For this last edition of 2004, a more personal look into la naissance* of this letter from France; a background on how it came about, and its raison d'être* (besides building one's French vocabulary!). Most of the stories in 2004 were in keeping with a French theme. For today's personal story, a Wild West theme seems fitting, considering my Southwestern roots. Though I left the Phoenix desert a third of my life ago, a part of my heart forgot to board that plane to France...
1. gratitude, gratefulness
Il n'y a guère au monde un plus bel excès que celui de la reconnaissance.
In the world, there is hardly a more beautiful excess than that of gratitude. --Jean de La Bruyère
To you, the reader. (A story about you and me.)
by Kristin Espinasse
In October of deux mille deux,* I began a website -- a vitrine* of sorts, for my writing. I put up a few published stories, a bio and un livre d'or* and waited beside my virtual mailbox, ginger ale in hand.
A few tumbleweeds blew past but no publishers. My address, my website--my writing--remained in a cyber ghost town.
I continued to peddle my words, sending out queries for my stories. I did not sell many.
I thought to offer something to attract editors and publishers and so I went out front my cyber office and nailed up a sign; it read: "French Word-A-Day." I waited patiently for a customer. More tumbleweeds blew past. No publishers.
I continued to "show up at the page" or keyboard and screen each morning and the stories collected like so many stars over a sleeping desert on a warm summer's night. As for l'espoir,* I had that. Still, no publishers came.
But you did.
You must've seen the sign out front. You signed up for French words and accidentally found yourself in my French life. You must have said, "Pourquoi pas?"* then pulled up a stool, ordered a ginger ale, and settled in.
Your presence reassured, and I wrote. And wrote. And wrote a little more. And mostly hoped you would not leave town when the next stagecoach passed through. At least not until I figured out what it was I had to say.
Then one day you said: "Thank you for your missives," and I ran to my dictionary to look that word up. You also wrote: "Thank you for your vignettes."
"Vignettes! Vignettes!" I said aloud, doing a little square dance. I never knew what to call "it" besides an "essay" (which, I felt, was a spiffier term than "diary entry").
Many good months passed, with small writing victories and a former ghost town now come to life.
My joie* was short-lived. A menace and a few mean-spirited emails arrived. I almost yearned for those tumbleweeds. Instead, I mentioned my soucis* in a letter and suddenly it was Showdown at the French Word-A-Day Corral. You showed up with your posse and told the bandits to get out of town. Then you looked at me and said, "Don't let the !@#& get you down!"
While others don't understand the life of a former Desert Rat-turned-French housewife-turned-maman* and, recently, struggling écrivain--you do.
At a shop in Draguignan, the vendeuse* says:
"Your name sounds familiar, what does your HUSBAND do?" and I fall back into a slump and am reminded that what I really am is a pantoufle-footed* housewife with a back-up of 3 loads of laundry, and a sink full of soiled, mismatched assiettes.*
I return home, to the dirty dishes and laundry, and to a letter from a reader, which says: "Thank you for your new book, when can I get a copy of the first volume?" And I sit up straight, dust off my keyboard and am reminded that what I really am is a working writer with a back-order of books. If I will only continue to travailler:* to show up at the page, and write, each day.
Thank you for helping me to live my dream in 2004. For buying my books, for reading my--missives-- and for your thoughtful words of support. The publishers and agents may not be beating down my door. But each time I crack open la porte* -- there you are.
In 2005, I'd like to continue with the stories, expanding the "gist" of this French Life. I hope you'll stay in town -- because I have figured out that I do, indeed, have something more to say. In fact, there is so much that I have not yet told you.
And while you know of the light-hearted, bubbly side of this expatriation, Real Life continues to rumble within my writing veins. Like a rowdy, drunken saloon girl, wanting to be heard. Only, I will need to slap her cheek, pour a bit of cool water over her head, take a tissue to her running mascara and tell her to have faith. That her story will be told. If she will only show up at the page.
May you, too, live your dream in 2005.
la naissance (f) = birth; la raison d'être (f) = reason for being; deux mille deux = two thousand two; la vitrine = showcase; le livre d'or (m) = guestbook; l'espoir (m) = hope; pourquoi pas? = why not?; la joie (f) = joy; un souci (m) = worry; une maman (f) = mom; la vendeuse (f) = saleslady; la pantoufle (f) = (house) slipper; une assiette (f) = plate, dish; travailler = to work; la porte (f) = door
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi