Living and writing in another country can be exciting or frustrating – maybe a little of both. My husband and I reside in Wisconsin during the summer months, but leave in October for the sun and beach of Mazatlan, Mexico. In case you’re not sure of the location, it’s approximately 950 miles southwest of Tucson on the Pacific Coast (mainland of Mexico.) I’ve lived here a total of eight years now and love the color, the people, the culture and the affordability.
The minute we touched down at the airport, I felt at home. Bright pink, blue, and orange houses greeted me. People on bicycles and motorcycles darted in and out of traffic and the taxi driver made a few hair-raising slides past buses and trucks, even hitting a traffic cone in the process. My motto? Hold on and pray! Gotta love it.
My book, Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders was born in Mazatlan. Through a friend I heard about a local writer’s group of expats that gathered once a week. At the time I had penned mostly songs and poetry. I went the first time and was welcomed. The group is everything a good writer’s group should be. Six to eight people get fifteen minutes to read and receive critique. The critique can be brutal, but it’s always sincere and helpful. I found myself among misfits like myself – with a passion for writing that exceeds everything else.
I jumped in with both feet and started reading, reviewing and critiquing. I don’t know how, but one night this character got in my head and would not shut up until I put her words on paper. She remained nameless for some time; although I thoroughly researched Gypsy names, there wasn’t one that fit. So I made one up. For two and a half years I read chapters and went home and changed them after receiving critique. It was finally published in June of 2012.
Now that I’ve told you the good things about writing here (along with the beautiful skies, sunsets, and ocean) let me tell you about a few things that aren’t so much fun.
As I sit here writing this piece, I am without electricity. The whole block is out – maybe the whole city. And it’s hot. Darned hot. The humidity is about 89% and the temp is in the mid-90’s. With no A/C or fans it is unbearable. Not to mention the fact that I am without Internet, too. When I have Internet, it’s better than what I have in the US. But when I don’t – not so great. We may get power in a few minutes, or a few hours, or tomorrow, even. Time is no problem in the land of Mexico. Everything is manana.
Occasionally, there will be a fiesta next door that lasts into the wee hours of the morning. No way can you muffle out a Mariachi Band. Everyone is so happy. Me, not so much, without sleep and coffee. The telephone can drive you batty if you let it with telemarketers (I play the dumb gringo even though I speak Espanol) so I have resorted to turning it off while writing. Makes my friends a little irritated. Oh, and speaking of friends? They are my greatest assets and biggest distractions. Every day something is going on that they want me to be a part of. I’ve had to learn to pick and choose and make lots of excuses so I can write.
Every morning I awake to the call of the donut vendor as he walks down the street with a tray of the delicious rolls balanced carefully on one hand. Later, the bread man comes through and you can hear his loud shout “Pan, pan” as he bicycles his cart through the neighborhood. A rooster cackles cheerfully at dawn – a strange thing to hear in a city of a half-million people. After dark, I hear the whistle of the knife sharpener, making his way up the street to render his services. All day there is a constant barrage of city buses past our front door.
I love this land, this culture, this place that is about as foreign to the Midwest as I can get. Sure, I miss trees and cows, barns and green grass. In the winter I trade it for palms, bougainvillea, and the ocean. It’s great to have the best of two worlds that are so different. I do my best writing here. I hope this winter will be fruitful!
Check out INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Riders on Amazon:
INZARED Video Trailer
L. Leander's website: www.lleander.com
Look here for an interview with L. Leander.
Look here for a book excerpt of Inzared, Queen Of The Elephant Riders