Tag Archive: Hemingway

A Tour is Born

#Merica Tour, Stories from the Road, Segment 2
(Click here for Segment 1)

I arrive at Mall of America’s The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and find there’s space at the bar for me and my wheeled suitcase, so I settle in as the petite, raspy-voiced bartender tells me she’ll make me an iced tea with some kind of peach vodka in it. I agree to it, and it’s one colossal peachy drink that I’d never order on my own and I love it immediately for that.A Tour is Born

I spend the afternoon eating shrimp cocktail with my peach drink and watching Forrest Gump on the bar TV. It’s amazing not to need to be anywhere and I soak in the feeling of “I’m exactly where I need to be.” I chat a little with the other bar patrons about their work and tell them I’m embarking on a road trip to see Trampled by Turtles in Colorado. They don’t know the band–which is a crime—but they tell me to go see the “giant ball of string,” which everyone adamantly says is in Kansas, Minnesota, and Iowa. Turns out, they’re all pretty much right. [Over the course of the next few days, I find out there’s the world’s largest/second largest ball of string (collected by one man), string (collected by a community), and twine, and they’re in Kansas, Iowa, and Minnesota.] Regardless, knowing my friend and travel companion, Brent, giant string is already on the itinerary along with a lot of other roadside attractions. Yes, with the uncanny and timely release of the newest Vacation movie into theaters, this is about to be a “Holiday Road” kind of trip.

Brent sends a message that he’s done with work and nearing the Mall. I pay my tab and head for the specified parking ramp. We meet up, hug, and finally say hello. It’s the first time in months that we’ve spoken out loud. Even planning this last-minute trip has all been done via message, and that has only added to the mystical nature of travel.

A Tour is BornWe head out to dinner, and he drives to the Surly Brewing Company in St. Paul, which is bustling with people between the main floor beer hall, the grassy courtyard outside, and the upstairs where a private party is going on.

We sidle up to the bar and he points out that one of the taps is labeled #Merica!

We guess that it’s a lager, and it is. We chat with the bartender about coconut porter made at the Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh and never mention our upcoming road trip. I’m wearing a Captain America t-shirt, and the bartender (and everyone else all day) calls me Captain. I feast on a fantastic smoked salmon salad and farro salad with poached egg and wash it down with the Cacao! Bender.

A Tour is BornWhen we finish dinner, Brent and I sit outside on the grassy knolls and watch people come and go with their beer. It’s a mixed crowd of after-office attire and pre-fall hipster layers mingling easily. I like this place.

We stare up at the big Surly sign and I say that we need a tour name. “We can’t just jump in the car without a name for the trip,” I say. Here we are, having cleared our work schedules for the week ahead, Brent from his code-writing job where he tells computers what to do, and me from my writing and waiting tables gigs, though truth be told, the writer brain never shuts off, and here we’ve no name for what we’re doing other than “road trip.” Writers name things. We need a name.

“What kind of name?” Brent asks.

“I don’t know,” I speculate. “The Great West Tour, or Trampled by Turtles or Bust, or…”

Brent smiles, “Or, the #Merica Tour,” he says. Brent has a way of getting right to the heart of things in very few words—he, and Hemingway. It’s too bad about Brent’s computer career thing because he’d be a great writer.

“The #Merica Tour,” I say. “That’s exactly it.”

And so it is.

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a blogger, poet, and traveler.


The Writer’s Bag of Tricks

I believe it was my favorite, Mr. Hemingway, who attempted to write absent of the tricks–which is one of the reasons why I love the man and his work. For the rest of us, there’s a bag of tricks, a toolbox (or an arsenal depending on your perspective), that we can reach into whenever we need a jumpstart. Different from full-blown writer’s block, or perhaps a lesser variation of it, getting stuck while writing is a common part of the process.photo

Sometimes all you need is a little knowhow to get back on your way again. These are but four examples from the bag of tricks:

4. When stuck, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” If you’re slogging through the writing, your readers will slog through the reading. Does all that need to happen, or is there a way to impart the information in smaller increments and sprinkle them throughout? Can you add them in through a conversation?

3. My friend and SciFi writer Mike Kalmbach recently said, “When I get stuck, I look back through the story I’m working on and I write in a door.” He went on to say that sometimes the door gets used, sometimes not. But writing yourself options is always a good idea.

2. Some writers jump to a different part of the story—a scene they can clearly see in their minds–and write it out. Then they work on connecting this new writing to the place they originally left off. There’s comfort in this approach, not only in “writing what you know,” but in seeing those scenes completed, which goes a long way to building confidence to finish the trickier parts.

1. A bit like the perspective change above, some writers prefer to write the scenes toward the end of the book and working their way backwards to the beginning. Especially when writing mystery, this trick can work very well indeed. Some writers prefer more of a physical perspective change: writing from a different location, or even taking a moment to stretch out on the floor—literally, seeing from more of a dog’s eye view—to bring fresh eyes to a writing project.

The goal, ultimately, is to get the writing to happen. Perhaps, with great practice, we can all get to Hemingway’s “one true sentence” absent of all the tricks.
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

Little Gems

Most people are downright fascinating. Their speech patterns and mannerisms, especially when discussing things they’re passionate about, make for great study. This is precisely why some writers love to sit in cafés, bars, and restaurants as quiet observers with a notebook and pencil in hand.   photo-4

Good dialogue is the way people actually talk, not the way books tell you we talk. Listen to the word choice, the cadence, the changing tones, and hesitations. Watch for body movements, quirky ticks, and facial expressions. When you least expect it, someone will say something absolutely amazing, and these quotes can pave the way for great ideas to flow. Some gems I collected over the years:

“I’m not a safe person to know if you crave mental health.”
–K.B., said with a large spoon in one hand and a giant bowl of popcorn in the other

“Sometimes you have to call bullshit for what it is: Bullshit.”
–S.B., after a long day at work

“A nice, soothing game of checkers turned into a wild game of hockey as the night neared its end.”
–S.T.E, in college

“Prepare yourselves.”
–H., in Jerusalem

“Not bad for Armitrons.”
–total stranger

So grab your notebook and head to the nearest clean, well-lighted place. There’s work to be done!


As always, UDK is on Amazon.

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