Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 26, 2011

January Time Traveling

This month there’s a lot of snow, and worse, ice, here in Massachusetts. I think gardening books may sell more now than at any other time of year, though I haven’t researched that. We mark our calendars for the bulb shows promised at local colleges coming not quite soon enough, where the air is fragrant with green leaves and blossoms that make breathing much more fun.

And sometimes we hit a winter in our writing. I have a solid draft of my work in progress, some of which is set in nineteenth century Rome, some in Boston. I began the novel-in-verse with research about those places as well as the central character’s life. I’ve been working on the narrative arc and honing lines for a while and feel not exactly stuck, but hemmed in, the way the icy driveway makes me think twice about heading anywhere. Tucking the manuscript away for a while is one smart way to know I’ll come back to it fresh, but I’m not quite at that point. So yesterday I made a trip to the library and went through the travel sections.

I generally keep to a regimen set when my daughter was going to school of writing during school hours, then doing research, which doesn’t take as much concentration for me, after 3 p.m. So today in late afternoon here are some of the books I’ll daydream over.

These are places where my character walked, though I’ll have to check dates. (yay for Italy which keeps a lot the same, and I’m sorry about Boston, a city I love, which with good reason has changed a lot in 150 years). Photographs from old books help me imagine things my character saw. I do have a question: did confessionals in St. Peter’s look as they do now? But mostly I’m hoping for the luck of finding an image that may pull together holes, or start a new thread, or just plain sparkle, and carry me happily back to work.



  1. I’m still trying to find a neighborhood in Chicago where my MC would likely live that HASN’T been rebuilt. I thought I would be okay, since the story takes place after the Great Fire, but apparently there’s been some other remodeling happening. I’m pretty sure this is going to take a phone call. 🙂
    You ARE going to get a trip to Rome out of this, aren’t you?

  2. Ooh wonderful looking books! 🙂 And sorry about your winter. (Come on out this way anytime!)
    I like your writing routine. I do my writing in the morning (I’m a morning person) and reading/research/marketing/surfing and house stuff in the afternoons. I’m pretty brain-dead by 2 PM.
    Happy reading/traveling!

  3. It’s exciting to see those books in your pile, and to hear about the questions you’re asking. But I’m sending sympathy about that writing (and New England) winter. Wish we could take a walk in Concord this week — or, considering the weather, maybe just hunker down in a cafe there instead.

  4. I can’t wait to read your version of Chicago!
    Actually I did go to Rome a few years ago: this project has come in and out in various versions over the years. But.. this version is best! I swear!

  5. Thanks for sending a bit of warm air this way. Just the thought of it helps, as does peering into the books.
    And schedules: we’d make good roommates!

  6. Oh, a quick walk with scarves wound tight and mittens pulled up high then hot chocolate in that cafe sounds wonderful. I guess we’ll have to be satisfied with our imaginations for now. Hope you are staying snug.

  7. And wouldn’t I just love to join you for hot chocolate and conversations about Rome and writing…
    In the mean time, good luck with finding the image that inspires you.

  8. How about a field trip? Do you have any plans to visit Rome, or have you done so already? You could combine a vacation with research and writing. Sounds like a valid reason to travel to me. I’d wait till spring, though.

  9. Now that would be a wonderful adventure indeed, pouring you, Lorraine, and Amy, tea from the same pot. Sigh. But glad we can manage such at least virtually. And since it’s Peter’s birthday, I’m making applesauce cake. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind sharing!

  10. Yes, I think some of the best vacations are when you’re doing them for two — yourself, with the modern conveniences (Rome, when my character traveled there, involved about six weeks on the ocean just to start with — not that that sounds all bad!) and seeing through the eyes of your character. Sorry for the run on. Exciting thought. As is spring!

  11. Happy Birthday wishes to Peter! And yum, if he doesn’t mind sharing that applesauce cake, I’ll take a crumb or two or three. 🙂

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