A Brand New Novel
Josephine Baker, the early-20th-century African-American dancer, comic, and singer–hugely famous in Paris. Did you know that she was also a spy for the French Resistance during WWII?
For an American writer, it’s a dream come true: being invited to speak and read in Paris.
On Friday, July 10, 2015, I was honored to join the very talentedauthors Reine Arcache Melvin and Heather Stimmler-Hall in a lively Q&A discussion with 40 Parisians about the writer’s life, followed by readings from our works, in the light-filled Montmartre gallery-apartment of my Airbnb hostess, Grace Teshima.
As moderator as well as hostess of the event, Grace asked the three of us about our writing process: Do we write every day? Do we listen to music while we write? Do we need silence? Do we use anything — such a alcohol — to help stimulate our creativity? When did we first know we wanted to be writers?
These questions provoked insightful responses, and a surprise, as well: all three of us decided at age 7 that we would someday write for a living!
The audience, seated on Grace’s three sofas, windowsills, and floors, and many also standing, asked intelligent, provocative questions, as well. But for me, my fellow authors’ readings were the highlight of the long, rich evening.
Fiction author Reine Arcache Melvin, or “Bonnie,” as she’s known to her friends, read an excerpt from her novel-in-progress in which a Philipino man responds to a former lover’s asking what he would do if she became pregnant with his child, while refusing to say whether she really is pregnant. The lyrical, provocative writing, haunting symbolism, and spot-on dialogue–words contrasting so perfectly and realistically with the character Arturo’s thoughts–made me squirm in my seat, so great was my discomfort at the glimpses the tale offered into the mind of a man on the hot seat: alternately impatient, self-centered, compassionate, fearful, confident, detached, and protective. I cannot wait to read Reine’s novel and also her book of short stories, A Normal Life and Other Stories, which won the Philippines National Book Award for fiction. All her writing, she says, is about desire.
Travel journalist Heather Stimmer-Hall read a lively passage from her book, Naughty Paris, which she calls a “lady’s guide” to the sexiest places in the city. Her passage offers insights on French men: great lovers, very romantic, and also often impatient with women once they bring up the topics of love and relationship. They’re sexually free, as well, but don’t mind if you are, too. Her book also assures us that when a Frenchman makes meaningful eye contact, smiles, compliments us, and flirts in other ways, it’s OK to respond in like–flirting is the French way of life, and isn’t expected to lead to more. She also offers advice on where American women can meet French men. Of course I immediately asked to buy a copy–mais oui!
Much thanks to David Goldfarb of San Francisco for the excellent photos. 🙂
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