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Contact Dannie Russell

Q. How long did it take you to write your book?

A. Fifty years. Yep! Really.

Q. How could it take 50 years? In what form were you writing for fifty years?

A. I worked from old letters and lots of notes. I wrote on napkins, envelopes and scraps of paper. I later realized I needed to carry a small notebook in a pocket because I felt some personal obligation to capture, seize the moment, mostly for myself to assure that I never forgot…. whatever I thought was so relevant.

Q. What is your favourite place to live?

A. Ah, this is a trick question. Many elements factor into the best-place scenario including job satisfaction, success/happiness of the children, proximity to outdoor recreation, shopping convenience, political stability of the school community, security of the country.

We loved our years in the Philippines with the culture, the beaches and islands, the wonderful friends and colleagues. We loved our years in Saudi Arabia with the fabulous culture, sand dunes and artifacts, wonderful colleagues and friends. We loved Pakistan and India with a festival every day, Europe and Africa. What’s not to like??

Q. The better question is perhaps what place was difficult?

A. I found Beograd dark and depressing. Sanctions made a huge impact on the country but the negative attitude of the men who refused to vote, “This is Yugoslavia. What’s the point?” seemed contagious. I, too, felt depressed in the grey winter, as men sat with one small cup of coffee for hours because there were no jobs.

Q. What do you think of journals? Do you keep a diary?

A. I love journals. Journal writing has morphed from simple diary notes into a useful and powerful tool. The new journal takes on several functions. Journal writing today encourages reflection beyond notation. Journal writing is a means of understanding. I encourage journal writing, sometimes called learning logs at the end of math class or history or science. Sometimes it helps kids realize what they understand and what they ‘don’t get.’

Q. Where are your children now?

A. Our son is presently working as head of an ARAMCO school in Saudi Arabia. He and his wife have worked internationally in Saudi, China, Bangkok, Kuwait, and are now back in Saudi Arabia with their two girls. Our daughter lives and works in Dubai where she is associate professor of English at the American University, Dubai. She has one son at university in the US and lives with a second son and husband on the Dubai campus.

Q. How often do you see your family and grandkids?

A. We are fortunate to see them fairly often. Summer brings eveyone out of the scorching Middle East desert to the US and we often meet up at professional meetings on their side of the world.

Q. How long does it take to fly to Dubai or Saudi Arabia?

A. As the kids say, it’s about a 10-12 movie flight!

Q. What do you miss when you are living outside the USA?

A. That’s another trick question, because it depends on where we are living. I don’t think I miss anything. Okay, well sometimes I miss electric power with no interruptions or surges. In some countries I miss a good glass of wine, even a bad glass of wine. We always try to enjoy the local culture, but sometimes I do miss the opera season. We try to get a western culture fix during the summer, or spring break. Really, I don’t miss anything enough to stay back.

Q. Who is your favourite author?

A. J’adore Barbara Kingsolver who taught me it’s okay to take 15 years to write a book. When I read that she rewrote the complete manuscript of the Poisonwood Bible five times from five perspectives to learn how each character envisioned the story events I felt validated. I wrote another draft.