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Ladies and gentlemen, may we present: THE EXPAT OSCARS! Um…hello? Anyone there?

TheExpatOscarsThe Expat Oscars — really? Now that would be an unusual event. What would it look like?

I live in Spain. Oscars are something that are on TV Sunday night. Basically, very late at night. You don’t watch, you just read the news after who won or who lost. — Javier Bardem

Well, for starters the Expat Oscars would be held via Skype. If we had our own version of the Kodak Theatre, it’d be big and posh and empty — ’cause folk from ’round here…ain’t from ’round here! We’re displaced — all over the bloomin’ planet. Which is kind of the point. If we had to collect our awards in person, that ceremony would have a carbon footprint the size of a football stadium.

So we’re streaming live on the Internet. The Red Carpet is a million pixels long and is digitally re-mastered in every country participating. Unfortunately, Jennifer Lopez wouldn’t be invited as she’s never been displaced, only her clothing! Indeed, you won’t want to make a slip-up — or down — as the clip would literally be on YouTube before you knew it.

But if there wouldn’t be any wardrobe malfunctions, we could at least look forward to getting that delicious hang-fire moment when the Skype picture freezes, and then it cuts back in, seconds later, like this:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner is…” PIXELATE — jittery jump — lips purse with a hint of spittle and stay like that — and pause — and pause —

Cut back in to rapturous applause, the digital wheeling of spotlights and we’ve got to sit through another five minutes of high-volume celebrating before we finally make out the individual giving an acceptance speech. (That’s if it doesn’t cut out again before we get that far!)

Who would host?

Milla Jovovich, you did a great job hosting the sci-tech awards for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so you’re being promoted — to hosting the entire Expat Oscars shebang! We’d love it if you’d wear that white-sequin, one-shoulder gown you wore for the main event last night — and leave the granny glasses you donned for the sci-techies at home (wherever “home” is!).

From Long Beach to Pacific Palisades? Sorry, Billy Crystal, but that’s not displaced enough. Jovovich is Ukrianian, has lived in Europe and the US, and acted in films in several languages. All of that counts for a lot in our book.

Should Milla request a co-host, it would have to be either Keanu Reeves (he was born in Beirut, a third culture kid!) — or why not go for the daddy of successful expat movie stars, the man who redefined the phrase “I came, I saw, I conquered”: Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself!

No? Well, it’s either him or Borat. With his penchant for embodying other nationalities rather too literally, Sacha Baron Cohen belongs more with our tribe than with the Academy’s. At the Expat Oscars he will be free to attend in his dictator’s uniform without having to get special clearance and can “ash” anyone he likes in the name of terrorizing fashion — the mess will only be virtual.

We’re talking a looooong ceremony

Besides, his antics might keep people awake. The Expat Oscars will have to be a long, LONG show — either that or we’d insist that everyone stay awake all night, and it would be 4 a.m. for someone.

Listen, you think it’s bad at the real Academy Awards sitting on the edge of your auditorium seat for several of hours, sipping champagne while you wait for your category to be announced — what if it’s being announced by someone eight time-zones away?

Charlize Theron*: “Ladies and Gentlemen, here to accept this prestigious award, please welcome Mr. Sung, live by satellite from Hong Kong! Please excuse the penguin pyjamas. And the fact that he’s drunk eight vodka-Red-bulls just trying to keep himself awake…”
Mr. Sung: “Fangssshhhverymussssh…hic!”
*With her South African pedigree, Charlize more than qualifies for the role of Expat Oscar presenter.

Best Foreign Language Film — is that second or third?

Our next category is for Best Film in a Foreign Language…but wait a minute! That’s not a foreign language! That’s my language! Ah…

So could we have Best Film in a Second Language perhaps? But would that category also include people who’ve made a film in their third language — or should they get their own category? And so on.

How about “Film in a Language So Obscure Even the Director Has No Idea What’s Going On”?

No politics/fashion, please, we’re expats

What a thrill. You know you’ve entered new territory when you realize that your outfit cost more than your film. – Jessica Yu, Academy Award Winner 1997 for Documentary Short Subject*
*Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brian, about a person with a breathing disability.

The traditional Hollywood bash is often clouded by politics not to mention gossip and verdicts on the gowns of the nominated actresses.

It wouldn’t be like that for us. The Expat Awards would be about the films.

Because we just don’t get each other’s governmental strife — we haven’t got time for sorting it all out.

For instance, I’m sure there’s plenty of fascinating developments in the politics of Milla’s Ukraine (they’re a Presidential Representative Democratic Republic, don’t you know!) — but to be honest, I don’t think that would figure in anyone’s acceptance speech.

How could it? I don’t even know what a PRDR is — do you?

And the fashion would be a bit more varied than in Hollywood. We’d have people walking down the Virtual Red Carpet in burkas, galabiyas — or board shorts and “thongs” for the Aussie nominees! And there’s bound to be a few unwashed backpacker types trying to get away with khakis and a vest…and not shaving. Okay, so that’s me.

And my speech — probably on accepting the World’s Most Ridiculous Person Award?

Tony: “I’d like to thank my Mum…”
Milla: “Well actually, we have your Mum on the phone right now! She’s asking where you are, and why you haven’t called her in the last six months…”
Tony: “I’d like to thank the Academy…and ask them to keep her talking long enough for me to get to a taxi.”

* * *

What else would go wrong with a displaced film award ceremony? Would the statuette be a little gold Buddha? Or a waving cat? Or a mermaid from “Here be dragons”? What would the categories be? And who would win?

Please share your craziest thoughts in the comments!

You could win…hmm, let’s see: the respect of the international film community?

Nah. Not even the real Oscars have that… 🙂

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s review of A Separation, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, by expat author Matt Krause. Krause’s book, A Tight Wide-open Space: Finding love in a Muslim land, was featured on our site this month.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Talking with former expat Meagan Adele Lopez about travel, romance & novel/screenplay writing

Earlier this week I caught up with Meagan Adele Lopez, actor, world traveler, blogger and now a first-time author. She self-published her novel, Three Questions: Because a quarter-life crisis needs answers, in October of last year. It was featured on The Displaced Nation’s post Best of 2011: Books for, by and about expats.

Meagan — who is also known as MAL and the Lady Who Lunches (after her blog of that title) — may have just three questions, but I had quite a few more! I wanted to find out what inspired her to write her book, which she is now attempting to turn into a screenplay — the story behind the story…

Here’s what she had to say.

Meagan, I think it’s fair to say that you’ve been around a bit — I mean that in the nicest possible sense! Would you mind telling us a bit about your background — where you grew up, what you studied?
Do you mean I’ve been around as in I’ve lived for a long time, or do you mean I’ve traveled loads? (I won’t bother going to the other possibility!) Actually, I am getting up there in age — just six more months of my twenties; but there’s no need to rub it in, Tony! Just kidding. I think I’ll be relieved to be out of my twenties. What a crazy ride they were!

No, of course I wasn’t referring to your age — I’m an English gentleman, remember? I meant, you’ve lived in quite a few places — and that was before you moved abroad.
By the time I was 12 years old, I had lived in 12 different houses, and four different states. I pretty much grew up in a suburb of Baltimore called Towson. I say “pretty much” because I also lived in Tennessee and New Jersey for two years in between. But Towson is where I call home.

You have a passion for acting. When did you develop it?
Since I was eight years old, acting was all I wanted to do. For high school, I auditioned for a conservatory arts school called Baltimore School for the Arts (it boasts Jada Pinkett, Josh Charles and Tupac as students), where I was lucky enough to be trained by professional actors everyday.

Funnily enough, I wanted to be an actor, too. What drew you to the profession?
I had this fear that my life would pass too fast, and acting was somehow a way to slow down time, and be “in the moment.” Nowadays I find that writing is what does this for me. I am able to record thoughts and moments forever. Very existential, I know.

But you haven’t completely lost your passion for acting — I see you’ve instilled it in your main character, Adele (“Del”), in Three Questions. And I noticed there’s a mention of a horror film in your author’s bio — could you tell us a bit about that?
About the horror film? Oh no, you really don’t want to know about that (wink). But okay, my first starring role was in a horror movie called Sleepy Hollow High, about students who believe that the legend of Sleepy Hollow is real. It’s one of those films that is so cheesy and kitschy that it might be considered entertaining at some level. At the time, I was just excited to be in something, but it certainly wasn’t Oscar-worthy — ahem — at all. 

And you also got into some major motion pictures?
My first speaking role in a big Hollywood movie was as a cocktail guest in Traffic, with Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas — now there’s an Oscar worthy film. Unfortunately, my lines got cut — but you can still see me shaking Michael Douglas’s hand. I got my Screen Actors Guild card from acting in small parts in Enemy of the State, a spy-thriller starring Will Smith, and The Replacements, a college football film starring Keanu Reeves. Numb3rs was my first TV show.

Wow — you gave all that up to become a writer?
I got disillusioned with acting after working in casting for four years. I saw how completely random and superficial some of the choices can be for who gets cast. I’d gotten into acting for a much more altruistic goal — I wanted to make a difference in how people see the world — but ultimately realized that the place where I could make a real difference, because I have control over my own success, was with writing. Without great content, after all, actors couldn’t do their job!

Well you’re having plenty of success with writing. In addition to the book (which we’ll come to, don’t worry!), you started up a popular expat blog, A Lady Who Lunches, while you were living in the UK. Now that you’ve repatriated, and are living in Chicago, are you still keeping it up?
When I got to Chicago, the blog went through a bit of an identity crisis. Even though I’d never lived in that city, writing about the adventures of a newbie Chicagoan didn’t really interest me. Especially since I was no longer lunching — I was working, hard. Though I still have the same URL and twitter handle (@theladylunches), I now call the blog by my own name, and I’m glad I’ve kept it up. It’s a built-in fan platform that has helped me to sell my novel.

You’re also something of a social media guru. Are there any secrets you can impart to other bloggers about building an audience?
I didn’t set out for the blog to become popular (and thank you for saying so). It was a lot of ground work, as well as trial and error. You can’t expect results from a blog unless you’re updating it frequently, creating a community with other similar, like-minded people, and engaging with them on a consistent basis. My biggest piece of advice to other bloggers is to take a course in SEO. I never really paid attention to SEO, and it wasn’t until I took a course that I realized the importance of knowing the basics. Simple things like: are people even searching for the topics that you’re writing? Are you wasting two hours of writing time on a topic that gets only 100 hits per month?

Now let’s turn to Three Questions, which follows the developing love between two young people — who have only met each other once, by chance, on a night out in Las Vegas. The love interest, Guy, is from England, as is your real-life boyfriend, Jock. So what I’d like to know is, just how much of the book is autobiographical?
This is a question that Jock and I dodge quite often! I would say that about sixty percent of the book is autobiographical. There are many similar personality characteristics between Guy (Del’s boyfriend) and Jock, and between Del and me, Even the outline of the story conforms quite closely to what happened to Jock and me. Jock and I did meet in Las Vegas before his trip to Africa, and we did write letters back and forth to get to know each other. Hey — they always say to write about what you know, so that’s what I did! However, “how” things happened — and obviously the ending — are all very different.

One of my favorite aspects of the book was the use of the three questions in each email between Del and Guy, which the couple used to get to know one another during their long separation. It’s genius! Where did the idea for that come from?
Thanks, Tony! It came from Jock, actually. He used to play a questions game with his mates in England when they were out at the pubs. They were quirky questions like “If you were an animal, what would you be?” When Jock went traveling through Africa and we had only met that one night, he decided to take a slightly different spin on it, and ask me three VERY different questions to get to know me. It was such a great way to get to know someone, and build up the intensity and connection. I highly recommend it for anyone who has a long-distance relationship.

Tell us about the screenplay for the novel.
At the end of last year, I raised some money through a Kickstarter campaign to take the novel to the next level, which hopefully will include turning it into a movie. I’m working on the screenplay now, and then I’ll pitch it to Hollywood. What they do with it after that is up to them.

To give you a taster, Meagan has just released this movie-style trailer for the book, which is awesome!

Right, here’s something your fans will be keen to know the answer to: are you writing another book, and can you share any juicy details with us? Is it about travel again?
I’m now working on a second novel, which — particularly as a citizen of The Displaced Nation — you’ll be interested to learn is about someone who is forcibly, not voluntarily, displaced. It’s about a Cuban teenager who was torn from her homeland and true love in the early 1960s — and the struggles, ghosts and eventual success she faces in the United States leading up to today.

Love is a recurring theme in your writing, and one we’ve been looking into recently at The Displaced Nation. So, post Valentines Day, do you have an advice for the singletons out there, wherever they are?
My only advice is to figure out who you are first, and what you want before worrying about finding someone. I really believe that the right man or woman will come when you finally decide that you’re the most important person in your life, and you are taking care of you.

And I have to ask this of someone who has written such a beautiful and memorable love story; tell me about True Love. Does it exist? Is there one person for each of us?
Wow — that’s the kind of question that years ago, I always used to ask everyone else. I never thought I’d be on the receiving end. (Maybe I am getting old?!) I come from a family where love comes multiple times in their lives, so for a long time I never believed that there could be only one person for me. What I’ve come to learn is that with a mixture of timing, chemistry and hard work, true love can certainly be created. How else do I explain running into Jock in a bar in Vegas on Easter Sunday, and thus creating a life out of it, despite our different backgrounds, cultures and nationalities?

Yes, how does a girl from Towson get together with a bloke from Portsmouth? Can I ask, how is Jock coping with the transition to life in Chicago?
Ah… besides the constant yelling at the way we drive, the lack of manners that Americans have when opening doors, and absolutely hating the egos and pompous attitudes of our politicians and media? I would say he’s adjusted much better than I did when I was in England! (I did a lot better in Paris!) Luckily, Chicago has a variety of cultures. He has actually started a business with another Englishman, and found another good friend who’s English. Plus, I think he secretly loves the attention that his accent brings him.

And will your love story have a traditional ending — any plans to tie the knot?
He has one more year before he has to get down on his hands and knees. I gave him five years not thinking he would take the entire five! But we’ve had a few cross-continental moves in the past four years, which has made it challenging to find the right moment.

In Three Questions, Del describes her perfect future as “living by the water in a big city, traveling as much as possible.” You’ve traveled and lived in France and England, and now you’re living in the Windy City, presumably somewhere near the lake… Have you found that perfect future yet? Or is your dream different from Del’s?
Perhaps when I first started writing the book, that was my dream. But success is very important to me as well. I want to leave this life with a feeling that I have left a significant mark on people’s lives. I don’t think I will feel satisfied until that happens, which means I may always be striving to better myself, to make a difference… On a more practical note, I can see myself back in SoCal or having a flat in Paris eventually. That’s not too much to ask for, is it??

Thanks very much, Meagan! It was great chatting with you.

* * *

So, what do you all think? I loved Meagan’s book Three Questions and I’m not normally a fan of love stories and chick lit. I strongly recommend you all give it a read. Three Questions is available now on Amazon.com for the Kindle and, most excitingly of all, is now in paperback!
Three Questions on Amazon Kindle
Three Questions in Paperback

And luckily for you lot, Meagan has also agreed to participate in a giveaway, just for Displaced Nation readers!!!

She’s agreed to give a free ebook to the first 15 people who tweet: I want a free copy of @theladylunches’ new romance from afar novel, #ThreeQuestions via @displacednation

AND, she’s offered to give away a free copy of the paperback to the best comment in the comments section.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s chat 🙂

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s episode from our long-running expat soap, Libby’s Life. You can look forward to a battle with tiger-mums, a three-hour glucose tolerance test, one suspected case of galloping dandruff, and the crowning glory of a Valentine’s Day party for three-year-olds. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Images: Meagan Adele Lopez; Three Questions book cover (designed by Kathleen Bergen).

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