Travel and inspiration

Feb 22, 2012

On Monday I returned from a 9 day road trip, most of which I spent with family in Tennessee. What a whirlwind! Actually, I enjoy long driving trips on my own, partly for the opportunity to listen to books on CD (this time it was Michelle Cooper’s A Brief History of Montmaray), but also to do a little plotting on my own stories as I zip along the interstate.

Two encounters during my visit inspired a flurry of interstate plottings on the return trip:

1) When I told my dad about the characters and setting for a new story, he remarked that my main character would have been born about the same time as his mother — my dear 94-year-old grandmother, Ruby. That prompted me to ask Grandmother if she once again would share her photograph albums with me. (Looking at Grandmother’s photos has been a favorite activity of mine since early childhood.)

Fortunately, Great-grandfather Tippit was an avid photographer, so there are many photos of my grandmother as a baby, child and teenager. Here is one of my favorites:

Grandmother Ruby stands at the right with her sisters Dorothy (middle) and Mildred (left). Aren’t they charming? And check this out: a photo of Grandmother as a wee baby!

Lucky for me, my grandmother wrote (& self-published) her memoir several years ago, so I have easy access to details of her life growing up in the 30s. In fact, I am incredibly fortunate that both my grandmothers took the time to set down their memories in writing — not only does it help me understand them and feel closer to them, but they’ve provided lots of material for me to mine for stories! (In a respectful way, of course.)

2) When I visited my mom in Indian Mound, TN, I stayed at the Lylewood Inn Bed & Breakfast. Partly this was because my old bedroom in Mom’s attic is currently full of boxes and furniture, but mostly I wanted to check out this old house in order to flesh out yet another story idea.

The house you see here was built in 1892 on the foundations of an antebellum log house that burned to the ground in 1890. It perches on a hill above the Cumberland River, proud and lovely. You can almost see it preening, can’t you? It’s hard to believe I never knew this house existed until a few years ago. I grew up only 25 minutes away!

It was fun to listen to the owner as she shared stories of this house and the one that stood before it, mostly because all the while I was plotting an entirely different past and present for the house.

I hope one day you’ll see each of these stories on a library or bookstore shelf. Cross your fingers!

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