A sailor walks into a bar…

Four hundred and ninety three years ago today (ish) Ferdinand Magellan began his expedition to circumnavigate the globe in search of a western spice trade route between Europe and Asia.

Photo Credit: Public Domain Clip Art

I say “ish” because some sources, like The History Channel, name today as the anniversary but others, notably the Hakluyt Society which publishes “primary records of voyages, travels and other geographical material” offer a different story in The First Voyage Round the Worldfrom a Genoese pilot “who came in the said ship, who wrote all the voyage as it is here.”

According to this sailor’s first-hand account “HE [Magellan] sailed from Seville on the 10th day of August of the said year [1519], and remained at the bar until the 21st day of September, and as soon as he got outside, he steered to the southwest to make the island of Tenerife.”

A sailor walks out of a bar.

I can’t help but think how much writing is like heading into uncharted waters with nothing but a notion.  Sometimes I pursue the end with the diligence of a royal lackey and other times I allow the trade winds of exploration to blow me a bit off course.  When I teach writing, this fluidity between convention and discovery unsettles the students, especially as they try to find their own way, their own voice, to leave their distinct mark in a literary history book.

“Is it good?”
“Should I give up?”
“Do you see any talent in my work?”

I wish students relied less on my coronation and more on the process.

Do you love your journey?
Does your writing reflect your best effort?
Do you trust your boat?

Cinque Terra, Italy. Photo Credit: Catherine Keefe

I wonder if Magellan would have stayed home if he knew he wouldn’t live long enough to receive a hero’s welcome back in Spain. Somehow I doubt it.  If you need fortitude for your literary journey here, to help realign your compass, are two reading recommendations.

If traditional short fiction is your thing, you can’t do any better than getting a subscription to One Story, $21 per year.  From the website:

One Story is a non-profit literary magazine that features one great short story mailed to subscribers every three weeks. Our mission is to save the short story by publishing in a friendly format that allows readers to experience each story as a stand-alone work of art and a simple form of entertainment. One Story is designed to fit into your purse or pocket, and into your life.

If you’re done with tradition and want to experience literature curated to jolt you out of linear, conventional thought, mosey over to Diagram, “a free electronic journal of text and art.  Sure, you can read the fiction and the book reviews there, but the real fun begins when you venture into the schematics link.

from Diagram

From the “Submission Guidelines” page:

WE VALUE the insides of things, vivisection, urgency, risk, elegance, flamboyance, work that moves us, language that does something new, or does something old–well. We like iteration and reiteration. Ruins and ghosts. Mechanical, moving parts, balloons, and frenzy. Buzz us

Here’s wishing you enough squalls to appreciate the peace, enough uncertainty to hone your own beliefs, and plenty of salt spray upon your cheeks.

With delight in discovery,

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