Archive for the 'The World Beyond Paris' Category

Major Life Update

Friends!

It’s been nearly a year and a half since last I wrote you from Paris, on Bastille Day 2017. How it must seem that I dropped off the face of the earth!

Apologies for the radio silence, but there are major reasons for it. My life has changed in just about every aspect since last we spoke. The transformation both in the external realities of my situation – and in the internal landscape I inhabit.


Sometimes when you’re shaking everything up, the need to narrate publicly what’s happening takes a back seat. You dive deep into the experience itself. You focus on the actions required to reshape your life from scratch.

I live in Valencia, Spain now, friends. I celebrated my one-year anniversary here at the start of this month.

From the moment I arrived, I felt so at home.

I have a large apartment with a sunny balcony in a neighborhood I love.

I walk to work where I teach English as a foreign language to wonderful adult students. Spanish surrounds me now, though I’m trying my best to keep up French. I worked so hard to learn the language! And it is thanks to becoming a French citizen that I could make such a smooth transition to another European country.

Valencians spend just as much time, if not more, enjoying life at cafes as Parisians. Bonus: warmer temps + cheaper drinks!

When last I wrote, this plan was not in place. There was an inkling, a vague pull, a little voice that started whispering “Valencia” in my ear. I had never been to the city and didn’t know a soul here. But sun, sea, Spanish – the call came louder and louder. I did not know I would actually decide all of a sudden that it was time. But I did. Like that Rilke exhortation “you must change your life.”

La Lonja de la Seda (The Silk Exchange)

An idea, a restlessness, then a command.

Dancing in the Umbracle

You may remember I left Paris a few months before the 2016 election to return to the States to do some get out the vote work and help my mother through knee surgery. Then, outraged at the political results, decided to stay and fight.

Well, when I returned to visit Paris that following summer I felt myself breathing again. The Trump regime is toxic. I honestly think the country is in collective crisis because of it. Escaping for a bit started to change my own calculus of what to do.

The back alleys of Valencia’s old town.

Then something else happened. Long-time blog readers might recall that I’ve had a finished novel sitting around for years and that finally, it was supposed to be published. I had a book deal.

In Cafe Artysana. There’s an active co-working scene in VLC.

The first small press that signed my book (for release in 2017) ended up closing right as my book was up in the queue. A huge blow.

Always half full

A few months passed, but then I found myself with another small press. Communication was not ideal, but all small presses are a labor of love and I know people do their best.

Then my editor ghosted. Literally stopped responding to all emails. The realization that another deal was evaporating again came soon after I last wrote you. Heart break, part deux.

It may seem strange to say, but this series of disappointments was actually lucky. Impossible to know at the time, but I’m certain of it now.

It was at that point that I decided to stop writing, at least for awhile. I know it’s not the story we’re supposed to present to the world (the officially sanctioned version is “never give up!”).

Calle de la Paz (Street of Peace), central Valencia

But the fact is, surrendering was the healthiest thing I did for myself. My perspective widened. Yes, publishing a novel has always been a dream. But what other dreams did I have? What other desires did I have inside that I had suppressed for so long?

The Botanical Gardens

With so much despair at the state of the world, I also started feeling a distinct case of carpe diem. We don’t know how long we have here or if the conditions will always allow us to follow our heart. What would I do if I wanted to be happy?

Remember how sad the lack of sunlight made me in Paris? Here, I have this.

Spain. Living in Spain was a dream I’ve held for as long as I can remember. And that was something I could make happen myself.

Amazing flamenco concert in a laid-back cafe.

I also wanted my days to have more human contact again. As an introvert, sitting behind a computer screen is a comfort for me. My love of words has been my compass since I was a child. But I also love to be amidst people in a more immediate way, to be of some service in real-time. Writing as a job can be a lonely one, full of constant rejection. What if I looked for another way?

Calle del Dr. Montserrat. The first street I ever stayed on in Valencia.

I signed up for a CELTA program and got a teaching certificate (with highest marks!) soon after arriving. I have now been in a classroom ever since.

Palm trees everywhere – a delight!

I could not be any more grateful for where this path has taken me. Because if things had “worked out” years ago, I’m not sure where I would be. But I don’t think it would be in the City of Joy (one of Valencia’s nicknames). I’m not sure I would have started a new career, which I’m learning from each day. I’m not sure I would have pushed myself to stay open to renewal and brand new starts.

Looking into El Carmen from the Torres del Quart.

And as it so happens, third time is indeed a charm. Without seeking, without even a thought that it was still a possibility, two publishers contacted me about my manuscript on two consecutive days this year. Completely out of the blue. Serendipity. A dream I had no longer been pursuing came to find me anyway.

In Fall 2019, my first novel, As a River, will be published by Jaded Ibis Press. It is amazing to finally have a real champion for my work.

I’ve wondered what to do with this blog. For 7+ years it had been an anchor, made me see the riches within my life. Paris would never have been the same if I did not have this open channel with you. It’s hard to let go.

And yet, I am most certainly not in Paris anymore.

“I’m home,” I whispered in the taxi on the dark December night I arrived in Valencia. I had only 2 suitcases and some hope (this seems to be how I move countries) and I didn’t know what lay before me. But there was some strange alchemy drawing me here and I immediately felt I was in the right place.


 There’s a lot more color in my life. This photo was literally 5 days after arrival!

Are you still out there? How shall we stay in touch? I so loved the community we built here and would love to share with you my new adventures. But they are not Paris-based anymore.

Follow me to my newsletter? Sion’s Sparkle Desk. They’ll be like little lights in your inbox every once in awhile. I adore a good letter.

In Russafa

I’m going to keep this blog open as a record of my Paris decade. What a marvel it was. Perhaps I’ll post big updates about my book, too, as I would love you to join me on that journey. I wrote that novel in Paris. It’s connected to that city in a deep way.

I’ve missed you, friends. Tell me what you think. I’d love to know what’s going on with you and how we can still connect!

Upside Down World (Update!)

Friends!

You’d be forgiven for thinking I disappeared from the face of the earth. When last I wrote you, it was November 4. Hmm. We all know what happened soon thereafter.

France is known for numerous strikes and demonstrations, but my life back in the States has become one perpetual protest since the election. But! I’ve met lots of great folks this way. Here I’ve turned to snap this random shot and spotted my seatmate from the Women’s March. We rode from Durham to DC together. Small world!

Returning to one’s home country after spending years abroad is already a difficult task. Numerous studies show that “reverse culture shock” can be just as profound as the move to a foreign country. The experience can even feel more confusing, as “home” is a place we’re supposed to know, and yet it’s home that has become foreign in a way. We’re confronting it from a very changed perspective.

Continue reading ‘Upside Down World (Update!)’

Writing in Famous Authors’ Homes – The Mount, The Kerouac House, plus Film + Event News!

The Mount, Edith Wharton's house in Lenox, MA

The Mount, Edith Wharton’s house in Lenox, MA

Friends, do you remember my happy stint as the writer-in-residence at the Kerouac House a few years ago?

Sitting on the porch of Jack's house.

Sitting on the porch of Jack’s house.

This spring, I’ve been having a similar experience, this time in the Berkshires.

Reindeer sighting early in my stay!

Reindeer sighting early in my stay!

Since mid-February I’ve been staying in a sweet 1-bedroom apartment on Stockbridge, MA’s Main Street (a site captured forever in Norman Rockwell paintings), teaching a twice-weekly creative writing class at the local Waldorf high school, and luxuriating in time to focus on my own writing as the Stone Court Writer-in-Residence.

It’s funny how I thought I would hide away here and pile up the pages. While I have gotten a lot of work done, it hit me soon after arriving that it can be hard to hermit in a town of less than 2,000 inhabitants. Just heading out my door to go for a walk I’m sure to run into someone I know. It’s a delight. Paris undoubtedly has pleasures galore, but there are many to be found in small town life, too.

Shutters at The Mount

Shutters at The Mount

The biggest surprise and fortune has been making a connection with The Mount, Edith Wharton’s elegant country home in Lenox, MA. I admit before my residency, the extent of my Wharton knowledge was the required reading of Ethan Frome in high school, a bleak experience that did not exactly leave me clamoring to seek out more of the author’s work.

Garden path at The Mount

Garden path at The Mount

But from the moment I stepped inside The Mount, I felt a magical energy. And by some further magic – and the very real generosity of the incredibly kind staff – I was allowed to spend nearly a month writing there each day. WOW!

Look there in the corner. That's me writing in Edith Wharton's bedroom!

Look there in the corner. That’s me writing in Edith Wharton’s bedroom!

Continue reading ‘Writing in Famous Authors’ Homes – The Mount, The Kerouac House, plus Film + Event News!’

Gorgeous Greece

Hi friends,

I’m offering a little eye candy to start the week off right.

Akrotiri, Exterior Couple Shot
As some of you know, one of my family’s best (newish) traditions is planning reunions in foreign countries. I don’t get back to visit my folks nearly as much as I’d like, but meeting up in intriguing destinations adds a whole other level of magic to seeing each other again. We recently got a chance to create some more memories.

First evening's view

First evening’s view

Since living in Paris, I’ve met my parents in Prague, Portugal, and Istanbul (all of which were fantastic, the latter two particularly a dream). My favorite trip category is fit to overflowing now, because I’m adding a new one to the list.

We recently took an unescorted package tour to Greece, meaning a travel company booked all the logistics – hotels, transfers, ferry tickets – but we were on our own to explore each place as we wanted. It’s not how I usually travel, but gosh it’s nice to have someone else take care of all the details sometimes. With 3 stops in 8 days, though, we agreed we didn’t have nearly enough time to bask in our surroundings.

Oia landscape

Continue reading ‘Gorgeous Greece’

Refilling the Well + Return to France*

Any guesses where I am? It *is* a return to French territory.

Any guesses where I am? It *is* a return to French territory.

Right after my writing residency at the Kerouac House I went on a road trip. It only seemed fitting after spending a full season in Jack’s house.

From New Orleans to Baton Rouge, NYC to San Juan, I’ve had a lot of fun before finally returning to French territory…though it’s probably not where you think.

400 palm trees line L'Allée du Manoir

(Literally) on the road: 400 palm trees line L’Allée du Manoir

I bounce between periods of recording life in my notebook and of living it. Rather than worry as I used to when not putting pen to paper consistently (maybe I’ll never write again!) I instead embrace these periods as an important part of the process.

I just enjoyed 3 months of uninterrupted solo time to focus on my creative work. What I’ve done since is travel, experiencing new places, meeting old friends and making new ones. Planting the seeds for new stories. Refilling the well.

It’s a lot to encapsulate, but here are a few snapshots:

Continue reading ‘Refilling the Well + Return to France*’

Love Beams and a Reading

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” -Guillaume Apollinaire

Stop! Small miracle alert. Love beam over the Seine.

Stop! Small miracle alert. Love beam over the Seine.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

I hope your life is full of love, on this and every day. I’ve spent the majority of V-days single rather than in a pair so I truly mean love in its widest sense, not simply the part about romance. Family, friends, the nice neighbor who baked you a pie, the stranger who gave you a smile – love is all around us!

I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to a special kind of happiness this time round, though. My beau has just arrived from Paris.

Continue reading ‘Love Beams and a Reading’

Culture Shock, Early Paris Days, and Crepes for Chandeleur

The day I arrived in Orlando to start my stint as the writer-in-residence at the Kerouac House, the project’s director drove me to the supermarket as soon as I dropped off my bags. Even if Central Florida felt a world away from France, I was glad one thing remained the same: food is a top priority! (That, and t.p. – not one roll left in the house!)

Pulling into the Publix parking lot, however, I realized, Toto, we’re not in Paris anymore.

Continue reading ‘Culture Shock, Early Paris Days, and Crepes for Chandeleur’


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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