Past Tense is Prologue

What is my manuscript about? I’ve been getting that question a lot, and I’ve finally decided on an answer in the form of a forward for the book.

So here goes: 

Almost any intersection of latitude and longitude is the center of the universe for someone. My favorite spot happens to be wherever, and whenever, I find myself in the middle of their story.

This is a book of landscape and identity. Chronicles of beginnings and endings in remote settings. Accounts of fleeting encounters with others. Legends of their lasting effect on me. In many ways, these stories seemed foretold as I was experiencing them. Serendipitous decisions working in tandem with random choices. Together, they comprise the storied life of an all or nothing girl.

Like identity, perception fluctuates with location. Some long trips are best captured in a sentence or two; many short stays are worth a chapter or two. Sometimes an experience is best related in a letter or in the style of a journal entry. Others need to be told or as if they are in the process of happening rather than relegated to past tense. I am not tethered to any one place, nor am I tied to any single method of conveying what took place in it.

These are the stories as world told them to me: Eating live termites as they came out of the ground in Kenya. Falling in love with a Turkish man in Tanzania. Getting lost with a dead girl and her killer in the “no man’s land” between North and South Korea. Bumping into an old friend in Bangkok. Making a new friend in the Indian Ocean. Becoming a mother in Virginia. Watching a mother almost lose her child in Indonesia. Getting deported from India by armed guard. Drying up in the Arabian Desert. Finding anchorage in Iceland.

And it all begins with a singular, seemingly inevitable and completely unforgettable experience — dancing at the one and only Octopus Club, located in the most Western region of an East African nation.

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