Posts Tagged 'novel'

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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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’

Books, Glorious Books!

Sunday was one of my favorite semi-annual events in Paris: the English-language used book sale!

Twice a year SOS Help holds a 4-hour extravaganza where eager Anglophones come to stock up on new (to them) reads.

I like that the money goes toward a good cause, but selfishly what I really like are the prices. All paperbacks go for 1 euro, hardcovers for 2.

Guess how many I picked up? 35!

My loot from the book sale

This was the limit of the cash in my wallet and the amount I could physically carry back with me on the metro. I always come equipped with a large bag to the sale, but what I really need is a rolling cart!

Continue reading ‘Books, Glorious Books!’

SAD Inspires (Sort of)

Everyone in my immediate family has a middle name starting with A: Anne, Ariel, Alfonso (yep, you read that right).

Everyone, that is, except me. That was to save me from initials that spell out SAD.

I appreciate my parents’ concern. Unfortunately, the abbreviation avoidance could not actually save me from suffering from the real SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. (And yes, it is real!)

Since we set clocks back an hour – and if someone can explain why we do that a week earlier in the EU than the States, I’d be interested – I’ve been pretty aware of SAD’s effects. Doesn’t help that the Paris fall is in full swing, too – cold and gray (the rain’s on the way, too, I’m sure).

Paris in November grey

Of course, this is perfect weather for my current state of being a hermit and working. I know I’m a bit secretive about my writing, but that’s partly because the process is a big mystery to me, too. Talking about writing is not the same as writing. I just need to do it.

Last week I went to Ann Mah’s reading and was inspired to be surrounded by so many writers. I’m friendly with people who already have published books! Wow, I want one of my own.

Of course, the only way that’s going to happen is if I keep my butt in the chair and keep believing that this crazy dream can in fact happen if I work hard enough.

And so, the crappy weather is actually playing its part. I like writing late at night. As it looks like midnight starting at 5 PM, I can be tricked into starting much earlier now.

Thanks, Paris. Cheers, SAD.

What’s your positive spin on SAD? How do you beat the bad weather blues?

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Author Interview: Ann Mah

Ann Mah

I had so much fun with my first author interview, I just had to do another!

Ann Mah is a journalist and the author of Kitchen Chinese, a novel about “food, family, and finding yourself.”

A Paris resident since August 2008, she was a Program Manager at the American Library of Paris for a year and a half, organizing the Evenings with an Author series. She has now stepped down from that position to focus on writing her second novel about a female sommelier in Paris. (Janet Skeslien Charles who I interviewed last time has stepped into the Program Manager role at ALP – don’t you love all these connections?)

Previously Ann has worked as an assistant editor at Viking Penguin in New York, as a staff writer for an English-language magazine in Beijing, and even won a culinary scholarship to study in Bologna, Italy! Her husband’s post as a diplomat ensures they have exciting new countries to discover every few years.

Ann took the time to answer a few questions about writing, getting unwired, and the importance of place to her work.

Continue reading ‘Author Interview: Ann Mah’


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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