Photo Credit: Jennie Anne Benigas



October 2011

“Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building here after seeing Italy.”

From Cecilia (1782), book 4, chapter 2, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 5th Edition Elizabeth Knowles, ed.


Beginning a Manuscript

Dear Reader,

While I am as much in love with Italy’s treasures as the speaker above, I would not agree that travel “is the ruin of all happiness.” The pleasures of travel may include antiquities or architectural treasures, but there is much to savor in one’s home territory. The problem is that we stop “seeing” what surrounds us.

On the other hand, I have written about ways in which my art making has been influenced by travel. There have been visits to extraordinary places and to ordinary places that became extraordinary because of experiences. August 2011 Judy’s Journal is one example, May 2005 is another.

I never know where inspiration for a poem, a painting or a personal essay is waiting. When the work is done, and I have enough poems or paintings that have something in common, I gather them into a manuscript or an exhibition. My artist’s book, Reciprocity, is a combination of two genres: images from my paintings and their reciprocally-inspired poems (2007 November). A Brush with Words, my collection of art-related poems, is complete, although it is still without a publisher.

It may not seem practical to begin another manuscript, but an idea came to me last month. What if I were to create a three-genre manuscript using the theme of travel? The book would include three genres: personal essays, poems and paintings. A patchwork of text and image, all about travel!

Anyone who has seen a book grow from concept to packing box knows that it begins with an idea. Accompanied by a flood of energy. Followed by a massive to-do list that sorts down into discreet tasks. Set on a timeline. Supported by detailed planning, mixed with a high dose of flexibility and tolerance for problems. Held together by a lot of rumination.

Where to begin? Right here. For the past seven years, Judy’s Journal has been a place to think through many projects. I write to learn what I am thinking, in the way that Donald M. Murray instructed me.

The first step is to GATHER EVERYTHING I have that even remotely relates to travel. The list begins like this:

1. My first book of poetry, Gestures of Trees (2000), is out-of-print and the copyright has reverted back to me. There are travel poems in there.

2. A Brush with Words has some travel poems that could find their way into this manuscript.

3. My black binder, a repository for drafts of unfinished poems, may offer some possibilities.

4. My handwritten travel journals could be the source of new poems and personal essays.

5. Several Judy’s Journals could find their way into this manuscript.

6. Images! So many paintings, although usually not literal reports of what I saw while traveling, could find a home in this manuscript. My Landscape Mosaic series (2008 August) is one source to look at.

Crystal ball, I see a lot of reading and a lot of looking in my future.

The second step would be to shake everything up and see how many categories fall out. I see lots of blank white paper and conceptual map building in my future. And lists. Lots of lists.

The third step would be to refine groups, adding and deleting, until I begin to see a critical mass that looks as if it could be a manuscript.

I know that revisions to all poems and personal essays will be a constant in this equation.

This will be a very long process. But it’s time to begin.