Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Writer’s Life from a New Perspective

Leap Books is looking forward to publishing Tina Bustamante's As Waters Gone By in 2013. Not long after Tina's book was accepted, she moved. But not to another state, to another continent. As we swelter in the summer weather in the U.S., Tina's keeping warm in winter by stoking a wood stove.

We've asked Tina to tell you about her recent adventures and to share any tips she has on the writer's life:

After thirteen years of living in Seattle, my husband and I decided to move to his home country and start a new life. I arrived in Temuco, Chile, with my two children on June 27, 2012. . The other extreme of the world, where more than just the language is different. Chile is a country with rustic and striking landmarks, incredibly modern amenities, and a variety of people all intermingling to create an enchanting culture.

One of the most useful characteristics a writer can cultivate is to be someone who sees, who notices, who takes in what is going on around her and intuitively knows how to assimilate it into her life in such a way that she can use that particular truth, that keen observation in her writing life. A writer must perceive what others are too busy to notice, or too unaware to understand or deem important. The writer, in particular, the one who writes fiction must be someone who apprehends and takes truth so deeply inside herself, that she’s able to weave a made-up story that proves the truth more honestly than any non-fiction book ever could.

Most of us writers draw from our childhoods, our experiences, the things we know in order to spin our stories. I have the rare privilege to live in another land, hear new tales, new stories, and learn to weave an entirely new culture into my fiction. In fact, just yesterday I was listening to a man tell me about his upbringing. He grew up in the country, far from the city, among fourteen brothers and sisters. His wife works for my father-in-law. This man told me the utterly romantic story of his mom and dad. His father, an orphan, was studying to become a priest. He had gotten a few years into seminary and everything – quite a religious man. One day, he was out and about and saw a woman, and fell madly in love with her. He left seminary, rejecting the priests and all they’d given him. They tried to convince him he was making a mistake, but he was in love, absolutely in love. All his training, his schooling, all the investments the church had made for him as an orphan didn’t matter – he threw caution to the wind and married the woman. Her name was Maria Mercedes. Everyone said he’d regret it. He didn’t. They lived happily ever after – poor, no running water, no electricity, and fifteen children! The man told me he has wonderful memories of his childhood, that even though they were poor, he was happy. They had enough food and milk, they slept three or four to a bed. You can imagine what I was thinking the whole time I heard this story. What a wonderful story to knit into my writing.

Not only do I get to live in a new land and discover new things about people, I also get to feel things, experience things in new ways: loneliness, loss, culture barriers, the blessing of new friendships, the terrible pain of leaving all that I’ve known behind for what I don’t know, all mixing into my well of truth, my reservoir of story material. A writer uses what she has, what she knows.

Sometimes, I feel a bit isolated here, and that won’t go away anytime soon. There are days when Chile feels far away. However, the great blessing I have, which so many writers who have gone before me didn’t have, is the Internet. Today, we blog, we twitter, we facebook, we Skype, we FaceTime, and all those mediums connect us even if we’re miles – or continents – apart.
If you’re someone who’s trying to write, someone trying to figure out what it is that you and you alone are supposed to say, what it is that your words are supposed to bring to our culture – look around, notice things, watch people, open your eyes. You will see things that no one else notices. You will hear stories that are significant to you. You will perceive things that others miss. Those are the themes, the stories, the truths you are supposed to weave into stories. And you’re the only one who can.

Thanks for sharing, Tina! To learn more about Tina's life in Chile, you can visit her blog, Fragments, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook. And here's the blurb for her forthcoming book:

When Ellie moves in with her aunt on Orcas Island after her mother's death, she doesn't expect to have one of the most incredible summers of her life. She doesn't expect to restore a mysterious lighthouse that holds the truth about her family, or to rehabilitate a crazy dog, or to see a strange man who may or may not be a ghost. And the last thing she expects is to meet Will Larson, who flips her summer upside down.
But, when Will's past and her own collide, will their relationship survive the secrets they both conceal, or will these unshared secrets tear them apart? Can Ellie gain the courage to uncover the truth of who she really is and finally find a place where she belongs, or will she choose to remain an outsider?

Our teen readers loved it! Hope you will too!

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