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BETWEEN THE LINES

All those who wander

This morning I drove from the White Mountains to mid-coast Maine. Not a difficult drive, unless you happen to be geographically challenged. I’m the kind of person who, when someone asks which way to go and I offer an opinion, anyone who knows me goes in the opposite direction. For this trip, my daughter Jenn generously lent me her GPS, plus I have maps, and a mapquest app on my phone. Using all these tools and suggestions from Robby (who was born with a GPS hard-wired in his brain), I chose my favorite kind of route, mostly two lane roads meandering through small towns and countryside. Still, I was worried about getting lost.

I had just spent two wonderful days at World Fellowship Center, participating in their annual Mt. Chocorua Writing Week. World Fellowship is a conference center, a summer camp for adults and families, with amazing hiking and biking and the glorious Whitton Pond. The writing program is different every year; this year there were readings and workshops with poet Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, essayist Bernice Mennis, storyteller Bob Reiser, and I taught fiction. I was torn, but decided to leave early to get to Maine for an alumni reunion of my MFA program.

Driving along, keeping track of my route with part of my brain, I thought about how much I love World Fellowship and about Bernice’s presentation the evening before. She was talking about creative nonfiction, but her description of writing as a wandering journey to find the kernel of truth and emotion, resonated with my fiction process.

Like I said, the drive wasn’t complicated, even though Jenn’s GPS didn’t like my route choice and refused to cooperate. However my phone app talked to me just fine. It told me important facts like that I was entering Maine (although the sound is sort of tiny, and at first I thought it was telling me to “enter your name.” Then, about halfway there, the app made a funny deetle-dee-dee noise and said “Recalculating.” Then it displayed an “error in plotting your route” message and stopped communicating completely.

Great.

Ah, the joys of hard copy! I had printed directions. And, still thinking about my life as a meandering writer in search of the inner life of the characters in my new work-in-progress, I did not panic or stop. And wandering, with the help of the printed directions, of course, I made it to Brunswick just fine. Without GPS, I haven’t yet entirely discovered the kernel of my new characters, but I’m on the path and not too lost.
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