A writer friend came for lunch today. You’d think we were storming a dragon’s lair rather than sharing a casual, weekday get-together. So it goes in the age of COVID.
She navigated the uneven stairs to the back of the house, wrestled with my fussy side gate and dressed her artful salad outside—all while wearing a mask. I finished heating up the excellent chicken curry my husband had made the day before, placed some lime slices on cut-up melon and put the rhubarb ginger crisp in the oven before donning my own mask and carrying the food down a flight of steep stairs to a space where we could spread out.
Six feet apart and maskless at last, we reminisced about where we’d traveled in past summers and where we’d travel now if we could. I’d return to Venice; she’d go to Northern Spain. (We left unsaid that we wouldn’t be allowed into either of those countries right now.)
Taking turns to transfer the carefully arranged layers of vegetables and blossoms fresh-picked from her garden to our plates, we talked about the inventive food, the otherworldly sights, and mysterious strangers from past travels that were “like a fairy-tale.”
I suppose you could say we’re in a fairy tale now. Stuck in our East Bay bubble is akin to being locked in Rapunzel’s tower or kept behind Sleeping Beauty’s briars. It’s not that it’s so bad inside our confines. But we remember other less-familiar places and long for the shock of the new. So, who will be the dashing prince who comes to our rescue?
Shy of an immediate vaccine (unlikely), I’m counting on books set in faraway places (like Green Water, Green Sky—set in Venice and the next #APSTogether virtual book club pick). More importantly, I’m hopping on the magic carpet ride of my own imagination. For the past ten weeks I’ve been working on a new novel and relishing the excitement that comes with exploring a foreign country—even if it’s all in my mind.
What once was just a vague idea in a notebook is now alive with people, structures, sights, smells and sounds. The research into times and places has been as enjoyable as reading a travel guidebook to plan a long-anticipated trip.
I’ve fleshed out the strengths of my two protagonists and uncovered their greatest fears—much like taking the introductory open-air bus tours in a new city as well as the after-dark underground ghost rambles.
My nails are ragged from typing and my brain cells blistered from all the “what-if’s”, but over time I’ve developed some world-building stamina. Thanks to the helpful direction of my tour guide, writing coach Caroline Donahue and camaraderie of my writing workshop colleagues, I have every confidence that I’ll be writing The End by the end of August.
When I look back on the summer of 2020, I’ll say it was “just like a fairytale.” And I’ll have a helluva scrapbook to share with the world
Kathryn Pritchett writes about strong women forged in the American West. To interact with her and the other Paper Lantern Writers, join us in our Facebook group SHINE, on Instagram, and Twitter.