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October 16th marked my first experience with HoCoPoLitSo’s “The Writing Life”.
I’m an aspiring writer and high school senior, and this year I’m developing my craft under the mentorship of Dr. Tara Hart, creative writing professor at Howard Community College and Co-Chair of HoCoPoLitSo. She’d invited me to HCC-TV’s taping of a Writing Life episode with writer Siobhan Fallon, hosted by journalist Kristin Henderson, and I was excited to accept—I’d never been in a T.V. studio before.
On the morning of the taping the campus was bustling, and I wondered if the featured Howard County Book Connection project author, Siobhan Fallon, had had any trouble finding a parking spot.
My first thought when I arrived at the HCC TV studio room was that I was overdressed,—but that was okay—it actually made me more comfortable; perhaps I was drawn to the down-to-earth yet relaxed nature of it all.
Mrs. Fallon was wonderful. I learned with surprise that she currently lives in Abu Dhabi, and I tried (unsuccessfully, I think) to fathom what kind of jet lag she must’ve been feeling. Nevertheless, she was amicable and eager for her interview.
I got a peek into the room where the interview would be conducted, and I later marveled at how seamlessly the green screen behind the two arm chairs was turned into a sophisticated yet comfy library background. Being someone with little to no experience in TV and film, I thought it was pretty cool.
I sat in the “control room” while the taping was taking place, and not only was I able to listen to the interview (and watch it from three different camera angles), but I was able to hear the correspondence among the director and crew as well. I’m thankful for that, because I think it gave me a more well-rounded view of the entire production. Being a writer myself, I naturally emphasized the content of the interview with Ms. Fallon as the most important part of the taping, but now having seen both sides of the production I firmly believe that the technical aspect of it all is just as necessary and important.
That being said, the interview was wonderful. Siobhan Fallon is the author of the award-winning short story collection You Know When the Men Are Gone, the content of which focuses on the emotional (and for most of us intangible) experience of military life. Ms. Fallon herself is a military wife, and I nearly choked up when she mentioned that soon her husband will be given leave for two years, and how wonderful it will be to have “such a long time to be together”.
But anyone writer could easily relate to her interview, as she gave wise and thought-provoking insight on the universal topics of fact versus truth, writing from different points of view, the short story versus the novel, and how personal experience ties into all writing, even fiction.
I almost got teary for a second time when she talked about care packages. Just a few days before I’d sent one to my nineteen-year-old cousin for his birthday; he’s serving in Afghanistan as an army medic. Hearing Mrs. Fallon speak so intimately about the military experience made me miss Jimmy more than ever, and I hope to share this post and the episode with him eventually.
All in all, my first experience with “The Writing Life” was personally and professionally gratifying in every way. I made some great new connections, with Ms. Fallon, with the TV crew, and with the other HoCoPoLitSo board members. They seemed so excited that I’d come, like it was their honor and not mine, and that just made me feel special.
I took a picture with Dr. Hart to commemorate the day, and left feeling satisfied and eager for the next episode. It was a lovely morning.
— Emily Bellor
From Abu Dhabi to Howard County and Back, Author Siobhan Fallon Lives Through the Jet Lag to Tell About It.
Jet lag, medically referred to as desynchronosis, is a physiological condition which results from alterations to the boy’s circadian rhythms resulting from rapid long-distance transmeridian (east-west or west-east) travel on an aircraft.
I was asking for it. Heading to Maryland from Abu Dhabi, with two little daughters in tow, was bound to be trouble. But when the generous folks of Howard County chose You Know When the Men Are Gone for their Book Connection Project read, there was no way I was just going to send an ethereal Skype-self to their computer screens on October 15 and 16th. I wanted my flesh and blood and exhausted self right there in person.
We arrived in NY after nearly 24 hours of transit (made interesting by my nine-month-old trying to pull the hair out of the head of the nice lady in front of us all the way to Heathrow). On October 14, I left my girls with my mother and drove a rental car to a hotel in Howard County. I got on the treadmill for an hour of uphill climbing while looking through my notes and skimming my stories, brushing up for the talk the following morning at Howard Community College (HCC).
Ten p.m. (six a.m. Abu Dhabi time) I was in my room and wired (for future reference, getting on a treadmill at 9 pm is not a good way to tire oneself out). I decided to post the upcoming readings on Facebook and ended up getting into a lively discussion about Kenny Rogers with Laura Yoo, HCC faculty member and member of the board of directors at HoCoPoLitSo. I mentioned Rogers’ lyrics make for great stories, she posted her favorite childhood songs with videos, and she even found one where Kenny still had his wonderful, original face.
Her sense of humor confirmed what I had already suspected — these events were going to be awesome.
And each one was, filled with enthusiastic, kindly, curious readers in sparkling learning spaces at both HCC and the Miller Branch of the Howard County Library System (no wonder it was voted Library of the Year 2013).
Here are some of my favorite moments:
– After reading at HCC, a student asked me to sign his book. His teacher required proof of attendance and he had me inscribe a paperback to her. I couldn’t help adding, Please give this man an A for creativity!!
– When I walked into Margaret Garroway’s English class (she joined forces with other English classes and the room was full), Margaret was in Alex Trebek mode, moderating a trivia game, classes pitted against each other with representatives sitting at a long table in front. The trivia was taken from my collection, and there was even an answer I didn’t know (but the students did, good job, guys!).
– After the English class, one student brought me a red sharpie and asked me to sign the cover of his book rather than inside. Everyone behind him in line liked the way it looked and asked to borrow his pen (I liked the graffiti feel of it myself—I’m going to start carrying a red sharpie and ‘tag’ all my books from now on) until the poor kid had to run off to his next class.
– During the taping of HoCoPoLitSo’s TV show The Writing Life, I finally got to meet fellow mil spouse author and my Writing Life host, Kristin Henderson. When I lived in Virginia, she and I played email tag (she is part of a group of mil spouse writers who get together once a month; alas I had my hands full of new baby and the move to Abu Dhabi and couldn’t manage to meet them). She is just as fabulous as I imagined her to be.
Now I am back in Abu Dhabi. Yes, I spent about a week downing too much coffee and railing at my kiddos for not sleeping enough (the nine-month-old was waking up bright-eyed at 2 a.m. every night, ready to pull my hair out).
Jet lag be damned, I wouldn’t trade a minute of the great time I had at Howard County.
Oh, and can somebody please tell Trivia Pursuit to add questions about my stories to their next edition?
Special thanks to Candace DePass, Lisa Bankman, Alesia McManus, and Susan Thornton Hobby for all their hard work coordinating this trip across time zones! I hope to be back in your beautiful Howard County again someday.