A New Essay About My Path to Adoption at The Manifest-Station

So it’s been a while since I last blogged. (Okay, it’s been a loooonnnggg while since I last blogged.) But I’ve been wonderfully occupied with getting our new son Yao acclimated and comfy in his new home. And, yes, I’ve managed to squeeze in some writing between 4:30am & 6:15am every day.

Happy to share that my new essay, “With Child,” was recently published at Jennifer Pastiloff’s amazing site, The Manifest-Station. This story of my adoption path to the Yaoster is one of the most from-my-heart things I’ve ever written. Would love for you to head on over there and give it a read.

Here’s the beginning:

“During the adoption process for our second child, I packed on a good twenty-plus pounds. As a number, twenty isn’t so much. Twenty bucks won’t get you far. Twenty minutes pass in a flash. And at twenty years old, most can’t find their way out of a paper bag. But if you go to your local farmer’s market, pick out two ten-pound pumpkins, strap them to your arse, and walk around for a day, you’ll quickly realize that twenty pounds is a heck of a lot of weight.

“Physically, there was no reason I should have gained any weight at all. It’s not like I was growing our child in my womb and had to feed it. But emotionally, for nearly two years as we went through the adoption process, I was eating for two. Emotionally, I was trying to feed this faraway baby in a Chinese orphanage who I didn’t even know, yet who I knew was not getting enough love or nutrition or food or stimulation…all those things babies need. From thousands of miles away, I was eating and eating and eating, trying desperately to give our future child everything he or she needed to thrive until we could scoop them up and bring them home…”

There’s also a moment in which I eat the dashboard of my Suburu.

xoxoxo Kristin

Sleepy Boy After Consulate Appointment_Guangzhou

Introducing…The 38Write Writing Adventure Workshop Series for Place-Passionate Writers

Writers, last week I introduced 38Write, my new global writing initiative. And today…

(drum roll, please…)

…I’m wildly excited to unveil the 38Write writing adventure series for place-passionate, culturally curious writers around the world.

So yes, yes, welcome to 38Write…a series of 38-hour writing adventures, each of which will focus on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life.

The first in the series—38Write | Description—will take place on Saturday, June 2, 2012. You’ll have 38 hours to complete the assignments and send me your strongest piece of writing for feedback. (To sign up and read all the juicy details, visit the CLASSES page of this site.)

38Write is not your run-of-the-mill writing workshop. It’s a writing adventure designed specifically for place-passionate, culturally curious writers that will get you out of your house—no matter where you live—and into your environs.


The Unique Aspects of 38Write

  • Each writing adventure is 38 hours long. It’s a manageable amount of time that fits into anyone’s busy schedule. (Good gracious, no, you will not be writing or adventuring for 38 hours straight. I’m ambitious for you, but not crazy. You will need approximately 2-4 hours to work during the 38-hour period…give or take an hour.)
  • Each writing adventure will focus on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life. You will not be writing an entire essay or short story. Some adventures will focus on a skill, like writing kick-butt descriptions; others might get you to look at what inspires you or how you move from idea to writing.
  • During each 38-hour period, you’ll be able to connect with me and 38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag. (How cool is that?!)
  • You will get feedback from me. (For more info about me, click here.)
  • Terrific for folks writing fiction, essays, or memoir.
  • Beginners and experienced writers are welcome.
  • It’s affordable. A single 38Write writing adventure costs only $38 (U.S.).


Why Am I Creating 38Write?

While living, writing, and teaching writing in Shanghai, I learned (and/or relearned) a number of things:

    1. Each of us has a heck of a lot to learn from folks in other countries (and not usually the things we think we need to learn).
    2. Story is an international conversation that can help us better understand one another.
    3. By helping writers from all over the world to improve their craft, I can play a wee role in facilitating this global conversation.
    4. Writing is recursive. You must practice. (And if I do say so myself, I’m pretty darn good at getting writers to practice.)


Is 38Write For You?

38Write adventures are designed for all place-passionate writers, including expats and repats, globetrotters, armchair travelers, nomads, cultural spelunkers, deeply rooted souls, mapmakers and mapbreakers, wanderers and wayfarers, voyagers, and all writers interested in exploring and writing about their environs.

So, yup, if you’re asking, 38Write is probably for you.


To learn more and sign up for 38Write | Description, visit CLASSES.


Camels: Photokanok / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Beach: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jodhpur: Image: think4photop / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Expat Sat: Writing Prompt

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.



Go! Start writing. Get thee to writerhead!


Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Ned Stuckey-French

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.

Back in February, I featured fiction writer Elizabeth Stuckey-French here on Writerhead Wednesday. Today, I’m thrilled to welcome the other half of that brilliant writerly equation: Elizabeth’s husband, Ned Stuckey-French. I’ve been a fan of Ned’s work for a good while, but recently I’ve also become a fan of his insightful (and funny ha ha) commentary about nonfiction / creative nonfiction / essays / truth / etc. (You can often find him over at Brevity magazine…)

So kick back, my writerhead fans, and enjoy…because as I suspected, Ned’s description of his writerhead is like everything else he writes: addictive.

Now, shush!

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

When she answered this question for you, my wife, Elizabeth, said her writerhead never turned off. The same is true for me, but mine is different. Mine is less purely imaginative and more relentlessly interpretive. She’s a fiction writer; I’m a nonfiction writer, an essayist, and cultural historian. I’m also more of an analyzer and an arguer than she is. Which is not to say I don’t imagine. I do and much of what I love about the cultural history I write is that I get to spend long afternoons with Thurber and E. B. White in their little office at the New Yorker, smelling cigarette smoke and listening to the paper wads hit the metal trash can, or drinking with Dottie Parker and Bob Benchley at the Algonquin as we try to ignore the oogling tourists.

Much of the time, however, my writerhead is trying to think about what I really think, what I really believe. I am an essayist and so skepticism is where I live. I turn things over constantly. I am constantly watching myself, listening to myself. A part of me is always sitting in the press box of my own game, doing play-by-play and color commentary. It started when I was a kid shooting baskets in the driveway. 3 – 2 – 1… French stops, pops. It’s good!

But if am skeptical and questioning, I am also hopeful. I’m a very political person and believe in possibility of progress. Elizabeth teases me constantly about how earnest I am. I am the son of Stevensonian Democrats. My family vacationed in Concord and Lexington, Valley Forge, and DC. We saw Sunrise at Campobello at the drive-in movie. My mom was a poll watcher for the League of Women Voters and as a toddler I sat with her on Election Day and colored pictures. Later, I was a Student Council nerd, shook Bobby Kennedy’s hand a month before he was shot, and then, transformed by the Sixties, became a communist trade union organizer for ten years. So, in my writerhead, I’m constantly refining my position, questioning myself, and others, and trying to figure out what makes sense and is convincing. Is that fair? Is this what I think? I am always, always turning such questions over in my head. They are my version of Montaigne’s Que sais-je?, or What do I know?

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

Life is all interruptions, or as John Lennon so nicely put it, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Life is about adjustment and so is writing. Or maybe revision is the better word. You make a plan and head off this way and then you’re interrupted by a grammatical error, some faulty logic, a limp and silly adjective, and you want to fix it. But, you’ve got to keep going to the end, knowing all the while that your first draft is mostly potholes and speed bumps. But, if you’ve got to keep the editor out of the room till you get a first draft (which Anne Lamott has so helpfully reminded us is always shitty), you must eventually let them back in. I’ve got two editors, by the way, a male and a female. She looks like a 7th grade English teacher. Her hair is up in a bun, where she keeps an extra pencil. He wears a green visor and looks like Bartleby. And while both are scolds, they are also part of my writerhead team.

So, writing is writing, but it is also revision. Montaigne did three editions of his essays, never cutting, only adding. An essay is a conversation, with your reader and yourself. It’s a fireside chat, a late night bull session that solves the world’s problems. In this conversation, you say something, then interrupt yourself or ask a question and then follow that digression. The talk eddies and curls and maybe it circles back and maybe it doesn’t, but it always keeps rollin’ along.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

Well, I guess I’ve already offered a few—time travel, press box and game, conversation with self, river—but here’s another. Borges said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Writerhead is Paradise. It’s where I like to be, and it’s kind of a library where I’m a kid again. I wander the aisles looking for one book, another catches my eye, I pull it down and begin reading, and soon find myself somewhere else, perhaps back at the Algonquin where everyone is a writer and so I start writing too.

BIO: Ned Stuckey-French teaches at Florida State University and is book review editor of Fourth Genre. He is the author of The American Essay in the American Century (Missouri, 2011), co-editor (with Carl Klaus) of Essayists on the Essay: Four Centuries of Commentary (Iowa, 2012), and coauthor (with Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French) of Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (Longman, 8th edition). His articles and essays have appeared in journals and magazines such as In These Times, Missouri Review, Iowa Review, culturefront, Pinch, and Guernica, and have been listed three times among the notable essays of the year in Best American Essays.

To learn more, visit Ned’s website. You can also give him a nod at his Facebook page or the Facebook page for his most recent book The American Essay in the American Century.

Expat Sat: Submission Opportunity at Painted Bride Quarterly: Displacement

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.

I love sharing a great writing opportunity for expat writers around the globe, and this one is perfect for you!

The theme of upcoming Issue #85 of the fabulous literary magazine Painted Bride Quarterly is (drum roll, please)…



Could this theme be more perfect for you, the intrepid expat?

It could not.

So get busy. Get writing. Get thee to writerhead.

When you’re ready, submit.

(And yep, they accept fiction, essays, and poetry.)


Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Expat Sat: The Walkopedia Writing Contest

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writing. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing and publishing to expat writers around the globe.

The Walkopedia Writing Contest sounds like a great opportunity for writers (and photographers) to get their work out there in the world and possibly win a little cashola.

Description: Walkopedia is not about peak-bagging or self-flagellation. We will judge your writing or your photographs based on how vividly and passionately they convey your experiences on your walk or hike. Whether you are writing about or photographing your wander through a city, a trek up in the mountains or even a quick walk to the shops, we like to see conciseness and humour in writing, and a lively and evocative eye for what’s going on around you in all entries. Entries must be fewer than 1,200 words.

How to Enter: To enter the competitions, you need to:

  1. Register with the Walkopedia website as a new visitor (unless you are already registered as a member).
  2. Send an email including a completed entry form (see the form on the site you can copy and paste the form into your email) to:
  • walkopediatwcomp@gmail.com (for travel writing) attaching your entry as a word document. (We ask that you also copy and paste a written piece in the body of the email as well.)
  • walkopediaphotocomp@gmail.com (for photography) attaching your entry as a jpeg


For writing:

A *Daunt Books book token worth £500 for the winner.

£200 for a runner-up.

£200 for the best entry by a person who is under 18 as of the date of submission of the entry, provided that the relevant person is not otherwise a prizewinner.

£200 for the best entry by a **First Story student as of the date of submission of the entry, and £100 for a runner up.

*Probably the world’s best travel bookshop: www.dauntbooks.co.uk

**The excellent First Story charity was set up to nurture and inspire creativity, literacy and talent in British schools. See www.firststory.org.uk

For photography:

£400 for the winner.

£200 for a runner-up.

£200 for the best entry by a person who is under 18 as of the date of submission of the entry, provided that the relevant person is not otherwise a prizewinner.

Deadline: Entries must be received by no later than 31 December 2011. Entries received after that date will not be considered.


For writing:

William Mackesy, travel writer and founder of Walkopedia.

William Fiennes, best-selling author of Snow Geese and co-founder of First Story.

Serena Mackesy, best-selling author, travel writer and journalist.

For photography:

The photography competition will be judged by Walkopedia staff.

The Kicker: None that I can see.

The Upside:

  • More than one entry is permitted per person, but no person will be allowed to win more than one prize.
  • Entries can come from any country in the world.

Advice: Get walking.

For full terms and conditions, click here.


*Please Note: All information has been copied/taken from the Walkopedia web site.