Wednesday, April 30, 2014

X, Y, Z: A Writer's Road Trip Series

   The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. In April, I blogged daily about places for inspiration. I appreciate every visitor, comment, and connection made this month. Thanks for stopping by!
     I almost did it, posting the full 26 days. Then by Sunday night, the week had already got away from me before it even started.
   For 'X' I had planned to post something on XENIA, Ohio, near Dayton, and the largest town (population 25,700) beginning with 'X' in the United States. The town was mentioned in Stephen King's The Stand as the hometown of character Dayna Jurgens, and another novel, The Talisman. Author Tom Clancy also mentioned Xenia in his 2000 novel, The Bear and the Dragon. Xenia is also known as the 'Bicycle Capital of the Midwest.'
Zion National Park (photo courtesy of NPS/Putnak)
     Since the National Parks are big in our family, we've visited YELLOWSTONE, in northwestern Wyoming, more than a few times. It's America's oldest national park, created in 1872. On our last trip there, we kept track of the number of different species we saw within 24 hours: 26 animals, including a grizzly and two cubs (from a very good distance, thank goodness!). My favorite activity? Sitting on the porch at the big lodge to watch Old Faithful erupt. 
     When I first saw ZION CANYON, Utah back in 1987, my fear of heights kicked into full gear. I had never been west of Denver before my then-fiance-now-husband and his mom took me on a three-week tour of the southwestern states. The 1,000-foot cliff faces and the guardrails separating our car from a drop of equal distance left me shaking so bad I had to lay down in the back seat. It's gorgeous country, though, and thankfully I've made it through on repeat trips without having to close my eyes. Naturally, generations of artists have tried to capture the amazing landscape, so the Zion National Park encourages this through their artist-in-residence-program.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Weir Farm: A Writer's Road Trip Series

The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
    

     Impressionist painter J. Alden Weir used Weir Farm, near Branchville, CT as his creative retreat in the late 1800s. More than 130 years later, artists and other visitors still go to Weir Farm to celebrate the creative legacy that Mr. Weir started.
     It's a beautifully preserved grounds, and rightly designated as a National Historic Site. Its Artist-in-Residence Program has hosted over 150 artists from all over the U.S., as well as Tunisia, Germany, Australia, and India. Applications are accepted from January to July.
     

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Viroqua: A Writer's Road Trip Series

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!

   Each time I visit Viroqua, Wisconsin, I find a little something to make my appreciation for this area in southwest Wisconsin grow.  My husband first came to the Driftless area (so named because the landscape was untouched by glaciers) for the first-class, trout streams. When I started tagging along, I looked for things to occupy MY time since I don't fly fish.  All I did was Google 'Viroqua', and the options were crazy-plentiful. The downtown district, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, gives visitors plenty of specialty shops (Bramble Bookstore!), a farmer's market from June to October, and some of the best food in the Midwest, like at the Driftless Cafe, a farm-to-table restaurant. After ordering anything from their menu, you'll want to shop at the Viroqua Food Co-op. That's because you'll be sold on the awesomeness of locally grown food, and want to make everything you eat from scratch! Seriously, the Driftless Cafe is that good.
     Viroqua also has a very active arts culture.  The Ark's mission is to host theater, musical events, writing and art classes for people in the area. There is also the Driftless Folk School, which also offers art classes. It's currently hosting a Kickstarter campaign to help with its expansion.
   
   

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Ulysses S. Grant Park: A Writer's Road Trip Series

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
Grant's White Haven (photo courtesy of NPS)Bi
     Stories weave the rich history of this former home of the 18th U.S. President together. If you visit the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in St. Louis, Missouri, you'll witness how the family, friends, and workforce of Grant used the peaceful respite of White Haven to get solace from the effects of the Civil War.
     Coming or going to White Haven, plan the trip around the chance to eat at the farm-to-table Big Sky Cafe, within 3 miles of Grant's Farm.
    An interesting fact: The diaries of Julia Dent Grant (Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant) weren't published until 80 years after she wrote them, since her words revealed too much of her husband's private life. Strangely, Grant's memoirs were published within weeks of his death.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Thermopolis: A Writer's Road Trip Series

The turquoise spring water is full of beneficial minerals

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
   The one time I ended up in Thermopolis, known as the 'Gateway to Yellowstone', I was dirty, hot, and tired from several days of camping. I'm very much a fair weather camper, for those of you who don't know me well, so I was pretty cranky since a thunderstorm had dampened the camp site the night before. I just wanted to get back to civilization for a bit, get clean, and eat something that I didn't have to cook myself over a camp stove.
     My husband has visited Thermopolis, located in north central Wyoming, many times before. He teaches a geology field camp in the area each year, so he was already an annual visitor (and big fan). But as we pulled into Hot Springs State Park, I didn't know what to expect. After the first minute of soaking in the natural geothermal pool inside the State Bath House, I was sold!
     Thermopolis, a Greek word for 'hot city', is home to the world's largest natural hot springs. More than 3.6 million gallons of mineral-laden water comes from the spring daily. And it's 127 degrees as it pores forth from the underground vents. The Shoshone and Arapahoe tribes claimed Big Spring's water held healing properties for the body and spirit.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Stehekin: A Writer's Road Trip Series

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
     At the southern tip of North Cascades National Park, Stehekin, Washington probably ranks as my #1 vacation spot of all time. There are no roads to Stehekin. You either hike in, or take a 4-hour ferry ride up Lake Chelan (2 hours on the fast boat). It's remote, quiet, and rugged. I loved that it lacked the  'touristy' aspects of vacation destinations - overpriced souvenirs, travel-worn hotel rooms, crowds. No crowds in Stehekin, unless you count the wildlife.
Stehekin Pastry Company, a 45-minute walk from our cabin
     Once you disembark from the ferry, Stehekin's one main road (gravel) takes you to the Stehekin National Park Visitors Center, past the cabins, the post office, then onto one of the most wonderful bakeries EVER about a mile up the road. There is also a log cabin-style school as well as the old one-room school, a working ranch, and a couple of bed-n-breakfasts. But driving a car in Stehekin is a luxury, only the locals have them, and the locals consist of 75 or so people who live there year round.  Mostly you just walk, especially after visiting the bakery.
     It was in Stehekin where I first started writing BINGO SUMMER, my debut middle-grade novel.

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Rowan Oak: A Writer's Road Trip Series

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
     As Southern writers go, William Faulkner rates as one of my favorites. Aside from winning a Nobel Prize for Literature, he was also an outdoorsman, a horse lover, and he did plot outlines on his walls! When we visited his home, Rowan Oak, in Oxford, MS,  a year ago December, I was shocked at this. It was nothing new, writers making notations on the surfaces in their homes (I'd also seen Louisa May Alcott's writings near her bedroom windows). But Faulkner's were done on such a grand scale, covering two walls in graphite and red grease pencil (I believe it was The Fable that he was plotting).
      The town itself is home to the University of Mississippi. Its town square is charming, with plenty of local shopping and restaurants to choose from. Oxford also has not only one independent bookstore, but THREE! My favorite was the children's bookstore, Square Books Junior. They had many books by regional authors, on display and signed (that is why I love independents!). So of course, I had to help support the local bookstore. 
Part of his plot outline for The Fable



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mad for Middle Grade: Sticks N' Stones and the Garden of Phea

     I'm happy to feature this new middle-grade by author Angela Burkhead today at Here's the Story. Read on for a summary of STICKS N' STONES AND THE GARDEN OF PHEA, and a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. 

Sticks n Stones and the Garden of Phea by Angela BurkheadTitle: Sticks n' Stones and the Garden of Phea | Author: Angela Burkhead | Publication Date: February 6, 2014 | Publisher: Maple Hill Publishing | Pages: 152 | Recommended Ages: 9+ Summary: Rather than spending one more day amongst the humiliating remarks to the amusement of her fellow peers, Emily Fickeltin runs away. Or, rather, walks away. Emily is misunderstood and disliked but what seems to be every other child her age and on top of it all, she is overweight. Perfectly pleasantly plump, her mother calls her, but Emily feels far from perfect. Her attempt to escape her pain leads her to discover a hidden place with new hope for friends and acceptance. Stumbling into Phea's garden, an eccentric woman skilled in the arts of gardening and imagination, Emily finds she is not alone in her troubles. Phea and her friend rabbit have a past of their own they wish to run from and together the three battle their innermost demons as their world crumbles around them. Will they ever discover peace and acceptance? These lost and disheartened souls must find who they are before they are all lost forever.

Purchase at Amazon


About the Author: Angela Burkhead


Angela Burkhead Angela Burkhead is a full time writer and a full time mom. Of the two jobs, she cannot decide which is more difficult and time consuming, but both bring the joys of fulfillment and accomplishment. She and her son currently reside in Richmond, Ky, just north of Kentucky's arts and crafts capital, Berea, Ky, where she was born and raised. Her newest book, Sticks n' Stones and the Garden of Phea, an upper middle grade/young adult fantasy novel, was published February of 2014.

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* $25 Book Blast Giveaway *

Amazon 25 gift card  Prize: One winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest ends: May 13, 11:59 pm, 2014 Open: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, David Chuka and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

Q is for Quincy: A Writer's Road Trip Series

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!

   I knew going into the Challenge that some letters would be hard. And Q...well, Q almost had me. So far I've been able to write about places I've been to. I think the personal experience is a little better than writing a general description and throwing up a photo from Google Images. I almost forgot I'd been to Quincy, IL, and it's even in my home state!
     The city's most famous claim is that it hosted the sixth senatorial debate between U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln in 1858. It drew a huge crowd - 12,000 people! Since Quincy was right across the Mississippi from pro-slavery Missouri, the city drew its share of controversy and tension. Dr. Richard Eells, a staunch abolitionist, sheltered runaway slaves in his home who were on their way to Chicago. His home was recently restored, and is now open to visitors in the downtown historic district who might be traveling along the 550-mile long Great River Road on Illinois' western border.
   

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Pipestone National Monument: A Writer's Road Trip Series

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
     Take a detour off of Interstate 90 at Luverne, MN, head north for 25 miles on U.S. Hwy 75, and you'll find yourself at Pipestone National Monument, an area full of rich history and sacred meaning to many American Indians tribes. The quartzite mined from the quarries at Pipestone was and still is used for carving prayer pipes.  It is believed that prayers travel upward with the smoke to the Great Spirit. The grounds are still a very important cultural and sacred site to different tribes. Visitors are expected to treat the area with care and respect as the quarries from where the reddish rock originates are still active.
An active quarry, with pots of quartzite pieces lining the steps
    The Sioux holy man, Black Elk, was also a gifted storyteller, and committed many of his ancestors' stories to print. In BLACK ELK SPEAKS, first published in 1932, he recounts the importance of the pipes. Author John Neihardt said that meeting and interviewing Black Elk for the book was the greatest experience of his life. I bought the book on our trip to this site, and loved it.m
     Today, collectors recognize the art in carving the pipes, as well as the importance of their ceremonial use.

(Photos courtesy of NPS)




Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Old Town: A Writer's Road Trip Series

 
photo courtesy of the City of Albuquerque
   The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!


   One of my favorite characteristics of Old Town, in the heart of Albuquerque, NM, is the maze of streets, brick alleys, and hidden alcoves that lead to all the art galleries, clothing boutiques, and jewelry shops. Until you literally turn the corner, you don't know what interesting shop you'll find. I loved the adobe buildings, the colorful flags hanging overhead, the local artists with their jewelry laid out on tables along the sidewalk. While you shop near the town square, stop in at Hacienda del Rio for authentic Mexican food.
     Speaking of food, if you visit in September, Old Town hosts the annual  Salsa Fiesta. Sample salsa during the salsa competition (stock up on Tums!) while you listen to live salsa music. And don't forget to stop in at the independent Treasure House Books, situated right on the Square. They have many books signed by local authors!
   
   

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Newport: A Writer's Road Trip Series

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
   Known as the site for the summer 'cottages' of the country's wealthiest families during the Gilded Age, Newport, Rhode Island draws crowds throughout the year to see the ornate mansions, many of them still privately owned. Some of the most spectacular mansions, like the Vanderbilts' The Breakers and Marble House, host tours. Author Edith Wharton's novel, THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, described the social scene of Newport. The town was also known for its 'summer White Houses', since presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy kept homes there. The town sits along Narrangansett Bay, a popular beach and marina destination.
     We visited Newport ten years ago when the kids were small. It was a foggy afternoon; the thick fog are just rolled in from the bay, and the mansions were completely shrouded. Only when we drove around the bend near The Breakers did it come into full view. And what a view; the scale of that house was enormous, even with the limited visibility!
     While you're visiting Newport, stop in at the Spring Street Bookstore for a good beach read.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Madison: A Writer's Road Trip Series

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
     We were lucky enough to live in Madison, WI for six years while my husband did his graduate work. It was one of those good news/bittersweet moments when he was offered a job in Illinois, and we had to say good-bye to this beautiful and lively city. Madison is one of those places that enjoys an urban culture, yet maintains the homey ambience that smaller cities enjoy. If you visit, you'll hopefully get to take in a festival and/or food tour, the UW Arboretum and Olbrich Botanical Gardens, the free Henry Vilas Zoo, and the Madison Children's Museum. And there's also five lakes and 260 parks, world-class restaurants, and the very awesome Farmer's Market on the Capitol Square from April to October. I miss Madison so much!
     Madison also is home to a wonderful indie bookstore, Room of One's Own, in the downtown area, and only a few blocks from the Capitol. You might also want to plan your visit around UW-Madison Continuing Studies Write-by-the-Lake Writer's Conferences and Retreat, which happens in June every year. This year's conference takes place June 16-20. Classes are offered for beginners as well as those at advanced levels. Since classes take place in the mornings, you have the rest of the day to explore the city.
     

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Lake Superior: A Writer's Road Trip Series

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!

   The Objibwe tribe's name for Lake Superior is gichigami, or 'great sea'. As the largest freshwater lake in the world, in terms of area, that is an apt description. And it's cold, too. Really cold. According to legend, Lake Superior 'rarely gives up its dead' because it's so cold. In fact, the water is so cold that when bodies sink into its depths, they rarely resurface. That's because the fungi which feed on decaying flesh, create a gas which builds inside the body, causing it to rise to the surface. Since the fungi cannot survive at such cold temperatures, the bodies usually are not recovered.
     We stayed in Grand Marais, MN for a week last summer, on the north shore of the lake. For a small town (population 1344 in 2012), Grand Marais was big on fun. Luckily our visit coincided with the annual Arts Festival, located on a street right along the lake. Of special interest to writers is the 25-year-old library on Village Green, a vibrant center of community activity. It's a gorgeous building; and had an ample amount of tables and comfy chair space for people looking for internet access (like us!). Grand Marais also has a lovely independent bookstore, Drury Lane Books. The diminutive white clapboard building with the blue steel roof sits on the banks of the lake as well. There are regular author readings, book groups, and plenty of titles to choose from. The Grand Marais Arts Colony also offers writing classes throughout the year, as well as workshops on painting, fiber arts, glass, and pottery.
   
   

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Kanab: A Writer's Road Trip Series

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
     Two years ago, I rented a car in Flagstaff, Arizona, bought a road map, and drove 3 1/2 hours north to a little town a few miles over the southern border of Utah. I had made arrangements through Air bNb to rent a room in a private home so I could spend four days walking dogs, scooping hay, cleaning rabbit pens, and preparing breakfast for 19 pigs. At night, I sat at an antique desk, journaling about my day, and writing blog posts for my first A to Z Challenge. Sound fun? It was a blast!! 
      Imagine the size and scope of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, in Kanab, Utah, as I give you these numbers: it’s home to 1700 dogs, cats, birds, pigs, horses, rabbits, and wild animals in rehabilitation; the sanctuary employs 300 people (and is the largest employer in town); it welcomes 2500 volunteers; and over 20,000 people visit per year. 
     Sprawled throughout the red and white-marbled walls of Angel Canyon, the sanctuary is a beautiful respite for abused, neglected, and unwanted animals, and a fantastic destination vacation for animal lovers looking to lend a hand for a day, week, or however long one’s schedule allows. For some volunteers, walking and socializing the animals is enough. What animals you wish to interact with and to what extent is up to you. Best Friends is just happy to have you there.
     My stay at Best Friends included shifts in Dog Town, Piggy Paradise and Rescue Village, which was home to hundreds of rabbits. In those areas, I cleaned pens, fed, and exercized the animals. On my last day, I signed up for a Puppy Socialization class, where eight of us helped introduce four Chihuahua-terrier puppies to new skills. 
     If this sounds ideal, you probably don’t need to hear the added incentive that the sanctuary is in the heart of Arizona’s and Utah’s spectacular National Parks, like Bryce and Zion Canyons, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Grand Canyon. They are all within a half-day drive. 
     Volunteering at Best Friends was a transforming experience. If you'd like more information about volunteering, visit  Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Jackson Hole, Wyoming: A Writer's Road Trip Series

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
Photo courtesy of NPS
   Along with the breath-taking scenery, Jackson Hole, Wyoming enjoys a pretty vibrant arts community, including its love of literature. If you're looking to combine your vacation with a writing-related destination, this town is a great option. For its 22nd year, the Jackson Hole Writer's Conference will host some big names during its weekend conference on June 26-28, 2014. One-on-one manuscript critiques, a pre-conference workshop, and separate tracks for fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and young adult are some of the highlights. The early bird registration fee of $365 ends May 12th. There's even a $175 fee for a young  writer if you have a budding novelist in the house. After the conference, don't miss out on visiting Grand Teton National Park. The wildlife and scenery are spectacular!
     

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for Indiana Dunes: A Writer's Road Trip Series

The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
     Mount Baldy and the Indiana Dunes were always a popular destination for family trips and Scout outings when our kids were younger. Even with its close proximity to Chicago (you can see the city's profile across the Lake), the unspoiled surroundings similar to more remote recreation areas, is what makes the Dunes a fun place to visit.
     Due to the shifting sands and gaps which have recently opened up underground, causing some of the dunes to collapse, people are being kept from climbing in the area. But the beaches are open, and 45 miles of trails are available to hikers. Bring a beach umbrella, blanket, and a journal to people-watch, and write during the late spring or early fall when kids are in school and the hot- weather crowds stay home.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Hoh Rainforest: A Writer's Road Trip Series

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
     Our family took a 3-week trip in June 2005, covering 10 states in 21 days. We stayed in 17 different locations (my husband's idea, not mine). In all fairness, the trip was more work-related than pleasure, but the amount of sites, parks, and activities we enjoyed made up for the frenzied pace.
     One of the more interesting places we discovered was the Hoh National Rainforest, west of the Olympic National Park, in northwest Washington. Receiving between 12 and 14 feet of rainfall on average each year, the area is home to an array of plant and animal life. As a temperate rainforest, it displays a canopy of deciduous and coniferous trees. And the banana slugs, brilliant yellow and sometimes 6 inches long, are easy to spot in its verdant surroundings.
Banana slug: a handsome fella, yes?
      That night we stayed in the town of Forks, less than an hour away from the forest. Little did I know that in less than four months a book would put tiny Forks (population 3500) on the worldwide stage. TWILIGHT was published in October of 2005, and I read it in January of the next year, realizing then the connection our family trip shared with Stephenie Meyer's setting in the book.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for Grand Canyon: A Writer's Road Trip Series

     The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
     I'd written about my backpacking adventure to Grand Canyon two years ago during the A-to-Z Challenge. It was an exhilarating, torturous, transcending, physically painful, and mentally-challenging journey. During my 5-hour trip up the Canyon, I vowed I would never do that to my body again. Two hours later, I was planning my next trip down. It was THAT cool!
     One aspect of the trip I didn't mention during my last post was the Canteen at Phantom Ranch. After a day exploring the bottom of the Canyon along the Colorado River, a visit to this campground community building for one of their icy lemonades is nothing short of heaven (25 cent refills, too!). The Canteen is the perfect place to play cards, socialize with other campers, journal, or grab a toasted bagel with cream cheese if you're sick to death of eating dehydrated food.
     On the second day at Phantom Ranch, it drizzled. So I walked to the Canteen to read something from the 'library', a collection of books and magazines left by other hikers (probably with the hopes of lightening their packs for the ascent). I purposely avoided the 'Death in the Grand Canyon' title, and left my paperback copy of Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes for someone else.

Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for Freedom Trail: A Writer's Road Trip Series

The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!

   I visited Boston for the first time 10 years ago when my husband attended a business conference. On the second morning in the city, I found myself at Boston Common, the beginning point of my self-guided walking tour of the Freedom Trail, with a detailed map and a good amount of coffee.
     The 2.5-mile Trail is fairly easy to follow; it's brick-lined and the buildings and sites are fairly well-marked.  Of the sixteen official sites on the trail, the Old North Church was my favorite. I'm a sucker for 18th and 19th-century architecture, and the church is a gorgeous example. It's the oldest church in Boston, having opened its doors in 1723. And its steeple, topping almost 200 feet, is also the city's tallest.
     You'll also see Boston Common, Old South Meeting Hall, the site of the Boston Massacre, Bunker Hill, and the USS Constitution. Even though I chose to tour at my own pace, there are companies who offer walking tours. The Freedom Trail Foundation gives a 90-minute tour with costumed guides, though it must be a no-frills tour. I was on information overload by the time I reached Copp's Hill Burying Ground four hours later.
Follow the red-brick Trail

Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for Elephant Rocks State Park: A Writer's Road Trip Series

The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!

   Geology lessons fit into most of our family trips. My husband, a geology professor, likes to help plan trips to geologically-rich areas, and we've often driven waayy off the beaten path to visit some of these places. Luckily, Elephant Rocks State Park, in southeastern Missouri isn't too far away from civilization.
     The most fascinating aspect of this place is the monstrous granite boulders, remnants of an ancient volcano, which dot the park. Place your hand on one of them and you're touching almost 1.5 billion years of geologic history! When the sun hits them just right at sunrise or sunset, the rocks resemble a line of red circus elephants walking head to tail.
     Situated in the middle of the Mark Twain National Forest, opportunities for recreational activities ‑ biking, hiking, float trips ‑ are everywhere.
     For a literary connection, take a scenic drive 90 miles to the south and visit Laura Ingalls Wilder's Rocky Ridge Farm, near Mansfield. Here she wrote many of the Little House books.

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for Door County: A Writer's Road Trip Series

The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
     Wisconsin's Door County, the easternmost county on the shores of Lake Michigan, boasts a pretty healthy literary community. There are two festivals throughout the late summer and fall, including the Egg Harbor Book Festival, which spanned two weekends in August 2013. Also, Washington Island, at Door County's northernmost tip, debuted its first festival in October 2013. The Washington Island Literary Festival hosted authors reading from their works and workshops during the three-day event. The Clearning Folk School offers year-round writing workshops for adults in a beautiful rustic setting. On the western side of the county, and just north of Ellison Bay, the school sits on a cliff overlooking the water, where you can watch the setting sun. The historic buildings and grounds give writers a peaceful setting in which to work on their craft.
     If you need a break from writing, Door County offers plenty of beach spots, trails, and places to rent bikes such as Peninsula State Park. My family visits Door County yearly for these reasons alone. I'd like to go someday for a personal writing retreat!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for Cape Hatteras: A Writer's Road Trip Series

The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an short visit, be it an afternoon, a weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
     If you love beach vacations that focus more on relaxation and inspiration (read, a perfect spot to work on that novel!), then the Cape Hatteras area villages are an ideal spot. I'm claiming creative license here for my 'C' post, because my favorite spot is not part of Hatteras Island, but a short ferry ride through the Hatteras Inlet. It's still part of the Outer Banks, but at the southern most tip, Ocracoke Island is set apart from the rest in more ways than one.
     Blackbeard claimed Ocracoke as his favorite spot, and he apparently lost his life here in a battle. Pirate lore abounds; more than 500 shipwrecks happened around the treacherous Diamond Shoals. Many residents have used the wood from these ships, which occasionally washes ashore, to use in their homes. The beach has been ranked as the #1 beach in the U.S. on several lists. It's uncluttered and without the hotels and other touristy spots that many beaches have. Most shops and lodging are within a one-mile area, on the northern tip of the island, including the charming Books to Be Red at 34 School Street. It's one of those independent bookstores which enjoy a steady fan base of loyal locals and a steady influx of vacationers looking for a great beach read.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B is for Biltmore: A Writer's Road Trip Series

The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an short visit, be it an afternoon, a weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
 A trip to Asheville, NC a few years ago included a stop at George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate. The size of the rooms on the main floor was staggering! Naturally, the draw for me was the library. The two-level room holds 10,000 volumes, and displays a black marble fireplace large enough for me to walk into and stand upright. Best of all, there is a secret door on the upper level that Mr. Vanderbilt used to enter the library from his bedroom, to find a book or return one late at night. Could I fill a library this size with books? You bet! How about you?
The Biltmore library


     










Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A is for Alcatraz: A Writer's Road Trip Series

      The Writer's Road Trip Series is brought to you by the Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge. This month I'm blogging daily about ideal places for an afternoon, weekend or longer stay to focus on your writing. Need a retreat to finish that manuscript? Or maybe a virtual trip to inspire a scene? Take a minute, read, imagine. And thanks for stopping by!
Artwork courtesy of Jeremy Hawkins
     Ever since I read Gennifer Choldenko's middle-grade novel, AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS, I've wanted to visit Alcatraz Island. As you can imagine, Choldenko isn't the only author who has used Alcatraz's hauntingly desolate backdrop for a story. Its broken ruins beg to be an eventual setting for any writer.
     For a walking tour, you'll catch the ferry on Pier 33. It's a short ride across the bay, and you'll have a great view of the city. On the day before our tour, I took the BART to Pier 39 (think, sea lions!). There I sat outside on a bench with my camera, notebook and a pen. It was a cold morning, only a few people shared the pier with me, but the view was outstanding as you can see.
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