An Epic California Journey

August 28, 2018

It’s been an inward year of going to work and staying home and not much else, really — partly out of necessity, and partly as a matter of antisocial self-care. A combination of garden-variety life issues and the unceasing steamroller of outrageous politics has rather cast a pall over my mental state in 2018; I just haven’t had the spoons to fill up my schedule beyond the bare essentials. But over the last few weeks I burst out of my shell, for a change, and even by the standards of an average year — let alone this one — it’s been eventful lately, thanks to a long, awesome trip.

Recently I spent eleven days in Northern California, combining a quick work trip with a week-long vacation across the Bay Area. The work visit went smoothly, a productive, pleasant two days in San Jose, meeting colleagues old and new; the only downside was the scorching haze of wildfire smoke choking the air. But on Friday my vacation began in earnest, and boy was I ever overdue for one. After a quick overnight stay with my Clarion pal and Futurismic co-conspirator Jeremy in Sunnyvale, I headed down to Santa Cruz for a quiet weekend of writing, unwinding, and clean, cool air. It was my first trip to this relaxed, fun beach town and I enjoyed the heck out of it, mostly tooling around by myself between the hotel and downtown. But I also got some quality time with my friends Nicole and Andrew, whom I joined for dinners, drinks, and great conversation. It was here the three of us saw the amazing Sorry to Bother You, and I was also excited to pick up a copy of my friend Lauren’s first novel at Bookshop Santa Cruz. (It’s called Implanted and you should all go out and buy it!)

Then on Monday, Nicole and I drove up to Pescadero where our online writer’s group had rented a house for a writer’s retreat. The house was huge, weird, and kind of amazing, with an impressive view overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The next three days consisted of food, drink, writing, and shop talk with some of my favorite writer friends in the world. This gang has kept me focused and sane through my darker writing moments over the last couple of years, and indeed their proximity worked its magic. I got my current novel, a near-future conspiracy thriller, back on track to the tune of 3,600 words and it’s now chugging along toward the finish line. Especially these days, those are solid word counts for me, and it turned out to be a breakthrough session. Unfortunately one of our members couldn’t make it — we missed you, Sandra! — but overall it was an exceptional retreat.

The view from my bedroom in Pescodero

On Thursday, though, the vacation kept on coming. Most of us trekked back over to San Jose for the 76th annual World Science Fiction Convention. Jenn flew down from Portland for this and we checked into the Fairmont for a three-night stay. Over the next four days, we prowled the hotel lobbies and streets of downtown San Jose in search of food, drink, and even more writers. (I even went over to the convention center once or twice.) I caught up with more friends and acquaintances than I can count, as well as meeting some great new folks, and I’m also pretty certain I missed a fuckton of other people I would have loved to see. My introvert social anxiety nerves were pretty well scorched by the end of the week, but I wouldn’t change a thing about the trip.

Overall, ’twas a wonderful week of travel: a chance to reconnect with my far-and-wide social circles and recharge my creative batteries after a difficult, hard-working year. I’d do well to remember, when the struggles of my writing career are getting me down, that for all the publishing industry’s frustrations, it’s the process of pursuing a fiction-writing career that has brought me the most joy — and into contact with many of the best people I’ve ever known. Time once again to re-learn the age-old lesson: it’s the journey, not the destination. I need to let myself do this kind of thing more often.

L-R: Sara Mueller, Nicole Feldringer, Fran Wilde, Lauren Teffeau, Kelly Lagor, me, Chris Gerwel