Archive for the 'Writing' 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!

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French-American Mourning

On July 4, I was still in New York with my beau who had quickly fallen under the city’s charms. We were heading to a rooftop barbecue where we would then watch fireworks over the East River.

But the sky and subway had other plans. Right as we were leaving, it began raining hard, great sheets of water. I checked, too, the subway, and our line, the A, was reported to have significant delays.

“Netflix,” we decided. We changed from our wet clothes into dry ones and curled up on the couch instead.

Despite not taking part in any larger festivities, I was glad to be back in the States. I can’t remember the last time I was home during summer and we had spent many weeks exploring the city and catching up with friends.

“You’re a real French-American now,” my beau joked. “In the US for the 4th of July and back in France for the 14th of July.” (F was surprised, then amused beyond measure, to learn we call the French national celebration Bastille Day.)

The patriotic party ended quickly, however. July 5: the murder of Alton Sterling. July 6: The murder of Philando Castile. I burst out weeping. This reality of grief and injustice over and over again. This America, too.

Thursday morning and F hadn’t seen the news yet; I debated whether to tell him as he was rushing to get ready. It was our last full day in NYC and he had several social plans lined up – meeting an actress who had been in one of his short movies years ago, then a date to watch the France-Germany match with some soccer fans we’d met. I was proud of his independence in my home.

But as he was walking out the door, my heart started pounding. My lovely, kind, warm, funny French boyfriend. My beautiful black beau was heading out into the streets of New York alone. He’s not versed in the (heartbreaking) survival codes a black man in America needs to know! I thought, terrified. And even if he were, often it doesn’t matter. As we’ve witnessed time and time again, you can be shot for doing absolutely nothing wrong.

I muffled my wildly beating heart and didn’t say anything to F, then burst out crying again when he left.

Later that evening, news from Dallas came in, the 5 police officers shot dead by a sniper. My whole body seemed to go into meltdown, my mind unable to process the violence upon violence without end.

We packed in a hurry. Friday was always our original leave date, but the trio of tragedies on three successive days seemed even more to be pushing us out. My friend says I left nearly 2 drawers full of clothes at her place. She said it was as if we ran to the airport. Ran to fly away from the grief.

Back in Paris, the sun shone, then it rained, then the sun appeared again. It was better than the difficult spring here I’d heard, the unceasing deluge, the rising Seine, the protests, the strikes. All seemed calm as I strolled my Parisian streets. It was good to see the languid bustle of the cafes, the stands being set up for the marché.

Yesterday I wasn’t feeling well; I knew I wouldn’t be up for any big celebrating for the 14 juillet. But a small voice inside me also said, and better to stay home, anyway. The assembly of crowds on this symbolic day could mean danger. I’m so sad I think that way now, but I do.

I read and padded around the house, tried to nap off some of my lingering jetlagged fatigue. I turned on the TV late to watch the fireworks, a beautiful choreographed display on the Champs de Mars, the Iron Lady standing tall in all her glory while the colors and sparkles exploded all around.

Then a news update flashed across the screen.

Oh my god. So there it is. It didn’t happen in Paris (this time), but a massacre on Bastille Day in Nice.

I think it’s shock, because my mind couldn’t compute straight away.

A truck?

Several dozens dead? (84 we now know).

This is the world we live in. It feels like it’s in flames.

“it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world”
– Mary Oliver

I have no tidy words to conclude this post; we are all living it still. I’m only acknowledging that I am here. You are here. That simple fact in and of itself important. A miracle each day.

I’m both French and American now. It’s true. These two rich, complicated identities. This was the first trip I traveled with two passports, the first time I sailed through the EU line.

But I don’t feel bound by territory. I feel we are larger than borders. We are human beings. Citizens of the world. And we can’t run from what we see.

Life is hard, the world is, too, our lives matter, peace is the way, our work continues, face the fear, through it, it’s okay to feel it. Fight for change, connect the dots, connect with each other, find the beauty, mourn.

Difficult as it is, and some days it feels impossible, believe me, I know, continue to get up in the morning. Rise to love, love, love.

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!’

Keys to a Beautiful Heart

Newfound Journal screenshotThis week we’ve had sunny days, a spike in pollution (smog swallowed the Eiffel Tower), and today, an uneventful solar eclipse – from here it looked like any other gray Paris sky.

It is also the first day of spring. Let us celebrate what we can.

I have a small little thing to celebrate, too: publication of a micro-essay in a lovely literary journal.

Here’s a link to my short piece, “Keys to a Beautiful Heart” in Newfound Journal.

Enjoy your weekend!

Happy New Year! Blogiversary! Love Your Life!

Which direction are you headed this year?

Which direction are you headed this year?

Hello friends,

Happy new year! Has 2014 started off well? Have you made resolutions? Broken any already? Or are you just playing life as it comes?

I’m celebrating, too, another special occasion. Four years ago today I started this blog and signed in as paris (im)perfect for the first time. Thank you for coming along for the ride!

Speaking of which, as someone always seeking Paris quirk, it seems only fitting that my blogiversay and the “No Pants Subway Ride” take place around the same time.

Continue reading ‘Happy New Year! Blogiversary! Love Your Life!’

Three Year Blogiversary!

Today is my blogiversary and I’ve just returned to Paris!

View from friend's apartment

View from a friend’s apartment

Merci in the 11eme.

Merci in the 11eme.

Three years already. Happy birthday, baby. You keep growing so fast.

At 59 Rivoli

At 59 Rivoli

New cafe in my 'hood

New cafe in my ‘hood

Thank you, lovely readers, for coming along for the strange and beautiful ride.

I pass this street art all the time.

Rue de la Roquette; I pass this all the time.

Inside the new cultural center, Elephant Paname

Inside the new cultural center, Elephant Paname

Exciting futures ahead.

How is your new year going?

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?


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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