Vacation, Writing and Research

Since the kids are on spring vacation this week, my husband and I thought this would be a fine time to visit Virginia. His sister and her husband live just outside Washington, D.C., and we couldn’t wait to check out all the touristy things in the city. Like the Smithosonian–see the awesome picture of the SpaceLab?

We decided to drive to Virginia, from Massachusetts. What better way to introduce the children to a small part of our country by driving through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and a tiny part of Virginia? Are you laughing? A little bit?

On Saturday, about an hour after we should have left, we started our adventure. Even with the “Are we there yet’s” and the bathroom stops, my husband and I remained optimistic, thanks to beautiful weather and promising calculations from modern GPS technology, that we would make the trip to Virginia in about eight and a half hours. We neglected to factor in the New York and New Jersey traffic.

Once we got past all the bumper to bumper traffic, the endless whines from the children every one of us, and a few pitstops for a respite from the cramped space, my thoughts meandered over to my writing. I’ve reached a pivotal scene in my historical novel, and the pacing is a little off. Nothing to lose sleep over, but irritating, nonetheless.

It occurred to me that the pacing of a story is a journey. For me, anyway, when I start a new manuscript, words flow easily and I’m one with the story. But inevitably, as time goes on, there are frequent stand still moments where I’m not sure how I’m going to get the story from Point A to Point B. But, when I study the story and then write again, a word at a time, the story regains life and I fly along.

The best part of the remainder of the car drive was I managed to plot out the next few chapters. I’ve had a few days to outline this, and test drive a few sentences. Now, I’m raring to go write this next section.

Okay, back to the trip. Once we arrived in Virginia, we hung out and decided we’d take the train into D.C. the next day and visit the Smithsonian. Wouldn’t you know it, it poured the next day. But we weren’t deterred from our mission.  Plus, the kids were determined to ride the train. We arrived in D.C. and walked around The National Mall.

There was this cool Earth Day celebration in the Mall. Unfortunately, with all the downpours, there wasn’t a huge Earth Day turnout. But it was perfect for all the college students and young people who danced to the music and listened to the speakers. Ahhh…to be young again…

But, I digress.  Most of the people ended up waiting in lines to get out of the rain and into the Smithsonian Museums.   These museums are awesome. Did you know that it’s free to go into all the incredible museums? I could spend days exploring every museum and filling my brain with cool facts. However, since the kids were with us, we focused on speed museum hopping.

The kids loved almost everything we saw–the space ships, the dinosaurs, the mummies, the butterfly garden, the Ice Age, the sculpture garden…the list goes on. They were just a bit tired of the rain. So was I.  There’s only so much wet clothing one can take.  

My discomfort was soon erased when I discovered a small exhibit of historical artifacts important to my story.  Nothing like some research when you least expect it.    

The rain continued into the next day, so we just hung out.  My brother-in-law brought out this 500 piece puzzle, and we spent a good few hours working on it.  I love puzzles.   
On Tuesday, we decided to go to the National Zoo, which is part of the Smithsonian. Entrance is free; you just pay for parking.  This place is huge so wear good walking shoes/sneakers.  You also have to plan out your restroom breaks well, if you have young children.  The restrooms are far away when you have a little one who decides she’s got to go.  
After our third trip to the restroom, my four-year-old decided she had it with all the walking and looking at the animals.  She decided it was more fun picking up all the cherry blossoms that fell on the ground.  Until, she spied some animals that she wanted to watch, more than anything.  
   
The prairie dogs. A member of the rodent family. Isn’t the little guy cute? He’d peek out of his burrow, a few times for show, and then finally come out. These prairie dogs are a blast to watch. Every once in awhile, they jump up, paws in the air, and cheer.  They actually “yip,” but they really look like they’re cheering.  

We ended up sitting by the prairie dogs, watching them “yip” for about an hour, until the rest of the family came back.  My youngest and I had a great time.  We had ice cream, did some facetime, and were amused at the group of teenagers who cheered whenever the prairie dogs cheered. 
Isn’t it great when simple things make people happy?
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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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