“Think of a memory in a beautiful landscape—maybe from a family vacation, or your favorite childhood destination. Now think of a scene from a story, novel, or movie that describes a landscape, and that has stuck with you. What makes these moments special? So many of the memories and stories we share are connected to place—to the landscapes of the Earth and the landscapes of our own imaginations.” – “Carving Stories from Trees” in Poets & Writers
Key West when postcards could be mailed for a penny.
Poets & Writers Magazine has a daily online writing prompt or “Craft Capsule.” I enjoy reading these even if I don’t follow up and write something based on the prompt.
For those who grew up in a wonderful place and enjoyed day trips, or went on yearly summer vacations, or traveled after graduating from high school or college, the landscapes we saw in the past are a gold mine of writing prompts and potential short story or novel location settings.
Our family traveled every summer. This meant many long days in a car, most before air conditioning. We saw sites from Fort Ticonderoga and Niagara Falls to Key West, Mammoth Cave and the Smoky Mountains. Even though I didn’t keep a diary, my memories–incomplete as they may be–make a wonderful starting point when I’m thinking up a new story.
Since I’ve been to these places, it’s less difficult to find a book, magazine or a website to help me fill in the details. I came away from those vacations with a strong sense of each place. And, that’s almost more valuable than a guidebook.
Perhaps you have memories of long-ago trips that might serve as writing prompts and short story locales.
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Writers often dream about mountain and seaside cabins as places to escape daily life and concentrate on on their writing. Some lease vacation rentals while others create their own hide-ways on their own property. Others take advantage of writing retreats and writers-in residence programs. For examples of retreats, check here: 25 Incredible Writing Retreats to Attend in 2016.
All of these are ways to get away from it all and concentrate on the writing and research needed to complete, say, a novel or a collection of short stories. In some cases, wishing for that cabin in the woods might simply be an excuse; for others the time away is desperately needed.
In the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, “Arts Organizations Offering Prizes More Valuable than Cash'” suggests that grants–for which there will be more competition–offer strong support than a hide-way and and a suitcase full of money.
“As mainstream publishing becomes more fixated on finding the next best-seller and arts funders begin to understand that for many talented poets and literary authors success requires more than simply finding time to write,” says Michael Bourne. “A small number of arts organizations are taking a more hand-on approach–including, in some cases, arranging meetings between their winning writers and publishers who might be interested inn taking on their books.”
Many widely known authors have followed versions of the grant approach, including Karen Russell and Aracelis Girmay. If you can find a copy of the magazine, read the full article for details. Otherwise, here are three grant-awarding organizations you may wish to explore: