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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Journal With Impact: Travel Brainstorms Part Two

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Location pertains to feeling; feeling profoundly pertains to place; place in history partakes of feeling, as feeling about history partakes of place.”        Eudora Welty

Brainstorm Fiction Prompts Part Two  

List: Make a list. Set timer if you want. Minimum two minutes, but I suggest five.

Exercise three: List ten to twenty cities you have visited that you absolutely loved, or would love to visit again if you had the chance. (Can also repeat for hated too.)

Go back through the list and next to each city write one word that captures that city’s memory for you—why you love it. Architecture, food, felt free, fell in love, etc.

Scratch List: Make a few categories and combine common factors under each.

Exercise four: Look at your city list so far and see if there are any common factors. Separate accordingly. Does one category contain many and another a few? Why? Make a note of what makes two favorite cites land in different categories.

Share: How many creative breaks were you able to add into your week?

Questions: Who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Exercise five: Go back to your free-write and apply these questions to the character of the city. View it as a person. What do you know—what don’t you know? Make a list for further research on missing parts.

Letter: Write a short letter either from your character or to your character.

Exercise six: Choose the city you loved the most from the earlier list and have your character write to a person in that city, or again receive a letter from a friend visiting that city. Or make it impersonal as if a business assignment.

Action Steps: Application

Writing Assignment:
Choose a few details from each of all your exercises, from Part One and Part Two, mixing and matching theme, setting, and memory. Now write up a short episode as a brief memory for your character. It can be either from the POV of this was once her home, or as a visit to a strange place.

Your city now has descriptive footprints with a personal emotional connection that relates to your travel journey. Now share your our own story in your own voice.

Share: Which brainstorm techniques worked best for you? Which were the most difficult? Why?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Journal With Impact: Travel Brainstorms Part One

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Writing fiction set in actual locations, either contemporary or historical, is both restricting and inspiring. Restricting in that we’re bound by reality, but inspiring since reality often provides story or character ideas. “                  Sarah Sundin

Brainstorm Fiction Prompts Part One  

Using fiction techniques as a brainstorm, to share your story and your travel world, often reminds us of missing details or unexpected gems. Here are six exercises that are focused on city settings as an example. Or you can substitute the city for any other aspect of your travel focus. Also consider turning yourself, or one of your travel companions, into a fictional character while doing these prompts to see what emotional connections might rise to the surface.

The reality of our world, its emotional resonance, and unique atmosphere, will be found in the details. Either we see it though the familiarity and ordinariness of our main character, or we see its strangeness through her confusion or entrancement. So it’s important for us to know the details ourselves. Just as we can walk around our homes in the dark, knowing exactly where we are, so must our characters. What is real to them needs to be real to us. This provides authentic atmosphere, tone, and mood. We don’t need to invent everything, but we do need to learn to develop an instinct to connect details with emotions effectively.           
Where to start? Right here—exactly where your character is now.

Action Steps:

Free-write: Set a timer so you’re not clock watching. Write without stopping for eight to ten minutes. If you can’t think of the next word—repeat the last word until something else comes to mind, even if it’s random. Write thoughts—words—sentences—whatever comes out. Ignore spelling and punctuation. Don’t lift the pen from the page!

Exercise One. Choose the room your character wakes up in. Start from her first moments of consciousness and go. Is it a familiar bed or not? Sheets—yes or no—clean or dirty—silk or cotton or straw or an unknown substance?

Exercise One, Part Two. Choose a city that will be in your world, real or imaginary, regardless of whether one of your characters will ever go there. It can be a myth, a historical place, or current to your character. Free-write everything you think you know about this city, or you think it will be about.

Did any detail surprise you?

Cluster: Take a word and place it in the middle of a page and then make spokes out to bubbles from it with word associates. For each of the words you choose, repeat the process. Go out as far you can. 

Exercise Two: Choose a word or a thought, either for theme, or potential research, from your free-write and cluster out all the ideas as far as you can.

Share: How far did you get? Which brainstorm of the two generated the most material for you?

Part Two brainstorm on Saturday

Read deep, marcy


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Journal With Impact: Travel Research

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“What we see less of and what we need more of these days is travel journalism, people in a new place deliberately seeking out stories of interest and of import.”
                                                                                                                  James Durston

Preparation for Planned Trip

(Also works for organizing material re memoir locations only going backwards into memory.)

Carve out your niche.

Read ahead with travel books. Particularly notice what is missing. What do you want to read information on that’s not there? Study maps. Look at online photos. If possible read some local newspapers or journalists who blog for that region to get a flavor for the community. Begin to focus on your destination from the inside out instead of as an observer to get a deeper insight.

Don’t just describe, Durston says. “Give me its stories, reveal its spirit, cut open its gut.” Look for the connective details that will influence your curiosity and search.

Consider a simple diary outline that matches your personal goals to briefly fill in key words as a reminder to keep the days from blending together when they might overlap. For example: places to eat, specific locations, bits of history, the unexpected, music heard, a conversation.

Decide how while on location you will keep mementos of each day’s outing such as ticket stubs, or menus, any free giveaways. If you take several photographs, will each day’s content go into its own folder or another category? Later when you review, you will be reminded of which day the weather changed, or you might notice repeating themes through each day.

Prepare for the active logistics: currency, timetables for transportation, safety measures, phone numbers in case of emergency, basic language translations for any country you visit. And although the new tech apps now available are compact and helpful, keep a paper copy as well—both for yourself and another copy for someone at your home base in case of loss.
Action Steps:

1. Return now to your dream journey questions and let them become your foundation for organizing your logistics and itinerary.

2. Pare all the common details down to the simplest format so that it will be as ordinary as a daily commute for you.

3. Choose how to copy or send your daily adventures into a backup file while traveling.

Share: What preparation had you not considered before your research but will include on your trip?
            Or what specific advice has been helpful to you on one of your previous journeys?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Journal With Impact: Travel Voice

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Good travel writing is always in demand.” Diana Tonnessen

Your presentation will depend on your audience, your purpose, and your focus. If you have decided to try out the travel magazine markets, then you will need to study their style as to whether to develop essays or articles, and a specific voice. If you are developing chapters for your own personal memoir then an essay or a story vignette might be a better fit. Or perhaps as a memoir, or a mini adventure to family members only, a series of letters might be more appropriate.

Magazine editor Tonnessen recommends, “Tell me something I don’t know.
Take me with you when you go. Tell me a story I can’t put down.” That advice applies whether your audience is private or public.

And if you are a fiction writer, your research on locations and settings can do double duty as an article for a magazine, or an essay for your blog, as you build your reading audience.

Go over the above suggestions and categories and note which style you prefer to read yourself. That will most likely be the style you are most comfortable writing.

Walk through the different styles of travel books or magazines you enjoy and outline a few articles that appeal to you and see how they were set up. What stood out? How might your content be adapted to that format? How can you give it a personal voice?

All articles will have an opening hook, but have a variety of methods, and will give a focus indication of the main area of interest: museum, seaport, bookstores, restaurants, landmarks to name a few. Usually there are three to five paragraphs to explore the subject and then a closing summary that returns to the opening lead.

It sounds very much like the sharing we automatically do with friends and family when we are excited about a trip we’ve just taken, or a new restaurant we tried out, or a wonderful family day with young children, or teen children, or as a couple.

Action Steps:

1. Take one specific episode of your trip and write it up three ways: as a letter, as an essay, and as an article with each answering Tonnessen’s requested details.

Share: Which style did you write most naturally? Were you surprised?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Journal With Impact: Travel Historical

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Basically, the origin story conducts our identity….within this story, we know who we are. ….This is where we come from. We came this way. We came by this place.”
                                                                                                              Leslie Marmon Silko

Just as our physical bodies cast a shadow as we walk, historic mirrors can cast a shadow within us—an emotional thread that can twine through time, both real and imagined. It connects an interior map to the external historical details. Which mirror do you hope to understand more or connect with?

For example, an historic landmark can be of value to one individual, or to a nation, or to a continent. The fact that it carries a history makes it personal whether the reaction to it is positive, or negative, or neutral. Sometimes even landmarks can be subtle reminders of a deeper theme, or a key influence. They may be the last witness to an historical event.

Regardless of what whatever detail, or threads, you chose to focus on, the key is to make a personal impact that invades, lingers, and reacts.

Set up a question outline for yourself to help ground your key foundations but be open to the unexpected as well. Here’s one possible way to track traditional landmarks that are a factor in almost every possible location, whether for a forgotten cemetery in a deserted small town, or well-known sites such as the Eiffel Tower.

As you choose your specific historic markers begin by asking these questions of each spot you choose. Watch for both the common links and the unexpected intrusion, or the unusual.

Action Steps:

1. Is it natural?

2. Is it manmade?

3. What is the history behind it?

4. How might different people personally react to it?

5. Is it considered holy ground to some? Why?

6. If so, is it open to anyone to visit or considered forbidden and can only be      viewed from a distance? 

Share: Which characteristics made you curious? Why?

Read deep, marcy

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Journal With Impact: Travel Interview Podcast

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

How can we capture our travel experiences in the midst of crazy schedules and sensory overload?

Kitty Bucholtz, Write Now Workshop, invited me to her podcast for a conversation.

Hope you find it interesting. Please share some of your insights with us too, either through the podcast or video comment links.

And here is the YouTube video link:

Thanks Kitty Bucholtz

                                            Read deep, marcy

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Journal With Impact: Travel Journey

“Thresholds are necessary in the creative process in giving an idea somewhere to go.”                                                                                                                   Tim Wynne-Jones

A portal can be considered a physical door, a road, latitude or longitude, and a heart change. We step through portals daily and cross threshold markers without even thinking about them. But when we plan a concrete travel journey we hope to be enlightened either emotionally, or visually, or mentally. We aim for at least one specific definitive destination. We choose to journey.

What is your dream journey?

A few weeks of complete solitude in nature: a river, an ocean, a forest? Climb a mountain? Trek a pilgrimage walk, or an historical excursion of your favorite author or artist or architect? Perhaps one season to follow a special musical tour or a beloved sports team.

Maybe a family heritage you would like to walk in order to honor or grieve their sacrifice. Trail the Underground Railroad or follow a pioneer path as a remembrance of their courage. Or each year visit a new country to build bridges across cultures.

Take a river cruise or language classes in another country? Or? The possibilities extend beyond our imaginations.

So where would you most like to travel?


What is the lure that draws you to that desire? Would you be willing to follow that dream regardless of how long it would take to fulfill?

These are the questions that help to focus on whether a particular journey is truly a potential reality or a nice daydream. Some heart decisions need to be understood so that the time and cost and effort are clear goals before you even take the first step.

Action Steps:

1.Take a small notebook that you can carry around and begin to ask yourself the basic questions: who, what, why, when, where, and how.

2. Don’t start with the logistics—start with the impulse of your dream. Apply these questions to understand what makes this important to you.

3. Are you willing to wait years or is there a time factor regarding age? What could other limitations be?

4. What reading and research might be necessary in order to have a clear idea of what you are seeking? Are you open to disappointments or unexpected information that could change your entire goal?

5. Journal out as many questions that you can think of to confirm this is your dream journey.

6. Then you start to outline your plan.

Share: What is your first step? How soon can you take it?

Read deep, marcy

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