When I was running Breteche Creek Ranch, a nonprofit guest ranch in Wyoming, I got incredibly lucky. I was able to talk acclaimed writers Pam Houston and Ron Carlson into coming to the ranch three summers in a row to teach a writing workshop.
Pam was an outdoorswoman, former whitewater rafting guide and all-around Colorado ranch gal whose 1992 book Cowboys Are My Weakness had captured the collective imagination. That first summer of our guest-ranch program, it seems like every guest who stepped off the plane was holding a copy of Pam's book. Today she's the award-winning author of short stories, novels and essays, and a speaker, teacher, and worldwide traveler living in the Colorado Rockies.
Ron Carlson is considered a master of the short story, his work having appeared in The New Yorker, GQ, Esquire, Harper's et al. He's also a novelist and poet, much decorated with awards and fellowships, and heads up the MFA in Writing program at U.C. Irvine. I'd lucked out in having Ron as an English teacher for two years in high school and I still consider him the best, certainly most inspiring, teacher I ever had. He entered the classroom every single day as though he couldn't wait to get there; he was incredibly funny, yet delivered any necessary criticism with unfailing kindness.
One thing that stuck with me from the writing workshops was Pam describing how she had trained herself to write anywhere; she would channel any stray bits of free time into her writing. She could write fiction in airport lounges while jet lagged between international flights on a travel-writing assignment. I am not quite there yet (I procrastinate a lot, and not just in airports), but I am working on it.
Today I'm writing about an ultra modern house in sunny LA while listening to the winter rain pour down outside an historic home in New England. Clearly that's one of the gifts of writing, and reading — to inhabit two realities at once.