When people tell me that they are ‘finding it hard to write these days’, I usually advise the following:
A few years ago, while searching online for some ideas re writing, I came across the name of Jo Parfitt. On contacting her and asking a few questions, I thought her ideas were inline with what I was looking for. I then signed up for a course on memoir writing. This covered a variety of hints and suggestions on how to get the best results with my writing. The course was interesting and I later used suggestions in my own writing work. Since then I have had a number of articles published online, and one in a UK expat magazine. Several of my articles have been published in Escape Artist and Escape from America. I was well pleased when they told me they would be interested in seeing any other articles I write too. I can only put this down to my taking the course I did with Jo. In view of this I would recommend anyone wishing to start writing seriously, to consider taking one of Jo courses. Even better still, if you are able to, join one of her many classes. In this way you will receive personal coaching from Jo. These classes are held in a variety of exotic locations, so if one is not suitable for you, most likely another one would be. Just think, you could be having a holiday in the sun while gaining first hand writing experience! [Thanks for this, Colin. I have a writing class in November in Phuket if anyone is interested].
Like thousands of others I have spent many years travelling and working as an expat in numerous countries. My work mainly involved fitting out interior finishes to numerous five star hotels and a few palaces. The experiences obtained during working on projects in the Middle East, Asia and North Africa are now what I am writing about in my memoir entitled Follow In The Tigerman’s Footprints. It is books like this that Expatbookshop specialises in. Here you are able to purchase a variety of books written by expats themselves.
On March 1st 2014 Summertime publishes the memoir and writings of a doctor, based in Iran in the first half of the last century. It is a fascinating insight not just into the country, but also the work of a female missionary doctor in a Muslim society. I speak to Margie Frame, the author’s daughter about her mother’s memoir, published posthumously.
JP: Tell us about Passage to Persia. What is it about? Can you describe it in just a few sentences?
MAF: Passage to Persia is about a woman doctor’s life in Iran where she served for 28 years as a medical missionary. Adelaide Kibbe went to Iran in 1929, at age 27, and wrote many letters, reports, and articles about her life and observations of a country transitioning from a feudal world to a modern state. The book also describes her personal journey as a doctor, woman, wife and mother.
JP: Why did you write the book? Why do you think it needed to be written?
MAF: After my mother’s death in 1986 I put away all her correspondence, diaries, and papers until I was emotionally ready to read through them and learn more about her life. A few years ago I sat down and started reading over the material. As I read what she had written, I realized how observant she had been of the changing world around her. Her words and style of writing brings to the reader a vivid image of life in Iran and her personal journey. I felt her story needed to be shared.
JP: Who do you think will read Passage to Persia? Who would you like to read the book?
MAF: The primary readers will most likely be missionaries, church groups, and people who have lived in Iran at some time. I would like Iranians to read it as it describes changes in their country many would not remember or know about. Also, students of Iranian Studies or Middle Eastern History should read the book as a primary history source.
JP: What steps have you taken (or do you plan to take) to promote Passage to Persia?
MAF: I created a flyer about the book with ISBN numbers for ordering the book and a new e-mail account for the book. I will be sending out information with the flyer attached to Missionary offices of various church organizations, Iranian organizations, and colleges and universities with Iranian studies or Middle Eastern studies programs. As a former librarian I will also be sending the flyer to library contacts. I do not have a blog, newsletter, or website.
JP: How did you choose your publisher and publishing method? Why did you decide to take this route?
MAF: My sister recommended asking Ruth van Reken [co-author of Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds and author of Letters Never Sent] to suggest a publisher as she had written books about her own life. Ruth told me about Jo Parfitt and Summertime Publishing and I have been very satisfied with the choice.
JP: What was your biggest challenge regarding the writing of Passage to Persia? How did you overcome that?
MAF: Transcribing all the documents was probably my biggest challenge. There were thirty years of material to review, type out, and edit. Retiring and living in Panama for this last year provided the time and opportunity to finish the book.
JP: Now you have written this book, what has writing it done for you?
MAF: Writing the book has given me a sense of accomplishment, a better understanding of my mother as a person, and an important story to pass on to the family, especially her descendants.
JP: If you were to give advice to someone else who is thinking about writing a book of this nature, what would be your number one tip?
MAF: My advice to other authors is to work on personal material of this nature gradually. There are times when you need to step back, think about what you are writing and digest it. Be willing to edit and delete sections even though to you it is interesting material. At the same time, once you have written the draft of the book and know its overall story, keep material that you know fit into the total story even though on first reading it may not be of interest.
I know how hard it can be to get started again after a bit of a lull. I moved country six months ago and the preamble to leaving (the will-we-won’t-we thing followed by the when-will-we thing) seemed to devour the best part of a year – whole!
The upshot of this is that now that the first set of visitors have left and Christmas is over with, I am left with what feels, at last, like ‘my new life’. It is more than a year since I published my last book (the fourth edition of Career in Your Suitcase). In the last almost-30 years I have churned out 30 books so it feels a bit weird not to have a book on the go – yet. It is more than a year since I ran a writing workshop from my home. As this too is something I ‘normally’ do three times a year minimum, it feels weird.
However, the longer time went on the more I doubted whether I should do another workshop, whether I was still any good at it, whether anyone would come and whether I’d like doing it. I know, I know, I ran a workshop at the Phuket Paradise Writers’ Retreat last November. And I ran them in KL, Singapore, Miri and Brunei earlier last year, but none of those was from my own home.
The longer my hiatus went on, the more my procrastination deepened, but then, in January I decided to bite the bullet, set a couple of dates, joined the British Women’s Club so I could put an ad in their newsletter, told the company spouse association, made a Facebook event and told all the new folk I’d met since I arrived. [Just in case you did not realise, that last sentence was a quick lesson in how to market a local workshop!]
Anyway, this week I had a full class of eight students! That is the first time ever, in a new posting that my first class was full. I was ecstatic. I realised that people did want what I had to offer after all.
The upshot of all this is that I loved every second of the day. My students were amongst the most talented and inspiring I have ever met and I realised, again (doh!) that I really do love doing this.
And why am I telling you this? Because often when we lose motivation and stop doing something, for whatever reason, we end up never doing that thing again when actually we loved it. We find a million excuses and question things we never used to question at all.
Some writers get out of the groove of writing poetry. Some get out of the groove of writing long letters home. Some stop blogging and some stop writing articles or books. I stopped teaching. I was foolish. But by being mindful of how each stage of the process made me feel, I realise that no, I don’t much like the selling part of it and really don’t like having to tidy the room and get it set up, but I did enjoy making the lunch and boy oh boy, I adored meeting everyone and ‘sharing what I know to help others to grow’, which has been my motto for over a decade.
If any of you are feeling listless, demotivated and less ‘writery’ than usual, my advice to you is to get back on that horse – you know, the horse you once used to ride and love. Remind yourself how much you used to delight in the feeling of the wind in your hair? Okay, you get the message, I didn’t need to go all metaphorical and poetic on you. But please, for your own sake, don’t stop doing what you used to do just in case you actually loved it.
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