Monday, September 28, 2009

On the Road Again

The school visit season is entering into full swing, and I'm trying to keep momentum going on my new novel, coordinating with teachers and librarians about what I'll be doing at their schools, figuring out how to do laundry efficiently on the road, and, most of all, trying to work out where I'm going.

I always ask for directions to the school, and I've gotten quite a collection of interesting responses over the years. One teacher told me to turn at the corner where the gas station used to be. When I asked her what I'd see now, since the gas station was no longer there, she gave me a street name to turn on. Unfortunately, that was the nickname used by people whose great-greats had been born in that town, not the name that was currently on the street sign.

Even more interesting was the time that I received directions a week before a school visit, only to find they led me straight into a road closure, and a detour that vaguely directed me into a woods, and never led me out of them. I had to backtrack until I found a different road that led me to an interstate that brought me into town the long way. When I asked the teacher how long the detour had been there, she said the road had been closed since the previous year, but she'd forgotten about it when she told me to come that way.

Just this week I received directions to drive on one road for 36 miles, then turn north and cross the railroad tracks. No mention of what road number or street name I'm supposed to turn on. I certainly hope that both my odometer and her measurement of 36 miles are accurate, and I actually find the right road and, ultimately, the school.

Apparently, everyone feels that where they live is so familiar to them, that anyone coming to visit must pick up on their local street nicknames or demolished landmarks by osmosis. Perhaps I don't think that way because, as a writer, I need to describe settings that readers haven't seen before in my books. Perhaps I run into problems simply because I'm geographically challenged. While I would never mistake North for South on a road (thanks to the compass in my car), I feel confident that I could certainly cross railway tracks at the wrong place without a street name (preferably the current and correct street name).

As I pack up my presentation materials and load the car to take my act on the road for the next two weeks, I'm certainly hoping that I'm able to find the nine schools, one library, and one Book Festival site where I'm supposed to speak, plus all the hotels along the way. I'm quite sure the experience will be an adventure.

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