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Saigon Street Stories

By Dave Fox
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

I announced last month in my newsletter I was going to start writing a new book.

Making that announcement was, perhaps, a little reckless.

I learned a long time ago that when writing a book, sometimes it’s best not to tell anyone. Once you announce you are writing a book, a few of the awesome and well-meaning people in your life, who are genuinely excited for you, but who have no clue how much work is involved in writing a book, start asking, “Have you finished your book yet?”

They begin asking this roughly one week after you tell them you are going to get started. They then repeat the question every time they talk to you – once every four days, on average. This can go on for months or years. It can get tedious.

On the other hand, announcing you’re writing a book can motivate you. You eventually realize the people who keep asking if you’ve finished your book are your posse, your cheerleaders. They are rooting for you. They are so eager for you to succeed, they want to read this book you haven’t even written yet. Some of them might even be willing to buy a copy.

So… I’m opening up Pandora’s Box here. I’m making the announcement. Yesterday, I officially started work on a new book.

I’ve had many ideas bouncing in my head – books about travel, books about writing, books about ghosts and space aliens and mechanical walruses. Each time I start writing one of them, my restless brain jumps to another topic. I’ve been needing to pick a theme and stick with it. So I have taken a step to force myself to focus.

Today's office: A laptop, three notebooks, a coconut, and a celebratory beer after the first 2,000 words.

Today’s office: A laptop, three notebooks, a coconut, and a celebratory beer after the first 2,000 words.

On Tuesday, I flew from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City, a.k.a. Saigon. Since then, I’ve been planting myself around the intersection of De Tham and Bui Vien Streets, setting up makeshift offices in streetside cafés and pubs. I’ve been pounding on my laptop keys for several hours each day, or scribbling on paper in spots where it’s not wise to have a computer out.

Why this particular intersection in the heart of Saigon’s backpacker ghetto? In spite of the tourists, this neighborhood maintains a residential, authentically Vietnamese air. It is bursting with stories, both happy and tragic. I have personal anecdotes from this intersection waiting to be written, and other tales I am working to uncover.

I came here not knowing exactly what direction this book would take. Now, after two days of outlining, writing, combing through old journals and unfinished tales, I’m starting to see the fuzzy outline of a cohesive story.

I still can’t tell whether this will be a quick project or something that requires more in-depth research over a longer period. So that’s as much as I’ll divulge right now. I have a street-corner starting point and a couple of weeks to write like crazy.

With the book as my primary focus and top priority, I will still hammer out bloggage as time allows.

When I return home to Singapore at the end of May, my book will not be finished. But thanks for asking.

Published on Thursday, May 9, 2013

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