Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart – Shakespeare & Company, Paris

I have now been home from Paris about one and a half weeks. Paris never lasts long enough, does it?!

I thought that by bringing a great nugget of Paris home with me, I would somehow prolong my visit…if only in my head and in my heart. But like being given your favourite treats and attempting to make them last, I have now devoured the last of that great nugget I carried back across the pond with me.

The nugget of which I speak? A book. A tome I thought would last a little longer. A tome I devoured all too quickly!

Shakespeare & Company Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart. This is going down as THE most magical book I ever read. Read isn’t even right…it doesn’t cover what I did. I fell into this book. I immersed myself in this book. So divine, it was!

To think, Michael practically had to twist my arm to get me to buy it during my first visit to the iconically beautiful madhouse of books of love, Shakespeare & Company Bookstore at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, Paris. I hemmed and I hawed. The price would put it somewhere in the vicinity of extravagant as a self-purchase and I really rung my hands over it. Should I? Shouldn’t I? In the end, Michael prevailed. He talked me into purchasing the thing I MOST wanted to purchase in all the store.

I HAVE NO REGRETS. Such a beautiful rambling read through the history of my favourite international bookstore, which also, itself, has a tendency to ramble through space and time.

George Whitman was a formidable presence in the universe. I believed that before opening the book, and I know it now. He was a magician with a gravitational pull that rivaled the universe itself. He was the moon, orchestrating the tides of ‘Tumbleweeds’ in and out of his magical bookstore for decades.

I’ve loved Shakespeare & Company since I first learned about its first incarnation, created by Sylvia Beach and found at 12 rue de l’Odéon. George Whitman was the perfect successor of the name (Whitman changed the name of the current day Shakespeare & Company from Le Mistral in 1964). He carried with him the same kind of generosity of heart and spirit as his predecessor.

Here’s the description of the book from Amazon:

A copiously illustrated account of the famed Paris bookstore on its 65th anniversary

This first-ever history of the legendary bohemian bookstore in Paris interweaves essays and poetry from dozens of writers associated with the shop–Allen Ginsberg, Anaïs Nin, Ethan Hawke, Robert Stone and Jeanette Winterson, among others–with hundreds of never-before-seen archival pieces, including photographs of James Baldwin, William Burroughs and Langston Hughes, plus a foreword by the celebrated British novelist Jeanette Winterson and an epilogue by Sylvia Whitman, the daughter of the store’s founder, George Whitman. The book has been edited by Krista Halverson, director of the newly founded Shakespeare and Company publishing house.

George Whitman opened his bookstore in a tumbledown 16th-century building just across the Seine from Notre-Dame in 1951, a decade after the original Shakespeare and Company had closed. Run by Sylvia Beach, it had been the meeting place for the Lost Generation and the first publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses. (This book includes an illustrated adaptation of Beach’s memoir.) Since Whitman picked up the mantle, Shakespeare and Company has served as a home-away-from-home for many celebrated writers, from Jorge Luis Borges to Ray Bradbury, A.M. Homes to Dave Eggers, as well as for young authors and poets. Visitors are invited not only to read the books in the library and to share a pot of tea, but sometimes also to live in the bookstore itself–all for free.

More than 30,000 people have stayed at Shakespeare and Company, fulfilling Whitman’s vision of a “socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore.” Through the prism of the shop’s history, the book traces the lives of literary expats in Paris from 1951 to the present, touching on the Beat Generation, civil rights, May ’68 and the feminist movement–all while pondering that perennial literary question, “What is it about writers and Paris?”

If you want to read an extraordinary moving history of one of the world’s most astonishing bookstores, you need to have this book in your life. It would also make a fantastic present for the literary lover in your life. I know I’m going to cherish my copy forever. Now that I’ve read it, I know with certainty that is a book that will give me much joy in future re-readings. I could not put it down. Wandering through its pages felt much the same as wandering through the crooked little rooms and alcoves and mystery spaces splattered with books and things inside Shakespeare & Company itself.

You can purchase this wild ride through history directly through the Shakespeare & Co Online Bookstore!!

Hemingway’s Paris – Immersive Writing Retreat on the Left Bank!

The Left Bank Writers Retreat – Writing At Hemingway’s Favorite Spots in Paris!

The 2014 Left Bank Writers Retreat faculty and students, of which I was a student. From their website header, this photo was taken by Sarah Suzor. We’re posing in front of Les Deux Magots.

(Full Disclosure: I have no affiliation with Left Bank Writers Retreat. I am merely a past participant who thoroughly enjoyed and cherished the experience given to me by the retreat.)

It appears that the 2022 Left Bank Writers Retreat is a go!

If you or someone in your family would love nothing more than to tour Hemingway’s Paris while going deeper with your writing craft in the midst of the city of love and light, look no further than the Left Bank Writers Retreat!

The knowledgeable faculty are not only experts in the craft of writing, but they’ll immerse you fully into the Paris that Hemingway knew as an expat writer back in the day when he lived and wrote in Paris. And they’re all lovely people you will immediately feel comfortable with as they guide you through your Paris experience.

For me, being a first time visitor to Paris, I was immediately at ease in the presence of the LBWR faculty! You really get a sense that they’re taking care of all the details. Even those evenings when the students are left to their own devices, the faculty is at the ready to answer any questions you may have prior to your individual adventuring.

Visit Hemingway’s haunts, lunch together, explore museums, be guided through neighborhoods that come to life with your LBWR guides! I really can’t say enough about how wonderful my experiences were with this retreat. I think of it fondly and often…these seven years on since participating.

Visit their site for all the details:

LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT

Next retreat is June 11-17, 2022!

There is still time to register, either for yourself or for a family member (should you be looking for the perfect Christmas Gift!).

From the front page of the website, a little rundown:

Eight writers will spend a week immersed in new experiences in the magical setting of Paris’s Left Bank. Part writers workshop, part tour of Paris, The Left Bank Writers Retreat is for anyone who would like to break out of a writing rut and build momentum in their work. Will you be one of the 2022 Left Bank Writers?

Cost: $1,999 includes morning workshops, breakfast, lunch each day at a fabulous restaurant, snacks,
museum passes, literary tours, Seine boat ride, Metro tickets and a farewell dinner celebration.

This retreat will enrich your writing life and give you a lifetime of memories. I cannot recommend it enough!

LBWR on FACEBOOK

Retreat Schedule

About Page – Introducing the Faculty

Head on over to the Left Bank Writers Retreat website now, so you can head on over to the Left Bank come June 2022!

Paris in Autumn – Ooh, to Live Deeper in the City of Love and Light!

Shakespeare & Company, my favourite international “local” bookstore. 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, Paris, France. Me, sitting on a bench in one of my sacred places.

We just returned from Paris after a week in the city of light. I always feel changed after Paris, as though the light has somehow found a way to get inside. Paris is food for the soul.

The last time I visited Paris was with the Left Bank Writers Retreat. It was just as magical this time around. I wonder if one sees Paris for the first time every time one visits. I intend to find out! I hope to go back again one day…

A poem I wrote after my first trip to Paris, with the Left Bank Writers Retreat. Nina and I became fast friends and went out to explore Paris together in our free time! A moveable feast it was! This poem was included in the beautiful yearbook created by LBWR faculty member Travis Cebula.

I was recently asked by one of my fave YouTubers (LivDeeper10x–check out their channel here!) what was ONE thing I was going to do this month to LIVE DEEPER. My first response was VISIT PARIS. But visiting a place isn’t enough, is it? That doesn’t bring us deeper. Not in and of itself. It is not going to a place that brings one deeper. It is what we bring back of the place that causes us to live deeper, is it not? And I don’t mean the trinkets and bits and bobs.

I carry with me now such memories!

Michael and I decided early on that we would rely only on our feet to take us to all the places we wanted to see in Paris, to immerse ourselves into the Paris streets and see all the things along the way to those places.

After clocking close to 180km on foot, I think it’s safe to say we accomplished what we set out to do. We did not see it all, we did not do it all. But we found magic in the things we did see and do.

On our first evening there, we visited Sacré-Cœur Basilica…the sacred heart of Paris, up on the hill in Montmartre. After climbing it’s impossible spiral staircase to the top, we took in the city from its lofty heights. It spread before us like a treasure waiting to be explored!

I cannot decide my favourite neighborhood of Paris. They all clamor for attention and adoration. But I do know Montmartre holds a special place in my Bohemian writer/painter/artist heart!

We wandered slowly up to the city’s sacred heart, in order to take in some of the beauty along the way…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Such a unique neighborhood! But then again, they are all unique.

Our first full day in Paris, we booked the Tower and the Louvre. We hadn’t seen the tower yet, so we made our way there by foot.

This shot taken shortly after Michael’s first glimpse of the Tower on his first trip to Paris!
Trocadéro, in the shadow of the Tower, from the top of the Tower.
Atop the Tower together for the first time!

It is not the going to a place that causes one to live deeper. It’s what you get out of the going. It’s the memories you create and cherish. I will probably be talking about Paris for a while here on the blog. We covered a lot of ground! We carried back a lot of memories with us. We went deep! From the Tower to the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe to the Catacombes to Père Lachaise Cemetery to Les Deux Magots to La Closerie des Lilas to Jules Verne Restaurant to Musée d’Orsay to Musée de l’Orangerie to Versailles to Giverny and Monet’s house and gardens to the Moulin Rouge to Sacré-Cœur to Notre Dame to Shakespeare & Company to Luxembourg Gardens and beyond! We walked the walk. We stood breathless in front of Monets and Picassos and Manets and Renoirs and Van Goghs. We held our breath in front of Rodins and lost our breath on spiral staircases going down below the city and up above it!

Paris will always be a city that inspires all to LIVE DEEPLY. You cannot take it in without being changed by the experience. My one thing that I did in October to live deeper? I carried an entire city across a vast ocean and continue to carry it close to me now.

We each contain multitudes of universes. They are there inside us, waiting always to be pondered and re-experienced. This is why we carry those universes with us. For those quiet moments we need amidst the hectic ones. If we stop the noise and the chaos of our everyday workaday lives for just a moment–just long enough to breathe a little deeper–to sigh alongside a memory of walking the banks of the Seine with the one you love…then you have an oasis inside of you from which to draw your strength. We live deeply in the moments so that we may always revisit them when we need to refill the well.

Going places is the easy part. Bringing places back with you? As long as you remember to do so, you’ll have them with you always. This is the living deeper part…stopping to capture those moments for future ponderance, epiphanies and joy.

Until our next adventures, we’ll always have Paris!

Don’t know what we were looking at here, but this is Paris! Accidental Photography, happy moment…
Monet’s Garden in October…still breathless to see in Autumn.

Visit Youtubers LivDeeper10x to discover their living deeper vlogs as they travel the world!

Published
Categorized as Paris, Travel

When Paris is Possible – A Journal of Paris…

When I want to manifest something, I first bring it to life on my blog. For those paying attention, I always do this. I’ve become predictable, even.

Sometimes these notions I have first appear in my Twitter feed. And then I feel the need to solidify them by writing about them on my blog. It’s called accountability and it’s a way to hold myself to task. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Dollarama has such cute journals!

This is how my last novel, The Camino Club came about. At first, I dreamed it. Then I tweeted about my idea. And then, while I was preparing to walk my first Camino in 2014, I blogged about it. It was a kernel of an idea. So in order to hold myself accountable, I put out into the world that I would write a YA novel set on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path.

That novel was published by Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press, in 2020. Ask me about launching a book during a pandemic. You know what, on second thought…don’t ask me. Nobody should have to do that!

Anyway, I’m also famous for digressing. Today I want to hold myself accountable for a new idea.

My dream this time is to release a journal of our upcoming short trip to Paris. It will only be a week in Paris…but a week is enough if you’re fast of your toes. Paris is a moveable feast. But it’s also a well constructed easily traversed city that’s perfectly laid out for the hiker and consummate walker. That happens to be what Michael and I are. We will take that city by storm, one footstep at a time…and we will cover it all!

And I will keep a daily journal. And if all goes according to plan, I will publish it. The only other thing I ever self-published was my short story set on the Camino called Light Near the End of the World. So this will be my 2nd journey into that world.

My short story set on the Camino.

I don’t have a plan, but I will write about the places we visit in Paris and how we got to those places. And I will write about food and restaurants and cafes and macarons and baguettes. I will cover everything that strikes my fancy. We’ll see how this goes.

I will probably start writing in the journal before I even get to Paris. This will be a personal account of ONE JOURNEY. We’re traveling during a pandemic and we’re getting to Paris via Iceland. I mean, anything can happen, right? We’ll see if we get there…and if and when we do, I’m sure I’ll have lots to write about.

I’m ready. With my Dollarama journal and the lovely bookmark I picked up somewhere along the way as its traveling companion, I will take notes on our Parisienne travels.

I hope this goes well! I’m so passionate about Paris. It appears in many of my short stories, and I am also currently writing a YA novel that takes place there. Wrapped somewhere in the reasoning for returning to Paris–one of my favourite cities in the world–is the excuse of doing some extra research for my novel in progress. But honestly, I just love it there so much. I want Michael to see it…and I want to see it again for the first time, through his eyes.

My Paris journal, with a Camino bookmark I received with an Etsy purchase.

Just over 40 days before our departure. Let’s hope the Delta Variant doesn’t keep us from our already postponed (we originally planned Paris for September, 2020) trip to the beautiful city of light!

Paris on Foot, by Hook or by Crook

100 Days.

That is the amount of days between US and our Paris arrival.

If the universe allows it, that is.

Michael and I are booked.

In today’s pandemic times, of course, ANYTHING can happen between now and then. Especially with this new special fuckery known as the Delta variant.

As of this writing, borders are open to double-vaxxed travelers and re-entry is allowed. Is it wise? That is the question I keep asking myself. Over and over and over again.

But by hook or by crook, we are destined for Paris.

And this excursion will include miles and miles and miles of…WALKING. Our hotel is about halfway between the Arc de Triomphe and Sacré-Cœur. This gives us hikers immediate walking access to all of the Paris must-see locations. We have one week to visit everything! Our feet got this! WE got this!

Paris is one of those cities–planned or accidental–that are absolutely PERFECT for walking. There’s so much to see in such a tight little circle of interest. We plan to cover every masked-and-socially-distanced inch of it.

The Eiffel viewed from atop the Arc de Triomphe.

I can’t wait to be back there! Since my first trip in 2014, I just feel like Paris is one of those magical places that resonate with me so completely. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I could live in that city and call it home. I’m sure a lot of its visitors say this very same thing. But that’s because it’s true. It’s just one of those cities.

Luxembourg Palace

I intend to take copious notes this time around. Who am I kidding? I ALWAYS intend on taking copious notes…I just never do! This time will be different. I need this information. Both for a novel in progress I’ve been working on…and for another (non-fiction) project I’m tossing about. So this TOTALLY 100% SIGHTSEEING PLEASURE TRIP is going to have a dash of incidental research on the side.

Shakespeare & Company Independent Bookstore

And you can bet your sweet bippy I will be visiting Shakespeare & Company and spending some cash in their store! We all must do our part to keep the Shakey Pear & Co afloat! I want it to be there after the pandemic. You know, you can actually do your part from afar. They did put out a call during the pandemic that they could use support. Here’s a link to their ONLINE STORE. You can even become a member. I will definitely be spending time there, and bringing home a few Shakespearean things with me!

100 Days & Counting. Fingers are crossed for receding numbers in cases and advancing numbers in fully vaccinated people. I can almost smell those cafe au lait and pain au chocolat mornings!

The countdown is on!

Clipped Wings – When Wanderlust & Disappointment Collide

Just as I have this deep desire to write a travel memoir, or something along those lines, my ability to travel has been hampered. I was so looking forward to traipsing around Paris this September. I fully planned on journaling everything with the intention to write something of a little memoir of our experiences, too. Just as I had every intention of writing a memoir of our upcoming Caminho Português.

I suppose both are still possible, with the passage of time and good fortune. It would depend both on the pandemic being over and my surviving it. For now, I am just standing here on the corner of Wanderlust and Disappointment–Nowhere to go and a deep unsettling urge to get there.

But I’m not a patient person. I was gung ho to finally dabble in the world of travel memoir that I have fallen so deeply in love with. I planned to cover all my tracks in Paris this year. And to fully record every step of our Camino experience in the less traveled Portugues Way next year. And now it’s gone…for now. Lost to this coronavirus that will not go away.

I know these are first world problems, that we should be happy enough just to avoid infection, but as the day of our intended departure nears it is a pain made more raw. We were to fly to Paris on Friday September 4th. We were to be in the beautiful City of Light for my 54th birthday on the 13th. I was to scrawl our experiences with intention, possibly while sitting in the shadow of Notre Dame…or in the company of Shakespeare and Co. No matter the frivolity of the loss, it is nonetheless a loss.

Shakespeare And Company – Antiquarian Books. Paris, France.

Now, what happens? Do we push Paris forward a year and hope the pandemic ends? Do we walk the Camino next year and bump Paris? Do we plan something altogether different? Do we make no plans and hope only to survive?

Au Marché de la Butte – Paris (France) as featured in the movie Amélie.

There will be no travel memoir writing, at any rate. Not while our wings are clipped and we are stuck on the ground. This is my whiny post of negativity. It’s been a long time coming. People are dying and I’m complaining about not being able to write about the sunset in Paris, or how the books in the poetry section of Shakespeare and Co smell. Or how a macaroon always tastes better in Paris—when it carries with it that extra O, and the meringue is made in France. I’m bitter about my inability to partake in travel-writing while others deal with heartache and despair.

A chandelier I found in Napoleon’s Apartments inside the Louvre. Paris, France.

Is it just me, or is everyone getting tired of this pandemic? I’m glad to be healthy, and to have avoided it thus far. And I’m glad that nobody I know has gotten sick. If we all do our part and practice social distancing and mask wearing…who knows? Maybe it WILL pass. Maybe there will be travel inside the World of After. It seems so bleak right now, our future. Sometimes I feel like I was just getting started. And now that I have the desire to talk about it, to write it down…I am unable to move.

Sacré-Cœur, Paris, France…in the heart and the summit of Montmartre.

I know Paris will be there. And so will the coast of Portugal. With any luck, so too will I. And if and when the time comes that we once again board a plane and disappear into adventure…a journal will come with me. And I will tell it every little thought I have while I’m away.

Standing at the top of Arc de Triomphe. Paris, France. 2014.

In the meantime, I suppose it’s time to cozy up with a book that has already been there among the wanderlust and roaming. There are plenty of books on travel out there, just waiting to be explored. No tickets or packing needed.

“When the wind is blowing and the sleet or rain is driving against the dark windows, I love to sit by the fire, thinking of what I have read in books of voyage and travel.”— Charles Dickens

Paris – ‘Research’ in the Wandering City of Light

Someone asked me recently if I did research, and if so…how much and in what way. Like a lying liar I said, “Nah…I just make shit up.”

It was only after I gave that off the cuff reply that I realized I do research every single time I go away. I research places…I find new settings. Travel is my research.

I first met Paris in the Springtime. Oh, what a beautiful time of the year to see such a gorgeous city come alive.

There’s something about beginning a slow wander from the courtyard of the Louvre, taking the Tuileries through to the base of Champs-Élysées, and wandering all the way up the boulevard to the Arc de Triomphe.
And climbing that spiral staircase and stepping outside at the top of the Arc. (YES…the last time I climbed this staircase, it was a mere couple weeks after my first Camino pilgrimage and I did see a seashell formation when I looked down the staircase from above! It all relates…)

20140616_185617
Oh, to see the streets breaking away in an almost wheel from the spoke of the Arc. The lush spring greenery! The buzz of the traffic and the crowds below marching up and down the Champs. It’s just…it’s a place in my heart, that wander.


And it’s such a small portion of the city, really. A couple kilometres at most. And so lovely that one can see the Eiffel Tower in the near distance, like a gift ready to be opened, like a sentinel watching over the city…and the trees crowding the thoroughfares, nesting it all in a quaint little aura of hushed tones.

20140616_190750
The Eiffel Tower, as seen from the top of the Arc de Triomphe (May 2014)

We’re returning to the city of lights and love. Paris in September, I am sure, will have such a different but equally magical vibe. I tend to think of it as a city of wandering. What city is better to walk in, explore, get lost in? It’s like it was made for lazy afternoon strolls and meanderings.

There is the slightly crippled cathedral, and the pretty walkabouts of the Seine. Shakespeare and Company in the shadow of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris…just waiting to be explored…the smell of old books and older legends wafting through the air like a literary elixir summoning all those wanderers who love the written word.

20140616_153107

And I can’t forget Montmartre, the village in the heart of the city. A day trip for sure! For the views of the city from Sacré-Cœur alone, it is worth the trip!

Also, I have such fond memories of writing with my fellow LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT participants in Luxembourg Gardens in the shadow of the Luxembourg Palace! I will have to revisit!

We’ll be heading to some of the sights I didn’t quite make it to on my first visit. Like Père Lachaise Cemetery and the Catacombes de Paris. And hopefully Monet’s Garden and even Palace of Versailles for a day trip. We shall see.
This will be a walking holiday…a wandering meandering outdoor adventure. THIS WILL ALSO VERY MUCH BE A RESEARCH TRIP. I plan on keeping a journal. I have set so many short stories in Paris, but never a novel. It is something I wish to do…though I don’t feel quite familiar enough with the landscape to tackle it as of yet. After this trip, I hope to attempt it. I already feel like Paris is MY city. I imagine most who visit Paris have that feeling of belonging that I experienced the moment I first set foot in Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île. I knew right away it had my heart.

Do I research? Nah. I just make shit up. But in the near future, I hope to have a novel where all the made up shit takes place in Paris.

See you in September my dear city…

Sling Some Ink in Paris this Fall with Inkslingers!

Right off the top, I want to let you know I am NOT affiliated with Inkslingers in any way (nor am I being incentivized to mention them). I JUST BELIEVE IN THEM AND IN WHAT THEY DO! I wanted to give them a quick shout-out today because Sue Reynolds and James Dewar are incredible writing instructors and you would do well to spend some time with them if you’re looking to ignite your writing life.

20140617_150821.jpg
Picture is mine, but I checked the itinerary – Montmartre is on the itinerary…and it’s where this lovely and iconic pink restaurant is located.

Click the ink bottle below to go directly to the INKSLINGER website:

INK

Sue Reynolds was one of my first contacts with the WCDR. In my early days in the organization, I attended a writing group led by Sue at the Uxbridge Library. It really served to kick-start the writing life I was bursting to slip into. She and James Dewar (another writing mentor who did a lot to boost my love of poetry) are leading a writing retreat in beautiful PARIS this fall. Although, sadly, I will be missing it…it REALLY is something you should consider doing for your writing life. Both Sue and James are wonderful nurturing writing coaches…and did I mention PARIS?!

20140616_153107
Across the way from Notre Dame, Shakespeare & Company is a MUST SEE bookstore in the very heart of Paris. Inkslingers will take you there!

FROM INKSLINGERS:

Visit Paris as more than just a tourist. Engage with this important city as a literary traveler experiencing it through the words of the great writers who have called it home; and then reflect on your own reactions and experience daily in our inspiring workshops.

Travel in the safety and community of other writers and artists on our exclusive tour bus. Stay at a four-star hotel with easy access to The Metro for setting out on personal or small group excursions.

Sue and James will be joined in Paris by Kate Marshall Flaherty. You can learn about KATE HERE.

INKSLINGERS IN PARIS takes place Oct. 26th to Nov. 3rd

The itinerary looks exquisite. You will visit Père Lachaise Cemetery, House of Victor Hugo, Place de Vosages, Bibliotheque Mazarine, The Musee d’Orsay, The Rodin Museum, Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur Basilica, Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, the Catacombs… and SO MUCH MORE.

HERE’S THE FULL ITINERARY.

Check out the details at the INKSLINGERS website now! Don’t wait, because they are offering an EARLYBIRD DISCOUNT until June 15th. ALSO, for my American readers…pricing is in CDN dollars so you will be further discounted by the exchange.

Honestly, you couldn’t be in more capable hands. Inkslingers are passionate about what they do and they do it tremendously well.

CLICK HERE TO VISIT INKSLINGERS AND LEARN ALL ABOUT THEIR PARIS RETREAT

inks

Beauty’s Religion and it Christens Me with Wonder

“There are places I’ll remember all my life…” ~ In My Life, The Beatles (Rubber Soul)

nd20.jpg

When I consider the lyrics of And If Venice Is Sinking by the Spirit of the West, I inevitably think of places like Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. “‘Cause beauty’s religion and it’s christened me with wonder.” Not only is Notre Dame the very heart of one of the world’s most beloved cities, but it is also smack dab at the Point Zero mark of that city. There is an octagonal brass plate embedded in the ground just outside the front doors of Notre Dame. It’s marked, “POINT ZERO – DES ROUTES DE FRANCE”. The point from which all places are measured. If the heart is at the centre, then this would be the literal heart of Paris.

nd4.jpg

When I was in Paris in 2014 for the Left Bank Writers Retreat, I stayed just down the street from the iconic Catholic cathedral… on Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île. I made it a point to walk by–to touch–the cathedral every single day I was in Paris. I discovered that if you go just after sunrise, you can beat the throngs that appear and line up outside its front doors for the remainder of the day. You could have the entire inside of the cathedral virtually to yourself. This is what I did. And it was lovely. I was able to walk through the history housed in the massive cathedral at my own pace and marvel at the myriad of relics found under it impressive roof. And instead of feeling ill at ease by all the watching eyes of the gargoyles looking down from above, I felt protected. They were patrolling the heart of Paris, keeping everything in their arrondissement safe. And who was I to question that? They had been looking down on Paris for 750 years, give or take. Those gargoyles? They are my saints. They are enough religion for me.

nd15

Our Lady of Paris suffered another setback yesterday, but she will rise again. She always does. She has, after all, survived even the French Revolution.

 

 

nd
Notre-Dame in the spring of 2014.

Inside Notre-Dame, I found a model of Notre-Dame. I hope they removed it before the most recent restoration project began.

nd12.jpg

In 1831 Victor Hugo featured Our Lady in his famous literary masterpiece The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. This is how I fell in love with the cathedral. I found her in a book.

The preface of Hugo’s book explains how graffiti was its catalyst…one word–ANArKH–engraved by hand into the wall in Notre Dame. That always shook me. It stayed with me…the spark that created a masterpiece. I could visualize that becoming, that blossoming, that eruption of creativity. It’s how ideas come to writers. It’s remarkable that we get a glimpse into this secret insight in the preface of Hugo’s book. It, in itself, is a gift. Anyway, the end of the preface is as follows:

“The man who wrote that word upon the wall disappeared from the midst of the generations of man many centuries ago; the word, in its turn, has been effaced from the wall of the church; the church will, perhaps, itself soon disappear from the face of the earth. It is upon this word that this book is founded. March, 1831.”

Being a character in a novel has its perks. For Notre-Dame, the biggest perk became renewed interest and, ultimately, a restoration—which saw the addition of the iconic spire that toppled yesterday in a fire. That spire took many hearts with it when it fell into the flames. But don’t lose hope. Vive la France, Vive Paris, Vive Notre Dame. She will rise again. It may take some time, but she will do it. She sits inside the literal heart of a great nation and she is that great nation’s heart. They won’t let her die.

NYC Midnight – Round Two and Me!

20140620_201108
The entrance stairs to my third floor flat in Paris in Rue St Louis.

I honestly can’t believe this, but I get to move forward to ROUND 2 of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2019! The first cut of this challenge is the deepest. It just went from over 4,500 writers to only 750 writers in the 2nd round. Just after midnight last night (or, I suppose, this morning) the Round 1 results were posted. Not only did I make the Top 5 in my heat, but I made FIRST PLACE. I know, I’m just as flabbergasted as you are! But after I read the results three (or four, or five) times, I decided I was reading them correctly. It’s right there in black and white, come what may…

nyc

I have been writing short stories quite a lot lately, and they’re always set in cities that I have visited in the past few years. I decided not to stray from that theme with this one. I guess it’s working. My heat in round one had 3 stipulations. The genre had to be DRAMA, it had to involve PET-SITTING in some form or another and one of the characters had to be a FIANCEE. I wrote a story from the perspective of the apartment I actually stayed in while in Paris in 2014. I had the good fortune of being told by the hotel concierge when I arrived at my hotel on Rue St. Louis on the Island that they had a special apartment down the street. He said, “You’re a writer, no? We would like to give you the full experience!” He took me for a walk down the street and showed me a top floor flat with a view to a courtyard below. As if he was afraid I would say no and demand to be taken back to the hotel, he offered me a daily discount to stay in the incredible flat. He had me at hello. I saw the woman downstairs while I was staying in that flat. I put her in my pocket, knowing I would use her at a later date. Thanks to the NYC Midnight challenge, because the prompts called her willowy ghost back into existence.

20140620_201122
See those three windows at the very top? That’s where I called home when I was in Paris. They looked down into the closed circular courtyard below. And…maybe into a few of the windows below, too. (-;

I’m stunned, really…so so happy and excited too. I can’t wait for the next round, even though it terrifies me. I can work around the other stipulations, it’s the genre challenge I fear the most. I tend to stay in my lane as a reader and as a writer…which means I could definitely miss some of the subtle nuances of quite a few of the potential genres I could find myself facing. I shudder to think!

And I won’t have long to worry about the gunshot that goes off and sends a scary genre-bullet my way. THURSDAY AT MIDNIGHT—that’s when I’ll receive the 2nd round challenge. And the 750 writers still alive in this challenge will have 72 hours to submit their 2000 word stories for the next round of judging.

paris1
Nina, a dear friend I met while in Paris for the Left Bank Writers Retreat in June 2014. We spent a lot of our free time together, exploring all of Paris on foot. This is us atop the Arc de Triomphe.

Here’s what the 2nd Round officially looks like:

nyc2

I’m so thrilled that I held on to that woman these 5 years. When I run across my potential characters in real life, they sort of haunt me relentlessly until I get them on the page. She was particularly insistent. She’s free now. And I thank her from the bottom of my heart, both for sticking around and for pinch-hitting when I needed her most. Cheers to the woman downstairs in Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, Paris! I am eternally grateful for ‘meeting’ you.

GOOD LUCK TO MY 749 FELLOW ROUND TWO WRITERS! Full disclosure: Every July I travel up to Huntsville, Ontario for the 72hr Muskoka Novel Marathon. That’s right…I write an entire novel in 72 hours. I’m ready for this challenge! BRING IT!

%d bloggers like this: