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Holiday progress report: I haven't begun to look for the santons (pictured last year)--and the box of ornaments is still waiting to be unpacked. Doubtful things will come together this season, but I do know where to find the recipe for this cake! Meantime, a story for you today about writing... and how to tell all those stories you've got up your sleeve--in one fell swoop

laquelle (lah-kel)

    : which

  • Laquelle is the feminine form of "lequel."
  • la raison pour laquelle = the reason for which
  • dans laquelle = in which

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Il faut écrire une histoire--mais laquelle?
(I) need to write a story--but which one?

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Some nights I am badgered by that old foe, Angoisse. I know I'm not alone, that all over the world people are anxious about tomorrow. For some that may be a school exam, for others, a nagging problem at work or a visit with the doctor. For me, it is the blank page. What will I write about tomorrow?


I've trained myself to not think too much about the next day's effort. Why cut short today? Tomorrow will take care of itself! This is especially true regarding creative pursuits: best not to plan too much, otherwise you are forcing the scene. For what if--instead of your sled of huskies--a team of reindeer comes dancing onto the stage? IN A SLEIGH!

One must always be open to reindeer!

Still, I like to have a few tricks up my sleeve before firing up my computer and facing a giant and empty screen. So in the middle of the night I sometimes wake up--nagged by my familiar tormentor. Her name is "Laquelle" and her mission is to turn me back into a wall-starer, instead of the writer I've become.

Laquelle (or "which" in French--and boy is she ever one of those!) likes to taunt me with her namesake question, "Which one? Which story you gonna tell today, Big Shot?" She snaps her gum and waits for my answer.

And I fall for it every time. "I... well I could tell the story about Sunday's photo outing in the town of Céyreste! I could write about how scary it is to point my camera at the buildings after being chewed out by French homeowners. And how, pushing past this fear--lifting my camera to a decorous second story window--I glanced a scene just beneath it: there behind the glass doors of a senior center, a room full of elderly people were smiling sweetly at me--amused by the scene outside their window.  

 "Cute..." interrupts Laquelle, in her sarcastic way. "Anything else up your sleeve? Haven't you got a better story, Ms. Writer?"

"Well, there's the one I've been meaning to tell--tentatively titled "Five Bucks"--about losing my mouth guard in Phoenix. I was sure my sister's sheepdogs ate it... But, giving the dogs the benefit of the doubt, I offered my niece and nephew "5 bucks if you find my tooth guard anywhere in the house!"

Driving the kids to school the next day, my sister inquired about the hunt. "Any luck?"

Hopeful, I turned to have a look at the little faces in the back seat, but all I saw were shaking heads.

"No worries," Heidi said, a mischievous grin on her face. "I'll check the crottes when I clean up the yard!"

"Ew! Yuck! Beurk!" The kids and I cringed.

"Hey," said my sister. "Five bucks is five bucks!"

*    *    *

"That's a disgusting story," Laquelle says, twisting her face. No one wants to hear it--especially at breakfast time!"

"But my sister was only kidding!" I argue. 

Laquelle points to the clock on my nightstand: 2:36 a.m. "Maybe you'll get your act together by tomorrow?"

"Aha! I know one! I could tell about my 16-year-old's good news! As a part of her fashion school curriculum, Jackie was required to find un stage, or internship, at a fashion designer's--one who manufactures their own line of clothing. What luck it was when a good friend put her in touch with a hip boutique in Marseilles. She'll begin her 6-week training this spring!" 

"Is that all you got?" Laquelle, puffed, blowing on her just painted fingernails--and looking horribly bored.

"Well, it's just a sketch--I'd have to fill in all the details. Like how beautiful Jackie looked in her black and white equestrian themed top (a steal at the second-hand shop!), black pants, a thick knitted scarf--her hair tied up in a floppy bun!"

"No one likes a braggy mom," countered Laquelle, who had quit drying her nails in time to catch a great big yawn.

Gosh, it had to be 3 three a.m. by now. As I tossed and turned in bed, haunted by fragments of stories, an idea came at last.

"Knitting! I haven't yet talked about how I relearned to knit on the cruise last month! Another passenger--Celia--and I stopped into a cozy yarn boutique in Rouen, picked out several skeins and a pair of those circular needles. "These will make it easy for you," Celia said, agreeing to teach me. 

This began a series of knitting sessions--held in the ship's cocktail lounge. Julie and Nan joined us and--while other passengers were toasting with champagne--we were clinking needles!"

"But knitting's not cool," Laquelle said, patting me on the head with her still-wet nails. "Why don't you take up silk-screening like your sister-in-law. Now that's cool!"


My questioning put the little devil on my shoulder in defense mode: "Look," Laquelle said, "you want to share a story tomorrow but all you have are a bunch of scraps! Besides, you can't even decide which one to work on. And how do you know that you'll choose the right one?"

For once, Laquelle had a point. Which experience was worth recounting? To answer this question, it would take another, more meaningful question. The Big Question:

Why do you write?

I'm not sure of the answer. For one, I write to entertain--myself and others. In this case, any of the above story fragments could work....

And then I write to record my life. For this, I should choose the story of my daughter's first internship--a milestone! And also the story of "delivery"--in which a room of white-haired spectators smiled and, unbeknownst to them, encouraged a wayward photographer.

The dog-eats-mouthguard and knitting stories are more whimsical. They aren't for everyone, but they are fun and challenging to write. (Yes, for the challenge--perhaps this is one more reason to wake up and face the blank page each day.)

Perhaps it isn't so important to know why we do what we do. What's necessary--truly vital--is to follow that creative urge, to take it to wherever it leads you.

teddy bear window in Ceyreste
What encouraging looks were waiting, inside the senior center just below, as I trained my camera on this window!

To respond to this story, click here. Can you think of more reasons to practice an art? How do you push past your resistance to get started with a project? Which of the above stories would you most like to see developed? Add to the discussion here.

Selected Vocabulary
la crotte = dog doo
beurk! = yuck! 


I'd like to plant some cabbage beneath our window today. Oh, and I'd like the dogs to stop barking at the sheep--they have barked during this entire writing episode! WHOOF WHOOF. WHOOF WHOOF! I can't hear my thoughts! But one more thing I tell myself about writing is this: to persevere amidst the noise and chaos and incessant interruption is a writer's badge of courage! 

A Message from KristiFor 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.

Ways to contribute:
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety