When the Whole World Pauses

 

When We Explored the Great Outdoors

 

Shelter-in-place. Stay at home orders. Quarantine. Confinement.

The term can vary depending on your state or your country, but the meaning remains the same.

The whole world has paused and many of us are living the quietest moments of our lives.

Writers who are used to work alone and often in silence should have an edge. However, most writers I know have a hard time to focus and even a harder time to be creative.

Agents and editors, mostly based in New York City, are working remotely. Submissions are still going on. Rejections and requests too. A mix for me.

My agent has more time available, away from meetings and conferences, and she’s agreed to read my work. I really take advantage of the offer to polish a few manuscripts. She already read one and as much as she liked the premise and even compared it to a really great book she asked for a serious revision. While I waited for her feedback I worked on another one. I’m now ready to forward her a piece I really love. Let’s hope she’ll love it as much 🙂

Like everyone else I bake and I’m on Zoom. A lot. For my writing meetings and critique. For yoga, too.

I also read a lot and for the first time in years I finish 500-page-long books in record time.

Libraries and bookstores are closed and yet we need books more than ever.

 

The Last Bookshop, Los Angeles

 

Parents, I’ve heard, are especially begging for book suggestions. Many have told me how challenging it is to homeschool while working. All said that they are still sharing exceptional moments of warmth with their children.

Always around a book.

 

One of my several home bookshelves

So here is a very short selection of upcoming and newly published books. All are from friends of mine. All have published more than one book, so take a few minutes to browse their website and blog to find more.

From my California friend Claire:

Evie’s Field Day

From my  Florida friend Heather:

I adore everything about Rex the… We-Don’t Know! Very young kids will love the silly situations created by Rex from the second he’s adopted from the pound. Slightly older children will understand that Rex is so much more than a strange creature. Parents will use the story as a tool to talk about animal adoption and difference. As newly appointed teachers they might talk about the importance of humor in writing. In any case, everyone will admire Rex’s talents to earn the affection of his adopted family.

From my New York City friend Robin:

No Peacocks! is a hilarious Picture Book, perfect for read-aloud time. Robin told me that she got the seeds of her book on the real peacocks who live at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

From my New Jersey friend Nancy:

Today Is a Beach Day!

Always Makes Me Smile

Over these exceptional times people show generosity and solidarity. The Amelia Island Book Festival put together a reading list and I am thankful for the gesture. You can find me under Exhibiting Authors.

A member of my book club wrote a very nice group e-mail when we decided to come up with a list of books to help us during the sanitary crisis:

“I forgot an important recommendation, I finished reading Chez Moi in the USA by our own Evelyne Holingue! I loved it so much Evelyne, this is perfect! Thank you!!!
All your books of course but this one is very uplifting, hope that you are working on the next!!!”
Flowers Still Bloom

When the whole world pauses, small becomes meaningfull.

Take care of yourself and each other.
And Keep Reading!

I Met a Dragon Face to Face

For the first time, my monthly book club met through Zoom. It was different, of course. We could neither smell the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee nor taste the homemade cake or cookies that our host for the month would have baked.

But we still had each other.

And between us an opened book we had read and would discuss.

Last week, instead of an email, my friend Claire sent me a poem. Thank you, Claire. I owe you the idea for this short blog post.

 

 

BOOKS FALL OPEN

by David McCord

 

Books fall open,
you fall in,
delighted where,
you’ve never been.
Hear voices
not once heard before,
Reach world through world,
through door on door.
Find unexpected
keys to things,
locked up beyond
imaginings….
True books will venture,
Dare you out,
Whisper secrets,
Maybe shout,
across the gloom,
to you in need
Who hanker for
a book to read.

Nothing, I agree, has more power than a book to unleash imagination when bodies no longer have the freedom to wander. This poem is for you, children, away from your schools and living now within the confines of your homes.

 

I MET A DRAGON FACE TO FACE

By Jack Prelutsky

 

I met a dragon face to face
the year when I was ten,
I took a trip to outer space,
I braved a pirate’s den,
I wrestled with a wicked troll,
and fought a great white shark,
I trailed a rabbit down a hole,
I hunted for a snark.

I stowed aboard a submarine,
I opened magic doors,
I traveled in a time machine,
and searched for dinosaurs,
I climbed atop a giant’s head,
I found a pot of gold,
I did all this in books I read
when I was ten years old.

 

Read and if you’re lucky enough to have a yard enjoy its simple spring treasures.

Take good care of yourself and each other.

 

 

 

 

Amelia Island Book Festival 2020

I hope that 2020 has been so far good to you.

Now preparing for the annual three-day-long Amelia Island Book Festival, I am filling with conflicting thoughts. It will be my fourth year, and although I’m more confident I’m still a little nervous. Particularly because of an additional event, a first for me.

Meeting young readers is always a treat for me. But when I share the stage with very well-known authors I feel both honored and intimidated.

I know that when the festival is over I will leave with energy and gratitude but for now I’m simply doing my very best to prepare a presentation worth of the tweens and teens’ time.

 

Happy Holidays to Each and Everyone of You!

A quick pause as cakes and cookies bake…

Wherever you live and whatever holiday you celebrate, I wish you joy and peace. And memories to transform into stories. Always.

 

 

See you next year!

November, You Rock!

Tucked between Halloween and Christmas, at the heart of the fall season and yet pale in comparison to spectacular October, November remains my favorite month of the year.

Whether in my native France or in the US I’ve always felt happy and grateful to be alive in November.

There, the month signals the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau and prestigious literary awards. Here, Thanksgiving holds the promise of gatherings around yummy food.

Doesn’t hurt that November is also my birth month:)

 

This year I feel particularly thankful for November.

On the writing front, things are moving along.

Last week I found out that my latest book Chez Moi in the USA was selected for the annual Amelia Island Book Festival. It will be my fourth year as one of the authors who participate to the Authors in Schools program.

In February I will meet 200 high school students who take French classes. I can hardly wait!

Prestigious authors in all genres attend the Amelia Book Festival, so I was 100% unprepared for the email that popped in my Inbox also last week.

My Young Adult novel All the Mountains We Can Climb had been entered in a contest and won the selection for the Teen/Tween Scene, an afternoon event with students and authors.

More details will come, but I already know that Margot Lee Shetterly, the renowned author of Hidden Figures will be part of this panel, too.

Wow!

This three-day literary event ends with a daylong festival with book talks, signings and more. It’s always so much fun to meet readers and it’s an additional treat to reconnect with authors met at this festival. I’m happy to call some of them my friends.

 

To make November even sweeter my agent told me last night that several editors responded positively to the recent submission of my second manuscript. Some editors have already requested to read it. With enthusiasm, my agent added.

Manuscript #1 is still under consideration. Fingers crossed here.

And of course there is Thanksgiving, this American celebration that unlike other holidays I immediately embraced. For the food, since I adore pumpkins, sweet potatoes, cranberries, pecans, and pies, but above all for this pause that once a year we share, grateful for our family, our friends, and simply for the chance to be alive.

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU!

 

 

 

 

Create Solitary Writing Moments

 

 

Happy belated Halloween and happy November to each of you!

 

With Thanksgiving approaching and the holiday season soon in full swing, November is a busy month for most of us.

It becomes more challenging to find solitary moments amidst a frentic schedule. I came to realize that it never happens unless we decide to create those moments. And yet there are necessary if you write.

NaNoWriMo starts today and for full disclosure I had totally forgotten about it.

The manuscript that landed me an agent early spring is still under consideration. My second manuscript is now ready for submission and will reach editors before Thanksgiving. Another one is ready as well and I am revising two other pieces.

I found out that I love revision so much more now that I can rely on my agent’s guidance. My critique partners are still my early readers. When I decide, based on their comments, that I have a draft worthy of my agent’s time I forward it to her.

Since she signed me after reading one of my Picture Book manuscripts, I am focusing on such pieces for now, a mix of nonfiction and fiction. But I still love novels. A lot.

So when I found Anne Lamott’s inspirational pep talk in my Inbox this morning I decided to return to a novel I had just started before receiving an offer of representation.

It is a little scary to go back to words written months ago, but anticipation is already building inside me.

I am not officially entering NaNoWriMo, but I will create some solitary writing moments, because…

 

“You either start now, or it is not going to happen for you, and you are going to wake up at seventy years old (or eighty, if you are already seventy) filled with sorrow that you let your dream, your passion, gift, fall by the wayside. You start now, as is.

‘As is’ is the portal to creation, to new life.”

Anne Lamott

 

 

 

 

 

FALL READS AND NEWS

A child of the fall I always look forward to its early signs, which can be subtle and easily missed.

And yet, after a hot summer in so many parts of the world and in the United States, temperatures are dropping, at least in the early and late hours of the day.

Squirrels scurry all over parks.

Pumpkins patches appear, colorful pop-up shops.

Scarecrows move on people’s porches.

At yoga yesterday, our instructor ended practice with these words:

“As trees are starting to shed their dry leaves, we are also offered the possibility to shed what has died inside us. Fall is the season to let go.”

Always easier said than done, right?

And yet, the words stayed inside me all day long. I even forwarded them to one of my daughters, who like me, loves words.

Like wild animals, trees, and plants get ready for shorter, darker days I surround myself with more books than ever.

My recent favorite reads:

 

FOR CHILDREN:

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn written and illustrated by Kenard Pak

A lovely hymn to my favorite season, a true Picture Book with sparse words that leaves ample room to illustrations.

“Hello! Now that the cool winds have come

We love how our branches sway in the sun.”

What I love most about this Picture Book:

The illustrations that carry so well the quietness of this time of the year. I could see the colors of fall, but also smell, taste, touch, and hear the season as I turned the pages.

Kenard Pak lives, writes, and draws in San Francisco.

 

Mary Blair’s Unique Flair: the Girl Who Became one of the Disney Legends written by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Brittney Lee

Early on, Mary Blair loved color and wanted to be an artist. But her dream was hard to realize. Mary’s parents didn’t have much money so it wasn’t easy to provide her the material she needed. Yet, they did their best to give her paper and paints. Mary worked a lot to enter The Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles in the mid 1930s. And when she found a job at the Walt Disney Studios she had to work as hard to be accepted in the male-dominated industry. But Walt Disney loved Mary’s colorful art and offered her to join him to South America. There, Mary fell for the colors and incorporated some in her concept art for Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan, and even the It’s a Small World attraction at Disneyland.

What I love most about this bio Picture Book:

Mary’s natural love for color, her tenacity and her determination when it came to art.

The illustrations that support Mary’s unusual and inspiring story explode with colors and Mary’s love for them.

 

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré written by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar

This Picture Book is a vivid homage to the storyteller, puppeteer and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian.

Like many immigrants Belpré found a home at the New York Public Library when she arrived to the USA in 1921. There, she worked as a bilingual assistant and turned her popular retellings into books. A librarian and a writer who served her Spanish speaking community Pura Belpré left a legacy that still speaks volumes today.

What I love most about this bio Picture Book:

I’ve spent countless hours in libraries in my native France and in the United States, whether where my family has lived or for occasional visits when we travel. Libraries are often a second home for readers but also for people who seek quietness and shelter. Librarians are the hosts and this book celebrates one of the most unusual and legendary.

The balance between the lyrical writing and the vibrant illustrations is pitch-perfect.

The few words in Spanish here and there remind us of the importance of language for all human beings.

 

FOR TEENS:

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

 

When it appears very clear that Mara’s twin brother has raped his girlfriend, also Mara’s friend, Mara is caught between her family, her own sense of right and wrong and also the need to address a suppressed trauma.

Told from the perspective of seventeen-year-old Mara who has never told anyone about going through sexual assault on her last day of eighth grade, this empathetic novel treats of the difficult themes of consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault and opens the door to very important questions about truth, feminism, friendship, and family loyalty.

What I love most about this YA novel:

The story is very nuanced. In this era of he-said, she-said, and black and white opinions the author leaves plenty of room to questions.

She also opted for an untypical ending. Nothing is clearly solved by the end of the book. The characters are forever changed and yet we leave them with the certainty that they will be able to move on.

The main protagonist is a girl, but the novel is definitely also written with boys in mind. I hope many will read it.

Ashley Herring Blake lives in Nashville, Tennessee, home to the lovely bookstore Parnassus, owned and run by award-winning author Ann Patchett.

 

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone, including her former girlfriend Mabel, since she left San Francisco secretly and abruptly.

Now, months later, on the other side of the country, Marin is waiting, alone on a deserted school campus for winter break, for Mabel’s visit.

Over the course of a few short days Marin will face the necessity to open up and tell Mabel of the tragedy she left behind when she fled California.

What I love most about this YA novel:

The settings, both San Francisco and upstate New York, are impeccably rendered. The author shows us Marine’s emotions unfolding through the eerie San Francisco fog and the snow packed New York state winter. Brilliant.

She also managed to write short (230 pages is rare in YA). Her voice is quiet and yet the story is packed with intense feelings related to death, loss, grief, and love.

The fact that Mabel has been forced to move on after Marin left her without any warning and is now in a relationship with a boy is well described. While initially hurt Marin is now clear about her sexual orientation and the book ends with the promise that she will meet other girls and fall in love again.

Marin’s complex relationship with her grandfather, the man who raised her, now dead, is beautifully shown, too.

The gorgeous language, full of imageries, is comparable to an art piece.

LaCour is one of the most respected authors in contemporary Young Adult literature. She is the recipient of the 2018 prestigious Michael L. Printz Award for We Are Okay.

She lives in Martinez, a small town in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST:

From my agent’s desk:

* “Plenty of editors are reading and excited about your project.”

* “Your lyrical writing always brings me so much joy.”

From my writing desk:

* I’m filled with hope when I read this, of course.

* Having an agent is still a bit unreal for me, even though Laurel and I are in frequent touch. I am always looking forward to her weekly email and shorter lines in between. She’s an amazing editor (she was one before being an agent) and her comments, compliments, and requests for changes on my manuscripts make me a better writer. Some of the publishing houses she selected for my book are not open to unsolicited submissions and often closed to un-agented writers. So, even though we’ve now reached six months since we started the submission process and that it seems an eternity, where would my manuscript be without someone who has my back? I stick to Laurel’s optimistic words and keep my fingers crossed.

* I wrote, revised, and polished my next two manuscripts, one being another bio Picture Book and the other one a fiction Picture Book. Laurel is as enthusiastic and supportive of them as she was when she signed me on my first manuscript.

* Updates will follow. Meanwhile, I work on a new project. Of course 🙂

 

 

Wherever You Live I Wish Each and Every One of You a Glorious Fall Season.

 

P.S. Halloween is not my favorite holiday, but when young trick-or-treaters ring my bell on Halloween night I’m always ready. So when I saw this bag of Gummy candies with a sale tag that read “Limited Quantities,” I didn’t think twice.

 

Individual small packages hold tiny, soft gummies that come in all sorts of classic Halloween shapes. Absolutely perfect for little trick-or-treaters. Above all, those gummies are irresistibly delicious.

Don’t ask me how I know.

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

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