Posts Tagged 'writing'

Fantasy Meets Reality

Hello dear ones,

I know, I know. It’s been too long.

Don’t think I don’t think about you – because I very much do!

Sion in Parc Floral - color!
(I just set this as the new photo on my website. What do you think? Does it work? Does it say happy writer in Paris? Or actually Sion in “aris” since I’m covering the “P?” But that sounds like “heiress” which is kind of of cool, too. Ahem. Babbling!)

Life is full these days and it’s a challenge making it to the computer screen. Or rather, hard to come back to the computer after many hours spent in front of it.

My 9 to 5 (erm, later adjusted hours in my case) sees me as a content writing/editing machine (my boss actually called me a robot yesterday, in what was actually a compliment). I’m helping with the relaunch of a major website and there are exactly 678 pages to get in shape. I’m looking at every single one.

After playing writing robot, I head home to my second job – preparing lesson plans for my imminent return to Spain.

Yes! You may remember I taught creative writing last summer in a study abroad program for high schoolers in Barcelona. Well, they’ve asked me back, with even an extra class on board. I’ll teach 6 days a week, live in the dorm, accompany field trips – full immersion with the teens! It’s exhausting and exhilarating and it hasn’t even started yet. A ton to prepare.

In between all that, I’m listening to Spanish podcasts as I do errands in optimistic efforts of (re)learning the language that way.

So by the end of the day, I’m kind of braindead and can’t quite make it to the blog.

Yep, I pass the Iron Lady every day on the way to work now.

Yep, I pass the Iron Lady every day on the way to work now.

But I’ve missed you! How are you? Very well, I hope.

Today had so much sunshine – so bright, so mighty! Paris couldn’t have needed it more. It may seem boring to talk weather, but friends, really. The rain here was out of control. People were losing it; almost on the brink! (I even saw a sobbing woman run toward the tracks as a train approached. Aie! Another hazard of hard commutes! And yes, someone stopped her.)

No one knows if Mister Soleil is going to stay (I’m still wearing a heavy coat in June; just saying) so we flock outside when he appears.

What a bad blogger I’ve become – I even forgot my camera on the one nice day!

I lunched on the Champs de Mars (my office is close) then walked along the Seine a good way home. I saw that a new floating garden on the river is under construction and the Petit Palais’ columns were dressed in bright colors. Oh, I wish I could show you!

I get the impression that a lot of people think this is how we live in Paris normally – meals on the Eiffel Tower’s lawn, sunny strolls along the Seine.

It’s so far from the truth, but once in awhile it happens. Fantasy meets reality.

I took some photos for tourists as I walked through the Tuileries. I had to smile as they posed. Do they realize how rare this good fortune?

I hope your fantasy life is meeting reality in moments, too. I hope you’re having wonderful adventures, wherever you may be.

Artfully Adored ScreenshotP.S. I’m sending some link love over to Stephanie on ArtfullyAdored. She’s got a luxurious giveaway going on – perhaps make the fantasy real?

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 Next Big Thing

One of my overflowing bookcases.

A fun Q&A has been circulating around writers’ blogs of late. Each person answers questions about their work-in-progress then tags other writers to do the same. I was honored that Ann Mah, author of Kitchen Chinese and the forthcoming food memoir Mastering the Art of French Eating, thought to tag me in “The Next Big Thing.”

While I rarely do these sorts of chains or talk about works-in-progress (makes me so nervous!), I thought I’d take the plunge and tell you a bit about my novel. Plus, I love sharing the love; I’m excited to introduce you to some writer friends.

What is your working title of your book?

WHEN THINGS WERE GREEN

Where did the idea come from for the book?

When starting any piece of writing, it’s usually an image or a small detail that arrives first for me, not an overarching idea.

I was walking through Harlem one day and overheard some teenage girls gossiping. One said: “she’s pregnant and never even had sex.” Well, wow, how does that happen?!

I wondered about those girls and their beliefs and knowledge of the world. I went home and immediately wrote a scene, though what came out featured a young girl in a small town in Georgia in an era before I was born.

Continue reading ‘The Next Big Thing’

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!

Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down

Paris I love you but you're bringing me downWhen I first heard the title Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down, I felt an instant connection. Heck, that could be an alternate name for this blog. (If I weren’t so fond of my cute parentheses, that is).

After being offered the opportunity to work for an advertising agency in the City of Light, author Rosecrans Baldwin leapt at the chance – despite the fact that he had no previous experience in advertising and could barely speak French.

As you might imagine, hilarity ensued.

I was eager to get my hands on Baldwin’s memoir about the 18 months he and his wife spent here and am excited to welcome him to the blog today.

Rosecrans Baldwin is also the author of the novel You Lost Me There, named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2010, and is the cofounder of the online magazine The Morning News.

So many books have been written about Paris. What made you want to tackle one, too ? What do you feel you had to add?

The honest answer is I’ve never thought about my book as being one about Paris. That’s more a marketing category. I mean, it is about Paris, obviously. But it’s far more about Parisians: my co-workers, our friends. So hopefully it’s a different sort of beast. At one point, the cover had an Eiffel Tower on it, and both my editor and I realized how wrong it looked. And not that I have anything against the Eiffel Tower. I’ve read the Paris canon, admired so many of the books, especially the underdogs—Elaine Dundy’s Dud Avocado, Mavis Gallant’s Paris Stories, The Invention of Paris by Eric Hazan. But you can’t spend a couple years writing a book, doing the work each morning, if you’re thinking about what the result should or should not be, what you’re going to add, whom you’re going to please. At least I can’t imagine doing that—it sounds awful!

Your book contains many humorous incidents, the inevitable misunderstandings and frustrations that come with confronting another culture and one with a language barrier to boot. Did you experience these as funny at the time or does it take hindsight to appreciate all that happens when living as a foreigner in Paris?

Continue reading ‘Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’

Creative Writing Class Wrap-Up

Remember the last time you were really angry with someone. Now write about the incident from his or her point of view.

Parc Cervantes

Imagine you’re driving along an unfamiliar road. You hear the engine running, feel the strap of the seatbelt holding you in. Is it light or dark outside? The car stops. You step out. What do you see?

Write a poem of questions. No answers. Just questions.

Write about one of your scars.

Our bohemian writers’ day in 4 Gats Cafe

These are some of the prompts I used this summer in my creative writing class.

We usually began the day in this way, the first 20 minutes of our daily 3-hour class spent freewriting.

I’ve always loved what appears on the page during these exercises, seeing the material our subconscious alights upon when we turn off the internal censor. It was a privilege to hear what my students came up with. No matter what I threw at them – pick 3 words from this hat and use them in a scene! Look at this random object; now put it in your writing! “Translate” this Zapotec poem even though you don’t know the language! – they set right to writing and astounded with their imagination.

Writing in the garden: University of Barcelona

So it’s kind of ironic that after a month spent urging others to write (write! write for your life!) I am having trouble myself.

I keep feeling like I need to tell you all about my summer in Spain, all these new experiences, all of this stuff…but I don’t know where to begin. I don’t yet know what it actually means.

So I’ll start with what I know so far. In some ways I did a better job this summer than I thought I would. In other ways, I just scraped by by the skin of my teeth. That pretty much sums up what a first teaching experience would be like, right?

The great thing about the program is that it emphasized “experiential learning.” As in, these students didn’t fly across the ocean to sit inside every day. Each teacher was charged with getting them out and about, to use the city as the classroom.

For a subject like creative writing that’s both straightforward and something of a stretch. We can write anywhere! Everything is material!

Of course, on certain days the link wasn’t always so obvious. Why did we go to that garden to talk about story structure? What does this museum have to do with plot?

Continue reading ‘Creative Writing Class Wrap-Up’


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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