I’m over at the AWP Writer talking about the reasons why I travel. Below, an excerpt. You can read the full piece here.
Any kind of travel can lead to those discoveries that fuel my writing, even the sometimes-arduous book tour. In the streets of Milwaukee I heard the story of his late and second romance from a writer I’d not seen in years. I keep returning to that moment now, in the way we writers poke around a small evidence of truth that could be converted to bolster fiction; I think of the way he spoke, the fear and joy apparent, and I imagine his new love, his grown son, these people I do not know. That same writer introduced me to the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Burke Brise Soleil, the 217-foot long “wings” that open and close over the building. It is a spectacle that I know will surface in a story if not as itself, then as an echo. In Atlanta, Georgia, in between the flights book-ending my twenty-four-hour visit, I went over to the Ebenezer Baptist Church and found myself in the middle of a Men’s Day where I heard the hall reverberating with the voice of John Hope Bryant, holding up the importance of action over pontification, and declaring that PhDs don’t have anything on PhDos! I gathered story seedlings all morning long, offered up in the warm smiles and handshakes, in the averted glance and bent heads, in the light reflecting off the blue infinity pool at the King Center. In Seattle I lost the blight of my East Coast myopia and thereby discovered a whole new American city that I had not known existed. A city where on any given day multiple venues fill up with audiences for readings, where some of my favorite artists first performed, and where sits the best bookstore in the whole country.