Annemarie O’Brien has an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She teaches creative writing courses at UC Berkeley Extension, Stanford Continuing Studies, Pixar, and DreamWorks, as well as edits children’s books for Room to Read which advocates literacy in developing countries. Lara’s Gift is her debut middle grade novel inspired from a former life when she lived and worked in Russia during the Gorbachev era as a change management consultant and was gifted Dasha, her first borzoi puppy.
I consider myself a citizen of the world and can find a piece of home in many of the countries where I have lived, as well as in those countries where I have friends or have spent a good chunk of time. My stints abroad have taken me around the world from neighboring countries like Canada and Mexico to places as far away as Thailand and China. I have:
ridden the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow through the Ural mountains to Irkutsk and journeyed along the Silk Road through Kazakstan and Uzbekistan.
cruised the fjords of Norway, driven on the German autobahn, and sailed the northern lakes of Russia with the Soviet Olympic Yacht team.
dodged landmines in Bosnia and Serbia and island hopped my way from Mljet through Hvar to Krk up the Croatian coast.
skied the European Alps in Austria and Switzerland, as well as heli-skied the Tien Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan.
tracked down my maternal family roots to shipbuilders in Galaxidi, Greece, as well as traced Anne Frank’s last steps along the Amsterdam canals.
lived in an English castle, as well as a Kyrgyz Yurt.
bought tekke rugs in Turkmenistan as Marco Polo might have done, as well as bartered Levi jeans for Polish amber during the Cold War years.
toured Volvo in Sweden and the Salvador Dali museum in Spain.
met Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, as well as paid homage to Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid in Copenhagen Harbor.
“dined” with Mikhail Gorbachev at the Kremlin in Moscow, as well as heard Pope John Paul II celebrate Mass in an outdoor Sarajevo stadium during a snowstorm!
eaten caviar in Russia, crepes in Belgium, potica in Slovenia, snails in France, goulash in Hungary, bowls of pasta in Italy, and sheep eyeballs in Kyrgyzstan.
fed bongos in Kenya, camels in Turkmenistan, and elephants in Thailand.
And I will never tire of long walks through a forest of birches.
It is my hope that the adventures never stop. I still dream of meeting a snow leopard in Tajikistan or a panda in China. I also dream of returning to Europe, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Bosnia to visit old friends and recall memories. I also hope to relax one day on the beaches of Palau, Bora Bora, or the Maldives and explore new places such as Ireland to track down my ancestral roots.
My writing career began while I was working in Bosnia just after the Dayton Peace Accord was signed. With so many stories in my head I started writing them down in Russian. My professor liked them so much, he encouraged me to submit them for publication. I figured it would be less painful to craft stories in my native language and switched to writing them down in English.
When I retired from working overseas and returned to the States, I continued writing and yearned to write the kind of novel I enjoyed reading as a kid, namely one set in a foreign land or one featuring a meaningful canine character. So I took one writing class after another with the goal of writing a canine story set in Russia where I had been invited into the culture and gifted my first borzoi puppy.
To further develop my craft I earned an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts–my home away from home–where my debut novel and creative thesis, Lara’s Gift was drafted, revised, and re-revised.
I now teach writing courses through Stanford Continuing Studies, UC Berkeley Extension, Pixar, and DreamWorks, as well as edit children’s books for Room to Read, a non-profit that advocates literacy in developing countries and publishes books for children.
Home is currently in the San Francisco Bay area where I live with my family, a silken windhound named Zeus, and two borzoi, Zola and Zar who inspired the fictional canine characters in Lara’s Gift.
Thank you for visiting!
Until the next time …
Dream big and trust your gifts!