Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Author Interview: Patricia Sexton: Author of LIVE from Mongolia

~Patricia Sexton, Author of LIVE from Mongolia
Best Childhood Memories: 
My Dad was something of an adventurer. On Christmas Day in 1971, on a whim, he decided to leave his parents and his Cincinnati home to hitchhike to Albuquerque. A decade or so later, he brought this same sense of adventure and curiosity to fatherhood. Each year, the day after Christmas, he would wake us just after dawn, exclaiming that he'd heard a radio news report that Santa, during his run from the North Pole, had accidentally dropped a few gifts out of his sleigh. And as it happened, those gifts had been dropped in our neighborhood park. We'd have to hurry, he told us, if we wanted to be the first to find them! So, hurry we did. Three of us kids bundled up in coats and hats and mittens, tugged on boots, and fought for the right to the front seat. At the park, we brandished "cudgels" in case monsters attacked (they always did), and in case we came across any enemies (only the Chief Monster who lived in a cage which also doubled as a power station). At some point, probably while we were fighting those monsters, my Dad would surreptitiously deposit a gift into the snow, and then point out that he thought he'd spied something suspicious just off the trail. That something-suspicious was a gift for each of us, and a gift apiece for neighborhood friends when they came along with us for "Toys in the Woods," as my Dad coined our annual adventure.

My Mom makes the absolute most of any occasion. Her ingenuity for a simple event would make Martha Stewart sit down and take notes. I mean, and I'm not making this up, she made us mourn the anniversary of Buddy Holly's death (because he was and still is my Dad's favorite musician) by dressing us in black, making homemade sympathy cards for my Dad, and baking a funeral cake complete with Post-It note gravestones. Halloween was graveyard pudding. For Christmas she started  baking in October. But birthdays were the very best. She built, and I mean built, Cookie Monster cakes, action figure cakes, and once, for my eight birthday, she built a treehouse cake. Sometimes, even now in my late thirties, I angle to go home just to get a celebration. 

Education:
I went to Purcell Marian High School in Cincinnati, and then to Cornell University. After graduating from Cornell, I went to work on Wall Street. While there, I had a dream to become a war correspondent. I applied to Columbia's Journalism school, and did not get it. I was terribly disappointed, and even wrote in to the administration to give me a chance. They never responded, so I instead enrolled in a graduate class at Columbia for Foreign Policy at SIPA, and took Arabic lessons. I was determined to make it, even if I couldn't go the traditional route via journalism school.

Languages:
I have spent about eight years in high school and college learning Spanish, and I spent a semester in Madrid, Spain. My Spanish isn't too bad. I can still conjugate in the subjunctive! I have also spent time learning Mandarin, which I love. I wouldn't say I'm very good at it; the last time I was in China I accidentally ordered a "small parking meter" at a restaurant instead of the dish I thought I'd ordered!

Biggest Source of Inspiration:
"Leap, and the net will appear." -Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way

Biggest Challenge:
Right now, my biggest challenge is figuring out the next step. I know what I want to do. I just, quite honestly, have no idea how to get there. When I first started following my dream, I had an idea how to take the first step. But this time, I'm not sure in which direction I need to take that step.

Published Work:
In October, Beaufort Books published my book, LIVE from Mongolia. It's the true story of what can happen when you follow your wildest dream. For me, I pursued a lifelong dream to become a foreign correspondent. What happened on that journey amazes me even now. It's proof that when you put your mind to something, when you believe even just a little in yourself and your dream, that anything can happen.

Forthcoming Writings:
I write a weekly blog called LIVE from Mongolia about people who follow their wildest dreams. I've featured people from Mongolia, North Korea, Cincinnati, New Zealand, and a bunch of other places. I love meeting people anywhere and everywhere and hearing their stories of how they managed to do it, how they managed to pursue their own dreams.

Future Plans:
It's a secret, but I'll give you a hint! It involves a camera, a story about a very unusual dream, the worst obstacle a person can face, and an adventure.

Four Things I Take Care of When Writing:
1. Good, strong coffee
2. I shut down all social media sites, and ignore all emails.
3. I turn off my phone.
4. I say out loud, "I am in The Arena." The Arena is a place where I imagine I'm doing battle in pursuit of my dream, and my biggest opponent is, probably unsurprisingly, myself.

Dream Destination:
Antarctica! 

Country of Origin/Countries Visited:
I was born in Ohio, in U.S.A, and I've lived in Spain, Singapore, Japan, Britain, and Mongolia. I've traveled around these regions too, mostly backpacking, but sometimes it was business travel back when I was in banking. My favorite mode of travel though is backpacking; you always, always meet extraordinary people with extraordinary stories when you're on the road and sleeping in hostels. 

Favorite Time of the Day: 
Dawn. At dawn, anything seems possible.

Favorite Color:
Red. The bluey-red, not the orangey-red!

Favorite Book:
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist is a book I'll tuck into when I need to, and anyone who's on their path knows just when that time is…

Favorite Celebrity: 
My favorite celebrities are Irish author Dervla Murphy and CNN Chief Int'l Correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

Now in her eighties, Dervla Murphy is a true adventurer. Back in the 1960s, she had a dream to cycle from Ireland to India. So she did. (Of course, right?) About ten years later, she had a daughter, and Dervla wanted to return to the region. So, she and her daughter backpacked in Kashmir. Her daughter was, I think, just eight years old at the time! They spent three months hiking and backpacking in Indus Gorge region, in winter. It would be a dream to meet her. 

Christiane Amanpour started out her journalism career with a bicycle and an empty wallet, save for a hundred bucks cash she had to live on. She was a pioneer at CNN, braving war zones to report. She is who I wanted to become, and we did briefly correspond with each other while I was in Mongolia. Her encouragement helped me carry on with my dream even when I'd begun to doubt myself. I can only hope that one day I meet the woman who inspired me to begin this journey. I sent her a copy of LIVE from Mongolia, so here's to hoping that she'd be willing to have a coffee with me! 

Favorite Food: Thai red curry. Just thinking about it has me drooling…

Last Line of My Autobiography Would Be: Actually, it is…"The best is yet to come…"


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