On a Midsummer Day

As July tilts into August I hope that you are all doing well, wherever you are spending your summer.

When I announced the end of my blogging days, I promised occasional updates.

So what happened since early spring?

Several editors have expressed interest in the concept of the nonfiction manuscript that landed me an agent late winter.

Laurel emails me every Thursday, keeping me posted on the submission process. She still writes, even when she doesn’t have an update. I hope she knows how much her weekly email matters to me.

Maybe you wonder what writers do while they wait for the YES that will turn their manuscript into a book?

They write.

At least, that’s what I do 🙂

And I visit bookshops.

 

Since I used to work in the publishing industry I’m fully aware that writing and publishing are entirely different.

Publishing is a business. While it’s important to remain positive – after all, one yes is enough – it’s recommended to anticipate rejections before acceptance.

But instead of focusing on the passes I choose to keep writing.

And to visit bookshops.

 

Laurel encourages me to work on other projects. It’s crucial for you to remain creative, she says. The more you write, particularly different genres, the better it is.

So I follow her advice. Not that hard since I have enough ideas to keep me going.

And do not forget to read, too, she adds.

So I visit bookshops.

The great advantage with an agent is that I can ask Laurel if an idea is worth my time and emotional engagement.

In the spring, she gave me the green light for one project.

Another nonfiction Picture Book that I sent her last week, after writing countless drafts. It’s likely too long, but I started with 5000 words and came up with 1700, so cutting another few hundred words should be a no-brainer, right? 🙂

Then Laurel asked me to revise a lyrical piece. Her immediate comment when she read it had made my day. “This is clearly written from the heart,” she wrote.

It is a very important piece to me, she’s right. I’d love to share more with you now and hope to be able to do so very soon. But for now, I can only say that I was very open to a new draft, based on her comments, although I was not sure I could change my ending. More importantly I didn’t know where and how to start this revision.

Responding to critique is hard. Writers are so attached to their words. It took us so much time to find the right ones, the perfect simile, the voice to tell this specific story.

So I stepped back and visited bookshops. And libraries, too.

Over the years, however, I’ve learned to listen to my critique partners’ comments and suggestions. At first, I want to shake my head and say, “You don’t get it.” But later, alone, reading out-loud my manuscript and their feedback, I’m able to analyze my own work with enough impartiality to consider my partners’ point of view. And now my agent’s opinion, too.

Her years of experience in the industry give her the tools I need to shape a piece that not only respond to her legitimate concerns and valid suggestions but also give more power to my initial idea. Including the ending that I thought was perfect the way it was. Revising doesn’t mean changing what I intended to do, I realized, but to see the piece with a different angle that ultimately will make it shine in a timely and timeless way.

So I happily forwarded this new draft to Laurel last week, too.

Now I can barely wait for my Thursday update.

But we are only Monday 😦

I do not want to agonize, so what do I do?

I write, of course.

And this blog post counts since it’s a bridge from me to you, reading me today.

And I visit bookshops, too.

I also stop and smell the roses.

Or rather the magnolia now in full bloom.

They Are on my Mind

On June 6, 1944 thousands of men, some still boys, fought and died on the beaches of my childhood. The survivors rarely spoke about what they went through that day. When they landed in Normandy they had two goals in mind: free Europe and also protect their fellow soldiers.

When I walked those same beaches they were so often on my mind.

Today we are honoring all of them.

I chose to re-publish one of my own blog posts.

 

 

When I was a little girl, growing up in Normandy, I knew only two things about the United States of America.

People living there spoke American English.

It was the country that ended World War II.

One of my oldest childhood memories goes back to a day my father and I stood on a beach along the Atlantic coast. Since I had only seen the Manche (the English Channel), I asked him what stood beyond the Atlantic Ocean.

America, he said.

I detected an edge in his voice. I was too young to pinpoint the emotion behind, yet I knew to recognize reverence.

Until I moved from France to the United States my father’s only connection with America was tied to the liberation of his small Normandy village by a coalition of American and Canadian soldiers right after D Day.

Here in the United States I’ve met a handful of American men who fought in France during WWII but none who landed on the beaches of my childhood.

I spoke once to a woman whose father was among the ones who set foot on Omaha Beach in the early hours of the day that would bring peace to Europe. I was so moved by the fact that her father had walked through the villages and small towns that are the fabric of my childhood landscape that I asked her if I could meet him.

I wish you could, she said, but he died last year.

When his daughter told me his age, I calculated that he was twenty years old when he arrived in Normandy on D Day.

Five years older than my father on D-Day.

Younger than my son is today.

 

As years pass, D Day and the reason why those men and boys fought seems naturally very remote for contemporary children and teens. Fiction can bridge time. A few of my very favorites books that depict, in unique ways, unforgettable WWII.

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hess (also in French)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (also a French version)

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyle

Night by Elie Wiesel (also in French)

If you read French, this is a classic:

Un Sac de Billes par Joseph Joffo (the movie is great, too)

Their fight, death and survival is so alive today.

 

Word by Word

So honored to find my blog post about writing in another language featured on Rate Your Story!

Rate Your Story is a fantastic website if your write for children. There, you’ll find tons of info on everything related to writing fiction and nonfiction for kids of all ages, including articles on the craft, the importance of critique and revision, tips on how and where to submit, inspirational posts from other writers, and so much more.

I’m happy to know a few people behind Rate Your Story and grateful for their invitation.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while this post will echo some of my blog posts, even though it’s an entirely original piece. Recent readers might discover a little bit more about me.

My hope is that someone who writes in another language will relate to my experience, will smile while reading about my mistakes, and will be encouraged to go on, quietly but relentlessly.

For all of you, my favorite spring flower, quite challenging to grow in many parts of the USA but so abundant in my native Normandy during the season.

 

 

 

https://www.rateyourstory.org/single-post/2019/05/06/Word-By-Word

A, B, C, D, E, F, G… NOW I KNOW MY ABCs

 

Learning the alphabet is such a significant step for young children, their teachers and parents. However, I do not have clear memories of learning my alphabet while the moment I could read is still etched on my mind.

I do remember, though, moments of hesitation when I learned the alphabet when I took English classes at school.

The French letter G, for example, reads as the English J and vice versa. W is double V in French while it’s double U in English.

Whether pronounced in French or in English, for four years during the month of April, I honored these 26 letters.

This year I didn’t join the A to Z Challenge and I admit missing it.

So this short post is simply for each and every one of you who participated. I know of the challenge but also of the fun and the feeling of accomplishement when reaching the final line.

So on this last day of April and so close to the lovely month of May, one French proverb feels appropriate.

 

En Avril Ne Te Découvre Pas D’un Fil.

En Mai Fais Ce Qu’il Te Plait.

Literal translation:

In April don’t shed one thread (of clothing).

In May do whatever pleases you.

Meaning:

April weather being finicky, don’t pick light clothing when you dress.

In May wear whatever you want.

Congrats if you are an A to Z Challenger!

Happy month of May!

Le Cœur de Paris. Le Cœur de la France.

 

My native land will always remain tucked in my heart. So when hardship strikes in France, I instinctively travel back.

Everyone across the world felt something when flames engulfed Notre Dame cathedral on Monday.

The reactions and concern were genuine, whether coming from officials or on my own phone through kind texts and e-mails.

One of the most visited monuments on earth, Notre Dame is so much more than a renowned Gothic cathedral for French people.

When I moved from my native Normandy to Paris to pursue my graduate studies, I spent many weekends alone. As my feet took me from north to south and from west to east, I fell head-first for Paris, including for its extraordinary architecture, with a weak spot for the bridges.

But when years later my husband and I got the unique opportunity to climb to the very top of Notre Dame, I admit that the cathedral took my breath away.

I also admit that I didn’t feel God watching over me that day but Victor Hugo and the characters that populate his infamous novel Notre Dame de Paris, translated into The Hunchback of Notre Dame. They elbowed me and whispered as I pushed my way up. Located in l’Île de la Cité, in the center of Paris, the cathedral is the heart of Paris in more ways that its location. That day, with my footsteps echoing on the narrow staircase, my own heart beat faster as voices surrounded me, telling of the extraordinary story of Paris and France.

Fastforward a decade, we took our young children for a tour of Notre Dame. Our four-year-old son loved the Disney movie and kept asking about Quasimodo. People smiled as he craned his neck toward the belfries, waiting for the hunchback to ring the bells.

Today the bells of Notre Dame are silent.

They will also be on Easter Day.

As the holiday is approaching I remember my very American Easter, less than four months after my arrival to California. This is when I discovered that a special bunny brought jelly beans, Peeps, and other treats to delighted American children.

In France, bells coming all the way from Rome dropped chocolate eggs in my parent’s garden.

Both traditions have their flaws. It’s hard to believe that bells can carry sweets all the way from Italy. But a bunny that lays eggs is quite a stretch too.

To give a twist to the bunny tradition, one of my very favorite California-based Picture Book authors brought a cat in the picture.

Here Comes the Easter Cat was published in 2014 but it’s still as fresh as it was when it landed in bookstores and libraries all over the country. What happens when a cat decides to take over the Easter Bunny’s job? Kids will adore the hilarious plot and brilliant illustrations and above all that the author makes them the narrators of the story. Funny, clever, with a heartwarming ending, this is a truly picture-perfect book for Easter.

Speaking of books, my agent started to submit my picture book manuscript a few days ago.

I wish to be a kid again and believe that a bunny or bells or even a cat will bring me good news soon.

Meanwhile, I wish each and every one of you a very Happy Easter celebration, regardless of the way you celebrate.

 

Spring News From The Writing And Reading Front

Winter is officially over, even though it’s not always obvious everywhere in our own vast country and even in my native France.

Yet, change is in the air and it’s up to us to watch carefully for the subtle hints of a new season.

In my neck in the woods I witness the way nature switches gear and engages me to move forward.

I am so grateful for the people who’ve helped me transition from the dark days of winter to the glowing light of spring.

 

  • The revisions my agent asked me to tackle on my Picture Book manuscript are now completed. Her comments pushed me to reconsider some passages and even words. They also involved some cuts. Most authors will agree that it is the hardest part, particularly when we remember how we struggled to come up with a certain sentence. In the end, however, shorter is almost always better. My agent has just informed me that she is now ready for submission. I’m excited, of course, and a little anxious, too. But above all I still cannot believe that I will no longer have to write those pitches and query letters to editors. Thank you, Laurel for doing this for me!

 

  • My author friend Stacey, met at a book festival a few years ago, has launched her own Podcast The Bookshop at the End of the Internet, entirely dedicated to helping book lovers discover new authors. If you are one of them or both, check this podcast out. Thank you, Stacey for inviting me over. Here is the link to the chat we had together.

 

  • Blog Zone is one the most legit sources for writers of all levels. Nancy Sanders, widely published, offers tips, links to editors and agents’ websites as well as inspirational posts. I’ve often used Blog Zone when submitting my manuscripts. Nancy also runs authors ‘ interviews. Thank you for having me over, Nancy.

 

  • Rate Your Story is a unique platform created by children’s authors for children’s authors. They offer paid critiques by published and often award-winning authors in all genres, but also contests with cool prizes, and a bounty of reliable information. You can also become a member and reap lots of valuable benefits. Rate Your Story is also a great place to find support and camaderie. My essay from nonnative English speaker to agented author will be published in May. Thank you, Heather and Sophia for hosting me later this spring.

 

I was a reader before being a writer, so I will always remain inspired by the books I read. Due to my last project but also to my current one, I’ve read many biographies and narrative nonfiction Picture Books over the last two years. Below is a very short selection of my recent favorites. With no order of preference:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter; illustrated by Stacy Innerst

Isn’t the title perfect? The book is too. Really.

Jonah Winter is the author of many nonfiction Picture Books. Until now my favorite was his Just Behave, Pablo Picasso!

But his bio of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg changed my mind.

The book is cleverly written as it blends narrative and the facts of Ginsburg’s case, introduced as they would in a trial with evidence and exhibits.

Most American people know the important elements about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but young readers will discover an extraordinary journey from her family origins to her seat on the Supreme Court.

From her birth in 1933 from two parents who had fled Europe for New York to escape anti-Jewish persecution to her achievement, Ruth has met and overcome many obstacles. Physically unassuming, soft-spoken, but doted with a brilliant mind and relentless determination she faced unfairness and combated it so girls would finally be as valued as boys, so women would finally have the right to achieve. Her triumph remains a timeless and timely example and inspiration for girls and for us all.

 

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng by Sophia Gholz; illustrated by Kayla Harren

From one of my author friends, the true story of a boy who embarked on the impossible task to plant trees in order to act against the devastating consequences of deforestation that affected his island home in India. From a few bamboos Jadav would grow a 1 300 acre-forest where fauna and flora would eventually return.

Kids will understand and respect Jadav’s genuine concern for the damage done to nature. They will discover that an idea, even from a young person, has the potential to turn things around, and will be inspired by Jadav’s decision to act against all odds. The author has done more than her homework and it shows through the text as well as in the last pages that include additional information, a glossary and tips on planting. The illustrator has also done a great job. My favorite illustrations are the gorgeous depictions of the islands and the forest.

Last but not least, a book about a very unique librarian. Whether in France, where I often found refuge within their walls, or in the USA, where I learned how to read and write in English, libraries are my homes away from home.

Library on Wheels Mary Lemist Titcomb and America’s First Bookmobile by Sharlee Glenn

This is the story of a girl who wanted to do things and was told she could not. She was too young. She was born a girl. She was too poor. Some would have given up. Not Mary Titcomb. And we’re lucky since she’s the founder of the bookmobiles in the United States.

Born in 1852 in New Hampshire Mary became librarian in a world where women could only be teachers or nurses.

This is in Concord, Massachusetts that Mary started her career. As a quick personal note, my family has lived there and I’ve spent hours at the library nestled in the heart of the historical town and still keep particular fond memories of the friendly staff there. From Concord Mary’s career took off. The book follows her relentess goal to bring books to everyone. Despite the many naysayers who opposed her creative ideas Mary remained focused. Her goal was to make sure than men, women and moreover children who lived in remote areas could receive their fair share of books. In 1905 she considered using a horse to carry books to them. Once more Mary faced opposition. But when she came up with a book wagon design that would hold two hundred books nobody could stop her.

By 1922 the book wagons, now motorized, had appeared in other parts of the country to the delight of people who would not have had access to books otherwise.

The bookmobile was born.

The book ends with an illustrated history of bookmobiles through the years and a compelling letter from the author who grew up in rural Utah and waited for the bookmobile that brought her books every two weeks.

I’ve often written about French idioms and expressions, mostly because I grew up with a mother who used tons of them. One of her favorites was: “Laziness is the mother of all vices.” I understood that she implied that inertia was a moral weakiness, too. Maybe those hours I spent reading didn’t appear very active 🙂

Now that I’m an adult, being active includes being ready for change too. When I fully embrace the idea and move on I am happier. This is what Mary Lemist Tibcomb said on the subject:

“The happy person is the person who does something.”

Mary Lemist Titcomb

 

So Wherever You Live, I Wish Each of You a Creative and Productive Spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Did February Go?

Even though the month of February is the shortest, I always found it longer than any other when my kids were little and in school.

For the last four years, however, with no kids at home, February has gone by very quickly, only because of several book events that took me once more to different parts of Northern Florida.

And this year with the same events, but also a manuscript to revise and a new book project on my mind, the whole month vanished before my very eyes. But not without leaving vivid memories.

 

I never forget that I write for children and teenagers, so meeting with them is both my favorite and hardest part of being an author. I am told over and over again that I am a people person and it’s true that I love humankind. But I still need to push myself to face an audience, exactly as I had to when I was a kid at school. However, in the end, visiting a classroom, attending a book festival or being on a discussion panel at a public library is really the cherry on top for a writer.

Revising with an agent is a first for me. And let me tell you: I love it. Based on my agented critique partners/friends, I imagined that having my own agent would be a change in my life. My imagination didn’t disappoint. Working under the guidance of someone who knows the publishing industry on the back of her hand is a huge change. My agent’s comments on the manuscript she wants to help me publish have pushed me beyond regular revision. I worked on small sections of my manuscript that I knew could benefit from some trimming (I tend to write long). The same comments have also allowed me to read my work with a new set of eyes. It may seem dorky, but I enjoyed returning to the manuscript I wrote almost a year ago. I spotted a verb that I found a little weak and suggested a stronger one. I even came up with a different ending sentence, still based on the same comments. Definitely a first for me since I almost always know how I want to end a story and often write my last sentence before even starting a new manuscript.

Having an agent is also a relief in terms of the future. When I have an idea I get all fired up and I love the feeling. It’s exciting to start something new, even though it’s also a little scary. But having the goose bumps always wins over the fear factor. However, not all ideas have potential. When I was un-agented I did my homework and checked all books published on the same topic. But it’s impossible to predict if publishers are likely to respond positively to a manuscript, knowing that many months will pass from the idea until submission. Being able to share my latest Picture Book idea with my agent was also new to me. She loved it and encouraged me to move on with this project, which is fantastic of course, even though I have some serious work ahead of me. Knowing that someone who has your back is only an email or a phone call away is really a good feeling. I get it now when my author friends told me, “You’ll see what we mean when you also have your agent.”

 

Just a few highlights of my packed month of February, which I hope was as busily happy for any of you reading me today, as it was for me in my little corner of the world.

 

 

Month of March Here I Come!

 

 

 

 

Chez Moi in the USA: the eBook from my Blog

In the early days of 2019 I announced that I would stop blogging to focus on my writing. I had no idea that a significant event would meet my small personal decision. Now that I am Repped by an agent, it makes complete sense to bring my blogging years to closure.

My husband applied his technical skills to retool my website and to bring my eBook Chez Moi in the USA to publication, cover included. Without his phenomenal help and support I would not be able to announce that it is now available on Amazon.

Chez Moi in the USA compiles posts that have never been read, a few more popular, and two original unpublished stories. Divided into categories, it offers the possibility to scan through the chapters and select what interests you most. My hope is that you’ll venture through each and every category and will like what you find.

It is now time to turn the last page, close this book to start a new one.

Thank you for having read my blog.

Thank you for reading me today.

And thank you for putting Chez Moi in the USA on your reading list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Now Have an Agent

I am very happy to announce that Laurel Sydmonds from The Bent Agency is now my agent.

Laurel Symonds_photo

From now on, Laurel is representing me and I am very grateful for her interest in my work and her contagious enthusiasm.

Excitement and impatience are weak words to describe my state of mind, as I am ready to take my writing to a next level under Laurel’s professional guidance.

With offices in New York City and London The Bent Agency bridges my native and adoptive continents. An awesome feeling.

Many of you have followed my writing journey through my blog. Once again I want to thank each and every one of you for those words of support that carried me over the years.

All the best. Always.

 

 

French Friday: Au Revoir

 

As soon as I knew how to write I turned to words when things overwhelmed me, whether in a good or bad way.

So in my early days in the U.S., when everything was new to me, I first wrote to clarify my thoughts as I faced an entirely new country, new language and new culture. Later, I wrote to remember. And then, after two decades spent on both coasts of my new vast home, I started a blog where I shared my dual French American identity and my affection for my native and adoptive lands.

Like many people who live in the U.S., I speak two languages on a daily basis. Unlike most, I write fiction in American English, a language I acquired in adulthood. The acquisition has been a complex process, frustrating sometimes, but in the end transformative. Living between two languages and two cultures is both a gift and a challenge. My blog became a window on this life.

Ten years later, I know it is time to say goodbye to my blog in order to focus on other projects. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but in the early hours of 2019 I decided to select some of my posts to create an e-book, my personal goodbye to the many people who’ve read me over the years.

My husband, who customized my blog and maintains it, offered to design this e-book. Without his technical and unconditional support, this project would remain tucked in my Words Documents and I would not be able to publish Chez Moi in the USA by the end of January.

Through the process of selecting the posts I became the embarrassed and humble witness of my linguistic wandering journey. In addition, I realized that my writing not only uncovered personal experiences but illustrated also the evolution of our world, mostly in the ways we communicate. In less than a decade, social medias have transformed us, and I followed these changes through my blog.

Some of the posts I chose have never been read, only a few are among the most popular. I will add two original unpublished stories, even though a longer version of one of them won second place in a writing competition.

Chez Moi in the USA will be divided into categories, so you’ll be able to select what interests you most. I still hope that you’ll venture through each and every category and will like what you find.

Although I am closing my blog today and comments after this last post, I am not finished with writing, so this is only Au revoir and not Adieu.

Thank you, my fellow bloggers, for your thoughtful, meaningful comments and also for your sense of humor and your genuine kindness. They’ve meant a lot to me. I’ve never met any of you, and yet I always wished you well, whether through my blog or yours.

In these early days of 2019 I still wish you the best.

Cheers to those blogging years!

Evelyne

 

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