Thursday, January 29, 2015

When an IT-Challenged Writer Sneaks Adderall, Surfs Netflix, and Welcomes Rejection, the Results Are Mixed

The Hubs went to Portugal this week, which left me home alone with my writing and my seventh grader who was busy being in seventh grade, so really just with my writing.  Also with my refrigerator, laundry, TV, and (extremely shitty) Wi-Fi.  Those things, and faceless footsteps that ascend and descend the service stairs behind a wall in my kitchen.  And some credit cards, of course, which come in handy when I’m craving confit de canard wine.  Which comes in handy when my temporary expat friends here in Paris blow me off for lunch because they are… doing what?  Eating eclairs while watching France24?

I don’t Facebook, so I have that going for me.

I’m happy to report that I submitted not one, not one and a half, but TWO short stories to literary journals this week.  “I Always Enjoyed Public Transportation” is the story of a man on the brink who needs to renew his driver’s license.  “Paper Trail” is a re-work of a short story I originally wrote a half-dozen years ago (sad, I know) about a woman’s afternoon in the Domestic Relations section of her county courthouse.  The former went to Corium Magazine, and the latter went to American Short Fiction.  Yes, I know the latter is a stretch but that story has been marinating for six whole years.  If it were steak, it’d be Kobe, which is fucking delicious.

In the meantime, I also decided to completely reposition, revise, rejigger, and < le sigh > rewrite my novel.  Yup, the novel I have been struggling with, deliberating over, and writing every chance I get when aliens threaten to waterboard me - that novel - I’m starting over, people.

This makes me sad.  It makes me happy too, but it does make me sad.  You know what else makes me simultaneously happy and sad?  Just as I was choking on the realization that temporary expat friendships here in Paris can be really crappy, my Bestie (braving the Bomb Cyclones at home in Philly) sent me an email about mangled English, gay weddings, church songs from our youth, life changing lunches and relevant chocolate, Velibs and reformed hookers, pop-up orchestras, French movies, old men enchanted by 40-something chit chat, our sentence-completing friendship that spans decades, and the Can Can.  I cried.  Then I emailed her back and begged her not to FaceTime me because that would be embarrassing, and she totally got that.

But back to the writing part.  You are probably asking yourself by now how on God’s green earth I had the level of concentration and work ethic necessary to submit two short stories and mentally revise the entire state of my novel in less than one week.  Well, I’ll tell you.  I found ten left-over Adderall pills in my medicine cabinet from an old stash prescribed to one of our children before he gracefully weaned himself from that Adderall which I never had the balls to toss because do you know how much mullah that shit is worth?

And let me tell you why Adderall is in such high demand.  Not only did I dedicate hours to my keyboard banging out fiction, but I also tried my hand at some custom URL bullcrap, in an attempt to give this here blog its very own identity, only to learn that no matter how sophisticated and lubricated my level of medicated concentration is, I am still technologically challenged.  This resulted in the crash and burn of my entire blog site, a situation I would work to correct, given I still have plenty of Adderall pulsing through my veins, but alas.  I have been distracted.

In the midst of my Custom URL Parisian Pity Party Dot Com, I received:  Rejection Letter Numero Deux.

Yes, dear friends, the esteemed editors at Word Riot have found “Me and My Fake Tits” isn’t a fit for them, although the fiction editor noted he “enjoyed the read.”

I’m currently devouring Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, and just last night I read the part where he recalls putting a nail into his bedroom wall and impaling all of his rejection letters with that nail until no more rejection letters would fit so he hung another nail to expand his collection of rejection letters.  I’ve been debating how to display my rejection letters now that they are rolling in.  I think this is the solution.

I’m also currently enjoying the fact Netflix is finally (!!) available in France, and I have used these evenings that The Hubs is in Portugal to blow through the entire first season of Orange is the New Black while gulping mouthfuls of Nespresso and reminding myself that rejection comes in many forms.  Electronic letters stored on Submittable or emails sent from Paris friends apologizing that they can’t have lunch yet again because their kids have Ebola or some other shit like that - none of it matters.

I have the Bestie.  What else does a lady need?

(Oh, and I have one more week’s supply of Adderall.  That’s pretty good, too).

And blue toilet paper that smells like hydrangea, I have that going for me.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Although I Was Never a Fan of Your Poetry

Dear Dr. Taggart,

I’m sure at this point in my life (43!), it’d be perfectly acceptable to call you John.

People hated your classes in college.  Did you know that?  “I got Taggart.”  That wasn’t said like, “I got Taggart!” but like, “I got.  Taggart.”

Not me, though.  I didn’t belong at Shippensburg.  I mean, from a social perspective, I did.  But in high school, I graduated at the top of my class.  I had certain accolades: Salutatorian, President of Mathletes.  I guess that was about it, but anyway.  I should have gone somewhere like Bennington, and then I would have ended up famous like Bret Easton Ellis or Donna Tartt.  (I just heard they’re making a Goldfinch movie).

Thing is, I was the first person in my family to attend university.  My parents were proud of me and they trusted me to make good decisions.  They told me I could go to any college my heart desired, and when I said I wanted to go to Saint Joe’s, they reminded me I’d commute, because Saint Joe’s was very expensive and it was a 10-minute bus ride from our house.

That taught me two things: A. I wanted to go away for college and B. My budget was small.  So I chose Shippensburg.

I don’t know why you chose Shippensburg.  You didn’t belong there, either.

One day, you stopped me as I was leaving your classroom.  You looked down at my hands and made this quiet snort that you sometimes made when you saw humor in something literal, and although no one else seemed to know why you made that sound sometimes, or maybe they didn’t notice it, I always knew when you made that sound, there was a nugget in that moment.  Anyway, you looked down at my hands and made that sound and with a very genuine smile you said to me, “Cocaine finger?”  I looked down at my hands and realized that I still had one artificial nail remaining on my right pinky finger, one artificial nail that still hadn’t fallen off or been peeled off by me after the Sorority Formal the previous Friday night, for which I had procured a black velvet cocktail number, freshly dyed my hair (my signature platinum blonde), and glued a Sally Hansen French manicure to my fingertips.

I never forgot you noticed that.  (I’ve been looking for things like that ever since).

Another time, this was at the end of my senior year, I was leaving your Creative Writing: Fiction class.  I didn’t need that class to graduate.  I could have taken four classes that semester to have all of my required credits.  You probably didn’t know that.  It was a case of “I have one more chance to take Taggart” not “I got Taggart.”  But anyway, on this particular day, I read a short story aloud to the class.  I can’t remember if I volunteered it or if it was my turn.  I think it was my turn, though.  It was an exercise in Metafiction.  After the class ended, you pulled me aside as I was leaving and said, “Do you have somewhere to be right now?  Can you drop into my office in five minutes?”  And my heart kind of stopped.

In your office, you asked me what I planned to do after graduation.  I said that temporarily, I had an administrative job lined up at Roxborough Memorial Hospital, which was a good start.  But I was planning to apply for jobs in the paper.  (I mean, in the Classifieds, which I feel I need to explain now because younger people would think I meant a journalism job but what I meant was I’d look in the Classifieds section of the paper for a job.  But that doesn’t matter, because you knew what I meant).

You said to me, “I think you should move to New York.”  You said something about the Village and waitressing and being around other writers and writing all the time.  I’m sure you put it more eloquently than that, but I was stupefied, so now I can’t remember it accurately, dammit.  I think the last thing you said to me was, “You’re a good writer.  Never stop writing.”

(I still love Metafiction).

I think you should know what became of me.  I got a job in the paper.  I became a Marketing Professional.  I took time off work to have babies.  I experienced a sloppy divorce.  I ran in some races.  I made a lot of money in Advertising Sales.  I bought (and sold) a few houses.  Eventually, I remarried.  All the while, my parents have been proud of me and have trusted my decisions and still live a 10-minute bus ride from Saint Joe’s.

I never stopped writing.

A year ago, I moved to Paris.  Now come on, even you have to admit, Paris trumps New York.  I didn't exactly plan it this way, but however it happened, I am writing here full-time.  When I think I don’t belong here, I re-read my short story, the one I read in your Creative Writing: Fiction class (I don’t have an actual copy of it; I do my best to conjure it up), and I remind myself that I’m a good writer.

Eventually, I’ll have proof of this.  And when I do, I’d like to send it to you.  Except I don’t know where to send it and that would be a little creepy too.  So instead, well, this letter.  Posted on the Internet.  Even profound people like yourself occasionally google their own names.  I mean, not often, of course, but occasionally.

What I’m saying is: Thanks, Dr. Taggart.  John.  John Taggart.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

My First Rejection Letter and a No-Go Zone

So.  I was rejected by SmokeLong Quarterly.  A rejection from SmokeLong is like a handshake with a celebrity.  Congratulations to moi.  My only regret is that rejection letters now come in the form of electronic messages on Submittable, which means I have to print this bad boy myself.

In the days leading up to my first rejection letter of 2015, I attempted to live life to the fullest.  The highlights of my week were: a day trip to Mont Saint-Michel, organized by my stepdaughter, and a three hour wine tasting in a real Parisian person’s home, organized by me.  Then my stepdaughter got on a plane to Vietnam, and moments later, I was home alone in a clean, quiet apartment, wondering what to do with myself, when I got the Rejection Letter.

Sort of like getting Hit By A Car.  In slow motion.  And now I myself have become an element of literature: a (really awesome) protagonist.  Because you feel for me, right?  Oh, but please don’t.

I went to my Writer’s Workshop last night for the first time in nearly four months.  Per the usual, I came away with a wheelbarrow full of ideas, and now I’m thinking, I really need to get that shit on paper, you know?  However, I had a haircut appointment today, on the completely way other side of Paris.  And you have to admit, haircuts are important.

My salon is in a No-Go Zone, as reported (and later rescinded) by Fox News.  This is meaningless to me, except it gets me thinking about how I’d write rejection letters, if I had such power.  I’d write ‘em from a No-Go Zone.  They’d be like this:

Dear So-and-So-Mister-I-Got-An-English-Degree-in-1993:

First off, get a fucking MFA.  Not that it makes you any better of a writer, but I can’t publish you without those creds, otherwise I look like a douche to the rest of the literary community.  No but seriously, get an MFA.

Secondly, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but your story sucks.  What does your narrator want?  What is the real conflict?  What consequences does he pay as a result of his choices?  Have you stayed true to your point of view?  Your narrative stance?  Do you even know what narrative stance means?  And for crying out loud, have you heard of line editing?  I don’t believe you have an English degree, actually.  Are you sure it’s not a Communications degree?  From a junior college?

It’s time to pull your head out of your ass and get a real job.  You are not a writer and you will never be a writer.  You might tell some pretty cool stories while sitting around a campfire coffee table drinking Gentleman Jack Coors Light 7-Up with your buddies, but that shit don’t fly places like Smokelong and [PANK] and Antigonish Review.  Not even Mad Libs will take your scraps.

I say this to help you.  Seriously.  It’s Tough Love that no other publisher has the ovaries to dispense.  You’ll thank me for this someday.


And then I’d print that enlightening nugget onto embossed cotton paper and sign my name with a fountain pen and send it through La Poste.

Wouldn’t that type of rejection letter be so much more productive?  Just think of all the better things I could have accomplished during my time in Paris if I hadn’t spent the last thirteen months writing gibberish.  I mean, when I wasn’t flirting with the chef at cooking classes, or drinking wine along the Seine, or applauding the mixologists at The Station when they lit the bar on fire, or partaking in that Oktoberfest thing.

Oh hey.  It’s Taco Night.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How To Procrastinate Your Novel By Writing Short Stories

The fact that I can’t seem to focus on writing my novel has nothing to do with how interesting or moving or raw fucking awesome the story is.  Novel writing is just so damn hard.  Why am I significantly more inspired to create short stories and flash fiction?  If I make every chapter of my novel a short story within the big picture, shouldn’t it be easy for me to write it?

Many accomplished writers have said that crafting a novel is like being married.  It starts with passion.  It dwindles.  It picks up.  Someone gives up.  Someone encourages the other to try again.  There is renewed hope.  Someone has an affair (the short story! that tramp!).  And eventually hard work and dedication pays off.  If you’re lucky, a baby is born.

My novel is a beast. It’s daunting.  I escape by writing about other things entirely.  I write about anything at all, in fact.  An Iraq war vet who catches his wife cheating, a woman whose grocery list spans three continents, an ugly family matter in Amish country, even my own breast implants.  Imagine - all those affairs!  Some call it ADHD.  I call it Avoidance.

Don’t get the wrong idea that I’m an overzealous writer chained to my keyboard cranking out fiction.  I mostly avoid in much less productive ways.  Let’s review some of the things I’ve done in the past week.

Hours in Musee L’Orangerie to peruse Monet’s Les Nymphéas
Long walks along the Seine.  In the rain.  (Is there any other way)?
Hunts for fancy treats, like the delicacies found at Bertie’s Cupcakery on the Ile de Cite
Sips of champagne and peeks of (incredibly fit) naked showgirls at the Moulin Rouge
Waiting an hour for a desk at my local Paris Library only to feel uninspired when I sat down
Strolling past the Eiffel Tower a few dozen times because, come on, it’s the Eiffel Tower
Imbibing in liters of craft beer in Brussels (Yep, I really did that).
Velib’ing through the Bois de Boulogne
Devouring a galette de rois because I needed to find the prize (What, I velib’ed).
And lots of other stupid shit too.  Trust me on this.

Tonight, I’m attending a reading with my 20-yr-old step-daughter in Belleville.  She won’t be impressed by me, because I’m not reading anything.  But hopefully, she’ll be impressed by the number of dedicated, talented, interesting writers who choose to live in Paris, because this city somehow brings out the best in all of us, who gather to support one another’s efforts.  I like this event because I usually get inspired can drink beer.

I did “step back in” to my seat at a weekly writers’ group, which is coordinated by a grant-winning, published writer and instructor.  I haven’t attended since early September, but I’m ready to try again.  That will happen next Wednesday.  I’m reading.  Merde.

I need to find a new writing partner.  This will bring me back to Craigs List, which also acts as an enormous distraction.  A friend of mine said one time she went looking for a writing partner on Craigs List, and after four days of screen time, she found herself posting Let’s Masturbate Together and Then Have Dinner.  She was single at the time, thank God.  She’s not single anymore, because someone actually responded and that all worked out.

Since my last blog post, I’ve submitted two additional short stories.  “You Can’t Trust Police Reports” went to SmokeLong Quarterly, and “Me and My Tits” went to Word Riot.  I still haven’t gotten any rejection letters, so at this moment, I’m 5 for 6.  Fist pump and blow it up, people.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Paris is My Chambre de Bonne

A few days ago, I started a summary of my writing projects this week.  And then life got busy.  And then something happened.

There’s a lot to be said of the recent events here in Paris that have garnished so much media attention around the world.  I should probably address it, but I won’t.  Instead, I dug through my computer files looking for this essay I wrote last Spring, and then forgot I wrote, and today remembered I wrote.  So rather than cataloguing this week’s procrastination techniques in a blog post, or proclaiming “Je Suis Charlie” when I’m not French, I’m sharing this (unedited) essay from April 2014, and I hope it brings a smile.

Paris is a unique and beautiful city. Everyone knows this.  Its opulence and grandeur are seen from all vantage points; its rich, sordid history screams at passersby while they meander its maze of boulevards and rues; and its allure beckons travelers from every corner of the Earth.  To visit Paris is a dream.

But to live in Paris is transformational.

Before the Grand Déménagement, I spent a week at our apartment in the 17th Arrondissement last November.  In that time, a vague mental map took shape in my brain.  While I was far from familiar with my local quartier, I realized I soon would be, and I didn’t stress about it.  My mind soaked in the newness of novel sights and sounds – the beauty of ornate limestone carvings on every building, the buzz of scooter motors along every street, the reflective puddles of water on the sidewalks under my feet – and I was filled with wonder.

After arriving permanently in January, I spent entire days walking.  I explored museums, book stores, markets, gardens, restaurants, parks, and quais.  I observed the Parisian people and all their quirky habits and unfamiliar fashion.  I embraced the culture and the language and I thought – ignorantly – that I could eventually become a Parisienne.

In February, I started French classes.  I commuted on the Metro three days each week during Rush Hour like all the other city folk with regular schedules.  I rushed to get from here to there, and enjoyed the idea that I had “places to be.”

By March, I had traveled to 8 European countries, and each time that I returned to my apartment in the Dix-Septieme, I felt more and more like I was coming home.

Then in April, I visited the USA.

Now I ask myself:  Where is home?  For in this exact moment, I need to consider Paris my place of residence.  It took me nearly 4 months to get a titre de sejour, so I better call this the city where I reside.  But it’s about more than a boulevard (Malesherbes) and a Metro station (Wagram).  Mentally, calling Paris my home is the only thing that really puts me here.  It makes me act as though I belong.  As if it’s where I was always meant to be.

My feet have pounded every square mile of this city.  They’ve marched along the pavements, the gravel, and the cobblestones.  They’ve climbed countless circular staircases and stood on sites where people were once beheaded and celebrities were buried.  My feet have waited patiently for the little green man at intersections; they’ve tapped along to accordions, cellos, and boom boxes in the Metro; and they’ve stood for many collective hours in the queue.  My wandering ways have made Paris mine.

And yet.  Every time I step onto the street, I see something new.  It’s like looking at the starry sky on a clear, moonless summer night.  The longer you stare, the more you see.  What starts as a few dozen big bright stars suddenly morphs into hundreds, and then thousands, and if you stare long enough, so many millions and millions of stars that it will take your breath away.  This is exactly what happens to foreigners in Paris as they slowly realize this city is now their home.

First, you start noticing the interiors of apartments when they are lit up at night.  Then, you begin to see office workers sitting at their desks, typing on their computers or talking on their phones.  Next, you notice little stores curiously placed between big stores, and then you start to read the graffiti scribbled on the sidewalks and the movie advertisements at the bus stops.  You pick up the free papers at the Metro stations, and the articles (in French) somehow make sense.  You avoid the sidewalk in front of any school during arrivals and dismissals.  You overhear someone on their mobile phone say, “I’ll meet you at the finger,” and you know what that means.  You catch a smile from your grocery checker.

So what did I notice when I returned to Paris after my first trip home to the USA?

It wasn’t the petite people or the quiet talking or the incessant smoking or the dog poop.  That stuff is for amateurs.  I noticed the Chambre de Bonne.  During the past few weeks, while pounding the pavements of Paris, I found myself constantly looking up and asking:  Who lives behind those tiny windows along the tops of Haussmann buildings?

It’s a rhetorical question.  The standard answer is “students.”  But can there be that many – literally thousands upon thousands – of students living in Paris and hoarding all the chambres de bonne for academic purposes?  Surely, there are all kinds of displaced and budget-conscious citizens taking up residence in these pint-sized apartments, formerly reserved for maids.  And while I’m especially glad I’m not one of them, I find it fascinating how in any single Haussmann building, the upper echelon of wealth and status (usually on the 2nd and 3rd floors) lives precariously close to those who are only three steps removed from homelessness, or at the very least, from moving back in with their parents.

In the middle of the night, I hear people moving around on the floors above me.  Last night at 1 am, a young woman caused a ruckus when she entered our courtyard, fumbled with the door code, ascended seven flights of stairs in heels, slammed a door, clanked around for a good ten minutes, and then presumably fell into a drunken slumber.  I thought to myself, she must have such a little room all the way up there on the 7th Floor.

There was a brief period of time not so long ago when an average of 55 people per day were guillotined near the mass graves at Picpus in the 12th Arrondissement.  I probably shouldn’t mention that, right?  But I’ll bet if you had a chamber de bonne during that time, it was a decent location to fly under the radar.  So at least you could keep your head intact.

While peeking out my bedroom window at 1:05 last night in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the high heeled, allegedly drunken student getting ready to pass out in her chamber de bonne somewhere 4 stories above me, I saw the strobe light of the Eiffel Tower pass over my courtyard.  And I thought to myself, “Damn.  How have I never noticed that before?”

And then it dawned on me.  Paris is my Chambre de Bonne.

PS - I’ve successfully submitted my third short story to a third literary publication this year, which keeps me on target for 52 submissions in 2015.  This week’s story is called Snakeheads and I sent it to The Boiler Journal.  I’m sort of cheating since it’s a re-write of a short story I originally crafted like 8 years ago.  (Seriously)?  (Eight years ago)?  (I’m not old, I swear).

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Procrastination Tactic # 2 - Self Preservation on January 6th

Today is my second (full) day back in Paris since the winter break.  I added a couple hundred words to a short story I started yesterday, and while I intend to finish it, the thing is crap.  I speak the truth.  This ‘ol brain of mine can’t always crank out awesomeness, which is too bad.

The way I see it, I’m only going to produce publishable material if I take care of moi first.  So I started today the same way I started approximately 100 days in 2014, and that’s by going to church.  Did you just roll your eyes?  I know, I know.  I’m not particularly religious and I certainly have nothing to preach about.  But when you’re a couple thousand miles from the people you love the most - when your oldest kid is boarding at military school - when you’re in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language - when your washing machine takes 3 hours and 20 minutes to clean your clothes and your dryer takes even longer - when you slap yourself for even saying that because you know you’re goshdarn lucky to have a dryer - when your Wifi is more like WhyBother - Look, sometimes you have to show up and fake God into believing you’re the praying type.

Truth be told, when I first arrived in Paris a year ago, I realized right quick that I needed a reason to get up in the morning, and I also noticed that hearing just a little bit of English every day boosted my happiness endorphins.  That and the Eiffel Tower.  The Eiffel Tower makes everyone smile, even the Frenchies.

So after Church today, I was feeling pretty good and went to the gym.  On my way there, I ran into an American friend while crossing the Grande Armee, like, right smack in the middle of the street, and we did just what every Parisian hates.  With our loud American voices and botched faire la bise, we were all like “Oh HEY you!  Bon Annee!  How was Austria?  Did you ski or snowboard?  We MUST get together for wine soon!  Oops, the light’s red, better run!  Have an incredible day!”  I heard “ppppfffftttttt” popping off all around me like flashbulbs on the red carpet.  Didn’t matter none to me, though.  You know why?  I had a pep in my step and I was going to the gym.

Here’s what I did at the gym:  I walked around for a bit and looked at the French people.  I observed an aerobics class from the third floor balcony while pretending to do sit-ups.  I piddled with a thigh master.  I walked around some more.  But most importantly, I avoided writing.  This is what I call taking care of me.

My stepdaughter woke up at 1:15 - that’s in the afternoon, people - minutes after my housekeeper got to the apartment.  Maybe I should change the subject now.

I had a doctor’s appointment at 2:00 in the 8th.  I acquired some weird skin cancer issues last year - on my face of all places - and I’m still finishing the recovery process.  So obviously, this appointment superseded any gibberish that was going to flow from between my ears and land on my blank computer screen.  And I just couldn’t resist a leisurely walk home from the doctor’s office, because after all, I’d been back in Paris since Sunday but still hadn’t swung past the Eiffel Tower.

Oh, and now I’m writing a blog entry, because you know, that’s important.

But I better get moving because I need to straighten my hair before dinner tonight.  Nothing beats the steak tartar at Chez Clement.  And I would know.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Procrastination Tactic Number One - It’s January 5th and I’m at the Pompidou Why?

We’re back in Paris.  And she’s still pretty.  And grey.  She’s still grey too.

On Friday night, we stood in line to check our bags at the Philly airport when suddenly we heard this: “Hey! Blaise’s parents!”  It was my oldest son’s best friend from middle school, who happened to move to Rome the same time we moved to Paris.  Last year, on exactly the same day, The Hubs, my youngest son, and I were in exactly the same place at the Philly airport, embarking on our Grand Déménagement, when we ran into Hayden and his family.  What later ensued was a surprise snowstorm - let’s call it a squall - which grounded our plane after we sat on the runway for seven hours.  Seven hours, people.  But I digress.  My point is, seeing these peeps exactly a year later in the same place?  It’s kind of a wake-up call.  My life has come full circle.  I’ve lived in Paris for one year.  I’m a completely different person and yet I’m the same.

I spent an hour editing a chapter of my novel while drinking terrible chardonnay somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.  I watched a movie and I read 40 pages of Les Miserables. And then I landed in Paris.  After a nap (flying is exhausting), I edited more of my novel.  So anyways.  I deserved a break today, don’t you think?

In a year’s time, I’ve walked past the Centre Georges Pompidou on a half dozen occasions.  I’ve admired its unique architecture from the outside while breezing through Le Marais, but I never went in.  So today seemed as good a day as any, particularly because it was like 36 degrees outside and I despise the cold.

I got there at 1:15 and there was no line.  I wasn’t sure how much longer that would last, so I went straight to the 6th floor to admire the Jeff Koons and Marcel Duchamp exhibitions, where I learned Jeff Koons is from York, Pennsylvania and I was like, hey that’s cool.  Because, yanno, I’m from PA and all that.

The experience was different.  I know that’s what everyone says.  I’m so cliche.  Please don’t think I’m ignorant (maybe a little), because I do appreciate modern art.  But quite frankly, the window view of Parisian rooftops was sometimes more interesting than the stuff on the walls, but that’s just me.  I was particularly pleased when I looked over the exterior balcony and witnessed the line of no less than 300 people waiting to get in.  So I got lucky. (1:15 seems to be a key arrival time to Paris museums for me… never a line… knock on wood).

The Pompidou Museum is definitely something to see.  If given the opportunity every tourist should try to swing past it.  I won’t be going back into the galleries myself, unless a special exhibit comes around that I’m dying to see.  I suppose that could happen.  Not.

One tremendous thing did happen though, as a result of my first official procrastination tactic of the new year.  I discovered this:  The Bibliotheque Centre Pompidou (otherwise known as BPI).  Ah, yeah.  That’s sorta cool.  I’m adding this to my list of places to write.  Provided I can snag a seat, I do believe this could help my productivity issues.  I’m the coworking type.  At the beginning of last year, I spent plenty of hours at the Paris library near my old apartment in the 17th, which is where most of my novel began to take shape.  If it weren’t for that library, I probs wouldn’t be this far along. (Wait, am I far along)?

My 20-year-old stepdaughter, Hannah arrives in Paris tonight (after a two-day whirlwind tour of London).  She will stay with us for the next two weeks before embarking on an 8-month journey through Southeast Asia, China and Japan, and then spending the summer in Los Angeles, before returning to university in New York City for her senior year.  She’s bound to keep me occupied over the next few weeks, so writing my novel may be quite challenging.  That’s OK, because Hannah’s awesome, and I’m always up for a good challenge.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Writing and Submitting in 2015 (Warning: This Post Contains New Years Resolutions)

It’s January 1.  So, Happy New Year.  I’m not the resolutions type, but this year I am committing myself to writing more (instead of thinking about it and talking about it and banging my head against the wall about it) and submitting more.

Today, I sent a piece of flash fiction to Belleville Park Pages.  It's called Three Grocery Stores and it's my first flash piece ever, I think.  At the very least, I’ll get a rejection letter to hang on the wall.  At best, well, you know.

Last Spring, I met a writing partner through Craigs List.  It wasn’t weird, I swear.  I put a note there looking for someone who truly wanted to make time to discuss our fiction, say, two or three times per month.  And I mentioned that I was about 15,000 words into a novel.  And I stressed that this would be a platonic relationship but it would be nice to share some laughs too.  Simultaneously, I read an almost exact duplicate Craigslist entry and responded to it.  And that’s how it went down.

I no longer have this writing partner, but only because she finished her novel and has it out for review.  She’s talented.  Like, she’s gonna get published.  And I’m happy for her.  No, really, I am.  I’ll miss our conversations over coffee and rosé in this gritty Pigalle café near the Anvers Metro.  It’s strange to have nostalgia for something that has come and gone in Paris.  It underlines the fact that I’ve been living in France for one whole year.  That’s a long time, yo.  I better have something to show for it, like, soon.

So my New Year’s Resolutions, to be specific, are:

Submit one piece of short fiction every week to a literary publication
Spend one hour writing my novel four days per week
Attend more live readings
Talk to more peeps at live readings instead of sitting in a corner like a dum dum
Read something - just once - at a live reading

I’d also like to drop ten pounds, but have you ever tasted a Brioche Suisse?

2014 Year in Review, Well, A List of Books I've Read Anyways

2015 will be my Year of Writing.  To properly prepare, I’ve read a crap ton of books in 2014.  In case you’d like to compare notes, here they are, not necessarily in chronological order:

The Bookseller, By Mark Pryor (fun mystery with an enjoyable tour of Paris)
A Moveable Feast, By Ernest Hemingway (Inspirational, and sort of obligatory)
The Paris Wife, By Paula McLain (Unfinished, maybe too slow for me)
Instructions for a Heatwave, By Maggie O’Farrell (book signing at Shakespeare and Co., good stuff)
The Husband’s Secret, By Liane Moriarty (actually a pretty decent piece of literature despite the cheesy title)
The Fault in Our Stars, By John Green (jumped on the bandwagon at The Best Friend’s suggestion, got into it)
Slaughterhouse-Five, By Kurt Vonnegut (hands down one of the greatest books I’ve ever read)
All Fall Down, By Jennifer Weiner (meh)
The Goldfinch, By Donna Tartt (nearly 800 pages of literary bliss, Pulitzer worthy)
Gone Girl, By Gillian Flynn (page turner)
Ash Wednesday, By Ethan Hawke (he was young when he wrote it and I was pretty impressed; he should give novel writing another go)

I’ve also made dents in a few books of short stories, including the 2014 edition of the O’Henry Prize Stories and B.J. Novak’s One More Thing, not to mention the excerpts from fellow writers in Paris whose works I’ve either been curious about or asked to comment on.

Currently, I’m reading Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo.  Because, you know, I have nothing better to do.  And I already killed myself with one 800 page book this year, I might as well go for 1000 pages in 2015, right?  And oh, I spend a lot of time on airplanes.

Today, I tore apart a section of my novel, originally written at the beginning of the summer.  I built it out and further developed a main character who required a richer past.  So that’s a good start.  And now, I’ll drive down a snowy road in upstate New York to a lovely family affair, where I’ll drink champagne and celebrate another wonderful year with lots of well wishes and positive thoughts and awesome goals and good friends.  And with my husband and my sons too, of course.  And in a few days, I’ll return to Paris to start this adventure all over again.

It’s going to be a fine year, my friends.  I hope yours will be, too.