” So good to “meet” you. Thanks so much for writing, and good luck to you, also!

  4. deb,

    I was so happy to see the blog notice in my inbox that Stringing Beads was live again. I’ve missed it and been worried about you. But each day you’re in my thoughts and prayers as is Tom.

    Powerful piece clearly depicting where you’re at now.

    So glad the workshop inspired you to put a few words out here for all of us.

      • Really? What specific iecsantns about Obama’s past? What specific iecsantns did the media look for when they dug into every little single bit of info they could get about Sarah Palin? And I mean diggin’ into her past from the second she was named as McCain’s running mate. They didn’t look for anything specific, they dug up EVERYthing they could about ANYthing.If you want specific parts of Obama’s past, how about we start simple: school records. I mean, thanks to the media we know how George W. and even Al Gore did in college, er, university (and now we know Rick Perry’s record as well), so how about Barack O? What is there to hide? Nothin’, right? How about we start with that.

  5. deb – you do not know how many times i have thought of you and not getting any email updates led me to believe you were in trouble. i spent most of the summer in wyoming where we had little “convenient” contact via computers/emails/cell service. it was pretty much hit or miss. in any case, it was a delight to receive your email/blog. thank you for hanging in there from all of us. you truely have the right to “give up” after having lost the love of your life. but, i may speak for all of us (ie. your friends of many walks of life), thank you for hanging in there and thank you for continuing to write!

    my very best to you and your friends and family!

    • Linda, it is so good to hear from you. Wyoming…wow! It’s so beautiful in the west. Such a landscape should inspire many beautiful paintings.

      No worries about giving up, although a sort of mental hibernation and profound numbness still occur on occasion. But I have sons and family and dear friends, and life can still be sweet, however fleeting. Perhaps I’ve come to appreciate it even more. And yes, the writing must continue. No other choice. Thanks again for your friendship. 🙂

  6. Deb, SO glad you are beginning to think of writing again! I’ve been to this site once since your husband died, and I’ve been thinking of you. This post is lovely!

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