Living Abroad — Effects for Writers

I have been living abroad, in Glasgow, Scotland, for three months and have three more to go before I return to Wisconsin. I was lucky enough to take the picture below on Robert Burns Day from Georges Square, not far from where my flat is.

10929908_10202364296668697_8894003860628090647_nAnd yes, people do make Glasgow. Living here has been a challenge and a joy for me. I will always be grateful for the opportunity. A recent article in The Atlantic, For a More Creative Brain, Travel: How international experiences can open the mind to new ways of thinking has pulled me back to The Lyon Review. That article got me thinking a lot about how living abroad has affected me and I blogged about it at PamWritesSense of Connection & Living Abroad. We get comments from MHC alumnae near and far and I got to wondering, how many of our alums have had the opportunity to live abroad for some period of time? Abroad meaning anywhere far from home, landing in a culture unlike your home culture.

If that’s you, what did you learn in your time abroad?

Can you see effects in your writing? In other creative areas? In your life now?

Do you have any writing to submit to The Lyon Review that was inspired by or during your time abroad?? If you do, please visit the submission page here.

Book Club Survey Question

We know Mt Holyoke alumnae are readers. This is a given. How many of you are in a book club? Or, perhaps the better question is, how many of you are in more than one book club – formal or informal?

The Strand

I am a poor member of three different book clubs. In these clubs, no one buys hardcover books. In fact, in all three clubs, new books are studiously avoided until the paperback versions come out. In recent years, there are many more e-readers coming to meetings and in all three groups, I’d say about 25% of members are getting their copies from the library. How does that compare with your book clubs?

We would love to hear from you with your answers to this question — if you are in a book club, approximately what percentage of members read the selections from:

A. a hardcover purchase

B. a paperback purchase

C. an e-copy

D. a library copy

E. a borrowed from a friend copy?

Thanks! Pass the word along to your reading friends.

Obituaries, Visitors and Mary Oliver


Yvonne Brill, rocket scientist, being honored by Pres. Obama

Yvonne Brill, rocket scientist, being honored by Pres. Obama

Earlier this week, the New York Times ran an obituary for Yvonne Brill, a celebrated rocket scientist (and, no, unfortunately, she didn’t get her undergrad degree in the hallowed halls of MHC, but rather, in her native Canada, the University of Manitoba) which began like this:

She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. ‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.

I watched the feminine uprising take off on Facebook and Twitter. Would the revered NYT ever begin an obituary of a celebrated male rocket scientist by starting with his cooking skills? It reminded me of the time Hillary Clinton, well, wait, I’ll show you:

The New York Times has since changed Yvonne Brill’s obituary in response to the criticism.

I know it’s sometimes suggested as an exercise for a variety of reasons to write your own obituary (maybe goal-setting, clarifying your values, etc.) Once, I wrote a character’s biography in an attempt to create and understand her back story better. But, I don’t want to write my obituary today. I want to share with you the ending of Mary Oliver’s poem, “When Death Comes,” because it says what I hope for.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Certainly, Yvonne Brill was more than a visitor. She was clearly a tremendous mother and that is absolutely important — it’s clear she thought so. But, would the New York Times ever discuss a father’s cooking and parenting skills when his obituary is in the Times for an entirely different reason? No. Hopefully, the New York Times learned something in this incident.