Work-In-Progress Wants YOUR Opinion

 

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utahbeach

 

Since my blog is where I share my dual French American identity, you won’t be too surprised to learn that besides writing fiction I also wrote a non fiction manuscript related to my mixed self.

I should call it a memoir, but I think that memoirs are written either by celebrities or by important people old enough to share their expertise or by ordinary people who have been through an extraordinary event that has universal appeal.

I am none of these people.

My manuscript is built around my observations from my life in the States and from my trips back to France. The world is becoming increasingly similar in terms of culture and even language. When I arrived in California in 1990, France and the States had little in common. Everything was new to me. My textbook English was in my way, so people were amused, yet always gracious and encouraging.

Ultimately, like any other immigrant, I made mine most American things that had seemed odd when I arrived. Unlike most, however, I chose to write fiction in English and not in my native language. I learned how to write through the countless books I read and through my American-born children as I tried (with mixed results!) to teach them French. Sesame Street helped me a little too!

In the end, when it comes to culture, I remain a hybrid woman: the product of my two homes on earth.

I started this manuscript mostly to keep track of personal and world events, yet I submitted a few stories based on this work to various writing contests. Two of them placed in a California writing event and a few editors encouraged me to pursue the completion of this manuscript.

As time passed and my English writing skills improved, I realized that I kept returning to this specific work, constantly adding and revising without ever finding it ready for publication. Lately I decided to keep it as a personal draft. Period.

But a few days ago Sherri Matthews and then Elizabeth Cardamone invited me to participate to a Work-In-Progress Challenge. I rarely get involved in blogging events, yet I thought that these two invitations were maybe my opportunity to seek YOUR opinion.

You see, the reason why I keep returning to my manuscript to abandon it again is my inability to target my readership. Pretty serious issue, no?

So now, I’m asking YOU:

  • Should I target American readers and stick to my current manuscript, written in English?

Many American writers have told of their French experiences, often in Paris and southern France, but not the other way around. Do you care for this type of book? What interests you most when you read a book based on life spent abroad? Would you learn anything worth your time and money with mine?

  • Ou dois-je le traduire pour des lecteurs français?

Qu’en dites-vous les français et les françaises? Quels sont les livres récents que vous connaissez sur le sujet? Pensez-vous que les français en savent assez sur les USA d’avant le 11 septembre? Est-ce un pays qui tente encore? Etes-vous tentés?

 

Following the simple guidelines of this Work-in-Progress Challenge (see rules below) I give you seven lines from my manuscript. Désolée je n’ai pas encore traduit en français!

 

“I’m taking highway One-O-One.” My husband maneuvered the titanic Oldsmobile out of the airport parking spot.

“One-O-One?” I remembered our French A1, A6 and A13.

“People call it that,” he confirmed with a nod. “There is also highway 280, which they call two-eighty. Americans say O for zero and spell numbers out. They do the same for phone numbers. Easier than our French way, right?”

I tried to register everything he said. His familiar voice rocked me as the car plunged through the potholes cratering the highway. I had been up for countless hours but I was in California, in a car that seemed to come from a movie, on a road that led to the heart of the Silicon Valley. Everything was new to me, so I straightened my back against the vinyl-covered seat: I didn’t want to miss anything.

 

Since this is a blogging event I tag a few writers, also virtual friends of mine.

So Andrea, Claire, Jennifer, Katie, Kimberly, Mona, Teagan, what are you up to?

There is of course no obligation for you to participate, but perhaps you are also stuck with one of your work-in-progress manuscripts and are questioning its value, wondering if it’s worth your time and energy and would love some feedback.

 

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The 777 challenge requires you go to Page 7 of your work-in-progress, scroll down to Line 7 and share the next 7 lines in a blog post. Once you have done this, you can tag 7 other bloggers to do the same with their work-in-progress.

 

Comments

  1. An excellent excerpt, Evelyn! Many people who are expat’s or immigrants will be able to identify with this passage and I’m sure with the book. If using the word memoir isn’t to your liking, call it a personal narrative of a time in your life. Seek out the universal themes that will resonate with readers and focus on those to expand upon (just a suggestion).
    I’ll have to pass up this WIP challenge; way too much going on right now.

    • Thank you so much, Mona, for your encouragement. I like the idea of personal narrative, actually. Also I agree on the need to seek universal themes. I think I’m on the right track for that. So I suppose that you are telling me to go on in English? 😊

      • I personally enjoy a smattering of another language. I’m sure there are some phrases and words in French that most English readers know. You can always do a French translation so you widen your audience 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing, Evelyne. I think you can call it a memoir if you’d like–you don’t really have to be a celebrity. I’ll skip the blogging challenge, but I’m currently trying to figure out the formatting style for my WIP. Also, I think folks will like your work because they’ll either relate to your adventures (the experience of being new) or learn new things.

  3. I don’t think I’m capable of giving you any advice Evelyne but as someone who follows your blogs and has read one (so far) of your books, I’d encourage you to continue writing your memoir. Call it whatever you like, but I think it would represent a great opportunity to know you better and your writing style would certainly make it interesting to read.

    It would also be useful to others who move about in the future. It may be easier to move around today. It may be easier to know about other countries, other customs and other cultures, but it is not easy to imagine what’s involved in making that move.

    Personally, when I read your experiences, I use them to help me try to imagine what it was like for my grandmother when she came here over a century ago. The times were radically different, as were her circumstances, but you have made me consider things I had not considered before, such as what it must have been like for her to raise children in this country. Your stories about traditional baked goods, for example, made me think about the ways many of her recipes were lost and the ways in which some were preserved.

    • I remember reading your blog for the first time because of a post related to your grandmother and your foreign heritage. So your comment is wonderful for me. As someone who came from abroad fairly recently in comparison to older waves of immigrants, my experience is still recent. Yet in comparison to the new comers, I feel lucky to have seen the USA in a quite different way. I would by the way include some French baking recipes!!!! Thanks again, Dan.

  4. My book suffered badly from lack of a targeted audience. It is a big issue for publishing. I do not know the French market, but I do know a bit of the American one. I suspect you might have an easier time marketing in France. But I could be wrong. I love your writing and I’m deeply impressed that you can write in your second language. That’s an incredible accomplishment!

    • For this specific manuscript I kept balancing my option. Like you I thought that a French version would be best, but the response from American readers or just people I met is positive too for an English version. In any case, your compliment regarding my English goes right to my heart. It means a lot to me, Marilyn. Really.

  5. Well, I already love this short excerpt … and your fresh take on life in America as a Frenchwoman living there that comes through so beautifully in your blog posts, so I truly see the value of a book In English geared to an American audience. I’ll be thrilled to be one of your first readers on that. : ) Keep going on this project! Thanks for the tag, too. It looks like fun.

    • Thank you, Kimberly, for your kind words and encouragement. Of all people you know of the challenge and excitement to live abroad, to discover a new culture and to adopt a new language. Since you are American and an avid reader, your opinion matters to me.
      I’m also glad that you like the tag and will “tag” along. See you!

  6. I would continue with your memoir. I personally enjoy reading memoirs and your words bring to life many things that I just pass by. Your writing makes me be a closer observer of the world around me.
    I accept your 777 challenge but will have to wait until I get home – I’m traveling this week.

    • Thank you, Claire. I know that you’ve seen quite a lot from this work, so it’s good to know that you aren’t tired of it. Since I started my skills have improved and I need to apply them to this work. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, yes, tag along when you have time!

  7. Behind the Story says:

    I love this excerpt. There’s the American-goes-abroad-and-learns-new-things type of story, and the-immigrant-comes-to-the-US-and-struggles kind of story. What I like about this excerpt is that it’s something different. It allows the American reader to see life in the US from a fresh point of view. It’s fun for us to realize that calling that hwy. “One-O-One” was a decision we made, and it could have been otherwise.

    • Coming from a skilled writer and someone who knows quite a lot about life abroad and has lived with someone who also came from a foreign country, your comment and opinion matter a lot to me. I’m always surprised to find out that many Americans enjoy re-discovering their country through immigrants’ eyes. But it makes sense since I’ve also heard interesting point of views from people visiting or living in France for a while. They reminded me of details I forgot to notice. This American way to spell numbers out has actually crossed the ocean since the French have started to do the same in some cases.
      Well, I should return to revision mode now that this excerpt has hooked you!

  8. You know how much I love your books, right, Evelyne? But THIS is the one that I want to read the very most.

    I can think of several books where Americans go to France or other places but don’t really tell bout their experiences. But having it reversed would be fascinating. I would love to see our culture as viewed through your French lens. I’m all in for this project!

    But I’d say that if you want to target it to American readers, do that only if you feel it’s best for the story, and that’s what you want. I think you could target it to French readers and get a lot of interest to see what life is like over the pond, so to speak. But I’m wondering if you’d have a broader reader base doing it toward Americans?

    • That’s a great nudge, here, Katie. You’ve a valid point in terms of readership. In a way, lots of cultural facts are already known by Americans, so it would make sense to tell the story to a French audience. But the response from Americans, here, has been very positive. They like to re-discover their country through another set of lense.
      In any case, my manuscript is also offering a lot about France, through my life there and also my trips after my move.
      I already returned to the manuscript since I posted and I know that it will be a challenging task to tackle. However, the fact that I never abandonned this work for good seems to be a message. The hardest stories are often the best. Thank you for your encouragement.

  9. I read your post and the comments here with fascination Evelyne for more than one reason. I think I’ve said to you before that I too never thought of calling my book a ‘memoir’ for the very reasons you state here. A big part of my story is how it felt for me, as a 19 year old first visiting California from England in the late 1970s when the the world was a very different place indeed. I hope to convey my feelings, what it was like, how I felt in ‘normal’ life and then being so far from home later on when my American GI became desperately ill. I wondered so many times ‘who would be interested in reading a book like that?’
    Your book is one I would definitely read, it sounds fascinating, and I do tend to agree with what seems to be the more popular consensus that it would pehaps have more universal appeal if written for the American market. Reading your readers’ comments also encourages me in a roundabout way, as I am greatly encouraged to know how interested Americans seem to be in reading about their country through the eyes of foreigners, particularly those who live there.
    I always found Americans to be so very interested in talking to me about anything British as soon as they heard my accent, and I appreciated their interest. It is the same for you Evelyne with your French appeal, and I love how you also plan to write about your visits back home. Your excerpt grips me even from these few lines, as I nod furiously saying ‘yes, yes’! Those ‘titanic’ cars, the one-o-one, those subtle differences that give rise to a rich and fascinating story of emigration and of starting a new life in a foreign land so very far from ‘home’. I’m so glad this challenge has encouraged you to revisit your draft. I look forward to hearing more about your progress. In short, you go girl 🙂

  10. Thank you, Sherri. You’re right about the need for a push sometimes. Although I love to write more than anything and enjoy people’s company a lot, I’m also fiercely private in many ways. Since such a book implies talking of family it is not an easy task. So I’m now revisiting for the zillionth time and see what needs to stay and what has to go. Then I need to follow one constant thread to pull the universal appeal that will speak to a large group of people. So I better work now! Thank you again for your constant encouragement and support. We share some common experiences and I’m glad that mine resonate with yours.

  11. This is a great excerpt, Evelyne! I certainly want to read more.:) I would encourage you to target an American audience with this for three reasons (though surely there are more!). 1. Your excerpt is beautifully written as I’m sure the entire manuscript is. There is always a place for well-written works! 2. Everyone can relate to a feeling of being in a new place. Whether a new country, or a new job, or a new school, or what have you, every reader has experienced, at one time or another, that feeling of adjustment, of learning a new environment. Granted, coming to a new country is more challenging than many of these experiences! But I still think it is a universal experience and one that any reader can and will relate to on some level. 3. I know as someone who was born and raised in the United States, I am always fascinated, and very interested, to learn what people who were born in other countries think of the U.S.! Your background gives you a perspective those of us raised here do not have, and I think many, many Americans would love to hear your point of view and impressions.

    That was the long answer. The short answer is–absolutely! Please press on and share this with an American audience!:)

  12. I love long answers! So thank you, Mike, for your thoughtful comment. Reading yours and the ones above, I am pretty convinced that writing in English was a good idea. I’m glad I did since now at least I only have to work on the revision. I agree with your last point. Based on my experience I have met lots of Americans interested by people’s stories from abroad. And France, for some reason, triggers unique questions and interest. So back to work! Thank you again for stopping by.

  13. Hi Evelyne – Just to thank you again for tagging me, and to let you know I took the challenge, and posted it here: https://kimberlysullivan.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/5172/
    Also hoping the authors I tagged will join – since I’m eager to see their WIPs, too! Thanks again, and wishing you a wonderful start to spring!

    • Yes, I read your work, Kimberly, and loved it. I enjoy literature around women characters, in foreign settings, so I am looking forward to reading yours one day. Work well!

  14. Hi Evelyne, I’ve been out of action for a while – thanks for tagging me for the challenge, though I’ve got too much catching up to do to do it 🙂 I always enjoy reading about your experiences as a French woman in the US, so I’d certainly love to read an English version. I wonder if you’d have a bigger market in the US just due to the size of the country – and it may be that given the dominance of the US in popular culture, there is less that the French don’t know about the US than vice versa.

    • As always I care for your input, Andrea, and I tend to agree about your analysis. So I am currently revising again! So good to read you since I understand how busy you are.

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  1. […] You can get a taste of Evelyne’s beautiful observations through her blog post for the challenge. […]

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