Monday, April 2, 2012

Refresh and Renew

by Elizabeth

Charleston, baby! Thanks to the free plane tickets I scored by spending an extra hour in Atlanta over a year ago, two girlfriends and I met up in South Carolina just before noon on Thursday. We spent the next three days touring houses, eating, walking plantations, eating, talking to locals, eating, laughing like crazy, and just having a generally good time. Oh, and we also ate a couple of times.

We also talked to some distinctly NON-locals. Our second morning, we drove in (we accidentally picked the single busiest weekend to visit the town, due to 5K people running 5K over an iconic bridge, not to mention thousands of others in town for a big flower show, so all the downtown hotels were booked solid, oops), parked the car at the courthouse, and strolled across the walkway into a famous hotel to pretend we were staying there as we checked out its innards. But the hotel wasn't the only fame we found: my friend Theresa was certain the tiny woman in the gift shop was Susan Lucci--and she was right!

I love that. I love when you are just doing your thing and the unexpected happens. For one, it's simply fun (like last summer when I ran into Richard Simmons at LAX). For another, it feeds my writer's mind. Think of all the stories, especially lately, to do with fairly regular people meeting up with fame. My Week with Marilyn. Midnight in Paris. A novel I read last year, The Actor and the Housewife, by Shannon Hale, comes to mind as well. Little events can be springboards for big ideas. At least for me.

The history in and of Charleston fed my mind, too. (Ha, ha...fed. More food words.) From Fort Sumter to the Edmonston-Alston House and out to Drayton Hall, ideas based people and events sprang into my brain like Jiffy Pop on a hot stove. As did the trip itself; the last night, lying in our beds, exhausted but still talking, I shared with my friends a story idea born on our trip, how ideas like that form for me. I wondered if they see the world that way too. Neither of them writers, they both said absolutely not! It was interesting to hear how the same tours, the same scenery, sparked their minds instead. One, an environmental economist (I got me some smarty-pants friends, yes I do,) thought about the impact of weather on this beautiful city and its irreplaceable architecture. The other, a former teacher and stay-at-home mom and all-around people-person, concentrated on generations of folks who had lived in these houses over the past three centuries and how their lives mirror and differ from our own. (She might not see it, but that strikes me as a writer's perspective too.) I think all three of us were impressed and surprised at how the others interpreted the same basic information. Which is a story idea in and of itself, at least in this writer's imagination.

I also got to finally meet a woman I've considered a friend for over seven years. (That's us above; she's a lawyer, another smart cookie.) I linked up with her via a message board when my kids were still short and hers were still eggs, but this was the first time we've seen each other face to face. Her husband, a native of the place, shuddered when we proposed a tourist trap restaurant. She, a newcomer who has only lived there thirty years, took us instead to a couple places visitors miss and locals adore, and we devoured every bite. The four of us enjoyed two meals and thousands of words together, feeding my imagination as well as my belly and heart.

It was wonderful. Fun, educational, exhilarating, delicious, restful, I could lay on the adjectives and vowels for hours. But you know what? I won't. Want to know why? Because that renewal, what we writers, we women, we human beings all need from time to time, has me ready to pour out adjectives and verbs and nouns. I'm freshly excited about my WIP, and so the rest of my energy and words will go to that.

And it only took me about thirty thousand calories to get there. (Shrimp and grits! She-crab soup! Scallops and corn risotto! Coconut- and strawberry- and chocolate dome cake, oh my!) Maybe I should throw in a walk with the dog, come to think of it. It will be good for both of us, and besides, who knows what great ideas will come as we stroll?

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