I spent a lot of my childhood there discovering the same places my dad had frequented as a child. Often, when I write, those memories come back to me. I think finding something true to write about helps yield your work an authenticity that can be otherwise hard to find. I began a new Work In Progress (WIP) this summer, and the setting of the story is based on Altavista. I needed a small town, one that almost seems lost in time. You drive into town and step into a world where the world moves a little more slowly, where folks wave when you drive by, and everyone knows your last name.
My grandmother, Dodie, was a wonderful resource, acting as my official tour guide and Altavista's historian. I learned about Altavista's beginnings and how it has grown into the town it is today.
I hit a roadblock in my writing earlier, so I decided to take the trip to inspire myself with the setting. I was able to sit out on my grandmother's back porch and listen to the train whistle through town, a sound I will forever associate with Altavista. Without music or internet or anything to distract me, I watched the fireflies come out at dusk. I heard the soft crunching of something moving through the woods which begin at the end of the back yard and trail down into a ravine where the old football practice field is slowly being overgrown by vegetation. Sometimes as a writer, I feel you have to take the time to immerse yourself in your setting. You have to live it, breathe it, feel it.
A Watchful Summer (my working title) is going to be a personal novel, hopefully one where I can capture that feeling of magic and curiosity that so pervaded my childhood. In a way, this novel is for me to come full circle. When I was thirteen, I discovered a manual Royal typewriter in my grandmother's closet. We dusted it off, had the ink bands replaced, and I took it home with me where I was able for the first time to truly shut the door and write on my own time (this was before laptops - I didn't get a personal computer until I moved to college.) In fact, it's that typewriter that I found in Altavista that inspired the name of this blog.
Here's a couple of pictures to get you in the mood:
The Avoca House (technically the back)
The front of the Avoca House
Lovely Victorian staircase
Woods near the house
Cemetery where my grandfather is buried.