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Worlds Apart: 2 friends, 2 journeys, and 10 life lessons - a true story
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Authors Q&A > Q&A with Dorothee Lang and Smitha Murthy

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J.S. Graustein (jsgraustein) | 81 comments Mod
Our first author Q&A thread is now open:-) Dorothee Lang and Smitha Murthy, authors of WOR[L]DS APART, will be monitoring this thread all week. Ever wonder what joys/fears come from travelling alone? Are you curious about what it is like to teach English in China? Do you love talking about the way the internet brings people together? Dorothee and Smitha would love to share their experiences and hear about your own.

If you would like to get your questions answered in real time, you might also want to check out our live chat event. (Details at http://www.goodreads.com/event/show/6...)


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments Exciting to see this thread is now open - thanks for organizing it all, Jessi. Looking forward to the first question. Have a wonderful week, everyone!
- Dorothee


message 3: by Karyn (new)

Karyn Eisler | 5 comments I am curious to know about your transition from the initial correspondence (at the time, presumably not intended for a wider audience)to the actual manuscript. To what extent did content change, as the intended audience shifted? Were there things that were far too personal to include in the book? I would like to know more about this process ...


Steve | 5 comments I have a couple of questions, which I will post separately. First, there are so many things about the book that I like. It is so carefully and thoughtfully executed. The dialogue shifts back and forth between the two co-authors, but the reader never has to wonder who is writing the page she/he is reading because of the labels. It is just so easy to follow. How did you arrive at that format? Who thought of it?


Steve | 5 comments Another thing is the poetry of the writing. Both authors' messages are filled with vivid images and insights of startling clarity. How you see the world, each of you, is simply mesmerizing. It is like a magical wonderland, only it is this same world we all are in, but seen through eyes that have learned to look outward from the heart. Have you both always had this ability, or did you develop it through the practices of yoga and travel and reading and artistic creation?


message 6: by Smitha (new)

Smitha Murthy (soulmuser) | 3 comments Hi Karyn,
Bunnychip9 is my online digital identity (Smitha) ;-). To answer your question from my perspective I think there was not much change in the content. The format was changed yes - but to the best of my knowledge only one paragraph of personal nature was removed. Perhaps Dorothee can confirm this for me, but to me, the letters were letters that stayed as letters even during the manuscript.


message 7: by Smitha (new)

Smitha Murthy (soulmuser) | 3 comments Steve wrote: "Another thing is the poetry of the writing. Both authors' messages are filled with vivid images and insights of startling clarity. How you see the world, each of you, is simply mesmerizing. It is..."

Hi Steve,

I look back at those letters with a sense of nostalgia because I no longer see the world as this wonderland. Too often, the cynicism of daily existence hits hard, and I wish that I could step back and see the world with those colored lenses of the past.


J.S. Graustein (jsgraustein) | 81 comments Mod
*CHANGE* The live chat will be held here to make it easier for people to find.


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments J.S. wrote: "*CHANGE* The live chat will be held here to make it easier for people to find."

good idea to make the q+a thread the live chat - i just wanted to write and suggest the same, especially as Smitha already is live right now, too - so we can just pick up the first questions and have a pre-chat.

i am here now, too - have some bits of work to get done until the start of the live chat in 2,5 hours, but am around half-live :)

(and now i just learned about the "reply" option, which will make it easier to match questions and notes with answers and comments)


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments Karyn wrote: "I am curious to know about your transition from the initial correspondence (at the time, presumably not intended for a wider audience)to the actual manuscript. To what extent did content change, as..."

Hi Karyn - and hi Smitha! So glad you can join. About the letters, it was always the idea to keep them as original as possible. The whole process of editing was an ongoing balance between adjusting casual mails that were written without intend to be read outside the mail window, and over-editing.


message 11: by J.S. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.S. Graustein (jsgraustein) | 81 comments Mod
Dorothee wrote: "Karyn wrote: "I am curious to know about your transition from the initial correspondence (at the time, presumably not intended for a wider audience)to the actual manuscript. To what extent did cont..."

I'd like to add a bit to that. Over-editing was definitely my biggest fear once we were preparing it for press. It was important to me to keep the rhythm of speech that echoed the homelands of both authors, while easing comprehension for a North American audience. It's amazing how much little things, like preposition choice and word/phrase order, can affect the sound on the page. So once the manuscript got to Folded, the content and ideas didn't change, but there was a simplification of their translation onto the page.


Steve | 5 comments Bunnychip9 wrote: "Steve wrote: "Another thing is the poetry of the writing. Both authors' messages are filled with vivid images and insights of startling clarity. How you see the world, each of you, is simply mesme..."

I appreciate your honesty, Smitha. I hope that sense of magic will return for you, in some form. Your writing surely will inspire others to view the world differently.


message 13: by Karyn (last edited Sep 25, 2012 09:28AM) (new)

Karyn Eisler | 5 comments Smitha wrote: "...I no longer see the world as this wonderland. Too often, the cynicism of daily existence hits hard, and I wish that I could step back and see the world with those colored lenses of the past."

So interesting, this comment (quoted above). I wonder if it's simply a matter of heading out on the road again; stepping outside of one's habitual surroundings and the norms, expectations, responsibilities, and habits that accompany those surroundings for an extended period of time. Some people say, "You're different when away." A different physical and social context, with a different kind of energy, gives rise to a different 'self' who sees and responds to the new world in a whole new way. How much, or to what extent, do you think this has to do with it (if anything)?


message 14: by Smitha (new)

Smitha Murthy (soulmuser) | 3 comments Steve wrote: "I appreciate your honesty, Smitha. I hope that sense of magic will return for you, in some form. Your writing surely will inspire others to view the world differently.
"


Thanks Steve. A sense of magic...there is much of it left in this world. :-) Finding it is the question, isn't it?


message 15: by Karyn (last edited Sep 25, 2012 09:29AM) (new)

Karyn Eisler | 5 comments Bunnychip9 wrote: "Hi Karyn,
Bunnychip9 is my online digital identity (Smitha) ;-). To answer your question from my perspective I think there was not much change in the content. The format was changed yes - but to th..."


So interesting. Only one paragraph. It's almost as if the correspondence was destined to become the book that it is now, even though, at the time, you hadn't planned or realized it!


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments Bunnychip9 wrote: "A sense of magic...there is much of it left in this world. :-) Finding it is the question, isn't it?" + Karyn wrote: "Some people say, "You're different when away." A different physical and social context, with a different kind of energy, gives rise to a different 'self' who sees and responds to the new world in a whole new way. How much, or to what extent, do you think this has to do with it?"

this sense of magic - i guess it is easier to find in a new place, when travelling, as we are more open then, and look around more in a new environment - which also gives space to the parts of our self which maybe don't have that much space in our everyday life. seen like that, one of the advices quoted in the letters aims at both: the magic, and the making of space: "Every day, try something new."


message 17: by Karyn (last edited Sep 25, 2012 09:50AM) (new)

Karyn Eisler | 5 comments Dorothee wrote: "Bunnychip9 wrote: "A sense of magic...there is much of it left in this world. :-) Finding it is the question, isn't it?" + Karyn wrote: "Some people say, "You're different when away." A different p..."

So true, so true. Something that requires constant reminder ...


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments "So true, so true. Something that requires constant reminder ... " - Karyn, i think that actually might have been one of the deeper motivations for writing the e-mails and then collecting them: to find a way to keep those thoughts that are more present while travelling.


message 19: by J.S. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.S. Graustein (jsgraustein) | 81 comments Mod
Now marks the official beginning of the "Live Chat" hour. If you are here, WELCOME:-) Please post a quick hello so that we can enter your name in the door prize drawing.

TECH TIP: If you don't see any action, try clicking the refresh button on your web browser. Some computers don't automatically refresh and find new activity on this page.


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments WELCOME everyone from my side, too - looking forward to your questions! Feel free to ask about travelling, writing, the web, the world - anything that interests you.


Steve Veilleux | 5 comments hello


Steve Veilleux | 5 comments Hi Dorothee, Smitha - just want to say that I'm enjoying the book; have read about half of it. I've read a few books that reflect letters, postcards bck and forth, and must say, I'm always intrigued.


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments Hi Steve, thanks for the feedback - so glad you enjoy the book. And the format, maybe we can pick up a question from the other Steve here, from the pre-chat: "The dialogue shifts back and forth between the two co-authors, but the reader never has to wonder who is writing the page she/he is reading because of the labels. It is just so easy to follow. How did you arrive at that format? Who thought of it?"


message 24: by Karyn (new)

Karyn Eisler | 5 comments On page 185, Dorothee, you write: " ... I'm not sad that I had to say goodbye to Asia. One lesson you learn when you're travelling is that saying goodbye is as much a part of a journey as saying hello ..."

How long--after how much travelling--did it take you to learn this lesson? To not experience the lingering sadness of goodbyes to places and people you met, and formed deep connections with?


message 25: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 2 comments Hello all! This is a really great idea and group!


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments Karyn wrote: "On page 185, Dorothee, you write: " ... I'm not sad that I had to say goodbye to Asia. One lesson you learn when you're travelling is that saying goodbye is as much a part of a journey as saying h..."

it took quite a couple of journeys - and mostly the line is from one journey when i was all determined to get back to an island and find the same mood from the previous journey there - which of course, (Ganesh is grinning here), didn't work at all.


Christopher Allen (dcallen) | 2 comments Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this book. On a crowded train now but will keep up with the chat!


Steve | 5 comments hello from the other steve


message 29: by J.S. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.S. Graustein (jsgraustein) | 81 comments Mod
Dorothee wrote: "Hi Steve, thanks for the feedback - so glad you enjoy the book. And the format, maybe we can pick up a question from the other Steve here, from the pre-chat: "The dialogue shifts back and forth bet..."

Dorothee had a concern that people may lose track of who was speaking where. We tossed around various ideas, but I was the one who developed the footer graphics to make it clear. I like to think that the framing echoes the computer screen's frame that Dorothee and Smitha would have seen while writing their emails. I am curious to know for those reading the ebook version whether or not they get confused in places, since there is no graphic to remind you who is speaking.


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments Hi Jenny, hi Christopher & hi again Steve ~ i love the thought that this conversation even moves along a train line now.

Big THANKS at that point to Jessi for organizing this event - and also for the format. What looks so easy now took a bit to figure out, and Jessi had a wonderful eye for what would work best in transforming the letters and all the attachments they came with into layout.


message 31: by Rose (new)

Rose Auslander | 12 comments Mod
Hi. Rose here. I love this book, which I didn't read in e-book form, but in manuscript pre-footer form -- I had no trouble tracking the speakers. The narrative thread was clear, and your voices are distinct.


message 32: by J.S. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.S. Graustein (jsgraustein) | 81 comments Mod
As we're at the half-way point of the live chat, you might want to take a moment to watch a video reading I did of an excerpt from the book. This excerpt is by Dorothee. I have another excerpt by Smitha which will be unveiled as a grand finale for the week.
http://www.goodreads.com/videos/30837...


Steve Veilleux | 5 comments yeah, I definitely have the train mood now - as I write I somehow maintain an image of peripheral movement. Partly, I think, this is what I enjoy as I read Worlds Apart - a continued imagination of being in a place like Majorca, drinking tea, err, coffee in my case, or having the trouble of finding a legitimate passport while trying to handle the uncooperative authorities - images, images, images...


Marcus Speh (speh) | 14 comments Wow, what a cool event! I'm still waiting for my copy of the book but I really liked what I saw, especially the experimental approach and the spontaneity that comes across! I agree with Rose here: your voices were very distinct.


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments (quick sidenote: it seems Ganesh is also having his humour with the live chat: i just tried to contact Smitha, who was here in the pre-chat - i hope they don't have a power outage just now, but it looks like it)


message 36: by J.S. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.S. Graustein (jsgraustein) | 81 comments Mod
Marcus wrote: "Wow, what a cool event! I'm still waiting for my copy of the book but I really liked what I saw, especially the experimental approach and the spontaneity that comes across! I agree with Rose here: ..."

Thanks for the feedback, Marcus and Rose. It is good to know:-)

And yikes! Power outage? Not fair.


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments Steve wrote: "yeah, I definitely have the train mood now - as I write I somehow maintain an image of peripheral movement. Partly, I think, this is what I enjoy as I read Worlds Apart - a continued imagination of..."

the train mood - i haven't thought about it before from that angle, but it runs through the whole World Apart book, with the catching of trains in China, and in counterpart, the coming-home train journey i write about in the ending part.


Marcus Speh (speh) | 14 comments PS. I'm in the middle of class so I can stay but I wish this chat and the book every success: I think I especially liked that you took a common event — the global mingling of voices — and turned it into something artistic and literary while maintaining the lightness of conversation.


message 39: by J.S. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.S. Graustein (jsgraustein) | 81 comments Mod
Steve wrote: "yeah, I definitely have the train mood now - as I write I somehow maintain an image of peripheral movement. Partly, I think, this is what I enjoy as I read Worlds Apart - a continued imagination of..."

Do you do your physical writing while moving? Or do you get motion-sick and have to recreate that experience later when the paper is still?


message 40: by J.S. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.S. Graustein (jsgraustein) | 81 comments Mod
Marcus wrote: "PS. I'm in the middle of class so I can stay but I wish this chat and the book every success: I think I especially liked that you took a common event — the global mingling of voices — and turned it..."

Marcus--your students can join in too;-)


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments Hi Marcus - thanks for your reflection, that's so good how you put it. (reading it again, i think: this could even turn into a blurb - chat side effects)


Steve Veilleux | 5 comments J.S. wrote: "Steve wrote: "yeah, I definitely have the train mood now - as I write I somehow maintain an image of peripheral movement. Partly, I think, this is what I enjoy as I read Worlds Apart - a continued ..."
..smiling at the moment, since I do more photography these days than writing when I travel, and I'm remembering several times driving (slowly) using my camera lens to see the road in front of me. Driving through southwestern U.S., on a road from which the earth seemed to fall away dramatically on both sides, I recall being hypnotized by the view through my camera, woken ungently by a driver who had come up from behind.


message 43: by Rose (new)

Rose Auslander | 12 comments Mod
J.S., what a great question about writing on trains -- I'd love to hear everyone's answers. Me, I'm addicted to writing on trains, especially trains running by water. I'll hop a train on any excuse.


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments writing and trains - count me in here, too, especially for poetry. there is something poetic about train journeys. maybe also the rhythm of the rails, while the world moves along.

and the moving horizon while driving - that's also something i keep being drawn to.


Marcus Speh (speh) | 14 comments ...has this book inspired you to more work (in the same or in a different direction)?


message 46: by Rose (new)

Rose Auslander | 12 comments Mod
Dorothee, yes, the horizon! But don't get me started on driving. I've had to repeat poems to myself over and over while behind the wheel, until I could find a place to stop and write them down. Hence the trains . . .


Steve | 5 comments more of an observation than a question, related to something Dorothee's yoga teacher said, which Dorothee passed along to Smitha. Something that struck me about that was that yoga practice originated in India. Dorothee learned this from her yoga teacher in Germany and shared it with Smitha, who is from India, but who was living in China, where it served as a lesson to help guide her there. It is a case of the journey of the wisdom in a book that shares so well the wisdom of the journey.


Marcus Speh (speh) | 14 comments [love the video/reading btw: Jessi's voice is just right!]


message 49: by J.S. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.S. Graustein (jsgraustein) | 81 comments Mod
Steve wrote: "using my camera lens to see the road in front of me"

I laughed here, because my kids freaked out when I photographed a logging truck while behind the wheel. Love it.

I can write in trains and planes, but not cars. I find that I want to see the road developing in front of me. I photograph and video at those times.


Dorothee Lang | 24 comments Marcus wrote: "...has this book inspired you to more work (in the same or in a different direction)?"

good question -- in a much shorter version, i worked with other bloggers on e-logues. or rather the other way round: when there is a really interesting mail conversation around one topic, i sometimes try to move it into an e-logue. here's an example: "The Art of It" - http://virtual-notes.blogspot.de/2011...


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