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I just returned from a trip to New Orleans (or, as a jazz singer reminded us in song, N’awrlins). We arrived in time for French Quarter fest, a jazz festival that got rave reviews from tourists and locals alike–but which I primarily found frustrating because it brought in *so* many people that we had trouble getting out of the French Quarter and CBD district.

On the plus side, jazz in the streets; on the minus side, some drunk asshole yelling “fag” at my husband when he shouldered my backpack-purse for a few blocks.

While we were traveling, I realized how much being a writer inflects the way I take in cities. I want to tour as if I were taking a class. I get suddenly (and briefly) highly organized, and take lots and lots of notes.

How do you travel? Do you do things that you wouldn’t otherwise because you might write about them in the future? Have you done any exceptionally strange things in the service of a potential story? Did you end up using it?

  • Hi, I'm Rachel! I write science fiction and fantasy short stories. I've won the Nebula Award twice, and been nominated for the Hugo Award, the World Fantasy Award, and some other things. My seventy or so short stories are available around the internet as well as in print, and many of them are in my latest collection, How the World Became Quiet. I have a masters degree in fiction from the University of Iowa. I have five cats. I like my cats, but strongly suggest one stops at three. Or two. Excuse me, I have to go take care of cats.

10 thoughts on “N’awrlins

  1. On the minus side, you should probably be more detailed in your notes, so that your description of the “asshole” mentions that he was most likely a tourist. ;)

    A hint: there’s always plenty of great music in this city — there is no need to schedule your visits during crowded festivals to hear it.

    It seems like you are planning your travel itinerary as if you were outlining a plot — but to be fair, most vacationers do this. Visiting landmarks and seeking out the local experience are two different approaches to finding the “authentic” culture of a place.

    Planning your actions in order to gain some unusual experience sounds like research, and although research is certainly a valuable tool for any writer, it is too much of a clinical approach for me to actually enjoy myself. I mill far more grist simply by doing things that interest me and going with the flow. Of course, I may just be subconsciously constructing my own narrative.

      1. “A hint: there’s always plenty of great music in this city — there is no need to schedule your visits during crowded festivals to hear it.”

        We didn’t. We scheduled the trip during my husband’s conference, which is why we were there. Alas, the festival scheduled itself for the same time.

  2. Hmm. I spent a year and a half in Japan for no other reason than I wanted to be a writer one day and would need some ‘experiences’.

    *le sigh* at my utter cluelessness.

  3. I’m a bit of a travel freak. 70+ countries, more than 3 years cumulative time spent backpacking around the world.

    I usually travel as cheaply as possible. :-)
    Youth hostels and budget transport.

    I love my Palm Pilot for travelling. It has a foldout fullsize keyboard and is smaller and more portable than netbooks.
    Of course it’s an aging technology now.

    I take lots of notes when I’m travelling.
    I don’t usually use my own direct experiences in fiction (I’ve sold a few travel articles), but local stories and history have served as inspiration for a few stories.

    Some of my stories set in Japan haven’t been about direct travel experiences, but I’ve included cultural details that I soaked up through living there.

    My next trip is to North Korea later this year.
    One of the restrictions on visiting is that I can’t sell articles about the trip. (Personal blogging is okay, but there are restrictions on journalists entering the country).

    1. Hey, that’s awesome. I’ll be looking forward to your posts about NK… (I’ve been to SK and have a lot of students from there, and am always eager to hear/read more about NK.)

      1. Hi A D.

        I spent a few days in Seoul a couple of years ago and had a fun time.

        The owner of the tour company I’m travelling with in North Korea has made a couple of documentaries about North Korea. Haven’t watched them yet, but they’re supposed t o be interesting:
        A State of Mind
        Crossing the Line

        One of the pages (the front page) on your web site came up with a malware warning from Google/Chrome.

        “The website at adjameson.com contains elements from the site hvcvjxcc.cn, which appears to host malware”

        1. Thanks for those film recommendations, Aiden. There was a great feature on NK film—the country’s actual film industry—in a recent issue of Sight & Sound. I could dig it out for you, if you’re interested. (I don’t know whether it’s online, but I’d be happy to photocopy it for you.)

          And thanks for the head’s up about my site. I’ve been fighting off that bug for a while now. I think it might be fixed, if you wan to try taking another look?

          Safe travels,

          1. Hi Adam,

            Thanks for the offer of the NK film article.
            My email is aidandoyle AT gmail.com

            Your web site still has a google warning. I think it might take them a while to rescan the site.

            Have fun,

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