Expat Sat: 4 Questions Expat Writers Need to Ask Themselves

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.


You’re an expat. You’re a writer. You’re ready to start a new project. You’re not quite sure how or where or what to begin. Here are four questions to help you get started.

1.  Am I writing about myself in this place?

2.  Am I writing about this place without “me” in it? (Meaning, you’re an observer, a gatherer of information, not a participant.)

3.  Am I writing fiction or nonfiction?

4.  What is it about this place that inspires me?

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Image: think4photop / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mojo Monday: Don’t Be Afraid to Go Against Your Nature

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


Meet Rabbit.

Meet Rabbit who believes she is a sheepdog.

Meet Rabbit who commands these sheep with a deft ear.

Meet Rabbit who defies her nature and excels.

Meet Rabbit. Sheepdog of all sheepdogs.

Watch.

Fear not!

Go forth!

Defy thy nature!

Herd them sheep!

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Image: artemisphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Expat Sat: Writing Prompt: There’s Nothing To Write About??!!

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.


Earlier this week a writer said to me, “But there’s nothing to write about.”

NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT!!!!!!

Holy crap-a-majoli! Nothing to write about? Nothing to write about?

(short pause, while I sit down and breathe)

FOR PENELOPE’S SAKE, NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT???

To help this writer and any others who have come to this desperate state, here’s a writing prompt to prove that no matter who or where you are, THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO WRITE ABOUT!

Now…get to work.

STEP 1: Go outside and hunker down on a corner. (Yes, I know “corner” will mean something different to each of you. If you’re in a cabin in the woods, go to a bend in a path or a river or a creek. If you’re in Mumbai, go to a nearby intersection. You know what I mean…)

STEP 2: Wait for something to happen. (drums fingers on knee)

STEP 3: While you wait, see what takes your attention. (Who’s pulling their gutchies out of their crack? Who’s smooching on the corner? What is that smell?! Have you ever, ever seen that shade of green before? How would you describe that old woman’s limp? And so on…)

STEP 4: When something happens (AND IT WILL!), go somewhere and write. Get it all down. The whole hot sticky spilling-over-the-sides mess of it.

STEP 5: When you’re done, post a few lines of your piece in the Comments section below. I want to see what’s happening around the world.

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P.S. I know, I know, a few weeks ago I made a big promise. I sent out a “Save the Date” for today. Ugh! My apologies for postponing. But stay tuned. It’s a’coming.

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Image: sakhorn38 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writerhead Wednesday: Andrea Barrett in Writerhead

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.


A few months ago while teaching a personal essay writing workshop, I happened upon an essay called “The Sea of Information”* by Andrea Barrett in which she documents her ascent (descent?) into writerhead. She’s looking through a handbook called What You Should Know About TUBERCULOSIS that was passed out to high school students in New York City between 1910 and 1920. The handbook is full of photographs of children deformed by tuberculosis and young people “taking the cure,” a drawing of a Tuberculosis Tree, a map marking the cases of tuberculosis in a particular New York neighborhood, and condescending passages that describe tuberculosis as a “disease of the poor–of those on or below the poverty line.”

The tuberculosis handbook goes on to say: “We must further realize that there are two sorts of poor people–not only those financially handicapped and so unable to control their environment, but those who are mentally and morally poor, and lack intelligence, will power, and self-control….”

After describing the handbook in detail, Andrea Barrett shares the way her experience with this handbook prods her into writerhead. (No, she doesn’t call it writerhead, but that’s what it is.) Listen…

“The sound of that language–the officious, pushy, condescending sound of that–along with the eerie photographs and the remarkable drawing of the Tuberculosis Tree, made me want to write a novel. The feeling was as sudden, as intense, and as irrational as falling in love.”

And there she was. In writerhead. A feeling that was “as sudden, as intense, and as irrational as falling in love.”

Love it.

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* “The Sea of Information” (which I read in The Best American Essays 2005, p. 10) was originally published in The Kenyon Review (Summer 2004).

Image: Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mojo Monday: The Big Secret in Life (Writing)

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


Oprah puts it like this: “The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.”

Here’s my take: “The big secret in writing is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you work your arse off.”

And it’s true. You can.

Sure, in the “working” period there’s little recognition, few pats on the back, zero minutes of fame, moments of self-doubt, zero minutes in the limelight, etc.

And yes, the working period can (and most likely will) go on for a long time. Weeks, months, years, decades.

And all of that can feel like crap once in a while.

But (and here’s the hard part), too bad.

If you want it (you know, the big IT), you must do the work.

So go…work your arse off this week. Let nothing deter you.

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Image: ntwowe / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Mojo Monday: Chúc mừng năm mới! (Happy New Year!)

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


This week in my house, we’re celebrating both Vietnamese Tet and Chinese Spring Festival. As mom to a Vietnamese daughter, Tet means a lot to our family. It connects us with our daughter’s history and culture. It bonds us to her birthplace. It reminds us how far-reaching our family is and gives us a special opportunity to tend and honor those ties.

Also as a family that spent nearly five years in Shanghai, China, Chinese Spring Festival is part of our tradition now.

So to you, I say both:

Chúc mừng năm mới!

and

Gong xi fa cai!

 

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Image: Tevatron

Mojo Monday: Writing Wisdom from Anne Lamott

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


As always,  Anne Lamott says it beautifully:

“I sometimes teach classes on writing, during which I tell my students every single thing I know about the craft and habit. This takes approximately 45 minutes. I begin with my core belief—and the foundation of almost all wisdom traditions—that there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

“Then I bring up the bad news: You have to make time to do this.”

Click here, to read the full article at sunset.com.

 

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Image: Rawich / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Expat Sat: Save the Date!

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.


Teaser: Later this week, I’m going to announce an online writing adventure for place-passionate writers around the world.

Save the Date: Saturday, February 4, 2012 (If anyone asks what you’re doing on February 4, tell them, “Writing.”)

Stay tuned!

 

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Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy New Year: 11 Things I Learned And/Or Relearned About Life, Love & Writing in 2011

Usually on Saturdays, I post an “Expat Sat” post…you know, “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.”

BUT…since today is New Year’s Eve (whoop! whoop!), I’m stepping away from tradition to share a few things I learned (or in many cases, relearned) in 2011. Ready?

  1. The seeking and finding of oneself happens again and again in life. Stay open.
  2. I AM here to live out loud.
  3. Writing is not a solitary endeavor. (Relearn, relearn, relearn…)
  4. Paul Simon & I are alike when it comes to rhythm and symmetry and the breaking of symmetry.
  5. Despite the fact that as I get older, my eyesight gets worse and worse, I see things much more clearly.
  6. Just when I believe I see things clearly, they shift out of focus.
  7. Missing Shanghai is an ongoing feeling, as is my longing for each place in my life with which I’ve connected deeply.
  8. Journal, journal, journal. (& when in doubt, journal!)
  9. I love teaching writing to freshmen. I love how damn fresh they are.
  10. Steve Jobs
  11. Writerhead rocks! And it’s beautifully different for each writer. It can be like:

 

How about you? What did you learn (or relearn) this year?

Happy New Year, all! See you in 2012!

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Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Expat Sat: Hula-Hooping With Homesickness

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.


As an expat, managing homesickness during the holiday season can be as challenging as keeping a hula hoop spinning on your hips.

My advice?

Shake them hips. Embrace your friends and your host country. Hold ’em close. Make special plans for your holiday. But most importantly (it is me talking, after all), WRITE IT ALL DOWN! Put all those feelings, observations, missed traditions, new traditions, longings & whatnot in your journal.

And while you’re doing all of that, keep this in mind:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

 

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Image: Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net