Homesickness, Novels, and Editors

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I was homesick. That’s all. Nothing exciting or earth shattering. Just homesick. So I started to write. I sat at my computer and transported myself home anytime I wanted to. It was satisfying. But not sufficient. I wanted to share these feelings. (Ahhh, the arrogant assumption that I was interesting to others!) But misery loves company and if I was going to be homesick, I sure as heck was taking others with me. Turned out it didn’t take much. I found kindred spirits on Facebook ex-patriot pages, on homesick blogs, in song lyrics, in grocery stores, restaurants, airports. I wasn’t alone.

My first attempt at a ‘novel’ was nothing more than a rambling, rather morose, description of Exmoor in England, the place still closest to my heart, despite my thirty-year absence. There was no plot to this novel, no character development, no considering the audience. Just wistful me, sitting with my eyes closed, trying to recall every detail of the sights, sounds, and smells of a place sorely missed. It was more a recapturing of the sense of home, a reminder of why I wanted to be there. But it certainly wasn’t a novel. It was, however, the beginning of something.

My default setting: humour. So the morose had to go. The flowing descriptions had to go. The setting had to be beautiful, but real and jolly. There had to be quirky characters and, of course, a cheeky pony. We’re talking Exmoor after all. And so, Dunster’s Calling was born.

The manuscript is now in the hands of my editor; a truly terrifying thought. Someone else is going to walk through that door and see my attempt at recapturing my home while trying to entertain; while trying to elicit thoughts of home in kindred spirits. From wanting to share to wanting to hide in one click of the mouse. Will she get the humour, British as it is? Will she cry when she’s supposed to? Will she be entertained?

And in the end, will it matter? This novel has done its job already. I know where my home is. And I got to live there again, for a while.

Visit me on Facebook at http://bit.ly/traceygemmell

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Time Travel

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The New Year evokes a sense of awe in me these days. Daily life looks more and more like the opening credits of Star Trek: laundry, dog walking, work, phone calls, responsibility, minutia, all coming at me like the stars and galaxies streaking into and out of view through the massive screen on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Life is warp-speeding away.

I am made fully aware of this by two suitcases. The tweed case is thirty-one years old. I bought it during my first trip to America, when, loaded down with Fluff (I love this country!) and tee-shirts from various locations up and down the East Coast, my old duffle bag gave way. Who could have know then the miles that suitcase would travel with me? Two hemispheres and countless countries, first carrying my worldly goods, then mine and my husband’s, then mine, my husband’s and my two children’s. The contents of that suitcase documented the ebb and flow of life as it carried outfits and gifts for weddings, outfits and grief for funerals, outfits and books for holidays, outfits and toys for children. Like me though, the case began to show the effects of time: multiple patches on the handle, worn fabric, and finally an unreliable zipper that required a silent prayer and closed eyes as the baggage carousel began to turn: Please don’t let my knickers come round the corner first…

Replacing that old, battered ‘war case’ was bittersweet. The shiny, new, blue case, with roller wheels and sturdy handle that promises to save countless visits to the chiropractor, looks devoid of character at the moment. I’m not sure I want it to accompany me yet, already missing my old friend. But I’m sure it will gain my trust and see me through the next phase of life as it carries my world – my husband got his own case and I vowed never to share space again in this liberated era of empty nest travel.

It seems fitting that my old, tweed friend’s final trip was to help my son start his independent life in a new location. He packed it with childhood memories and set off for his new home, with tape along the zipper to spare his own stuffed bear/soccer trophy embarrassment at the baggage carrousel. Once home, he will jettison the suitcase with the rubbish, and leave it to RIP in a landfill. I knew I couldn’t watch.

So off I go on the Starship Gemmell – into the future with a space-age suitcase. To boldly go where the AARP card takes me. Actually that’s a lie – I refused to get the card. I’ll go where my heart takes me instead.

Will my new case survive thirty-one years? Will I? Only one way to find out…