Why do travelers, expats and cultural spelunkers always want to write about their experiences? Showing off? Seen so much they have to share it all? Too much time on their hands?
I’ll hold my hands up and admit I’m guiltier than most. I have no qualms about wanting to share my life, the places I visit, the things I get up to, people I meet, ups and downs, pros and cons, highs and lows. It’s my necessary fix. Once I started, I found I couldn’t stop.
Whether it’s describing a life lived abroad in a far-flung post, unique travel experiences on the hiking trails of Nepal, or sharing how easy it is to jump on a train at New York, ride a bike in the south of France or book affordable flights to Lanzarote, lovers of travel and expat adventurers can’t help but write about it.
Today’s guest blogger, Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, is one such cultural spelunker. With a husband from Ireland, a daughter from Vietnam, nearly five years as an expat in Shanghai, China, and an insatiable appetite for place, how could she not be? She’s also an author with an MFA degree in fiction writing, 18 years of experience as a writing instructor, a writerhead passionista, and the curator of #38Write, a monthly series of online writing workshops for place-passionate culture junkies around the world.
I’ve known Kristin through the blogosphere for the past couple of years and have much admiration and respect for Kristin and her work, including her fabulous writing workshops. I’m extremely pleased to have her guest post on ISOALLO and hope to have her back here very soon. In this post, Kristin explores the traveler and expat desire to write and shares details of her next writing workshop…
Folks who have never lived as expats often ask me two questions:
- “Why does it seem like so many expats have such a deep desire to write?”
- “As a writing instructor, why do you like to work with expats so much?”
|Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons (HJgun)|
The answers are easy:
- As many of you already know (preaching to the choir here…), expats long to write because when you move from your home country to a host country, you are (willingly) ripped from everything you know and trust and are hurled into a whirlwind of discomfort, cultural confusion, language challenges, brilliant epiphanies, self-discovery, revelation, hysterically funny stuff, a new sense of home, and so much more. Being replaced, displaced, and/or misplaced in the world stirs a wild desire to share story, to say to people (on the page), “Oh, my god, you will not believe what I saw/felt/heard/ate/did/learned/etc., today.” In other words, when your world pops, you want to write about it.
- As a writer, I’ve been a place-passionate cultural spelunker since the beginning of time (which you can read more about at Poets & Writers magazine). My first novel, Thirsty, grew out of my relationship to my hometown in the U.S. (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). I’ve written an endless number of essays about a nearly 600,000-acre ranch I lived on in New Mexico (check out “On the Ranch”). And since living in China, it’s become a bit of an understatement to say that I’m obsessively writing about it (proof here).
For years, friends laughed because every time I opened my mouth, I started telling a story that began with “On the ranch…”
Now they laugh because every time I open my mouth these days, I start with “In China…”
As a teacher, I’m equally passionate about helping other place-passionate cultural spelunkers get their stories on the page, whether they’re expats, repats, travelers, homebodies, or astronauts. I’m also rather partial to working with writers who take risks in life because, at its core, writing is about taking risks. What could be riskier than sitting alone in a room with a pen or keyboard and your own imagination?
Six months, I started an online writing workshop series called #38Write with writers like you and me in mind—intrepid, curious folks with a bent for cultural exploration. It’s been a smash. Last month, 16 writers in 9 countries (including Russell!) wrote about habits. Some write fiction; others write nonfiction. Writers get feedback from me, as well as from each other. They connect and talk shop on Twitter. All, despite the miles, time zones, mountains, language challenges, and oceans that separate us.
In December, the #38Write theme is “At the Party!” and writers all over the world will be heading to parties in their home or host countries, whooping it up in a variety of ways, and writing about it.
Come join the fun, put your voice out there (la, la, la, laaaaa), and get a story on the page.
CONNECT: If you’d like to learn more or if you’d like to register for one of Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s #38Write workshops, grab a cup of coffee and pop over to her website and blog WRITERHEAD. Registration for December’s #38Write workshop is open until December 4.
As an expat or traveller, do you find you have a deep desire to write? What are the kinds of things you do to help move your writing along – workshops, online courses, writing groups?