Aug 15, 2013
03:12 PMArts & Entertainment
Rwanda and Actress Connie Britton's Hair? Literary Weave Buoys Connecticut Travel Writer
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“I find I’m very afraid of spiders in my home, I’m very afraid of noises in the basement, but I’m afraid of almost nothing when I travel,” says Marcia DeSanctis of Bethlehem, whose travel writing has been anthologized most recently in the 2013 edition of The Best Women’s Travel Writing.
Travel has always been part of DeSanctis’ life. Growing up, she accompanied her mother and father, a doctor, to conferences in various cities around the world, and her 15-year career as a network television news producer with Barbara Walters, “60 Minutes,” “Dateline” and Dow Jones brought her to even more destinations.
After leaving New York City and her television career for rural Connecticut, DeSanctis pursued writing full time and has continued to travel for stories, to places such as Haiti and Rwanda. She has traveled throughout Europe, having lived in Paris for four years, as well as South America, Africa and the Middle East.
Writing has long been a fixture in DeSanctis’ life, and though she came to it as a career later in life, it was always her goal to be a writer. While her travels are frequently the subject of her work, DeSanctis doesn’t consider herself a travel writer. “I consider myself a writer who finds my best stories elsewhere,” she says.
However you parse it, DeSanctis’ talent and success are undeniable. Her writing, which focuses on topics such as marriage and midlife in addition to travel, has appeared in such magazines as Vogue, The New York Times Magazine and Town & Country, and has been anthologized in The Best Travel Writing 2011 and 2012 and The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011, 2012 and now 2013. “Masha,” a piece in The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011 about a missed connection in Moscow, earned DeSanctis the 2011 Solas Grand Prize Silver Award for Best Travel Story of the Year. In addition, in 2012, she received three Lowell Thomas Awards for excellence in travel writing, including the Silver award for Travel Journalist of the Year.
DeSanctis’ work is at once thoughtful and buoyant, balancing gravity and honest reflection with humorous moments and beautiful description. Her piece appearing in The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2013 takes place on a mountain in Rwanda and ruminates on both humans’ drive to conquer fear and actress Connie Britton’s hair. DeSanctis is principally an observer who chronicles without judging, assessing her own strengths and weaknesses, and in doing so holds up a two-way mirror for the reader. But ultimately her writing is an exploration of the imperfect joy of life, conveying how the reluctance we all feel can give way to moments of great insight and self-revelation.
When Connecticut Magazine met with DeSanctis at Green Well Organic Tea & Coffee in New Haven to discuss her work and travels, she spoke just as she writes: articulately, pensively, lightly. An edited version of the conversation follows:
Are there memorable locations you can think of—for either good or bad reasons?
I’m very attached to Russia, which when I started going was the Soviet Union. I was a Russian major and the first time I went there I could speak the language, and that was a revelation. I love a good beach; I loved Bali. I love abandoned places—I went on a trip once with my kids to work in an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. We were at this area very close to the Haitian border, it was a little town called Monte Cristi. I just love those old forgotten colonial towns—always one hotel, the bar’s kind of al fresco, the beer is very cold, and you don’t know who the people are. I love those abandoned places and finding your way to the coffee shop, finding your way to the Internet place, finding your way to a nice bakery.
Have you always been a traveler?
I’ve traveled my whole life. I’ve always been very independent, and I definitely always had more of a tendency to travel alone. Of course, I like traveling with my husband (sculptor Mark Mennin) and my kids, but sometimes I prefer the solitary voyage. I love the idea of leaving your world behind and immersing yourself in something unfamiliar. I find that whatever was dragging you down at home disappears almost the second you get on the airplane, sit down and have that first very bad snack.