This article, The Mentor Myth, by Joanna Goddard is enlightening. For those of us that aren’t privileged enough to have mentors, Joanna makes the case that you can have mentors from afar. One of her mentors is Michelle Obama. I wish I had thought of this idea decades ago. I’m making a list of my mentors from afar tonight. Michelle Obama is at the top of the list.
I’ve decided to keep a Commonplace Book. I like the idea of it because it’s a more organized system than what I have going on right now: post-it notes, my phone notes app, and several documents where I type or transfer in my various thoughts and ideas, etc. I’m excited to give this new system a try.
There is a lot to love about Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik. To begin with, I adore the title. Paris to the Moon evokes something romantic from an old, bygone Paris. I love that the collection of essays are set in Paris. I also love that the essays are thoughtful, witty and, at-times, laugh-out-loud funny. I felt compelled to read many passages to my husband, much to his annoyance. “Yes, I know, he lives in Paris,” he’d say when I prefaced another out-loud reading with a “This writer who lives in Paris…”
I was drawn to this book for two reasons. It’s a collection of essays about living in Paris and I’m fascinated by the nuances of everyday Parisian life. But also because it’s written by a writer who manages to write full-time and support his family from his writing. I’m always interested in reading and learning more about that elusive, modern-day full-time writer.
Adam Gopnik moved to Paris with his wife and young son in the late 1990s. This book of essays is the culmination of his experience living there. He does not sugarcoat living in Paris, but even with the French bureaucracy and dossiers (you’ll have to read the book to understand why dossiers come up quite often), he loves living there with his family and I found it charming that he refers to his newborn daughter as their “French child.” Their son Luke, born in NY, is their “New York child.”
I should also mention that all of these essays were originally published in The New Yorker before they were compiled in this book.
My favorite essay is the one where he describes the fashion shows. I devoured the pages hoping for more essays on fashion, alas it was not to be. Instead I got essays on sports. Which, quite frankly, bored me to tears. What can I say, I like what I like.
When the author wrote about French cuisine, I felt pangs of hunger. I’m not sure if that was the author’s ultimate goal, but I immediately told my husband we’d be having something French for dinner. And I laughed out loud (again) when he compares the children’s figure Barney to President Clinton. The essays were full of unexpected thoughts and surprises about living in Paris.
All in all, this is an excellent book. Should you read it? I would say, read it only if you are truly interested in the nuances of everyday life as an American in Paris.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but another month is flying back. In a way that’s good because I want 2020 to just be over. Goodbye. Farewell. Go away. Then again, I don’t want life to just rush by. I guess I can’t have my cake and eat it too. On to reading links.
This is a very long read, but it’s a very good read. It’s about The Astonishing Rise of Angela Merkel by The New Yorker. If you like reading about interesting women who’ve made a positive impact in the world, then I recommend this article.
So You Want To Write? “I think that reading is so crucial. It’s how you learn what happens in novels and how to put them together and how you start thinking about it.” – Brit Bennet
I’ve always wanted to go away for a writing retreat. Doesn’t it sound wonderfully creative and fun? But the truth is that a writing retreat is not an option for me. I haven’t found any that interest me within my preferred price range. Maybe some day this might be possible. Plus, if I’m going to spend money on a hotel or a cabin nestled in a forest or mountains, I’d want my husband to come along. I decided to create my own writing retreat at home. I scheduled the writing retreat for a day when my husband would be out of town and took a day of vacation from work. (It also helped that there are no children afoot.)
I held my at-home writing retreat in late 2019 before the global pandemic.
To avoid distractions, I cleared my schedule. I didn’t want to have an excuse to stop writing, so I handled household chores, grocery shopping and errands ahead of the scheduled writing retreat. It wasn’t easy because I had to tag on extra hours at the end of each workday over the course of one week to get everything accomplished, but it ended up being worth it.
I made sure I had healthy snacks, fruit and tea on hand. I also prepared a slow cooker meal (Greek lemon chicken with potatoes) early on the morning of the writing retreat. I didn’t want to take time away from my writing by having to figure out lunch during the day. Having lunch and dinner ready was the best decision for me.
I decided what time to start and end the retreat. For me, the best decision was to start at 7:00 AM and end at 4:00 PM. Though you could easily start your at-home writing retreat later, especially if you prefer exercising first thing in the morning.
To stay focused and motivated, I wrote out my retreat goals. My goals were:
Write (I didn’t set a word count).
Research a particular subject for my story.
Listen to specific podcast episodes.
Work on editing a specific section of my manuscript.
Organize my writing project e-folders.
Writing Retreat Day
I followed a loosely planned schedule per the goal list. I omitted distractions. I didn’t check emails or any social media during the duration of my retreat, not even at lunch. I turned off my phone notifications. I avoided temptation by clearing my cookies. Avoiding social media was probably the best thing I did for a productive writing retreat. The most interesting aspect of this was that I learned I didn’t even miss Twitter or Instagram. I never once had the urge to log in.
I wanted the writing retreat to be more than just writing and editing. It was important for me to seek inspiration by connecting with nature, so after lunch I took a long walk on a nearby trail.
It’s important to have fun and I spent an hour reading a book that wasn’t related to my research. This might seem counterproductive, but I think reading for pleasure and letting your mind wander can also create bursts of inspiration for new ideas.
The day flew by. Having an at-home writing retreat was highly productive and left me feeling motivated. I completed everything on my list. I wrote more words than expected and even drafted the outline for the next book in my series.
I hope this helps you plan your own at-home writing retreat. Please let me know if you have any questions or just want to chat about your own writing retreat.
Hi, there! So, I bought the audio book for The Heir Affair from Audible. It’s the sequel to The Royal We. Have you read it? It is partially inspired by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but completely fiction. I enjoyed the first book so much. Apparently the whole world did as well, which is why there is a sequel. Hooray for fun sequels!
I’m currently reading The Grimaldis of Monaco. It is so good!! It reads like historical fiction, except it’s all real. Those Princes of Monaco were bad boys. I’m simultaneously reading Paris to the Moon, a collection of essays inspired by the author’s time of living in Paris.
Just for fun, we are changing things up today. Instead of tea, today’s book is paired with a cup of coffee. I am pairing a cup of my husband’s dark roast blend with Square Haunting by Francesca Wade. I’ve talked about this book before and how much the women mentioned in the pages of Square Haunting and their struggles touched me.
I can imagine any of the five women (H.D., Dorothy L. Sayers, Jane Ellen Harrison, Eileen Power and Virginia Wolf) fueling up on many cups of coffee as they pen their works. After all, coffee and writing go hand in hand.
How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for eve with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves
Which beverage would you pair with Square Haunting?
I don’t have any bookish updates to share except that, oops, I did it again. I bought another book in the Penguin Clothbound Classics collection. Sanditon, the unfinished novel by Jane Austen, is en route to moi from a little town called London.
If you need a break from the crappy news on either side of the pond, and really who doesn’t, then allow me to persuade you to get lost within the pages of my bookish blog. Below are this week’s posts.
Hello, there. Welcome to the second portion of my quarterly wrap-up. You can read the first part here.
I listened to To Tempt a Sheikh by Olivia Gates. This was my first time reading Olivia Gates and what I liked the best is that the hero (sheikh) wasn’t an archaic caveman. I plan to read/listen to more of her books.
In a previous post, I wrote about Square Haunting by Francesca Wade. The story of the five women covered in this non-fiction book made an impact on me. If you’re searching for a book about women, feminism and London between the two world wars, then this book is for you. I wrote about my thoughts in a previous blog post. Please consider reading it if you are curious about Square Haunting.
Faberge Treasures from the Kremlin is a small museum guide book I bought at my local library sale for $1.00. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas hosted an exhibit titled “Faberge: Treasures from the Kremlin.” The treasures traveled to Las Vegas from the Kremlin and were (mostly) Faberge creations of royal provenance. They were discovered in 1990 during the renovation of a house in Moscow. Though the book features exquisite photography of the jewels and decorative art pieces, what piqued my curiosity is the person who hid them. Did they plan to sell the treasures once the revolution was over? But since freedom never really came, did it dawn on that person that a sale would never be possible? Was the hiding spot forgotten after the jewel-taker’s death? I’ll never know the truth, but I have already concocted a story in my writer’s mind which I will share with you someday soon.
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey is a novella easily read over a weekend. The story takes place during the course of a wedding day and focuses on the bride. Unfortunately the bride is not marrying the man she loves (not a spoiler). I found it poignant and somewhat funny. The insightful dialogue kept me gripped from the first page to the last. Admittedly, the story left me feeling sad.
Waiting by Jane Odiwe is a short story inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion. In a previous blog post I described it like eating chocolate, short and sweet. The story takes place right after the end of Persuasion where we find a nervous Captain Wentworth and Anne awaiting permission for their marriage from Anne’s father.
A Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte by Alexandra Deutsch and Betsy Bonaparte by Helen Jean Burn are two well-researched, well-written biographies of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte. Madame Bonaparte of Baltimore was the spouse of Jerome Bonaparte, youngest brother to Napoleon Bonaparte. Unfortunately for the young couple, who were madly in love with each other, Napoleon had their marriage annulled. Jerome, being accustomed to the finer things in life, didn’t want to be cut off by his brother so he caved and married Princess Catherine of Württemberg. Napoleon made Jerome the King of Westphalia. Elizabeth Bonaparte spent the rest of her life seeking recognization and a title for their son, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte. Fascinating woman, fascinating story, sad ending depending on who you are or whose side you are on.
It is difficult to sit down and write about what made me happy in June. It’s selfish and out of touch because June was an awful month for most of us. We are grappling with a deadly pandemic and systematic racism. Among a thousand other problems. And I won’t lie, I’m feeling a touch of depression because I feel helpless. Nothing seems to ever change…but I’ll try to remain hopeful. Don’t worry, I’ll do more than keep hope alive. I’ll vote. And I’ll continue to be vocal. And I’ll continue to donate to the causes that fight injustice.
I do feel it’s healthy to try to focus on a few good things, but out of respect for what our country is going through, I won’t wax poetic about it. I’ll be brief. Here we go: in June, I bought new books, went on several garden walks, listened to The Great Courses (highly recommend) via Audible and my library app, picked up library books and of course enjoyed every cup of steaming morning tea. So I think the moral here is that it’s the little things in life, the small moments of happiness.
I very much hope you had a few small moments of happiness too and I’d love to read them, if you’d like to share in the comments. I hope you have a great Friday and a wonderful new month.
I’m not sure how good June was to you, but I sure hope July will treat you better. Remember, wear a mask, wash your hands and stay safe! Here is a mix of reading links, not all are related to one or the other, but interesting nonetheless.
What Is Owed. “As we focus on police violence, we cannot ignore an even starker indication of our societal failures: Racial income disparities today look no different than they did the decade before King’s March on Washington.” A very powerful essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones for The New York Times.
Happy Canada Day to my Canadian friends. Canada and Canada Day will always have a special place in my heart because once upon a time after returning home to the US from Montreal (during Canada Day weekend) I met my husband. Le sigh.
This year is quickly becoming the year I bought the most books. Let’s start with Mrs Harris Goes to Paris. I won’t lie, I bought it because of the adorable title. Luckily, the plot is just as cute. This edition contains two novellas, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris and Mrs Harris Goes to New York. Mrs. Harris is a Londoner and senior citizen who travels to Paris simply to buy a Dior dress. I’d love to own a vintage Dior dress myself, so I can sympathize with Mrs. Harris. It’ll make for a fun summer read.
I also received in the mail the latest book in my Persephone Books subscription, The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. It was written in 1924 and takes place in a small town in America. The premise of the story is that after the husband and father of the family hurts himself and becomes wheel-chair bound, his wife takes a position at a department store to support the family. The father then becomes the home-maker. It was written in a period where it wasn’t normal for men to stay home and raise children. I also learned that the term “home-maker” is an American term not used in the UK. Persephone Books lists it as a feminist book but is quick to note that Dorothy Canfield Fisher did not consider herself a feminist. I’m grateful that I learned about her through Persephone Books. Even though she was a prolific writer in her day, I had never heard of her, nor did we study her in school and college.
After hearing Miranda Mills of Miranda’s Notebook review The Almanac Journal by Lia Leendertz, I had to buy it. It’s a journal where you record your thoughts and notes on the firsts of every season. Such as when you notice the first rose, the first snow, the first anything. The idea of the journal is to help you enjoy and appreciate nature.
The last book on my list is not a book. It’s a book of stickers, The Antiquarian Sticker Book. It was definitely a splurge (for me) and I could easily live without it, but I really wanted it. The stickers are gorgeous. I plan to use them on letters, cards and in my planner.
The book itself is a beautiful hardback. It contains over 1000 stickers, all themed in the Victorian era style. I’m very happy with it.