Dream Vacations

Every writer dreams about the research vacation. Ah yes, write a story set in Hawaii and write off the travel expenses as research. I wonder how often this actually happens. Teachers dream about being able to take vacations in the summer on teacher discounts too. (You can’t see me, but I’m rolling with laughter right now.)

I’m re-researching the details of Yumen Guan and the western frontier where part of my story is set and daydreaming about taking a research trip. I think there are even “Silk Road” packages that will take me from Xian out to Dunhuang. Hubby would throw a fit. I don’t think China is his choice for a dream vacation (weak stomach + meat and potatoes man — need I say more? ).

14 day Silk Road package. I’d be able to visit the ruins of the Jade Gate fortress and my beloved Gansu corridor. Until then, I’ll just stare at it from Google Maps and take lots of artistic license.

When I first read about Yumen Guan, I knew it was the perfect location for my story. The fortress ruins look so lonely rising out of the desert. Because it was built in the Han dynasty, by the Tang dynasty it would have been over 500 years old.  I studied other military gates or “Guan” to figure out what the Jade Gate may have looked like in its heyday. The construction of a stone wall surrounding a towering wooden structure seems very common.

What’s in my head is something in between the barren rock and the fortress of its heyday. Oh, and another reason for my choice? Yumenguan or Yumen Guan is readable and pronounceable. Decisions, decisions. 🙂 Back to revisions now.

Yumen Guan today
Yumen Guan today
What Yumen Guan might have looked like
What Yumen Guan might have looked like

More Than Words

I just finished the first draft of my entry for the Harlequin More Than Words contest and I’m going through Kleenex like there’s no tomorrow.

apb_highschool_smallIt helped that I just visited the final campus of the charter school that I helped start in 2006. We opened class in a dinky renovated warehouse with six classrooms and 140 students.  And now look at the building! This is the fourth year, the first graduating class. I took a brief tour through the classes and waved at my students. I’d like to say they look all grown up now, but nah…they’re still my kids. My chest was more puffed out than the little gryphon mascot that the senior class voted on when they were wee little ninth graders.

I must admit I did get a little teary when I took the picture of the California Distinguished School logo painted on the front. To think back where it all started…

I really do believe that this was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Part of me will always feel that I sold out now that I’m no longer teaching. I couldn’t keep from crying as I wrote the essay for “More Than Words” about one of my good friends, a phenomenal teacher who also founded the school. I have my fingers crossed and I’m hoping she wins even harder than I’m hoping to sell the short I wrote. 🙂