When I talk to young writers and when I have conversations with MFA students in the Vermont College of Fine Arts program, I like to imagine I can take a bit of the mystery out of words like “inspiration” and “imagination” by pointing to ways that details and scenes in my books have grown out of observation.
An Icelandic proverb says, “Keen is the eye of the visitor.” Isn’t that one reason travel writing is so vivid and compelling?
When everything is off-balance, our senses go on high alert. When we can’t understand the language, we start relying on other ways of taking in information. I learned these things growing up in Ethiopia.
I experienced the Icelandic truth all over again recently traveling in Guatemala and doing an author visit in Russia.
Embarrassing as it is to admit, Guatemala was only part of a blur of Central American countries until we visited Brian and Sandi, Presbyterian social workers living there and working on issues of women’s human rights to things like safety and education and jobs.
I listened. I learned. I saw connections to my books…
The biggest thrilldom in Russia was getting two days of talking to readers and writers there–Russian, American, Canadian, Australian, Jamacian, Czech…so many word people from all over the world. So much to soak up. So much to share.
And oh the stories! Who knows how these images and feelings will seep into my writing.