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June 23, 2011

Kim Culbertson: My Ever-Changing View

Posted by jordana
culbertsonKim.jpginstructions-for-a-broken-heart (1).jpgKim Culbertson, author of INSTRUCTIONS FOR A BROKEN HEART, talks to Teenreads today about how travel is good for the soul. In her book, Jessa (her main character, or "mc" for short) goes through a break up days before a class trip (with her ex and his new gf!) to Italy, of all places. How does she get over it? Read on, and learn about how travel has changed the author's perspective too!
Travel changes me. Each place I go shifts my perspective of the world. In my YA novel, Instructions for a Broken Heart (Sourcebooks 2011), my MC Jessa goes through a horrible break up three days before leaving for Italy (oh, and her ex and his new squeeze are going on the trip too - eesh). With the help of a care package of “instructions” encouraging her to do some un-Jessa-like things and the new scenery that shines some light on her life, Jessa begins to change her view – exploring the girl she is now and the artist she longs to be.
Here are some views from my life that changed me:
·         Capri: In Instructions for a Broken Heart, Jessa says that Capri “simmered with tranquility.” That was 100% my experience. In 1999, another teacher and I took sixteen students to Italy for spring break. At the end of our busy trip, Capri felt like an oasis, something mirage-like and shimmering. It was on Capri that I realized I wanted to write a novel someday set in Italy. Thanks, Capri.
·         Machu Picchu: In 2000, I traveled with my husband and his parents to hike the Inca trail in Peru. After four days of expansive views, we came to the ruins of Machu Picchu. My mother-in-law had reserved hotel rooms for us so, after a much needed shower and all the buses had cleared out for the day, we strolled around the almost empty ruins. As evening faded, I heard the most beautiful flute winding its way through the air and I looked up to see a Peruvian man sitting on a stone ledge, playing a haunting song. At that moment, I felt like time didn’t matter, that people had played songs since the dawn of time and they would continue to play them forever. It was magical.
·         Maui: Nothing I’ve seen quite compares to Hawaii’s wide, blue ocean. When we took our daughter there when she was three, I sat on the beach and watched her play in the waves with my husband, the ocean stretching out so far behind them, and I remember thinking how amazing it was that these two people I loved so much were playing in that vast blue water right where it hit land.
·         Switzerland: When I was in college, I had the opportunity to teach at a summer school in Switzerland. I’d never been out of the country before so this was my first big international trip. After the long plane ride and the shuffle to get to the school in Leysin, I remember standing at a window and just staring out at the spread of the Alps, their vast craggy horizon, awestruck. I’ve been back to Switzerland several times since, but I’m always struck silent by those incredible mountains. 
·         Lake Almanor: Growing up, my family visited Lake Almanor every summer. I’ll always think of “the lake” as the view that shaped my childhood; so many of my dreams formed sitting in the shelter of that place (and it didn’t hurt if a cute boy was washing his boat at the same time I was sitting staring out at the water!). The familiar Almanor lake view will forever be a one that holds a part of my childhood.
·         Muir Beach:  In Marin County, where I went to college and taught high school in my early teaching years, there is a trail that leads through Tennessee Valley and out to a little fingernail of sand called Muir Beach. I used to head out there in college under the guise of studying but mostly it was to take in the stretch of water. That view has witnessed some special moments for me (my husband proposed to me on the ridge above that beach!). 
·         Whistler: Last summer, we went to Canada with some friends who also have a young daughter and took the Peak 2 Peak gondola (talk about views!). After a lovely hike up a peak, we found we could either hike back down or take the crazy chair lift that looked like it dropped into an abyss. The guys wanted to hike, but our six year old daughters wanted the moms to take them on the chair lift. I’m not one for heights (I think ladders are high) so my stomach churned the whole ride down, but the feeling of being dangled in the air with my thrilled daughter beside me – and those sweeping views of the mountains and alpine lakes! – made it worth the butterflied stomach.
·         Broadway: For my 30th birthday, my husband took me to see The Producers with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane in New York, front row balcony seats where I got to bask in all the awesome that is Broadway. I was six months pregnant and still trying to figure out if I wanted to keep trying my hand at the whole writing thing and somehow watching those actors pour it all out on the stage made me head home and get back to work on my novel, Songs for a Teenage Nomad.
What are some views that changed you? 
Connect with me:
Twitter: @kculbertson
--- Kim Culbertson