It was a dream come true to speak in Paris at the American Library. Read on, in today's story column. (Picture taken with my camera after the speaking event, as Jean-Marc and I walked back to our hotel.)
jalon (le jah-lohn) noun, masculine
A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse
The night before last I stood outside the American Library in Paris thanking the woman who had discovered my blog in 2005 and contacted editor Amanda Patten, in New York, who eventually offered to publish my "Words in a French Life"* through Simon and Schuster.
Out there on the wet library curb the Paris skies had stopped pouring, the rain had subsided -- and so had a lifetime of fear inside of me. I was overjoyed and presently thanking Ann for more than discovering my writing. For, this time around, Ann was helping me to discover the ability to express words off paper. Little did Ann know what a milestone--quel jalon*--this was for me to parler en publique*... and now that the author event in Paris is over, I can finally admit to a big secret:
I passed out the first time I spoke publicly.
And one more secret:
I passed out the second time (years later), too!
Back then, before an audience of peers, my heart began to thump wildly, my skin began to cry a light coat of cowardice, my bones beat (as if they had hearts of their very own) beneath my now soaking skin, and my head clouded up, only to spin... Next thing I knew I was staring at the blurry ceiling above me, my head having hit the floor.... J'étais tombée dans les pommes!*
I have avoided public speaking ever since.
But when Ann contacted me about the Paris speaking event, back in June, I made a decision that I was not going to let this fear control me any longer -- or keep me from enjoying the opportunities that have come my way (though I had spoken in Paris once before, before a group of writers, I have canceled speaking events in France, and avoided them back in the States).
Motivated now to move beyond my crippling fear, I enlisted a coach: Coach Conchita to be exact.
Coach Conchita (a.k.a. "Mom," who lives in Mexico) and I practiced for one intensive week before the event. Coach Conchita, if she had been present in person (our sessions took place via internet and over the phone) would have been wearing a felt fedora with a lengthy purple feather, a leopard poncho, and spurs on her polished boots, that is -- if she had had the luxury -- but luxury (in the material sense, for Mom's spirit is solid gold) left her some time ago. Lately she is trying to keep afloat after the swine flu fiasco which has brought ruin to her fellow compatriots and to herself.
To keep her thoughts and mind off this trying time, Mom generously threw all of her energies into forming me and there began her own signature boot camp ... for would-be speakers who, by fear, have cramped.
During Coach's colorful sessions, I drank in her every word, practiced her every point. I did this religiously as my Coach's name might imply: Coach Conchita, who had set me free 41 years ago, was about to send me on my way again and I went willingly with an enthusiastic amen!
I wanted so badly to overcome the angoisse.* I was motivated, finally. But when Coach ordered me to film my practice episodes, I almost balked. I didn't want to see my nerves on film (just as one hates to hear one's voice on tape). Mom persevered, giving me instructions on how to hold up... and how not to cower down. Her advice was so fun and funny that I almost forgot my fears. Some of her tips:
(Mom writes): First of all I want you to jump up and down about ten times before you even come onto the screen - I want to see color in your cheeks and feel life!
Pretend you have had 3 glasses of wine and you are telling a new friend the story. Speak to just one friend you want to entertain with this story - glitter and giggle and smile and laugh.
LET YOURSELF GO!
Let down all of the screens you are hiding behind and... LET IT RIP !!!!
Coach Conchita offered many golden tips and I followed them all to the T until I could not wait to pass this latest life test -- and try out my new orator's ailes.*
Finally, it would be ungrateful of me not to share a remarkable remedy that worked for me:
I prayed that panic right out of my little heart...
Comments are welcome and appreciated! Click here to respond to this post. Thanks, again, to Ann Mah (please see Ann's forthcoming novel) and the équipe at the American Library, for the warm welcome. Thanks also to Catherine Sanderson, who spoke at this event about her books (Petite Anglaise and French Kissing). Catherine was brave to show up (she is due to have her second child any day now). Best wishes to the family.
The Puppy Profiles continue...
Five of Braise's puppies found homes, but our golden girl put her foot down when it came time to give away the only boy. (Well, that's my story, anyway...) The fact is, we had always hoped to keep one of the babies.
Meet "Smokey" (who was to be named "Jackson"... until the kids met another Golden Retriever on our vacation in Austria. Its owner explained how she came to name her golden "Smokey":
"My husband is a fireman," she said.
There are no pompiers in our family, but that didn't keep us from warming to the Austrian woman's story... and to the name Smokey.
Herbes de Provence (Special for Pizza) in Crock:
Herbes picked in Provence with a blend of Oregano, Thyme, Basil & Marjoram
Pre de Provence Lavender Soap. Imported from France: Pré de Provence, literally translated, means "Meadow of Provence." Transport yourself there with this triple milled
Tune Up Your French :
This book is structured around numerous key areas for improvement, covering everything from tricky grammatical structures to gestures, slang, and humor.
Map of French Cheese (Fromages de France) on Printed Towel:
Printed with a map showing France through their famous cheeses
A Message from Kristi: For twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety