English professor and travel writer W. Scott Olsen will launch his 11th book, “A Moment With Strangers,” a book about the apparent — but brief — impact of people we meet.
Olsen said that whether in the local grocery store or an English market, strangers can surprise.
“Every now and then we wind up in a situation where the person we’re standing next to, who we didn’t know 20 seconds ago, is suddenly our very best friend,” Olsen said. “And two minutes from now, we’ll leave and never see them again, but something happens in that moment.”
The book explores these moments through travel narratives and photographs.
“It dawned on me one day that not only is this experience very common, but a lot of them in my life have led to neat little stories,” Olsen said.
The well-traveled Olsen writes about encounters and experiences in the United States, England, Scotland, India, France, New Zealand and many other places. Most of the stories derive from the past few years of travel, but some occurred on even earlier trips.
“I saw street musicians in London and Paris, and that made me think of street musicians I saw ten years ago other places, so I brought those stories forward as well,” Olsen said.
For Olsen, stories can come from a look someone gives him, or from a cup of tea in London. It is important to be a good observer. Everything counts when traveling, he said.
“If you simply listen when you’re traveling, you realize that some things strike your heart and soul a little bit stronger than other things,” Olsen said.
He seeks to pass these skills to students by bringing them to London and Paris for a writing spring seminar. Seven students just attended Olsen’s writing seminar over spring break, writing their own travel narratives in the two famous travel destinations.
Olsen said he appreciates Concordia’s strong interest in integrated and experiential learning, as well as its interest in global travel.
“The nice thing about that is that you get a different perspective and you approach the world with a kind of welcoming attitude,” Olsen said.
According to him, the book seeks to celebrate that welcoming attitude to any experience and all the people we meet — no matter how brief that meeting may be.
“A Moment With Strangers” will be launched March 29, 6:30 p.m. at Zandbroz Variety Store in Fargo.