The following letter is an intimate look into la naissance of a certain "thrice-weekly" journal from France. This online blog began in October of 2002 following its earlier pen-and-paper beginnings—as letters that were sent via snail mail to a group of beta readers: my family and friends! For this opening story-letter, I have chosen a Wild West theme, one that seems fitting, considering my southwestern roots. Though I left the Phoenix desert half a life ago, a part of my heart forgot to board that plane to France.
In October of deux mille deux I began a website, a vitrine of sorts, for my writing. I put up a few published stories, a bio and un livre d'or, and waited beside my virtual mailbox, ginger ale in hand.
A few tumbleweeds blew past, but no publishers. My address, my website—my writing—remained in a cyber ghost town.
I continued to peddle my words, sending out queries for my stories. I did not sell many.
I thought to offer something to attract editors and publishers, and so I stepped out of my cyber-office and nailed up a sign. It read: "French Word-A-Day." I waited patiently for a customer. More tumbleweeds blew past. No publishers.
I continued to show up at the page, or keyboard, each morning and the stories collected like so many stars over a sleeping desert on a warm summer's night. As for l'espoir, I had that. Still, no publishers came.
But you did.
You must've seen the sign out front. You signed up for French words and accidentally found yourself in my French life. You must have said, "Pourquoi pas?" then pulled up a barstool, ordered a ginger ale, and settled in.
Your presence reassured me. I wrote and wrote and wrote a little more. And mostly I hoped you would not leave town when the next cyber stagecoach passed through. At least not until I figured out what it was I had to say.
Then one day you said: "Thank you for your missives," and I ran to my dictionary to look up that word. You also wrote: "Thank you for your vignettes."
"'Vignettes'! 'Vignettes'!" I giggled, doing a little square dance. I never knew what to call "it" besides an "essay" (which, I felt, was a spiffier term than "diary entry").
Many good months passed with small writing victories, and a former ghost town came to life.
But my joie was short-lived. A menace and a few mean-spirited e-mails arrived. I almost yearned for those tumbleweeds. Instead, I mentioned my soucis in a letter, and suddenly it was Showdown at the French Word-A-Day Corral! You showed up with your posse and told the bandits to get out of town. Then you turned to me and said: "Don't let the !@#& get you down!"
While others don't understand the life of a former desert rat-turned-French housewife-turned-maman and, recently, struggling écrivaine—you do.
At a shop in Draguignan, the vendeuse says: "Your name sounds familiar. What does your husband do?" I fall back into a slump, reminded that what I really am is a pantoufle-footed housewife with a backup of three loads of laundry and a sink full of dirty, mismatched assiettes.
I return home to the dirty dishes and the laundry—and to a letter from a reader, which says: "Thank you for your stories." I sit up straight, dust off my keyboard and am reminded that what I really am is a working writer—if only I will show up at the page, and write, each day.
So, thank you, dear Reader, for helping me to live my dream: for reading my—missives—and for your thoughtful words of support. Although publishers and agents may not be beating down my porte, each time I crack open the door—there you are.
In the new year, I'd like to continue with the stories, expanding the gist of this French Life. I hope you'll stay in town because I have figured out that I do, indeed, have something more to say. In fact, there is so much that I have not yet told you.
And while you know of the light-hearted, bubbly side of this expatriation, Real Life continues to rumble within my writing veins, like a rowdy, drunken saloon girl, wanting to be heard. Only I will need to slap her cheek, pour a bit of cool water over her head, take a tissue to her running mascara and tell her to have faith, that her story will be told, if she will only show up at the page.
May you, too, live your dream in the coming year.
la naissance = birth
Le Coin Commentaires - Story Edits
Update: I am reworking the intro paragraph, check it out, now, and please let me know if you have any edits. Here is the paragraph that I took out:
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety