On Monday, Sharon, Katy and I met with Megan Sayer for lunch in Old Sacramento. Megan is a regular reader of Novel Matters and comments often on our posts, and she had come all the way from Tasmania (not just to see us). We spent a delightful afternoon together before she headed for colder climates. Here we are:
It’s so interesting to get a glimpse of your culture through someone else's eyes. The pumpkin that Megan is holding was one such glimpse. Pumpkins are a symbol of autumn, harvest, Halloween and Thanksgiving in the U.S. When I see them on display, I get all warm and fuzzy. They call up visions of chilly autumn evenings by the fire, the family around a Thanksgiving table, carving jack-o-lanterns with my kids, and remind me that the holidays are coming! Megan was a bit amused by them. They are just vegetables in her experience. She asked what we would think if we saw a potato sitting on someone's porch. I had to admit, it would seem pretty silly without the experience that went along with it. After all, Tasmania is just coming into summer right now. The weather channel shows a high of 60s to 70 degrees (fahrenheit). Makes perfect sense!
Though our time together was brief, our discussion got me thinking about how many of our personal experiences get included in our writing under the assumption that they are commonly held beliefs. They could be family traditions, or the expressions of regional or national holidays, for example. I recently read Alan Bradley's Flavia deLuce mysteries and really enjoyed the setting (both in time period and location) and the stories made sense, but I can't say that I 'got' it all. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this, unless the plot turns on what we perceive as a common experience, and we lose our readers.
My takeaway is to see through more of a global lens whenever possible in my writing. Does any of this post-Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) rambling ring a bell with anyone? We'd love to hear.