Nov 29, 2013

Interview With Alicia Young

When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?
I remember scribbling stories in first grade; I can still see my father’s indulgent smile as he pretended he was reading proper sentences. When our parents bought a new set of encyclopedias, I relished dipping into the country profiles under each letter. F: France: population, customs and traditions, national dress. I was mesmerized by these new lands and spent the summer after fourth grade making a chart of different cultures and their food, national dress and other traditions. Who does that?!  Later, it was journal entries brimming with teenage angst. More recently, it’s been tight news scripts, and rambling travel observations. I’ve lived in a few countries, including India, Russia, Chile and the UK.

Is being an Author all you dreamed of, or did it just happen? The best and worst thing about it?
Writing a book lingered in the back of my mind, something I thought I’d put off until retirement! I loved TV journalism too much to do more than collect notes and ideas. Then we moved to South America, and while I could file live reports internationally, such as the 8.8 earthquake that rocked Chile in 2010, my everyday Spanish wasn’t sufficiently fluent to broadcast. Instead, I used the time to study the language more and write the book. It was certainly an adjustment, moving from the hourly and daily deadlines of a newsroom, to a much longer book project, but it was an adventure I relished.

What was the very first thing you ever wrote?
I guess it was pre-school, because I desperately wanted to copy the printing my older brother brought home. It made no sense at all, obviously, but I felt so big signing my name at the end – my first byline! Now. I want to rummage through my “memory boxes”…

What made you create (your book)?  How did it come to you?
I feel like we’re more logged on than ever, but less connected. As we lurch from appointment to appointment, something is eroding—and that something is grace. Yet it can be so easily reclaimed. We just need to pause a moment, and to tap our inner Audrey Hepburn!  I wanted to write about that, how we can show the world our best selves—and in the process, transform our relationships using small gestures with big impact.
When I was worked in local news in Australia, we covered a story on a family which was robbed on Christmas Eve. Our switchboard lit up with people wanting to donate gifts—and they wanted to do so anonymously, to preserve the family’s dignity and avoid any obligation to be repaid. That’s grace.  Other times, it’s a cross-cultural stumble. When we first moved to  Chile, I cheerfully greeted a man, Armando, calling “Hola, Amante!” I’d actually said: “Hello, lover!” He very graciously overlooked my faux par. Did I meant he was also a Christian pastor? Really.

How much of your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
While my book is nonfiction, you could say that Savvy Girl is a character throughout. The various anecdotes came from people I known, met while traveling, or have interviewed.

Describe your main character in six words.
Savvy. Gracious. Generous. Kind. Funny. Curious. Open.

What are you working on now?
It’s called The Savvy Bride’s Guide: how to plan a gorgeous wedding – and keep your friends, family and groom. Getting married is a global ritual, but how we go about it is very individual.  And while it’s a lot of fun, it can also be a pressure cooker of emotions, agendas and decisions.
It’s a light read, and like The Savvy Girl’s guide to Grace, it will have a good sprinkling of funny, warm and insightful anecdotes from your fellow Savvy Girls.  

Goals? Accomplishments? Improvements?
To hold my second book in my hand! To continue to build the speaking platform I have, and to practice gratitude every day. I know people who bless their bills! I laughed at first, but I saw the wisdom behind it – to give thanks for the roof over our head, our warm beds, and to extend that wider, our loving families and friendships.

What's your favorite thing to do when you're not writing?
I really enjoy hiking in the woods, especially in the fall. Everything is awash in golds, oranges and ruby tones, and the crunch of the leaves beneath you – it’s magical. A phone call with my sister feels like a soothing balm, and coffee with a girlfriend is hard to beat: givs us lattes and twenty minutes and we’ve laughed, cried and almost solved world peace.