letter from morocco

Greetings from Essaouira, Morocco. Over the past two months, I have mentally composed so many little missives to post here, but somehow they all grew worn and stale before making it online, like letters that seem to wilt the longer they ride around on your car dashboard, waiting for the day you finally stop by the post office to send them. I am at work on Novel 2 and almost completely disconnected from Internet Reality (which is to say from Publishing News Reality, Writing Advice Reality, Author Blog Reality, and yes, Funny Cat Video Reality) but I can feel things collecting in my brain for future sharing here, piling up like snow.

A typical day for me right now goes something like this:

Wake up.
Write until afternoon.
Walk around public gardens while groundskeepers in bright orange vests blow whistles and gesticulate madly for no apparent reason.
Develop fever.
Hurry home to toss and turn in strangely pleasant delirium.
Nip around the corner in search of medicinal oranges; return two hours later, having gotten lost somewhere between the Nougat District and the District of Small Children Wielding Alarmingly Realistic Plastic Guns.
Recover from fever; throw open windows to air the room of poisonous Humors.
Venture out in search of dinner.
Decline to purchase various carpets.
Accost English-speaking travelers to see if they have any books to trade; receive awkward rebuttal.
Slink back to room.
Shed heavy sweater, scarf, and other clothing items worn in order to conform with local modesty codes; release hair; put on music; dance wildly for an hour to preserve sanity.
Develop pink eye.
Make notes and sketches in preparation for tomorrow morning's writing on Novel 2.

Write letters.
Drink forbidden tap water.
Develop cholera.
Spy on neighborhood musicians from a rooftop in well-meaning attempt to avoid Gawking Foreigner Syndrome.
Watch dwindling supply of movies on laptop with Techie Boyfriend, while feeling slightly guilty for not doing something more Authentic and Legit with the evening.

Things are good. Things are easy (well, except for the fevers.) Half of my time is spent in consumption—gazing at things, listening to things, eating medicinal oranges, being entertained and overstimulated—and the other half is spent in production: shutting off all that external stimuli to write. Thanks to the writing, I don’t feel the boredom and gluttedness that comes from a life consisting solely of consumption; and thanks to the consumption, I don’t feel the boredom and depletion that comes from a life consisting solely of writing (see Veronica Roth's excellent post Not Writing: Or Why the Brain Is An Ice-Cream Maker if this sounds like blasphemy to you.)  I feel like a big sponge, absorbing things I'm not even fully conscious of absorbing—the texture of cobblestones in the medina, the smell of leather tanneries, the appearance of the old woman's face on the train who takes a hard-boiled egg out of her purse and presses it into my hands, my own emotions in response.

My internal reservoirs are quietly filling with new-found sensory and emotional information, and although I would be loathe to travel anywhere or pursue any particular experience just for the sake of some zombie-like "harvesting" for later usage, I'm grateful for the replenishment, especially as I delve into the writing of Novel 2. Things will probably be pretty quiet on this blog for a little while longer—there are so many wonderful new bloggers out there that I don't feel too guilty about temporarily removing my voice from the cacophony, but I will check in more often as Novel 2 gets on its spindly feet and WILD AWAKE's approaching publication gives my INTERN-brain more to dissect and analyze and share.

Sending you all a virtual cup of mint tea...



  1. Wow! Morocco sounds like a wonderful, strange alternate universe! So sorry you've been under the weather. We should take up a collection to send you a shipment of new books and movies, and possibly some water purifying tablets. I hope the local food and water starts treating you better. Everything else sounds amazing, though.

  2. Your days sound very adventurous and I hope you're gathering some writing inspiration. Thanks for keeping us posted and good luck with your writing.

  3. Wow! I've heard a variety of (conflicting) things about Morocco, and I love getting glimpses of it through your unique voice and shrewd perception.

    Minus the fevers, your life sounds like a dream. :)

    Stay safe and have fun, and I can't wait to read the next little missive!

  4. Trying to make us humdrum writers bristle with envy as we fold laundry and wipe kids' noses? Success!
    Glad you surfaced from dreamplace to wave. Even happier that you are having such a wonderful writerly time.

  5. Fevered gazing at Beauty? Rimbaud would approve. ;)

    Absinthe. That's what you should be drinking right now. Might be hard to come by in Morocco, however.

  6. I hope Morocco provides the inspiration for your opus and I can't wait until WIDE AWAKE is released, but please take care of that fever first

  7. It's possible that you're leading my ideal life. Please post from time to time so that I can live it vicariously.

    And good luck with the fevers.

  8. All those sensory impressions are obviously going to a good place. I'm glad they're not being wasted. And with the life you're leading I totally don't blame you for forgetting to send my query critique! ;)

  9. Love it.

    And believe it or not I've been to Essaouira. I was one of the dorky tourists who paid to ride a camel out to the castle. . . and then once out there the guide said the price we'd paid was only for the ride out there and we'd have to pay the same price to get back. We walked. It is still one of my favorite travel stories.

    Suck it all in, like the oranges.

  10. Virtual mint tea--no way. Come to Rabat and I'll treat you to a real glass.
    [Long-time reader of your blog now humming "It's a Small World"]

  11. I've been missing your posts, but happy you are finding some kind of weird peace in another land. I hope it is finding it's magical way into book 2 and if this post is any indication, I'm sure it is :)

  12. Read The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2873264-the-tenth-gift)! It's a novel about a woman in modern London who finds the diary of a British girl sold into the slave trade by Muslim pirates. She's taken to Morocco. It's such a lovely novel. Make me wanna go there so, so bad.

  13. Finding peace in magic Morocco - I love the place, I'm not surprised you love it too...Have a wonderful mint tea!

  14. Sophie the Algerian hedgehog, fondly thinking of her ancestral roots, wonders if you've seen any of her Moroccan cousins? (I haven't told her that they are sometimes considered 'pests'.)

    Sophie the Algerian hedgehog

    "disconnected from Internet Reality (which is to say from Publishing News Reality, Writing Advice Reality, Author Blog Reality, and yes, Funny Cat Video Reality)"

    If you still think any of those are a real reality, you haven't been away near long enough.

    "the Nougat District"

    Wow. Does this mean that you are getting the bestest, freshest nougats on earth?

    What's it like being an American spy in North Africa; our girl in Marrakesh? From the description of your disguise - "heavy sweater, scarf, and other clothing items worn in order to [facilitate sneakery]" - it sounds as though you can shift with the shadows while tracking your targets.

  15. Have sent you a DM but in case you don't see it -- Would love to do an interview with you on Inkygirl about WILD AWAKE (which I **loved**), if you have the time. Please email? http://scr.im/debbieohi Fingers crossed, Debbie

  16. A writer's day is actually not something you hear much about on blogs, but I find it varies widly. When we write and what goes into the rest of the day, is an interesting topic, I think. It's even more interesting since you're listing your writing day in a foreign country. I have this mad daydream about moving to another country and being a writer fulltime. Income is coveniently never brought up in this daydream.


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