At the beginning of 2011, I wrote down three goals:
- Develop a loyal following for Takeyourbigtrip.com (thank you!)
- Encourage would be travelers to take their big trip at speaking events
- Get my as-yet-unwritten story “Letting Go on the Ganges” published in one of my favorite travel writing anthologies: The Best Women’s Travel Writing by Travelers’ Tales. (note: at the beginning of 2011, I just had the title and topic in my head)
Number three was my biggest and most challenging goal because a) I had never written a narrative story for publication before and b) it’s a story about how I let my wedding ring go in the Ganges River. I was sure the latter process would unearth some pretty heavy and never before seen stuff before, stuff that I had neatly packed down since India.
I needed help so I took a class at the Writer’s Grotto in San Francisco. Personal Essay by Chris Colin was the perfect class to start with. Chris give me excellent advice: 200 words a day. And that’s what I did. 200 words a day in the space between my morning swims and work. Sitting at Starbucks, I would long-hand one thought or one piece of the story a day in my black and white composition notebook. In the margins, I’d note new thoughts, inspired by Chris’s advice to go deeper and scrape below the surface because that’s where the good stuff was.
On the weekends, I would type up my words and start to shape the story. And then write some more. I think I had a 3000 word essay when I started to piece all together. And that heavy emotional stuff came up, but it passed and in it’s place surfaced a deep appreciation for the experience and memory. And every Saturday, my sister Erika would sit and listen to that week’s draft. I noted parts where she drifted off and parts where she appeared interested. Her feedback – give it more your voice, go more into that feeling there, and make it flow. Back to the computer I went.
I signed up for Book Passages Travel Writing and Photography conference in Marin county. Larry Habegger, the publisher of Travelers’ Tales, was one of the faculty and available for consultation. He sat with me side by side, reviewing what worked and what didn’t with the story. It was my first time having a non-family member and a publishing professional review my work. Larry shared advice on moving the story along, using action to convey that movement, and showing versus describing.
My story went through about 20 drafts before submission. In November, while in Kauai on vacation, I received an email from Lavinia Spalding, the editor. She was considering the piece. I could taste my dream coming true. Surrounded by sublime humidity and feeling the vibe of the Hawaiian island, I settled in and wrote out new sections based on her edits. I read the story to my Airbnb house mates. More sensory images, they shared. I want more, they said when I reached the end of the story. An e-mail back to Lavinia with a new draft. “Bravo!” she wrote in response.
In March, I had a pretty good feeling that my story was going to be in the anthology when I found out that my story had won a bronze SOLAS award.
My Facebook post on that day read:
“Ok, so this may be one of the best weeks ever. Kickass housewarming party with wonderful friends on Friday, weekends full of girly brunches… and then I just found out two things: 1) My story “Color within the Lines” about finding compassion through volunteering in Kolkata will be published in the Bay Area Travel Writer’s Anthology. 2) My story “Letting Go on the Ganges” won a SOLAS award from Travelers’ Tales in the Travel and Healing category.
I can say that this week was a week I always dreamed of when I made a huge change four years ago this month – Being a world traveler and published writer who has a home full of beautiful friends.”
In one week, the actual book, with my story in it, is coming out. That’s the dream manifested. Sometimes I think, If I hadn’t gone on that India trip in 2008, with no view of the future at all, and hadn’t let go of my ring and so much more…what would my life be like?
It doesn’t matter. Because I did and now I’m living the life I always wanted and my dreams are coming true.
Follow Take Your Big Trip on Facebook to find out when all the readings and events are for The Best Women’s Travel Writing Vol. 8.