A Mindset for the Road

We launched this blog last May, shortly before a three‐state drive to attend a Colorado writing retreat.

Nine months later, I’m birthing something new. It’s a merger of sorts, combining what I learned last spring with what I know this winter. Call it a RoadBroad’s 2019 approach to living and writing.

It comes courtesy of my writing friend, Danielle, who shared a version of this “Comfort Zone” graphic on Facebook. The image grabbed my attention so fast, my neck nearly snapped. My mind thought aha!, and off to the Internet rabbit hole I vanished where I found the same image, topped with the creativity quote:

Image copyright: TWH (The Wealth Hike); Quote copyright, Dan Stevens. 

It’s so timely, post‐New Year (either 1/1 or 2/5). There’s 45 weeks left in 2019.

Take a look at the graphic. Where do see yourself here as a woman? As a writer? 

Some days, I stretch across all four zones.

Today, I stretch across Learning and Growth. It’s blog post day.

Tomorrow, I’ll perch in Fear, courtesy of an upcoming public speaking event.

Who knows what Wednesday and Thursday will bring? I suspect Comfort Zone therapy after Tuesday. But by Thursday, Learning and Growth returns, incorporating the week so far.

Learning and Growth involves an awakening, a choice we must make consciously. Comfort Zone and Fear tend to rule by our default.

My goal is to shrink the red circle of Comfort Zone into a smaller dot. It’s home to daily human recovery needs, so elements of it are vital. Healthy eating. Daily exercise. Adequate sleep. Spiritual practice.

Before we are women or writers, we are human beings. Superwoman and her twin, Wonder Woman, checked out of this universe decades ago.

Fear is too much my friend. So that’s why she resides in the orange zone? Moving forward, I’ll honor Fear while keeping a healthy dose married to boundaries and deadlines.

Finally, I focus on where my heart and energy landed when I saw this graphic. Enlarge the yellows and greens of Learning and Growth into ever‐widening zones. Purpose‐filled days. Achieved dreams. Goals enlarged. Objectives accomplished.

Daily, I’ll massage Dan Stevens’ words: creativity comes from activating intuition, expanding perspectives, and living fearlessly. 

What’s your Zone Plan?

Maybe the graphic offers not your life, but a simple story.

Heroine’s Journey, anyone?

RoadBroad Review: Journals

Ex‐journalists don’t die. They shop for journals.

So am I now a journal‐ist?

Groan now, but it’s true. I crave journals. The storyteller in me loves a well‐crafted, story‐keeper. Yes, that’s another term for where RoadBroads capture the memorable parts of their journeys.

On our recent Boulder/Portland adventure, I picked up three journals, two worthy of future storykeeping. The other requires a publisher overhaul.

At the incomparable Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon, this journal leaped out.

First eyeball matched Powell’s nirvana (a three‐story bookstore that covers one entire city block).

I opened the journal. And groaned.

Out loud. In the store. Drawing stares.

Do we always have to color inside the lines?

Every right‐side page demands a laundry list of dry factoids. Money spent on gas, routes taken, sights/memorable events, highlights (differs from “memorable events”?), sleepover/dining experiences (sleeping & eating combined into one line?).

On. It. Goes.

No buzz? No joy? No agony? No heart?

Answering who‐what‐where‐when involves only one skill. Taking dictation.

Narrative juice flows only in answering two questions: how? why?

For example: how did you feel when the tire blew? Why did you stop at that run‐down cafe? 

Answers to these types of questions — and not the vanilla fill‐in‐the‐blank queries above — provide both a context and a story for what we experience. Especially road trips. It’s how we sort them out. Hopefully, we gain understanding. And an honest hearing.

It’s flavor and feelings we need. Every journey offers both. Even simple trips like a quick jaunt to the grocery store offer stories. If we look. 

Diaries record minutiae like “favorite sight.” Travel books log odometer readings and miles per gallon. Journals add the sensory spice of emotions and feelings. It’s juice, if you will. Ready for the drinking if we’re willing to dive deep and write/talk about those along with the neutral flavors of wind direction and highway speed.

I digress. Bigly. Whoa! Sorry…

This journal’s lines are too narrow. Nobody can write hyper‐tiny like this. The book is too thick at 200‐plus pages. Not switching backpacks.

I do like the blanks offered on every left‐facing page. However, the empty lines are crammed together. For more tightly‐written text?

To every negative, there’s a positive. This journal offers a great backside:

Asphalt makes a perfect ending for a journal. It’s the surface that grounds every trip. Flying is your main route? Eventually, you’ll return to asphalt.

The better Powell’s journal was this one.

Each time I pick it up, I find something new. Today, “wanderlust” screams. Time for another road trip? 

I open this journal and smile. Writer‐friendly lines talk, beckoning with “one quick page, come on, scribble details, that Boulder moment when…”

Why this rising wanderlust? Home two weeks, hungering for the road? Again? Cough, cough. Last trip not yet paid off. Reality Ah, reality.

My fingers flip back to the cover and my eyes scan it a second time.

The journey matters 

I thank the Muse for that future blog post idea. In Colorado, I met my favorite new journal at a favorite place, the Boulder Bookstore, holder of special memories and favorite friends.

This journal captures truth, with my clarification: it’s always about the story.

Why readers read, writers write. It’s why: the journey matters. 

I drafted this blog post then rested. Returning later, the three journals beckoned. I opened one to its very last page.

Second leap. Two thoughts.

Synchronicity rules.

And — why did this company bury the lead?

Take a closer look. That journal on the second row, third from the left.

Christmas. The Holiday Journal.

Maybe I could write it.

Declaring Self

Greatest gift from my recent 11‐day road trip?

This objet d’art, customized at a Boulder end‐of‐summer festival:

Repurposed license plate from Texas and Colorado redefines a life. Thanks to Neil and Blaise of www.JunkLoveArt!

With the plate, I now own the title.

Full‐time. With pride.

Thank you, Colorado.

Thank you, Oregon.

Recent excursions north and west marked one of the best trips ever for DH and me. That’s a meaningful brag, given how many places we’ve explored in 34 years of co‐adventuring.

More details in the weeks to come.

When I’m rested.

Yes, from vacation.

Losing Faith in Shining Moments

Inspiration arrives in odd places.

Its opposite does, too.

For years, the writings of Stephen King have enchanted, even as they terrified. The Stand. Carrie. The Shining.

DH and I planned our summer playtime around two creative locales: Boulder, CO and Portland, OR. From Boulder, he insisted on a quick jaunt to his old childhood haunt — Estes Park, CO. I replied, Stanley Hotel.

Copyright G. Wigler 2017

My mind raced to memorable scenes from the film made from King’s novel, The Shining.

”Redrum” scrawled in blood across a bathroom mirror.

Jack Nicholson taunting, “Here’s Johnny!” through a cracked‐open door.

A hundred sheets of paper filled with a single sentence, repeated over and over — “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Memory reminded me the movie was filmed at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. What could be more fun than seeing the mirror, the door, the paper.

Then we did. Saw the paper.

What you can’t see in the typewriter photo is what’s beneath the space bar. A red cautionary note warns the tempted: CAUTION! Old! Do Not Touch! 

This third sign confirmed our suspicions. Nothing was as it seemed with either the hotel or the movie.

The first was the entry fee.

To enter the hotel parking lot — guest, visitor, whomever — you discover a $10 entry fee that “you only pay one time but you receive this $5 gold coin which you can use in our gift shop or restaurant.”

You mean the Stanley keeps $5 to stave off the unwanted, the cheap, and the wise.

We discussed leaving. As we did, a line of cars grew to the street. The parking gate behind the guard was down. He glared at us as DH and I strategized. My writerly curiousity won, we paid the ten and drove in, both of us irritated to a slow burn.

Seventy minutes later into our tour (another $20 per person, the reduced senior rate) and I seethed.

The movie was filmed in Oregon, not Colorado.

Because a different hotel was used, there’s no basement bar. No maze either. Except…

…for this: what the Stanley built itself. Three years ago. How many years is that post‐movie?

Room 217 is where Stephen King slept the night he conceived The Shining. Hotel officials asked the movie’s director to change the room number to 237. Here’s why: 

Room 217 never has a posted number. Novel readers are smart people. They figure things out. Eventually.

Kimg hated the movie so much, he helped to fund a later mini‐series of his novel. Filmed at the Stanley.

It is a beautiful, old hotel. With a rich heritage. And a clever marketing staff.

But now, when I think The Shining, bile fills my throat. I remember what the marriage of marketing and money‐making can create.

I hope Stephen King gets a cut of the Stanley dough.

I got mine. It’s a $5 gold coin. Forgot to use it when I bought that #217 room marker.

Fighting Altitude with Attitude

The Rev. Pat Clark

NOTE: Today’s guest blog post comes from fellow writer, The Rev. Pat Clark. She’s had 10 days to review her 10‐day writing retreat in Boulder. 

A Presbyterian minister and spiritual director, Rev. Clark is currently writing a book about surviving stage 4 cancer through faith and kindergarten art.

We’re particularly grateful for Pat. Every week, she graciously hosts the Wednesday Writers in her home. Her brave struggle with cancer and her creative determination to fight back with art and words inspires us all. Thank you, dear friend! — Melanie & Ellen


Fighting Altitude with Attitude

It was no easy task to get to Boulder for Max’s writing retreat. First off there was a luggage factor – CPAP machine, computer, printer, art supplies, journals, a notebook with source material and another that had been green‐lined. That means decorated with a LOT of things I had to change for the next step in getting it published. Add to that clothes and toiletries. I felt triumphant that I made it on the airplane in one big bag with a backpack.

We were all excited to meet one another at the Dunshanbe Teahouse on opening night. We tried exotic foods, sat outside beside a rushing river and smelled the fragrance of a million roses that lined the path to the entrance. Oh, the anticipation of writing!

The climate was a wonderful gift for the seven of us from Texas, or so I thought. The problem came when I tried to walk very far. In only a few minutes I was huffing and puffing and having to stop on nearby benches sprinkled all over town.

Things worsened when I tried to sleep. I didn’t get much. Altitude! Those beautiful mountains have a downside. Finally I tried a tincture of CBD that helped me relax but not sleep. The retreat became a test of endurance more than a retreat. I can do this! became my mantra.

Ready for another small group session at the Boulder Bookstore.

Nonetheless I finished editing my book, wrote the final chapter, and launched a new endeavor to write about travel. There were amazing moments – insights during a Max Regan lecture, the beauty of peony bushes, the funkiness of Pearl Street with its flame throwers and musicians, the Hotel Boulderado, meals with other writers, solid help with my work, and the amazing writing that was shared in our salons every other night. I loved it!

I decided after the first day or two that I could lie around and whine about my sleep issues, or I could just do what I came to do–learn, write and have a good time. That is exactly what I did!

Things are rarely perfect in life, but I do have a choice in how to respond to them. Now that I am safely home in Houston, I am profoundly grateful for the writers’ retreat and everything I learned and experienced in Boulder.

I am also grateful for a good night’s sleep in my own bed.

From Mountains to Canyon

Melanie and I started the first leg of our journey home back early on Friday, June 15th. I specify the date, because it is now 1:28 a.m. on June 16th. Blogging during the early morning hours definitely has its advantages. I will sleep when I get home. Now I am still on an adventure.

We said good‐bye to the townhouse that has been our home away for the past two weeks. Our handy AAA Trip Tik held tightly in my hands. We also have phones with GPS. What could possibly go wrong?

Driving away from Boulder, I take one last look at the Flatirons and all of the other mountain ranges. In the distance are mountains shrouded in a blue haze that I am told is from some distant wild fires. I see the warnings about fire bans as we drive down the freeway.

When we find ourselves in Trinidad, Colorado, we decide to stop for caffeine, a chance to stretch our legs and gas up the car. By using my smart phone, I see that there is exactly one Starbucks in Trinidad. What I didn’t realize is that the Starbucks is located in a Safeway Store.

Can you see the Starbucks? Neither could we. We drove past it once and almost twice. Finally Melanie noticed the familiar Starbucks lady in the window. Now can you find it?

It’s there and thanks to Melanie, I got coffee, she got tea. What we also found out is that Trinidad is a very interesting town with tons of history. It might be fun to explore this town during some future road trip. However, we are on our way to Canyon, Texas.

Yes, in one day we left Colorado, drove through New Mexico and finally arrived back in Texas. Now all we have to do is find the town of Canyon and check into our hotel. We are going to Palo Duro Canyon to see a show called “Texas”.

Okay, it was my fault. When we were looking for Canyon, I instructed Melanie to turn left when she should have turned right. Oops. I am such a city chick. The scenery on this journey has been so beautiful, but the Texas Panhandle really is wide open country.

Well, I managed to get us off on a wild goose chase for about 45 minutes. Where we thought we were going to have about an hour at the hotel to rest and freshen up, we had about 15 minutes. Melanie was very gracious about my mistake. Did I mention that we had a AAA Trip Tik and two phone with GPS? There is nothing RoadBroads enjoy more than a good adventure!

Then we got to Palo Duro Canyon. Melanie told me that this show was at the bottom of the Canyon and that this Canyon was the 2nd largest Canyon in the United States. I am such a “city chick”. What I found out was that this show was at the actual bottom of the canyon! Who knew? It was a steep descent with a lot of curvy roads. Yet, we made it, had dinner and saw a really interesting show about the history of the Texas Panhandle. Here is a picture of the stage…at the bottom of the Canyon.….

As exciting as the show was, I also loved just looking up at the stars. It was a beautiful night with a cool breeze and more stars than I ever get to see among the bright lights of Houston. That alone made the whole trip to see this show worthwhile.

Tomorrow we take off on the road again. We are paying attention to the weather that is being predicted for Houston this weekend. Lots of rain. Something I have not seen since taking off on the road.

I better get some sleep!

Adieu, Boulder

Tomorrow, Ellen and I awake before sunrise and say “adieu” to Boulder, exchanging our temporary abode for Home.

Despite two enchanting weeks here, I miss the comfort, familiarity, and routines of my Sugar Land home. Most especially life with my kind and generous DH! Still, there’s a magic that only Boulder can generate. That’s a major admission for this Taos passion‐ista.

That heart‐thumping magic manifested itself again today, this time in hyper‐productive form. Ellen and I wrote like storytelling fiends all day. I took a short break to lunch with special family members from Ft. Collins (shout‐out to ML, D & E) and returned to complete significant progress on my WIP (‘work in progress’).

Surrendering to the Boulder siren call of words, words, words…

Perhaps we’re both desperate for a few more hours of clear, clean storytelling. Remnants of a tropical wave await our Sunday return to Houston. But first, any worries surrounding rainfall yet to arrive comes after what lies immediately ahead: 20 hours of weekend driving across three states. How do you hold onto the magic of a writing retreat amid the potential train of contained chaos coming toward us?

It begins with remembering. And here are mine — to remember tonight, across the next two days, and onto the life yet to come — the most powerful learnings of a ten‐day writing retreat. 

  1. While it’s trite, it’s that because it’s true: persistence pays off. Evidence: seven years of periodic work on a single essay yields finalist status. This pumps the ego to keep working hard on this novel that’s talked to me for 11 long, busy years.
  2. The craft of writing requires a lifetime of learning and devotion, a commitment I renewed in these Colorado mountains. Those who claim mastery follows 10,000 hours of practice are naive. If you’re good at storytelling, mastery never comes because you refuse to stop learning.
  3. Community enriches a writer’s life and all her projects. To wit:
Houston’s Wednesday Writers reunited again!

Members of the Wednesday Houston group celebrate crafting stories together since January, 2017. The Boulder retreat marked the first time we five have bonded in such an extended, intensive writing experience. Our writing Wednesdays will never be the same!

It’s one thing to have a writing community in the town where you live. I’m beyond blessed to be involved with three such special groups.

The Boulder Fiction writing group enjoys corner porch dining at Chatauqua DIning Hall. How did all my tribes land here for such a special dinner?

To come to a writing retreat in another state and discover six storytelling soulmates is beyond a blessing. It’s grace in action, a concept our beloved Max Regan talks about. It’s a grace that comes not because you seek it. Instead, this kind of special grace finds you and touches you gently — and silently — on your shoulder when you’re not looking. Sweet.

4. Living a life as a full‐time writer is worth the energy it demands. I return to Houston changed and committed. There’s a project awaiting my completion with an audience awaiting my story and a supportive crowd cheering every mile marker I pass. In eleven years of working on my debut novel, I’ve never felt so energized. It’s that Boulder air.

For the light‐hearted learnings, it’s:

  1. Friends can remain friends even after sharing house for ten days.
  2. Colorado trees and my nose are not friends. Not going to happen. Ever.
  3. Never buy unbranded gasoline. Unless you want a coach rescue.
  4. Whatever you do, don’t kill the dog. Oops, that’s a big sorrysorry to my ex.

One of these blog posts, I’ll figure out how to do bulleted numbers that look right on your screen. That’s a big sorrysorry to you, dear reader.

For now, it’s dinnertime followed by packing all those things I had to haul to the mountains. All those vitals I never touched.

Bedtime will be late tonight, like another evening two weeks ago. Alas, I never learn. When sleep comes, it will no doubt offer another “journey proud” evening. Allie smiles from her perch.

Two days of driving is enough to put anyone on edge a little, eh? Begging forgiveness in advance from Ellen, fellow RoadBroad and car mate. Next I suggest: let’s go home, renewed.

Our stories await.

Privilege Writing for Ten Days

NOTE: This is the second in a series of guest blog posts. Today’s guest blogger is Diana Galindo, who we lovingly dubbed our newest RoadBroad. She shared our Boulder house after riding with us from Denver. Together, we three journeyed all over Boulder, traveling by car, bus, or foot depending on the road crisis du jour (and yes, there were several). 

RoadBroads @ Ozo’s: (from left to right) Melanie Ormand, Ellen Seaton, and Diana Galindo.

Diana Galindo was born in Cochabamba, Bolivia. She divides her time between her beloved Cochabamba and the home she shares in Houston with her daughter and husband. Diana is writing a historical fiction novel inspired by her Bolivian family. She also blogs about food and health, sharing recipes and menus as a path to wellness at www.colormyfood.com. 

Thank you, Diana, for joining our RoadBroads blog today!

- Melanie and Ellen


Privilege Writing for Ten Days

Effusive red, pink, yellow and white roses led up to the Dushanbe Teahouse. The beautiful ceramic tile exterior and hand‐carved columns, the workmanship of more than 40 Tajik artists, make it a perfect setting for creative energy. Presented to Boulder’s by its sister city Dushanbe (capital of Tajikistan), it upholds the ancient tradition of Central Asian teahouses as gathering places. Just as travelers of the Silk Road met in teahouses across Tajikistan, to our table this summer evening arrived travelers from the east and west coasts, from Texas and Colorado. The exotic cuisine with flavorprints from around the globe was a sensory feast and invited our imagination. The stage was set. For the next ten days this Writer’s Retreat put our identity as writers in the center of our lives.

2nd floor area of the Boulder Bookstore

The next morning I arrived at the Boulder Bookstore. Where Dushanbe Teahouse had delighted my senses and teased my imagination, the Boulder Bookstore gave me a sense of homecoming. My soul stirred as I entered the old building lined with bookshelves, Books beckoned; I couldn’t resist stepping closer to the shelves and noticed that dozens of books had “Staff Recommends” notes. Fascinated I quickly skimmed a few, but conscious that the first writing session was beginning, I headed upstairs scanning bookshelves that surrounded me every step of the way to the far end of the second floor. In an enclave to the right was a long table. Max Regan, our writing coach, greeted each of us with his characteristic enthusiasm.

Max invited us to practice active deep listening, to put presence before productivity, to consider mastery as a curved line of constant pursuit and continuation as accomplishment. He had us list things we’ve accomplished as writers thus fueling the positive from the onset.

Capturing writing wisdom from the one‐and‐only Max Regan.

Oh the joy and gratitude for the next 10 days! We explored cartography, mapping out our writing projects, from utopian maps where “here be dragons”, to navigational maps with intentional waypoints for a readers’ journey. “Sometimes we need to explore vast territories before we can draw our map. The exploration is what changes us as writers. The journey is what changes the reader,“ said Max.

Our days had a rhythm – Small Group sessions, extensive chunks of personal writing time, one‐on‐one coaching with Max.

In Small Group we worked on dialogue, character and setting.

What is the moment that matters in each chapter?

What experience do we want our reader to have?

How do we use dialogue in this scene?

How is the protagonist transformed?

We practiced experiential techniques and tapped into the braintrust of the group to strengthen a story, solve a problem, flush out a character.

Evenings we shared dinner and participated in a time‐honored salon. Beginning in the Enlightenment, salons were artistic and intellectual gatherings. The sense of community and trust made our current salons a highlight of the retreat. Writers would read from their text, ask an author question and receive feedback to help shape and strengthen their work.

As our Writer’s Retreat came to an end, Max asked us to reflect on how we spent the week. “ What did you learn about yourself as a writer? What works? What doesn’t?”

He invited us to integrate the next steps of our project with a calendar and reminds us, “Breathe into the idea that not everything is a book.” In closing, Max said, “Do not lose what you found here in Boulder. If you lose it, it’s a choice,” then left us with a quote from Mark Nepo: Effort only readies us for grace as grace can never be planned or willed only entered.

I entered grace these past ten days and I stay focused on continuation as accomplishment, profoundly grateful for the benefit of Max’s teaching.

If this amazing opportunity sounds tempting, registration for the 2019 Boulder Writer’s Retreat opens July 1st. Please find details here:

http://www.hollowdeckpress.com/writing-classes/writing-retreats/

Self‐Care Matters

My assignment at 7 p.m. last night was to sleep for a few hours then awake and post here.

It’s 4:30 a.m.

Ahem.…that’s a little later than planned. Yet, the last 9.5 hours marked my best sleep of the past two weeks. And I’m still groggy. As in my body’s not done with its 40 winks tonight/this morning. 

There’s a message here: my body needs a major rest. Two stimulating weeks involving a 1300‐mile road trip and an hyper‐invigorating writing retreat will cry out for good sleep at some point. That point came last night. 

But…it’s my turn to post on RoadBroads. I promised Ellen.

I arise out of commitment, devotion, and frustration. Continued sleep will elude until the third necessary is answered.

Thus, dear reader, I offer preliminary pictures from yesterday’s Denver excursion. They provide partial explanation for the good‐tired.

Tattered Cover in Denver: more stacks than any reader can count.
Take a guess: how many new books are stuffed in this one sack?
Done lingering, aunt and niece head to the ice cream stand, walking toward Denver’s handsome skyline.
Olinger mortuary become Linger restaurant when new owners blacked out the “O.”

Linger Restaurant was a must‐stop for a pair of ladies with a Memphis funeral business in the family heritage. We refilled our water from brown bottles once used for organ storage and ordered drinks from an old metal patient chart. Toe tags used to mark the drinks but they were gone yesterday. Too macabre a memory for some? I missed that part of the adventure.

It’s back to bed I go, the call of duty answered, potential guilt assuaged.

The CPAP lets a snore machine sleep well.

Tomorrow — oops, make that today’s — post will focus on my learnings from a writing retreat. First is how to manage this ongoing body‐mind hum.

What a time for my writing life!

Try and Try Again

NOTEFor a fun change of pace, we invited several of our fellow retreat writers to write guest posts for our blog.

Here’s the first such post. It comes courtesy of our dear friend and fellow writer, Dorothy Van Soest. She has written three novels and is actively writing her fourth. Check out her work at dorothyvansoest.com. In a previous life, Dorothy chaired the Department of Social Work at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Thank you, Dorothy, for joining our RoadBroads team today!

—Melanie and Ellen


When Persistence Pays Off

With trademark focus and determination, Dorothy Van Soest updates the ongoing Sylvia saga.

To subscribe to the RoadBroads blog, check each box that has a storefront in it. Check. Check. Check.

I click on the continue icon. The words “try again” pop up on my computer screen. What? How could I have failed such a simple test? I try again.

This time the instructions are different. Check each box that has a road sign in it. Sounds easy enough. But I’m nervous. What if I fail again?

I click on a box that clearly has a street sign on it. No problem. But what about the box with only a partial street sign on it. Does that count? Should I check it? I take the chance. A few more checks and I hold my breath, then click the continue button. I passed! I’m in!

I go to the blog and start reading. Trust me, it is worth it!

What a delight to join the trek of two women across three states, from Houston to Boulder.

What a grand accounting of their experiences in Boulder, the taste of the town, the challenges and joys of being here, what it’s like to be in community with fellow writers of which I am honored to be a member.

What a delight it is to open an email every morning that directs me to their latest adventures.

Thank you, Melanie and Ellen, for bringing us all into your lives and experiences.

And for those of you who are thinking of subscribing, believe me it’s worth it, even if you have to try…and try again.