Irma on the Megabus

Riding the Megabus across Virginia on the way to Maryland to see Ellen, my high school best friend. Her book group read my novel and it’s her birthday, reasons to go. The bus is cheap, $30 each round trip Knoxville to D.C. for Maurizio and me with wi-fi and comfortable seats. Now in the dark somewhere near Winchester, there’s the strange peace of public transportation at night – rolling through the darkness with someone else at the wheel.

I remember as a child, in the days before seat belts, tangled in the back of the car with my brother and sister coming back from somewhere, bickering briefly over who was more bony, whose elbows were in the way and then nestling like puppies in the warm nest of each other, watching the streetlights stream endlessly by as the headlights of approaching cars arched overhead, our parents quiet in the front seat, all well and safe and sometime we would be home. Now in the bus, we share the strange intimacy of strangers close together in the dark with a silent man driving, and one can fall to dreaming.

We are going east, the direction opposite to Irma’s path towards California. Once she and I we were so intimate. When my novel only existed in my mind and on this computer, I could add and subtract, sculpt and polish. We two seemed to work together, for at every turn I asked myself or her, “Is this right? Would you say or notice this? Would you do that? Will adding this sentence here demand a change somewhere else?” Now the novel is frozen on pages, being read (or not) here or there, and people I don’t know write to me, asking what happened to Carlo, did Molly ever marry. It’s good, it’s very good, it’s why one writes and yet the process seems so strange at this moment as I’m watching dark hills roll by. Stories that were as close as your breath float way like bubbles to be caught by other readers. They’re held, inhaled, sometimes folded into other hearts, sometimes floating away, like the headlights passing at night.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Workshop on Point of View for the Knoxville Writers Guild, Sat. Feb. 18, 2017, 10am to noon

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Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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