Sometimes you just have to write…
This is my first blog post in more than a year, and, not surprisingly, the topic is … why I haven’t posted in so long.
I used to post rather intermittently, whenever something came up that I wanted to write about: an angry rant, an observation from my teaching, whatever. I posted much more during my travels: partly because of the novelty of the new, so I felt like there was more to say; and partly just because I had the time to sit down and write.
So a bit more than a year ago I joined a writer’s group. My stated reason was that I wanted to get myself to write more regularly for my blog, aiming for at least once a month to start. Obviously, that’s not what happened.
At the time, what was most on my mind was the two years I spent in the Peace Corps in Malawi back in the 1980s and the trip I was planning back there to visit after 25 years. So I wrote pieces for the writer’s group describing various memories of Malawi. Some were completely newly-written while some were rewrites from diaries and notes.
What surprised me was the reaction of the other writers in the group: they liked it! And they kept asking more questions: what happened next? Why were you there? How did you feel at that moment? So I wrote more, filling in the gaps in the stories I’d already written. I hit on the idea of writing down all of my memories, at first with the idea of self-publishing them to give to my immediate friends and family.
And I found that I couldn’t sustain both: a project to write down all of my Malawi memories and regular blogging. I just couldn’t bring myself to do both at the same time. That’s why there have been no blog posts since September 2011.
(The same thing has happened in other parts of my life. Years ago, when we lived in San Francisco, the windowsill of the living room in our little apartment was filled with plants of various sorts, all thriving under my care. When my first child was born and I was suddenly responsible for this other little life, I neglected the plants so badly that few of them survived.)
By the time we – my husband, my children and I – left for Malawi this past summer, I had written down most of my memories from the 80s. As we travelled, I wrote some more, linking what I was freshly experiencing with those long-ago memories.
So the end result is a book. Here’s a synopsis:
For all the wrong reasons, a young woman, fresh out of college, joins the Peace Corps. Her two years in Malawi are challenging, funny, adventurous, sometimes difficult, and certainly life-changing. Twenty-five years later, she revisits Malawi, and the passage of time allows her to reassess the Peace Corps, the country and its people, and her own life as Malawi has shaped it. This is her story: part memoir, part travelogue, its main themes are memory and guilt. Her trip back to Malawi with her family serves as a framework for revisiting her memories of those years and the fallibility of those memories. Her liberal perspective competes with her desire for comfort and luxury as she struggles with questions of charity and foreign aid and explores the contradictions presented by her comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyle in light of the poverty of her friends in Malawi. Along the way, she provides rich description of her travels, both in 2012 and the mid-1980’s.
The first draft is done, and my writer’s group is helping me revise it chapter by chapter to tidy it up and decide what should and should not be included, given that it’s on the long side right now. (Thank you, Andrea, Jude, Karen, Kate and Lysette!)
And perhaps I’m being too optimistic or presumptuous about this, but I’d like to see it published. I’m looking for a literary agent, which is the first step if I want to get published in the US. (Any suggestions would be welcome!) And if I can’t get it published, I still intend to get it “out there,” through self-publishing, but I’d rather try traditional publishing first.
In the meantime, it’s time to post here on my blog some more. And again, I’ll aim for once a month to start with and see how it goes. At least, until I start my next book…
By the way, any suggestions for the book’s title would be greatly appreciated!