5 People Who Made Chasing the Sun Possible

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I should warn you: the acknowledgements page in Chasing the Sun is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to write. Not because I found it hard to thank people, but because I found it hard to type straight as I ugly-cried at my laptop, reminiscing about everyone who helped turn this dream into reality. And when I was done writing it, I had to edit the Acknowledgements by, oh…5,000 words or so.

How to keep this list to just 5 people who made this book possible? Instead, I’ll write about 5 people who made this story possible. (See what I did there?)

My husband, because he was smitten by this story when I wasn’t it. Back in 2006, before I tucked away the early, early drafts of Chasing the Sun, my then-boyfriend read and loved it. So much, that when I knew it was time to start a new book in 2011, he insisted I go back to it. “There’s something there,” he kept saying, even though I was convinced there was nothing worth salvaging. “You should go back to it,” he said more than once. Eventually, I did. (Now, when you read my dedication page, you’ll know the story behind what it says.)

My creative writing professor. Sometimes we carry stories inside ourselves that we don’t even recognize. My senior year in college, as I was preparing to write my creative writing thesis, I met with my mentor, M. Evelina Galang, who asked me why my family came to the US. I told her that when I was a child, my grandfather had been kidnapped for ransom in Peru, and began changing the subject as I was used to doing. She did a double-take. I told her it was unfortunately very common at the time. She pointed out it’s not common at all. If not for this conversation, I’m not sure I would’ve had the courage to push aside my hesitations and start writing.

My uncle. In 2003, I traveled to Lima on my own for the first time (previously, I’d always gone with my family). I was 19 and excited to go dancing with my cousins; instead, my uncle took me to a museum exhibit called Yuyanapaq. Para recordar. (It means “To remember,” in Quechua and Spanish). It chronicled the 20 years of violence and internal conflict in Peru from 1980-2000. As we walked through the maze of black and white images, he recalled how the city would experience bombings, blackouts and fires daily, and most strikingly, how people learned to get used to them. This idea of terror vs the need for the human spirit to survive even the darkest times has always stayed with me.

My grandfather. One day when I’ve had time to process my thoughts and feelings, I’ll write more about my father’s father, who passed away a few months ago. For now I try to keep his memory close and somewhat private. But this story would not exist without him.

You. Allow me to get cheesy(er) for a moment here. It’s just that all of last week’s controversy over Jonathan Franzen criticizing writers for being on social media “yakking and tweeting and bragging” got me thinking that he’s right about one thing: this isn’t the world he became a writer in. The world that this writer and today’s writers are navigating would seem much lonelier if not for online friends. Yes, I have IRL friends, but the online writer community has been just as real a support system. Thanks to fellow writers, publishing experts, and authors whom I look up to, I’ve learned essential lessons about camaraderie and craft that I know have helped shape my story.

What about you? Who are the 5 people that helped you achieve your goals?

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Natalia Sylvester

Natalia Sylvester is the author of the novel CHASING THE SUN (Lake Union/New Harvest, June 2014), about a frail marriage tested to the extreme by the wife's kidnapping in Lima, Peru. A former magazine editor, she now works as a freelance writer in Texas. Visit her online at nataliasylvester.com

18 thoughts on “5 People Who Made Chasing the Sun Possible

  1. You’ve always got such great insight. You’re right–this is not the same world in which Franzen became a writer. That world sounds lonely to me, and I’m glad to be in this one with you.

    • I’m glad, too, Susan. And it probably won’t be the same world that the next generation of writers grows up in. That’s how this whole change thing works, right?

  2. Great post, Natalia. My first would be the same as yours (well, MY husband, not yours!). And so would my fifth. I understand many of the reasons for criticizing social media. There can be drawbacks to it, to be sure. But there can be such good in it, too. I have a group of writer friends who’ve helped me more than I’ll ever be able to adequately express, and I met each of them online. Last week, I had dinner with one of them, and I’m planning a trip soon to see another of them. So I say, thank God for yakking and tweeting! (I agree with the admonition against the bragging though).

    • You’re right that there are things about social media I’d rather tune out (the humblebrags can be too much) but overall I can’t imagine this publishing journey without all the friends I’ve met online to share it with–like you, for example!

  3. Oh wise one, Natalia, I got chills when you described the 1980-2000 era in Peru. Whoa…yes…just traveling there at the time was enough for me. I can’t imagine living through it.

    You know…Jonathan Franzen…He likes to criticize. He criticized Oprah when he got invited to her book club years ago. I lost interest in him after that. I like our online communities. They’re fun with the caveat that I gotta be more disciplined about signing off. 🙂

    • Thank you, Lisa! I got chills reading that you got chills!

      Also, I didn’t know about the Franzen/Oprah thing. Wow…whatever happened to gratitude and grace?

    • Thanks, Lori! You and me both. It’s funny because he and I have such different tastes in books. I figured if he was into it, that must be a sign.

  4. What a wonderful post – and a great topic. It’s always so interesting to hear what inspires an author to write. Thank you for sharing your inspiration – it makes me even more eager to read your book.

    • Thanks, Susan! I was really excited when I saw this topic because it almost felt like an extended version of the acknowledgements 😉

  5. I always love how warm and wise you are, Natalia! It’s wonderful to get a glimpse of a few of the people who helped you on your journey. And ooohh, I can’t wait to write my own acknowledgements page someday. 🙂

    • I can’t wait to READ your acknowledgments page someday! I’m sure it’ll be beautiful and poignant and give me goosebumps like your writing always does.

    • Hehe…that’s the funniest description of him I’ve heard so far! Thanks for making me chuckle 😉

  6. This is so beautiful, Natalia. And your “ugly cry” made me laugh. You’re right; it is a different world today than it was back then. We’re all influence by so many people and things. I think you’ve done a lovely job of capturing that here.

    • Thanks so much, Annie. I honestly can’t imagine this publishing journey without the friends and resources I found through social media. The book industry always seemed so beyond my grasp until blogs and Twitter made it more accessible to all of us.

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