When I was in graduate school, a friend and I liked to have what we called “homework holidays.” No, these were not holidays from homework (I was far too in love with school to consider such a thing). A homework holiday involved taking our “homework” somewhere else. Rather than working at our own university library, we’d head over to a library at some other college, or the public library, anywhere fresh and new.
Part of my fun this summer is to have "writing holidays." No, not a holiday from writing, but a chance to take my writing "homework" somewhere completely different.
I'm spending six weeks right now as a faculty member in the wonderful graduate program in children's literature at Hollins University in Roanoke. The whole experience of being here is an extended holiday, even as I'm working as hard as I've ever worked, because I spend every minute of every day doing what I love, surrounded by other people who love it, too.
In the early morning I go for a five-mile walk around the perimeter of this idyllic, bucolic campus with two other writers, talking about our classes and works-in-progress while stopping to say hello to friendly horses already out to pasture.
I teach the seven super-smart, super-motivated students in my chapter book writing course on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9-12. I spend the rest of my time reading their work, discussing it with them one-on-one, attending guest lectures from speakers such as Han Nolan and Candace Fleming, and scribbling away frantically at two of my own books with looming due dates.
As part of my plan to have constant homework holidays within this larger extended homework holiday, I'm trying to write in as many different places as possible:
1. In a wooden rocking chair outdoors on the verandah of one of the buildings on the quad.
2) In the library's reading loft, reached by means of a tiny spiral staircase, where one reclines on silken pillows inspired by Arabian Nights fantasy.
3) On a cozy couch in the inviting little lounge in Swannanoa Hall, home of the creative writing program.
4) In the coffee shop Cups in the Grandin neighborhood of Roanoke, with a vanilla steamer close to hand.
Where else might I have a writing holiday while I'm here? Perhaps in the campus art museum? Or downtown Roanoke at an outdoor table during the Saturday farmers' market? Or with a picnic taken up to the Blue Ridge Mountains?
Later, when I re-read the chapters of my published book, I'll remember, "Oh, I wrote that one at Cups," or "I wrote that one on that sultry Sunday afternoon on the verandah." Writing somewhere else intensifies the sweetness of writing for me. And isn't summer the perfect season for that?