Returning to the country, I imagined myself held hostage by the CDC in plastic tents on some far away airfield with my family left wondering what had happened to me.
I imagined it in different ways – maybe I’d get all the way home before men in white coats and gas masks would show up, or maybe they’d come in full contamination gear and yank me from the yard to whisk me away, question me, and – oh my gosh – pull aside everyone I’d come in contact with.
The whole of the passengers on the plane, my family, the taxi driver. I cringe when I think how upset everyone would be with me or with the fact that they had the misfortune of sharing a space with me.
I wonder – would the Pandemic Control Team let me have my computer? I actually have a ton of work to catch up on. Would they let me facetime or skype with family? friends? Would they let me wave through the clear plastic tents to onlookers?
And then – from one of those speculative fiction novels – what if I started an outbreak? What if a monkey virus mixed with some other virus and the whole of the population was at risk. I was patient zero.
You see – I have a very active imagination.
I told you I had about six ideas. That was the first.
Think about this as a writing prompt: What if you had 30 days in a tent with three squares a day? What would you do? What would you miss? Would you write? Exercise? Catch up on reading? Or go absolutely insane?
I recently visited Gibraltar. Gibraltar is a UK territory attached to the south of Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is home to the Barbary Macaque Apes.
I’m a person who likes a challenge; I crossed the highest, longest suspension bridge in North America, I swam with sharks. But, moreso, I like to explore; I saw a grisly bear in the Yukon, held a Koala in Australia, traversed the catacombs in Paris, etc.
So, I was there on the Rock of Gibraltar to get a peek at both Spain on one side and Africa on the other all the while standing in Europe. Pretty freaking cool.
The apes, which look more like monkeys (and are referred to as such), wander free there. They hang out on the patio of the visitor’s center, play in the trees and bushes, and hang out on the roads.
I did get close enough to one to have a photo. But I know better than to attempt to feed a wild animal. I did see four young women getting their picture taken by a park ranger while they fed one of the adult Macaque’s not far from the “Do Not Feed” sign.
From the visitors’ center, you can hike to other views, other places on the Rock and even all the way down. There’s another shop on the Rock where you can see a cave and buy trinkets, which is what I did. When I travel, I like to buy holiday ornaments for my tree as a remembrance.
I have the Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, a Santa Star Fish from Hawaii, and even a Santa Chili Pepper from New Mexico to name a few.
I hiked back up to the center to grab some water and lunch before taking the cable car back down to the city.
I’d been warned not to take a big back pack or food with me. The monkeys, they said, will jump on you. I heeded these warnings, had only a small pack/purse and no food.
But approaching the visitors’ center, one of the juveniles (juvenile delinquent!) jumped on my back. I raised my hands in surprise and she bit me. She then opened my bag, took the ornament, and hopped off. (This is the picture of the monkey as it tried to eat my ornament! Thank you, Geoff)
I’m okay. Maybe “attacked” is a strong word, perhaps assaulted is better? She left a dental impression and some scrapes on my hand. Yes, a little blood, swelling, bruising. My doctor is a little vexed with me.
But what does this have to do with writing?
We must challenge ourselves, we must overcome, we must use incidents such as these as inspiration or fodder. I feel all of these adventures make me who I am and my writing what it has become over the years.
I’m not suggesting you put yourself in harm’s way! I am suggesting that once in awhile get out and face your fears, do something new, experiment, explore, learn something new – this will create fresh shifts in your writing (and in yourself)!
The whole incident has me thinking of a half a dozen stories!
I received an email which read:
The sender later elaborated – These are two very different styles. I found this surprising as most of the authors I read are a single style in each piece of writing.
I’ve thought about this before – I feel it’s good to be able to change. To me, it shows growth. However, some disagree. Some people feel you must stick to your style because your readers have expectations and may disappointed.
For me – I want to be able to grow, change, and do what feels natural – just to write what comes out and not to force it to be what someone else wants it to be.
Stories are organic. They grow from the characters, the setting, and the force of its own motion; therefore, the writing itself must be organic which may grow into a different style.
If you know me – you’ll see the stories are still part of my personality and therefore personal style: dark, dry, ironic.
Have you ever been inspired by a book? Chris Pellezzari’s Last Night in Granada planted lingering images of Spain, Flamenco, and Lorca.
I’ve undertaken a trip to Spain because of that book. Whereas travel is always on my mind, locations are not usually a question. I have a list. This book moved Spain to the top.
I was playing with a story in my head before leaving. A few of the people I’ve met are to become characters. I’ll decide later if I’ll tell them. 😊
Travel. Experience. Write.
Have you ever been inspired by a story? I imagine many people have: hence, fan fiction. I’m inspired by characters and what could have happened.
Think of The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald, so it’s said, hated the hypocrisy. Parties, and alcohol, and politicians who took part or did nothing. Daisy – hated her. Would have loved to see her get her due. I don’t know how I felt about Gatsby himself. I wanted something more for him, realization or redemption.
I was inspired to write a part two in which one of those two things happened. Of course, I’d have to somehow bring Gatsby back to life first. Still working on it.
There’s nothing wrong in being inspired by other authors, other stories, other’s characters. As a writer, these things should strike us.
Use the last story you read as a prompt – take a character or a location and tell your own story.
An extremely good conversation in my literature class about intelligence (Inspired by Ted Chiang’s The Great Silence). We talked about other species that fall under the definition of intelligence, which is “the ability to understand and apply knowledge.” Considering Alex the Parrot and Koko the Gorilla, and other species: crows are problem solvers and remember faces. We discussed dogs, cats, and others. Is love, as an abstract idea, understood and applied by animals? And then – is intelligence found in showing love?
This is what good literature should do. Teach, delight, and create wonder.
How do you keep track of your submissions?
I keep a log of when, where, and what I’ve submitted. I also updated it when my piece is rejected, accepted, or haven’t heard from the publisher.
There are a number of ways to keep logs, either by date, title, or other.
I keep mine by date of submission, but it’s easily searchable if I want to find out where and when I submitted anything specific.
I also keep a log of places not to submit again. It’s a very short list, but if you run across an editor who is unprofessional or a journal that operates with questionable practices, you should keep track.
Using submittable as your tracking system works if you don’t submit to journals or publishers who are not members, as I do, but I find their site challenging to navigate when I’m looking for a certain title I may have submitted at different time periods. My list is long and some journals don’t actually update.
I’ve had a few things accepted (or rejected) and the publisher has not updated my submission on the site; therefore, it appears to still be in process.
I find my own log more easy to navigate.
“Don’t be afraid of failure. The reality is that most people successes rise out of the ashes of their previous failures.”
From a new documentary on Netflix titled Creativity. The narrator is talking to the creator of Game of Thrones. The creator is talking about how many times he’s failed.
I started this to say – what are you afraid of?
Then I wanted to ask – what if there was no such thing as fear? What would you do? What could you do?
I want you to think about that. What if fear was not in the human range of emotion or thought?