Kate Flora here, following up on a discovery I recently made: that the only way I can stop working is to leave my desk. When I’m at home, that desk projects an energy field (unless it’s a tractor beam) that pulls me back whenever I stray for too long. So I decided to leave my desk behind, buried under a mound of work that wants my attention, and go west. Hike in Tucson and Sedona, snowshoe at Big Bear Lake, and walk the hills of San Francisco.
Getting ready to leave for any trip makes me long for those days when everything wasn’t instant response, quick turn-around, must be done right now. Before cell phones and scanners and e-mail. Back to the days of the Pony Express, when months could pass between request and response. Beyond the obvious, like paying bills and stopping mail, and arranging for a house sitter, on the eve of departure, there is the Intent to Harvest Timber form that must be filed with the State of Maine. A copy of the family trust must be located and copied and mailed to the attorney. Annual bar registration, languishing unattended, must be filled out on line. The surveyor must be nudged about a property description for the deed. The remaining Christmas gifts–opened and left behind–must be mailed to various parts of the country.
At last, everything is in order for escape and it is time to pack. But no! My beloved Lowa hiking boots, that have traipsed through Scotland, slogged through three days of rain and snow on the Milford Track in New Zealand, hiked sacred mountains in Mexico and through the Canadian woods are . . . MISSING! And a search of every closet and places logical and illogical does not help. I am leaving for a hiking trip and I’ve lost my shoes. No time to shop for new ones—when I bought these, I literally spent 2 ½ hours at L.L. Bean trying on every pair in my size and walking up and down their little artificial hill until I found the perfect boots. Instead, into the bag go the dinosaurs—a pair of boots bought at Goodwill 25 years ago, boots so heavy I can barely lift my feet—but ones that are waterproof, elephant-proof, and indestructible. I finish packing and turn to choose some books to read. I’ve got Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage and Geraldine Brooks’s March and the always compelling Jeff Deaver on my iPad and as I am shutting down the computer: BING! I’ve got mail.
Of course, you all know that the long tentacles of publishing don’t ever really let go, and so, as has been the case for the past twenty plus years, on the eve of my departure, the edited manuscript for my spring book A Good Man with a Dog—one that of course wants a quick turn-around—arrives in my “In” box. My suitcase is full of hiking gear, snowshoeing gear, and fancy city restaurant gear. Now it is also full of my desk–in the form of my trusty laptop. This reminds me that I’ve edited books on the beach during a quick escape to Bermuda. On the lanai on a trip to Florida. I’ve negotiated a book deal from the hotel business center in Bangkok. And now I will be editing a book at the elegant Huntington Hotel in San Francisco, and remembering that one of my Thea Kozak mysteries, An Educated Death, opens with Thea and Andre at The Clift just down the street.
I will also be pondering the future of my Joe Burgess series, because another BING! brought the news that Five Star is dropping their mystery line. What will be the fate of Burgess five, And Led Them Thus Astray?
Writers leave home to find new ideas, nurture our sense of observation, and to be reminded that this job is about being creative and curious. Walking trails in the wilderness and the stillness is a great time to think about plots and characters. We are also reminded that yes, magical and creative as it is, writing is a job, with deadlines and obligations we can never really get away from.
Meanwhile, it has snowed in Tucson and Sedona, and so perhaps it is good that I have lined, waterproof boots to slog through the mud and ice on my way to the Kachina Woman vortex. Where the world falls away as a man named Bob sits atop a red rock and plays his flute.