Home from Orlando, Dreaming of Albuquerque

Last week my husband and I took our eight-year-old son on our first big out-of-state family vacation. When the boy was five and just starting his martial arts training, we promised him that when he earned his black belt, we would take him to Disneyworld. Three years flew by and lo and behold, it was time to go.

Our little man took his first airplane ride.

We went to the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Disney Hollywood Studios…

Plus Legoland…

We swam in the outdoor pool, watched the palm trees sway in the breeze, enjoyed many interesting conversations with Uber drivers, and generally enjoyed watching our son have so much fun.

We came home to unseasonably warm weather in Michigan, though we know better than to hope it will last. And we’re getting back into the swing of things at work, church, and school.

But I find myself already looking ahead to the rest of the year’s travel. Zach to Israel, the boy and I to the Upper Peninsula, all of us to camp. And once more, in September, I get to head out to Albuquerque for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association annual retreat. The secret Facebook group for attendees has been opened and everyone is already abuzz with excitement! So I thought it would be a perfect time to work on the painting for the cover of this year’s retreat notebook.

Last year, I was flattered when our retreat coordinator and WFWA founding president, Orly Konig, asked to use the painting I did when I came home from the 2015 retreat as the image for the 2016 retreat notebook:

This year she asked me to do another. So this is what I painted today…

It’s the same lovely fountain, but much closer and from a different angle, and I composed the shot such that the background was easy to put text over and it is a portrait orientation. I’m very happy with how it turned out!

I believe I’ll get some good, professional scans done on both of these paintings so that I can make prints later, but I’m thinking about putting both of the originals in the retreat raffle. I’m also cooking up a new Etsy shop in which I can make my paintings available for purchase. They’re piling up in the house and I need to find them homes! Watch this space for more information about that in the coming months.

Vacation Season Is Coming…and Michigan Is Open for Business

Look friends, winter’s over, the trees are leafing out, the flowers are blooming, and Michigan’s cities and coastlines are calling. If you live here, you already know how amazing it is. If you don’t, take a couple minutes and watch this:

And then head on over to my page of Michigan links and start clicking and planning a vacation here.

Michigan is more than Detroit (although, Detroit’s pretty freakingĀ amazing, even for a city in crisis) and it has something for everyone. Here are some of the beautiful places I like to frequent.

Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen, bike, hiking shoes, ATV, fishing pole, camera, nature guides, water skis, appetite, and penchant for fun and relaxation.

You Owe Yourself a Writing Vacation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI don’t know when the term “staycation” was coined, but since becoming a homeowner in the mid-2000s I have taken a good number of them, partly because I like my house and I like working to make it feel ever more like my ideal home, and partly because, having a house and family to take care of, we have no money for a “real” vacation.

Over the past few years, my husband and I have taken a couple staycations during which we did no painting, weeding, laundry, or dishes, but instead planted our butts on the couch, steadily fed the fireplace logs, andĀ wrote. If you do this for a week and don’t allow yourself distractions (make sure your kids are in school) you can get an astonishing number of words out of your head and into your story.

This past weekend we did one better. We left everything–child, pets, chores, and, most importantly, any possibility of a wifi connection–and spent three days writing at a friend’s cottage on Gun Lake. We fed the fire. We made some simple meals. We did spend an hour or so at the casino one night (largely because we wanted ice cream and there’s a Cold Stone Creamery in there). We spent about ten minutes trying unsuccessfully to catch a bat that was flying around the living room one night (after it was clear that we wouldn’t catch him, we named him Briscoe and left him alone). Other than that, we were pretty much planted in two comfortable chairs a few feet from the fireplace with laptops open and fingers tapping away.

I started a short story Friday afternoon, finished it Saturday, had my husband read it and give feedback Saturday night, and had it ready to convert for Kindle on Sunday morning. During that time I also read most of the Gospel of Mark, and all of Luke and John. I also had plenty of time to stare mindlessly out the window at the frozen and snow covered lake. And here’s the thing: I didn’t miss anything.

When we returned to a place that had wifi and I checked my emails and looked at Facebook, I found that, though the world had gone on without me for a few days, it hadn’t gone very far. My retreat made a difference in the scheme of my writing life and my husband’s; we got some work done, we allowed ourselves some space to breathe and relax and be creative, we enjoyed each other’s company without needing to interrupt our thoughts to rationalize to our son our assertion that he had watched enough Ironman: Armored Adventures for one day. But our retreat didn’t stop the world from getting on with things (and things that, frankly, didn’t concern us in the least–like the Oscars).

If you have a day job and writing is a luxury, you need to take a weekend or a week here and there and take a writing vacation. Whether you stay at home (and can keep yourself from wasting time with keeping the place clean) or just get a hotel room in your own town or have a generous friend with a house on a lake and no Internet, you need to make the time. No one can take the time for you. No one cares about your writing in the way you can. And if you don’t make time for it, it won’t happen.

Now then, I have one more day I’ve taken off of work and it’s starting to get away from me. There are paint cans calling me down in the main floor bathroom and, since I’ve finished my story for next month, I think I will go answer their call.

As for you, get out your calendar, pick a day or two or ten, and write “Writing Vacation” there. Write it in pen.