Nancy: Traveling for Story

Some interesting things happen when you take up writing as a profession. One of them–at least for me–has been that traveling is now rarely something I do for vacation or relaxation or merely bonding with loved ones and friends. These days, when I’m catching a plane or hopping on a train, I’m probably traveling for work.

October 2019 (my third trip in five weeks): Snoopy, unamused that I am packing to leave him AGAIN.

Since writing can be done anywhere and since I actually produce the most words when I have my butt in a comfortable chair in my own house, the three trips I took in the past five weeks might seem excessive. And just two months before that, I spent a week in NYC for RWA Nationals. But each of these trips fulfilled specific requirements of the writing life, so I bought my tickets, rearranged my word-production schedule, stepped over pouting kitties, and left my well-worn writing digs for some on-the-road adventures.

The True Retreat Trip

October 2019: Perfect conditions for a fall writing retreat: cool, wet weather outside, hot coffee and tea inside.

This one is my favorite of all the writing trips I take, because I have a bi-annual retreat date with four writing buddies whom I’ve known IRL for more than ten years (I met the first of these ladies 22 years ago!). This is more than a chance to sit and write all day in the company of others who are doing the same thing. This is also a chance to catch up with real-life friends’ lives, discuss industry news, trade titles of books and movies and must-watch TV, and eat WAY too many calories.

In other words, this is the kind of writing excursion that feeds more than page-count goals and a sweet tooth. It feeds this writers’ soul as only time with like-minded friends can.

The Conference/Retreat Trip

September 2019: A mural in Albuquerque, NM, site of the annual WFWA conference/retreat.

In recent years, I’ve glommed onto a few writing conferences that are intentionally small (think 100 people or less), and which offer both writing workshops and writing time. In addition to the workshop spaces and hotel rooms, these conferences include set-aside writing areas. These conferences are small enough to allow meaningful interaction with other writers, large enough to find new friends on this writing journey, and provide an energy boost to my writing that carries over for several days or weeks when I return home. 


The Research Trip

September 2019: A sculpture at the Evan Williams Distillery.

Admitting this might get my writer card pulled, but I have planned very few writing research trips in my life. That’s not to say I haven’t ended up on research trips. I just didn’t plan it that way.

Most recently, there was the four-day trip to Louisville, KY to relax and drink Bourbon that turned into a chance to explore speakeasies, learn about underground tunnels and Al Capone’s hideouts, and come up with an idea for a mystery series.

September 2018: The house of my husband’s aunt in Maribo, DK.

A few years ago, there was the December trip to LA that became the basis for a Christmas short story (soon to become a Christmas novella!) And several family trips to Denmark have spurred some short stories and my idea for a Nordic Noir series. Sadly, that series will probably not come to fruition. But pieces of those short stories and some of the research I did while on those trips are likely to find their way into some of my future novels.

The Mega-Conference Trip

This is the kind of trip many people envision when writers talk about traveling for work. These huge affairs are usually held at large conference hotel venues, are often in big cities, and typically offer dozens of workshops and tracks and presentations about multiple aspects of the writing life.

July 2019: The view from the top! (Actually, the 28th floor, which isn’t all that high in NYC.)

Conferences such as RWA Nationals, Thrillerfest, and Surrey International Writerss Conference are great opportunities to meet the movers and shakers in publishing and to see world-class speakers. While attending such events, I’ve taken workshops from iconic teachers such Lisa Cron, Jennifer Crusie, Michael Hague, Donald Maass, and Damon Suede. But these conferences should come with warning labels: May cause severe overwhelm, FOMO, and fatigue, especially for children, pets, and introverts.

I already have some travel plans for next year, five trips and counting in 2020, and all of those excursions will revolve around writing. Who knew choosing the world’s most introverted profession would turn me into a road warrior?

Are you a road warrior? What’s the most fun trip you’ve ever taken for work or research? Any packing tips for the woman who must travel with five pairs of shoes at all times?

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