Monday, September 2, 2013


by Joan

This was the summer of spontaneity. My husband and I got in the car with only penciled dates and states on the triptik: New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Oregon and, one of my favorites, California. Normally I plan every route, hotel and adventure. We’d decided to go just two weeks earlier and, aside from fixed dates at Crater Lake and Yosemite, we booked nothing ahead of time.

My journal is bursting with thoughts and memories, some of which I hope to eventually share in the form of essays or stories. Perhaps I came away with the genesis of a novel, or at the very least the impetus for a character or two (or twenty). As usual, I couldn’t help but wonder how I could transfer my experiences onto the page. And while I was busy writing, my husband was composing some phenomenal photos. We make a good team, he and I.

I am so grateful to be able to do such a trip at this point in my life. Among other escapades, we stayed at a dude ranch; took in nature’s architecture of sandstone, lava and granite; visited waterfalls, lighthouses, and the amazing Powell’s books; touched redwoods, Great Sequoias and several beaches; passed wind turbines, forest fires, even came too close to a bear.

But I never expected to meet author and USC creative writing professor Gina Nahai. I’ve admired her work since reading her novel, Caspian Rain several years ago. When an invitation passed through my FaceBook feed for a book discussion with the brilliant scholar and author Reza Aslan (Zealot) at the Nahai’s home hosted by the L.A.Review of Books, I immediately messaged her. Yes, yes, yes, I would love to go.

My accountant self focuses on shutting out work while on vacation. But as a writer, the literary world is never far from my mind. I don’t often get to share culinary delights or conversation with such literary power as I did that day. Not only did I meet Ms. Nahai, but after an enthralling discussion between Reza Aslan and LARB’s founder Tom Lutz on Aslan’s controversial and fascinating book, I met both speakers, several other writing professors, authors, and recent graduates from Ms. Nahai’s Masters in Professional Writing program. I found a new go-to website for book reviews, essays, interviews and podcasts.

On the drive home as I curved Mulholland Drive, I smiled and mentally reviewed the afternoon. I was so star-struck, I forgot to take one note in my journal or snap one photo on my phone! But thanks to spontaneity, I have an afternoon of memories, new books to read and podcasts to listen to.

What literary journey did you take this summer?

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