The worst part about being a full-time writer (besides lack of funds that is!) is not having colleagues. I don’t miss dressing up to go to work. PJs are just fine for me! I definitely don’t miss having to be in an office. The idea actually makes me feel ill now. But I do miss seeing other people, grabbing a chat over coffee, having lunch with human beings (had to add humans as my dog is feeling left out now), and – my favorite thing! – having a beer on a Friday after work.
So, how do you solve this problem when you are an introverted writer who finds the idea of writing at a café unappealing (and how am I going to remember to take all my crap with me?)? A writer friend (a real writer who has a book deal and everything!) suggested I take a seminar or course. Having just attended the London Book Fair where I managed not to throw up with anxiety at having to talk to strangers because – duh! – they’re writers, too, I decided to follow her advice.
Living in a country that speaks a different language than the one in which I write, I was forced to look abroad for a course. I ended up choosing the Swanwick Writer’s Summer School in England. There are many reasons I chose Swanwick, but the main reason was the language – English – of the course. Once I arrived, however, I was reminded – often! – of the following quote:
I’m fairly certain that at least 200 of the 300 attendees commented on my accent. Why did I still have an American accent, they couldn’t seem to help themselves from asking. At first, I tried to explain that, although I’m obviously a native American, my accent and word usage is international. (My editor loves to use her red pen to cross out any English sayings in my manuscripts.) No one was really listening, which meant it was time to bring out Snarky Dena. Snarky Dena’s response? Why would I have lost my American accent? I speak Dutch to Dutch people, German to German speakers, and crappy French to French people. And when I do speak English? It’s often to non-native English speakers who – it must be said – are more accustomed to American English. (Snarky Dena tends to go overboard.) The week ended with my pulling out my Dutch passport as we were boarding the bus and shouting: “See? I’m not an American!”
This is life as an expat.