Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Where I Write Now

I began writing, really writing, at the dining table in Malawi.  I wrote the first few drafts of each project out in long hand in ink on Malawi secondary school copy books and typed the final draft on an orange typewriter.  I bought it used from a Japanese volunteer who was headed home.  It was lightweight and small, missing the e-key, it did feature the symbol for the yen!  My typing skills were poor and the process was painful but I had lots of free time in Malawi and plenty of inspiration. 

When we returned to the US I still wrote at a table that doubled as dining room and kitchen table.  It was also the drawing table and game table for my children.   I wrote when the children napped(or that was the plan).

We moved to a larger house and I had an office for a while until we had more children and the office turned into a bedroom and I moved up to the third floor craft space and shared an office space with the sewing machine and sat back to back with my husband.  He shared that "office" as well but couldn't stand to look at the distraction that was my writing space.    During this time my husband decided I needed a real typewriter and he dragged me kicking and screaming into what was then the world of technology.  He gave me an electric typewriter.  I hated it.  It moved too fast and the touch was too light.  But I learned to appreciate it and began to feel like I was sailing instead of paddling through my writing time.

In Haiti I had a desk in the living/dining room where I could see my youngest out the window as he played in the dirt with the Haitian street children and chased the pigs out of the yard.  By then we had a desktop computer but I still wrote out first drafts by hand.  The desktop doubled as the only game computer for the expatriat children on the hospital compound where we lived.  My material was sometimes accidentally deleted by me or the kids.  The computer was grounded by a wire that ran to a wet cloth on the polished cement floor.  Still it sometimes gave me shock and I don't mean the writing.

Back in the US, the nursery turned into a teen's room and when he went to college it was the guest room.  But when another child left home, we spread out a little more and the guest room, a closet size space, is now my office.  I write on a laptop and I like the set up just fine, mostly.  

But the distractions at my desk-phone, email and a clutter of work papers for teaching and writing and household tasks can inhibit my muse.  An afternoon at a local coffee shop does not provide the distance I need.  When I can work it into my schedule I go off for a few days to a bed and breakfast.  My favorite place for B and B's is about an hour away in Confluence, PA.  The rooms are cheap and comfortable and the only way to get a signal on my cell phone is to drive up a two mile hill, and park in the church parking lot.   Free of everyday distractions, the tension falls away, nature inspires and the muse returns full force.  I can sit all day on a wrap- around porch overlooking a river lined with wild flowers and write.   If I write enough I promise myself a bike ride in the evening and I begin the day with a walk down country roads.

I have also been lucky enough to have my sister-in-law offer me her cottage on St. Simon's Island when she was away.  I went there with a writing friend.  We had ten days to enjoy the Island and write.   Compatable travelers and writing partners we gave each other space during the day and shared our writing in the evenings.  I took long beach walks in the early morning.  Sharon biked in the late afternoon.   Sometimes we worked at the same table, laptops back to back.  The Palm Coast Coffee shop, once a slave cabin, in the village was a welcome change of scenery too.  There we could write and munch if we felt like it.  Local shark taggers on the pier, at night, taught us that most sharks are not bad and about the need to help keep them from extinction, more fodder for the muse.

Closer to home, I have on occasion headed north of Pittsburgh for the day to New Wilmington, PA.  Mugsies is a coffee house that is NOT Starbucks and if I sit facing the window I am enchanted by the passing Amish buggies.  A drive through the countryside on the way is a good way to enhance the writing too.    The beauty of farm country and the Amish blues invite a flow of creativity.

Recently I have found I do not have to leave home to find the same quiet inspiring writing space that I have at Mugsies or Ohiophyle or St. Simons Island.  I took the huge black grill off of our tiny back porch and replaced it with a bistro table.  Covered with a flowered table cloth, it brings me back to France.  Seated at the table I overlook my garden and I write.  Oddly, though this space is only one floor down from and exactly below my office, it is a whole new world where I find the peace and inspiration to write with the chaos of my office overhead.  That’s where I write from now. 

Soon I intend to check out the picnic tables along the trails in the lush, cool park near my home.  I walk there daily and the writing begins in my head.  I can only imagine what will happen if a take a few hours there with my laptop and let the muse wander and get the writing up on the screen.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

GALIMOTO Still Inspires

I was invited to visit Nature Camp at the Frick Park Environmental Center in Pittsburgh this summer.  
Galimoto was the inspiration for much fun and creativity as second grade campers thought about ways to recycle plastic bags, wires, bottle caps, soda can tabs, bicycle wheels and scraps from nature into toys. 

In the book, Kondi uses wire to build his special toy car.  But he has other things in his own box of toys including a dancing man puppet made from dry cornstalks.  A child in Africa might also have a yoyo made out of a bottle cap, a toy made from the sticky clay-like dirt of a termite mound, or a rag ball made of plastic bags. 

The Campers at Frick Park came up with their own ideas for jewelry, kite and even a hobo stick.  And games.  Who can throw their rag ball the farthest?  

Some of the comments I heard:  "It didn't know Camp would be this fun."  "Do we have to stop now?  No?  Good I want to keep doing this all day."  "I like this the best."  "I want to make lots for gifts."  "I want to make one of each."  

Frick Park Flowers Make Me Smile!