Dec 13, 2007


SEATTLE, Washington – Suddenly, it was mid-December.

Suffering narrative dislocation? Well, so am I. And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut would say.

Oh, some lovely events unfurled, moments worthy of chronicling. My beautiful, brilliant singer-songwriter cousin Jenny moved to Seattle. I finally bought cold-water scuba gear, after befriending Betty Pratt-Johnson, the doyenne of Northwest diving.

I taught a workshop – Baby's First Blog – at the Hugo House, a Seattle writing institute. While demonstrating the "next blog" lucky dip function, I accidentally projected three-feet-o-porn.

Only in Seattle would this be a good thing.

OK, maybe San Francisco too.

Predictably, tough moments spiced the mix. Another cousin had a mystery chicken illness (somewhat better now). And my buddy Dave Fox fractured his foot, then fell prey to a freak blood clot because of the cast. We toasted his sloooooow recovery with Belgian beers.

Susan Tifft, friend and mentor, received a stage-four cancer diagnosis. She needed far more than the solace of a Flemish red ale: chemotherapy and love – lashings of both. My voice was one among hundreds, cheering as she smacks down those rogue cells. Even a jaded, big-city nurse calls her recovery "amazing". With FIFTEEN exclamation points, no less.

"Pay it forward," Susan stresses on her blog: Teaching others is our 'thank you' note to those who helped us.

I met this extraordinary journalist and educator in Rome seven years ago. We sipped bellinis, scootered around the city and stuffed hundreds of envelopes to promote an Aristophanes' play. She convinced me not to start an artists' colony in a Scottish castle (daft, daft idea, in retrospect). During my divorce, she volunteered her home – and her little black book – to kickstart a new life. I owe the lady a lot.

Now she's battling uterine cancer.

Calling on her wisdom yet again, I'm paying my gratitude forward...

Travel Writing announces its 2008 essay competition. The winner of the Susan Tifft Scholarship receives deeply discounted tuition for our April 20–26th travel writing and photography workshop in Italy.

Yes, that means I'm teaching in person. A first for the travel genre and Rome. But I'm not grandstanding alone: my clever-boots collaborator is photographer Marcus Donner.

He's known me since I was 18. Pour enough red wine down the man and you'll extract any number of sordid stories... But you'll need to waylay him in Rome for all that ...


  1. Ahh, narrative dislocation. 'Tis the season.

    The Rome travel writing / photography course sounds like a hella good idea! Will check my schedule and finances ...

    Merry Christmas, Amanda. May Santa be good to you this year.


  2. Would be schweet to see you in Rome, time and money permitting. If you can't make the class, come hang out, at least. You'll need a break from Swedish winter, I'm sure...

  3. Or maybe you Canucks are all tough about winter, eh?

    Happy hols to you too, DB.

  4. Thoughts flying to your friend Susan. She sounds like a tough one - I wish her the best.
    Happy Christmas

  5. Takes a tough cookie cancer vixen to know another!

    Happy 2008! Ax.

  6. Anonymous12:51 AM

    That class is too cool-for-school! I'm skint, but I'm going for the award...

  7. Sonia3:46 AM

    May the best (wo)man win!