The Story of a Debut Novel

By Dina Brumfield

I wanted to be a writer as a young child. That was a world away both in place and time. My family and I then lived in Shanghai, China when the country was still closed to the world.

It was a hot summer night when the seed was planted. My father brought home a battered copy of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. He started reading, or rather narrating, to my sisters and me. At the time, the Chinese Communist government had banned the book and almost all the other books, except Mao’s red-book of his official writings. It had taken my father a lot of effort to score a copy that had survived purges and book burnings. The story was so fascinating that I couldn’t wait for my father to come home from work every day to continue. I thought it’d be wonderful to write a tale like that.

I moved to the United States in 1989 when I was in my early twenties. Though I still vaguely harbored the dream to be a writer, I also told myself that writing in English, the language in my adopted homeland, is like fighting someone with one hand tied behind my back. I had no formal training in the language. English is such a difficult language, and its subtlety is hard to comprehend for an immigrant like me.

However, the dream persisted and my husband encouraged me to give it a try. Luckily, I live in Bethesda. I did some research and found The Writer’s Center was a few minutes from my home. I enrolled in a basic fiction writing class. That was in 2007. I remembered how I struggled for two weeks to write a two-page scene. Those two pages later became part of the second chapter of my book, Unbound, a Tale of Love and Betrayal in Shanghai. Though it was poorly written, my instructor told me that my writing had merit. Some of the classmates asked me to join their writing group. I gladly agreed and we met regularly. It was in the lower level of The Writer’s Center with my writing friends that I shaped up my novel.

The rest is history. My novel was finally published on August 4, 2020. It’s now in every Barnes & Noble within 25 miles of Bethesda. What I learned in the classroom (I took many courses and learned an enormous amount) and in the discussions at The Writer’s Center nurtured the seed buried deep inside of me. It made my dream come true.

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