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Author advises students to seek adventure

By Phillip Poupore, Point Park News Service:

Jennifer Steil has never shied away from an adventure.

Point Park News Service Andrew Conte interviews author Jennifer Steil at Point Park University. Photo courtesy of Heather Boerner.
Point Park News Service Andrew Conte interviews author Jennifer Steil at Point Park University. Photo courtesy of Sarah Cunningham Collins.

Whether it was moving to Yemen to become a newspaper editor, marrying a British ambassador or being kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen she has taken it all in stride.

The actor, journalist and award-winning author spoke to Point Park University students Aug. 27. She had a clear message: “Do things that are a little scary.”

Pittsburgh was the last stop on a tour for her most recent work, a fiction book called “The Ambassador’s Wife.”

The event was hosted by the Point Park News Service and took place during the first week of classes. This was no coincidence.

“I love the fall. Everyone comes to school, and they are excited about their future, and what they can accomplish,” said Andrew Conte, director of the Point Park News Service.  “I thought having Jennifer here the first week of class would really set the tone for the (Point Park) News Service, and the students going through school this year.”

The novel focuses on an ambassador’s wife who is kidnapped in a Middle Eastern country, and the choices she and her husband must make to be reunited.

Jennifer Steil signs copies of her novel "The Ambassador's Wife" at Point Park University. Photo courtesy of Heather Boerner.
Jennifer Steil signs copies of her novel “The Ambassador’s Wife” at Point Park University. Photo courtesy of Sarah Cunningham Collins.

Though the work is fiction, Steil used real life experiences as the foundation for the novel.

“I used details that I know are true,” Steil said. “It is informed by experiences from this world.”

She explained how she was briefly held hostage by tribesmen toting AK-47s when she was six-and-a-half-months pregnant. Despite the terrifying situation Steil was placed in, she spoke to the tribe in Arabic, called her husband and waited for the Yemeni military to negotiate a deal for her release.

Despite the plot’s focus on the ambassador’s wife being kidnapped, Steil said everything that happens after the wife’s abduction is fiction.

Steil said she knows how lucky she is to have a husband who supports her desire to write.

“He is a completely wonderful human being,” Steil said of her husband Timothy Torlot, head of the European External Action Service delegation to Bolivia. “He is very supportive. Another husband wouldn’t work.”

Through it all, Steil has managed to keep a good sense of humor, adding that early in the marriage she took notes of everything and wanted to write about it, but she said, “I couldn’t ruin my husband’s career that early into the marriage.”

In her life. Steil has traveled all over the world and made her dreams a reality, which is something freshman journalism major Alexandra Levi, 18, said she aspires to do.

Jennifer Steil signs copies of her novel "The Ambassador's Wife" at Point Park University. Photo courtesy of Heather Boerner.
Jennifer Steil signs copies of her novel “The Ambassador’s Wife” at Point Park University. Photo courtesy of Sarah Cunningham Collins.

“It was nice hearing her talk about being adventurous,” Levi said. “Instead of hearing from school about jobs and internships, she talked about her success story and doing something crazy.”

This presentation hammered home Levi’s desire to become fluent in Spanish, and to become a reporter in Spain.

Steil ended the program with a simple message, an underlying focus throughout her talk: “Go have adventures.”

Staff writer Jessica Federkeil contributed to this report.

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