Thursday, December 8, 2011

Authors Take to the Road

ANNOUNCING YESTERDAY'S WINNER: Nancy! Please email me (hallie "at" hallieephron dot com) and Christina Katz will send you a copy of "The Writers' Workout"!

HALLIE EPHRON: Salli Slaughter and George Mason are writers with itchy feet.

When I was in Portland Oregon last year, they invited me to dinner, and their home was a gracious old Spanish colonial loaded with wonderful masks and pieces of pottery and art from their travels.

What they were in the process of doing was GETTING RID OF EVERYTHING. Downsizing doesn't begin to describe it, because they and their dog Ella were about to become nomads, embarking on a very long journey across the country in a camper trailer.

Their journey would be to learn from writers, and discover why writers write.
Their plan: to start in the Pacific Northwest and move down the rich writing fields of the West Coast and then head east through the Southwest. Along the way, they're interviewing authors, and some of their interviews are already up on their web site The Authors Road.

They sold their possessions like snakes shedding their skins. On Craig's list and in a garage sale, to friends and charities. A few important things, like their skull collection, Chinese footbinding shoes, African masks, and a box of kitchen stuff, got put into storage, and they parked some furniture and artwork with friends and family. Made endless trip to the dump until, by early October, they were ready to roll.

"We took possession of the RV just before our big sale so we'd have a place to sleep in case someone bought the beds."

They are not new to this kind of Quixotic adventure. In 1996 (photo on left), with their two young daughters, left their home in Alaska and spent a year circumnavigating the globe. The World Wide Web History Project credits them with being one of the first bloggers – two full years before blogging became a rage

When they departed on that trip, Salli listed her reasons for doing it. #1 was: "Because I don't want to get to the end of my life and say that I never did anything that I truly wanted to because I WAS TOO AFRAID."

I try to imagine myself making a journey like this and I cannot. Maybe I'm too attached to my "things." But if I did, what better journey to take than writer hopping.
Could you downsize to a camper trailer? What would motivate you to take a journey like this, where would you go, and who would you want to meet along the way.

And Salli and George: If you're out there, give a holler. See you in Boston, guys!


  1. It sounds exciting and part of me wishes I had the urge to do such a thing, but I think I'd miss the feeling of being tethered to a community, my support system of friends and acquaintances who cut my hair, clean my teeth, meet for lunch, worship with me on Sunday mornings. I grew up in the military--moving all the time--and spent most of my adult life in the military--moving all the time--so I cherish the community I have now more than I yearn for newness. (I can get my newness in two-week vacations.)

  2. I've been trying to get my husband to take to the road with me for a couple of months, visiting family and friends around the country. It's not working so far, though.

    Because we have two households, plus an office, it's pretty darned difficult to leave for an extended time. The idea of divesting everything but a skull and Chinese footbinding collection (!!) appeals on some level, but sounds deucedly difficult to manage.

    What an interesting choice for a couple to make, though. I wish them the best.

  3. I'm with you, Laura. I love where I live. My house with all my "things." My friends. Though with winter coming and so many departing for warmer climes, being on the road has a certain appeal.

  4. I'd love to do this. Bruce and I have often talked (well, I've talked and he's said "un-hunh") about getting an RV and hitting the road for a couple of months. To Alaska and back. maybe one day.

  5. I confess, I immediately thought of you, Ro, when I met Salli and George. You are the MOST adventurous traveler I've ever met.

  6. This adventure sounds like so much fun! Yes, I would be willing to downsize to a camper for such a trip. I'm a bit of a voluntary simplicist myself.

    My hubby sometimes moans at my motto, "If in doubt, throw it out."

  7. Oh, M. E. - the few arguments I've ever had with my husband grew out of those "I'll just throw this out" moments. Moments of insanity (What was I thinking? You never know when we'll need a garden bench with a gigantic toadstool growing out of the seat!)

  8. ..that garden bench sounds cool and I can understand why you kept it. I own a few things like that. My illuminated Bates Motel sign from an old Halloween party. I might need it again. Right?

  9. We play with the idea of driving around the country for a few months in a small RV, and I hope we do it -- friends did a couple of years ago, a very unlikely pair to do such a thing, and they loved it, as a one-time thing. We'd keep the house, though -- we both simply adore where we live in the Montana woods!

    (I do hope my captcha isn't trying to tell me something -- it's horshil)

  10. M.E., I admire your motto, but I am much more like Hallie. You never know when you might need . . . . a broken silver candelabra, a third set of dishes, a bike with no front wheel, etc. It made the move much more difficult.

    The RV has changed that –it is a little 'land yacht' and everything has to be 'ship shape.' However, I had my limits. I brought a small oil painting of Pioneer Peak in Alaska, where we used to live, a large metal Buddha head, and cloth napkins.

  11. Hi Salli! Tell us where you are and who you're talking to next! And let's hear it for cloth napkins!!

  12. I could so do the traveling, but I'd also want to keep my pied a terre. Which we did twice when we took our sons off to West Africa for a year carrying very few possessions with us. Nice to have our house to come home to, though.

    A writer friend who is near retirement from her day job has been clearing out her home, and just acquired a very nicely engineered small Earthroamer RV that's like a boat inside, complete with a padded wine rack. Her plan is to travel around and write.

  13. We are in La Quinta (greater Palm Springs area) camped in a county park on a beautiful blue lake stocked with trout nestled at the foot of the mountains. Chris Carter (X-Files, Millennium) was out of town while we were in Malibu, so we are heading back on a day trip this weekend (sans RV) to do an interview with him.

    Most of our time here is being spent trying to catch up on interviews already done (Laurie King, Carola Dunn, Lawson Inada, RC Matheson, Larry Engelmann, and interviews with experts on Jack London, John Steinbeck, and Mark Twain).

    It has been slow going partly because we are having fun visiting old friends along the way and partly because Sprint changed the contract for our hot spot, reducing our capacity to something we'd go through in a matter of days. (Always get out your magnifying glass and check that wee tiny print.) The park we are in has a little picnic table near the campground host for residents to use WiFi. While it is very pleasant to sit by the lake listening to desert birds while connected, I'm not sure the WiFi connection will take the stress of a big movie upload. Life on the road!

  14. Salli and George--this is so interesting! My father had a dream of buying an Airstream trailer and traveling the country. By the time he finally got one, he had the wrong wife for a big adventure:). so I guess the message there is don't wait too long!

    I get terribly homesick while traveling, though if I had my husband, cat, dog, and wifi, I might--might--be certainly sounds better than a thousand motel rooms!

  15. Oh that part about not waiting too long is so true, Lucy. George had a heart attack last March, and we realized that we were looking at a wholly different biological clock from the one we discussed at 30. We both quote Kazantzakis - Me: "To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble!" and George: " When death comes knocking I want him to find nothing left but ashes." From this you'd think I would go willingly into these adventures, but I sign up for them thinking that they really aren't going to happen. Surprise! But I am always glad I did it. And having my own home and dog and true love with me makes it even better.

  16. My husband and I fantasize about shucking it all and traveling in an RV all the time--but I think that's what we're doing, fantasizing.

    I love the man dearly, but living in one room? I dunno...

  17. Salli, I listened to your interview with Bob Dugoni. It's on the web site and it was fabulous. Can't wait til you hit the east cost (come the thaw I hope). You'll have authors lined up. What an opus this is going to be.

    Love those Kazantzakis quotes.

  18. Thanks Hallie. We are looking forward to seeing you in the months ahead and interviewing you and all those other writers with a scarlet W on their chests. The folks who just can't help themselves, who have to write just like they have to breathe.

    As for me, I do miss my bookies and friends in Portland, my Willamette Writers community, and more. But oddly I don't miss my stuff. At least not yet. And I hope to do more writing on the road.

    We just put up a new interview (Jack London). Hope you like it as much as the others, and that the Jungle Red Writers community will join us along the way.

  19. Salli, what fun! And what a fascinating project, interviewing writers.

    There are times when the "no possessions" concept is really appealing. I love my house, my things, my town, but when I go to London for a month at a time with nothing more than I can fit in one suitcase, I find I never miss things (except the dogs, cats, and the hubby. Not necessarily in that order:-))

    A few years ago I was writing a novel (Water Like a Stone) that had to do with narrowboats, and I fantasized about getting rid of everything and living on an English narrowboat, exploring the waterways.

    The idea did not go over well, so I'm a bit jealous of your itinerant lifestyle...