suitcase chairA few nights ago I attended Dime Stories. Each of us attending put our name in a basket and were called up to read a short piece, a story, an excerpt – no longer than three minutes. I chose a travel story, of course. What I hadn’t realized how much was involved and the level of mastery focus and daring.

It was daunting and exciting. I learned so much and read a short piece about diving with Manta Rays. There was scant feedback but the glowing star of the night was a young man, Jesse, crippled by circumstance – his crumpled body tucked into an electronic wheelchair. But when he spoke a world flew into being – funny, touching, unique. When it came to voting on my top three stories, I couldn’t scribble my own name and Jesse’s was at the top of the list.

Writing for an audience in a roomful of ears and eyes is a very different exercise than putting fingers to keyboard and hoping that your words complete the tale. Not better or worse, just different. It takes work either way – focus, daring and hopefully mastery one day.

Transcendence and the Rapidograph Pen: I remember the first time I transcended a tool. It was long ago in a land far away – really. I was living in Juneau, Alaska and working for a small advertising firm ensconced in Suite 16 of the Valentine Building (my boss loved the irony of it). At the time my illustrations were drafted in pen and ink and the Rapidograph pen was the weapon of choice or rather the torturers tool. Too often a perfectly straight line would be marred by an infinitesimal weight or pause, leaving a puddle, a blob. I used a lot of ‘White Out’ in those days but kept at it and one day the blobs were no longer an issue, my lines were clean and clear.

I look forward to the day when my prose is too.

To bring it back to travel – Mastery focus and daring:

A fellow travel writer, Mariellen Ward, recently posted about taking a trip to visit Quebec by train. She missed her trolley, got on a bus with no room for luggage and once on the train was seated far from a window (she’d planned on taking pictures along the way.) It ended well eventually and her missive was accompanied by a lovely shot of sunlight on water through the window.

How often trips are started with struggle! Months of planning can be upended suddenly. Passports can be hard to find in convoluted home file systems (I’m the worst) and instead of being blissfully transported, we may find ourselves contorted to accommodate a crowd or subject to other miseries. They’re temporary inconveniences only if we let them be so and hold out for the glory of just being, of the transcendent moment when we’re truly underway and breathe a sigh of contentment – perfectly present, no ink blots or lost luggage to mar the exquisite gift of finally being immersed in the trip.

I’m going to return to Dime Stories next month. Until then I’ll keep my sleeves rolled up and work on a short travel story that will hopefully be worthy of an audience. I also hope that Jesse returns to read. We need our models wherever they may be found. Here’s to mastery focus and daring. Write on!