You don’t have to travel far to discover other worlds within our world. I met former librarian Karen Levi-Lausa when she coordinated my book party at Denver’s Bookbar, and we got to talking about her program that brings books to prisoners, Words Beyond Bars. Karen invited me to read a couple of the books the prisoners are reading with her, and last week I joined her for a drive to Colorado’s Sterling Correctional Facility for their book discussion. This week, she posted my essay on that visit at her Words Beyond Bars blog: Literature in a Razor -Wired Country. Please take a quick look and help me spread the word about this invaluable program!
Welcome to Day 3 of my 2014 blog book tour! Please join me through October 15 as I celebrate Conundrum Press releasing the new edition of my memoir, They Only Eat Their Husbands: Love, Travel, and the Power of Running Away. Today I visit The Paper Tiger, the blog of one of my favorite authors, Lisa Brackmann.
Lisa writes some of the most intelligent, compelling thrillers you’ll ever read, including Rock Paper Tiger, and Hour of the Rat. Both of those books are set in China, one of the countries I explored on my solo trek around the world, which you can read about in They Only Eat Their Husbands.
I’ve been back to China twice more since then, and in my post at The Paper Tiger today, I talk about my embarrassing efforts to learn to speak Cantonese: Long Time No See.
Here’s where you can find the rest of my online tour:
BLOG BOOK TOUR, October 6-15, 2014
Celebrating the New Edition of Cara Lopez Lee’s Memoir,
They Only Eat Their Husbands:
Jim Heskett Blog
6 Questions with Author Cara Lopez Lee
Creating Our Lives as Stories
The Paper Tiger
Long Time No See
The Blood Red Pencil
Here’s a Book In Your Eye
The Wrong Direction
As a writing instructor, I yearn to take credit for the ingenious, creative, perceptive stories my students create. They’re kids, mostly middle-schoolers, and I yearn to point at their work and say, “They know how to do that because I taught them how.” But I believe what makes a good teacher—and I hope I’m good, though I have a long way to grow—is to have the restraint not to show them how. I give them ideas to think about, concepts to get their minds going, but the point is to let them push the discussion, explore their own answers, decide for themselves what each concept means. I seek to show them that there are potentially infinite ways to unveil a story, and then let them come up with their own way. I ask them to experiment, to dream, to use critical thinking, to ponder. But then my most important job is to get out of the way. So the less credit I can take for their work, the happier I am about the possibility that I’m evolving as a teacher.
The sharing economy is increasing opportunities for travelers who want to explore what the world has to offer, with less damage to their pocketbook and the environment. A woman who works for a new car-sharing program called RelayRides has asked me to share one of my favorite “hidden gems” in Denver so she can give customers ideas about fun stuff to do in my city. The RelayRides concept is similar to Airbnb or other budget vacation rentals in which people briefly rent out their homes while they’re away. With RelayRides, when you travel to another city you can rent your car to someone who’s coming to your city, and then rent a car from someone in the city you’re going to.
My twin passions for travel and stories are no longer about escape. Instead, they have taught me a lot about finding something to appreciate every day, wherever I am. Every place I travel is somebody else’s home, so it stands to reason that my home should have its own wonders. Every story I read or movie I watch carries me into a deeper appreciation of life, so it stands to reason that by more deeply appreciating my daily life I can create my own story. I live in Denver, Colorado, where I don’t have to travel far to enjoy an experience for which others do travel far.
I teach dance in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and one of my Khmer friends from work asked me to present a contemporary dance duet at her wedding. Leak was having two weddings: one for her family in Battambang and one in Phnom Penh. I asked one of my dance students, Dara, to perform with me. We practiced our routine for weeks, then off we went to Battambang for the first edition:
The day begins at 5:45 a.m., but while my 18-year-old student Dara and I are bleary-eyed, the wedding tent has already taken over the street and music is blaring when we arrive. I’m ushered inside to find my friend Leak being turned into a goddess by a team of makeup-and-hair artists.
To me, life is one (hopefully) long journey, full of dirt roads, blind alleys, and exhilarating straightaways. Some people pick a target and spend their days marching inexorably towards it, while others zig and zag, trying to see as much as possible. It’s doubtful that there is a wrong choice, since we’re all headed for the same place, and my only advice for travellers is to wear comfortable shoes.
In my first novel, The Last Prospector, many journeys start with the birth of a special baby. All of the characters are travelling separate roads to the same place.
Travelling is a metaphor for living, and there are many kinds of travellers. Some people make their finest discoveries at home, because a journey of the mind is as valuable as a physical one. Some people can think their way down a road with the same ease as walking, and they reap the same rewards. Other people pack a bag and literally travel, seeing the world with their physical eyes and leaving a mark on all the places they visit.