When George Mason and Salli Slaughter’s younger daughter graduated from college last year, the couple decided it was time for them to set out on an adventure.
“We wanted to do something significant that we could afford to do on our Social security,” Mason said. His first idea, that they walk across the United States, was met with limited enthusiasm by Slaughter, so they settled on a plan to leave their home in Portland, Ore., buy an RV and travel the country in search of authors.
“We love writers, we love writing,” Mason explained. “We have a lot of questions about writing in this country.”
“We wanted to honor writers,” Slaughter added. “We wanted to see what’s going on and what advice they had for writers just starting out.”
The couple is taping interviews with the authors they encounter, and then posting them on their website authorsroad.com.
The website is free, and there are no advertisements on it. The couple hopes to find a corporate sponsor for their project, and also dream of the project evolving into a TV program at some point.
Starting from Oregon, they travelled down through California, then to Phoenix before landing in Patagonia on Jan. 1. They were originally planning to stay in Patagonia for two weeks, but have yet to leave.
“We’ve gotten caught in the Patagonia vortex,” Slaughter joked.
They credit the mild climate, the interesting people and an “amazing collection of world class writers” in the area for their decision to extend their time in Santa Cruz County.
“Beneath every rock there’s a writer out here,” said Mason. They have interviewed local authors Phil Caputo, Juanita Havill, Laura Chester, Jim Harrison and Jim Fergus, and have spoken at the Patagonia library, the Rotary Club and at the Patagonia High School about their project.
The couple has interviewed 23 authors in three states so far. Sixteen of these interviews have been posted on their website.
They ask authors how they got started and who influenced them, what their writing regimens are, and what they see as the future for writers and books. Tom Robbins, author of several books including “Even Cowgirls get the Blues,” told them that he writes everything out longhand.
“He likes to see the ink sink into the wood pulp,” Mason said.
Diana Gabaldon told them that she goes into a trance while writing her time travel fantasies.
“Almost all the seasoned professionals felt fortunate that they got started when they did,” Mason said.
‘Only the vessel’
“The way you used to do it is not the way you do it now,” Slaughter said, referring to the rise in popularity of E-books.
“Writing isn’t going away, the story isn’t going away, it’s only the vessel,” Mason said, quoting Dennis Stovall of the University of Oregon’s publishing program. “And who knows what the vessel is going to be?”
When the couple leaves Patagonia, they plan to travel to New Mexico, Texas and the southern states before heading up the East Coast to Boston. They will be interviewing poets, fiction writers, non-fiction authors, journalists, songwriters and screen writers.
Tentatively scheduled to be in Ohio by October to attend a mystery writer’s convention, they expect to travel the country for at least one year, but “It’s been six months and we’ve only hit three states,” Slaughter pointed out. “We don’t have a house to go back to, just an 8 x 10 storage unit.”
They hope to return at some point to Patagonia. “We love this area,” Mason said. “You sit in the Wagon Wheel any time, day or night and there’s someone telling a story.”
Slaughter praised the Patagonia Library, calling it “The best little library anywhere,” and added, “We know that one way or another we’ll come back.”