I was recently interviewed by a freelance writer and a particular question stopped me.
“What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?”
Sweat broke out. I had to answer. “From my laptop to bed.”
I don’t think that was the response they were looking for, but I panicked. Such a high brow question, right? After the interview was over, I took the time to breathe and pound back some Gatorade and think back on all my snarky answers. This question, in particular vexed me. What the hell is a literary pilgrimage? And more importantly, what was the right answer?
Now that I’m breathing and hydrated, I’m going to give it a deep think. Literary means books, or writing of some kind. Pilgrimage would mean a journey—I’m thinking. So maybe a better way to ask the question would have been what books have you read lately?
Another way to think about a literary pilgrimage is to be lost in a story. Taking a journey to a set location or world that is built by the author. You visited this place in the text and you have a visual memory of what it was like to have been there having never left your couch.
Or does a literary pilgrimage mean to travel somewhere where something had taken place. Like Gettysburg. Or travel to a place where an author had been inspired by. Like the Tower of London or a special home or garden. Or travel to a setting where an author actually sat on his ass when they wrote something. Like my office.
Thinking back, I believe it was the word pilgrimage that stopped me. I swear to God, the first image that popped in my head was the wide-brimmed black hat with the buckle. Then I thought of corn. And pumpkins. Knowing that I was going down the wrong track, I did a mental flip through my dictionary and switched to Quest. Which brought me to guys in suits of armor and Jaime Lannister tossing his gorgeous blonde locks about in Game of Thrones. No wonder I panicked.
Maybe my answer should have been more lofty. Or on point. Or pertinent. But it wasn’t. My brain got busy and then my literal answer came out. Roughly translated, I think I meant— I write, lost in my world, then I go to sleep. It’s a journey for me. In my books, I’m flying around the world. I’m stroking fabulous furs and fine dining. I’m looking good and feeling good. I’m winning. I’m conning and kicking ass on the bad guys and helping people in trouble.
Speaking of, I’ve got to get back to it. Right now, I’m stuck in a castle on the Yorkshire moors and there’s a murderer on the loose. There’s a snowstorm raging outside. What should I wear to the cocktail party? Maybe a black crepe column gown. Off the shoulder, simple in the front but from the back it’s an entirely different story with a laced up, voluminous white taffeta bow cascading down and pooling on the floor. It will simply scream romance as I mingle among the suspects.
OMG. Did I just conduct a literary pilgrimage?