Amy Tan at National Geographic

Last night, Amy Tan helped launch our new “Journeys” series of live conversations with great writers at National Geographic headquarters here in D.C. The bestselling author of such books as The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen’s God’s Wife, and most recently, Saving Fish From Drowning, was gracious, funny, and inspiring. (And a fabulous dresser!) The sold-out crowd enjoyed the wide-ranging, often intimate discussion she had with Traveler contributing editor and book reviewer Don George. Some highlights:

  • She wrote The Joy Luck Club in four months.
  • She’s working on her next novel, which was inspired by the remote Chinese village she visited and wrote about for National Geographic Magazine’s May 2008 issue.
  • Her mother’s voice is a constant in her writings–The Kitchen God’s Wife was inspired by her mother’s story and the dead tour-guide narrator of Saving Fish From Drowning stemmed from a dream she had of her mother after her death: “All the things that I used to find annoying [about my mother], I now find charming.”
  • Her inspiration for books usually stems from a vivid image of a specific place: for The Joy Luck Club it was Guilin.
  • How has her writing helped her grow and change? “I write to discover that; with each book I learn something new about myself.”

This was also the first Twitter-friendly event the Society has sponsored, so to learn more about what people thought of the talk, and to get a glimpse of some of what was discussed you can search for #amytannglive. For upcoming events and more news from the Society, be sure to follow @NatGeoScoop.

The next speaker in the series is Simon Winchester, author of The Man Who Loved China and The Professor and the Madman, and editor of the 2009 edition of Best American Travel Writing. He’ll be coming to National Geographic on October 15, 2009. Click here for more information and to buy tickets. For more inspiring travel reads, check in each month for Don George’s Trip Lit column, or browse our Ultimate Travel Library.

Photo: Amy Tan and Don George in conversation, by Andrew Evans.