When I visited Bolivia’s largest salt flat (which is also the largest in the world) four years ago by jeep I had no idea that I would someday return to cycle across it. In fact, I didn’t even know that was possible. For the first seventy kilometers we had to share the Salar with tourist jeeps which would speed by, and then flicker out of existence in a weird optical illusion sort of way. It was funny to watch all of the tourists, who looked like tiny cartoon stick figures, taking pictures on the horizon, though we were happy to have our bikes and independence in order to explore at our own speed. We arrived to an island 100km from Uyuni where there were dozens of jeeps, and since this marked the end of the road for them, it was where the fun began for us as we crossed the…
It’s a little bit like falling in love, writing. Previously I’ve been pretty promiscuous; I love the instant gratification of short stories and think of your own metaphor for Flash Fiction. There’s that initial wow; that frenzied excitement, the high of the idea.
But now I want a proper relationship, a novel, something long-term. This requires investment and commitment, so I’ve decided on 1000 words a day. Depending on my mood, this has been beautifully flowy or an angry argument.
Then earlier in the week I came to the ‘I’m not sure if this is working’ stage. ‘Do I even like you?’ I asked my draft. I was enjoying the parts set in the present with a first-person voice, they’re immediate and easy to connect with but the third-person 90s sections felt like a soap opera; too mundane, too real.
The sun was going down in East Porterville, California, diffusing gold through a thick and creamy fog, as Donna Johnson pulled into the parking lot in front of the Family Dollar.
Since the valley started running dry, this has become Johnson’s favorite store. The responsibilities were getting overwhelming for the 70-year-old: doctors visits and scans for a shoulder she injured while lifting too-heavy cases of water; a trip to the mechanic to fix the truck door busted by an overeager film crew; a stop at the bank to deposit another generous check that’s still not enough to cover the costs of everything she gives away; a million other small tasks and expenses. But at the Family Dollar she was singularly focused, in her element.