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Ravenous for Bches de Nol

On the cusp of the Christmas season, La Fougasse, rue de Bretagne’s finest pâtissier-boulanger (at number 25, open everyday except Monday), was busy wrapping up beautiful Bûches de Noël, a traditional Christmas dinner dessert in France and other countries.


The tradition is centuries old, when a very large log was placed in the hearth to burn very slowly, so slowly that it could last the 12 days of the season. A fruit-bearing tree trunk was chosen to guarantee a good harvest the following year and sometimes it would be sprinkled with wine to ensure a good vintage. Then, salt might be added to ward away the evil witches! Nonetheless, most of us aren’t thinking of the history…but only of their great taste and beautifully executed ornate designs that make a perfect presentation.

So, while the lovely ladies at La Fougasse were busy preparing the pretty packages of Bûches de Noël, just down the road at La Pierre du Marais, literary agent Deborah Ritchken (for Castiglia Literary Agency) was surrounded by wordsmiths listening closely to her advice on how to get published.

More than two years ago, Deborah came searching for “Paris-based writers who are looking for literary representation in the U.S.” Considering that almost every American in Paris is a writer (or wannabe writer), it wasn’t difficult to strike up an acquaintance.

Within moments of getting to know one another, we discovered that there were amazingly two friends we had in common — a couple who were such close friends that they were two out of the only four witnesses at our wedding in 1980. For Deborah and her husband, Simon, they were friends and neighbors in San Diego and their children had attended school together.

The sad part to this coincidence is that both the man and the woman have passed away within the last five years to the hands of cancer, each differently and separately, but within a very short time of one another, leaving the three children orphaned. We mourn them, and remember them fondly, together.

This, you understand has absolutely nothing to do with Deborah’s quest to find publishable writers in Paris, nor her reason for first contacting me, but the synchronicity acts as a sign that we are meant to help each other to achieve our goals. As and added bonus, we both have daughters of the same age, living, working and struggling in New York City.

As she put forth her words of wisdom and experience, some of us wrote feverishly. Others listened intently. We learned what a “slush pile” is — unsolicited manuscripts — and that out of the 100 per week they receive, only three per year are chosen. Deborah says that her heart pounds when she reads really good material, and that it must be evident in the first 50 pages.

Books chosen now for publication will take about three years to make it into the consumers’ hands, so agents and publishers must look through their crystal balls to pick winners. Paris and France she believes, will never go out of fashion — that “women in the U.S. want the French experience,” but she added, “EXEPT NO MORE BOOKS ABOUT SKINNY FRENCH WOMEN, PLEASE!!!”

Deborah’s favorite client at the moment is one of France’s favorite American writers, Alexander Lobrano, who this coming Spring will launch “Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 101 Best Restaurants” (published by Random House). It’s certainly in contrast to books about dieting, as she recommends!

I love Alex Lobrano’s writing, and no question he’s a food critique worth noting, but I couldn’t help but remark that the title leaves me “hungry” for something a little sexier…perhaps “Craving for Paris,” “Insatiable for Paris,” “Ravenous for Paris”…

Uh oh. You can see where my head is at.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Bûche de Noël.

A la prochaine…  

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. Only three days left to reserve for Après Midi at Printemps, Thursday, December 27th, 2007…see /frenchproperty/conference for more details.

P.P.S. I hope to see all of you Saturday night at the exhibition and celebration of “A Vivid World” by Erica Simone [Leeds], her photographs and writing, at Chez Grace, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Scroll down for more information and to reserve your place.


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