Archive for the 'Literary/Cultural Paris' Category

Quiet Paris (Giveaway!)

Quiet ParisAs if in answer to my pleas, the sun finally appeared in Paris this week. Starting Sunday, spring burst forth fully formed. The city sighed collective relief.

The long walks I alluded to last post obviously bring even more joy now.

In a bout of perfect timing, I also received a new guidebook that champions the wandering approach. The introduction to Siobhan Wall’s Quiet Paris has her musing: “walking around, I wondered whether we are now less familiar with losing our way and coming across places by benign accident rather than preordained design.”

Wall seeks the calmer side to cities, you see, places off the beaten track. Previously she has produced Quiet London and Quiet Amsterdam. But is it really possible to escape the hustle and bustle in Paris, the world’s most popular tourist destination?

I always approach anything promising a “secret” City of Light with a slice of skepticism. Luckily, this sweet little pocket guide soon swiped away any hesitation. It delivers.

While some old standbys certainly appear (the elevated leafy walkway known as the Promenade Plantee was packed this weekend, for instance; ditto, I imagine, Parc Buttes Chaumont), plenty of entries were new to me (the Musee Bourdelle in the fifteenth? The Bibliotheque Marguerite Durand devoted to French women and feminism?)

Author Siobhan Wall

Author Siobhan Wall

After the elegant intro, the guide is divided into 12 sections: museums, libraries, parks & gardens, places to relax, places to worship, shops, restaurants, cafes, bookshops, galleries, cultural centers, and places to stay. At the end is a handy index of places by arrondissement. There are more than 120 listings in all.

Continue reading ‘Quiet Paris (Giveaway!)’

L’Amour (or less…)

Montmartre, Paris (I love you wall)

One of my favorite things in the world is to play matchmaker.

I’m not responsible for any romantic connections, mind you. But I have fixed up a fair number of friends. A flair for platonic pairings, if you will.

Ah, you’re interested in X? So is my friend Y. Let me introduce you two!

I love putting people together who I think might click.

Not long ago, I introduced my screenwriter/actress friend Jennifer to Alexis, a director/writer, recently moved to Paris from LA. Though I had only met Alexis once before, I knew the alchemy was right for a rendezvous. I arranged that we all go to a vernissage together. (And then eat cheeseburgers afterward. Le classe!)

Long story short, I knew Jennifer and Alexis might hit it off, but I had no idea how much. The past month they (and now a whole cast and crew!) have been hard at work on a new project.

L’Amour (or less…) is a web series that explores what happens when people from two different cultures try to make a romantic connection. Each episode features re-enactments of actual dates between expatriates and the French. Some of the true stories are charming, some are distinctly not, and some are just bizarre.

Let their video here tell you more:

Fittingly, they launched L’Amour (or less…) live in Paris on Valentine’s Day. If you want to see this web series get made, head over to their kickstarter page. They’ve written 12 episodes already, but need some funds to bring the stories to the screen. Why not show them some love?

L’Amour (or less…) kickstarter page.
And the website.

Seeing people go for it; yes this is another one of my favorite things. The idea to collaborate on L’Amour (or less…) sprouted just at the start of January; Jennifer and Alexis have been running full steam ahead ever since. In only a little over a month they’ve assembled a host of talented folks, shot all over the City of Light, and written episodes which I can’t wait to actually see. Kind of dizzying all the activity!

These two remind me: you can decide to just do it. Oh, and I’m reminded, too, of the delight of serendipity. (My favorite word). Of bringing people together. The beauty of momentum. The power of putting your all into a dream.

Now if that’s not a love story, I don’t know what is.

**WIN!** Marc Levy Ebooks + a Long Weekend in Paris!

Marc LevyMarc Levy is the most widely read French author in the world. With 13 published novels in the past 12 years – all #1 bestsellers in France and in many other countries – his books have been translated into 45 languages with nearly 30 million copies sold.

Before his first novel, If Only It Were True, was published in the U.S., Steven Spielberg acquired the film rights for DreamWorks. The subsequent movie,  Just like Heaven, starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo, became a #1 box office hit.

Since that introduction US readers haven’t had easy access to the rest of Levy’s work, however. That is, until now.

International e-book publisher Versilio is now releasing the English translations of Marc Levy’s novels. To celebrate, they’re also running a sweepstakes. First prize is a long weekend in Paris for two, including roundtrip airfare and hotel. I thought y’all might like to know about that!Marc Levy Paris Getaway

Other prizes include an iPad loaded with Marc’s novels. To be entered to win, participants need to answer 5 questions about Marc Levy’s novel All Those Things We Never Said by February 10. Winners will be announced on Valentine’s Day. Head over here to enter!

I’m pleased that the publisher is also offering a free ebook to a lucky paris (im)perfect reader specifically. (That’s you!)

To enter to win a free ebook, just leave a comment by 10 AM EST February 10. I’ll draw a name at random and get your free promo code to you! (Even if you don’t have an ereader, you’ll be able to download the book to your computer, so feel free to enter.) Good luck!

**Please note the comments below are only for the chance to win the ebook. To enter for a chance to win the trip to Paris, head over to Marc Levy’s fan page.**

Expat Blog Awards and Amazing Synchronicity!

Happy 12.12.12!

As many have noted, this is the last repetitive date we’ll see in our lifetimes (unless you can hang on another 88 years to 01/01/2101).

I’m a bit of a number nerd. Not so much into math, but a person who keeps strange little superstitions, making wishes at 11:11 and imbuing certain combinations with meaning. Hey, you never know!

Sometimes life does offer amazing moments of synchronicity, though.

After posting my James Baldwin essay yesterday, my fabulous roommate revealed that her uncle was close friends with the author. “Jimmy” was her cousin’s godfather!

James Baldwin and Robert Cordier

James Baldwin and Robert Cordier (photo from Wikimedia Commons, posted by Acting123)

WHAT? I’ve been living with someone with a connection to my literary hero?!

“Yeah, we should all get coffee sometime,” she said casually.

“This is amazing!” I said.

She shrugged. “I wasn’t even going to mention it, but you keep talking about him.”

Sure enough, her uncle’s name sounded familiar. I went to my Baldwin biography and found several mentions of Robert Cordier. Then I googled him (of course) and found more: playwright, director, famed acting teacher, etc, etc. Whoa!

Mind officially blown.

ExpatsBlogAwardsIn other fun news, I’ve been nominated for an Expat Blog Award!

The contest has been going on for awhile, but I was too shy to mention it before. But along with my slight number fixation and surprise connections, I must also have a competitive underdog streak somewhere in there, too.

If you want to help create a last minute surge in the rankings, nice comments here by Friday count as votes for my blog. Hop on over if you’d like. Merci!

Stories of synchronicity to share?

James Baldwin in Paris (New Essay Published!)

JamesBaldwinEssayScreenshotHi friends,

This is an especially gratifying one for me.

I’m thrilled to have an essay about one of my literary heroes over on Hunger Mountain.

“Another Country: James Baldwin at ‘Home’ (and) Abroad” explores how the author of such seminal American works as Notes of a Native Son and Go Tell It On the Mountain was influenced by his many years living abroad, first in Paris, and later in Istanbul. Revisiting his rich oeuvre was an amazing way to delve into questions of home, identity, and expatriation.

I’m also particularly excited because my essay sparked the journal to assemble a whole tribute to the author!

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Baldwin’s passing. I highlighted this fact in submitting the essay to explain why it was a great time to examine his legacy. I am so glad they agreed. Not only did they accept my essay, but they then went on to solicit other essays from several noted writers. I’m humbled and proud (is it possible to be both at once?) that my enthusiasm for Baldwin contributed to this tribute. Baldwin had a great impact on me and I’m delighted to shine a light on him and his work, still so moving and relevant today.

Here’s the link. Enjoy!

Teaching Writing at WICE!

WICE classDecember! How is it the last month of the year already?

While I’m pondering just what the heck happened to 2012, exciting things are already brewing for the new year.

I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be teaching a fun 4-week class at WICE starting in mid-January.

“Getting Unstuck: Conquering Fear of the Blank Page” will offer tips and techniques to encourage writing. Fear of the blank page is normal – but it can be overcome! Emphasis will be on generating new material and is appropriate for all genres as we’ll be using a variety of prompts and exercises for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Basically, I want to put the play back into writing. Workshops and critique groups have their place, but this isn’t that. I’m interested in exploring – and pushing past – the resistance we sometimes feel in even sitting down to write. How do I start? Or…I’m stuck. What can I do? We’ll try to answer those questions!

You know how classes are usually more interesting when the subject obviously touches the instructor, too? Well, I can tell you I proposed this class because it’s a topic very much alive for me. I’m fascinated by the feeling of wanting to write, but then finding every which way not to do it! I hope to create a space where participants can reconnect with the joy of creativity and get their pens flowing again. Perfect for that new year’s writing resolution!

4 Mondays (January 21, 28; February 4, 11) from 2 PM-4 PM. All the details and registration information over on the WICE website.

Come join me in the adventure!

The Pillow Project

David Barnes of Spoken Word Paris reading while a member of the Pillow Project riffs

Hello friends,

Here’s your helping of a random (art) happening around town.

This past Tuesday The Pillow Project paid a visit to Shakespeare & Co. The Pittsburgh-based troupe plays “freejazz,” an improvisational form they describe as “using the body as the instrument playing visual notes.”

The experimental group is starting to forge deeper ties to Paris. On hand for this week’s event were members of the city’s active spoken word scene.

For non-French speakers, there’s a lot of blood and torture in the text!

Continue reading ‘The Pillow Project’

The France Project: Inspiration!

Hi friends,

If you’ve ever wondered what I sound like, here’s your chance to find out!

I’m thrilled to be featured in the fourth episode of The France Project, a podcast “exploring the je ne sais quoi about life in France.”

For six years, Katia Grimmer-Laversanne co-hosted a humorous Internet radio show about expat life. When her co-host moved onto other adventures, Katia took a brief hiatus – then realized she missed talking to people and that there was much more she wanted to explore.

And so, The France Project was born. Each episode tackles a different aspect of life in France. This episode’s theme? Inspiration!

Katia is absolutely delightful and we instantly clicked when we met over coffee. (The fact that we both have full-bodied laughs – which people often comment on – was certainly a bonus.)

When she then invited me to her home studio for an interview, I was honored – if a little nervous. It sometimes surprises people to learn I suffered from an almost debilitating shyness when I was younger. So much so that I would even have to write a “script” before making a phone call!

Well, I’ve come a long way, baby. But now I worry I ramble to keep from clamming up. Interesting to see what comes out when a microphone is placed before you. Eep!

My interview starts at minute 47, but feel free to listen to the whole episode. The biweekly show is great when you need a France fix!

P.S. I was on the tail-end of a cold when we recorded, but that’s basically my voice. Does anyone else shudder when they hear their own voice? That’s what I sound like? : )

Thanks to Katia and her adorable Burmese cat Symphony who sat on my lap during the entire interview. Recording the podcast was a lovely experience all-around!

Listen and enjoy here!

Aja Monet at Dorothy’s Gallery

At the age of 19, Aja Monet became the youngest person ever to win the famed Nuyorican Poets Café grand slam champion title (2007). She has performed on Broadway, at the Apollo, and at the NAACP Pre-Inauguration Event for Barack Obama, among many other venues.

Though still so young, she is an “old soul” and has served as a mentor to at-risk youth in New York, as a program coordinator at Odyssey House and as a teacher of poetry as a therapeutic art at Omega Institute. Her charismatic stage presence is already legendary.

Aja moved to Paris last year to work on a poetry anthology with acclaimed poet and musician Saul Williams. (Chorus was just released this fall.)

I had the great pleasure of serving on a panel with Aja this summer at the Paris Writers’ Workshop and getting to know her a little bit. This past Friday it was my absolute thrill to see her perform a solo show/lecture at Dorothy’s Gallery (which also doubles as the American Center for the Arts).

As a Monday treat, here’s one of the powerful pieces she performed. You can find out more about Aja at her website. Enjoy!

*GIVEAWAY!* The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

The Black Count by Tom ReissInvoke the name Alexandre Dumas, and one might inquire, père or fils? (Father or son?) Alexandre Dumas père was the novelist behind The Three Muskateers and The Count of Monte Cristo and his son, Alexandre Dumas fils, was also a writer and playwright.

There is another Alexandre Dumas, however. One who history has largely forgotten, though his story is truly the stuff of legend.

Forgotten until now.

Tom Reiss has recently published a soaring account of Dumas (the father of Alexandre Dumas père) in what is sure to become a definitive volume.

The Black Count is a tour-de-force, an ambitious and awe-inspiring tale of a man born into slavery who eventually rose to become a four-star general and a hero of the French Revolution.

Dumas’ audacious exploits in battle – including almost single-handedly pushing back the Austrians in the Battle of the Alps as well as commanding more than 50,000 men – would later inspire his son to write his famous books. So would Dumas’ years slowly being poisoned in an Italian prison after being captured; Napoleon ultimately betrayed the bravest of military men by letting him languish there and worse.

Author Tom Reiss (photo by Aventurina King 2008)

Epic biographies aren’t my usual reading fare, but this book may change all that. The Black Count was absolutely riveting, combining the thrills of a great adventure story with the concrete fact and context of the best historical work. I myself was in a battle between reading so quickly because I couldn’t wait to turn the next page and trying to slow down to absorb the enormous amount of information contained within. I literally felt I was learning something new on each page.

From France’s brutal slavery regime in Saint Domingue (now present day Haiti) where Dumas was born up through the French Revolution and Napoleon’s dreams of empire after, Reiss expertly takes us through a complicated, layered history to create a vivid portrait of the late 18th century. From the large scale issues of how Dumas, a mixed-race man, negotiated his life in a society whose rules regarding race were rapidly evolving, down to the smallest of details including why wearing black became fashionable in Paris, Reiss seems to have left no stone unturned.

If this weren’t all meticulously researched fact, it would be hard to believe such tales were true. I found myself gasping at much of what I read!

I am DELIGHTED to be able to offer a giveaway copy of The Black Count (courtesy of Crown Publishers) to one lucky reader so that you, too, may gasp.

Leave a comment below by 1 PM EST Friday, October 5 for your chance to win. I will randomly select a winner by drawing names out of a hat.

If you don’t win the copy, please do yourself a favor and pick up this book anyway. It was engrossing, illuminating, and a tiny bit heartbreaking. It’s always so wonderful when a book can crack open more of the world.

Read an excerpt from The Black Count here.

UPDATE! The name has been picked from the hat! Congratulations, William Sandles! Thank you to everyone who entered.


paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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