In years past when my husband and I took longer vacations, I always brought a notebook and pen with me but seldom used it. (After all, it was a vacation!) However, through the years I was able to use my travel experiences for a number of stories and articles.
In 1988, we were fortunate enough to lease a condo in Hawaii (Maui) for 2 weeks, and we were thrilled to be going to this “island paradise.” However, when we arrived, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t much different, I didn’t think, from the beach areas of Southern California. But we did enjoy our time there, and one of the highlights was sailing to the island of Molokai. I later wrote about this day trip and my thought about our whole Hawaii experience in an article titled “Discovering the Aloha Spirit,” which was published in Our Family and later reprinted (at their request!) in Catholic Digest.
Another day trip, by boat, was to the tiny island of Lanai. While we were there. I took part in a fun class on the ancient Hawaiian art of folding palm fronds to resemble fish. Once home, I applied this newly-learned skill to other materials, especially shiny gift wrap ribbon, to make different small crafts, such as pins and party favors. Luckily, the next year was the 50th anniversary of the statehood of Hawaii, but unknown to me, CRAFTS magazine (to whom I had sold original designs before) had planned a 4-page article with a Hawaiian theme. When I sent them my ideas, they snapped them up and featured them in full color!
In 1996, I visited a friend in Ohio, and we spent 3 days touring the nearby Amish country, something I’d always wanted to do. I was intrigued by the Amish people and their simple yet rewarding way of life. Soon after I returned, I attened the SCBWI summer conference and met the editor of Guideposts for Kids ( a wonderful publication that is now, sadly, out of print.) She was enthusiastic about the idea of a short story for kids located in the Amish country and describing their way of life and asked me to send it to her as soon as possible. At that point, I had no idea what I was going to write, but I brainstormed with my friend, Marilyn Donahue. Back at home, I read a number of books that further explained the Amish and their daily life. I then wrote “The Day I Watched TV,” and sent it off. This story appeared in the September/October, 1998, issue of GP4K, and it was my first acceptance in the children’s field!
A few years later, when I was writing 5-part, serialized, stories for the Los Angeles Times, I received my rights back from GP4K, and re-wrote this story to their format, calling it “Plain and Simple.” In both instances with this Amish country story, the illustrations matched my expectations perfectly!
So, even though I didn’t actually write anything on these vacations, they did give me an abundance of material for many different pieces that I later enjoyed writing and, of course, seeing in print. An added perk was that, since I sold these stories, articles and crafts, I was able to take my travel expenses as an income tax deduction! A win-win situation, for sure.
Contributed by Marjorie Flathers