Monday, April 16, 2012

The I Ching of writing

by Joan

It has been a long and stormy tax season, so when my sister called and asked if I’d join her in California for a few days, my mind flew warped-speed to the vision of a mini writing retreat (and a visit with son!) In no time my schedule was set: a few days with my sister and a few days on my own at a quaint hotel in Malibu. Until I saw the beach, I didn't realize how much I needed a change of venue.

One afternoon, as dolphins threaded their finned bodies through the Pacific, my son and I talked about story arcs and character. His comment about my idea for a new opening started, “Remember the opening scene in The Godfather…” It’s his favorite book and movie, and, as Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) says in You’ve Got Mail, “The Godfather is the I Ching. The Godfather is the sum of all wisdom. The Godfather is the answer to any question.” (side note, when I returned, my son texted me this picture of him running into James Caan, who played Sonny in the movie.)

Casa Malibu was a charming place, run by Richard and Joan (a sign that this Richard and Joan need to open a place on the beach!) with gorgeous views, nighttime ocean serenades, beach chairs, hats to borrow, and a (thankfully temporary) tractor.

The first day on my own, I set up my laptop overlooking the patio and opened my umpteenth revision of The Lost Legacy of Gabriel Tucci (affectionately, always Highgate to me). Nice, quiet bliss, until… I heard a familiar voice. A not-pleasant familiar voice. Have you seen the Big Bang Theory? Have you heard Howard’s mother? Yes, indeed, if this wasn’t the same actress, she was auditioning for understudy. All afternoon she gabbed on the phone and visited with friends (how dare they socialize, didn’t they know I was writing?!)

I took a walk on the beach to clear my head and then tried again. Then I found the Arts Channel, playing nonstop opera, ballets and orchestral music to drown out my neighbor. The next morning I asked to be moved and the lovely owners accommodated me right away, with a tucked away room above the garden.

On my final day, I found the local bookstore, Diesel, (the multi-million $ renovated library will open next week!) and set up camp for a few hours before returning for a final stroll on the secluded beach.

I came away refreshed and renewed, with a new opening for my novel and twenty of sixty chapters in crisp, changed shape. I Ching, yes!

My wish is that all of you get the chance for a few uninterrupted days, if not by the sea, then wherever your dream locale might be.

Happy writing!


  1. Oh, for a few days at the beach!! Or the lake!! I'll have to make do with my newly-trimmed backyard garden accompanied by a pair of lusty cardinals snacking from the feeders and the puppy chewing on my slippers.

  2. Sounds heavenly to me! Today must have been gorgeous!


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