Some people move to Kuwait and make their presence known. Others, like Jamie Etheridge, unassumingly wave a magic wand and things are never the same. A couple of months after pursuing a Master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies in 2004, Etheridge moved to Kuwait to work for Kuwait Times, ending up as a managing editor for the newspaper for eight years. After that, she – in her own words – “floaked” – floated about and slacked around – while living in New Zealand, before eventually returning to Kuwait where she worked at NBK.
She founded Kuwait Moms Guide in 2013 with her husband. Furthermore, Etheridge is a writer (a bazaar regular) and a very talented poet. Last summer, she won the Q8 Books Poetry Competition – though she has yet to publish an anthology. Here, I interview her with complete assurance that you will be swept away with admiration for this lovely lady.
You have a poem titled Fighter Bomber Jacket that was published in Red River Review. Why did you stop there?
I love writing and, after my children, it’s my proudest accomplishment. I love poetry but never saw it as more than a hobby and an emotional outlet. I wrote the poem that won the Q8 Books Poetry Competition for my husband when we first fell in love. The one in Red River Review is about my father at the end of his life. Since it’s so personal, I tend to keep it to myself.
You have been writing since you were 11 years old. What were your childhood themes?
I’m not sure if I can say. I lost all my childhood journals in a fire, so can only guess. Mostly poems about fears, travel and questions of identity, I think. It’s been way too long! In college, I left poetry to focus on journaling and short stories. I still have most of those journals – thankfully – which reflect mostly what I was going through at the time: self-development, uncertainty about the future, trying to figure out life. I am planning to read through them again before my daughters head off to college to remind myself of some of the issues they might face.
How challenging is it to run a magazine?
The biggest challenge is time-management and making sure I keep my eye on the most important thing: my family. We started the magazine as a way to find things to do for our girls, but it’s easy, sometimes, to get so busy with work and forget to make them a top priority. Still, the Kuwait Moms Guide is a lot of work and a lot of fun. I get an enormous amount of support and encouragement from moms here. It makes a huge difference when you’ve worked a 10-hour day and find an email from a mom thanking you for your efforts.
You are the mother of two lovely daughters – Safyre and Sabel. Do you find that your maternal advice changes based on your personal experience?
Absolutely! In fact, it changes all the time based on what I learn from other mothers and my daughters. Lesson number one in parenting is that nobody is perfect – and that parenting is a constant learning curve. Every day my girls teach me something new – about myself, about them, about the world. There are many moms here who share their experiences and are helpful in giving me advice and information.
You were involved in The Secret Garden Yarn-Bombing Project. Tell us more!
That was an awesome experience. The aim was to engage the community in a fun, family-friendly way while decorating and beautifying the garden. Mimi Al-Nusif organizes the garden and she convinced us to do it. We invited crafters, crocheters and knitters from all over Kuwait. Many people contributed crocheted and knitted pieces. Tammy Assad led the group and did a lot of the yarn-bombing beforehand. Then, one Saturday, we invited the public to help. We yarn-bombed trees, benches, light-posts and hung bunting and garlands. There was also food, face-painting, henna, play-dough and yummy treats. The local crocheters, Khayt Group, offered workshops for beginners during the event. It was an awesome day.
You have read over 10,000 books and are drawn to literature, mysteries and science fiction. How does this influence your writing?
You cannot write if you do not read. Reading is to writers what water is to fish. To understand the power of language, the fluency and flexibility of the written word, you have to read. I am a natural storyteller and am drawn to stories in both my writing and reading choices. In my writing, I look for the story behind the facts and figures. Data and details are important but only so far as they fit into the larger narrative.
Finally, you seem to have acclimatized well here. We are indebted to you! Do you plan to stay for a long time?
I am indebted to Kuwait. I met my husband here, started my family here, flourished professionally and have a blessed life. One day my children will leave to go to college and after that we will see.