A few months ago, I sold my home of the past 11 years, packed my bags, loaded up my furniture, and moved to a new town in a different state. As soon as the bags were unpacked and the furniture arranged, I looked up from all the work and was amazed at the literary opportunities I found around me. My life and my writing needed some new inspiration, and I’m convinced I’ve come to the right place.
My first adventure was to investigate the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, a great organization that offers screenings of contemporary and classic films, plus classes to explore the artistry and techniques of filmmaking. Most of the classes are taught by professors from local colleges. I haven’t tried any of the courses yet—they involve a series of classes and a large time commitment—but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed two individual seminars, which include a movie screening and a professor-led discussion afterwards.
The two films I saw were Days of Heaven, written and directed by Terrence Malick, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. I really liked them both. Days of Heaven is one of the most beautifully photographed movies I’ve ever seen. Rope is classic Hitchcock, and the discussion of just what makes it that way was spellbinding.
About the same time I went to my first film seminar, I also joined a local book club. Although it may sound ridiculous for a woman like me who loves to read, I’ve never belonged to a book club. This time I made up my mind to jump into anything that looked interesting, and the book club was a great place to land. So far, we’ve read two books that I would never have read on my own, both of which opened my eyes to worlds I knew nothing about. The first, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, is a novel about migration. Using a touch of magical realism, Hamid explores the effects of moving to a different culture on both the migrants and the people in the country that receives them.
The second, Free to Be: Ruth Bader Ginsburg; The Story of Women and Law by Teri Kanefield, is a fascinating biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I didn’t think I’d like it because I rarely read nonfiction. I planned to read only the second half, but I was so caught up in the story of Ginsburg’s remarkable life, including her role in the advancement of the Women’s Movement and equality for all people under the law, I went back and read the first half, too. I recommend both these books, if you haven’t read them.
Another great place for adventure in my group of small towns is the Narberth Bookstore. I love independent bookstores, so I made a beeline for this one, and it did not disappoint. A cozy space with a super friendly owner, this bookstore has a good selection of literary and popular novels, so I couldn’t leave without buying two. I’m also grateful that the owner agreed to take several copies of Surface and Shadow on consignment, and the next time I visited, she had my novel on prominent display.
Soon after that, I went back to the bookstore to meet Amy Meyerson, author of The Bookshop of Yesterdays. Although she now lives in Los Angeles, Amy is a native of this area, and was in town for the book signing and to spend time with her family. She’s a delightful person, and she offered a lot of interesting observations about writing and reading.
Speaking of authors, Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow and An American Marriage, will be appearing here as a guest of one of the local libraries in November. I really liked Silver Sparrow and am looking forward to reading An American Marriage as soon as it comes out in paperback. After following Tayari’s blog off and on for a while, I’m eager to hear from her in person.
So that’s a sampling of the interesting places I’ve found for inspiration in my new community. There’s another independent book store that I’m going to explore soon and another library in a nearby town. And who knows what else?
I’m excited about these new sources of inspiration. I’m busy writing again and enjoying life. But finding inspiration doesn’t have to depend on your surroundings. It’s more a matter of lifting your head and looking around. Being in the right place can be marked with your feet or your mind. Recognizing and opening up to new ideas are all you need. Where do you find inspiration for your life and work?