Olsen Overview (Or 2020 hindsight)

I gave a pretty good description of the state of things in June, but I thought I’d do an electronic New Year post the way some people do Christmas letters. (Or, if you’re the author of Elantris, you do the State of the Sanderson.)

So, this year’s OO is about unexpected lessons learned. Oddly enough, the main lesson is that I can have a wonderful experience with what I couldn’t have planned for. I’ll illustrate with three examples.

Story 1: Boston, You’re My Home

I hatched a plan over a year ago to visit Boston. It was going to be my best friend’s oldest son’s tenth birthday and his mom agreed that I could be the unexpected guest for his birthday party. I bought tickets and we made plans for Labor Day weekend.

Well, with only a couple of exceptions, we had all of our plans go awry. For example, her youngest had a splinter embedded in his finger and we were late setting out for Chinatown and lunch. Just as we were about to leave, her brother-in-law called to ask if we wanted to come spend time with him on his boat. We sailed out onto the harbor, had great food, danced the night away (and I took that amazing picture of Boston skyline from near an island mentioned in Swan and Shadow). On the same trip, we went to Lake Winnipesaukee for a cookout and beach time. When we got there, we discovered that we’d remembered the grill, but not the food. Her husband ran to Walmart for food while we spent a lot of fun time swimming and talking about life. If he hadn’t gone to Walmart, he wouldn’t have seen that the best ice cream place up there was closing that afternoon and discounting everything by 50%. So we ate lunch, got massive amounts of ice cream just before they closed for the season, and then went to play video games with the kids. These things are memories that we couldn’t plan for.

Story 2: Here Amidst the Chaos

I follow a number of authors I admire on social media and one of them mentioned that his graduate students would be compiling an anthology of short stories about movie monsters. My brain immediately came up with a story about a Greek fate who is semi-retired and only has to deal with her destiny when there are violent deaths in her town. I put together a playlist of 94 songs that reminded me of the two protagonists, went through five drafts, and sent in Box Office Hits. I was to hear back by November 30. I got a kind rejection on November 20.

But here’s the thing. Now I don’t have a word limit. I am going to take the 6000 words that will not be appearing in that anthology and turning it into a novella. I will have room to explore more about the couple, the nature of the Fate’s work, and play out the ending to greater effect.

Story 3: Wrong Turn at Corsica

Finally, lessons learned on this year’s epic trip. Katey’s turn came to choose our destination and she found a cruise that took us back to some great cities as well as introducing us to two new countries, several Greek islands we’d never been to, and let her finally go to Venice. We arrived in Venice during record flooding in the city and have pictures of streets with thigh-high water. The next day, it was completely dry in most parts of the city.

We made a great effort to go to the new temple in Rome, then discovered that they were closing 15 minutes after our arrival because of their staff needs. We went to the baptistry on the instructions of a kind woman and when we returned to the entry, she said that she had spoken to her colleagues and could give us a tour of the temple on her own. So we weren’t able to do any of the service that we had planned for, but we stood on holy ground and got to ask many questions.

On the cruise itself, weather meant that we needed to switch up the order of the islands we were visiting, but that was no problem, since we could still get to Rhodes, Crete, and Santorini (pictured above). It was two days before disembarkation that our captain got on the loudspeaker and said that the port at Monte Carlo was under construction and the waves there were too dangerous for the tender boats that we needed to take. So, not to worry, we were going to Corsica instead. It’s the home island of Napoleon Bonaparte and a fascinating part of France. Thing is, we were coming in on a Sunday with no knowledge of what there was to do. While I can speak French conversationally with some preparation, I hadn’t spoken more than a few sentences of French since Paris in 2017. So I braced myself for a disaster and hoped people would be patient with me. We found a great open air market where I accidentally responded in Italian after three minutes of speaking French to a baker and made them laugh by saying that I wasn’t Italian, just a very confused American. We also went to a Christkindlmarkt, visited churches, walked along the seashore, and had an enjoyable time not having any concrete plans.


This has been a year where flexibility has paid off, whether it’s running off to France unexpectedly or graciously offering to stay an extra day at Utah Shakespeare Festival to make life easier for someone else. I’m going to see what I can accomplish this year with a little more peace of mind.

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