Mar 7, 2012

Guest Post: Mark Saunders, author of Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak

Title: Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak by Mark Saunders
Paperback: 298 pages
Publisher: Fuze Publishing, LLC; (November 7, 2011)

Book Summary: In 2005, Mark Saunders and his wife, with their dog and cat, packed up their Audi Quattro and left Portland, Oregon, for San Miguel de Allende, three thousand miles away in Mexico. Things fell apart almost from the beginning. This is their story.

Welcome Mark, and thanks for telling us how you came to write your travel memoir!

Mark: My wife and I were both in our late 50s and working in high-tech, for different companies, in Portland, Oregon, when the first thread unraveled: we discovered our jobs were going away.  Suddenly, we felt boxed in—or out.   

We could stay in Portland and try to find new employment. We could work as freelancers, start our own business, go on the dole. We could move and try someplace new. We weren’t sure what to do.  

Of course, there were the clichés to consider.  Life is short.  You only go around once.  Seize the day.  Products of a well-rounded liberal arts education during the rock-and-roll sixties, the needle of our lives seemed stuck between the refrains of “What’s it all about, Alfie?” and “Is that all there is?” 

About this time we visited a friend in Guanajuato, Mexico, over what amounted to nothing more than an extended weekend, and immediately fell in love—hook, line, and guacamole—with the colonial central highlands.  It took several months to accomplish, but we dropped out, sold almost everything, packed up what was left, and moved to Mexico.

We picked San Miguel because it’s historically and culturally significant. It’s high in the mountains, semi-arid, with year-around sunshine. It’s easier if you speak Spanish but it’s not required. The town is affordable, especially by U.S. standards. Best of all, it’s a town of, by, and for artists—of all types. In fact, you can’t swing an artist in this town without hitting a writer, and if the writer ducks you’re bound to hit a jazz musician.

Funny things happened to us almost immediately and I thought I should start writing about our experiences. My first effort was a letter to friends describing the different classes of dogs. That letter became an essay, which was published in an anthology, and that essay eventually became a chapter (“Yes, We Have No Chihuahuas”) in my book.

I continued writing essays. But after two years, we hit what we now refer to as the two-year homesick wall and moved back to the States.

Re-entry was difficult. Almost immediately we regretted our return and I stopped writing the essays. Nearly three years later, we decided our hearts were still in the highlands and we were on our way back to San Miguel. It was at that point when I realized I had a book to finish. I now had my Act 3. 

An independent publisher courageously offered to publish my humorous memoir. An amazing editor took my stand-alone essays and molded them into a compelling and funny narrative. A talented book designer understood my vision and exceeded my expectations.

Henry James said, “It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined.” In my case, I believe I’m doing him one better. I’m living the life I could not have imagined. "

Mark Saunders' Bio:
Playwright, screenwriter, and cartoonist, Mark Saunders had nearly 30 of his plays staged, from California to New York. His cartoons appeared nationally in publications. He wrote for the popular comic strip “Frank and Ernest,” as well as jokes for comedians, including Jay Leno. Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak is his first book.
For more, visit Tribune Book Tours schedule of appearances by Mark Saunders.


Mason Canyon said...

Mark, sounds like y'all had an interesting time going back and forth. Wishing much success with your writing.

Harvee, thanks for the fun interview and the introduction to a 'new-to-me' author.

Thoughts in Progress

Zibilee said...

This does sound really fun, and I loved getting the background for how the book came to be. Great interview today. I really want to read the "Yes, We Have No Chihuahuas" story now!

Jackie Donnelly said...

Living in San Miguel, I can tell you that this rings true! Mark's humor with a salsa beat is so refreshing!

Tribute Books said...

Year-round sunshine - how nice that sounds :)

Mark said...

Harvee, Mason, Zibilee, and Jackie... Muchas gracias and thank you! The "Chihuahuas" chapter was the first one I finished, so I'm particularly fond of it. Plus, I love dogs but am totally committed to Standard Poodles these days. It's an amazing breed and, I think, one of Nature's best-kept secrets. Vaya con nachos!

Martha @ Hey, I want to read that said...

This is going on my list right now, it sounds fantastic and reminds me of another book I read French Fried, about a couple who moves from England to rural France. I loved that I think I'm going to love this. Plus how can you now love a title like "Yes, We Have No Chihuahuas"?

Laurie Halter said...

Hi Mark -

We hear so much back in the states about Mexico becoming dangerous for tourists. What's your take on it, being that you are a local? Great post, by the way!!

Mark said...

Hola Martha y Laurie... First, thanks for responding! Second, I want to briefly answer the question about safety in Mexico, which is an excellent question and certainly topical. In fact, whenever we return to the States for a visit we are asked two questions about living in Mexico: is it safe and what do we do for medical care? In response to the question of safety, I’m going to lift some bullet points from the San Miguel Writers’ Conference web site (a fantastic conference, btw):

• Of the seven cities the State Department has warned against, the closest one is ten hours by car from San Miguel, and the farthest is twenty-nine hours away.

• The average murder rate in most Mexican states is 2 murders per 100,000. That’s about the same as Evansville, Indiana or Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. In Mexico City, the average is 8 per 100,000, which is low for the most populated city in the world.

• Last year, 111 U.S. citizens were killed in all of Mexico. Almost all of those killed were involved in trafficking guns, drugs, or people across the border. According to the FBI’s national crime report, the cities of Boston, Las Vegas, and Orlando had 111 murders last year as well.

In short, we feel safe here in SMA, high in the mountains of central Mexico. That said, we're prudent. We keep our doors locked and we don't walk alone in certain neighborhoods after dark. But those are habits we also followed when we lived in Portland.

Again, thanks for asking a question that is probably on a lot of minds. Muchas gracias!

John Donnelly, Portland said...

Loved the line about the needle being stuck between what's it all about Alfie and Is That All there is. Expect to be quoting and attributing it on of these days or outright stealing it.

Suko said...

I have been to SMA a few times. It is beautiful, and I could imagine myself living there. I fell in love with the library during my last visit.

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