To Steinbeck's Charlie . . .
Though Steinbeck's adventures with
Charlie inspire me,
mostly travel alone or with my spouse (also a writer),
never with my
Great Dane, Malibu.
(She's very large and would require an adult ticket.
Sometimes I write travel articles (scroll down for
a sample of one)
but mostly my travel inspires poetry.
Note: All the poems,
articles and pictures on this page are available for reprint at no
Please include a tagline
and byline. Please inform me that you are using it and where.
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"Travel is not a
It is touching. Spirit to spirit. Culture to culture."
“Only it seems to me that once in your life before you die z
ought to see a country where they don’t talk in English z
don’t even want to.”
~ Mrs. Gibbs from
Our Town by Thornton Wilder
resources on tolerance, one
of Carolyn's favorite themes.
spooky story based on a legend I picked up when I was studying in
Prague, go to Kevin McNamee's blog for children's authors.
Cruising a Quarter Distance of the World
Singapore to Rome via the
Suez Canal on the Ocean Princess, 2012
Malacca Strait (c)
evening turns mauve as the sun sinks,
watercolor sky. Van Gogh brushed sea
marked with freighters,
smudges, parentheses afar,
looming presences up close. floating
R2D2s trail the giants’ cool wakes,
oil fields to refineries in Singapore,
beyond to the world.
danger in their bellies.
Osama Bin Laden’s Death (c)
Scholarship lecture series aboard the Ocean
Princess. Garbled speaker, captain, equipment.
Obama. Osama. Even after we understand,
only vibration from giant
turbines that make the ship go.
The lecturer returns to cultural influences
in Southeast Asia. Still no one leaves,
no one whispers. I later heard the world
Snapshots from Ocean Princess’ Maiden Suez Voyage (c)
May, season of Suez crabs, great
egg-drop along the banks. Egyptians drop nets, voices high on
still-white air, their canoes once-painted, now faded like bleached
stones, security coiled like cobras at the bow. Beneath plank slats,
crab claws grasp, cling, reach for water, roil and reek of brine and
death. Reeds sopped with salt, grey-green like oregano.
Port Said far to the east, a spired Oz mid emerald
fields of sugarcane, papyrus, beans. Oleander, bougainvillea, white,
pink, fuchsia specks on shore, unused fishing boats tucked between their
Saying goodbye. Asia on our right, tribal states.
Africa on our left. Black flags. Black for oil, black for volcanic rock.
One hundred six from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean in the sun.
Copper Canyon, Mexico
Via Holland America Cruise
with Tarahumara Indian woman and her daughter. Notice the dolls
they carved from small branches. They are also known for their baskets.
to learn more about the Tarahumara:
Copper Canyon, the Cinderellla sister to the Grand Canyon.
Sootier shades but possibly a bigger heart.
Carolyn and Eve's Writers' Retreats
and Writing Go Together!
Eve LaSalle Caram
and I sponsored the most amazing writers'
retreat in Rome at this villa. Learn more about it and follow the
link for future plans for creative writing adventures. Highly
recommended for rentals in Italy,
Tell Mario we sent you. (-:
specifically interested in travel in Italy,
check out my friend Mario's blog:
The Famous Alexandria Library
Alexandria, Egypt, November 2010
The Alexandria Library: A miracle
and testament to humankind's
perseverance, love of learning, and creative souls.
photo on the left shows characters from every language used as symbols
on the facade.
Serendipity: My Own Found Poem (C)
is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness.
Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881),
Inspiration, a fissure in an eggshell,
promise of a chick.
I search for an article,
Coffee beans fragrant,
useless without a mill.
Ballpoint ink acrid compared to
the look weak next to paint whisked on silk.
Burned meter, poetry-flare brighter than fire.
Which better, pristine notebooks
or half-scribbled and never read again?
Alexandria's library full of what was once
only papyrus pulp
and rice-pressed mush.
Waiting too long, paper yellows, crinkles
Who was this Egyptian scribe seated,
scribbling in stone?
That shining place, the Parthenon.
A dyslexic, brilliant, hears music in his head.
Pampas plumes in early light,
the color of blood in milk.
am at the Roman theater in Alexandria.
Have You Ever
A Truncated Vacation?
That's truncated with a "c," not a "k!"
I was headed to Nepal to realize a lifetime dream of seeing Mt.
Everest in its ever-so snowy and rocky and thin-aired real-life person.
And this trip was going to be better than I imagined! A National
Geographic tour offered just such a trip with Peter Hillary as its
leader. He--not only an expert on the Himalayas but also a fellow
author--lead the trip. After a grueling 24 hour flight from Los Angeles
to Beijing I was on my way. We would fly to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet,
spend four days there touring and acclimating ourselves to the 12,000
foot altitude, then climb into four-wheel drives to travel the back
roads of Tibet to Everest's base camp. I was in ecstasy.
Now, here's the thing about travel. You know to expect the
unexpected. You know anything could happen to you. I knew it could
happen to me. Heck, I spent a night in an Italian airport because of an
earthquake once. Missed seeing Iceland because of bad weather. Missed
Turkey (once!) because of a terrorist attack. Watched a terrorist (I
think it was about 1978) drive a hijacked bus up and down the tarmac at
JFK rather than spend that time flying first class to Rome. I have
a string of adventures I could tell you about. But they belong in
another story. On this trip I got evacuated to a hospital in Beijing
because of ill health.
Though I teared up at the news that I would have to go, it wasn't all
that bad. The four days I spent in a hospital room with a lovely (male!)
guide and escort from Tibet was both life affirming and a good lesson in
preconceived notions about the ways of other countries. And those
four days in Lhasa? That wasn't what I went for, but it was an amazing
experience I shall never forget!
So here is a picture and a series of Haikus to commemorate that trip:
amazing to the sublime: Carolyn with
artful stacks of yak dung in the countryside near Tibet, left.
Right, monks chanting for the Tibetan earthquake victims (May 2010)
at a Lhasa monastery. The candles burn in a tub of yak butter.
Tibet Haiku Medley
Far, Far East
Board plane for Bangkok
Chase dark shadows, West to East
One sunrise mislaid.
Tibet’s True National Flag
blue, green red, white, yellow-earth,
each a quiet prayer.
Drepung’s Unseasonal Storm
Barren brown hills coax
icy nuggets from the sky.
Hail big as poplar
blossoms, covers barren hills.
High mountain magic.
pretty beads for coats and hair,
melt on thirsty hills.
East and West
Norwegian Jade, 2010
Carolyn at Giza, back-to-back cruises on the Norwegian Jade.
Italy (Etruscans), Greece (Poseidon's Temple), Turkey (Ephesus),
Alexandria (The New Library), Cairo (Giza), Morocco (a visit to a
Berber village near an oasis), and Cairo (the tallest and most gorgeous
minaret in the world), the Canary Islands, the Madeira's (before their
big flood--just before!), Granada and the Alhambra and beautiful,
beautiful Barcelona. February 2010. Oh, yeah! Malta. No one ever
tells us how beautiful it is!
Star Alliance (c)
Pale Egyptian sky stretches, turns
to Bedouin blue by night.
Basalt breathes its heat
tombs and temples,
what stars have seen
dance infinite answers
to storied tales
assaults the senses
a gesture against my cheek
its message clear on clear.
New moon shining
Sample Travel Article
The article below is
available to reprint with permission of the author.
Please credit as shown or
e-mail Carolyn for permission to make changes.
Making the Princess Fit:
Or How a Girl Who Loves Museums and
Can Find Happiness On a Cruise
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning
author of This is the Place and
Harkening: A Collection of Stories
Remembered and several chapbooks of
In My Fair Lady,
Professor Higgins says—with perfect diction that emphasizes his delight,
“By George, I think she’s got it!”
He isn’t, of course,
referring to Eliza Doolittle’s finally learning how to fit the
conventions of a cruise into her travel preferences but, nevertheless,
it was an “Aha!” moment similar to what I felt this year when I finally
figured out how a girl—well, OK, a woman—who loves to spend hours in
museums and isn’t much on cutting her feet on coral or wrangling with
jellyfish, could live with the cruises her husband likes to take.
I admit to taking
three cruises with my husband in six months. Maybe this is the kind of
intensity required for me to learn how to make this kind of travel work
for me, provide me with just such a moment of elucidation.
Because my husband and
I like to travel differently, we have taken separate vacations for
years. He loves first class (He says he got enough roughing it in the
Army.) I on the other hand, never tire of extended hanging about in
foreign corners—out of the way spots if only the basement rooms of
museums—by myself. I am not much on shopping, and hate to pay for
the luxury of gold-plated faucets when I’m too tired to notice them.
Still, we thought it was time for us to share some good times together.
He—this new traveling partner of mine to whom I’d been married 45 years
at the time—has always said, “Even lab rats learn to run a maze after a
few tries.” I guess that applies to me. I’m a slow learner. But at least
as capable as a white rat.
Here are my secrets
for adapting a cruise to my preferences:
- For psychological reasons, choose a cruise
with ports that are inaccessible excepting by water (the Greek Isles
are an example.). This sets one’s synapses—if they are arranged at
all like mine—into a pattern that makes it impossible to say to
oneself, “If I had been traveling by train I would have spent two
extra days in St. Petersburg at the Russian Museum gazing at Repin’s
‘Barge Haulers on the Volga.’” You see? No trains available. No
choices. Happy camper.
- Choose a boat—er, ship,--that’s small enough
so that disembarking at ports of call does not resemble a cattle
call for Spartacus.
- This onerous task of getting on and off the
ship is minimized if you resist the temptation to save $10 by
purchasing your tour from someone who hangs around the pier hawking
his wares. To save those extra few dollars, you will probably
disembark with hundreds of others who want to shop or hang out on
the beaches. Instead, choose a tour from the many offered by the
cruise lines. Most organize these tours so the crowds on and off are
staggered. Not as frugal, certainly, but worth the price.
- To extend suggestion #3 one more step, select
more expensive tours (Over $80). I am known for my. . . er, thrifty
tendencies (I'm sometimes known as The Frugal Book Promoter) but I
have found that the more costly tours are the best values if only
because they tend to attract fewer travelers. That improves the
quality in general but also makes egress easier.
- Any tour will become more enjoyable for
travelers who share my preferences if they avoid shopping during the
time allotted for that. The time is too short, you don’t want to
miss the bus. Turn those moments into something relaxing instead.
(Save shopping for your return to the port city.) Instead you might:
Talk to a local.
Practice your Spanish with someone
sitting on a park bench.
Play with children in the plaza.
And if you must buy something, nose
around the shops that might be used by natives like the pharmacies or
grocery stores. If you can’t resist a souvenir, buy from a local vendor
and get a snapshot of yourself with her.
- Choose tours that interest you, of course. For
me that means selecting ones that take me to the sites I’d visit if
I were backpacking or going on a dig with university students. Fewer
fellow cruisers take these tours—perhaps because they are more
arduous. I talked my husband into one from the port of Acapulco to
Taxco—four and ½ hours on the road each way. There were only five
other people with us including the ship’s tour master. That gave us
a chance to relate to our fellow tourists. We saw amazing terrain on
the way including a kind of Saguaro cactus called Candelaria
that had dozens of elegant arms. I bought pescanovios (finger
catchers), at 35 cents each!, for the children at home from a vendor
who sold from her home on a side street. On a similar tour, from the
port of Manzanillo to Colima, we sampled coconuts (Scroll down for
the combination recipe and poem about that experience) at a potty stop. I didn’t once wish I had more time
to explore because every minute of both of these tours was
- Now for the most important tip. Take a journal
and use it. A few years ago, my daughter and I were given a cruise
to the Caribbean. It was a business perk from one of our suppliers
during my retail days.
I hardly remember which islands we visited. They all blended
together excepting for Cancun (that one stood out because of the
Mayan site, Tulum). If you see five ports in 6 days with only one of
those days at sea and they are all kind of well, Caribbeany in
character, you may not have time to assimilate details. My journal
works well as a memory booster.
- Take a moment when you’re at sea to assemble
the pictures, notes and treasures into your journal. This can be as
much fun as reading a forgettable mystery from the ship’s library.
Of course, you’ll want to prepare for this activity. Take with you:
a tiny bottle of glue
double-sided cellophane tape
blunt-nosed scissors that
air security won’t confiscate
a couple of marking pens and plenty
of pencils and ballpoints
maybe even a hole punch, miniature
stapler and travel themed stickers
Note: The ship you are
traveling on may offer scrapbooking sessions or a class on
journaling. They're fun!
- Do something creative with your journal. Pick
up a streamer or some confetti shot into the audience at a dinner
show and tape it to a page. I write poetry—very rough, of course,
but some have turned into publishable material when I returned home
and rewrote them.
- Here, for an example, is what I did in Antigua
instead of playing on a beach:
I learned Antigua is pronounce
An-tee-guh, because the British, (I imagined a Rex Harrison kind of
Englishman in 16th Century garb)—mispronounced it. I also
learned the country recently became a fully independent state.
I discussed the recent
election on the island with my tour guide and how “the
lovely green stone” used in construction there was
We encircled the entire island and I
learned about their NASA tracking station from some locals at lunch.
And I wrote this poem, in spite of
poor roads and a bouncy bus when it struck me that Antigua, in spite of
a thriving tourist business, was indeed enduring economic woes often
experienced by newly emerging nations:
Potato Man sits
on the tailgate of his battered
pick-up, parked near the
that tracks Antigua’s shore.
Like a flower drawn to the sun,
Sweet Potato Man
his face toward traffic. Crumpled,
brown as a prune it is. Languid
he is. Waiting. Waiting for someone
to pay for his crop. Nearly black-baked
by the Carib heat as he,
potatoes like twists of dark yarn
lie on a blanket.
Sweet Potato Man’s legs
dangle from his perch, limp,
puppet limbs. His
sweat glints on his
cheeks, his eyes
white buttons. I sense he wants
me to stop,
Sweet Potato Man knows
I will pass him by.
All in all, my last
cruises couldn’t have been better if I’d been trekking overland by train
or zipping by rented car because . . . well, I finally learned that when I
cruise I can combine the best of both worlds. I even came to appreciate
the enforced days of relaxation at sea. They are very fine additions,
(Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s first novel, This is the Place, has won
eight awards. Her creative nonfiction stories in Harkening won three, and her poetry and short stories are frequently
seen in review journals. She is an instructor for UCLA Extension
Writers’ Program and her practical and detailed series of
HowToDoItFrugally series of books--one for
writers and one for retailers--are
multi award winners.
the above article: One of Carolyn's series of recipe poems
Colima’s Coconut Treat
A recipe within a poem.
Roberto, a former schoolteacher
turned tour guide in Manzanillo, Mexico
used a machete. (Substitute
a sharp carving knife in
at home.) With one swift stroke
he scalps a coconut pod,
us that the head must be green. The juice
sweet water then, no deadly cholesterol
he assures us
Americanos.. When in Mexico
do as the Mexicans do,
We drink the fruit’s gift, retain liquid
at the bottom of our new chalice,
slice chunks from the hat Roberto
just removed from the fruit, place
them in the bowl we made,
sprinkle with a pinch (no need to measure)
of chili powder. Roberto
says La via
sure he and his countrymen
are genetically programmed
to appreciate its bite.
Now you have,
red and white, two-thirds
of Mexico’s national bandera.
We still need green, to complete
our patriotic salute, the sap from limones
Sweeter. Juicier than limes
at home. We, Diego
Revieras at work,
perch twists of color on the summit
of our coconut
bowls, sprinkle rock salt
to intensify the flavor. Margaritas.
Tongue to salted edge of
the glass, bests tequila itself.
We eat with our fingers, mimic
our host. Dip the last coconut shards
into the juice left at the bottom
hand-feed our lovers who suck
the flavor from our fingers—one piece
at a time. Even Mescal could not improve
the flavor. An easy morsel, eaten
at a stand by the side of a dusty Mexican
road. Memory’s favorite souvenir.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of
award-winning chapbook of poetry,
Caribbean Cruise, 2007
Carolyn, and Gracie with a friendly stingray in Carib waters, Nassau,
I've eaten animals
disguised by deceitful
Beef not cow,
pork not pig,
mutton not sheep,
calamari not octopus.
and after they make
A pretty name
or breading will never
again be masquerade enough
for me to dip their
curls into hot sauce.
I fed a stingray today,
held it in my arms,
it's skin silky
as a soft, wet kiss.
author of the multi
chapbooks of poetry, including
Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas (July 2008)
and tour guide
for Temazcal sweat baths near Cozumel.
Find Moises' tours at
The Temazcal Sweat Lodge
this place of ancient miracles
pours a brew of wild basil, rosemary,
lemongrass and orange onto coals,
womb-shaped lodge black as the orb
universe with no stars, dark
beginnings, lifetimes measured
minddays, No shaman
claims, but he knows I am Moonday One,
the Red Spectral, Day Eight of the Red
Electric Dragon, tone of Service, guided by
Lifeforce. Afterward, my body weightless, I float
in a cenote, water like liquid gold,
Cool, quiet. A mosquito
but does not land.
Howard-Johnson, author of the multi
award-winning chapbook of poetry, Tracings
Belfast, Greenland and Iceland
Crown Princess (September 2008)
Note: We missed Iceland because of bad weather!
My husband's idea of a
joke. The plane was so cold, my nose is red!
Canterbury Cathedral at
Canterbury, of course.
The cathedral famed for its blue windows and
San Diego, Catalina, and
Carolyn sails the Stars and Stripes of
America Cup fame.
Well, she got to help hoist a sail and stand at the
helm. (-: (Above, 2007)
Above: The beautiful Stars and Strips
where it is docked in the San Diego harbor.
Above: My husband Lance with, for want of
a better description
the huge jeep sized Mercedes four-wheeler we toured
Great fun putting our backs out!
Mariner of the Seas,
animals, even lizards this big.
Here's a poem I wrote, inspired by a
lizard, though this one obviously isn't the same beast as the one in the
The Dangerous Lizard
(This poem was originally published in
the Journal of the Image Warehouse.)
One coke-cork eye scrutinizes me
from page four of the Smithsonian
Magazine. He doesn’t twitch,
this lizard from Gabon. Corn nub
scales march, marching
If he senses my heat, spots
my fear with that one still eye,
he will drop his jaw,
lash his tongue and swallow.
Corn-row alleys, our family’s
contoured jungle, ingest
a child. Their phallic husks
disguise burrowing larvae.
She cannot understand
how dark trails shield
her from raspberry thorns,
tomato worms with horns
but also from orchards
wild flowers beyond.
I grab down first prize
for best costume, “Begin the
a hand-me-down from my
skirt too big, bugle beads
the colors of Brazil’s flag,
like up-ended sequins
stitched across a serpent’s
hide. Flounces held
at the waist with a safety pin,
earrings made from canning
rings. Sweet’s Chocolate
Sticks, made in a factory
just across the tracks,
jelly-filled, Utah’s heritage.
An award in a box
as someone else.
My mother calls long
Wear the St. John
with platelets that shimmer.
I can fool my audience,
with a garb like that.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi
award-winning chapbook of poetry,
the world of writing, one of the best perks is that some travel is tax
Keep perfect records, receipts, and copies
of the writing you
do while doing you research.
Find at least one tip on writing, promotion or
tech on every page of this Web site.
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that are not fed die as readily
as any living organism
given no sustenance."
Studio photography by
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Available on Kindle
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Awards for Carolyn's Books, Blogs and More
The New Book Review
101 Book Blogs
You Need to Read
Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites
for Sharing with Writers blog.
Best Book Award for The Frugal Book Promoter (2004) and The Frugal Editor (2008)
and the Second Edition of The Frugal Book Promoter
Reader Views Literary Award for The Frugal Editor
New Generation Award for Marketing and Finalist for The Frugal Editor
Book Publicists of Southern California's Irwin Award
Military Writers Award of Excellence for
Tracings, A Chapbook of Poetry.
A Retailer's Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotion wins author Military
Writers Society of America's Author of the Month award for March, 2010
Award from Military Writers Society of America, 2010.
MWSA also gave a nod to
Wore Emerald Then,
a chapbook of poetry honoring mothers.
Named #! on Top Ten
Editing Books list.
New Generation Book Awards 2012, The Frugal Book
Promoter, Finalist 2010 The Frugal Editor,
Winner 2010 Marketing Campaign for the Frugal Editor
The Oxford Award
alumna who exemplifies the Delta Gamma precept of
service to her community and who, through the years,
devotes her talents to improve the quality of life
Book Promoter is runner-up in the how-to category for
Los Angeles Book Festival 2012
Nominated: Diamond Award
for Achievement in the Arts
California's Arts and Culture Commission and the City of
And more than a dozen other awards for Carolyn's novel, short story collection and poetry.
See the awards page on this site.
Everyone has a
Everyone has stories to tell.
for Carolyn's first person
essay, "Beating Time at Its Own Game."
Click here for story and presentation ideas for the
here for a compete short story from
New Writing 2013
My short story “Love Story” is included in 2013's
Best New Writing
published by Hopewell Publications.
Best New Writing 2013
ISBN 9781933435435, trade paper, 172 pgs) An annual
anthology of new fiction and creative nonfiction
from writers around the world, including the winners
Eric Hoffer Award for prose. Edited
by best-selling and award-winning authors and
editors, the pages of BNW feature stories. This
volume includes works from Bint Arab, Carolyn Burns
Bass, James Lloyd Davis, Josepha Gutelius, Carolyn
Howard-Johnson, Laura T. Jensen, Chris Laing, Nina
Leo, Leo Madigan, B.F. McCune, Jacob Peppers, Emily
Reardon, Janet H. Swinney, and L.M. Thompson.
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