Instead of asking “Where’s Waldo?”, my family and friends have been asking, “Where’s Jan?” That’s because I’ve been “tumbleweeding,” which is a quaint way of saying I’m bumming around for a bit. American George Whitman, who established Shakespeare and Company — the famous Left Bank ex-pat bookstore –coined the term, calling himself a tumbleweed and opening his doors to writers and artist who needed basic lodging. Since I’m originally from Austin, Texas, the tumbleweed concept appeals to me. So in these last months, I’ve become a tumbleweed writer.
As for Shakespeare and Company, Sylvia Beach founded the original in 1921 and was a hangout of Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Erza Pound, and others. It closed during World War II, after which Whitman reopened it in 1951. His daughter Sylvia continues to run it today and still welcomes wayward creators based on the shop’s motto, “Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise.”
Pardon me whilst I adjust my wings 🙂
The Backstory of a Tumbleweed Writer
A few years ago when I had my beauty-tech company and a healthy payroll to support, I was fortunate enough to visit Paris often to call on clients as we expanded our global footprint. Then, through unforeseen circumstances, I found myself disassembling my home in San Diego and putting everything in storage for what I’d hoped would be only a few months. Mom had a series of strokes, so I went to Austin to be with her, and I felt fortunate that I could spend time with her at the end. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Now, nearly two years later, I’ve learned how little one really needs to live. Only occasionally do I miss the “stuff,” though I sometimes long for my garden and the concept of having a home to return to, and to recharge and host friends.
At present, this tumbleweed writer had blown into the Dallas area, where I’m staying with good friends who are like family. Red-winged birds flit outside my window. Fluffy-tailed squirrels scale canopied oak trees. Mosquitoes hover in the thick twilight air. It’s the Texas I grew up in and I know it well.
So, what do I do here? Good question. Besides dodging hailstorms and tornadoes (poor Canton is just 30 miles from here, a skip in a tornado’s dance), with my trusty laptop and iPad, I can — theoretically — tutor and coach from anywhere. Though frankly, that business has been tough to maintain once I began living out of a suitcase. Most clients prefer the face-to-face meeting. However, a few online clients remain, for which I am thankful. Nevertheless, my primary goal is to make a real living as a writer in this second half of life.
For now, I am researching and writing my next historical saga. In fact, I’ve written the equivalent of a full novel, but have yet to get past the fourth chapter. I’ve lost count of the number of drafts I’ve started in the last few months. That’s what I get for having high standards and a probable touch of ADD. Although I promise, it’s coming. I won’t — and can’t — give up.
Next Stop: Atlanta
If you’re at the RT Convention next week, look for me and let’s swap travel sagas. Until then, I’ll continue writing as rain clouds scud across the prairie and hail peppers my window like BB pellets.
And people wonder where I get my ideas…