Why does this Provençale hollyhock remind me of Hawaii? This flower is for Aunt Betty, Aunt Missy, and Aunt Janet. Je vous aime!


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un brouillon (bruh-yon) noun, masculine

    : draft (rough draft)

brouillon, brouillonne (adjective)

    untidy, disorganized

un brouillon, une brouillonne = a muddler, muddlehead 

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Le professeur de notre cours d'écriture nous a demandé de faire un brouillon d'une nouvelle.
The teacher of our writing class asked us to write a rough draft of our short story.


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

For the record, one can write a 12-page (double-spaced) rough draft in 56 minutes, especially when one's story is five days past deadline

My writing class begins at the end of the month and I have not yet followed instructions and sent off my story to fellow classmates. Then again, not all my fellow
camarades de classe have sent their story to me, which spells relief. 

In order to fully profiter from the short story writing class, we'll need to get our work done, illico! It would not be fair to the teacher, it would not be fair to classmates, and it would not be fair to ourselves... to arrive on June 27th bare-handed and brouillonne (or muddleheaded)

For the most part I have been muddleheaded, and any motivation and good intentions tend to ebb and flow.... Meantime, I am spending a lot of time talking to myself:
 "Just use the story of the dogs getting lost in Marseilles. That will fulfill requirements.  Why rack your brain? It's summertime! "

"But that would be cheating," my conscience points out. "You've already written and published that nouvelle. You need to put yourself in the same shoes as your classmates: you need to be agonizing over that blank page!"

And so I dutifully agonize.

Finally, g
ung ho, I began "Home-sitting" (in which a senile goat sports espadrilles while the protagonist deals with a few house-sitters before leaving for vacation). This story was begun 5 days ago, in response to our teacher's request for our manuscripts.... 

Then Mom had her say and I put the goat aside in time to begin a new story: "Naked." This story went on to be renamed "Staircase Wit", but even the change in title couldn't fool inspiration. Enthusiasm waned and the muse said Meh! (I admit, I had to look up the Muse's geeky response to understand what she was hinting at: boredom).

Then, yesterday morning, while shopping at the market, a story fell from the French skies and I could not believe my good fortune! Only, writing it would mean scratching the first two stories, and beginning all over again.

I told myself it was just a matter of sitting down and writing out the actual events: from the surreal incident that had just befallen me, one in which I was once again mistaken for a pute. 

In order to capture the story, I needed only to go over the picture frames in my mind, and write down, frame by frame, what had happened in the space of 45 minutes (when a local made me an offer that I found easy to resist).

I told myself not to worry about the art of writing; though that is a part of good story telling, it isn't "all" of it. The most important part is to have an interesting story to tell. Mine was a doozy (even if it made me out to be a floozy). 

Because God had just dropped the story into my lap, free for the taking, it was my duty to accept the gift. I quickly returned home, so excited about the story that it never occurred to this mistaken pute to be offended or downright enraged.

What had happened to me amounts to no more than
les hasards du métier. Since giving myself this job of "writer," some eight years ago, a day doesn't pass wherein I don't thank my
étoiles chanceuses for letting me continue to chronicle life, as it putts and strutts in front of me. 

Now to have fun telling my story. I wish I could share it with you, but then my fellow villagers might be inclined to tar and feather a certain pauvre type who mistook a certain pauvre pen-pusher for a hooker.


Writing notes: in the interest of embellishment, I chose the words "pute" and "hooker" to illustrate my story. Truth-be-told, I was simply taken for "loosey" or loose-moraled lady. Not that there was any evidence on my person to lead anyone to assume such a thing!

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

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Vocabulaire /Vocabulary

 le/la camarade de classe = classmate

illico (illico presto!) = right away

une pute = prostitute 

une étoile chanseuse = lucky star 

un pauvre type = loser 

les hasards du métier = job hazards  


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In other news... Alexi is back! He is doing a two-week internship here at Domaine Rouge-Bleu. The kids and Jean-Marc are happy to finally get a good meal, as only one can, when guests arrive! Note: that's Mom's race horse painting in the background.

Vying for Alexi's attention.  More about Alexi, via a story, here.

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In film:  Paris Je T'aime Paris I love You.



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i love the way you write, and the way you describe the story falling out of the sky. good luck with it.


I'm still lol all by myself at 4:15am in Beaverton ,Oregon. Kristin, you start my day out with a smile. I love it!

Bill in St. Paul

Boy, just leave us hanging. I hope we get to read the story some day.

Robyn Daniels

Hi Kristin

Following your blog it seems apparent to me you are in transition as a writer - you have written factually for some time making beautiful and highly personal observations of your world - like a journalist. All writers eventually want to explore other genres and it seems you are embarking on the short story form - one of the most difficult. I wish you joy of your explorations. Shifting from factual writing to fiction might be helped if you tried writing faction as an interim - fiction based on real characters and events. The research required is absorbing but more engaging is the delicious freedom to 'play and tell lies' by entering the world of your imagination - just as we all did as children. Some call it embellishing the truth without limit. Bon chance!

I don't know if you have ever listened to any radio book programmes - this is one of the best in my view available on podcast and I find it endlessly fascination to gain insight into how other writers approach story-writing.


- there was also an item on niche-publishing via Authorhouse et al this week exploring the massive shift from mainstream publishing.

Robyn x

Nancy Reinhardt

Kristen, I'm really enjoying your blog--the pictures you post bring back very fond memories of my time in Paris last summer--I'm an incurable Francophile.

I am also a writer--a romance writer (what else?)--I just signed with an agent at Curtis Brown in NY and she's shopping one manuscript and reading a second...so you have my deepest empathy when it comes to trying to write. I have Agatha Christie's words above my worktable; thought I'd offer them to you:

"I assumed the burden of the profession, which is to write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you are writing, and aren't writing particularly well" ...to which I would add, "and even when it feels like no one else likes what you write either..."

Thanks for your blog--My French is improving and I know each time I see an email from you that I'll have a smile for that day.

Nancy, Indianapolis, IN


I would love to hear that story sometime. I lived in France for 4 years....and was mistaken for a "pute" two times! That has never happened to me in New York! LOL...the first time was in Montmartre..(closer to the Moulin Rouge tho)..and the other time, in front of the Chateau de Vincennes. I had hurt my leg running for the last train of the night in Paris. Had a to take a taxi. The driver was nasty (we lived in banlieu)..had him drop me off at 2a.m. (with my friend) by the Chateau, to wait for hubby to come get me. A mec was hovering (we were in jeans and sweaters mind you) and he said "Ca coute combien?" I realized what he meant...and told him to "degager".....and then hubby arrived soon after. I always thought it made for great storytelling! :)

Johanna DeMay

Bravo Kristin!

You are following my advice before you even heard it: "PROCEED AS WAY OPENS." This is an old Shaker proverb which means: If the way forward seems blocked, look around. You will find another opening. When you do, abandon previous plans and proceed through that opening. It will lead you places you never could have imagined!

I modified the proverb: "Proceed AND way opens." I.e., accept the gift that has dropped into your hands, and run with it! Which is exactly what you are doing.

Happy writing! We look forward to the results.


Pat Cargill

Funny story and great pictures. Yes, the flower is lei-worthy, very pretty. Loved the shot of the dogs w/Alexi. Bon chance w/the writing adventure--and adventure it certainly is. Who knows where it will lead!

Maureen France

Kristin, I am sure you have a winner in your story, I do hope we get to read one day.

Good luck Maureen


I would love to comment on your story but I'm more inclined to comment on the handsome Alexi although then you may mistake me for a pute!

Robin Katsaros

You go Kristi . . . I wish I were farther along, rk

Nancy L.

Appropos de rien....did I see in the small box on the upper right hand corner of the page that your blog has over 18,000 readers!? That is AMAZING!
xoNancy L

Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

That beautiful hollyhock resembles some hibiscus I remember from my childhood in Southern California. Gorgeous!

Your story reminds me of an encounter I had in the Champs de Mar on my first trip to Paris. I was shooting the Tour Eiffel in BW film when I attracted the attention of a man running the pony rides for children. I don't think he took me for a pute but he did think I was a rich American who might want to take him back to my apartment ... I'll tell you the details when I see you in September but I was able to dredge up a very firm, "Absolument pas, monsieur!" from my Pimsleur CD's. Now that I think about it, that would make a great short story.

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

Kristin, I would love to hear the rest of the story someday. Sometimes when we relax the story just shows up. How exciting!
I am sorry to use this blog, but can you check an e-mail I sent you the other day and shoot me a quick answer. Thanks.

Karen in Phoenix sunny & about 105 today.

Kelly DuMar

Kristin, I'm new to this blog - it's a delightful find in advance of my July return trip to Paris & Corsica! Thank you!


Maybe someday without letting us know you can tell the story...I am a sucker for stories! And so glad Alex is back, grown quite a bit it seems or maybe I am imagining! Have a lovely weekend Kristin!



Twelve pages in 56 minutes! Brava! That almost means typing without pause just to get the words cranked out, much less the thought behind it.

On the other hand, there's nothing like knowing what story you want to tell. That's more than half the battle!

By the way, I don't think it's "cheating" to revisit some stories you've already told-- and we know that many of your blogs are, in fact, short stories. When you've been writing for 8 years you're gradually refining your style, so even when you "revisit" a story your writing will be better, your point of view a little different.

Herm Meyer

Salut Kristin,

Your heavenly handsome hollyhock tribute to Aunt Betty, Aunt Missy, and Aunt Janet was very special! How about some nice words for Aunt-chilada, Auntie-pasto, Aunt-hill and maybe Aunt-arctica?

Bonne chance avec votre histoire. Will you be writing it in French or English?

À bientôt,

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Joan Linneman

I love how Vladimir Putin's name was pronounced "pu-teen" in the French media, so it wouldn't sound like something else..
I could be wrong, but I thought the slang term was "un put" (masc article).
Have a great weekend, everyone. Joan L.

Michael Morrison

The story is excellent as usual. And, a small spelling error does not detract from it. But, you might note that > should be spelled as > --using the feminine form of chanceux. Unfortunately, the expression that you've given is also a literal translation. I believe that the French use the expression > to mean luck star. Ask Jean-Marc if this is correct or if there is more than one way to say lucky star.

Michael Morrison

Arghhh! The software that makes the post to your comment section does not seem to like guillemets (that is, > = French quotation marks). I will re-post with American apostrophes ("").
The story is excellent as usual. And, a small spelling error does not detract from it. But, you might note that "étoile chanseuse" should be spelled as "étoile chanceuse" --using the feminine form of chanceux. Unfortunately, the expression that you've given is also a literal translation. I believe that the French use the expression "bonne étoile" to mean lucky star. Ask Jean-Marc if this is correct or if there is more than one way to say lucky star.

Michael Morrison

Double arghhh! In my second post, I referred to American apostrophes when I meant American quotation marks (" "). I guess this proves that everyone has their bad days.

Tonya McNair

WHAT HAPPENED?? My gosh, I love the way you write. It's a blessing to read someone that makes me forget that I'm reading!! It is more like gobbling something too fast because it tastes so good, you forget yourelf in the act...the story in your case.. and, wow, what a talent. I want to read more of your stories. I want to write like that.. and make my words taste as wonderful!!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
Love the Hollyhock...it reminds me of Hibiscus!
Good luck with the story and I hope to hear it! I am curious now....

Bill Facker

Ah .. the magnificent hollyhock! Hardy, resillient, and beautiful .. like the seasoned hooker with a gorgeous painted face and callouses on her feet. Unlike "Ladies of the Night" this non-glamorous beauty doesn't reek of cheap perfume .. but has a "freshness" that is pleasant to the nose. It's great to know they also grace the shores of France. I fondly recall as a child making Hollyhock people with the flowers, the unopened bud, and a couple of toothpicks. My little Sister's people were all dancers - mine .. Cowboys and Soldiers, of course! Mahalo Nui Loa for yet another thought & memory evoking bit of prose, Kristin. Aloha, Bill Facker


Writing class.... I think you will love it! I also think you just have "stage fright" as you write so beautifully here... just pretend your new classmates are just like us enjoying the words and the stories you tell!
"Brouillon" is a wonderful word for a slice of life which really is just like a rough draft to be pushed, pulled around and constantly throws us into disarray...love it! Thank you for sharing your writing journey with us!

PS Good luck with the story...hope you don't shock the class to much with your so called "wantoness"! :-)


Thanks for sharing this about your real-life writing/writer experience. It's so...shall I say...provocative. :) I enjoy your blog and tell all my francophone friends about it. I really appreciate the audio clips and the vibrant snapshots of French life. May the French sky continue to rain down its inspiration.


The provencale hollyhock reminds you of Hawaii because it looks like the hibiscus flower, which is found in Hawaii and other tropical places.

Aunt Betty

You have always had a very large part of my heart. Thank you for the beautiful hollyhock, They remind me of when we were kids. Your stories are always wonderful!

Robyn France

Kristin--that is too funny--being taken for a pute--and u r so "the girl next door" in appearance--I can't wait to hear the story--I do hope u will tell.

Julie Dufaj

Oh, Kristen, you look like "the girl next door"! I don't think there was anything about you except your delicate beauty that intrigued this person. But don't let me take anything away from your story!

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