Collecting “Real Assets” — Signed Books
Everyone I know is a writer…or almost everyone. This is no surprise since Paris has been the literary home for novelists, poets, and playwrights for centuries. Not only for the French, but for American writers, too, such as Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Stein, Baldwin, Miller, etc., etc., etc., etc. Any agent or publisher will tell you, too, that any book with “Paris” in the title is virtually a sure-fire seller. (Search in Amazon.com using just the word “Paris,” and you will find that there are over 60,000 results for books alone.)
One side of my “bibliothèque” (bookshelf/library) is devoted to books by people I have known and who have signed their books. There are three shelves, all of which are in the double digits and packed tight with barely any space left for new tomes, but each of which is treasured. For this reason, I am loathe to graduate to the Kindle versions that can never replace the “real assets.”
As a wannabe published writer (in print, not just electronic), I like to support writers and the publishing industry in any way I can. I both host and attend readings/book signings, promote authors’ works, participate in a writers’ group and do whatever I can to support the industry at large. We’ve watched the industry change rapidly over the recent years, thanks to new technology including e-books, print-on-demand, online publishing and online marketers such as Amazon. This is great on one hand, for anyone (even myself) who wants their writing read, but on the downside for readers, there’s no qualification for writers to “pass the test” prior to publishing, regardless of their literary merit or skills as writers. We get to be the judges…not the agents, editors or publishers who as professionals, would deem it worthy of reading.
I fall into this category, and am therefore not complaining, but it’s for this reason I admire the published writers (touched with a tinge of envy) and will do whatever I can to help them succeed in an ever-increasingly difficult world of publishing.
This past week I had the pleasure of attending a play reading at “Moving Parts,” a Paris-based bilingual playreading workshop, where Hilary Kaiser’s play, “French Brides, American Warriors” was acted out and then critiqued by the audience. Hilary is a long-standing friend of Parler Paris, who has spoken in the past at our monthly coffee gathering, Après Midi. She is an oral historian and an Associate Professor Emerita of the University of Paris and the author of several books on the subject of French war brides in America. Her play, performed by seven actors in front of an audience of about 25, brought me to tears three times. Even after the audience critique, with many of the suggestions quite useful to Hilary, we all left agreeing that the play had tremendous merit. The glimpse into the lives of the GI’s who married French women they had met during their stay in France in WWII, was a slice of life we rarely get to see. We hope Hilary can fully realize her play so that bona fide audiences can benefit from her life of research and poignant words.
Tuesday I had the fortunate opportunity of having a coffee with Julie Barlow, co-author with her husband, Jean-Benoît Nadeau, of many books, but particularly two very well-received books on French culture: “The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed” and “Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t be Wrong: What Makes the French So French?” I’ve read both cover to cover and learned more from their insight than from just about any other books on the subject. I had met Jean-Benoît earlier and separately, so it was a thrill to finally meet Julie and have her co-sign my copies of their books (Jean-Benoît’s was already in them).
The Bonjour Effect is the book I suggested to the committee of the “Audition de la Mission Sport et Tourisme” on their “Mission de la Promotion du Tourisme” that they read to learn how to make Americans feel welcome during the 2024 Olympics at the “Ministère de l’Europe et des Affaires Etrangères” last May. I brought the book with me to show them and when I explained that if I approach someone and say “Excusez-moi de vous déranger,” without having first said “Bonjour,” inevitably that person will stop me and say “Bonjour Madame” (with an attitude) and then wait for me to say it before answering my question. (That’s when I got a big laugh because they knew it to be true!)
Julie further told me that when she quizzed the French about this, that they didn’t even realize they say “bonjour” at all — that it’s so natural it’s an unconscious reflex, while we foreigners have to remember to add it to our opening remarks. We exchanged ideas about French culture and she talked about some they have for new books on the horizon (but I dare not divulge them!).
In the evening, I bussed across town to the American Library in Paris where author and chef, Susan Herrmann Loomis spoke about her latest book, The French Grill. In the audience was the illustrious Patricia Wells, famous American in Paris journalist, author and cooking instructor (The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris) and her husband, Walter Wells, one time Executive Editor of the International Herald Tribune (now The New York Times). Patricia and Susan are old friends and colleagues. As promised, Susan took us on a “voyage from the Gauls to the present, as the French grill their way through history, picking up tips and hints from the Romans and the Vikings on their way.”
Susan’s take on the gas grill vs the charcoal grill is to favor charcoal, particularly Weber brand (although she joked she was not being paid to recommend it and that if you’re using a gas grill, you might as well be using your kitchen stove!). We learned that we could cook on the grill just about anything, including cakes and cookies — some that were served after her talk at the library, while she signed the books, brought by the new Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore.
This is where we should all be buying our books, too…our newest Anglophone independent literary bookstore, the Red Wheelbarrow (at one time located on rue Saint-Paul). It reopened recently on the Left Bank opposite the Luxembourg Gardens “with an exciting range of classic and contemporary literature, gastronomy, children’s books in French and English, theory, small press, poetry, history and politics.” It’s open seven days a week (!), so there’s no excuse. Go, buy “real assets,” and be sure to attend readings, get your books signed by the authors, and start your own treasured bookshelf.
To all writers, you need to know about the First Pages Prize, a literary contest for writers worldwide, in conjunction with the Stockholm Writers Festival and supported by The de Groot Foundation.
The First Pages Prize is open for submissions of the first five pages (1,250 words, maximum) of a longer work of fiction or creative non-fiction.
Three winners each receive a cash prize and partial developmental editing to support the completion of their manuscript with $1,000 for 1st place, $750 for 2nd, and $500 for 3rd. In addition, 1st and 2nd place winners are invited to attend the main program of the 2019 Stockholm Writers Festival with a stipend dependent on geography to assist in traveling to Stockholm, Sweden.
Open worldwide, the competition is for writers who are currently un-agented, whether previously published or unpublished. Entries must be unpublished, original and written in English.
The prize’s judge is Paul McVeigh, Winner of The Polari Prize and the McCrea Literary Award. Prizes are supported by The de Groot Foundation and Stockholm Writers Festival.
Regardless of genre, works will be judged on overall craftsmanship, originality and a sense of story emerging. Our judges should be compelled to read more.
Entries close February 3, 2019 and winners are notified by or before March 23. Prize presentation will be on May 3, 2019 during the Stockholm Writers’ Festival. For full guidelines and to enter, visit their website or Submittable.com.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Is making a big change in your life on your list of resolutions? Would you like to be able to attend all the book signings and meet the authors that you can? Might we suggest a move or at least a long stay in France? We can help you see this resolution to fruition. With over 20 years living in France, we have learned the ins and outs and the inside information on moving, living and working here. Have a look at our Working and Living in France page and contact us today!