Reflections on a Seattle Vacay

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 5
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 5, 2015 at 9:38 am

Last week, we visited Seattle for the first time. I’d always heard great things about this Pacific Northwest city, and wanted to see it for myself.

It turns out that the so-called “birthplace of grunge” is a lot greener and happier than I’d imagined. Although Seattle is portrayed as a rainy city, we had perfect, sunny weather for most of our trip. The climate was actually pretty similar to San Diego (highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s) during our vacation.

A lovely day in Seattle

A lovely day in Seattle

 

We stayed in a hotel downtown with a spectacular rooftop deck, and spent hours gazing out over the city and water. We could see the Space Needle from our rooftop, as well as the waterfront area and everything in between. In the mornings, the view was obscured by a layer of fog, but once it burned off, the city was clear and shimmering before us.

The view from our hotel room

The view from our hotel room

There are tons of tourist attractions there, but we prefer to stay away from things we deem “too touristy.” As a result, we hung out in fun, trendy neighborhoods like Belltown, loading up on coffee (of course! But no Starbuck’s.) and delicious food. The vibe was chill, people seemed nice and talkative, and the city was incredibly clean. One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the EMP museum, with exhibits featuring various pop culture elements. We especially enjoyed the Nirvana exhibit, and the music section upstairs where patrons can play various instruments. I tapped into my inner jazz musician by composing my own piano piece over a rhythmic jazz beat, and Antonio had a field day with the guitars. We even jammed together on guitar and drums, and Xaviana pounded the keyboard. The vacation environment, coupled with the overall free-for-all feel, fueled our creativity for the week ahead, and we’ve both been super productive since our return!

 

Antonio plays air guitar next to the musical instrument sculpture in the EMP museum.

Antonio plays air guitar next to the musical instrument sculpture in the EMP museum.

Another favorite was Alki Beach, which we hit on our last day (and the only gray day we experienced in Seattle). The thick, low-laying clouds and light mist of rain created the perfect environment for introspection as we looked out over the water. And the fact that we found an awesome Greek-inspired fish-and-chips place, Sunfish, added to the fun. Over lunch, Antonio remarked that it was easy to forget what country we were in, and it’s true. Seattle provides such an eclectic mix of cultures and such a colorful and random environment that you could really be anywhere. During our stay, we enjoyed cuisine from all over the world: a Creole brunch, Japanese sushi, Italian dinner, American gastropub fare, and, of course, the Greek-American fusion fish.

20150522_133608

We left Seattle full of excitement and inspiration… Since then, Antonio has taken his energy and creativity to his brand-new job at a startup, while I’ve directed mine toward writing my upcoming book, Amish Blessings. If you haven’t been to Seattle yet, you must try it!

Reflections on a Baja California Vacay

by Kristina Ludwig
Apr 27
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: April 27, 2015 at 9:20 am

It’s so nice to return to the blog… Between writing my new eBook (Amish Shopkeeper–look for excerpts coming soon!) and mini-vacations here and there, things have been a little crazy.

Last weekend, I visited Baja California with Antonio, Xaviana, and some friends, and was super-inspired by the vibrant culture and seaside beauty. We’ve been talking about road-tripping to Mexico forever, since it’s so close to San Diego, and I’m pumped to share my random reflections with you!

Our first stop was the ocean town of Puerto Nuevo. The music of mariachis filled the air as merchants hawked their wares–everything from hats to jewelry to mini guitars. The salespeople seemed so passionate about their merchandise that everything was hard to resist, and I found myself wondering, “Do I need this random fill-in-the-blank?”

Delicious aromas of fresh coffee and sweets from the dulceria wafted out to greet us as we headed to lunch at a restaurant with a sunny rooftop dining area overlooking the glistening waters of the Pacific. The oysters, lobster, shrimp, and fish were so fresh that they tasted as though they had just been caught an hour ago, and there’s nothing like a real Mexican margarita. ;)

Afterwards, we wandered the colorful streets, stopping at an art cafe. These are fairly popular in Puerto Nuevo, and I think they’re amazing, since they combine two of my favorite things, art and coffee. We purchased a beautiful beach painting from brilliant artist Jorge Prieto B. I admired the paintings and straw art as I sipped my Mexican mocha, which was as spicy, rich, and complex as the local culture itself.

After that, we drove a bit further south to Ensenada, another beach town, and stayed in a resort there.

A shot of our resort at Estero Beach in Ensenada

A shot of our resort at Estero Beach in Ensenada

 

Ensenada is what I would call “raw”–it has some pretty sketchy areas, a stark contrast to the polished sheen of its tourist district. We had dinner under the stars, in a table overlooking the water, with the music of a nearby wedding serving as the perfect soundtrack. The next morning, we brunched at a classy restaurant with live piano music and authentic Mexican cinnamon rolls and breakfast dishes. I was in love–with the food, the ambience, and the price. I couldn’t get over how excellent the quality of food and service was for the money. If you’re looking for a supremely affordable vacay, Baja California is for you!

That afternoon, we continued to a wine tasting at Shedeh Winery. The wine country was all rolling hills and dry, dusty roads, and, like Southern California, the temperature was considerably warmer inland than by the coast. We enjoyed full-bodied, exotic red wines complemented by fresh bread and tapenade–the perfect end to the perfect mini-getaway.

At the Shedeh Winery, with special guests Xaviana and the Very Hungry Caterpillar ;)

At the Shedeh Winery, with special guests Xaviana and the Very Hungry Caterpillar ;)

After that, we drove back home, spending about an hour and a half at the border in massive lines to get back into the US. It may have been a long time, but it certainly wasn’t boring; there were tons of vendors to keep things interesting. We bought coconut-pineapple ice cream, and enjoyed our last encounter with the vivid Mexican culture–until next time, at least!

5 Ways to Regain Your Writing Mojo After Vacation

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 12
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I’ve just returned from an amazing summer break in London and Lebanon, where I discovered new places, foods, and cultures. To make matters even better, the entire trip culminated with the beautiful wedding of two close friends–simply awesome!

Before I left on the trip, I scheduled this blog post with tips on how to keep writing during vacation, and I’m pleased to say that I implemented each and every one of  them! However, I concentrated on blogging and working on a new Business, Publishing, and Life episode. I put my latest book of the Amish in College series, Amish Baker: Mercy’s Book, on hold to focus on enjoying the vacay and keeping up my online presence.

I figured I could move this project to the back burner since I’d had a ton of momentum before I’d left on vacation, I had a clear vision of the plot line, and I was ahead in my writing quota; I’d actually done this on purpose so I could take more time off without feeling pressure. But when I returned, I was dismayed to realize that I’d been gone from the project for so long that I almost didn’t remember where I’d left off. I felt out of sync with the story, almost as though my writing itself was as jet-lagged as my body felt.

Luckily, I have recovered from enough writing vacays to realize that it’s totally possible to regain your writing mojo after vacation–and fast. Here are 5 foolproof tips that I’ve implemented over the last few days. Hopefully, they’ll help you next time you return from a writing vacay!

The stunning views and fun activities on vacation may be inspirational, but how to focus all that stimulation into your writing? Read on! This photo was taken in Harissa, at the top of a mountain in Lebanon.

The stunning views and fun activities on vacation may be inspirational, but how to focus all that stimulation into your writing? Read on! This photo was taken in Harissa, at the top of a mountain in Lebanon.

  1. Be realistic - Allow time for a good night’s sleep, unpacking, organizing your house, and recovering from that dreaded jet-lag. (I am very experienced with this, since I was 10 time zones outside my norm.) If you try to delve directly into writing, it may feel forced, and you’ll be distracted by all the other things you have to do. Plus, it’s a known fact that clutter–whether it’s physical or emotional–contributes to stress and actually saps creativity and productivity. So organize first, and write later. You’ll be glad you did.
  2. Write a mantra - Before you begin your writing session, compose a mantra for that day and/or week. It can be one word, one sentence, or an entire paragraph. Thinking of a mantra before yoga practice keeps you focused and goal-oriented the entire time, and devising a mantra before you begin writing does exactly the same thing.
  3. Write a checklist - After you’ve come up with a mantra, it’s time to get specific–with checklists packed with goals for the coming week. I wrote my mantra and checklist in the car on the way to the airport, since that was when I felt most inspired. Many times, when you’re traveling home, you’re actually looking forward to getting back to work, and this was the case for me–my brain was literally swimming with things I wanted to accomplish. Once I was settled in at home, I revisited the checklist, and began accomplishing goals from it one by one–woohoo! I’ve read over the checklist, monitoring my progress every day, and I’ve found that I’m right on track with what I’d visualized during that faraway car ride. Discipline is key, but the most important component is visualizing the checklist in the first place–and writing it down so you can use it to track your progress.
  4. Reread where you left off - Thus far, my tips have focused on ways to set yourself up for a productive writing session; now, I will tell you how to live it. The first step to getting back into sync with your writing project is to revisit it. Simply reread the last few chapters that you wrote before you left for vacay. As soon as you finish, chances are you’ll be back in the mind frame you were in before you left, and the story will flow naturally. But if you have a hard time with that, you can always try my last tip…
  5. Find inspiration from your experiences - Remember that inspiration notebook and journal I was talking about? Now, it comes in handy. If you’re not entirely ready to immerse yourself in your story yet, get the creative juices flowing by writing a blog post about things that inspired you during vacation, or write another journal entry, or perhaps a short story or poem. Writing begets more writing, after all!

Writers out there, have you faced a similar dilemma after vacation? If so, how did you deal with it? I’d love to hear your tips and reflections!

Writing on Vacay: 5 Tips to Write on the Run

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 2
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 2, 2014 at 9:00 am

It’s that time again…summer vacation season. As we writers jet-set across the globe (or maybe just road-trip to the next city over), inspiration often strikes. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I come up with a new idea for a book or blog post, I want to get it down right away before the Muse goes out to lunch.

But how do you write when you’ve already got a packed day of sight-seeing, visiting, and–oh yeah–some much-needed R & R? Here are 5 tips for writing on vacay. Follow them, and you’ll write inspired prose on the run. Plus, you won’t feel behind on your writing projects as soon as you’ve unpacked your suitcases. Win-win!

Next time you're flying, do some writing as well! Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Next time you’re flying, do some writing as well! Photo courtesy of Flickr.

  1. Use travel time wisely - If you’re flying, don’t waste the whole flight watching movies or sleeping. Get out your laptop and write a little! The same goes with road-trips; take turns driving, and when you’re not the one behind the wheel, do some journaling or write on your laptop.
  2. Carry an inspiration notebook - They’re little, they’re cute, and they can fit easily into your handbag. No I’m not talking about baby chihuahuas…I’m talking about inspiration notebooks! New story ideas often strike at odd times, and since our senses are so much more acute during travel, we’re likely to be more open-minded and creative than usual. Don’t forget those awesome ideas–write them down right away!
  3. Journal – Journaling about our reflections on the vacation, the places we’ve seen, and the people we meet is a great way to amp up creativity and keep in practice with our writing. You may not have time to journal every day of your vacation–and probably shouldn’t if you’re living it up. But journaling during your downtime just feels amazing!
  4. Talk to locals - This may not be a writing tip, but talking to new people on vacation is the perfect way to learn about new cultures and get ideas for characters in your books.
  5. Try something new. Then write about it. Use your inspiration notebook. Try to write about your new experience in a very descriptive, story-like way, and who knows–it might end up in your new book.

Writers out there, do you write on vacation? What are some of your best tips? I’d love to hear your opinions!

 

Reflections on a Writing Field Trip Part 2: College Trip Down Memory Lane

by Kristina Ludwig
Mar 17
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: March 17, 2014 at 11:09 am

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, all! To celebrate the luck of the Irish (and to be a little ironic), I’m giving my humorous contemporary YA romance, Unlucky 13, away for free today. We may be having a lucky day, but thirteen year-old Jordyn’s year is anything but… She endures a string of crazy bad luck as she tries to score a date with her dream guy. Can Jordyn turn her luck around and win Andrew’s heart? Find out today…for free!

Unlucky13

And in other news: Long-term followers of my Random Inspirations blog may recall my Writing Field Trip post from December, in which I reflected on a trip to Lawrence County, home of my Amish Hearts characters. Today, it’s time for part 2 of that post. Last weekend, I visited my family in Pittsburgh, and took a trip down memory lane to my old college campus, the University of Pittsburgh. This trip came at the best possible time, because I have been working hard on “Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book,” Book 1 of my new Amish in College series, and Pitt is where Rebekah and Braeden go to college.

Writing “Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book” has been an incredible experience, because I have fond memories of life at Pitt–especially my last two years of pharmacy school, when I met and fell in love with Antonio! I spent six years on that campus, and I know it inside out. The beautiful architecture that blends old and new styles, the brilliant collection of students from all over the world, and the way the entire campus seems to blossom and bloom in the spring just before finals… All of these are aspects of Pitt that I love, so of course I incorporate them into “Amish Faith.” 

“Amish Faith” will be released later this week (date coming soon). So, to get you psyched about some of the people and places in Rebekah’s book, here are a few pictures we took at Pitt. We owe these great shots to my dad. :)

A cheery sign by the famous campus landmark, the Cathedral of Learning, proclaims, “Welcome to Pitt.”

Welcome to Pitt

The Cathedral of Learning houses the nationality rooms, several classrooms, a computer lab, Starbuck’s, and food court downstairs, and a huge, open study area on the main floor. This is where Braeden and Rebekah like to study in “Amish Faith.”

Cathedral 1

During well-deserved study breaks, Braeden and Rebekah lay in the grass and gaze upward at the Cathedral of Learning. When the clouds move just right, the building almost looks like it’s falling on them.

Cathedral falling on you

Inside the Cathedral of Learning is a wrought-iron gate with the famous quote that inspired Rebekah to attend college in Rumspringa Break: “Here is eternal spring. For you the very stars of heaven are new.”

Cathedral quote with me

Rebekah lives with her funny roommate Allie in Litchfield Towers, the freshman dorm buildings. In Mercy’s Fall, Rebekah’s sister Mercy describes the towers as looking like silos.

Litchfield Towers

Braeden walks Rebekah to her least favorite class, Bio 1, at Clapp Hall. Her class consists of more than 300 students, which is very overwhelming to an Amish girl who grew up attending classes in a one-room schoolhouse.

Clapp Hall

When she and Braeden have a disagreement, Rebekah finds solace at the Log Cabin near the Cathedral of Learning. It’s a reminder of her simple roots amidst the bustling, competitive city environment.

Log Cabin

Braeden convinces Rebekah that God is everywhere when he takes her to a church service at St. Paul Cathedral. Although mass is much different than Rebekah’s Amish services, she feels as touched by Herr Gott as she does at home with her family.

St. Paul Cathedral Doors

St. Paul's cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral Angle

I hope these pictures and descriptions will help “Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book” to come to life for you! Stay tuned on the blog and Facebook for release dates!

Reflections on a Vacation in Mexico City

by Kristina Ludwig
Feb 20
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: February 20, 2014 at 11:24 am

For the long President’s Day weekend, Antonio and I decided to visit a faraway land…Mexico City, to be exact. Antonio’s good friend had been inviting us down forever, and we decided it was time to just do it already!

My first impression of Mexico City was wow. It is, without a doubt, the largest city I’ve ever seen…much bigger than New York or LA. Flying over la Ciudad de Mexico was like overlooking a sea of lights. It was 11 PM on a Friday night, and the city was glowing with vitality and energy.

We had the privilege of staying with our friends Cristian and Ana, in their gorgeous casa in the north of Mexico City, by Polanco, and they made sure we had an awesome weekend. Mexico City is the perfect amalgamation of ancient past and glittering present, and our amazing “tour guides” showed us exactly that.

Our first full day in Mexico City, we drove to San Angel, an historic community in the south of the city. We enjoyed a delicious outdoor brunch, where I tried my first-ever sopa de melon (melon soup), a Mexican specialty that is both sweet and salty. And then, fortified for the day ahead, we attended the Bazaar del Sabado (Saturday Bazaar).

Traditional Mexican music, played by three men on a xylophone-like instrument, emanated throughout the open courtyard as we browsed jewelry, housewares, and art. The prices were reasonable, mostly because $1.00 is equal to 13 pesos, so even though the items sounded expensive they really weren’t. Antonio and I practiced our Spanish and our negotiating skills as we purchased an abalone mask, a ceramic skull, a jade bracelet, and a leather cuff bracelet.

Naturally, being a book enthusiast, I sniffed out a libreria (bookstore), where I bought a book called Con Permiso del Sol (With Permission of the Sun). I’ve started reading it to practice my Spanish, and the experience has been fun and enriching. If you’re trying to learn another language, I’d definitely recommend reading a book in that language. It’s challenging, but, for me anyway, seeing the words in print reinforced all the phrases I’d been hearing scattered randomly throughout conversations all weekend.

The libraria in San Angel

The libreria in San Angel

That night we had a house party…Mexican style! It lasted until 6 AM! Antonio and I passed out somewhere around 3:30 AM, though…our day of exploration had tired us out, in a good way.

Sunday, we checked out downtown Mexico City, and were completely blown away. It’s a bustling metropolis full of street performers, breathtaking architecture, music, and dancing. I danced in the street twice: once when we passed a stand blaring fun, festive music, and again when we reached a group of street performers doing a traditional Aztec dance. We marveled at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the most important cultural center in Mexico City, which serves as an opera house, theater, and museum. Then, we enjoyed more delicious Mexican cuisine at the well-known Danubio Restaurant. The seafood was extraordinary, and my favorites were the langostinos (tiny lobsters) and the calamari cooked in its own ink. The restaurants of Mexico City have top-notch food and service.

downtown mx city pic

As the sun sank lower in the sky, we made our way to a rooftop club, Mundo Joven (Young World). A DJ was silhouetted against the imposing, historic buildings of the Mexico City skyline, pumping out innovative house music. To me, this epitomized the blending of old and new that you’ll find in the bonita Ciudad de Mexico

That night, we ate at a yummy taqueria, where we tried pastor (pork) tacos with pineapple and an appetizer of cactus and toasted cheese (my first time ever eating a cactus), and we fell completely in love with coconut milk. I wish we could import these traditional Mexican tacos into the states…I’ve never tasted anything like them. Then again, they just give us more incentive to return to Mexico City!

Our last day in Mexico, we went to the pyramids in Teotihuacan, the City of the Gods. I remembered learning about this place in high school Spanish class, and was psyched to see the Piramide del Sol y la Piramide de la Luna

Armed with our sombreros and SPF 50 sunscreen, we climbed to the top of the Sun and Moon Pyramids. As soon as I stepped onto the Piramide del Sol, I felt as if I was being touched by history, and a bit of magic. Antonio even found a butterfly, which I carried toward the top of the pyramid. When we reached a scenic overlook, I released the mariposa and we both made a wish. And when we reached the top of the pyramid, we sat on the side overlooking the Piramide de la Luna, and meditated, reflecting on life and love. Seeing this awe-inspiring, enduring piece of the past helped us to appreciate the many things in this world that are bigger than we are…yet, somehow, it also made us reach deeper into our own essences, looking further into ourselves for meaning and inner peace.

We climbed the Piramide de la Luna next; only the bottom set of steep steps was open to the public. But we were okay with this. The first tier of the pyramid afforded us a first-class view of the Piramide del Sol, and we were able to sit on the edge, dangling our feet below as we basked in the sunshine like lizards. It was a pretty amazing afternoon.

Climbing the Piramid de la Luna

Climbing the Piramide de la Luna

We left Mexico City that night exhausted, yet recharged…completely inspired for the work week ahead. And ever since I’ve been back home, my writing has been on fire. It seems that all we needed for a bit of physical and creative renewal was a weekend surrounded with scintillating artistic and ancient culture!

Reflections on a Holiday in Lebanon

by Kristina Ludwig
Jan 9
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: January 9, 2014 at 11:01 am

Remember when you were in elementary school, and you missed class to go on an “educational trip?” And then, when you came back, your teacher asked you to write all about it, just to make sure you’d learned something?

Back in the day, this felt wrong to me. My elementary school brain was like, “What? I just got back from vacation and have all this catch-up work, and now the teacher is giving me even more work?”

But now I realize it’s a helpful exercise, and that’s why I looove blogging about my reflections after I return from various trips. Call me a nerd, but I actually get excited to do it. After my vacay, I’m excited to get back to work!

My holiday in Lebanon was extremely restful…perhaps too restful (check out my recent blog post about dreams if you don’t believe me:) I enjoyed the gracious hospitality of my in-laws, who not only let us stay in their private downstairs guest suite, they also threw two parties to celebrate our wedding and Antonio’s birthday. And just to make our stay even better, Antonio’s mom cooks the most phenomenal Lebanese food I’ve ever tasted!

At a Lebanese Christmas party with my sisters-in-law, Aline and Danielle.

At a Lebanese Christmas party with my sisters-in-law, Aline and Danielle.

Because of the gut-wrenching Middle East situation and the perceived danger of visiting, Lebanon is not considered a tourist destination. That’s a shame because it is a truly unique and amazing place. The night scene is full of super-fun bar/lounge/club areas, like Jounieh and Uruguay Street, and the late-night dining is second to none. The night life is especially vibrant during the holiday season, when twenty- and thirtysomethings who work in other countries return “home” to celebrate.

 

Dancing the night away at Club Mad, part of Lebanon's night scene.

Dancing the night away at Club Mad, part of Lebanon’s night scene.

There are also plenty of nature activities: gorgeous, paradise-like beaches, awe-inspiring caves, hiking trails, and acres of forests. The snow-capped mountains are so breathtaking that they hardly look real, especially at sunset. And there’s even Faraya, the fun ski resort community where we spent New Year’s Eve at our friends’ chalet. I know what you’re thinking…skiing? In the Middle East? Not exactly what I’d pictured, either.

The people I met in Lebanon were friendly, and most were able to speak three languages, English, Arabic, and French. The food is fresh, and so packed with super-nutrients that I fought off the yucky cold I’d picked up in three days flat! The Lebanese cook with healthy olive oil and lemon, and definitely get their recommended dietary allowance of fruits and vegetables. My personal favorite exotic fruit was “ashta,” a sweet and succulent delicacy that I practically inhaled.

Ashta, my Lebanese fruit obsession.

Ashta, my Lebanese fruit obsession.

By the end of my holiday getaway, I’d immersed myself in this intriguing culture, and I’d even picked up some Arabic. My brain was swimming with words, and, strangely, I’d think of random Arabic phrases either at night after a few drinks or the next day when I woke up. Interesting how the brain works.

During my stay in Lebanon, I was desperately trying to complete Mercy’s Fall, my Amish fiction novella, but I was completely uninspired. I was fed up with myself until I realized that I couldn’t possibly think or write about the Amish when I was in this fascinating, relatively new (to me) foreign land. So, I focused on drinking in the unusual experiences and journaling, and two totally new story ideas came to me: the dream YA novel from my previous entry and a YA novel about a Lebanese-American girl discovering herself in her family’s ancient homeland. And on the flight home, my imagination was so ignited that I returned to Mercy’s Fall and finished writing it in two days!

The trip back to California was a long one (thirty hours to be exact, through Moscow, where it was dark until 10 AM), but now that I’m back, I’m feeling rested. The getaway was just what I needed. It broadened my horizons, and also made me thankful for the fast internet we have in the U.S. :)

Are you more inspired after you return from a particularly stimulating vacation? What kind of inspiration do you find in other countries, or even new cities in your own homeland? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Turning Dreams into Stories

by Kristina Ludwig
Jan 6
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: January 6, 2014 at 9:24 am

Happy New Year! I hope everyone has had a sparkling holiday season, full of family, friends, and memories. And even if you felt more Grinch than Whoville during the festivities, it’s amazing to have that fresh start that we all feel this time of year!

This holiday season, I was in Lebanon visiting Antonio’s family — more about that in a future blog post! The local time in Lebanon is ten hours later than that of California, so, needless to say, my sleep schedule was toast. We were sleeping late and long, yet always tired. Thank goodness for that potent Turkish coffee they’re always drinking there…

But the incredible side effect of my weird sleep habits was that I had incredibly vivid dreams. I have always wanted to write a paranormal YA novel, but I never could come up with a cool enough premise for a story. I’d basically resigned myself to the fact that my mind just didn’t work that way. Well, maybe it doesn’t when I’m awake, but it sure did one night when I was deep in a REM cycle (or was it morning? We basically never woke up before 1 PM!).

I don’t want to give much away, but I dreamed an entire paranormal novel with myself as a heroine. Of course I didn’t think of it that way — I was in the dream, after all, as my grown-up self. And the dream felt totally real to me when I was lost in it. But when I was telling Antonio about the dream the next day, he said it could very easily be modified for a YA heroine.

Antonio and me in Lebanon, where I had some of my wildest dreams ever!

Antonio and me in Lebanon, where I had some of my wildest dreams ever!

While I was having this incredible dream and immediately afterwards, I did a few things that I just have to share with you. Hopefully, these little mind exercises will help you to capture some of your coolest dreams and turn them into stories! After all, inspiration can come even subconsciously (and sometimes, it’s more vibrant that way).

  • Keep the dream alive. In the middle of the dream, my sleeping self actually realized how cool it was. So, when the REM cycle started ending and I felt myself waking up, I continued the dream in my head as if I was telling myself a story. Then, I nodded off again and the dream resumed. Bizarre technique, but it’s worked for me in the past, so I know it’s legit.
  • Tell someone about it. As soon as I woke up, I told Antonio about the dream. Retelling it made it more real and confirmed its value as a future writing project. Plus, it cemented the events of the story in my mind. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of an awesome dream or thought slipping away. Articulating the dream is the best way to prevent that horrible feeling.
  • Write it down. This one is obvious but worth mentioning. I’m pretty sure that all of us writers have inspiration notebooks, but if you don’t, picking one up should be your New Year’s Resolution. Before I agreed to do anything else, I scribbled down the dream in its entirety, and now it lies waiting to be resurrected in the form of a later project. Can’t wait!

Have you ever had any dreams that were so cool you turned them into stories? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Cross-Country Road Trip: The Observations and the Inspiration

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 16
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 16, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Today feels like such a Monday…but not necessarily in a bad way. It’s a day to get back to work after an exciting wedding, honeymoon, and cross-country move to California. And by “get back to work,” I mean working on one of my favorite things: writing!

Antonio and I decided to do a cross-country road trip for our honeymoon. We both adore road trips, and we’d never taken a looong one together before. Plus, it eliminated the concern of shipping my car from Chicago to California — Why not just drive it? So, my new hubby and I took to the highway, and discovered America in a brand-new way.

We had no definitive plan of which stops we wanted to make; we brainstormed where we’d stay as we burned up the miles. Here are the places we visited, and my reflections on each one.

  • Omaha, NE: Home of epic steaks and Warren Buffett. We tried a whiskey-marinated steak for the first time, and believe me when I say Omaha steaks are pretty impressive. My biggest observation was how much open space there is in this great country of ours, as we cruised past miles of corn fields. After driving through Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska, I can honestly say that I experienced the bread (and corn) basket of the nation firsthand!
  • Denver, CO: The mile-high city is truly a melting pot of interesting people, and its nightlife is vibrant. We hobnobbed with the fun crowd of Hamburger Mary’s, witnessed a game of Jenga using the world’s largest block set, and enjoyed drinks with fun names like “The Unicorn.” The view from our hotel was phenomenal, and the pool there was equipped with cabanas and a full bar…not too bad! ;)
Denver city view

Denver city view

  • Boulder, CO: I honestly think Boulder is one of the healthiest places on the planet. It’s so green, and everywhere you look, people are jogging and riding bikes. And let me tell you, physical activity is not easy here with the altitude. I was feeling blah as my body acclimated, but soon the mountain air invigorated me.
  • Beaver Creek, CO: This community is famous for its ski lodges and breathtaking views. I’ve never been to the Swiss Alps before, but Beaver Creek looks a lot like the pictures I’ve seen of them. As we drove through the mountains, Antonio and I mused about how man could never create something so incredible as those rugged mountains, canyons, and creeks. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our everyday lives that we forget how many things in this world are much bigger than us. This leg of the road trip was the perfect reminder.
Stunning mountains and gorges near Beaver Creek

Stunning mountains and gorges near Beaver Creek

  • Moab, UT: More marvelous beauty, this time in the form of tall mesas and multilayered red rock arches. We stayed a bit outside of Moab, however, and realized things were a bit too quiet for us. After all the natural wonders, we were ready for something dazzling and man-made, something vivid and commercialized. So, we drove toward…
Rock formations in Utah

Rock formations in Utah

  • Las Vegas, NV! An interesting side note: As we journeyed through the supposed deserts of Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, we were struck by some crazy thunderstorms. At some points, we could barely see out of the car. And the normally sunny Vegas was cloaked by thick, dark clouds. This didn’t stop us from getting out and enjoying the fine cuisine, bright lights, and boundless energy of Sin City. The weather cleared up and we had plenty of pool time. We saw a show and even won some money at roulette. We selected the numbers and colors on the board by what we felt in our hearts, not any set mathematical strategy. This could, in fact, be the theme of our honeymoon: choose your destination based on what you feel in your heart, and you will win!
Sunset at the Paris in Vegas

Sunset at the Paris in Vegas

Airplanes and Creativity: Inspiration at 40,000 Feet

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 21
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 21, 2013 at 12:56 pm

It’s that time of year again: summer vacation! Time to pack up and discover new lands…or rediscover old, familiar ones. Last year, I blogged about how travel stimulates creativity, but on my last flight I realized that the mere act of flying on an airplane also seems to stimulate creativity.

I’m sure not everyone will agree with this–some people are extremely anxious about flying, and need to medicate themselves before setting foot on a plane. And then there are those who don’t really want to think on flights, they just want to be entertained.

However, I’ve  always felt that above the clouds is one of the most inspirational places ever. That’s why I prefer window seats. I love watching the landscape change far below, and admiring the way the rising or setting sun tinges the clouds with fiery shades of rose and gold. I also adore flying in the middle of the day, gazing down at the tops of the clouds. Sometimes, I think it looks just like heaven…until there’s turbulence, or a baby starts screaming, of course.

Above the clouds is one of the most inspirational places ever.

Above the clouds is one of the most inspirational places ever.

And after I admire the “airscape,” I inevitably come up with some pretty fascinating ideas. The concept for the novel I’m finishing came to me in a plane, as did the idea for my next one. It seems like the huge block of time combined with the relatively low amount of distractions allows me to have super-productive writing sessions, too. On some flights, I’ve been so absorbed in my writing that I’ve actually lost track of time.

On my most recent flight, I hashed out exactly how I’ll be making one of my wedding favors. Then, I read a cooking magazine and a book about self-editing, in that order…which gave me an idea for my next blog post. I realize that’s a random collection of influences, but it will make sense, I swear! No more hints, though. You’ll have to check it out next week. :)

I’m not the only one who feels more creative on flights. Antonio once wrote me a “Love Letter at 40,000 Feet,” which was one of the most beautiful, thoughtful, and insightful things he’s ever written–and, incidentally, the inspiration for the title of this blog post. And when I took a look around on my last flight, I noticed dozens of people who seemed intensely focused on the view, their laptops, their reading material, etc. A creative bunch, for sure.

So, as you board your next summer flight, remember to sit back and relax. Close your eyes and meditate, since creativity is all about the right mindset. Bring some stimulating reading material or a journal, or just gaze out the window. And the muses will come to you. Bon voyage!