On my last trip to Saint Louis, I attended a River Stix: Hungry Young Poets reading and there I heard Teresa Lynn Hasan-Kerr’s perform for the first time. I was deeply moved by her dynamic presence and wonderful way with wielding words. We connected on social media and shortly after she announced that she was moving to Morocco to teach English. I caught up with her almost a year and a half later to ask her about her experiences writing, moving and living abroad and here is what she had to say.

Travel Artists Hub: What kind of writing do you do and why? 

Teresa Lynn Hasan-Kerr: I like creative nonfiction and poetry. I think there’s enough in this world to wonder about and explore that I don’t feel the need to invent fiction. The more I realized this, I stopped watching horror movies and instead began to love documentaries more. True stories are just better. I also love editing.

TAH: How and when did you start writing? 

TLHK: In high school, before I could drive myself anywhere I had a blog where I wrote poetry about food. I got encouraging feedback from the online community I was in and decided to take a creative writing class junior year. 

TAH: What is your artistic focus?

TLHK: I love how travel changes you and I focus on capturing this in written language. It’s because I moved a lot growing up. 

TAH: What are some of your favorite themes to write about?

TLHK: I like paying attention to how the environment changes and the self changes, sometimes in tandem. Everything else is just what happens to be intriguing enough to write about.

TAH: You moved a lot when you were growing up—why and where did you live? 

TLHK: My dad was in the Navy. So we moved all over the south, mostly. Corpus Christi, TX (where I became a Selena Quintanilla fan), Norfolk, VA (where I made my first bestie), Yokosuka, Japan (and then Ikego and then Nobi where our toilet had a remote), and Memphis, TN (where I sometimes say I’m from). I turned 18 and moved to St Louis, MO (a place that will love you more and more over time).

TAH: Where has your writing led you? 

TLHK: Paris, Brussels, Memphis, and around Morocco. Most recently Fez, Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier, and Ceuta.

Saadian tombs in Marrakech

TAH: Can you tell us more about how, why, and where you have traveled for your writing?

TLHK: In the past Paris, Brussels, London, Tarifa…I’m wanting to go more around the Mediterranean because it’s rich with history. 

TAH: How has travel influenced your writing? 

TLHK: Mainly by making me more aware of exterior and interior settings and how they interact to change a real place. And incorporating foreign words. 

TAH: Do you travel with or for your writing

TLHK: For.

TAH: Can you tell us more about teaching English abroad and how you went about getting the teaching job?

TLHK: I decided I wanted to use my French in the real world. I also didn’t know much about Morocco but saw that as a reason to go. That and why not? 

A friend told me he got hired for a good job through Linked in and was leaving for Saudi in 10 days. I was shocked but it motivated me. So, I finally went for it and applied to schools online and got hired. I was asked to be there in 10 days. I did it.

World Heritage Site: the old Medina of Tetouan

curious to know

I’m not sure which aspect would be more appealing to you. I have incredible human beings in my classroom. I’m curious to know what they want to say once they have more English language skills. They’re pretty funny. It’s also interesting to hear your native language through people who are unconsciously bringing in concepts from outside languages.

For example, sometimes objects are referred to as “him” or “her”. As well, people’s genders tend to change mid-story. The errors and choices my students make most commonly are pretty interesting. Though, “hungry” is usually mispronounced as “hangry” which, of course sounds more alarming!

TAH: I saw online that you are a freelance writer too—what type(s) of freelance work do you do? 

TLHK: I did some travel guides and reviews for websites like Trip by Skyscanner. I also have read some manuscripts and submissions. Now, I edit and I’m currently seeking a position as a remote assistant editor. Wish me luck!

TAH: How do you get freelance writing gigs while traveling? 

TLHK: For travel writing there are many places to pitch to. It helps to be in an interesting place in the world. Some reach out. When I have a good creative piece, I turn to a publication I really like.

TAH: Is there a way folks can contact you if they want to work with you? 

TLHK: Email is best.terersalynnhasankerr@gmail.com

TAH: Have you seen your writing influence other art, artists or cultures? 

TLHK: Absolutely not 🙂 

TAH: I personally know that after I heard you read in STL, I was inspired and excited to write again—so you definitely influenced me.

TLHK: I had no idea. Um, I’m not really aware of anyone who’s been influenced by what I’ve written. : /

The 500-year-old cemetery in Tetouan–there are usually goats hanging out throughout the spot.

TAH: Has anyone come up to you after readings and spoken to you about your writings or their writings—if yes, what kinds of conversations have you had?

TLHK: Honestly, the most interesting conversations about writing have taken place at River Pretty Writing Retreat near St. Louis. My friend, Liv, took me there where there’s such a talented group of well-read people. Everyone can share and learn from each other. I like the talks people get into about books. I really miss the whole thing and my friend, Liv!

TAH: Do you share your writings with others while you are traveling? If yes, how?

TLHK: I don’t unless it comes up. I would love to share more with other writers, but there isn’t the same literary community where I have been the past couple of years.

In fact, reading isn’t as much a thing here. It’s become almost a private hobby, which is okay as long as I can keep up with contemporary lit somehow. 

TAH: What are you reading?

TLHK:  Some short Fiction by Murakami and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

TAH:Share your most memorable travel story. 

TLHK: After I graduated, that summer, I had a dream I was in some hotel in Lisbon, freaking out that I had made the choice to move from home on my own for a place I wasn’t sure I’d like. Sure enough, on my way to Africa, there was a 16-hour layover in Lisbon. I got a hotel to sleep and for the first time felt like an adult. I was also realizing for the first time that I made the choice to move to a place I’d never been. The dream happened.

The dream happened

The blue city of Chefchaouen on a rainy day is a treasure.

When I arrived in Tangier, I met my new boss at the airport and thought, I just flew across the world and got in this man’s car after having an interview with him online. What if this whole thing’s a scam? The whole ride, instead of chatting, I was keeping an eye out for suspicious behavior. It actually made everything seem sketchy the more I looked for reasons not to trust him. I thought, I’m definitely going to disappear. But if I don’t, I’m never going to be so trusting ever again. My boss turned out to be exactly who he said he was – the director of a language school. I just had a moment of “what if”. 

Three weeks later, I was so bored in my small, conservative city that I agreed to go to a party I was invited to by a stranger. I told my roommate I didn’t care if I died, I had to go find some fun! I ended up meeting the best of Morocco that that party. No regrets.

I wanna learn

TAH: Could you share a little about your experience of living in Morocco?

TLHK: I wake up roughly about midday, which is socially acceptable here. I make coffee. There are these fresh Moroccan doughnuts down the street for 1 dirham (ten cents). Walking from there, there are a million stray cats going about their business, looking like they have somewhere to be. I pass young girls, dressed up in pink frills and cute, trendy backpacks. I pass older women, wearing the more traditional jellaba and no makeup. In this city, for females, there seems to be only young girls and old women. I’m not sure what happens between these ages, but I wanna learn. 

TAH: How has your writing and travel connected you to the wider world?

The thing is, no matter how long I’m here I won’t understand Moroccan life because I’m not living it. I live like a foreigner. I’m told that the best way to understand Morocco is learning Arabic and I am, but at the pace of a baboosh and with an accent from l’Merikan.

TLHK: A lot of writing is describing your surroundings, which requires that you really tune into them. Pretty soon that leads to comparing places and traditions and finding similarities. And then everything seems to be connected. 

TAH: Any future plans? 

TLHK: Another move! To a bigger city. 

TAH: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for folks interested in following in your traveling footsteps?

TLHK: Find a way to keep your loved ones close to you but know there are loved ones out there you haven’t met yet. 

Born a Navy brat in San Diego, California, and a nomad ever since, Teresa Lynn Hasan-Kerr earned a bachelor’s degree in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing and a minor in French at Webster University in Saint Louis, MO. Soon after graduating, she decided to follow her hunger for interesting perspectives by moving to Morocco, where she currently resides as an English teacher and writer. 

Feel free to contact Teresa Lynn at terersalynnhasankerr@gmail.com

Follow her on Instagram

Here are a few links to more writings by Teresa Lynn:

In Morocco with Edith Wharton

What Does the Moroccan Expression “b’Saha” Mean?

Here’s a story I would like to share: 

Check out Teresa Lynn Hasan-Kerr’s poem Grieving

One Reply to “Featured Artist Interview: Teresa Lynn Hasan-Kerr”

  1. Believe me, you gonna understand Moroccan life because u are living it right now . Morocco, a beautiful country with beautiful landscapes, with warm people, with tons of history and tasty food. I’m cherishing my stay here.

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