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Becoming an American Pen-Pusher in Paris

There are more writers in Paris than I have hairs on my head, or on my whole body for that matter. (Please excuse this metaphor which may conjure up a fairly grim image of a rather hairy Neanderthal-like woman!)

In fact, almost everyone I know is a writer — at least among the Americans and other Anglophones. I don’t know if that’s because writers attract other writers (“birds of a feather…”) or because Paris is simply one of the most inspiring places on the planet to pour one’s presence onto paper. (Please excuse the pathetic alliteration — but you may have noticed that the word “Paris” naturally elicits from me the use of “P” words like “Parler” and “Previews” and “Party.”)

The writers I know call themselves all sorts of names (in alphabetical order): authors, biographers, columnists, contributors, correspondents, critics, dramatists, editors, essayists, journalists, memoirists, novelists, playwrights, poets, reporter, screenwriters, wordsmiths…and sometimes even hacks, ink-slingers and pen-pushers, although we all know no one writes by hand anymore and so should be called key-punchers instead.

There are certainly loads of people in Paris who call themselves any one of those names, but no one actually ever reads their words…and there are those whose words are religiously read who don’t call themselves anything at all.

You realize that all of what I’ve just written is just a pile of words with no point whatsoever other than to tease and test my own intellect — a sort of mental masturbation. (Uh oh, there I go again alliterating for no reason at all.)

Paris past has hosted such literary luminaries such as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, Chester Himes, Irwin Shaw, James Jones, Harry Mathews, John Ashbery, and William Burroughs, plus hundreds of others. Paris present hosts a new breed of brilliant wordsmiths such as David Sedaris, Alice Steinbach, Adam Gopnik, Edmund White, Diane Johnson, Jake Lamar, Cara Black, and the list goes on and on, including all my writer-friends whose books line the shelves, now double deep, their signatures indelible on the title pages.

I saw and heard David Sedaris speak last week at the Village Voice Bookshop on rue Princesse (6th) which regularly hosts readings and book-signings. The crowd filled both the upper and lower levels of the shop a solid hour before he was scheduled to speak, evidence of how American writers in Paris have risen to untold popularity heights. Of course, Sedaris has a wit tough to match, a style all his own, that he brings to Paris where he claims he is, too, inspired.

Those in Paris who call themselves any one of those writerly names, but no one actually ever reads their words, are clearly aspiring to be among those whose words are religiously read, but don’t call themselves anything at all. Paris offers the tools, for would-be writers to achieve that success.

The tools are not the pen and paper, computer or cassette recorder. The “tools” are the very accomplished craftsmen themselves who are willing to give of their knowledge and experience to give birth to a new breed of American authors. Over the next coming weeks and months, some of Paris’ most brilliant writers will be sharing their talents with small groups of “wannabes” aimed at learning the techniques as well as those “in print and published” w

ho intend to hone their skills.

Learn from such masters as Cecilia Woloch whose Paris Poetry Workshop has become an institution, the 5th one scheduled here in May; you can test out your novel and non-fiction writing with Jennifer Dick; and do some well-deserved creative renewal with Kathleen Spivak; or register for the Writing Salon that promises Places to Write, People to Meet, Stories to Tell with James Navé.

If you’re serious about becoming more than just an ink-slinger, pen-pusher or key-puncher, then be sure to visit today’s Parler Paris Previews Community Calendar for a complete list of courses and workshops you can take both here in Paris and elsewhere to become one of those whose words are religiously read, but don’t call themselves anything at all.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. Without language, there are no words. Hone your French-English language skills at the Parler Parlor French-English conversation group, celebrating its 8th anniversary on March 11th with a Buffet and Crêpes Party! Come for conversation at 11 a.m. and then stay for lunch and take 10 euros off a 10-session card or 20 euros off a 20-session card that day! The party is open to everyone and the first time you come is free. Visit for details.


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