Category Archives: Traveling

    Writing Assistant Monday: Off and Away!

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Cat bellies increase productivity. It is known.

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It’s hot.

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If only writing assistants could also be tidying assistants. Between packing and trying to finish up this novel, the house is a bit of a mess.

This will be the last Writing Assistant Monday featuring either of my darling cats for at least six weeks. I leave for my first summer residency at Hollins on Friday morning. We’re stopping DC on the way to visit with some friends and have lunch, then we should be Roanoke sometime in the evening.

I’m nervous. Really, really nervous. And I’ve been focusing a lot of energy on worrying, which I want to try to stop. So in an effort to shift my focus: a list of things I’m super, duper excited about for the summer.

** Meeting amazing authors and industry professionals. Um, hello. I’m going to be taking classes for Alexandria LaFaye and Hillary Homzie. Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman and Terri Windling are amazing and will be all be there for the summer. Visiting are greats like Cece Bell and Andrea Brown and Charles Vess and freaking Maggie Stiefvater. I can’t wait to absorb the energy and knowledge of so many talented, dedicated people.

** Being just beside the BEAUTIFUL Blue Ridge Mountains. Kyle and I already have plans to hike next weekend.

** Bluegrass.

** Books.

** Reading and writing and talking and breathing children’s lit with people who are just as passionate about it as I am.

** Not having to cook (much). Hello cafeteria and meal plan!

** Books.

I’ll miss Kyle and the cats and my friends in NJ, but with each new move (however temporary) there is the chance to expand. A new place to explore. New foods to eat. New favorite people to add to my already long list of favorite people.

And of course, new books.

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New Orleans: Day 1 (All About Dem Birds)

Our first full day in New Orleans was full of food, rest, and aquarium adventures. We started out a little later than planned, but still pretty early, walking the few blocks to Cafe Beignet, our housemates favorite places to get Beignets. It was packed. Like, lines out the door crazy packed. (This, as you may be guessing, has become somewhat of a theme of our trip.)

So…we pulled up yelp and walked around the corner to the little Cafe Fleur De Lis. It was pretty great, and we had our first celebrity sighting. I was staring as some lady’s breakfast (because I couldn’t tell what it was and it looked interesting). Then she looked up and gave me this strange, strained smile. It was Robin Roberts (from Good Morning America), and I’m fairly certain she thought I was staring at her. Oops.

Kyle is very hopeful about what his breakfast will entail.

Kyle is very hopeful about what his breakfast will entail.

After breakfast we headed to the aquarium, which was Kyle’s birthday gift to me. We didn’t have a ton of time, so we ran up to Parakeet Point, where for the low, low price of $1.50 you can get a little feed stick to feed parakeets in a large, netted room. It was amazing. Like, one of the most amazing things we’ve ever done.

The parakeets were charming and sweet. They loved getting into small spaces–pockets and purses, even sleeves a couple of times.

This is my absolute must do recommendation for anyone who comes to New Orleans (or if we ever come back).

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Inside that yellow cage, are hundreds of parakeets.

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What’s in here?!

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A perfect perch for the most discerning of parakeets.

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Feed stick, licked clean.

 

After our first round with the birds we came back for a quick sandwich (Mufaletta, for the win!) and nap, then went back to the Aquarium. There were more birds to feed! And also, fish. We figured we ought to spend some time with them as well.

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For dinner we trekked up to Frenchman St to Three Muses, a short-of tapas place with fantastic food, cocktails and music. Afterward we wandered around the street, listening to music (Kyle was especially happy to find a sousaphone player in the midst of the hubbub). But the highlight for me was attending an outdoor art market and finding the art of Tony Hollums.

Oh my word, his art. Just follow the link above. It’s beyond beautiful. Despite always loving art, I’ve never actually had a favorite artist before, and now I do.

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Sidewalk chalked coy at the art market.

Sidewalk chalked coy at the art market.

We bought 4 of his prints, then headed home for a short sleep. We were getting up in the morning to watch the sunrise over the Mississippi.

 

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New Orleans Trip: Day .5

We arrived late(ish) last night, tired and famished. So we checked in, unpacked, and then braved the streets of New Orleans.

There were lots of drunk people. Lots. And surprisingly enough, a huge chunk of them were older than us. For some reason, neither of us expected that.

We tried to go to ACME Oyster House for an oyster po-boy that was highly recommended by a friend who grew up around these parts. Not knowing how it worked, and wanting to see how long the wait was, we started to go in only to be shouted at by a member at the waitstaff that we had to wait in line. “Wait in line!” Multiple times. To be fair to her, there was a glob of people standing outside the restaurant. To be fair to us, it looked nothing like a line. And we weren’t trying to cut. Needless to say, we left. You could even say, we left in a huff. Well, I left in a huff. Kyle doesn’t generally huff much.

We wandered around, trying to get Yelp to load to figure out where our next best bet was. And we finally landed at the Palace Cafe. It was nice. The shrimp remoulade was AMAZING, as was the blueberry tart (so says Kyle. I don’t generally eat blueberries willingly.) 

The pecan pie was not as good as my Grandma’s, but that was no shock.

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Writing Assistant Monday

Finding writing assistants while on the road is hard work.

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Surprisingly enough, this is not what a helpful writing assistant looks like.

Finding cute distractions, is not.

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“We hear you’re in the market for writing assistants?”

I managed to accomplish exactly 0 of my writing goals last week, but am off to a much better start this week. Fingers crossed that the productivity continues!

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Writing Assistant Monday & Some News

First with the news: I sold a story! “Remnants of a Quilter’s Memory” is not science fiction or children’s fiction of any sort. It’s a very small 500 word piece about a family’s struggle with dementia, and it’s very close to my heart for a whole lotta reasons. It’ll be live at Every Day Fiction on June 22, so check it out if you’re interested.

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Task mistress.

This will be my last writing assistant Monday post with featuring these furry faces for at least the next three weeks, because I’m headed home to Michigan! The plan is to help Mutti with the store (specifically sprucing up the window displays).

I’m also planning on finishing up the first (very rough) draft of my middle grade novel, relaxing and playing with my nephew who is just growing up too fast.

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Assisting writers is hard.

I also hope to get some reading done…

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How many books do you take on your 3-week vacation?

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Ireland: The End

 

Sorry to have left everyone hanging. I had intended on writing the last blog post in the airport, but there was an incident with a lost passport and a long, very stressful, wait in the preadmittance/customs area and then a mad dash to a plane that had been held just for us. So…no last day post.

But not to worry! I have woken up at the ridiculous hour of 3a, and can now conclude our adventures.

The day before we headed out, we headed back to Howth and the King Sitric. Since the family had travel problems on the way out, we wanted to be closer. And besides that, Kyle and I had loved it there.

Unfortunately, it looked like this:

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Which, really, doesn’t look all that different. But it was! So cold. And rainy. 

After a lovely lunch at Cafe East, Kyle took Mom, Larry and Grandma into Dublin on the train so they could see a bit of the city. I don’t think it was their favorite part of the trip, but they were good sports like always. Unfortunately, I stayed behind to get some things done, so I don’t have any pictures of those adventures.

 

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Kyle with his Guinness (and new Irish wool sweater!) at Cafe East. 

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Cafe East. Isn’t it darling?

When they came back we had a lovely dinner at the Abbey Tavern, because apparently we really like our vacations to come around full circle.

And then we came home. Which was eventful, but turned out well. All safe and sound, ready to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend.

 

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Ireland: Day 8

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Bunratty castle.

Yesterday was perhaps our most touristy day, but still a lot of fun. We headed over to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. The castle’s construction was begun in the 1400, abandoned in the 1700 and restored and opened for tourists in 1960. It was pretty great, though the tight winding stone stairways were a bit much for me. Still, worth the view perhaps?

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I was particularly smitten with the folk park, which was a collection of cottages and buildings, usually brought in from nearby in the county. There were also a lot of animals and a very few people dressed up in “period” peasant garb.

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Kyle fell in love with these beasts.

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And I fell in love with this charming coral cottage, fitted in the regency period. If I ever get my little farm, this is going on it…

In the evening, after short naps at home, we headed back to Bunratty for their Traditional Irish Night, which was very, very touristy, but still nice. There was lots of food and drink, singing and dancing and even a little but of Yeats reads. I think this was probably Larry’s favorite day of the lot.

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Dinner in the corn barn.

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Today we head back to Howth, so we’re closer to the airport on Saturday and so that Mom, Grandma and Larry can explore Dublin a bit. This little trip is quickly coming to an end.

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Ireland: Day 7

How has it been a week already?

Yesterday we went to The Burren. A rocky, desolate place with some of the most interesting landscape I’ve ever seen. It also had the narrowest road we’ve been on yet!

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A rainbow in the Burren.

After a quick stop at the visitor center to get an overview on how the Burren came to be and the complexity of its plantlife, we were off to the Allawee caves and birds of prey refuge.

While Grandma and Larry explored the cave, Kyle and I took a hawk walk. It. Was. Amazing. It was just the two of us, with a guide (who was funny and knowledgable), and two Harris Hawks– the only bird of prey who are social, living and hunting in packs.

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Kyle and Al.

After the caves and birds, we headed back toward home, making a quick stop at the hole of sorrows, a 5000 year old tomb. Which, I apparently didn’t take a picture of with my phone, but here’s another of the Burren! The tomb is just out of frame behind Kyle. 🙂

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Ireland: Day 6

Day 6 has probably been my favorite of all the daytime excursions so far.

First stop of our day was at Bro Boru Heritage Center, a small museum focused on promoting traditional Irish music and dance. In the summer, they apparently have performance 5 nights/week, but we were a bit too early in the calendar year. Still, we got to see replicas of ancient Celtic instruments, watch videos of dance styles through the centuries and read about very old poetry styles.

I was especially interested in the mythology surrounding yew trees, which I’ve made note of to research later, hoping that they may feature in some new story.

After exploring the center, we headed over to the Rock of Cashel, a medieval fortress/ holy site, where the OPW does 45-min guided tours. It was slightly less busy than most of the other places we’ve been so far (in part, I suspect, because of a threatening rainstorm).

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Kyle at The Rock of Cashel, next to a blown off “bit”.

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A (creepy-ish) angel in the restored hall of the vicars choral.

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An abbey ruin in the middle of a working farm’s pasture.

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Squinty selfies inside the abbey. It was bright!

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Lunch at Granny’s Kitchen. A simple, light meal before the short trek home.

Ireland: Day 5

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Day 5 of our Ireland trip has come and gone. In the morning we drove out to the Cliffs of Moher, which were amazing. It was a bit overcast and a bit chilly, but I thought it was perfect. If we could have, I would have stayed all day. Well, except for the bus loads of other tourists which were a bit much. But we stayed for a good long while, enjoying the seaside winds and the sounds of screeching gulls.

In the afternoon, we came back to home base and celebrated Mutti’s birthday with a delicious caramel and fudge cake. We then headed back out, into Ennis for a late dinner of pub food, beer and traditional Irish music. It was a lot of fun and we stayed out far longer than the pumpkins farmers amongst us normally do.

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