Summer vacation is but a week away and I reflect on a busy year. From relocating to Italy, to living in a new culture, teaching internationally, and traveling; there have been many new experiences. Despite these experiences, I am eager to return to the States to reenergize my soul. My native New Hampshire calls. It almost sings a daily song saying that it is time to say hi again.
I wonder if I will see things differently returning for the summer. Yet with the conveniences, the familiar language, and all that makes America great; the fact is I am returning a changed man. The slower life of Southern Italy gets under your skin. While you never quite understand why it takes weeks to get things done, or months, the fact is as time passes you no longer get frustrated about the process.
“It is what it is,” rings truer here than any other place I have lived. You can fight it and get upset, but in the end enjoying the little moments of life along the Adriatic Sea is far more important and rewarding.
Perhaps this lesson will come in handy this summer. In the very least, I know I will need that perspective with the continued twists and turns that life continues to bring my way.
How I know summer has almost arrived in Southern Italy:
Despite living in Italy since August, this past weekend was the first time I had actually traveled in country. From an obsession with anything near the Baltic Sea and a desire to get a touch of any Slavic language, I didn’t feel the urge to explore. Nevertheless, in January I booked a ticket for Pisa. This was supposed to be for a conference and with the best intentions that’s what I had planned. For that matter, my time actually exploring Pisa was going to be limited to a few hours at best.
Fast forward several months and Pisa turned out quite differently than expected. To begin, I was mentally exhausted from work and physically my body was revolting from months of marathon training. Not knowing what to expect, I only printed out a map and the 3.5 mile route to my hotel.
Like Brindisi, the locals in Pisa don’t feel the need to label every street or road. This made my map virtually useless with the exception of the locations of the train station and the river Arno(?). I didn’t care though due to the setting sun, the lush green trees and grass, and the clean smell to the air.
While I had never been to the city before, the looming mountains in the distance and the sight of the river brought me back to growing up in New Hampshire. I walked with a purpose towards my hotel, zigzagging in what I considered the general direction. I knew the hotel would be west of the leaning tower and that would have to be enough to make my way.
More walking ensued and I stumbled across Galileo, a statue at least, pointing up to the moon above. Paying my respects, I took a right along a busy intersection, jaywalking after a police car rumbled past. I laughed at my carelessness, but after months in Brindisi, I knew the police didn’t care about me. I continued to walk, into a tunnel, across a railroad track, and then I spotted the road for my hotel.
The sidewalks were gone, replaced by overgrown weeds and grass. I picked up my pace and ran against the oncoming traffic. I could sense I was close, not to mention I was quite hungry. Then without expecting anything special, I was pleasantly surprised.
Not only did I find my hotel, but across the street was this majestic field with no structures to speak of. In the distance, on the other end of the field, I spotted the leaning tower and the mountains.
All I could do was smile. The tower of Pisa begun in 1173 and completed in 1372 was there for me to enjoy. There were no crowds or buildings to impede this moment. I felt part of the tower’s history. That night as I dined, looking out onto the tower, I decided the tower became part of my journey too.
The rest of my time in Pisa went fast, as expected, for any weekend trip. On Saturday, I played tourist and spent most of my time hiking the countryside, to the west of the tower, far away from the fray of locals and travelers alike.
As Sunday came, before catching my flight, I made it a point to visit the tower in person for a second time. With the clouds and rain gone, the crowds arrived and the insanity of posing for pictures ensued. I didn’t stay long. No I simply gave a wave to an old friend, one I had gotten to know in my history books over the last 30-something years. I’m sure the sight of the tower will stay far longer than any postcard, picture, or story and for that I’m grateful.
Here are ten observations from the last six weeks in my Italian neighborhood in the form of “Do you know?”
I wanted to share that the time has come to take a break. While I didn’t originally intend to do this with this new series in place, at least not until the series was complete, it is a necessary action at this junction.
I seem to be in the middle of a block. The ideas are there but the words aren't flowing yet. With summer vacation fast approaching, I am hopeful that this break will be a temporary one and I will have some news on books three and four in August.
In the meantime, thank you for entering the world of Keira, Luza, and Riley. I hope they serve and keep your imagination busy.
In addition to teaching I have taken on the role of bus monitor. For those that know me, this would seem a bit out of place as in the past I was the first person at school. I like and prefer being in the building well before any other adults or students arrive simply because it allows me time to do additional prepping and center myself for the day ahead.
In Italy, I don’t have that luxury. I don’t have a car to get to work and biking can be a bit sketchy. Wanting to prove to myself I can be flexible and adapt, I took on this new role. I have to admit being the last teacher in the building has been a welcomed change.
Riding the bus allows me the opportunity to chat, hang out, and joke with all the students not just the ones I teach. I get to serve as a glorified stewardess walking up and down the aisle. One moment I can sit with a seven year old who wants to read a book to me, and then I jump up to answer a science question for a ten-year-old. A few seconds later I could be back to the front adjusting a seat for a three-year-old and then on to the next student. It’s a busy ride but one that has an excellent view of the Adriatic Sea in the early morning.
Yesterday (Friday) I thought it would be just another morning. The bus navigated the tight bends and turns, while impatient locals zipped by. Mopeds weaved in and around traffic. The more ambitious ones looked both ways before running a series of red lights. This is normal for Italy.
Although it’s normal, I couldn’t help but be frustrated as our bus approached the church stop. A car cut in front of us, even though he had a yield, causing the bus driver to hit the brakes. I watched the car swing out into the next lane. The driver was multitasking. Between being on his phone, he was eating and turning the steering wheel.
I watched this driver slow to a crawl and roll down his window before he dropped his crumbled up napkin onto the road. The window remained down as he hit the gas and the car sped around to the other side of the square.
Blocking traffic, he jumped out and grabbed a bag from his trunk. He handed it over to one of the market workers and then went on his way.
I watched the entire exchange play out as the guy drove off like he had no cares in the world. To be honest it bothered me greatly. I saw the napkin in the middle of the road and others like it along the corners of the busy street.
Is this what life is like now? Are we too busy to slow down and have some common courtesy? Or is this the new norm?
I would like to say this is a Puglia thing, but I’ve seen it in other places. I wonder to myself, are we part of the problem or part of the solution?
I remember reading an article last year by George R.R. Martin and his writing routine. At the time I marveled at his needing to be at home, in his own space, to get any substantial writing done. Fast forward to the present and I have not written any new fiction since November. I have edited thousands of words and released a few books in the meantime, but I have been unable to focus on new fiction projects.
I think about what George R.R. Martin said and well I have to agree with him now. In previous years, I have always had a quiet, serene environment for writing. There were occasional distractions, but for the most part, my writing spots have been close to nature and free of excessive noise. “Excessive” is the key word.
I don’t feel balanced when I hear music pulsating through walls; whether a radio, drums, or in my current living environment, a piano and screaming children. If I hear any of these noises at the beginning of my writing time, I’m done.
I have tried experimenting with different rooms, head phones, varying times of day; but it doesn’t work. The moment I get any side noise kills any and all inspiration.
This morning I wanted to work on The Great Loon. I have some new ideas on how Keira and Luza are going to grow over the next few books. Right when I was about to sit down (730am), cue the kids yelling and then piano playing. The piano stopped a few minutes later, crying began, and I'm sure a soccer ball bouncing off the apartment wall is soon to follow.
What is difficult to understand is that even if these distractions are a few minutes, a half hour, or longer; the results are the same. I am unable to re-center. I’m sure some writers can carry on, but my creative juices are fickle. They need good timing, momentum, distraction free time to stay focused. I prefer either writing in the early morning or in the evening, but the universe seems to have other plans at present.
I’m working on a remedy because I would like to plow through books 3 – 7 and then focus on some adult fiction projects. I'll let you know if I come up with anything.
On a positive note, the sun is out and the sky is blue. I also saw a full moon this morning while running.
I couldn't resist to put "Coming Soon" as the header for this most recent blog. For me the phrase is relative. After finishing up my school vacation in Poland, I realized that the best way for me to complete the next book in the series is to simply plow through and write until I finish the entire story line. This is good news for some readers. However, the hiccup is that by focusing on writing the remainder of the books in a continuous sequence, I most likely will be pushing book 3's release to this time next year.
I reflected on whether to write one book at a time like the first two books. Yet the challenge even with those pieces only written 6 weeks apart was all of the storyline intact. To make sure there is continuity, this is the best possible direction. I'll keep you updated as I progress through the series. I promise the books will be worth the wait.
I find editing to be a grind. Yet without editing even a good story can become a bad one. Wanting to focus on The Great Loon, I have a few weeks left of revising and tweaking my final adult fiction novel. My friends and family might say the likelihood of me writing a new adult book is quite high, but I’ll pretend that after the release of Chase Prince’s quest for love, the only books I will be working on will include Luza and Keira.
I have a new trip to Poland planned at the end of the month for more Fox and the Girl related research. I’ll update you then. In the meantime, I have to get this other project completed to give the series the time it deserves.
On a weather related note...I think spring has arrived in southern Italy. The Italians might be bundled up in scarves and winter hats, but shorts and a t-shirt for me. Come on 60 degrees is warm right?
January is already half way done. I am always fascinated by how quickly time goes when we are busy living life. I wish I could report that book three is done for your eager eyes but frankly I have turned back to my adult orientated books. You are more than welcome to check them out. My personal favorite is Swimming With Angels, although I have a soft spot for all of my books, especially My Shenandoah Love.
Focusing on the Frankie Yandow books…I have plans to keep writing the series even though the grassroots campaign to get more readers has been more limited than expected. Nevertheless, at some point in 2017 the third book will be written and published. For all I know, the fourth book might be written and released too. Really it depends on whether the words begin to flow. As I wrote in an earlier update I can’t write to simply write. I prefer to have the words overflowing and only then do I write.
I did set aside the middle of July to mid August for a month long writing retreat. The worst case is I will find my voice then for Keira and Luza. I’ll keep you updated if anything changes. In the meantime read the first two books and share how good they are with your friends. If you are looking for some adult fiction books, I have a new book coming out in February or March.