Six Writer Conference Creature Comforts

I’ve attended writers’ conferences, one or two a year, for a long time. One by one, I’ve added to my list of creature comforts that take some of my personal stresses out of the wonderful whirlwind experience. For one thing, meeting and greeting old and new friends is much more pleasant without sneezes and itchy eyes. (If you want more info in any of these items a click on the photo will whisk you to Amazon for the details and reviews.)

1. Top of the list – Wein Mini-mate. This little gadget is designed to keep my personal air allergen, bacteria, and virus free. I don’t want to arrive at the conference with allergies flaring or a virus brewing. It may not will work for everyone, but it works for me.

[amazon_image id=”B000UX9G3O” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Air Supply Mini-Mate Personal Ionic Air Purifier–Clear[/amazon_image]

2, While traveling and at the conference, I like everything within reach so I’m not distracted by searches for misplaced items I need… like my ticket or identification… money, things like that. This purse has a slot or pocket for everything, reduces the weight of my “stuff” with a built-in, easy-access wallet, and the cross-body strap eliminates the stress on my shoulder. I also have this item on my replace-immediately-list.

[amazon_image id=”B001TDKQ3I” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Tignanello Multi Pocket T94505 Multi Pocket X Body,Black,One Size[/amazon_image]

3. To look my best, I need to see the back of my hair and a little magnification for applying my eyeliner is good. It folds flat and slips into its very own little black bag for travel.

[amazon_image id=”B002HRENPW” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Jerdon MC449N 5.5-Inch Folding Travel Mirror, 10X Magnification, Nickel Finish[/amazon_image]

4. I don’t like clutter in the hotel bathroom. Found this hanging cosmetic case conference before last. Works great for me and if you have roommates… need I say more?

[amazon_image id=”B0055WNFXW” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Hanging Toiletry Cosmetics Travel Bag, Black by Bags for Less[/amazon_image]

5. I need a little added protection from allergens and just discovered Choloraseptic Allergen Block. I take Zyrtec and use this along with my Mini-mate in high-risk areas. Not sure what helps most but my allergies are under control.

[amazon_image id=”B004B4RBBM” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Chloraseptic Allergen Block Gel, 0.1 Oz (Pack of 3)[/amazon_image]

6. My Kindle goes everywhere I go especially writers’ conferences. I like to read before going to sleep. If there’s noise in the next room or the hallway, I can plug in the Kindle earphones and listen to music, an audio book, or use the text to voice feature to read an eBook as I drift off to sleep. Writers’ conferences are “inspiration hot-spots.” So, when I get a flash of insight, I need my WIP close at hand. I keep a current version on my Kindle. I can search, highlight, and even add a note, anywhere, anytime. When I get home, I call up my notes and update the file on my PC. Works great for me. You probably already have an eBook reader, maybe it has these features, but if you want to see Amazon’s latest offerings, here you go:

I have the Kindle keyboard:

[amazon_image id=”B002FQJT3Q” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Kindle Keyboard 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6" E Ink Display[/amazon_image]

Dan has the Fire. I might borrow it and leave my netbook at home:

[amazon_image id=”B0051VVOB2″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Kindle Fire, Full Color 7" Multi-touch Display, Wi-Fi[/amazon_image]

Writer’s conferences are my favorite places and creature comforts make the experience better.

Sight Unseen

I’ve been chatting with a new Facebook friend. She’s in Philadelphia. As we talked about Ordinary Days and moments that become memories, my thoughts scurried back to 1960 and a turn-of-the-century three-story in the historic Germantown section of Philadelphia.

Dan and I married in August before he began his senior year in college. A math and physics major, he had a job lined up with Philco Radio Corporation before the second semester began. After he graduated, we headed for Philadelphia where we had rented a furnished apartment, sight unseen. I think it may have been on a list of recommended rentals sent to us by the company. I remember seeing photos of the large home that had been converted to six apartments.

After driving half-way across the continent, we arrived about mid-afternoon the Friday before Dan was scheduled to report to his new boss on Monday. We carried everything we owned from the trunk of our car, up the stairs, to our apartment. It had a fairly large living room, a bedroom with enough space to walk around the double bed, and a bathroom that could be reached by inching around the bed. If the door didn’t swing in, it wouldn’t have opened. The kitchen wasn’t visible at first. But, I opened a set of double doors and there it was… tucked away in a closet. Although we didn’t need heat in June, there was an ugly metal radiator in every room… uh, both rooms. All in all, we thought this apartment was heaven after living in a twenty-seven foot house trailer all our married life (two semesters).

The landlord was gracious, a small man who shuffled across the hardwood floors in the biggest fuzzy house slippers I’d ever seen. And, the house must have been beautiful in it’s heyday. I’m not sure when that might have been. Germantown was established in 1681 and played host to Revolutionary era events. As evidence of it’s age, a narrow drive led to a park-like setting in the back where there once might been a carriage house and stable. But there was no place to park an automobile. “Park your machine on the street,” the old man said with a wave of his hand.

A path under a Rose covered archway led to clotheslines for the residents’ convenience and a huge cherry tree provided morning shade for this yard and evening shade for the neighbor’s. The landlord gave me permission to pick roses for a bouquet. “And when the cherries ripen,” he said. “There’ll be plenty for everyone.”

If I ever decide to write a murder mystery or a suspense, this could be the perfect setting with it’s many rooms on three creaky floors plus a shadowy attic and musty basement… Somewhere in all this, there must be a secret panel hiding a passage to places thus unknown. Wait! I have written about this place. In my imagination this seed of an idea becames a mansion, completely revamped and modified to fit another place and time — Myrtle Hill, Oklahoma more than fifty years later… I’m working on it. Just you wait and see.

Creature Comforts

I love peace, quiet, and comfort. I do my best writing under those circumstances. And, it’s my favorite reading environment.

Since I love to read and I love to write, I’ve become somewhat of a connoisseur of creature comforts. Unfortunately, my browsing and buying moods don’t happen at the same time. So, when the browsing mood strikes I visit my favorite online mall. I add the comforts I might like to my wishlist and return when I’m ready to buy.

Shopping takes time and I don’t always know where to look. Sometimes the best comforts are found in the least suspected places. This two step process works great for me and I think it might be a good thing to share.

I’m often asked about my favorite reading device. We’re a Kindle family so within our circle, we’ve tried most of the Kindles. I still have the second generation but Dan updated to the Fire.

Amazon offers a number of Kindles within an affordable price range and Kindle is at the top of my Creature Comforts list. The screen is easy on my eyes and I like choosing the font size that’s best for me. Same for my mom. She loved to read although macular degeneration took most of her vision in her later years. Still, she was able to read the large print on her Kindle DX until the last few months of her life. By that time, reading was one of her few joys. The largest font on the Kindle DX was a blessing, but Mama’s ability to read with very limited vision was a miracle.

If you’d like to browse the list I’ve developed so far, take a look on my Webpage: http://www.deannedurrett.com/creaturecomforts.html/  Check out my Coffee and Tea favorites and Relaxing in the Tub. Maybe you’ll find the creature comfort you need to make an ordinary day special in a good way.

The Bridge

In the spring of 2005, I was finishing RIGHT TO VOTE for Facts On File and recovering from surgery. One ordinary day, I answered the phone and recognized the distinctive voice that greeted me. It was Dr. George Blue Spruce, the first American Indian dentist. I had written about him in HEALERS, another Facts On File book and interviewed him by phone several times. That day became special when Dr. Blue Spruce asked me to write his life-story.

A few weeks later, he brought me his scrapbooks and began telling me his story. I was spellbound by the accomplishments of this man. A full-blood Pueblo, he grew up in Santa Fe, living on the Santa Fe Indian School campus where his father taught woodworking and his mother worked in the cafeteria. His mother was from the San Juan pueblo and his father from the Laguna pueblo. They were taken from their families and forced to attend boarding school. When they met at the Albuquerque Indian School they did not share the same native language but learned English together. I felt privileged as Dr. Blue Spruce told me his story and trusted me to write the chapters of his life — from the pueblos to the halls of Washington, and then donning the uniform of a Rear Admiral in Public Health Service, he became an Assistant Surgeon General and head of the Phoenix Area Indian Health Service. What a treat to listen to this man and write his story.

About mid-way through the first draft of SEARCHING FOR MY DESTINY, I answered the phone and recognized another voice of a person I’d written about in the past. Helen Blanchard, DTM, the first woman president of Toastmasters International, wanted me to write her story.

A few months later, I had Ms. Blanchard’s scrapbooks and began listening to her life story and writing the chapters of her life. We named her book BREAKING THE ICE since the Ice Breaker is part of every Toastmaster meeting and Helen Blanchard broke the ice as one of the first women in Toastmasters and the first woman president. Her life journey took her from a farm in Nebraska, to the Navy Research Lab in San Diego, and to the leadership of the international organization… originally for men only.

Walking in the shadow of these two distinguished, accomplished people  as I wrote their memoirs offered a challenge and a delightful experience for me as a writer and a person. These books were nonfiction, but different from the twenty-some others I’d written before… This time, the material for the book came from a person reliving their past. I was privy to the passions of  their youth, their dreams, follies, heartaches, goals, and disappointments… and sworn to keep secret those things not intended for print. As each life-story unfolded before me, I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. It was an extraordinary experience.

When the manuscripts were finished, I stood at the threshold of a bridge over the wide chasm between nonfiction and fiction. Characters that had been pushed to the back-burner while I wrote nonfiction shouted from the shadows of my mind. “I have a story.” “Listen to me!” “I’ve been waiting too long.” These characters had been in my mind so long, they were old friends. I had to listen to them… so I crossed the bridge to the fiction world. I’m listening to Becca McGee’s story. Joe Chandler is next. Someday soon, I hope you’ll let me share them with you in a novel.