Friday, November 21, 2008

A Writer's Guide to London

This is my last post on my trip to London. I promise. When I travel, I like to see the places frequented by writers, living and dead. I already posted about the Globe Theatre, here and here.

On our last day in London, DH and I visited Waterstone’s, the largest bookstore in Europe. Six of the store’s eight floors are packed with books. I perused the children’s section and romance section. I saw many of my favorite children’s books there, including the British editions of the Harry Potter books. The romance section was stocked with mostly vampire books and historical romance. I was surprised to see contemporary romance missing.

That same day, we went to afternoon tea at Brown’s Hotel. This was the first hotel to open in London in 1837. It has hosted several famous visitors including Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who stayed there on their honeymoon, Alexander Graham Bell, who made the first telephone call from the United Kingdom at the hotel in 1876, and Rudyard Kipling, who wrote part of The Jungle Book there.

But that is not why I chose Brown’s Hotel from all of the establishments offering afternoon tea. One of the English Tea Room’s most famous frequent visitors was Agatha Christie. She wrote At Bertram’s Hotel in the tea room, inspired by the hotel and its patrons. While we were there, I wondered if she sat near the same fireplace, observing the other guests, penning her novel in longhand.

Well, okay, and I also wondered if anyone would ever care where I sit to write my stories. Are you inspired by the haunts of famous writers? Can you pass a bookstore without going in to see what treasures are shelved inside? Are you a travel guide planner or a wander about visitor?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Deadline Incentives

What “carrot in front of the horse” measures do you use to trick, I mean tempt yourself to keep going when faced with a deadline? My current deadline is a manuscript that needs to be finished in time to submit to a contest. Maybe you’re trying to finish a manuscript that has an appointment with your editor’s desk, finish a home repair project or write a proposal for your small business.

When the project is enormous, sometimes we lose steam in the middle or when the light is at the end of the tunnel, but it’s only a tiny glimmer, we may still think of giving up.

Do you scold, reward, chain yourself to your computer/ladder/desk? Here are a few things that work for me.

* Keeping a daily log of my manuscript page count. I downloaded a free monthly calendar, printed it out and write the page number I end on each day in the blank square. Seeing the numbers climb as the calendar progresses gives me a little thrill.

* Coffee. Lots of coffee. I make a deal with myself: unlimited coffee after lunch as long as I am writing. Maybe too much caffeine intake is a bad idea, so use this one in moderation.

* A few pieces from the bag of chocolate that I hide in the kitchen cabinet are a boost when a scene is being tricky. (My hiding place is no secret to my family now, so I guess I’m really hiding it from myself until I can’t resist.)

* A book by a favorite author sitting on my To Be Read pile that is off-limits until the project is finished. In this case, Lisa Kleypas’s Seduce Me At Sunrise.

You might be thinking that this sounds an awful lot like the Treat Box elementary teachers keep in their room for good students. I say whatever works, use it.

What works for you? Accountability with a project partner? The reward system? Tips are always welcome.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fall Colors on the Natchez Trace

In case you wandered onto my blog for the first time, let me start with this: I have a fascination with the Natchez Trace Parkway. If you missed the posts about my trek along the entire 444 miles of the Trace from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN last spring, click here and here.

Last weekend, DH (aka Mr. Parker) and I drove on the Trace to view the leaves. As residents of Tennessee for just over a year, we are totally fascinated with the changing colors of the leaves. Just to contrast, in our former home of New Orleans it was very common to see Christmas lights strung on azalea bushes blooming with beautiful pink flowers during December.

No trip up the Trace would be complete without a stop at the Loveless Café on Highway 100 as you exit the end of the Trace in Nashville. They are famous for their biscuits and celebrity diners whose framed photos cover the wall in the foyer. If you arrive at lunch, I recommend the BLT with fried green tomatoes.