Friday, October 11, 2013

An Overdue Post: Notes from Dianna Graveman's Presentation on “Using a Travel Journal as Inspiration for Writing Short Fiction"

This post is overdue. In late August I took notes during Dianna Graveman's presentation during the Saturday Writers monthly meeting.

Dianna's slideshow presentation on “From Open Road to Manuscript: Using a Travel Journal as Inspiration for Writing Short Fiction” was informative and inspiring.

During her presentation Dianna spoke about how she uses her travels throughout the American West as inspiration for her writing. In particular she mentioned how the landscape and the spirit of the American West “make for great conflict in stories.”

It’s been more than a month since I jotted down notes during Dianna’s talk, but here are some bullet point tips I jotted down:

* Listen for regional expressions. Ask what they mean and there they came from.

* Ask and listen for people’s stories.

* Take a lot of photos, including plants and animals.

* Use your senses: touch, feel, smell.

* Research after you see something unusual (e.g. boots on fence posts. What do they mean?)

* Watch for town names. Ask locals where the town name originated.

* Avoid tourist attractions. Take the back roads to add flavor to the story.

* Use history to spin fiction.

* Look for controversy. Talk to people. What are they worrying about; what divides them?

* Watch for historical markers.

* Be aware of connections to develop a theme: We are connected to other people through our experiences and similarities. It’s not about the place as much as interactions and connections.

To learn more about Dianna, her writing, and her business ventures, stop by her website:

After re-reading my notes from Dianna’s presentation, I’m ready to grab my camera and pen, crack open a fresh notebook, pack up the car, and hit the road.
How about you? How does traveling inspire you to write?
 Do you have any tips to share for capturing the essence of your travels?


  1. Donna, I really enjoyed your entry today about Dianna's presentation. It makes me want to take a trip so I can write about it! Our oldest daughter, Lauren (20) is studying International Relations at the U of A and spent last semester as an exchange student at the University of Austria in Graz. She told me that there are many international exchange students that write daily and weekly blogs about their overseas studies as part of their assignments for their program.

    I hope you and your family have a good weekend!

    1. Hi Leslie,
      How exciting for your daughter. Austria is such a beautiful country.

      Hope your family is doing well.

  2. Such a great list of tips...we use as many back roads as possible. Sometimes I have been a little fearful of just where we have ended up! The West is go good for meandering. Things are slower there; you can miss a turn and correct easier. You can poke along, stop and take pictures without holding up traffic!

    I find riding along makes me reflective...makes for some good thoughts captured on a notebook I take...thought become poems or stories later.

  3. Thanks for sharing, I wasn't able to go and know I missed a great presentation. She always has a way of inspiring others! l love that about Dianna!

  4. Mary and I could do a duet, Donna. I had something I couldn't get out of, so I had to miss Dianna's presentation. It sounds like it was jam-packed with helpful tidbits.

    When you travel, if you do it right, you soak up the local flavors and rhythms, the local culture and scenery.

    I wish I could pack a bag and hit the road right now...

  5. I find being in a car on long drives MAKES me more observant, inspires story ideas, or poetry lines. I once saw a lone rose on the side of the rose which led to a poem about my past. Dianna's points are useful.

  6. One of the best articles I was assigned by AAA Travel was on Kentucky. One morning as the fog lifted off the meadow at our B&B, I drug myself out of bed at 4 a.m. Recommended by the Tourism Director, hubby and I packed up the car with cameras and headed to the early morning workouts at Keeneland Race Track. I'll admit I was a little crabby from getting up that early, but the best photo ops came at around 6:00 a.m. as the horses and their trainers set foot on the track. Trying to determine what sounds I heard on the track, hubby urged "close your eyes and just listen." The quiet morning, with birds singing, the hooves of the horses hitting the pavement, and their heavy breathing, created a visual in my mind. Then I opened my eyes. I saw the riders wearing colorful leathers, the fog lifting in the distance, the horses - with all four feet off the was amazing. I always bring cameras whether on vacation, or on assignment. And I always try to listen to everything going on around me.

  7. Great tips, Donna! Riding in a car always makes me want to write.

  8. Oh, I'm always listening to people and writing down what they say. I've always loved to travel and love especially when I head down the road less traveled (which happens quite frequently since I have a terrible sense of direction!)

    And P.S. If we can't be in the playoffs, I'm glad it's you and your Cards. :-)

  9. Great tips to remember. I don't travel as much as I'd like, but this is certainly a good reason to plan a jaunt! If we write and sell an article based on a trip, does that make the trip deductible? LOL

  10. Thanks, Donna, for the shout-out and great recap. And thanks to all who commented, also, and to those who were able to attend.

  11. Dianna had such fun photos to share, of town names and slogans. Relating traditions of the locals gave a reality to places. I love to hear dialects and terms. I just returned from Eureka Springs AR where a political hot topic is underway. There are just over 2000 residents and 150 of them are in the cast of a huge production of a Passion Play. Very interesting.

  12. Hi Claudia,
    I love reading about your travels on your blog.

    Hi Mary,
    How true!

    Hi Sioux,
    I feel the same way.

    Hi Linda,
    Isn't that the truth.

    Hi Sheree,
    Your comment is very vivid.

    Hi Tammy,
    There's something about the open road . . .

    Hi Cathy,
    I pick up on dialogue that way too, and thanks for cheering on the Cards.

    Hi Lisa,
    I believe the trip is deductible is you write about it.

    Hi Dianna,
    You're welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

    Hi Marcia,
    I'm hoping you'll write something about your Eureka trip and bring it to critique group.

  13. Ooh, that's a good idea ... There was so much happening ...


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