Tag: place

place

Using All Five Senses

I tend to focus on the visual when I think about place, but I’m entranced by writers who describe a location with the other senses. It’s a skill I’m trying to improve in my own writing. So, here it goes for my trip to Utah: touch, sound, smell, and taste. Please add your suggestions!                                                   the chill of the shade on my skin as the sun set           the cheering of the crowd                                                                    a faint whiff of sage brush                                                                                                                                                  smoky, fatty pork drenched                […]

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Seeing with New Eyes

Snow in the Wasatch Mountains, court-side seats at a Jazz basketball game, a stroll around Temple Square, otherworldly rock formations at Arches, sweeping vistas in Canyonlands, bison and birds on Antelope Island, and the quiet beauty of Huntsville after a treacherous drive up rocky Ogden Canyon. I spent last week in Utah, a place I haven’t lived full time since I graduated from high school. After my son fractured his wrist snowboarding, my family made a quick decision to turn our ski vacation into a hiking vacation. We drove down to Moab. In a delightful coincidence, friends of ours from New York were there for a few days. Over a lunch of green papaya salad, beef noodles and curried chicken (yes, there’s a great Thai restaurant in Moab, Utah), our friends described the immense beauty of my home state.  I was about five the first time I remember traveling from our house in the alpine mountains in the north ofthe state to the red rock in the south. My child self assumed that everything I saw was normal. It took my friend, who lives a few blocks away from us on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, to remind me that it was pretty fabulous to […]

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Finding Space and Place in a Caribbean Cottage

  In earlier posts, I’ve shared what it was like to come to the decision to downsize from a ten-room house by the ocean to a mobile home, which isn’t mobile, in outer Cape Cod. Part of that decision was motivated by a thirty-year desire to spend winters in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where we had vacationed for decades. We’re just about to return to the “tindominium” on the Cape after our second winter here in St. John.            We are not living in a luxurious villa in St. John. We live in a sweet one-room cottage with a separate kitchen and a “bedroom area” next to our “living space.” There is a covered porch that runs the length of the cottage and overlooks Hurricane Hole. And there is a community pool for our tiny community of five.             Our winter cottage is in Coral Bay, where the bumper sticker, “We’re all here, because we’re not all there,” was inspired. We live among artists, writers, musicians, activists, and environmentalists, some of whom are supposed to be retired but you’d never know it. I’ve met real characters here that defy imagination and beg to be placed […]

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Someone else's room

 “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” I can’t comment on Virginia Woolf’s first ingredient for a successful literary career. Having money certainly helps. I’m fortunate to have a daytime situation, to borrow a phrase, that pays my bills. The security of knowing a roof over my head doesn’t depend on the number of sellable words I produce makes it easier to me to pursue a career in fiction. I imagine being penniless and worried about basic survival would make writing difficult but I don’t know about impossible.As far as Ms. Woolf’s second ingredient? Her essay was written before Starbucks and co-working. Nowadays it’s possible to borrow or rent space in someone else’s room to write. I often do. I find it hard to work at home. Home signals my brain it’s time to unwind and recuperate from the day’s stress. Home is my hermit cave. My place to retreat and recharge. (Yes, I’m an introvert.)Writing fiction isn’t stressful. I love writing. But it is work, at least when you get to the point you’re writing on deadline for a publisher. Since my mind equates home with anything but work I […]

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Strangeness of Place

People often ask me why I set my novel, Murder in G Major, in Ireland. I usually come up with a story about how Ireland is a locale where a ghost wouldn’t seem out of place but my protagonist would (I love a good fish-out-of-water story) but the true reason is as ethereal as my story’s specter. The setting just came to me.The nidus of my paranormal murder mystery rests in a daydream I had. (Yes, I daydream movies in my head. It’s a great way to pass the time when you can’t decide on a book from your TBR pile and nothing in your Netflix queue appeals to you.) I imagined an African American classical violinist stranded in an Irish village with only the clothes on her back and her violin. And sometimes a harmonica. I imagined she won a prize for fiddling in a pub’s open mic contest and she used the money to rent a room above the pub. I remembered this daydream when a writing instructor asked “What’s your story about?” and it eventually became the backstory for my novel’s amateur sleuth.But why Ireland? My fascination with Ireland defies logical explanation. I love Irish music, especially […]

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Writing Place

An author speaking at a writing seminar I attended commented it surprised him whenever someone complimented him on how well he’d described such-and-such a place, the geographic location in which he’d set his novel. His secret—he hadn’t really described the place. He included a few key details, aspects of the environment important to his point of view character, and left the rest to the readers’ imagination. He didn’t believe in complex descriptions of place.I’m the opposite. I love stories that describe place so vividly I’m transported to the location and feel as if I’m walking the streets and eating in the restaurants and shopping in the stores alongside the characters. When Poe’s narrator approaches the House of Usher on the “dull, dark, and soundless day,” with “clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens” and sees the “bleak walls,” “vacant, eye-like windows,” and “rank sedges,” I’m right there with him and share his “sense of insufferable gloom.” The place becomes a character. New York City is as much a character in “Law and Order” as the detectives who investigate its crimes. Nero Wolfe’s brownstone is a character in Stout’s series just as much as Wolfe and Archie. Mitchell’s Slade House and […]

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