When I pondered our theme this month, summer vacations seen through a character's eyes, I realized that in all the 57 books for young readers that I've published so far in my life, I have taken a character on vacation exactly once, and that was in a book published in 1983.
Part of why I never write about vacations is that I specialize in school stories, and well, school is precisely when vacation isn't happening. But I also don't write about vacations because, heretical as this may seem, I don't really like vacations. Depending on how you define "vacation," it's been almost ten years since I've taken one. If a "vacation" is a trip taken just for fun, with no component of work or family obligation, my last was in 2007.
I've come to realize that I'm happiest when I have work combined with play, and play combined with work. I adore getting invited to give a talk at a conference and then savoring all the pleasures of the conference city while I'm there. I'm even happier if I can connect with old, dear friends on the trip or bring a family member along with me. My passion for productivity makes it the case that I really do feel most satisfied if I'm writing while I'm traveling, or researching a book, or giving a talk, or something. Just to stroll around aimlessly looking at stuff? It doesn't thrill me the way that multi-layered trips do.
So here I am, writing on the Great Wall of China on a trip in 2013, where I went to give a talk at a conference of American and Chinese children's literature scholars sponsored by Ocean University in Qingdao.