Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Story of My Life

I’m pleased to welcome Jenyfer Matthews back to my blog. I met Jenyfer Matthews online when we were both writing for Cerridwen Press and she had just moved with her family to Cairo, Egypt from the United Arab Emirates. Jenyfer is back in the United States now, but not entirely by choice…

As a rule, I don’t a write mysteries so I don’t have to know each plot point before I start writing my story. I am what is known in the writing world as a “pantster”, meaning I write by the seat of my pant - or in other words, I make it all up as I go along. Something will inspire a story idea, I’ll get an inkling of the big turning points, and I might even have a glimmer of how I want the story to end then off I go.

Generally, my stories start with me exploding my character’s life and then waiting to see how they react. I have to admit, the process is much more fun in my head than it is in real life. Up until February 1st, I lived in Cairo, Egypt. Then everything… changed.

I was just minding my own business – putting the children on the school bus in the morning, grocery shopping, doing (never ending) housework, and planning out my writing goals for the year when the Egyptian Revolution occurred.

People have asked me over and over if I saw it coming. Yes and no. On the one hand, given the general societal oppression and how many police it required to keep people under control for as long as they did, no, it was not a surprise. On the other hand, things had been going along as they were for so long it seemed as if nothing would ever change. Ironically, when I heard that there was a protest planned on January 25th which was also Police Day, an Egyptian national holiday, I actually felt a little sorry for the police because they wouldn’t get their day off!

(What can I say? I wasn’t “friends” with any of the organizers on Facebook, nor do I read Arabic!)

My family lived in Cairo for close to six years and were hunkered down in our home for nearly a week before we evacuated. Maybe I was in denial, but I never dreamed when I boarded the US Embassy evacuation flight to Istanbul on February 1st that my children and I wouldn’t be going back. (I later discovered that looters came within three doors of my building two nights before we left – close call!). I knew things were bad, and that it would take a while to sort out, but here I am nearly three months later, biding my time with friends in Ohio, waiting to see what happens next while my husband continues his job in Egypt.

One thing that I had to do almost immediately was enroll my children in public school – I am not cut out for homeschooling! The next thing I had to do was get myself a car. I haven’t owned a car in six years and I can’t say I’ve missed it much. It’s easy to get around in Cairo on foot or in taxis and I admit I was never once tempted to try and drive there. Since I am unsure of my long term plans I didn’t want to commit to a car note so I bought the best used car I could find – my first manual transmission. It’s just the kind of thing that sadistic authors do to make their character’s lives harder – making them learn a new skill in a time of great stress. It is also a device that can also be used to great comic effect. Ask me how much I laughed as I accidentally peeled out in great volume when leaving the zoo parking lot a couple of weekends ago?

(If learning new skills keeps you young, I think I must have found the fountain of youth lately.)

What does happen next for me in the ongoing story of my life? I haven’t a clue. I may need to look for a job, though after ten years out of the work I’m not the strongest applicant (on paper anyway). That is another scenario in the storyline that might make for some laughter – or tears. For now, I’m making it up as I go along, one day at a time.

For more about Jennifer and her books, including excerpts and buy links, visit her website. Leave a comment today and she'll pick one lucky person to win a signed proof copy of SEPARATION ANXIETY (no extra charge for typos!). The winner will be announced on Saturday, so be sure to check in. You don't want to forfeit your prize.


Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Jenyfer, you have led the most interesting life! I hope all goes well in the Midwest! Oh...I'm not cut out for homeschooling either!

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Sometimes it is a little TOO interesting, Julia!!!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm sure the move was a huge adjustment! I think you'll make a great applicant, even 10 years out of the work force. :)

Lauri said...

I love how you compare what happened to you as what you do to your own characters. What's even better is your attitude, humor and ability to get it down on paper. You'll be able to negotiate this process without a problem! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to updates!

Maryannwrites said...

Wow, talk about a major plot-point in real life. I admire you for your composure and fortitude.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a life you'd led. My hubby and I have thought more than a few times of moving to Europe. We're going to the Mediterranean later this year, just to check out a few other places. LOL Hope it all settles down for you and your hubby stays safe.
CJ Parker

sharon said...

Very interesting!

hicotton said...

Jenyfer, I "enjoyed" your story. We moved to Panama a few years ago and while I love living in a foreign country I also know to keep an eye over my shoulder. Things can change in an instant and, as Americans, we often aren't sensitive to all the hidden currents of the local society. I hope things work out for you to return to Egypt, tho it looks like it's going to be a long time before the situation is resolved there. I do admire you for living ANYWHERE in the Middle East. Takes a lot of courage. Good luck with your new (or temporary) life in the Midwest.

Jane Vasarhelyi

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Elizabeth - I am sure I could do any job I set my mind to, it's getting the opportunity that's the trick!

Laurie - It's easier to find humor in the situation after the fact :)

Maryann - I much more composed about it now that I'm on safe ground!!

CJ - I would love love love to live in Europe someday. Enjoy the Mediterranean.

Hicotton - I lived in the Middle East for a decade and this was the first time we've ever had any trouble, though as you say things can change fast. I myself admire you for living in Panama!