Project Placement 5: Taos with special guest: The Give-away

I thought New Mexico would be flat and dry, lifeless, that the only movement along the wide expanse would be me and Wile E. Coyote chasing that blasted Road Runner. “Me-meep!”

But it wasn’t like that after a while.

The wide expanse closed up. The ground sprouted green. Foothills pushed my little silver car higher through rough walls of Pinon and shivering Aspen. Alone, certainly, but that lake to my left looked awfully blue, the sky ready to toss down mountain rain like confetti while rumbling out a hale and hearty, “Welcome to Taos!”

I had chosen to arrive at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House a day early, thinking I could slip in and feel New Mexico on my feet. By the time I walked over the uneven cobblestones and through Mabel’s old, creaky door New Mexico was all over me.

Natalie Goldberg
lured me to Taos with her descriptive love letters to the open sky and a week long promise to write, read, write, sit, write.

In my room a window opened to the east.

I heard coyotes at night.

Before leaving the workshop I bought an audio copy of Natalie’s Old Friend from Far Away. Some of the writing prompts have found their way into Penny Jar’s archives.

As a way of luring you into my clutches, Penny Jar is hosting its first ever give-away: Your very own copy of Old Friend from Far Away.

I’m looking for subscribers and Facebook fans, friendly folks, talkers and listeners, music lovers, lovers and risk-takers. I’m looking for you.

The goal: 200 Facebook fans right here.

So how is this going to work?

If you’d like a copy of the book, leave a comment on this post letting me know that you are indeed a fan as well as a brief memory of a place that struck you in some way. When Penny Jar reaches 200 fans I will use the magical randomizer to choose a winner.

You can also subscribe to this blog with the brand spanking new “Subscribe in a reader” button and be entered twice.

As my Dad would say, “How do you like them apples?”


About E. Victoria Flynn

E. Victoria Flynn is a mother and a writer living in Southern Wisconsin. Published in a variety of venues, Victoria is currently writing the first in a series of three fantasy novels based on Cornish folklore. When not taking part in a shrieking dance party or engrossed in her own little fictions, Victoria is keen on art, the natural world and people unafraid to explore their own brilliance.
This entry was posted in memoir writing, Old Friend From Far Away, places, Project Placement, road trips and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Project Placement 5: Taos with special guest: The Give-away

  1. I am so jealous! I hope to hear more about what must have been an incredible week ~ the setting alone sounds devine!

  2. I wanna go somewhere and write. *pouts* Was it amazing? I’m just so thrilled for you missy.

    As for me, my “place” would be Lake Tahoe. I spent so many summers there as a kid growing up, in a large cabin provided by my dad’s company at a reduced rate–the only way my family could enjoy this idyllic resort town.

    The crystal water always took my breath away, as did the biting cold air in the evening–even in the summer. I luxuriated in the temperature changes, so far from our hot, dry home in Sacramento. One week each summer just wasn’t enough.

    How I would love to return there to write, in peace, one day.

  3. You know I’d fan you on Facebook in a second, only I don’t have an acct (I’m holding out….). But, I am a happy subscriber to this blog 🙂

    A place that struck me: a small town up north that you can drive through in two minutes. In the midst of sunken roofs and overgrown yards, I saw a barn with a painted mural and remnants of a blow-up swimming pool — signs of life in spite of a failing town. There’s a story there. I can’t wait to find it.

  4. Irene Kessler says:

    Travel offers so many things. Glad you were able to enjoy Taos.
    I have enjoyed many places in Europe but the place that changed me was India. The pictures in my mind will last forever. The gorgeous colors/crippled people begging, warm hearts of people/smell of fetid water, women carrying bricks for 50 cents a day/the Taj hotel with marble floors are some of the memories that haunt me.

  5. ann's rants says:

    I like them apples, and would love the book! Sounds like a perfect retreat.

  6. New Mexico is a magical place for me. When I was in college, I used to drive from Colorado to Arizona and always I would stop at the Acoma Mesa on my way because the hills were a lavender color and I couldn’t not. Love you and your blog, girl! xox

  7. We are big Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones fans and also once did an audio workshop where she said to write about mashed potatoes and we haven’t been able to get back on track since then! Perhaps a trip to Taos would help us out, love this blog!

  8. pennyjars says:

    Thank you everyone for your comments and for being a “fan” and participating in this first little giveaway. I appreciate your support more than I can say, as cliche as that sounds, it is so true.

    The funny thing about the Taos trip is how much the workshops were secondary to the experience of New Mexico itself, at least for me. I can not wait to take my family back to the mountains, the trees and the four o’clock rain.

    Do me a favor and help spread the word about the giveaway so I can choose a winner? Somebody deserves this book!

    • Happiness!

      My husband and I went on a cruise of the Mediterrainean last year. Of course the vistas of Italy, Spain and Tunisia were not less than fabulous, but the food was a gastromics wet dream! So, I completely understand how Taos stimulated your senses in more ways then one.

  9. lauramunson says:

    Will do, EVF. Natalie Goldberg was my first writing “teacher” in 1988 when I bought her WRITING DOWN THE BONES. I met her in Seattle where she was reading a few years later, and the writing group which gathered that night is still active! BTW– I sent you your signed copy of THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS yesterday, as deserving winner of my Think Outside the Barn contest. ox Laura

  10. Tania says:

    Yearn to bust out of town…I have road trip envy…here’s my most recent place of beauty, not far from my home, from the morning commute:

    Driving past the thin disk of horizontal mist, about horse-head high, in the pasture void of horses near 6 a.m., Green Valley Road, my 7 year old son in the passenger seat. Then, both of us peering through the tree-line, tree tops blotting unevenly by at 45 mph, straining to be the first to see that molten rind of sun on its way up for the day. Drove alone today, missed my little guy. Today, no mist, but three horses, wearing their no-fly sieve masks already.

    Thinking of you Victoria, glad you got away, and that it had to do with words.

  11. Marcia Fine says:

    Natalie is a wonderful inspiration. New Mexico has spiritual vibes emanating from the red clay. My first and best writing instructor, Anya Achtenberg, lived there and I attended a few workshops there. I almost couldn’t breathe it all felt so surreal. Good luck with this.

  12. She Started It says:

    Sounds lovely and amazing. I hope the words just flow and flow and flow!

  13. I adore you, Victoria, and your blog. You are a talented woman, remember that! xoxoxo

  14. All alone at age eighteen, covered with chicken pox, my cat Crybaby and all of my belongings stashed in a broken down Honda Civic, I pushed the pedal to the floor as I tried to chug up a near vertical hill outside of Santa Fe on my way to Tucson–far away from my surreal encounter with a narcoleptic crazy woman.

    “Just outside of the city, there is a huge hill. If this little car give you any trouble gettin’ up that hill, you betta turn ’round an come back, cuz you ain’ gon make it t’Tucson.” The wise words of the ancient kind sage mechanic man that put a temporary fix on my car’s carberator rang in my ears as I prayed to make it over the top.


    I know it seems like bad fiction, but it’s true. This was part of my road trip experience through New Mexico. I’ll never forget it. I left that hill behind me because there was no way I was turning back. At one point the car did break down in a nearly empty space of desert, and it never did go faster than 45 mph after that, but I made it home. The lights of Tucson welcoming me home from that journey are burned in my mind.

    I subscribed via email, and I will find you on Facebook and we can “re-connect.” I’ve missed your writing Victoria. Hope you reach your goal, and hope I win the book because I’m a Goldberg nut too!

  15. Beth Lowe says:

    Ah, Natalie Goldberg. Her books are in the bookshelf just next to my desk — for reference, for inspiration on the days I can’t seem to write anything, and for comfort, like my favorite stuffed animals were when I was a kid. I know, that sounds strange. It’s about being able to glance over at the titles and just knowing that they are there.

    I haven’t had the opportunity to work with her yet, but I plan on it at some point!

    I think your writing and your blog are marvelous, Victoria. So, so glad we found each other in the ether!

  16. Kate O'Mara says:

    Enjoyed the trip back to my beloved New Mexico… fond memories

  17. Lisa says:

    Definitely a BIG fan, Victoria! Here’s my brief memory:

    Walking into my maternal grandmother’s kitchen was like entering another world, an older world, not quite like home. My dad’s mother lived on the same farm with us, so I was as used to her cooking as I was to my mother’s. Lots of meat and potatoes. Canned peas. In the summer, thick zucchini slices dipped in batter and fried crisp in melted lard. Sliced white bread and butter served with every meal. Dessert. Always. The closest thing to salad was sliced tomatoes sprinkled with sugar. One of my cousins on my father’s side of the family says he remembers fondly meals of “leftovers with the gravy on top,” our meals wiped clean at the end by slices of that white bread. which pretty much sums it up.

    Not until I was grown did I realize that my mom had changed her cooking from what she was used to, to please my father’s tastes.

    My mom’s mother’s kitchen? The air was thick with onion and garlic and spices, caraway and fennel and pepper and paprika and cardamom, scents I recognized only in Proustian moments when I began to experience with such ingredients in my own kitchen . Both of my mother’s parents spoke German in the house when their children were small, their food another reminder of their having one foot still in the Old World. When I was a child, those scents, that world, was strange and not always welcome to me, but now, I wish I could step back in Grandma Neuharth’s kitchen one more time, and ask her to teach me to make the kugel Mom had loved so well.

  18. Deborah says:

    I grew up in Louisiana and one of my favorite memories from childhood is a trip to a bayou near New Iberia, where they make Tabasco sauce. The water was dark, shadowed by huge, crooked live oaks with Spanish moss trailing off the branches. (To this day, Spanish moss always looks to me like a long, tangled beard.) A cloud of white ibis rising off the water. And the alligators circling underneath them, slow and patient. Alligators still strike me as the best example I know of perfect patience.

    The giveaway is a great idea – hope it goes wonderfully well!

  19. Nice idea! Keep at it —

  20. Summer Wood says:

    Hey, Taos is my home town! And Natalie is beloved around here. That’s a great book.

    Glad to hear you liked our little spot of heaven. Good luck with the blog, and all. I came over from the She Writes link and was surprised (delighted!) to find the Taos connection.

    First hard frost of the season here, last night —

  21. pokey mama says:

    I’ve always been curious about this workshop and the Luhan house–thanks for the post!

  22. Susan @ 2KoP says:

    Me too — jealous. What did you learn? What did you write? Love Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.

    As you know, I definitely “like” your FB page. My favorite place in the whole world is the Hotel San Pietro in Positano Italy. Wish I had been writing more back in those days.

  23. Janel says:

    I was looking around on She Writes and found your blog through there. 🙂

    I “Like” you on FB and I subscribe to your RSS feed!

  24. Paula says:

    Just liked you on facebook. I love Natalie.

    I remember my first trip south to Little Rock (I was in Iowa at the time). I left in the wee small hours. I remember looking out the plane window. The sky was pitch black except for a thin, bright stripe of orange across the horizon. The sun was announcing it’s arrival.

  25. Julie Jeffs says:

    Thought I had commented long ago. You know what a huge fan of you I am (that sounds like crooked English). I have always wanted to go to a workshop/retreat but can never seem to come up with time/money/ability all a the same moment. I have read excerpts from Goldbergs books, have heard about her from everyone who writes and particularly everyone who writes memoir but have never read her books myself so I would love to add this one to my shelf. My favorite memory, I’m having trouble with memory — is it real or imagined or made up — but a photo reminded me of when my mom was alive and happy and I was a little girl and the place could be anywhere but I was next to her with her arm around me, we both were smiling and even the memory feels good and right.

  26. Dear Ms. Pennyjar, You keep on amazing me with your innovating tour de force -randomizer? Qu’est ce que c’est ca? The FB fan hat filled with names, swung, trampled and dry cleaned, making the family name magically apppear printed on the silk? Best of luck with your generous activities, I’m sure I’ll like your FB page when I see it. And I’m serious about wanting to know about the randomizer, I’ve got something I’d like to give away as well! Happy New Year!

  27. Paula says:

    Good to see that you’ve reached your goal of 200 fans on facebook.

    The Place that I remember is the acreage I grew up on. We had chickens, ducks, pigs and guineas. We had huge gardens where we planted veggies of all sorts. We had a grove where we camped in regularly and was the hideout of a multitude of animals including pheasants and eagles. I miss those days.

  28. Tania says:


    Will be heading out myself for an August retreat. Can’t wait. Coyote laced dreams sound promising…

    Inspirational place today I’m thinking…of a Greyhound bus ride through the salt flats of Utah and the reflection of the clouds in the waters skimming past. Years ago.

    To the work to be written this year!

  29. pennyjars says:

    And the winner is….Deborah Blum! Deborah is most recently the author of “The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York” an absolutely riveting read. She’s also a science journalist and a professor of journalism here at the UW Madison. Congratulations, Deborah!

    It’s been a long haul, but thank you all for participating in my first give away. I’ll make the next one much easier. Thank you also for your contributions to places that have stuck with you. I’m such a sucker for the road, you’ve given me many more dots on the map.

  30. 2kop says:

    Darn, I mean Congratulations, Deborah. Enjoy.

  31. Deborah Blum says:

    Woo Hoo! I never win contests, seriously, never, so this is an absolute thrill. And I’m really looking forward to reading Old Friend from Far Away. Thanks so much, Victoria!

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