Six Hours, Eight Minutes & 2,858 Miles—The Length of Time To Tell The Truth

When I began my novel, one of the first questions I answered to myself was where my story would take place. Ultimately Washington State seemed the best choice for the setting of my novel. To those I shared my story’s premise I’ve defended my choice, always feeling confident in the real locations of Seattle, Bremerton and Bainbridge Island Washington.

Picture of my online researching

This was, of course, until I was reduced to a bumbling tourist when the receptionist at the Bremerton police station asked ‘Why here, why my city?” For the first time in my travels and writing adventures I was stumped on how to answer this seemly simple question. Now, I’ve answered this many times over, but somehow needing to answer her, a native to the very place i was writing about, colored the matter differently.

Obviously, It was a valid question. What could possibly be the motivator for a 30 something-year-old Puerto Rican woman from New York City, who had never been anywhere near the Northwest travel 3,000 miles to this wet vastly green and other worldly place? Why not create a fictional world, perhaps resembling a “somewhere” but primarily imagined?

The short answer: I wanted a small town or city that could be in a sense isolated from the world, both in distance to Seattle but also within it’s natural landscape. I wanted a working class community that had areas with socioeconomic issues. Each of these things needed to be overshadowed by a large city within its direct view (Seattle).

It was through preliminary research and general knowledge of Seattle that lead for me to believe Washington State could be the perfect setting for my story.

With the help of Google Maps, online photos and movies showing me the topography of the western Olympic Mountains and the eastern Cascade Range I saw how the area seemed like an eden sandwiched between their peaks. This capsule of land masses contain deep blue bodies of water, lush parks and forests, rich farming and food communities. Each of these things seemed to be intertwined within a rich Native American and Navel Military history. All the amenities of the region perfectly served the narrative in my story.

Naturalism in Literature & Pathetic Fallacy

Why is the location, whether imagined or chosen even important? I believe the physical location or world within a story can play a role in the daily functions and actions of the characters. If you delve a little deeper it can be used as the external force that shapes your character behavior, pushing the story forward. Your setting can be another cue to your character’s personality, their conflicts or the current state/future that will be foretold. For example: If you create the world within your story as a barren place, devoid of resources, it can be reflective of the internal and emotional support your character may be lacking.

The “Real” Reason Why I Chose Washington State: Each of the locations and settings are naturalistic representations of my characters. They mirror each of their hopes, desires and regrets.

  • Seattle “ The Big Cityis the dark harshness of life, poverty, violence and filth. Each of these things is reminiscent of his past and family, all the things he is running from. Of course this is where the challenge is met, where family and love comes from the very place he despises.
  • Bremerton represents the hard working civil servant he is. It is the distance he has found and creates for his son, away from the pain and hurt of his family.
  • The mountain ranges are the ruggedness and harshness he carries within himself along with the beauty he exudes during his happiest moments.
  • Bainbridge Island is the false tranquility he desires, the loneliness he feels and isolation he has already created.

For these reasons Washington State is the right place for my characters to live. So, after a year and a half into my story, I made the decision to go to the place I had been daydreaming and writing about.

I was terrified. I was afraid that when I arrived it wouldn’t be what I had imagined or wrote it to be. But mostly I was afraid I had made a mistake in using the real instead of a imagined world.

6 Hours, 8 Minutes and 2,858 Miles Later….

When I stepped off of the plane and walked out of the terminal the first thing I did both out of necessity and curiosity, was take a deep breath in. It was more than what I believe my imagination could have come up with or at least accurately depict.

Seattle was hip but still had a flare of grunge throughout the seams. Bremerton was filled with hard-working craftsmen and engineers, each working on military submarines and monstrous air-craft carriers. Bainbridge Island was engulfed by rich green forests surrounded by pebbled beaches, truly paradise.

I was beyond excited to be there. Even the jet lag and three hour time difference didn’t stop me from staying up late each night preparing for the next day of visiting, talking, picturing, smelling and touching.

With every day that passed I began to feel my novel coming life. I began to believe if written effectively, readers could relate to and connect with these characters as well as the places. It’s not to say that a world completely created by a writer cannot convey the same buy-in from your readers, but for me it was what I had wanted for this story and needed to help improve the writing of my third main character…setting.

Walking on the actual beach of Fay State Park in Bainbridge Island I could easily visualize their first date and physically plot out a picnic with his son and wife. Yes, I’ve walk on beaches before, many in fact, from the salty sweet cold waters of Portland Maine to the still tropic ocean of Isla Mujers in Mexico. I could and have taken those examples in my writing, however being there, rolling the scenes around in my mind, gave me conceptual and logistical clarity I needed.

Many writers choose to invent just the town (and the people in it) and leave the country and state and its political system intact. This can be an easy way of going about it, it avoids continuity issues. You are the creator of that world, therefore it is. However, if you use a real location you’d better get the details right and that can only come through careful research.

So, did I have to actually go to Washington and walk the path my characters are walking to write a good story? No, I didn’t. But by basing my story on a place that isn’t fully imagined, it is providing me with the motivation and tactile information needed to help me bring to life the relationships, the love and the loss, each transpiring within the characters I’m creating.

From Google Searches To Actually Living It!

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It was the difference between knowing there are active volcanoes near Seattle, to seeing them so close you want to know what the escape routes are if they went off.

It’s knowing the state is comprised of dense forest, snow capped mountains, lakes and an ocean but not realizing it meant the air was so crisp and clean it felt like new sheets of white paper never written on.

The road I chose for them to meet on. From a Google Map to seeing it, walking on it and driving through it was absolutely amazing!!

It was not wanting to go inside even though the early spring wind smacked me in the face as I stood in the very front of the ferry, eyes wide open anticipating how the new land I was approaching will look and be like.

It was hearing first hand the fish mongers boasting their fresh catch of the day.

Doughnut Making Ladies!

It was smelling ruby red fruits and sweet veggies waiting to be picked

Playing tourist!

I will never forget looking at those mountains..

[CLICK ON PICTURE] Nor will I ever forget seeing that volcano (My iphone 3Gs photo: Look carefully in the distance, towards the left you will see a white peaked mountain. ) Mt. Rainier is only 54 miles from Seattle… OBJECTS ARE NEARER THAN WHAT IT SEEMS!!!

Grants & Money for Writers/Artists

As much as I would like to say that I am full-time published writer, traveling from one city to the next on book tours, negotiating with producers for movie right deals….Alas no,  this is not the case.

I actually work full-time at a university as a grants (federal and private  foundation) administrator.  I’ve spent the last 8 years of my life cultivating private donors, researching and writing many grant proposals; each in an effort to obtain funds for many great non-profit programs I believe in, many of which work with the communities  that mean the most to me… Youth & Teens, HIV/AIDS programs and of course for Artists.

YES, I’ve been able to secure large amounts of funds (yup, a lot of $$) for non-profit organizations and groups over the years.. However, now that I am finally doing what I want to do most I’ve been trying to translate this skill  to help myself as a new writer.

Well, it’ has not been easy to say the least. Competition is high and resources are always limited. So in my research and learning this ‘new’ craft of trying to find funding I thought I share some of the things I have found…maybe something that may not work for me may work for you…..

QUESTIONS & COMMENTS: Leave a comment or send email,  I will try my best to help. OR if you have info to share GREAT!!!!

WHAT WILL BE LISTED HERE? 

  • Info on Fellowships
  • Info on Grants
  • Helpful Links
  • Info on Proposal Writing Tips
  • Info on Free Writing or Artist Contests

STAY TUNED AN UPDATE WILL BE POSTED SOON on the top Home Page!!

My story takes place in the state of Washington

My story takes place in the state of Washington.  More specifically Bremerton and Bainbridge Island.  I wanted and needed a place that could be detached from the world, both with its physical isolation but also carry a sense of beauty.

Each of these things needed to be overshadowed by a big city in its direct view (Seattle).

Having never visited Washington I needed to familiarize myself with the area. I Googled and printed information on the local high school, where the police station was located and visited numerous realtor web sites and identified my main character’s apartment and layout.

After downloading numerous maps of streets and neighborhoods I said to myself….

1) I need to get my butt over there soon and

2) I need more information.

With that, I made up in my mind that this coming year I will fly out to WA for a few days and two, I decided to pick up the phone and call the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce.

I explained who I was and what I was doing (writing a novel that takes place in your neighborhood) and how I needed some information. The friendly voice on the other line replied “Sure! That sounds exciting, I think I can help”.  With that she sent mountains of maps, demographic information, newsletters and special events calendars.  I was so excited to open my mail each day until it arrived.  A little shy and nervous to call…but I’m very glad I did.

Thank you Bremerton Chambers of Commerce!!

Mapping out the Road they meet on…

Writing By Hand

I didn’t have my computer at the cafe last night, so I wrote…..by hand, with my best pen in my worn spiral notebook….

It felt good.

FYI excluding a few cross-outs its a really good way to not self edit (which I suffer from…badly) You can’t really go back and erase…you’ve got to keep moving.

Hardcore baby…. Laundromat and STILL typing! Ha!

‘The warmth of the water….

‘The warmth of the water caused the wet cedar planks to slowly perfume the air with the sweetness of flowing sap. Looking above the clearing of the cabin, the tangled branches seemed to reach up to the distant stars creating a jagged picture- framing both the night sky and crescent moon.

The late hour was made darker by the dense canopy of trees and brush painted deep shades of blue and gray.

Despite the soft illumination of her silhouette he was still able to take in the strength of her quite presence.

Through her shadowed face he knew she was looking at him, just as she always did. What was she thinking? She seemed to gaze at him with both sadness and clear desire.  How can both feelings and thoughts inhabit the same space and time yet separately carry through the minds of both Juan and Adriana.’

………AND SO THE EDITING AND WRITING CONTINUES.