Thursday, April 2, 2009

Traveling and Writing

At this point in my life, my favorite places to travel don’t really exist. See, traveling most places with a toddler and a pre-schooler is not exactly fun, especially if air travel or long car rides are involved. Last week we all packed up and traveled to Philadelphia – not my favorite place to travel at all, but the place where I grew up and where our extended family lives. As we trudged through the crowded airport, bogged down with kids, a double stroller, car seats, suitcases, and backpacks, somebody told my husband he looked like a mule. He sort of did. He was wheeling two suitcases hooked together with a car seat strapped on top, and a backpack on his back.

Before we had kids, our favorite places to travel were Las Vegas and San Diego. Las Vegas has everything, beautiful hotels, entertainment, great food, and is only a short flight and not too far drive from where we live. But it’s not what I would call a kid-friendly place. We used to love to visit San Diego in the summer, which is also only a short flight/drive away. When the weather in Arizona is miserably hot the weather there is gorgeous. We’ve been tentatively planning on taking a trip there this summer for the first time with the kids, but we’re torn between wanting to go on vacation again, and realizing that we will most likely need a vacation from our vacation when we get home. Kids off their regular nap schedule does not equal a fun relaxing trip. If you have small children, you know what I mean.

But somehow, I remember going on lots of vacations with my family as a kid, so I’m feeling hopeful that as my kids get older, we’ll be able to get away more. Once, we went on vacation to a ranch in Montana. We learned to ride horses, and rode with cowboys in the mountains, and it was so memorable that I always think of it as a favorite trip of mine, even though I can’t imagine it being something I would like as an adult. In my upcoming book, THE LIFE OF GLASS, there’s one character who owns a ranch and wants to teach the main character and her sister to ride horses. And all of that came from the few pieces of this trip left in my memory.

Actually, traveling always seems to influence my writing. Every time I take a big trip, I find myself filled with a story when I return. I wrote THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS after I went with my husband to Florida to visit his dying grandmother, and I was filled with such an overwhelming sense of loss that the book poured out of me when I got home. I wrote THE LIFE OF GLASS after going to Philadelphia last summer, and while I was there I found, in my childhood bedroom, a funny book my high school friend had made me as a graduation present. A lot of the sarcasm and characters in THE LIFE OF GLASS came from the ideas in there, and the high school memories it triggered.

This past trip to Philadelphia was a sad one – we were there for a funeral, and while we were away, one of our seemingly healthy cats died unexpectedly. I’m about to start working on my third YA novel, and I have a chapter and an idea for the book already, but also, there is the trip I just returned from, and not only the sadness that’s permeating my brain now, but also this sense of disbelief, this sense of life being snatched away so quickly and so easily. And whether I’m meaning for it to happen or not, I have a feeling, this is really what my next book will be about.


Maureen Lipinski said...

Wow, what a great post, Jill! Very thoughtful.

And I second the motion that traveling with a toddler is a form of torture that ain't exactly relaxin'.

Lisa Patton said...

Hi Jill, I love your post, too. It is insane traveling with toddlers! And I agree with you about writing when you are going through certain emotions. I do the same thing. I'm so sorry about your losses. Let us know how we can help.

Jillian Cantor said...

Thanks, you guys! The toddler/travel thing is crazy -- I'm looking forward to the day when travel is fun again!