Tug of War in French, with puppies
une idée fausse

Milestone in French

Eiffel Tower, Tour Eiffel Paris France (c) Kristin Espinasse

It was a dream come true to speak in Paris at the American Library. Read on, in today's story column. (Picture taken with my camera after the speaking event, as Jean-Marc and I walked back to our hotel.)

jalon (le jah-lohn) noun, masculine

    : milestone


A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse

The night before last I stood outside the American Library in Paris thanking the woman who had discovered my blog in 2005 and contacted editor Amanda Patten, in New York, who eventually offered to publish my "Words in a French Life"* through Simon and Schuster.

Out there on the wet library curb the Paris skies had stopped pouring, the rain had subsided -- and so had a lifetime of fear inside of me. I was overjoyed and presently thanking Ann for more than discovering my writing. For, this time around, Ann was helping me to discover the ability to express words off paper. Little did Ann know what a milestone--quel jalon*--this was for me to parler en publique*... and now that the author event in Paris is over, I can finally admit to a big secret:

I passed out the first time I spoke publicly.

And one more secret:
I passed out the second time (years later), too!

Back then, before an audience of peers, my heart began to thump wildly, my skin began to cry a light coat of cowardice, my bones beat (as if they had hearts of their very own) beneath my now soaking skin, and my head clouded up, only to spin... Next thing I knew I was staring at the blurry ceiling above me, my head having hit the floor.... J'étais tombée dans les pommes!*

I have avoided public speaking ever since.

But when Ann contacted me about the Paris speaking event, back in June, I made a decision that I was not going to let this fear control me any longer -- or keep me from enjoying the opportunities that have come my way (though I had spoken in Paris once before, before a group of writers, I have canceled speaking events in France, and avoided them back in the States).

Motivated now to move beyond my crippling fear, I enlisted a coach: Coach Conchita to be exact.

Coach Conchita (a.k.a. "Mom," who lives in Mexico) and I practiced for one intensive week before the event. Coach Conchita, if she had been present in person (our sessions took place via internet and over the phone) would have been wearing a felt fedora with a lengthy purple feather, a leopard poncho, and spurs on her polished boots, that is -- if she had had the luxury -- but luxury (in the material sense, for Mom's spirit is solid gold) left her some time ago. Lately she is trying to keep afloat after the swine flu fiasco which has brought ruin to her fellow compatriots and to herself.

To keep her thoughts and mind off this trying time, Mom generously threw all of her energies into forming me and there began her own signature boot camp ... for would-be speakers who, by fear, have cramped.

During Coach's colorful sessions, I drank in her every word, practiced her every point. I did this religiously as my Coach's name might imply: Coach Conchita, who had set me free 41 years ago, was about to send me on my way again and I went willingly with an enthusiastic amen!

I wanted so badly to overcome the angoisse.*  I was motivated, finally. But when Coach ordered me to film my practice episodes, I almost balked. I didn't want to see my nerves on film (just as one hates to hear one's voice on tape). Mom persevered, giving me instructions on how to hold up... and how not to cower down. Her advice was so fun and funny that I almost forgot my fears. Some of her tips:

(Mom writes): First of all I want you to jump up and down about ten times before you even come onto the screen - I want to see color in your cheeks and feel life!

Pretend you have had 3 glasses of wine and you are telling a new friend the story.  Speak to just one friend you want to entertain with this story - glitter and giggle and smile and laugh.  

Let down all of the screens you are hiding behind and... LET IT RIP !!!!

Coach Conchita offered many golden tips and I followed them all to the T until I could not wait to pass this latest life test -- and try out my new orator's ailes.* 

Finally, it would be ungrateful of me not to share a remarkable remedy that worked for me:
I prayed that panic right out of my little heart... 

Comments are welcome and appreciated! Click here to respond to this post. Thanks, again, to Ann Mah (please see Ann's forthcoming novel) and the équipe at the American Library, for the warm welcome. Thanks also to Catherine Sanderson, who spoke at this event about her books (Petite Anglaise and French Kissing). Catherine was brave to show up (she is due to have her second child any day now). Best wishes to the family.


The Puppy Profiles continue...
Five of Braise's puppies found homes, but our golden girl put her foot down when it came time to give away the only boy. (Well, that's my story, anyway...) The fact is, we had always hoped to keep one of the babies.

golden retriever puppy, month old, france (c) Kristin Espinasse, french-word-a-day.com
Meet "Smokey" (who was to be named "Jackson"... until the kids met another Golden Retriever on our vacation in Austria. Its owner explained how she came to name her golden "Smokey":

"My husband is a fireman," she said.

There are no pompiers in our family, but that didn't keep us from warming to the Austrian woman's story... and to the name Smokey.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Bill in St. Paul

Those of us who have a fear of public speaking can sympathize with you, Kristin. In high school we had to give three speeches a year, some were poem, speeches, etc. that were memorized, some were written by the speaker. These were the low points in my high school experience. The one time that I thought I had risen to the challenge and put my heart into the speech was a disaster. The teacher said "Would someone pinch Bill to see if he has any emotion?" I guess I was so uptight that I was barely opening my mouth!

Cheers to Coach Conchita for helping you overcome your fear!!

Valerie M

Go Girl! You give me inspiration. Let me live my 'wannabe French' life through you. All the best to you and the family and of course, Coach C.

Beverly Tabor

Bonjour Kristen,
I really enjoyed your sharing the other night..I didn't have the opportunity to speak to you, before I left to tell you this in-person.There were many things I cackled about (is there a word for that in french?) during your talk. You did a great job, l'angoisse should be over! And Coach Conchita should be proud!

hope you will visit Paris again, or we shall visit you someday!
PS I am grateful for your hints for blog debutantes
Beverly Tabor


I was a bashful child and hated to speak in class when it was oral bookreport time. Then by some miraculous happening, I became a cheerleader. My friend Anne, who wanted it so badly made me go with her and try out too. Much to our surprise we both wond and she is still cheering me on today, to write the book about my Paris experiences. So I take great inspiration from you, knowing it can be done and perhaps if I ever have to speak in public about my book, Anne will be there rooting for me, just like your Conchita!

Betty Gleason

Congratulations Kristen and Jules!

You both have found another outlet for your creativity, your beauty shines forth and the world is so much richer.

Sarah Towle

Well, I was there, folks, and all I can say is:

Kristin, YOU WERE GREAT! Natural, funny, well-organized, engaging. I would never have known your public-speaking fear if you hadn't of posted about it here. HONEST!

Congratulations, Jules, for having such a good and willing student!

My own phobia is self-promotion, which I just can seem to figure out and bring myself to do. So I'll take the leap here and leave you all my "calling card":


Love to everyone! And thanks for continuing to keep us posted on the puppies! It was wonderful to see you in Paris!


Allison Geary

Hello Kristen! You are so brave to admit your secret in such a charming way. I too have suffered that fear and, for years, had to take my shoes off before speaking before a group. Somehow touching the ground made me less likely to collapse onto it.

Best to you -- Allison, Tulsa, OK

Donna Davisson, Cleveland, OH

Felicitations Kristen! What an accomplishment. I continue to adore your blog; thank you for having the guts to LIVE what you love.

Randy and Debbie

Kristen, we never guessed that you had a secret fear of public speaking. You were relaxed, funny, charming and thoroughly entertaining. It was a pleasure for us to get to meet you. We hope you think of us the next time you have a cup of warm Oaxacan chocolate on some chilly morning this fall.

Randy and Debbie, Tucson, AZ

Lynn Worn

I've been enjoying your posts for a few weeks now, having recently discovered your site. Went to Cinéma Vérité just now to watch the video of your speaking in Paris but couldn't figure how to get in. (Duh!) All I saw was a way to subscribe but did that almost in the beginning, so how do I sign in? I must have overlooked something. I'm looking forward to seeing it, before next Friday, I hope. :)

Et aussi, là où vous avez écrit "J'avais tomber dans les pommes," je crois qu'il faut dire "J'étais tombée dans les pommes," n'est-ce pas?

Bonne continuation avec tout ce que vous faites !



Hello Kristen, I applaud you and your mother for working together and you for trusting your mothers advice. I was pleased to hear the advice she gave you is very much the same techniques I had my 7th and 8th graders to use for overcoming "stage fright" before giving a speech. I did not think to have them jump up and down ten times. I really like that one. It is similar to warm-up exercises used in theater to help get energy up and calm the nerves. Congratulations on a successful speech.




Felicitations, Kristin, pour cet enorme jalon ! :-) That's so awesome. You never know what new doors may open for you now! My grandfather always had a huge fear of public speaking. . . and ended up being a minister!


That is a great accomplishment. I really admire your gumption and determination to conquer your fears. Good job Kristin!

Braise, smokey...hmm does this reflect upon the cooking efforts at the Espinasse household? (just kidding).


As usual, so much fun to read about your mom's and your life together. Such great advice, and I'm sorry that she's having to deal with swine flu. Congratulations on your speaking success!

Marianne Rankin

Bravo, Kristin, for both the good job everyone says you did, and for striving to overcome difficulty! That, indeed, is the way to gain confidence.

I've heard that speaking in public is one of the greatest fears of all, greater than going to the dentist and other high-level nerve-wracking experiences.

If Toastmasters International exists in France, you might be able to find a local club to get practice, meet some great people, and learn many interesting things from them. I've not been afraid of public speaking, but enjoyed Toastmasters for a year or two when I had a chance to participate in a club.

I have not only spoken or led people (such as by being lector in church), and taught school - certainly one of the most public arenas there is - but have sung solos on occasion. Yes, I get a few butterflies ahead of time, but I discovered a way to overcome nervousness and preoccupation with my performance. Focus on what you are doing. If singing, concentrate on notes, phrasing, expression. If speaking, make sure you can be heard, that you pause now and then to let your words sink in, and so on. In particular, if you can find a person in the group before to "aim at" or to be your special audience-of-one, devote your efforts to doing your best for that person - which by extension will benefit everyone.

The first time I sang a solo in church, I was actually substituting for my mother, a trained vocalist who'd gotten a cold. I looked out at the congregation and saw parishioners I knew, and realized they would want me to do well. The piece went fine.

This has been your "baptism," and your success will lead to more success. I hope someday you'll receive an invitation to speak in the Washington area and I will be able to attend. Meanwhile, I'll definitely tune in next week to listen to your talk.


Jerry Fielder/Daniel Campbell

We were so surprised to read today that you are uncomfortable speaking in public. We thought you looked very much at easy and your talk was engaging, warm, and charming. Thank you, and keep it up!


Un grand jalon!! And another layer of fear hits the provencal dust. Bravo! It just goes to show how much more we can accomplish - at any age - by breaking down those barriers. I wish I could stop blushing at the drop of a chapeau. It keeps me from calling any attention to myself in the simplest of situations. Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing the video of your conference. The Eiffle photo is wonderful. You caught at just the right moment and the color is fantastic!

I'm also looking forward to seeing the progressions of SMOKEY!! So glad Braise put her paw down.


ABQ, NM, USA. I, too, am so surprised to learn that you were afraid to speak in public since you are so eloquent in your writing and i did view your talk and found you so natural. You did good! I also used to be afraid to speak in public but after the initial "good" effort, it gets easier. I also did the one advice given to you, find a receptive face and talked to that person but making eye contact with the audience. it worked. But your mom is always such a good life coach and love to read about her!!!! thanks for a lovely start to this day. ALSO loved the picture of the Eiffel Tower at night....it is better than the one i took last summer. Good memories, too.


Fabulous - awesome! You know the great thing? NOW THAT YOU'VE DONE THIS, it can never be as difficult, it will only get better, because you've tamed the beast . . . and you have this difficult challenge that you triumphed over. You will ALWAYS have that. By the way, I really didn't want to wait until Friday to see the talk and I went to the link that you specified and I didn't find the video that you mentioned. Did I do something wrong? Or where exactly is it on the Cinema Veritie site? Cheers Kristin, Robin K


my skin began to cry a light coat of cowardice

What a great image!


Kristin, Conchita's coaching worked - you did a superb job, your nervousness did not show, just your lovely smile and genuine warmth!

d l mitchell

Dear Kristin,
Congratulations on psuhing forward and conquering this impass. you may not know it, but rocker Johnny Hallyday also suffers from stage fright. But he excells on stage every time. I really only travel to france now when he is on tour.Many of our american readers are not familiar with him, but i can assure you all that he is the the Elvis of France and has had a solid 40 year singing career. So Kristin you are in good company.


Congratulations...look forward to seeing the video over at Cinema Verite! I must use coach conchita's hints, merci beaucoup and enjoy Paris!


Denise L.

Kristin, while I knew it would be a "fun" day, I'm so glad you put that fear to rest, and made it a triumphant day as well. You are such a talker with those you know, I would not have suspected you had such a fear. Nevertheless, we all have fears, and the fact that you did so with such grace is excellent!

I'm thrilled it went well, and will look forward to viewing it on CV. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Paris and view it with fresh eyes and a renewed spirit.

Cheers -


So happy and proud for you. Most people are afraid of public speaking until they find success, as you have. I believe you will actually come to find it's fun. People love you and you KNOW what you're talking about. That's a key. Very best wishes.


ah, yes, public speaking. In high school (many years ago) I managed to speak on stage twice. Then in order to graduate from college in California way back then one had to take Speech 101. Well, I took it 5 times, and dropped out 5 times before the first one had to be given. Did I graduate from a 4 yr. institution, no: did they finally change the ciriculum, yes. So now if I want to finish, I guess I could. So, I applaud you for standing up to your fear.

Young E. Paciello

Hey Kristin! It's your favorite critic: to say that you fainted is actually "Je suis tombee dans les pommes" (not j'avais) but I can sure relate to your stage fright: on the night I was to do a monologue at age 10 in a school play, I also passed out! So join the club.
Love ya' toujours

Jules Greer

My Dearest Kristi,

What can a mother say - I am overcome with pride and joy ---- not to steal your thunder, I must say I am (this is a confession I speak to you all of the time) I LOVE YOUR COMMENTER'S - dare I call them fan's. I treasure each comment, maybe even more than I treasure your post's, because they see in you what I have always known. I love you Honey - your video is a treasure, I feel like you are with me when I am watching you. I always knew you were a STAR...i know I will wake up each morning to your video from now on.....could you possibly consider adding video's on your BLOG ---- AS I HAVE ENCOURAGED YOU TO DO MANY TIMES.....how wonderful it would be to
see you on video more and more. LET IT RIP HONEY - life is moving so quickly - you must keep up with the times.



Judith L. Roth

You're very brave to speak after fainting twice!Maybe there's hope for me....Do you know where the expression for fainting comes from? "I have fallen in the apples"?


Great job! Over coming our fears is never easy, but with God ALL things are possible. I am right in the midst of where you stood as I will be giving a seminar of travel safety to moms of preschoolers--of course I will be touching on Disney travel too! My husband told me, don't worry, no one listening is wanting me to fail! What encouragement! It's not like we sit through a speech and say, boy I hope they mess up, no, just the opposite, I am routing for the speaker! I am proud of you for facing your fear! God is using you in a powerful way my friend!

Christine Dashper

Congratulations Kristin!! What an acheivement to add to the already wonderful acheivement of your writing. I am so happy for you that you were able to overcome this fear. Congratulations to Jules too, what a coach.

It gives me hope, the one time I was supposed to speak about Aromatherapy I suddenly knew nothing about it and stopped breathing!! It was not a 'happy' experience and so I have run for my life if ever the possibility has presented itself again. So I think you are wonderful to be determined to overcome your fear.


Jules Greer

Hi Honey,

I just finished watching your tape for the 5th time....I am delighted with the fruit of your labor. You are a STAR, but I think next time I would be sure and have me coach Jean-Marc on the art of video. I think maybe he was more nervous than you, I know for sure he was excited and proud, his hand was shaking all the way through your debut.

I find it exciting and interesting to think about where your path will go now that you have gone 'video' - - I am seriously thinking of sending this video on to OPRAH....once a Mom always a Mom. You must learn to hold the mic down a little so I can see your beautiful face. I thought the video was true to your soul - I can tell everyone, this is the real Kristi. How darling you are, still the little 10 year old I always adored who is now a woman in Paris....CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS-YOUR DREAMS HAVE ALL COME TRUE ONLY THEY ARE BETTER THAN WE EVER D


Hi Kristin,

Your mother prepared you well - however... having three glasses of wine instead of pretending might have given the same effect! Enjoyed your personality in person, although it does come through on your website!

Enjoy your weekend - we all are primed to hear more...


Kristin, the story of your experience was wonderful. The posts here are are proof that you have many, many e-friends. My comment is not as lofty as some (particularly your mom's), but I hear it works. You can picture your audience in their underwear ~ or less!

Michele Fuxan

Congrats, expat! Perhaps today's word should have been "courage."


Jules, what a great mom you are! I only hope I can be as great of a mom to my daughter! :-)


Congratulations Krisin and Jules! I know about stage fright and, in my case, becoming catatonic in front of an audience. So, bravo for working your way through it to success! As always, you have inspired me and I'm so grateful for that.

So sorry to hear of Jules' swine flu difficulties! I hope they are all well now. I know it was particularly bad in Mexico. What a wonderful mom she is!


Oh Kristin, that Mom of yours. She knocks my socks off. She is going to get you on Oprah I just know. And even better I love to see how you just can't send her enough love back. The simpatico (not quite the right word) with your Mom makes me swoon with envy. I felt the same for my Mom and she is now passing on all her goodness in the great beyond and I miss her terribly. Your transparency is your hook and yet not everyone can pull it off. You most certainly can and we all relate to you and to being a fish out of water at some point in our lives. How sad if we do not have the chance to be out of our element at some point. It is in the "stepping out" that we learn the dance. I am so glad you wore your cowboy boots for the talk. And love even more that the elusive French style may very well remain elusive for you, and you may forever feel that a six course dinner for 16 is a daunting task.


So sorry for another post......but I have for so long wanted to tell you how much I loved "The Life of a Simple Man." Strangely, it had a similar effect on me as Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "Gift from the Sea."
If you are ever in need of yet another topic for self deprecation with French living, take a look at the "The Art of French Vegetable Gardening." by Louisa Jones. Is there anything more beautiful than the French garden?

Jennifer in OR

Can't wait to see the video! Felicitations! Wish I could have been there.

The Eiffel Tower photo is gorgeous.

How sweet that Braise gets to keep one of her babies. :-)

Sandra Ritter

I'm a new fan -- just 2 days old -- and I was charmed with your experiences and your style, especially when you shared your reliance upon God when you prayed for confidence in public speaking. Many years ago I took a 13-year-old boy, the winner of my classroom's "speech contest", to speak at a Toastmaster's Club dinner. Wray was a competent speaker and had never failed in class. However, he was overcome with fear as he began to speak. He opened his mouth; his eyes opened wider, and he fell, stiff-legged, to the floor.

Alex Ash

I had the pleasure of hearing you speak at the American Library and I could not have been happier that I went! I am a young, American girl, and have been keeping a blog on my adventures in Paris, both now and when I studied abroad two years ago. I love to write, and you definitely gave me inspiration about continuing to blog. I wrote about the "American Library in Paris" experience, and my thoughts on it, and hope you'll read it!

Anyways, I just really wanted to say how much I really enjoyed that evening and hearing you speak! Thanks!

lisa bebi

you are a rare inspiration.........i write a little and have a fear of speaking too. sometimes i shake so much my teeth literally chatter.

Anne Brixner

I'm so proud of you! I remember our discussions a couple years ago about your goal to get better at public speaking, and YOU'RE DOING IT!!!

Sending tons of love and adoration from Seattle,
Annie and Mike

Janet Fisher

Another public speaking trick is to imagine the faces you are looking at are your nearest and dearest family and friends instead of strangers. Just mentally superimpose their faces on those of the strangers and act like you're talking to them in some familiar and comfortable setting. All will go well.




Kristin, congratulations on your success in Paris. It's good to know your hard work paid off. :)

Jules, thank you for standing behind Kristin and helping her achieve this goal.

Ann Mah

Kristin, Thank YOU for a wonderful talk -- it was such an honor for us to host you and Catherine at the American Library in Paris. I must confess -- I was pretty nervous myself on Wednesday. It's a daunting feeling when the eyes of the room (all 180 pairs!) are focused on you. YOU WERE GREAT!

I was so thrilled to meet you after all these years, but of course I felt like I already knew you thanks to your warm-hearted blog. I look forward to many more chats (virtual or otherwise).

And -- kudos to Coach C!

xoxo Ann

maria bergman

Congratulations on your courageous accomplishment! Speaking before a group in your first language can be hard enough. Did you speak in French?

Thank you for your wonderful blog and sharing your adventurous life! I live vicariously through your blog!


I love everything about this post! From the fear confessed to the overcoming success - and the hilarious and heartwarming coaching along (thanks Jules!) - this is why I love reading your blog!

And thank you for sharing your remarkable remedy: prayer. A little prayer in a heart yields big results.


Oh - and Jules - forget Oprah! "A Day in the French Life" has MOVIE written all over it! What wonderful characters you all would be on screen. I think you would have to play yourself because I can't imagine an actor with the right amount of spunk, heart, wit and spirit to endear to the audience the way you would.

Shannon, Alexandria, VA

Rock on, Kristin!!


Bravo Kristen and Coach Conchita. I love your attitude Jules and am glad your advice is often followed. Wish I could have been there to hear you speak.


Brava, Kristen, Salut, Conchita..Now, I will need to try all those techniques personally when I am to speak, briefly I hope, at the Quimper Club Meeting in Dallas in late October. Check us out at quimperclub.org and see our beautiful French faience! And Kristen, you have it licked for good now! Now you can enjoy being the speaker and have fun! Congratulations!! (LOVED your photo of the Eiffel Tower, too!)

Chris Klein

Very warm congratulations! As Ann's husband, I can confirm to you that your site and book have been real inspirations for her as she navigates her own French life. And I also adore your site -- as a lifelong student of French, I am endlessly fascinated by linguistic discoveries in la plus belle langue du monde! All the best and bonne continuation!


AMEN Kristen! You have authority over anxiety, the power is in the tongue. Jesus has given us that power...yea for taken up that gift!

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