Thursday, April 17, 2014

In Case You Missed It: Literary Orange 2014, Part 6

What: Literary Orange
Where: Marriott, Irvine
When: Friday, April 5, 2014

Please Note: The quotes are approximate.

Panel #3
Travel: Journeys in Writing

People on the Panel
  • Lisa Napoli, author, Radio Shangri-La,
  • Gail D. Storey, author, I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail,
  • Catharine Hamm, moderator
"Go to wisdom of the heart.  Go to cocktail parties."

I've come to a revelation.  Literary Orange is not a writer's conference.  It is not here to dispense raw information to writers looking to break into the business.  Rather it is all about stories.  But I can still salvage part of my business model.  All of these authors are here to sell their books and they're doing a good job of it.  If I listen and observe, I can learn how I can follow in their footsteps if I should ever have to sell my book.

With my belly full of chicken, I head over to the F/G1 room.

This room is larger, but currently rather empty.  Everyone must still be drinking their coffee and chatting.  Well, good for me, I get my pick of the chairs. I sit down towards the front.

The panel is here.  Gail Storey has brown hair, a leather jacket, and a large turquoise necklace.  She sits to the left and her husband sits across from her, in the audience.  Lisa Napoli occupies the middle.  She also has brown hair and wears a blue-patterned blouse.  Catherine Hamm sits to the right, as all moderators do.  She has brown hair and a magenta blouse.

Eventually, the room fills, and we are ready to begin.

* * *

Moderator: I had the privilege of being able to travel all around the world without leaving my chair, because I read the books by these two ladies here.  Can you tell us a little about your books and how you came to go on these adventures?

Lisa Napoli
Lisa: My story began when I traveled to the Himalayas to start a youth-orientated radio station in the Kingdom of Bhutan at the birth of democracy.  At the time, I was working as a journalist, but I'd become soured to the media.  During my time spent in Bhutan, I fell back in love with it.  Radio Shangri-La contains twin stories.  There's the story of the kingdom of Bhutan and there's the story of me, how I coped with my midlife crisis.  And what I learned in the end is it's really not about me.  It's about helping other people.

Gail: I'd never thought I'd hike the Pacific Crest Trail.  In fact, my book begins, "I never cared much for nature, or rather, thought it okay as long as it stayed outside."  What happened was that my husband had hit a crisis in his career and needed renewal in nature.  Out of the blue, he said to me, "Let's hike the Pacific Crest Trail.  I know you'll love it."  My reaction was, "No.  I will not love it."  But I agreed.

Moderator: One of the things I love about your books is the way you weave in details.  Now I understand it took you about 9 years to write your book.  When you started this adventure, neither of you planned to turn it into a book.  How were you able to reconstruct all the details?

Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli
Gail: I had no intention of writing a book--for me, it was all about survival.  But my husband insisted we bring water proof paper with us.  It was a good thing it was waterproof, because it was soon soaked with my tears.  My husband would write regularly and keep all the day-to-day details of the trip.  For example, one of his entries would say, "Made camp.  Gail did a bit better today."  Mine would be, "What the f**k am I doing here?"  Whenever we reached rest stops, I'd send elaborate emails to friends and family.  When I got home, I thought it would be fun to write conflicting versions of the same event, but it fell apart.

Lisa:  When I left for Bhutan, I was trying to escape from the media, so I didn't bring a journal or take notes. My boss let me have a leave of absence, as long as I took microphone and sent back a story every now and then. Since it was a radio show, many of the young people recorded themselves and those recordings became the basis for my story.  It didn't actually take me that long to write the manuscript.  It did take 9 months to write the proposal.

Moderator: You write some deeply personal things inside your books.  How difficult was it to be that brutally honest?

Gail Storey
Lisa: I, as a young woman, had been sexually assaulted.  So for me it was a revelation to be able to have this experience and trust these people.  Here I was, a single woman having had this past experience and I was still able to come to this new country alone and put my life in the hands of strangers. I was grappling with this beautiful, wonderful thing, with this pivot point in my life.  There was no way not to write about it.

Gail:  The most challenging thing to write was the sexual and the spiritual.  The spiritual because you're writing about ineffable--you're trying to describe the indescribable.  With the sexual, I had to confront not just the erotic portion, but the problematic.  For example, I have a chapter called "Sex Under the Tarp." (Laughter)  No, but it was a struggle for me to get to the honesty.

Moderator: Who was the person who went into the journey and who was the person who came out?

Lisa: The person who went into the journey was befuddled--not knowing what to do--not really happy.  After I returned, I started reflecting on all the things present in my life that I didn't appreciate.  Like the ability to love.  I don't mean just loving a man, but spiritually, being able to love other people.

I Promise Not to Suffer by Gail Storey
Gail:  An interesting thing happens when you start a journey and commit to it.  The layers of yourself begin to fall away.  The first layer is the physical.  You confront the limits of the body.  Even as you're becoming stronger, you become emotionally raw.  Then the psychological self falls away.  You become a creature of awareness.  There's always the mystery of the question, "Who am I?"  But I've learned to be content living with the mystery.

Moderator: So how can I have an adventure that becomes a book?

Gail: Drop into the heart.  So many times we over think things.  Learn instead to follow in the wisdom of heart, letting it guide you.  The mind will follow as a function.

Lisa: Be open. I like to travel on my own and go everywhere I can--even to Irvine. (Laughter.)  I had the opportunity to go to Bhutan because I went to a cocktail party.  There's a lot of things that work against you.  The infiltration of maps--not physically, but in your mind, telling you where you're supposed to go.

Moderator:  So what I got from Gail was, "Go to wisdom of the heart," and what I got from Lisa was, "Go to cocktail parties."  (Laughter.)  Do I have to hike 900 miles?

Gail: You just have to be present.

Moderator: Where do you go from here?

Gail: My husband and I are planning a hike along a small section of the Continental Divide trail.

Lisa: Rapid City, North Dakota. I'm researching a book on Joan Crock.

* * *

Once again, my notes are dazed.  I am, too.  I'm heady with inspiration.  This has been the best panel so far.  I genuinely feel as though I have been on this journey with these women and have come out of it with newfound wisdom.  It makes me question my own fantasy writing.  I send my characters on a trips across the world. Do they bring such wisdom back?

My enlightenment is disrupted by the sudden prospect of material pleasure.  They're setting out dessert!  I rush to the ballroom for my piece of decadent chocolate cake and my last round of coffee.  The day is nearly done.  Only one speaker left.

* * *

To Be Continued....


  1. I'm really enjoying these posts, Rebecca. I thought I should just drop you a note to let you know :)