I love living with other writers – not permanently, mind, and I don’t think I’d want to be married to one, but for a few days or a week it is exactly the boost I need. Whether it’s a writing retreats or a residential writing workshop, I love running them and I love attending them…
Being a writer is a lonely old thing to do. Being an expat, newish in a foreign country is even lonelier. Two reasons why I recognise the importance of spending time with other writers. I’ve always been part of a writers’ circle (get in touch if you fancy coming to the KL one) and run morning workshops, but in the last few years I have come to not only love, but need, residential writing experiences.
Seven years ago I attended a week-long writing course in Scotland. The teacher was great, and gave us all an ‘in’ to the world of publishing. I often say that a writer’s luck is dependent on the size of her network and whether she makes an effort to stay in touch with those who are in it. So, the fact that the teacher, the wonderful Anita Burgh, had published 28 novels at the time was a big plus. But the other students were great too. They came from all over the world and, sharing a love of writing, it was inevitable that we all had masses in common and a few laughs. This was helped hugely by the fact that one of us had a car and could nip out to buy us extra booze! During the next few years those fellow students became my support team. Most of us are still in touch, by email, through Facebook and, if we are lucky, in person.
Two years ago I ran a memoir writing workshop in Tuscany. Same story. This time I was the teacher and ‘connector’ of the group, but I still made friends with other writers. We all still support each other and stay in touch.
But last November, I was lucky enough to go to Phuket and join Summertime author (@ Home in Dubai) and self-published, award-winning, novelist, Anne O’ Connell, for her own ‘retreat’. This was a combination of classes and free time (and you need free time in Thailand when beach massages cost a tenner!). I didn’t even attend the classes this time. I went for the camaraderie. Again, we bonded. Again we had a good laugh and again we all left very inspired.
This year, come November and I’m heading back to Phuket, to attend Anne’s retreat and this time I am running a workshop of my own on the last day. I think it is nearly full now, but do, please consider coming and joining us. Trust me it will be VERY inspiring, supe
JP: Tell us about B at Home: Emma Moves Again. What is it about? Can you describe it in just a few sentences?
VB: It is a fictional “memoir” about the experiences of a ten-year-old girl and her teddy bear who have to move yet again. During the different stages of another relocation, Emma’s search for home takes root. As the chapters alternate between Emma’s and her bear’s point of view, Emma is emotionally torn whereas B serves as the wiser and more experienced voice of reason.
JP: Why did you write the book?
VB: Like many aspiring writers, I have often been told to write what you know. This I know. As a child and young adult, having moved country (not counting cities) a total of 16 times, I always struggled with the concept of ‘home’ and the question ‘where do I belong?’. It’s only now, while growing more roots with my husband and two daughters, that I am slowly beginning to understand what ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ truly mean.
Partly, I needed to write this story for myself. But mostly, as a primary school teacher and as a mother, I feel almost a sense of responsibility to let children know that they are not alone in their own search for ‘home’; that it’s great to celebrate the advantages to moving, but that it’s also okay to acknowledge the challenges that come with it.
JP: Why do you think it needed to be written?
VB: It is absolutely wonderful there is such a growing list of resources about third culture kids (TCKs) available for parents and educators. Over the last ten years, I have become passionate about the subject of TCKs, but always felt a need for more resources for younger TCKs. I really wanted to contribute in a meaningful way. With B at Home, I hope to give younger TCKs a story they can identify with while they experience their own move. And I would like to encourage them to enjoy a passage in life that can be such a rewarding and enriching journey.
JP: Who do you think will read B at Home? Who would you like to read the book?
VB: I would love for B at Home to be read by any children who move (whether it’s 50 or 5,000 miles away) and who are simply searching for ‘home’. Although targeted mostly at a younger third culture kid (TCK) audience, I also hope to reach out to parents and educators of TCKs. Their guiding roles can be so influential during the process of relocation, an experience which inevitably helps shape a child’s identity.
JP: What steps have you taken (or do you plan to take) to promote B at Home? Which methods do you think work best and can you give any examples?
VB: I am still very new to all of this, and I’m not sure which methods work best. I have created a website and a Facebook page. I don’t twitter and am not very actively involved in social media as a person, so I find it quite challenging to do so as an author. Having looked at other authors, I do feel social media is an extremely important vehicle to give your book publicity.
I have also contacted local book stores and will be sending review copies to educators and other professionals who interact with TCKs. I was recently part of a panel presenting to HR managers in Geneva about the subject of relocation and children.
At our school, I have been asked to present to parents and staff. And of course I will speak about the book to my students. Having said that, I feel much more comfortable speaking in front of a class of 8-year-olds than a room full of adults, so the adults will have to bear with me!
JP: How did you choose your publisher and publishing method? Why did you decide to take this route?
VB: As a graduate student, I read Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken. I immediately felt an overwhelming sense of recognition as they described my experience better than I’d ever been able to myself.
Then almost three and half years ago, I had the chance to listen to Ruth Van Reken speak about her work. Her stories were even more powerful in person. A few months later, I finally picked up the courage to send her some of my writing and pitch my idea of a children’s book for TCKs to her. I was pleasantly surprised when she told me to keep writing and to get in touch with Jo Parfitt from Summertime Publishing.
Fast forward more than a year later, and I finally had the guts to actually send through my writing. Working with Jo and [editor] Jane Dean over the past two years has been a tremendous learning experience. I am so grateful that Ruth steered me into the right direction.
JP: What was your biggest challenge regarding the writing of B At Home? How did you overcome that?
VB: Trusting when to listen to your gut and when to let it go. There have been times in the writing and editing process when I was very happy to simply follow my heart. There have been other times when I simply had to trust others. And then the time came that I just had to ‘let it go’. If I hadn’t had a deadline imposed on me, I think I could have gone on forever ‘tweaking’ it.
JP: Now you have written this book, what has writing it done for you? (your family, your self-esteem, your business…)
VB: For myself, I needed to jump into the deep end and write about the experience of being a TCK. At first, I wasn’t very confident whether my story was even worth sharing, but through the amazing support of Ruth, Summertime Publishing, my family, my friends and even the occasional stranger, I learned that it was. If it will make one child feel better and more empowered throughout his or her own relocation experience then it has served its purpose. I also hope to set the example, for my daughters and my students, that you should always try to live your dreams.
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?
VB: Make sure to have your target audience read it. They will give you the best and most honest feedback.
JP: Please can you add links here to your website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account and any other social media you have in place.
VB: valeriebesanceney.com, facebook.com/valeriebesanceney
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