For a while, I worked as a French teacher, a permanent substitute filling in for stretches at a time. The experience changed my life, and I wrote about it. The essay is in this new anthology from Creative Nonfiction.
I write about this photo – me long ago in Morocco – in my story ‘Time or the Sahara Wind.’ Scroll down, way down: this essay won a Gold Solas Award for travel memoir – my favorite category, in fact. It’s an honor. I’d like to thank…….Travelers’ Tales/Solas House for keeping the travel essay alive, thriving and prospering.
Very happy that my story, ‘Waiting for the Sun in Vieques’ that first ran in Gadling is in Best Women’s Travel Writing Volume 10. Each year, this is always one of my most anticipated reads and editor Lavinia Spalding does an incredible job of curating and editing this anthology from Travelers’ Tales. Order the book here. I’m in incredible company, sharing the pages with some gifted female storytellers.
It’s definitely been a highlight for me to write about Graham Greene and have it published in the Winter Reading issue of Tin House, a magazine I read and worship. Please subscribe and support this incredible group of people who make this journal so fresh and relevant.
This is the 2012 edition of Best Travel Writing from the people at Travelers Tales. I’m very happy to have a memoir essay in this anthology. I admire these editors so much (and am so grateful for them) for offering a place for writers to submit such work. Order the book here.
I’m delighted to be in this anthology again, edited by Lavinia Spalding for Solas Press, for a story on Paris I adapted from one I wrote for Town & Country in the autumn of 2011. You can buy the book on Amazon, of course, or I could put in another plug for the wonderful bookstore in Washington, CT, where I live.
Winner of 2011 Solas Grand Prize Silver Award for Best Travel Story of the Year
Two women, one skirt, and an untold story.
The first time I met Maria Konstantinovna, she was wearing a black leather skirt. It was Italian, brand new, and it was mine.
Masha, as I would come to know her, was a dejournaya in Moscow. Women like her sat on every floor in every hotel in the Soviet Union. They performed a range of duties—they served tea from a samovar that simmered behind their station. They ordered your phone call to America and came to wake you if it ever went through. They even washed lingerie and t-shirts, leaving the latter folded like fine envelopes, whiter than they ever deserved to be. They also handed out your room key with varying degrees of suspicion, charm, or ennui, and if you wanted to leave it for safekeeping, collected it when you left the floor. But allegedly, the real purpose of these hall monitors was to observe your comings and goings on behalf of the security apparatus of the Kremlin.
One Day, Three Dead Men
The concierge told me it was the hottest June day on record in Moscow. In front of the National Hotel, the air was thick with a million floating seeds from the poplar tree. The Russians call it “summer snow,” and in the heat, the white fluff stuck to my neck, shoulders, and legs as I drifted through the streets of the city I once had known well but now, barely recognized. I was back in Russia after a long absence and after three days, I was still hopeful I would see what I had traveled all this way to find.
It was a homecoming of sorts. Twenty-eight years had passed since I first traveled to the then-Soviet Union. I had arrived there in June of 1982 with Mom, Dad, and a brand new degree in Russian Studies. I was a wide-eyed Cold War baby who had spent the last four years reading deeply—very deeply—into the tortured Russian soul. It had been an obsession since tenth grade, when I won a school essay contest. I have no memory of the topic, but I do recall the prize: a collection of novellas by Dostoevsky. It beats me what a fifteen-year-old public school cheerleader found in The Gambler, but I began to devour those dark tales, and soon began to study Russian during weekends and summers.