Writer's Digest

Have Pen, WILL TRAVEL

The poet Anne Michaels once said in one of her poems that if you live in a country you were not born in, then your life is a story.

Another of my favorite writers, Samuel Beckett, spent most of his life outside of his native Ireland, living in France—eventually teaching himself to write in French. Vladimir Nabokov, too, lived for a significant part of his adulthood in the U.S., teaching at Wellesley College before he became an American citizen. His most popular work, Lolita (published in 1955), was set in the U.S.

Although Emily Dickinson and Emily Brontë hardly left home, I truly believe that travel, exile—or more specifically—a willingness to escape familiarity, can have a deep and lasting effect on a writer’s craft. The 12 books I’ve written would certainly not have come to life without the strange, serendipitous, jarring, and sometimes intimate interactions with people that took place nowhere near my home.

In my experience, when a writer is inspired, the work flows. Several months after meeting the woman

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