The UK and Me
By Sarah Beth Durst - November 4, 2009
In ICE, Cassie journeys over the sea ice, across the tundra, and through the boreal forest. And today she has crossed the Atlantic Ocean! Today, ICE is coming out in the UK! I have very fond memories of the UK. After college, I lived for a year in Cambridge, England. My boyfriend (now husband) had a fellowship there, and I trailed along because, hey, England! Castles! Stonehenge! King Arthur! It turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. That year in England, my husband and I got engaged. Also that year in England, I really became a writer. I'd known I wanted to be a writer pretty much since I was a cute little blastula. But despite my making a New Year's Resolution to do so every year, when my plane landed in Merry Ol' England, I had yet to complete a full manuscript. That changed during my year in England. The reason for the change was the UK Department of Immigration and Visa Services. You see, I had planned to find a job and work while I was there. I had a six-month recent-graduate work permit, but I was certain it could be extended. Imagine my shock when I arrived at the Heathrow Airport and was told that not only could I not work after six months, but I might not be able to stay at all! After six months, I'd have to petition for a visitor's permit and swear not to work or I'd be tossed into the channel and eaten by specially-imported sharks. Or something like that. I found a job at the Marshall Library for Economics (part of Cambridge University), and I spent a happy six months alphabetizing books and learning to like tea with milk. I also wrote in my spare time. But then came the day: my six months were up. We woke ridiculously early, took the train south of London, filled out paperwork, waited, and worried... and then got the visitor's permit with no problem and learned that if we'd just decided to spend a romantic weekend in Paris and I'd come back in as a visitor, it would have had the same result. Except then I would have gotten a romantic weekend in Paris instead of a day at the international equivalent of the DMV. Whatever. Point is: I took it as a sign. The government was telling me I was legally obligated to do nothing but write. And so I did. I wrote every day from morning to night, pausing for trips to Italy and Spain and such where I did things like get lost in hedge mazes. By the end of our stay, I'd completed my very first novel-length manuscript. I'd also gotten a nice shiny engagement ring! We took the ring on a tour of London and snapped photos of my hand in front of all the major tourist spots. Sarah's hand and Big Ben. Sarah's hand and Westminster Abbey. Sarah's hand and the Tower of London... I was also pooped on by a bird outside the Tower of London, but I still somehow remember that day as one of the most romantic days of my life. Perhaps if the poop had landed on my head instead of my shoe, I'd feel differently about that... But I digress. Finishing that manuscript taught me that I could do this. I could write books. I could be a writer. And I will always be grateful to England for that. So, thank you, my friends across the Atlantic! I hope you enjoy ICE! And for any aspiring writers out there... you don't really need to go to another country to become a writer. What you do need to do is what I did while I was in another country: write. Write as if you're legally obligated to do so, and don't stop.