All this week, I’m discussing writing vacations and writing-related things you can do on family vacations.
First up: The Author Pilgrimage…
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Despite a long weekend of being sapped by the Texas heat, he returns to his office above the movie theater he and his wife run energized and ready to write.
If it’s inspiration you’re seeking, few things are more inspiring than traveling in the footsteps of your favorite author. Mark Finn may return home exhausted after his annual trip to Cross Plains, but a weekend spent in the town of his favorite writer helps keep his ass in a chair and the pages piling up.
It’s the kind of jolt we can all use from time to time.
The Dedicated Trip
While most authors don’t have a weekend-long celebration held in their honor, by visiting the places where your favorite writer grew up or later lived, it’s easy to get a feel for how a region affected them and their work.
If your favorite writer is a classic writer, there’s a good chance the house where they lived has been preserved for visitors. To see a photo of the table or desk where your favorite writer once wrote is great, but to see where it all happened in person is even better.
So much has been written about classic writers that it’s very easy to create a tour (if one doesn’t already exist) of all the places your favorite writer hung out. Walking through your favorite writer’s old neighborhood or having a drink in a bar they loved is a great experience.
Be warned, though — things are not always what we imagine.
One of the reasons I loved Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine (affiliate link) as a kid was I grew up in the same region where the book is set. My childhood memories are full of running through the same kinds of green fields that shaped Bradbury’s early years. Today, however, Waukegan is a far cry from Green Town, Illinois. (Mundelein–the town where I grew up–has fared much better.)
While Mark Twain wrote about how prosperous Cairo, Illinois was, today it looks like the Russians bombed it in the 50s and nobody ever returned.
If your favorite writer is still alive, don’t be the creepy person who stands in front of their house hoping to catch a glimpse of them. While it can be harder to soak up the experience of a living writer’s past since they’re still busy writing and living their life, it doesn’t mean you still can’t see some of the places your favorite author writes about and get a feel for how the region affects their writing.
The tale of your dedicated visit may never be turned into a documentary, but a dedicated trip to connect with a favorite author is something every writer should try at least once. By reflecting on how where they lived affected their writing, consider how the places where you’ve lived have affected your life and writing.
A Side Visit on Vacation
It doesn’t matter if you’re vacationing in the states or abroad; chances are, wherever you’re going, that you won’t be too far from the stomping grounds of a writer you admire.
Even if friends or family couldn’t care less about Earnest Hemingway, if you’re visiting the Florida Keys, it’s probably not going to be too hard to convince them to stop by Hemingway’s favorite bar for a drink.
Maybe the change of colors of autumn is more your style? New England was home to so many great American authors, both classic and contemporary, that you’ll have trouble deciding which writer to follow.
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No matter who your favorite authors are, after walking a few miles in their shoes and frequenting the same places they visited, you’ll return from your vacation with a renewed vigor to pile up the pages!
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Tomorrow, it’s all about taking a trip to where you’re writing about for research and feel.