In October 2015, my friend Elizabeth and I went on a cross-country writing train trip from Montreal to Los Angeles in five days. Here are some stories, insights and musings that came from that adventure.

My mind went to another level on the train. The train transports your mind. Every morning I woke up with a sense of awe and hard work. When you are on the train, you are simply a person on a train. Not mom. Not a person that lives in a house. Not a person getting groceries. You are simply a traveler with a story. The other mantles you bear, for a just a little a while, fall away. And the space fills with whatever you want it to. You expand into that wonderful nothingness and become.

On this trip I worked on finishing the revision of my young adult manuscript for my agent. This novel has been such a part of me for so long now and I couldn’t wait to get to work on this on this trip. I knew we were off to a good start when we walked into the Montreal train station all I could think of was Hugo Cabret.

The trip was full of kismet moments that deepened the journey. Here are a few:

  1. A rushed filled me when the first thing I saw in old Montreal was a beautiful square and stately cathedral. I looked on a map and it wasn’t a cathedral, it was a basilica. I went on a walk and see it up close. Yes. It’s real. This is the Basilica from my story. I walked up the gate and got as close as I could to the ornate arched doorways. I recognized them. This place that lived in my imagination was real.
  2. The subject of Elon University came up in an overheard conversation. The Elan is a group of people in my book. Spelled differently. Pronounced the same. Coincidence? I think not.
  3. “Abel, Party of one,” I heard over the loudspeakers. There is an Abel on this train. Abel is the name of my protagonist.
  4. We passed Madrid, New Mexico. Maddrid is the name of my villain.
  5. I overhead a conversation about a walled city, a prominent location in my book.


The basilica


The book was freaking everywhere. And the revision was coming along nicely. But Elizabeth and I thought that maybe for one hour we each should write something completely new. The train seemed like a place to be generating new words and worlds. And I needed a bit of a respite from the revision. That hour I worked in the compartment while Elizabeth was in the Observation car. At this point of the trip I needed to be refreshed. I was feeling pretty exhausted. And this was just what I needed. That hour was magic. It reinvigorated me and I definitely have shiny new novel idea, about different worlds and sepia tones. The compartment was perfect too. Ever since I was a little kid I longed for a space of my own. A little, cozy reading and writing nook. I laughed to myself. I had found it. Finally. Complete with a view of the world rushing by. Nothing could stop me now.


The hour of new words


This reminded me that I need to write outside the house more often. I will write in the out! (To channel J. Lo From The True meaning of Smekday.) It’s one of my goals this year to write outside the house once a month. It won’t just be coffee shops. It will be museums, parks and yes, trains! Destinations and travel bring luck to my writing. It’s where I got most of the names of persons and places in my Abel novel. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to come back to this.

I loved writing in the Observation car the most. The country surrounded me. Train magic flowed through my fingers and into the keyboard. I might need to take weekly trips around LA on the metro to get my fix.

When I drive to work,  I follow the train tracks that run next to the freeway. I drive next to the train trying to recapture the feeling. Then it pulls ahead of me and out of sight and I’m left in reality, dreaming of the next train trip.

To see the “other” Elizabeth’s posts about our trip visit her website.