Today’s guest blogger, Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, is a cultural spelunker. With a husband from Ireland, a daughter from Vietnam, nearly five years as an expat in Shanghai, China, and an insatiable appetite for place, how could she not be? She’s also an author with an MFA degree in fiction writing, 18 years of experience as a writing instructor, a writerhead passionista, and the curator of #38Write, a monthly series of online writing workshops for place-passionate culture junkies around the world. Let’s listen up and hear why Kristin thinks Thanksgiving is a time for us displaced writers to shine!
— ML Awanohara
On Thursday, November 22, friends and families all over the United States (as well as oodles of displaced/replaced U.S.-ians around the world) will gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving. While this holiday can be traced back to the English Reformation and Henry VIII, it is now a secular holiday during which participants are expected to do just three simple things:
- eat turkey and pumpkin pie until we groan and bloat up like petrified puffer fish.
- endure our Great Aunt Pru, who smells like mothballs and passes out linty lozenges that look like they’ve been in the bottom of her purse since the Reformation.
- give thanks.
Writers of all ilk love this holiday. After all, it’s a day for us to shine! A day for us to show off by expressing our thanks far more eloquently than the neighbor who is slouched in front of his television in a tryptophan-induced haze.
We do, of course, have a lot to live up to:
“Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for—annually, not oftener—if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians.” ~ Mark Twain
“There is one day that is ours…Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.” ~ O. Henry [except, Mr. Henry forgot to add, those damn Canadians a bit to our north, who horn in on our gratefulness territory and dare to give thanks of their own, albeit on a different day]
“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.” ~ Erma Bombeck
But no matter how splendid the thanks of those who came before us, this is a day on which writers can strut their best stuff!
So whether or not you’re American (U.S. American, that is), grab this opportunity to make a list of things for which you are thankful. Hurl yourself into the craft of thanks! Then, when your Thanksgiving host pauses just before cutting the first slice of turkey and says, “Would anyone like to share a thing or two for which you’re grateful?” you can whip out that slip of paper, clear your throat, and in your best writerly voice, make ’em weep in their cranberry sauce.
Here are a handful of mine:
1) Despite my great love for China, I am wildly thankful I will not be sitting face to face with the still-raw, almost-gobbling, dripping-blood, trying-to-limp-away turkey I once faced in Shanghai (ordered weeks in advance, mind you, from a fancy, well-respected, Western-y hotel and for which we paid a pretty-pretty RMB). All hail the year of mashed potatoes as the main dish! (We should have stuck with jiaozi.)
2) I am so, so, so grateful I am not living during the English Reformation and that I am not required to wear contraptions like this on my head:
3) I am grateful that Maya Angelou called to read me a new poem. (Sorry, sorry, sorry! This is actually one of Oprah’s moments of thankfulness, not mine. But it sounds good, doesn’t it?)
4) I am thankful for my amazing family and friends from Ireland, Vietnam, Germany, India, China, the U.S., the U.K., and so many more places—all those who guide me, teach me, love me, and put up with me in my best and worst moments as a human being.
5) I am thankful and excited and inspired that writers around the world are flocking to my #38Write workshops and that my vision for contributing—and helping other writers contribute—to the global conversation of story is being realized. Whoop! Whoop!
6) I am grateful that there are writers all around the globe (like you!) who are driven to explore, write stories about the cultures and places in which they live, and connect.
Your turn! What are you thankful for?
CONNECT: If you’d like to learn more or if you’d like to register for one of Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s #38Write workshops, grab a cup of coffee and pop over to her Web site and blog WRITERHEAD. Registration for December’s #38Write workshop is now open. You can Tweet Kristin at @kbairokeeffe, friend her on Facebook, and/or check out the #38Write group boards on Pinterest.
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, Part 2 of Zeynep Kilic’s search for love in her adopted country.
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Images: Kristin Bair O’Keeffe portrait; Anne Boleyn, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.