Goodbye to NaNoWriMo and Hello To Perfect Holiday Gifts


November is over. NaNoWriMo too.

And I have the first draft of a new novel. Not 50 000 words but that was predictable. 30 000 is enough, though, to know that another story is on its way. A good feeling as November has tilted into December, which means the holiday season has started.

When my husband and I prepared our first Christmas together we realized that we didn’t exactly shared the same traditions. So we mixed and matched and made concessions too.

Mine was to agree to open one gift on Christmas Eve, something I had never done until then.

His to agree to wait until Christmas morning, something he had never done before.

And we both agreed to hang stockings on the mantel, an American addition to our French shoes left at the foot of the Christmas tree.

Later, with impatient children, we decided to empty our stockings on Christmas Eve. A stocking is often too small for a book, however books are so easy to wrap that I came up with a personal shortlist of writers and their latest book. I know each of these authors, whether in person or through our mutual writing or blogs. They are indie and traditionally authors who work hard at their craft.

This season, as you are looking for a meaningful and not crazily expensive gift, give them a chance.




My blogger friend lives in the gorgeous Seattle area and wrote the terrific novel Tiger Tail Soup: A Novel of China at War in which she blends historical facts to fiction. Since Nicki was married to a Chinese man, authenticity and respect fill each page of this gorgeously written book that will appeal to history buffs, fiction lovers and travelers alike. Nicki is currently at work on another novel.



This is from Colorado that Katie’s mind churns chick-lit stories for women of all ages. Her latest Heath and Happiness Society Series takes the reader along the life-changing journey of five women friends who have different obstacles to overcome. Well-paced, filled with heart and humor women will love each of the five books and their realistic likeable characters. I’m not a huge fan of sequels that require to have read the previous books to understand the plot, so I find this series attractive since each book stands alone. To find more about each title and the entire Series, visit Katie’s website.


From California comes a lyrically written and gorgeously illustrated Picture Book about Japanese American sculptor Ruth Asawa, interned as a child in a California camp during WWII. Writing is from Joan Schoettler and illustrations from Traci Van Wagoner. Ideal for the artsy kid in your life but also for your family or school bookshelf Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life is not only a biography about the sculptor behind the Ghirardelli Square cast bronze fountain – among many other commissioned works through Northern California – but also a story about choosing the beauty of art agaisnt the ugliness of war.



A librarian by trade Angelica is known for her impeccable research. From the moment she shared her title idea, some years ago over one of our critique meetings, I knew someone would publish Born Criminal. Although feminist suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage fought for equal rights not dependent on sex, race, or class she has never been celebrated as much as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who worked for the same cause. In her book, Angelica explores Matilda’s life and the unfair reasons why her name has faded in history. For YA and adults alike.



SoCal-based author Jennifer and I are still to meet, even though our paths have almost crossed several times. Her indie published YA novel Dragonfly Dreams made it to Teen Vogue, next to Crazy Rich Asians. Set in 1810 in Fresno, a city she and I know well, her novel blends historical facts and immigration experience to paranormal elements. Check out Jennifer’s other books, including her cozy mystery novels for adults.





From the unique state of Vermont comes a writer with a knack for scifi, also an excellent inspirational blogger for indie writers. Michael S. Fedison’s recently released science fiction novel The Singularity Wheel is as engrossing as its companion The Eye Dancers in which seventh-grader Mitchell Grant and his three best friends found themselves in a 1950s world and had to rely on a mysterious little girl with blue, hypnotic eyes to return to the real world. The girl had visited them previously through recurrent dreams and needs them as much as they need her. I admire scifi writers for creating worlds from scratch and coming up with vivid settings and imaginative plots. Michael doesn’t disappoint.



Years ago, I had the privilege to meet and write with Alexandria over a series of workshops. Based in Illinois, the author, educator, speaker is one of the best voices in children’s literature, particularly in historical fiction. She’s also a smart witty warm woman. Her latest Picture Book Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town is fictional but based on the history of the African American pioneer settlement. Former slaves leaving the Jim Crow South founded Nicodemus, Kansas in the late 1870s. Now the town is part of the National Historical Landmarks. The album is lovingly illustrated, always a plus for younger readers. More about Alexandria here.


Attending festivals or doing school visits is a great way to meet other writers. I first met the three following Florida-based authors at a festival which we now attend every year.


Christina’s prolific writing is an inspiration. Her teenage female readers love her popular The Boyfriend Series. A plus: each novel is a stand-alone. More about Christina? Click here.


According to Stacey she writes about things that scares her in order to make them less scary. Four books later she still find enough scary things to keep writing. From her website, more info about Stacey and her books.


Fantasy is at the heart of Nancy Jane’s writing and illustration. Her motto summons her goal: Let Your Dreams take Off! All about Nancy and her books.



And of course, adding one of Evelyne’s books remains always a good option:


All the Mountains We Can Climb

One hot summer month in Yosemite National Park is seventeen-year-old Noelle’s ticket to another chance after the tragic death of her father and younger sister.

Chronicles From Château Moines

Set in Normandy in the early 1970s, this middle grade historical novel braids together American and French cultures via the alternating narratives of 12-year-old classmates Scott and Sylvie.

Trapped in Paris

A fast-paced young adult thriller set in the Parisian suburbs.

Now you can fully relax and enjoy the beauty of the season.

No need to panic if you hadn’t yet found the perfect gift for your teenage daughter, your favorite cousin or colleague or still your grandfather or mother.

Just pick a book from the list above.

You will make two persons happy.

Happy Peaceful Holiday Season to Each of You, my friends!

French Friday: A Novel Draft in a Month Week 2

As the state of California is currently fighting against beastlike fires, I pause.

When I started All the Mountains We Can Climb I had two goals: writing about letting go after loss in its various forms and showcasing a tiny area of Yosemite and part of the foothills that stretch at the foot of the National Park. Although the town where Noelle lives is entirely fictional it is based on several towns I know well.

I also deliberately set the novel over the course of the hottest month of June in history. At the beginning of the novel, Noelle compares what will happen if she reveals the secret she’s holding to the spark that starts that has the power to start a devastating fire in the foothills.

As fires rage in the north and the south of the state I am grateful that my family and people I know have always been spared by their tragic consequences.

And in a sad turn of event I am also glad to have set my novel in the foothills, a tiny homage to California, two of my children’s home state.


Lonesome California Poppy


Every year, the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo starts on the first day of November.

I decided to participate this year with the goal to have a 50 000 words draft ready by the end of the month.

So what happened during this second week?

Saturday: Each writing critique group works differently. Mine follows two simple rules: the writer never reads his/her work and always waits for everyone’s comments until providing clarification if needed and asking questions.

The theme of the Picture Book manuscript I shared that day was unanimously liked. Being liked is not enough to submit. Each of my partners had suggestions so I could improve the pace and nail the ending. It can be hard to listen to various opinions but also very productive when they meet. It was the case for this specific story.

Sunday: In French we say Il faut battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud or Strike while the iron is hot. So, with comments still very fresh in my mind I came up with a second draft in the afternoon, purposely letting my novel simmers.

Monday: I found out that my application to a book festival paired to school visits has been accepted. Small successes are so crucial to each of us, regardless of the nature of our work. So I felt uplifted and wrote. Still halfway from the 2000 magic word-count, though, and I questioned my slow pace.

Tuesday: Unable to pinpoint the exact reason I still had the gut feeling that something was off with my new novel. I still wrote. But strayed away after writing 900 words.

Wednesday: The aha moment or le déclic in French: Evelyne, you are not writing a YA novel but a Middle Grade novel. The protagonist cannot be a teen girl since she’s 11-year-old when she’s talking to you!

I was just not listening. When I did listen, though, everything fell slowly in place. Not the details of the plot that always evolve as I write, but my protagonist’s problem was clear. My main theme became evident. The trick for me is to capture in one sentence what the story is about. If I can’t then I need to think again about what I want to write about. Also the ending is always clear when I’m on the right tracks.

On Wednesday night, I felt more confident and excited to have found the reason why something felt odd.

Thursday: I woke up early and although I have a hard time staying away from the news those days, I did not even check my email and wrote. I even settled on a working title that could be the definitive one. Still keeping it to myself for now J

Friday: The day has just started…


Conclusion of the second NaNoWriMo week:


*It is okay to err.

*It is also important to trust the gut feeling and the small inner voice. They always know the truth.

*A strange beginning of week that ends on a much more a positive note.


On another positive note, Thanksgiving is around the corner.


I was moved to read that recent immigrants still embrace this particular holiday with genuine fervor. As true newcomers, most add to the turkey signature dish their own twist with particular spices or side dishes from their homeland. Some even practice before the big day when it’s their first Thanksgiving.

I remember my husband and me waking up so early on our first Thanksgiving, only because the turkey we purchased, although the smallest, was still huge and it would take hours to cook it properly. We wanted to eat when everyone across the States would eat, too. Our first Thanksgiving resembled what the most recent immigrants will experience on Thursday.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, my fellow immigrant!

I also know of a few Americans now living abroad. They still celebrate, despite the fact that Thursday is a working day for them. It is a lonely feeling to rejoice without family and friends from the homeland.

So I send you my warm wishes on this 2018 Thanksgiving.

And to everyone else, wherever you live across these big United States, I wish each of you a Happy Peaceful Thanksgiving Day.

At some point, I learned that many Americans wear the color red on Thanksgiving to mark the beginning of the holiday season. Which explains my selection of red flowers.

Due to the holiday I will not blog on Friday. Enjoy those yummy leftovers!

French Friday: A Novel Draft in a Month

Every year the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo starts on the first day of November.

This year I’m participating with the goal to have 50 000 words down by the end of the month.

So what happened during this first week?

THURSDAY: I woke up receiving a really thoughtful rejection for one of my Picture Book manuscripts with an invitation to send more of my work. A little disappointed but still uplifted, I outlined my new novel and wrote 1000 words.

FRIDAY: Early morning, I received another e-mail regarding the same Picture Book manuscript. This time, the editor asked me if I would be interested to work on a round of revision in order to bring this story to publication. Bring it on!

My 2000 words objective was again derailed because I searched for another manuscript to send to the first publisher and mostly because I felt anxious to receive the editor’s thoughts and start working on the revisions.

SATURDAY: Thursday and Friday’s e-mails were still on my mind. Picture Books very much, too. So I wrote another one, based on its title, which is actually a real question my youngest daughter asked me shortly after her brother’s birth. Sometimes finding a title is the hardest thing, sometimes it starts everything. In this case, I wrote very quickly and had a first 500-word draft ready by the end of the day. Right on time for my monthly critique meeting next Saturday.

MONDAY: Early morning I found Nicki’s blog post in my Inbox and it made my day. She had invited me for an interview about my YA novel All the Mountains We Can Climb. Nicki’s blog is one of the most thoughtful and interesting blogs I follow. She’s a writer, too, and I encourage you to visit her.

TUESDAY: The midterms elections affected my focus. The late results kept me agitated for most of the day. Besides, I was still waiting for the editor’s suggestions and was a little edgy. I still wrote 900 words. Painfully, though.

WEDNESDAY: My husband took me for breakfast, something we occasionally do, either as a celebration or consolation. Let’s say that this breakfast played both roles. Still unsure of my post midterms election mood, although I saw the number of women elected as a good reason to cheer up, I wrote another 1000 words. A friend of mine was organizing a panel with local authors and teens at our library. She had invited me and confirmed the event and the date for January. Always positive to meet the people who are building the world’s future.

THURSDAY: Very early morning my husband told me about another gun massacre in the LA area. Although no one we know has been killed or wounded, it is one too many. Disturbed, I ended up completing the entire revision for a compilation I intend to introduce soon on this very blog. I also submitted one manuscript to the publisher who wanted to see more of my work. The editor apologized for being late with her revision thoughts and promised to get back to me very soon.  Relieved, I returned to work and put 1000 words down.

FRIDAY: It is another writing day…


Conclusion of the first NaNoWriMo week:

*Writing and discipline work hand in hand. Physical but also mental discipline.

*An emotionally charged week, where personal and national events took control of me.

*So I didn’t write 2000 words every day.

*Yet I wrote every day.

















French Friday: November Is a Bridge To NaNoWriMo

The first autumn I spent in Paris stays close to my memory.

On Saturdays and Sundays, when I had no classes, I took long walks along unknown streets that carried me from one arrondissement to another.

During these solitary autumnal walks, the bridges (thirty-seven in Paris) that straddle the River Seine and link the left and right banks took literally my breath away. I liked nothing more than crossing the Pont Neuf, the Pont Saint Louis, or my very favorite the Pont Alexandre III.

Soon, autumn deepened and winter drew closer. By November, I hugged my raincoat closer to my body and my scarf tighter around my neck. Below the bridges, the River Seine glistened, a thick grey ribbon, disturbed by the gusts of winds and chilly rains.

Lacking the beauty of early autumn and upcoming winter, November felt, however, essential to transition between these two seasons.

Much time has passed since my footsteps echoed along those Paris bridges, the sound as familiar as the beating of my blood.

Yet, November remains for me a bridge from fall to winter.

This year November will also be my bridge to NaNoWriMo.

In the past, I’ve already participated to the yearly national novel writing event. My middle grade novel Chronicles From Château Moines started over one particular month of November.

Twice, however, I twisted the rules and used the month of November to write stories and picture book manuscripts instead of a novel.

This year, I decided to return to the simple rule that defines NaNoWriMo.

From November 1st to the 30th participants write with the goal to have 50 000 words down by the end of the month. For a YA or adult novel it is likely not enough for a complete first draft, but it is a very good start. When I followed this rule I tried to stick to 2000 words a day but Sundays. NaNoWriMo specifies that the novel should be an entirely new project that has not been started yet, although it’s acceptable to have an outline.

My 2018 project is both new and not outlined.

The only thing I knew before I started yesterday is that it would be another YA novel. I also knew that I wanted to write about two of my favorite things in life: books and baking.

There will still be French elements. Of course!

And it will be set in Maine.

During the month of November, French Friday will recap my week of writing, focusing on inspiration and motivation, and on challenges linked to writing in another language, more than characterization and plot.

I’ve no doubt that I’ll go through many ups and downs as I plow my way through the very first draft of a very new story.

So wish me luck and continue to support me through my already published novels. By the way, I’m happy to see that All the Mountains We Can Climb has received its first 5 stars review. Check it out!


P.S. It’s never too late to embark the NaNoWriMo boat. Here is the link to see how it works. 

It is also totally okay to skip the official registration and still write 50 000 words this month.


Will you follow the path and get to the Word Count?


French Friday: Behind a Novel

Years ago, I met a widely published author who told me that writing fiction was writing about what we do not know.

In 2018, particularly in children’s literature, more authors focus on what they know and what they have experienced.

But we cannot possibly live enough lives to have experienced every possible situation. Fiction is not writing about ourselves either or about people we know, changing names and twisting facts.

What if fiction allowed writers and readers to meet somewhere in between?

Today I am taking you behind the scene. Why did I write ALL THE MOUNTAINS WE CAN CLIMB?


For years I drove my kids to their high school, following a gorgeous road that cuts through Central California’s foothills and takes visitors to the three most visited National Parks in California: Kings Canyon and Sequoia southbound and Yosemite northbound.

In the winter, fog rolled over the fields, making traffic hazardous but the eerie drive peaceful. In the spring, cows grazed only feet away from the highway banks where wild flowers grew. Once we even saw a cow giving birth. As early as mid June heat browned the grass and turned the Sierras blue and blurry. My family was lucky to escape the brutal dry heat of the summer and fortunate to be there in the fall, which brought tarantulas right in time for Halloween and well-deserved cooler temperatures.

Often, driving home after long school days we watched the sun put the western sky in fire. We were then the guests of a show for which we got first row seats.

Every day we spotted wild animals that sometimes leaped or flew right in front of the car.

We also spotted too many crosses, flowers and wreaths, makeshift memorials in honor of a loved one.

This road was as spectacular as it was deathly.

It saddened me that so many people could die in such beautiful surroundings. Even sadder was the fact that many were young men and women, too often teenagers.

This heartbreaking reality planted the early seeds for All the Mountains We Can Climb.

The plot grew when some young people, barely older than mine or sometimes the same age, kids that my family knew through common friends and acquaintances lost their lives either behind the wheel or as passengers.

I could not stop thinking of their friends and families affected by the tragedy. Would they ever be able to move on? How would they deal with the weight of guilt and the grip of sorrow?

This is how I decided to write a story about tragic loss, guilt, grief, and ultimately forgiveness.

All the Mountains We Can Climb, however, remains a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, including the town in the vicinity of Yosemite, and incidents are strictly the product of my imagination.

Only a few elements are based on my personal experience.

I’ve climbed to the top of Half Dome several times.

Noelle, the protagonist of the novel, hikes the legendary summit under the moonlight, which I’ve also done.

Two of my children are musicians. Like my daughter, Noelle plays the alto saxophone and like my son she intends to study music in college.

My native France is never far from my mind, so I created French characters and wove French cultural elements through the story. Including some baking and cooking.

All the Mountains We Can Climb is above all a story about healing after a tragedy, understanding that loss is a universal human experience, accepting the importance of professional help, and ultimately saying yes to a second chance.

A heartfelt thank you to anyone who gave me chance and ordered my novel.

Let’s Climb These Mountains.

See You at the Top!


My New Young Adult Novel Is Released!


My New Young Adult Novel All the Mountains We Can Climb Is Released!


Since her father and sister died in a car crash, Noelle survives with the last words she told them seconds before the accident – words so unspeakable, she’s never shared them with anyone. A year later, still ashamed and guilty, she adheres to her mother’s rules, established after the tragedy.

Until she secretly applies to an East Coast college that she toured with her father and breaks her promise to study in California.

Now graduating from high school Noelle must tell her mother. As if she needed more challenges her French uncle’s sons arrive unexpectedly from Paris.

Charismatic Quentin witnessed one of the Paris’s terror attacks. Not without consequences. Quiet Manu cooks like a chef and reads Noelle so well, perhaps because he knows something about grief and guilt too.

Is Noelle’s last summer before college her chance to move on?

Set in the California’s Sierra Foothills and Yosemite National Park, populated with a cast of American and French characters, this is a story about the universality of loss, the weight of guilt versus the power of forgiveness, and the possibility of another chance.



As always, I thank you for your support. It means everything to me.



French Friday: There Is No Universal Female Story

A year ago, the early days of October gave birth to the #MeToo movement, here in the U.S., then followed by other nations, France being one of them.

A year later, it is clear that the movement is not a fade.

The recent confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has proved how deeply divided the American people are on issues related to women, including women themselves.

Truth is: there is no universal female story.

Which is why I have for the last year purposely read novels written by women about girls and women.

My three favorites walk the line between YA and adult readerships. Following their date of publication:


The Girls by Emma Cline (2016)

2016 saw many novels with “girl” being part of the title. Remember Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train?

The Girls by Emma Cline remains for me the most memorable. From its publication in June, I saw its cover in every bookstore across the country. Set in Northern California at the end of the 1960s, it is an extraordinary well-written story that won’t leave female readers indifferent. Although the plot can only remind of the Manson Family the book is a work of fiction. Through Evie Boyd, a lonely, sometimes naïve but also very thoughtful teenager the author explores girls’ vulnerability and strength. First drawn to a group of girls who live on a sprawling ranch deserted hills Evie becomes quickly obsessed with an older girl. Without realizing that she’s stepped in a cult led by a charismatic man Evie who wants so badly to belong falls headfirst. The novel takes off, leading to unstoppable violence that illustrates with poignant accuracy how a moment in a girl’s life can go horribly wrong. Even though a lot has happened for girls and women between 1969 and 2016, this novel remains a timeless moving realistic portrait of girlhood and womanhood.



The Burning Girl by Claire Messud (2017)

Probably the best recent novel about these unique years when girls tiptoe into adolescence and leave their childhood behind. Claire Messud explores the strong bonds between two girls who meet at the age of four and remain friends until their road split and they stop being friends toward the end of high school. Messud is a very skilled author who has penned several other memorable novels. Her writing style is sparse, but she tells so much in so few words. I was in constant awe. Although Julie, the main character, is a girl (mostly shown from the age of 12 to college application time) The Burning Girl is not a typical YA novel. I would, however, recommend it to high school girls who love the English language and want to understand themselves a little bit better. I found bits of younger me in this story, although I lived my adolescence in France and not in New England and was a teen during the late 70s and not in the 21st century. With wisdom and heart Messud captures the turbulent and yet sometimes so quiet moments when we girls become so aware of the unstoppable changes that affect us as we grow up. A slim book I read very quickly for the psychological thrill but read twice after to relish the many details and layers. A masterpiece.


Marlena by Julie Buntin (2017)

My daughter gave me this novel for my birthday last year and I still thank her. Skillfully told between past and present this is another friendship story between two girls. Cat, the main character, moves to a small rural Michigan town with her mother and brother and feels quite lonely. This is probably why she is immediately so attracted to her enigmatic, gorgeous next-door neighbor Marlena. Soon drawn to Marlena’s circle Cat witnesses her new friend’s unstoppable fall into drugs. Within a year Marlena is found dead in icy waters. Cat bears the responsibility since she didn’t act, even though she knew more was going on inside Marlena’s house and life. Decades later, a ghost from this troubled period suddenly reappears. Cat is forced to reopen the past and to reexamine her memories of Marlena. Gorgeously written, Julie Buntin offers yet another haunting tale about female adolescence, those crucial emotional years that shape us for better and worse.


Although there is no universal female story, fiction has the power to bring different stories to the front stage and I hope generate in turn less judgment and more empathy.

Now your turn:

Have you read memorable, challenging and yet life-affirming adult novels written by female authors that depict young girls just before womanhood?

Lisant davantage de romans contemporains écrits en anglais américain, dites moi si la France a aussi vu une explosion de romans pour adultes écrits par des femmes avec des adolescentes pour personnages principaux.



In Homage to Charles Aznavour. En Hommage à Charles Aznavour.

Today one of the most well-known French singers passed away. He was 94 and sang for 72 years. His long, prestigious career is also unusual since he was born poor and the sons of two Armenian immigrants wo left Turkey in the wake of more violence against their people, eight years after the Genocide.

My mother told me that I liked one of his songs when I was only a few years old. I don’t remember. What I remember tonight, though, is one of his concerts.

A first for me. A last for him in North America.

Here is what I wrote when my husband and I saw Aznavour in concert in Montreal, almost exactly two years ago. Unforgettable moment and weekend.

Pour vous mes amis français qui venaient de perdre l’un des plus grands noms de la chanson française voici ce que j’ai écrit en voyant Aznavour en concert à Montréal avec mon mari, il y a deux ans. Moment et weekend inoubliables.




French Friday: French Comfort Food With a Twist

This post was just published when my favorite editor texted me.

Mom! You wrote cherry cheery. Three times!

I replied that since I was in my car, on my way to Trader Joe’s, I would attend to the matter later on. Which was great since a smile followed my immediate embarrassment.

Today of all days I likely wanted to feel cheery.

Now that I’m back home I am following my editor’s advice, of course.

What I did is what we call a lapsus révélateur in French. I would not go as far as calling it a Freudian slip but simply a revealing slip.


Unlike millions I didn’t watch the Thomas’s hearings in 1991.

Unlike millions I didn’t watch the O. J. Simpson’s murder case in 1994.

Unlike millions I didn’t watch the Clinton-Lewinsky’s scandal unfold and lead to President Clinton’s impeachment in 1998.

Starting a new life thousands of miles away from my native France and caring for very young children didn’t allow me the possibility. My husband briefed me since he listened to the radio as he commuted to work, watched snippets on TV on his lunch breaks, and spoke with colleagues. Retrospectively this bubble of isolation was probably more a gift than a curse.

Yesterday, however, like millions, I was able to watch the Kavanaugh’s hearings from the beginning to the end.

I could write an entire blog post about the topic. I won’t. We don’t need more divide right now.

Watching hours of TV was a first for my husband and me. I grew up without TV. My parents bought their first set when I was in high school. Together my husband and I spent years without a TV set and today we still don’t have cable.

Although yesterday was a turning point in our country, I don’t recommend watching TV for hours.

What I recommend, though, when we go through emotionally charged times, is a slice of comfort food. Another phrase that I discovered in the U.S.

American comfort food remains different from one region to another, from one family to another, and even from one person to another.

My idea of comfort food stands on the sweet side of the aisle. In the States it is bread pudding. In France it’s clafoutis.

I found out recently that even comfort food could be a topic of discussion.

Early September I hosted my monthly book club. Since I am the only French-born in our group we never share French books, but I still do my best to add a French touch to our meetings. Since we met mid morning I baked a clafoutis this time.

From, mouth-watering pictures and everything you want to know about this dessert.

I am the only French-born in my book club but not the only French speaker. One of my friends was born and brought up in Belgium and we always speak French together.

Our American friends loved my clafoutis that they found amazing. I never get tired of the American enthusiasm.

“How do you make it?” asked one of them.

“Actually this is not a typical clafoutis,” I started. “The traditional one is baked with cherries and I used blackberries for mine.”

“Less work,” added another of my friends. “Pitting cherries is a pain.”

“You do not pit cherries for a clafoutis,” I said.

“Oh! So you spit the cherry stone?”

I nodded, mimicking the way to do so.

“Not for little kids, then,” concluded another friend.

The list of baked goods I stopped making when parents or teachers told me they were potentially dangerous for little kids grew in my head 🙂

“But there is a reason behind,” I went on. “The clafoutis was first made in Auvergne, a central France region. Auvergne people are said to be cheap and since clafoutis was sold by weight, they kept the cherries with the pit.”

“Funny!” said the most diplomatic of our group. “Well, pitted or not, this dessert is excellent. How do you call it already?”

“Clafoutis,” I said, and my Belgian friend joined me as I spelled out C-L-A-F-O-U-T-I-S.

“Oh,” she said. “I don’t put an S at the end.”

“I think both are correct spellings,” I said, realizing that I had probably never read the word with an S in the U.S. but always with one in France.

This clafoutis was already twisted, so we went on, enjoying each a slice as we discussed our book.

Later that day, I got a text from my Belgian friend who said that she Googled ‘clafoutis’ and that I was right about the spelling. Clafoutis was written with an S. I replied with a funny face emoji and added that even French native speakers met occasional challenges.

Which is the reason why authors are often reminded to stay away from foreign words, unless there are crucial to the story and ring authentic.

This is why I cringe when I read choux and not chou, or Pierette and not Pierrette, or still “votre secret es dans de bonnes mains,” an awkward sounding sentence to start with, but moreover with wrong subject/verb accord, in otherwise excellent American novels.

Writing in another language is tricky. Believe me 🙂

Despite our different way to spell the infamous Auvergne dessert, my Belgian friend and I agreed: With or without an S a clafouti(s) is yummy.

The one I favor is very simple to make.


And very quick to polish, too, when comfort food is needed.









French Friday: The Magic of Fall

When I arrived in California from Paris I had no idea that Americans called autumn fall.

I really fell for the season’s magnificent gifts when my family lived in New England. It’s truly magical, I kept telling everyone around me. New Englanders smiled politely, used to the compliment. I pressed leaves so colorful they seemed painted between the pages of my dictionaries and later sent them all the way to France.

Away from the Northeast, I’ve learned to track the more subtle ways nature signals the arrival of fall.

In Southern California for the last week, sadly without my husband who for business reasons could not join me, I traveled from one place to another, often by foot. Quiet witness of the delicate shifts in the air, I missed my husband’s voice in my ear, his arm looped around mine, his jokes and laugh that can lift the thickest fog, but I felt so thankful to our children for taking me to their own cherished places.


7 A.M. fog in Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego County

I almost expected to see my husband, waiting for me on this bench seated above the Pacific

A plane cut through a perfect blue sky above the Liberty Public Market, in Point Loma San Diego where my daughter invited me for a Thai lunch, food we both adore

Pepper plants in bloom in Los Angeles County

SoCal Beauties, still in Los Angeles County

And everywhere through this part of the Golden State, the distinct colors of fall 

Fall remains only a name for another month in SoCal. The hottest days are behind, but the Santa Ana winds can still blow warm air and the rain remains a distant dream.


Awaiting for rain, plants are dormant along the trail that leads to Cowles Mountains in San Diego

The 1,593-foot (486 m) summit is the highest point of the city of San Diego

My daughter took me up to the less dusty, more urban, still steep Secret Stairs in La Mesa, San Diego County…

…and then down…

Fall is maybe only a name in SoCal. Yet the change of season is here.


Hot Tea Replaces Iced Tea

Red Is the New Color

Overcast morning on the Pacific means

sun-drenched afternoon

Magically, new books make their way to bookstores, here at Warwick’s in La Jolla, San Diego.

Speaking of which, I read two magical books over this trip.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton is an unusual story that explores the meaning of love through several generations of people. A friend lent it to me, probably because the family has deep roots in France and also because the novel is filled with mouth-watering baked goods 🙂

I was not immediately drawn to the novel, mostly because it targets Young Adults and I found it very different from most novels in this genre. I suspect that older readers (college students, for example) and even adults will appreciate the beauty and meaning of the story more than teenagers. Anyway, it took me a few pages to be fully immersed, but soon the exquisite writing and the original pulled me in. Gorgeously crafted, filled with lots of sensory details and irresistible baking this book was a magical companion to my trip.

I hadn’t anticiped to read another novel filled with magic realism. But I’m a sucker for Middle Grade books and I knew I had to read The Incredible Magic of Being by Kathryn Erskine. She’s one of the biggest names in children’s literature and each and every of her books is a gem. I knew I would not be disappointed but didn’t expect to read one of her funniest and yet deepest novel.

Nine-year-old Julian is 100% obsessed with space. He even has imaginary friends in alternate universes. He’s also very scared of water and doesn’t go anywhere without his life jacket. The story of Julian’s family (fourteen-year-old sister Pookie and two moms) moving from bustling Washington, DC to rural Maine to run a lakeside bed-and-breakfast is told through his amazingly fresh and honest voice. Julian loves his family, but he is really tired of Pookie’s typical teenage mood swings. In reality, he misses Pookie’s younger version much more than she annoys him. I loved Pookie!  And loved the siblings’ realistic relationship. Let’s be frank: Julian’s behavior is quite strange, so his overprotective mother, the one he calls Mom wants to homeschool him in order to save him from bullies. Thankfully, his other mother, Joan, is much more laid back. That was cool to see the two mothers acting so differently and yet equally lovingly toward Julian and Pookie. The bed-and-breakfast project derails when the retired neighbor sends a lawyer over because the latest addition to the bed-in-breakfast illegally blocks his water view. Pookie convinces overfriendly Julian to befriend the neighbor to make him drop the lawsuit. The rest is a smartly crafted story packed with stars, dreams, Smores, lots of love, and even dogs.

I hate spoilers, so I won’t say more. Anyway the first sentence of the novel says everything.

“Magic is all around us, but most people never see it.”


A week later, I came home to find out that my husband had also read and loved two books while I was gone.

Fear by the one and only Bob Woodward and Small Fry, the memoir written by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, Steve Jobs’s daughter.

Totally different books from mine. But you know what they say? Opposite attract. It’s magic.


Tomorrow marks the first day of fall. Enjoy its magic and a couple of books, too!

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