Been There, Done That

I don’t often participate in blog tags, but since this particular post by one of my favorite bloggers was about travel, I decided to join up. So here are the questions, and my answers, all about what a jaded world traveler I may or may not be:

Which countries have you visited so far?

Assuming this does not include airports (therefore I cannot put Germany on this list), then I have visited England, Norway, Iceland, and Costa Rica. And West Virginia, which some in my part of the USA might consider to be a foreign country, but that’s a different topic.

A lovely little stream in the woods in southern Norway. It looks a lot like West Virginia, actually.

A lovely little stream in the woods in southern Norway. It looks a lot like West Virginia, actually.

Which destination is at the top of your bucket list? In other words: where do you REALLY want to go some day?

I have a long travel wish list! But some of top ones are Finland, Ireland, Faroe Islands, and Canada.

What is your most ideal vacation (beach, shopping trip, cultural holidays, etc)? Continue reading

A Traveler’s Moment of Reflection

Sometimes it’s the little things that grab your attention.

There are the famous museums and the great monuments. Every city, town, and country road has its own uniqueness, its glamor both great and small. Sometimes those small bits of glamor capture your senses, and come to define a place in your mind long after you have left. When I went to Iceland I found such a moment – not in the vast verdant wilderness of the country, but behind a gas station in the middle of the city.

I passed by this gas station every evening on my way back to where I was staying. Behind the gas station and convenience store was a little garden. Beyond that, a walking trail led around a lake (or perhaps an inlet of the bay.) I never explored the extent of the trail, or even the depths of the garden, because I only ever came to this place in darkness or at sunset.

The statue of the boy in the garden was a dark silhouette against the sunset. I couldn’t read the Icelandic plaque, even if there had been enough light. I wondered how many lives passed through this garden every day – jogging on the trail along the water’s edge, or enjoying a snack from the gas station. I wondered whose life had inspired the statue.

Here, at this serene spot of glamor in the middle of a city, I found a sight that captured my mind. I had many wonderful experiences in Iceland, and I look forward to going there again for more. But this little stone boy at sunset will always be Iceland to me.

~Oct5 171

Found Words – Names and Places

I like words. Words are everywhere. We may ignore them – their placement, their meaning. We ignore their very presence. But every word that is placed somewhere, that is found, has a purpose and a meaning.

Everyone and every thing has a name. And every name a meaning.

014_

 

We see this as art and we admire it. But do we appreciate the words? Do we find these words in our lives?

101_

 

Subtle words, easy to miss.

100_

 

Every place has its words, unique and waiting.

084_

 

Where have you found words?

What International Travel has taught me about English

English is my native language, and I’m very grateful that my mother tongue is basically the Latin of the 21st century – the language of universal commerce. I say grateful because I always want to keep an attitude of humility when it comes to the global dominance of my language. I never want to be one of those travelers who, upon arriving on a foreign shore, arrogantly expects the locals to speak English and is offended when they don’t. I appreciate every person in another country who does speak English to me, and I usually try to learn at least a greeting or a thank you in the local language.

I’m far from being a seasoned traveler, but my experiences both overseas and with foreigners in America has taught me a few things about my beloved English.

Normal conversational speech is way too fast. And I’m from the American South where we taaaalk….reeaall…sloooow. If you’re in a non-English-speaking nation, or talking to a local at home who is still learning English, slow it down. Whatever you think is absurdly slow is probably still a little fast, especially if the other person’s English is very poor. And be sure to annunciate each word. We all tend to mumble and blend our words in the comfort of our mother tongue. A side note: resist the urge to shout. The other person knows English as a second, third, or fourth language – their hearing is probably fine. I tend to be soft spoken, so I’m not usually a shouter, but if I have to repeat myself several times, I do remind myself to speak slower and clearer, not necessarily louder.

Don’t judge or correct. If someone says something to me that makes grammatical sense but not contextual sense, I ask for clarification about the word that I think they might have misused. Asking for clarification or explanation is a more polite way of letting the non-English speaking person know that they goofed. Nobody likes to embarrassed, even if they made a legitimate mistake. By using this technique, I’ve often had the other person admit they probably used the wrong word and ask me for help. It’s much nicer to be asked to help someone with their English than to be the language police making corrections all the time. Also, whenever I’m tempted to judge someone’s English or get impatient, I ask myself how well I would do at talking to them in their language. Since I know far less Norwegian/Chinese/Farsi/etc. than they know English, I choose to be grateful that they’re trying to communicate with me at all.

English is hard. Grammar and spelling rules, exceptions to those rules, different pronunciations for the same letter combinations… Even us native speakers – and yes, even us grammar nerds – have trouble remembering all the rules and conventions of English. Yes, every language has its quirks and inconsistencies, but most everyone agrees that English is near the top of the list of difficult to learn. I’m always appreciative when someone has taken the time and mental effort to learn English, even just a little bit. Again, if I ever catch myself growing impatient with a non-native speaker’s improper use of sentence structure – like saying “You is” or something – I remind myself that I likely couldn’t do half that well in their language. And again, I keep an attitude of gratitude. I’m thankful and humbled that I was born into an English speaking culture. Not because English is better than other languages, but because I’m blessed that one of the complex languages of the world today comes naturally to me.

My Favorite Blogs

They say writers are readers. I agree. I also think that a blogger should be a reader of other blogs. I usually blog about writing, travel, and music, and I read many blogs about similar things. So this post is a highlight (and promo) for four of my favorite blogs.

I’d Rather be in Iceland 

This blogger writes about everything from camping beside waterfalls to Icelandic chocolate. I’m a fan of anything Nordic, and I was reading Eva’s blog long before I took my first trip to Iceland. In fact, reading this blog and communicating with the blogger herself helped me a lot with my own traveling. I’ve also had the honor of writing a couple of posts on her blog.

The Magic Violinist

This is another blog where I’ve had the honor of guest-posting. Kate’s blog is a fun bookish blog with reviews of new YA fiction, writing tips, blog hops, and book memes. She’s young and super talented, and is starting early with her social media networking and platform-building. And her posts are good, too!

Helping Writers Become Authors

This is another writing blog. K.M. Weiland offers a lot of in-depth posts about plot, characters, themes, and everything in between. Her posts always make me think about my own writing in a way I hadn’t before – whether it’s my novel writing, or my blog writing.

Journey out of the Abyss

This blog is a little different from most of my regular reads. The blogger, Ashley, is a friend of mine, but the content of this blog stands on its own. She writes about her journey of overcoming a life of abuse, addiction, and self-harm. Many of the posts aren’t always pleasant – they’re real and raw, but full of truth and hope. I can’t help but feel compassion for Ashley and anyone else who has suffered similar circumstances. Compassion, I believe, is something that can help add depth to anyone’s writing because it adds depth to you as a person.

What are some of your favorite blogs and why?

Looking Back, Looking Forwards

Like so many others at this time of year, I find myself musing on the past and dreaming of the future. I thought I’d share a few reflections of 2013, and what I’d like to see myself accomplishing this coming year.

Highlights of 2013:

-I got to see one of my favorite singers, Eivør, live in concert. Definitely a dream come true – especially since the concert was not only here in the US (unusual for her touring schedule), but a mere two hours from my house.

-I made my first official submission and got my first official rejection. I submitted a short story to a fantasy anthology, and it was rejected. I was very excited about this, because even if I decide to self-publish my novels rather than trying for agents or publishers, I wanted to get some submission experience under my belt.

-I took a trip to Iceland. It was my first trip to that country, and also my first solo traveling experience. I loved the city, the country, and the culture, and I know that I grew a lot from the experience of being all alone in a foreign country.

-I wrote several guest posts for other blogs. It’s exciting to see my writing featured on other websites besides my own blog, and hopefully I’ve added value to the readers of those blogs.

Goals for 2014:

-I want to go back to Iceland – specifically for the Iceland Writers Retreat. Networking with other writers in the land of the Nordic Sagas would be more than awesome.

-I want to finish the first book of my fantasy trilogy. My original goal was to have the second round of rewrites and edits done by the end of 2013. That did not happen. So 2014 will be the year to finish the edits, get it off to my beta readers, and at least begin the publication process.

-I want to get something published. Whether it’s the fantasy novel, a short story, or even getting paid to write a blog post, I want to have a published piece of work to my name before the end of this year.

-I want to read more. Writers need to be readers; and while I of course love reading, I didn’t do much of it this past year. I had a rather short to-read list for 2013, and I didn’t get through very many of them. You can track my reading habits on Goodreads, if you like – and I want to post more books on my profile this year than last.

Now I’d love to hear your thoughts! Did you have any goals accomplished or dreams realized in 2013? What do you have planned for 2014?