In August of 2016 I found myself as an expat, working and living on the heel of the boot. Italy was an eye opener in many ways. I expected it to be similar to the United States, yet "cooler and more hip," knowing many friends and family who had traveled to Rome, Florence, and to Venice. There is a glaring difference between those popular spots and to the region I lived. Granted a Northern Italian might dispute my assessment but I found Puglia to be more vibrant and beautiful and the people friendlier. Less developed than the industrialized and commercial heavy northern regions, in my area of Brindisi people managed and thrived on community, family, and living life to the absolute fullest. Pleasure was and is put before work, especially in the summer months while food is considered the ultimate unifier.
After my teaching assignment ended, I returned to the States for good in June of 2018. For over two years I thought about writing on my travels, but not until the last month did I finally take that leap. I'm happy to report that I finished the first draft today. It's over 90000 words or around 305 pages. I'll share more about this non fiction piece in the weeks and months ahead. There's going to be a major edit job as I dictated the entire book over the last three weeks. As I read over parts, let's just say my dictation was not 100% word for word transferred. At least the foundation is in place.
Still, I think we can expect to see a book cover before Christmas and who knows a release in early 2021 looks promising, that is of course unless my new pandemic novel doesn't take priority.
I find it funny that for months I wrote nothing. If we don't count the occasional obligatory blog, after I returned from Italy in summer of 2018, I have not consistently written. There was a period of five months where I journaled to at least rationalize that I still possessed the traits of a writer. Then my computer broke and the motivation was all but exhausted.
Several students reached out to check on my progress over the last two years. Some were looking for the next book in the Luza series and others just wanted to read whatever I had started or finished. Writing is a finicky thing for me. I go in spurts. Yes I have read how some will find time to write daily. They set a goal of a page or three, or there is a set word count where the writer won't do anything else until that is met. I have tried that with some success, but I have also found that I don't like to force creativity. I know when I'm forcing the issue because the words don't flow.
This isn't writer's block. I can force myself to write on any topics at any time. Still there is a difference between good writing and well writing that's not worth sharing. Granted not every part of a story is going to be in the flow if you will, but more often than not when I get into a grove, that's exactly what happens. The last week has been more in that vein. I'm writing daily. Sometimes I write 5 pages and others 20. Wanting to enjoy the moment, I even cut myself off after an hour or 90 minutes, so I don't exhaust my energy and this wonderous phase. I won't force this process because in the end I want there to be something I can share, not rubbish that sits in a folder and lies in permanent writing purgatory.
When I am in this groove, I see story ideas everywhere. Out for a drive this afternoon, I took pictures of different scenes that will likely show up in a follow up piece once I'm done with my Brindisi book. Here are some of the photos for you to examine for yourself. Do you have any ideas or story you want to share?
In the midst of another autumn day, I hit the roads again but this time to the familiar sights of where I spent my formative days. It's funny thinking of the word "formative," because for me all of my travels and moves have been an education filled with blessings and challenges. Still, there has to be one place where my journey started. There was a school where I found myself writing my first story. Under the influence of my hobbit loving teacher, I even had the gall to think a publishing company would want to publish my wordy text. While "Jolly and Bolly's Adventure," never saw the success I had envisioned in my fourth grade mind, I did get my first rejection letter from the publishing industry.
In between the lessons at Swasey Central School, I fell hard for the Brentwood leaves and a childhood sheltered from the big, scary world. I would venture often into the woods, exploring the deer made trails, and the river's edge. A CCD teacher at our local antique shop introduced me to Narnia and the magic of the forest, thus making my adventures more rich and powerful.
Brentwood was my first home, the one my twin and I identified the most with. Today in honor of that time, I drove around and took pictures. Sure my years at the adjacent town's high school eventually led me to finding a path into education, but without my years in Brentwood, my imagination would be far different than it is today. There would be no Luza, no Running With Vince, and certainly not this blog to share with you. Don't ever forget where you came from, bad or good. We can always take so much from those early years and that is a blessing that can't be overstated.
Winnie swindled me into buying her books to read today. I guess now that I'm writing an hour each night she wants something to do. Granted, I think it has more to do with the fact that I'm reading before bed and she wants to be like her dad. That's the reason right? While Winnie will read her new Beatrix Potter books I have decided after I finish the second book in the Left Behind series I will shift to the horror genre. It is the season of Halloween so Frankenstein is on the list and some Poe such as "Tell Tale Heart."
It's comical to me that for several years I didn't read at all. I always thought that if I read it would take away from my writing. I was of the belief that reading would skew my creativity. I will admit I was wrong on this one, seriously wrong. When Stephen King said he spends time reading daily even reading more than he writes, I had to take notice. When I moved to Florida, prior to my time in Italy, I got a library card and read as much as I could. That was over five years ago. Now I'm back to being an avid reader although I don't really read in the genres I write in. We can get into that more on a future blog, but for right now, I'm shifting between memoirs and apocalyptic and end of the world literature. That might be because the election and the pandemic. What do you think?
On a writing note, I'm 75 pages in. I wrote over 3800 words tonight. The words are flowing and for that I'm grateful.
Despite the prospect of rain on Saturday, Winnie and I headed north for leaf peeping. She forced me to walk along the trail in 38 degree temps for the perfect photo spot. Little did she know, she would only get out once for a few pictures before the rain overtook our shoot. Nevertheless, being out in the crisp air and looking at the change in seasons was relaxing to say the least. I'm at a loss as to why I saw so many cars from Maryland, New York, and New Jersey meandering on the fall covered roads. Perhaps these people forgot there is a pandemic but then again I guess you could say the same to the hundreds of cars from out of state, mainly Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut who decided it was a perfect day to hike near the Old Man of the Mountain and Mount Major. I don't think I have seen so many cars parked on the side of the road, ever. Like we are talking a good mile out from the trail entrance at both locations.
On a different note, Winnie thinks she deserves her very own Instagram page. She's a bit young if you ask me. From our animated conversation, I set her up nonetheless with the link underneath my running commentary. Feel free to join her page and share some of your best furry or stuffed friend pictures. We'll see how long this lasts...ha ha ha.
In writing news, I'm 44 pages in to my Italian memoir. This past weekend I picked up steam and wrote over 18 pages after months of doing nothing. I'm hopeful this is an upward trend. I will keep you posted. More photos to come next weekend from the southern part of the state. Until then, enjoy your week.
Here we are again with the changing colors. This is truly my favorite time of year. I would say I think it's earlier than usual, but in actuality we are only a few days before October. For the first time in my lifetime I was able to drive into the White Mountains and see some of the fall colors first hand. Granted, having grown up in the grand state of New Hampshire, I know fall. I know the changing of the guard and the hues of red, orange, and yellow that arrive this time of year. What I did not know was the vast landscape of color in the mountains save for an Ode to New Hampshire YouTube video I watched when I lived in Florida and in Italy to remind me of my home.
Yesterday, I embraced the area and drove seven hours exploring and seeing this ever changing landscape portrait. If only my camera could adequately tell and share what I saw first hand. Over the next few weeks, I know what my Saturdays will now consist of. I will do my best to document and share the beauty that surrounds us, well me, and maybe you depending on where you live.
Even in this crazy time consisting of our pandemic lives, the non stop news cycle, and the saga of the 2020 election, there are reasons to smile and feel grateful.
The mid 40s low this morning means one thing and one thing only - summer has indeed departed. As we transition to our beautiful fall colors and the cooler days ahead, I'm trying to get in some additional trips to nature. Yesterday was fun even after my best Gollum imitation caused me to fall between two giant boulders and crash into the water. Note to self, either bring someone along next time or maybe look more than a split second before jumping boulders. My bare foot didn't realize there was a slick surface waiting. Thankfully, my knee slamming into the side of the boulder and my left hand bracing my fall spared me my dignity. The bruising today . . . not so much.
Enjoy the weather my friends why you you can. Remember to have fun and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us all.
I meant to post several times over the last month, but to be frank with the current situation here at home from the pandemic, the election, everything on the news, and just dealing with people in general has been a bit draining. Knowing that getting back up on my high-horse, if you will, isn't necessarily going to change anything, I think it might be best to simply share some of my adventures from this last month. It seems that getting back in nature has been the cure for many and I imagine it would be the same for you. Not to mention, my travels have also allowed me to see more of the beauty of New Hampshire in 2020 and move past the fuzzy recollection from similar travels in the late 90s.
Enjoy the photos and the comments. Let me know where you traveled this summer.
At this point it might have been 12 years ago when I first discovered the Downeast part of Maine. This region of the state is literally down east from everything else. You jump onto Route 1 and head east to the Canadian border. Due to Covid, even though I stayed at an inn directly across from Canada, I was unable to visit our northern neighbor. I had hoped that maybe they would lift the restrictions for New Englanders at least so that we could get a taste of Canadian island life.
Despite this setback, I enjoyed my downtime in the area exploring roads, lakes, and bays. Being in this unique area without traffic lights for at least 60 miles and minimal traffic was a bit weird yet peaceful. In the mornings even the water was still and utterly quiet. For the first time, I saw seals in their natural habitat.
Enjoy the pictures and if you get a chance go explore this beautiful country.
This past month has been quite a whirlwind, one filled with several professional and personal challenges and opportunities. Looking back as I fast approach my upcoming birthday and some respite, I am thankful for the values that my grandparents instilled in me at a young age. Granted this doesn't mean I don't make mistakes or even question some of my actions occasionally, but for the most part I have always been guided and followed that simple adage of treating others how you want to be treated.
It's not just the golden rule, but knowing that each human being is of the same worth and value. Frustration builds when I see others are not keeping with this value. They might say that they care about the everyday person, but actions are clearer than words. Even the avid church goer who speeds down the road and recklessly swerves around a troop of kids playing on their way to service, is not immune to this judgement. A proud man who boasts about being a great parent, but than sits on the couch to watch television and ignores his children has no right to criticize another. Or perhaps the politician that says they love all people, but than stokes racism by disingenuous remarks.
Life is already difficult enough that when we don't hold true to our values, to inherent self worth and good in all people that more problems arise. We need to level the playing field so that there is no disenfranchised areas of the country or for that matter the world. As long as we politicize what it means to be a good person, we as a society are missing the point.
The greatest generation, those that fought during World War II, did so to preserve values that they felt a nation should have, maintain, and endure over time. There was no question on whether it was right to intercede when it became clear that millions of people had already been impacted an ocean away. Meanwhile at home, the values that many held close to their hearts, had not been translated across all areas, regions, and peoples. Only after veterans returned from the war, working in unison on a common causes, did some change come about.
Now some 70 years later we are still dealing with those changes, pushing forward to finish the work that was started. While we are in an election year, dealing with COVID-19, and an array of other issues, the idea of human decency and doing the right thing should be the focus point. We should be looking out for one another, helping when we can, and doing the little things necessary to preserve life and that "pursuit of happiness," many of us hold dear. Let's look past the politics and truly think about and embrace those qualities that are universal and should be shared by all.