Friday, August 27, 2010

Online classes, video lectures, and expat lit

Writer Abroad has had a busy month. Copywriting projects, memoir editing, and Zurich Writers Workshop planning. And of course, watching men play a sport that involves fishing poles, balls, and shovels (see photo). But don't worry, she hasn't forgotten about the Writer Abroad interview series, featuring prominent writers living outside their home countries. Another installment is coming up next week. But in the meantime, here are a few links you might find useful:

Andrew Craft, a writing instructor that helped me organize my memoir last year, has launched Where Writers Write. It's a website dedicated to helping writers find their voices and finish their stories. It's especially useful for writers abroad, as he's offering both online courses and a study abroad program in London.

Expat author Robin Pascoe has completed a series of video lectures on the challenges of living abroad. Topics include identity loss for an accompanying spouse, traditional career challenges, and challenges involved in moveable marriages. You can view the video series here.

Writer Anastasia Ashman asks a great question over on Expat + Harem: Expatriate Literature may often be stocked in the travel section. But does it deserve a shelf of its own? I think so. Especially now that over 2 million people live outside of their country of birth. What do you think?

And finally, it wouldn't be a proper post without a little shameless self-promotion: Writer Abroad was honored to be featured over on author Janet Skeslien Charles' blog in an interview about being a writer abroad.

Any great new things you've discovered out there?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Split Personality

I do a lot of advertising copywriting (which one could argue is a kind of fiction...) but I also write a lot of non-fiction: personal essay and memoir. I don't know why, it's just what I write.

In June, I read the first ten pages of my memoir at a writing workshop. A couple people commented that the voice of the narrator was bubbly and fun.

I considered this a good thing. But then I thought about something: the narrator is me. And I don't really consider myself to be bubbly or fun. So am I lying on the page? Am I a different person when I write? What is going on?

Truth in memoir is something that's discussed a lot. I want to come across honestly on the page, but sometimes I wonder which person is really me--the one on the page or the one sitting here in my living room, burning my eyes out from staring at the computer way too long? If we're really the same thing, they why do we seem so different? Is it just my strange perception of myself? Do all writers have bipolar disorder? Are writers abroad naturally more confused than others? Or is something else going on?

Anyone else experience this or have an opinion?

A quick note: Registration is filling fast for the Zurich Writers Workshop. If you'd like to attend, click here to register now.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Register for the Zurich Writers Workshop

As the co-founder of the Zurich Writers Workshop, I wanted to let you know that registration for the October 1-3, 2010 event is now open. To ensure individual attention, space is limited to about 24 participants (12 in fiction and 12 in non-fiction). To reserve your spot before it's too late, register now! Below are descriptions of the two workshops that are being offered:

Memoir/Creative Non-Fiction

Instructor: Susan Jane Gilman

Do you have a personal story you’re dying to tell? Do people often say, “You should write a book”? This intensive, two-day workshop is designed as an informative and inspiring introduction to memoir-writing. Susan Jane Gilman will illuminate how to best put your experiences into words. She’ll address practical issues – such as how to structure a story, make a narrative compelling, and deploy imagery and humor to full advantage. She’ll also highlight what not to do as a writer. She’ll talk about editing and criticism, hold a workshop of student writing, and discuss the practical aspects to publishing, such as getting an agent, landing a book deal, and generating publicity. As an expat, Gilman will also touch upon the benefits – and challenges – of being a writer abroad.

This course will be led by New York Times Bestselling Author and NPR Contributor Susan Jane Gilman. The course will include over 8 hours of instruction, writing exercises, reading assignments, and critiques of students’ work, as well as a literary tour of Zurich. Participants should come with enthusiasm, an open mind, and a willingness to take creative risks. Ideally, workshop participants will be in the process of writing a personal essay or memoir.


Instructor: Amal Chatterjee

Themes, plots, conflict, character, details: how can a writer convey these? And, how can they be blended into a satisfying narrative? This day and a half course will explore each of these elements and how they can be balanced, leading up to a detailed outline, a short story or an extract from a novel to be shared and discussed in the group and with the course leader.

The course will be led by Amal Chatterjee, author of Across the Lakes and University of Oxford Fiction Tutor. Participants in the fiction section will receive over 8 hours of class instruction as well as a literary tour of Zurich. Ideally, workshop participants will be in the process of writing a short story or novel.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Learning to say no

"I'm sorry, I can't meet you this week," I told my friend.

"But you don't have a job," my friend said. She seemed to take it personally that I couldn't find a time to meet her for lunch in Zurich.

Story of my life. At least, my freelance life.

Somehow, just because I work from home, people think that I should always be available for an afternoon coffee, a lunch outing, or a shopping trip.

It doesn't work that way.

Here's the thing. I love being a writer. I love the freedom to choose my own projects, decide who I work with, and I love being creative on my own terms. And while my work sometimes feels like play, in reality, it's still work. Yes, I have more freedom than people with office jobs, but in return I also have to have more discipline.

One of the hardest parts about the writing life is learning to say "no". I'm still bad at that. Especially when the sun in shining in Zurich and my friends are going to the pool. But sometimes getting places tomorrow means going nowhere today.

Do you struggle with saying "no"?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ameropeans and Other Strange Breeds

The longer Writer Abroad lives in Europe, the more Ameropean she becomes. Ameropeans are a unique breed of Americans that can see the United States from a distinctive viewpoint. For example, even though Ameropeans are Americans, upon visiting the USA, Ameropeans realize they are different. Here's why:

Ameropeans in America:

1. Do a double take when they realize they can understand conversations around them.
2. Order a small Coke and exclaim that it's way too big.
3. Suck on ice. It's so good.
4. Complain that both American coffee and American beer is watery.
5. Confuse the first and second floor at a department store.
6. Forget that tax is not included.
7. Forgo attending a writing conference because it's not easily accessible by public transport.
8. Get depressed in restaurants that don't have any windows.
9. Get depressed in restaurants that do have windows but have views of parking lots.
10. Freeze in air conditioning.
11. Rail against stores that are wasting energy by blasting A/C and leaving their doors open.
12. Dress up to go to the grocery store. Then regret it when Americans in sweats stare at them.
13. Notice how fat people are.
14. Wonder what the waitress is so happy about.
15. Wonder what everyone is so happy about.
16. Then realize it must be the root beer floats.
17. Feel overwhelmed by choice.
18. Feel overwhelmed by fast food.
19. Feel overwhelmed by white socks.
20. Feel overwhelmed that they will never be normal again.

Are you an Ameropean? Or Amersian? Or something else equally strange?


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