Fulfilling a (Writer’s) Dream

I’m particularly excited to publish today’s blog post, because I get to share a project that is very important to me and that has been nearly a year in the making.

2014 Parfitt/Pascoe Writing Residency (PPWR)

Last February (2014), I was selected as one of four writing scholars to attend a fantastic conference on all things expat and Third Culture Kid (TCK). The conference, Families in Global Transition (FIGT), happens every year and is a great way to learn more about the global lifestyle and meet like-minded people.

The FIGT conference was held in March, and I wrote about it a few times – the welcoming atmosphere, the touching performance of a TCK’s story, and about becoming a writer. As writing scholars, we attended many sessions, keynote speeches and interviewed a variety of fascinating people. After the conference, our job was to write articles on everything we had seen and heard. Some of these articles were published on our blogs or in magazines, but most were stashed away in preparation for a bigger unveiling: a book.

It’s Here!

After months of writing, compiling articles, interviews, book reviews and editing (and more editing), our book finally went to press a few weeks ago. And less than two weeks ago, it became available to buy, both in print and on kindle.

YearbookCover

Please don’t be put off by the book if you haven’t attended the conference or don’t live a global lifestyle. Although the articles cover the conference, they are intended for a much wider audience than simply the FIGT attendees. If you are an expat, global nomad, TCK and/or if you work with them, this book is for you. If you are simply curious to learn more about living a global life, you will also find a lot to interest you.

A Dream Come True

I have always loved writing, but it has only been these past few years that I truly started to envision making a career out of writing. Having my articles published in magazines was already more than I had ever imagined. Now my name is on a book as a contributor and assistant editor. It’s incredibly exciting and surreal at the same time.

Jo Parfitt, who created this writing residency, had wanted to do this for a long time. She said that being able to combine her love for FIGT and her desire to help new writers was like a dream come true for her.

I’m grateful she fulfilled her dream, because in doing so she also made one of my dreams come true.

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Cuts, Scrapes and Bruises

Today has been spectacular. You would think it was a spring day, not a winter’s day. The sky is a solid beautiful blue, with small lazy clouds floating across, mingling with the fluffy contrails. I am sitting outside as I write this, enjoying the mellow temperatures and the golden light of late afternoon. A bee buzzes above my head; is that normal for the middle of winter? Who’s to say what’s normal and what’s not anymore with this crazy weather!

When I went for a short walk before sitting down to write this, I walked past the little forest behind our building. All those dry leaves covering the ground remind me of a book I loved when I was a kid. It was set in Wales and intertwined the lives of modern day boy and a bard of ancient myths. When the author described scenes in the forest, that is how I imagined it. Dry leaves scattered everywhere, broken branches on the forest floor, and meandering creeks leaving serpentine trails. How wondrous a combination a good book and the imagination can be.

Our forest is partly in shambles due to earlier weather transgressions, with large branches and entire trees lying across the ground. I don’t mind; I quite like it actually. It gives the forest more character. Seeing those fallen trees, the trunks making fabulous bridges, I wish I was a child again. I would be climbing all over them if I was still a little girl. I was forever scrambling over rocks, dangling from trees, and constantly getting cuts, scrapes and bruises. It was wonderful. We would make up stories and tales; we would fight to protect the fortress or run away to escape the evil wizard (or king, or whatever they were!). We would build homes, walls, our fortress. We collected sticks, rocks, moss, flowers…Whatever we needed to construct and embellish the fort. It was better than wonderful. Do kids still do that nowadays? I haven’t seen any playing in the forest…

I could go do that now and pretend to be a kid again, but pretending just isn’t the same as the real thing. The mind doesn’t work the same as an adult. Imagination isn’t as real or as sharp; we’re too self-conscious and anchored in reality. The carefree attitude we had is gone; we’re too cautious and careful. But we don’t have to be like that, just because we’ve ‘grown-up’. We shouldn’t lose our sense of wonder, our imagination and our capacity to play, just because we’re adults.

I still get giddy and excited when I see snowflakes falling from the sky. I love a good snowball fight, making snow angels, letting myself fall in the snow, or just eating freshly fallen snow. One of my favorite things to do at the beach is build a sandcastle – a long standing family tradition. It doesn’t matter how old we get, my brother and I will always have splashing fights in the pool. I love those moments.

Maybe I should go climb those trees. Even if I just sit there on the trunk and imagine the stories I could play out, that’s already something. I should grab my husband and have him climb with me and sit beside me. Maybe those will be our weekend plans – to just be kids again.

A Few Simple Pleasures

Working on the 1000-piece puzzle I got for Christmas, while listening to the Dean Martin CDs I also received as a Christmas gift. (Yes, Dean Martin. I love the Rat Pack).

Even better: having my husband work on the puzzle with me. It really is a very fun and satisfying feeling to complete sections together and we’re chatting away the entire time.

The sunshine pouring in through the windows. It’s amazing the good a few rays of sun can do.

Baking a cake while listening to music and dancing around the kitchen.

Eating a piece of said cake when my husband gets home from work, along with a hot tea and wonderful conversation.

A long Skype call with my family. Actually, almost any call from family. Skype just makes it even more fun.

Hysterical laughter with my sister and brother. Hysterical laughter with my husband. The best? Hysterical laughter with all three of them.

A game of scrabble with my mom, grandma and sister, while my brother looks on, inventing words and giving their ‘definitions’ with scary credibility. Laughter is unavoidable.

The mingled satisfaction and melancholy at reading the last word of a great book.

The joy of picking up a new book, or of re-reading a long lost favorite.

The creases in the binding of an oft re-read and much loved novel.

Watching a good movie while snuggled up under a blanket on the couch.

Christmas.

The sound of running water in nature – a stream, a brook, a river…

The sound of waves on the sand.

A crisp, clear blue sky on a cold winter’s day.

Writing all of these in my notebook with a pencil I’ve worn down from all my scribblings.

I could add many, many more and maybe I will some other day, but for today I leave you with these. Don’t overlook the simple pleasures; often the simplest of things turn out to be the greatest and most worthwhile.

Remember to embrace the little things in life – they’re the ones that make up the big picture.

Books: A Love Story

One of my favorite things to do after moving into a new home is to open my boxes and find all those little nothings that are everything to me. It’s like opening a treasure chest filled with precious gold and gems; except that, to me,  it’s filled with even more priceless items. The boxes are filled with memories, with laughter, with barbie games played as little girls with my sister, with stuffed animals that dad would always make fun of how many I had, and yet he would buy me the next one…and those boxes were always filled with books. Books and books and books. Those were probably my favorite boxes to open.  Holding my books again brought me comfort, joy, and that capacity to be lost in another world. Those boxes would take me the longest to empty, as I would start to read the books again as I unpacked. I’d read my favorite passages, or even the entire book (not the most practical way to unpack!), and I would start to feel more at home. I loved the smell of my books, the sound of the pages turning, the creases in my favorite books, that were read over and over…I loved the pages that were crinkly from being turned time and time again.

In a world where kindles, ipads and other technology is taking over books, I feel a profound sadness at such a loss. As practical as these items may be, as many books as you can carry with just one thin screen, I could never convert to that. I love every aspect of reading an actual book. The smell, the sight, the sounds…I love to buy a new book, but probably my favorite books are the old ones. The ones I’ve owned the longest, the ones with the greatest number of creases in the binding; the ones that were gifts that I read over and over. The ones that contain memories: my dad leaving on a business trip the morning of my birthday, but waking me up to say happy birthday and to put the next book of one of my favorite series on my night table; the ones that were my parents’ before me – like half of my Chronicles of Narnia, which I devoured long before the movies were even an idea; like our Harry Potter books, that the whole family read and fought over who would get to read the next one first; like when we were little kids, cozy in bed and waiting for that wonderful moment when mom would come read one of our favorite books with us (we always were the best little monkeys in the world!). All those memories and more.

It’s because of all those memories that one of the hardest things for me to do is to throw away a book I love. But sometimes there comes a time when it must go – when there is no more space to store it and it is no longer being read…but no matter how much time it’s been since I’ve read it, it is still a heartbreaking thing to throw away a book that was part of my childhood, part of my teenage years. If I had eternal space I would probably keep all those books that meant something to me at some point in my life. Books hold so much more than words and stories.

Books have been passed down in our family, from my sister and I to our brother – Enid Blyton mysteries that I would go hunting for in used book stores, that I would jump for joy for when mom pulled one out from behind her back as a surprise gift; Ken Follet’s and the like that I would watch my dad read when I was young and wonder how he could read such a big and complex book – I understood how and devoured those too.

My favorite part about reading a book is just getting lost in it completely. Being transported into the book, oblivious to your surroundings and to the time passing by. I love being completely enraptured by a book, pulled into the story, drawn to the characters. It’s a beautiful love story for the duration of the book, and then at the end it is a bittersweet return to reality. The fulfillment of reaching the end of the journey, but the sorrow that the journey had to come to an end.

And so ends our journey today. I couldn’t help but share my outpouring of love for books, brought on by seeing countless ads for new platforms to read books on, and my sorrow at what that means for books and bookstores, which are some of my favorite places. As I said earlier – books hold so much more than words or stories; if we reduce them to just that, then we take away the heart and soul of what they truly are.