Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

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by Dennis McCloskey

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.

If you recognize the words that I have shamelessly copied from the famous Dr. Seuss book, you are probably one of the estimated 300,000 people who receive the book each year as a graduation or going away gift. I’ve done it many times: given the book to relatives young and old as they embark on the adventures of their lives.

If anyone were to ask me to name the best thing about being a freelance writer, I wouldn’t say it’s about getting paid for something I love to do, I would have to admit it’s the traveling I have enjoyed throughout my career. I’ve heard it said that travel broadens your mind, and staying home broadens your ass. I certainly agree with the former and I wouldn’t touch the latter comment with a 25.4 centimetre pole. Speaking personally, my travels have resulted in more story ideas than I could ever have imagined in my head if I were holed up in my reading room at home. Robert Louis Stevenson said he traveled not to go anywhere, but to go. He said the great affair was to move; “to feel the needs of life more dearly.” The author of “Kidnapped” and “Treasure Island” wrote extensively of his travels in Europe and the U.S. west coast, mostly in essays, but also in books titled “An Inland Voyage” and “Travels With a Donkey in the Cévennes.”

I've always liked the song by Johnny Cash, titled: “I’ve Been Everywhere.” The man in black sings: “I’ve been everywhere, man. Crossed the deserts bare, man.” Then he names 68 places he’s been to. I won’t name all the places I’ve been to (it’s way more than 68!) but I can say that the villages, towns, cities, and countries I have visited in my career would span the alphabet many times over. (I was born in Alberton, P.E.I. and lived in Zweibrucken, Germany, for three years.) I’ve also been to Algeciras, Baltimore, Cannes, Daytona Beach, Edmonton, Frankfurt, Guelph, Halifax, Innisfil, Jasper, Kingston, London, Montego Bay, New York City, Ocho Rios, Paris, Quebec City, Rome, San Francisco, Tangiers, Uxbridge, Vancouver, Washington,, (does EXPO 1980 count?), York, and Zurich. And many, many more.

My point in mentioning some of the A-Z places I have visited is to say that I have written about--or plan to write about--people or things in most of the places I’ve been. I wrote about the Trefor Bridge, built by Bishop Trefor in the 14th century, in Llangollen, Wales; I wrote about being in the Pope’s general audience in the Vatican; I wrote about skiing in Smithers, B.C. And a thousand other topics, thanks to my geographic wanderings. I sometimes joke that I haven’t had a vacation in over 30 years. I’m being facetious, of course, but in a way it’s true that a writer never has a vacation. We are always on the lookout for ideas. If we’re not writing, we’re thinking of what to write. Even Stephen Leacock recognized the importance of getting off your duff and seeing and experiencing the world. He wrote that writing is no trouble at all: “You just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself; it is the occurring that is difficult.”

Oh, the places you will go!
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
Kid, you’ll move mountains!

Be your name Buxbaum or Bixy or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allan O’Shea,
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Dennis McCloskey

Dennis McCloskey is a journalist and editor and the author of numerous books. Several hundred of his human interest and business articles have appeared in over sixty-five newspapers, magazines and corporate newsletters in Canada, the US and Europe. His latest book, My Favorite American, is published by General Store Publishing House.

Go to Dennis McCloskey ’s Author Page