Tag: traveling

July 16, 2017

 

What would Lord of the Rings be without Mordor or the Shire? Harry Potter without Hogwarts? Wall Street without NYC? The Originals without New Orleans? Friday Night Lights without Texas? Ocean’s Eleven without Vegas?

 

I’ll stop.

 

Point is, these settings are iconic. In some cases, even more so than the characters that traverse them.

 

There are hundreds of world-building questionnaires online, but the absolute best thing you can do to learn how to create unique and iconic settings is travel. (Me, recommending traveling? Shocking!)

 

And although travel unfortunately doesn’t allow you to actually live at Hogwarts (though you can try your best in Orlando!), it does let you experience some of the most extraordinary places the real world has to offer.

 

 

Dedicated research can tell you a lot about a city, but culture begs to be felt and experienced. Google Maps can show you the street view of a location, Yelp can show you the menus of the city’s best restaurant, and Instagram can show you the pictures the locals take. But that’s all they can do: show. TV, books, and the internet can’t help you taste the food, can’t let you smell the air, touch the water or the grass, or talk with the people. They don’t allow you to form your own opinions or make your own judgments through experience.

 

So, then, what shapes culture? Food, music, weather, religious and political views, racial and sexual diversity, history, architecture, language and dialect, customs, wealth disparity, fashion, urban vs. rural, work and industry, leisure and entertainment, sports, arts, lifestyle. On and on and on it can go.

 

 

But you don’t have to travel far and away. Just the next state over, the next city, the next town, down the road. If none of that works, look at where you live. Pretend it’s your first time ever seeing the architecture and the landscape. The first time you tried a local restaurant or coffee shop. The language spoken and their accents. Is it busy or quiet, quaint or hustling? Do the people smile, are they in a hurry, do they keep their heads down? What would you tell someone visiting for the first time, in order to truly experience where you live? What makes your home special? What do you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel? What’s something you’d have to live there to know, that a day-trip alone can’t explain?

 

It’s easy to become blind to the places we live, to take for granted its specialness, its beauty (and, sometimes, its ugliness). Travel allows us to escape this pitfall. To write unbiased and honestly and to create.

 

 

Mark Twain once said there were only four unique cities in the U.S.: Boston, New Orleans, San Antonio, and San Francisco. While I think travel anywhere positively influences writing, and while some may debate Twain’s four cities, there’s a reason some places are more iconic than others. (Re: Hogwarts. Also, please, send me my letter, JKR, I don’t mind that it’s fourteen years late.)

 

While part of world-building focuses on realism, creating a city just like your own doesn’t necessarily make it iconic.

 

Here, too, travel helps.

 

It helps you distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary. Between the things worth noticing and the items worth stopping for. To quote Mark Hertsgaard: “Travel is like knowledge. The more you see, the more you know you haven’t seen.”

 

And that allows imaginations to run wild.

 

So go forth and travel and explore, and create worlds all your own.

December 28, 2016

 

Once Upon A Time, when I was a young Kate Cavanaugh (~20, to be more precise), I had just graduated college and started my first full-time, corporate job. At this ripe age, I decided it was time to look forward, to when I would be much wiser, much more experienced, and much closer to “having it all figured out.”

 

This meant a combination of what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, where I wanted to live, etc., etc.

 

Life, basically.

 

So I decided to create a list. A list of 25 things that I would have accomplished by the time I turned 25. “25×25” is what I wrote down at the top of the first page of my new notebook, some four years ago.

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A few things to note:

1) My perspective on goals has changed entirely since creating this list. I’m a much bigger fan of building habits, and think they need to be considered right alongside your goals when brainstorming. More on that in early 2017…

2) Now that I am almost 25, the idea that anyone could “have it all figured out” sounds simultaneously asinine and hilarious. I’m no closer to understanding life than I was before, but I think I’m much better now at enjoying it and loving myself. That seems like a Win in my book.

3) I still love lists.

 

All that being said, in honor of the New Year, I figured it was time to revisit my 25×25 list. For your amusement and mine, here are the serious/weird things I thought would be good to have accomplished by the time I turned 25, with notes from Present Me:

 

25×25

(Can we start with how smart I was for creating groupings ahead of time? Man, I love lists. Strikethroughs indicate completion. Red means I ABSOLUTELY, in no universe, this one or a slightly similar alternate, see this being completed before I turn 25.)

 

“SKILLS”: (Quotes added now.)

 

1) Be fluent in Spanish.

I try, succeed for a few months, and then ultimately fail at learning Spanish. Repeat ad nauseum. Fingers crossed this is still achievable, though I may fudge on that “fluency” bit. Shout out to Duolingo for trying its best to remind me every day, even if I ignore the notification.

 

2) Learn metallurgy/welding/jewelry making.

Why? Because I think I could make something pretty. 🙂 I more/less have the jewelry bit down, though I’d like to get a bit better before I cross anything off. I don’t entirely trust myself around an open flame so why I thought welding would be a good idea is beyond me.

 

3) Try meditating/yoga seriously.

Apparently yoga is not for me. I fall asleep. But still! I tried! Meditation, on the other hand, is great, and though I don’t practice regularly, I do when I feel the need. Check out Headspace for help getting started.

 

4) Have submitted for publication/be published.

I love how I thought it would be so easy. Overcoming the self-doubt is a challenge itself, but I think I’m closer closer than ever to submitting a query. That’s another post for another day.

 

5) Paint something to use as my own wall art.

Is it cheating if I went to Painting With a Twist to accomplish this? Oh well, I do have it on my wall!

 

6) Run the Disney Princess Half Marathon.

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I believe the “skill” here is the actual half-marathon, which I did twice! But this was one of the most fun races I’ve ever been part of and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. RunDisney FTW! (I’m Disneybounding as Ariel, above. You’re forgiven for not recognizing it, because at that point I was mostly just sweaty.)

 

7) Learn how to cook one full-course meal.

I crossed this out about two years ago, with no notes, so I’m not sure what full-course meal I believed I could make. If stretched, I feel confident enough to Google a few recipes and I’m great at desserts.

 

8) Thoroughly research my heritage.

And I have a million genealogy trees to prove it. Next step is to visit all the different places my family is from. 😉

 

9) Learn Krav Maga/some other form of self-defense.

I have always been a weakling at best, much more apt to outrun a foe, and at almost-25 that still hasn’t changed. There’s some time left, though!

 

10) Know how to change a tire.

This feels like it should be basic car knowledge but guess who never learned? Guess who’s had this as a goal for years, and still hasn’t learned? This girl!

 

11) Grow my own strawberry garden.

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Strawberries are, unequivocally, the best fruit (and Kaylee from Firefly agrees with me). And they can be grown in relatively small containers! Perfect for apartment living. I’ve done all the research, the next step is to plant. (In case you’re curious, you should freeze the seeds for a week or so first. Helps them grow!)

 

TRAVEL:

 

12) Go back to Europe.

I’m angling to go to Scotland at the start of the summer. Now it’s just a matter of those dolla dolla bills.

 

13) Go to Australia.

I went to Australia AND New Zealand (with a fascinating layover in Fiji) this May! And it was just as amazing as I always hoped it to be. Actually, it was better. I have high hopes to return someday, and soon.

 

14) Sit down at a poker table and play in Vegas.

I did not win.

 

15) Go to ComicCon AND have created my own costume.

What a distinction! Maybe this should have been lumped under skills? I mean, “skills”?

 

16) Go to the Renaissance Festival in Texas.

Truly I’ve never seen anything like it. So many talented people, and so many drunks. (Can you guess which I was?)

 

17) Visit Harry Potter World.

Butterbeer, butterbeer, butterbeer. This is the only part of Universal I visited. One day I’ll go back and, you guessed it, have more butterbeer. (I’ve made my own and it’s just not quite the same without the backdrop of Hogsmeade. But it’s still delicious.)

 

ACTIVITIES:

 

18) Swim with dolphins.

BECAUSE HOW FUN WOULD THAT BE? Dolphins were my favorite animal for years (alongside cheetahs). No specifications on if I could just be in the ocean and SEE the dolphins, but I haven’t had that happen yet either.

 

19) Buy a house/condo.

Houses are expensive. Condos only just less so. Either way, my slightly-younger-than-25 still sees a lot of plusses to rent life, and that’s what it will be for the next few years.

 

20) Try speed-dating.

Why? Why did I decide this was a good idea? I must have just watched a movie and thought it looked fun. Regardless, it’d be an experience! (Or “activity.”)

 

21) Get my tattoo.

I’ve had the same idea for a tattoo since I was in eighth grade. I’d personally love to partner with an artist to come up with the exact design, and it just hasn’t happened yet. Maybe I’ll make it my birthday present to me!

 

22) Ride a mechanical bull.

I live in Texas, so this should be more easy than hard, I just need to walk into any country bar.

 

23) See a psychic/fortune teller.

Do I believe in psychics? No. Do I want to write a story with a psychic as a side character? Yes. Do I think this would provide not only great research opportunities, but also all of the entertainment? Absolutely. The problem is that I want to do this right, and not just go to the second floor of a Magic Time Machine, so I need to do more research.

 

24) Go to a shooting range.

I want to feel the pow-ah, in a very controlled environment, and then probably never again.

 

25) Go paint-balling.

THIS WOULD BE SO MUCH FUN. Like a better version of a shooting range, because it has fun colors and I can beat my friends. 😉

 

If you’re counting and/or calculating, I have completed a whopping 36% of my 25×25 list by crossing through 9 skill and travel goals. If I want to seriously complete this list – to the best of my abilities – it shouldn’t be too hard to dig deep into that “activity” section. The only thing it may cost is a little bit of money and a whopping amount of pride (looking at you, mechanical bull!).

 

Regardless, this list has been fun, I just no longer expect it to be anything more than that.

 

Do you have any goals to reach before you hit a certain age? Or, have you ever reached the age you promised your younger self you would have accomplished something? Let me know!

September 1, 2016

Will I reference Disney again before this post is done? Probably.

If you haven’t ventured over to the About Me section, and you’re extra confused about who I am and what I do and you’re wondering “why do you even have a blog?” then this post is for you! If you have read my bio and you’re just curious where the best place to get bubble tea is because you, too, have an addiction verging on the unhealthy, then this post is also for you!

The quick and easy version is I’m an aspiring author. I’m also a lot of other things, but the writer-bit is why I created this blog.

See, for years (a decade, even), I’ve wanted to be a professional writer. In fact, in researching for this blog post, I found the first time I ever wrote “The End” on a story. It was Harry Potter fanfiction when I was in the seventh grade. I still remember this story in great detail and it can actually be found floating around on the internet, but I think I’ll keep its whereabouts secret for now.

(I’m not alone in testing out the waters in the ocean that is writing with fanfiction. Meg Cabot, The Queen of YA – well, one of them, if we can allow a kind of Polyarchy of YA – says that she first began writing with Star Wars fanfiction.)

But I quickly learned that there was more to writing life than just fanfiction because of NaNoWriMo. It’s been a yearly ritual for me ever since to ‘compete’ each November — but more on that later.

With several NaNoNovels behind me, my writing life changed when I got into college. Instead of keeping my writing a secret from everyone besides my family and closest friends (I mistakenly told a doctor that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up and they laughed at me and said they hoped I had a back-up plan…I was twelve.), I joined the local writing group and then, with the help of a few people I met through that group, formed an on-campus writing organization through the university! That group is still trucking along, amassing more members than I ever saw from the two years I led it, and I couldn’t be happier.

We’re almost coming to the present day, so I’ll keep this bit short. I graduated with a more technical degree and worked at a Fortune 100 company for three years as an Account Manager. The best way I can summarize this time period is “fine and occasionally fun” but ultimately not what I wanted out of life.

So now I’m a full-time writer! And I’m hoping within the next couple years, I can change that to  “Published Author.” I’ve completed five first-drafts of stories, but the editing process is still something of a mystery to me. This blog will be a documentation of all the trials and tribulations (and successes and joys!) I experience on the road to publication.

Now, given that I just wrote about ten paragraphs above, all centered on writing, you can guess that this blog will focus on that. But! It will also focus on books I’ve read (because writers love to read!) and places I’ve been to! I’m a huge fan of traveling and have at least one overseas trip planned in the next year and four different trips to The Place Where Dreams Come True in the next five months! (I know, I know, I’m obsessed.)

Enough about me! If you’re a YA reader, who is your Queen or King? And if you’re a writer, is publishing your dream goal? Leave a comment or feel free to email me and let me know!

(By the way, the best place to get bubble tea in San Antonio is Tealicious!)