Emma, Who Saved My Life

There's a book a friend lent me called "Emma, Who Saved My Life," and I always smile to myself when I think of the title. When I moved to the U.K. I shared a flat with my wonderful friend Emma.

Well, we weren't friends when I rang her buzzer that day in Clapham, but I hope she'd agree that after she showed me around and we had a cup of tea we were already on our way. And if it weren't for Emma I probably would have high tailed it back home to the U.S. shortly after my arrival.

Now a lot of people have saved my life -- on many different occasions -- but back in 2002 Emma was my sanity. She adopted me, so to speak. If she went to see her family, along I went. Emma got me hooked on gin and tonics and explained football (soccer) to me. She made me a bacon bap while we watched an early morning World Cup game that first summer. And she made sure I watched The Office and didn't say "pants" when referring to my trousers. (In case you don't know, "pants" means underwear in the U.K.)

I had the chance to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak at the Southbank Centre a little over a year ago. I wasn't sure what she'd be like in person, but she far exceeded my expectations. And there was something she said that really struck a chord with me. Ms Gilbert explained that she has written all her books with someone in mind -- as if she is telling the story to him or her. I love this idea. It also lets you get out of your own critical head as you type away.

I'm currently working on a non-fiction writing project inspired by my novel attempt (through NaNoWriMo). As I was re-reading my coming-of-age story of an American girl who moves to London, I realized how much of my experience and observations of the expat life I was trying to crowbar into the narrative. It didn't work because it got in the way of the story. So I've decided to split these writing projects into two: the first being to rework the novel in a different setting so I can focus more on the story and secondly, to write a non-fiction book structured in a series of essays on my experience moving abroad.

I am finding Ms Gilbert's technique particularly helpful at the moment, because if you haven't guessed already, it's Emma whom I have in mind as I write. It's the least I can do, since she did save my life.

Also it means that I better have something to actually show her when she comes to visit. Deadlines are good for former journalists like me.

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