This week we were asked how moves and other locales have affected our writing. I was born in Muscatine, raised here, and only moved away for about 9 months. When I was in high school I spent the summer at Fort Hood, Texas where my older brother was stationed. He had just gotten married, his wife was pregnant, and it was her first time in America. I needed to get away from my home, and some bad choices that I had made at the time. That summer was amazing. I bonded with my new sister-in-law, she taught me some Korean words while I attempted to teach her to write English. She allowed me a lot of freedom. I made friends with two kids who lived in the same apartment building. We spent hours outside dancing, singing, talking, and just being free. I didn’t have a lot of care that summer. There were times during that summer that I made some poor choices. Like the night I went with my friend to her cousin’s house when I was supposed to be staying the night at her place (right down the stairs from my brother’s place); the house was filled with older boys. They were drinking and messing around. I left that party and walked down to a payphone. Instead of calling my brother, I called one of his friends to have him come pick me up. I got home sometime after midnight. After that, my brother had the little old man next door check on me if I was left there alone. I adored that man. I loved hearing stories about his time growing up in Puerto Rico. It helped that he never made it obvious that he was checking up on me. He always had an excuse, like he ordered pizza and it came with free soda, and would I like some. Fort Hood/Killeen was the biggest place I had ever been without my parents. It fed my adventurous spirit to be able to go out and explore such a place while also discovering so much about myself.
When I was 18 I moved to a little town in Illinois for about 9 months. I moved back home right before I gave birth to my daughter. That town didn’t have much. There was a Walmart way on the outskirts of town. There was a diner downtown, a video store, an icecream shop, and a Happy Joes. At Christmas the bells at town hall would play Christmas music on the hour instead of just ringing. I lived with two guys (one being Jess and Quin’s dad) and there were several others who always came and went. While they treated me like one of the guys they were very protective as well. I remember one night one of the guys camped out in front of my bedroom door while there was a party going on to make sure that none of the guys who had been drinking came in and bothered me (there were no locks on the door). The town itself was cute, it seemed like everyone knew everyone.
Both of these places and situations have influenced my writing. In fact I have a work in progress that is heavily influenced by time in Illinois. The small town feel makes its way into all of my works. I love the tight knit communities, I like having that contrast with a large city. I don’t know that Texas itself has or ever will make it into one of my works but things that I experienced there either have or will. Scotland and Ireland have influenced settings in my stories. I have never been to either but I study both places and have always wanted to visit Scotland and live In Ireland. While writing Magnolia there were several pictures of Scotland being referenced and while creating Jade’s world there was a lot of Ireland. Of course both worlds have places influenced by places I have experienced or simply imagined.
When it comes down to it the location that has the biggest influence on my writing is Iowa. I think it is absolutely beautiful. I get so tired of hearing people who live here say it is ugly there is nothing to do. There is nothing like waking up early, packing a little breakfast picnic, and heading down to the Mississippi for a sunrise picnic. Or being surrounded by rolling fields of green, the last golden days of summer when the world just seems to shimmer in gold. Even when the fields are bare in late fall and covered with a fresh spread of fertilizer I find it so peaceful. There is a quiet that falls over the land in preparation for winter. Where I live in Iowa we have trees everywhere, I love driving through the woods. I enjoy searching for animals. I love that I live in a place where we can see snowy owls, eagles, crows, black squirrels, foxes, deer and so much more. There will always be Iowa in my writing, I may not call it Iowa but it is there.